Most U-M fans (both U-Ms, I suppose) know the basic jug story. Before the 1903 game between the two schools in Minneapolis, Fielding Yost dispatched U-M equipment manager Tommy Roberts to purchase a five gallon Red Wing water jug. After the brutally fought game of the undefeated teams ended in a 6-6 tie, Minnesota’s equipment manager Oscar Munson found Michigan’s jug and decided to keep it as a souvenir. When the Wolverines returned to Minnesota in 1909 the teams agreed that the winner should take the jug—and the victor of the game has retained the precious crock ever since.
That part of the story is pretty well established. But outside of that, there are still many misconceptions about the history of the jug and the rivalry that persist today. Here’s at five common myths..along with a discussion of the reality.
Myth #1: BROUGHT OR BOUGHT?
The Myth: Common lore suggests that U-M bought the jug because they feared Minnesota would try to “taint” Michigan’s water supply.
The truth of how and why the famous jug ended up on the U-M sidelines in 1903 has shifted around as the decades have passed. In the early days of the Jug rivalry, it was commonly understood that Michigan brought the jug and its own, familiar water from Ann Arbor. Furthermore most believed it was Yost feared the Gophers would attempt to spike their water. Decades later Michigan’s equipment manager Tommy Roberts revealed that he simply bought the jug in Minneapolis before the game and filled it with water in Minnesota.
While it’s possible that Michigan wanted its own jug to keep enemy hands off the water supply, it wasn’t a common practice for the Wolverines to carry water on road trips and it’s doubtful that Yost feared any foul play from Minnesota.
The Wolverines were experienced travelers, including most notably a trip to Pasadena for the first Rose Bowl in 1902. Not only did they see no advantage in bringing its own water to road game, doing so was actually quite a hassle. Legendary team trainer Keene Fitzpatrick actually talked about the team’s water strategy just a few days before the Michigan’s 1903 trip to Minneapolis [via the October 28, 1903 Michigan Daily]:
“Carrying water to which the men are accustomed on a trip is a big nuisance and of no practical benefit,” said the trainer. “Once only, when the ‘99 team went to Philadelphia, was this precaution taken by Michigan, and then we didn’t find that any advantage had been gained. On the long California trip the health of the team was not impaired by the change in drinking water.”
The last line implies they were actually more concerned about the changes in regional water (think about your last trip to Mexico) than with foul play. But despite all that Fitzpatrick determined it wasn’t worth it to carry water on the road.
The Reality: Michigan just bought a jug (and filled it) in Minnesota because it didn’t make sense to haul jugs/water from Ann Arbor.
Myth #2: THE LETTER
The Myth: Common Jug lore suggests that once Fielding Yost found out he left the team’s water jug behind in Minnesota after the 1903 game, he wrote the Gophers asking for its return…and was told he’d need to “win it back”.
According to two accounts of those who were there when Michigan returned to Minnesota in 1909, Yost didn’t remember or really, know anything about the ceramic souvenir Minnesota confiscated six years earlier. For a man who was very outspoken and kept a detailed collection of personal correspondence, there’s no indication that Yost knew anything about the jug or cared about its return.
Son of a BISCUIT I want these guys to turn this around. It’s a little odd to me because I still see the pieces of a decent team but the results are a wreck. Yesterday – with a the exception of a few breakdowns I thought the defense played pretty damn well (Jake Ryan – Manster. Jourdan Lewis – fun to watch). Derrick Green, when he was in there, looked like a seasoned back – he was patient and found the holes. And once again, we outgained our opponent yet failed to score a TD.
Gardner. I don’t know what I’d do with 98. He’s losing confidence with every interception – he’s becoming more tentative and locking on. That’s fine against Miami but we’re not going to out-athlete the rest of the schedule. If you bench him now I just wonder if that’s a point of no return for his confidence. So I guess there are a couple options?
1. Start Gardner with a limited playbook. It sucks to say that about a 5th year senior but sorry. Shorter passes with the occasional sideline heave to Funch, and he’s got to run more. I’d encourage the big guy to take off for 5-7 yards more with more frequency. I feel like we’re still on that treadmill of doing what we think a Michigan team should do, as opposed to what we could do with the players (namely 98) that we have.
2. Start Morris with a limited playbook. Mix in Gardner in the slot or in the backfield to mess with everybody and possibly get some of 98’s confidence back.
But what do I know, man?
Other question – So we have a good if not darn good defense (take stats through 4 games for what they are worth, but we’re #8 nationally), right? Why do we keep punting in the opponent’s territory? Hagerup’s been pretty bad, but the reason we are #123 (of 125) in net punting is that he’s become Poocherup. Even if you take out the 66 yard punt return from the equation (after a bad punt and horrible coverage), we’d still be ranked in the 110s nationally. Dude.
Congrats to Ken Magee and Jon Stevens for pulling together their outstanding book The Little Brown Jug: The Michigan-Minnesota Rivalry to be released on September 1. I helped them out with a few things – some of the history of course and with a few photos – and from the early specs I’ve seen the book is a fantastic way to consume the history of this great rivalry. The photos alone – over 200 inside – are off the charts. Props to Kenny and Jon for scouring the earth to dig up many of the beauties inside.
My buddy Oscar Munson made the cover:
Here’s the official release:
The battle for the Little Brown Jug continues:
New book commemorates Michigan-Minnesota football rivalry
Though the University of Michigan and the University of Minnesota may be in different divisions after this year’s game, the 110-year legacy of the Little Brown Jug lives on. In the latest addition to Arcadia Publishing’s Images of Sports series, authors Ken Magee and Jon Stevens take readers on a visual journey of this iconic rivalry’s history in The Little Brown Jug: The Michigan-Minnesota Football Rivalry.
“We hope that the readers will gain a better appreciation for these two great universities and how much of football parallels history,” Magee said, “be it the early century, roaring 20s … or many other historic moments in our past. The legacy the battle for the Little Brown Jug leaves in its wake many great men, not only on the gridiron, but in society.”
The book contains more than 200 images that have been donated from the private collections of local sports enthusiasts, photographers, and libraries. Many of the myths and stories that surround the famous trophy are examined and corrected, and various other tales are revealed for the first time. Glenn E. “Shemy” Schembechler III, son of the legendary Coach Bo Schembechler, wrote the foreword for the book.
“I hope that this book can highlight an underestimated football rivalry and tradition between two historic college football programs,” Stevens stated. The book will release in time for one of the last games the two schools will play consistently on September 27, 2014.
A portion of the profits from book sales are being donated to the Ken Magee Foundation for Cops, which benefits police officers permanently injured in the line of duty, and their families, to attend Michigan Football games, all expenses paid.
Available at area bookstores, independent retailers, and online retailers, or through Arcadia Publishing at (888)-313-2665 or online.
To follow the latest on the book, follow ‘LittleBrownJug’ on Twitter here.
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The new Schembechler Hall museum is quite a sight – definitely check it out next time you have the means. According to #1000SSS “the Towsley Family Museum inside Schembechler Hall will be open to the public on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays throughout the year. The museum will be open from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. on those days and is free to the public.”
The best stuff (to me) is the memorabilia, the vast majority of it is on loan from the personal collection of Ken Magee, the owner of Ann Arbor Sports Memorabilia. A couple items of note. Ticket to the 1898 Chicago game that inspired Louis Elbel to compose ‘The Victors’:
This made my jaw drop – a custom-engraved badge presented to the U-M team from the epic 1909 Penn game (held in Philadelphia), when the crew of the U.S.S. Michigan came to the game and helped rally Michigan to an epic victory:
Elsewhere – one downside is that despite being a (very) spacious facility, they decided (at least for now) to not include the Little Brown Jug— not even the replica that has been on display in the museum for years.
That said, consider #1000SSS forgiven for including this note inside the display dedicated to the LBJ rivalry:
That’s probably not very interesting or significant to most fans, but I was thrilled when I saw it. The myth of Yost asking for the jug’s return really came to light as a part of the Little Brown Jug Lore series on these pages, and specifically in Chapter 8: The (True) Origins of The Little Brown Jug Rivalry.
P.S. I would have tied the ‘myth’ term in the sentence with Fielding Yost but I will leave well enough alone :)
P.P.S. Speaking of 1909, one ball on the Righteous Tower of Victory Pigkins (#RTVP) is of course from the Syracuse game that year. The score on that particular righteous pigskin? 44-0. /wink.
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On today, the 110th Anniversary of the Little Brown Jug Game #0, a repost:
One headline in the November 1, 1903 Sunday edition of the Minneapolis Tribune declared, “VICTORY, THOUGH THE SCORE IS TIED.” Further down toward the fold it blared, “YOST AND MICHIGAN PRACTICALLY BEATEN.”
It was that fierce battle, played Saturday October 31, 1903, that spawned the greatest of the college football rivalry trophies. At the direction of coach Fielding Yost, Michigan’s student manager Tommy Roberts purchased a five gallon jug that was left behind in the aftermath of this epic clash that served as first, a Gopher souvenir, and later as the trophy that’s been presented to the winner since 1909.
The Tribune described Yost’s Michigan team, winners of 29 straight heading into that game, this way:
Her lineman were giants on the attack, and were adamant on defense. Her backs were great battering rams, with the speed of the wind, guided by an intelligence in play almost superhuman.
Her team work was near perfection, and the eleven representatives of the maize and blue were like some powerful machine, continuously in motion.
That line is a nod to Yost’s revolutionary tendency to speed up the pace of play, earning him the famous tag ‘Hurry Up’.
Now, we know the game ended in a 6-6 tie when the teams exchanged touchdowns, then worth 5 points each, in the second half. Michigan took the lead when the great Wolverine back Willie Heston found the end zone first midway through the half. The Gophers tied the score in the final minutes of the game and added the extra point to secure the tie. Depending on who you read, the game was either called with “a few seconds” remaining on the clock (Tribune), or two minutes left to go (Detroit Free Press). Afterwards thousands of Gopher fans stormed the field to celebrate the game-tying tally.
Naturally the Tribune saved a few good lines for the hometown victors tie-ers:
When [All-American tackle Fred] Schacht made his two gains of four yards each, the of the maize and blue went to pieces. They could not stand it.
Michigan was fighting against eleven madmen, and the madmen won.
Century old Chart
You’ve got to love this—the Tribune even included a diagrammed play chart from the 1903 game on the front page. Click to supersize it, it’s pretty cool after you figure out the key:
What happened next is of course the stuff of Little Brown Jug Lore, and you can get your fill here:
Chapter 1: What Really Happened in the 1930s
Chapter 2: Spinning Myths
Chapter 3: Getting it Right
Chapter 4: 2013: A Space Quandary
Chapter 5: Red Wing Roots
Chapter 6: Is the Greatest Trophy in College Sports a Fake?
Chapter 7: Open Questions
Chapter 8: Doc Cooke and the Real Origins of the Rivalry
Chapter 9: Gophers Here, Gophers There – When Michigan played Minnesota Twice
Chapter 10: How It Started: Minnesota Madmen 6, Michigan Machine 6
Chapter 11: A Righteous Sip, and Why Michigan Bought the Jug
Chapter 12: Making It Official—Jil Gordon & Painting the Little Brown Jug
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Straight to the miscellanea:
Honoring Falk > Postgame:
Q. For the last 40 years your equipment manager Jon Falk has been the keeper of the jug. Any last words about Mr. Falk and knowing he’s got the job one more time that concludes his tenure here?
Hoke: “Well, we gave it to him when we got in the locker room. I just hope he doesn’t take it home. But no, very emotional, very happy. Jon, his loyalty to Michigan and Michigan football is special.”
I caught up with Falk after the game as he was heading out of the stadium. He told me when he got the jug he told the players, “There’s no coach & there’s no player bigger than Michigan football.”
Uniform notes > Team wore LHS decal in honor of Lucas, son of former All-B1G tackle Adam Stenavich. As Sap pointed out, that’s the first non-player or coach to be honored in such a way (POTUS Ford, Bo, Ron Kramer). Timeline updated.
Mood > Slight uptick, but that was way closer than the score of course and..well…meh:
Jug History slaughtered but forgiven > At the conclusion of the broadcast Mike Patrick absolutely butchered the history of the jug, talking some nonsense about Minnesota taking the jug to Michigan and the crock being made of clay from the 1930s….Say what? Shoe and Bando were all over it and while I didn’t hear it live, I felt a strange disturbance in the Jug force..as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. In 10 seconds Patrick sent jug history back to the 1930s.
All that said, ABC is forgiven thanks to Ed Cunningham who, with 2:45 left in the first half, said this:
”And they are playing of course for the Little Brown Jug, which is played for every year between Michigan and Minnesota. And there’s was an old story that Yost..it was a water bottle, and he left it at Minnesota and called and said, ‘Hey can we get our water bottle back?’, a thirty cent water bottle. They said, ‘No, come and get it next year if you win.’”
“Well that’s not true, that isn’t actually what happened.”
Bless you Ed. You just earned a beer or a mixtape compliments of MVictors.com. Glad someone out there is listening. Best guess? Ed caught my article in the game program as part of his prep or heard me on WTKA or WWJ driving over to the game.
Hurry Up > Ed C’s take was prompted by the answer to the Aflac trivia question:
Penn broke that streak on November 16, 1907 when they took down the Yostmen 6-0 on Homecoming. And speaking of that streak, it was a mere two wins long when on October 5, 1901 Yost delivered a 57-0 beating of Case for all-time win #100 the program.
Timeless > My “Oscar Jug” replica made it home and is chilling in my office. A huge thanks once again to artist Jil Gordon for making it for me. What a great spot to set another timeless possession: my MaraWatch:
I don’t see any defensive backs under 6 feet being able to defend this guy. By the time Michigan is playing Michigan State, he will command a double-teams on every route.
More from this site:
So we have two photos of the original, what I call the “Oscar Jug”, i.e., the Little Brown Jug as it looked after Minnesota equipment man Oscar Munson found the jug, brought it to AD Doc Cooke and painted it up. Readers of this site have seen these a few times but here they are:
You know I’m a fan of Jil Gordon, artist, creator of True Blue 365, famed LBJ score painter agreed to take on a special project for me. I received this today, and…wow:
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