As discussed this weekend, Dave Brandon said he planned to extend an offer to the families of U-M players who’ve had their jersey number retired to be honored as Michigan Football Legends.


If those families signed off, that would mean U-M would effectively “un-retire” those numbers and have them join #21 in the Legends program with a dedicated locker, a special patch on the jersey along with some prime, dedicated real estate in Victors Valhalla* inside Schembechler Hall.  

As mentioned I’d like to see this happen and I hope those families eventually agree to do this. 

Of course we won’t ever see a timetable from State Street for this to happen, so I sought out Ben McCready, the godson of Bennie Oosterbaan, to get his thoughts. 

"I would love to see #47 on the field again," McCready told me.  "It would remind players and fans, old and new, about the incredible playing and coaching legacy of the greatest athlete in the history of the University of Michigan."

McCready also recently contacted a couple of Oosterbaan’s closer living relatives and found that they were also supportive of the Legends concept.  "They loved the idea," he shared.

So—this is far from official and we’ll see where this goes from here, but I see this as excellent news.  If the Oosterbaan family steps up and supports the program, perhaps it’ll set a precedent for families of the other M men with retired numbers to climb aboard.

Photo via U-M Bentley Historical Library

* ok, I made up that name but I like it.

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Momentum seems to be building for another former M player (or 2) to have their jersey number retired, something that hasn’t happened since 1994 when we hung up President Ford’s #48.   As Mike Rosenberg discussed recently, Coach Carr brought it up and supports the idea:

"Desmond Howard and Charles Woodson, as winners of the Heisman Trophy, I think they are both deserving of having those jerseys retired," Carr said Wednesday. "I believe that … I think it’s an issue that is very important to Michigan football."

I’m not big on retiring jerseys but if the tradition is going to continue, I’d love to see Desmond and Woodson honored.  And while I don’t think there is racist intent, it’s still a bit glaring after all these years (and Heismans) that no African American is represented among those retired.

So this brings me to this, and thanks to my man and local writer James Dickson (see MVictors guest posts) for allowing me to post this beauty.  A while ago JD dug up this October 1997 report from Amy Whitesall of Ann Arbor News, announcing that #21 would be hung up for good:


Except of course none of that ever happened.

So what’s deal?  The report was pretty specific (U-M board voted Tuesdayceremony next season…) so you’ve got to believe something was seriously in the works.   James was working to track down the story but hasn’t got a clear answer.  I suggested it be posted here in case anyone knew the deal, and JD agreed. 

Coincidentally when the report came out, #2 was doing things like this on his way to Michigan’s third Heisman.

We’ve solved a few mysteries here on these pages, how about this one?  What happened?

12. January 2010 · Comments Off on eBay Watch: Ox, Moose and Whitey (1949) · Categories: Archive 2009 · Tags: , , , ,

Next up on eBay Watch is a great photo of three icons in Michigan football lore: The Wistert Brothers, Albert (“Ox”), Francis (“Whitey”) and Alvin (“Moose”):


The three brothers are seated as then head football coach Bennie Oosterbaan drops in for a visit.  

These men, including Oosterbaan, represent four of the seven men who’ve had their football numbers retired by U-M.  Each of the Wisterts wore #11 and Oosterbaan #47.  All these men are enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame.  

Francis or “Whitey” started off the Wistert tradition, playing for Michigan from 1931-1933 on Harry Kipke’s championship teams.  Remarkably he had no background with football before coming to Michigan but worked his way onto the team and starred for the ‘33 national championship squad.

Albert or “Ox” arrived on campus several years later in 1940 and became an All-American in 1942.  He went onto a stellar NFL career for the Eagles where he was a frequent All-Pro selection.

Alvin or “Moose” had a bizarre path to Ann Arbor.  He’s actually four years younger than Ox, but arrived in Ann Arbor four years later.  From his biography on the College Football HOF site:

He was a high school dropout and spent six years with the Marine Corps during World War II before entering college. Because of his lack of high school credits, Wistert was required to pass a battery of skill tests, which he did with ease. Not wishing to live in the shadow of his two famous brothers, Alvin enrolled at Boston University and lettered as a 30-year-old freshman football player. He transferred to Michigan, played three years at tackle, was All-America in 1948 and 1949, and team captain in 1949. Michigan won the Big 10 championship all three years. He stood 6-3, weighed 223 pounds. At age 33 in 1949, he became the oldest player ever named All-America.

Want to own this piece of football history?  Bidding starts at $9.99 for the auction that concludes January 17.


Elsewhere:  While this isn’t a jersey that belonged to the Wisterts, they probably played with the gent who once wore this authentic Wolverine uniform dating to somewhere in the 1930s or 1940s that was just put up for auction:


The seller’s asking a cool $5,000 for it so good luck explaining to the old lady!