13. November 2017 · Comments Off on Luring Tom Harmon (1937) · Categories: Archive 2010 · Tags: , , , , ,

Chicago Daily Tribune, Nov 17, 1937

Eighty years ago today on November 13, 1937, this Western Union telegram landed in Ann Arbor (a copy was later obtained by the Michigan Daily and plastered on the front page):

In the fall of 1937 things were a bit dicey for the football program.  Since the 1933 national championship, coach Harry Kipke’s crew had just a handful of wins on the the field.   And in November 1937 the university launched a well-publicized investigation of the program, suspecting that football players were being “subsidized.”  Kipke was sitting atop a flaming hot seat.

As the drama unfolded, eyes turned to Michigan freshman Tom Harmon.   Despite the struggles on the field (..but perhaps due to some of the questionable behavior off the field) Kipke landed the multi-sport high school superstar from Gary, IN.   In the fall of ‘37 he suited up for the freshman football team as was required back then.   Harmon’s athletic exploits in high school made him widely known in the sporting world and even as a freshman, having yet to take a snap on the varsity squad, a Chicago Tribune headline dubbed frosh Harmon a “star”.

Suddenly Harmon found himself involved in the off-field drama.  He was named in the investigation as one of the freshman football student-athletes who were allegedly illegally compensated, and soon word spread across the land that Harmon might entertain changing scenery.

Several schools were interested in Harmon’s services, most publicly Tulane.  A telegram sent by the then-southeastern Conference school was obtained and published by The Michigan Daily.  In the wired note, Tulane assistant coach Bill Bevan told Harmon, “Our offer still stands. [You] Can still enter this semester.”

trib Chicago Daily Tribune, Nov 17, 1937

When asked what exactly that “offer” was, Bevan explained it was, “an athletic scholarship,” which he added was, “perfectly legal in the Southeastern conference.”  Note that Michigan didn’t offer athletic scholarships at the time.   If Tulane sounds like a strange destination for a Midwestern kid, Harmon’s brother Gene played basketball for the Green Wave so there was a connection.

One of the potential destinations for Harmon was rumored to be Yale, but when word spread that the people in New Haven may have offered Harmon some sort of financial assistance, the school fired back hard.   They denied the claims & made it known that Harmon had applied to attend Yale in January 1937—at least kind of.    After requesting admission and financial aid, Yale sent the necessary forms.  In his only letter to the school he wrote that his credentials for admission to the Ivy League college were: “Four years of football, four years of basketball, two years of track.”

No mention his of skills with the ladies.

Old 98 of course decided to stay in Ann Arbor.  Kipke was found guilty of subsidizing players (among other things) and was fired in December 1937.  Harmon wasn’t penalized in the aftermath and would thrive during his three varsity-eligible years under new coach Fritz Crisler.   His exploits peaked in 1940 when he dodged at least one drunk fan and later accepted the Heisman Trophy.

The Drunk and Old 98
Tommy’s the BMOC
Harmon and Old Number..Six?
Tom Harmon says ‘Vote Heston’
Harmon Jitterbugs with Joan & Jinx
Harmon Goes for the Gusto

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27. November 2015 · Comments Off on Harmon Wins the Heisman (1940) | This Week in Michigan Football History · Categories: 2015 · Tags: , , , , , , ,

harmon-2_200 Did you know it was 75 years ago Saturday that it was announced Tom Harmon had won the Heisman Trophy?  Indeed, back then they voted, announced the winner and held a ceremony to honor the recipient at a later date.   So Saturday’s edition of #TWIMFbH talks a little about Old 98 and his finer moments on the gridiron (and off):

Yes, in the radio clip I said Harmon “gave birth”.  Ira busted my chops after that and wouldn’t let me edit it (to say “sired” or “fathered” which is probably a little more accurate, although I wouldn’t be against Harmon in life).

Readers know the 1940 Cal game is one of my favorites; especially the drunk fan incident.  More here and my tribute:



You can listen to all 6 years of This Week In Michigan Football History here.  And don’t forget to catch the whole KeyBank Countdown to Kickoff on WTKA 1050AM starting at 8am tomorrow, and of course live in the Bud Light Victors Lounge across from the Stadium on Main Street.   See you out there.

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More »

Today marks the 110th anniversary of Willie Heston’s final game at Michigan.  Heston was Michigan’s first superstar, a two-time All-American, who scored (somewhere around) 72 touchdowns.  From 1901 to 1904, Heston’s teams went 43-0-1 and are credited with four national titles.


I’ll have more on Heston later this year.

Hearing Willie
Back in 2012 I posted a short audio clip of Fielding Yost from the 1940 nationwide radio tribute the man titled, ‘A Toast to Yost from Coast to Coast’.   Check it out if you missed it.   In that post I promised to share a few more clips, and thanks to the Bentley Historical Library for passing these along.

The man who introduced Yost to the crowd in attendance and the radio audience was none other than the great Heston.   Here are two clips of the great Willie and in the first we have a surprise.   Before offering up his tribute to his old coach, Heston acknowledges that current student athlete and national icon Tom Harmon in the audience.  Old 98 shares the mic & even has a little back and forth with Heston that is all in all pretty priceless.

The second clip has Heston delivering his testimonial to Yost.  Enjoy:

As an aside, while I’m sure you’ll be hard pressed to find another audio clip of the Harmon and Heston together but they did appear elsewhere…namely on this campaign pin for Heston [original 2008 post].   This is probably a decent representation of what each man looked like back in 1940:


Seeing Willie
Don’t ask me to point out who’s who (maybe Brian can whip out a UFR), but here’s footage from Willie’s final game played at Regents Field in Ann Arbor, a 22-12 victory over rival (and Yost’s nemesis) Amos Alonzo Stagg and Chicago.  The footage was taken by Thomas Edison’s firm (note the “gridiron” – the lines painted on the field like a grid):


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Via my Google keyword spybot sentinels…from the Escanaba Daily News (naturally!), check out this piece on 92 year-old alum August Altese (inset left).  Augie played on the freshman team in 1940 augie and suited up once more for the Victors Classic prior the Spring Game a few weeks ago.  

A few choice cuts from the story:

On taking the field: ‘“I didn’t have my hearing aids in and they just pushed me out there,” Altese said. “I was so pleased to see that everyone was clapping. They assigned me the last five minutes and I just kind of ran this way and that. They didn’t throw anything to me, but when I was warming up they threw me three passes. I missed the first two, caught the third one and fell, and I still feel it.”’

On Billy Taylor: ‘”He was a great runner for Michigan, but he boozed it up and got into drugs after graduation,” Altese said. “Now he’s running an establishment that helps people. He’s a great guy.”’

and check this out, on Tom Harmon’s sponsored-sled(!!):  ‘“As a freshman at Michigan in 1940, Altese didn’t get much playing time, and though he was on the same team as legendary Michigan quarterback Tom Harmon, he said he never met him. [Ed. The author didn’t know or point out that freshman played on a separate team.]   “Tom Harmon drove around in a coupe. He was being paid by Wrigley’s Chewing Gum,” said Altese of Harmon’s celebrity, obviously playing at a time before current NCAA regulations prevented that sort of thing.’

On Yost and his righteous leather chair: ‘“Altese also met Fielding Yost, the legendary Michigan coach who was in his later years at the time was a frequent conversationalist.  “I talked to Fielding Yost several times at Michigan Union. He was in his 70s or 80s and loved to have people come and talk to him. He had those leather chairs and he’d be there.”’

Love it.  Read the entire piece here

And re: Harmon’s nice sled, purchased no doubt with a little assistance from his powerful friends at Wrigley.  At best a gray area in the rules if Wrigley “hired” Harmon to promote their gum, and 98 bought the coupe with the money.  We know that Kipke (who recruited Harmon) was sacked by U-M due to a scandal involving a illegally paying players via fake jobs.  Promoting gum sounds like a bona fide fake job—perhaps the phoniest in the pantheon of fake gigs.  The conference didn’t allow athletic scholarships back then, and it’s clear by Harmon’s actions following Kipke’s dismissal that he needed something else (see $$$) to stay at Michigan.  LIFE magazine discussed Harmon’s off-the-field pursuits to make dough in this 1940 piece, including “distributing gum samples”…

Harmon holds a scholarship, works hard to maintain his good B average. He helps pay his way through college by distributing gum samples, selling shoes and books, running copy for a printer. In his spare time Harmon collects swing records, goes around with pretty Margot Thoms (left). He runs a sports show over a local radio station on Saturday mornings. Although he gets no pay for this show, he hopes to become a sports announcer after he graduates next June.

There were rumors abound that Harmon was nudged from Horace Mann HS (Gary, IN) towards Ann Arbor via influential Chicago alums..certainly none of those fellas in the Windy City club knew anyone downtown at Wrigley. :)   Ahh, something to chew on.


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13. September 2013 · Comments Off on Mark Harmon’s Comments · Categories: 2013 · Tags: , ,

1 Mark Address

I’ve had a few requests for the video of Mark Harmon’s pregame remarks on the field during the 98 ceremony.  I think it might have been posted on All-Access (but I can’t find it anymore) and it’s on this grainy YouTube clip.   Here’s what he said:

“My dad was only proud of Michigan. His whole life everything came back to Michigan. On behalf of our family, I’d love to thank Dave Brandon for putting this together and making all of this possible. My dad always talked about Michigan pride, and I get that now, better than ever.  Thank you.”

And a final plug for the ND/Old 98 commemorative game program – $15 flat includes shipping:  Get yours here

More Notre Dame and Harmon stuff:


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08. September 2013 · 5 comments · Categories: 2013 · Tags:

98 banner

Gathering my game notes I realized there was plenty of stuff specifically on Harmon to warrant its own post, so here you go.

Ole vs. Ol’ vs Old 98.  My understanding—it’s “Old 98.”  Back in the day it was popular to tag things after popular songs.   For example, when Minnesota confiscated the Little Brown Jug in 1903, it was neither little nor brown yet they dubbed it the ‘Little Brown Jug’.  Why?  As John U. Bacon has accurately surmised, its named derived directly from the popular folk tune of the same name.   I assume it’s the same deal with the Old 98—it’s just a play on his jersey number and the popular folk song ‘The Wreck of Old 97’ which has been recorded by a pile of artists including Johnny Cash.

Old Number 6?   Those in the crowd might have seen this shot on the scoreboard.  The great Old 98 donning the Number 6 and 105,109 heads were scratched:

Old Number 6 I got into this a little bit here back in ‘08, but I believe this photo is likely from the preseason Harmon’s sophomore year of 1938.   It looks like there was a media opp to shoot the team and you can see him wearing the #6.  My guess—something happened to Harmon’s regular jersey, perhaps torn in practice, and so they found him another that fit for the media to see.   In 1938 the #6 jersey belonged to John H. Kinsey, a halfback from Plymouth, MI who happened to be Harmon’s exact height and weight—6’0” 194 pounds.   I’m guessing Kinsey was wearing a barrel or sandwich sign on this day.

Representing.  Tom Harmon California license plate “9T8” was also flashed, gotta love it.  Sorry that’s the best I have:


The Video Package  I thought #1000SSS did an outstanding job with the Harmon video package—it stressed more than just the on-the-field highlights and got a look into the man’s life.  Well done.  On a personal note feel like I’m heavily invested in all of this stuff and I watched it upstairs from the photo deck (lead photo from up top).  It might have been the breeze but I got chills. Only nit?  I still would have squeezed in a couple more clips of his Yakety Sax runs to thrill the crowd (especially the students) like this one:

Celebrity  So Mark Harmon was in the house of course, I posted a few shots here.   Here he is chatting it up with Laura Hoke (maize) flanked by wife Pam Dawber in white.  (No nerds, that wasn’t Princess Leia).1 Harmon Hoke Dawber (2)

Assume that’s the biggest non-sports celeb in the house since Russell Crowe helped out his man Lloyd Carr back in 2007.   Sorry Sanjay Gupta.

Russell Crowe

On Gardner  The chalk pick was Gardner to wear the 98 and he did.  Cynical fan will say it’s a marketing ploy to sell 98 jerseys (hey – get yours at Moe’s!).  Guilty as charged.   But I’m glad it went on the back of a play handling the ball, and forgetting out that little incident in the south endzone, wow…New 98 can handle the ball.

Gardner and Gallon There’s Gallon and Gardner, the two Heisman Legends side-by-side in the postgame.

Harmon’s Spot in History.  On WWJ during pregame (I’m efforting the audio) I was asked if Tom Harmon is the greatest athlete all-time at U-M.  My answer?  I think that’s a distinction that goes to #47 Bennie Oosterbaan based on the dominance he put up across three sports (football, hoops and baseball).   And that’s not to take anything away from 98 because as I noted, with Harmon it was a man vs. boys scenario when he was on the field.

It had been 26,586 Days…since the #98 hit the field (and the end zone) back in Columbus, OH November 1940.

Program?  Did you get yours?   Were you chicken…just waiting to see if Michigan won to know if you really wanted a souvenir?  Get yours here.   Again, call me a shill but your $ vote tells the athletic department that you give a crap about this stuff.   While you are in there check out the pieces I wrote on the 1940 Cal trip and game, and my mini-review of the underwhelming film starring Old 98 titled ‘Harmon of Michigan.’   Flight 98

Notre Dame Related:

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A smattering from pregame.  More later.

1 Harmon Hoke DawberMark Harmon and wife Pam Dawber chat it up with Laura Hoke


1 Mr HandDa’Man.  That’s Da’Shawn Hand.    His world. 


1 Mark Address  Mark got a tad choked up addressing the crowd

IMG_2577Devin Gardner wearing this tonight.   Uniform Timeline updated.


1 Pam Dawber Michigan ‘M’indy


IMG_7280 Blimp reads ‘Tom Harmon’s a PIMP’


Photo Sep 07, 7 47 22 PM Jets over Saline, a few minutes before they headed into Ann Arbor


Photo Sep 07, 8 24 40 PM (1) Guys named Steve everywhere love it

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It’s not a secret that I’m a fan of the Michigan Football Legends program because it’s forcibly re-introduced these names and these eras into the conversation, especially on the week they’ve been honored.  I’ve also witnessed (and in many cases been a part of) the research and publication of fresh materials on these men as a direct result of the Legends program.   That’s a good thing– and this stuff will be available for future generations to see.

Speaking of that you might have noticed I’ve been plugging the commemorative Tom Harmon/Notre Dame game program this week.  Call me a #1000SSS shill, but those who read this site understand that I aggressively support projects like that program because the athletic department invested resources to make this a big day, and again, to gather fresh material on Harmon.  Great stories.   New interviews.  Digitization of epic footage.  Enhancement of old photos (see the program cover).  Et cetera.

As a fan I think this is a case where a few bucks to grab the program is important.  And I’m assuming a lot of what was produced will end up in Schembechler Hall.

I also understand there are critics.  I felt the Twitter flak when the #11, #87, #21 jerseys were re-introduced and I’m feeling a tad groundswell from those that think the #98 should remain on the shelf.   You could argue that Michigan should be investing, from time to time, in the fresh research on these guys anyway, without having to put the jerseys #s back on the field.  You could argue that the whole end game with the Legends is to make a buck, whether on retro jerseys or whatever.  I get all that.  But again, I think that we’re talking about these guys and given what were seeing produced—it is worth it.

Another consideration is of course for the living families members.  Most the Legends aren’t with us anymore.  Brady alluded to that after the game Saturday when I asked him about the #98.  He said, “Obviously we want to make sure we honor the family..”   Think about guys like Mark Harmon, the actor, 24-time reigning Sexiest man alive and son of the soon-to-be Legend.  When, in Mark’s lifetime, is his old man going to be honored like this again?   Not going to happen.

And speaking of family, check this out.  Over the past few years I’ve become pals with Ben (or as many like me refer to him, “Bennie”) McCready—the godson of the great #47 Bennie Oosterbaan.  Ben was on the field last year when Jake Ryan took the honor of donning the #47.  Since then he and Bennie have a forged a bit of a relationship and after Saturday’s CMU game they hooked up.  Check out captain Ryan trying on this beauty in the shadow of the Glick:

Jake Ryan 47 Photo compliments of Bennie McCready

I don’t care who you are, that’s cool.

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