Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend any of the rededication activities at Crisler this weekend but I was involved on the periphery.  I assisted in editing some of the bios of those enshrined within the Michigan Hall of Honor, one of the features on the large interactive screens available in the spacious lobby of the tricked-out Crisler Center.  Here I am looking over the tribute to Old 98:

Crisler Center Hall of Honor Interactive 

The boards are pretty cool and I hope #1000SSS shares this content throughout the athletic campus (at the Big House & in the renovated Schembechler Hall for starters).    Naturally it was a process to get all the bios edited and photos uploaded et cetera, and naturally there was (and certainly still is) a typo or misplaced photo here and there.   I also assisted with some error checking over the past couple weeks and was there when we spotted this priceless gem:Fritz Crisler bio with Field Hockey TeamPoor Fritz.   At another (perhaps the last?) great event celebrating Michigan athletics tradition in 1979, Fritz was invited but certainly was far from thrilled when he gazed at the fourth line on the tickets to the event:

Chrysler Banquet

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19. October 2012 · Comments Off on Willis Ward Blitz · Categories: 2012 · Tags: , , , ,

Funny, for tomorrow’s game we were supposed to honor perhaps the most famous (non-POTUS) Michigan athlete of all-time—Tom Harmon.   That didn’t work out. 


Instead, we will be recognizing honoring one of the most controversial moments in Michigan football history—Willis Ward and the 1934 Georgia Tech game– something that occurred just a few years before Old 98 stepped on campus.

1934 My mini Ward shrine I’ve had for a few years:  student ticket booklet, order form for tickets to the Tech game and of course the stub.

The Ward story is blowing up here and there and there’s more to come.   There’s no pre-recorded episode of This Week in Michigan Football History as I will be live in the coveted WTKA Bud Light (M)Victors Lounge on Saturday around 1:30PM EDT discussing 1934, Ward, Ford, Kipke and much more with Sam, Ira and Brian Kruger from Stunt3 Multimedia—producers of the wonderful documentary Black and Blue.   For those out of town, I highly recommend tuning in via iHeart Radio or via the iHeart Radio app.

* Don’t miss the piece by Stephen Nesbitt of The Daily on the Ward affair.  Includes a small line from me and loads of Bacon, which is never a bad thing.  From ‘The Forgotten Man: Remembering Michigan trailblazer Willis Ward’, check out this nugget:

It was April 13, 1934: Michigan vs. California.

Bing Crosby was betting against Willis Ward.

Rumbling up the West Coast by train from Los Angeles to Berkeley, Calif., two of Ward’s teammates — Dave Hunn and Bill Kositchek — met Crosby and struck up a conversation. Before walking away, there was a bet on the table.

For $10, who would win the 100-yard dash later that day between Ward and California’s George Anderson? Crosby took Anderson, the Michigan tracksters took Ward.

Anderson edged Ward by a hair at the finish line, and Hunn and Kositchek paid up their half of the bargain by taking out an ad in the corner of the Daily later that week congratulating the crooner.

* USA Today is on it:

The story of Willis Ward and Gerald Ford and Oct. 20, 1934 will be told at the Big House on Saturday. Few know it, but everyone should.

* Finally this photo via Brian Kruger.  Ward’s gravesite got tidied up recently and Kruger added an accessory:

willis ward

I appreciate all the kind words (and hair jokes) for the appearance on the Tom Harmon Big Ten Icons piece that has been running this week.  The last airing (before they run Archie Griffin #4 tonight at 9am) will be today at 2:30pm today locally.  You can watch the first couple minutes of the show here.

A few folks have fired over questions about the episode and I’d thought I’d summarize those here.   I addressed some of this and more with Sam and Ira on Feb 3 so check that out as well.

The biggest questions have been around how/why was I involved.  I was contacted by the producer about a month ago.  They were pulling together the episode and felt they needed more “voices” to add to the documentary.  

Keep in mind most of the interviews/comments about Harmon and the other pieces were collected a while ago.  Angelique, for instance, was interviewed during the Big Ten basketball tournament last year—they shot her in an old gym in Indianapolis.  

My read is that they had a lot about how great/dynamic Harmon was, but not a lot of detail in the Harmon story.  So—the producer asked around for names & John Lofy of Michigan Today and the great John U. Bacon suggested they contact me.   The BTN folks also contacted Greg Kinney, curator at The Bentley Library.

They interviewed Kinney and I on January 25th at the stadium on the east side.  (Kinney went before me and he was gone before I arrived).  I’m seated in the first row of one of the suites and no, I didn’t have any say/choice in the manner.  This is professional outfit: they had all the angles/lighting/audio set up before I got there.  There was an ‘X’ on the floor by my seat.

As you can see I’m about 15 ft from the producer, who’s asking me questions.  I really didn’t have a set script—basically we started talking about Harmon’s high school prowess and went from there.  It was a little awkward at first—having watched my share of documentaries including other Icons episodes, I know they are trying to capture a critical sentence here and a key line there.  I think I tried to finesse a few key sentences at the start but that was dumb.  In the end I just tried to have a conversation.

As I mentioned to Sam and Ira, I did talk a bit about the mess going on with Kipke and the U-M program, and the possibility that Harmon was nudged to Michigan by Chicago/Gary alumni groups.  That obviously didn’t air and I’m not surprised.

Bullets based on questions/comments I’ve received:

  • I intentionally wore my class ‘M’ ring for the interview but I wasn’t consciously trying to “flash” it.   Not that there’s anything wrong with that, haha.
  • ring 

  • I think we spoke on camera for about 30-40 minutes.  There were a couple breaks when I believe they switched tapes or whatever.
  • Naturally I wasn’t paid for this #HALOL! 
  • I really wasn’t sure if I was going to appear at all in the show and I was surprised how many times I showed up (13X by the count of one family friend).  Some of my comments are spliced together.
  • Along with the Kipke/Tulane mess, I talked a bit about the 1940 Minnesota game (Harmon missed the extra point that would have tied the game) and the 1939 game against Iowa where Harmon destroyed Nile Kinnick.   98 score every point (they mentioned that in the show) but he also picked off Kinnick for a 90-yard+ return.   I said something about how I wonder Iowa felt about Kinnick winning the ‘39 Heisman after watching Harmon in that game…but I don’t think they wanted to entertain a Icon vs. Icon death match.
  • The photos above were actually taken after my interview.  Like a grandma with a camera,  I realized I forgot to get a photo during the shoot so I asked if we could go back and fake like we were still filming, haha.  One of the production guys took the shots.
  • A big hat tip to the work of WolverineHistorian.  I pored over a couple of the vids he took before the shoot and it really helped me prepare, and I think my comments on the Cal game run convinced them to replay that clip.  Also a hat tip to John Kryk for sending over the Ufer quote on Harmon and the 1940 Ohio State game.
  • I loved Bacon likening Harmon’s running style to that of a water-skier.  I thought that was great.
    I thought they did a great job with this show and I was proud to appear.  And I must say it’s kind of cool being a part of a college football show “hosted” by Keith Jackson.  I loved the old clips of Harmon and Evashevski (especially the Harmon clip that validated my comments about how 98 felt about his teammate/captain). 

photo via this site

I swung by WTKA 1050AM this morning to chat with Ira and Sam about the great Tom Harmon, the Big Ten Network’s #5 Icon.   The show will air Sunday at 2:30PM (and re-air at 9pm, if the Super Bowl is a dud.)

More Harmon stuff:

Why Tom Harmon Went to Michigan
Tom Harmon – Big Ten Icon #5
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

01. February 2011 · Comments Off on Big Ten Icon #5 – Why Tom Harmon Went to Michigan · Categories: Archive 2010 · Tags: , , , , ,

Monday the BTN revealed that Old 98 Tom Harmon will be the next athlete featured in their Icons series.  The Harmon segment will appear on Super Bowl Sunday at a special time: 2:30PM (it will re-air again at 9pm). 

Continuing the discussion of items you might not know about Harmon.  In the last post I mentioned his high school athletic prowess at Horace Mann high in Gary, Indiana.  An interesting question is why he ended up at Michigan.  Three factors would suggest that Harmon might consider a different destination during his senior year of 1936-37:

  • Harmon had brothers who were athletes at relatively nearby Purdue & another who landed at Tulane.
  • Michigan football was in the middle of a horrible stretch, coming off the worst 3-year span in school history from 1934-1936.  (And still the worst three year stretch, thanks Brian for having my back.)   He was walking into a serious rough patch and head coach Harry Kipke was under fire
  • The powerhouse at the time was jug rival Minnesota, with Bernie Bierman’s Gophers rolling up a string of 3 straight national championships.  Nearby Notre Dame and coach Elmer Layden had some decent teams in the mid-1930s as well.

    One disclaimer: I’m not a Harmon biographer of course.  These thoughts draw upon what I’ve read over the years (which isn’t everything).

    First, the cynical view of why he ended up in Ann Arbor:  It was alleged that Harmon benefited from a little financial “help” from the Gary and Chicago U-M alumni groups and this nudged him to Ann Arbor.  This is something Harmon and the groups vehemently denied.   When an investigation of illegal alumni support of 5 freshman (including Harmon) kicked in during his first year on campus, word got out that Harmon might bolt to another school most publicly Tulane (where he could get a scholarship).  He stayed of course and thrived under new Coach Fritz Crisler.

The non-cynical view:  THIS IS MICHIGAN!  Despite the tough stretch U-M was a still a great football power with two national titles in the decade under Kipke.  On top of this and perhaps more importantly, Harmon’s high school coach Doug Kerr suited up for the Wolverines in the late 1920s and he seemed to be a strong influence.   When it was learned that Harmon was staying in A2 after Tulane-gate*, one of the reasons cited was his relationship with Kerr.  Harmon also had thoughts of becoming a broadcaster after college and Michigan offered an top notch education to help make that happen.  Remember, back then “going pro” wasn’t an automatic given the choice.

There are a few thoughts, you decide.  In the meantime, here’s Harmon the BMOC:


* Yes, I’m dropping a –gate on something three and a half decades before Watergate.

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This morning the BTN revealed that Old 98 Tom Harmon will be the next athlete featured in their Icons series.  The Harmon segment will appear on Super Bowl Sunday at a special time: 2:30PM (and will re-air again at 9pm). The BTN cameras were on campus last week interviews for the feature.


This week I’ll run a few posts on interesting things you might not know about Harmon.  You know he’s #98 and the Heisman winner and of course he’s actor Mark Harmon’s dad.  (Mark did consider coming to Michigan FWIW—his pops stayed out of it.)

For starters, here’s a little about Harmon’s exploits before he even strapped on Crisler’s new-fangled winged helmet:

High School Days
Harmon was beyond a standout athlete in high school—he was off the charts.  It was in his blood, demonstrated by his athletic family.  Two of Harmon’s brothers ended up at Purdue, another at Tulane.   In addition to being named all-state quarterback twice, Harmon earned 14 varsity letters at Horace Mann High in Gary, IN.  He captained the 1936 basketball team and won the state title in the 100-yard dash & the 200-yard low hurdles.   He tossed three no-hitters in AAU summer baseball.   Fielding Yost called him the scholastic athlete of the year.

It was in high school that Harmon also settled on the famous 98 jersey.  The stories differ, even in the Harmon family.  Basically it goes something like this:  Tom was a freshman on his high school team and he got in trouble with the coach for chewing gum and blowing bubbles.  (Some versions have him being sent to the locker room to take off a jersey he’s already wearing.   In others he’s not wearing a jersey at this point).   As a sort of punishment, he’s asked to return kick-offs against the varsity and of course no one can catch him.    The coach, seeing his brilliance, asked him to go grab a uniform.  Young Tom picked out the best available gear in the locker room and returns to the field.  The coach noticed that Harmon chose the jersey number of the star running back and sent him back to the locker room to pick out something else.  All Harmon can find is a dingy #98 jersey in the corner and he threw it on.   He embraced it.

The Harmon segment will appear on Super Bowl Sunday at a special time: 2:30PM (and it will re-air again at 9pm).

28. August 2010 · Comments Off on eBay Watch: Hand Him the Hustler Award (1990+) · Categories: Archive 2009 · Tags: , , , , , , ,

While Wolverine fans tend to toss any great individual performance that occurred during a loss in the circular file, there are a few that stand out.  One of those is tailback Jon Vaughn’s 201-yard rushing performance in Gary Moeller’s coaching debut, a thrilling 28-24 loss in South Bend in 1990. 

Thanks to eBay, we now also know that Vaughn had a little more than game film and the occasional ache/pain to remember that great effort.  Evidently Vaughn was the game’s ‘Offensive Hustler’:


Yes, apparently Coach Mo not only dealt out helmet stickers, he also handed out Little League second place trophies for individual efforts.  Per the auction description:

Very rare one of a kind John [sic] Vaughn offensive hustler award for the game on sep 15 1990 vs the notre dame fighting irish. The trophy stand approx 14 inches high. The trophy does have some wear in areas. Please note that this trophy does not specifically mention his name. However i just recently purchased a memoribilia [sic] grouping from John [sic] Vaughn.

Vaughn earned more prestigious honors at the end of the season, particular co-Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year.   Against Moeller’s advice, Vaughn bolted to the NFL after the season and had a short career in the bigs. 

Other Hustlers eBay
Here’s a couple other guys who deserved the distinction of Michigan’s offensive hustler, call it a Hustler lifetime achievement award.  

Let’s start with the great Bob Chappuis, here featured in this incredible photo currently up for bid.  He’s leaping over Michigan State’s Lynn Chandnois (or Jaws for James Bond) and both men signed the shot, very cool:


There’s always a bunch of cool stuff featuring all-time Hustler Tom Harmon, but this one was pretty nice.  It’s some sort of card featuring a photo of Harmon on the front with 98’s career stats on the back:


I don’t know if you can read that, but one thing stuck out–Harmon attempted 94 passes in 1940 and had 11 picked off.  Yikes.  That of course didn’t stop Harmon from taking home the ultimate college football Hustler award

Finally, this photo deserves a good home.  It’s 1920s revolutionary Wolverine footballer Benny Friedman on the sidelines from 1939:


This was more than a decade since his days in Ann Arbor, and at the time he coached at City College of New York (some folks wanted him to return to Ann Arbor to replace Harry Kipke).  As noted in the wire photo caption, he also strapped on the helmet for a local pro team named, naturally, the Wolverines.   From Murray Greenberg’s Passing Game: Benny Friedman and the Transformation of Football: