1933 Willie Heston with the Little Brown JugI call this “Willie with Jug and Pigskin”

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.

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.

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03. August 2015 · Comments Off on Speedy Willie & 1904 · Categories: 2015 · Tags: , , ,


ICYMI – Late last week mgoblog posted an exclusive excerpt of Stagg vs. Yost, the brilliant new book by John Kryk.   An excerpt of the mgo-excerpt, which focuses on Willie Heston and his exploits in 1904:

In Michigan’s third game, a 95-0 obliteration of vastly overmatched Kalamazoo College in just 40 minutes of play, Heston might have rushed for more single-game yards than any running back before or since, at any level of college football. “As usual, Willie Heston’s performance was the headliner of the matinee,” the Michigan Daily reported. “A review of the game shows that the captain advanced the ball during the afternoon 515 yards — considerably more than a quarter mile.” Heston continually broke away on long gains and scored six of Michigan’s 16 touchdowns, four on runs of 65, 70, 85 and 65 yards.

How fast was Heston? The fastest man in the world in 1904 just happened to be a fellow UM student — Archie Hahn. At the Summer Games in St. Louis that year, the “Milwaukee Meteor” became the first man to win the Olympic sprint double: gold medals in both the 100 and 200 meters. Back then there was a 60-meter dash too, and Hahn won a third gold in that race. Two years later, Hahn won the Olympic 100 metres again. In 1901 he had tied the world record in the 100-yard dash (9 4/5ths seconds) and set a world record of 21.6 seconds in 200-meter straightaway dash, a race long since discontinued.

Between us, I’m efforting a different excerpt as well – stay tuned.  Get Stagg vs. Yost here.


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Ugh.  For the record:

This day in history – I mentioned to the fellas on air in the Victors Lounge that I’m actually getting crap on Twitter for citing history and historical events.  Umm…that’s what I do and almost all I do.   It this site’s raison d’être.   Needless to say I march on.

So while sadly Saturday was a low point of sorts, November 22 will remain an epic anniversary for Michigan football for decades to come, if for no other reason these two games:

celebration  takethat

Two Hundred.  Holy fandom endurance awards – props to uber fan Mike Khomutin for attending this 200th straight U-M game (yes, that’s home AND away).  I believe that dates back to 1998.  See Sap’s Decals for your decal.

Jake No Patch – Some of you noticed that Jake Ryan didn’t wear his Bennie Oosterbaan Legends patch during the Northwestern game.  I’m efforting some details from media relations on why.  To my knowledge this hasn’t been addressed by anyone…and if you think this little detail is silly, I’d offer that it’s no sillier than anything else people are writing about this team at this moment.

Willie Heston – Yo!  My piece short bio piece on Willie Heston appeared in the game program on Saturday (page 4).  I’ll repost it here soon and note that historian/pal John Kryk helped me out with a few nuggets.  A clip:


According to Kryk, Yost considered Heston an exceptional tackler, but because he played behind U-M’s dominant line he rarely got the chance to make a play.  Strangely enough his first touchdown at Michigan actually came on defense. In the 1901 season opener against Albion, he broke through the line, snatched the ball from the quarterback and dashed the rest of the way for his inaugural visit to the end zone.

Senior day – The seniors were honored on the field before the game as usual, but this year the players received framed jerseys instead of righteous commemorative pigskins that they’ve been given in recent years:

Brady Hoke hugs Denard Robinson - MVictors.com

Seven Decade Usher! – Another great tradition on the last home game is honoring the longest tenured stadium ushers.  I read this off of the closed captioning on the scoreboard, but I believe they acknowledged one Robert Prieskorn (sp?) for 75 years of service!  Holy moly.  That means Robert was on duty when Tom Harmon won the Heisman Trophy in 1940.

Wile and Hagerup – My co-Most Improved Players.

Mood UpdateComing up later.  Hint:

MMB – Their halftime routine summoned up a comet to blow up the Buckeye Marching Band’s dinosaur:

That’s all here.


Maize and Blue Nation:

We’ve been waiting almost 3 whole years for Dennis Norfleet to return a kick/punt for a touchdown after almost breaking loose numerous times. So it stands to reason the one and only time he takes one to the house…which probably would’ve put game away and slammed the door on any Maryland comeback…was called back for a highly questionable block in the back call.

mgoblog – Ace instant react

As far as I know, Brady Hoke hasn’t been informed he’s fired, but he knows. We all do. With bowl eligibility on the line—unless you’re holding out hope for a miracle in Columbus—Hoke’s squad couldn’t get out of its own way.


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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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03. September 2014 · Comments Off on Maize & Blue Sweatervest Hoodoo! (1904) · Categories: 2014 · Tags: , , , , , ,


Holy moly.  Have we merely scratched the surface on the gems out there in Michigan football lore?   Methinks. 

Via the great Greg Kinney, archivist at the U-M Bentley Historical Library, I present an Arkenstone of sorts. Via the October 9, 1904 edition of the Michigan Daily:

yostvest1904Sadly Kinney hasn’t found a photo of young Yost donning the righteous sweatervest* in this game, a 95-0 humiliation of our friends from K-Zoo. 

Speaking of 1904, on the ebay right now there’s an impressive slew of items from that era up for bid, leading off with this – a menu from a postseason banquet.  This type of meal was presumably the predecessor to annual football Bust, and was funded by “The Business Men of Ann Arbor”.

imageThe cover reads “A Hard Nut to Crack” and those feeble squirrels were indeed dealing with an impenetrable pigskin-shaped nut.  At this point Yost was still undefeated since he stepped off the train in Ann Arbor in 1901 and had pissed off just about everyone outside of Ann Arbor, especially Chicago’s “saintly” Amos Alonzo Stagg.

Here’s the menu, along with the speakers, including outgoing senior superstar Willie Heston:

imageAny serious collector will tell you that Point-A-Minute era memorabilia fetches a pretty penny, and this is no exception.  The seller is asking just under a cool grand for this beauty.

*P.S. Here’s young Yost if you need him.   Anyone: Feel free to photoshop a maize and blue hoodoo sweatervest on the old boy: 


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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.

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23. September 2013 · Comments Off on Delivering WOW Experiences…since 1954 · Categories: 2013 · Tags: , , , ,

Check out this item on eBay right now.  It’s a promotional packet for season ducats nearly 6 decades ago, implying ticketholders would get a piece of the coveted WOW experience:


The 1954 season (6-3 overall, 5-2 conference, #15 ranked) didn’t quite deliver the full punch of a WOW but sitting in the Big House watching #87 Ron Kramer line up against Army, #4 Iowa, #8 Minnesota, and Michigan State must have been pretty cool. 

To me the real WOW experience happened after the season at the 1954 team Bust…when several legends including Benny Friedman, Whitey Wistert and Willie Heston showed up.

You can pick up the 1954 promo piece (along with a few ticket stubs from that season) right here.


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mvictorstop_4_16 (1)

[Ed 5/2/13.  Adapted from a piece that was first published in the Detroit News last fall.]

I always struggle with all-time lists because it’s clearly so hard to compare the eras in which teams, coaches and players performed. The game has changed so much since Michigan first took the field against Racine in 1879 it makes the task nearly impossible.

One method is to compare players from the same era—and I get that—but that’s not what I went for here.  With some input from a few Michigan football historians, here’s a list of who I feel are the top twenty-five Wolverine pigskin players of all-time.

Final disclaimer: this is not a ranking in order 1-25.  This was hard enough (there are a dozen guys tied at #26 if you know what I mean):

Willie Heston The powerful back was lured to Ann Arbor from California by new coach Fielding Yost in 1901. Heston is credited a remarkable 72 touchdowns in his career and the Wolverines did not lose a game during his time in Ann Arbor. The Football Writers Association of America named Heston as the halfback for its all-time team for the first 50 years of college football.
Germany Schulz A beast of a man, Schulz dominated the line of scrimmage between 1904 and 1908. Named to 1951 Associated Press all-time All-American team, Schulz is credited with two innovations: the spiral snap and playing defense behind the line, effectively becoming the first linebacker. Michigan had a 32-4-1 record in his four seasons.
Harry Kipke Kipke is perhaps better known as the head coach of Michigan’s 1932 and 1933 national championship teams, but was a gifted athlete who was a star on the gridiron. During his years in the early 1920s he led Michigan to a 19-1-2 record, including the 1923 national championship. Not only a talented runner, blocker and passer, Kipke is arguably the finest punter in Wolverine history.
Bennie Oosterbaan Perhaps the finest all-around athlete in Michigan history, the Muskegon native started his career by helping to shut down Illinois’ Red Grange in 1925 and went three onto All-American seasons on the gridiron. Through known as a receiver, in his senior year of 1927, he helped defeat Ohio State in the Dedication game for Michigan Stadium by tossing two touchdown passes.
Benny Friedman The front end of the Benny-to-Bennie (Oosterbaan) combination that devastated opposing defenses in the mid-1920s, Friedman was a skilled passer generations before his time. A two time All-American, Friedman also won Big Ten MVP in 1926.
Harry Newman The Detroit native Newman was a crafty field general at quarterback who moved the ball with his feet and with his arm, leading Michigan to three straight Big Ten titles. In 1932 he put Michigan on his back to run the table and claim the national championship.
Tom Harmon A man amongst boys, Old 98 was dazzling combination of size, speed and finesse and could take over games. Harmon ended his career with a dominating performance against Ohio State that earned a standing ovation from the Buckeye faithful.
Bob Chappuis After honorable service in WWII, Chappuis starred on Fritz Crisler’s famed “Mad Magicians” on the 1947 national championship team. Although Chappuis played left halfback, he set several passing records and still ranks as the Big Ten’s most efficient passer.
Julius Franks An All-American as a junior, the quick and powerful Franks had his senior year was wiped out by tuberculosis. One of the most physically gifted lineman in U-M history, he was the most talented of Michigan’s famed line that was nicknamed “Seven Oak Posts” during the early 1940s.
Ron Kramer Along with Oosterbaan, one of the finest athletes in Michigan history. The nine-time M letterman dominated the gridiron with a combination of size, speed and smarts. Kramer played several positions and earned All-American honors in 1955 and 1956.
Bill Yearby The quiet but dominant tackle was one of the last lineman in Michigan history to play both offense and defense. Yearby anchored the line on the oft-forgotten 1964 Big Ten and Rose Bowl championship team that was mere inches from an undefeated season and a national title.
Jim Mandich An All-American and team captain in 1969, Mandich was named the team’s MVP while leading the Wolverines to the Rose Bowl in Bo’s first season. A member of the College Football Hall of Fame, Mandich’s 119 career receptions and 1,494 career yards remains tops among U-M tight ends.
Dan Dierdorf One of the finest offensive tackles ever to play for Michigan. Dierdorf was a consensus 1970 All- American and use strength and speed to anchor one of the finest rushing attacks in Michigan history.
Rob Lytle The punishing runner from Fremont, Ohio native converted to fullback at the request of Bo. Lytle was a consensus All-American and Big Ten MVP in 1976. He left Ann Arbor as U-M’s all-time leading rusher and averaged nearly six yards per carry.
Ricky Leach One of the most decorated quarterbacks in Big Ten history, Leach earned All-conference honors three times and was the league MVP in 1978. A four year starter, he broke Michigan’s career passing, total offense and touchdown records as well as the season record for touchdown passes.
Anthony Carter



Jim Harbaugh

The iconic #1, Carter remains one of the few 3-time All-Americans in Michigan history. The Big Ten MVP in 1982, Carter left Ann Arbor with the all time career scoring records and set several other standards for U-M receivers.

The first of what would be an impressive string of great Michigan quarterbacks in college and the NFL, Harbaugh shattered the season and career passing records and was named Big Ten MVP and All-American in 1986.

Mark Messner The 2 time All-American left Ann Arbor as Michigan’s career leader in tackles for loss. The powerful lineman from Hartland, MI led U-M in sacks from 1985-87 and started all 49 games of his career.
Steve Everitt The brutally tough center anchored the dominate offensive lines of the early 1990s. Michigan only lost a handful of games when Everitt was healthy. Physical leader of the offensive line which was named the collective MVP of the 1991 Gator Bowl.
Desmond Howard In 1991 had one of the finest seasons as a wide receiver in the history of college football. Opposing defenses (and everyone else watching) knew when the pass was going to Howard but could do nothing to stop it.
Steve Hutchinson The 4-year starter at left guard made 45 career starts and did not allow a sack during his final two seasons. Hutchinson was selected as Big Ten all-conferences all four years.
Charles Woodson Like Harmon, Woodson seemed to operate in a different gear than everyone else in college football. His flying one handed interception against Michigan State in 1997 was super human.
Mike Hart No major colleges seemed to have major interest in Hart, who had neither size nor great speed, out of high school. But once inserted in the lineup early on during his freshman year Hart pounded after carry after carry, eventually shattering the U-M career rushing record.
Braylon Edwards Edwards set U-M season and all-time records for receptions and receiving yards and left Ann Arbor as the career leader in touchdowns. A unanimous All-American choice, Edwards also won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top wide receiver and was named Big Ten MVP. His performance against Michigan State in 2004 remains one of the most dominate in U-M history.
Denard Robinson While he never got a championship in Ann Arbor, Shoelace was one of the few athletes in Michigan history (see Woodson, Friedman, and Carter) who forced U-M coaches to rethink their conventional strategy to ensure the ball was in his hands.
21. August 2012 · Comments Off on eBay Watch: 1902 Usher’s Ribbon · Categories: 2011 · Tags: , , , ,

1902 usher

So you don’t see many authentic items on eBay that fall inside the Yost Point-A-Minute era from 1901 to 1905.   There’s one up now.

Left you’ll find a Usher’s ribbon for the Thanksgiving day game held on November 27, 1902.  It’s the last game played between the Gophers and Wolverines that didn’t involve a certain water crock.  It wasn’t until the following year, 1903, that the Little Brown Jug was purchased in Minneapolis, left behind after the game and reclaimed by Michigan in 1909…and the rest is college football history. 

Looking at the Usher’s ribbon, it looks to be authentic, although I’m not suggesting that someone would have the stones to forge such a thing, but you never know. 

Having written on this stuff for a while now when I first spotted the ribbon I knew I’d seen that font style before.  Sure enough, on this vintage MVictors post from 2006, you clearly see the athletic department favored that print type on official materials including this 1901 season athletic pass that I’ve give my right pinky to have on my wall.

The usher who donned this silk ribbon watched Michigan take down the Gophers 23-6 in the ‘02 season finale.  Yost and crew once again ran the table finishing the season a perfect 11-0, outscoring opponents 644-12 to claim the national championship–although the New York Times seemed to favor Yale and everyone/anyone else on the east coast. 

Want to own this beauty?  Current bid is at $49.99 and it ends in 5 days. 

1900 – Elephants at Michigan & Trumbull
1902 – Rah-Rah-Rah Rose Bowl Rout
1902 – Some Vintage Rose Bowl Cheer

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24. April 2011 · Comments Off on eBay Watch: Can you Spot the Ringer? (1899) · Categories: 2011 · Tags: , , , , ,

Listed on eBay as a 1936 wire pic featuring the great Point-A-Minute back Willie Heston, it’s actually a 1899 team photo of the team from San Jose State:


Someone went through a little process of elimination to identify Heston:


It’s the first time I’ve seen Heston photographed in his pre-Wolverine days.  Arguably the finest back in Michigan history, it’s true that he didn’t start his collegiate days as a Wolverine. He played two seasons in San Jose before following Yost to Ann Arbor.


Yost discovered Heston on his short coaching stint in California 1899, where apparently he coached anyone with a pigskin in the gym.  As I understand it, Yost not only coached the collegians at Stanford but also helped out on Heston’s San Jose squad, at local Lowell High school and taught the Stanford freshman team as well.

Heston wasn’t the only fellow that seemed to have caught Yost’s eye out on the west coast.  He also convinced San Jose prep star George Gregory to come to Ann Arbor and the some claimed Yost offered Gregory cash, as much as $1500, to come to Michigan.  His old boss, Stanford President David Jordan, was the primary accuser and it apparently played out for nearly a decade. 

Check out this entertaining news clipping from many years later, January 3, 1908 in fact, in which Yost:
* denied the old claims
* says he holds a telegram from Gregory denying the bribe as well
* said he’d put up $1000 to a Detroit charity for anyone who could produce proof of the offer
* shot back at Jordan, claiming his accusations “poisoned the minds of many students of athletic ability”.

Perhaps there’s some truth to the accusations but…perhaps old President Jordan was bitter that a) Yost left him* for Michigan and, b) Heston & Gregory returned to California and put a colossal 49-0 BEAT DOWN on Stanford in Pasadena in the first bowl game just months after Yost left town.  Hmm.

(Don’t mess with “the Smiling One”!)

The San Jose team photo has no bid right now and starts out at $9.99.

* Note: per reader Karl, a Stanford rule change required a Stanford grad to coach the team.

How about Willie Heston?
Heston posts on MVictors