I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
Michigan football history
I do not live in Michigan anymore so I knew that I wouldn’t be able to catch a local screening of Black and Blue. However, the producers of the film, Stunt3 Multimedia, already have the documentary available on DVD, and I took advantage of a special offer through MVictors.com to buy the DVD with free shipping. I watched the film today and was enthralled.
For those of you who do not know, Black and Blue is the story of the 1934 Michigan-Georgia Tech game, where Michigan and Georgia Tech forced black Michigan player Willis Ward to sit out due to racial prejudice, and the stand that his teammate and future Speaker of the House and US President Gerald R. Ford took in support of his friend.
Black and Blue is done in Ken Burns style, with narration and music over slowly-panning still photographs, a few film clips, and interviews with experts, including Greg Dooley of MVictors, John U. Bacon, Civil Rights historian Tyran Steward, Richard Norton Smith, a prominent biographer of US Presidents who has worked at several presidential libraries and got to know Ford on a personal level, one of Ward’s grandsons Samuel Thomas, and For’d son Steve Ford. The film also includes audio and video of interviews with Willis Ward done in the 1970s. The music is all recordings of the Men’s Glee Club singing traditional Michigan songs, and Black and Blue includes many great photos of the Michigan campus of the day.
If Three and Out paints an unflattering portrait of Lloyd Carr, Black and Blue does the same for Fielding Yost, who is set up as the primary antagonist--and for good reason. Bacon talks about Yost’s racial attitudes, both known and assumed, and relates a story where Yost and football coach Harry Kipke had an intense argument over Kipke’s desire to recruit Willis Ward out of Detroit Northwestern High School. Bacon says account vary, but some say that the two men actually came to blows.
One of the most interesting parts of the documentary is that it shows some of the correspondence from Georgia Tech to Michigan, begging Yost to sit Ward out (in accordance to the practices of the time, Georgia Tech would sit out a player of “equal ability”) or cancel the game before either school received bad press over the incident. Yost made his decision over the summer, but his attempts to keep the story quiet backfired and blew up into a national story.
Black and Blue then covers the controversy, including several letters and telegrams sent to Yost and Kipke by alumni who objected to Michigan bowing to southern racism. It even includes the transcript of a meeting of the Board in Control of Intercollegiate Athletics where the members tried to manage the scandal. Yost even hired Pinkerton Detectives to provide security to the Athletics administrators and to spy on the student groups that supported Willis Ward.
As the protests raged, doubt began to creep in that the game would be played. Even so, Gerald Ford told Harry Kipke and his father that he was quitting the team. He only decided to play when Willis Ward asked him to play the game. Though the whole team was bitter about Ward’s benching, at the 11th hour it was announced that the game would go on. In a final indignity, Yost banned Ward from the entire stadium, not just the sideline. He had to listen to the game on the radio at his frat house.
As the game started, a Georgia Tech sophomore, Charlie Prescott, started mouthing off an hurling racial remarks at the Michigan team. According to Ward, Prescott called Ford a “nigger-lover.” Ford, who was slow to anger his whole life, lost his temper. The next play, Ford and one of the guards hit Prescott so hard that they knocked him out of the game. They told Ward on Monday that they dedicated that block to him (Ward gave a big smile in the interview at the end of that story). In an excellent bit of film editing, the film ends this emotional moment with the Glee Club singing “The Victors” while panning a photo of Ford in his pre-snap position.
Unfortunately, Ford said later that the Georgia Tech game ruined the 1934 Michigan team, despite the ugly 9-2 victory against the Yellow Jackets (Michigan scored a punt return touchdown, and the lack of offense and two safeties, combined with terrible weather and the Ward scandal made for a really terrible day). Interestingly, as Michigan lost its last five games to end the year 1-7, they only scored 12 points. All 12 were scored by Willis Ward.
Black and Blue asserts that not only did the incident wreck the Michigan football program until the arrival of Fritz Crisler in 1938, it also had an obviously negative impact on Willis Ward to the point that he lost his love of athletics. Ward was the star of the football team but was a much better track athlete. He was one of the only athletes to ever beat Ohio State’s Jesse Owens on the track, and Ward was widely considered to be a favorite to win gold medals for the US Olympic team in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. But the Georgia Tech game scarred him so badly that he did not want to suffer similar humiliation at the hands of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, so he refused to join the US Olympic team.
Black and Blue also covers the friendship between Ford and Ward after graduation, when Ford helped Ward campaign for office and encouraged his appointment to a judgeship. Their friendship also informed Ford’s support of Civil Rights legislation in the 1960s and his public support for the University of Michigan’s affirmative action policies that may have played a role in the Supreme Court’s 5-4 vote in favor of its legality. Also to the film’s credit, it covers Yost’s softened racial stand after the Georgia Tech game when he forced the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago (where the Big Ten was founded and where all Big Ten teams stayed when they played Northwestern or Chicago) to accept Ward as their second-ever black customer.
In the end, Black and Blue is a wonderful and interesting story about the friendship of two men, one white from Grand Rapids and one black from Detroit, who were involved in an ugly incident of racial prejudice, and how Ford used the incident to champion Civil Rights for African-Americans for the rest of his life. I knew about the Willis Ward incident before I saw Black and Blue, but I learned quite a lot. I would like to have seen some more coverage of Harry Kipke’s role and the role of University administrators in the incident, and they discuss an unpublished Michigan Daily editorial covering the incident by Arthur Miller, but do not show it (I am not sure it exists, but if it does it would have been really interesting to see). If you have the time, I highly recommend going to see it, it is very well done and it is an important but not widely-known part of Michigan football history and ultimately American history.
Some friends and I were curious about the last time the Lions and Michigan had gone this far into their respective seasons undefeated. The Lions haven't gone 4-0 since 1980. I emailed Greg Dooley (MVictors) this morning and asked what he thought. His response was that he doesn't think it's ever happened, and the closest he could think of was in 1970 when the Lions went 3-0 and Michigan was 9-0.
Just thought this was an interesting bit of information to share. Here's to a couple excellent seasons for both teams, and Go Blue!
With the way the Western game finished and the discussion that has commenced, I figured I would share this with the Mgocommunity:
I was recently watching the HBO documentary on the UM-OSU rivalry and heard an interesting piece of information that I had (somehow) missed when I had watched it previously. When I first heard it, I had just moved to Ohio and thought to myself "Hey, this is a nice little piece of history to bring up to locals talking smack."
This history happens to be the result of the UM-OSU game in 1902, played in Ann Arbor, in which the Wolverines defeated the Buckeyes by a whopping score of 86-0. However, the most interesting part of this game was how it ended. A quick Googling of the game brought up "The Ohio State Football Encyclopedia," stating the following about the game:
Ohio State was thoroughly humiliated at Michigan, 86-0, in the fifth game on October 25 . The score could have been far worse had the officials not stopped the contest midway through the second half "simply because the game was getting out of hand."
Interestingly enough, this game is also the highest combined score in any UM-OSU game as well, without the Buckeyes scoring a single point.
Now, I am unsure as to if this was officially the first ever home game to be called off early, but it is defintely one to remember.
Link to GoogleBook (information on page 30): http://books.google.com/books?id=-tYKqYHibB0C&pg=PA20&lpg=PA20&dq=ohio+s...
I ask because literally 10 of the 11 Notre Dame defenders were blocked - everyone but the backside DE. I looked back at Brown's 90 yarder against Eastern from last year and, besides being against Eastern, a lot of Eagles took themselves out of the play. Against Notre Dame, Denard found a hole before it existed, and then had GREAT downfield blocking, including the double pancake by Omameh.
Any lessons in Michigan football history are encouraged.
Richard Retyi of U-M Athletic Media Relations has penned an outstanding article on MGoBlue.com with the story of the first touchdown in Michigan history. Not surprisingly for a sport that was just trying to figure itself out, the touchdown was scored in very unusual fashion by a student-athlete whose on field and off field contributions to the University of Michigan may qualify him for the title of the first ever Michigan Man.
Michigan football earned varsity status in 1879 and that year played the first two games in program history, defeating Racine College and tying the University of Toronto.
The U-M roster featured nine players from the state of Michigan (six from Ann Arbor) and one each from Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota, North Dakota and Texas. The team photo features 13 handsome gentlemen with team captain Dave N. DeTar standing in the back row with his mates. The team did not have a head coach until 1891. Hand written notes on the back of the team picture read:
"All except Collins H. Johnson were in Chicago for the game with Racine College on May 30, 1879. Petit was substitute and did not get into the game. Touchdown by Pond. Field goal by DeTar."
Pond referred to Irving Kane Pond, an Ann Arbor native and a halfback on the first-ever U-M football squad. Pond had the honor of scoring the first touchdown in Michigan football history, though he did not self-identify as much of a football player.
Pond recalled the milestone touchdown run in his autobiography, which involved running over bleachers and vaulting his tacklers like a superhero:
"I am not a modern footballist (sic) if indeed I were ever any kind of footballist. I played only for the fun of it! ... My touchdown was made towards the end of the first half and involved a long distance run to where the ball must be grounded directly behind and between the goal posts ... To Avoid being tackled I was forced to mount the bleachers and run eastward along them until I was opposite the goal when I stopped suddenly and -- fearing that a touchdown in the bleachers would not count-- jumped over the heads of my pursuers to the ground."
1879 U-M Football Team - Irving Pond is the somewhat disinterested fellow at left, middle row.
Pond went on to great success as an architect in Chicago in partnership with his fellow alumnus and brother Allen Pond. They were purveyors of the Arts and Craft style of architecture and helped to usher in the Chicago school, even if its greatest exemplar Frank Lloyd Wright considered I.K. Pond stodgy and dead fish-like:
"Yesterday someone told me [Wright] that truly-old I.K. Pond took exception to your [Lewis Mumford] 'Sticks and Stones' because you weren't a 'practicing architect.' What 'practicing architects' know anything at all of architecture anyway, -- even if they could write about it? Certainly not he. He's a dried herring, hanging beneath the eaves of Architecture."
Regardless of Wright's opinion of Pond, he was well liked by the U-M leadership and apparently, several other midwestern universities.
The brothers' Ann Arbor connection remains strong. They excelled in building large university student unions and used their skills to design student unions at Purdue, Michigan State, Kansas and of course at their alma mater, Michigan. The Michigan Union was actually constructed on the site of the brothers' boyhood home and the Pond brothers also designed the Michigan League, the Student Publications Building on Maynard and the old YMCA Building on Fourth Street.
Pond and Pond were responsible for a bevy of public and private buildings, including Hull House for the noted social and political activist (and first female Nobel Peace Prize recipient), Jane Addams.
Pond was clearly a highly athletic gentleman, and maintained his fitness into his eighties.
Pond remained physically fit well into his golden years and performed a backflip on the occasion of his 80th birthday, a feat that was photographed for Life magazine in 1937. In fact, Pond utilized back flips and somersaults as part of his daily exercise regimen. In an article written about him in the Michigan Alumnus Magazine in 1927, Pond recalled using his acrobatic skills to confuse his opponents on the football field.
"The great satisfaction I had in that game was in learning that I had confounded the other side in turning a back somersault at the signal for its kickoff at the beginning of the second half, grabbing the ball as I alighted upon my feet and going down the field for a long run."
Now who wouldn't want to see Daryl Stonum turning a back somersault just before catching the second half kickoff and racing down the field in honor of the late, great Michigan Man, Irving K. Pond?
[Edit 1: Here's the link to the picture of I.K. Pond doing a backflip at 80 as memorialized in the pages of Life magazine. Apparently Pond was an aficianado of acrobats and circuses and wrote a book on the topic: Big Top Rhythms: A Study in Life and Art.]
[Edit 2: Here's a link to a great history of the Michigan Union. The building was started in 1916 and completed in 1919. During it's very early existence, it was used to house the WWI version of the ROTC and NROTC units which as you might imagine, were quite large. I think it's fitting that the Navy Mess was established in the Union's unfinished swimming pool.]
Owing to wartime difficulties, however, the building was not ready for use by the students until 1919, although, with the aid of a loan of $260,000 from the Michigan War Preparedness Board, it had been sufficiently completed to be used as a barracks for the Students’ Army Training Corps; during this emergency it served as a dormitory for 800 men and as a mess hall for some 4,000.
[Edit 3: Is it possible the I.K. Pond's story of running along the bleachers and vaulting over the hapless Racine defenders is apocryphal? Oh yes. Greg Dooley of MVictors.com just alerted me to his MGoPost from Feb 2009 that includes a contemporaneous account of the game from the Racine Advocate.
Our Club [Racine] won the first "kick-off" and Mr. Parker sent the leather covered oval high in air and far over the field. There was a burst of applause from the grand stand which stilled as Campbell of the Michigan caught the ball, and at high speed rushed with it toward Racine's goal. From this time on our boys had the worst of it...
In the second struggle the goals were reversed, and the same tactics were employed as before, the Ann Arbor Club on the offensive and our boys simply endeavored to defend their goal. Mr. Chase made an excellent catch from a Racine kick, placed the ball directly in front of the Purple's goal and Mr. D Tarr kicked the oval ball high and clean over our goal just as time was called. This ended the game in favor of Michigan...
Also, the Bentley's page on the 1879 team records the score of the Racine game as 1-0 in favor of Michigan, so at least for now, the official score seems to be limited to Tarr's kick. Since Retyi's article credited the Bentley with research assistance, it would be interesting to know what their Michigan football archivists think about Pond's fantastic (in every sense of the word) account.]
I just saw that Michigan is likely to score the 30,000th point in its history during the UConn opener. According to the comments section from the "Rodriguez waters the turf" article linked on MGoLicious, we stand at 29,998. With any luck, we'll start the game with a safety and get to 30,000 evenly.
I did a quick Google search and could not independently verify the total points number, and with over a thousand games played, it is probably not exactly accurate, but I'm gonna go with it anyway.