Sports in the Time of Esther McCleery Comment Count

Seth August 2nd, 2013 at 10:45 AM


Dear Diary was going to be in this spot this morning, but the site was 504-ing and I couldn't get at all my precious tabs. So instead you get Esther McCleery.

My good friend Nate is certainly the most interesting person I've ever met. He's one of those diamonds from the middle of nowhere that the University of Michigan goes out of its way to collect, the nowhere in this case being Eastern Kentucky and the middle being a small town called Grayson. I'll save you his list of accomplishments because he'll be famous enough one day for all of them to end up in a book.

In a town like Grayson hoarding is one of the things that register on a list of pastimes. While sorting through one trove Nate found a stack of old copies of Life magazine and brought them with him to our college reunion last weekend. Inside he found and framed enough ads for bourbon to keep Kentucky bars well-tchotchke'd for a decade.

This he was doing at the breakfast table on Saturday morning while another friend and I were trying to justify to our wives why we're blowing what could have been a Europe trip on a few upcoming Saturdays.

That's when Nate serendipitously discovered an article on Homecoming in the November 1959 issue. Hey it's our band:


That's the only photo in the article that's pointed at the field. Life's photographer instead spent the 4th quarter with his camera turned toward Class of '34 alumna Esther McCleery. I'll reproduce that for you now:


HOMECOMING SPIRIT at game is shown in the mobile face of Mrs. Esther McCleery, class of '34 at Michigan. Above Mrs. McCleery screams, "Go, Team, Go, this is it!" as Michigan, behind 16-10 in final quarter, intercepts pass deep in Wisconsin territory. "All right, Blue," Mrs. McCleery bellows. "This is it, we've got 'em now."

But a moment later Michigan fumbles and Mrs. McCleery's face falls (below)


In the final minutes of the game, she dejectedly watches Wisconsin wrap it up with a field goal. "We've had it but good," she mutters.


But she brightened. "Next year we'll get 'em," she says.

Everyone ought to see Notre Dame du Paris (NOTE-rruh Dahm) one time in their life just to appreciate the feats of art and engineering that mankind can accomplish when we feel like it. To understand why we'd ever build such things, first you ought to experience something like Notre Dame at Michigan, since there are few other things in the world—other than gaining or losing another human being—that can make you truly appreciate the depths of emotions that make being a human animal quite worthwhile.1375122306_163422_HTTV_Sports

29 days, Esther.



August 2nd, 2013 at 12:12 PM ^

It also says something to the decline of Homecoming.  Or maybe I'm just not far enough away from graduation (and still live in AA), but it just doesn't seem like homecoming is that big of a deal in Ann Arbor.


August 2nd, 2013 at 12:29 PM ^

When I lived in Ann Arbor ('01-'05), Homecoming just seems to mean a noticeable, but not all that sizable, uptick in drunk alumni roaming the streets. The only really memorable Homecoming moment for me was my freshman year when two drunk 30-somethings crawled through my dorm room window to proudly announce that they used to live there (then immediately asked if my roommate and I had any porn on our computers).

But yeah, Homecoming never really seemed to be much of an event in my experience.


August 2nd, 2013 at 12:39 PM ^

When you don't live in A2 and you are away for a decade and then come back for Homecoming, it is a big deal.

It's not that noticeable in the stadium, but go to the Law Quad or the Ross B-School on homecoming before the game and you'll see the tents set up and the buzz in the crowd.


August 2nd, 2013 at 12:15 PM ^

By 1959, Michigan was deep into the Bump Elliott era, which with all due respect to the Rich Rodriguez haters around here, was the darkest period of Michigan football history.  They finished the 1959 season 4-5 and 3-4 in the conference, which was good enough for 7th place.

The Big 10 Champion that season was Wisconsin, which finished the regular season 7-2 and 5-2 in the conference and ranked 6th in the nation before getting trounced by Washington 44-8 in the Rose Bowl


August 2nd, 2013 at 1:19 PM ^

who spent a lot of time out in the sun. That'll work up some face leather really nicely by the time you're in your 40s.

But I agree with you about people aging faster back then. When I look at photos of Bo in 1969, he was only 39 years old, and looked about 50.

Der Alte

August 2nd, 2013 at 1:50 PM ^

that same HC game, sitting in the student section. That following summer while at officer training in Quantico, VA, a Wisconsin student named John was my bunkmate, he occuping the lower bunk while I had the upper.

John was in the same fraternity as several of the football players. When the subject of that Rose Bowl came up, John said the players had received Rose Bowl commemorative watches. And the standard joke around the house was to ask them what time it was. The standard answer was "oh, about 44 to 8."


August 2nd, 2013 at 4:36 PM ^

for whom there is a Alumni Society Scholarship in the School of Nursing:

EDIT (link):

Open to current students in their junior year (including Second Career Students) who will progress to their senior year in the upcoming fall term. Evaluation criteria include academic achievement, financial need, and participation in community services that demonstrate leadership qualities.



August 3rd, 2013 at 5:39 PM ^

Every single scoring drive in the game (3 for Wisconsin and 2 for Michigan) was started by an interception.  The two teams' combined passing stats were 6 completions on 29 attempts, with 9 interceptions (6 interceptions thrown by Michigan and 3 by Wisconsin).  More passes were caught by defenders than by offensive players, and there were more interception return yards (59) than passing yards (45). 

That was one ugly game:  10 turnovers and 13 punts.