An oft-overlooked icon on Michigan's athletic campus, Ferry Field, gets a nice article by Gregg Krupa in today's Detroit News. As the article notes, Michigan won six of its eleven national titles at Ferry Field or the nearby Regents Field. Yost helped build Michigan football into the monster it is at Ferry Field, and it remains a beautiful and understated track facility.
But I'll gladly allow that a Buckeye achieved the greatest individual fame at Ferry Field. Jesse Owens, running for OSU, set or tied four world records there on May 25, 1935:
- 100 yd dash - 9.4 Sec
- Long Jump - 26'8.25" (record stood for over two decades)
- 220 yd dash - 20.3 Sec
- 200 yd low hurdles - 22.6 Sec
Owens is in a rare group of OSU athletes I can't even bring myself to dislike, what with the showing Hitler up stuff and all. (Other candidates are Jack Nicklaus, Archie Griffin and Chris Spielman.) Owens suffered indignities in the U.S. like many other black athletes, including not being allowed to live on OSU's campus despite being their biggest celebrity.
It used to blow my mind when I was at Michigan that I could run on the same track as Owens - a feeling reminiscent of standing at the Lincoln Memorial on the spot where MLK told us all of his dream. If you're lucky enough to be in or near Ann Arbor, you owe it to yourself to take a run there.
And, oh yeah, the infield. Some other stuff took place there too. Yost's and Oosterbaan's teams, including Harry Kipke, Benny Friedman, and others ran the college football world for years on that hallowed ground. All before crowds that ultimately required a larger stadium that you probably know a little about.
In the article Dr. Robert Soderstram notes that many landmarks from that time still remain, and you can mentally orient yourself pretty easily with current landmarks:
“It still, basically, remains where it always was,” Soderstrom said of Ferry Field. “In fact, the flag pole that is there is still where the flagpole was when Michigan played there,” he said
“The track is essentially the same. “Where the great big I.M. (Intramural Sports) Building is now is where the north stands were. And they had a cement stand, it was a permanent stand that was on the south side where you now see the small stands they use for track meets and stuff. “But at that time they had a pretty fair-sized cement stand that probably sat 10 to 15 thousand people,” Soderstram said. “Yost could squeeze 45,000 people in there.”
Ferry Field remains an understated gem (although it's been several years since I've been able to run there), and can transport a person back in time in the midst of a bustling campus. So of course Dave Brandon was proposing going all Big Yellow Taxi on the spot and putting in a parking lot - a plan that fortunately never got legs.
The entire article, although a touch alarmist*, is worth a gander - http://www.detroitnews.com/story/sports/2017/07/04/ferry-field-jesse-owens-university-michigan-historic-um-football/103428396/
*The headline is that the "Future of UM's Historic Ferry Field Uncertain", but the article notes at the outset that there is no current plan to tear the place down.