Happy 136th Birthday, Michigan Football!

Submitted by Wolverine Devotee on May 30th, 2015 at 10:37 AM

136 years ago today at White Stockings Park in Chicago, Michigan played their first football (or foot ball back then) game against Racine.

Irving K. Pond scored the first touchdown in Michigan history as Team 1 beat Racine 1-0.



complete account of the game

Some funny snippets from the account-

The heat was oppressive, but despite the heat, about 500 students of Racine and citizens of Chicago witnessed, what we may call, the finest game of Rugby foot-ball ever played this side of the Alleghanies.


A rest of ten minutes given the teams, during which Mr. Keeler and other graduates amused themselves with a few kicks, but they only succeeded in covering themselves not with glory, but with dirt. The second inning opened by a good kick-off by Captain DeTarr....



May 30th, 2015 at 10:48 AM ^

Yes. Scoring rules varied drastically in the early stages of the game. I'm pretty sure at one point that you needed to make the PAT for the TD to count.


May 30th, 2015 at 10:57 AM ^

Had to look up this Pond fellow after this post. He also is responsible for designing the Michigan Union (where his boyhood house used to be) and the Michigan League. This dude just oozes Michigan. 


May 30th, 2015 at 11:00 AM ^

was worth 0 points as they missed the point after. the only point of the game was scored in the second "inning" on a place kick..at least according to wikipedia


May 30th, 2015 at 11:06 AM ^

Think of it as Touchdown = 0 points, Extra Point = 1 point, Field Goal = 1 point.

Because the "extra point" was missed, Pond's touchdown had absolutely nothing to do with Michigan's win; David DeTarr scored the point for Michigan by kicking a goal in the last few minutes of the game.

Picktown GoBlue

May 30th, 2015 at 12:09 PM ^

in the account are not surprising.  White Stockings Park, or Lakefront Park, or Lake-Shore Park,

was located in what is now MIllenium Park.

Just like the modern day team's park (Wrigley Field), it's always important to know if the wind is blowing out for the game.  Since future landfill had not occurred, the lake was essentially right outside the park as shown in the top picture.

From a baseball perspective, when Michigan played this game there, balls hit over the right field fence were only ground-rule doubles as the field was so small.  A few years later (after missing the pennant for the first time in 4 years), the team decided to call such balls home runs and the White Stockings led the league in homers by 142 to 39 over the second-ranked team.  Surprise, surprise, the league instituted new minimums for ball parks after that year.  Due to that, and the fact the ball park was built on federal land that was not supposed to have any permanent structures, the team had to move to a bigger field.  More info here.

Here were the baseball dimensions in 1879:

  • Left field foul pole: 186 feet
  • Left field power alley: 280 feet
  • Center field: 300 feet
  • Right field power alley: 252 feet
  • Right field foul pole: 196 feet

And here we thought the Northwestern football game at Wrigley was cramped!