U-M History: Retiring U-M Jerseys

Submitted by MGoShoe on November 11th, 2010 at 5:30 PM

[Ed-M: Shoe, these are neat and all, but I think they're better left for the board or mgo.licio.us than the diaries. I'll ask Brian what he thinks]

Check out "Hailed! Retired jerseys at Michigan", a new article in Michigan Today by James David Dickson.  It tells the story of how the decision to retired football jersey numbers was started by an unlikely member of the football staff. 

At U-M, the tradition of retiring jerseys started not with a head coach or an athletic director, but with an equipment manager, Henry Hatch.

After Bennie Oosterbaan's record-setting career at wide receiver ended in 1927, sportswriters noted that equipment manager Henry Hatch, who assigned numbers for the football team, had taken Oosterbaan's number 47 out of circulation prior to fall 1928.

A decade later, before the 1938 season—between the time Harry Kipke coached his last game for Michigan and Fritz Crisler coached his first—Hatch made it official, announcing to the media that number 47 would never be worn again.

Just two years later, Hatch told the media in November 1940 that Tom Harmon's number 98 would see its last when Harmon hung up his cleats, a decision that seemed to presage Michigan's 40-0 romp over the Ohio State Buckeyes, which propelled Harmon to win the sixth Heisman Trophy ever awarded, the first to a Michigan player.

Henry Hatch with the jerseys of Tom Harmon and Bennie Oosterbaan

Henry Hatch, U-M's famed equipment manager, with two of the jerseys he retired: Tom Harmon (98) and Bennie Oosterbaan. (Photo courtesy U-M Bentley Historical Library.)

If allowing the equipment manager to retire numbers seems unorthodox today, at the time no one objected. When Harmon was honored, one newspaper caption referred to retiring jerseys at Michigan as "Henry's niche of fame."

The story goes on to touch on the retiring of the Wistert brothers jersey #11 and how Oosterbaan made the unilateral decision to retire Ron Kramer's #87.  Obviously the decision to retire Gerald Ford's #48 jersey was an Administration decision.  Here's the news:

One of athletic director Dave Brandon's priorities is setting a consistent standard for retiring jerseys at U-M. Only three sports, football, baseball, and basketball, have retired jerseys, but with some 27 sports at Michigan, Brandon says now is the time to set a consistent standard.

"Should the player have graduated from Michigan? Should professional success factor in? What about the player's level of involvement and giving back to the University? These are all things we're looking at," Brandon told Michigan Today.

What a surprise. Dave Brandon is trying to bring some order to this process.  The artilce goes on to outline how baseball, basketball, softball and hockey handle the issue.  Did you know:

...there is only one jersey that will never be worn again in "The House that Cazzie Built"—the number 33 once worn by the former Wolverines guard himself. Russell is widely credited with restoring Michigan basketball to relevance in the 1960s. The other jerseys [Glenn Rice (#41) and Rudy Tomjanovich (#45)] were honored by the program, but can still be assigned, Madej said.

Red Berenson and Carol Hutchins give some good insight into how they assign jersey numbers as well. You can sum up their approach with one word: tradition.

Then again, what's Michigan athletics if not traditional? 



November 11th, 2010 at 5:52 PM ^

The first thing I thought of when I saw that they were thinking about retiring more jerseys was the play earlier this year where Avery and Odoms were on the field at the same time while both wearing No.9.  There won't be many numbers to go around, especially single-digit numbers, if they aren't highly, highly selective. That said, I wouldn't mind seeing Woodson's number retired.  Winning the Heisman, winning the National Championship, and giving millions to Mott seem to make a worthy candidate.


November 11th, 2010 at 10:52 PM ^

I think it is, because each position is restricted to certain numbers.  And you're forgetting walk ons.

I think the first criteria for a retired number is graduation.  I don't like the idea of retiring a number of a player who didn't graduate.

Kilgore Trout

November 12th, 2010 at 9:05 AM ^

I wasn't forgetting walk-ons, just marginalizing them.  I don't know the exact position restrictions, but I don't think it's nearly as extensive as in the NFL.  Anyway, I tooka  few minutes to rearrange the current roster to get every even marginal contributer his own unique number.  Take home message... Defensive players need to stay out of the single digits and teens and the o-line needs to keep the 50s clear by staying in the 60s and 70s.



1 WR - TBD
2 Smith
3 M. Robinson
4 C. Gordon
5 Forcier
6 Stokes
7 Gardner
8 Mouton
9 Odoms
10 Gallon
12 Roundtree
13 C. Johnson
14 T. Jones
15 Cox
16 D. Robinson
17 J. Jackson
18 Rogers
19 Grady
20 Shaw
21 Hemingway
22 Stonum
23 Simmons
24 Christian
25 Demens
26 Bell
27 M. Jones
28 Toussaint
29 Woolfolk
30 Floyd
31 Vinopal
32 Kovacs
33 Hopkins
34 Gibbons
35 T. Gordon
36 Avery
37 Ryan
38 Talbott
39 Heninger
40 Williams
41 Wilkins
42 Fitzgerald
43 Hagerup
44 Moundros
45 Ezeh
46 Broekhuizen
49 McColgan
50 Molk
51 Furman
52 Schilling
53 Van Bergan
54 Ash
55 Black
56 Barnum
57 Mealer
58 Herron
59 Hawthorne
63 Khoury
64 Pace
65 Omameh
66 Z. Johnson
68 Martin
72 Huyhe
73 Campbell
74 Ferrara
75 Schofield
76 Washington
77 Lewan
79 Dorrestein
80 Webb
81 Watson
82 Miller
83 Robinson
84 Williamson
85 T. Robinson
86 Koger
88 Roh
89 Moore
91 Pomarico
92 Banks
94 Paskorz
95 Sagasse
96 Talbott
99 Patterson


November 11th, 2010 at 7:05 PM ^

In the many posts about the subject pro and con about retiring numbers, I use to like the idea of retiring jersey numbers but as I grow older I have come to the other side. Rather than retiring the number, let's use it as a way of recognizing the top performers. The great Cleveland Brown RB Jim Brown wore #32 and because of that many great backs wanted to wear that numbered jersey. Why not keep that tradition? Let's give number 2 to only a top DB, an all-american candidate and a dominating DB like Charles Woodson. Let only a WR who can be mentioned with Anthony Carter be given number 1.

In many international sports, where jersey numbers are limited to 11 or less, no numbers are retired but fans do remember who wore what. It creates a bond among the top players across generations, teams and even continents. The number 7 for example was worn by George Best, Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo.

It might be heresy to some, but rather than retire numbers by having them still around, it helps to keep memory alive of why those numbers were special. I was a student and saw Anthony Carter make that miracle catch from John Wangler against Indiana and split the defenders while keeping his balance so whenever I see the UM #1 I think of that moment. Rather than leave it hanging up somewhere, I'd rather be reminded of it, and pass those memories onto other fans.


November 11th, 2010 at 7:39 PM ^

Last night was trivia night at Good Time Charley's and one of the questions were to list 4 retired jerseys. I'm ashamed to admit I only knew Ford's and Harmon's


November 12th, 2010 at 10:37 AM ^

well there are scholarship and walk on players.  I wouldn't mind seeing a few numbers retired but i think the logistical issues abound.  There are already quite a few duplicates as we see them now.  I do like the idea of making #2 the defensive #1...although maybe not limiting it to a db, but any defensive player who is worthy.