Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The Michigan Loss of 1905

As I stated in the "Crazy stuff from Michigan football history" post, Michigan outscored its opponents 495-2 but still managed to lose on the last game of the season to Chicago, 2-0. As it turns out, the loss of 1905 had much more to it than a 2-0 score. A good friend of mine tipped me off to one of the storylines to this game. As it turns out, a crucial mistake by a Michigan halfback named William Dennison Clark cost Michigan the game. Michigan's head coach, Fielding Yost, reemed Clark for the costly mistake. After the game, Clark said:

"o, (sic) this is horrible...I shall kill myself because I am in disgrace."

Sadly, Clark ended up committing suicide over the botched play some 27 years later.

The event is remembered in an article by Robin Lester called, "Michigan-Chicago 1905: The First Greatest Game of the Century." I highly recommend reading this passage. It's only a few pages long and won't take any more than 5-10 minutes to read. The setting is phenomenal and the story is captivating.

As the title of the article suggests, this game is widely considered the first "Game of the Century" as Michigan's "point a minute" team played the Chicago Maroons. The game was tightly contested in the second half when Michigan forced Chicago to punt. Clark caught the ball in the end zone and was hit immediately by a Chicago defender causing the ball to pop loose. The ball was recovered by Chicago for a safety. Those were the only points of the game.

One thing that really stood out about this article was the use of language from the early 1900's. Here is a passage from the article describing the Michigan fans:

"One writer described a Michigan coed as a 'demure young woman' with 'progressive ideas,' whose escort was the proprietor of a silver flask. The woman carried it in her muff. Every little while, feeling chilly, she would touch her muff lightly to her lips. Then with ingenuoussness written all over her pretty face, she would hand the muff to her escort. He, too, would apply it to his countenance."

Wow. I don't think you'd find quite the same combination of words from a writer today. Also, I found the cheers that the crowd engaged in to be quite interesting. Obviously the whole idea of rhyming cheers or shortened cheers like "Go" and "Blue" or "Go Green" and "Go White" didn't come along until after this time period.

The Michigan faithful cheered:

"There'll be a hot time in Ann Arbor tonight!"

while the Chicago fans cheered:

"Maroon, Maroon, Maroon.....show the Michiganders how Chicago goes!"

That's certainly a mouthful. I think it's impressive that fans could recite something that long in unison without forgetting the words.

It's also evident from the article that sports figures didn't give programmed responses or cliches to every question as they do today. I doubt any coach in America today would speak so confidently about his team as Fielding Yost:

"It is striking how often Yost's teams were termed a "machine" by himself and by others. It was described as a "wonderous machine" by one football expert and Yost referred to it as, "my.... beautiful machine."

More proof that 1905 was like a parallel universe compared to 2005, a Chicago halfback who participated in the game wrote a song and sang it immediately upon the games end.

Here's how it went:

We have reached the day of Turkey and wine,
And we have been winners every time,
Here stand undimmed one happy day,
For all our foes have passed away,

I don't know what is more unbelievable, that a collegiate player actually wrote his own song and it was sung, not only by him but, by all the Chicago faithful, or the fact that the halfback permanately lost his sight in one eye during the game? I have to give credit where credits do. If you lose your eyesight in a football game and stick around for the end of the game so you can sing a song that you wrote, you're the man in my book.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

WOW. I'm speechless.


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