I’ll bet you didn’t know that today is the happy birthday anniversary of Michigan Man John Chase. When you talk about the “founding fathers” of Michigan Football, you must talk about John Chase from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Chase, and fourteen other men, started the Michigan Football tradition way, way, way back in 1879.
Of course, the game of football that we know today was a lot different than it was back then. The game was more like rugby than anything else. John Chase was listed as a “rusher” on the 1879 Michigan Football team roster. Basically, this meant that he was one of the “people movers” for the little guys who carried the ball.
Team #1 played two games in 1879 and Michigan Man John Chase played in both games that season. Actually, the “season” was pretty drawn out since the first game was played on May 30, 1879 and the second game was played on November 1, 1879. Michigan won the first game against Racine College and they tied a team from Toronto to finish that inaugural season at 1 win, 0 losses and 1 tie.
Young John Chase took the mantle of team leadership from Michigan’s first captain, Dave DeTar, and kept things going in 1880. Since Michigan was the first “western” team to play football, finding other “area” teams to play was difficult. Captain Chase arranged another game with Toronto on Friday, November 5, 1880. This would be the first, and only, time that the Wolverines played a game in another country.
Chase took his team to Toronto and chalked up the second victory in the very short history of Michigan football. The Wolverines defeated Toronto by a score of 13-6. So, after two seasons of football Michigan’s record was 2 wins, 0 losses and 1 tie.
John Chase was one of only six men who played in the first two seasons of Michigan Football. He was the second man to captain a Michigan team. He helped earn the first two victories for the winningest program in college football history.
Michigan Man John Chase was definitely part of some “Michigan Football Firsts.” Here are the best ones I could find for Mr. Chase:
· John Chase played in the first game in Michigan Football History in May 1879.
· Chase played in the first victory and the first tie in Michigan Football History in 1879.
· John Chase is one of the thirteen original letter winners in Michigan Football History.
· John Chase played in the first, and only, Michigan Football game played in another country (Toronto, Canada) in 1880.
Chase was one of the first six men to earn two football letters at Michigan.
John Chase graduated from Michigan’s Medical School in 1881 and went on to practice in Detroit. He also found time to join the Michigan Army National Guard. Chase eventually achieved the rank of Brigadier General in the Colorado National Guard. John Chase died on May 3, 1918 in Denver, Colorado.
Today is the one-hundred sixty-second anniversary of the birth of a true Michigan “pigskin pioneer.” Thank you to Michigan Man John Chase, and his teammates, for the gift of Michigan Football. May John Chase continue to rest in peace. Go Blue!
If you want to read more about the fascinating life of Doctor/General John Chase go to the Wikipedia article linked below. He was another very interesting Michigan Man.