Okay, I realize that this is another Wolverine “pigskin pioneer” that you may not have heard of before. In order to link Mr. Boutwell to Michigan football history we have to go way, way, way back to 1861. According to the Wikipedia article linked below, Benjamin J. Boutwell was born on this date in 1861 in Baraboo, Wisconsin. I haven’t checked it out, but Mr. Boutwell may be the first and only Michigan football player ever to be born in Baraboo, Wisconsin!
Just think of it, he was born during the Civil War Era. That is, indeed, a long, long time ago. It is even more amazing to think that he played on the tenth team in Michigan football history!
The Bentley Historical Library Team Roster for the 1889 football team lists Ben Boutwell as a Center who came to Ann Arbor from Hillsdale, Michigan. Again, according to the Bentley Historical Library, he only played one season (1889) and was not listed on the rosters for 1888, 1890 or 1891. So, he was another “one and done” player who moved on with his life starting in 1890. Maybe he had money problems and could not afford to go to school. He could have had academic problems that forced him to consider other career options. The bad news is that Ben Boutwell only spent one year on the Wolverine football team.
The good news is that Ben Boutwell was good enough to earn a letter on the 1889 team. Here he is pictured with the rest of the letter winners from the 1889 team (I think). (Note-what is interesting about this picture is that the ball that is said to be held by Team Captain Edward McPherran has the numerals “90” on it which you would think would be for the 1890 team. I went back to the 1888 team and the number “89” was painted on that ball. I will bring this to the attention of the staff of the Bentley Historical Library to get this issue resolved.)
The 1889 Michigan football team only played three games compared to the 1888 team that played five. Michigan won their first game at home against Albion by a score of 33-4, but lost the last two.
They suffered the worst loss in the first ten years of Michigan football when they got crushed by Cornell (0-56) in Buffalo, New York. The season ended in Chicago with another loss to the Chicago Athletic Association by a score 0f 5-20.
This was definitely not the best year in Michigan football, but it still counted. After the 1889 season, the Wolverine football team’s overall record stood at 19 wins, 9 losses and 1 tie. Not quite yet living up to the standards of the “leaders and the best,” but working in that direction.
So, on the one hundred fifty-fifth anniversary of the birth of Wolverine Benjamin J. Boutwell, let us remember his contributions to the history of Michigan football. May he rest in peace!
For more information on Benjamin J. Boutwell, check out the following links. Note, the Wikipeida article contains a short paragraph about Mr. Boutwell in the reference section: