Today’s blog post remembers the contributions of a Michigan Man named Charles E. Street. Mr. Street died on this day in 1950. He is unique among all Wolverine quarterbacks because he was the first man to do something very important in Michigan football history.
Charles Street came to Ann Arbor from Lee, Massachusetts where he was born on April 6, 1873. Apparently, he graduated from Williams College and came for graduate work at Michigan in the fall of 1898. Being from the east, he was aware of the game of football and probably played as well. He learned the Michigan “system” and earned starts in three games that year. He turned out to be a pretty good player on a very talented team. His most important start was against the University of Chicago Maroons on Thursday, November 24, 1898.
This game was the first “game of the century” in the west because it pitted two undefeated teams and two outstanding coaches. Amos Alonzo Stagg was building a legend in Chicago and upstart Michigan Man Gustave Ferbert was trying to build his resume in Ann Arbor.
Charles Street earned the start in this championship game and he was ready for the challenge. Although, the game was a titanic defensive struggle, Street and his teammates held the advantage for the entire game.
Halfback Charles Widman was the star of the game along with Neil Snow who kicked two important points-after-touchdown. Widman scored on a five-yard in the first half. After a Chicago field goal made it 6-5, Widman struck again. He bolted sixty-five yards and left Maroons all over the field on his way to the end zone. Widman’s dazzling run and Snow’s extra point made the score 12-5 in favor of Michigan. The Maroons came back with a touchdown and an extra point, but that is all they could do against the inspired Michigan defense. Michigan held on to the narrow 12-11 lead and the game ended.
Stagg’s Maroons were the first team to win the conference championship in 1897. So, Michigan became the second team to win the Western Conference championship. The Wolverines and their fans celebrated joyously after the game. And one student, Louis Elbel, took it one step further. Elbel was so inspired by Michigan’ stunning victory that he penned “The Victor’s. It would become Michigan’s fight song. Personally, I think it is the greatest fight song in college football history!
So, Charles Street did something that no Michigan quarterback had ever done. He led the Wolverines to the first Western Conference Championship in school history. He had set the bar for all future Michigan quarterbacks. A Michigan quarterback would now be measured by three things:
1) How productive was the offense?
2) How many games did the team win?
3) How many Western Conference Championships were won during his time at Michigan?
Of course, I don’t think anyone wrote any of these “expectations” out for all future Michigan quarterbacks to read, but they were out there just the same.
Charles Street proved to be a very capable quarterback for two years. Under his leadership, the Michigan offense scored in all twenty games that he played in. (Note-The Wolverines played to a 0-0 tie in the Alumni “exhibition” game, but it did not count as an official “game.”) The Wolverines posted a two-year record of 18 wins, 2 losses and 0 ties with quarterback Street on the roster (1898 & 1899). Finally, he and his teammates earned Michigan’s first Western conference championship in 1898 and finished in a tie for 3rd place in 1899.
So, Charles E. Street was indeed, a historic figure in Michigan football history. Today is a good day to remember his contributions and celebrate what he was able to do at Michigan. May Charles Street rest in peace! Go Blue!
To read a little bit more about Charles Street and much more about the 1898 Michigan football team click the link below: