Today’s post celebrates the memory of Elroy Hirsch who went to rest in peace on this day in 2004. Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch was born in Wausau, Wisconsin on June 17, 1923. He started his college football career at the University of Wisconsin, but transferred to Michigan in 1943. Elroy came to Ann Arbor from Madison in 1943 because of the Navy’s V-12 College Training Program at Michigan. The University of Michigan had a huge influx of players like Hirsch during the war years. Actually, Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch arrived in Ann Arbor the same time as Bill “Bullet” Daley did. The V-12 program also drew Daley from Minnesota to Ann Arbor. Together, Daley and Hirsch became a “dynamic duo” that gave Michigan a winning combination in the backfield.
Elroy Hirsch acquired the nickname “Crazy Legs” because of his unique running style. It appeared awkward, but it certainly worked for him. He was fast and hard to tackle so that was a good combination for a running back.
Crazy Legs only played for one season at Michigan, but he made it special! In his first game against Camp Grant, Hirsch scored two touchdowns and intercepted a pass in a 26-0 Michigan victory. He scored two more touchdowns the following week in a 57-0 romp against Western Michigan. Crazy Legs rolled to another score against Northwestern as the Wolverines went to 3-0-0 after a 21-7 win.
The good news was that Michigan rose to the number two ranking in the country. The bad news was that number one ranked Notre Dame was coming to Ann Arbor for game number four of the 1943 season. Notre Dame was loaded and Hirsch was injured so things didn’t work out too well for Michigan. Final Score: Notre Dame 35 and Michigan 12. The only good news for Hirsch was that he played late and threw a touchdown pass.
Michigan got back on track the next week with a 49-6 win over Minnesota. Crazy Legs scored three touchdowns, including a career long 61-yard touchdown romp. Hirsch continued to play well, but saw limited duty against Wisconsin and Ohio State because of a shoulder injury. Even without the talented Hirsch and Daley, Michigan ran the table. The Wolverines won their last five games to finish the season with a record of 8 wins and 1 loss. They ended the season with a perfect record of 6-0-0 in the conference. Finally, Fritz Crisler had his first Big Nine title after five years of second, third and fourth place finishes.
Like I said, Elroy Hirsch only played one season of Michigan football, but he really made it count. I think he could have been an All-American if he was healthy enough to play the last two games. Hirsch was an amazing athlete. He played on offense, defense, and special teams. Crazy Legs ran, pass, punted, held on field goals and extra points, until Bill Daley left for military service, and then he kicked points-after-touchdown too. He did it all for Crisler’s Wolverines. Check out the firsts that he achieved during the 1943 season:
· Elroy played in the first, and only, game against Camp Grant in Illinois which was the first game of the 1943 season. Michigan won by a score of 26-0.
· Hirsch played in one of the strangest “timed” games against Notre Dame on October 9, 1943. According to the Wikipedia article linked below, the timer on electronic scoreboard malfunctioned so the third quarter lasted 23 minutes, making it the first, and only, 23-minute quarter in Michigan football history. When the mistake was discovered, game officials decided to shorten the fourth quarter to only 7 minutes. Thus, it became the only 7-minute quarter in Michigan football history. So, two interesting firsts right there!
· Crazy Legs helped Michigan win the first conference title in the Crisler Era with a perfect record of 6-0-0.
· Finally, Elroy Hirsch is the first, and only, football player to also letter in basketball, baseball and track in the same academic year (1943-1944).
So, there you have it! Elroy Hirsch spent one year in Ann Arbor and he certainly made the most of it! Of course, Hirsch went on to a successful career in the National Football league and in college sports administration. Learn more about Crazy Legs in the articles linked below. Please take a moment to reflect on his contributions to Michigan athletics. May Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch always rest in peace. Go Blue!