Today’s post celebrates the 104th Happy Birthday Anniversary of a Michigan legend named Alvin Wistert. Alvin Lawrence “Moose” Wistert was born on this day in Chicago, Illinois in 1916. He was the third Wistert to play at Michigan and he lived up to the family name by playing at a very high level for the Wolverines in the late 1940s.
(Note-Team Captain Alvin Wistert (#11) is pictured above with the 1949 Big Ten Champion Michigan Wolverine Football team. He is seated in the first row and is the man holding the football. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library.)
The Wistert’s are the first and only family in Michigan Football History to send three All-American sons to play for Michigan. All three brothers also wore jersey #11 for the Wolverines and they all played tackle! Man, did they play!
The Wistert family came to America from Lithunia. The father, Kazimer served in the Spanish American War and later worked in the Chicago Police Department where he was killed in the line of duty. Mrs. Wistert raised her family on the north side of Chicago.
The first Wistert to play at Michigan was Francis Michael “Whitey” Wistert. He enrolled at Michigan in 1930 to play football for Coach Harry Kipke. He set the set standard for the rest of the family. Whitey earned All-American honors in 1933.
The second son to play for the Wolverines was Albert Alexander “Ox” Wistert who came to Ann Arbor in 1938. “Ox” Wistert made his own way at Michigan, but it sure looked a lot like the path that Whitey followed a few years earlier. Albert Wistert, like his older brother, earned All-Conference and All-American honors for his stellar play during the 1942 season.
So, the stage was set for Alvin Wistert. However, the “Moose” was more inclined to physical work than mental activities like going to class and college. He struck his own path and didn’t get the urge to enroll in college until he had worked for a few years and served his country in the United States Marines during World War II.
When Alvin was finally ready for college, he chose to enroll at Boston University in 1946. However, “destiny” must have called and he transferred to Michigan in time for the 1947 football season. Although it was not unusual for “older” war veterans to play in the late 1940’s, Alvin was no spring chicken in 1947. He was thirty-one years old when he showed up for Fritz Crisler’s first practice!
Alvin was probably a little rusty in that first year, but he started two games. Alvin earned his first letter and was named the Meyer Morton Award winner for the 1947 season. The “Moose” was recognized as the most improved player on the national championship team and big things were expected from #11 in the future. (Big surprise!)
Alvin Wistert did not disappoint anyone at Michigan or in his family! He earned two starts on the 1948 back-to-back championship Wolverine team and earned his second letter. Even though he didn’t start a lot of games, he played in all of them. The “Moose” played well enough to earn All-Conference and All-American honors – wow! The third Wistert to wear #11 and the third brother to earn All-American honors and All-Conference honors!
However, Moose Wistert was not done at Michigan. He came back in 1949 to do something that his two brothers did not do in Ann Arbor. He was elected captain of the 1949 Michigan football team. Alvin did a super job of leading by example and his stellar play earned him first team conference honors All-American plaudits for the second consecutive season.
Can you imagine the “pressure” that Alvin “Moose” Wistert must have felt as the third son to follow his two All-American brothers at Michigan? I am certain that no one said much about it, but the expectations were pretty clear. “You will wear jersey #11 just like your two older brothers, you will play tackle. Of course, it would be really nice if you could be an All-American performer too.” Man, talk about big shoes to fill! Alvin had to fill two big pairs of All-American shoes and he did it – amazing!
They were the first brothers to wear the same number at Michigan. They were the first trio of brothers to earn All-Conference and All-American honors. And, the Wisterts are the first, and only, trio of brothers to all be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Alvin is the first, and only, over-thirty All-American. He was thirty-two years when named in 1948 and thirty-three when he repeated in 1949.
Yes, today is a perfect day to remember an outstanding Wolverine who is part of what I call the “first family of Michigan Football.” The Wisterts stand alone in the history of college football in their achievements in college football history. Alvin Wistert lived a long and full life. He passed away on March 5, 2016 at the age of ninety-five. Thanks to men like Alvin Wistert, and his talented brothers, Michigan football is the winningest program in college football history. May Alvin “Moose” Wistert always rest in peace. Go Blue!
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