Today’s post celebrates the birthday anniversary of Benny Friedman. Benjamin “Benny” Friedman was born on this day in 1905 in Cleveland, Ohio. According to the Wikipedia article linked below, Friedman grew up in Cleveland. He became an outstanding high school football player and made his way to Ann Arbor to play for Fielding Yost’s Michigan Wolverines.
(Note – All-American Benny Friedman [holding the football] is shown above with the 1926 Big Ten Champion Michigan Wolverines. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.)
Benny Friedman arrived at Michigan in 1923. He spent his first year on the freshman team. Benny learned the Fielding Yost football system and did his best to hit the books so that he would be ready for varsity play in 1924. In an interesting turn of events, Friedman would not play for Yost in 1924. Fielding Yost wanted to spend more time on his athletic director duties, so, he let George Little run the team (well, almost) in 1924.
Friedman did not impress Coach Little much in 1924. He did not start the season at quarterback, but did lead the Wolverines to wins in four of the last five games of the 1924 season. George Little finished with a final record of 6 wins and 2 losses in his only season as the head coach at Michigan. He moved on the the head coaching job at Wisconsin in 1925.
George Little was gone in 1925 and Yost thought that Benny Friedman might make a pretty good quarterback. As usual, Yost turned out to be correct in his assessment of Friedman’s quarterbacking and leadership talents. Yost also like Friedman because he could play defense, punt and handle the place-kicking duties. Other than that, Yost didn’t have much use for the man!
Benny Friedman led the Wolverines to dominating wins in every game in 1925, except when they played on a muddy field. Michigan finished with a record of 7 wins and 1 loss. As it turned out, Benny couldn’t beat the weather and the mud at Chicago’s Soldier Field on November 7, 1926. The Wolverines lost by a score of 2-3 to Northwestern. The good news was that the Maize and Blue footballers won the conference championship with a record of 5-1-0. Benny Friedman earned All-American and All-Conference honors that season along with four other Wolverines. One of which was Bennie Oosterbaan, who formed the second part of the famous ”Benny-to-Bennie” passing combination that was almost unstoppable in 1925 and 1926, except in the rain and mud!
Benny Friedman returned in 1926 as Michigan’s captain for the 1926 season. As expected, Benny led the Wolverines to three-straight blowout wins before defeating Illinois by a closer score of 13-0. Yost took his undefeated team to Baltimore to play Navy and came home with a 0-10 defeat. Captain Friedman made sure the Wolverines finished strong. Michigan completed the 1926 season with three straight wins over Wisconsin, Ohio State and Minnesota. Michigan finished the season with a record of 7-1-0. They won Fielding Yost’s tenth, and final, Big Ten Championship.
Of course, I would not be talking about Benny Friedman today if he wasn’t part of some Michigan football “firsts.” Here are the best ones I found for Benny “the Great” Friedman:
· Friedman was the first Michigan quarterback to throw five-touchdown passes in a 63-0 win over Indiana on October 10, 1925. He also ran for a 55-yard touchdown and kicked 8 extra points!
· Benny Friedman became the first, and only, Michigan quarterback to throw a touchdown pass (62-yards) and return a kickoff (85-yards) in a 21-0 win against George Little’s Wisconsin team in 1925.
· Friedman played in the first game ever against Navy and led Michigan to a 54-0 win over the Midshipman in 1925.
· Benny Friedman played in the first, and only, game in Michigan football history that the Wolverines lost by a score of 2-3 (vs Northwestern) in 1925.
· The Northwestern game of 1925 was Michigan’s first, and only, game at Soldier Field. (Actually, it was more like a swamp that day as the playing surface was a muddy mess. Michigan didn’t do anything on offense except fumble and make a lot of mistakes.)
· Benny Friedman led the Wolverines to a victory (42-3) in Michigan’s first ever game against Oklahoma A & M in 1926.
· Friedman was also part of history when he played in two games against the same Big Ten team in 1926. The Wolverines beat Minnesota in Minneapolis by a score of 13-0 in October and ended the season with a narrow victory (7-6) in Ann Arbor to win the Brown Jug twice in the same season. Never happened before and will never happen again!
· Benny Friedman was Michigan’s first All-American quarterback in 1925. He is the only Wolverine signal-caller to be named All-American in consecutive seasons (1925 and 1926).
So, on the one-hundred twelfth anniversary of his birth, let us remember Benny Friedman for his great contributions to the history of Michigan football. Benny Friedman went on to a successful career in the National Football League and is the only Michigan quarterback to be a member of both the college (1951) and professional football (2005) halls of fame. You can read more about the life and times of Benny Friedman at the Wikipedia link below. Sadly, Benny Friedman died a tragic death on November 24, 1982. He was seventy-seven years old. May Benny Friedman always rest in peace. Go Blue!
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