Today is good day to remember a Wolverine named Frank Decke who continues to rest in peace. Frank Decke died on this day in Chicago, Illinois in 1899 at twenty-eight years of age.
(Note – Frank Decke is shown here with the 1892 Michigan Wolverine Football team. He is sitting in the front row and is the first man on the left. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.)
According to the rosters I checked, Frank Decke played one year of football at Michigan in 1892. He is listed on the 1892 roster as a tackle who weighed in at 170 pounds. His hometown is listed as Lansing, Michigan. Decke was one of the two starting tackles (along with Willard W. Griffin) for the 1892 Wolverine football team. He played in every game and earned a letter at the end of the season. This was the first season of the Frank Barbour Era in Ann Arbor. Although Barbour only coached for two seasons at Michigan, his impact was significant.
Frank Decke, and his teammates on the 1892 team, had a successful season for Frank Barbour. The Wolverines finished with a record of 7 wins and 5 losses. Both numbers were the “most” in Michigan football history. No Wolverine team had ever won more than four games in one season prior to 1892. Also, the most losses that Michigan ever had prior to 1892 was five (in 1891). So, 1892 was a “record breaking” year with lots of firsts.
Here are the ones that associate Frank Decke and that famous team from 1892.
· First Michigan team of the Frank Barbour Era in Ann Arbor.
· First Michigan team to win by a margin of 74 points with a 74-0 victory over the Michigan Athletic Association (MAA) on October 8, 1892. It was also the first game against MAA. They played another game on October 12, 1892 as well.
· First games in program history against the following teams: Wisconsin (won 10-6 on 10/15/1892), Minnesota (lost 6-14 on 10/17/1892), DePauw (won 18-0 on 10/22/1892), Northwestern (lost 8-10 on 10/29/1892) and Chicago (won 18-12 on 11/12/1892).
· First Michigan team to embark on a five game, four state “road trip” against the teams listed above. This trip had three Saturday games as well as two that were played on Monday from October 15th to October 29th.
· First documented home crowd of 600 fans against Oberlin at Burns Park on November 19, 1892. Michigan won that contest by a score of 26-24.
· First Michigan football team to win 5, then, 6 and finally 7 games in one season.
· First Michigan football team to lose 5 games in consecutive seasons since they also lost 5 games in 1891.
· First Michigan team to play seven games in the month of October.
· First Michigan team to play five games in the month of November.
· First Michigan team to play twelve games in one season.
· First Michigan team with an African-American player – halfback George Jewett.
So, today is a good day to honor the memory of a Michigan Man and appreciate his contributions to Michigan football. Frank Decke was part of a very special team in Michigan football history. They played more games in one season than any other Michigan team in history. They went on a brutal five game road trip to play the best teams in the Midwest instead of playing against some of the weaker teams that they had dominated in the past.
Frank Decke was definitely a “Pigskin Pioneer” in the days when Michigan football really started to become a powerhouse team in the Midwest. Now, one hundred-thirty-nine years later, Michigan Wolverine football is still going STRONG! Thanks to Frank Decke for his contributions to the great history of Michigan football. May Mr. Decke always Rest In Peace. Go Blue!
The Legend of Bo Schembechler is a football love story. Millions of Michigan football fans loved Bo Schembechler almost as much as he loved The University of Michigan. This insightful book details how “Bo Who” simply became “Bo” to Wolverine Nation and to college football fans across the country and around the world. It details Bo’s twenty-one-year journey to bring Michigan Football back to national prominence and how he kept it there!
Click below to order your copy!