Today is a great day to celebrate a Happy Birthday Anniversary in honor of a Wolverine named Irving Pond. Irving Kane Pond was born on this day in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1857. Mr. Pond played on the first Michigan Wolverine Football team way, way back in 1879. Yes, he qualifies as a Michigan “Pigskin Pioneer” in my book. Irving Pond was one of the original thirteen lettermen who played on Team #1. He died on September 29, 1939 at the age of eighty-two.
(Note – Irving Pond is shown above with the first team in Michigan Football History in 1879. He is seated in the second row – first man on the left. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.)
Racine College in Racine, Wisconsin issued a challenge to Michigan’s Football Association in October of 1878, but Michigan didn’t really have an organized team at that point. Some “football” games were being played on campus, but they were more “intramural” in nature. Up to that time, all football games had taken place on the Ann Arbor campus as “class vs class” matches. The proposed contest between Racine and Michigan would be in Chicago.
Pond, along with team captain David DeTar, was one of the early volunteers who wanted to play the new sport of football at Michigan. Pond was studying to become a civil engineer, but he thought he could spare the time for a few practices and some games in 1879. Apparently, Pond and the other members of Michigan’s Football Association voted to accept Racine’s challenge on the condition that the game be played in the spring of 1879. This would allow the association sufficient time to organize and train the team.
In May 1979, Captain David DeTar took his team to Chicago for Michigan’s first intercollegiate football game. The Chicago Daily Tribune called it the “first rugby-football game… west of the Alleghenies.” Michigan’s “first footballers” left Chicago with their first victory in their first intercollegiate game. Irving Kane Pond was credited with scoring the first touchdown in Michigan Football History. Final score: Wolverines 1 and Purple Stockings 0. Yes, scoring was a lot different in those days, but Michigan was victorious and Pond became an instant legend in the annals of Michigan Football.
The Wolverines also played a second game, but that one was in November of 1979. The game was played in Detroit against Toronto. The game ended in a tie (0-0) and that was the end of Michigan’s first foray into the new game of college “football.”
Here is a summary of the “firsts” that connect Irving Pond and Michigan football:
So, today is a good day to honor the memory of a Michigan Man and appreciate his contributions to Michigan football. Irving Pond was there for the start of Michigan’s long, and successful, football history. Apparently, Pond only played in the May game because he graduated in 1879. He was pictured with the thirteen lettermen on that inaugural team. Irving Pond was a true “pigskin pioneer” who helped get the “ball” rolling in Ann Arbor. Now, one-hundred and thirty-nine years later, it is still going STRONG! May Irving Pond always rest in peace. Go Blue!
To read more about Irving Pond and the 1879 football season check out the links below.
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