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May 14, 2019 – Happy Birthday Anniversary Ralph I. Heikkinen

Posted on May 13, 2019 by Barry Gallagher

Today is a great day to celebrate the birthday anniversary of Ralph I. Heikkinen. Ralph Isaac “Hike” Heikinen was born on this day in 1917 in Hancock, Michigan. According to the 1935 Michigan Football Roster, Heikkinen came to Ann Arbor from Ramsey, Michigan. He was an outstanding athlete at Bessemer High School and chose to continue his education and his football at The University of Michigan in 1935.

(Note – Ralph I. Heikkinen (#36) is shown above with the 1939 Michigan Football team. He is seated in the first row – second man from the right. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.)

Part I. Wolverine of the Day: Ralph I. Heikkinen

Hike’s Slow Start in Ann Arbor

Ralph I. Heikkinen did what everybody else did in the mid-1930s. He spent his time on the freshman time and did his best to learn Harry Kipke’s “Michigan football system.” “Hike” applied himself with determination on the football field and in the classroom during the n 1935-1936 school year.

Apparently, young Heikkinen had some more learning to do in 1936. The good news was that he made Harry Kipke’s varsity team in 1936. The bad news was that Heikkinen did not start any games or play enough to earn a letter that season. Maybe Michigan would have won more games with “Hike” on the field since the Wolverines finished the season with a record of 1 win and 7 losses. They were even worse in the conference at 0 wins and 5 losses.

A Starter and Team MVP in 1937

Heikkinen came back in 1937 to do more for Michigan. He was determined to play more and help the Wolverines to play better. He started seven games at right guard and earned his first varsity letter. Even more impressive, he earned All-Conference honors and was named the Most Valuable Player on the 1937 Michigan team. Fortunately, the Wolverines did post a better record in 1937. The won 4 games and lost 4 games. They also broke even in the conference with a record of 3-3-0. Michigan finished in a tie for fourth place in 1937. Of course, this was not a terrible record for most teams, but it wasn’t good enough for Michigan. Harry Kipke would to return to coach Michigan in 1938.

Ralph I. Heikkinen Michigan Football 1938 | gobluefootballhistory.com

Ralph I. Heikkinen finished his career as an All-American. He was also the first two-time team MVP in Michigan Football History. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.

Fritz Crisler was Michigan’s new football coach in 1938. Now, Ralph I. Heikkinen, and his teammates, would have to impress the demanding Crisler to earn playing time.  Of course, “Hike” remained on the varsity, in 1938. He started 6 games at right guard and 2 more at left guard. Again, the undersized Heikkinen (5’9” and 180 pounds) moved people on offense and tackled them on defense. He was a ferocious competitor who inspired his teammates with his toughness and determination.

Michigan’s First Two-Time Football MVP in 1938

Ralph I. Heikkinen was a force to be reckoned with in 1938. He helped lead Crisler’s first team to a record of  6-1-1 for the season. They won 3, lost 1 and tied 1 in the conference and finished in a 2nd place tie. “Hike” earned All-Conference honors for the second straight season and also became Fritz Crisler’s first All-American player.

So, on the one-hundred second anniversary of his birth, let us remember Ralph Heikkinen. “Hike” epitomized the spirit of a true, blue, Michigan Man. He was not the biggest man to ever play “guard” at Michigan, but pound-for-pound – he may have been the toughest! He was that good! His teammates certainly appreciated his contributions to Michigan Football and so should we.  Please take a moment today to think good things about Ralph “Hike” Heikkinen. Sadly, Ralph died on January 12, 1990 at the age of seventy-two. May Ralph I. Heikkinen continue to rest in eternal peace. Go Blue!



Part II. May 14, 2019 National Day Calendar Update



  • Margaret Parisen says:

    How can I print this story? I am Margaret (Heikkinen) Parisen (UofM ’66), eldest daughter of Ralph Heikkinen. Thanks.

    • Hi Margaret,

      Thank you so much for reaching out to me. I will send you my Word text file and add the picture. Is your email: birchcourt@roadrunner.com?

      So, it looks like you were a senior at UM when your cousin Rick was in his first year. I first met Rick in 1966 because he was a college roommate of my best friend, Rod Rohloff. I have seen Rick off and on at various Rohloff Family events ever since. In fact, I saw Rick and Mary at Rod and Pat’s 50th Wedding Anniversary celebration in June.

      Of course, Rick is fighting a wretched disease as bravely as any man can. It is sad to see him struggle so much, but the Heikkinen “fighting spirit” is still strong in that Michigan Man! I know Mary and all the family are supporting him as well as any family could.

      I don’t know if Rick is still able to read much, but I would be honored if you could get my newest book, The Legend of Bo Schembechler, to him and Mary. If you don’t think that would be a good idea, just let me know.

      Please verify your email address and provide an address and I will send you two books – one for you and one for Rick and Mary.

      Thanks again for reaching out – Go Blue!

      Barry Gallagher

    • Joe says:

      Hi Margaret,

      Where was Ralph laid to rest? I would like to add him to the memorials of his parents and siblings. Thanks

      • Hi Margaret,

        I believe Ralph Heikkinen was living in Oakland County, Michigan at the time of his death. I don’t know where he is buried, but I am trying to find out.

        Thanks for reading. Go Blue

        Barry Gallgher

  • Margaret Parisen says:

    Thanks for your reply. Yes,that is my email. I look forward to getting your article. I do not have Rick’s address and am not a reader of football history but if I can get Rick’s address I will contact you. Thanks anyway for your offer of the books.

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