Today is a perfect day to remember a Wolverine legend named John Chase who went to rest in peace on this day in 1918 at the age of sixty-one. John Chase was born on December 10, 1856 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. When you talk about the “founding fathers” of Michigan football, you must talk about John Chase from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Chase, and twelve other men, started the Michigan football tradition way, way, way back in the day.
(Note – Captain John Chase is shown above with the 1880 Michigan Football Team. He is seated in the second row – second man from the left. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.)
Of course, the game of football that we know today was a lot different than it was back then. The game was more like rugby than anything else. John Chase was listed as a “rusher” on the 1879 Michigan football roster. Basically, this meant that he was one of the “people movers” for the little guys who carried the ball.
Team #1 played two games in 1879 and Chase played in both games that season. Actually, the “season” was pretty drawn out since the first game was played on May 30, 1879 and the second game was played on November 1, 1879. Michigan won the first game against Racine College and they tied a team from Toronto to finish that inaugural season at 1 win, 0 losses and 1 tie.
Young John took the mantle of team leadership from Michigan’s first captain, Dave DeTar, and kept things going in 1880. Since Michigan was the first “western” team to play football, finding other “area” teams to play was difficult. Captain Chase arranged another game with Toronto on Friday, November 5, 1880. This was first and only time that the Wolverines played a game in another country.
Chase and his teammates went to Toronto and chalked up their second victory in the very short history of Michigan football. The Wolverines defeated Toronto by a score of 13-6. So, after two seasons of football Michigan’s record was 2 wins, 0 losses and 1 tie.
John Chase was one of only six men who played in the first two seasons of Michigan football. He was the second man to captain a Michigan team. He helped earn the first two victories for the winningest program in college football history.
John Chase was definitely part of some “Michigan Football Firsts.” Here are the best ones I could find for Mr. Chase:
John Chase graduated from Michigan’s Medical School in 1881 and went on to practice in Detroit. He also found time to join the Michigan Army National Guard and went on to achieve the rank of Brigadier General in the Colorado National Guard. John Chase died on May 3, 1918 in Denver, Colorado.
Today is the one hundred and first anniversary of the death of a true Michigan “pigskin pioneer.” Please take a moment to appreciate John Chase, and his teammates, for the gift of Michigan football. May John Chase always rest in peace. Go Blue!
If you want to read more about the fascinating life of Doctor/General John Chase go to the Wikipedia article linked below. He was another very interesting Michigan Man.
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