Today’s post celebrates the birthday anniversary of a former Michigan Captain Joe Rinaldi. According to my research, Joseph M. “Joe” Rinaldi was born on this date in Elkhart, Indiana in 1916. He grew up in Elkhart and became an excellent athlete at Elkhart High School. He came to Ann Arbor in 1934 to continue his education and play football for Harry Kipke’s Michigan Wolverines.
(Note – Captain Joe Rinaldi (#61) is shown above with the 1937 Michigan Football team. He is seated in the center of the second row – holding the football. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.)
Joe Rinaldi 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.” Apparently, young Rinaldi learned his lessons well in 1934 because he made the varsity in 1935. The good news was that he started one game at center and played enough to earn his first letter. The bad news was that Kipke’s Wolverines finished the season with a record of 4 wins and 4 losses. They were even worse in the conference at 2 wins and 3 losses.
Joe came back in 1936 hoping that he would play more and that Michigan would play better. He started eight games at center and earned his second letter. Unfortunately, the Wolverines posted the second worst record in Michigan Football history in 1936. They only won 1 game and lost 7. It was ugly. Worse yet, Michigan went winless in the Big Ten at 0-5-0 and finished in a tie for eighth place. The best thing that happened to Joe Rinaldi was his election as captain for the 1937 season. It was a huge honor and a big responsibility for Joe Rinaldi.
Captain Joe Rinaldi was intent on leading his teammates to a better record in 1937. The Wolverines did improve and finished the season with a record of 4 wins and 4 losses, just like the 1935 team. 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 did not return to coach Michigan in 1938. Yes, Joe Rinaldi was Harry Kipke’s last captain.
So, on the one-hundred and third anniversary of his birth, take a moment to remember Captain Joe Rinaldi for his contributions to Michigan Football. Sadly, Joe Rinaldi died on April 3, 1990 at the age of seventy-three. May Captain Joe Rinaldi continue to rest in peace. Go Blue!
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