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October 1, 2020 Happy Birthday Michigan Stadium!

Posted on September 30, 2020 by Barry Gallagher

The purpose of today’s blog is to wish “Happy Birthday” to Michigan Stadium. Yes, that wonderful structure came to life ninety-one seasons ago on October 1, 1927. The first game in Michigan Stadium history was also the first game of the 48th season of Wolverine football. The game was played on a wet, rainy day in Ann Arbor. Michigan defeated Ohio Wesleyan 33-0. It was the 270th win in Michigan Football History. What a historic event!

(Note - This is how Michigan Stadium looked on October 1, 1927. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.)

Part I. First Game at Michigan Stadium - October 1, 1927

Athletic Director Fielding Yost (on the right) carefully supervised the building of Michigan Stadium from 1926 to 1927. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.

Fielding Yost’s Vision Realized

The opponent,  Ohio Wesleyan,  was Fielding Yost’s first employer. In fact, it was his first college coaching job. Coach Yost was only 26-years old when he was hired by the Ohio school in 1897. He led his team to an excellent record of 7 wins, 1 loss and 1 tie. Interestingly, the tie (0-0) was recorded in Ann Arbor against Gustave Ferbert’s Wolverines. Mr. Yost decided that the team from Ohio had a special place in his heart. So, he invited the “Bishops” to participate in the first game in the history of his magnificent stadium.

The ugly weather probably scared off all but the most “serious” fans. The crowd is “officially” listed as 17,483 in Michigan’s Football archives at the Bentley Historical Library. Apparently, a large number of Boy Scouts and other young people were admitted free to the game so the crowd was bigger than listed. However, it was not a full house. Yost determined that the “official” dedication game would be played on October 22, 1927. Obviously, lots of fans were waiting for the really “big day” before they showed up.

So, the first “star” of the day was Yost’s new “football house.” Two-time All-American Bennie Oosterbaan was the team captain and men like Otto Pommerening, Ray Baer, and Bill Puckelwartz were getting all the pre-season headlines. New coach Tad Wieman, was also getting plenty of media attention. However, the player of the game was a relatively unknown player named Louis Matthew Gilbert. He played in the shadow of All-Americans Bennie Friedman and Bennie Oosterbaan in 1925 and 1926.

Kip Taylor and Louis Gilbert - Stars of the Game

Senior halfback Louis Gilbert captured everyone’s attention in the first game in the history the history of Michigan Stadium. Gilbert had a hand in every point that was scored in this game. He threw a 15-yard pass to Laverne “Kip” Taylor who scored the first touchdown in Michigan Stadium history! But, Gilbert wasn’t done. He scored two touchdowns, kicked three point-after-touchdowns, and threw two more touchdowns for a total of three on this historic day.

Things got even better for Louis Gilbert in the official “dedication game” against Ohio State on October 22, 1927. Gilbert scored the only touchdowns (three) in this historic game and also kicked three extra points that day. Final score: Louis Gilbert and the Wolverines 21, Ohio State 0! Too bad Michigan didn’t play more games against Ohio teams in 1927!

Ohio Wesleyan players chased Louis Gilbert all over the field on October 1, 1927, but didn’t catch him often enough. He had a hand in all 33 points of a historic Michigan win. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.

So, today is a great day to appreciate the vision of Fielding Harris Yost. Michigan Stadium began as an idea and grew into a legendary structure that has stood the test of time. Thank you, Mr. Yost for your vision and for the persistence that you showed in bringing your “dream” to fruition.

Yes, “Happy Birthday” wishes are definitely in order for The Big House today. It is also important to remember Louis Gilbert and his contributions to the early history of Michigan Stadium. A more detailed article about the life of Louis Gilbert can be found at the link below:


Part II. October 1, 2020 - National Day Calendar Update:


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