Today’s post is an opportunity to celebrate the Maize and Blue life of Bennie Oosterbaan who went to rest in peace on this day in 1990. Michigan legend Benjamin G. “Bennie” Oosterbaan was born on February 4, 1906 at Muskegon, Michigan. The athletically gifted Oosterbaan grew up to be one of the greatest athletes in Muskegon history. When it was time to continue his education and his athletic career, Bennie chose Michigan. Oosterbaan came to Ann Arbor, Michigan in the fall of 1924 and he never left! In fact, he dedicated his entire adult life to The University of Michigan!
(Note – Team Captain Bennie Oosterbaan is shown above with the 1927 Michigan Wolverine Football team. He is seated in the middle of the second row – holding the football. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.)
Bennie G. Oosterbaan came to play football for Fielding H. Yost in August 1924. However, Freshman were not eligible to play during this time. So, Bennie learned the Yost system and went to work in the classroom. He was invited to try out for the varsity football team in 1925 and the rest, as they say, is “history.”
The talented Oosterbaan became a favorite target of Benny Friedman in 1925. In fact, they were almost unstoppable during the 1925 and 1926 seasons. Michigan won fourteen of sixteen games and ten of eleven in the Big Ten. Amazingly, the Wolverines won back-to-back championships in the last two years of the Yost Era. Of course, Bennie Oosterbaan’s talents did not go unnoticed. He was a two-time All-Big Ten and All-American player during his first two years on the Michigan varsity.
Interestingly, Michigan’s football program saw some big changes in 1927. First, Fielding Yost retired from coaching so he could dedicate more time to his duties as athletic director. Former Wolverine, Tad Wieman, was selected to fill Yost’s very, very BIG shoes. Of course, it is always tough to replace a legend, but Wieman gave it his best shot. Not only did Michigan have a new coach in 1927, it also had a new stadium.
One thing that made WIeman’s job a little easier was the return of All-American Bennie Oosterbaan. Bennie was selected as the captain of the 1927 football team. He continued to star on the field and did everything he could to bring Michigan another conference championship. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out that way. Wieman’s footballers finished with a record of 6 wins and 2 losses. The Wolverines finished in third place in the conference with a record of 3-2-0.
Bennie Oosterbaan had another stellar season in 1927 that earned him a ton of individual awards. He earned Michigan’s MVP award and was selected as all Big-Ten and All-American for the third consecutive season. Bennie also earned the Big Ten Medal of Honor for his exemplary work as a student-athlete. In summary, Bennie just about “did it all” during his Michigan years.
In addition to starring on the football team, Bennie also excelled in basketball and baseball for Michigan. He was one busy boy when he was a student at Michigan. Bennie G. Oosterbaan was definitely part of some good football teams at Michigan.
· Bennie Oosterbaan was on the first Michigan team to have five All-American players in one season (Bennie Oosterbaan, Benny Friedman, Thomas Edwards, Harry Hawkins and Bob Brown) in 1925.
· Bennie G. Oosterbaan played in the first season of Michigan Stadium in 1927.
· Oosterbaan was the first man to throw three touchdown passes in Michigan Stadium in 1927.
· Bennie Oosterbaan was Tad Wieman’s first All-American in 1927.
· Bennie G. Oosterbaan was the first Michigan man to earn All-American honors for three consecutive seasons 1925, 1926 and 1927.
· Oosterbaan was the first Michigan football player to have his jersey retired in 1927.
· Bennie G. Oosterbaan was the first, and only man, to lead the Big Ten in scoring/hitting in three sports: football scoring (1925), basketball 1927-28) and baseball hitting (1927). Truly an exceptional athlete!
· Bennie Oosterbaan was also, first Michigan athlete to earn All-Conference honors in three different sports (football, basketball, and baseball).
· Coach Bennie Oosterbaan is the only Michigan alum to lead a team to a national championship in his first season (Football 1948).
· Also, Coach Bennie Oosterbaan was the first Michigan Football coach to earn Coach of the Year honors in his first season from the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) in 1948.
· In case you didn’t know it, Fritz Crisler was named Coach of the Year in 1947. Bennie Oosterbaan’s Coach of the Year honors in 1948 made it the first, and only, time that two coaches from the same school were named back-to-back coaches of the year by the AFCA.
So, today is a great day to remember the man who many say was the “greatest athlete” in the history of The University of Michigan. Oh yes, Bennie Oosterbaan was that good! It could also be said that Bennie was the “greatest Michigan Man” too. He spent sixty-six years of his life competing for, coaching at, or promoting The University Michigan. There will never be another Bennie Oosterbaan at Michigan – never! Please take a moment to reflect on the immense contributions of Bennie G. Oosterbaan to his beloved university. May he always rest in peace. Go Blue!
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