September 24, 2017 Happy Birthday Anniversary Cliff Sparks!

Posted on September 24, 2017 by Barry Gallagher

Today is a great day to celebrate the Happy Birthday Anniversary of a Wolverine named Cliff Sparks. According to the Wikipedia article linked below, Clifford M. “Cliff” Sparks was born in Jackson, Michigan on this day in 1896.

Clifford M. Sparks came to Ann Arbor in 1915 to play quarterback for Fielding H. Yost. After playing on the freshman team in 1915, Sparks was good enough to earn seven starts on the 1916 team. The Wolverines won the first seven games of the season before losing the last two to eastern powers (Cornell and Penn). This was the last year that Michigan played a completely “independent” football schedule.

Cliff Sparks Michigan Football 1017 | bigbluefootballhistory.com

Michigan was back in the Big Ten Conference in 1917, but only played one game against Northwestern because of scheduling difficulties. Cliff Sparks started two games at quarterback and one game at halfback before wartime service interrupted his education and playing career at Michigan. He returned to Ann Arbor to finish what he started in the fall of 1919.

Cliff Sparks started six games at quarterback and another game at halfback in 1919. The only thing that stands out about this season is that the Wolverines finished with a record of 3-4-0. This was the only losing season in the twenty-five-year tenure of the legendary Fielding H. Yost. The only other thing that I noted about Cliff Sparks is that he wore three different numbers for the Maize and Blue. He wore #4 during the 1916 season, #13 during the 1917 season and finished his career with #5 on his back in 1919.

Cliff Sparks is connected to a couple of interesting Michigan Football “firsts.” Here they are:

  • Clifford M. Sparks played in the first ever game against Western State College (now Western Michigan) in 1917.
  • Sparks played on the first, and only, losing team (3-4-0) in the Fielding Yost Era at Michigan in 1919.
Clifford M. Sparks Michigan Football 1919 | bigbluefootballhistory.com

Cliff Sparks gains some yards at Ferry Field. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.

Today marks the one hundred and twentieth anniversary of the birth of Michigan Man Clifford M. Sparks. Please take a moment to honor his memory and appreciate his contributions to the winningest program in college football history. Rest in peace Wolverine and Go Blue!

Check out the Wikipedia article below to read more about the life of Cliff Sparks. He is one of a very few Wolverines to earn All-American recognition (1916) that is not documented in the annals of Wolverine Football history because it was not from one of the noted authorities in college football.



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