HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
November 20, 2006

It is a little-known fact . . .

By Aaron Schultz

I couldn’t figure out what to write about this week.

As I sat down in front of my computer, I went back and forth on either ripping on Gopher football coach Glen Mason, or how pathetic the Vikings’ offense looks.

But, those are obvious topics, and ones I kind of wanted to wait on for another time.

So, I started to look around my office, and came across a book I was sent some time ago.

The book is called “Minnesota Sports Almanac, 125 Glorious Years,” by Joel A. Rippel.

As I started to thumb through it looking for ideas for a column, I found, page after page, little tidbits that I had never known.

The more I looked through it, the more stuff kept jumping out at me.

With that said, I thought that I would share with the readers several of the items in the book that I found the most interesting.

Yeah, kind of a cop-out from writing an actual column, but I think you’ll find many of these items as interesting as I did. So here we go:

• Charles Albert “Chief” Bender, who was raised on Minnesota’s White Earth Ojibwa Indian Reservation, was the first Minnesotan to be named to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He won 212 games in a major league career, from 1903 to 1917.

• A year before Minnesota’s statehood, citizens of the territory were already enjoying baseball.

On Aug. 15, 1857, the first known baseball game in state history was played in Nininger, a small (now vanished) community on the banks of the Mississippi River near Hastings.

• Minnesota has participated in the national American Legion baseball program since its inception in 1925.

All 50 states (and Puerto Rico) sponsor teams. In 2000, Minnesota had 330 registered teams, the second-highest number in the nation. Only Pennsylvania (with 502 teams) had more.

• The University of Minnesota football team has won six national titles, and 18 Big 10 Conference titles.

Under coach Bernie Bierman, the Gophers won national titles in 1934, 1935, 1936, 1940, and 1941. The Gophers won the 1960 national title under Murray Warmath.

Bierman was a member of the Litchfield High School football team in 1911.

• The phrase “Ski-U-Mah” was first heard at a Gopher athletic event in 1884.
Pronounced SKY-YOU-MAH, the phrase was conceived by two rugby players, John W. Adams and Win Sargent, who used the word “Ski,” supposedly a Siouan word meaning victory, and “U-Mah” (representing the University of Minnesota and rhyming with “rah”) to create a cheer.

The phrase was eventually incorporated into both official school songs, “Hail Minnesota” and the “Minnesota Rouser.”

• On Feb. 8, 1895, the University of Minnesota Agricultural School and Hamline College played Minnesota’s first intercollegiate basketball game.

The agricultural school won the game, played at the Minneapolis YMCA, 9-3.
• Legendary Hall of Fame coach John Wooden almost became the Gophers basketball coach in 1948.

The University of Minnesota sought a basketball coach after Dave McMillan had resigned following 18 seasons as coach.

At the same time, Wooden, who had just finished his second year coaching at Indiana State, was looking for a new job.

Both Minnesota and UCLA were interested in Wooden.

Both schools were looking for an answer from Wooden. Both were to call him – an hour apart – but Minnesota didn’t call.

Wooden accepted UCLA’s offer to become the Bruins’ coach, and shortly after, Minnesota called to offer Wooden the job.

Wooden told Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Star Tribune years later, “I had accepted UCLA’s offer and couldn’t break my word. They said a snowstorm had downed the wires. Otherwise, I would have been there for the 1948-49 season.”

Over the next 27 seasons, Wooden coached the Bruins to 10 national championships and a 620-147 record. In the same span, the Gophers had five coaches.

• The state’s first high school football team was fielded in 1878 by Shattuck Academy in Faribault.

The game resembled rugby at the time. In the 1880s, Shattuck played college teams including the University of Minnesota and Carleton College.

By 1889, Shattuck billed itself as football’s “champions of the Northwest.”

In October 1894, Northfield and Faribault played the first football game between two Minnesota High Schools.

• On Sept. 12, 1986, Glenville-Emmons football team defeated Ellendale-Geneva, 14-8, to end a 70-game losing streak.

The victory was Glenville-Emmons’s first in eight years – following an 18-6 victory over Minnesota Lake Sept. 8, 1978.

The losing streak was two games short of the national high school record held by Iberia, MO., set from 1965 to 1974.

Glenville-Emmons, which had recently been featured in a 12-page story in Sports Illustrated, had opened the 1986 season with losses to Cleveland and Watertville-Elysian.

During the streak, Glenville-Emmons was shut out 38 times, and outscored 1,803-259.

• According to the Minnesota Golf Association in 2005, Minnesota is the nation’s top golf state, based on per capita participation. Minnesota has more than 450 golf courses.

• Bois de Sioux Golf Course is the only public golf course in the nation to have nine holes in one state and nine holes in another.

The front nine is in Wahpeton, N.D., and the back nine in Breckenridge, Minn.

• This was just a sampling of all the great information in the Minnesota Sports Almanac.

I recommend anyone interested in Minnesota sports’ history to pick