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Mystery Solved: Right Year, Wrong Team

June 20, 2014

Well, that didn’t take long.

Thanks to the good folks at UMGOBLUE,com, one of the top news sites and gathering places for Michigan football, we now can identify the Wolverine football film excerpt from nearly 60 years ago that we posted yesterday.

We guessed the year was 1956. We were right.

We guessed the opponent was Army. We were wrong.

You can read the thread here. But we think the uncanny detective work of a poster named Uferfan deserves to be spotlighted. His sleuthing led to the game’s identification as the Sept. 29, 1956 clash between UCLA and Michigan, which the home team won 42-13. Here’s what he had to say.

– The Quarterback (#24) is Jim Van Pelt; who played from 1955-1957. He was the only quarterback to wear this number in the decade. 
– The receiver (#87) is, in fact, Ron Kramer. He played with Van Pelt for two of those seasons: 1955 and 1956; so we’re down to two possible seasons. 
– There were only three games that Michigan played at home in those years where the opposing team wore gold helmets: 1955 against Army, and 1956 against UCLA and Army. 
  
I’m going to venture a guess to say that the film is against UCLA in 1956. The reasons are as follows: 

Empty end zone seats at Michigan Stadium, 1956

A screenshot from the film: Empty end zone seats at Michigan Stadium, Sept. 29, 1956

– Van Pelt did not throw a pass in either Army game in 1955 or 1956, but he can clearly be seen throwing a pass in this game – here is a link to the box scores for the Michigan games, showing no passes thrown by Van Pelt against Army in either 1955 or 1956): http://www.umich.edu/~bhlumrec/athdept/fbstats/ 
– The attendance for the UCLA game was 70,159 and for the Army game was 93,402. The capacity of Michigan Stadium in 1956 was 101,001. If you look at the video at 0:45, the end zone seats are clearly empty (see right). The Army game was only 7,500 short of capacity; while the UCLA game was over 30,000 short of capacity. Given the large amount of empty seats, it is more likely this is the UCLA game. 
– Lastly, Army’s helmets during this time period had black numbers on them. It does not appear that the opposing team helmets had these numbers. UCLA’s numbers were solid gold with no markings. 
  
All signs point to this footage being of the September 29, 1956 game against UCLA; which Michigan won 42-13.  

Absolutely brilliant is all we can say to you, Uferfan. Well done!

As a reminder, this comes from a privately owned 8mm film we converted for a client, who generously gave us permission to post it on this blog. At Priceless Photo Preservation, we are Ann Arbor archivists wo specialize in converting, restoring and digitizing 8mm, Super 8 and 16mm film for local families who want to bring their history back to life. Stop by with a few film reels that you can watch us convert while you are there!

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