Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Minnesota vs Purdue, 1961

My first Big Ten football game was at the old Brickyard in Minneapolis, Memorial Stadium. By my recall it was 1961, and the game was played on a cold day, November 18. (Thanks to Google for leading to historically accurate information.)

Fred Knauer was our counselor, replacing Jon Swenson, who had moved on to greener pastures somewhere. Fred was also one of the volunteers to drive us to the game, in the Drivers Training car, which I recall to be a white, four-door Chevy.

On the way to the game Fred seemed a little anxious, and it suddenly escalated even more for some reason. At the same time I suddenly noticed some pressure on my toes, increasing to a level that I had to jerk my foot - away from the brake pedal on the front passenger side where I was sitting, now pressing down on my foot just like he was jamming the real brake on the driver's side! This safety feature for the driver's ed instructor worked just the opposite in this environment. The car jerked when I pulled my foot because now the brake suddenly worked, and Knauer, not knowing why the brake hadn't been working, was a little steamed up. But no wreck, no foul.

He also got worked up once we got into Minneapolis - because we got lost somehow. But it made no difference because we finally made it to the game. In the 80's they tore down Memorial Stadium in favor of the Metrodome, and that was kind of sad, because Memorial was a beautiful building, at least aesthetically. It was November, the day was cool but sunny, and leaves had fallen all over, of course, so it was the classic fall day for Big Ten Football.

We sat on the bleachers in the south end of the stadium. I can only recall Mike Lien being among our group although we obviously had many of us there. And I'm sure it was Mike who got the bright idea to explore the stadium a little bit before the game. Somehow we wound up in a tunnel on the Gopher side of the stadium, and we were standing against a wall across from double doors when we heard a roar from inside the doors, the ground seemed to be shaking, the doors burst open, and Judge Dixon, the Minnesota fullback, burst out the doors and right towards us.

From where we stood, he looked to be about 8 feet tall and 600 pounds. And thank goodness he turned and ran down the tunnel and onto the field away from us, followed by all his teammates. His teammates that year included Sandy Stephens, Bobby Bell, and Carl Eller, all of whom probably looked even bigger, and went on to success at the pro level.

I wonder, could we have gotten into that tunnel today? Nah - because today the TV cameras are following the players from the locker room to the field, and us peons would have been herded away. So I guess we did have some advantages growing up when we did.

We were fortunate to see this game (the Gophers won 10-7) because the Gophers were coming off a national championship year in 1960 and wound up going back to the Rose Bowl, but it was kind of an end to an era because they have since fallen on hard(er) times. A couple years ago they wanted to honor Sandy Stephens on their tickets - and spelled his name Stevens. Another good reason to be a Hawkeye fan.

If you were in the group of players who attended, add your own comments and memories. I'll guarantee every Minnesota fan has memories of those years!

1 comment:

  1. Love this story too. Your stories are so interesting BadgerHawk. Keep them coming.


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