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Today's Tidbit... Wisconsin-Minnesota and Bobby Marshall
It's rivalry week, and the most played rivalry game between FBS teams is the Wisconsin-Minnesota series. The teams have met 131 times, playing every year since 1890 except in 1906.
Football went through some things in 1905, leading to numerous rule changes for the 1906 season. The Western Conference, now known as the Big Ten, deemphasized football as conference teams agreed to play only five games that season and the next. The reduced schedule resulted in the Badgers and Gophers missing one another that year.
During the 1906 season, Wisconsin went 5-0 (3-0 in conference), Minnesota was 4-1, losing to Carlisle and going 2-0 in the conference, while Michigan also went 4-1, losing to Penn and beating Illinois in their only conference game. Based on the logic of the time, Wisconsin (3-0), Minnesota (2-0), and Michigan (1-0) shared the conference championship.
Chicago, who went 4-1 with a 3-1 conference record, did not share the pennant, despite winning three times the number of conference games as Michigan. But, of course, Chicago's conference loss came at home to Minnesota.
That game connects to a postcard I recently acquired of the 1905 or 1906 Minnesota football team. It is unclear whether the image shows the 1905 or 1906 team since the rosters overlapped, and Earl Current, the guy holding the football, was the team captain in both years.
The postcard has several other features of note. First, all or virtually all the players have external shoulder pads, which is not unusual. They also have sternum pads, which are seen occasionally in images of the era, but not on an entire team. Their coach, H. L. Williams, sits in the middle, wearing a bowler.
A key player, Bobby Marshall, is at the lower right. Marshall was the first Black player in the Western Conference, playing for the Gophers from 1904 to 1906. He played a crucial role in the Gophers' 1906 victory over the Chicago Maroon.
Minnesota brought the rain with them when they arrived in Chicago in 1906. Both teams tried throwing a few of the new forward passes without much luck, and neither had success running the ball either, but as the first half drew to a close, Bobby Marshall gained 20-yards on an end around, putting the ball in position for a field goal attempt. He was the team's kicker and promptly sent a placekick through the upright from 40 yards out to give the Gophers a 4-0 lead. (Field goals were worth four points at the time.) The field goal proved the margin of victory in the Gophers' 4-2 win over Chicago.
Marshall graduated from Minnesota's law school in 1907 and spent much of the next two decades playing football and Negro League baseball. Then, as a forty-year-old in 1920, he joined the Rock Island Independents, making him one of the first two Black players in the AFCA, which became the NFL in 1921. After that, Marshall played four additional years with the Minneapolis Marines and one year with the Duluth Kelleys, giving him six years in the NFL after the age of forty.
Much is made about Jim Thorpe playing in the NFL through the 1928 season, but Marshall, who played through the 1925 season, was seven years older than Thorpe, so Marshall was a true iron man playing the game at 45 years old.
So, I have to give props to Bobby Marshall, despite his being a Gopher.
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