May 24, 2013
University of Michigan director of athletics Dave Brandon will regularly offer his view on a variety of topics related to U-M and intercollegiate sports. All his posts, along with links to related content, will be available on his page, mgoblue.com/brandon, and he is also on Twitter at @DaveBrandonAD.
Don Lund is a Michigan Treasure. He is one of the "bigger than life" figures who have made a dramatic impact on the legacies and traditions that make Michigan Athletics so special.
Don was a three-sport star at Michigan from the 1940s and early 1950s, won nine varsity letters, and after a professional baseball career, returned to U-M to complete a celebrated 50-year athletic career that included leading the Wolverine baseball team to one Big Ten championship, two NCAA berths and the 1962 NCAA championship in only four seasons of coaching.
He has a well-recognized name because of his athletic ability in baseball, football and basketball. He is legendary for having special character qualities that are truly unique to Don Lund.
Easily, he ranks up there among the greats who have donned the Maize and Blue uniform. His accomplishments in baseball are well known, his basketball skills were exceptional, and as a football player he was a first round selection by the Chicago Bears in the NFL Draft. He would have easily won 12 varsity letters if freshmen were eligible in those days!
However, his legacy is not just what he did on the field or court; it's what he did for individuals outside of sport -- and how he did it.
Never one to talk about himself, Don would rather tell stories of golfing with his wife Betty and discuss his daughter Sue's teaching position or his grandchildren's ambitions and accomplishments.
When he reflects on his career in athletics, he would rather talk about his teammates, those he coached and especially the players on the 1962 team -- and how 'they' won the NCAA championship.
And what about 'Lundo' himself? He finally opened up to author Jim Irwin who wrote the book "Playing Ball With Legends - The story and The Stories of Don Lund."
In the book, he talks about his relationships with George Sisler, Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson. Even a book isn't long enough to chronicle all of his illustrious stories, but Irwin captured the essence of Don Lund in one quote from Bill Freehan: "After my father, Don Lund is the most important man in my life ... Don was the one who taught us how to win, both on and off the field."
The real story about Don Lund is not about whom he knows or how he played, but how he continues to live. He is a deeply principled man who cares about people and athletics -- in that order.
It was not surprising when more than 100 friends and family gathered for his 90th birthday celebration this past weekend.
The real surprise came early in the week. That's when Hollywood's Thomas Tull -- part-owner of the San Diego Padres, director of 37 major films (including The Dark Knight, The Hangover and all the sequels) and the president of Legendary Pictures, who produced the movie 42 - the Story of Jackie Robinson -- sent an emissary to Ann Arbor with a personal copy of the movie for Don Lund.
Former U-M Academic All-America shortstop George Foussianes was the impetus behind the gift, when he informed Tull of Lund's relationship with Robinson and the upcoming milestone birthday.
Not only was Lund on the same AAA Montreal Royals' roster with Robinson, in 1947 he also signed his professional contract with the Dodgers in the same ceremony as Robinson.
Foussianes traveled from New York and met the PR person from Legendary Pictures at Lund's home to deliver and watch the movie 42 with Don and his family. It was a perfect evening for Don Lund -- friends, family and a great movie about a teammate and friend who just happened to smash the color barrier.
Thank you, Don -- for being a wonderful ambassador for the Maize and Blue and for doing such a great job of representing everything we believe in and teach to our student-athletes. And, from all of us at the Michigan Athletic Department, Happy Birthday to the consummate Michigan 'Gentle' Man.