Nov. 19, 2009
At the conclusion of the 2009 football season, the existing press box, which dates to the 1950s, will be torn down. Over the last several decades, countless memorable moments have been witnessed from the nerve center of the stadium.
In honor of this last season with the proud, old press box, an on-going feature called "Memories From the Press Box" will run on MGoBlue.com and in each U-M football game program. Written by the individuals who witnessed these moments from above, "Memories" will offer a different perspective of the events many of us remember after seeing them in person or watching them on TV. In some cases, it's describing pre-game rituals, in many cases, it's a specific game or play that took their breath away. Sportscasters, former coaches, athletic department staff, University President Mary Sue Coleman, they are but a few of the contributors who will be featured weekly. We hope you enjoy it! Echoes of the Old "Box"
Superstitions and a Coach from Ohio
By Jim Wood / Former U-M Football Radio Announcer
I broadcasted University of Michigan football play-by-play on the radio for 16 years, 16 of the greatest years of my working life.
My first year to broadcast was 1965. My color commentator was Bob Westfall. Bob was an All-American fullback who played in the same backfield with the great Tom Harmon. Because of his friendship with Fritz Crisler, the legendary Michigan football coach, who at that time was Athletic Director, we were able to get Crisler as our halftime guest on my very first Michigan broadcast.
It couldn't get any better than this, or could it?
The first half came to an end and it was time for our halftime show. It was me and Westfall, and the legendary Fritz Crisler. What a great start to my Michigan football broadcasting career. The opening introduction ended and I looked at Mr. Crisler, thanked him for being on our show, and then proceeded to ask him what he thought Michigan's chances were of making it to the Rose Bowl that year. He quickly replied, "If you are going to talk about the Rose Bowl I am leaving the booth."
Needless to say I was in a state of shock. I told him that we don't have to talk about the Rose Bowl, and then quickly called for a commercial to be played from the studio. I looked at Westfall and told him he could handle the rest of the interview. He did so, and everything ended well.
After Mr. Crisler left the booth I asked Bob what that was all about. He said that Crisler is superstitious about talking about the Rose Bowl before the season is over. That was my first halftime show for my Michigan football broadcasts, and one I will never forget.
Another press box memory that stands out in my mind happened in the late '60's. A group of us were standing around talking in the press box when someone came up and said, "Michigan has hired a new football coach and you are not going to believe who it is -- Glenn Schembechler from Miami of Ohio. Everybody, almost in unison, said, "Oh no."
They were looking for a Michigan man to be hired, not someone from Ohio. They were very disappointed. Needless to say, as time went on and Glenn Schembechler, nay, Bo, defeated Ohio State his first year as coach, the disappointment didn't last long. Who, in the press box that day, could have imagined that the University of Michigan would name a building after him?
Two games I will never forget broadcasting were the game in 1968 when Ron Johnson slushed through the mud against Wisconsin to score touchdowns on five long runs. He amassed 347 yards rushing. It seemed like he was the only one on the field who didn't slip and slide in the mud. He would make a cut, the defender would fall down, and he would be on his way.
The other game I will never forget was the game in which John Wangler, with time for one more play, threw a pass to the amazing Anthony Carter, for a touchdown, to prevent an upset by Indiana.
The play was set up when a Michigan player was tackled in bounds around mid-field, but as he was falling, he fumbled out of bounds to stop the clock. Indiana went into a deep prevent defense with three or four players back very deep. Their goal was to let the Michigan receiver catch the ball and then tackle him as there would be no time left on the clock
It looked like a smart defensive move, except for the fact the receiver was Anthony Carter. A.C. went down the right sideline, cut across the center of the field, caught the ball in stride, was hit, kept his balance and went into the end zone. Michigan won! Hail to the victors!
I spent a lot of great Saturday afternoons in the press box at Michigan stadium and I will never forget them.
Jim Wood managed radio stations in Toledo and Cincinnati, Ohio, and did play-by-play for football and basketball on radio. He handled play-by-play of the Michigan games from 1965-68 on a radio station in Adrian, Mich., and from 1971-82 on WTOD in Toledo, Ohio. His color commentators were Bob Westfall, Rick Bay and Jon Arbeznik, all former Michigan football players. During the '80's and '90's, he did play-by-play for the University of Cincinnati football and basketball teams.
• Past Memories from the Press Box: Bruce Madej (11/23/2009) | Jim Wood (11/19/2009) | AMR Staff - Part 2 (11/12/2009) | AMR Staff - Part 1 (11/5/2009) | Jerry Green (10/29/2009) | Jerry Hanlon (10/22/2009) | Geoff Larcom (10/15/2009) | Pat Perry (10/9/2009) | Will Perry (10/1/2009) | Dick Gaskill (9/24/09) | Jim Meyer (9/17/09) | Frank Beckmann (9/10/2009) | John Borton (9/3/2009)