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Camp Randall Field

Camp Randall Field (1906)

Wisconsin Historical Society Image ID: WHi-2260

Badger Football 1905

In the first week of November, 1905, Wisconsin’s 6–1 football team faced Minnesota in Minneapolis before a crowd of 22,000.

In the prior three years, the Badgers had won 17 games and lost none while playing Lawrence, Hyde Park, Beloit, Naperville, Osteopaths, Oshkosh Normal, Knox, Ft. Sheridan, Marquette, Kansas and Notre Dame, outscoring them 780 to 31. In the same three years, they were defeated nine straight times by the top three teams in the West – Michigan, Chicago, and Minnesota.

The 1905 Badgers’ heaviest player was right tackle C. M. Dering, who weighed 203 pounds. The lightest was quarterback A. B. Melzner, a slight 140 pounds. Coach Phil King returned as coach after several years away to try to get the team back on track. The Badgers shut out their first five opponents - Company I, Northwestern, Marquette, Lawrence and Notre Dame – scoring 149 points in the process. They lost in the sixth week to Chicago by a score of 4–0, then defeated the Alumni 17–0. At this point the seniors on the team had never defeated one of their major opponents in ten straight attempts.

Miraculously, in Minneapolis, Wisconsin “humbled the mighty Gophers” by a score of 16-12.

Pandemonium ensued in Madison. When the team arrived by train at the Northwestern station, three thousands fans were waiting at the platform, the coeds wearing cardinal ribbons. The players were hoisted onto fans’ shoulders as they stepped from the train and were set down in a wagon. Two hundred men grabbed ropes and pulled the wagon through the streets while the band played, train whistles blew, and revolvers were shot into the air. The crowd zigzagged up King Street, down Pinckney, and into Capitol Park at the East Washington entrance. After fruitlessly waiting for fifteen minutes for Governor Robert La Follette to appear, according to the Wisconsin State Journal, the crowd began to chant: “Come on! Bob has no use for us now. U rah rah for Jim Davidson (the lieutenant governor).” They then pulled the players to the Red Gym for speeches in honor of the conquering heroes.

Wisconsin finished the season 8–2, beating Beloit 44–0 before falling to Michigan 12–0.

Sportswriter Caspar Whitney’ year-end ranking of the top teams in the country was Yale, Harvard, Penn, Chicago, Dartmouth, Princeton, West Point, Annapolis, Brown, Carlisle, Amherst, Columbia, and Lafayette. Whitney was quoted in the December 23, 1905 Wisconsin State Journal as saying: “I do not rank Wisconsin which, because of the jellyfish attitude of UW President Van Hise, is in the hands of a few athletic grafters and rotten to the core. It should be cast out of midwestern sport until purged.”

Mark Gajewski