Those callers who angrily lit up the phone lines on sports talk shows in the days after the Packer defeat by the Eagles in the NFL playoffs on January 11 don’t hold a candle to sports fanatics from a century ago.
On November 13, 1904, Walter R. Mason, a UW student from Massachusetts, wore Michigan colors to dinner at the T. H. Mills boarding house, 522 State Street. He announced to his tablemates that he was glad Minnesota had beaten the UW in football the previous weekend. After dinner, as he left the house, four students grabbed him and said they were going to throw him into Lake Mendota. Mason drew a revolver and shot Albert E. Grunet, a sophomore engineer from Chicago, in the foot. Grunet was taken to a pharmacy for treatment, then to his rooming house on Frances Street. No arrests were made, though students expected that President Van Hise would deal with the issue.
Mason’s father Leland, editor of the Boston Globe, ordered him to come home, but Mason said the affair was a trifle and refused. He did, however, start eating at restaurants instead of the boarding house. Mason’s friends tried to get him to apologize to Grunet, but Mason said “I have bought a .32 now, and if anybody wants a dose, he can get it by trying the same thing the fellows did Saturday.” His comment was widely reported in town.
About 8 p.m. on November 15 a crowd of more than one thousand students gathered on the lower campus. Suddenly six shots were fired into the air, followed by a blood curdling scream and more shots. The students began to chant “Dunk the traitor. Rah rah rah. We want Mason.”
They marched ten abreast up Langdon Street in a procession that stretched two blocks. They surrounded August Scheibel’s house at 623 E. Gorham, where Mason roomed. Mrs. Scheibel answered the door and said Mason had been gone since 6 p.m.; several students pushed past her and searched the house. They threatened to take Mason’s trunk and give out the contents as souvenirs. After cries of “bonfire” the police were called. In the meantime squads of students began searching theaters and the library for Mason without success. The crowd finally broke up when the faculty were called out to identify the ringleaders.
The next day Mason withdrew from the UW. His $15 tuition was not refunded.