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"One For the Gipper" – The Original Story
President Ronald Reagan is affectionately labeled as “The Gipper” following his cinematic portrayal of the legendary Notre Dame football player. The nickname is so firmly attached to the president that the real Gipper is almost forgotten.
True history is obscured by the mists of time. His hometown of Laurium in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula maintains a website dedicated to their local hero. This is certain: he was born on February 18, 1895 to Mr. and Mrs. Matthew Gipp.
He attended public schools in Calumet, but he never played football in high school. However, he was a complete athlete. He participated in track and field, hockey, sand-field football, and organized baseball. The Laurium baseball team were Upper Peninsula champions in 1915, with George playing center field.
Gipp hadn’t considered going to college. He was, however, proficient in baseball, billiards, poker and dice. Her greatest achievement was winning a gold watch for ballroom dancing.
The six-foot, 180-pound husky Gipp at 21 was persuaded by a Notre Dame graduate that he might have a baseball scholarship to apply for.
Beyond these statistics, we must rely on sports historians.
A colorful account of Gipp’s spectacular career is rendered by James A. Cox. It begins one fall afternoon in 1916 with two college freshmen playing baseball on a college playground in the Midwest.
Without warning, a soccer ball sails over the fence from a nearby grill where the school’s university was training. He hits one of the young men. He picks up the stray soccer ball and throws it over the fence 70 yards away.
On the other side of the pitch, a coach whistles in admiration and rushes over. “Hey, you! You with the baseball. What’s your name?”
“Gipp,” comes the terse response.
“Where do you come from?
“Playing football in high school? »
“Well, I think you’ll make a football player,” the coach said. ” Come tomorrow. We’ll dress you up and see what you can do.
The young man shrugs. “I don’t know,” he said vaguely. “Don’t particularly care about football.”
So was the meeting of Gorge Gipp and Knute Rockne. A few days later, Gipp shows up for a tryout.
* * *
There was no difficulty switching purses when it was learned that he could run 100 yards in ten seconds, throw accurate passes down half the field and kick 60 yards punts with ease. He became a half-All-American.
Gipp made a name for himself in his first out-of-town game with the freshman team against Western Michigan State Normal. Cox wrote:
“As a halfback, Gipp is racking up the yards. But the score is 7-7 as the fourth quarter ends with just minutes to go.
“The Irish have the ball. The quarterback calls the punt formation – kick and play for a tie.
“Gipp hesitates. He wants to go for a basket. The quarterback looks at him like he would with a bishop. From where the kicker will stand, to the opposing post – which at the time was on the goal line – was more than 60 yards.Nevertheless, the quarterback orders “Punt”.
“The ball is broken, Gipp drops it to the ground – as was the custom at the time – gets a perfect bounce and blasts the ball through the uprights. It was a 62 yard field goal that won a enduring place in the record books.”
* * *
In the spring of his freshman year, Gipp tried out for the baseball team and was successful as an outfielder. He only played one game.
Ignoring a bunt signal, he sent the ball over the fence for a home run.
“Why?” asked the director. “Don’t you remember the signals?
“Sure,” Gipp replied, “but it’s too hot to run around bases after a bunt.” The next day, he returned to his baseball uniform and focused on football.
He earned his way serving tables in the college dining hall for room and board. He made money playing in nearby semi-pro and industrial baseball leagues.
He also frequented the pool halls and other low joints in South Bend.
A hangout called Hullie & Mikes became her second home. He once said, “I’m the best freelancer to ever attend Notre Dame.”
His roommate, Arthur (Dutch) Bergman, explained:
“No one around South Bend could beat him at faro, snooker, snooker, poker or bridge. He studied dice roll percentages and could fade those bones in a way that made professionals giddy. At three-pocket billiards, he was the terror of the salons.
“He never played with other students, although his shitty shooting skills helped pay the way to Notre Dame for more than a few of his friends. I saw him win $500 in a crap game, then spend its winnings buying meals for needy families in South Bend.”
Gipp cut so many classes in 1919 that he was expelled from school. He took a job as a house gambler at the Hullie & Mikes gaming empire.
Appalled, former Notre Dame sports fans flooded the college with complaints. The university gave him a special exam – which he passed – and reinstated him. Afterwards, Gipp came to train when he chose him, doing what he felt like doing. Nobody complained. Coaches and players knew he was fiercely dedicated to winning. The team revolved around him.
The 1920 season established Gipp as “immortal”.
On a Saturday afternoon, Notre Dame found itself 17-14 against Army.
In the locker room, Rockne unleashed one of his famous halftime fight speeches. Gipp looked bored. Rockne turned to Gipp and challenged him, “I guess you’re not interested in this game.” Gipp replied, “Don’t worry, I have $500 on it and I don’t intend to waste my money.”
By the end of the game, Gipp had rushed for 385 yards – more than the entire Army team. He scored a touchdown while running a kickoff, threw two accurate passes while setting up a touchdown. He almost single-handedly led Notre Dame to a 27-17 comeback victory.
Gip paid a price for the performance that day. He was tired, pale and a little bloody. His distress was so evident that the West Point crowd stood and stared at him in awe as he left the field.
There were four games left in the season. A clean sweep would give Notre Dame a chance to win the national championship.
Purdue lost 28-0. At Indiana the following week, Gipp suffered a dislocated shoulder that sent him to the bench with bandages. The Hoosiers took a 10-0 lead, which they held into the fourth quarter.
The Irish pushed to the 2m line but stalled. Gipp jumped off the bench and yelled at Rockne, “I’m going!”
“To come back!’ roared Rockne.
Gipp ignored the command. In the second game, he crashed for a touchdown. Then he kicked the extra point and returned to his bench.
On Notre Dame’s next possession, with the clock ticking, the Irish worked the ball to the 15-yard line. Again, Gipp rushed off the bench to take charge.
He pulled back for an tying dropkick to tie the game. The Hoosiers stormed to block it. Calmly, Gipp tossed the ball to a receiver on the 1-yard line. On the next play, with the entire Indiana team converging on Gipp, he broke the tackle with his injured arm close. It was a trick. The Notre Dame quarterback danced into the end zone with the ball for the game-winning touchdown.
As the team returned to South Bend, Gipp traveled to Chicago to teach a prep school team how to drop a kick. The freezing wind caused body aches, fever and sore throat. Back in South Bend, Gipp took his sickbed.
The following Friday against Northwestern, Rockne feverishly kept Gipp on the bench until the fourth quarter. Then, to the chants of the crowd – “We want Gipp!” — he allowed his star a few plays — completed with a 55-yard touchdown pass to rack up a 33-7 rout. .
* * *
On Thanksgiving Day, Notre Dame beat Michigan State 25-0 to end its second straight season, but Gipp wasn’t there. He was in hospital with pneumonia and strep throat – a serious condition before antibiotics.
It was clear that Gipp was doomed. On December 14, 1920, he converted to Catholicism and received the last rites. His mother, brother, sister and Coach Rockne watched by his bedside – while the entire student body knelt in the snow on campus praying for him.
While he was in a coma, someone whispered, “It’s hard to go.
Gipp heard it and woke up. ” What is difficult ? he said scornfully.
Beyond that, we only have Rockne’s version.
Gipp turned to Rockne. “I have to go, Rock,” he whispered. “It’s all good. Sometimes when the team is in trouble, when things go wrong and the breaks beat the boys – tell them to go with everything they have and only win one for the Gipper.”
It’s doubtful that the usually modest Gipp actually gave the dramatic speech on his deathbed, but Rockne always swore it was true.
However, it was eight years before Rockne felt the need to invoke George Gipp’s dying words.
It was at Yankee Stadium in New York on November 12, 1928. Notre Dame had lost two games. An undefeated Army side held the so-so Fighting Irish to a scoreless tie at half-time. In the locker room, Rockne stood up and addressed his tired players.
“Boys, I want to tell you a story that I never thought I would have to tell.”
Then Rockne recounted – in a serious voice – George Gipp’s latest challenge. When he reached the climax – “Go ahead and win one for the Gipper” – the players are said to have opened the locker room door a crack as they rushed to the pitch. The Irish played the second half as if the Notre Dame legend was leading the way.
At the end of the match, the score was Notre Dame 12, Army 6.
The Gipper had scored one last time – from the grave.
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