Bob Ufer

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Robert Pormann Ufer (April 1, 1920 – October 26, 1981) was an American track and field athlete and radio broadcaster. As an athlete, he set the world indoor record of 48.1 seconds in the indoor 440-yard (quarter mile) run and was selected as an All-American in 1943. As a broadcaster, he served as the lead broadcaster for the Michigan Wolverines football team for 36 years, starting in 1945. He was in the first group inducted in 1978 into the University of Michigan Athletic Hall of Honor along with Gerald Ford, Bill Freehan, Tom Harmon, Ron Kramer, Bennie Oosterbaan, and Cazzie Russell.[1][2][3][4]

Early years[edit]

Ufer was born Cleveland, Ohio and grew up in the Pittsburgh suburb of Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania.[5] His father was a lumber broker.[6] An outstanding track and field athlete at the University of Michigan,[7][8] Ufer set eight freshman records. At the Big Ten Conference track meet in 1942, he set a new world indoor record of 48.1 seconds in the 440-yard dash, breaking the old record of 48.2.[9] He was a three-time Big Ten Conference champion in the indoor 440-yard dash.[10] In 1946, a year after he began broadcasting Michigan football games on WPAG radio in Ann Arbor, Ufer came down with ulcerated colitis. Doctors ordered him to give up his broadcasting career. He agreed on the condition that he could continue to call Wolverines football games.

Broadcast career[edit]

Ufer called Wolverines football on WPAG from 1945 to 1976 and on Detroit's WJR from 1977 to 1981. He is remembered for his exuberant, partisan broadcasting style, openly rooting for Michigan.[11][12] He had many familiar so-called 'Uferisms,' such as referring to Michigan as "Meeechigan" (a reference to how legendary Michigan coach Fielding H. Yost used to pronounce the name), and honking loudly on the 'Bo George Patton Schembechler horn' -- the actual horn from General Patton's Jeep, Ufer explained on air many times (honked three times for a touchdown, two times for a field goal or safety, and once for an extra point). He even recited his own poetry about the game. Bo Schembechler shared a birthday with Bob, but Bob was nine years older.

Ufer loved nothing more than his Wolverines, and lost his voice during several broadcasts after too much screaming. One of his most classic moments came in the 1979 homecoming game against Indiana, when Michigan's Anthony Carter caught a 45-yard touchdown pass with no time left to win the game. Ufer was unable to contain his excitement, shouting so loudly that his voice overpowered the sound of the 106,000 fans in Michigan Stadium over the radio that day. After the touchdown, Ufer exclaimed, "I have never seen anything like this in all my 40 years of covering Michigan football. . . . Look at the crowd! You cannot believe it! . . . You're listening to it. I hope you can hear me – because I've never been so happy in all my cotton-picking 59 years! I have seen -- I have broadcast 347 ball games. I've never had one like this. . . . Meeeshigan wins, 27 to 21. They aren't even going to try the extra point. Who cares? Who gives a damn?" Ufer often referred to Michigan Stadium as 'The hole that Yost dug, Crisler paid for, Canham carpeted, and Schembechler fills up every Saturday'.

Another memorable moment came in November 1973, when unbeaten Michigan played unbeaten Ohio State in Ann Arbor with the trip to the Rose Bowl on the line. At Michigan home games the "M-Club" (a booster club) hoists a large banner at mid-field, under which the Michigan team runs when they take the field, jumping up and slapping the banner as they go. On that day Ohio State, as visitor, took the field before Michigan. The Ohio State team ran to midfield and tore down the M-Club banner. Ufer reported: "Here they come: Hare, Middleton, and the Buckeyes… and they're tearing down Michigan's coveted M-Club banner! They will meet a dastardly fate here for that! There isn't a Michigan Man who wouldn't like go out and scalp those Buckeyes right now. They had the audacity, the unmitigated gall, to tear down the coveted M that Michigan's going to run out from under! But the M-men will prevail because they're getting the banner back up again. And here they [the Michigan team] come! The maize and blue! Take it away 105,000 fans!" Ufer then allowed the sound of the home fans cheering on their team be the next half a minute of broadcast. (The game resulted in a 10-10 tie.)

Personal life[edit]

Ufer grave
Ufer Building

Ufer was also a life insurance salesman who founded his own company, Ufer & Co. Insurance, in 1947.

Ufer lost a long battle with cancer October 26, 1981,[13] nine days after his last broadcast; at Ufer's funeral, former Michigan defensive coordinator, Jim Herrmann, said, "Bob Ufer was Michigan football. That's what he lived and died for. I think he would have liked being described that way." Ufer is buried at Forest Hill Cemetery in Ann Arbor.

In 1983, the parents of Ann Arbor raised rock 'n' roller, Andrew W.K., purchased the Ufer home. W.K. grew up in the house before moving to New York City, 14 years later.

Ufer's son, also named Bob Ufer, was the commissioner of the International Hockey League.

In July 2011, the offices of Ufer & Co. Insurance, which had been sold by Ufer's sons in 2009, were moved to a location adjacent to Briarwood Mall to a building renamed "The Ufer Building" in his honor.[14][15]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Luke Pasch (September 13, 2012). "The Voice of Michigan Football: Remembering Old Man Ufer". The Michigan Daily. 
  2. ^ "Bob Ufer - The Voice of Michigan Football". Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan. Retrieved July 7, 2014. 
  3. ^ Gene Wojciechowski (November 14, 2006). "From the sound of it, Ufer remains a Wolverine legend". ESPN.com. 
  4. ^ "Bob Ufer Dead". The Argus Press (AP story). October 27, 1981. 
  5. ^ AP (October 26, 1981). "Bob Ufer". Toledo Blade. Retrieved July 7, 2014. 
  6. ^ Fannie Weinstein (1996-01-18). "U-M grads rush toward their goal to bring life and career of Bob Ufer to Hollywood". The Detroit News. Retrieved 2008-04-01. 
  7. ^ "Ufer Favorite in Big Ten Meet: Bids for Third Triumph Tomorrow at Chicago". Chicago Tribune. March 10, 1944. 
  8. ^ "Bob Ufer, Michigan, Bids in Hollis '600'". Boston Globe. February 2, 1944. p. 8. 
  9. ^ "Bob Ufer obituary". The Sporting News. November 14, 1981. p. 59. (Ufer "held the world indoor mark for the quarter-mile in 1942")
  10. ^ Hergott, Jeremiah, ed. (2008). Two Thousand Eight Michigan Men's Track & Field. Frye Printing Company. 
  11. ^ "Ufer's maize-and-blue boosterism to go nationwide". Chicago Tribune. January 1, 1977. p. S A3. 
  12. ^ Rosenberg, Michael (October 17, 2001). "Michigan's Epic Poet a Homeric Homer, Ufer Chronicled a Football Odyssey". Detroit Free Press. p. E.1. 
  13. ^ "Bob Ufer dies; Michigan announcer for 36 years". Chicago Tribune. October 27, 1981. 
  14. ^ AnnArbor.com staff (2011-07-21). "People & achievements in the greater Ann Arbor area, including McMullen Properties and Interim HealthCare". AnnArbor.com. Retrieved 2011-10-221.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  15. ^ http://business.a2ychamber.org/news/details/kapnick-insurance-group-announces-the-opening-of-their-newly-rennovated-office-building-in-ann-arbor

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