Magidsohn, Joe : Jews In Sports @ Virtual Museum

Magidsohn, Joe

Joseph Magidsohn

Magidsohn was the first Jew to ever letter at Michigan. A halfback, he was an All-America for the Wolverines in 1909 and 1910. In 1909, legendary coach Fielding Yost allowed Magidsohn to miss two days of practice to attend Rosh Hashanah services; he is the first athlete known to have refused to play on the High Holidays. Upon his return, several teammates wanted to know how he got two days off. When they learned the reason, the universal response was, "Next year I'm going to be a Jew."

Birth and Death Dates:
b. December 20, 1888 - d. February 1969

Career Highlights:
After high school, Magidsohn initially enrolled in Alma College because his secondary school left him short of the necessary credits to attend Michigan. He first saw a football at Alma, since his high school did not have the sport, and then entered Michigan in 1907. After tranferring from Alma College to Michigan, Joe played class football at Ann Arbor for two seasons, leading his teams to the championship.

In 1909, Michigan coach Fielding Yost spotted Magidsohn and invited him to try out for the varsity. Joe made the team and started the 1909 season at left halfback as Michigan had a record of 6-1 and outscored their opponents 115-34.

The Wolverines began the season with four consecutive victories and then faced Notre Dame. Many Michigan supporters viewed the game as a tune-up for the team's final two games against Penn and Minnesota; Notre Dame had never beaten Michigan in eight previous attempts. With both the Irish and Wolverines remaining undefeated as they entered the contest, it became the first game of the series to arouse national interest.

Notre Dame surprised the Wolverines and led, 5-3, with only minutes remaining in the game. After an Irish fumble, Michigan had the ball at the Notre Dame 15-yard line. On first down, they gave the ball to Magidsohn, who gained three yards. On second down, he gained six more yards to set up a third-and-one. Although some players wanted to let Magidsohn run the ball again, others elected to attempt a field goal. Unfortunately, the field goal was blocked and the Irish held on to defeat the Wolverines, 11-3. It was a devastating loss for Michigan, who had high hopes for the national championship, but led by Magidsohn, the Wolverines rebounded the next week.

Their next game was against mighty Penn, who had won 23 straight games and allowed their opponents only 44 points during the streak. Magidsohn later said of the game, "That 1909 Michigan-Penn game is the one I regard as my greatest...My All-America teammate, halfback and captain, Dave Allerdice, had a broken left hand so I was obliged to do most of the ball carrying." Joe scored both touchdowns in the Wolverine's 12-6 upset victory, including a sensational 33-yard run from scrimmage. It was the first time any Western team had defeated one of the Big Four of college football -- Penn, Yale, Princeton, and Harvard. That year, Joe was named to the Walter Camp All-America second team, and first team All-Western.

In 1910, Joe returned as the starting left halfback and Michigan had a record of 3-0-3. That year, numerous papers named Magidsohn All-America first team, and he was named Walter Camp All-America honorable mention, and first team All-Western. After graduating in 1911, Joe served as an official in the Western Conference from 1912-1946. He officiated many big games, including the 1921 Rose Bowl, the 1937 College All-Star game, and many Army-Navy and Army-Notre Dame games. Magidsohn is a member of the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

Tukum, Russia

Career Dates:
Joe played halfback at the University of Michigan from 1909-1910.

Physical description:
5'10", 180 pounds

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encyclopedia of JEWS in sports by Bernard Postal, Jesse Silver, and Roy Silver (New York: Bloch Publishing Co., 1965)