Herman “Winks” Gundlach

More parts coming soon…

 

FOOTBALL

Looking back, it is easy to see that Herman Gundlach Sr. passed on a passion for football to Winks.

Newspaper Clipping Announcing that Herman Gundlach was chosen as the Harvard Crimson’s Football Captain

Herman Gundlach Sr. enjoyed a good amount of success playing football. He played with the Chicago Bankers Professional team in 1894 with Yale All-American Pudge Heffunger. The Chicago team played one match in Ishpeming, at which time the invaders from Chicago defeated the famed Ishpeming Rough Riders by a score of 4-0.1 Upon relocating to the Copper Country, and shortly after the turn of the century, Gundlach played for the Portage Lake team managed by Sid Karger and captained by Calumet’s Mart Haas. The team, known as the Portage Lake, played most of the Upper Peninsula Elevens and won a heavy percentage of its matches.1

While Herman Gundlach Sr. was not a college man, he paid for his four brothers to attend Harvard, so it was not a surprise when Herman Gundlach Jr., captain of the 1930 Houghton High School football team, went east from Houghton High to Massachusetts for one year at Worcester Acadamy preparatory school, before going to Cambridge in 1931.

The boarding school in the first half of the 20th century had a different perception than that of the second half, as elitist presumptions took hold. By spelling out ‘preparatory’ these private schools better defined themselves. Because of the limitations of many high school curriculums, many male students aiming for college needed further education, in Greek or Latin for example in the case of Harvard. Many students in prep school—like DeAngelis and Gundlach—were called ‘post grads,’ and if they were athletes they could inspire some resentments and jealousies. 2

1934 Photograph of Harvard Crimson football team. Herman “Winks” Gundlach is in the front row, third from the left

Worcester Academy had produced four Harvard football captains before Gundlach, as well as three afterward, so maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that Winks would be chosen to lead the Crimson as Harvard’s Football Captain in 1934, a distinction not without its benefits.

He was 6 feet 2, 190 pounds, tall, dark, handsome, and he had a very good time. As Harvard captain, the invitations came. ‘Copley Plaza tea dances and all that,’ said Gundlach. 2

The Harvard Crimson and Yale Bulldog football programs have a long and well-established rivalry culminating every year with “The Game,” which concludes the season for both programs. First played in 1875, The Game has been played annually since 1897 outside of World Wars I and II. During his four years participating in the heated matchup, Gundlach would make his presence felt.

During the game between the freshmen teams of Harvard and Yale, at Cambridge on November 14, 1931, Jim DeAngelis limped to the sideline. Yale’s 165-pound guard was angry. ‘I thought I had a broken leg,’ he said. ‘It was Gundlach, the son of a gun. He missed his block, stuck his leg out, and really caught me. I was on crutches for two weeks. Nowadays you can’t do that. It’s against the rules.’ 2

Herman Winks Gundlach in his Harvard Crimson Football Uniform

Gundlach and DeAngelis would play opposite each other four years, banging one another play after play in three varsity Harvard-Yale games. Until the annual Yale alumni luncheon in 1985, 54 years and nine days after the whiplash block of 1931, they had never met bereft of helmets.

‘I’m sitting there with my wife and some fiends,’ DeAngelis said. ‘Some Harvard guys that I know came along to say hello and with them is Gundlach. So we started talking.’ They still are. 2

Formerly heated rivals, Gundlach and DeAngelis would form a lasting friendship.

November 22, 2003. Both men are in the Yale Bowl for the 140th renewal of the Harvard-Yale showdown, DeAngelis at age 93 and Gundlach at 90—best of friends, both erect, handsome, loquacious, funny, charming. No wheelchairs, no golf carts, no walkers no aides-de-camp. Yes, a couple of hearing aids. They will not watch the game together. DeAngelis takes his place as usual in Portal 16, Section A, opposite the southerly 45 yard line. Gundlach will be well place on the Harvard side—no one outranks a 90-year-old former Harvard captain. They’ll get together before the game—they always do. 2

In regards to DeAngelis, Gundlach said, “I think he was the best football player on those Yale teams all four years—rough, tough and loved it.”

Winks even had the opportunity to play against the Chicago Bears as part of an All-Star team in 1935 designed to answer the question of whether the pros were better than the college kids. The result of the game? A crowd of 77,850 and a final score of 5-0 Chicago.

One of the 43 chosen stars, guard Herman (Gunny) Gundlach of Harvard, told me years later that the All-Stars could have won the game if coaches had used the right players. 3

Of course, Gundlach wasn’t the only notable member of the 1935 team. Gerald Ford, a center from the University of Michigan and future President of the United States ended up doing pretty well for himself all things considered. 2

Gundlach later joined the Boston Redskins of the NFL in 1935, “mostly because of his regard for Eddie Casey, his Harvard head coach.” 2 His professional football career would be brief, however.

[Redskins owner George] Marshall undercut Casey by countermanding the coach’s orders while sitting on the Boston bench during games. The owner, claims Gundlach, ‘treated the players like dirt,’ and the former Harvard athlete soon quit. 2

Sources:

  1. Tribute to Herman Gundlach Sr.
  2. College Football Historical Society 08-04 Two Old Friends by Bill Wallace
  3. College Football Historical Society 02-12 The All-Star Game by William N. Wallace