Thursday, February 27, 2020

A trophy lost in time, the Old Brass Spittoon

October 23, 2015
Sophomore defensive end William Gholston holds the Old Brass Spittoon for senior tight end Garrett Celek as he spits into it after Michigan State defeated Indiana on Senior Day. The Spartans defeated the Hoosiers, 55-3, on Saturday afternoon at Spartan Stadium. Josh Radtke/The State News
Sophomore defensive end William Gholston holds the Old Brass Spittoon for senior tight end Garrett Celek as he spits into it after Michigan State defeated Indiana on Senior Day. The Spartans defeated the Hoosiers, 55-3, on Saturday afternoon at Spartan Stadium. Josh Radtke/The State News —
Photo by Josh Radtke | and Josh Radtke The State News

The Paul Bunyan Trophy will reside in East Lansing for another year after MSU’s improbable last-second victory against the University of Michigan, but there is another trophy up for grabs this weekend in Spartan Stadium.

When MSU takes on Indiana on Saturday, the two teams will duke it out for the Old Brass Spittoon. With a trophy involved, this game is technically a rivalry game. Yes, Indiana and MSU are considered rivals and the trophy dates back to 1950.

The first time Indiana and MSU met on the gridiron dates back to 1922 in Bloomington, Ind. The Hoosiers defeated the Spartans that day 14-6 and the two played three times after the 1922 game until 1950. In 1950, the dynamic of the MSU and Indiana matchup changed.

In 1950 MSU football had just come off a 36-33 emotional victory over Notre Dame and were looking to avoid a letdown against Indiana the following week. Knowing this, junior class president Gene McDermott wanted to play his part in keeping the Spartans from falling trap to Indiana.

McDermott and class secretary Virginia O’Brien hit the town to find something that would rile up not only the football team but the student body heading into the Indiana matchup. Inspired by the Little Brown Jug, which University of Michigan and Minnesota play for, the two wandered into an antique shop in Lansing.

McDermott spotted the spittoon and thought it would be perfect for the rivalry. Inside the spittoon was a note that said the spittoon was in use during the 1800s at a trading post around what is now East Lansing. As the story goes, residents of both Michigan and Indiana would pass by the trading post and use the spittoon while hunting and fishing in Michigan, therefore becoming the basis for the reasoning behind the Old Brass Spittoon. The spittoon was cleaned up, and bought for $25 by McDermott.

However, for it to become a rivalry trophy, Indiana had to first accept the challenge of playing for it. McDermott sent a telegram to the Indiana Student Senate telling them about the new found trophy. Their reply?

“We the students of Indiana University hereby accept your challenge.”

The challenge had begun and the Old Brass Spittoon was born. Engraved on the outside of the spittoon are the words:

“ ‘The Old Brass Spittoon’ ”

Inaugurated by the students of

Michigan State College and Indiana University

November - 4 - 1950

When game day arrived, McDermott took the trophy and presented it to both teams in their respective locker rooms, showing off the spoils that would befall the victor of the game. MSU went on to stomp the Hoosiers 35-0 that day and claim the Old Brass Spittoon.

The two have played for the trophy ever since and MSU has dominated the all time series against Indiana, 44-15-2. The rivalry has lost importance over the years due in large part to MSU’s domination. Many fans on both sides have forgotten the trophy exists but it can be a source of pride for players. MSU has won the trophy the past six meetings and is 6-0 against Indiana under Coach Mark Dantonio.

The two renew the battle for the Old Brass Spittoon Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Spartan Stadium.

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