Sept. 6, 2004
EDITOR’S NOTE: Every Monday, hawkeyesports.com will bring readers a Kinnick Stadium Memory from the thousands of stories that have been submitted to the website for the 75th Anniversary of Kinnick Stadium.
“My first visit to Kinnick Stadium was as an eight-year-old in 1939. Actually, it was not yet Kinnick Stadium in name, as Nile Kinnick was still a star halfback for the Hawkeyes. The name changed later. “My father operated a small café in Ringsted, Iowa, with a population of 507. He had not been able to afford to attend college, but had adopted the University of Iowa as his honorary alma mater. He loved the Hawkeyes. We listened to every basketball and football game on WHO radio from Des Moines, and woe to the customer who bothered us during the games.
“In 1939 – the year of the beloved Ironmen, dad was ecstatic about the success of the little band of Hawks, led by Nile Kinnick. On impulse, he and two friends drove the 108 miles to Iowa City in an attempt to see the Hawks and Notre Dame. They found some tickets and saw the Hawks upset Notre Dame 7-6. When they returned that night, I pumped my dad for every detail, over and over. “The next game was with the Minnesota Gophers, the defending national champions. Midweek my dad said my mom, my sister, and I were going with him to that game. We might as well have left right then and there because there was no possible way I could sleep, eat or go to school. I was eight years old and I was getting to see Nile Kinnick! Even the daunting six-hour drive on narrow roads could not erode my excitement, although I knew that my excitement would turn to nervousness and nausea.
“Kinnick apparently heard of my terminal condition. He took over the game and passed for two fourth-quarter touchdowns to gain a 13-9 victory. The final gun sounded and a medical miracle occurred. All traces of my disease were gone. The only lasting effect was that my entire blood supply, normally red, was now and forever black and gold.”
“By the time I arrived at Iowa Stadium, my nerves were taut and I was sick. The Gophers soon brought my condition to a near-death level, as they pushed the Hawks around and built a 9-0 halftime lead. I wanted to go home and just die. My great day was ruined and while my mother realized how serious my medical condition was, my dad in his best tough-love manner ordered me to `sit up and act like a man.’ “Kinnick apparently heard of my terminal condition. He took over the game and passed for two fourth-quarter touchdowns to gain a 13-9 victory. The final gun sounded and a medical miracle occurred. All traces of my disease were gone. The only lasting effect was that my entire blood supply, normally red, was now and forever black and gold. “Ten years later I entered the University of Iowa as a pre-dental student, and even went out for freshman football. Being slow and weighing less than 150 pounds, my value to the Hawks was very small and so my dreams of replacing Kinnick were put on hold. I have attended every home game at Kinnick since that time, except for two years in the US Army, and one game when my mother suffered a stroke. When I missed the game to see her in the hospital, she said, `Sam, I must really be ill for you to come see me when the Hawks are at home.’ She did recover, but the Hawks did not win without me. “My wife and I have had the same seats in Kinnick Stadium for 45 years, and three of our four children are season-ticket holders. We also have had basketball tickets for about 30 years. Our memories from Kinnick are many – too many to list – but priceless. I am sure there will be many more, and our family will be there.” By Sam Christensen, DDS
Class of 1955