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Take A Letter - Spartantiques Collectors Corner

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A letter prompts a history dive into the life of Spartan athlete and coach, Alton Kircher

I recently obtained a handwritten letter (it’s a primitive form of communication) for my collection of Michigan State autographs. On Michigan State College letterhead with a beautiful school seal watermark, this 1949 letter is from Michigan State Basketball Coach Alton Kircher to Ohio State Basketball Coach Tippy Dye. The letter is a reply, concerning a request about a J.V. game and questionable budget issues. Why this letter is a great addition to my collection is the rest of the story.

1949 MSC Letter
Spartantiques Collection

Alton Kircher, class of 1933, was a great three sport, six Varsity letter-winner at Michigan State College. The Gladstone native played quarterback for Jim Crowley and Charlie Bachman. On the diamond, he hit .430 in 1933. On the court, he was captain for the 1933 basketball team. He was the Brad Van Pelt of his era.

Alton Kircher 3 Sport MSC Athlete

Following college, Kircher went into coaching. He returned to his Alma Mater to serve as an assistant coach for football, baseball and basketball from 1939-1949.

In 1948, Ben Van Alstyne announced that his upcoming 23rd season would be his last and that Kircher, his longtime Yooper assistant, would be taking over as head coach the following season. Any of this sound familiar?

The similarities to Tom Izzo’s rise end there, as Kircher would lead the Spartans for only one season (1949-50). He resigned to move with MSC assistant football coach, Forest Evashevski, to serve as his football assistant at Washington State. He missed overlapping Jud Heathcote (student) in Pullman by one year.

1948 A.P. Press Photo
Spartantiques Collection

Coincidentally, the recipient of my letter, Tippy Dye, resigned from Ohio State the same year to become head basketball coach at the University of Washington. Clearly, Washington apples were appealing to college coaches in 1950.

In 1952, Kircher was named Head Football Coach of the Cougars, as Evashevski moved on to Iowa City. Fired after the 1955 season, Kircher remained in the Pacific Northwest,

Remember to take a closer look at the memorabilia in your collection. You’ll be surprised what tales they can tell.


Movie Time

I highly recommend, Through the Banks of the Red Cedar, a documentary from film maker Maya Washington. The youngest daughter of Spartan Legend Gene Washington, she presents a very personal story of the great Duffy Daugherty teams that integrated college football in the 1960’s. The film will be playing at Celebration Cinemas in Lansing and Grand Rapids (Woodland Mall) 11/29/19 - 12/5/19.

Collectors Alert

Since 2010, Funko Pop! figures have been a pop culture craze. With thousands of licenses to their credit, figures of almost every favorite character is available. New to Funko is the release of Pop! College mascots, featuring “the world’s most famous mascot . . . Sparty”.

Definitely a must have for your Michigan State collection. Besides Sparty, the first series of mascots included Big Al (Alabama), Tiger (Clemson), Harry The Husky (Washington), Tommy Trojan (USC), and Mike The Tiger (LSU). A new series of more college mascots has already been announced.