Above, Elroy Hirsh (#40) on the 1943 University of Michigan football team.
Elroy Hirsch - American football player, sport executive and actor; born Elroy Leon Hirsch on June 17, 1923 in Wausau, Wisconsin.
Hirsch played at Wausau East High School (1939 and 1940) for legendary coach Win Brockmeyer, earning all state honors in football and basketball.
Hirsch enrolled at the University of Wisconsin in the fall of 1941 and played on the school's freshman football team. As asophomore, during the 1942 season (Hirsch's only season with the Wisconsin varsity football team) he was a triple-threat halfback who totaled 767 rushing yards on 141 carries, completed 18 passes for 226 yards, punted four times for an average of 48.8 yards, intercepted six passes, and returned 15 punts for 182 yards. Hirsch helped the Badgers to a 8-1-1 record, 2nd in the Big 10 and 3rd nationally.
"...he looked like a demented duck."
Hirsh had an unusual running style in which his legs twisted as he ran. Consequently, there are various stories as to how Hirsch acquired the "Crazylegs" nickname. According to one version, after watching Hirsch play in an October 17, 1942, game against the Great Lakes Naval Station, sportswriter Francis J. Powers of the Chicago Daily News wrote, "His crazy legs were gyrating in six different directions, all at the same time; he looked like a demented duck."
In January 1943, Hirsch enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and was transferred to the University of Michigan as part of the V-12 Navy College Training Program.
Hirsch played on Michigan's championship team and earned letters in football, basketball, baseball, and track. After watching Hirsch in pre-season practice, Associated Press football writer Jerry Liska referred to "squirming Elroy Hirsch" as "Wisconsin's gold-plated wartime gift to Michigan."
In June 1944, Hirsch left Michigan for various posting for the Marine Corps until he was discharged from the military in May 1946.
Hirsch went on to a career in in professional football — first with the Chicago Rockets of the All-America Football Conference; and then, more famously, in the NFL with the Los Angeles Rams (1949-1957).
After retiring from football, Hirsch accepted a job with Union Oil to replace Bob Richards as the sports director of Union Oil Co.'s 76 Sports Club and the host of its Thursday evening sports television show. Hirsch also hosted a daily sports commentary show on KNX radio from 1961 to 1967.
During the 1950s, Hirsch also starred in several motion pictures, including the film bio "Crazylegs", "Unchained" and Zero Hour!; as well as guest appearances on televsion shows including "Captain Midnight" and the "Munsters".
In March 1960, Hirsch signed a three-year contract to serve as the general manager of the Los Angeles Rams where he stayed until 1968. Hirsch was hired away from the Rams in 1969 to serve as the athletic director at the University of Wisconsin where he stayed until 1987.
Hirsch's tenure at the University of Wisconsin generated increased home attendance, inspired the Elroy Hirsch stadium imposter mask (to be worn by students during the Missouri and Michigan games in the 1970's) and spawned "The Crazylegs Run" (k/n/a the The Crazylegs Classic). The inaugural Crazylegs Run in 1982 attracted 1,525 runners. The race reached an participation high of 20,415 in 2010.
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Elroy "Crazylegs" Hirsch
Above: Rare film bio of Elroy "Crazylegs" Hirsch, CRAZYLEGS (1953).
Above: Poster of the movie "Crazylegs" (1953) starring Elroy Hirsch which focuses on Hirsch's life as a football player at Wausau High School and the Universities of Wisconsin and Michigan.
Above: Poster of the movie "Unchained" (1955) starring Elroy Hirsch.
Above: Elroy Hirsch in Captain Midnight 1956 Ovaltine commerical.
Above: Elroy Hirsch mask distributed to students to wear to Missouri and Michigan football games in the 70's.