Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Gipper Rises From the Grave

George Gipp died from pneumonia and a strep infection during his senior year at Notre Dame in 1920. Portrayed by Ronald Reagan in Knute Rockne, All American, he is supposed to have urged his teammates from his deathbed to "win just one for the Gipper."

On Oct. 4, his body was exhumed in Michigan, and a DNA sample taken.

[Medical Examiner Dr. Dawn] Nulf said she was contacted a couple of months ago by a family representative seeking the DNA test. She determined a court order was not required for the body to be exhumed. Instead, the family presented an affidavit that was approved by the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department.

Nulf declined to identify the relative but referred a reporter to Mike Bynum, a sports author who has researched Gipp and attended the exhumation. Bynum said it was requested by Rick Frueh, whose grandmother was one of Gipp's sisters. [Link]
The reason for the exhumation was not given. My guess? Notre Dame needed another pep talk.

Miriam Robbins

Others are speculating that the exhumation for DNA purposes has something to do with a rumor that Gipp fathered an illegitimate daughter. See this message posted at the GenForum message board.


Thanks, Miriam! A paternity test would explain it. At least one of Gipp's brothers had male descendants, so I was wondering why they would trouble George for his Y-chromosome.

Ron Franscell

Why? Was George adopted? Is someone claiming to be his love child? Did the fantastically popular Gipper pull an Elvis and fake his own death to escape the limelight? Nobody's telling. But ESPN filmed it and a noted sports author was on hand. So we're likely to find out in the good old-fashioned American way: Marketing!

I love a mystery, even a fabricated one. After attending the exhumation and autopsy of J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson last March, I'm even more fascinated by what modern forensics can tell us about long-ago deaths of famous people. But I'm not sure we should go digging them up willy-nilly merely to satisfy idle -- and ultimately unimportant -- curiosities.

Perhaps the exhumed Gipper will answer some important questions. I desperately hope he wasn't disturbed just to sell some books.

I won't waste any more of your bandwidth here. I blogged more fully on this topic at Under The News


According to the forum post Miriam found, it is a suspected love child. Since the child was female, she wouldn't have George's Y-chromosome, but they would share some autosomal DNA—found in the 22 chromosomes that don't determine sex.

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