The Missing Ticket
A tale of two collectors
by Jan Schlain
Published in September, 2011
Jack Briegel lives off a quiet dirt road, in a home he shares with Jeannette, his wife of fifty-three years. If you go straight in from the front door, you'll enter a living room decorated in Zen-like soft greens and earth tones. Turn right down the carpeted stairs, and you'll walk into something out of a boy's fantasy--a boy who loves and dreams about Michigan football.
The basement is filled with Michigan football memorabilia--footballs, photographs, stadium signs, and ticket stubs. "Ticket stubs is my number-one collection," says Briegel, who's wearing a well-pressed maize-and-blue button-down shirt. He has a stub for every home game since 1927--except one.
Born in Ann Arbor in 1937, Briegel grew up in a modest house on Rose Street with his parents and five siblings. His dad worked at the university, in the laundry, until he had a stroke. His mom took care of the family.
"There was no money," Briegel recalls. By the time he was nine years old, he was parking cars in the yard during football games. Once the last space was filled, his dad would give him and his brother a couple of bucks, and they'd get to watch the game.
In high school he worked at Naylor Motor Sales--emptying the trash, sweeping the place, cleaning the restrooms, dusting the cars in the showroom--three or four hours a night. His eldest brother, Jim, ran a printing press at Braun Brumfield. "They were just starting out, and they got the Michigan State commencement program. That is what you call a critical date," Briegel explains. "And they were behind on it ... They needed some hands to do bindery work." So Jack's big brother went to Naylor's and started knocking on the door. "Pounded--until he got my attention. He asked me if I wanted to come to work for a dollar an hour, and I was making about thirty-seven cents an hour at the time, so that sounded real good. I went out and helped
them on that job, and when we finally got it done, the boss asked me if I'd like to stay on."
Briegel stayed for twenty-three years. Then, in 1975, he joined four partners to start their own printing company, McNaughton & Gunn, in Saline.
"That was a tough time to start a business," says Briegel. "We had this huge SBA loan." In the early 1980s "our interest rates went somewhere over 22 or 23 [percent]. We were really struggling."
At that point several partners bailed. Briegel stayed. "We shipped a million dollars' worth of books the first full year we were in business," he recalls. By 2001, the year he retired as vice president of manufacturing, they shipped $35 million's worth.
Back to Jack's basement. His collection of Michigan tickets includes games played at Regents Field, Ferry Field, and the Big House; seventeen are more than a hundred years old. The one he's missing has a story to it: from 1943, it "has 'Michigan State' on the ticket--but Western Michigan played the game.
"When season tickets went out," Briegel explains, "Michigan State was scheduled. There are two stories. That there was a polio epidemic on the MSU campus--or MSC in those days. Or, I also heard that because of the war years it depleted their rosters so much that they canceled the season."
For whatever reason, in 1943 Michigan State decided to drop football for the duration of the war. "Western was able to either cancel a date or had an open date," Briegel says, "and came down and played the game."
Despite a recent hip replacement, Briegel still looks forward to going to Michigan games this fall. He pays $20 to park at a house at Hutchins and Stadium and sits in Section 17. Now that Jeannette has a bad knee, he usually goes with a brother and a grandson. And he's still hoping to land that September 25, 1943, ticket stub.
Asked how much he would be willing to pay for it, Briegel laughs. "I want it pretty bad."
Briegel collects football programs, too, but another Ann Arbor collector has a bigger, better program collection. That person also has the 1943 home game ticket stub that Briegel is missing.
"I remember exactly where I was sitting," says Ken Magee, sitting outside his recently opened magic shop under Afternoon Delight on Liberty. "I was living in Washington, D.C., and I had all these programs shipped to me [by another collector]. I was flipping through the programs, and [the ticket stub] fell out.
"It was in the program that said Western Michigan. The ticket says Michigan State on it. There's only one collector I know that has it, and that's me."
Like Briegel, Magee was born in Ann Arbor, but his family had money. His father was a U-M neurologist, his mother a prison psychologist. They had a beautiful Tudor mansion off Hill Street, where Magee grew up playing with the Schembechler kids. He went to MSU, worked as a police officer in Jackson for a few years, then became a federal Drug Enforcement Administration agent in Detroit.
The DEA sent him to Bogota, Colombia. When drug lord Pablo Escobar tried to send his family to safety in Germany, Magee followed and persuaded the German authorities to kick them out. When they returned to Colombia, Escobar made a series of angry phone calls that allowed the authorities to locate him--which, Magee says, "ultimately led to his death on the rooftop in Medellin, Colombia."
In 1996, on an anti-terrorism assignment at the Atlanta Olympics, "I was next to the bomb when the bomb went off, and I ultimately testified against the bomber, Eric Rudolph--the Olympic Park bomber." He gave first aid to the victims. "I worked on a little girl, who lived, and worked on her mother, who died."
In August 2008, at age fifty, Magee retired and returned to Ann Arbor. Three months later, he was hired as the U-M's Director of Public Safety. That job came and went, for reasons Magee doesn't want to talk about. "I'm on sick leave," he says, then adds, "That's irrelevant."
Once again, his retirement didn't last long: this summer he opened the magic shop, and by the end of August he planned to open a sports memorabilia shop just a few steps away, next to his friend Karl Lagler's Antelope Antiques.
Part of Magee's collection is already for sale in Lagler's store, but not the MSC-Western ticket stub. "I'm not sure why a lot of people say that ticket is so hard to find," he teases. Then he steps into his shop, reaches into his sports bag, and pulls out the stub, bolted between two pieces of thick plastic.
What would he take for it? "It's not for sale," Magee says. Yet, he hints, it still might end up in Jack Briegel's basement one day. "As a matter of fact," Magee says, "the reason I had it out was, I was thinking of just giving it to him ... I've gone back and forth on that."
But wouldn't that leave his own collection with a hole in it? Not necessarily. Magee is still buying U-M memorabilia and still on the lookout for another Michigan State-Western Michigan stub. So is Briegel. If there's another one out there, both collectors may end up with the precious ticket.
[Originally published in September, 2011.]
On October 25, 2011, John Hilton wrote:
The following Calls & letters item appeared in the November, 2011 Ann Arbor Observer:
The Missing Ticket
"Someone left a package on my front porch," Michigan memorabilia collector Jack Briegel said in a phone call. There was no note, but the package was wrapped in multiple plastic bags-a good thing, Briegel said, because on the last Friday in September, "it was raining like hell."
Inside, Briegel found a football ticket stub for what was supposed to have been the 1943 U-M vs. MSU football game. When MSU canceled its football program for the duration of WWII, the Wolverines played Western Michigan instead. As related in our September My Town story, it was the only stub missing from Briegel's collection-and the only person in town who had one was Ken Magee, who'd just opened magic and memorabilia stores next to Antelope Antiques downtown.
Briegel checked the seat number-it matched the photo of Magee's stub that appeared in the Observer. He didn't have Magee's phone number, so he called Antelope and talked with owner Karl Lagler. Later that evening, the two men connected by phone. Magee said he was in a hurry, and that's why he didn't knock or ring Jack's doorbell. Briegel said thanks.
"What do I owe you for the ticket?" Briegel asked. "Nothing," Magee said. "It's yours."
"The twists and turns of your story netted me the ticket," Briegel told us.
"Now I'm complete."
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