Woody Hayes and the Stolen Black Cap

The year was 1978 and I was attending my first Ohio State football game. Because tickets for OSU home games were hard to come by even then, my family did what many Buckeye fans do — we went to Indiana. (Say what you will about the Hoosiers’ less-than-stellar football team, but their stadium is nice and the people there are super friendly.)

I don’t remember anything about the game itself (other than the fact that Ohio State won). But what happened at the end of halftime was something else.

Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes (wearing his iconic Block O cap). Photo by The Ohio State University Archives; used with permission.

Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes (wearing his iconic Block O cap). Photo by The Ohio State University Archives; used with permission.

The bands had finished their shows and the teams had taken the field for their warm-ups before the 2nd half. Our seats were about 10 rows up on the 20-yard line, giving us a good view of the field and the sideline. Pacing the sideline was Woody Hayes, wearing his iconic black Block O ball cap.

As Woody was talking to one of the assistant coaches, a young man came out of nowhere, ran up to Woody, and grabbed the cap off of Woody’s head! The next thing you know, the kid ran across the field, through the football players, into the IU band… and was Never. Seen. Again.

What does this have to do with family history? Somewhere, there’s a middle-aged man with a black Ohio State cap, the kind with the Block O. And he’s told his kids about how he stole it right off of Woody Hayes’ head. His kids have rolled their eyes and said, “Yeah, right, Dad.” To those kids, I have this to say: Your dad is right. He stole that cap right off of Woody’s head. I saw him do it.

8 thoughts on “Woody Hayes and the Stolen Black Cap

  1. Tom Pullin

    i met that man, and no, his children have never seen the cap, nor will any others. though he was a hoosier, his grandfather was a die-hard ohio state fan. his grandfather died very soon after the incident and the cap was laid to rest with him.

  2. mark

    I was there and I know the young man that did it. I too saw it happen and observed him wearing the hat that evening. But there is a lot more to the story. He was a friend of mine…..and still is. I spoke with him today, ironically. It is true that the hat was buried with his grandfather, but not because grandpa was a buckeye fan….far from it!

  3. Mike

    It was me. My friend Mark tipped me off about this post. Tom Pullin’s right that I did bury the hat with my grandfather Buck Davis. He was a raconteur of the first order, but this story was one of his favorites ’cause he could say (truthfully) that he had actually been at the game and witnessed the event. Tom errs, however, that he was an OSU fan- Bucky followed the Kansas Jayhawks.

    Ms. Crow, you’re correct that OSU won, but it was a great game anyway (21-18). And the IU Marching Hundred did indeed throw a great block for me as they took the field, but it was at the start of the halftime show, not the end. I was helped greatly by the fact that there was flag on the last play of the 2d quarter and Coach Hayes stayed on the field to discuss the call with the refs (penalty declined), thus most of the players had already left the field so I had a wide open shot at it.

    Let it also be known that I was/am not a Woody hater. Some may recall that trying to steal his hat was something of a Big Ten tradition. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_-fWf_rspU at about 2:55. I also remember watching a game on TV once (don’t recall OSU’s opponent) when a kid tried it and Coach Hayes socked him one right in the snoot.

    Finally, I can state definitively that Coach Hayes’ immense football knowledge was contained in a very small head. I don’t remember the exact size of the hat, but it was pretty petite.

    Sincerely, Mike Davis, IU ’80, Chgo., Ill. Go Hoosiers!

  4. Gayle Stauffer

    To add a period (maybe) to this post, which just surfaced for me, the hat stealer, Mike Davis, was my older brother. One of my bigger regrets in life is that while I was a freshman at Indiana that fall, I didn’t get to see the great Woody hat heist, because I was working my pathetic 4-hour shift in the Briscoe (dorm) student store and therefore missed the game that afternoon.

    I do recall my brother sobbing like a baby a few years later when he tucked it deep into my Grandpa Buck’s casket during visitation before his funeral. Buck was at the game that day, and was so excited that Mike got away with the whole thing! We all decided not to mention it to the undertaker, thinking if he knew it was actually Woody’s hat, it might not stay in the casket after the service ended. We are hoping Bucky took it to the grave with him.

    Another thing I recall is that Mike said when he tucked the hat into the casket, it still smelled like Woody’s aftershave!


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