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Boggio boosted Guts frisbee in 1960s

July 6, 2012
By Brandon Veale - DMG Sports Editor ( , The Daily Mining Gazette

EAGLE HARBOR - Jim Boggio Sr., may not have been the first to put Guts frisbee in the public eye nor the most recent, but his efforts pushed the game to a new level.

For that, Boggio will be recognized Saturday during the 55th International Frisbee Tournament with the Dave Bradshaw Award in recognition of his off-the-field contributions to Guts.

"I treasure it because for many, many years, we were involved and we met so many nice people," Boggio said.

His efforts helped boost the game into a national spotlight in the 1960s with help from a series of hijinks, both in person and through various aliases, including the elusive Harvey J. Kukuk, executive director/scapegoat of the tournament and figment of the Guts community's fertile imagination, starting with the founding Healy brothers and Boggio.

The first IFT took place in Eagle Harbor in 1958 and grew from a pastime at the Healy family picnic into something of a national cult classic, with invitations going out to world leaders and the pope as part of the tournament's spirit of silliness.

Fun and games were put on hold in the fall of 1968 after two of the four Healy brothers died in a boating accident.

"He told me he basically asked them if he'd like them to pick it up and run with it," Boggio's son Jim Jr., said.

Run with it he did.

Write-ups about Guts appeared in Detroit newspapers, the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal. A Detroit disc jockey posed as Frisbee champion "Festus Bigelow," phoned the Daily Mining Gazette's Houghton office and called out all comers.

Wham-O, the Frisbee's manufacturer, sent hundreds of discs to be used for promotions and specially-molded models for tournament play.

The championship trophy was purported to be delivered by armed military police and the discs delivered via air drop with back-up from 30 submarines, said Kukuk.

Governor William Milliken declared July 6, 1969 Frisbee Day in Michigan.

The 1969 tournament featured the attendance of Julius T. Nachazel, namesake of the trophy the players will reach for this weekend.

Nachazel was a professor of physics and mathematics at Michigan Technological University and three-time mayor of Houghton.

The trophy bearing his name was a galvanized tomato-juice can soldered atop a tomato sauce can and attached to a base, but through the tournament's first decade, Nachazel had no idea about the growing frenzy attached to the trophy with his name. In fact, Guts legend dictated that Nachazel had chased a disc into the woods at a previous tournament and never returned.

Nachazel presented the trophy to the California Masters, which had come all the way from the West Coast to defend their title from the year before.

By that point, the IFT had Eagle Harbor bursting at the seams. Crowds numbering in the thousands were overwhelming the town's parking spaces and other facilities.

"The thing just kept growing and growing," Boggio, Sr., said.

Combined with work responsibilities, Boggio decided to pass the torch to a new Guts group led by "Jumbo" Jon Davis.

The tournament moved to Calumet's Agassiz Field the following year (where it has returned in 2011), and though it was contested in Copper Harbor from 1971-72, it has not ventured above the Houghton/Keweenaw county line since.

Boggio said the game was less serious back then. After all, teetotaling was an offense as frowned upon as a wild throw in the early days.

"It was a (heck) of a lot of fun," he said.



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