Frimodig was all-time sports great

Lyman Frimodig is pictured in a Michigan State baseball uniform in 1916. The Laurium native earned 10 varsity letters in three sports at MSU. (Michigan State file photo)

LAURIUM — He earned a record 10 varsity sports letters at Michigan State. Was a friend and teammate of the immortal George Gipp. Set a basketball scoring record at MSU that lasted for more than 35 years.

Yet, the name of Lyman Frimodig isn’t readily recognizable today for many people.

The late Laurium native, who lived just a block away from Gipp, remembered his famous friend for a lot of things.

“We used to shoo him (Gipp) out of our sandlot football games because he was too small,” Frimodig told a Mining Gazette reporter in 1956. “And to think he turned out to be one of the best who ever played the game.”

The two boyhood friends did play basketball together at Calumet High School, and were starters on a team that won the Upper Peninsula title in 1911.

“We had a pretty good team,” Frimodig said. “We beat Ishpeming and Negaunee to win the title in Marquette that season. George was a starting forward, he was a good rebounder and defensive player.”

Frimodig’s feats were a little larger on the hardcourt.

In a 1911 game, he scored 38 points at a time when scores were usually in the teens or low 20s.

While attending the Michigan Agriculture School (later named Michigan State) Frimodig competed in basketball, baseball and football.

His 10 varsity letters stood as a record at the East Lansing school for decades.

His 30 points in a 1918 game versus Hope College stood as a Spartan record until 1953. He later notched an unheard of 44 points in an independent game in Lansing.

In baseball, he started in centerfield and hit .415 one season. He also did some pitching for the Spartans.

In football, he was a two-way starter at center.

In the meantime, Gipp was setting records on the football field for Notre Dame.

The All-American running back, who never played a down of football at Calumet High, is an immortal who is remembered to this day.

Frimodig said it was unusual that Gipp never played prep football.

“George could easily kick a football 50 or 60 yards and he had the overall ability he later showed at Notre Dame,” he recalled. “But he was a free spirit who would rather play pool than be at football practice.”

When Gipp tragically died after his senior season in college, Frimodig was among the people who were behind having the Gipp Memorial built in Laurium.

He was also among those who pushed for the outstanding senior male athlete at CHS to receive the George Gipp All-American trophy. That tradition remains to this day.

Frimodig would coach the Spartans basketball team for two years and posted a 24-20 record. 

He later served in many other roles in the athletic department at the university until 1960.

In between his many duties, he was elected as the mayor of East Lansing for four years between 1933 and 1937.

Northend sports historian Bob Erkkila said that Frimodig was one of the most prominent figures ever to come out of the Calumet-Laurium area.

“What he accomplished was really amazing for that era,” Erkkila said. “From what I’ve learned, he was really a gifted athlete.”

He passed away in 1972 but was posthumously inducted into the Upper Peninsula Sports Hall of Fame later that year along with Gipp.

It was the first year the U.P. Hall of Fame was established.

Frimodig was also elected to the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame and the MSU Hall of Fame.