Priming The Pump

Ladies & Gentlemen, the Cardinal has acquired some serious heavy metal! Quietly, yet another intriguing tradition has surfaced within the Stanford Football program. A metaphorical vehicle in symbolic form: The Pump. That's right, a pump! A big, red, old-school iron water pump. Read on to find out the what, where, when and most importantly, the why!

Priming "The Pump"

Ok, so during the Cardinal's lone bye week, we figure we should focus on the positive. Despite the team's disappointing loss to UCLA last Saturday, there are some very encouraging things happening within the Stanford Football program. Coach Jim Harbaugh and his staff are re-building the program in a number of ways, changing attitudes, changing processes, changing expectations. They have also been restoring "The Spirit of Stanford".

Indeed, the legendary "Spirit of Stanford", immortalized in the 1941 film of the same name starring All-American quarterback Frankie Albert, appears once again to be alive and well and soaring in Palo Alto. Reports of its death were apparently greatly exaggerated! What a difference a year can make. Stanford has a very respectable record of 4-4 with  a bowl game very much within reach. Our recruiting for 2009 is ranked in the top 12 in the country... and climbing. Our guys have shed the privileged elite label by donning "blue collar man" shirts. Our offensive line is playing Mash Mouth Football™ The team, the student body and alumni are even singing the alma mater together after every home game. These things alone ought to be more than enough to get fans pumped up, but wait, Cardinal Faithful, there's more! Quietly, yet another intriguing tradition has surfaced within the Stanford Football program. 

Say hello to your new little cast iron friend! Say "The Pump" 

Yes, Stanford Football has acquired some heavy metal.  Appropriately painted red, the cast iron pump measures about 4'8" in height and weighs somewhere north of 50 lbs. At this point it is simply known as "The Pump" with no quasi-official name such as "The Stanford Pump" or "The Great Pump of Palo Alto". There is no attached signage...yet.

Why The Pump? 

Glad you asked! It is a symbol, representing a metaphor used by the Cardinal coaching staff. The "pump" metaphor reportedly originated, at least as far as Stanford Football is concerned, during the Tyrone Willingham era. However, it has been seized upon by Harbaugh's Heroes™ and called their own. To be successful in its task, a pump requires consistent effort, with rewards that come only after a period of time that is difficult to estimate with accuracy. It comes when it comes and if you lose your desire or stamina and you stop pumping, success, in this example water, will never come. To use a chain gang example USC fans can relate to - you just have to keep pounding the rock with a hammer until it starts to break. It may take thousands of strokes, but you will eventually crack that nut!

Historically, a wide variety of symbols and metaphorical vehicles have been used by professional and collegiate athletic teams as sources of inspiration and as a means of honoring the past or certain principles. Some of them are corny, but some of them hit home, stick, and resonate!

Cardinalmaniacs™ will recall that the "Trench Dogs", the defensive line unit led by Willie Howard during the 1999 Rose Bowl season, wore pet store-style thick metal dog collar chains around their necks to symbolize their junkyard dog mentality, toughness and "dogged" determination. Heck, that D-line helped the Cardinal go from rags to Rose Bowl! 

Who Came Up With The Pump? 

Tights ends coach Tim Drevno appears to have started referring to the pump metaphor late last season and we understand strength & conditioning coach Shannon Turley gets credit for actually obtaining the now-sacred symbol shortly after the 2007 Big Game - from online auctioneer eBay (fittingly started by alumni of Stanford's Graduate School of Business). The winning bid ended up just north of $100 dollars and by any account has already proven an outstanding investment by the staff. (The Development office is reportedly willing to name The Pump " The 'Your Name Can be Here' Pump" for an appropriate donation to the Buck/Cardinal Club.

Exactly What Kind of Pump is The Pump?

The Pump appears to be a "single-action lift" pump, consisting essentially of a cylinder and of a plunger, or piston. It was manufactured by the Dempster Mill MFG Co. of Beatrice, NE (90 miles from Omaha, in Gage County). The Dempster Mill Manufacturing Company was established in 1878 by Charles B. Dempster (1853-1933) Please see below for a detailed history on Mr. Dempster's impressive entrepreneurial efforts and an interesting tie-in to Warren Buffett)

Who Carries The Pump?

Nominations are made and some sort of rotation seems to be in progress. Given the honor of carrying The Pump to Stanford Stadium for the recent homecoming victory against Arizona was true freshman offensive lineman Sam Schwartzstein. As you can see from the photo above, true freshman left tackle Jonathan Martin, known to teammates as "Moose", had the honor, privilege, and as it turns out the glory of carrying it onto the field after the game and lugging it back to the Cardinal locker room. It figures that when you have a heavy pump to cart around, it would fall on the broad shoulders of a 6'6", 270-pound guy named "Moose", and no, it is the not the same moose that bit my sister once. 

When Did The Pump Make Its Debut? 

The Pump's initial debut was at the 2008 Spring Game on the "Team Cardinal" sideline, which of course won the scrimmage. It was carried by Swedish-born offensive lineman Gustav Rydstedt. To date, Stanford's latest symbol has only made appearances at home games, but don't be surprised it makes its way to Berkeley or maybe even to a bowl game!

Is The Team Really Into It? 

On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the Axe, 1 being wind sprints in August, The Pump is clocking in at about 7.5 and rising, particularly since The Pump is undefeated at 4-0 overall, 3-0 in actual games. Seniors Wopamo Osaisai and Alex Fletcher are apparently avid advocates of The Pump. 

Works for them, works for us! Yet another new tradition gains legs!


What If I Want To Know More?

For those of you that take an interest in such things, here is some additional information on the manufacturer of "The Pump" and on the famous Nebraskan investor that once owned the company: 

The Dempster Mill Manufacturing Company was "acquired" from the original founder's family by famed investor Warren Buffett in August of 1961 (he actually acquired his interest during a period from 1958 to 1962). In one of his earliest deals, Buffett invested $1.0 million or one-fifth of his partnership and purchased a 70% interest in Dempster. Interestingly, it was not one of Buffet's successful deals, initially. Sales, which had been about $9 million in 1961, quickly began to wane and profits were thinning. Not wanting to be involved in a turnaround, which Buffett felt was "not my cup of tea", he sold the company to an investor group in 1963, but only after he managed to produce a 3x on his original cost of investment by unlocking shareholder value - by selling off some assets.

Buffett reportedly learned a lesson in this transaction, realizing that if he had had a minority stake, he could have gotten his money out easily, but with a majority, controlling interest, he actually ended up having difficulty in finding a buyer. He got his friend (and future Berkshire Hathaway partner of 40 years) Charlie Munger to bring in a new manager, another friend by the name of Harry Bottle, who cut costs, sold off inventory and money-losing facilities and eventually managed to find a buyer of the remaining assets for $2.3 million in 1963, The company's name subsequently was changed to Dempster Industries, Incorporated. Once again in 1985, the company was sold again and is now "individually and privately owned" and in business today.

Mr. Buffett admitted in Mark Tier's Becoming Rich that he learned he could "correct such mistakes more quickly" as a shareholder than he could as an owner. It was also an investment of note because the Dempster model of taking cash from liquidating assets and investing into other companies led to his taking control of textile manufacturer Berkshire Hathaway, which became Buffett's primary investment vehicle for decades to come. 

Probably more than our readers needed or wanted to know about the manufacturer of "The Pump"

According to the Dempster website: "At this time, the civil war was over and many American and Immigrant families were heading west to take up a new life where the U.S. government was offering them homestead land. Mr. Dempster was aware these homesteaders would need water pumps, machinery and tools to survive and prosper. He therefore left Chicago to settle in Beatrice, Nebraska and on July 28, 1878, established a retail windmill and pump shop. A manufacturing plant was built several years later to produce windmills, hand pumps, water well products and agricultural implements. During the years following, Dempster produced hundreds of various products and machines for the water and agricultural industries. These included windmills, hand pumps, well cylinders, towers, well drilling machines, flywheel type gasoline engines, water storage tanks, piston pumps, centrifugal pumps, jet pumps, submersible water well pumps, and vertical turbine pumps. During the World War II era, Dempster participated heavily in war production by producing more that 1-1/2 million 90-millimeter shells.

The Dempster Mill Manufacturing Company was established in 1878 by C.B. Dempster, a native of Carpentersville, Illinois. He was born there in 1835. He was reared on a farm near the town, and when all his older brothers entered military service on the side of the Union in the Civil War, he became responsible for much of the work that was done on the family farm In the autumn of 1871, Dempster left his home and lived intermittently in Elgin and Chicago, Illinois, where he worked at such jobs as selling sewing machines, running a horse car, traveling on the road as a salesman for paper shirt patterns, and clerking in a dry goods store. Feeling that there were better opportunities for a young man in the West, in 1878 he moved to Beatrice, Nebraska.

Two days after he came to Beatrice, C.B. Dempster purchased 1/3 interest in a "little retail pump and windmill shop for $337.00, being my total assets, and $300.00 of that was borrowed money." With a variety of business partners, Dempster operated the windmill agency at Beatrice, selling mills produced elsewhere which he purchased from a wholesaler in Omaha. The business ebbed and flowed, but by 1884 Dempster had earned the tidy sum of $15,000.00 in profits from his enterprise. Realizing that revenues would be greater if he could actually produce the windmills that he sold, the next year under the name of the Dempster Windmill Company, his firm began manufacturing its first windmill. In 1886 the business was incorporated under laws of the state as the Dempster Mill Manufacturing Company, the corporate title under which it produced windmills into the middle of the 20th Century, when it became Dempster Industries, Inc., of Beatrice, which continues making windmills today.

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