Bulldogs and Indians Play Footbrawl

Large newspapers of the day recorded the October 15, 1922 game simply as Canton 14 – Oorang 0 but that doesn’t begin to tell the story. In the early days of the NFL, the Canton Bulldogs were a powerhouse team that featured Jim Thorpe and his Carlisle Indian School teammates, Joe Guyon and Pete Calac, in the backfield. But in 1922, Jim Thorpe and Walter Lingo formed the Oorang Indians franchise to, at least in theory, compete with Canton for championships. Oorang’s results were anything but competitive as Father Time’s inexorable crush was their greatest opponent. However, they more than rose to occasion when they battled the eventual league champions. And battle they did.

Few details of the game were covered by the national media but a Massillon, Ohio newspaper and the hometown paper of one of the players provided some unexpected coverage of the hard-fought battle. After a scoreless first half, the Bulldogs scored their two touchdowns in the third quarter. The Evening Independent told the story, “During that part of the contest the game almost developed into a free-for-all when the Indians gave battle to several Canton linemen who used their fists on an opponent, guilty of kneeing one of the Canton halfbacks. Throughout the game, Thorpe’s charges played in a most determined fashion, and bloody faces were not uncommon.”

A skeptic might conclude that this was slanted by a reporter from the Bulldogs’ rivals’ lair but The Lebanon Daily News provided some verification when it wrote, “William Winneshiek…was the recipient Sunday of an extraordinary compliment from the football players of the Canton Bulldog professional team. Winnie played center against them for the Oorang Indians and as an expression of appreciation of his wonderful playing and good sportsmanship, he was presented with the football used in the game and also a gold watch. The game developed into a slugging match, but evidently the Lebanon Indian played the game and kept out of the fights.”

 

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