Archive for the ‘Jim Thorpe’ Category

Dragged into the Redskins Naming Controversy

November 12, 2013

As followers of this blog know, Lone Star Dietz’s name pops into the news whenever the Redskins naming controversy heats up. After President Obama interjected himself into this matter, I started getting calls from reporters again. So far, my name has appeared in several places and has caused some embarrassment for me as well as some amusement.

The first mention I was made aware of was on the Redskins’ Official Site: http://blog.redskins.com/2013/11/01/jim-thorpe-the-greatest-athlete-in-the-world/

Unfortunately, the posting included a photo with the caption I unwittingly used in my book.  The Albright College player standing between Jim Thorpe and Lone Star Dietz in the photo was not Leo Disend as the 60-some-year-old yearbook stated. I became painfully aware of that mistake during the Q&A session at the end of my very first book talk when Leo Disend’s brother informed me that the player in the photo was identified correctly. Accepting that he must know what his brother looked like, I informed Albright College of the error. After conducting some research, they determined that the player in question was in fact John Killiany.

The Washington Post published a large spread on Dietz that mentioned me briefly: http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/the-legend-of-lone-star-dietz/2013/11/07/00569fa2-471d-11e3-bf0c-cebf37c6f484_gallery.html#photo=1

The Post also posted a video of Barry Zientek on its web site: http://www.washingtonpost.com/posttv/local/the-story-of-the-man-for-whom-the-redskins-are-named/2013/11/06/a4760340-4743-11e3-bf0c-cebf37c6f484_video.html Barry Zientek’s parents befriended Lone Star & Doris Dietz in their old age and helped them in many ways when they lived in poverty.

Reading PA The Morning Call published an article from Lone Star’s grave written by the same Washington Post reporter: http://www.mcall.com/sports/mc-redskins-dietz-1107-20131107,0,656374.story?track=rss

For the first time I’m aware of, I was mentioned in a foreign newspaper, the Daily Mail of London, England in an error-riddled article: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2492195/Was-native-American-figurehead-justification-Washington-Redskins-fraud-faked-ethnicity-gain-publicity.html  However, I wasn’t mentioned for saying anything about Dietz; I was credited with having given the Mail permission to use the image of the 1908 St. Louis Globe-Democrat article on Dietz of which I own the only surviving copy. (I’d like to have one in better condition but haven’t been able to find one.) Oddly, I have no memory of being contacted by the Daily Mail to use this or any other image I own.

The Great Red Hope

October 22, 2013

While searching for newspaper articles about the 1912 Carlisle-Brown game for another researcher, I came across an article about Jim Thorpe possibly participating in yet another sport. An article that came out the day most of the game coverage appeared in papers was an unrelated article on page 9 of the Friday, November 29, 1912 edition of the Oleans Evening Times titled “Jim Thorpe May Become Red Hope,” bylined Cambridge, Massachusetts. The article led off with “Jim Thorpe, the big Carlisle Indian, and Charley Brickley, vest pocket edition of Jim Jeffries, though they may never match brain, brawn, and feet on the gridiron, may meet in the squared circle.”

Carlisle and Harvard didn’t play in 1912 and its followers still may have been smarting over the loss the year before and wanted to even the score a bit. Or, someone may just have been wanting to make some money. We probably will never know who was behind this scheme because all the article said was “Overtures have already been made [by an unnamed person or persons]…to box a Harvard amateur, the bout to be pulled off next month before one of the winter boxing meets of the Boston Athletic Association.”

The promoter of the fight wasn’t the only name kept secret; Thorpe’s opponent wasn’t identified either. Possible candidates reputed to be adept at the manly art of self defense included Charley Brickley, Harvard’s star half back and Thorpe’s rival at place kicking, right tackle Bob Storer, and substitute end Al Weatherhead.

After this build up, the article’s tone changed abruptly in the last paragraph:

“Before going to Oklahoma, however, Thorpe will probably slip up to Boston for the proposed bout with the Harvard athlete, unless Glenn Warner, who is said to be dead set against Thorpe’s pugilistic aspirations, may successfully talk him out of it.”

Pop probably talked him out of it and, now knowing how harmful concussions can be, extended his long athletic career by not letting him get his head pounded in the boxing ring.

Carlisle’s National Treasure

August 31, 2013

Last week I got a call from Sentinel reporter Joe Cress asking about Freddie Wardecker. For those not from the Carlisle area or who aren’t interested in Carlisle Indian School sports teams, Freddie is the proprietor of Wardecker’s Mens Wear, formerly M. Blumenthal on North Hanover Street not terribly far from Carlisle Barracks where the Indian School was located from 1879-1918. Mose Blumenthal operated The Capital, as the business was then known, back when the Indian School was in operation. Mose also had a contract with the Indian School and did work there. Indian School personnel and students patronized The Capital. Along the way, Mose collected a number of artifacts related to the Indian School, its students, faculty, and staff. Freddie inherited them and has added a number of items related to Carlisle to the collection.
For serious researchers, visiting Wardecker’s is a must. Freddie freely shares his wisdom concerning Jim Thorpe et al but welcomes visitors to sit at his round table to solve the world problems of the day.
I told Joe what I know but referred him to Bob Wheeler, the author of the definitive biography of Jim Thorpe, because he has better stories to tell and is much more eloquent than I could ever hope to be. Here is a link to the article about not a local treasure, not a state treasure, but a national treasure: http://cumberlink.com/news/local/history/wardecker-s-menswear-store-in-carlisle-remains-a-resource-for/article_0d679b7c-0dbd-11e3-990c-0019bb2963f4.html Don’t forget to check out the photos.

Random Carlisle questions

August 14, 2013

Because of this blog and my books about Carlisle Indian School football players I often get questions related (sometimes very loosely) to these people, early football, Pop Warner, and Carlisle Indian School in general. A couple I received earlier this week are:

Q. Was there a river or stream within walking distance from Carlisle’s campus where Jim Thorpe could have gone fly fishing?

A. For anyone who has lived in Central Pennsylvania this is a trivial question. For anyone else, a little research would be required. Living here gave me an advantage. Letort Spring Run, one of America’s most highly regarded trout streams runs through the campus but I doubt if a serious angler would have fished that stretch. He would most likely have tried his luck just south of town nearer to the creek’s source at Bonnybrook. Fishing the Letort can be frustrating, I’m told, because the fish are so smart. Some say it’s necessary to crawl up to the bank on one’s stomach to keep from alerting the fish to your presence. Eugene Craighead cut his teeth at Bonnybrook and became one of the country’s most noted fly fishermen.

Q. In the evening on the Carlisle campus, at a specific time, did a bugler play “Taps” signaling lights to be turned off all over campus?

A. Intuitively, this sounds accurate because Lt. Richard Henry Pratt of the 10th Cavalry founded the school and served as its superintendent for 25 years before being replaced by Maj. William A. Mercer, another cavalry officer. The students wore military uniforms and marched daily, so using bugle calls seems obvious. However, one needs proof—and there was some.

Taps

And a decade later The Carlisle Arrow of September 27, 1912 provides some more:

Bugle Calls

100th Anniversary of Jim Thorpe’s First At Bat

April 8, 2013

Sunday marks another milestone in sports history: Jim Thorpe’s first major league at bat. A year to the day after being selected for the 1912 U. S. Olympic team, on Monday, April 14, 1913, Jim Thorpe made his major league debut by pinch hitting for spitballer Charles Monroe “Jeff” Tesreau in the bottom of the ninth inning in a 3 to 2 loss to the Giants’ cross-town rivals, the Brooklyn Dodgers. He made an out.

However, he started out spring training much better. In a 6-inning split-squad game played at the Giants’ camp in Marlin Springs, Texas on February 28, he hit a three-run homer and singled off the afore-mentioned Jeff Tesreau. On March 5, Frank Demaree struck out Thorpe on a “wide bender” for Thorpe’s first strike out in spring training. Perhaps, this was the origin of the belief that Jim couldn’t hit a curve ball.

On March 12, he hit a long home run off Christy Matthewson, one of First Five inductees into baseball’s hall of fame in Cooperstown. But his fielding was considered weak and his hitting inconsistent. A March 14 wire service item quoted McGraw: “Muggsy of Gotham opines that Injun Jim Thorpe is one of the rawest ever. Raw red skin!” Pop Warner suggested that a year or two of seasoning in the minor leagues under skillful coaching would have helped Thorpe immensely. Instead, McGraw kept him with the Big League team to capitalize on his popularity.

Newspapers reported that John McGraw planned to cut short Thorpe’s $6,000 per year contract after the Giants made their first western road trip. McGraw may not have realized he had not signed Thorpe to a standard National League contract at this time. Pop Warner authored the non-standard contract, which went into effect on April 10, 1913, the Giants’ opening day that year. But that is another story.

Thorpe in Giant uniform 1913

 

Thorpe Lost Olympic Medals 100 Years Ago

January 29, 2013

Last Thursday, Carlisle Sentinel reporter Joe Cress called to remind me that the 100th anniversary of the discovery of Jim Thorpe’s professionalism was imminent. Joe was essentially right. In late-January 1913, Roy Johnson of the Worcester Telegram, wrote an article challenging Jim Thorpe’s amateur status, based on a conversation he had with Charles C. A. Clancy, manager of the Winston-Salem baseball team of the Carolina League. According to Johnson’s article, Clancy claimed that he paid Thorpe to pitch and play first base for his team during the 1910 season. On January 19, 1913, charges claiming Thorpe was not an amateur were filed with the AAU. On January 23, an interview of Clancy was published in which he denied that Thorpe played for his team or on any other team in the Carolina Association. On January 25, Pop Warner restated Clancy’s position that Thorpe had not played for his team. That same day, the AP reported that Thorpe was negotiating a contract with the Tecumseh professional hockey team to play for them the next season.

An International News Service article dated January 25, 1913 included a claim by Peter Boyle stating that he played with Jim Thorpe in the Eastern Carolina Association. He also claimed that he was traded to the Rocky Mountain team in 1910 for Thorpe who was then playing for Fayetteville. On January 27, the AAU informed newspapers via telegram that “All doubt as to the truth of the charges has vanished and the members of the American Olympic Committee are prepared to make their apologies to the Swedes for having used Thorpe in the Olympic games.” Shortly after that, Thorpe sent the AAU a letter (probably written by Warner) admitting his “professionalism” and returned his gold medals and other trophies.

Soon after this, Thorpe signed with the New York Giants but that is a story in itself.

http://cumberlink.com/news/local/history/thorpe-admitted-to-professionalism-years-ago/article_22e2ec04-6903-11e2-a4b1-0019bb2963f4.html

Thorpe’s Helmet & Football

November 26, 2012

A reporter from the local newspaper called me the other day to verify someone’s claim that he possessed a helmet Jim Thorpe once wore and a football he once kicked. Both artifacts were from 1927, the year Big Jim played for the Portsmouth Shoe-Steels. Portsmouth, Ohio lies in southern part of the state along the Ohio River. The team was sponsored by a local company that manufactured metal parts for shoes.

John Carpenter, who is reputed to own the country’s largest collection of sports memorabilia, has an old helmet he believes Thorpe wore when he played for the Shoe-Steels and a football Thorpe kicked in a game. Carpenter lives across the Ohio River from Portsmouth, a factor that makes his claims more plausible. I don’t know and doubt if anyone can know with certainty if these items were ever associated from Jim Thorpe. I don’t have the expertise to determine exactly when the helmet and football were made. If they were made after 1927, they probably didn’t come from Thorpe.

The stories of how these artifacts came into Carpenter’s hands are believable because Thorpe was known for giving away things. Bob Wheeler, Thorpe’s biographer, confirmed that Thorpe’s parents raised him to be generous. While we can’t ever know for sure, there’s a good chance these things were at least touched by him at one time.

http://cumberlink.com/news/local/history/jim-thorpe-remembered-for-generous-heart/article_c933435c-377f-11e2-9659-0019bb2963f4.html

100th Anniversary of 1912 Carlisle-Army Game

November 9, 2012

Follows is the short article I was asked to write for The Torch, the monthly magazine of the U. S. Army War College, to commemmorate the 100th Anniversary of the 1912 Carlisle-Army football game:

The Cadets of West Point took the field on The Plain November 9, 1912, aiming to avenge their 1905 loss to Carlisle Indian School in the two schools’ only previous battle, also on The Plain. Missing from the second battle were the players and coaches from both 1905 teams and Major William A. Mercer, Carlisle Superintendent and Calvary officer, who had arranged that game by gaining permission from the War Department. Also AWOL in 1912 were the large crowd, dignitaries, and media interest the first game attracted. Present in 1912 were Jim Thorpe, Gus Welch, Joe Guyon, Pop Warner, Leland Devore, Dwight Eisenhower, Babe Weyand (in the bleachers), and Pot Graves, a cast surely destined for a movie.

Ominous clouds filled the sky and a cold wind blew across the field, making passing and punting risky businesses. Both sides’ emotions ran high as the combatants craved a victory. Carlisle arrived undefeated, the only blemish on their record a scoreless tie with Washington and Jefferson College, a month earlier. Army was 3-1 with a 6-0 loss to Yale. Holding the Eli of Yale to only four first downs and a low score gave the Cadets hope for success over the Indians.

Newspaper accounts after the game never considered its outcome in doubt, but those looking only at the scoreboard, at least for the first half, may have thought otherwise. The Indians bested the Cadets for most of the first half but didn’t score due to errant forward passes in the end zone. The turning point of the second quarter came when Carlisle fullback Stancil “Possum” Powell was expelled from the game for punching Army quarterback Vern “Nig” Pritchard. The 27-yard penalty combined with Powell’s ejection dampened the Indians’ spirits. Army then moved the ball forward the remaining 27 yards with fullback Geoffrey Keyes pushing the ball across the goal line. Pritchard missed the kick after the touchdown.

Momentum shifted in the Indians’ favor on the kickoff opening the second half when All-America tackle and team captain Leland Devore jumped on Joe Guyon, who had been getting the better of him all day, getting himself thrown out of the game. Army defensive backs Dwight Eisenhower and Charles Benedict knocked each other out of the game for the rest of the quarter in a failed attempt to sideline Thorpe. The Indians scored 27 unanswered points to lick Army worse than any opponent had beaten them in many years.

Guiding The White Brethren

October 26, 2012

The electronic version of the Fall 2012 edition of the magazine for the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) is finally out. My article on Carlisle Indians who went on to coach other teams is on page 46 (page 44 of print version). The idea for this article came to me after attending Lone Star Dietz’s enshrinement ceremony into the College Football Hall of Fame. He is the only Carlisle Indian to be inducted as a coach. Six others, some of whom also coached, were enshrined previously but as players. It is unlikely that any others will receive this honor because no other Carlisle Indian coached as long or with nearly as much success as Dietz.

American Indian athletic prowess is getting much attention this year due to 2012 being the 100th anniversary of Jim Thorpe’s extraordinary triumphs in the pentathlon and decathlon at the 1912 Stockholm Games. Anyone unfamiliar with Native Americans’ success in the Olympics can read my several previous blog entries on this topic.

Worthy of note is that Dietz and the others had great success coaching white college and professional players. Many of them, including Dietz, coached Indian teams at one time or another but the vast majority of their coaching careers were with white college teams. Having played with Carlisle and knowing the Warner System gave these men instant credibility and opened doors for them. After going through those doors, success or the lack of it was the deciding factor. After all, sports have always been a meritocracy. Performance matters above all. Carlisle players succeeded on the field both as players and coaches. The graduate system of coaching that was tried in the early 20th century limited coaching opportunities for those who hadn’t attended major colleges but numerous smaller schools welcomed Carlisle Indians to lead their teams. Although far from an ideal situation, these men were given the opportunity to succeed or fail on their own merits and they largely succeeded.

http://content.yudu.com/A1yt4b/fall2012/resources/index.htm?referrerUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.americanindianmagazine.org%2Fabout-us

Today’s Event at the National Museum of the American Indian

August 17, 2012

Several decades ago, Robert W. Wheeler then a grad student at Syracuse hitchhiked coast to coast carrying an incredibly heavy reel-to-reel tape recorder to interview acquaintances of Jim Thorpe for his master’s thesis. The project grew as the miles rolled on. His budget, however, didn’t grow. But Bob persevered.

Years—it probably felt like decades—later, he had not just a master’s thesis but a full length biography of the world’s greatest athlete. After reading the book, Dick Schaap referred to Bob as Jim Thorpe’s Boswell, drawing an analogy to the thoroughness of his research in comparison to that done by James Boswell in documenting the life of Samuel Johnson. Since Wheeler’s book was first published, several other biographies of Thorpe have been written but they all draw on the painstaking work done by Wheeler.

The National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) is celebrating of the 100th anniversary of Jim Thorpe’s triumphs in the Stockholm Games along with other Native Americans’ participation, many for medals, in the Olympics. The entrance to the exhibit features a blown up photograph of Carlisle Indian Frank Mt. Pleasant broad jumping in his Dickinson College track uniform. Here is a link to information about the exhibit: http://nmai.si.edu/explore/exhibitions/item/504/

Today, Bob Wheeler is giving a talk at the NMAI that I will be attending. Those unable to attend can hear Bob speak on the NMAI’s webcast of the event. Here is a link to the webcast: http://nmai.si.edu/calendar/?trumbaEmbed=date%3D20120817 Also speaking will be Flo Ridlon, Bob’s wife, who played a crucial role in getting Thorpe’s Olympic medals restored. Both are spellbinding speakers. This is an event not to miss.


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