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

Florida License Plate Game

July 14, 2013

On vacation in Florida, my wife, Ann, and her friend, Judi, noticed NUMEROUS different specialty tags issued in that state and had a contest over spotting them. I formalized their little contest into Florida License Plate Game and gave a few prototype copies to friends. The people who enjoyed it most were retirees who record the unusual license plates they see on their daily walks and outings and families who play it while traveling in Florida. All who played the game enjoyed it and some offered suggestions for improvement.

Now I’m ready to make a production print run. To promote the game, I am experimenting with running an Indiegogo.com campaign. For those not familiar with crowdsourcing or who want to know more about the game, please check out http://igg.me/at/FLPG. I don’t expect you to contribute to the campaign (unless you want inexpensive copies of the game) but would appreciate it if you would look at it and comment on it. Increasing the number of views will get it positioned more prominently on the Indiegogo site. Thanks, Tom.

9781936161010

Redskins Named in Dietz’s Honor

May 6, 2013

Professor Joseph Gordon Hylton posed some opinions and asked a question with regard to the naming of the Redskins NFL team yesterday. He stated that George Preston Marshall, owner of the Boston NFL franchise, had a life-long fascination with Indians. That is believable because another NFL owner, Walter Lingo, believed there existed a mystical connection between Indians and the Airedales he raised and sold. His team was formed a decade before Marshall’s and was named the Oorang Indians. Now to Dr. Hylton’s question:

“Has anyone pinpointed the day that the name change was announced?”

I previously located letterhead for the Boston Braves that listed Lone Star Dietz as the head coach (see p. 278 of Keep A-goin’: the life of Lone Star Dietz) but hadn’t tried to pinpoint the exact date of the name change. A little research turned up the date Dietz was named head coach in a March 8, 1933 issue of The Boston Herald. The team was referred to as the Redskins on the sports page by the end of August, so it had to renamed before that. A little more research located the announcement of the team’s name change. The July 6, 1933 issue of The Boston Herald included a short article titled Braves Pro Gridmen to be Called Redskins (see below). This article establishes the fact that the Redskins were renamed well after Dietz’s hiring and includes the team’s published reason, “…the change was made to avoid confusion with the Braves baseball team and that the team is to be coached by an Indian, Lone Star Dietz, with several Indian players.”

This article supports the contention made by George Preston Marshall’s granddaughter several decades later.

1933-07-06 Redskins renamed

Lone Star’s Portrait

May 1, 2013

Yesterday, I received n email from the son of Mary Lou Zientek with some photos attached. Mary Lou Zientek was the woman who befriended the Lone Star Dietz and his wife, Doris, in the declining years. Mary Lou managed their estates after Doris died. Mrs. Zientek died on May 7 last year. She distributed artifacts which few valued at that time to places such as Sports Immortals in Boca Raton, Florida (they were in Pittsburgh when Dietz died). She kept a self-portrait Dietz painted in the early 1960s and, one assumes, made a gift to her for her generosity. Previously, I had only seen a black and white photo of the painting See below). Her son sent me color photos. The effect of the painting is much different in color than in black and white. Color photos of both front and back can be seen below. I thank Mr. Zientek for sharing these photos with us.

Lone Star self portrait

Zientek front Zientek back

Where was 1909 Carlisle-St. Louis U. game played?

April 12, 2013

Wednesday, I received a question about the location of the Carlisle-St. Louis University game played on November 25, 1909. Was it played in St. Louis or in Cincinnati was the question. A quick scan of Steckbeck’s Fabulous Redmen found it listed as having been played in Cincinnati. From experience, I have learned not to accept Steckbeck as gospel. He’s usually right, but not always. So, I checked with the Spalding’s Guides to see if they could shed any light on the issue. The 1909 Spalding’s Guide listed the game as being scheduled to be played in St. Louis. The 1910 Guide just gave the score.

Next, I searched newspapers for the day before the game, the day of the game, and the day after the game. Every mention of the game that included a location, far from all of them, placed the game in St. Louis. Many newspapers just gave the score or a brief summary. The November 24 Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader article began, “Seventeen redskins left the Carlisle Indian School last evening for the Thanksgiving game at St. Louis….” The November 26 New Orleans Times-Picayune’s coverage of the game was datelined St. Louis as did the Philadelphia Inquirer’s special.

The September 10, 1909 issue, Volume VI, Number 1 of The Carlisle Arrow listed the location of the game with St. Louis to be played in November in St. Louis. The November 26 edition included a sentence about their victory the previous day in St. Louis. The December 3, 1909 The Carlisle Arrow reprinted an article from the December 26, 1909 St. Louis Globe-Democrat that discusses the game played locally (to them) at National League park (home of the St, Louis Cardinals).

All references I found to that game, other than Steckbeck, place the game as being played in St. Louis at a venue larger than the hosting university’s home field. Perhaps he got confused with the 1906 or 1897 seasons when the Indians did play late season games in Cincinnati. He misplaced another game in Cincinnati: the 1905 game with Massillon Athletic Club which was actually played in Cleveland. Why that particular game was played where it was played is a story unto itself.

1909-11-26 Carlisle Arrow St Louis game

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

 

Place where Indian School children played may be saved

February 28, 2013

Something Carlisle Indian School students surely played on over a hundred years ago may be rescued from the demolition ball. The Craigheads living at Craighead Station were strong supporters of the school almost from its inception and took students into their homes on outing periods to live and work in the majority culture. But all their waking hours weren’t spent working. They surely spent some of their time playing with the Craighead children along the creek and on the ever-beckoning bridges over the creek. Students from the earlier years of the school would not have played on the iron bridge because it wasn’t built until 1899. But those, like Emma Strong, who came after the turn of the 20th century surely did as did children of that and later generations. Now there is hope for the bridge to become a dedicated recreational facility for children and adults alike.

The fate of the historic iron bridge across the Yellow Breeches Creek at Craighead Station may be determined at tonight’s township supervisors meeting. It has been in peril for quite some time but its chances for survival look better. Some years ago, Cumberland County, owner of the bridge, determined that the one-lane bridge is unsatisfactory to handle all the vehicular traffic that would like to take that route. In addition to the bridge being narrow, its intersection with Old York Road is dangerous. The state and county developed a plan for a new concrete span a bit upstream from the iron bridge. That plan also calls for bending Zion Road south of the iron bridge to meet with the new bridge, eliminating the need to remove the iron bridge to make room for the new one. South Middleton Township officials offered to take ownership of the iron bridge if they could use the money budgeted by the state for its demolition to put it in better condition for use by walkers, bicyclists, and fishermen. Last fall, the state told the township demolition funds couldn’t be used to preserve the bridge. Many locals thought it absurd that the government would rather spend taxpayers’ money to destroy something of historical and recreational value than to use that money to continue using the structure for the current and future generations.

Yesterday’s Carlisle Sentinel reported that the state may have given erroneous guidance regarding the allowable usage of demolition funds. http://cumberlink.com/news/local/craighead-bridge-may-be-restored/article_a66d6442-806d-11e2-af92-0019bb2963f4.html It’s far from certain yet, but the iron lady that has served us well for over a century may not fall to an ignominious end.

Iron Bridge 2013-02-27 Bupp

 

Redskins Renamed 80 Years Ago

February 16, 2013

Earlier this week, I received a totally unexpected call from a reporter from the Washington Examiner regarding Lone Star Dietz. I say unexpected for two reasons. First, I was unaware that Dietz’s name had again percolated up in the media’s attention and second, I hadn’t considered it was 80 years ago that George Preston Marshall renamed his Boston NFL team from the Braves to the Redskins or that an 80th anniversary mattered. I guess the last part makes it three reasons.

Oddly, it seems to me, Washington media seldom contact me about Lone Star and the team never has. Questions and requests for interviews tend to come from other places. As popular as the Redskins have been over the years in the nation’s capitol, one wonders why neither fan clubs nor bookstores have deemed hearing more about the man who is alternately vilified and deified by people who generally haven’t read his biography. On the other hand, I shouldn’t wonder why when Bob Wheeler, author of the definitive biography of Jim Thorpe, has never been on C-SPAN’s BookTV.

Here is a link to the article the reporter was researching when he called me: http://washingtonexaminer.com/thom-loverro-the-disputed-history-of-lone-star-dietz-the-inspiration-for-the-redskins-name/article/2521717


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