Native Americans in 1904 Olympics – Part III

The 1904 Olympics were not the first games to feature football. The 1900 Paris games included two football events neither of which were American football. Soccer and rugby were both played that year but in 1904 American football appeared in the Olympics for the first time. Football (soccer) was a demonstration sport in which three teams played a round-robin tournament between two American teams and a Canadian club. The Canadians won the gold. Several college football games were played on Francis Field at the fair. Washington University and St. Louis University each played a number of their games on the Olympic field. Missouri and Purdue even played there. Prior to the Fair, Washington U’s teams were known as the Purities but due to playing at the Fair were renamed the Pikers in 1905 as a comment on their association with the infamous world fair’s Pike. However, the most important college football game played at the 1904 Olympics wasn’t played by colleges.

President Theodore Roosevelt was to visit the Fair over Thanksgiving weekend making it an ideal time for a major football event (read moneymaker). The Fair organizers’ first choice was to have West Point and Annapolis relocate their annual contest to the fairgrounds but that didn’t happen. Haskell Institute’s Fightin’ Indians were tearing up the Midwest at that time and Carlisle was a top ten program. So, the first ever football game between the two government Indian schools was arranged for the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Carlisle already had a Thanksgiving Day game scheduled against Ohio State in Columbus. Major Mercer, the new Carlisle superintendent, very likely saw the opportunities such a high profile game would create for him and his school and added the game to the schedule. Playing two games in three days may have been taxing for Carlisle’s players, so Head Coach Ed Rogers (Pop Warner was back at Cornell for the 1904-6 seasons) drubbed the Buckeyes with his second team 23-0. Ohio State supporters were unhappy to miss seeing the Carlisle stars they had read so much about.

Rumors of Haskell bringing in ringers, some of them white, were rampant. To balance the scales, Ed Rogers suited up for the game as did Assistant Coach Bemus Pierce and his brother, another former Carlisle and pro star, Hawley Pierce. They needn’t have bothered. Carlisle obliterated Haskell 38 to 4. Seeing the superiority of the Carlisle program, eight Haskell players transferred to the eastern school where many became stars. If there was an Olympic gold medal to have been won Carlisle would have won it, but none was. However, the Carlisle Indians were the closest thing to an Olympic football champion that we’ve had – if you ignore the 1920 and 1924 U.S. rugby teams. But that’s a story for another time.

The Native American game of lacrosse was played at the 1904 Olympics but mostly by non-natives. Three teams, two from Canada and one from the U.S., vied for the championship. The Canadian Shamrocks won the gold, the St. Louis Amateur Athletic Association won silver, and, in a bit of irony, the Mohawk Indians from Canada got the bronze.

Next time we take a look at the 1908 games.

1904 Carlisle-Haskell game program cover

1904 Carlisle-Haskell game program cover

 

 

 

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