Archive for December, 2008

A Shot Is Not A Wing

December 29, 2008

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The resurgence of the single-wing in the NFL spawned another article. This one by John T. Reed can be found in the current issue of “The Coffin Corner,” the journal of the Professional Football Researchers Association (PFRA). BTW, professional refers to football not the researchers as we don’t get paid for our contributions to the journal. (We do it for the love of the game.) In “A Shot Is Not a Wing,” Reed wrote about the difference between a single- or double-wing center snap and what passes for one in a shotgun formation. I’ll leave the discussion of the difference to Mr. Reed.

John T. Reed has a website appropriately named www.Johntreed.com. On that website you will find numerous articles about single-wing football. You will also find one about turning around the football program at his alma mater, West Point: http://johntreed.com/Armyfootball.html. What you won’t find there, or anywhere else on the web, is “A Shot Is Not A Wing.” It’s title is listed on the PFRA site, http://www.profootballresearchers.org/, but you’ll have to join the PFRA to get the current issue. All it costs is $25 a year. A simple application can be found on the PFRA site. Just fill it out and set it to Bob Carroll along with your check. You will also be given the opportunity to write articles and participate on committees. They even review books. Look for a review of “Doctors, Lawyers, Indian Chiefs” in a future issue.

A similar journal exists for college football. That organization is called the College Football Historical Society (CFHS). Ray Schmidt edits their journal. Annual dues for the CFHS are only $17, but postage increases could force that to go up. Just send your check and mailing address to Ray Schmidt at PO Box 6460, Ventura, CA  93006.

This ends year one of my blog. See you next year.

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Captain of Industry at Thorpe Premier

December 25, 2008

Another Brown end made the trip to Pasadena. Furber I. Marshall was born in New Hampshire to a Avard L., originally form Nova Scotia, and Mabelle, from New Hampshire. When Furber was quite young the family moved to Newport, RI where Avard managed the Newport Beef Company which was affiliated with Swift and Company. Furber played football only one year in high school but starred at basketball. He played center on Rogers High School state championship team in 1913. Later that year as President of the Rogers High School Athletic Association, he presided over a meeting in which it was decided to admit girls as members. In December he served as the chief press agent for the operetta “Bul-Bul” that was put on by the Rogers Glee Club. In February the basketball team lost its captain when Furber contracted blood poisoning in his foot. In September 1914, the man who had been president of the class of 1914 at Rogers High School became the freshman class president at the University of Pennsylvania. September 1915 found him enrolled at Brown University and playing end on its football team. Furber was in Pasadena but saw the game from the bench, most likely, as his name didn’t show up in game reports. In the 1916 season he became a star.

In August 1917, after the U.S. entered WWI, Furber Marshall joined the Army Aviation Corps and was commissioned as a 1st lieutenant after completing flight training in May of 1918. After the war, he completed his degree at Brown as a member of the class of 1919. He then worked in the petroleum industry for eight years, got married, and lived in Chicago for a time. After that he started his own company, Marshall Asbestos Corp, which he operated in Troy, NY. Later, he merged his company with Bendix Aviation Corporation as the Marshall-Eclipse Division and was president of Bendix Service Corp for many years. In 1943 he took over as president of Pharis Tire & Rubber in Newark, OH. The 1950s found him in central PA where he was president of Carlisle Corp., which was best known at that time for making bicycle tires and tubes.

Thus, this captain of industry was in Carlisle in 1951 for the premier of “Jim Thorpe–All American.” The Cumberland County Historical Society has a photo of him with Jim Thorpe and Governor John S. Fine at ceremonies before the premier. He surely talked with his old nemesis at that event, because Lone Star Dietz, coach of the Washington State team that beat Brown in the 1916 Rose Bowl, was also present.

Marshall died in 1957 in Carlisle, leaving behind his wife, the former Sarah Hall, and his mother. He was inducted into the Brown University Hall of Fame in 1975.

Joshua Weeks played in the 1916 Rose Bowl

December 22, 2008

Brown threatened to score during the first half but failed. At halftime Washington State went into the clubhouse to dry off and change into dry uniforms but Brown didn’t bring extras to change into. They did, however, find a shed that contained some straw, so they coiled around it as best they could in an attempt to dry off. They weren’t in the best shape to play the second half.

In Weeks’ estimation, Brown was lucky to hold Washington State to a low score because they were like a junior team compared to the tougher WSC team. (Note that recent research uncovered writers’ opinions that WSC should have been selected as national champs in 1915.)

Back at Brown, Josh Weeks roomed with Fritz Pollard and operated a side business ironing men’s slacks to make money. Fritz played just one more year at Brown but Josh continued through the 1918 season when Walter Camp placed him on his All America second team at left end. Paul Robeson of Rutgers was named to that position on the first team.

After graduating from Brown, Josh Weeks attended medical school and eventually practiced in New Bedford, MA. There the high school coach asked him to attend the games in case his services were needed. Randy tells of a funny incident;

“My dad had attended New Bedford High and had played football for them. One game my dad was sitting on the bench, and New Bedford was getting creamed. A play came up where the other team stole the ball, and the runner was heading for a touchdown. My dad, dressed like a doctor…pants, jacket, white shirt with tie, and a hat on, jumped off the bench and ran after the kid until he finally tackled him. Needless to say the stadium roared with laughter and naturally the poor kid was given the touchdown.”

On a sadder note, Josh Weeks died on his way home from the reunion for the 40th anniversary of the 1916 Rose Bowl. His memory lives on in his children and the stories he told them about his Rose Bowl experience. Next time another Brown player and a captain of industry attend the premier of “Jim Thorpe–All American.”

Brown's 1916 Rose Bowl team

Brown’s 1916 Rose Bowl team

Brown Was In 1916 Rose Bowl, Too!

December 18, 2008

I recently posted some footage of the 1916 Rose Bowl that was provided to me by the Washington State athletic department onto www.YouTube.com/TomBenjey. Washington State was of course running the single-wing, but Brown was running a derivative that eagle-eyed Ted Seay observed that “At the 5:48 mark, Brown shifts into a double-flexed formation with an end and tackle to the left, then they slot their wingback inside that tandem and sweep to the left…” I am now working on a short video of Brown’s offense that will include slow-motion clips for those of us who don’t have Ted’s powers of observation. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yTA2w8aanPc&feature=channel_page That got me thinking about Brown’s players. Everyone is familiar with Fritz Pollard and, to use WSC’s descriptor, “the giant [Mark] Farnum,” but there are other players from that team who are in the Brown Hall of Fame. Let’s start with Josh Weeks because I have communicated with his son, Randall, who talked with him about the game.

Joshua H. Weeks, number 42, played right end on the 1915 Brown University team that played against Washington State in the 1916 Rose Bowl. Later in life he shared some of his experiences with his sons. Randy has been good enough to pass some of his memories along to me. For starters, Brown got little exercise, contrary to what the cartoon at the bottom of this piece insinuated. Prior to the game the players encountered citrus trees loaded with ripe fruit and gorged themselves on oranges. What a mistake! The result was frequent bathroom runs during the game.

Seeing no need for cold or wet weather gear, Brown brought neither along with them. Two days before the game it snowed and it poured during the game. Lone Star Dietz only brought summer suits for himself but did bring mud cleats for his players. Fritz Pollard could get no footing and was held to a season-low in yards gained. He did notice that Lone Star’s white suit was covered with mud before the first quarter was over.

<to be continued>

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Cherokee Wins Heisman

December 15, 2008

Recently a question was raised on this blog about American Indian leadership in athletics. Saturday’s action by the Downtown Athletic Club to award the Heisman Trophy to Sam Bradford may spread this discussion to a broader audience. The Oklahoma University quarterback, being 1/16th Cherokee, is enrolled in the tribe. Last year an ESPN announcer was unintentionally humorous when he stated that Bradford was “certified Cherokee.” The announcer was cut some slack because the enrollment process is very complicated.

Sam’s great-great-grandmother, Susie Walkingstick, was full-blood Cherokee. His father, former OU lineman Kent Bradford, is 1/8th blood Cherokee. It is appropriate that this Heisman winner plays for Oklahoma University because Oklahoma has the largest American Indian population of any state. Fellow Oklahoman Sac & Fox Jim Thorpe did not win the Heisman because that award wasn’t initiated until 1935 when the University of Chicago’s Jay Berwanger became the first recipient of the trophy with the famous pose. Jim Plunkett, being Mexican-American, was probably the first person with significant quantities of Indian blood to win the Heisman when he was named in 1970. Since then, it hasn’t been close. Not even fellow Cherokee Sonny Sixkiller who played quarterback for the Washington Huskies two decades later contended seriously.

A USA Today cover story http://www.usatoday.com/sports/college/football/big12/2008-12-09-bradford-cover_N.htm discusses the impact Bradford’s candidacy has already had on Indian children. Like Sixkiller, Bradford did not live on a reservation and grew up with little exposure to his Cherokee heritage. Anadarko, OK was home for College Football Hall of Famer Albert Exendine, star end at Carlisle. Anadarko is also the town in which Exendine, in the summer of 1911, encouraged Jim Thorpe to return to Carlisle. Alongside this history exists Riverside Indian School, a place where one would expect football to thrive. But that hasn’t been the case. Riverside dropped football a few years ago but, due to Bradford’s inspiration, fielded a team this year. Forty boys came out for the team – not bad for a school that has only 400 students who range in age from 4th grade to high school. The Braves only won one game but this was their inaugural season. The important question is: Are they running the single-wing?

USA Today photo of Sam Bradford with his Heisman Trophy

USA Today photo of Sam Bradford with his Heisman Trophy

More Patents for Carlisle Students

December 12, 2008

Some time back I wrote about Nicholas Longfeather being granted a patent in 1912. Now I have stumbled across three more former Carlisle students accomplishing this feat. The Balenti brothers, John, George and Michael, attended Carlisle. The boys were the offspring of a soldier, Mike Balenti, who was originally from Austria. Balenti was stationed at Ft. Reno and married a 17-year-old Cheyenne girl who lived nearby. Before her marriage she went by Cheyenne Bell (sometimes Belle). She had six children, three of whom didn’t go to Carlisle. Those who did attend Carlisle were known as excellent students. Mike was also known as a very good football and baseball player. He had the misfortune of being a quarterback when Frank Mt. Pleasant and Louis Island also played that position. Back to the patents.

In 1915 Mike and George Balenti filed a patent application for an “Attachment for Jumping Standards.” Patent number 1,193,972 was awarded to the brothers on August 8, 1916. “This invention relates to standards used for determining the hight of high jumps, pole vaults, or analogous athletic endeavors, and the primary object of the invention is to provide an attachment for standards of this nature, which will accurately record substantially the exact height of the jump.” The patent application can be seen at http://www.google.com/patents?hl=en&lr=&vid=USPAT1193972&id=yLBGAAAAEBAJ&oi=fnd&dq=mike+balenti.

In 1919 Mike and John Balenti applied for a patent for a “Pancake Machine.” The purpose of the machine was described as follows: “This invention relates to an improved pancake machine and the principal object of the invention is to provide a machine in which pancake dough may be mixed and held while being used, improved valve means and actuating means for the valves being provided for controlling passage of the pancake dough out of the outlet opening in the bottom of the receptacle or container.” The patent, which was awarded on December 28, 1920 can be viewed at http://www.google.com/patents?id=mQlDAAAAEBAJ&dq=mike+balenti&jtp=1.

The high jump standard attachment looks too complicated to be of practical use but I swear I’ve seen the pancake machine in use in restaurants.

 

Premier at Carlisle Theatre

December 8, 2008

On Friday Antonio Banderas conducted the U.S. premier of his film, El Camino de los Ingleses (The English Road), titled Summer Rain in the U.S., at Carlisle Theatre. This was not the first movie to be premiered at this 1939 Art Deco picture palace. In August of 1951, Jim Thorpe returned to Carlisle to premier his film biography, Jim Thorpe: All American, in which he was portrayed by a young actor by the name of Burt Lancaster. Unfortunately, that film is now dated and needs to be remade, or better yet, an entirely new film needs to be made. Perhaps that will happen.

It seems that a filmmaker interested in shooting a film about Jim Thorpe, Pop Warner or the Carlisle Indian School breezes through town every couple of months gathering information for his or her next production. The most notable, perhaps, of those in recent years was announced in 2004 John Sayles was writing the script for Carlisle School for Walden Media. Nothing further has been seen about that film and that may be for the better. The Hollywood Reporter wrote that Carlisle School, “follows a ragtag group of young Native Americans who achieve prolific victories on the football field that lead them to national prominence. The players, among them future sports legend Thorpe, attended the boarding school in Pennsylvania that, from 1879-1918, housed Native Americans from childhood through college.”

Anyone who knows anything at all about Carlisle Indian School is well aware that its teams were anything but ragtag. To the contrary, Carlisle was frequently criticized for being just the opposite. The recent books about Thorpe and Carlisle have not been the most accurate either. But better things may be in the offing. Kate Buford’s biography of Jim Thorpe is to be released in 2008 and there aren’t many days left in the year. Bob Wheeler is finishing up his audiobook on Jim Thorpe. This is something to look forward to. Thorpe’s Boswell is not just reading his landmark book on Thorpe, he is also including clips from the interviews he made decades ago of people, many of whom are now long dead. It will be great to hear Ike talk about playing against Thorpe in his own voice. I can’t wait.

The Single-Wing May Be Off life Support

December 5, 2008

Jim Sweeney, the life-long Army fan who told me about the Sports Illustrated article, shared with me that on Thanksgiving Day he was able to watch, on ESPN2 no less, two Jesuit high schools from New York City play each other in an 85-year long Thanksgiving tradition. Xavier High played Fordham Prep at Fordham Field in the Bronx. Sweeney’s (also JoePa’s) alma mater, Brooklyn Prep, was, until it closed in 1973, the third Jesuit high school in the City. You probably already know that Joe Paterno played tailback in Brooklyn Prep’s double-wing and that his brother, George, was fullback. Something few of us know is that both Xavier and Fordham Prep are NOW running the single-wing. What a treat it must have been for Jim to watch these teams in the comfort of his living room.

Another result of the Sports Illustrated article or the fact that NFL teams are dabbling with the single-wing is that I was interviewed yesterday by the local NBC affiliate about the connection between the Wildcat formation and Carlisle Indian School. After interviewing me, reporter George Lettis visited Carlisle Barracks and shot part of his piece on Indian Field. WGAL’s website has an article on its website that can be found at http://www.wgal.com/sports/18199527/detail.html. The broadcast video can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iP9FogxDRII. In addition to footage of Lettis and me, portions of the documentary Tom McCue and I made to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the single-wing are included. Narrator Lynn Myers’ voice comes through loud and clear.

It will be interesting to see how long NFL coaches run the Wildcat or other versions of the single-wing before they admit that the fundamental formation was developed a century ago by Pop Warner for the Carlisle Indians. Some think that NFL coaches will continue to obfuscate this point so as not to appear to be behind the times by 100 years.

Single-Wing Article in Sports Illustrated

December 2, 2008

The December 1 issue of Sports Illustrated has an article on the single-wing. The writer, Tim Layden, first discusses the formation’s current use at Apopka High 15 miles northwest of Orlando and in the NFL by the Dolphins in their unexpected victory over the unsuspecting New England Patriots. Also mentioned is Todd Bross, organizer of the annual spring conclave at Kings College in Wilkes-Barre, PA. (It was Todd Bross and Ted Seay who urged me to research Pop Warner’s correspondence course in football that was first published in 1908). Layden discussed the renaissance the single-wing is undergoing but was apparently unaware that little Windber Area High School is running it as he was probably unaware of my documentary in which they were featured.

The article talks about viewing old films over Ed Racely’s garage on Cape Cod. Racely, now 80, has been studying the single-wing longer than anyone. Layden then goes into the single-wing’s history beginning with President Theodore Roosevelt’s 1905 threat to ban the game unless rule changes weren’t made to clean up the game. He goes on the mention that Pop Warner coached Carlisle Indian School from 1907 to 1914 and quotes Warner as having first used early incarnations of the single wing by the Carlisle Indians in response to the 1906 rule changes. He is apparently unaware of Pop’s earlier tenure at Carlisle (1899-1903) and of my research that uncovered Warner’s weeklong visit with the Carlisle coaches shortly before the start of the 1906 season. He made no mention of the revisions to Warner’s correspondence course between 1909 and 1911, nor did he mention my publication of the offense pamphlets from the correspondence course. The diagrams found those pamphlets represent the earliest known documentation of the single-wing. A 1924 newspaper interview of Warner was accompanied by a diagram of a formation that “The Old Fox” designed in 1902 to protect injured linemen Antonio Lubo, Martin Wheelock and Albert Exendine and to adjust for injured first-string center, Nikifer Schouchuk. It’s too bad that wingback diagram wasn’t made public a couple of decades earlier. The Sports Illustrated article can be found at:

http://vault.sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1149161/index.htm