No Super Bowls for Carlisle Indians

Carlisle Indian School football players retired from football decades before Super Bowl I in 1967. In fact, many, including Jim Thorpe and Lone Star Dietz, if not the majority, were already dead. The closest tie to either of this year’s competitors: the Cardinals and the Steelers, is that Jim Thorpe played for the Cardinals in 1928. Thorpe was over 40 then and came out of retirement, after hanging up his cleats at the end of the 1927 season as player-coach of the Portsmouth Shoe-Steels, for what was probably the last time to help the hapless 1-4 Cardinals in a Thanksgiving charity game against their cross-town rivals, the Bears. Big Jim was well past his prime and didn’t play much in this 34-0 pasting, their fifth shutout loss of the year and third in six days. Thanksgiving Day games didn’t replace a Sunday game in those days, they were just inserted into the schedules. The Cardinals lost to Frankfort 10-0 on Saturday, November 24, 19-0 to the New York Yankees the next day, and closed out their season on Thursday, November 29 against the Bears. Thorpe didn’t have enough left in his tank to help a team that gave up 63 unanswered points in these three games.

The Chicago Cardinals were a charter member of the NFL, which originally called itself the American Professional Football Association, but weren’t the Chicago Cardinals in 1920 when the league was first formed. The oldest and losingest team in the league traces its roots back to a sandlot team in Chicago before the turn of the last century. The team claimed its name in 1901 when, a derisive description of his team’s faded maroon jerseys that had been surplussed by the University of Chicago, caused team owner Chris O’Brien to spin that lighter color into cardinal red. They have been the Cardinals ever since. At the time the pro league was formed they were known as the Racine Cardinals because they were located on Racine Street. In 1960 they moved to St. Louis and in 1988 to Arizona. Along the way they won two championships, but one, for 1925, is disputed by the Pottsville Maroons faithful. Thorpe didn’t have much time to think about the loss because his All-Indian basketball team started its season on December 2 against the Detroit Tool Shop Club.


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