Be Careful What You Read

While reading a December 1928 newspaper, I came across an article by the great sportswriter Grantland Rice in which he credited the Carlisle Indians with doing more to popularize the game of football than anyone else:

“It was Pop Warner and his Carlisle Indians who did more to spread the gospel of football to crowds around the country than anything else. Wherever the Indians roved and roamed the multitude flocked. Those were the days of Bemus Pierce, Metoxen, Hudson, Mount Pleasant, and later such stars as Thorpe, Guyon and Calac. Old Boy Jim, meaning Thorpe, was the king of the lot, a great football player for 20 years….Warner’s teams are always interesting to watch. As a rule, they have something unexpected ready to reach for in case they need it. Even a rival lead of two touchdowns can be wiped out in one period if the other side isn’t abnormally cagy.”

Because of the Indian School’s fame, reporters often created links where they didn’t exist. Included in Jonas Metoxen’s death notice in a 1942 newspaper was the statement that he “…won fame as a blocking halfback for Jim Thorpe….” Little research is needed to determine that this statement is incorrect. Metoxen and Thorpe were not at Carlisle at the same time. Metoxen played in the late 1890s where Thorpe played dome, but not all, the years between 1907 and 1912. A smaller error is that Jonas generally played fullback.

One needs to be very careful when reading books and articles about the Carlisle Indians because many are loaded with errors. Relating a former player with Jim Thorpe is probably the most common of all. The school operated from 1879 to 1918 and Thorpe but Jim Thorpe was a student for only a small portion of those years. Also, very few of the boys were good enough to play on the varsity squad, so very few that were at Carlisle when Jim was played alongside him. Many, if not most, played on shop teams or the like, but only the very best played on the varsity. Newspaper clippings often list the starting line-ups and the substitutes that got into the games. If a person can’t be found in one of those, he probably didn’t play for Carlisle.

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