Errata Sheet Necessary

While looking for a photograph of William O. “Wild Bill” Hickok, the Yale star who coached Carlisle in 1896, I noticed an error in the Wikipedia file about him. Wikipedia had his record as 6-4 for that year. From prior research, I knew that was incorrect.

In 1896, the Carlisle Indians played the Big Four, Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Penn, on successive Saturdays away from Carlisle, sometimes on the big team’s home field, other times in a big city. The Indians lost all of these games but would have tied Yale were it not for a bad call and they would probably have beaten Harvard if they hadn’t misplayed a punt. Those games account for four of their losses that year. Those losses against six wins would be the record Wikipedia showed. However, they lost another game. The Indians played Brown University on Thanksgiving Day on Manhattan Field in New York City, the site of the Yale game played earlier in the season. Brown won the game 24-12. That loss ran the total up to five for the season out of the ten games played. Going .500 over a brutal schedule like the one the Indians played that year is quite an achievement, so great in fact that Walter Camp wrote that Carlisle should be considered among the first rank of teams after that.

How did Wikipedia come to have that error? The only reference listed on the site was Sally Jenkins’s book, so the error must have come from there. Sure enough, on page 155, Jenkins stated, “The Carlisle players were weary but jubilant; the victory [over Wisconsin] completed their first winning record at 6-4.” As it turns out, Carlisle didn’t have a winning record in 1896, they went .500 as they had done in 1895 when they went 4-4. Why did Jenkins get this wrong? My guess is that she accepted Steckbeck as being accurate. I made that same mistake myself and have to insert errata sheets in books that include that error. This is what happens when one accepts someone else’s research without checking it.

 

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