Archive for September, 2010

Freshmen Eligibility Rules

September 30, 2010

Also agreed upon at that Chicago meeting discussed last time were some other eligibility rules. The change viewed as the most important was one that disallowed freshmen from competing on varsity teams. The thinking behind this was that requiring athletes to have completed a year of work at the college prior to playing on that school’s varsity squad would eliminate the use of non-students as players on college teams. Another rule change, one that is still in effect more or less, is that athletes who transfer from one school to another must sit out a year before representing the new school. A third change allows students to participate in three games without that year being counted against the student’s eligibility. That way, players who were injured early in a season wouldn’t be penalized. This rule may have eventually led to the red-shirting of players that is so common now.

The final paragraph of the article indicated that these rules were expected by some to be incorporated nationally: “The ruling regarding the freshmen was adopted unanimously, and is the entering wedge, it is thought, for the restraining .of the freshman collegians from competition at all under college colors except in their own class sports. This matter and the other rulings will be brought to the attention of the national association of intercollegiate athletes of America, and may be adopted at the next meeting of that body.”

The freshman rule proved to be controversial, particularly with the smaller colleges. At that time student bodies were a fraction of their present size. A large college or university might have 3,000 students whereas a small school might be half of that. Many small schools felt that not allowing freshmen to play on their varsities put them at a disadvantage to schools with much larger student bodies. Large schools like having the advantage.

Carlisle Causes Eligibility Rule Changes

September 28, 2010

The on-field influences the government Indian schools, Carlisle mostly but also Haskell to some extent, had on the development of college football are well known. Less well-known are the impacts on the rules under which the game is played. Most football historians are aware that Carlisle Indian School was frequently criticized for not adhering to eligibility rules similar to those agreed to by the major colleges. In 1908, Pop Warner instituted a limit of four years of eligibility on the varsity team for Carlisle’s players. Years spent riding the bench without playing were most likely not counted against the four years. Something that is not known as well is that major colleges routinely ignored the fact that players they recruited from Carlisle had already played for four years prior to enrolling in college. That was about to change in 1905 if some had their way.

A November 29, 1904 article datelined Chicago that was printed in The Boston Globe announced that eligibility rules were about to be enforced more stringently, at least by some schools. “A meeting of representatives of leading western colleges” (read Big Ten) agreed on rule changes to which they were to comply. Two schools were singled out specifically: “Carlisle and Haskell Indian Schools, two formerly unclassified institutions, were raised to the ranks of colleges, and students who have competed for four years from those institutions in the future will not be allowed to compete in events controlled by western colleges.” Since Carlisle and Haskell seldom played more than a total of two games a year against the schools that became the Big Ten, this rule was probably aimed at the schools themselves. Several former Carlisle players had played for these schools after having used up their eligibility at the Indian school. Some that come quickly to mind are: Frank Cayou, Illinois; James Johnson, Northwestern; James Phillips, Northwestern; William Baine, Wisconsin; and Ed Rogers, Minnesota.

Next time – Freshmen.

RichRod Learns from Pop Warner

September 25, 2010

Watching Michigan playing Bowling Green today, I saw a formation that looked familiar. In that formation, Michigan’s backs were all in the backfield, arranged almost in a box. Any of the four backs could receive a direct snap from center, at least in theory. It wasn’t the only formation I saw RichRod use in the game and probably isn’t his primary formation. However, he did use it for multiple plays and for sizeable gains. After a few moments’ thought, I remembered where I had seen a similar formation before. I could be wrong about his formation due to not having a diagram of it, but it sure looked familiar on TV.

Page 113 of Pop Warner’s 1912 book, A Course in Football for Players and Coaches, begins a discussion of Warner’s Open Pass Direct Pass Formation (see bottom of this message). The diagram for this century-old offensive scheme is a bit different than the one RichRod uses but provides the foundation upon which his is based. Both offenses feature direct snaps to multiple backs as well as both pass and run plays from the same position in the formation.

A difference between the formations appears to be that Rodriguez moves backs 1 and 2 to behind the tackles where Warner had them behind the guards. One assumes that the wider position helps make backs 1 and 2 more effective blockers for off-tackle plays and end runs. They might even assist with protecting the passer. Warner included a note stating that experience showed that moving the ends closer to the tackles had proved more effective in blocking the defensive tackles than having them set wide as shown in his diagrams.

A difference between Warner’s plays and those used today is that today centers lob the ball back, generally to the quarterback, where Warner’s centers often led the back receiving the snap. Warner’s scheme requires highly skilled centers but gives the offense advantages over those in which the back receiving the center snap stands flatfooted waiting for the ball to arrive.

Indian Leads Polish Unit in WWI

September 17, 2010

Last weekend, we entertained some houseguests by taking them for a tour of Gettysburg Battlefield. In the evening afterward, one of our guests mentioned that her grandfather, an immigrant from Poland who lived in the Detroit area, had served in an all-Polish unit in the U. S. Army during World War I. I recalled from researching William Gardner (a chapter of Doctors, Lawyers, Indian Chiefs is devoted to him) that he was put in charge of an all-Polish unit at Camp Custer during WWI.

An article titled, “Gardner is the Only Real American Officer in Army,” ran in the October 6, 1917 edition of The Fort Wayne Sentinel. In part, it said:

Captain Gardner is in a unique position in the new army, for in the assignment of recruits to the various regiments and companies he was given a large group of men of foreign extraction from Detroit, nearly half of his company being of Polish extraction. Of the Polish contingent in Captain Gardner’s company there were many who could not speak or understand English so the first problem of this real American officer was how to make His new soldiers understand the language in which they will fight.

Gardner, however, in his first problem of his new life in the army, showed the same resourcefulness which made him the terror of foes whom he had met on the gridiron, for he immediately detailed one of his lieutenants to begin to learn Polish. The lieutenant began his duties, learning the Polish words for such commands as “squads right,” and “right face” and when Gardner’s commands were given to the company in English, the lieutenant repeated them in Polish for the foreign born soldiers in Uncle Sam’s army. The Poles were so pleased at Captain Gardner’s efforts to help them learn to fight for their new country that they took to drill with a will.

“My company won’t take a back seat for any company in the new army, even if they did have to learn soldiering through an interpreter.” says Captain Gardner, “They are the best drilled men in camp today, we think, just because they tried to work and show their appreciation of the work my lieutenants did with them.”

 Next time, Part II

Non-mainstream Books

September 15, 2010

Recently, a young man, who I will call Chapman, a twenty-something who is on his way to becoming a lawyer, described my books as being “non-mainstream” and concluded that I may be strange, for picking such subjects I suppose. While I may be strange, especially to a young person, there is nothing strange about the topics of my books. Perhaps someday he will come to learn that being “non-mainstream” is a good thing. The world doesn’t need another book on Lincoln; it doesn’t even need another one on Jim Thorpe. What is needed are books on people whose contributions should be remembered but won’t if someone doesn’t capture their life stories before they are lost to posterity. I only wish I had undertaken this earlier, while more of them were still alive.

My hat is off to Bob Wheeler for having the vision as a young grad student with no money to first convince his advisor that an aural history of Jim Thorpe was a worthwhile undertaking and then to hitchhike across the country to interview anyone still alive who knew Thorpe. I wish that I had had the vision to interview my grandparents, uncles and aunts when they were still alive, but I didn’t. Not only is part of my family’s history lost, but since few others had the vision to capture their families’ histories, we have lost much of our history collectively.

There are rewards to researching and writing these books, albeit not financial. This enterprise is akin to what the Iowa farmer alluded to when, after winning an $8M lottery and asked what he intended to do, he responded, “Keep on farming as long as the money holds out.” The real rewards come from the satisfaction of having played a small part in helping a families learn more of their own history or, occasionally, helping long-lost family members reconnect. Chapman, if you think Carlisle Indian School football players are an obscure topic, you should watch Book TV on CSPAN2 some weekend. There you will find some really obscure book topics but, if you’re lucky, you’ll also see Robert Caro and come to value his work which is at such a high level that the rest of us can only aspire to reach.

Let the Buyer Beware

September 12, 2010

Caveat emptor or let the buyer beware has never been more appropriate advice for ebay buyers than with regard to three items that are  up for sale now for large prices. Apparently Mitchell Pierce, Seneca, of New York State, accumulated a collection of artifacts during his life that are now being sold after his death. Three items that readers of my blog may be interested in are photos identified as being of Carlisle Indian School football players circa 1910. My research has found nothing to suggest that Mitchell Pierce ever played on Carlisle’s varsity squad. It has shown that he departed Carlisle several months before the start of the 1910 season.

The first of the three photos of interest is probably what it is advertised as being:

The outfits worn by these individuals or small groups of players appear to be Carlisle uniforms based on the stripes on the forearms and socks. Also, the backgrounds look similar to those on photos known to be genuine. A couple of them may have been shot on Carlisle’s home field. I have made no attempt to identify the players in the photos and don’t know what Mitchell Pierce looked like. My guess is that these photos are of Carlisle students, but not necessarily those who played on the varsity squad.

The second and third photos aren’t immediately identifiable as being of Carlisle students or having been taken at Carlisle. The backgrounds in the photos are not similar to those I have previously seen in Carlisle photos and the uniforms are also very different from those in the first set of photos. I checked with an expert on such matters, Richard Tritt, photocurator at Cumberland County Historical Society. Richard was not able to identify any of the individuals and the backgrounds were not familiar to him either. There is no photo of Mitchell Pierce in the CCHS collection, so Richard was not able to identify him in the photos. If Richard can’t tell if these photos were made at Carlisle, few people could because he has seen hundreds if not thousands of photos to compare these with.

While the uniforms in these photos are clearly not those of the Carlisle varsity, the possibility exists that they are of shop or organization teams. Major Mercer once told a reporter that he had to outfit 14 different football teams at Carlisle. His approach was to buy the varsity new uniforms every year and to hand their old ones down to his other teams. Unfortunately, few photos have been found of shop teams and none of teams for the band or literary societies. Follows is a photo of the Shoemakers’ team. A photo of the Blacksmiths also exists. The Blacksmiths have large Bs sewn on their jerseys and two lettermen as coaches. Varsity socks are visible on one of the Shoemakers and a letterman holds their ball.

Another possibility is that these team photos were taken at an on-reservation Indian school. I haven’t seen Pierce’s student file, so don’t know if he attended another school before coming to Carlisle. He may have because it was not uncommon for Carlisle students to have begun their education elsewhere. These photos may have been taken at that school.

Regardless of the origin of these highly priced photos, let the buyer beware.

Winneshiek and More on Hidden Ball Play

September 6, 2010

Before we get to the recent newspaper article in which I am mentioned, let’s talk a little bit more about the hidden ball play. The Harvard Crimson is now on-line and searchable, to some extent at least. The November 10, 1924 edition recalled the famous hidden ball play run in 1903 by the Carlisle Indians against Harvard. Apparently, the Haskell Fightin’ Indians being in town to play Boston College brought that old chestnut to at least one person’s mind. The writer opined, “The trick should never have worked on the University, for Alfred Moo of the Lampoon had worked a similar stunt against The Crimson in the annual game between the two literary rivals two years before and everybody in Cambridge knew about it.” Everyone in the literary world, perhaps. Certainly, the varsity was caught flatfooted.

Saturday’s Lebanon Daily News included a piece by Chris Sholly about William Winneshiek being selected by Richard Byrd for his Second Antarctic Expedition. Her article includes some of the information about Winneshiek that has been presented in this blog recently and credits me for that. She also mentions that Wisconsin’s Carlisle Indian School Immortals, in which there is a chapter about Winneshiek, was released on the first of the month.

I can’t say if any photos accompany the article because I haven’t seen the print version yet. The on-line version has none. The article can be found at:

Some details about Winneshiek, such as his date and place of death, aren’t known with any precision. Sholly’s article might just prompt someone who has information to respond.

Wisconsin’s Carlisle Indian School Immortals is Out Now

September 2, 2010

The second volume of the Native American Sports Heroes Series is now out and available to readers. Wisconsin’s Carlisle Indian School Immortals was released yesterday and is expected to be of interest to libraries and readers interested in Native American history, sports and government Indian boarding schools. This book follows the following players from their youths on the reservation, through their times at Carlisle to their later lives:

  • Chauncey Archiquette
  • Wilson Charles
  • Wallace Denny
  • Lone Star Dietz
  • Louis Island
  • James Johnson
  • Frank Lone Star
  • Jonas Metoxen
  • Thomas St. Germain
  • Caleb Sickles
  • George Vedernack
  • Gus Welch
  • Hugh Wheelock
  • Joel Wheelock
  • Martin Wheelock
  • Charles Williams
  • William Winneshiek

Readers will learn who became doctors, lawyers and Indian chiefs. Some became musicians and led all-Indian bands. One was invited to join Richard Byrd’s Second Antarctic Expedition. Another was instrumental in establishing the Rose Bowl. Readers will also learn more about the naming of the Washington, DC NFL team and about the all-Indian NFL team. Several served in WWI even though non-citizen Indians were not drafted. Most lived long, productive lives but some didn’t. Some married girls they met at Carlisle, others married white girls and still others married girls from the reservation. One even married a congressman’s daughter.

The reading level is such that anyone from seventh grade through senior citizen can appreciate it and It is my hope that school children will read it to gain a better understanding of their history.