Archive for October, 2010

More Errors at LeatherHelmetIllus.com

October 29, 2010

Let’s now look at Rich Manning’s statement regarding Jim Thorpe:

The [Pennsylvania] game also marked the debut of Jim Thorpe. He broke free for 45 yards the second time he touched the ball.

This statement didn’t ring true because Pop Warner wouldn’t likely put an untested player like the young Thorpe into the pressure of a big game. He was more likely to have given him some playing time in the warm up games to better prepare him for game situations. One of the purposes of the warm up games at the beginning of the season was to give new players playing time in game situations with little pressure. However, the 1907 schedule didn’t provide Warner much opportunity to try untested players. Lebanon Valley College and Susquehanna University were the only games with lopsided scores. Unfortunately, the reports for those games in the Carlisle school newspaper didn’t list the names of all the players who got into those games. One assumes that Jim Thorpe got significant playing time in the 91-0 blow out of Susquehanna. Although we don’t know that for sure, it wasn’t necessary to research that point because the write up of the Bucknell game provides all the information we need to show that Warner didn’t debut Thorpe against Penn.

The Indian School newspaper reprinted coverage from The Evening Sentinel about the Bucknell game, including, “After the next kick-off [Jim] Thorpe made a long run, but dropped the ball,” and in the second half, “Thorpe did most of the work carrying the ball, and proved an excellent ground gainer. He followed his interference well and held the ball.”

So, Warner debutted Jim Thorpe a week earlier than Manning stated, assuming that he didn’t play in the early blow outs or that they didn’t count because they were warm up games.

The next blog will deal with the errors in the article related to formations .

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Errors at LeatherHelmetIllus.com

October 27, 2010

I was recently asked if Pop Warner unveiled the single-wing against Penn in the Carlisle Indians’ fifth game of the 1907 season. Penn was actually Carlisle’s 7th opponent that year but that was probably just a typo made by the person asking the question. This was the first time I had heard (or read) that the single-wing was first used in that particular game. I have seen it attributed to several other times but not that one. A little research found a source for this claim but quite possibly not the only person to make it. Follows is an extract from an article on the Carlisle Indians in LeatherHelmetIllus.com:

‘Pop’ Warner unveiled the new [single-wing] formation against the University of Pennsylvania, on Oct. 26, 1907. So far that season no team had crossed the Quaker’s goal line. Carlisle was undefeated. A large crowd of 22,800 fans looked on. They were expecting a good game but they got more than they bargained for. Carlisle scored on the second play: a 40 yard pass from Hauser to Gardner, caught on the run. The diversified offense racked up 402 yards, to 76 yards for Penn., Carlisle went 8 of 16 passing. The game also marked the debut of Jim Thorpe. He broke free for 45 yards the second time he touched the ball. The Indians won 26 – 6.

After finding this, I set about locating game accounts in period newspapers. Before resolving the issue of the single-wing, I noticed a significant error—or the sports writers of the day had it all wrong. Nowhere did I find mention of (William) Gardner scoring a touchdown or anything else in that game. What I did find in the coverage by The Washington Post, The New York Times, United Press and other wire service accounts was that the Indians’ first score came on a field goal kicked by Pete Hauser early in the game. That score was followed by Fritz Hendricks’ 100-yard touchdown run after picking up Hollenbach’s fumble. Payne closed out the first-half scoring with a touchdown of his own around Penn’s end from the 4-yard line. Penn played better in the second half and didn’t allow Carlisle an offensive touchdown. However, Little Boy scored his touchdown by diving on a Penn punt that Albert Exendine had blocked and fell behind their goal line. Hauser closed out Carlisle’s scoring with a second field goal. Frank Mt. Pleasant kick the extra points after each touchdown. Although Mt. Pleasant and Hauser received much praise for their passing in this game, none of their tosses went for a touchdown to Gardner or anyone else.

The next blog will deal with the errors related to Jim Thorpe and the single-wing.

Jim Thorpe Biographer to Speak Saturday

October 20, 2010

Although several books written have been written about Jim Thorpe in recent years, little new information has been uncovered about him. The reason for that is that Robert W. Wheeler plowed so deeply when he researched everyone’s All American that little ground remained untouched. Bob spent seven years researching what began as an oral history of the great athlete for his master’s thesis. Most of the people he interviewed who knew or interacted with Thorpe are no longer alive and, thus, not available for other’s to interview. Bob has graciously allowed others to use his interview tapes. Some artifacts, such as scrapbooks, that Wheeler was able to study are now out of the Thorpe family’s hands and, in some cases, held by private collectors who do not make them available to researchers.

So, Big Jim’s recent biographers have stood on Wheeler’s shoulders in more than one way. Put another, perhaps better, way by Freddie Wardecker, there has been little point to anyone else writing a Thorpe biography since Wheeler’s. Dick Schaap put it succinctly when he said, “Robert W. Wheeler is Jim Thorpe’s Boswell.”

Recent Thorpe biographers have been invited to speak in Carlisle, but not Bob Wheeler—until now. He will be speaking at the inaugural Celebrate the Book festival at the Expo Center on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. And I have been given the honor to introduce him. Of course, I was far from the first choice, but due to other people having schedule conflicts and that I was going to be at the festival anyway, I get to do this. I may be doing this because the better choices were busy but that’s OK with me. Bob Wheeler’s odyssey across the country and his experiences along the way could make a separate book. If you’re within a couple of hours of Carlisle, it’s an easy drive. His is a talk not to be missed.

Update on Taping Interviews

October 19, 2010

I have an update on the recent blog about keeping interview tapes. I received a note from the son of the lady mentioned in that blog. Follows is an extract from what he wrote, modified only to protect the family’s privacy:

Dear Tom,

The DVD you gave us this past Tuesday night was like a gift from heaven. As I started to watch it, it became like a magnet as the rest of the family began to fill the room.

Remembering my mother’s last dying days with the physical changes all so often present on elderly who are near death was really difficult. The DVD interview was “vintage Mom,” the woman we could all relate to with love and respect. To hear her voice again and see her mannerisms was truly a timely gift to ease the grieving process. The entire family wishes to thank you very much.

I doubt that I have done anything unusual here. That is the point of these blogs. Numerous writers interview elderly people every day and most at least make audiotapes of the sessions. These tapes are little different from the one I gave this family and would likely be as welcomed by other writers’ subjects’ families as this one was. Few people think of taping their loved ones while they are still at their best. It is essential for writers that their subjects be in pretty good condition mentally so that the sessions are worthwhile. An unexpected benefit is that, in many cases, the interviews will be of interest to their loved ones, particularly if the person is talking about themselves or other family members who may have passed.

I strongly suggest to other writers who conduct interviews when researching their books that, when one of the people they have interviewed passes, they give a copy of the interview to the person’s loved ones. It costs very little to do this and you may be providing the family with the only movie they have of that person. They in turn can pass it on to the next generation.

Football Was Always Violent

October 15, 2010

Those new to American football sometimes think the injuries to players are a relatively new phenomenon resulting from the large physical size of the players and the introduction of armor-like protective equipment that can injure as well as shield. A century ago, when pads consisted of cotton wadding held in by quilting on the shoulders and elbows and the few helmets that were worn consisted of two leather straps across the crown of the player’s head and connected to a leather headband. That gear couldn’t be used as a weapon but it didn’t save the wearer from much harm either. The November 13, 1903 Eau Claire Daily Telegram ran a poem that bemoaned the damage done to players who were then mostly normal-sized human beings. The newspaper introduced the poem as follows: “A western poet sizes up the game in this fashion:”

They gathered up the remnants when his battered soul had gone.

The others took their places and the gory play went on.

They punched and jabbed and shouted and they kicked and struck and swore.

And blood was flowing freely when they paused for breath once more.

Oh, you with sons in College, how delightful it must seem

To know your toothless offspring is the hero of the team!

To know that he’s minus eyes and fingers, nose and ears.

He’s earning fame and glory that shall sound through endless years!

Save those interview tapes

October 13, 2010

I got a lesson today while sitting in a church pew waiting for a funeral to begin. The person being honored was an elderly neighbor who I had interviewed less than a year ago about things that happened when she was a girl. All at once a light came on. It came to me that her children and grandchildren might be interested in having a copy of the interview. Because I videotape interviews whenever I can, I thought I could easily make them a DVD of that interview—if I still had the tape. In the receiving line after the funeral, I asked the lady’s son and daughter if they would like a DVD of the interview. They were receptive to the idea.

Upon returning home, I found the tape and, in less than an hour, made a DVD while tending to other tasks much of the time the computer was churning away. After testing it on our DVD player and TV, it was ready to deliver. So, with little effort on my part, I made something the deceased’s family can have a movie of her as she was before her illness set in. This may be the only movie they have of her. I don’t know but doubt if many people think of taping their loved ones to have such remembrances of them after they’re gone. In this case, the family gets to see her as they would probably like to remember her, talking about things that happened in her youth, about her history, and about life as it was when she was a girl. Based on what has happened in my own family, I think that she likely talked about things that she never thought to tell her children and grandchildren and about which they never thought to ask.

The lesson in this for us writers is to realize that interviews we make might be of interest to the interviewee’s family for reasons very different from our own and that we should take care to preserve our interview tapes just in case.

Professionalism of Athletics Not Allowed at Chicago

October 7, 2010

Further research is needed to determine if the Universities of Chicago, Wisconsin and Michigan actually stopped charging people to see their athletic contests. One thing that is sure is that Michigan and Wisconsin charge for theirs now and in a big way. What was formerly called Division IA football is big business today with correspondingly high ticket prices. And professionalism among college athletes was almost as big an issue then as it is now. The University of Chicago’s often-taken stance against professionalism was largely something for public consumption rather than an indication of the school’s conduct of its athletic program, so the pronouncement that they wished to stop charging for admission to football games and other contests should be taken with a measure of salt.

Perhaps they had a benefactor waiting in the wings to fund the endowment proposed to support the Maroon athletic department. If they did, it would have had to be a hefty one because the athletic department had gotten used to having money at its disposal to spend as it pleased. For example, as early as 1895, gate receipts were used to pay for a meal for the team at a French restaurant on Clark Street after each game. Gate receipts were also used to buy Thanksgiving dinner for the players and their dates after the annual game with Michigan.

Athletes received other benefits from the University as well, but it isn’t clear where the money came from to pay for them. Gate receipts are the usual suspects. Beginning in 1896, Chicago’s football players ate together at a special training table and live together in two flats in a private apartment building paid for, one concludes, from the proceeds of paid admissions to football games. That living arrangement was not renewed the following year because the landlord claimed the players had “played such havoc” that they were no longer welcome as tenants. So, the University moved them into Hitchcock Hall, the newest and most luxurious residence hall on campus. No, Amos Alonzo Stagg and the University of Chicago did not support professionalism of their athletes.

No More Admission Fees

October 5, 2010

The October 30, 1903 weekly edition of the Narka Kansas News included an article title, “The Plan a Good One.” The plan being referred to was on concocted by the faculty of the University of Chicago which would have eliminated paid admissions to contests in which the school’s athletes participated. The plan wasn’t as simple as it sounds at first glance because not all of Chicago’s games, meets, matches and tournaments were played at facilities controlled by the University. Many of them were played at facilities located on the campuses, mostly those of members of the same athletic conference as Chicago. So, meetings were set up with faculty representatives of the Universities of Wisconsin and Michigan to discuss dropping admission fees for athletic contests held at those schools.

Dropping admission fees is not something that can be done easily because athletic programs cost money to operate, even a century ago. Ticket sales help cover those costs and, in some places like Yale and Carlisle Indian School, generated a tidy profit. So, the trustees of the University of Chicago were going to create an endowment from which the earnings were to pay for the operation of the University’s athletic program and had taken preliminary steps to create an endowment for physical culture and athletics.

It is highly unlikely that this plan ever got off the ground because Michigan and Wisconsin were probably making so much money off their respective football programs that it couldn’t be replaced easily with earnings from an endowment unless the endowment was very large.

Also, this move was in sharp contrast with the announcement made by the Athletic Association of the University of Pennsylvania ten days earlier when it announced that approximately 6,000 tickets were to be sold at $2 each. Previously, 21,000 tickets were to be divided equally among the academies and Penn. This year, the tickets allocated to Penn were to be put up for sale. In earlier years, no admission was charged.