More Evidence That Sally Jenkins Was Wrong

While looking up the rules regarding the quarterback sneak in Spalding’s Official Football Guide for 1906, I came across more evidence to support the position James Sweeney took in There Were No Oysters, his critique of Sally Jenkins’ assertions in her 2007 book about Carlisle Indian School football. In his piece, Football in the Middle States, George Orton of the University of Pennsylvania wrote:

Carlisle fell a little below the high standard of former years, though the brilliant games they put up against Pennsylvania, Harvard and West Point proved that the Indians were yet very much to be feared in any company. They played the same style of game as in previous years in spite of their new coach; good punting, end running and tricky open play being their main source of strength.

Orton completely contradicts Jenkins’ claim that Carlisle abandoned its open style of play under Coach George Woodruff in 1905. It might have been that Woodruff preferred old-style play but that isn’t what the team actually did on the field games as documented by this observer. Orton even thought the Indians played brilliantly on the soft field against Harvard where Jenkins lambasted Woodruff for unimaginative play. She covered the 1905 season more extensively than most—through the Harvard game—but made no mention of the game with Army the following week or the late-season road trip west. This is most curious because, as Sweeney documented so well, the Indians beat Army in the two teams’ first meeting ever in a game that received wide coverage, particularly because of the large number of dignitaries present for the contest.

A writer with Jenkins’ pedigree and credentials could hardly have been unaware of the 1905 game given the research she did for her book. One wonders how she could have had so much wrong about the 1905 Carlisle Indians. After all, these were the young men who finally got to settle the score, metaphorically speaking, with the “long knives” on a field of battle. The 1912 Carlisle Indians were a great team, but it was their 1905 predecessors who actually did the deed.

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