Archive for July, 2012

Was 1912 Thorpe’s 2,000-Yard Season?

July 31, 2012

It may be that the reporter was trying to determine if Jim Thorpe was the first to rush 2,000 yards in a single season rather than in his career at Carlisle. I say that because, in her article in the current edition of Smithsonian Magazine, Sally Jenkins wrote, “He returned to lead Carlisle’s football team to a 12-1-1 record, running for 1,869 yards on 191 attempts—more yards in a season than O.J. Simpson would run for USC in 1968. And that total doesn’t include yardage from two games Thorpe played in. It’s possible that, among the things Thorpe did in 1912, he was college football’s first 2,000-yard rusher.”

Again because stats aren’t my thing, I contacted Tex Noel about the single-season rushing statistics.Tex responded quickly with:

I do know that JT was NOT the 1st back to rush for 100+ yards in a game. (3 had best game totals; his 362 vs Pennsylvania in 1912 in 9th of 10 spots.)

Yards       Player, Team and Season                      

2032        Ken Strong, New York University, 1928

1869        Jim Thorpe, Carlisle, 1912

1500        Lindsey Donnell, Cumberland TN, 1935

1450        Glenn Presnell, Nebraska, 1927

1421        Norman “Red” Strader, St. Mary’s CA, 1924

1393        Lloyd Brazil, Detroit, 1928

1349        Earl “Dutch” Clark, Colorado College, 1928

1287        Frank Briante, New York University, 1927

1163        Morley Drury, USC, 1927

1074        John “Shipwreck” Kelly, Kentucky, 1931

Source: Stars of an Earlier Autumn (C) 2011, Tex Noel.

Tex has the same total rushing yards for 1912 that Jenkins has but without the caveat that he played in two games for which his statistics weren’t recorded. I suspect that, because Tex is so familiar with the haphazard way in which statistics were recorded in those days, he felt no need to point out that all numbers from that era are to be taken with a reasonable amount of salt.

I then looked in the 1913 Spalding’s Guide, but it made no mention of Thorpe’s (or anyone else’s) rushing yards for 1913. It did include a table of “Famous Runs” compiled by Parke Davis on which Carlisle players got their share of listings. Jim Thorpe was mentioned twice:

1) 80-yard run from scrimmage against Penn on November 16, 1911

2) 60-yard run from scrimmage against Penn on October 24, 1908

Neither of his longest runs were in 1912, the year freshest in Parke Davis’s mind, but longer runs made earlier by Charles Dillon, Gus Welch, and Thaddeus Redwater were.

I don’t know which games for which Thorpe’s rushing yardage is missing but it is possible that he ran for a combined 131 yards in them. It is just as possible that he didn’t, particularly if they were games in which Thorpe wasn’t needed and Pop Warner rested him to get a look at less experienced players in game situations. Thorpe’s 156 yards per game average for the 12 games for which records exist imply that he would have run for enough yardage to total more than 2,000 yards for the season. It’s just as possible that he watched from the sidelines so that he would be available for the tougher opponents in this grueling 14-game schedule.

P.S. Yesterday, this blog received its 50,000th view and highest monthly total (with a day to go).

Advertisements

The First 2,000-Yard Rusher

July 27, 2012

I got a call this week from a reporter out in Oklahoma who asked if Jim Thorpe was the first 2,000-yard rusher. Since my focus is on the people, not the statistics, I forwarded the question to statswiz Tex Noel. Tex quickly responded with career rushing statistics for the period in question:

Top 10 Career Rushing Totals*

Yards         Player, Team Career                       

4469                     Chris “Kenner/Red” Cagle, Southwestern Louisiana Institute/Army, 1922-29

3616                     Jim Thorpe, Carlisle, 1907-08, 11-12

2729                     Ted Hudson, Trinity MA, 1910-13

2516                      Bill Banker, Tulane, 1927-29

2341                      George Gipp, Notre Dame, 1917-20

2382                      Alphonse “Tuffy” Leemans, George Washington, 1933-35

2369                      Don Zimmerman, Tulane, 1930-32

2339                     Willie Heston, Michigan, 1901-04

2140                      Kayo Lam, Colorado, 1933-35

2124                      Henry Benkert, Rutgers, 1921-24

*(C) 2011 Stars of an Earlier Autumn

From this, it is clear that Jim Thorpe did run for more than 2,000 yards in his career at Carlisle—a lot more–but he wasn’t the first player to rush for more than 2,000 yards in his career. That was the great running back from the University of Michigan, Willie Heston, who, almost a decade earlier, ran for 2,339 yards between 1901 and 1904. As an aside, this is probably why Bemus Pierce named his son Heston.

According to these statistics, Thorpe was the first 3,000-yard career rusher and it took the better part of two decades for Red Cagle to surpass his record. Something to keep in mind is that Carlisle always scheduled several tough teams, all on the road, not one or two each year as Warner advised in his books and as The Big Four and most other powers did. So, Jim Thorpe’s individual records were amassed against mostly stiff competition where many other top athletes played mostly against lesser opponents. Also, Pop Warner used his early-season games against easier opponents to take a look at younger players in game conditions and protected his stars against unnecessary injuries by severely limiting their playing time when they weren’t needed to win.

Now, I’ll ask Tex for single-season records to see how Jim Thorpe stacks up in those comparisons.

Carlisle Has as Many Hall of Famers as Miami

July 24, 2012

Well, it finally happened. Lone Star Dietz was enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame last weekend. It isn’t clear to me which activity at the event is the actual enshrinement: the blazer presentation on Friday evening or the enshrinement dinner Saturday night. Attendance apparently isn’t mandatory because Deion Sanders wasn’t present at either event. Lone Star Dietz wasn’t present because he died in 1964. Other deceased inductees were generally represented by their sons but Dietz didn’t have a son. Had I known that Dietz wasn’t going to be represented, I would have suggested that Sheldon Cohen speak on behalf of his late father, Gus, for whom Lone Star acted like a father.

When Russell Maryland, a defensive tackle, was introduced, it was pointed out that he was the eighth Hall-of-Famer from the University of Miami. Lone Star Dietz makes the seventh Carlisle Indian in the College Football Hall of Fame. The other six are: Albert Exendine, Joe Guyon, James Johnson, Jim Thorpe, and Gus Welch. A quick look at the Ball of Fame’s website revealed that six Miami players and two coaches have been inducted. Neither of the coaches played at Miami as both played for Pop Warner at Pitt.

So, as many Carlisle Indian School players have been enshrined as have Miami players. Three of Carlisle’s head coaches have been enshrined: Bill Hickok (as a player at Yale), Pop Warner, and George Woodruff. Gus Welch was Carlisle’s head coach for part of the 1915 season but he was inducted as a Carlisle player. And George Woodruff only coached Carlisle for the 1905 season. Although he led Carlisle to its first victory over Army, he would most likely have been inducted for his work at Penn alone. But one could make the argument that Pop Warner’s record and innovations at Carlisle would have gotten him into the Hall of Fame even if he hadn’t coached later at Pitt, Stanford, and Temple.

Thus, by counting the six players, Dietz and Warner, one could fairly make the argument that little Carlisle, that only fielded teams from 1894 to 1917, has as many Hall-of-Famers as the prodigious producer of professional players, Miami University, which has fielded football teams from 1927 to the present. This is further evidence of the greatness of the tiny Carlisle Indian School football program.

Thorpe Was Also A Hockey Player

July 19, 2012

A January 25, 1913 newspaper article, that I happened upon while searching for something else, discussed something about Jim Thorpe that I hadn’t heard before and was probably lost to history. It is well known that the Cincinnati Reds wanted to sign Thorpe to a professional baseball contract about that time. What isn’t widely known is that another professional team in a different league in a different sport in a different country also wanted Thorpe and, if the reporter was correct, was negotiating with him to sign a contract.

Pop Warner wrote in some detail how he negotiated an exceptionally good contract for Thorpe with John McGraw of the New York Giants baseball team and how the other major league teams wanted him but baseball was the only sport he mentioned in that context. However, the Middletown Daily Times-Press suggested that he might be turning pro in another sport in the article under the headline, “Jim Thorpe May Take Up Professional Hockey.” It reported that Thorpe was negotiating at that time with the Tecumseh team of Toronto. “When questioned W. J. Bellingham, president of the Tecumseh Hockey Club, practically admitted that he was negotiating with Thorpe, but declined to enter into particulars.” Regarding Thorpe’s position, “It is reported that Thorpe will not turn professional unless he receives an ironbound contract calling for a handsome stipend.”

A few factors influenced the outcome, or lack thereof, of these negotiations: 1) They hadn’t seen Thorpe play hockey. He was probably very good, but hiring him sight unseen implies that they were, perhaps, most interested in him as a drawing card, 2) A hockey team of that day couldn’t compete salary-wise with a major league baseball team that was willing to pay Thorpe an exorbitant salary, and 3).Hockey season wouldn’t start until the late fall and Thorpe wanted money sooner so he could get married.

 

400th Post – Paterno Loses Halo & Dietz Vindicated

July 17, 2012

WordPress tells me that this is my 400th message. At about 300 words each, that comes to 120,000 words—a book. Sure, these messages could, with some effort, be compiled into a book, either print or ebook, but who would buy it? Darn few, most likely.

Here in Central Pennsylvania, Penn State/Sandusky/Paterno/Spanier stories dominate the media and will probably continue to do so for some time. Many have been shocked by the behavior of Penn State’s bureaucracy but I haven’t. What Sandusky did was unthinkable and criminal beyond belief. However, Penn State officials did what college and universities always do—at least when they think they can get away with it—cover it up. Colleges are insular by nature and Penn State is worse than most, possibly because of its relatively remote location. I remember reading in my student days about female students getting raped in dark campus parking lots across the country and how college administrations did their best to keep news of it from being made public. Congress finally did something about this in 1990.

The Clery Act, named for Jeanne Clery, a Lehigh University freshman who was raped and murdered in her campus residence hall in 1986, requires all colleges and universities that participate in federal financial aid programs (about all except Hillsdale College) to keep and disclose information on crimes committed on or near their campuses. Failure to report heinous crimes can result in a school being suspended from federal student aid programs.

There has been a lot of chatter about the NCAA giving Penn State’s football program the “death penalty” but, perhaps, suspending Penn State from the student aid program might be a more effective punishment. The major thing that federal student aid has accomplished has been to increase tuition costs and for schools to increase their revenues. Higher costs make working one’s way through college more difficult with the result that students rack up so much debt that many are unable to pay after leaving college. It may be that eliminating federal loans would be the best thing for students long term.

The only actions taken so far is to paint away Joe Paterno’s halo (and remove Jerry Sandusky) from a mural and to rename Paternoville to Nittanyville. The statue of Joe Paterno remains in front of Beaver Stadium and he is still in the College Football Hall of Fame.

One wonders what Lone Star Dietz is thinking as he readies his better-than-best suit for his induction this weekend. Could it be that he feels vindicated after seeing how the Paterno/Bowden fiasco turned out?

Image

Where Did Bill Warner Go

July 13, 2012

I received a question today about Pop Warner’s brother Bill. The questioner wanted to know what Bill Warner did in 1904 after Pop replaced him as head coach of Cornell. I was vaguely aware of all this before but hadn’t thought about it much. I even recalled reading an announcement of Bill’s new job, so I was able to confirm what I thought I knew. A little background is required.

That Pop Warner coached Carlisle from 1899 to 1903 and returned to Cornell in 1904 is well known. The details of the transaction are less clear but will be made clearer in Jeff Miller’s upcoming biography of Pop Warner. It’s fairly well known that Warner and star quarterback James Johnson had a confrontation in the late-season road trip to the West Coast. You’ll have to read Jeff’s book to learn the details of what happened. Ironically, all three, Warner, Pratt and Johnson, each for his own reason, were gone from Carlisle before the start of the 1904 season.

Now let’s get back to the original question. Pop Warner replaced Bill as head coach of Cornell after Bill who went 6-3-1 in 1903 with ugly losses to Princeton and Penn, 44-0 and 42-0, respectively. Pop understandably had misgivings about taking his brother’s job and, likely, made up for it a bit by helping Bill get another job. By virtue of coaching at Carlisle for five years, Pop surely had contacts within the Indian school system and at Sherman Institute in Riverside, California in particular because Bemus Pierce coached there in 1902 and 1903. Bill Warner took the reins at Sherman Institute in 1904 while Bemus Pierce returned to Carlisle to assist Ed Rogers. Bemus and his wife might have wanted to return east to be nearer to family in New York State.

Bill Warner led the Sherman Institute Braves to a more-than-respectable 6-1 season with wins over USC and Stanford and a loss to Cal. That record likely led to him being hired by North Carolina for 1905.

Huskies Were Cougars First

July 11, 2012

A combination of beastly hot weather that drained my energy coupled with being overwhelmed with work to get out has kept me away from my blog recently. I hope things let up for the rest of the summer.

Yesterday, I received a question regarding when the Washington State teams were first called Cougars. That person wanted to know if the 1918 Spalding’s Guide referred to the 1917 WSC as Cougars. It didn’t, but didn’t call most teams by their nicknames, either.

Washington State lore places the origin of the use of that name for their teams to an unnamed Bay Area sportswriter who wrote that the WSC team “played like Cougars” in their October 25, 1919 game with Cal, the second game played under Gus Welch’s leadership. A quick scan of newspapers of that time uncovered a short article in the October 25, 1919 Oakland Tribune stated “Washington State College, the Cougars, meets the University of California here today….” The post-game coverage written by Doug Montell did not use Cougars or any other nickname for the WSC team although it did refer to the California team as the Bears. Even if Montell had called them Cougars, the WSC team couldn’t have been dubbed with that name for its play against Cal because some unnamed person at the Oakland Tribune called them that before the game was played. Regardless, this wasn’t the first time a college team in the state of Washington took that name.

The March 17, 1918 edition of the Oakland Tribune (yes, it was that same paper again) included an anonymous piece stating that the University of Washington had officially named its teams Cougars. So, a year and a half before the Tribune called the WSC team Cougars, it claimed that Washington had claimed the name. Perhaps someone in the Tribune’s sports department had a feline fetish.