Archive for November, 2012

Thorpe’s Helmet & Football

November 26, 2012

A reporter from the local newspaper called me the other day to verify someone’s claim that he possessed a helmet Jim Thorpe once wore and a football he once kicked. Both artifacts were from 1927, the year Big Jim played for the Portsmouth Shoe-Steels. Portsmouth, Ohio lies in southern part of the state along the Ohio River. The team was sponsored by a local company that manufactured metal parts for shoes.

John Carpenter, who is reputed to own the country’s largest collection of sports memorabilia, has an old helmet he believes Thorpe wore when he played for the Shoe-Steels and a football Thorpe kicked in a game. Carpenter lives across the Ohio River from Portsmouth, a factor that makes his claims more plausible. I don’t know and doubt if anyone can know with certainty if these items were ever associated from Jim Thorpe. I don’t have the expertise to determine exactly when the helmet and football were made. If they were made after 1927, they probably didn’t come from Thorpe.

The stories of how these artifacts came into Carpenter’s hands are believable because Thorpe was known for giving away things. Bob Wheeler, Thorpe’s biographer, confirmed that Thorpe’s parents raised him to be generous. While we can’t ever know for sure, there’s a good chance these things were at least touched by him at one time.

http://cumberlink.com/news/local/history/jim-thorpe-remembered-for-generous-heart/article_c933435c-377f-11e2-9659-0019bb2963f4.html

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100th Anniversary of 1912 Carlisle-Army Game

November 9, 2012

Follows is the short article I was asked to write for The Torch, the monthly magazine of the U. S. Army War College, to commemmorate the 100th Anniversary of the 1912 Carlisle-Army football game:

The Cadets of West Point took the field on The Plain November 9, 1912, aiming to avenge their 1905 loss to Carlisle Indian School in the two schools’ only previous battle, also on The Plain. Missing from the second battle were the players and coaches from both 1905 teams and Major William A. Mercer, Carlisle Superintendent and Calvary officer, who had arranged that game by gaining permission from the War Department. Also AWOL in 1912 were the large crowd, dignitaries, and media interest the first game attracted. Present in 1912 were Jim Thorpe, Gus Welch, Joe Guyon, Pop Warner, Leland Devore, Dwight Eisenhower, Babe Weyand (in the bleachers), and Pot Graves, a cast surely destined for a movie.

Ominous clouds filled the sky and a cold wind blew across the field, making passing and punting risky businesses. Both sides’ emotions ran high as the combatants craved a victory. Carlisle arrived undefeated, the only blemish on their record a scoreless tie with Washington and Jefferson College, a month earlier. Army was 3-1 with a 6-0 loss to Yale. Holding the Eli of Yale to only four first downs and a low score gave the Cadets hope for success over the Indians.

Newspaper accounts after the game never considered its outcome in doubt, but those looking only at the scoreboard, at least for the first half, may have thought otherwise. The Indians bested the Cadets for most of the first half but didn’t score due to errant forward passes in the end zone. The turning point of the second quarter came when Carlisle fullback Stancil “Possum” Powell was expelled from the game for punching Army quarterback Vern “Nig” Pritchard. The 27-yard penalty combined with Powell’s ejection dampened the Indians’ spirits. Army then moved the ball forward the remaining 27 yards with fullback Geoffrey Keyes pushing the ball across the goal line. Pritchard missed the kick after the touchdown.

Momentum shifted in the Indians’ favor on the kickoff opening the second half when All-America tackle and team captain Leland Devore jumped on Joe Guyon, who had been getting the better of him all day, getting himself thrown out of the game. Army defensive backs Dwight Eisenhower and Charles Benedict knocked each other out of the game for the rest of the quarter in a failed attempt to sideline Thorpe. The Indians scored 27 unanswered points to lick Army worse than any opponent had beaten them in many years.