Why Did Jenkins Smear George Woodruff?

After Harry Carson Frye informed me of the December 25, 1905 Washburn-Fairmount game, I did a little research in the 1906 Spalding’s Guide. When my eyes drifted off to Penn coach George W. Orton’s description of the 1905 season in “Football in the Middle States.” What caught my eye most was his assessment of the 1905 Carlisle team:

“Carlisle fell a little below the high standard of former years, though the brilliant games 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 sources of strength.”

Orton’s assessment sharply contradicted an assessment of Carlisle’s 1905 team by Sally Jenkins in The Real All Americans:

“Mercer demonstrated his utter lack of feel for the place with a totally unsuitable hire; George Woodruff….The Indians were a predictable disappointment under Woodruff. Their marvelous offense, formerly a maze of men going in different directions, became ordinary. They looked and played just like any other team, and their record showed it. They were 10-5 and lost every significant game, and more important, they lost their uniqueness. Their only real fun came in a 36-0 defeat of crosstown rival Dickinson.”

To the contrary, Caspar Whitney ranked Carlisle as the 10th best team in the country, three places behind Army even though the Indians beat the Cadets in their first-ever meeting. Still, 10th is pretty good, especially considering that he ranked them 14th in 1904. In spite of Carlisle’s four defeats (Harvard, Penn, Massillon Tigers, and Canton Bulldogs. One wonders where Jenkins found the fifth loss) Whitney ranked Harvard second in the country and Penn third. Massillon and Canton weren’t ranked because they were semi-pro teams, arguably the best of their day, in the middle of the Indians’  whirlwind 6-games-in-20-days tour. In addition to Army and the local colleges, the Indians defeated Villanova 35-0, Penn State 11-0, Virginia 12-0, Cincinnati 34-5, Washington & Jefferson 11-0, and Georgetown 76-0.

The December 8, 1905 edition of The Arrow coverage of the Georgetown game likely written by Carlisle’s PR department and subtitled “Red Men Have Such A Picnic That They Try All Sorts of Plays” suggests that the Indians had fun at more games than the one with Dickinson:

“Although the score was one-sided, the game was interesting throughout, owing to the diversity of the Indians’ work and the great amount of open field play. Mount Pleasant and Libby, the two Indian quarterbacks, let loose the great repertoire that had been taught by Woodruff, the old Pennsylvania player, and Kinney, the All-American Yale guard of last year, and gave Washingtonians the greatest exhibition of diversified football they had ever witnessed.”

Why Jenkins chose to belittle George Washington Woodruff is unclear. Maybe it advanced her storyline. Regardless of the reason, her treatment of him is unfair. Prior to coming to Carlisle, George W. Woodruff had amassed a coaching record, including three unofficial national championships at Penn that assured his enshrinement in the College Football Hall of Fame. A lawyer by trade, he left the team after the last regular season game at West Point to work at a various positions in the Roosevelt administration and with his friend Gifford Pinchot. Suffice it to say, Woodruff’s legacy is radically different from Jenkins’ slurs.

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2 Responses to “Why Did Jenkins Smear George Woodruff?”

  1. Jeff Miller Says:

    Even Pop Warner, who both preceded and followed Woodruff at Carlisle, was highly respectful of the man.

  2. ame006 Says:

    Very insightful research.

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