Joe Bergie

Bergie, Joe from 1912 line photoI often learn things while giving book talks. Yesterday was no different. One of the attendees (whom I didn’t ask permission to use his name) informed me that, when doing some work at Fort Peck Reservation in northeastern Montana in the 1960s, he met Joe Bergie. The first thing I learned is Joe pronounced his last name with a hard G not a soft G as I had assumed. That’s one of the problems of only reading someone’s name; you don’t know how it is pronounced.

The gentleman had talked at length with Bergie out in Montana. Bergie shared with him that, after the 1912 game at West Point, the team had a three-hour layover at Grand Central Station in New York City. Warner let them use the time to see as much of the city as they could before it was time for their train to leave. For boys mostly from reservations, Carlisle was a big town with modern conveniences such as electricity and trolleycars. New York was something else again. Without going into the specifics of their exploits, Joe thought it was a miracle all found their way back to catch their train on time.

Joe told a story major newspapers didn’t include in their coverage of the 1912 Carlisle-Army game. Winded after having his kick-off return for a touchdown called back for having stepped out of bounds, Jim Thorpe returned the re-kick well but ran out of steam and was tackled at the 3-yard line. Bergie, who was the back up fullback, was given the ball instead of the tired Thorpe. Joe punched the ball over the goal line but landed on the ball, something that can be painful any time. This time, he had half of each team on top of him and the officials were slow in pulling players off the pile. He thought he was going to suffocate under the weight. The national papers didn’t notice that he was the ball carrier and gave credit for the score to Jim Thorpe.

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