Archive for April, 2023

Honoring Joe Bergie

April 26, 2023

I previously mentioned receiving communications from descendants of the Carlisle Indians. This week an email came from Joe Bergie’s oldest surviving granddaughter discussing his induction into the Montana American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame in 2020. Because of Covid, like many other things, his enshrinement was delayed until 2021. She credited her cousin, Carol Gilham, with doing the considerable amount of work necessary to get a star athlete who played his last game a century ago recognized.

Joe Bergie was not a minor football player at Carlisle, an entire chapter of Doctors, Lawyers, Indian Chiefs is devoted to him. Space doesn’t permit including all of that here. I’ll just hit the high spots. Joe arrived at Carlisle in 1910 and played on the scrubs as he learned the rudiments of the game. He played center, an important position for teams employing the single- and double-wing formations, on the great 1911 and 1912 teams. He excelled at defense and carried the ball well when given the opportunity at fullback. Pop Warner considered him to be the greatest center to ever don a Carlisle uniform. In the spring, he also starred at lacrosse when it replaced baseball at Carlisle.

After leaving Carlisle, Joe played on several pre-NFL semi-pro teams, even serving as the coach while playing for one of them. World War I, in which he served in the Army and was shipped overseas, where he remained until January of 1919. After his discharge, a hand injury ended both his football career and his brief turn as a professional wrestler.

Author’s note. A guy in my outfit in the service was named Bergie. We pronounced it Bergee. Recently, I was informed the proper pronunciation is Berjee.

Joe Bergie in Carlisle Indian School football uniform.

Jim Thorpe and Mazes

April 18, 2023

I received a question today about Jim Thorpe and mazes. I knew nothing about him doing anything with, to, or for mazes so I did a little research. I uncovered nothing about him and mazes but did stumble across a challenge to his being a free agent when he signed with the New York Giants in 1913.

Joe S. Jackson, a reporter for The Washington Post, wrote, “An interesting feature of the Thorpe case is the statement that the player’s reservation was properly made by Fayetteville, in 1910, and has since been continued, so that the Indian is not a free agent, and can be secured only by purchase .”

The same day, January 31, 1913, announced that the Beaumont club, of the Texas League, had a reserve contract claim on Thorpe. “[A]ccording to Manager Wheeler of that club, Beaumont’s franchise was purchased from Oklahoma City last year, and it is claimed Thorpe was among the players reserved by that club.” Wheeler wired Secretary of the National Commission to protect Beaumont’s claim to Thorpe.Note that the reserve clause was in effect at that time and would be until it was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1875.

Also that day, an article dateline Oklahoma City reported that the former secretary of the Oklahoma City ball club had tried to no avail to sign Thorpe in 1911 because he “refused to play professional ball” and was touring the state with an amateur team.

An article datelined Carlisle, Pa. (probably written by Warner’s PR department) claimed that the Giants had purchased Thorpe’s release from the Fayetteville baseball club and that he would be paid $4,500 a year.