Archive for the ‘Bemus Pierce’ Category

Carlisle Indians as Coaches

June 8, 2012

While preparing the 1911 Spalding’s Guide for printing, I noticed that some former Carlisle players could be seen in the numerous 1910 team photos to be found in that volume.  That brought to mind an old newspaper article that I can’t lay my hands on now in which the writer opined as to why there were so few football coaches at a time when Carlisle Indian School players were grabbing headlines.  I don’t recall his reasoning or conclusions but do remember having read the article.

The truth is that several Carlisle Indian School players tried their hands at coaching with varying success.  The names that come quickly to mind are Bemus Pierce, Frank Cayou, Albert Exendine, Caleb Sickles, Lone Star Dietz, James Phillips, Joel Wheelock, Victor “Choc” Kelley, Mike Balenti, and Gus Welch (I keep adding names as they come to me while writing this article).  I’m sure there were others. Given enough time to research this issue, I’m sure that I could come up with more. But I don’t have the time right now because I must get the 1901 Spalding’s Guide ready to print.

The lengths of their careers varied, but Exendine, Welch and Dietz all had long coaching careers.  Of these, Lone Star Dietz had by far the most success and, as an acknowledgement of that success, was honored by the Helms Foundation many years ago. Next month, the College Football Hall of Fame will honor him. It is highly unlikely that any other Carlisle Indian will receive this honor because only a few had long careers and only Dietz, as far as we know, had a Hall of Fame worthy career as a coach.  Also, Exendine and Welch were already inducted as players. My immediate concern is not about the Hall of Fame but with 1910 team photos that include former Carlisle players.

Follows are two of the 1910 team photos.  I’ll leave it to the reader to find the Carlisle Indians in them, but here’s a hint: both wore their Carlisle letter sweaters.  I take that as an indication of how proud they were of having been part of those great teams.

Best in the World

May 29, 2012

Thursday evening, I had the pleasure of attending the kick off reception at the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in Washington, DC for their new exhibit, “Best in the World: Native Athletes in the Olympics.”  This special exhibit, which runs through September 3, is timed to honor the 100th anniversary of the performance of two Carlisle Indians in the 1912 Stockholm Games but doesn’t limit itself to just their performances.  In fact, the first thing one sees upon entering the exhibit is a blown-up photograph of Frank Mt. Pleasant broad jumping while wearing his Dickinson College jersey.  He competed in the 1908 games in London.  The exhibit also includes a photo of Frank Pierce, younger brother of Carlisle football stars Bemus and Hawley, competing in the marathon in the 1904 Games held in conjunction with the St. Louis World’s Fair.  He is believed to have been the first Native American to compete for the United States in the Olympics.  Enough about the exhibit, you can see that for yourself.

At the beginning of the reception, the dignities present were introduced.  There is no mistaking Bill Thorpe due to his strong resemblance to his father.  Bill is lending the use of his father’s Olympic medals to the NMAI for this event.  Lewis Tewanima’s grandson was also present.  He took the time to explain the importance of the kiva to Hopi culture.  It was quite enlightening.  Billy Mills, who broke Lewis Tewanima’s record for the 10,000 meters and won the gold medal in the 1964 Olympics spoke and was taped by a cameraman as he walked from exhibit to exhibit.

Some writers were also in attendance.  Robert W. Wheeler, who wrote the definitive biography of Jim Thorpe, and his wife, Florence Ridlon, whose discovery of the 1912 Olympics Rule Book behind a Library of Congress stack made the restoration of Thorpe’s medals possible, was also present as was Kate Buford, the author of a recent Thorpe book.  The apple didn’t fall far from the Wheeler-Ridlon tree as their son, Rob, whose website, http://www.jimthorperestinpeace.com, supports the effort to have Jim Thorpe’s remains relocated to Oklahoma.

More about the exhibit can be found at http://nmai.si.edu/explore/exhibitions/item/504/

Even More 1903 Carlisle Stars

February 13, 2012

Ed Rogers and James Phillips weren’t the only Carlisle Indians to play for a future Big Ten team in 1903.  Player #4 (players on team photos in Spalding’s guides are conveniently numbered for the ease of the reader) on the University of Wisconsin team photo on page 20 is William Baine. He played for the Indians  from 1899 to 1900, then returned to Haskell Institute to play before enrolling at Wisconsin in 1903. Prior to coming to Carlisle, Baine had played for Haskell and its cross-town rival, the University of Kansas. While at Carlisle, William was enrolled in Dickinson College Preparatory School.

The photo of the 1903 Macalester College team on page 68 includes Lone Star Dietz as player #11. Dietz played for Friends University part of the 1904 season but a Friends team photo is not to be found in the 1905 Spalding’s Guide. Dietz enrolled at Carlisle in 1907. It isn’t clear what he did during the 1905 and 1906 seasons.

On page 123, Archie Rice, Sporting Editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, named Weller of Stanford as fullback of his 1903 All-Pacific eleven but mitigated that with his next sentence: “There is a possibility that Bemis [sic] Pierce of the Sherman Indians, but formerly of Carlisle, might be more valuable for the team than big Weller….” When Pierce left Carlisle for Sherman Institute in Riverside, California, the Carlisle school newspaper reported that he was to coach that Indian School team, but it appears that he also donned the moleskins to get into the action as a player.

That the 1903 season results and team photos for both Haskell Institute and Sherman Institute were omitted from the 1904 Spalding’s Guide is unfortunate. According the David DeLasses’ www.cfbdatawarehouse.com, Sherman Institute went 4-4 in 1903 with a win over Southern Cal and losses to Stanford and Carlisle. That site has Haskell Institute going 7-4 with wins over Texas, Kansas and Missouri and losses to Nebraska, Chicago and Kansas State. The 1905 Spalding’s Guide has a lot more about Haskell.

1905 Carlisle Indians Were Ranked #10 in Country

August 8, 2011

While preparing Spalding’s Official Football Guide for 1906 for reprinting, I noticed a few things about the Carlisle Indian School football team’s 1905 season. These things caught my eye because it was this very team under Advisory Coach George Woodruff that Sally Jenkins maligned in her 1907 book. Caspar Whitney ranked the Indians as the 10th best team in the country for 1905. He also placed Frank Mt. Pleasant as a substitute at quarterback on his All America team.

George Woodruff placed three Carlisle Indians to his All Eastern Eleven for 1905: Frank Mt. Pleasant at quarterback, Charles Dillon at guard, and Wahoo (Charles Guyon, older brother of Joe Guyon) at end. N. P. Stauffer placed Dillon at guard on his All Eastern Eleven as well.

That an authority of the stature of Caspar Whitney considered Carlisle as the 10th best college football team in the country means something and that something is that the Indians were viewed as having had a very good season. Not their best ever, mind you, but a successful one at that.

These selections, along with George Orton’s observations that were posted in the June 27, 2011 message, show that Jenkins’s assessment of the type of play and success of the 1905 Carlisle Indian football team is at odds with the opinions of the experts of the day who actually saw the teams play.

1905 Carlisle Indian School football team from Spalding’s Official Football Guide for 1906

1903 Carlisle-Utah Game – Part 3

April 21, 2011

Now that we have a hint that Carlisle intended to make a post-season trip to the West Coast in 1903, we need to dig further to find out more. More detail about this game appeared in the November 13 edition of Reno Evening Gazette with a dateline of Salt Lake City:

“The Carlisle Indians have agreed to meet the University of Utah football eleven here on Christmas Day, providing a suitable guarantee will be put up by the local management. This will be done. The Indians are coming west for the purpose of playing in California on New Years’ Day and en route will meet a number of teams.”

This article supports the November 2nd article about Coach Holmes wanting such a contest. Whoever released this story, possibly the University of Utah Athletic Department or a booster, was very confident that both attendance at the game would be good and that someone or someones would be willing to put up the guarantee money in case ticket sales didn’t meet expectations. That someone was probably already known to the writer.

The same day’s issue of The Red Man and Helper included a little piece that ties back to an announcement made the previous month:

“One of the football players of Sherman Institute, Calif., writes the following: ‘We play with Stanford University sometime soon, and also expect to play with the Carlisle Indians. We will show them some western tricks. It will take some pretty good players to defeat us.’”

That player’s boast implied that Bemus Pierce had a pretty good squad at Sherman. The next day Sherman Institute beat Southern Cal but lost to Stanford University in a big Thanksgiving Day game played at Prager Park in Los Angeles. Scholder was out at tackle but Bemis Pierce suited up and filled in at fullback.

To be continued….

1903 Carlisle-Utah Game Part 2

April 19, 2011

Since writing the first installment on this topic, I came across some more relevant information that may play into it. The October 9, 1903 issue of The Red Man and Helper included a paragraph that, on first look, seemed to have nothing to do with Carlisle’s post-season. Assistant Coach Bemus Pierce left Carlisle on October 7 to accept a “flattering offer from Riverside, California to coach the Sherman Institute football team….” The first hint of Carlisle’s post-season trip appeared came in a “Gridiron Gossip” column published in very late October in which claimed, “The team will play at the Northwestern University, Chicago, on Thanksgiving Day, and then go farther west and will play at Pasadena, Cal., on New Year’s Day.” The Northwestern game had been the last game on the schedule for months, so the trip west was new, though not surprising, information because the Indians previously played in California after the 1899 season.

On the 2nd of November, a story came out of Salt Lake City, Utah that stated, “Coach Holmes said last night that there is some probability of his securing a game with the Carlisle Indians when the football team makes its trip to the coast. He is now in correspondence with the manager of the Indian eleven and hopes to consummate a deal whereby it will be arranged for Utah State University to play Carlisle a football game in this city in the near future.” As usual, the reporter got some details wrong. In 1903 Harvey R. Holmes was head coach of the University of Utah team, not Utah State. Also, Utah State University is located in Logan, Utah not Salt Lake City. Besides that, Utah State was called Agricultural College of Utah or, colloquially as Utah Agricultural College (UAC). The gist of the article was correct, though.

To be continued….

1903 Season Ender Against Sherman Institute

April 5, 2011

A while back, I was asked about the scheduling of the Carlisle-Utah game on December 19, 1903. Based on what I had read at the time, I concluded that the reason for the trip to California trip that year was to play Reliance Athletic Association on Christmas Day in San Francisco and that the game with Sherman Institute on New Year’s Day in Riverside was a side trip. Well, that may actually be the opposite of what was the case.

In 1902, Carlisle alum Bemus Pierce took the job of coaching the Sherman Institute team in Riverside, California and, apparently, took it pretty seriously. CFBdatawarehouse.com lists their record as 8-1-0 with the Stanford & Santa Ana All-Stars being the team that scored the 6 points total scored against them that season. Victories included a 34-0 thumping of Occidental College and a 28-0 thrashing of Southern California, which many call USC.

The 1903 season didn’t turn out as well. Sherman Institute lost its season opener to Pomona-Pitzer in a more lopsided score than they had defeated them the previous year. They also lost to Stanford 18-0 but beat USC 12-0. With a 4-3 record, they were called West Coast Champions—surely a dubious title that year. Regardless, they suited up to play the eastern powerhouse in a New Year’s game.

Game reports indicate that this was one of the hardest fought games of football ever played in Southern California. Carlisle scored a touchdown just three and a half minutes into the game and would have been held with that score had it not been for a disputed play. Wilson Charles broke through the Sherman left tackle for a 45-yard touchdown run that the captain of the Sherman Institute team claimed was blown dead by Umpire Hauberman. Referee Tappan allowed the play. Sherman scored six points and lost 12-6 (Correct this score on page 47 of Steckbeck). Carlisle lost quarterback James Johnson and fullback Charles Williams early in the game to injuries. Sherman’s stars were Captain Neafus, for his fast playing, and Pierce for his defense work. So, it appears that Bemus Pierce suited up to play his old comrades. His playing days weren’t completely over. 

It wouldn’t be until 1916 that USC would beat Sherman Institute in the first game in which they scored on the Indians.

Indians Also Innovated

November 29, 2010

Pop Warner is viewed by most historians as the great football innovator and especially for his work at Carlisle Indian School. However, not all the innovations at Carlisle were Warner’s brainchildren. In 1906, the Indians were coached by former players Frank Hudson and Bemus Pierce who Warner helped prepare for the revolutionary rule changes that were implemented that year. After Warner departed for Cornell to start his season, Hudson and Pierce were pretty much on their own. But that wasn’t much of a problem. The Carlisle Indians were called a lot of things but witless wasn’t one of them.

One of the major rule changes was the legalization of the forward pass. Completing a pass wasn’t the easiest thing to do, particularly when both teams wore similar brown or black leather helmets. Passers needed a way to identify the eligible receivers. So, during the very first season in which the forward pass was legal, the Indians experimented with special helmets to help the passer find his target. The November 21, 1906 edition of The Lake County News described this early attempt at receiver identification. Five players wore snow white helmets and one wore a blazing red one. The article used the term headgear rather than helmet which, given the early state of helmet development, is probably more accurate. Given that the four backs and two ends are eligible to receive passes, the total of six special helmets makes sense. It seems fair to surmise that the red one would be worn by the player who does most of the passing and that the white ones are worn by those who can go out for passes.

In 1933, Michigan State started using a winged helmet for all its players to differentiate their men from the defenders. Less than a decade later, Lone Star Dietz’s Albright College team painted crosses on the tops of the receivers’ helmets but didn’t invent that idea as it had been used before, possibly even at Carlisle.

It Probably Wasn’t the Single-Wing

November 2, 2010

Now that we’ve dealt with some obvious errors in Rich Manning’s article, let’s get to the original issue: formations. The single-wing section in the Carlisle Indian School article in LeatherHelmetIllus.com starts this way:

In 1907, ‘Pop’ Warner returned to Carlisle. Together he and the Indians developed a new formation that would revolutionize football. The single wing shifted the halfback out wide, to outflank the opposing tackle. The new offense formed a shape that look like a wing. It opened up options and disguised intentions. The ability to show one thing and do another combined with the new rules made it possible to run, throw or kick at any time. ‘Pop’ Warner unveiled the new formation against the University of Pennsylvania, on Oct. 26, 1907.

I have read that the single-wing was unleashed in several different years due to Pop Warner’s inconsistent memory and writers’ imaginations. After researching this topic a bit, I came to believe that the single-wing did not arrive fully formed as the unbalanced-line, direct snap version depicted as Formation A in Warner’s 1927 book. I have concluded that the formation evolved over time as Warner implied on page 136 of his 1927 classic where he stated that it was first used by the Carlisle Indians and that he had used it or variations of it since the rules change of 1906. That he spent a week in Carlisle before the start of the season preparing coaches Bemus Pierce and Frank Hudson for the rule changes gives credibility for it having been first used by the Indians in 1906 when he wasn’t their coach. Fortunately, some documentation exists.

Warner began marketing a correspondence course on football in 1908 for which I have located and have reprinted the Offense pamphlet along with its annual updates. The 1908 pamphlet includes a number of offensive formations, which is not surprising as Warner was noted for tinkering with them. That newspaper coverage of the 1907 Penn game mentioned that multiple formations were used is not surprising. However, it is far from clear that end-back formation, the earliest documented version of Warner’s single-wing, was the formation being described for many of the plays as it didn’t feature a direct snap to a running back. That would come later. However, the punt formation did allow direct snaps to the backs and Warner had devised a set of running and passing plays from this formation.

He even described Play No. 17 thusly, “This is the long forward pass play used so successfully last season.” Last season would have been 1907, so this is likely the formation from which Frank Mt. Pleasant and Pete Hauser completed all those passes, not an early incarnation of the single-wing.

Play No. 17 from 1908 correspondence course Offense pamphlet

Wallace Denny for Hall of Fame

January 28, 2010

While researching the life of Wallace Denny for “Wisconsin’s Carlisle Indian School Immortals,” I became curious of whether trainers can be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. The short answer is yes but not through the same process as coaches and players. A trainer can be nominated for the Outstanding Contribution to Amateur Football Award. It seems like a longshot but I may just nominate him.

Wallace Denny, fullblood Oneida, started his football career as a player for the Carlisle Indian School. When Pop Warner arrived in 1899, he observed that Denny had more to offer off the field than on it, at least while play was in progress, and made Denny his “utility man.” Wallace became Warner’s right-hand man. He put the chalk lines on the field, repaired equipment and rubbed players’ aching muscles. Before long, he was tending to various injuries, aches and pains. He and Warner improvised appliances to protect wounded parts of players’ bodies to allow them to play. Over time, Denny became a bit of a psychiatrist as he counseled players who needed psychological boosts. When Warner was back at Cornell from 1904 through 1906, Wallace and Bemus Pierce devised a set of signals that used words from their native languages to identify the various plays Carlisle ran. The opposition was told exactly which play was to be run but they understood neither the words nor the plays they represented.

Warner and Denny rejoined again in 1907 when Warner returned to Carlisle and remained a team until they retired in 1940. Denny didn’t move to Pittsburgh with Warner in 1915 but may have joined him on football weekends because Charlie Moran served as trainer for Carlisle’s coach in 1915, Victor Kelley.

Wallace Denny became a trainer before such a position existed and pioneered it for four decades. By the time he retired, trainers were standard members of coaching staffs.