Archive for the ‘Bemus Pierce’ Category

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

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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.

Correct Information Is Hard to Find

January 8, 2010

A November 27, 1949 newspaper article by Deke Houlgate discussed the problems Warner Brothers were having with a screenplay for Jim Thorpe’s biopic. Several scripts had been written and discarded but a new one, titled “All-American,” was expected from the screenwriters soon. However, he questioned how good it would be given the problems the writers faced. He wrote, “One of the present problems at the Burbank studio seems to be that the records for this famous team–records that must reach back prior to World War I—no longer exists or are easily obtainable. The Army of the United States took over the school or campus, without asking, for the use of its fledgling doctors in 1917 and scattered students plus pertinent data all the way from Lawrence, Kansas, to Riverside, California.”

Like most newspaper reporters, Houlgate had some details wrong but he did better than most. First, the Army took Carlisle Barracks back in 1918, not 1917. Second, the facility wasn’t used for “fledgling doctors” as that came later. In 1918 it was used as a hospital to treat soldiers wounded in WWI. Houlgate went on to attempt to set the record straight on some legends that unfortunately still persist:

First off, Carlisle never had an undefeated, untied season. The Indians came close to a perfect record many times but always managed to lose at least one game. Next Jim Thorpe was not the first or only All-American. Third, Pop Warner did not bring Carlisle from obscurity to fame because Bemus Pierce and Metoxen were recognized as All-Americans by Walter Camp in 1896 or years before Glenn Scobie ever coached there.

Houlgate is correct about everything in the last paragraph except that Walter Camp first recognized a Carlisle player as a first team All-American in 1899 when he selected Isaac Seneca as a halfback. He may have named Pierce and Metoxen to his second or third teams but I don’t have a reference at hand to verify that. Whether or not Camp named Carlisle Indians to his All-America teams does not mean that Houlgate’s point is incorrect. The team and its star players were indeed famous before Warner was hired to coach them.

Rare, Pristine Football Program

June 22, 2009

Saturday night, Frank Loney contacted me about a new item he had just acquired. Never before had he been so excited about an acquisition. Yesterday, I went over to look at it. It is simply beautiful. I’ve seen a few old football programs before but none were in the condition of this one for the 1897 Thanksgiving Day game between the University of Cincinnati and the Carlisle Indians. Never before have I seen a 100-year-old program in perfect condition. This one must have been stored out of the sunlight most of its long life. Could it have been a reprint? Frank called the University of Cincinnati archives for an answer to that question. No, no reprint had ever been issued. That Cincinnati didn’t win may have had something to do with that.

In addition to being a historical artifact, it is beautiful. The program is decorated in an Indian motif, likely due to Carlisle being the opponents. This program may not have been in the hands of a spectator because the game was played in a drenching rain. The Indians won 10-0 less than five days after playing a night game against the University of Illinois in the Chicago Coliseum. Carlisle scored all of its points in the first half. According to one newspaper report, “Most of the time of the last half was taken up with fighting.” Isaac Seneca played right tackle. Two years later he would be a first team Walter Camp All-American at halfback. Two days later, missing quarterback Frank Hudson and center Edwin Smith due to injuries, the Indians beat The Ohio State University Medical College for their third victory in a week. The Indians were the only team to defeat Cincinnati, a team that beat Ohio State, Miami, Center College and LSU that year. Chicago was the only other team to beat Illinois.

The program includes a team photo I haven’t seen before and demographic data for the starters. It also includes a photo of W. G. Thompson, the unsung hero of early Carlisle football.

1897 Cincinnati-Carlisle program

Native Americans in 1904 Olympics – Part II

July 18, 2008

Jerry, Frank and Tom Pierce were Senecas who lived, at least part of the time, in Irving, NY around the turn of the last century and ran distance races, often in the U. S. In those days athletes often trained and competed under the auspices of athletic clubs. They were the younger brothers of Bemus and Hawley Pierce, the famous Carlisle Indian School football players. The boys also claimed to be grandsons of Deerfoot, aka Lewis Bennett, the world champion Seneca runner of the mid-19th century, who ran races in England while clothed in a wolfskin and feathered headband for effect. The Pierce brothers were affiliated with the Pastime Athletic Club out of Syracuse, New York. In 1901 Jerry Pierce led Pastime A C to the national AAU Junior Championship at a meet held in Buffalo by running his opponents off their feet in the five-mile run. The next day he was winded after the four-mile mark in the senior meet and did not win that race. On July 28 Jerry’s teammates carried him on their shoulders after he fought out a victory in the 3-mile run at the Metropolitan Association of the AAU meet which was also held in Buffalo. On Labor Day, he won the 3-mile run by 40 yards at the Knickerbocker Athletic Club meet held in Bayonne, NJ. Later that year he won the national cross country championship.

Jerry’s success continued in 1902. In late August, his younger brother, Frank, paced him in the Metropolitan Association meet held this time at Celtic Park. Jerry won easily, but Frank, exhausted from setting a fast pace in the 3-mile race, finished fourth. Jerry was suspended by the AAU in September for having accepted a suit of clothing for winning a race. He was soon reinstated but his appetite for racing was waning. His brothers’ weren’t though. Frank was improving and some observers thought Tom, the youngest, was the fastest of the lot. Commentators attributed their success to unorthodox training methods. The Pierce brothers reputedly got in shape by hunting moose and deer on their reservation in Canada.

In 1904 Frank qualified to run in the marathon at the Olympics to be held at the St. Louis World’s Fair that year. In the days before the race, he was listed as one of the favorites. On the day of the race, the temperature was in the 90s in the shade, of which there was none, the humidity was high and the race course ran along a dusty road over which race officials drove automobiles immediately ahead of the runners. The runners had nothing but dust to breathe. Frank was forced to drop out of the race before the 20-mile mark as were several others. Thomas Hicks, the eventual winner was given a concoction of strychnine and brandy by his trainer to give him the energy to finish the race. He almost died after finishing the race.

We’re not done with Native American participation in the 1904 Olympics yet. Next time we’ll look at lacrosse and football.