Archive for the ‘Football’ Category

Ina Probably Wasn’t there

October 18, 2020

In May and June of this year, 2020, I researched various sources trying to find out if America’s first sports editor, Ina Eloise Young, had covered the December 5, 1908 football game between the Carlisle Indians and the University of Denver in Denver. I came up dry.

Today, while researching Carlisle’s 1908 season, I came across something that might be conclusive evidence that she didn’t attend the game. The Rocky Mountain News December 5, 1908 edition included a photo not attached to an article. The photo was of Ina Eloise Young. The caption read, “Miss Ina Young of Trinidad, Who Has Returned to Her Home After a Visit With Denver Friends.” This caption suggests that she left for Trinidad prior to the game having started. This photo, coupled with an inability to find press coverage of the game, suggests strongly that she didn’t attend the game, wouldn’t have seen Jim Thorpe play and wouldn’t have met him.

Red China Is Watching

October 8, 2020

Something unusual caught my eye Wednesday night when I was approving a comment on my blog, www.TomBenjey.com. The statistics section, which I seldom check any more, listed 3 views from China. Curious about why anyone from Red China would be interested in anything I had to say about Carlisle Indian School football or the Craighead Naturalists, I checked data for earlier days. The day before, there was only one view from China. The day before that, 3. Not wanting to be up all night, I switched to checking weekly, then monthly, and finally yearly totals. As recently as 2015, a total of only 5 views came from China. In 2016, this increased to 15. Still not many. In 2017, China’s total jumped to 73 views and has increased each year since then. For 2020, China trails only Canada, and not by much, in views by people from other countries.

I find this curious because my topics interest few Americans and fewer Canadians. It isn’t unusual to receive the odd view from a traveler or someone who had attended school in the US and understands American English. However, I have never received a comment or email message from a Chinese person. What interest could the Chinese Communist Party have in my writings? None, I suppose. But why would they monitor my blog?

The simple answer is that with a population of a billion people, they could easily assign a battalion of spies to monitor all the blogs in America, regardless of intelligence value.

A Sad Day in Carlisle

October 5, 2020

Friday was  sad day in Carlisle. Wardecker’s Men’s Wear closed for good. While recent fashion trends have hurt clothing sales, it was the Wuhan virus that did Wardecker’s in. Government reactions to the plague might be more accurate. In spite of diminishing demand for dress clothing, Freddie Wardecker had been able to keep the doors open by selling uniforms to health care workers, people involved in food preparation, police and others as well as by renting tuxedos. The state government’s shutdown decimated the need for new uniforms and eliminated proms. Brides-to-be reacted by scaling down or postponing their weddings. Without uniform sales and tuxedo rentals for proms and wedding, the store had little revenue with which to pay its bills, forcing it to close.

Wardecker’s was not an ordinary men’s store. It was a place with a lengthy history, beginning with Mose Blumenthal, proprietor of The Capital, a haberdashery on North Hanover Street. Along with operating the menswear store, Mose Blumenthal had a tailoring contract at Carlisle Indian School. This relationship proved useful to the Athletic Department in multiple ways. Well known is how Pop Warner had Mose sew an extra hem in the bottom of Charles Dillon’s jersey. However, one of Blumenthal’s employees probably did the work because Mose couldn’t operate a sewing machine.

Carlisle students generally had little money. A way of rewarding athletes for performing well was for the athletic director of school superintendent send chits worth $25 or $50 to Blumenthal, which players could use to buy suits and other clothing. Each player, including the famous ones, had a page or pages in Blumenthal’s log book to keep track of their chits and purchases.

Clothiers, like magic dragons, don’t live forever, so Mose sold his business to long-time employee James “Muck” Wardecker. Hence the name on the door: Wardecker’s Men’s Wear, formerly Blumenthal’s. Jim’s son, Freddie, was helping his dad back in 1967 when Bob Wheeler was interviewing people who knew Jim Thorpe. Wheeler’s work was made easier, after hitchhiking to Carlisle, when Muck tossed Freddie his car keys and told him to drive Bob to all the people he needed to visit. Wheeler’s definitive biography of Thorpe further cemented the ties between the Indian School and Wardecker’s.

Since then, Wardecker’s, with all its memorabilia, has been an important stop for every author or filmmaker wanting to write a book or make a movie about Jim Thorpe or the Indian School. Now, that is finished, but Wardecker’s had a great run and will remain strong in people’s memories.

1899 Carlisle vs. California

August 20, 2020

I was asked to write an article about a game I hadn’t previously given much consideration: the Christmas Day 1899 post-season contest between Carlisle Indian School and the University of California. I learned a good bit researching the game. The College Football Historical Society published it this month. Membership is only $17.00 a year, payable to:

Raymond Schmidt, PO Box 6460, Ventura, CA 93006

If you find this interesting, you might want to join the CFHS and get your own copies of editions with articles such as this one mailed directly to you.

Restore Jim Thorpe’s Records

July 16, 2020

Thanks in great part to Florence Ridlon’s and Bob Wheeler’s tireless efforts, Jim Thorpe’s Olympic medals were restored in 1983. That isn’t entirely accurate. Thorpe’s original medals were supposed to be kept secure in a museum but were stolen. So, the medals his children were given were commemorative ones, not their father’s actual medals. The IOC may have restored his medals, sort of, but only listed him as co-champion of the 1912 decathlon and pentathlon, the two multi-event competitions he won but his times, distances and points were not restored. The IOC records still list the second-place finishers as the winning marks. Now, people are trying to do something about that injustice.

BrightPathStrong.com is circulating a petition with the goal of restoring Jim Thorpe’s records. For those who might not be aware, Bright Path is the Anglicized version of Jim’s Sac and Fox name. Here is a link to their site:

https://brightpathstrong.com/petition

Redskins No More

July 13, 2020

It’s happened. The Redskins are no more. The NFL version that is, not the teams that play under that name on reservations. Management of the team formerly known as the Redskins announced today that it has caved under tremendous financial pressure to change the team’s name but didn’t announce what the new name would be. Whatever it is, it should not refer to Indians. Washington, DC doesn’t deserve that the way it has treated over the years—unless it is an honest name, that is. Here are few candidate names DC has earned:

Treaty Breakers

Beltway Bandits

Swamp Creatures

Pedophiles

Hair Sniffers

Pencil Necks

Turncoats

Log Rollers

Impeachers

Dementeds

Harrassers

Exposers

Lilylivers

Transgenders

One reason team owner Daniel Snyder hasn’t selected a new name is because Alexandria, Virginia real estate agent Philip Martin McCaulay has already trademarked a large number of those Snyder might consider. Coleman Bentley of Golf Digest pointed out some McCaulay missed:

Filibusters

Earmarks

Washingtons

8th Grade School Field Trips

Gun Lobbyists

Fortunate Sons

Perhaps a reader will think up a better choice. Snyder will need one that appeals to more new fans than the number of long-time ones he loses over his and the NFL’s recent capitulations.

 

1899 Cal Players Exploited

July 8, 2020

While researching the 1899 Christmas Day game between Carlisle Indian School and the University of California for an upcoming article, I learned that the Cal players had voted three times against playing in this post-season game. Initially, they gave fatigue from the season just finished and the need to study for final exams as the reasons for objecting to another game. What turned out to be the real reason was the money. Players complained that the Thanksgiving Day game against archrival Stanford had generated a lot of revenue but athletes received no benefits from it.

A major objection was that Cal’s athletes didn’t have a “clubhouse” in spite of generating lots of money and receiving nothing in return. Only after they’d wrested control of the finances from Manager Irwin J. “Jerry” Muma and transferred it to the athletic committee did the team agree to the tough, but potentially profitable, game with the Indians.

A major difference between then and now is that in the decades before the dawn of the NFL, athletic scholarships were not (officially) allowed. Student players generally paid full tuition and received nothing for their efforts, aside from the adulation of comely co-eds—unless alumni with deep pockets were generous with their money. The Cal players’ case for controlling the finances was considerably different than for today’s gladiators who get athletic scholarships, numerous perks not available to other students, and a shot at turning pro. Why should they have performed risky, unpaid labor for a college unwilling to use some of the profits for facilities that would improve athletes’ performance?

Balenti Played John Alden, Dietz Did Make Up

June 8, 2020

While trying to identify the unnamed Carlisle Indian School football player who posed for a photograph in St. Louis’s Union Station while waiting for the train to Lincoln, Nebraska, I stumbled across something I’d seen numerous times before. The program for “The Captain of Plymouth,” a comic opera in three acts was something I hadn’t paid attention to before because my primary interest was in football at the school, not the music program. This time, I gave it a look because included photos of students, some of whom were also football players.

Mike Balenti, who is in the middle of the Union Station photo, stands prominently in the back row third from the right in pilgrim garb on the Principal Cast photo. However, the program doesn’t list him as a member of the principal cast. It does relegate him to the First Tenors of the Sailors’ Chorus. Since it doesn’t make sense for someone included in the Principal Cast to just be in the Sailors’ Chorus, I explored further. The school newspaper covered the production but didn’t include photographs or mention Mike Balenti.

The school’s literary journal, The Indian Craftsman, included several photos and coverage of the production of the opera during Commencement Week. Mike Balenti got a good review for his performance:

“Michael Balenti, the famous goal kicker, was the John Alden. Michael, like all great athletes is modest, and his natural diffidence made him a perfect Alden. His wooing of the comely Priscilla might have suggested that he felt a real affection for the handsome Indian maiden who so convincingly simulated the Puritan beauty.”

I wasn’t able to find the mystery man in the opera photos but I don’t have a good eye for that. Perhaps someone else will spot him.

The program wasn’t a total loss. It credited Lone Star Dietz with doing the make up for the production. This adds yet another skill to the Dietz’s sizeable bag of tricks.

Who is the mystery player?

June 1, 2020

While trying to determine if Ina Eloise Young attended the Carlisle-Denver game in 1908, I came across a Nebraska newspaper article about the Indians’ trip west. Included were a group photo of the team complete with a legend hat identified all the players on the team. In addition, the caption related the story of how Emil Hauser changed his name. For a number of years, many thought Emil Hauser and Wauseka were two different people. Some years ago, Mike Balenti’s granddaughter shared that Emil took that name from the place he was playing a baseball game. This article attributes his renaming to Guy W. Green, owner and manager of a barnstorming baseball team called the Nebraska Indians when Emil caught for the team in 1905.

This photo and legend may also help with another identification problem. Mike Balenti’s granddaughter also shared a photo of him with four other Carlisle players posing on an automobile in Union Station in St. Louis on that 1908 trip west. She identified all the players except the one on the far right. Maybe you can help with that. The others are l-to-r Little Boy, Emil Hauser, Mike Balenti and Fritz Hendricks. Who can the other one be? Can you identify him from the team photo?

Ina Eloise Young

May 23, 2020

During a Zoom meeting Monday night, a text came in wanting to know if early sportswriters covered Jim Thorpe. I soon found a list of early female sportswriters. Most of them were younger than I am so were children or not born yet when he died. One was different. She was born in 1881 but, in later life, claimed 1883 as her birth year.

Ina Loise Young , was born in Brownwood, Texas into a family of baseball fans. They moved to Trinidad, Colorado in 1889. She played girls’ sports and enjoyed watching the local amateur and semipro baseball teams play so much she learned how to keep score. Lest you get the idea that keeping score in baseball is just a matter of tallying outs and runs, a sample scoresheet is provided to give you an idea of the complexity of filling it out. A skilled scorekeeper provides a detailed chronicle of what happened in the game.

Ina graduated from Trinidad High School as one of the four members of the class of 1900 and enrolled at the University of Colorado in Boulder. There, she participated on the fencing and girls’ basketball teams. Outside of class, she wrote about campus news as a correspondent to the Denver Post.

After two years at the University, she returned to Trinidad to work as a reporter for The Chronicle-News. She covered whatever came her way, including hard news. When the baseball season started in 1905, they needed someone who could keep score competently. She put her skills to use covering the local hardball scene. The next year she was elevated to Sporting Editor. In the summer of 1908, a wire service article about Ina, including a drawing of her, circulated around the country, introducing her to the eastern sports enthusiasts.

In the fall, The Chronicle-News sent her east to cover the World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Detroit Tigers. A few days after the World Series ended, the Baseball Writers Association was formed. Although not present, she was made an honorary member and was given a button that would gain her admission to any major league ballpark.

On December 5 of that year, the Carlisle Indian School football team, with Jim Thorpe at left halfback, played the University of Denver in Denver. She surely covered the game because it was the most important game played there to that time. However, I haven’t been able to find editions of The Chronicle-News for that time period. The Denver Post had employed Walter Eckersall of Chicago, who officiated the game as Field Judge, to write coverage of it along with their own sports department reporters and editor, so they didn’t carry her articles about it. The Rocky Mountain News-Denver Times articles carried no bylines. If they used Ina’s reporting, they would have tagged them as being written by her. Maybe some archive will have microfilms of the missing editions of The Chronicle-News.