Archive for the ‘Football’ Category

New Jim Thorpe Movie

May 6, 2016

Yesterday, the ever-vigilant sports statistician Tex Noel sent me a link to an article he thought I’d be interested in reading. As usual, he was correct. The link was to a news article about Bright Path: The Jim Thorpe Story, a much-needed new movie about Jim Thorpe. The previous major biopic about the world’s greatest athlete, starring Burt Lancaster as the young Thorpe, was released in 1951. Sadly, that dated film came as much from the screenwriter’s imagination as from actual events.

JimThorpePremiere

Crowds throng Carlisle Theatre

Abraham Taylor, producer of the new film, is striving for accuracy. He explained, “To tell an authentic Jim Thorpe story we have to maintain control of the project. The only way to do this is with the help of Indian country. We are honored and incredibly grateful for Tuolumne’s partnership on this project.” The reason I believe him—much fluff comes out of Hollywood that is far from the truth—is that Bob Wheeler is involved in the project.

When a grad student at Syracuse nearly a half century ago, Robert W. Wheeler undertook a new approach for writing his thesis: an aural history of Jim Thorpe. He acquired a bulky reel-to-reel tape recorder similar to the one that his boss some years later, Howard Cosell, blamed for making him stoop shouldered, and crisscrossed the United States, hitchhiking from one place to another to interview people who knew Thorpe or had experiences with him. The noted Dick Schaap called him “Jim Thorpe’s Boswell” for the thoroughness of his research.

Bob has worked as an unpaid technical advisor for the film for more years than I can remember. Our numerous conversations and emails always dealt with the same thing: getting the details right. My next hope is to see Bob sitting in a director’s chair with a megaphone at his side, scrutinizing each scene for accuracy at Carlisle Barracks, the real-life site of where much of the story told in the film actually took place.

 

Advertisements

Joe Bergie

April 27, 2016

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.

Finding Eagle Feather (part one)

March 21, 2016

I initially thought this post would have been completed weeks ago due to little or no information being available regarding Eagle Feather. I was wrong. There is lots of information available, almost all irrelevant, that require much time to sort through. To make the task more manageable, I ignored everything about people named Eagle Feather far too old or long dead. But I did include anyone remotely possible of being the Eagle Feather in question.

Eagle Feather SeminoleThe first reference I investigated was of a 1901 Seminole love pentagon gone terribly wrong. Seventeen-year-old Mocking-Bird, daughter of the chief, was the belle of the tribe and had attracted four ardent suitors, including Eagle feather. The longer she took making her choice, the more hopeful—and jealous—each became. Smiling impartially at each of them, she remained steadfastly indifferent. Her suitors’ jealousy and ardor festered day by day as the day of the sun dance approached, thinking she would pick a husband during the festival.

When Eagle Feather danced with Mocking-Bird, they sped round and round until they needed to rest. Breathless, they passed out of the throng. The other three suitors saw her drop her eyes to Eagle Feather’s amorous glance, signaling surrender. Enraged with their loss, blows were struck and blades were drawn. Soon Eagle Feather and a rival fought were fighting with hunting knives. Two dark figures closed in, shielding the fighters from the dancers circling around them. Mocking-Bird pulled away, fell to her knees and prayed for the life of her young lover. The fight ended with two men dead, the other two dying. Gasping for breath, Eagle Feather was laid in Mocking-Bird’s arms. Dumb and dry-eyed, she watched his life drift away. She held him silently as if doing that would keep him from leaving her.  That night, she slipped out of camp and walked to the low bank of the sluggish river that lapped the fringe of the forest. Under the light of the quarter moon, she quietly dropped into the water.

Next time we’ll investigate a newspaper report on another Eagle Feather.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who Was Eagle Feather?

February 16, 2016

“Do you have any idea who this Eagle Feather was,” asked Chris Willis, of NFL Films and President of Professional Football Researchers Association (PFRA)? “On the 1922 Oorang Indians is a player named Eagle Feather. In my research the name coming up for him is Bemus Pierce. But the only Bemus Peirce I am finding is one who was born in 1873 or 1875. Which would make him roughly 47 or 49 years old when he played in 1922. The photo I have of Eagle Feather in 1922 doesn’t look like him.”

Oorang Indians player Eagle FeatherReceiving questions like this isn’t unusual for me since writing Doctors, Lawyers, Indian Chiefs: Jim Thorpe & Pop Warner’s Carlisle Indian School football immortals tackle socialites, bootleggers, students, moguls, prejudice, the government, ghouls, tooth decay and rum because I have probably researched Carlisle Indian School football players’ lives more than anyone has. This is normal and not discouraged because I also ask other authors questions about topics they have researched. Chris is researching the Oorang Indians NFL team that played in the 1922 and 1923 seasons for a future book, one that I’m looking forward to reading.

Something I’ve never seen is a color photo of an Oorang Indians uniform and hope Chris finds one. I’m told they were maroon and orange and looked just like the one Eagle feather is wearing in the photo. If anyone has one or knows where one can be found I’d appreciate being informed. I’d also appreciate learning anything you might know about Eagle Feather (which might not be his name because Walter Lingo made up names for some of the players). Email me with anything you might have, no matter how small unimportant it might seem.

Jim Thorpe Comes to Berks County

February 11, 2016

Thorpe DietzTex Noël, Executive Director of Intercollegiate Football Researchers Association, informed me of a recent article on Jim Thorpe’s January 1941 visit to Berks County, Pennsylvania. Accompanying the article was a photo of Jim Thorpe with Lone Star Dietz and Jimmy McGovern, then coach at Kutztown State Teacher’s College. Also present, but not in the photo, was Carlisle Indian School alumnus and Reading High School Orchestra Conductor and Music Director Fred Cardin. In his spare time, he led the Ringgold Band, composed music, directed the Reading Civic Opera Company. With Dietz coaching athletics at Albright College and Cardin leading most of the musical groups in town, Reading had quite an exposure to Carlisle Indian School alums.

 

It was probably on this trip east the fall of 1940 and winter of 1941 that the photo of Thorpe and Dietz with the then Albright College quarterback (mistakenly identified in Albright’s yearbook and my biography of Dietz as Moose Disend) was taken. Thorpe gave a series of talks to enthusiastic audiences on that speaking tour as described in the Reading Eagle’s reporter Ron Devlin’s article. Devlin’s article can be found here: http://www.readingeagle.com/news/article/history-book-when-jim-thorpe-visited-berks-county.

Ron Devlin repeated a commonly made misconception that the 1912 Jim Thorpe-led Carlisle Indians won the hypothetical National College Football Championship. The Indians never won a national football championship or had an undefeated season. 1912 was one of four-one-loss seasons the Indians had. Their 34-26 loss to Penn and scoreless tie with a good Washington & Jefferson team were the only blemishes on their record that year. 1912 was the middle year of a three-year string of one-loss teams. 1911 stands out because Carlisle beat two of The Big Four (Harvard and Penn) offset by a one-point loss to an inferior Syracuse team. 1913’s only blemishes were a 12-6 loss to Pitt and a 7-7 tie with Penn. Pretty darn good for a Carlisle team without Jim Thorpe. However, that was the year Joe Guyon and Pete Calac were shifted to the backfield. But that’s another story.

 

Renewed Interest in Carlisle Indian School

December 27, 2015

While I wait on galleys for my Craighead book, I have received requests for interviews about Carlisle Indian School football players. The first was with the local paper to talk about the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rose Bowl. The second is for a videotaped interview about the Carlisle Indian School football program for an upcoming documentary by Ernie Zahn, a Current Fellow with Filmmakers Without Borders. In the meantime, Washington State Magazine, the Washington State University alumni magazine published a short article they requested I write about the 1916 Rose Bowl. How, you might ask, is the 1916 Rose Bowl a Carlisle Indian School topic?

Lone Star Dietz played right tackle for Pop Warner’s legendary 1909-11 teams and became his protégé when he assisted the “Old Fox” coach the Carlisle teams from 1912 to 1914. After Warner took the head coaching job at Pitt, he recommended Dietz to head up the floundering Washington State program. Dietz brought Warner’s single- and double-wing formations to the Palouse and ran roughshod over the competition with them. A photo of the 1915 Washington State College team lined up in an unbalanced-right single-wing formation heads the Washington State Magazine article.

The Carlisle Sentinel interview resulted in an article in the December 26 edition titled “Rose Bowl: Lone Star Dietz coached first game in Rose Bowl Series.” Accompanying the article are two photos of Dietz: one in civilian clothes holding a cigar, the other in a Carlisle football uniform.

How much of the hour-long interview by the Filmmakers Without Borders fellow won’t be known for some time but the entire documentary Zahn intends to produce will be short. Because it is funded, he won’t be entering it in festivals or contests. Instead, he will be putting it up on YouTube.com when post-production work is complete.

 

Pop Warner Not at 1905 Washburn-Fairmont Game

May 30, 2015

Some months back Harry Carson Frye brought the 1905 game between Washburn College and Fairmont College (today’s Wichita State University) which was played under the rules to be instituted for the 1906 season. Some claim that the game played on Christmas Day was the first one in which a legal forward pass was thrown. I’ll let others argue whether it was an exhibition game or not. What interested me most was that Mr. Frye had the impression that Pop Warner was present for the game.

Warner has been accused of trolling the reservations for material for Carlisle and for finding Lone Star Dietz playing semipro football out there somewhere. It seems unlikely that Warner would have been scouting for Carlisle in 1905 because he was in the middle of his second run as head coach at Cornell at that time. However, he was available to travel to the game for purposes of his own because Cornell’s season ended on November 30 that year. Interested in learning more about the game, I contacted Wichita State’s archives and requested copies of newspaper articles they hold about the game.

By the time the copies arrived, I had forgotten exactly what prompted me to request them. Yesterday, I realized it was Harry Frye’s question. I scanned newspaper coverage for the names of coaches who were present for the game but found no mention of Warner. Dr. John H. Outland coached Washburn refereed the game, Willis Sherman “Billy” Bates coached Fairmont and umpired the game, T. H. Morrison, a former Fairmont coach, was head linesman, Dr. J. C. McCracken of Penn reported on the game to Penn, D. C. Hetherington of Missouri observed, and it was assumed that coaches in the region would attend. If Lone Star Dietz was in Wichita at the time (he may have been working at an engraving company in Kansas City at the time), he would surely have been at the game. However, I found no evidence that Pop Warner was there.

 

Haskell Football Slashed Again

May 24, 2015
Haskell Fightin' Indians

Haskell Fightin’ Indians

Football statistician Tex Noel informs me that Haskell has canceled football for the upcoming season due to finances and provided this link for more detail:  http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2015/may/21/haskell-suspends-football-program-2015-season/

Financial problems are nothing new for the Haskell Indian Nations University’s Fighting Indians. In the Great Depression, when the school was called Haskell Institute, the federal government slashed their funding in half at a time when their program was flourishing. After Carlisle was closed by the government in 1918, the mantle of Indian athletic excellence was passed to Haskell Institute. For the decade starting with the end of WWI, Haskell had no losing seasons, peaking with a 12-0-1 season in 1926. That team’s only blemish was a 21-21 tie with Boston College in a game played in Boston. Wins included victories over Bucknell, Dayton, Loyola, Michigan State, Xavier, and Tulsa in games played largely on the road as had Carlisle.

Haskell’s success led to its coach, Lone Star Dietz’s protégé from Washington State Richard Hanley, leaving for a better job at Northwestern, where he also did well before changing to a more lucrative position in the insurance industry. Barely breaking .500 for the 1927 and ’28 seasons led to the school recruiting a new coach. A decade after his sensational trial, Lone Star Dietz was hired as the new head coach—with recommendations from Pop Warner and Knute Rockne. The Lawrence Daily Journal-World reported, “And when Lone Star assumes his duties tomorrow he will reward the efforts of athletic officials and administrative heads at Haskell who for several years have tried to secure a widely known coach with Indian blood.” He was dubbed “Miracle Man” after leading the 1929 team to a 9-2 season.

But his and their success was not to last. The coaching budget for 1933 was slashed in half by government fiat. Haskell’s storied football trail of glory ended with Dietz’s departure to coach the Boston NFL team, setting up another story still in the news today.

Did Carlisle Play Albright College in 1907?

April 5, 2015

I awoke this morning to find a question from Johnny Dunn in my email inbox:

I was just wondering if Carlisle played Albright in 1907. In Kate Buford’s Native American Son, Kate wrote “During the early, lopsided victories over Albright, Lebanon Valley, Villanova, and Susquehanna”. In other books I read like Fabulous Redmen, they did not mention a game vs Albright. I did a little research and it looks like they may have scheduled the game, but it may have never actually happened.

A few minutes research uncovered the schedule for 1907 published in the September 20, 1907 edition of Carlisle’s weekly school newspaper, The Arrow:

September 21 1907 schedule

The next week’s edition, the September 27 issue, included, without explanation, a revised schedule:

September 27 1907 schedule

Carlisle played, and defeated Lebanon Valley College on the Saturday originally scheduled for the Albright College game. The end of the article covering the team’s shellacking of LVC 40-0 (the article about the game contained a slightly different score than in the schedule) in a heavy rain ended with the following statement:

September 27 1907 schedule is open

No explanation of why the game with Albright wasn’t played and why the LVC game was advanced from the 25th to the 21st wasn’t mentioned. However, a piece in the September 18, 1908 edition of The Carlisle Arrow suggests a possible reason for the cancellation of the 1907 Albright College game:

September 18 1908 Albright cancelled

Perhaps, Albright was unable to field a team in 1907 as in 1908. The reason the 1908 game with Conway Hall was listed as a practice game is because Conway Hall was the Dickinson College prep school. Games with Conway Hall were generally played by Carlisle’s second team, not the varsity.

I can’t explain Kate Buford’s error. Perhaps, she didn’t read Carlisle’s school newspaper articles for each week of the football season, only read the pre-season edition, or, as Lars Anderson did, had someone else conduct her research.

More Misinformation About Redskins Name

March 16, 2015

On May 29, 2014, George Washington University Professor of Public Interest Law John F. Banzhaf III issued a press release titled “Defense of ‘Redskins’ Name Shattered—Pressure to Now Change ‘Racist’ Name Grows.” Banzhaf based his position on a quote from team owner George Preston Marshall in an Associated Press article printed in the Hartford Courant on July 6, 1933 (see below): “The fact that we have in our head coach, Lone Star Dietz, an Indian, together with several Indian players, has not, as may be suspected, inspired me to select the name Redskins.” The anti-Redskins activist media almost immediately published articles based on this press release.

Neither Banzhaf nor the media considered an article published the same day in the team’s hometown paper (see below) that contradicts the AP piece. In it, Marshall is attributed as saying “…the change was made to avoid confusion with the Braves baseball team and that the team is to be coached by an Indian, Lone Star Dietz, with several Indian players.” Could the AP or The Boston Herald get it wrong or did he say different things to different reporters? With Marshall anything is possible.

Banzhaf says nothing about Marshall’s primary reason for changing the team’s name as stated in both articles: confusion with the Boston Braves baseball team. On the surface, this reason is, to use a technical term, hogwash. NFL teams routinely capitalized on the name recognition of baseball teams in those ragtag years. The Cleveland Indians, Pittsburgh Pirates, Brooklyn Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds, Detroit Tigers, New York Yankees, and Washington Senators football teams were all named after the baseball teams in their cities. The Giants still use the name decades after the baseball team abandoned New York for San Francisco. Marshall had done that in 1932 when he named his team the Boston Braves but something was changing.

Marshall was surely negotiating a move to Fenway Park at that time because, two weeks later, he announced the team’s relocation. Changing the team’s name was likely necessary to avoid legal problems with the baseball team’s and Braves Field’s owners.

Something else Banzhaf doesn’t mention is the September 27, 1987 Washington Post op-ed piece in which Marshall’s granddaughter wrote, “Fact is, he chose the name because he had always been an admirer of the American Indian and because one of the team’s coaches, ‘Lone Star’ Dietz, was himself an American Indian.” That Marshall had a fascination with Indians is well known as is his later statement that Dietz was the smartest coach he ever had.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, especially when in the mind of an academic on a crusade.

1933-07-06 Redskins Hartford Courant

1933-07-06 Redskins renamed