Archive for the ‘Frank Mt. Pleasant’ Category

Indians’ Legs Better Suited for Kicking

December 2, 2010

Pop Warner made many observations regarding his Carlisle Indian players, almost all regarding their behavior, much of which he thought was a result of their culture. But on one occasion he discussed an anatomical difference he had observed. Warner claimed that the lower legs of white boys and Indians were different. It was his observation that one group’s lower legs dropped straight down from the knee whereas the other’s curved outward.* It was this difference that gave the Indian boys an advantage in kicking the football over white boys.

Warner often mentioned how his Indian players would practice some skill endlessly, in some case for years, until they perfected it. An example was Frank Hudson who drop-kicked footballs year round including when there was snow on the ground. He simply moved indoors to the gym during inclement weather. Hudson also practiced with both feet until he became ambidextrous (it’s not clear if ambipedal is a word) and was able to dropkick field goals with either foot. He also became the game’s best dropkicker, arguably of all time. In addition to practicing a skill, Warner noticed that that the Indians watched proficient players’ closely to learn a skill. An example he gave was of Mike Balenti kicking four field goals, two from over 40-yards away, against Navy without having attempted one in a game before. Balenti attributed the success to his having watched Hudson and Frank Mt. Pleasant.

Warner thought that many more Carlisle players were good at kicking than were the white players he coached before and after because of a physiological advantage. He believed that the shape of Indians’ lower legs was better suited to kicking. It would be interesting to know if Warner was seeing things or if what he said is true.

*I misplaced the article in which Warner stated this and would appreciate it greatly if someone could inform me as to where I can find it.

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

Errors at LeatherHelmetIllus.com

October 27, 2010

I was recently asked if Pop Warner unveiled the single-wing against Penn in the Carlisle Indians’ fifth game of the 1907 season. Penn was actually Carlisle’s 7th opponent that year but that was probably just a typo made by the person asking the question. This was the first time I had heard (or read) that the single-wing was first used in that particular game. I have seen it attributed to several other times but not that one. A little research found a source for this claim but quite possibly not the only person to make it. Follows is an extract from an article on the Carlisle Indians in LeatherHelmetIllus.com:

‘Pop’ Warner unveiled the new [single-wing] formation against the University of Pennsylvania, on Oct. 26, 1907. So far that season no team had crossed the Quaker’s goal line. Carlisle was undefeated. A large crowd of 22,800 fans looked on. They were expecting a good game but they got more than they bargained for. Carlisle scored on the second play: a 40 yard pass from Hauser to Gardner, caught on the run. The diversified offense racked up 402 yards, to 76 yards for Penn., Carlisle went 8 of 16 passing. The game also marked the debut of Jim Thorpe. He broke free for 45 yards the second time he touched the ball. The Indians won 26 – 6.

After finding this, I set about locating game accounts in period newspapers. Before resolving the issue of the single-wing, I noticed a significant error—or the sports writers of the day had it all wrong. Nowhere did I find mention of (William) Gardner scoring a touchdown or anything else in that game. What I did find in the coverage by The Washington Post, The New York Times, United Press and other wire service accounts was that the Indians’ first score came on a field goal kicked by Pete Hauser early in the game. That score was followed by Fritz Hendricks’ 100-yard touchdown run after picking up Hollenbach’s fumble. Payne closed out the first-half scoring with a touchdown of his own around Penn’s end from the 4-yard line. Penn played better in the second half and didn’t allow Carlisle an offensive touchdown. However, Little Boy scored his touchdown by diving on a Penn punt that Albert Exendine had blocked and fell behind their goal line. Hauser closed out Carlisle’s scoring with a second field goal. Frank Mt. Pleasant kick the extra points after each touchdown. Although Mt. Pleasant and Hauser received much praise for their passing in this game, none of their tosses went for a touchdown to Gardner or anyone else.

The next blog will deal with the errors related to Jim Thorpe and the single-wing.

Chicken Legs or Bird Legs?

June 21, 2010

I have wondered for some time where John S. Steckbeck found some of the the anecdotes he used in Fabulous Redmen. The other day while searching for something else—the usual situation—I came across a Project Gutenberg file for Football Days: Memories of the Game and of the Men Behind the Ball, a 1916 book by William H. Edwards, Princeton 1900, with an introduction by Walter Camp. In one section of the book, Edwards retells some of stories told by former Yale star Carl Flanders, who helped coach the Indians in 1906.

Because Flanders related these stories within a decade of them happening, they stand a better chance of being accurate than those that were told a half century, or longer, after that. Of particular interest was the topic of nicknames:

“The nicknames with which the Indians labeled each other were mostly those of animals or a weapon of defense. Mount Pleasant and Libby always called each other Knife. Bill Gardner was crowned Chicken Legs, Charles, one of the halfbacks, and a regular little tiger, was called Bird Legs. Other names fastened to the different players were Whale Bone, Shoe String, Tommyhawk and Wolf.”

I do wonder if Edwards got a couple of the names reversed or if Flanders remembered them incorrectly. During WWI, Bill Gardner was referred to in newspaper columns as “Birdie,” something that leads me to suspect that his nickname was Bird Legs not Chicken Legs. If that is so, then Wilson Charles was probably called Chicken Legs. Perhaps a descendent of his will let us know which was his correct nickname.

Mystery Photograph

May 11, 2010

A reader sent me this photo in an attempt to determine if the team in the photo is the 1910 Dickinson College Red Devils and if the player seated at the left in the front row is Frank Mt. Pleasant.

 

A photo of the 1910 Carlisle Indians-Dickinson College game can be found at this link: http://chronicles.dickinson.edu/studentwork/eyeongame/1910foot.htm. The player at the far left is wearing a Carlisle jersey. The forearm stripes may not have been unique, but were different from most other teams’ uniforms. All the jerseys in the photo are different from the jerseys worn by Dickinson in 1910. Also, Frank Mt. Pleasant graduated in the spring of 1910 and coached Franklin and Marshall that fall.

 

Follows is a photo of the 1909 Dickinson team of which Mt. Pleasant was captain. Wilbur J. Gobrecht in his history of Dickinson College football reported that in 1903, Dickinson switched to black jerseys and black stockings with half-inch red and white stripes. This uniform design was used for 25 years. As captain, Frank Mt. Pleasant is seated in the middle of the center row in the photograph. I am not very good at identifying people from photographs, so take my opinion with plenty of salt. The player in the first photo looks very different to me than the Captain of the Dickinson squad.

Perhaps someone seeing this photo can identify the team, the year and the players.

Jim Thorpe Sports Days

April 24, 2010

We interrupt the discussion of the 1910 Harvard Law School team to report on the annual Jim Thorpe Sports Days that kicked off yesterday with a flyby of two F-16 fighter jets from the Vermont Air Guard. Students from the war colleges of the various branches of the military compete in races and games each year on Indian Field at Carlisle Barracks, PA to continue a tradition that began in 1974. Indian Field is no stranger to athletic competitions; it is the field on which the Carlisle Indian School football teams played their home games. Jim Thorpe, Frank Mt. Pleasant and most of the others played their home games here. However, the Indians’ earliest games weren’t played on this field because it didn’t yet exist.

Superintendent Pratt reported on the football field in the September 1898 edition of The Red Man, the school’s newspaper at that time:

“The football team has not only continued to hold the high record it made, but through the earnings of the game a large and fine athletic field has been added to the school advantages. Ground adjoining the school was bought, leveled off, and a large, oval turf field, with a quarter mile running track, is now near completion.”

The field today is different from its 1898 configuration. The topsoil and its base were replaced over a century ago; a sprinkling system was added not many years after Indian Field was put into service; the track was upgraded a few times; and bleachers were eventually installed. Those wooden bleachers were replaced by the limestone-clad concrete grandstand years ago.

John Thorpe, grandson of Jim Thorpe, and George Yuda, son of Montreville Yuda, descendents of Carlisle Indian School students were present at the festivities.

The Sentinel’s coverage of Jim Thorpe Sports Days can be found at http://www.cumberlink.com/articles/2010/04/24/news/local/doc4bd25f2f21aa0440783186.txt

Carlisle Sentinel photo

School’s Closing Not Inevitable

January 14, 2010

Conventional wisdom has it that Carlisle Indian School declined after the 1914 congressional investigation until it died a natural death in 1918. I came across some items that raise doubt about that conclusion. The May 24, 1918 issue of The Carlisle Arrow and Red Man listed the schedule for the upcoming football season. The 9-games scheduled included such powerhouses as Pitt and Army but didn’t include many of the powers the Indians faced during their glory days. It seems unlikely that this schedule would have been arranged if the school was expected to close before the start of the next school year.

Newspaper coverage of the school’s commencement activities held on June 6 did not even hint that the school was about to close. Mid-June newspapers announced that the government was considering the lengthening of Carlisle’s enrollment by two years to allow students to complete a college preparatory program. In addition to the educational advantages, the school would be able to attract star athletes. It wasn’t reported if this bill was ever decided upon, probably because it was overtaken by events.

In mid-July the government announced that the school was to be closed and the army was taking Carlisle Barracks back to be used as a hospital to treat soldiers that were wounded in WWI. The transition took place in less than six weeks, so it is fair to assume that it was not as orderly as it would have been had it been planned for some period of time.

Enrollment was down to about 680 students at the time of closing, due in significant part to students and potential students enlisting in the armed forces. Carlisle and the Indian community at large were overrepresented in the military although non-citizen Indians were not subject to the draft. Some even went to Canada to join their forces before the U. S. entered the war. After the U. S. entered the fray, Carlisle school newspapers were filled with items about Carlisle alums who had joined up. Those who were commissioned officers, such as Gus Welch, Frank Mt. Pleasant and William Gardner, received extra coverage.

It would have been interesting to see what might have happened if the army had delayed its decision until November 11, 1918. It will also be interesting to read what Gen. Pratt had to say about the school’s closing.

Lt. Frank Mt. Pleasant

December 22, 2009

 I just came across a photo of Frank Mt. Pleasant in his WWI army uniform. Unfortunately, there are a few errors in the associated text. He competed in the 1908 Olympics, placing 6th in both the broad jump and triple jump although injured at the time. In Paris, after healing, he beat the Olympic broad jump champ in a big meet. His name is misspelled in the caption under the dog. He was the first Carlisle Indian to get a degree, a Ph. B., from Dickinson College. However, some others previously got LL B. degrees from Dickinson School of Law.

He has been inducted into the Dickson College and Indiana University of Pennsylvania halls of fame as an athlete and a coach, respectively. He was earlier inducted into the American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame. It is astounding that the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame has not inducted him when you consider that the vast majority of his playing and coaching career was in Pennsylvania and he was a premiere athlete in two sports first at Carlisle Indian School and then at Dockinson College during his playing days.

Indians Dissed by Halls of Fame

May 4, 2009

Last week was a bad week for Indian athletes. Both players and coaches continue to be overlooked for honors they deserve. Lone Star Dietz was passed over again for Induction into the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach. He was inducted into the prestigious Helms Foundation years ago but the College Football Hall of Fame didn’t even think he was eligible until a few years ago. It wasn’t until Washington State super-alum Greg Witter and I did some research and got Dietz’s win-loss record corrected that they put his name on the ballot. By then he had been dead for almost 40 years and very few people are still alive that remember him. But he’s not the only Indian the College Football Hall of Fame has dissed or the only Hall of Fame to diss an Indian athlete.

Last week the West Shore Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame inducted its new class. Frank Mt. Pleasant, who I nominated last year, wasn’t picked. It’s hard to imagine how the chapter local to his greatest achievements could overlook one of the greatest of the Carlisle Indians, but they did. Fortunately, the West Shore Chapter isn’t the only option. He was already inducted into the Indiana University of Pennsylvania Hall of Fame for his work there as a coach after his playing days were over. Maybe their chapter will induct him.

Recently, questions have come in about the Haskell Institute star John Levi. He was considered to be as good as Jim Thorpe in every aspect of the game but kicking. Thorpe himself considered Levi to be the best athlete he had ever seen. Unfortunately for John, Carlisle Indian School did not exist when he came of age. The mantle of Indian sports leadership passed to Haskell Institute in Lawrence, KS after Carlisle closed. Although Levi and his Haskell teammates had great records under Coach Richard Hanley, they seldom played in front of the eastern media. That kept John Levi from being named to the major All America teams. He was named to minor ones but that wasn’t enough to get him elected to the Hall of Fame. J

im Thorpe wasn’t the only Indian to lead the nation in scoring (198 points in 1912); John Levi outscored everyone in both 1923 and 1924 (149 and 112 points, respectively). His teammate, Mayes McLain outdid him and everyone else in 1926 with 259 points. Barry Sanders holds the all-time single-season scoring record with 234 points. By my math, he scored 25 fewer points than Mayes McLain. Why doesn’t McLain hold the record?

Legendary coach Charles Moran isn’t in either although he had a great record, including the legendary 1921 defeat of Harvard by his Centre College Praying Colonels. Maybe it’s because he coached Mike Balenti and Victor “Choc” Kelley in his first year at Texas A & M.

Frank Mt. Pleasant

August 18, 2008

Perhaps because this is the 100th anniversary of the 1908 Olympics, Ed Farnham, grandnephew of Frank Mt. Pleasant, has been deluged by the media for interviews. Numerous newspaper and television reporters in the Buffalo, NY area, where Ed lived and the Olympic athlete lived, have been calling Ed constantly. Some of the newspaper articles are available on-line. Links to them are provided at the bottom of this piece. So far, none of the TV video has been posted on-line, but if it is in the future, I will provide a link to it.

 

Although this media attention comes at a cost to Mr. Farnham, he probably views it as a good thing because Frank Mt. Pleasant, viewed at the time as the best all-around athlete of his day, has been largely forgotten. These interviews give Ed the opportunity to better educate the public regarding the Tuscarora people and their contributions. One of the ways he does that is to direct them to the Native American Museum of Art (NAMA) which is located inside Smokin’ Joe’s Trading Post where he is general manager. Frank Mt. Pleasant’s medals are on display amongst the other Native American art and artifacts. The recent publicity should encourage more people to visit the museum and learn more about both the track star and his people.

 

In my small way I’m trying to correct the slight to Frank Mt. Pleasant a bit. In addition to devoting a chapter in Doctors, Lawyers, Indian Chiefs to him, I have nominated him for induction into the local chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame, the first step in getting him inducted into the statewide HoF. Dickinson College and Indiana University of Pennsylvania have already inducted him into their halls of fame.

 

Native American Museum at Smokin’ Joe’s: http://www.nativeamericanmuseumart.com/

Buffalo News article: http://www.buffalonews.com/cityregion/niagaracounty/story/411478.html

More about the museum: http://buffalo.yourhub.com/NiagaraFalls/Stories/Sports/Professional/Story~503924.aspx