Archive for the ‘Jim Thorpe’ Category

Yet Another Eagle Feather

July 9, 2016

Dennis Hildebrand 1924

After the dissolution of the Oorang Indians NFL team after the 1923 season, Eagle Feather’s name next appeared with Jim Thorpe’s in a December 18, 1927 article in The Sunday Repository out of Canton, Ohio.  This Eagle Feather was playing on Jim Thorpe’s World Famous Indians basketball team. The article discussed an upcoming game with the local Orphans team that consisted of former college and high school stars. Something different about this article was that it gave two names for the WFI players. Jim Thorpe was Bright Path, Nick Lassaw was Long Time Sleep, and Dennis Hildebrand was Eagle Feather. Could Dennis Hildebrand be the same Eagle Feather who played football with Thorpe on the Oorang Indians NFL team?

Since The Sunday Repository piece listed Hildebrand/Eagle Feather as having attended Haskell Institute, that institution would be a likely place to look for him.  The World-Herald of January 12, 1924 featured a photo of the Haskell basketball team. Dennis Hildebrand was one of the eight Haskell players dressed in the school’s basketball uniforms in the photo. Another was the famous football star John Levi, who played center on the basketball team. Articles written while Eagle Feather played for the Thorpe’s WFI said he was captain of the 1925 Haskell hoops squad and was a North Carolina Cherokee native of Oklahoma. (The 1905 census listed him as having been born in Oklahoma but living on a Navajo reservation in Arizona.) The December 21, 1927 edition of The Canton Daily News claimed that Hildebrand had attended Indiana University not Haskell. The Daily News was clearly wrong about him not attending Haskell because his playing on that team is clearly documented. But did he also play for IU at some point? Finding out if he did or not is my next task.

*** UPDATE ***

Mary Mellon of the Indiana University Archives responded to my inquiry about Dennis Hildebrand:

I’ve checked into your question about Dennis Hildebrand. The IU registrar’s office has no record of him attending IU, which would have been a requirement to play for the basketball team. There’s also a handy online IU basketball database: http://www.indystar.com/story/sports/college/indiana/2013/10/29/indiana-basketball-mens-database/3308409/

Although it covers the years Hildebrand might have played college basketball, neither version of his name appears.

 

 

Important Info About Eagle Feather, Maybe

June 3, 2016

Eagle Feather Carlisle fullback 19221011

When my Eagle Feather research returned me to 1922, the Oorang Indians’ first year of operation, I took a second (or third) look at some newspaper articles I had previously collected. I was forced to search for an early article I for which had neglected to capture the date of and publication name. Mercifully, the easily recognizable article popped up early with the graphic at the top of the page. Rereading “Former Bulldogs Now Important Cogs In Jim Thorpe’s All-Indian Football Machine” brought me back to “Thorpe has unearthed a brilliant fullback in Eagle Feather, from Carlisle.” No new information there, I thought, “At least I know where this came from now.” My eye wandered to a piece immediately below the one I had sought, finding something I’d previously overlooked.

“Most Of Jim’s Indians Are Carlisle And Haskell Men” grabbed my attention. Perusing the piece unveiled “Eagle Feather, fullback who weighs 230 stripped, is a cousin to Bemus Pearce [sic], famous as a tackle in the old Carlisle days. This could lead us to who Eagle Feather really was or it could have been wrong as are so many things in newspapers.

Since we have so little else to go on, let’s assume it is correct. Let’s accept that Eagle Feather was a cousin of Bemus Pierce and that he attended Carlisle. To make our lives as easy as possible, let’s assume (for now) that his last name was Pierce and research Carlisle and tribal records for a person from that family who would have been between 18 and 25 in 1922, based on his youthful appearance in the Oorang photo. I’d also scan Carlisle football files and photographs for a player weighing over 200 pounds (he might have put on a few after Carlisle closed in 1918).

If we come up dry, we’ll have to do some genealogy work to identify Bemus Pierce’s cousins who might fit the criteria. This research will likely require considerable assistance from the tribal librarian. It’s not exactly looking for a needle in a haystack but only by an order of magnitude or two.

Eagle Feather Bemus Pierce cousin 19221011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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.

 

Jim Thorpe in the Movies plus ACLU Supports Redskins

March 7, 2015

Two interesting things of note happened this week:

Bob Wheeler, Florence Ridlon, and their son, Rob Wheeler, had an article about Jim Thorpe’s largely unknown activities in the movie industry published in the Spring 2015 issue of the magazine of the American Indian: http://content.yudu.com/web/1q1ji/0A1r2jl/Spring2015/flash/resources/index.htm?referrerUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fcontent.yudu.com%2Fweb%2

Hint: Big Jim appeared in 70 films and started the Indian Center that gave birth to the Native American Screen Actors Guild.

The second thing that happened was that the ACLU filed an amicus brief in the appeal of the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office decision in June to cancel trademark protect for the Redskins football team. The NYU Tech Law & Policy clinic joined the ACLU in arguing that the government cannot constitutionally deny trademark benefits on the basis of speech that it disagrees with or finds controversial even though they (the ACLU) doesn’t like the name. An ACLU blogger dislikes the name so much he called the Redskins’ owner an expletive: NYU Tech Law & Policy clinic, arguing that the government cannot constitutionally deny trademark benefits on the basis of speech that it disagrees with or finds controversial: https://www.aclu.org/blog/free-speech/youre-not-wrong-youre-just-ahole

So, the Redskins appear to be a long way from being forced to change their name.

Carlisle Indian Looms Large in Double No-Hitter

January 28, 2015

For Christmas I received a copy of George Will’s book, A Nice Little Place on the North Side: Wrigley Field at One Hundred. One of the more interesting historic events to take place at the Friendly Confines involved a Carlisle Indian School football player.

On the cool afternoon of May 2, 1917, the Cubs hosted the Cincinnati Reds at Weegham Park, as Wrigley was then called, in a game that has yet to be duplicated. James “Hippo” Vaughn pitched nine innings in which no Cincinnati player hit safely or scored a run. His opponent, Fred Toney, duplicated this effort in front of a sparse crowd on a cool afternoon in which the temperature never exceeded the very low fifties.

Larry Kopf, who had replaced Gus Getz at shortstop earlier in the game after Getz was ejected for arguing about a called strike, “cracked a scorching liner to right field for a single” breaking up Vaughn’s no-hitter in the top of the tenth. Greasy Neale then flied out to center with only the third ball hit out of the infield all afternoon. Cubs’ center fielder Cy Williams misplayed Hal Chase’s fly ball, dropping it and allowing Kopf to advance to third. Jim Thorpe “hit a mean roller toward third, which Vaughn went after. Jim’s speed had him near first base before Vaughn got the ball and there was no chance to throw him out, so the second hit of the game went into the records. Vaughn tried the only play possible. He tossed to [catcher Art] Wilson, hoping to get Kopf at the plate. But Kopf arrived with the ball, and when Wilson fumbled it, he slid home with the first and only run of the game.”

So, Jim Thorpe drove in the winning run in a game that lasted only an hour and fifty minutes.

Eisenhower Was Pro–Just Like Jim Thorpe

December 17, 2014

West Point enthusiast, researcher, and writer Jim Sweeney just made me aware of a July 19 New York Times article by Michael Beschloss titled “The Pro Who Shadowed Eisenhower’s Career.” In this article, Beschloss mused, “One can imagine what modern opposition researchers could have done with this information during the 1952 campaign, had they followed the maxim of attacking your adversary’s strengths.” I think he mulls over the wrong question because, in the immediately preceding paragraph, Beschloss discusses how the issue was made public years earlier. Shortly after V-E Day, Ike explained to an Associated Press reporter that, as a poor boy fresh out of high school, he would have taken “any job that offered me more money” and that he “wasn’t a very good center fielder.” A better question would be “How would voters have reacted to hearing about his youthful indiscretion?”

Beschloss later refers to David Eisenhower’s 1910 book about his grandfather in which the younger Eisenhower revealed that Ike had played under the name of Wilson in the 1909 Central Kansas League. In Baseball’s Most Wanted II, Floyd Conner provided a little more detail: “Eisenhower displayed his baseball ability when he batted .355 for Junction City of the Class D Central Kansas League.” So, Ike and Jim Thorpe started their professional baseball careers in similar circumstances. Both were poor, needed the money (which wasn’t much), and played on bush league teams but in different parts of the country. The difference was that Eisenhower was sophisticated enough to play under an assumed name.

Politics in America have never been a kind and gentle business. If the Democrats thought hammering Ike over participating in college sports after having played for money would have benefitted them, they surely would have used it. Surely someone, possibly the reporter, would have remembered the AP disclosure. However, the sympathetic public response to Jim Thorpe’s professionalism probably persuaded them that attacking Eisenhower this way could easily backfire and eliminate what little chance they had of defeating this war hero.

College Football and All America Review

May 28, 2014

The most recent edition of the College Football Historical Society Newsletter included a historical book review of Christy Walsh’s 1949 College Football and All America Review. What caught my eye most were two things the book included: “the score of every game [ever] played” and “listing of lettermen, by year, from each school.” Determining exactly who played on the Carlisle and Haskell teams is a difficult, if not impossible, project due to the records retained for those teams. So, I searched for a copy of the book and found one at Allegheny College through interlibrary loan. Eventually the sought-after book arrived.

I flipped through the pages of the book searching for the Carlisle lettermen and found none. I repeated the process for Haskell and was disappointed again. Perhaps because neither school was competing at the college level at that time, their records were omitted. Or, it may have been too hard to gather up the information from the available data sources. Regardless, I came up dry. But I did stumble across some things of interest.

The book was dedicated to Pop Warner “with affectionate esteem” and Warner wrote a one-page article, “Flash-back to Carlisle” in which he reminisced about his years with the Indians. His list of highlights included:

  • Numerous victories over the University of Pennsylvania
  • Defeat of Harvard 18 to 15 in 1911 against Walter Camp All Americans as Percy Wendy, Sam Felton and Bob Fisher, the game in which Jim Thorpe kicked three goals from the field
  • The 27 to 6 trouncing the red-skinned youngsters gave to West Point in 1912, when the Cadets boasted players like Arnold, Littlejohn, Hyatt and Devore
  • I happily recall the truly great Indian squad of 1913 which handily swamped undefeated Dartmouth by a score of 35 to 0
  • Perhaps no Carlisle victory was more important or satisfying than the historic post-season game of 1907 when Chicago, coached by that grand old man Amos Alonzo Stagg and quarterbacked by Wally Steffen, another Walter Camp All American, was soundly defeated by the Indians, after the Conference champions had won the Big 10 title in an undefeated season.

Not listed were the 1905 Carlisle victory over West Point during a season Warner wasn’t at Carlisle and the 1907 defeat of Harvard, possibly because Warner felt the defeat of Chicago overshadowed it.

 

Dragged into the Redskins Naming Controversy

November 12, 2013

As followers of this blog know, Lone Star Dietz’s name pops into the news whenever the Redskins naming controversy heats up. After President Obama interjected himself into this matter, I started getting calls from reporters again. So far, my name has appeared in several places and has caused some embarrassment for me as well as some amusement.

The first mention I was made aware of was on the Redskins’ Official Site: http://blog.redskins.com/2013/11/01/jim-thorpe-the-greatest-athlete-in-the-world/

Unfortunately, the posting included a photo with the caption I unwittingly used in my book.  The Albright College player standing between Jim Thorpe and Lone Star Dietz in the photo was not Leo Disend as the 60-some-year-old yearbook stated. I became painfully aware of that mistake during the Q&A session at the end of my very first book talk when Leo Disend’s brother informed me that the player in the photo was identified correctly. Accepting that he must know what his brother looked like, I informed Albright College of the error. After conducting some research, they determined that the player in question was in fact John Killiany.

The Washington Post published a large spread on Dietz that mentioned me briefly: http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/the-legend-of-lone-star-dietz/2013/11/07/00569fa2-471d-11e3-bf0c-cebf37c6f484_gallery.html#photo=1

The Post also posted a video of Barry Zientek on its web site: http://www.washingtonpost.com/posttv/local/the-story-of-the-man-for-whom-the-redskins-are-named/2013/11/06/a4760340-4743-11e3-bf0c-cebf37c6f484_video.html Barry Zientek’s parents befriended Lone Star & Doris Dietz in their old age and helped them in many ways when they lived in poverty.

Reading PA The Morning Call published an article from Lone Star’s grave written by the same Washington Post reporter: http://www.mcall.com/sports/mc-redskins-dietz-1107-20131107,0,656374.story?track=rss

For the first time I’m aware of, I was mentioned in a foreign newspaper, the Daily Mail of London, England in an error-riddled article: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2492195/Was-native-American-figurehead-justification-Washington-Redskins-fraud-faked-ethnicity-gain-publicity.html  However, I wasn’t mentioned for saying anything about Dietz; I was credited with having given the Mail permission to use the image of the 1908 St. Louis Globe-Democrat article on Dietz of which I own the only surviving copy. (I’d like to have one in better condition but haven’t been able to find one.) Oddly, I have no memory of being contacted by the Daily Mail to use this or any other image I own.

The Great Red Hope

October 22, 2013

While searching for newspaper articles about the 1912 Carlisle-Brown game for another researcher, I came across an article about Jim Thorpe possibly participating in yet another sport. An article that came out the day most of the game coverage appeared in papers was an unrelated article on page 9 of the Friday, November 29, 1912 edition of the Oleans Evening Times titled “Jim Thorpe May Become Red Hope,” bylined Cambridge, Massachusetts. The article led off with “Jim Thorpe, the big Carlisle Indian, and Charley Brickley, vest pocket edition of Jim Jeffries, though they may never match brain, brawn, and feet on the gridiron, may meet in the squared circle.”

Carlisle and Harvard didn’t play in 1912 and its followers still may have been smarting over the loss the year before and wanted to even the score a bit. Or, someone may just have been wanting to make some money. We probably will never know who was behind this scheme because all the article said was “Overtures have already been made [by an unnamed person or persons]…to box a Harvard amateur, the bout to be pulled off next month before one of the winter boxing meets of the Boston Athletic Association.”

The promoter of the fight wasn’t the only name kept secret; Thorpe’s opponent wasn’t identified either. Possible candidates reputed to be adept at the manly art of self defense included Charley Brickley, Harvard’s star half back and Thorpe’s rival at place kicking, right tackle Bob Storer, and substitute end Al Weatherhead.

After this build up, the article’s tone changed abruptly in the last paragraph:

“Before going to Oklahoma, however, Thorpe will probably slip up to Boston for the proposed bout with the Harvard athlete, unless Glenn Warner, who is said to be dead set against Thorpe’s pugilistic aspirations, may successfully talk him out of it.”

Pop probably talked him out of it and, now knowing how harmful concussions can be, extended his long athletic career by not letting him get his head pounded in the boxing ring.