Archive for the ‘Jim Thorpe’ Category

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.

 

 

 

Restore Jim Thorpe’s Sole Standing

November 13, 2019

Everyone knows Jim Thorpe’s gold medals for winning both the decathlon and pentathlon in the 1912 Olympics were taken back in 1913 because he had played some low-level minor league baseball. Less well known is that, through the efforts of husband and wife team Bob Wheeler and Florence Ridlon, his medals were restored, and his name returned to the record books. Little known is that even though his records are now included in the official report, the International Olympic Committee chose to list the second-place finishers in both events as also being gold medal winners’ point totals, even though Thorpe amassed much higher point totals. Over the decades, the IOC has resisted all efforts to restore Thorpe as the sole gold medal winner for the decathlon and pentathlon even though it was proven they had illegally taken his medals and records away. Fortunately, not all have given up hope.

U.S. Representative from the 1st Congressional District of New Mexico Debra Haaland is submitting a resolution in a week to put pressure on the IOC to right this wrong. She is proposing this resolution to coincide with Native American Heritage Month. After making its case, the resolution states:

Resolved, That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that the International Olympic Committee, through its president, should officially recognize Jim Thorpe’s unprecedented athletic achievements as the sole Gold Medalist in the 1912 pentathlon and decathlon events and correct these inaccuracies in the official Olympic books.

I urge you to assist Rep. Haaland in this effort by writing in support of this resolution to her office in care of Kevin.Carriere@mail.house.gov.

jim_thorpe

 

Jim Thorpe’s Biographer is Interviewed

August 19, 2018

Back in May, I reported on the Jim Thorpe movie that is being made with the involvement of Angelina Jolie and others. Because, to a great extent, the film in development is based on his definitive biography of Thorpe, Bob Wheeler is being interviewed about Thorpe, his research and the movie. Here are links to videos of some of his recent interviews:

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1gaK7rdZgpEcstHfye0buBCWt7aTANU16

The Big Biz Show: https://vimeo.com/281652412/002da7695e

BizTalk Discovery: https://vimeo.com/281653077/23660f3772

Wheeler’s odyssey in tracking down Thorpe’s contemporaries while they were still alive is a story in itself. Hitchhiking cross-country when it was possible but frowned upon by some, including President Eisenhower, was the only way a grad student with no money could travel to all the places he had to go to conduct his research.

Even getting an oral history approved as a valid project was a challenge at that time. It’s better I stop and let Bob tell his own story.

Wheeler's book

 

 

 

 

 

The Tebow Thorpe Intersection

July 30, 2018

Earlier this summer you read about my ill-fated attempt to see Tim Tebow play minor league baseball against the Harrisburg Senators at City Island. Since that time, I’ve thought about who else played at that island in the Susquehanna River over a century ago.

Called Hargest’s Island in 1902, a crude baseball field there was home turf for Harrisburg Athletic Club for whom Carlisle Indian School grad and Dickinson College student Charles Albert Bender pitched one summer. The future hall-of-famer even hurled a game against the visiting Chicago Cubs. Chief Bender lost but acquitted himself well. So well, that by season’s end he had been signed by Connie Mack to pitch for the Philadelphia Athletics. The rest, as they say, is history.

Baseball wasn’t the only sport in which Carlisle Indians competed on Hargest’s Island. In 1908, 8,000 people attended the first annual statewide track and field meet sponsored by the Pennsylvania Intercollegiate Athletic Association. The Carlisle Indians defeated ten colleges to take first place honors. Several Carlisle athletes performed well. Among them was Jim Thorpe, rounding out his first season of competition. He came in second in the 220-yard hurdles and 16-pound shotput, and first in the high jump. Not bad for someone new to the sport.

Jim Thorpe on Hargest's Island

Jim Thorpe runs the high hurdles in the Pennsylvania Intercollegiate Meet on Hargest’s Island

The 1912 event was the source of an often-heard legend about the Carlisle Indians. Their team did not run 20 miles to a game, defeat their opponents and run home. Lewis Tewanima and Jim Thorpe were training for the Olympic Games to be held in Stockholm that year and did not compete as members of the team. As part of his training regime, distance running Hopi Tewanima ran from Carlisle to Hargest’s Island, waved to his friends, circled the track, and ran back to Carlisle.

Jim Thorpe returned in 1915 to compete there as a member of the Harrisburg Islanders minor league baseball team. A parallel of Thorpe and Tebow is that that both competed on City Island in baseball, not either’s first sport. Both camein to prominence for their exploits in college football. Tebow was a Heisman Trophy winner and Thorpe would have been had that award existed in 1911 and 1912. His prominent position in the College Football Hall of Fame attests to that.

Jim Thorpe Movie

May 8, 2018

For years—decades actually—film makers and wannabe film makers have flowed through Cumberland County Historical Society on an almost monthly basis to learn more about Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indians. They leave convinced more than ample material exists for a feature film, surely enough for a TV movie. But little tangible has resulted. Many of them visit Wardecker’s Menswear, formerly Blumenthal’s, where Freddie Wardecker gives them a tour through the artifacts in his store, regales them with stories about the Carlisle players and teams, and shows them the log in which each player’s name is recorded, under which a list of his purchases follows. Invariably, he suggests they contact Robert W. Wheeler, author of the definitive Jim Thorpe biography.

I sometimes get contacted by these folks, often wanting answers to questions they have on the teams and players. Often, they require some research on my part to answer. Recently, I’ve received questions about Thorpe’s time with the New York football Giants. (He played for them in 1925.) The reason why those questions were coming now was answered last night, when a press release announced that a biopic about Jim Thorpe was to be made and one of the backers was the Giants’ owner.

Variety reported that Angelina Jolie, in partnership with Escape Artists Productions’ Todd Black and Steve Tisch, would be producing Bright Path: The Jim Thorpe Story. This production will break new ground by having a Native American actor play a Native American title character in a major motion picture. Martin Sensmeier, whose parents are Tlingit and Koyukon-Athabascan, is perhaps best known for his role in The Magnificent Seven remake alongside Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, and Vincent D’Onofrio.

With backing this film has, it seems certain, as certain as anything is in Hollywood, this film will actually be produced.

Variety article: http://variety.com/2018/film/news/angelina-jolie-escape-artists-producing-native-american-athlete-jim-thorpe-1202801404/

Renewed Interest in the Oorang Indians

September 23, 2017

Oorang Indians Willis.jpg

Yesterday’s mail brought an unexpected pleasure. I opened a package that obviously contained a book. But I had no memory of ordering a book from anyone. The label said it was from Rowman & Littlefield in Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania. I knew some book publishers made their home in that town as the late John Kallmann had once worked for a publisher located there. I still had no idea what book it might be.

Opening the package, I found a copy of Walter Lingo, Jim Thorpe, and the Oorang Indians: How a Dog Kennel Owner Created the NFL’s Most Famous Traveling Team by Chris Willis. It was a book I knew was coming out because Chris and I had conversed about the topic and a question he had about Eagle Feather led to some serious investigation and a series of blog posts about this mysterious player.

Wanting to thank him for the book, I tried to send Chris an email, but couldn’t find his address. An inopportune computer crash in early August had wreaked havoc had lost numerous email messages and addresses. (Perhaps I should write about the fallacies of making backups using Microsoft’s utility.) I would appreciate it if someone would send me his email address.

The book had a feel different from others I’d felt. That it had no jacket because the jacket information was printed directly on the hard cover wasn’t new. What was new was the feel of it. Rather than having a hard, glossy finish, the cover had a matt finish that is soft to the touch.

Inside this beautiful book, I found an acknowledgement to me. An entire paragraph. WOW! Thank you, Chris.

Over the last couple of years, I had received questions from multiple persons about the Oorang Indians. Apparently, this most unusual NFL team had gathered renewed interest. Maybe the NFL needs to rejuvenate the team to attract fans. It needs to do something after tickets for Thursday’s Rams-49ers game went for $15!

 

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.