Archive for the ‘Mike Balenti’ Category

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?

Carlisle Indians as Coaches

June 8, 2012

While preparing the 1911 Spalding’s Guide for printing, I noticed that some former Carlisle players could be seen in the numerous 1910 team photos to be found in that volume.  That brought to mind an old newspaper article that I can’t lay my hands on now in which the writer opined as to why there were so few football coaches at a time when Carlisle Indian School players were grabbing headlines.  I don’t recall his reasoning or conclusions but do remember having read the article.

The truth is that several Carlisle Indian School players tried their hands at coaching with varying success.  The names that come quickly to mind are Bemus Pierce, Frank Cayou, Albert Exendine, Caleb Sickles, Lone Star Dietz, James Phillips, Joel Wheelock, Victor “Choc” Kelley, Mike Balenti, and Gus Welch (I keep adding names as they come to me while writing this article).  I’m sure there were others. Given enough time to research this issue, I’m sure that I could come up with more. But I don’t have the time right now because I must get the 1901 Spalding’s Guide ready to print.

The lengths of their careers varied, but Exendine, Welch and Dietz all had long coaching careers.  Of these, Lone Star Dietz had by far the most success and, as an acknowledgement of that success, was honored by the Helms Foundation many years ago. Next month, the College Football Hall of Fame will honor him. It is highly unlikely that any other Carlisle Indian will receive this honor because only a few had long careers and only Dietz, as far as we know, had a Hall of Fame worthy career as a coach.  Also, Exendine and Welch were already inducted as players. My immediate concern is not about the Hall of Fame but with 1910 team photos that include former Carlisle players.

Follows are two of the 1910 team photos.  I’ll leave it to the reader to find the Carlisle Indians in them, but here’s a hint: both wore their Carlisle letter sweaters.  I take that as an indication of how proud they were of having been part of those great teams.

Hawkeagle Also Played in 1917

April 23, 2012

Page 110 includes headshots of soldiers who played on the Camp Funston (Fort Riley, Kansas) football team in 1917.  Number 29 is Pvt. Thomas Hawkeagle (aka Pretty Boy and Hawk Eagle).  Nothing further could be found about him in the book but it is well known that he played on the 1914 Carlisle team and distinguished himself so much against Auburn that he figures prominently in the legends of the origin of the War Eagle cheer.  Hawkeagle was the last Carlisle player mentioned in the 1918 Spalding Guide for activity in the 1917 season.  There were likely others but they weren’t mention by Spalding or I just missed them.  John Flinchum was listed on page 224 as the captain of the 1918 team, playing at left tackle.  No coach was listed for 1918 because none had been hired at that point.

Non-players in the form of officials were listed in the back of the book on pages 233 through 249.  Officials were separated into various groups: collegiate, service and scholastic, as well as by region, state or conference.  Southern Officials were grouped by white and colored.  Even the officials that were set apart as being active-duty military had this separation even though the Service Officials did not.  Indians were not segregated from other officials as Indian players had been allowed to play on otherwise all-white teams for many years.  Oddly, only one former Carlisle player was listed as an official and that was Mike Balenti.

The advertisement for Warner’s 1912 book was still being run in the 1918 guide.  This time, it included an anonymous testimonial for “The coach of an unbeaten Western college” who was surely Lone Star Dietz whose Washington State team had gone unbeaten in 1917.  Dietz’s team was not invited to the Rose Bowl that year because military teams were drawing large crowds at that time.  Dietz and his players would be invited at the end of the 1918 season but that time they wore Mare Island Marine uniforms.

Who Was Mannok?

April 19, 2012

The first person in the back row of the Baylor team photo on page 67, conveniently number 1, is Assistant Coach M. R. Balenti.  Mike Balenti, wearing his red Carlisle letter sweater, stands out from the Baylor players in their uniforms that appear to be light gray with dark gray stripes across the chest.  Perhaps they were gold with green stripes or Baylor used different colors in those days.

The next place Carlisle alums would be found was on the pages reserved for military teams.  Page 92 contains only the photograph of the First Regiment, U. S. Marine Corps, League Island Navy Yard, Philadelphia team.  Players number 25 and 26 are the Garlow brothers, William and James.  William starred at line on some of Carlisle’s powerhouse teams and later coached at West Virginia Wesleyan.  Prior to this, I didn’t know that James had played competitive football.  The page 101 write-up of The U. S. A. Ambulance Service team reported on the game played against the Garlow brothers’ team which was better known as “Eddie Mahan’s All-Stars.”  In a rematch game, Mahan had strengthened his team with the addition of some players that included “Pete Garlow, the Carlisle Indian star tackle.”  The writer probably meant William Garlow as I hadn’t seen him referred to as Pete before.

Page 105 included a discussion of a game between two Army outfits, the 318th and 319th Infantry Units.  “By means of a varied attack and with the clever open field running of Mannok, the former Carlisle Indian star, and the stellar line bucking of Anderson, the 319th emerged victorious by the score of 3—0.”  Another mystery regarding Carlisle just emerged.  I had never heard of anyone by that name associated with Carlisle, football player of otherwise.  Perhaps he went by another name at Carlisle or he didn’t go to Carlisle at all.  It would be great if a reader could provide some information regarding Mannok.

<next time—More Carlisle Players in The Great War>

4th Anniversary

March 9, 2012

Four years ago this week, on March 7, 2008—can it be that long ago already?– I posted my first message to this blog. Three hundred and sixty-six messages and numerous photos later, I wonder if you, the readers, find your time spent here worthwhile. I get little feedback from readers, either positive or negative, about the value of the information presented herein. What I generally get are questions about Carlisle Indian School students, often from family members. On several occasions, family members, most often grandchildren or great grandchildren, have provided me very useful information about their relative. Such information fills in holes about the person that I would never otherwise be able to find. In some cases—Mike Balenti comes quickly to mind–it would have been very difficult to write a chapter about the person without the information the relative sent to me as a result of this blog.

A few times, this blog has served as a means for family members to make contact with relatives they didn’t know existed or with whom relations had been severed by a previous generation. It is very rewarding to know that this blog played a role in these people establishing or reestablishing relationships.

A few months ago, readership jumped significantly and continues at that higher level. It could be that, due to the ever-growing number of topics covered herein, this blog shows up more often on searches and unsuspecting people are brought here unwittingly. Or, it could be that the collective amount of useful information is growing and providing more people something of value. I don’t know. A little feedback would be helpful in determining if I am doing anything of value. Now, I must go to physical therapy to work on the residue of health issues that interrupted this blog last summer and early fall.

1905 Carlisle Indians Were Ranked #10 in Country

August 8, 2011

While preparing Spalding’s Official Football Guide for 1906 for reprinting, I noticed a few things about the Carlisle Indian School football team’s 1905 season. These things caught my eye because it was this very team under Advisory Coach George Woodruff that Sally Jenkins maligned in her 1907 book. Caspar Whitney ranked the Indians as the 10th best team in the country for 1905. He also placed Frank Mt. Pleasant as a substitute at quarterback on his All America team.

George Woodruff placed three Carlisle Indians to his All Eastern Eleven for 1905: Frank Mt. Pleasant at quarterback, Charles Dillon at guard, and Wahoo (Charles Guyon, older brother of Joe Guyon) at end. N. P. Stauffer placed Dillon at guard on his All Eastern Eleven as well.

That an authority of the stature of Caspar Whitney considered Carlisle as the 10th best college football team in the country means something and that something is that the Indians were viewed as having had a very good season. Not their best ever, mind you, but a successful one at that.

These selections, along with George Orton’s observations that were posted in the June 27, 2011 message, show that Jenkins’s assessment of the type of play and success of the 1905 Carlisle Indian football team is at odds with the opinions of the experts of the day who actually saw the teams play.

1905 Carlisle Indian School football team from Spalding’s Official Football Guide for 1906

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.

New Jim Thorpe Documentary

November 12, 2009

A new documentary about Jim Thorpe has been released and is playing on some PBS stations. Moira Productions announced that Jim Thorpe: The World’s Greatest Athlete has been finished and is available for viewing. The film appears to largely be the work of Tom Weidlinger (producer, director, writer) and Joesph Bruchac (producer, writer). There were rumors that James McGowan was involved with the film but his name is not listed in its credits on

Bruchac has written books about Jim Thorpe and is thus probably the lead writer on this documentary. He tends to write in the first person as if Thorpe, who he probably never met, is telling the story himself. A brief excerpt from the first chapter of Jim Thorpe: Original All-American states that young Jim was called stupid, something he disliked:

     Stupid. That was what the teacher called me. And not just one teacher, either.

     Stupid. I hated that name. That was one of the worst ones. Not the very worst, but close. It hurt so much because I wondered if it was true.

Stupid is not how Jim’s teacher in the Commercial Course at Carlisle, Marianne Moore, described him. Bill Crawford reported her as saying, “In the classroom he was a little laborious, but dependable; took time—head bent earnestly over the paper; wrote a fine, even clerical hand—every character legible; every terminal curving up—consistent and generous….The commercial students, about thirty, were an ideal group. Among them were James Thorpe, Gus Welch, and Iva Miller…They were my salvation, open-minded, also intelligent.”

 The Balenti brothers, who were among the brightest students at the school, sometimes made fun of Jim. However, being less intelligent than them doesn’t mean he was stupid.

Moira Productions’ website lists the TV schedule for the 1-hour documentary:

The listing implies that it shows at 5:30p.m. Sunday on WITF’s HD channel only, but Comcast’s website lists it as showing on both channels 004 and 240. That implies that it will also be broadcast on the regular WITF channel as well.

Carlisle Indian School Weddings

July 31, 2009

The subject of weddings at Carlisle Indian School recently came up in a conversation with the granddaughter of a Carlisle Indian School student. This subject hasn’t received much attention in the past. Sure, Jim Thorpe’s marriage to Iva Miller was a major national media event in its day, but weddings of non-celebrities or non-celebrities have received little attention since the actual events took place. Let’s take a look at one that might be more representative of student weddings.

Charles Dillon, who is probably best remembered as being the Sioux lineman under whose jersey the pigskin was concealed in the hidden-ball play, was the groom. Rosa LaForge, Crow, was the bride. Because the boys at the school were organized as military cadets, they wore their dress uniforms for the nuptials which were held in the school’s auditorium. The auditorium was full of students and “a large number of invited guests.” The stage was arranged as the alter area of a church, presumably similar to a Presbyterian church because the Rev. Dr. Norcross officiated the Presbyterian ceremony. “The scene already gorgeous beyond description was greatly enhanced by color-sergeant [Nicholas Bowen] taking position with the national and school colors [Mike Balenti] on each side of the stage.”

As the orchestra began playing the Wedding March from Tannhauser, the doors threw open and the bridal party consisting of maid of honor Louise French; bridesmaids Christine Childs, Savannah Beck, Minnie Nick and Annie Goyitney ; and the bride on the arm of Superintendent Major William A. Mercer proceeded up the aisle. “The tall and stately bride was attired in a beautiful white silk gown with a long train. She wore a long veil and carried a gorgeous boquet [sic] of bridal roses. Miss French the maid of honor carried a boquet [sic] of white carnations. Major Mercer appeared in the rich full dress of the army.”

<continued next time>