Archive for the ‘Pop Warner’ Category

A Sad Day in Carlisle

October 5, 2020

Friday was  sad day in Carlisle. Wardecker’s Men’s Wear closed for good. While recent fashion trends have hurt clothing sales, it was the Wuhan virus that did Wardecker’s in. Government reactions to the plague might be more accurate. In spite of diminishing demand for dress clothing, Freddie Wardecker had been able to keep the doors open by selling uniforms to health care workers, people involved in food preparation, police and others as well as by renting tuxedos. The state government’s shutdown decimated the need for new uniforms and eliminated proms. Brides-to-be reacted by scaling down or postponing their weddings. Without uniform sales and tuxedo rentals for proms and wedding, the store had little revenue with which to pay its bills, forcing it to close.

Wardecker’s was not an ordinary men’s store. It was a place with a lengthy history, beginning with Mose Blumenthal, proprietor of The Capital, a haberdashery on North Hanover Street. Along with operating the menswear store, Mose Blumenthal had a tailoring contract at Carlisle Indian School. This relationship proved useful to the Athletic Department in multiple ways. Well known is how Pop Warner had Mose sew an extra hem in the bottom of Charles Dillon’s jersey. However, one of Blumenthal’s employees probably did the work because Mose couldn’t operate a sewing machine.

Carlisle students generally had little money. A way of rewarding athletes for performing well was for the athletic director of school superintendent send chits worth $25 or $50 to Blumenthal, which players could use to buy suits and other clothing. Each player, including the famous ones, had a page or pages in Blumenthal’s log book to keep track of their chits and purchases.

Clothiers, like magic dragons, don’t live forever, so Mose sold his business to long-time employee James “Muck” Wardecker. Hence the name on the door: Wardecker’s Men’s Wear, formerly Blumenthal’s. Jim’s son, Freddie, was helping his dad back in 1967 when Bob Wheeler was interviewing people who knew Jim Thorpe. Wheeler’s work was made easier, after hitchhiking to Carlisle, when Muck tossed Freddie his car keys and told him to drive Bob to all the people he needed to visit. Wheeler’s definitive biography of Thorpe further cemented the ties between the Indian School and Wardecker’s.

Since then, Wardecker’s, with all its memorabilia, has been an important stop for every author or filmmaker wanting to write a book or make a movie about Jim Thorpe or the Indian School. Now, that is finished, but Wardecker’s had a great run and will remain strong in people’s memories.

1899 Carlisle vs. California

August 20, 2020

I was asked to write an article about a game I hadn’t previously given much consideration: the Christmas Day 1899 post-season contest between Carlisle Indian School and the University of California. I learned a good bit researching the game. The College Football Historical Society published it this month. Membership is only $17.00 a year, payable to:

Raymond Schmidt, PO Box 6460, Ventura, CA 93006

If you find this interesting, you might want to join the CFHS and get your own copies of editions with articles such as this one mailed directly to you.

Restore Jim Thorpe’s Records

July 16, 2020

Thanks in great part to Florence Ridlon’s and Bob Wheeler’s tireless efforts, Jim Thorpe’s Olympic medals were restored in 1983. That isn’t entirely accurate. Thorpe’s original medals were supposed to be kept secure in a museum but were stolen. So, the medals his children were given were commemorative ones, not their father’s actual medals. The IOC may have restored his medals, sort of, but only listed him as co-champion of the 1912 decathlon and pentathlon, the two multi-event competitions he won but his times, distances and points were not restored. The IOC records still list the second-place finishers as the winning marks. Now, people are trying to do something about that injustice.

BrightPathStrong.com is circulating a petition with the goal of restoring Jim Thorpe’s records. For those who might not be aware, Bright Path is the Anglicized version of Jim’s Sac and Fox name. Here is a link to their site:

https://brightpathstrong.com/petition

1899 Cal Players Exploited

July 8, 2020

While researching the 1899 Christmas Day game between Carlisle Indian School and the University of California for an upcoming article, I learned that the Cal players had voted three times against playing in this post-season game. Initially, they gave fatigue from the season just finished and the need to study for final exams as the reasons for objecting to another game. What turned out to be the real reason was the money. Players complained that the Thanksgiving Day game against archrival Stanford had generated a lot of revenue but athletes received no benefits from it.

A major objection was that Cal’s athletes didn’t have a “clubhouse” in spite of generating lots of money and receiving nothing in return. Only after they’d wrested control of the finances from Manager Irwin J. “Jerry” Muma and transferred it to the athletic committee did the team agree to the tough, but potentially profitable, game with the Indians.

A major difference between then and now is that in the decades before the dawn of the NFL, athletic scholarships were not (officially) allowed. Student players generally paid full tuition and received nothing for their efforts, aside from the adulation of comely co-eds—unless alumni with deep pockets were generous with their money. The Cal players’ case for controlling the finances was considerably different than for today’s gladiators who get athletic scholarships, numerous perks not available to other students, and a shot at turning pro. Why should they have performed risky, unpaid labor for a college unwilling to use some of the profits for facilities that would improve athletes’ performance?

Sampson Bird Fights the Pandemic

March 28, 2020

SamBird2The current pandemic brought to mind a favorite Carlisle Indian School football player. Sampson George Bird, son of John Bird, a white man of English descent, and Mattie Medicine Wolf, full-blood Piegan Blackfeet, lived on the Blackfeet Reservation near Browning, Montana, just east of present-day Glacier National Park before coming to Carlisle Indian School. Sam started receiving notice for his athletic ability at Carlisle in the fall of 1909, when he was elevated from the second team to the starting eleven. Because he was a lineman, he toiled in relative obscurity.

His social life, however, generated him more coverage in the school newspaper when he and his partner, Margaret Blackwood, Chippewa from Michigan, won three dance contests. After the school year ended, the couple left for Montana to be married. Their marriage barely survived the honeymoon because Margaret was stricken with spinal meningitis and died in August 1910.

Sampson returned to Carlisle, where he assisted Pop Warner in coaching the team while also playing right guard. At season’s end, he was elected captain of the 1911 team because he was “…one of the best players on the team, a heady player, a natural leader, and very popular among the players and students….” Coach Warner shifted him from guard to end and added an end-around play to the playbook. Sam led the team to its greatest season, beating two of the Big Four for only the second time in Carlisle history. The only blemish on their record was a one-point loss to an inferior Syracuse team on a wet field.

Off the field, he earned the reputation of being everyone’s best man by standing up for so many of his friends at their weddings. Soon after school’s end in May 1912, he married fellow student Margaret Burgess, Haida/Tlinget from Alaska, and operated his family’s ranches in Montana. They soon had a growing family. When the Great Influenza Pandemic struck, Sam Bird allowed no one on or off the ranch. Supplies from town were dropped off at the end of the lane for later pick up by the family. No one on the ranch got sick.

Athletic genes must run in Sam’s family because his grandchildren and great-grandchildren are stars on the Indian rodeo circuit.

Was Lone Star Dietz in Vaudeville?

January 10, 2018

I was very interested when Google Alert informed me of an article in The Spokesman-Review of Spokane, Washington this afternoon. It acknowledges the 100th anniversary of Lone Star Dietz pursuing an acting career in that city: http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2018/jan/10/100-years-ago-today-in-spokane-washington-states-f/ It is well known and covered in my biography of Dietz that he bought shares in the Washington Motion Picture Company, acted in Fool’s Gold and went broke when the studio folded. The film actually made a little money but not nearly enough to cover the operating costs of the fledgling production company.

What was news to me was the subhead “Gives Up Vaudeville.” I had no idea Dietz was in Vaudeville. I was aware of him acting in pictures in Hollywood and Spokane, but not of him being on the Vaudeville circuit. Unfortunately, the portion of the article that may have covered that issue wasn’t reproduced in today’s paper. Maybe Jim Kershner, the reporter who wrote today’s piece can send me a copy of the entire original.

Vaudeville was not always used in the way we think of it today. Sometimes it was used as a catch all for people performing in front of live audiences, including the lecture circuit. For example, Pop Warner referred to Frank Cayou as being in Vaudeville when he was giving talks on something akin to the Chautauqua Circuit.

19180110 Dietz Vaudeville Movies

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Radiolab Program About Carlisle on NPR

February 13, 2015

I was interviewed at length some weeks ago by NPR’s Radiohead for a future broadcast about Carlisle Indian School football. While listening to Sally Jenkins’s interview during the program, I was saddened by the lack of nuance in her description of the 1896 Carlisle-Yale game. Yes, William O. Hickok was a Yale alum but he was also Carlisle’s coach that year. Omitting this important fact spun the officiating of the game as outright cheating. Carlisle Indian School ran a special edition of its newspaper, The Red Man, that included contemporaneous coverage of the game from the viewpoints of several observers who had differing opinions. A reasonable conclusion that could be made after reading these articles would be that Hickok blew the call, to use modern football parlance, by prematurely blowing his whistle before Isaac Seneca or Jonas Metoxen (accounts vary as to who was carrying the ball initially) was taken to the ground. Bad calls are still part of football, so much so that instant replay has been instituted in recent years to overturn them when ample evidence is provided on the video. To say that Hickok, Carlisle’s coach at the time, cheated his own team in favor of his alma mater, is a serious accusation that doesn’t stand up to the available evidence. Think about the boost a victory, or even a tie, with Yale would have given Hickok’s coaching career. He had a significant incentive to beat Yale. He just blew the call and, possibly, his chance at being a top-flight coach.

Contrary to the Radiolab program, Pop Warner didn’t just happen to coach Carlisle. After graduating from Cornell with a law degree, he had coached Iowa State and Georgia–simultaneously–before returning to lead his alma mater. Seeing that his players needed better coaching, Superintendent Pratt asked Walter Camp, the greatest expert on the game of his day, for advice. Camp suggested he consider Pop Warner, an ingenious up and coming coach. Warner and the Indians made a perfect match football-wise. Neither would likely have had the records they did without each other.

Richard Henry Pratt, who was sometimes called “an honest lunatic” by his critics, deserves a more balanced treatment than NPR gave him. Where a common, if not majority, view at the time favored eradication, Pratt held the radical view that Indians could do anything a white man could do. I’ve never found anything from the period stating that Carlisle students weren’t allowed to speak their own languages. They were surely encouraged to speak English but Pratt had no need to force them. How else were they going to communicate with each other if they didn’t? The various tribes represented at Carlisle spoke numerous different languages and could only understand those from their own tribe or one that spoke a similar-enough language. Other schools, where the students were from a single or only a few tribes, may have forced their students to speak English but Carlisle had no need to do that.