Archive for the ‘Pop Warner’ Category

Warner Teams Scored the Most Points

December 15, 2013

While researching the 1906 Carlisle Indian School team, I came across something that might interest my sports statistician friend Tex Noel in the December 7, 1906 edition of The Arrow, Carlisle’s school newspaper. In addition to summing up Carlisle’s season, the article titled Football Resume closed with a list of points scored and points allowed by team for the top 34 college teams. Carlisle scored 244 points for the season where Cornell scored 237. The only team to outscore them was the University of Western Pennsylvania (known as Pitt today), which racked up 254 points. Pitt not only played an easier schedule that year than did Carlisle and Cornell, they lost to them 22-0 and 23-0, respectively. It is fair to say that Carlisle and Cornell far more points than did the other major football powers that first year under the revolutionary new rules. But why?

Sure, they had good players, but some teams had All Americans. I propose that it was the offensive schemes these teams ran that made the difference. Ironically, both teams ran formations developed by none other than Pop Warner. Warner stated that the Indians were the first team to run the earliest incarnation of his single-wingback formation and they first ran it 1906. But Warner didn’t coach Carlisle in 1906 because he was at Cornell then. However, he spent a week at Carlisle before the season started coaching the Indians’ coaches, Bemus Pierce and Frank Hudson, in his new offensive schemes designed to take advantage of what the new rules allowed, including the forward pass. It’s probably true that both Carlisle and Cornell ran Warner’s single-wing that year. Given that, even though they don’t use it themselves, some modern-day coaches acknowledge that the single-wing was the most effective running formation ever devised. In those days of run mostly, even an early version of the single-wing would have given teams running it an advantage that could show up on the scoreboard.

1906 points scored

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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.

100th Anniversary of Jim Thorpe’s First At Bat

April 8, 2013

Sunday marks another milestone in sports history: Jim Thorpe’s first major league at bat. A year to the day after being selected for the 1912 U. S. Olympic team, on Monday, April 14, 1913, Jim Thorpe made his major league debut by pinch hitting for spitballer Charles Monroe “Jeff” Tesreau in the bottom of the ninth inning in a 3 to 2 loss to the Giants’ cross-town rivals, the Brooklyn Dodgers. He made an out.

However, he started out spring training much better. In a 6-inning split-squad game played at the Giants’ camp in Marlin Springs, Texas on February 28, he hit a three-run homer and singled off the afore-mentioned Jeff Tesreau. On March 5, Frank Demaree struck out Thorpe on a “wide bender” for Thorpe’s first strike out in spring training. Perhaps, this was the origin of the belief that Jim couldn’t hit a curve ball.

On March 12, he hit a long home run off Christy Matthewson, one of First Five inductees into baseball’s hall of fame in Cooperstown. But his fielding was considered weak and his hitting inconsistent. A March 14 wire service item quoted McGraw: “Muggsy of Gotham opines that Injun Jim Thorpe is one of the rawest ever. Raw red skin!” Pop Warner suggested that a year or two of seasoning in the minor leagues under skillful coaching would have helped Thorpe immensely. Instead, McGraw kept him with the Big League team to capitalize on his popularity.

Newspapers reported that John McGraw planned to cut short Thorpe’s $6,000 per year contract after the Giants made their first western road trip. McGraw may not have realized he had not signed Thorpe to a standard National League contract at this time. Pop Warner authored the non-standard contract, which went into effect on April 10, 1913, the Giants’ opening day that year. But that is another story.

Thorpe in Giant uniform 1913

 

A Typo Cause Problems a Century Later

January 13, 2013

Today, I received a question from Jeff Miller asking if I knew anything about the Springfield Canning Company, particularly with regard to Pop Warner, whose life Jeff is researching. I clearly recalled reading about Pop’s relationship with the Springfield Canning Company from the Proceedings of the Joint Congressional Inquiry into Carlisle Indian School and assumed that is what prompted Jeff’s question. A quick search on that documented verified that, on page 1337, Pop Warner was identified as having a relationship with Springfield Canning Company. Knowing that Jeff is an experienced researcher led me to conclude that he hadn’t been able to find information about Springfield Canning Company through normal means before he contacted me. I had a hunch I knew why he couldn’t find anything: the company was named something other than what was recorded in the proceedings of that investigation.

It is well known that Warner’s home town was Springville, New York. I live on East Springville Road but my mail is all too often misaddressed to Springfield Road. Because this happens so frequently, I take great pains in making sure clerks get it right because my post office also delivers mail to addresses on a Springfield Road, which is miles from my house. As a result, delivery of mail sent to me can be delayed if not lost completely. So, I did a quick search on Springville Canning and immediately came up with references to it on the site for the Concord, New York Historical Society which is located in Springville, New York. http://townofconcordnyhistoricalsociety.org/timeline.php3

It seems highly likely Springville Canning Company is the correct name of the firm and the government stenographer just got it wrong as so many clerks do now. I’ll leave to Jeff the task of researching this further.

100th Anniversary of 1912 Carlisle-Army Game

November 9, 2012

Follows is the short article I was asked to write for The Torch, the monthly magazine of the U. S. Army War College, to commemmorate the 100th Anniversary of the 1912 Carlisle-Army football game:

The Cadets of West Point took the field on The Plain November 9, 1912, aiming to avenge their 1905 loss to Carlisle Indian School in the two schools’ only previous battle, also on The Plain. Missing from the second battle were the players and coaches from both 1905 teams and Major William A. Mercer, Carlisle Superintendent and Calvary officer, who had arranged that game by gaining permission from the War Department. Also AWOL in 1912 were the large crowd, dignitaries, and media interest the first game attracted. Present in 1912 were Jim Thorpe, Gus Welch, Joe Guyon, Pop Warner, Leland Devore, Dwight Eisenhower, Babe Weyand (in the bleachers), and Pot Graves, a cast surely destined for a movie.

Ominous clouds filled the sky and a cold wind blew across the field, making passing and punting risky businesses. Both sides’ emotions ran high as the combatants craved a victory. Carlisle arrived undefeated, the only blemish on their record a scoreless tie with Washington and Jefferson College, a month earlier. Army was 3-1 with a 6-0 loss to Yale. Holding the Eli of Yale to only four first downs and a low score gave the Cadets hope for success over the Indians.

Newspaper accounts after the game never considered its outcome in doubt, but those looking only at the scoreboard, at least for the first half, may have thought otherwise. The Indians bested the Cadets for most of the first half but didn’t score due to errant forward passes in the end zone. The turning point of the second quarter came when Carlisle fullback Stancil “Possum” Powell was expelled from the game for punching Army quarterback Vern “Nig” Pritchard. The 27-yard penalty combined with Powell’s ejection dampened the Indians’ spirits. Army then moved the ball forward the remaining 27 yards with fullback Geoffrey Keyes pushing the ball across the goal line. Pritchard missed the kick after the touchdown.

Momentum shifted in the Indians’ favor on the kickoff opening the second half when All-America tackle and team captain Leland Devore jumped on Joe Guyon, who had been getting the better of him all day, getting himself thrown out of the game. Army defensive backs Dwight Eisenhower and Charles Benedict knocked each other out of the game for the rest of the quarter in a failed attempt to sideline Thorpe. The Indians scored 27 unanswered points to lick Army worse than any opponent had beaten them in many years.

Guiding The White Brethren

October 26, 2012

The electronic version of the Fall 2012 edition of the magazine for the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) is finally out. My article on Carlisle Indians who went on to coach other teams is on page 46 (page 44 of print version). The idea for this article came to me after attending Lone Star Dietz’s enshrinement ceremony into the College Football Hall of Fame. He is the only Carlisle Indian to be inducted as a coach. Six others, some of whom also coached, were enshrined previously but as players. It is unlikely that any others will receive this honor because no other Carlisle Indian coached as long or with nearly as much success as Dietz.

American Indian athletic prowess is getting much attention this year due to 2012 being the 100th anniversary of Jim Thorpe’s extraordinary triumphs in the pentathlon and decathlon at the 1912 Stockholm Games. Anyone unfamiliar with Native Americans’ success in the Olympics can read my several previous blog entries on this topic.

Worthy of note is that Dietz and the others had great success coaching white college and professional players. Many of them, including Dietz, coached Indian teams at one time or another but the vast majority of their coaching careers were with white college teams. Having played with Carlisle and knowing the Warner System gave these men instant credibility and opened doors for them. After going through those doors, success or the lack of it was the deciding factor. After all, sports have always been a meritocracy. Performance matters above all. Carlisle players succeeded on the field both as players and coaches. The graduate system of coaching that was tried in the early 20th century limited coaching opportunities for those who hadn’t attended major colleges but numerous smaller schools welcomed Carlisle Indians to lead their teams. Although far from an ideal situation, these men were given the opportunity to succeed or fail on their own merits and they largely succeeded.

http://content.yudu.com/A1yt4b/fall2012/resources/index.htm?referrerUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.americanindianmagazine.org%2Fabout-us

Was 1912 Thorpe’s 2,000-Yard Season?

July 31, 2012

It may be that the reporter was trying to determine if Jim Thorpe was the first to rush 2,000 yards in a single season rather than in his career at Carlisle. I say that because, in her article in the current edition of Smithsonian Magazine, Sally Jenkins wrote, “He returned to lead Carlisle’s football team to a 12-1-1 record, running for 1,869 yards on 191 attempts—more yards in a season than O.J. Simpson would run for USC in 1968. And that total doesn’t include yardage from two games Thorpe played in. It’s possible that, among the things Thorpe did in 1912, he was college football’s first 2,000-yard rusher.”

Again because stats aren’t my thing, I contacted Tex Noel about the single-season rushing statistics.Tex responded quickly with:

I do know that JT was NOT the 1st back to rush for 100+ yards in a game. (3 had best game totals; his 362 vs Pennsylvania in 1912 in 9th of 10 spots.)

Yards       Player, Team and Season                      

2032        Ken Strong, New York University, 1928

1869        Jim Thorpe, Carlisle, 1912

1500        Lindsey Donnell, Cumberland TN, 1935

1450        Glenn Presnell, Nebraska, 1927

1421        Norman “Red” Strader, St. Mary’s CA, 1924

1393        Lloyd Brazil, Detroit, 1928

1349        Earl “Dutch” Clark, Colorado College, 1928

1287        Frank Briante, New York University, 1927

1163        Morley Drury, USC, 1927

1074        John “Shipwreck” Kelly, Kentucky, 1931

Source: Stars of an Earlier Autumn (C) 2011, Tex Noel.

Tex has the same total rushing yards for 1912 that Jenkins has but without the caveat that he played in two games for which his statistics weren’t recorded. I suspect that, because Tex is so familiar with the haphazard way in which statistics were recorded in those days, he felt no need to point out that all numbers from that era are to be taken with a reasonable amount of salt.

I then looked in the 1913 Spalding’s Guide, but it made no mention of Thorpe’s (or anyone else’s) rushing yards for 1913. It did include a table of “Famous Runs” compiled by Parke Davis on which Carlisle players got their share of listings. Jim Thorpe was mentioned twice:

1) 80-yard run from scrimmage against Penn on November 16, 1911

2) 60-yard run from scrimmage against Penn on October 24, 1908

Neither of his longest runs were in 1912, the year freshest in Parke Davis’s mind, but longer runs made earlier by Charles Dillon, Gus Welch, and Thaddeus Redwater were.

I don’t know which games for which Thorpe’s rushing yardage is missing but it is possible that he ran for a combined 131 yards in them. It is just as possible that he didn’t, particularly if they were games in which Thorpe wasn’t needed and Pop Warner rested him to get a look at less experienced players in game situations. Thorpe’s 156 yards per game average for the 12 games for which records exist imply that he would have run for enough yardage to total more than 2,000 yards for the season. It’s just as possible that he watched from the sidelines so that he would be available for the tougher opponents in this grueling 14-game schedule.

P.S. Yesterday, this blog received its 50,000th view and highest monthly total (with a day to go).

The First 2,000-Yard Rusher

July 27, 2012

I got a call this week from a reporter out in Oklahoma who asked if Jim Thorpe was the first 2,000-yard rusher. Since my focus is on the people, not the statistics, I forwarded the question to statswiz Tex Noel. Tex quickly responded with career rushing statistics for the period in question:

Top 10 Career Rushing Totals*

Yards         Player, Team Career                       

4469                     Chris “Kenner/Red” Cagle, Southwestern Louisiana Institute/Army, 1922-29

3616                     Jim Thorpe, Carlisle, 1907-08, 11-12

2729                     Ted Hudson, Trinity MA, 1910-13

2516                      Bill Banker, Tulane, 1927-29

2341                      George Gipp, Notre Dame, 1917-20

2382                      Alphonse “Tuffy” Leemans, George Washington, 1933-35

2369                      Don Zimmerman, Tulane, 1930-32

2339                     Willie Heston, Michigan, 1901-04

2140                      Kayo Lam, Colorado, 1933-35

2124                      Henry Benkert, Rutgers, 1921-24

*(C) 2011 Stars of an Earlier Autumn

From this, it is clear that Jim Thorpe did run for more than 2,000 yards in his career at Carlisle—a lot more–but he wasn’t the first player to rush for more than 2,000 yards in his career. That was the great running back from the University of Michigan, Willie Heston, who, almost a decade earlier, ran for 2,339 yards between 1901 and 1904. As an aside, this is probably why Bemus Pierce named his son Heston.

According to these statistics, Thorpe was the first 3,000-yard career rusher and it took the better part of two decades for Red Cagle to surpass his record. Something to keep in mind is that Carlisle always scheduled several tough teams, all on the road, not one or two each year as Warner advised in his books and as The Big Four and most other powers did. So, Jim Thorpe’s individual records were amassed against mostly stiff competition where many other top athletes played mostly against lesser opponents. Also, Pop Warner used his early-season games against easier opponents to take a look at younger players in game conditions and protected his stars against unnecessary injuries by severely limiting their playing time when they weren’t needed to win.

Now, I’ll ask Tex for single-season records to see how Jim Thorpe stacks up in those comparisons.

Carlisle Has as Many Hall of Famers as Miami

July 24, 2012

Well, it finally happened. Lone Star Dietz was enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame last weekend. It isn’t clear to me which activity at the event is the actual enshrinement: the blazer presentation on Friday evening or the enshrinement dinner Saturday night. Attendance apparently isn’t mandatory because Deion Sanders wasn’t present at either event. Lone Star Dietz wasn’t present because he died in 1964. Other deceased inductees were generally represented by their sons but Dietz didn’t have a son. Had I known that Dietz wasn’t going to be represented, I would have suggested that Sheldon Cohen speak on behalf of his late father, Gus, for whom Lone Star acted like a father.

When Russell Maryland, a defensive tackle, was introduced, it was pointed out that he was the eighth Hall-of-Famer from the University of Miami. Lone Star Dietz makes the seventh Carlisle Indian in the College Football Hall of Fame. The other six are: Albert Exendine, Joe Guyon, James Johnson, Jim Thorpe, and Gus Welch. A quick look at the Ball of Fame’s website revealed that six Miami players and two coaches have been inducted. Neither of the coaches played at Miami as both played for Pop Warner at Pitt.

So, as many Carlisle Indian School players have been enshrined as have Miami players. Three of Carlisle’s head coaches have been enshrined: Bill Hickok (as a player at Yale), Pop Warner, and George Woodruff. Gus Welch was Carlisle’s head coach for part of the 1915 season but he was inducted as a Carlisle player. And George Woodruff only coached Carlisle for the 1905 season. Although he led Carlisle to its first victory over Army, he would most likely have been inducted for his work at Penn alone. But one could make the argument that Pop Warner’s record and innovations at Carlisle would have gotten him into the Hall of Fame even if he hadn’t coached later at Pitt, Stanford, and Temple.

Thus, by counting the six players, Dietz and Warner, one could fairly make the argument that little Carlisle, that only fielded teams from 1894 to 1917, has as many Hall-of-Famers as the prodigious producer of professional players, Miami University, which has fielded football teams from 1927 to the present. This is further evidence of the greatness of the tiny Carlisle Indian School football program.

Thorpe Was Also A Hockey Player

July 19, 2012

A January 25, 1913 newspaper article, that I happened upon while searching for something else, discussed something about Jim Thorpe that I hadn’t heard before and was probably lost to history. It is well known that the Cincinnati Reds wanted to sign Thorpe to a professional baseball contract about that time. What isn’t widely known is that another professional team in a different league in a different sport in a different country also wanted Thorpe and, if the reporter was correct, was negotiating with him to sign a contract.

Pop Warner wrote in some detail how he negotiated an exceptionally good contract for Thorpe with John McGraw of the New York Giants baseball team and how the other major league teams wanted him but baseball was the only sport he mentioned in that context. However, the Middletown Daily Times-Press suggested that he might be turning pro in another sport in the article under the headline, “Jim Thorpe May Take Up Professional Hockey.” It reported that Thorpe was negotiating at that time with the Tecumseh team of Toronto. “When questioned W. J. Bellingham, president of the Tecumseh Hockey Club, practically admitted that he was negotiating with Thorpe, but declined to enter into particulars.” Regarding Thorpe’s position, “It is reported that Thorpe will not turn professional unless he receives an ironbound contract calling for a handsome stipend.”

A few factors influenced the outcome, or lack thereof, of these negotiations: 1) They hadn’t seen Thorpe play hockey. He was probably very good, but hiring him sight unseen implies that they were, perhaps, most interested in him as a drawing card, 2) A hockey team of that day couldn’t compete salary-wise with a major league baseball team that was willing to pay Thorpe an exorbitant salary, and 3).Hockey season wouldn’t start until the late fall and Thorpe wanted money sooner so he could get married.