Archive for the ‘Washington State University’ Category

Lone Star Dietz Belongs in Hall of Fame

March 5, 2009

The National Football Foundation released the 2009 ballot for the College Football Hall of Fame and Lone Star Dietz’s name is on it again, but don’t get too excited. Lone Star Dietz should have been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame decades ago but hasn’t been. In my opinion, Dietz shouldn’t need an HoF-worthy win-loss record (something he has) to gain admission to the Hall. His 1915 season culminated by the 1916 Rose Bowl in itself should be enough. He took over a Washington State team that had had a string of losing seasons and led them to the best record on the West Coast that year. As a reward, he was given the honor of defending the honor of the west in a New Year’s Day game to be played in Pasadena after the parade. At that time West Coast football was considered to be inferior to the Eastern brand. In 1899 the Carlisle Indians defeated the University of California in a Christmas Day game played in San Francisco and this was before the Indians hit their stride. A 1902 New Year’s game was played in Pasadena between Michigan and Stanford but it was a failure because Stanford threw in the towel in the second half while losing 49-0 because they could no longer field 11 players without broken bones. They waited until 1916 to give it another try.

Dietz and his team demonstrated to the entire country that West Coast football (at least Dietz’s team) was the equivalent of Eastern Football when they beat Coach Eddie Robinson’s fine Brown University team that featured Fritz Pollard. They also established the New Year’s Day football tradition, the Rose Bowl, and all the other bowls that would follow. Some Eastern sportswriters considered Washington State to be national champs that year. Dietz didn’t need to do anything more to deserve induction, but he did and did it well. Robinson and Pollard were inducted half a century ago but not Dietz. He was inducted into the Helms Foundation long ago but not the College Football Hall of Fame.

For years the HoF had incorrectly computed his win-loss record and deemed him unworthy of consideration. Their mistake was finally corrected in this century, so almost no one alive remembers him. Also, his selection would probably not result in as large a number of banquet tickets being sold as did Bowden’s and Paterno’s. Thus the HoF has little incentive to induct him.

lonestar-wyoming1

Brown Was In 1916 Rose Bowl, Too!

December 18, 2008

I recently posted some footage of the 1916 Rose Bowl that was provided to me by the Washington State athletic department onto www.YouTube.com/TomBenjey. Washington State was of course running the single-wing, but Brown was running a derivative that eagle-eyed Ted Seay observed that “At the 5:48 mark, Brown shifts into a double-flexed formation with an end and tackle to the left, then they slot their wingback inside that tandem and sweep to the left…” I am now working on a short video of Brown’s offense that will include slow-motion clips for those of us who don’t have Ted’s powers of observation. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yTA2w8aanPc&feature=channel_page That got me thinking about Brown’s players. Everyone is familiar with Fritz Pollard and, to use WSC’s descriptor, “the giant [Mark] Farnum,” but there are other players from that team who are in the Brown Hall of Fame. Let’s start with Josh Weeks because I have communicated with his son, Randall, who talked with him about the game.

Joshua H. Weeks, number 42, played right end on the 1915 Brown University team that played against Washington State in the 1916 Rose Bowl. Later in life he shared some of his experiences with his sons. Randy has been good enough to pass some of his memories along to me. For starters, Brown got little exercise, contrary to what the cartoon at the bottom of this piece insinuated. Prior to the game the players encountered citrus trees loaded with ripe fruit and gorged themselves on oranges. What a mistake! The result was frequent bathroom runs during the game.

Seeing no need for cold or wet weather gear, Brown brought neither along with them. Two days before the game it snowed and it poured during the game. Lone Star Dietz only brought summer suits for himself but did bring mud cleats for his players. Fritz Pollard could get no footing and was held to a season-low in yards gained. He did notice that Lone Star’s white suit was covered with mud before the first quarter was over.

<to be continued>

 brown-practice

Rally in the Valley

October 3, 2008

David “Cougman” Welch informs me that an autographed copy of Keep A-goin’: the life of Lone Star Dietz and a Lone Star Dietz custom silk necktie are being auctioned off to help fund scholarships for students attending Washington State University and to support the WSU Alumni Association. The Rally in the Valley is the Skagit Valley Cougars’ signature event each year. More information can be found about this year’s event at http://alumni.wsu.edu/site/c.llKYL9MQIsG/b.2123257/. A flyer for the event can be found here: www.Tuxedo-Press.com/RallyInTheValley.pdf.

 

For those unfamiliar with Lone Star Dietz, a little background is in order. William Henry Lone Star Dietz was a star tackle at Carlisle Indian School, assistant coach under Pop Warner for three years and also an art instructor. Dietz took the reins as head coach in Pullman in 1915. In his three years as head coach at Washington State (four if you count the 1918 Mare Island Marines composed heavily of his former college players), Dietz led them to two undefeated regular seasons (three if you count the Mare Island year) and Washington State’s only Rose Bowl win (also their first loss if you count the Mare Island team).

 

Keep A-goin’ tells Lone Star Dietz’s life story. The necktie as seen below incorporates the distinctive signature Lone Star put on his artwork. Also note that the tie is in Washington State colors (crimson and gray). I will be wearing one of these ties on the evening of October 17 when he is inducted into the Albright College Hall of Fame.

 

What happened to Dietz’s Russian Wolfhound?

September 9, 2008

 

Orloff Kennel logo from Lone Star Dietz's letterheard, 1915

Orloff Kennel logo from Lone Star Dietz

Over the weekend I was contacted by Lizzie with www.ArtHistorie.com concerning Lone Star Dietz’s champion Borzoi (then called Russian Wolfhound). Those of you who have read my biography of Dietz know that he and his first wife, Angel DeCora, raised and showed prize-winning Russian Wolfhounds and won several categories at Westminster Kennel Club’s 1915 dog show. Their Khotni even won best of breed. It appears that ArtHistorie.com is a gallery that sells fine art and history. Apparently Lizzie is handling the estate of Joseph B. Thomas’s son and the estate includes a number of items from Thomas’s father. So? The elder Thomas operated Valley Farms Kennels, a leading breeder of Russian Wolfhounds. A 1907 article in The Rider and Driver and Outdoor Sport told of him traveling 15,000 miles to a remote part of Russia just to acquire a brace of Russian Wolfhounds. He was very serious about these dogs.

Angel and Lone Star bought Khotni from Thomas around 1910 when they started Orloff Kennels behind their apartment at Carlisle Indian School on Carlisle Barracks. One can only imagine the complaints when their pack howled late at night. Lizzie wanted some information about Dietz and Thomas:

Can you tell me what kind of relationship Lone Star had with the Borzoi Breeder Joseph B. Thomas? Did Lone Star end up selling his beloved Khotni back to Thomas?

We believe we have the Westminster trophy won by Khotni (directly acquired from Joseph’s son’s estate) and would like to know as much about it’s history as we can!

Unfortunately, I couldn’t answer her questions as I know nothing of the relationship between Dietz and Thomas and don’t know what happened to Khotni. The last information I have on him is that, after Lone Star took the head coaching position at Washington State, Angel had Khotni with her and was trying to sell him for $1,000. Perhaps a reader knows more.

 

Best Team-Russian Wolfhounds-Presented by Mrs. Joseph B. Thomas

Best Team-Russian Wolfhounds-Presented by Mrs. Joseph B. Thomas

Lone Star’s Baby Curls

June 2, 2008

A 1974 Sports Illustrated article that was stuffed into the back of the Sports Immortals brochure included something of particular interest to me: “William (Lone Star) Dietz’ baby curls from his first haircut are not in Los Angeles’ Citizen’s Savings (née Helms) Athletic Foundation Hall.” The article went on to say that Lone Star’s baby curls along with a lot, and I mean a lot, of other sports memorabilia are in Joel Platt’s collection. As Lone Star’s biographer, I find this to be very interesting because I was previously unaware of the existence of Dietz’s locks. Considering that the color of his hair at birth was a significant issue at Lone Star’s WWI draft evasion trial, makes this artifact all the more important.

Leanna Ginder Dietz Lewis raised Lone Star and would have had his baby curls. She probably gave them to him and his wife, Doris, when she visited them in Reading. They would have likely remained in his estate until the executrix gave them to Joel Platt.

The prominent mention of Dietz-related memorabilia and the reference to Helms Athletic Foundation attest to his importance to the history of the game. Preceding the curls in the article were mentions of the Polo Grounds’ home plate crossed by Bobby Thompson after hitting his historic home run, Babe Ruth’s Boston Braves uniform worn when he hit his last three home runs, Bronko Nagurski’s 1934 contract with the Bears, and Pudge Heffelfinger’s Yale pants and pads. Following the curls’ mention were Gene Tunney’s long-count gloves and Cassius Clay’s 1960 Olympic Games sweatshirt. Some company, huh?

The Citizen’s Savings Athletic Foundation was a prestigious institution that inducted Lone Star into its hall of fame in 1976. Jim Thorpe and Pop Warner were the only other Carlislers inducted therein. The prominence of Dietz’s mention by Sports Illustrated is further evidence that he should be ensconced in the College Football Hall of Fame. A photo of an older Lone Star Dietz was slipped into the brochure along with the Sports Illustrated article. See below.

Galleys Received

May 27, 2008

The advance reading copies (called ARCs in the trade) arrived for my new book and are being sent out to reviewers. This is a big moment in a writer’s life: seeing thousands of hours of hard work turned into something tangible. In the old days (pre-computer), ARCs were called galleys, bound galleys or galley proofs. Authors, editors and publishers go over these babies with a fine-tooth comb looking for errors, typos or things that have changed since writing was complete. It is an impossible task because, after all this scrutiny, some typos escape and find their way into the final book. But we try.

Another important use of ARCs is to see how the photos and artwork come out in print. Overall they came out very well, better than expected. But a cartoon about the Oorang Indians from a 1922 Baltimore newspaper is too dim. The challenge now is to figure out how to darken it without losing the detail.

This weekend I received some additional information and a correction regarding Louis Island from a family member who happened to see a previous blog. That was fortuitous because I want the book to be as accurate as possible. This blog is already proving to be of some value. That encourages me to continue with it.

Having these ARCs provides local booksellers the opportunity to provide their customers something extra. People can look at an ARC and pre-order the book if they choose. The bonus, besides being sure of getting a copy of the book as soon as it comes out, is to receive an inscription of his or her choice signed by the author. On-line booksellers also take pre-orders but personalized inscriptions are impractical.

 

 

Lone Star Dietz snubbed again

May 3, 2008

Yesterday, the College Football Hall of Fame announced its induction class of 2008 and Lone Star Dietz was again not selected for induction. It also announced that it has renamed the Division I-A class to the Football Bowl Subdivision class. How ironic. If it hadn’t been for Dietz’s showmanship and coaching acumen, the Rose Bowl may have not gotten off the ground. Countless bowl games might not exist if Lone Star’s Washington State team hadn’t upset Fritz Pollard’s Brown team in 1916. Had Dietz’s team performed as had Stanford did in 1902 against Michigan, they might still be holding chariot races and donkey polo games after the Rose Parade. Instead, he showed the country that Pacific Coast football (or at least his team) was the equal of eastern powers and with that New Year’s Day football became a tradition.

But Lone Star Dietz wasn’t a one-trick pony. He turned around a number of ailing programs and still ended his career with a Hall-of-Fame worthy won-loss record. Some would think that winning over 60% of his games at previously losing institutions would be miraculous. Pundits did when they dubbed him “Miracle Man” for turning around the Haskell program. Doing what he did is a lot harder than inheriting a football dynasty and maintaining a winning record. Many of those dynasties fatten up their records on teams like the ones Dietz turned into winners.

It’s not just about the numbers; it’s also about how they got the numbers and Dietz got them the hard way.

 

Lone Star Dietz selected for Hall of Fame

April 1, 2008

At long last an oversight or, as many view it, a snubbing is being corrected. Lone Star Dietz should have been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame decades ago but hasn’t been. Some view this as just another example of Indians being abused by white men. Dietz has been inducted into a number of halls of fame including the prestigious Helms Athletic Foundation Hall of Fame back in the 1970s. His role in establishing the New Year’s Day football tradition, most notably the Rose Bowl, is reason enough to induct him. But that’s not all. His won-loss record qualifies him for induction and that’s saying something. Lone Star Dietz did not nestle into a successful program and ride that horse for decades; he undertook a number of reconstruction efforts and turned programs around. On the few occasions he couldn’t turn a perpetual loser into a winner, he got the student body excited.

So, why hasn’t he been inducted? Until a few years ago the Hall had his record wrong and didn’t consider him qualified. Now that the record has been corrected he is eligible and his name has been on the ballot. A couple of years ago he came close but while the ballots were being counted, the Honors Committee (now that’s a dubious name) decided they wanted to induct Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden. There was one hitch: Paterno and Bowden’s names weren’t on the ballot because, as active coaches, they weren’t eligible. That problem was easily dealt with. All they had to do was to change the rules in midstream. Presto! Paterno and Bowden were eligible and the men whose names were actually on the ballot were forgotten. Sorry, Lone Star.

But this year he’s getting a fair shake and is belatedly being inducted. Perhaps this will lift the Lone Star Curse from Washington State.

April Fool!

Minority Coaches

March 28, 2008

Yesterday I came across a December 8, 2007 article in The News Tribune out of Tacoma, Washington. In it reporter Todd Miles wrote, “Not since 1917 have the Washington State Cougars had a minority head coach in football.” Putting aside the fact that Washington State’s teams weren’t called the Cougars in 1917, the statement is still incorrect. Yes, Lone Star Dietz coached the 1918 Mare Island Marine team that was featured in WSC’s yearbook because ten players were from WSC. And, although Dietz considered it Washington State’s second Rose Bowl team, it didn’t wear crimson and gray. The major error is that not one but two minority coaches were overlooked. This is why we study history.

When Dietz was unceremoniously dumped in early 1919, WSC wanted another coach who was steeped in the Warner system because Dietz had been wildly successful with it. So, the administration looked for someone with experience, not just with the single and double-wing formations but with the whole system. Recall that Ace Clark thought that the way Lone Star conditioned his players and reduced the amount of scrimmaging left them in better shape for the games. Albert Exendine was a logical choice but he was under contract at Georgetown. Eventually Gus Welch was tracked down on a former battlefield in France and recruited for the job.

Gus Welch was Chippewa from Wisconsin and Al Exendine was Delaware and Cherokee from Oklahoma, but they have a lot of similarities. Both attended Carlisle Indian School and starred on its teams, Exendine at end and Welch at quarterback (blocking back in Warner’s single-wing). Both got their law degrees from Dickinson School of Law (now part of Penn State) across town from the Indian school. Both had long careers of coaching football in the fall and practicing law the rest of the year. Both were inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as players. And both coached Washington State. Welch led the team from 1919 through 1922 and Exendine took over in 1923, lasting through the 1925 season. Each has a chapter devoted to him in Doctors, Lawyers, Indian Chiefs.

So, Washington State has a history of hiring minority head football coaches, just not lately.

Welcome!

March 7, 2008

Welcome to my world. For most of the new century I have been researching the lives of Carlisle Indian School football stars, something that has been a very rewarding experience. Along the way we – my wife Ann assists in the research and sometimes finds some unexpected things – have met some interesting and very helpful people. We have also discovered things for which we can’t find places in the books but which people may find interesting. Let’s start with something recent.

In the summer of 2002, Ann and I took a tour of Tanzania with a group of 10 people. At night when we were all assembled for the first time, the guide subjected us to the dreaded circle routine. When it was my turn to introduce myself, I said that I was writing a book on Lone Star Dietz. A woman a couple of places away from me in the circle responded, “Do you mean Lone Star Dietz the football coach?” I responded in the affirmative and asked how she knew about him. The woman – Betty Tyler – informed me that, when she was a child the Dietzes lived next door to her in Reading, Pennsylvania, where he coached the Albright College football team at that time. I was shocked to meet someone who actually knew Dietz in a group of 10 people on the other side of the world.

Betty’s mother, Dorothy Hawkins, was living near Charleston, South Carolina at the time and, although in her 90s, had a very clear mind. That fall Ann and I visited some friends in Charleston – the ones who arranged the Africa trip – so I could interview Mrs. Hawkins. Dorothy was a lovely person and shared information about Lone Star that one cannot find in newspaper reports or public files. She was very helpful, especially because she and her family moved to Pittsburgh and kept in contact with the Dietzes who were also living there after the war. Through Betty and her mother I was also able to interview Betty’s brother. That interview was conducted over the phone because he lives in San Francisco. He recalled Lone Star parading up and down the street in his Sioux regalia and challenging the kids to tug on his pitch-black hair to show that it was all real.

Late last year we received some sad news: Dorothy Hawkins had died. In addition to the bad news, Betty Tyler gave us some good news. Betty’s mother had a painting Lone Star gave her many years ago and Betty didn’t have a place for it in her house. Knowing that I was so interested in Lone Star and would appreciate it, she gave it to me. What good fortune! Now I must reorganize my already cluttered office to give it an appropriate place on the wall.

To learn more about Lone Star Dietz, check out www.LoneStarDietz.com. To learn more about my upcoming book, check out www.Tuxedo-Press.com. If you’re interested in seeing video previews for the books, look at www.YouTube.com/TomBenjey.

Now I must go to the Cumberland County Historical Society to look at the Jim Thorpe letters they just acquired. More on that later.