Posts Tagged ‘1903’

1903 Football Deaths vs Other Sports

January 24, 2012

We’ve discussed football deaths for 1905 previously but the concern over deadly violence did not begin at that time.  Concern existed well before that.  The 1903 Spalding’s Guide includes the result of a study on football injuries but, before we look at that, we will focus our attention on a December 4, 1903 article that was run across the country. This article reported 17 deaths and 64 serious injuries for the season just ended. Not included were what the writer called local or scrub teams or the carnage from the railroad accident involving the entire Purdue team.  “They are simply the deaths and accidents that occurred in noted games. And the record for this season is nothing unusual. It is just about an average with other seasons.”

The writer was evidently not a supporter of football as it existed at that time. He compared football to boxing and found fewer serious injuries in boxing although it attracted more attention from legislators. When he compared football to bullfighting, football came out as worse because the bulls would be eaten for food and the horses used in bullfighting were destined for the glue factory anyway. Also, bulls and horses alike were killed in combat, a much more desirable way to die than at a packing plant. He went on to compare bullfighting with fox hunting with dogs and horses in not very complimentary terms as another example of a sport over which Americans preferred football. He further criticized Americans’ taste by pointing out that if the 20 hunters already dead and the five more dying in Northern Wisconsin because they were mistaken for deer by other hunters were killed by Spaniards, Russians or the Chinese, we would view them as being very stupid.

1903 Rule Changes Quarterback Position

March 14, 2011

Recently, I have received several questions about football rules that I couldn’t answers because I don’t have all the old rules books. BTW, if someone sends me a complete set of the Spalding Football Guides, I will be eternally grateful. By chance–the way I learn most things–I happened upon a rule change that I wasn’t looking for and of which I was completely unaware.

An August 7, 1903 New York Times article titled “New Rules May Require Heavier and Fleeter Players to Replace Old Style Lightweight Quarterbacks.” The rules didn’t require that heavier players be assigned to the quarterback position. Rather, the rule change that allowed quarterbacks to carry the ball would make sturdier players with footspeed better candidates for that position. I was unaware that, prior to 1903, quarterbacks were not allowed to run with the ball after receiving the center snap (which could have been anything from a heel back to a ball skidding across the grass), the quarterback had to get rid of the ball quickly by handing it or passing (we would call it lateraling today) the ball to another player because he wasn’t allowed to advance the ball himself.

It stands to reason that such a rule might have been in place because, in rugby, the game American football evolved from, the hooker heels the ball back through the scrum to the scrum half (usually a diminutive player) who, as quickly as he can, passes the ball off to another back who runs with the ball or passes it along to another player. The quarterback position developed out of the scrum half and functioned much like its counterpart in the older game for some decades. Being small was considered as being an asset for early quarterbacks because smaller athletes were perceived to be better able to scoop up the ball, handle it, and get it off quickly to the ball carrier.

With the rule change allowing quarterbacks to carry the ball, speed became more important as did ruggedness. This 1903 rule change probably benefitted Carlisle because their quarterback that year, James Johnson, was definitely fleet of foot. However, at 5’7” tall and 138 pounds, he was lighter than any Walter Camp First Team All America quarterback since 1889. He must have been rugged enough, though.

Wing-Shift or Dead-Indian Play

July 19, 2010

One of the problems with dating Pop Warner’s innovations is that his memory 20 years after the fact was far from perfect, as are most people’s. The well-known difficulties in dating the births of the single-wing and double-wing with certitude are due, at least in part, to Warner’s inconsistent memories. A month and a half ago, I wrote a bit about the 1903 game with Utah in which Joe Baker led the Indians to a 22-0 win over the Mormonites by running the new wing-shift play several times for three second-half touchdowns (they counted 5 points in those days).

In his autobiography—actually a series of magazine articles written by Warner that were compiled into book form—Warner stated that during the 1912 Thanksgiving Day game against Brown, Harvard’s coach, Percy Haughton, was his guest on the sidelines to see Warner’s new surprise play—the wing-shift. Haughton disapproved, saying, “These series plays are never worth a darn. If such plays do work, it is usually in the first attempt, because they are trick plays and surprise is the feature that usually makes them successful.” After seeing Carlisle run them for long gains later in the game, Haughton grudgingly admitted, “Well, it did work that time.”

For a newspaper series of favorite plays from several coaches in the 1930s, Lone Star Dietz described the “Dead-Indian Play.” What he described was the old wing-shift that Carlisle ran so well. Because the wing-shift, or dead-Indian play, was a series of two plays it had to be called ahead of time. The player, generally a back, who carried the ball on the first play would linger on the ground long enough to give six of his teammates time to line up to one side of him. The rest would position themselves in the backfield. When the downed man could see that all were in place, he hopped up and snapped the ball to a backfield man to start the second play, catching the defense off guard.