Posts Tagged ‘Eisenhower’

Eisenhower Was Pro–Just Like Jim Thorpe

December 17, 2014

West Point enthusiast, researcher, and writer Jim Sweeney just made me aware of a July 19 New York Times article by Michael Beschloss titled “The Pro Who Shadowed Eisenhower’s Career.” In this article, Beschloss mused, “One can imagine what modern opposition researchers could have done with this information during the 1952 campaign, had they followed the maxim of attacking your adversary’s strengths.” I think he mulls over the wrong question because, in the immediately preceding paragraph, Beschloss discusses how the issue was made public years earlier. Shortly after V-E Day, Ike explained to an Associated Press reporter that, as a poor boy fresh out of high school, he would have taken “any job that offered me more money” and that he “wasn’t a very good center fielder.” A better question would be “How would voters have reacted to hearing about his youthful indiscretion?”

Beschloss later refers to David Eisenhower’s 1910 book about his grandfather in which the younger Eisenhower revealed that Ike had played under the name of Wilson in the 1909 Central Kansas League. In Baseball’s Most Wanted II, Floyd Conner provided a little more detail: “Eisenhower displayed his baseball ability when he batted .355 for Junction City of the Class D Central Kansas League.” So, Ike and Jim Thorpe started their professional baseball careers in similar circumstances. Both were poor, needed the money (which wasn’t much), and played on bush league teams but in different parts of the country. The difference was that Eisenhower was sophisticated enough to play under an assumed name.

Politics in America have never been a kind and gentle business. If the Democrats thought hammering Ike over participating in college sports after having played for money would have benefitted them, they surely would have used it. Surely someone, possibly the reporter, would have remembered the AP disclosure. However, the sympathetic public response to Jim Thorpe’s professionalism probably persuaded them that attacking Eisenhower this way could easily backfire and eliminate what little chance they had of defeating this war hero.

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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.

Bob Wheeler Will Be Speaking in Carlisle

August 21, 2010

Yes, Robert W. Wheeler, author of the definitive biography of Jim Thorpe, is coming to Carlisle. On Thursday, the Friends of Bosler Library held a press conference to formally announce the inaugural Celebrate the Book festival to be held on Saturday, October 23 at the Expo Center in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. This will afford readers, sports fans and historians a rare opportunity to meet Bob Wheeler and to hear him speak. He will give a talk and take questions about his book. In many ways, I find how he conducted his research to be even more interesting than Thorpe’s life story.

After convincing his thesis advisor to allow him to write an aural history, a new concept at the time, Wheeler, a grad student with little financial backing, hitchhiked around the country to interview people who had been connected with Thorpe during his lifetime. Interviewing Thorpe was impossible as he died two decades before Wheeler set sail on his odyssey.

Almost everyone he interviewed is now dead and many of the artifacts he perused are no longer available to researchers. He interviewed every one he could think of who had a connection to Thorpe and anyone who would talk with him. Occasionally, it was even necessary to deal with unsavory characters, but he did that because it was necessary to be able to tell Big Jim’s story. He met with anyone from the obscure to President Eisenhower. He was so thorough that Dick Schaap referred to him as “Jim Thorpe’s Boswell.”

But Bob didn’t stop when his book was completed and his degree awarded. He and his new bride, Florence Ridlon, opened an office in what had been a closet in a Washington, DC hotel and worked doggedly to get Jim’s Olympic medals restored. Flo will be on hand to discuss her great find that made medal restoration possible.

Also speaking that day is Dr. Richard Sommers, Sr. Historian at the Military History Institute. In addition to housing military archives, the MHI also holds Carlisle Indian School records due to its having been located on Carlisle Barracks. Visiting the MHI and meeting Dr. Sommers are musts for anyone researching the Carlisle Indian School.

Y’all come and see us on October 23. More information can be found at www.CelebratetheBook.org.