Posts Tagged ‘Forward pass’

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.

 

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Indians Also Innovated

November 29, 2010

Pop Warner is viewed by most historians as the great football innovator and especially for his work at Carlisle Indian School. However, not all the innovations at Carlisle were Warner’s brainchildren. In 1906, the Indians were coached by former players Frank Hudson and Bemus Pierce who Warner helped prepare for the revolutionary rule changes that were implemented that year. After Warner departed for Cornell to start his season, Hudson and Pierce were pretty much on their own. But that wasn’t much of a problem. The Carlisle Indians were called a lot of things but witless wasn’t one of them.

One of the major rule changes was the legalization of the forward pass. Completing a pass wasn’t the easiest thing to do, particularly when both teams wore similar brown or black leather helmets. Passers needed a way to identify the eligible receivers. So, during the very first season in which the forward pass was legal, the Indians experimented with special helmets to help the passer find his target. The November 21, 1906 edition of The Lake County News described this early attempt at receiver identification. Five players wore snow white helmets and one wore a blazing red one. The article used the term headgear rather than helmet which, given the early state of helmet development, is probably more accurate. Given that the four backs and two ends are eligible to receive passes, the total of six special helmets makes sense. It seems fair to surmise that the red one would be worn by the player who does most of the passing and that the white ones are worn by those who can go out for passes.

In 1933, Michigan State started using a winged helmet for all its players to differentiate their men from the defenders. Less than a decade later, Lone Star Dietz’s Albright College team painted crosses on the tops of the receivers’ helmets but didn’t invent that idea as it had been used before, possibly even at Carlisle.