Posts Tagged ‘George Orton’

Why Did Jenkins Smear George Woodruff?

February 4, 2015

After Harry Carson Frye informed me of the December 25, 1905 Washburn-Fairmount game, I did a little research in the 1906 Spalding’s Guide. When my eyes drifted off to Penn coach George W. Orton’s description of the 1905 season in “Football in the Middle States.” What caught my eye most was his assessment of the 1905 Carlisle team:

“Carlisle fell a little below the high standard of former years, though the brilliant games put up against Pennsylvania, Harvard, and West Point proved that the Indians were yet very much to be feared in any company. They played the same style of game as in previous years in spite of their new coach; good punting, end running and tricky open play being their main sources of strength.”

Orton’s assessment sharply contradicted an assessment of Carlisle’s 1905 team by Sally Jenkins in The Real All Americans:

“Mercer demonstrated his utter lack of feel for the place with a totally unsuitable hire; George Woodruff….The Indians were a predictable disappointment under Woodruff. Their marvelous offense, formerly a maze of men going in different directions, became ordinary. They looked and played just like any other team, and their record showed it. They were 10-5 and lost every significant game, and more important, they lost their uniqueness. Their only real fun came in a 36-0 defeat of crosstown rival Dickinson.”

To the contrary, Caspar Whitney ranked Carlisle as the 10th best team in the country, three places behind Army even though the Indians beat the Cadets in their first-ever meeting. Still, 10th is pretty good, especially considering that he ranked them 14th in 1904. In spite of Carlisle’s four defeats (Harvard, Penn, Massillon Tigers, and Canton Bulldogs. One wonders where Jenkins found the fifth loss) Whitney ranked Harvard second in the country and Penn third. Massillon and Canton weren’t ranked because they were semi-pro teams, arguably the best of their day, in the middle of the Indians’  whirlwind 6-games-in-20-days tour. In addition to Army and the local colleges, the Indians defeated Villanova 35-0, Penn State 11-0, Virginia 12-0, Cincinnati 34-5, Washington & Jefferson 11-0, and Georgetown 76-0.

The December 8, 1905 edition of The Arrow coverage of the Georgetown game likely written by Carlisle’s PR department and subtitled “Red Men Have Such A Picnic That They Try All Sorts of Plays” suggests that the Indians had fun at more games than the one with Dickinson:

“Although the score was one-sided, the game was interesting throughout, owing to the diversity of the Indians’ work and the great amount of open field play. Mount Pleasant and Libby, the two Indian quarterbacks, let loose the great repertoire that had been taught by Woodruff, the old Pennsylvania player, and Kinney, the All-American Yale guard of last year, and gave Washingtonians the greatest exhibition of diversified football they had ever witnessed.”

Why Jenkins chose to belittle George Washington Woodruff is unclear. Maybe it advanced her storyline. Regardless of the reason, her treatment of him is unfair. Prior to coming to Carlisle, George W. Woodruff had amassed a coaching record, including three unofficial national championships at Penn that assured his enshrinement in the College Football Hall of Fame. A lawyer by trade, he left the team after the last regular season game at West Point to work at a various positions in the Roosevelt administration and with his friend Gifford Pinchot. Suffice it to say, Woodruff’s legacy is radically different from Jenkins’ slurs.

1913 Carlisle Indians Were Not Demoralized

June 22, 2012

The current (Summer 2012) issue of National Museum of the American Indian magazine devotes most of its pages on Indian athletes, especially those who competed in the Olympics. Of course, Jim Thorpe figured prominently in several of the articles in that issue of the magazine. One of these pieces, The Jim Thorpe Backlash: the Olympic medals debacle and the demise of Carlisle, even mentions me and, of course, disagrees with me:

Whatever the facts, the investigations eviscerated the athletic program. Its surplus funds, totaling $25,640.08, were turned over to the school superintendent, and Warner left Carlisle. The football team was a shadow, losing the rest of its schedule by lopsided scores. Although the school lingered on until August 1918, when the Army took it back for war uses, the noted Carlisle scholar Tom Benjey dates its true demise to the visit of the Congressional investigating committee. And although students and faculty had many grievances, it can fairly be said that the retraction of Thorpe’s medals was the fatal blow to morale.

I can’t figure out exactly what time period is being discussed. Thorpe lost his medals in the spring of 1913. The Congressional inquiry took place in February 1912. Warner left Carlisle for Pitt in early 1915. And, the Carlisle football team never had a winless season, even in the seasons after Thorpe’s medals were returned. So, I’ll wait to address this statement until I know what time period this was supposed to have happened.

While losing his medals had to be devastating to Jim Thorpe and surely affected the morale of other Carlisle athletes, I question whether it struck “the fatal blow to morale” as suggested in the article. It seems unlikely that the Carlisle Indian School football team would have performed well if player morale was low. A 10-1-1 season for a team that lost its greatest player from the previous year sure doesn’t sound like low morale held it back. The 1913 team’s tie was against Penn, the team they lost to the previous year. The 1912 tie with Washington and Jefferson couldn’t be avenged because the teams didn’t play each other in 1913. 1913’s only loss was due to a fumbled kick return that Pitt converted into the winning touchdown. Major wins included one of Warner’s favorites: a 35-10 upset of Dartmouth. George Orton gave Warner high marks for developing such a good team when he had so many inexperienced players. 1913 was one of Carlisle’s best seasons and was not an example of demoralized players.

The Summer 2012 issue of National Museum of the American Indian magazine can be found at:

Carlisle’s 1918 Schedule

January 13, 2012

Yesterday’s mail brought the 1918 Spalding Guide. It includes a couple of interesting things about the Carlisle Indians. First off, the team photo (of the 1917 team) shows the players in different jerseys than we’re accustomed to them wearing. These appear (the small photo on the yellowed page isn’t the clearest) to have two stripes above the midriff and above the elbows on the sleeves. I think I may have seen one of these jerseys before, possibly in Wardecker’s store.

 About all that was written about the 1917 team, their last as things turned out, was what George Orton of the University of Pennsylvania, wrote in his piece about the mid-Atlantic region : “Carlisle showed improvement over the previous year, but until they get a team of first rate caliber they will do well not to schedule so many matches with the big colleges.” Perhaps, he thought Carlisle had been playing opponents well above their weight since 1914. Their 1917 schedule was brutal, causing the overmatched Indians to lose by huge scores to the likes of Army, Navy, Penn and John Heisman’s Georgia Tech, arguably the best team in the country that year.

 The Guide also includes schedules for most college and university teams as well as some prep school and high schools. Because Carlisle largely played against colleges and universities, its games were listed with theirs and not in the Scholastic schedule. Although the schedule wasn’t nearly as tough. It included Army and Pitt, the team that would be deemed National Champions for 1918. The schedule was as printed in the Carlisle school newspaper on May 24, 1918 except for the October 26 game with Detroit which wasn’t ultimately scheduled.

 Orton didn’t even hint that Carlisle was about to close. The published schedules included Carlisle. Had it been know well in advance of the football season that Carlisle Indian School was closing, their games would have been stricken from the list. This is further evidence that Carlisle’s closing was not inevitable after the 1914 Joint Congressional Investigation.

 By the way, Cornell’s 1917 jerseys again had stripes just below the elbow.

1905 Carlisle Indians Were Ranked #10 in Country

August 8, 2011

While preparing Spalding’s Official Football Guide for 1906 for reprinting, I noticed a few things about the Carlisle Indian School football team’s 1905 season. These things caught my eye because it was this very team under Advisory Coach George Woodruff that Sally Jenkins maligned in her 1907 book. Caspar Whitney ranked the Indians as the 10th best team in the country for 1905. He also placed Frank Mt. Pleasant as a substitute at quarterback on his All America team.

George Woodruff placed three Carlisle Indians to his All Eastern Eleven for 1905: Frank Mt. Pleasant at quarterback, Charles Dillon at guard, and Wahoo (Charles Guyon, older brother of Joe Guyon) at end. N. P. Stauffer placed Dillon at guard on his All Eastern Eleven as well.

That an authority of the stature of Caspar Whitney considered Carlisle as the 10th best college football team in the country means something and that something is that the Indians were viewed as having had a very good season. Not their best ever, mind you, but a successful one at that.

These selections, along with George Orton’s observations that were posted in the June 27, 2011 message, show that Jenkins’s assessment of the type of play and success of the 1905 Carlisle Indian football team is at odds with the opinions of the experts of the day who actually saw the teams play.

1905 Carlisle Indian School football team from Spalding’s Official Football Guide for 1906

More Evidence That Sally Jenkins Was Wrong

June 27, 2011

While looking up the rules regarding the quarterback sneak in Spalding’s Official Football Guide for 1906, I came across more evidence to support the position James Sweeney took in There Were No Oysters, his critique of Sally Jenkins’ assertions in her 2007 book about Carlisle Indian School football. In his piece, Football in the Middle States, George Orton of the University of Pennsylvania wrote:

Carlisle fell a little below the high standard of former years, though the brilliant games they put up against Pennsylvania, Harvard and West Point proved that the Indians were yet very much to be feared in any company. They played the same style of game as in previous years in spite of their new coach; good punting, end running and tricky open play being their main source of strength.

Orton completely contradicts Jenkins’ claim that Carlisle abandoned its open style of play under Coach George Woodruff in 1905. It might have been that Woodruff preferred old-style play but that isn’t what the team actually did on the field games as documented by this observer. Orton even thought the Indians played brilliantly on the soft field against Harvard where Jenkins lambasted Woodruff for unimaginative play. She covered the 1905 season more extensively than most—through the Harvard game—but made no mention of the game with Army the following week or the late-season road trip west. This is most curious because, as Sweeney documented so well, the Indians beat Army in the two teams’ first meeting ever in a game that received wide coverage, particularly because of the large number of dignitaries present for the contest.

A writer with Jenkins’ pedigree and credentials could hardly have been unaware of the 1905 game given the research she did for her book. One wonders how she could have had so much wrong about the 1905 Carlisle Indians. After all, these were the young men who finally got to settle the score, metaphorically speaking, with the “long knives” on a field of battle. The 1912 Carlisle Indians were a great team, but it was their 1905 predecessors who actually did the deed.