Posts Tagged ‘Joe Baker’

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.

1903 Carlisle-Utah Game

May 31, 2010

Not long ago, I wrote about a 1910 game that had received little coverage. Now, Adam Miller has written about a 1903 game that received even less attention. In 1903, Pop Warner put together a post-season road trip to the West Coast on which the Indians were to play Reliance Athletic Association, a team of the best former college players from the state of California, on Christmas Day in San Francisco. Perhaps Warner thought his team would need a scrimmage to break up the trip, or he saw an opportunity to make a little money along the way. Regardless of the reason, he booked a game with the University of Utah to a game to be played on December 19 in Salt Lake City. Miller’s piece covers that game: It also includes one of those great period newspaper cartoons.

Pre-game hype heaped hyperbolic praise on James Johnson, who Walter Camp had recently named as quarterback of his All America First Team. Whether Johnson’s head had inflated after reading his newspaper clippings or if Warner was feeling threatened is not known. Warner wrote in what became his autobiography that he benched Johnson the morning of the game over a rule infraction. Because this happened before the game, the rule Johnson had broken was likely a team rule. Warner wrote that he played Joe Baker in his place and that Baker “did an admirable job that afternoon” in the 22-0 victory on a snowpacked field. Newspaper coverage of this game varies from Warner’s recollection.

The Salt Lake Herald’s play-by-play had Johnson playing the entire first half plus kicking a point after touchdown and missing a field goal. Baker replaced Johnson for the second half and led the Indians to three more touchdowns by using the then-new wing-shift play to good advantage.

It may be that Warner’s memory failed him as to when he benched Johnson, but he does appear to have done just that. Johnson’s reaction is the subject of another story.