Posts Tagged ‘Joel Platt’

Lone Star Dietz Artwork

May 31, 2012

A question that has come up recently is where Lone Star Dietz’s artwork can be purchased, because he is in the news again for being selected for induction into the College Football Hall of Fame, I suppose. I know of no place that his original artwork can be purchased. (I would like to find some myself.) However, some of his works can be seen on public display and others have been reproduced and can be purchased.

Albright College has four of his paintings on display: the Albright Lion, a portrait of Dick Riffle, a portrait of Lewis Smith, and an unusual collage of the Tree of Learning. Joel Platt has some of Dietz’s artwork in his Sports Immortals museum but they are not generally on display to the public. I was fortunate to find him in when I visited and he showed me a panoramic painting of Pittsburgh he had in his office. The back of the painting contained two titles, “My Pittsburgh” and “Pittsburgh Just Grew.” Apparently, Lone Star changed his mind as to what it should be called.

Most of Dietz’s artwork that I’m aware of is in private collections. A few of those found their way into an article done by Francine Scoboria for Albright College: Occasionally, a reader will send me information on some as I have shared previously in this blog. Hopefully, more will surface in the future.

Fortunately, some of Dietz’s smaller pieces have been reproduced on items sold at History on High, Cumberland County Historical Society’s store in Carlisle and Tuxedo Press recently reprinted two books illustrated by Lone Star Dietz and his first wife, Angel DeCora. Yellow Star has four page-sized paintings done jointly by Dietz and DeCora reproduced in grayscale. The Little Buffalo Robe is chockfull of drawings done by Dietz and a few done by DeCora. It also has some full-page artwork done by DeCora. Tuxedo Press also created neckties using Dietz’s unique signature:

A Visit to Sports Immortals

February 12, 2009

Last week I was finally able to visit the Sports Immortals museum in Boca Raton, FL. Joel Platt has collected over a million items of memorabilia from the various major American Sports (read don’t expect to see a lot of soccer and cricket stuff). Do expect to see championship belts won by Joe Louis and John L. Sullivan, the most expensive baseball card, Jim Thorpe’s football helmet, and a plethora of other items squeezed into a small space. Platt has embarked upon a campaign to raise $100M to build the ultimate sports museum. To that end Platt is putting together a traveling exhibit to tour the country and raise seed money to get the fundraising started in earnest. A much larger facility is needed. Mayor Reed of Harrisburg would surely love to have the Sports Immortals for the All-Sports Museum he wants to build on City Island near the Senator’s field. However, the price tag for Platt’s collection would have to be out of Reed’s reach. Considered by many to be the most complete sports memorabilia collection to have ever been put together, only the federal government would have the resources to both acquire the collection and build a worthy building in which to house it. Until the Smithsonian decides to do something, Joel will keep following his dream. Of particular interest to me was a painting of old Pittsburgh that Lone Star Dietz painted in 1951. Below is a photo of Joel Platt holding that painting. Dietz entered the painting in the Advertising Artists of Pittsburgh Annual Show and won third prize. Lone Star lived in Pittsburgh after WWII and operated the Liberty Academy on Liberty Avenue. “Pittsburgh Just Grew” was done in a style different from others I have seen in Dietz’s work. The colors in this painting still jump off the canvas over 50 years later.

Pittsburgh Just Grew

Lone Star’s Baby Curls

June 2, 2008

A 1974 Sports Illustrated article that was stuffed into the back of the Sports Immortals brochure included something of particular interest to me: “William (Lone Star) Dietz’ baby curls from his first haircut are not in Los Angeles’ Citizen’s Savings (née Helms) Athletic Foundation Hall.” The article went on to say that Lone Star’s baby curls along with a lot, and I mean a lot, of other sports memorabilia are in Joel Platt’s collection. As Lone Star’s biographer, I find this to be very interesting because I was previously unaware of the existence of Dietz’s locks. Considering that the color of his hair at birth was a significant issue at Lone Star’s WWI draft evasion trial, makes this artifact all the more important.

Leanna Ginder Dietz Lewis raised Lone Star and would have had his baby curls. She probably gave them to him and his wife, Doris, when she visited them in Reading. They would have likely remained in his estate until the executrix gave them to Joel Platt.

The prominent mention of Dietz-related memorabilia and the reference to Helms Athletic Foundation attest to his importance to the history of the game. Preceding the curls in the article were mentions of the Polo Grounds’ home plate crossed by Bobby Thompson after hitting his historic home run, Babe Ruth’s Boston Braves uniform worn when he hit his last three home runs, Bronko Nagurski’s 1934 contract with the Bears, and Pudge Heffelfinger’s Yale pants and pads. Following the curls’ mention were Gene Tunney’s long-count gloves and Cassius Clay’s 1960 Olympic Games sweatshirt. Some company, huh?

The Citizen’s Savings Athletic Foundation was a prestigious institution that inducted Lone Star into its hall of fame in 1976. Jim Thorpe and Pop Warner were the only other Carlislers inducted therein. The prominence of Dietz’s mention by Sports Illustrated is further evidence that he should be ensconced in the College Football Hall of Fame. A photo of an older Lone Star Dietz was slipped into the brochure along with the Sports Illustrated article. See below.

Carlisle Punts Sports Immortals

May 30, 2008

The year was 1975, decades before Cumberland County entered the museum business, when Pittsburgh sports entrepreneur Joel Platt proposed to build a major sports museum on the Harrisburg Pike just east of I-81 exit 52 in Middlesex Township. The Sports Immortals complex was to consist of a hotel, restaurant, recreational facilities and a museum containing over a million pieces of sports memorabilia. At the time Platt’s acquisitions dwarfed the combined collections of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, and the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA. It may still as Platt continued to acquire significant items after that.

Rep. Bud Shuster (the congressman who never met a road-building project he didn’t like) enlisted the support of former Cardinals pitcher “Vinegar Bend” Mizell, then Asst. Sec. of Commerce, in an attempt to get federal funds for the Sports Immortals museum. However, it was to be build in Shuster’s district near Breezewood where the Pennsylvania Turnpike and I-70 meet. Apparently this undertaking was unsuccessful because Platt showed up in Carlisle.

Carlisle’s leaders of the day were apparently unimpressed. Word has it that the owner of a motel located near the proposed site was strongly opposed to the project. His concerns had nothing to do with having competition for his restaurant and motel move in nearby; he was concerned about the impact on the community by the element that would be attracted by such a facility. Freddie Wardecker lent me his copy of the brochure that Platt handed out at his presentation and I scanned it into a PDF for your viewing pleasure. It would be interesting to see what the reaction would be today if such a facility was proposed for County land near the Military History Institute. Click on the image below to view the Sports Immortals brochure.



Jim Thorpe Auction Update

May 20, 2008

I called Bob Wheeler to let him know about the auction mentioned last week. Although the lot was out of almost anyone’s price range, it was important that he know about it, particularly the three audiotapes made by Jim Thorpe. Bob is making an audiobook for his definitive biography of Jim Thorpe and having Jim Thorpe’s voice in it would be a great addition. Bob was way ahead of me – decades ahead. He got copies of the tapes long ago and is working them into his audiobook. So, his audiobook will have things the printed version doesn’t have: Jim Thorpe’s voice for one. It will surely include some of Bob’s experiences interviewing all those people over thirty years ago and will surely include snippets of some of their voices. We’ll just have to wait for it as no release date has been set as yet.

As it turns out, these items come from Joel Platt’s collection that was mentioned in this blog some weeks ago. It appears that Platt periodically offers items for sale. It’s not clear if he receives bids high enough to get him to part with anything. It’s my opinion that the Smithsonian should buy Pratt’s entire collection and use it as the nucleus of a national sports museum – unless Mayor Reed of Harrisburg gets there first.

Jim Thorpe’s Gloves

April 7, 2008

A mystery has haunted me since shortly after starting to research Lone Star Dietz’s life. Today, with the help of Freddie Wardecker, proprietor of Wardecker’s Mens Wear and Jim Thorpe Museum, and Bob Wheeler, Jim Thorpe’s biographer who, along with his wife Florence Ridlon, succeeded in getting Thorpe’s Olympic medals restored, I solved that mystery.

Lone Star Dietz died in 1964 and his wife, Doris, died three years later. Mary Lou Zientek had befriended the Dietzes and served as executrix of Doris’s estate. The estate consisted mostly of Lone Star’s memorabilia that included promotional photos for his movies and a pair of Jim Thorpe’s gloves. Mrs. Zientek donated many of the items from the Dietz estate to a museum in Pittsburgh. I was unsuccessful in locating any of these items in any museum in Pittsburgh. Today that changed.

Freddie Wardecker told me of a museum in Boca Raton, Florida owned by a man named Joel Platt. It seems that Mr. Platt wanted to build his museum just outside Carlisle some years ago but was turned down, so looked elsewhere. Last week Bob Wheeler mentioned Joel Platt in another context stating that he was from Pittsburgh. Today the light came on for me after Freddie chided me for not being able to locate Platt’s museum on the internet. Following his directions, the web site for Platt’s museum immediately popped up. After a little navigation, Jim Thorpe’s page appeared:

One item jumped out at me. I could never understand why Lone Star had a pair of Jim Thorpe’s gloves or why he would have kept them so long because I thought they were just ordinary men’s gloves. Well, these are not ordinary gloves. Seeing them will explain everything.

The photo shows other items related to Jim Thorpe’s time in Carlisle. Now that the Cumberland County Historical Society has funds for acquiring artifacts, perhaps they can bring Jim Thorpe’s jersey, letter sweater, gloves and other items back to where they belong.