Posts Tagged ‘John S. Steckbeck’

Errata Sheet Necessary

August 23, 2010

While looking for a photograph of William O. “Wild Bill” Hickok, the Yale star who coached Carlisle in 1896, I noticed an error in the Wikipedia file about him. Wikipedia had his record as 6-4 for that year. From prior research, I knew that was incorrect.

In 1896, the Carlisle Indians played the Big Four, Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Penn, on successive Saturdays away from Carlisle, sometimes on the big team’s home field, other times in a big city. The Indians lost all of these games but would have tied Yale were it not for a bad call and they would probably have beaten Harvard if they hadn’t misplayed a punt. Those games account for four of their losses that year. Those losses against six wins would be the record Wikipedia showed. However, they lost another game. The Indians played Brown University on Thanksgiving Day on Manhattan Field in New York City, the site of the Yale game played earlier in the season. Brown won the game 24-12. That loss ran the total up to five for the season out of the ten games played. Going .500 over a brutal schedule like the one the Indians played that year is quite an achievement, so great in fact that Walter Camp wrote that Carlisle should be considered among the first rank of teams after that.

How did Wikipedia come to have that error? The only reference listed on the site was Sally Jenkins’s book, so the error must have come from there. Sure enough, on page 155, Jenkins stated, “The Carlisle players were weary but jubilant; the victory [over Wisconsin] completed their first winning record at 6-4.” As it turns out, Carlisle didn’t have a winning record in 1896, they went .500 as they had done in 1895 when they went 4-4. Why did Jenkins get this wrong? My guess is that she accepted Steckbeck as being accurate. I made that same mistake myself and have to insert errata sheets in books that include that error. This is what happens when one accepts someone else’s research without checking it.

 

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Chicken Legs or Bird Legs?

June 21, 2010

I have wondered for some time where John S. Steckbeck found some of the the anecdotes he used in Fabulous Redmen. The other day while searching for something else—the usual situation—I came across a Project Gutenberg file for Football Days: Memories of the Game and of the Men Behind the Ball, a 1916 book by William H. Edwards, Princeton 1900, with an introduction by Walter Camp. In one section of the book, Edwards retells some of stories told by former Yale star Carl Flanders, who helped coach the Indians in 1906.

Because Flanders related these stories within a decade of them happening, they stand a better chance of being accurate than those that were told a half century, or longer, after that. Of particular interest was the topic of nicknames:

“The nicknames with which the Indians labeled each other were mostly those of animals or a weapon of defense. Mount Pleasant and Libby always called each other Knife. Bill Gardner was crowned Chicken Legs, Charles, one of the halfbacks, and a regular little tiger, was called Bird Legs. Other names fastened to the different players were Whale Bone, Shoe String, Tommyhawk and Wolf.”

I do wonder if Edwards got a couple of the names reversed or if Flanders remembered them incorrectly. During WWI, Bill Gardner was referred to in newspaper columns as “Birdie,” something that leads me to suspect that his nickname was Bird Legs not Chicken Legs. If that is so, then Wilson Charles was probably called Chicken Legs. Perhaps a descendent of his will let us know which was his correct nickname.

Jenkins and Anderson Omit 1905 Army Game

May 26, 2009

The May 2009 College Football Historical Society newsletter includes an article that debunks the basic premise for the 2007 books by Sally Jenkins and Lars Anderson, The Real All Americans: the team that changed a game, a people, a nation and Carlisle vs. Army: Jim Thorpe, Dwight Eisenhower, Pop Warner, and the forgotten story of football’s greatest battle, respectively. In “Jude and the Prince,” James G. Sweeney, a lawyer, former prosecutor and, most importantly, an Army fan for 50+ years, describes the epic Carlisle-Army game in detail. The difference between his article and their books is that Sweeney writes about the first time Carlisle met Army on a football field where Jenkins and Sweeney write about the second meeting – without acknowledging the first game. Their omission could be overlooked if the 1905 meeting was played by scrubs or special rules or something of the kind. In fact, the November 11, 1905 Carlisle-Army game was, as Sweeney put it, “was ‘the’ game of the day.” Sweeney also quoted The New York Tribune: “Never before has a football game at West Point been witnessed by a more distinguished gathering. Seated on the grandstand was Prince Louis of Brattenberg, surrounded by army officers, both British and American. The gold lace and trappings of military men, mingled with the gay dresses and flags of pretty girls, made a sight worth seeing.”

By the way, Carlisle won the game 6-5 to settle the score with the “long knives” seven years before the meeting Jenkins and Anderson touted in their books. In Anderson’s case, it may be a matter of ignorance. At the talk he gave in Carlisle, Lars Anderson mentioned that, in order to get his book in print at the same time as Jenkins, he employed a researcher. The researcher probably didn’t look at anything outside the narrow scope he was given. Sally Jenkins, on the other hand, appears to have been aware of the 1905 game. About the 1905 season, she wrote, “The Indians were a predictable disappointment under [Advisory Coach George] Woodruff….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.” John S. Steckbeck, The Arrow and CFbDatawarehouse.com all reported a 10-4 record for the 1905 Indians, with losses to Penn, Harvard, Massillon A. C. and Canton A. C. Jenkins ends what game coverage she had for the 1905 season with the loss to Harvard on a soft field. She apparently doesn’t consider the wins over Penn State, Virginia, Army, Cincinnati, Washington and Jefferson, and Georgetown as significant. Nor does she consider beating Army, thumping Cincinnati 34-5, beating Washington and Jefferson 11-0, or embarrassing Georgetown 76-0 to be fun.

On page two of her book, Jenkins implies that she knew the 1905 game had taken place without mentioning the game or sport when she wrote, “…this was only the second time government authorities had allowed the two parties to meet on an athletic field.” Perhaps Ms. Jenkins will explain why Carlisle’s 1905 victory over Army was neither significant nor worthy of mention.

Prince Louis Battenberg, 1905

Prince Louis Battenberg, 1905

Steckbeck Collection Donated

June 12, 2008

Yesterday’s Sentinel contained an article of interest to those interested in the Carlisle Indian School and related topics: http://www.cumberlink.com/articles/2008/06/11/news/local/doc484fd5b21a214085579032.txt

Janet Zettlemoyer and Ilene Whitacre, daughters of John S. Steckbeck, donated their late father’s Carlisle collection to Cumberland County Historical Society. Steckbeck wrote Fabulous Redmen: the Carlisle Indians and their famous football teams in 1951 but the collection that fills 16 copier paper boxes is not limited to Carlisle football items. I’m told that it isn’t limited to Indian School-related items, that it contains a few things of interest to Carlisle (the town) history. However, there is so much stuff to sort through and catalog that it will be some time before collection items are made available to the public.

Photographs accompanying the newspaper article include parts of an oil painting and a pen and ink drawing that looks familiar. Discussions with my sources revealed that the oil painting was done by Frank Maze, Dickinson College head football coach 1950-51. It is based on the famous graphic done by Lone Star Dietz that is used as the frontispiece for Steckbeck’s book and on the masthead of this blog. However, Maze put a different head on his version. But whose head was it?

The pen and ink drawing – there turned out to be three in the collection – are Dietz originals of the artwork that adorned the cover of The Red Man magazine. Apparently the collection includes several Dietz items that Steckbeck purchase from the old warrior after he fell on hard times. I can’t wait to see this stuff.

Jim Thorpe historians will not be disappointed as the collection includes an audiotape of Steckbeck’s interview of Thorpe. I hope excerpts from this find their way into the audiobook version of Bob Wheeler’s landmark biography of Thorpe.

The collection also includes glass photo negatives of portraits of Indian School students. Who knows what else might be found in that collection?