Posts Tagged ‘Oorang Indians’

Unexpected Carlisle Indians in the NFL

August 12, 2009

While researching Carlisle Indian School alums who played in the NFL, I came across an unexpected name—Frank Lonestar. Everyone is well aware that Lone Star Dietz coached the Redskins in 1933 and 1934 but I bet few know that Frank Lonestar played for the Columbus Panhandles in 1920, the league’s inaugural year. A website stated that he played three games at guard for the Panhandles that year. So far, I’ve found newspaper coverage for one game with his name in the lineup. That one was a losing effort against the Detroit Heralds.

I was well aware that Frank, a Chippewa from Wisconsin, was much involved in extracurricular activities such as the Invincible Debating Society and was an officer in his class (the same one as Gus Welch), but had no idea that he was a football player of note. He probably played for his shop team, the Printers, but many boys did that. I was unaware of him being on the varsity squad and doubt that he was. He apparently left Carlisle around 1911 to practice his trade after getting useful experience printing school publications. But that’s about all I know about him.

Also on the 1920 Columbus Panhandles, at least for awhile, was Littleboy, or someone with a similar name. The October 17, 1920 Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette included a photo of four stars the local team, the Friars, would be facing when taking on the Columbus Panhandles later that day. Included in the photo and expected lineup was someone named Littleboy. A little research should determine if this person was Carlisle’s Little Boy. This Littleboy played left halfback in the Columbus-Detroit game mentioned previously.

I’m also learning about another Carlisle student who played in the NFL but doesn’t appear to have starred on the legendary Indian teams. Joe “Little Twig” Johnson began his NFL career with the 1922 Oorang Indians, but, unlike the majority of his teammates, had a significant pro career after Oorang’s demise. It appears that the Carlisle Indians were more involved in the early NFL than I thought.

Thorpe played basketball too

April 13, 2008

In March 2005 Anthony Barone, Jr. found a ticket in a book he had purchased for $6.00 at an auction. What is remarkable about this unusual event is that a ticket to a March 1, 1927 basketball game involving Jim Thorpe and his World Famous Indians dropped out of the book. Big Jim’s involvement in March Madness is not much known about today although it was covered in newspapers of the day.

When Jim first started playing basketball is not known. The first known documentation of his playing on the Freshman Class and Carlisle Indian School varsity teams in January 1909. So, Jim played hoops competitively long before the ticket date. If he played competitively after the 1909 season is not known either. However, he definitely played in 1927.

That he had formed the World Famous Indians or Oorang Indians, as they were sometimes referred to, was widely reported in November 1926. Also reported were the names of his teammates:

  • Raymond West, “Light Foot,” Cheyenne, forward
  • Dennis Hildebrand, “Eagle Feather,” Cherokee, guard probably
  • Leo Wapp, “Running Hawk,” Sac and Fox, guard
  • Jess Parton, “Swift Deer,” Delaware, forward
  • Dale Peters, college player from Indiana, center
  • Fred Cooke, college player from Indiana, guard

Although the team was advertised as being an Indian team, the closest two of the team’s stars got to being Indians was to have lived in Indiana. The WFI played a heavy schedule of games in the Midwest and east. At 39, Jim was nearing the end of his competitive athletic career so didn’t play full games as he had when he was young. A quarter of intense exercise on the court was enough for him. As of March 31, 1927 Jim Thorpe’s hoopsters were 42-14 with the season not yet finished and baseball just around the corner. Instead of barnstorming with an all-Indian team that summer, Jim played baseball with a team of college players he and Ohio State University star Chic Harley put together.