Posts Tagged ‘Rich Manning’

It Probably Wasn’t the Single-Wing

November 2, 2010

Now that we’ve dealt with some obvious errors in Rich Manning’s article, let’s get to the original issue: formations. The single-wing section in the Carlisle Indian School article in LeatherHelmetIllus.com starts this way:

In 1907, ‘Pop’ Warner returned to Carlisle. Together he and the Indians developed a new formation that would revolutionize football. The single wing shifted the halfback out wide, to outflank the opposing tackle. The new offense formed a shape that look like a wing. It opened up options and disguised intentions. The ability to show one thing and do another combined with the new rules made it possible to run, throw or kick at any time. ‘Pop’ Warner unveiled the new formation against the University of Pennsylvania, on Oct. 26, 1907.

I have read that the single-wing was unleashed in several different years due to Pop Warner’s inconsistent memory and writers’ imaginations. After researching this topic a bit, I came to believe that the single-wing did not arrive fully formed as the unbalanced-line, direct snap version depicted as Formation A in Warner’s 1927 book. I have concluded that the formation evolved over time as Warner implied on page 136 of his 1927 classic where he stated that it was first used by the Carlisle Indians and that he had used it or variations of it since the rules change of 1906. That he spent a week in Carlisle before the start of the season preparing coaches Bemus Pierce and Frank Hudson for the rule changes gives credibility for it having been first used by the Indians in 1906 when he wasn’t their coach. Fortunately, some documentation exists.

Warner began marketing a correspondence course on football in 1908 for which I have located and have reprinted the Offense pamphlet along with its annual updates. The 1908 pamphlet includes a number of offensive formations, which is not surprising as Warner was noted for tinkering with them. That newspaper coverage of the 1907 Penn game mentioned that multiple formations were used is not surprising. However, it is far from clear that end-back formation, the earliest documented version of Warner’s single-wing, was the formation being described for many of the plays as it didn’t feature a direct snap to a running back. That would come later. However, the punt formation did allow direct snaps to the backs and Warner had devised a set of running and passing plays from this formation.

He even described Play No. 17 thusly, “This is the long forward pass play used so successfully last season.” Last season would have been 1907, so this is likely the formation from which Frank Mt. Pleasant and Pete Hauser completed all those passes, not an early incarnation of the single-wing.

Play No. 17 from 1908 correspondence course Offense pamphlet

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More Errors at LeatherHelmetIllus.com

October 29, 2010

Let’s now look at Rich Manning’s statement regarding Jim Thorpe:

The [Pennsylvania] game also marked the debut of Jim Thorpe. He broke free for 45 yards the second time he touched the ball.

This statement didn’t ring true because Pop Warner wouldn’t likely put an untested player like the young Thorpe into the pressure of a big game. He was more likely to have given him some playing time in the warm up games to better prepare him for game situations. One of the purposes of the warm up games at the beginning of the season was to give new players playing time in game situations with little pressure. However, the 1907 schedule didn’t provide Warner much opportunity to try untested players. Lebanon Valley College and Susquehanna University were the only games with lopsided scores. Unfortunately, the reports for those games in the Carlisle school newspaper didn’t list the names of all the players who got into those games. One assumes that Jim Thorpe got significant playing time in the 91-0 blow out of Susquehanna. Although we don’t know that for sure, it wasn’t necessary to research that point because the write up of the Bucknell game provides all the information we need to show that Warner didn’t debut Thorpe against Penn.

The Indian School newspaper reprinted coverage from The Evening Sentinel about the Bucknell game, including, “After the next kick-off [Jim] Thorpe made a long run, but dropped the ball,” and in the second half, “Thorpe did most of the work carrying the ball, and proved an excellent ground gainer. He followed his interference well and held the ball.”

So, Warner debutted Jim Thorpe a week earlier than Manning stated, assuming that he didn’t play in the early blow outs or that they didn’t count because they were warm up games.

The next blog will deal with the errors in the article related to formations .

Errors at LeatherHelmetIllus.com

October 27, 2010

I was recently asked if Pop Warner unveiled the single-wing against Penn in the Carlisle Indians’ fifth game of the 1907 season. Penn was actually Carlisle’s 7th opponent that year but that was probably just a typo made by the person asking the question. This was the first time I had heard (or read) that the single-wing was first used in that particular game. I have seen it attributed to several other times but not that one. A little research found a source for this claim but quite possibly not the only person to make it. Follows is an extract from an article on the Carlisle Indians in LeatherHelmetIllus.com:

‘Pop’ Warner unveiled the new [single-wing] formation against the University of Pennsylvania, on Oct. 26, 1907. So far that season no team had crossed the Quaker’s goal line. Carlisle was undefeated. A large crowd of 22,800 fans looked on. They were expecting a good game but they got more than they bargained for. Carlisle scored on the second play: a 40 yard pass from Hauser to Gardner, caught on the run. The diversified offense racked up 402 yards, to 76 yards for Penn., Carlisle went 8 of 16 passing. The game also marked the debut of Jim Thorpe. He broke free for 45 yards the second time he touched the ball. The Indians won 26 – 6.

After finding this, I set about locating game accounts in period newspapers. Before resolving the issue of the single-wing, I noticed a significant error—or the sports writers of the day had it all wrong. Nowhere did I find mention of (William) Gardner scoring a touchdown or anything else in that game. What I did find in the coverage by The Washington Post, The New York Times, United Press and other wire service accounts was that the Indians’ first score came on a field goal kicked by Pete Hauser early in the game. That score was followed by Fritz Hendricks’ 100-yard touchdown run after picking up Hollenbach’s fumble. Payne closed out the first-half scoring with a touchdown of his own around Penn’s end from the 4-yard line. Penn played better in the second half and didn’t allow Carlisle an offensive touchdown. However, Little Boy scored his touchdown by diving on a Penn punt that Albert Exendine had blocked and fell behind their goal line. Hauser closed out Carlisle’s scoring with a second field goal. Frank Mt. Pleasant kick the extra points after each touchdown. Although Mt. Pleasant and Hauser received much praise for their passing in this game, none of their tosses went for a touchdown to Gardner or anyone else.

The next blog will deal with the errors related to Jim Thorpe and the single-wing.