Posts Tagged ‘University of Pittsburgh’

Pop Warner’s Last Game as Carlisle Coach

June 10, 2010

A person interested in writing a biography of Pop Warner contacted me last night with some questions that got me thinking about what is not commonly known about Warner. One thing I uncovered is his last game as head coach of the Carlisle Indians. Steckbeck didn’t cover it, most likely because the school paper didn’t say anything about it.

Warner considered the 1914 season to be a disaster and made it his last. Up through the end of November, Carlisle’s season was to end with the annual Thanksgiving game with Brown University. When writing about the Brown game in the December 4, 1915 issue of The Carlisle Arrow, Assistant Coach John McGillis announced three postseason games: 1. Former Harvard All Stars in Boston, 2. University of Georgia at Atlanta, and 3. University of Alabama at Birmingham. The Boston game, in which Carlisle lost 13-6, had already been played by that time. Then the Indians beat Alabama 20-3. It should be noted that Bama still plays some of its big games in Birmingham rather than on-campus in Tuscaloosa.

The Georgia game was never played or had been confused with Auburn because the Indians played the unscored-up Auburn team four days later. However, nothing was written about it in the Carlisle school newspaper, even after it was played. That was probably because Pop Warner had decided to take the Pitt job and leave. Later, Warner wrote that he had been approached by Pitt officials after the Carlisle-Pitt game on October 17 about the head coaching job and he decided to take it.

After the joint congressional investigation earlier in 1914, Warner’s publicity machine appears to have been shutdown, leaving the writing of articles to the coaches. Already mentally in Pittsburgh, Warner didn’t bother to write up anything about the Auburn game. More on that game next time.

Hang Time for a Watermelon

May 6, 2010

Today’s mail brought a new article by Jim Sweeney entitled, “Hang Time for a Watermelon: Did Thorpe Really Do It?” Jim first read about Thorpe’s celebrated feat in Bill Crawford’s 2005 biography, All American: the rise and fall of Jim Thorpe. Later, he read Steckbeck’s matter-of-fact recounting that implied superhuman feats were routine for the world’s greatest athlete.

The day was October 21, 1911; the place was Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and the opponent was the University of Pittsburgh. In the middle of Carlisle’s greatest season, Thorpe put on an exhibition that is still being talked about 99 years later. The Carlisle Arrow carried several accounts of the game from Pittsburgh newspapers, but the Dispatch told the story in the most detail:

“So fast were the Carlisle players that only twice during the many punting duels engaged in were Pittsburg players able to bring out the ball after it had been booted into their territory. Indeed, on two occasions, Thorpe, who kicked wonderfully well for Car lisle, got down the field under his own bootings, capturing the ball each time. Once he kicked a beautiful long spiral almost into the midst of five Pitt players and got down the field in time to grab the Pigskin, shake off three or four would-be tacklers and dart 20 yards across the line for a touchdown.”

Sweeney doubted that it was humanly possible to do what the reporter said Thorpe did. No one today could punt the ball from deep behind his line, recover from the awkward position a punter is in after kicking the ball, race downfield through his teammates and the opposition, position himself under the ball, and outjump others for it. Jim analyzed each aspect of the alleged feat to determine if it was even possible. When his article is published, I’ll inform you as to where it can be found so you can learn of his conclusions.