Lars Anderson recalls a long forgotten chapter of American sports history.
Dec 12, 2008
They are names that are familiar to just about anyone who has studied American history or who considers him or herself a sports fan. Just about everyone in America has heard the names Pop Warner and Dwight Eisenhower. And I think it is fair to say that an overwhelming majority of Americans have come across the name Jim Thorpe at one time or another. What these three men had in common was their participation in one of the most notable and exciting games in college football history. The year was 1912 and two of college football's most celebrated teams were scheduled to clash on a Saturday afternoon at the U.S. Army Military Academy at West Point, NY. The team from Army was led by a gutsy and determined young player by the name of Dwight David Eisenhower. Army's opponent on this gray November day was the Carlisle Indian School, an institution that most readers have probably never heard of. But the Carlisle team was coached by one Glenn "Pop" Warner and led by the man that most people at the time believed was "the greatest athlete in the world" Jim Thorpe. "Carlisle vs Army" is Lars Anderson's compelling account of the events that led up to this historic matchup and why this game was considered so important at that time. This is truly an incredible story! As I indicated earlier, I would venture a guess that perhaps 90% of the people reading this review have never even heard of the Carlisle Indian School. Prior to reading Sally Jennings terrific book "The Real All Americans" earlier this summer I was in much the same boat. "The Real All Americans" covers many of the same topics found in "Carlisle vs. Army" but from a slightly different perspective. In "Carlisle vs. Army" you will learn much about the early history of college football. You will discover that at the turn of the century the major powers in college football were teams like Princeton, Harvard and Yale. At that time football was strictly a power game with very little variation from play to play. You will also learn that one Edward Pratt established the Carlisle Indian School located in Carlisle, PA. in 1879. This school was to be a vehicle to teach Native Americans the ways of the white man. In Edward Pratt's view this is the approach was the best chance that Indians had to survive in this country. Young people were brought to Carlisle from distant places like Oklahoma and Kansas. And many of the young men who came to Carlisle shared a common passion--the game of football. In the 1890's, these young men convinced Edward Pratt to let them form a football team. And as it turns out the rest is history. Indian players were much smaller than their white counterparts and so it was out of necessity that the Indian players would change the way the game of football would be played. The Carlisle brand of football was innovative and wide open with an emphasis on speed. Soon the legendary Jim Thorpe would come to play at Carlisle. And before long Edward Pratt made the fateful decision to hire Glenn "Pop" Warner as his coach. This was a match made in heaven and soon the Carlisle squad would find itself among the top ranked teams in the nation. By 1912, the team from Carlisle had a legitimate shot at a national championship. One team stood in its way. The team from Army, led by Dwight David Eisenhower, had been anticipating this game for months. There were so many storylines to this game and Lars Anderson writes about them with great zest and flair. Up until that time this was probably the most important game in college football history. I found "Carlisle vs. Army" to be an extremely well written and equally entertaining read. Lars Anderson offers up lots of new information not available in Sally Jennings fine book. Readers are sure to come away amazed at the impact the Indian athletes had on the game of football and at how many of their innovations are still in use today. This is a terrific book that can be enjoyed by sports fans, history buffs and general readers as well. Highly recommended!
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Paul Tognetti (drifter51)
I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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In this stunning work of narrative nonfiction, Lars Anderson recounts one of college football’s greatest contests: Carlisle vs. Army, the fateful 1912 gridiron clash that had far-reaching implications both real and symbolic.
The story centers on three men: Glenn “Pop” Warner, who came to the Carlisle Indian School in 1903 and saw beyond its assimilationist agenda, molding the Carlisle Indians into a football juggernaut and smashing prejudices along the way; Jim Thorpe, who arrived at Carlisle as a troubled teenager–only to become one of America’s finest athletes, dazzling his opponents and gaining fans across the nation; and a hardnosed Kansan back named Dwight Eisenhower, who knew that by stopping Carlisle’s amazing winning streak, he could lead the Cadets of Army to glory. But beyond recounting the tale of this momentous match, Lars Anderson reveals its broader social and historical context, offering unique perspectives on sports and culture at the dawn of the twentieth century.
Filled with colorful period detail, Carlisle vs. Army gives a thrilling, authoritative account of the events of an epic afternoon whose reverberations would be felt for generations.