Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team
by Steve Sheinkin
Roaring Brook Press * January 17, 2017
Nonfiction * Sports * Football
Indiebound | WorldCat
Read an interview with Steve Sheinkin on BookPage
Read an additional deleted scene at Fuse Eight/SLJ here.
About the book:
Jim Thorpe: Super athlete, Olympic gold medalist, Native American
Pop Warner: Indomitable coach, football mastermind, Ivy League grad
Before these men became legends, they met in 1907 at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania, where they forged one of the winningest teams in American football history. Called "the team that invented football," they took on the best opponents of their day, defeating much more privileged schools such as Harvard and the Army in a series of breathtakingly close calls, genius plays, and bone-crushing hard work.
Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team is an astonishing underdog sports story—and more. It’s an unflinching look at the U.S. government’s violent persecution of Native Americans and the school that was designed to erase Indian cultures. Expertly told by three-time National Book Award finalist Steve Sheinkin, it’s the story of a group of young men who came together at that school, the overwhelming obstacles they faced both on and off the field, and their absolute refusal to accept defeat.
Enjoy this deleted scene:
[intro] One of the main things I needed to establish early on in Undefeated was the shockingly raucous and violent nature of early day football. This scene describes a famously nasty game between Harvard and Yale in 1894—we wound up cutting it because we get across the same points with Pop Warner’s experiences on the Cornell team.
Everyone knew football was a violent game—but was it becoming too violent?
The game that brought this question to national attention was the 1894 edition of the annual Harvard-Yale showdown, essentially the Super Bowl of early-day American football. “It was a game in which an unusual amount of bad blood and foul playing was shown,” noted the New York Times.
And that was saying something.
Yale captain Frank Hinkey set the tone before the players even took the field. In his team’s hotel the night before the game, Hinkey urged teammates to intimidate the Harvard boys by ignoring their fair catch signals on punts—the signal meant the returner couldn’t advance the ball, but defenders couldn’t hit him.
“Tackle them anyway,” Hinkey said, “and take the penalty.”
The next day, at Hampden Park in Springfield, Massachusetts, 25,000 fans roared as the teams as they took the field. Some waved banners of Yale blue; most waved Harvard crimson. Police officers had made the trip from Boston to keep the peace between rival student bodies. But it was action on the field that needed policing.
When Yale punted early in the game, the Harvard returner waved for a fair catch. Frank Hinkey launched himself, knee raised, into the returner as the ball arrived, snapping the man’s collarbone. Yale was flagged for roughness. Harvard fans called for revenge.
A few plays later, a Crimson lineman reared back and punched Hinkey in the jaw.
“My friend,” Hinkey said, “if you hit me another blow like that, you will break your hand.”
The battle was on. And keep in mind, the players were not wearing helmets. Or any other protective equipment.
A Harvard man jammed his finger into a Yale player’s eye, causing blood to flow. Yale’s Fred Murphy broke a Harvard player’s nose with his fist. Harvard then gang tackled Murphy, working him over on the ground. Murphy got up and stayed in the game, but was so dizzy that between plays teammates had to guide him back to his position and point him in the direction of the opposing team. Eventually, he staggered to the sidelines, lost consciousness, and lay on the sideline as play resumed.
This was all in the first half. The second half, newspapers reported, was worse. “An ordinary rebellion in the South American or Central American States is as child’s play compared with the destructiveness of today’s game,” commented the Times. “Fully one half of the players suffered injuries of a more or less serious nature.”
Seven of the twenty-two starters had to be carried off the field.
Five, including Fred Murphy, were hospitalized.
Two were ejected for excessive roughness.
After the game, a 12-4 Yale victory, each school blamed the other. Horrified by what became known as the “Springfield Massacre,” and the “Hampden Park Blood Bath,” officials at Harvard and Yale agreed to cancel their heated football rivalry.
But it didn’t last. Two years later, they started playing again.
About the author:
Steve Sheinkin is the award-winning author of fast-paced, cinematic nonfiction histories for young readers. The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights, was a National Book Award finalist and received the 2014 Boston Globe/Horn Book Award for Nonfiction. The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism & Treachery, won both the Boston Globe/Horn Book Award and the YALSA award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults. Bomb: The Race to Build-and Steal-the World's Most Dangerous Weapon was a Newbery Honor Book, a National Book Award Finalist, and winner of the Sibert Award and YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults. Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War was a National Book Award finalist and a YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award finalist. Sheinkin lives in Saratoga Springs, New York, with his wife and two children. Found Steve on his blog or twitter.