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Carlisle vs. Army: Jim Thorpe, Dwight Eisenhower, Pop Warner, and the Forgotten Story of Football's Greatest Battle Hardcover – August 28, 2007

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*Starred Review* "Remember that it was the fathers and grandfathers of these Army players who fought your fathers and grandfathers in the Indian Wars. Remember Wounded Knee." Now that is a pregame pep talk. It was delivered by legendary coach Pop Warner to the Carlisle Indian School football team minutes before the squad took the field against Army in 1912. Carlisle was led by Jim Thorpe, still basking in his gold-medal performance in the 1912 Olympics; Army's emerging star was a gritty, three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust halfback named Dwight Eisenhower. Sports Illustrated writer Anderson reprises the landmark game in gripping, play-by-play fashion, but it is really the backstory that gives this thoroughly engaging book its bite: how Warner, college football's first superstar coach, found himself at an unheralded Indian school, and how he came to nurture Thorpe into becoming the greatest athlete of the first half of the twentieth century; how Thorpe struggled with family tragedy and the identity-crushing regimen common to the Indian schools of the era; and how a tough, street-fighting kid from the wrong side of the tracks in Abilene, Texas, landed on the gridiron at West Point, where his determination to knock Thorpe out of the game with a bone-crushing hit almost derailed the future president's military career. Anderson allows himself to get inside the heads of his characters, but as in the best sports-centered narrative nonfiction (Hillebrand's Seabiscuit and Frost's Greatest Game Ever Played, for example), the technique is based on solid research. A great sports story, told with propulsive narrative drive and offering a fascinating look at multiple layers of American popular culture. Ott, Bill

About the Author

Lars Anderson is a Sports Illustrated staff writer and a graduate of Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of The All Americans. He lives with his wife in Birmingham, Alabama.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (August 28, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 140006600X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400066001
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #643,255 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Steven A. Peterson TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In 1912, one of the classic American football games was played--between Carlisle and mighty Army. A book published in 2007 covers much of the same territory, "The Real All Americans: The Team That Changed a Game, a People, a Nation" by Sally Jenkins--and covers it well. But Lars Anderson's book, approaching the issues differently, likewise has created a wonderful examination of that game and events leading up to it.

The structure of Anderson's book weaves the story of three people together, culminating in that 1912 context. First, legendary coach Pop Warner; second, the great Indian athlete, Jim Thorpe; third, a gritty undersized football player and future military leader, Dwight Eisenhower. What was at stake in the Carlisle-Army game might be summarized by a segment of the pep talk Warner gave his team just before the contest began: "Remember it was their fathers and grandfathers who destroyed your way of life. Remember Wounded Knee. Remember all of this on every play. Let's go." And so the Indian team from Carlisle took on the Army team with those words ringing in their ears.

How did we get to this point? The book describes the arc of Warner's life, his childhood, his becoming an attorney, and the strange voyage leading him into coaching. Early on, he was a vagabond, moving from team to team (even leaving the position at Carlisle a bit before returning). He was an innovator and could inspire his team.

Then there was Thorpe, from the American Southwest. Growing up, he was always restless, would run away from school routinely. He ended up at Carlisle, but ran away from that institution, too. The book illustrates his foray into professional baseball during one such hiatus (which, of course, was to come back to haunt him).
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22 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Edmond E. Seay III on September 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover
As much as I appreciate the need for a book like this, and as much as I wanted to like it, I felt let down by the sloppy research into the game of football which Lars Anderson conducted.

Anderson writes this:

"In the huddle, Gus Welch told the Indians that they were finally going to use their secret weapon. Carlisle broke the huddle. At first the Indians settled into their standard power formation with two halfbacks and a fullback lined up behind the quarterback. But then Welch called out a signal, prompting the players to shift into the double-wing formation. Thorpe, who was at left halfback, moved closer to the line and crouched in a three-point stance to the outside of the left offensive tackle. The right halfback, Alex Arcasa, did the same thing and aligned himself to the outside of the right offensive tackle. A nervous chatter rose from the crowd as the Indian players shifted into new positions. No one was sure what Carlisle was doing or what Warner, the great football magician, was up to."

This is simply wrong in several ways. First, a double wing formation has two wingbacks aligned outside the offensive ENDS, not tackles. Next, the "standard power formation" which Anderson describes was, of course, the T formation which all teams had used up to 1905. However, Glenn Scobey "Pop" Warner had been using variations of the single wing formation since 1906, and had forsaken the T completely by 1910, according to an interview he gave that year to a Philadelphia newspaper.

It is true that Warner unveiled the double wing against Army; but his standard formation by 1912 was the single wing, and shifting one back to the weakside of the single wing to create the double wing formation was hardly the gasp-inducing tactic that Anderson describes.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By eslkevin on February 11, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was back in the three state region--Kansas, Missouri, & Oklahoma--this past week taking care of my mother who has just gone a knee replacement surgery in Joplin, Missouri. Mom received a knee called Triathlon. The Triathlon brand for new knees would certainly have been welcome in bygone centuries. Some many people have suffered debilitating knee injuries--for example, the famous Kansan Dwight D. Eisenhower. The name Triathlon rings of championship, hard work, and overcoming pain and difficulties to gain victory.

This concept of pain, overcoming injury, and love of athleticism fit in well with the legends I was busy reading about upon my arrival in the town of Carl Junction, Missouri this very October 2007. The book I was enjoying while helping my mother out was entitled CARLISLE vs. ARMY: Jim Thorpe. Dwight Eisenhower, Pop Warner, and the Forgotten Story of Football's Greatest Battle.

The book is by Lars Anderson is not only a form of homage to the characters recalled in its lengthy title, but it is a book that reminds American readers how far the country has evolved and changed since the days when Indians ran the plains and U.S. armies marched Indians off to reservations. It also is a reminder of how defeat can be snatched from victory and victory transformed from defeat (made into a positive gain for a nation--even after individual mistakes have ruined the day for some).

Glen "Pop" Warner, the legendary coach who wrote the book on how college football could be used to build a school's image coached a total of 14 years at the tiny Carlisle Indian school in Pennsylvania and also rewrote permanently how the game of football would be played in the USA., is one of the three main characters in Anderson's novel-like history book.
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