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Twelve Mighty Orphans: The Inspiring True Story of the Mighty Mites Who Ruled Texas Football Hardcover – September 4, 2007

4.7 out of 5 stars 138 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Dent, who told the story of Bear Bryant's brutal preseason training of the 1954 Aggies in The Junction Boys, turns to the incredible story of Rusty Russell and his undersized team of orphans who dominated the gridiron of Texas high school football for the better part of the 1930s. True underdogs, most boys from the Masonic Home never held a real football; they used two socks stuffed together as footballs and, when Russell first took over, used Clabber Girl baking cans during practice. But the lean, scrappy Mighty Mites—as they were later dubbed—achieved an 8-2 record their first season of play in Class B. A few years later, in 1932, they moved up to Class A, the big leagues of high school football at the time. There, the Mites would face teams that outweighed them by as much as 50 pounds per man and fielded 47 players to their 12, and the orphans would win. Dent's strength is his play-by-play accounts of key games, but descriptions of personal interactions are often forced and lifeless. Also, many characters and events that are introduced at length don't factor significantly into the larger story line. Dent does more to mythologize the team and its players than to give them flesh and blood. (Sept.)
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From Booklist

The Masonic Home, an orphanage outside Fort Worth, became a high-school football dynasty in Depression-era Texas. Despite having virtually no equipment or uniforms, and despite their linemen often being outweighed by 50 pounds, the Mighty Mites, as they came to be known, reached the Texas state semifinals three times and the championship game once. Dent, author of The Junction Boys (1999), another inspirational story of Texas football, produces a riveting narrative from the saga of the Mites and their innovative coach, Rusty Russell, who compensated for his team's physical shortcomings with imaginative formations and trick plays. Using extensive first-person research and, when that wasn't possible, interviews with the immediate descendants of the principals, Dent builds a sense of drama and immediacy by placing readers in the heart of the Depression and a Texas that still had a bit of the Wild West in it. This is Seabiscuit for football fans, sure to attract narrative nonfiction fans who like to mix sports, inspiration, and popular history. Lukowsky, Wes
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; 1st edition (September 4, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312308728
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312308728
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (138 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #492,710 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A. N. Turner on September 16, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I'm a native Texan and an avid football fan who played football in the southern panhandle area between Odessa and Lubbock and I had never heard this story. I'm thankful that Jim Dent wrote this book and you will be, too.

This is a story of struggle and perseverance during terrible times. The facts are how a rag-tag football team from an orphans home in the 1930's competed and won against the "big dogs" of Texas high school football. The heart of the story, though, is how this orphans home, Masonic Home, it's coach, Rusty Russell, and the players, usually only 12 on the team during any season, overcame harsh times and even harsher lives.

That these boys, who found themselves in this home after the deaths of one or both parents and who sometimes witnessed these deaths first-hand, played football at all is nothing short of fantastic. That they grew as young men under the mentorship of a caring coach is a testament to perseverance in the face of enormous odds...in other words, almost miraculous.

Throughout the book, the author sprinkles stories away from the football field to bring life at the Masonic Home into focus. The oil boom, depression, poverty, Texas football politics, Jack Dempsey, and even Seabiscuit all come together to relate the life and times of this school and football team.

If you're a native Texan, love football, or cheer for the underdog, you will thoroughly enjoy this book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In my opinion Twelve Mighty Orphans is absolutely the best sports nonfiction book to come along since Seabiscuit, An American Legend. And they both have a similar theme throughout - that of America's love for the underdog. You don't have to be a football expert to be rooting for the boys at the Home. The editorial review from Publisher's Weekly on this page that said "Dent's strength is his play-by-play accounts of key games, but descriptions of personal interactions are often forced and lifeless" is completely off the mark. The play-by-play is great, of course, and exciting. However, it's the back story of the underdogs that grew up at the Masonic Home and scrapped their way to winning while being transported to games on the bed of a wheezing old truck that brings it all together and makes the reader care passionately for the Mighty Mites. Without stories of what shaped the orphans before and after their coming to the Home it could very well have been like reading descriptions of games that were straight off the sports pages of a newspaper. My congrats to Jim Dent for making this story a feel-good winner.
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Format: Hardcover
My Father, Leon Pickett, was the oldest living member of he Mighty Mites until April 2, 2008. I cherish this book, I cherish the wonderful memories.
Sarah (Pickett) McGarrahan
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An interesting book for football fans. It shows a glimps into the history of the Dallas / Fort Worth area as high school football was becoming the popular sport it is today. The focus on the Orphans of the Mason Home provided a story that really grabbed me and I could not put the book down.

I will not spoil any of the details, but if you enjoy an emotional story and love football you will love this book.
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Format: Paperback
I read this book for my book club, and had to force myself to finish it. It was a slog. The story is about a scrappy bunch of orphans at the Masonic Home in Fort Worth, TX and their loyal, smart coach who puts together quite the successful football team. They go up against the big and the rich high schools who (constantly) taunt them with the oh-so creative term "orphans", and surprise everybody by winning. Year after year after year. After a while, why is anybody surprised?! I really wanted to like it. Who doesn't root for the underdog?! But I could not get past the clunky, disorganized, repetitive writing. If I had to read one more time about Charlie "Two Guns" McCoy doing back handsprings at a Mighty Mites game, or how small the orphan boys were compared to the other teams' players, or how the people dressed up in their Sunday best to attend the games, I thought I was going to scream! We live in Dallas and my husband is from Amarillo so it was interesting to read about those small towns along 287 back then. The opening sequence about the bootlegging that went on in the Panhandle during Prohibition was interesting and promised a good read that was left unfulfilled. Not knowing much about football, especially high school football during the Depression, I can't speak to the accuracy of the book. But one major question I had was why the Masons - who were always milling about in their dark suits handing out dollar bills after the Mighty Mites won - couldn't buy the team new uniforms, or a new bus to replace Old Blue!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I was riveted by this and cannot believe it hasn`t been made into a movie.This story would be good for the poor exuse we are now.
As a side note I want to say that Corsicana, Texas ,the villians that poisoned the Mighty Mites the night before the State Championship game in Corsicana in 1932, is still one of the lowest places in Texas. Even at that they could only tie them and the lack of crowd control at the the field is one the most shameful examples of cheating I have ever read. Thank God that the TIL has since awarded Masonic Home half of that title.
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