100 Years Ago Today

A History Of Events And Happenings From Exactly One Hundred Years Ago

Archive for the category “Sports”

Napoleon Lajoie Leaves Cleveland

Napoleon "Nap" Lajoie

Napoleon “Nap” Lajoie

Larry “Napoleon” Lajoie was born in Woonsocket, Rhode Island September 5, 1874. Lajoie was forced to work in a textile mill to support his family and received littler formal education. He also began playing semi-professional baseball for the local Woonsocket team under the alias “Sandy”, because his parents did not approve of their son playing baseball. “When I told my father I had decided to take the job he was very angry. He shouted that ball players were bums and that nobody respected them, but I was determined to give it a try at least one season,” In 1896 Lajoie joined the Class B New England League’s Fall River Indians as a center fielder, first baseman and catcher. He recorded 163 hits in 80 games, and led the team in batting average, doubles, triples, home runs and hits.

Lajoie was signed to the Philadelphia Phillies of the National League(NL) in 1896. The new, upstart American League (AL) was looking to rival the supremacy of the NL and in 1901, Lajoie and dozens of former NL players joined the AL. National League clubs contested the legality of contracts signed by players who jumped to the other league but eventually, Lajoie was allowed to play for Connie Mack’s Athletics(AL). Lajoie set the all-time American League single-season mark for the highest batting average (.426). One year later, Lajoie went to the Cleveland Bronchos where he has played the past 13 seasons. Lajoie’s popularity led to locals electing to change the club’s team name from Bronchos to Napoleons (“Naps” for short).

On January 5, 1915 Napoleon Lajoie rejoined the Philadelphia Athletics leaving the Cleveland team that bears his name. The Cleveland Naps owner promises to rename the team as soon as possible.

African American Boxer Weds In Illinois

Jack Johnson is an African American boxer who is reigning heavyweight champion. He is controversial because of his race and lifestyle.


After failing to indict Johnson on abduction charges involving a young woman Lucille Cameron who had refused to testify againsthim, Jackson was indicted by a federal grand jury in Chicago for violation of the Mann Act for arranging for an old acquaintance (who now had a grudge) to travel with him. Jackson makes no apologies for his choice of companions or how he chooses to live his life.

On December 4, 1912 Jack Johnson shocked much of America and snubbed his nose at the authorities by marrying “outside his race” to Lucille Cameron at Johnson’s mother house in Chicago attended by white and colored guests. Outside, police kept over 1,000 spectators at bay. Johnson tried to protect Cameron’s privacy.

“I will not tell where she is now, where the ceremony will be performed or anything else about it. I don’t want Miss Cameron annoyed.”

The marriage has already sparked a heated debate on racially mixed marriages.

Wedding photograph of Jack Johnson and Lucille Cameron December 4, 1912

Wedding photograph of Jack Johnson and Lucille Cameron
December 4, 1912

First Homecoming Game In Iowa

A Homecoming Game is when former attendees or alumni are welcome to a college or university. Iowa State University was established in 1858 as the State Agricultural College and Model Farm focusing on Agriculture. In 1879 the “School” of Veterinary Science was organized, the first state veterinary college in the US. It was known as Ames after the town where Iowa State is located.

In 1895 Iowa suffered an unusually high number of devastating cyclones. In September the Iowa State football team defeated the highly-rated Northwestern University footbal team 36-0. The Chicago Tribune’s read “Northwestern might as well have tried to play football with an Iowa cyclone as with the Iowa team it met yesterday.” The nickname stuck as the Iowa State Cyclones.

On November 16, 1912 Iowa State’s first Homecoming game took place against long-standing rival, the University of Iowa. Pep rallies and alumni dinners took place but it wasn’t enough for Iowa State was defeated by Iowa 20-7.

Iowa State vs University of Iowa
November 16, 1912

Army Vs Carlisle Indian School at West Point

James Francis Thorpe was born sometime in May 1888 in Indian Territory near Prauge, Oklahoma. Both grandfather were of European heritage and he was raised by his Sac and Fox parents as a Roman Catholic. His Native American name is Wa-Tho-Huk – “path lit by great flash of lightning” or”Bright Path” but he was soon called “Jim”. After attending Indian Agency schools, 16 year old Thorpe decided to attend the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, the first off-reservation boarding school in the US, founded in 1879 in Carlisle, Pennsylvania with the goal of total assimilation for Indian children from over 140 tribes. “To civilize the Indian, get him into civilization. To keep him civilized, let him stay.” In 1907 Carlisle re-hired athletic coach Glenn Scobey “Pop” Warner who had left Carlisle to coach at Cornell. Warner recognized Thorpe’s athletic talents when he walked past the track and beat all the school’s high jumpers with an impromptu 5ft 9in jump still in street clothes! Thorpe played competed in football, baseball, lacrosse. In a 1911 football game Thorpe, playing running back, defensive back, placekicker and punter score all his teams points in an 18-15 victory over top-rated Harvard.

In 1912 Thorpe participated in the Summer Olympics games in Stockholm, Sweden. He had only trained in jumps, hurdles and shot-puts, but added pole vaulting, javelin, discus, hammer and 56 lb weight. 2 new multi-event disciplines were included the pentathlon and the decathlon. Thorpe won 8 of the 15 individual events comprising the pentathlon and decathlon as well as individual events.Only 22 years ago the Native American massacre at Wounded Knee, South Dakota took place. The animosity between the US Army and Native Americans was keenly felt and the teams had only met once before on the sporting field

On November 9, 1912, the Carlisle Indians met the West Point Cadets at West Point, New York. 5,000 people filled the grandstands that ringed Army Field in West Point. Dwight D Eisenhower playing for Army tackled Thorpe and forced a fumble. Later in the game, Eisenhower injured his right knee while attempting to bring down Thorpe again. Thorpe scored a 92-yard touchdown which was nullified by a teammate’s penalty and on the next play rushed for a 97-yard touchdown against Army. Carlisle was thought to be at a disadvantage but due to their willingness to strategize and incorporate unusual maneuvers into their playing style, the Carlisle Indians defeated the Army team 27-6.

Great article on Carlisle football and the “Big Game” by Sally Jenkins, Sports Illustrated :

1912 Carlisle Indian Industrial School football team
Jim Thorpe top right

College Sports In Washington

Pushball was invented by M G Crane of Newton, Massachusetts in 1891 and was taken up at Harvard University the next year. A 50 pound 6 foot ball was pushed through a goal by two opposing teams. The goals consist of two upright posts 18 ft (5.5 m) high and 20 ft (6.1 m) apart with a crossbar 7 feet from the ground. The game lasts for two periods with an intermission. Pushing the ball under the bar counts 5 points; lifting or throwing it over the bar counts 8.

On November 8, 1912 a pushball game took place between the freshmen and the sophomores on Denny Field at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington.

University of Washington Campus Photograph Collection

Pushball – Froshs vs Sophs
University of Washington
November 8, 1912

Underwater Breathing Apparatus Proves Successful In France

Maurice Fernez was born in Paris, France in August 1885. After a near drowning as a child, Fernez was driven to develop an underwater breathing device that would aid drowning victims and save their lives. Underwater diving was done by a tethered diving helmet and suit. Fernez went from a small balloon connect to the diver to a surface-mounted tube. But inhaling air down the tube and exhaling it thorough the exhaust valve became impossible because of the pressure of water compressing the chest. Air needed to be supplied to the diver under sufficient pressure to balance the pressure of the water. Fernez came up with a a T shaped mouthpiece with one side connected to the air hose through a one way non-return valve and the other side to an exhaust. Air was pumped continuously down the tube and flowed out of the exhaust valve of the mouthpiece, causing the pressure in the mouthpiece to be exactly the same as the external water pressure. The diver could breathe in and out from this stream of air without difficulty.

On October 27, 1912 the French Rescue Society organized an experiment in a swimming pool in Paris where a volunteer remained under water for 35 minutes and was then examined a doctor. Respiratory and cardiac rhythms were normal and the diver said that he hadn’t felt any discomfort and could stay underwater indefinitely.

Maurice Fernez demonstration of his diving equipment
October 1912

Champion Boxer Faces Racially Motivated Charge

John Arthur “Jack” Johnson was born in Galveston, Texas in 1878. He worked as a dock worker but in 1901 he fought experienced boxer Joe Choynski in Galveston in an illegal match. Both men were jailed and Choynski taught Johnson the skills of boxing while they were in prison. Johnson developed his own style of boxing that was slow and deliberate. It was very effective but it was criticized in the press as being cowardly and devious. By 1902 Johnson had won at least 50 fights against both white and black opponents. Johnson won the World Colored Heavyweight Championship in February 1903. He wished to fight for the World Heavyweight Championship but reigning champion James J Jeffries refused to face him. Johnson fought former champion Bob Fitzsimmons in July 1907 and knocked him out in two rounds.

Johnson finally won the world heavyweight title in December 1908 beating reigning world champion Canadian Tommy Burns in Sydney, Australia in 14 rounds. For the next 2 years, Johnson faced several fighters each called “the Great White Hope”, a racial taunt at the African American champion. Finally in 1910 former undefeated heavyweight champion James J Jeffries came out of retirement to challenge Johnson. He had to lose 100 pounds to get to fighting weight. “The Fight Of The Century” took place on July 4, 1910 in front of 20,000 people, at a ring built just for the occasion in downtown Reno, Nevada. Recently Johnson defended hit title against “Fireman” Jim Flynn in New Mexico.The fight was filmed and producers hoped to successfully distribute it just as the Jefferies fight had been. Congress passed the Sims act which outlawed the interstate transportation of fight films.


Johnson is a independent African-American who does not fit stereotypes or the roles white society thinks he should conform to. He openly socializes with white women and paid no deference to the color line. In January 1911, Johnson married Brooklyn socialite and divorcee Etta Terry Duryea. Etta suffered from severe depression and after just 8 months of marriage, committed suicide by shooting herself in the head in September 1912. Shortly afterwards Johnson began seeing Lucille Cameron, an 18 year old prostitute, an act that outraged the public.

On October 17 1912 Jack Johnson is arrested on a charge of abduction. Lucille Cameron denies the charge and will refuse to testify against Johnson.

1912 World Series Final Game in Massachusetts

The 1912 World Series of baseball between the New York Giants and the Boston Red Sox has gone to 8 games in a 7 games series due to a tie.



Nearly all of the games were close. 4 games in this Series were decided by one run. A fifth ended in a tie. A sixth was decided by two runs.

On October 16, 1912 the deciding game 8 took place at the new Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. It was also a close game and a easily caught ball dropped by Giant’s center fielder Fred Snodgrass known as the “$30,000 muff” (the difference between losing and winning) allowed Boston to take the game and the series. Said Snodgrass “I didn’t seem to be able to hold the ball. It just dropped out of the glove, and that was all there was to it.”

1912 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox

1912 World Series Game 2 Ends In Tie

On October 9, 1912 the New York giants faced the Boston Red Sox in the 2nd game of the World Series at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. Fenway is a brand new stadium but no ballparks in America are equipped with light for night games. After the 10 innings, the game was tied 6–6 and called on account of darkness. Game 2 will have to be replayed.

Fenway Park souvenir biography and score book for the 1912 World Series

1912 World Series Begins

The 1912 World Series of baseball began between the New York Giants and the Boston Red Sox at the Polo Grounds in New York City, New York. Giants rookie pitcher Jeff Tesreau squared off against Smoky Joe Wood who had a season record of 34-5. Boston won 4-3. Wood pitched a complete game striking out 11 Giants. After the game, Wood said “I threw so hard I thought my arm would fly right off my body.”

Smokey Joe Wood

Right field grandstand at New York’s Polo Grounds
1st game of the 1912 World Series New York Giants vs Boston Red Sox
October 8, 1912

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