Sadly, the Hoosiers did not go forward to win the College World Series, but this in no way takes any of the shine off of their terrific season. Great job, guys!
So, would you like to hear more about the 1922 baseball trip to Japan?
The team arrived in Japan on Friday, April 14. They went through Customs, where the only problems they ran into was with the tobacco they were carrying. But these college men knew how to get around it — they passed off some of their cigarettes and cigars to the non-smokers of the group and stuffed their pockets with what they thought they could sneak in.
They made their way to the hotel via rikishas and settled in for the night. The next morning, after a hearty American-style breakfast, they stopped for a quick picture in front of the hotel before heading off to see the Waseda team in a game. “Ruck” reported in his diary that there was a crowd of about 7,000 at the game and when they arrived they were cheered by the crowd. “After the game we waited for the crowd to leave the park…but instead of leaving about 3,000 people surrounded us.” Baseball must have been huge in Japan at this time, as he reports the same numbers at their first practice the following day (as well as the same reception!)
The first game took place on April 22 in front of a large enthusiastic crowd but home team luck prevailed and Waseda won. The final record of the Waseda series: One victory, one tie, and five defeats. They lost all three games they played against Keio University but soundly defeated the semiprofessional Osaka All-Star team, 9-4.
Mr. Abé and the IU alumni served as excellent hosts for the team, ensuring they did some sightseeing and experienced Japanese traditions, such as the Japanese tea house. On May 10, Ruck reported they visited the largest temple in Japan, they toured five Imperial Palaces, saw the famous Cherry Dance, and walked by the base of Mount Fuji. To complete the trip, Japan scheduled a large earthquake during their stay. Edna Edmondson wrote about this experience in a series of articles she contributed about the trip to the The Arrow of Pi Beta Phi:
Tokyo even staged for us an earthquake, officially said to be the most severe in that city since 1894. We had already experienced several slight quakes since our arrival and when the first little shake came on this day we looked across the table at each other and smiled making mental note of one more experience to “tell the folks back home.” In a moment, however, this slight shaking increased to a violent jerking. This jerking gave way to a whipping motion as the earth rocked up and down, east and west, and north and south, accompanied by terrifying grinding, and groaning sounds as though the earth itself were writhing in agony.
Want to know more about this amazing trip? We have recently scanned the entirety of the IU administrative correspondence, but recent donations from the family of team memberLeonard Ruckelshausand Edna Edmondson have provided us with a tremendous amount of detail about the trip. Ruck’s diary begins on the day of departure and was faithfully written in through May 27. The donation also included a beautiful scrapbook full of photographs and memorabilia, and many of thephotos have been scanned and added to the Archives Photographs Database. And as always, feel free to contact us to schedule a visit to look through materials yourself!
It has been such an exciting time for IU baseball, what a terrific season! This – along with a recent donation – has prompted me to share a story about another exciting time in IU baseball history.
In December 1921, IU’s baseball coach George Levis received the following letter and proposition from Waseda University’s Iso Abé, Professor of Economics and Sociology:
The accompanying agreement stated Waseda would pay $11,500 towards the IU team’s traveling expenses, as well as hotel and transportation costs associated with traveling to and from the hotel and ball field! In exchange, Abé proposed IU pay the Waseda baseball team $1,300 when they in turn visited in 1925, as well as the hotel costs for one night in Bloomington. Not a bad deal, right? Right. So university administrators made quick work of figuring out the logistics of such a trip, lining up transportation, securing passports, chaperones, etc.
On March 28, the baseball team began their journey, departing Bloomington via the Monon at 11:30 AM.
They traveled across country as minor celebrities to their destination, Seattle, where they would depart for Japan on the SS Keystone State on April 1 to the University of Washington baseball team’s crooning of farewell songs.
So they were off. The baseball team, chaperones, and then these fellas, “Four I.U. ‘Bums'”. Recognize any of those names? How about #2, the “Chief Bell Boy” of the ship?
The trip took over 2 weeks. Several of the landlubbing Hoosiers suffered terribly from seasickness. Player Leonard “Ruck” Ruckelshaus recorded in his diary, “[Emmons] Clay, Mr. and Mrs. Levis, Mrs. Edmondson, Joe Sloate, and Doresey Kight were very sick. Clay… said he would not cross the ocean again if they made him the Ambassador of England.” But they made it…minus one poor sailor who had a fatal accident and the boys stood by as witnesses to his sea burial.
From July 27 to August 12, thousands of athletes from over two-hundred countries will strive for gold at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Among them, there will be Hoosiers, continuing a long line of 173 Olympians from Indiana University who have collectively won 49 gold, 16 silver and 21 bronze medals (IU Hoosiers). These 173 Hoosiers have represented 15 countries, including the United States, and competed in 19 different sports. Among IU’s most memorable Olympic accomplishments include Mark Spitz’s astonishing 7 gold medal win at the 1972 Munich Olympics and Bob Knight’s role as head coach for the gold-medal-winning 1984 U. S. Men’s Basketball Team, which included IU Hoosier Steve Alford.
IU’s Olympic tradition has been so strong, in fact, that the familiar term “Hoosier Nation” has taken on a new meaning – an Indiana Daily Student reporter said of the 1968 Olympics that the seven gold medals won that year by IU Hoosiers “would rank IU 11th among the nations of the world.” Not only that, but the “14 medals possessed by Hoosier athletes” in 1968 “[made] a total surpassed by only 16 nations.” In addition to holding its own as a “nation,” in 1964 IU “[produced] more Olympic athletes than any other school in the United States” (Indiana Alumni Magazine). Another impressive statistic is that IU athletes have competed at every summer Olympics since 1932, apart from the 1980 Games in Moscow, which saw the U. S. government’s controversial protest against the Soviet Union’s involvement in Afghanistan. Over the years, Hoosiers have been especially strong at swimming and diving, but it is IU’s track and field competitors who started it all and who will be the focus of this post.
IU’s Early Track and Field Olympians: From 1904 to 1952
In 1904 Leroy Samse and Thad Shidelar began IU’s tradition of Olympic formidability by bringing home silver medals in the pole vault and 110 high hurdles, respectively. Following a hiatus that spanned nearly three decades and six Olympic games, IU returned to Olympic competition in Los Angeles in 1932 with two more track and field representatives – Ivan Fuqua and Charles Hornbostel. Hornbostel finished sixth in the 800-meter run, while Fuqua set a world record in the 1600-meter relay as the squad’s lead-off man, becoming the first IU Hoosier to win Olympic gold. The success of these two men has been attributed, in part, to IU-Bloomington’s head track coach at the time, Earl C. “Billy” Hayes.
Hayes, who was inducted into the USA Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1976, served as head track coach for the Bloomington campus from 1924 until his death in 1943 and was known for raising IU’s Track and Field program from the dust to a first-rate championship team worthy of national and international acclaim. Under Hayes’ leadership, the IU Track and Field team won three NCAA team titles, the national collegiate outdoor team title, and eight Big Ten conference titles. Not surprisingly then, “Billy” Hayes was selected as assistant track coach for the U. S. Men’s Team in the 1936 Berlin Games. He took with him three of his own – Charles Hornbostel for his second Olympics, Tommy Deckard, and Donald “Don” R. Lash.
Of these three, Don Lash – who was himself an eventual Hall of Famer – is undoubtedly the best known. Lash was a talented long distance runner who won twelve national titles during his career, including seven consecutive national cross country championships. Additionally, in 1936 Lash broke a world record in the 2-mile race. Though Lash competed in the 1936 Olympics – finishing thirteenth in the 5,000-meter and eighth in the 10,000-meter – he did not bring home a medal. Lash had high hopes to come back and redeem himself in 1940, but due to the onset of World War II, he never had the chance. Despite this, Lash’s experience in the 1936 Olympics had a life-changing impact on him. In a 1992 interview, Lash recalls:
In 1936 when I was on the Olympic team we went to Berlin and Adolph Hitler sat right behind the American stand and I saw him almost every day. I saw those people rise when he would come into the stadium and they were just like stiff pokers with their hands out saluting him. I realized that he was more like a God to them than a leader of a country. When I got back and realized what he was really trying to do, I got into the FBI. . . I knew that we didn’t want Nazism and so I was very devoted in my work. I was sincere.
The image that Lash so vividly relates was a startling harbinger of the war to come. As a result of World War II, the 1940 and 1944 Olympics were cancelled. However, 1948 was an exciting year for IU Track and Field Olympians. Not only did Roy Cochran take home two gold medals from the 1948 London Olympics – one in the 400-meter hurdles and the other in the 1,600-meter relay – but he became the first person from IU to win an individual gold medal.
Cochran, who was yet another one of Hayes’ stars, struck fame not only by winning gold, but by being singled out by King George VI during a cocktail party at Buckingham Palace. The Indiana Alumni Magazine (September 1948) relayed the following, which originally appeared in the syndicated column of Vincent X. Flaherty:
For some reason, the King singled out Roy Cochran, America’s 400-meter hurdles Olympic champion . . . Roy, a real guy, who is extremely intelligent and versed, kept the conversation kicking 15 minutes with the King. The two sat off in one corner of the big room all by themselves. Other members of the party wondered why the King devoted so much time to one individual . . . “He’s one of the swellest guys I ever met,” said Cochran thoroughly enthralled. “And do you know something else?” said Cochran. “It took a real King to make me taste my first drink of liquor. He didn’t make me, of course. I just sort of felt it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t.”
While it was difficult to compete with Cochran’s individual gold medal win, not to mention his media-worthy encounter with the King of England, Fred Wilt was another one of IU’s outstanding long-distance runners who also competed that year and finished 11th in the 10,000-meter run. Wilt returned to Helsinki in 1952, finishing twenty-first in the 10,000-meter. He would be the last of Hayes’ men to compete at the Olympics, essentially marking the end of an era.
The Legacy Continues: Highlights From 1952 to the Present
Since the end of the Hayes’ era, IU has continued to send exemplary Track and Field competitors to the Olympics. The following list offers some highlights:
Helsinki – 1952: Milt Campbell won silver in the decathalon.
Melbourne – 1956: Milt Campbell competed again in the decathalon and brought home gold this time. Greg Bell took gold in the long jump.
Rome – 1960: Willie May won silver in the 110-meter hurdles.
Montreal – 1976: Sam Bell was assistant coach for the U. S. Men’s Track and Field Distance Team.
Los Angeles – 1984: Sunder Nix was the gold medalist in the 1600-meter relay, while Timi Peters brought home bronze in the same event.
Sydney – 2000: For the first time, the Women’s Track and Field program was represented – DeDee Nathan finished ninth in the heptathlon.
Beijing – 2008: David Neville was the gold medalist in the 400-meter relay and bronze medalist for the 400-meter run.
It’s been over a century since Leroy Samse and Thad Shidelar began IU’s Olympic legacy. Since then, IU has excelled not only in Track and Field but in a wide variety of events from swimming and basketball to fencing and diving. Undoubtedly, the upcoming 2012 Summer Olympics will be no different. This summer IU high jumper Derek Drouin will join the Canadian Olympic Team, while IU swimmers Dorina Szekeres, Nicholas Schwab, Marguax Farrell and Kate Fesenko will represent their native countries of Hungary, the Dominican Republic, France and Ukraine, respectively. Additionally, diver and IU alumnus Christina Loukas has earned a spot on the U. S. Olympic Team. We wish them all the very best of luck !
If you are interested in learning more about IU’s rich Olympic history, please contact the IU Archives.
During World War II, Indiana University was not unlike other universities and colleges in that nearly every aspect of university operations underwent a number of changes. Personnel-wise, there were fewer men on campus, and many of them who were in Bloomington were in uniform.
Baseball uniforms, that is! Well, at least for one spring month in 1943 and 1944.
At the January 11, 1943 Athletics Committee meeting, IU Athletics Director Zora Clevenger reported that seven professional baseball “clubs” as well as the President of the American Association had contacted him inquiring about the use of the fieldhouse (now the Wildermuth Fieldhouse) for spring training. Teams included the Indianapolis Indians, Cleveland Indians, Cincinnati Reds, Pittsburgh Pirates, Brooklyn Dodgers, Montreal Royals, and the Toledo Mud Hens. The Committee recommended Clevenger and IU baseball coach Paul “Pooch” Harrell work with the administration to come to mutually agreeable terms with the Indianapolis Indians and another team.
Within the week, IU President Herman B Wells reported that the members of the Executive Committee had approved the proposal for the Indianapolis Indians and Cincinnati Reds to come to campus. Trustee Feltus must have been a baseball fan – notations on memos regarding the plans indicate he said “we should have them by all means.”
It is not known what terms the university reached with the teams, but in response to a letter of inquiry from the Muncie Star regarding the arrangements, Vice President and Treasurer Ward Biddle stated, “Neither the University nor the City have been asked to defray any expenses in connection with bringing these ball clubs to Bloomington, and we are expecting that we will be reimbursed by them for out-of-pocket expenses in connection with their training.”
The Indiana Daily Student was all atwitter about this development. The Reds were the first to arrive on campus with team news coverage beginning in February followed by near daily reports regarding the teams’ arrivals, preparations, practices, and exhibition games.
The reporters of the IDS were not alone – this was terrific excitement for Bloomington. The Jaycee’s gave a baseball banquet on March 18 for the Reds at Alumni Hall; tickets could be had for $2 per person. Speakers included Warren Giles, general manager for the Reds, Reds Manager Deacon Bill McKechnie, Ownie Bush, Indianapolis Indians owner, Clevenger, and President Wells. The IDS reported that a few of the more popular Reds players – which at that time included 1939 MVP Bucky Walters and 1940 MVP Frank McCormick — would be asked to “spin a baseball yarn, or two.” Mickey McCarty, managing editor of the Indianapolis News and former editor of the IDS, would serve as master of ceremonies. Due to the shortage of service staff on the war-time campus, the Association of Women Students President Leona Menze called together the sorority presidents to devise a plan to assist. Together they launched “a patriotic program designed to bring in members of every house as volunteer workers for the day.” Payment was given in the form of War Savings Stamps and the participants wore special armbands.
The Reds’ groundskeeper came to campus prior to the team in order to prep Jordan Field (now home to the IMU parking lot), though the team planned to begin training in the Fieldhouse until weather improved. Work included raising the pitching mound, enlarging the infield, and in general, just smoothing out the field.
The team was housed at the Graham Hotel in town (now the Graham Plaza at 205 N. College), from which they walked to the 10th Street stadium (current home to the Arboretum) to use the locker facilities before heading over to the Fieldhouse for four hours of daily practice. The IDS reported that during the Reds first practice “several hundred male students” gathered to watch.
The first members of the Indianapolis Indians began arriving on March 27 with the entire team due to land in Bloomington by April 1 or shortly thereafter. Those familiar with Southern Indiana springs can guess that the weather was the biggest hurdle facing the two teams (well, with the exception of Reds player Bucky Walters, who tripped over a hurdle and bruised his heel whilst warming up one day). The Indians first outdoor drill was cut short when the winds became too much for the players.
On April 8, however, the IDS reported on the first exhibition game held the previous day between the Reds and Indians on Jordan field. The Reds triumphed over the Indians, 8-6, in front of a capacity crowd of 2,000 students, townspeople, visitors, soldiers, and Marines. The Indiana weather became a factor for the next Reds exhibition game. The Chicago Cubs traveled from their spring training home of French Lick but alas, the game was cancelled due to rain. With that sad note, the Reds training camp came to a close and the Indians were left with ample Fieldhouse space for their next few weeks of conditioning.
In what must have been crazy-exciting for the IU team, the Indians scheduled an exhibition game with the “Harrellmen” on April 13. But once again, the weather interfered – it snowed. In April. They rescheduled for the 15th but were thwarted by more snow. Unfortunately, there was not enough time to reschedule a third time, as the Indians departed campus on the 20th, bound for Terre Haute where they planned to play the Minneapolis Millers in two exhibition games. (Weather cooperated in 1944, however, and the IU team defeated the Indians, 5-3!)
The professional teams were wholly satisfied with the campus facilities and both returned the following year, much to the enjoyment of Bloomington baseball fans.
Want to read some more about this brush with baseball fame? The IDS is available on microfilm in the Government Information and Kent Cooper Services on the 2nd floor of the Wells Library. Also, as I researched for this story, I copied the bulk of the newspaper articles and they are available in the Archives – contact us for access!
I recently caught the documentary “Jim Thorpe, The World’s Greatest Athlete” on WFIU. I love documentaries and this one is worth a watch. But unless I missed it, they never mentioned the time this legend spent at Indiana University!
If you do not know the story, Thorpe, a Native American, began his athletic career at Pennsylvania’s Carlisle Indian Industrial School in 1907 where he played baseball, football, and was a member of the track team. He excelled in football and under the tutelage of Glen Scobey “Pop” Warner, Thorpe became a star on the Carlisle team. Before long the small school was winning against the likes of Harvard and Yale.
In 1912, Thorpe went to Stockholm as a member of the American Olympic track team. There he smashed previously held records, winning gold medals for the pentathlon and decathlon. He came home with $50,000 in trophies, including a chalice in the shape of a Viking ship presented to him by the Czar of Russia. Sadly, within a month, the Olympic Committee stripped him of his hard won medals, as it was learned that he had been paid a small sum for playing summer baseball – Jim Thorpe, they decided, was no amateur athlete.
This hardly meant an end to his sports career – quite the opposite, in fact. In 1913, he signed a contract to play baseball with the New York Giants, and went on to also play for the Chicago Cardinals and Canton (Ohio) Bulldogs. In 1920, he was elected president of the American Professional Football Association, the forerunner of today’s NFL.
Clearly, this guy was a big deal.
So where’s the IU connection?
Well, in 1914 IU hired C.C. Childs as its head football coach. In seeking out additional coaching staff, Childs considered — and passed over — job-seeker Knute Rockne (some of you may have heard of him) and remembered his fellow Olympic team member Thorpe. Thorpe was wrapping up a season with the Giants and he looked with interest at the opportunity to return to football. To assist with IU’s 1915 football season, he asked for $1000 plus a room for his family at a Bloomington hotel. A deal was struck and the students were thrilled to learn that the World’s Greatest Athlete would be joining the coaching staff. Sadly, his addition to the staff did not help lead the Hoosiers to glory that season. They finished with one victory, over Northwestern, and tied with Washington and Lee. Despite the poor record, Thorpe was welcomed as a hero on the campus and in the Bloomington community.
Thorpe left Bloomington to continue his professional athletic career in baseball and football. Throughout his life, Thorpe struggled with alcoholism and after retiring as a player, he found himself moving from job to job. When he died of a heart attack in 1953, he was penniless. Thorpe, however, would be long remembered for his athletic prowess. In 1983, the International Olympic Committee restored his Olympic medals and in 1999, Senator Rick Santorum sponsored a U.S. Senate resolution to name him Athlete of the Century.