Topics in the News
Auto Racing: The Indy 500
Auto racing began at the end of the nineteenth century but had only a small following by the early 1900s. The first organized motor race was sponsored by the Paris newspaper Petit Journal and ran over public roads from Paris to Rouen on 22 July 1894. Inspired by the publicity from this race, H. H. Kohlsatt, publisher of the Chicago Times-Herald, sponsored the first motor race in America on Thanksgiving Day 1894. During the next ten years, there were hundreds of motorized competitions in the United States and abroad, many organized by newspapers hoping to generate publicity and create stories for reporters to cover. The most famous of these races were run in Paris, which became the center of the world automobile industry in the early days. Racing became increasingly dangerous as the speed and power of the automobiles increased.
In the United States the Automobile Club of America, later the American Automobile Association, became the first governing body for the sport. On Thanksgiving Day 1908, the club sponsored a Grand Prize Race at Savannah, Georgia, that drew more than two hundred thousand spectators. The popularity of the automobile and racing led to the construction, beginning in 1909, of America's first speedway, nicknamed the "Brickyard," and the commencement of an American tradition, the...
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Baseball Off the Field
Legacy of the National Agreement.
Prior to the early 1900s baseball had experienced nearly a quarter-century of turmoil with rival leagues competing against each other and team owners and players contending for profits. In 1903 the National Agreement between the American League (AL), newly formed in 1901, and the older National League (NL), established in 1876, brought peace to baseball. The leagues agreed to recognize each other's territorial and reserve-clause rights, which gave teams the power to control their players' careers, and establish a three-man National Commission to govern the game. The National Commission, which consisted of the NL and AL presidents and a third individual selected by them, would serve as a judicial body to resolve disputes between the major leagues as well as controversies involving the minor leagues. From 1903 to 1921, the National Commission succeeded because of the cooperation and service of Ban Johnson, the AL president, and August Garry Herrmann, the chief stockholder in the Cincinnati Reds of the National League. Johnson and Herrmann provided the commission with needed stability during a period when the turbulent National League had four different presidents, all of whom were figure-heads until 1919. Although Herrmann served as the chairman of the commission, Johnson dominated it. He ruled the American League as a fiefdom, appointing, as he had since the...
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Baseball on the Field
American League Dominance.
American League teams captured eight often World Series titles from 1910 to 1919. Leading the American League in its World Series romp over the National League were the Philadelphia.
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Basketball, the creation of Dr. James Naismith, is the only major sport that originated solely in the United States. Two peach baskets fastened to a gymnasium balcony in the winter of 1891 provided its humble beginnings and suggested the sport's name. The Spring-field Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) arbitrated the rules for the game's first two years. The YMCA then joined with the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) to govern the game. In 1908 the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) assumed charge of the college rules, and in 1915 the YMCA, the NCAA, and the AAU formed a joint committee.
While small gyms limited crowd size, the potential for basketball as an intercollegiate sport was becoming apparent by the turn of the century. Since existing facilities could be modified to accommodate the sport and since a few good players could make a team competitive, small colleges found that basketball allowed them to take on larger schools and also discovered that the game could gain attention for their institutions. Conference play between colleges began as early as 1902 in the Eastern League; the Western Conference followed in 1906, the Missouri Valley in 1908, the Southwest in 1915, and the Pacific Coast in 1916. Early powers outside of the East included Wabash College in Indiana, which was 66-3...
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While there have always been amateur fist fights in which contestants for recreation or in anger match skills in the "manly art of self-defense," the sport of boxing for money, or prizefighting, did not enjoy wide popularity for much of America's history. Until John L. Sullivan popularized the sport in the late nineteenth century by using boxing gloves, fights were staged with bare fists under London Prize Ring Rules. Such encounters, held in isolated spots and watched by small crowds, were illegal, and the police were constantly alert to trouble.
The Sport Looks Ahead.
By the beginning of the century's second decade the sport had gained a measure of popularity and legality if not respectability. In 1910 Johnny Coulon defeated Jim Kendrick, the British bantamweight titlist, in nineteen rounds in New Orleans. Both weighed in at 116 pounds, and after their fight that became the official weight for the bantamweight class. That same year, Jimmy Clabby and Jimmy Gardner both claimed the welterweight title, but Clabby was recognized as champion when he defeated Dixie Kid in a ten-round no-decision bout in New York. On 22 February 1910, Ad Wolgast won the lightweight title from Oscar "Battling" Nelson when the referee stopped the match after forty rounds of a forty-five-round match in Port Richmond, California....
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Changing a Brutal Game.
The game of football was still going through fundamental change in the early years of the twentieth century. The game's brutality—eighteen collegiate players were killed in 1905—caused President Theodore Roosevelt to threaten to outlaw the sport and led to new rules, such as the creation of a neutral zone between offensive and defensive lines, the increase of yardage required for a first down from five to ten yards, and the legalization of the forward pass. The changes did not stem the violence, though, as there were 113 fatalities between 1905 and 1910. In 1910 seven men were required on the line of scrimmage and such practices as the flying tackle, the interlocking of arms in running interference, and the pushing and pulling of the ball carrier to advance the ball were deemed illegal. Also, the football game was divided into four quarters of fifteen minutes each, with a one-minute break between the first and second and third and fourth quarters and a thirty-minute break between halves. In 1912 teams were allowed four downs to achieve a first down; an end zone was created behind each goal; and the value of a touch-down increased from five to six points. The evolving rules helped to change the character of the game. Although football remained a brutal sport throughout the 1910s, injuries and deaths declined, especially as new types of protective equipment, such as...
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Teams began paying players to play football in the 1890s, but professional football remained a largely disorganized sport from 1900 to 1920, with most teams clustered in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and the Chicago area of Illinois. The popularity of pro football was strictly local or regional as the teams of athletic clubs challenged each other for city or state supremacy. Unlike college football, early pro football was dominated by ethnic, Catholic, and working-class players.
African American Players.
Although both the professional and collegiate ranks were dominated by whites in the 1910s, black players participated in the professional game in this early period. Doc Baker played four seasons with the Akron Indians as halfback, the last in 1911; Henry McDonald played backfield for the Rochester Jeffersons (1911-1917); and Fritz Pollard, a Brown University star who was the first black to make Walter Camp's first-team All-American, played for four different professional teams from 1919 to 1926 and was the first black pro coach when he was player-coach at both Akron and Hammond.
The star of the decade in professional football was Jim Thorpe, the Olympic champion from the Carlisle Indian School who turned pro in 1913. In 1915 Thorpe signed with the Canton, Ohio,...
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Golf was played in the United States before 1888, but the U.S. Golf Association (USGA), with five charter clubs, was not established until 1894 as the governing body of U.S. play. By 1900 there were more than 1,000 courses in the United States, with Massachusetts and New York each having more than 150. The game spread rapidly from 1900 to 1920. A 25 June 1909 New York Times story reported a boom in golf when President William Howard Taft began playing the game to keep up his health. The number of players at some public links was reported to have doubled following media coverage of Taft's interest.
The 1910 Open.
On 18 June 1910 Alex Smith (one of five brothers, all of whom were professional golfers) won the USGA Open Golf Tournament after an eighteen-hole playoff round against John J. McDermott and Macdonald Smith, the first three-way play-off in the Open's history. In the same year, he also won the Metropolitan Open. Alex Smith was considered one of the fastest putters in the game. He urged golfers to "go up to the ball and knock it into the hole" and he coined the phrase "miss 'em quick."
An American-Born Champion.
British players seemed to have a lock on the U.S. Open title until June 1911, when McDermott, who learned the game in the caddy ranks, became the...
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During the 1910s horse racing emerged from a period of financial instability. Formerly dependent on admission charges for their prize money, major tracks began to conduct stake races in which horse owners paid an entry fee that became part of the purse. Stake races included the Saratoga Cup, the Belmont, the Champagne, the Alabama, the Preakness, the Withers, and the Kentucky Derby.
Just as thoroughbred racing was expanding, it was threatened by a nationwide reform movement directed at gambling. Bookmakers, who paid a fee to the track owner for the privilege of handling track betting, were a particular target. A Kentucky law passed in 1908 specifically prohibited bookmaking. Churchill Downs remained open by adopting pari-mutuel betting, which was legal, while other tracks in Kentucky as well as those in Maryland, which had a similar law against bookmaking, began to take pari-mutuel bets. In New York, racing shut down for two years after bookmaking and gaming devices were prohibited in 1910 under the Director's Liability Act, and racetracks were made responsible for its enforcement. New York antigaming measures affected even pas-times such as hog-calling contests, since fair management feared that patrons would bet on the outcome.
Maryland and Kentucky.
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The Selection of Stockholm.
In 1896 the first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens, the site of the original games. Subsequent Olympic Games were hosted by Paris in 1900, Saint Louis in 1904, and London in 1908. These Olympic Games were held in conjunction with World's Fairs, events that often overshadowed the athletic contests. Meeting in Berlin in 1909, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) selected Stockholm, Sweden, as the site of the fifth Olympic Games. "Of all the countries in the world," remarked Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic movement and secretary-general of the IOC, "Sweden is at the moment best qualified to host a great Olympic Games." Although Stockholm's award was largely because of a strong campaign by Sweden's longtime IOC representative, Col. Victor Balak, who would become the chairman of the Swedish Olympic Organizing Committee, Germany ensured the selection of the Swedish capital by withdrawing Berlin as a candidate for the host city. In order to hold the Olympic Games in Stockholm, however, the IOC dropped boxing from its schedule of events, because Sweden prohibited the sport.
The Swedish Success.
The Games of the fifth Olympiad, according to historian John Lucas, were "the best organized and most pacific international games since the original Athens' celebration." Held from 5...
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The sport of tennis was largely confined to the East Coast before 1900. It was seen as a private or club sport played by the wealthy. As the sport grew more popular, courts on public playgrounds were built with hard surfaces of cement, clay, or asphalt rather than the high-maintenance grass courts popular with the rich. In the 1910s, tennis was still generally viewed as a sport of the well-to-do and upwardly mobile. The ambitious middle class and nouveau riche were in the taking control of the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association (USLTA), the regional associations, and many of the tennis clubs.
Hotchkiss and Larned.
In 1910 and 1911 Hazel V. Hotchkiss (later Hazel Hotchkiss Wightman, the donor of the Wightman Cup) won the USLTA singles championship in the women's division for the second and third years in a row, and William A. Larned brought his total number of men's singles titles to seven (1901-1902 and 1907-1911). Hotchkiss's aggressive forecourt play added a new dimension to women's tennis. In 1910 she also won the women's and mixed doubles...
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Track and Field
The 1910s witnessed the rise of Howard P. Drew, the first in a long line of African American sprinters during the twentieth century who earned the title of "the world's fastest human." In 1910 and 1911 he first gained national attention by winning national junior championships in the 100- and 220-yard dashes. Drew became a favorite for a gold medal in the 1912 Olympic Games by defeating Ralph Craig of the University of Michigan in the 100 meters at the Eastern Olympic Trials. In the Olympic Games at Stockholm Drew won his semifinal in 10.7 seconds, but declined to compete in the final because of an injury sustained in the semifinal. Craig, the 1910 and 1911 collegiate champion at 100 and 220 yards, won the Olympic gold medal in the 100 meters, defeating compatriot Donald Lippincott, who set world and Olympic records of 10.6 seconds in the semifinal. Craig, who had twice run world records of 21.2 seconds for 220 yards in 1910 and 1911, also won the gold medal in the 200-meter dash. Drew, however, returned to the United States and captured the first of two consecutive Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) 100-yard dash titles; in 1913, he also captured the AAU 220-yard dash title. As a student at the University of Southern California, Drew equaled the world records of 9.6 seconds for 100 yards and 21.2 seconds for 220 yards in 1914. Charles Paddock, America's foremost sprinter in the...
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Gould, Jay 1888-1935
COURT TENNIS CHAMPION
A Court Master's Education.
From 1906 to 1925 Jay Gould dominated court tennis, one of the more obscure sports in the United States during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Court tennis is a completely different game than tennis: players use the walls and ceilings in making their shots. Whereas lawn tennis gained much popularity during the 1910s and 1920s, court tennis remained the game of a wealthy elite because of the cost of maintaining the indoor, enclosed court. Exclusive urban athletic clubs usually maintained court tennis facilities, but some individuals, such as Jay Gould's father, George Gould, a wealthy industrialist, constructed their own courts. In 1900 Jay and his brother Kingdon began to take lessons in racquets and tennis from Frank Forester. After a year of instruction in racquets (a forerunner of modern racquetball), Forester introduced the boys to the rigors of court tennis. Although they at first received an hour of instruction in each game, the boys preferred court tennis and soon began practicing it daily for two hours. Jay quickly mastered the fundamentals of court tennis and, according to tennis authority Allison Danzig, offered Forester "fairly strong opposition." In 1902 Jay won his first official match, two sets to none, against James Henry Smith, one of the better players at both the New York Racquet...
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Jackson, Joe 1887-1951
Baseball's Tragic Hero.
One of the greatest and most tragic figures in the history of baseball, Joe Jackson was one of the eight Chicago White Sox players banished for life from major league baseball for accepting money to throw the 1919 World Series. Of the players indicted in the Black Sox Scandal, as it came to be known, Jackson was indeed the most tragic. Even though he took $5,000 after the completion of the Series, he had played exceptionally well and maintained that he played to win during the entire championship. His tragedy seems all the greater because of his rise from impoverished beginnings in the rural South and his status as one of the greatest ever to play the game. As a hitter Jackson was surpassed perhaps only by Babe Ruth, who adopted Jackson's batting stance and swing. Asked why he fashioned his style after Jackson, Babe remarked, "Why not? Joe had the most perfect swing I ever saw." No less a judge than Ty Cobb maintained that Jackson was the best outfielder in the game.
Joseph Jefferson Jackson was born on a rundown plantation in Pickens County, South Carolina, where his father, George Jackson, worked as a sharecropper. When Joe...
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Johnson, Walter 1887-1946
HALL OF FAME PITCHER
History's Hardest Thrower.
Although there were no reliable devices available to measure the velocity of a blazing pitch, the fastball of Walter Johnson is generally considered to be one of the hardest of all time. Johnson was born on 6 November 1887 in Humbolt, Kansas, the son of Frank and Minnie Johnson, Swedish farmers who moved from Pennsylvania to Kansas by wagon train. In 1901 the Johnsons moved to Olinda, California, where they hoped to strike it rich in the oil fields. Although no oil bubbled up for the Johnsons, they made a good living providing mule teams for the oilmen. At fourteen Johnson was playing baseball for the local Oil Field Juniors baseball team. Strong and athletic, he probably would have been the team's pitcher had he not pitched so hard that nobody would catch for him. In 1907 Johnson was working for the Idaho Telephone Company, digging postholes, and playing semiprofessional baseball in Waiser, Idaho. His fastball attracted the attention of a traveling salesman who wrote about him to Joe Cantillon, the manager of the Washington Senators. Cantillon sent his catcher Cliff Blankenship to Idaho to scout out Johnson. Blankenship saw Johnson fire his fastball for twelve innings in a 1-0 loss and offered the righthander a $100 signing bonus and $350 a month, plus traveling expenses to Washington, D.C.
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Ouimet, Francis 1893-1967
AMATEUR GOLF CHAMPION
A Golfer for the Common Man.
Until Francis Ouimet, a young man of working-class origins, won the U.S. Open Golf Tournament in 1913, golf had been seen as a sport for the privileged classes in the United States. His victory gave the sport mass appeal and transformed it into popular recreational activity.
Beginnings as a Caddy.
The youngest of Louis Ouimet's two sons, Francis was born 8 May 1893 in Brookline, Massachusetts. His father, a French Canadian immigrant who worked as a gardener, moved his family into a house across the street from The Country Club, one of the nation's oldest and most prestigious country clubs. Francis and his brother, Wilfred, became caddies at The Country Club and, although the rules prohibited caddies from playing on the course, the Ouimet boys often sneaked in some practice strokes when Alex Campbell, the club pro, was not watching. On the weekends Francis and his friends would golf at Franklin Park in Boston on the public nine-hole course.
In addition to caddying at The Country Club, Francis worked at a dry-goods store to earn money for tournament entrance fees. As a student at Brookline High School he won the Boston Interscholastic Championship in 1909. Ouimet failed to qualify for the U.S....
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Sir Barton 1916-1937
TRIPLE CROWN CHAMPION
Sir Barton, a Kentucky thoroughbred, became the first Triple Crown champion when he won the Kentucky Derby, the Preaknes's Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes in 1919. His sire was Star Shoot, an English stallion that came to the United States to stud in 1901 when he showed signs of difficult breathing after ten successful races on English tracks. Star Shoot had a prestigious pedigree, including his sire, Isinglass, a winner of the English Triple Crown. Star Shoot's dam, Astrology, was sired by Hermit, an English Derby champion. Siring many winning horses in the United States, Star Shoot in 1912 became the number one stud for John E. Madden, the owner of Hamburg Place, near Lexington, Kentucky. In 1912 Madden introduced Star Shoot to Lady Sterling, a seventeen-year-old mare, who bore Sir Barton the following spring.
Owner and Trainer.
Believing a two-year-old too young for full competition, Madden raced Sir Barton infrequently in 1918. Although Sir Barton only placed once in his first six races, he impressed horse racing aficionados, especially Madden's friend, Comdr. John Kenneth Leveson Ross, a wealthy Canadian who owned a stable near Bowie, Maryland. Ross, who inherited a fortune from his father, one of the founders of the Canadian Pacific Railroad, indulged himself in...
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Thorpe, Jim 1888-1953
America's Greatest Athlete?
Jim Thorpe, who many believe was America's finest all-around athlete, was certainly the nation's greatest Native American sportsman. The son of Hiram Thorpe, a farmer of mixed Irish and Sac and Fox Indian descent, and Charlotte Vieux Thorpe, of French and Chippewa heritage, Jim was born in the Oklahoma Indian Territory. As a boy he attended the Sac and Fox Reservation School and the Haskell Institute for Indians at Lawrence, Kansas. Thorpe, who preferred outdoor activities like horseback riding, swimming, hunting, and baseball over books, often found himself in classroom brawls. When Thorpe was orphaned at age sixteen, authorities enrolled him in the Carlisle Institute in Pennsylvania, the nation's foremost school for Indian youth, renowned for its strict discipline and code of conduct.
At Carlisle, Thorpe was trained as a tailor and a farmer. He came under the tutelage of the legendary football coach Glenn "Pop" Warner. In 1908 he scored two touchdowns in Carlisle's tie with the University of Pennsylvania. Despite his...
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People in the News
One of baseball's greatest pitchers, Grover Cleveland Alexander of the Philadelphia Phillies led the National League in victories in 1911 (28), 1914 (27), 1915 (31), 1916 (33), and 1917 (30). He posted the best earned run average in 1915 (1.22), 1916 (1.55), 1917(1.86), and 1919 (1.72).
Philadelphia Athletics third baseman John Franklin "Home Run" Baker, who ranks as one of baseball's greatest sluggers, led the American League in home runs in 1911 (9), 1912 (10), 1913 (12), and 1914 (8).
Cincinnati Reds outfielder Bob Bescher led the National League in stolen bases in 1910 (70), 1911 (80), and 1912 (67).
Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Max Carey led the National League in stolen bases in 1913 (61), 1915 (36), 1916 (63), 1917 (46), and 1918 (58).
Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Clifford Carlton "Cactus" Craveth led the National League in home runs in 1913 (19), 1914 (19), 1915 (24), 1917 (12), 1918 (8), and 1919 (12).
George Gaidzik reigned as the first national platform diving champion from 1909 to 1911.
John W. Heisman, for whom the Heisman Trophy is named, coached football at Georgia Tech from 1905 to 1919, leading his team to three undefeated seasons from 1915 to 1917.
Willie Hoppe captured...
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Major League Baseball World Series—Philadelphia Athletics (American League), 4 vs. Chicago Cubs (National League), 1
Kentucky Derby Winner—Donau (Fred Herbert, jockey)
Collegiate Football National Champion—Harvard University, 8-0-1
U.S. Golf Association Amateur Champions—W. C. Fownes Jr.; Dorothy Campbell
U.S. Golf Association Open Champion—Alex Smith
U.S. Lawn Tennis Association Singles Champions—William A. Larned; Hazel V. Hotchkiss
Major League Baseball World Series—Philadelphia Athletics (American League), 4 vs. New York Giants (National League), 2
Indianapolis 500 Champion—Ray Harroun (Marmon) 74.59 MPH
Kentucky Derby Winner—Meridian (George Archibald, jockey)
Collegiate Football National Champion—Princeton University, 8-0-2
U.S. Golf Association Amateur Champions—Harold H. Hilton; Margaret Curtis
U.S. Golf Association Open Champion—John J. McDermott
U.S. Lawn Tennis Association Singles Champions—William A. Larned; Hazel V. Hotchkiss...
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Willie Anderson, 30?, four-time U.S. Open Golf champion (1901 and 1903-1905), 1910.
Roscoe Conkling Barnes, 64, one of the leading batters for National Association and National League teams during the 1870s, 8 February 1915.
Jacob Peter Beckley, 50, first baseman who played 2,377 games at his position from 1886 to 1904, 25 June 1918.
James Gordon Bennett Jr., 77, owner and editor in chief of the New York Herald who promoted amateur and professional sporting events and sponsored the Gordon Bennett Trophy, 14 May 1918.
Francis Gordon Brown Jr., 31, Yale University football player from 1897 to 1901 who remains one of only four men selected to four consecutive first All-American teams, 10 May 1911.
John Tomlinson Brush Jr., 67, owner of the New York Giants (1902-1912) and designer of the rules that govern the World Series, 26 November 1912.
Robert Lee Caruthers, 47, one of baseball's leading pitchers from 1883 to 1911 who compiled a winning percentage of. 692, 5 August 1911.
Clarence Algernon Childs, 43, one of baseball's leading second basemen and hitters from 1888 to 1904, 8 November 1912.
Michael Joseph Donovan, 70, middleweight boxing champion from 1878 to 1883, 24...
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Thomas Andrews, 1919 Championship Records, Pocket Sporting Compendium (Milwaukee, 1919);
Gustav Axelson, aCommy": The Life Story of Charles A. Comiskey (Chicago: Reilly & Lee, 1919);
Walter Camp, The Book of Football (NewYork, 1910);
Camp, Walter Camp's Book of Sports (New York: Century, 1910);
Ty Cobb, Busting 'Em and Other Stories, (New York: E. J. Clode, 1914);
Park H. Davis, Football: The American Intercollegiate Game (New York: Scribners, 1911);
William H. Edwards, Football Days (New York: Moffat, Yard, 1916);
Hugh Stuart Fullerton, Jimmy Kirkland and the Cascade College Team (Philadelphia: J. C. Winston, 1915);
Fullerton, Jimmy Kirkland and the Plot for a Pennant. (Philadelphia: J. C. Winston, 1915);
Fullerton, Jimmy Kirkland and the Shasta Boys Team (Philadelphia:J. C. Winston, 1915);
Fullerton, Touching Second: The Science of Baseball (Chicago: Reilly & Britton, 1910);
Christy Mathewson, Pitching in a Pinch; or, Baseball from the Inside (New York: Bodmer, 1910);
George Moreland, Balldom (New York: Balldom, 1914);...
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Important Events in Sports, 1910–1919
- On March 16, Barney Oldfield driving a Benz automobile sets a new land speed record of 131.7 mph at Daytona Beach, Florida.
- On April 14, William Howard Taft becomes the first president to throw out the first ball of the baseball season at a game between the Washington Senators and the Philadelphia Athletics.
- On April 7, Jack Johnson successfully defends his world heavyweight boxing title against Jim Jeffries in a fifteenth-round technical knockout.
- On April 19, Fred L. Cameron of Amherst, Nova Scotia, wins the fourteenth Boston Marathon in 2:28:52.
- On May 7, Jockey R. Estep rides Layminster to victory in the thirty-fifth annual Preakness Stakes.
- On May 10, Robert Herbert rides Donau to victory in the thirty-sixth annual Kentucky Derby.
- On May 19, Cy Young earns his 500th career victory, beating the Washington Senators 5–4 in eleven innings.
- On May 30, Jimmy Butwell rides Sweep to victory in the forty-third annual Belmont Stakes.
- On June 18, Alex Smith wins the U.S. Open golf tournament in an eighteen-hole playoff after regulation play had ended in a three-way tie with Smith, John J. McDermott, and McDonald Smith.
- On June 26, Hazel Hotchkiss wins the women's singles at the U.S. Lawn...
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