DATELINE 1907 – Football Trickery Abounds

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Brian Meehl is the author of Blowback ’07 (MCP Books, November 1, 2016) and this article is the seventh in a new series discussing the radical changes in football from the 1905 to 1907. 

No one masterminds trick plays like Pop Warner and the Carlisle Indians. If “there’s no rule against” (to quote Pop), they do it.

  • BB07 #7In their ’07 game against Syracuse, Pop sprang the “many balls trick.” Each of his backs had a football-sized patch sewn on the belly of their jersey, making fake hand-offs impossible to read. (“Who’s got the ball? They all do!)
  • Pop’s most notorious stunt is the “hidden ball trick.” For the 1903 Harvard game, Pop had elastic sewn into the bottom of the jersey of one of his linemen, Charles Dillon. On a kickoff return, the Indians crowded around Dillon and stuck the ball up the back of his jersey. As the Harvard players rushed at them, the Indians scattered, all pretending to cradle the ball, except for Dillon, who ran down the field swinging his arms like a blocker. The baffled Harvard men had no idea who to tackle as Dillon ran the length of the field for a TD. (Harvard never looked so dumb.)
  • But Harvard smartened up in 1908 when Pop tried the “many balls trick” on them. The Harvard coach painted the game balls crimson to match Harvard’s jerseys. Pop protested and the Harvard coach gave him a taste of his own: “There is nothing in the rules against it.” When Pop agreed to remove the ball patches, Harvard produced normal game balls.

And what’s Pop’s most subtle trick play? Blaming the fans for Carlisle’s craftiness. “The public expects the Indian to employ trickery and we try to oblige.”

Next: Jim Thorpe: The Class Cutup

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Brian Meehl HeadshotBlowback 07 BookcoverBrian Meehl has published four novels with Random House: Out of Patience, Suck It Up, Suck It Up and Die,and You Don’t Know About Me. His books have garnered a Junior Library Guild Selection, a Blue Ribbon from the Bulletin for the Center for Children’s Books and starred reviews in Publishers Weekly. In a former incarnation, Meehl was a puppeteer on “Sesame Street” and in Jim Henson films, including “The Dark Crystal.” His transition from puppets to pen included writing for television shows such as “The Magic School Bus” and “Between the Lions,” for which he won three Emmys. Meehl lives in Connecticut and is writing Blowback ’63 and Blowback ’94. For more information about this author and his exciting books, please visit and/or

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