ND Football: Track Stars
As most of your know, I am researching early (1887-1917) Notre Dame Football. Back in those years, with shorter seasons, it was common for football players to play two or more sports. Performance in these other sports served the same purpose as off-season strength and conditioning. In this essay I am featuring the Top 15 ND Track Athletes, who were members of our early ND Football Teams. I have selected and ranked them based upon points they earned in Track Meets. Because Notre Dame did not participate in many meets until 1908 or so, Hal Jewett, one of our greatest track men from football, did not make this list.
It’s not uncommon for the biggest high school stars in any sport to also be mainstays on the athletic teams of one or two other sports, but for the past 30 years or so, these great athletes have concentrated on only one sport in college. It is rare in current times to find a football coach willing to let his players perform in other sports. There are many reasons for this, including the length of seasons; pressure of academics; fear or injury; off-season strength and conditioning (which is structured differently for different muscle groups); and an increasing number of athletes in all sports who are specialists.
A recent Notre Dame athlete illustrates this specialization. Ryan Doherty (7’1) is believed to be the tallest man ever to play professional baseball. He was a fine relief pitcher for Notre Dame (2003-2005). Heading into his high school senior year, he was also rated among the top ten basketball centers in the country. He quit basketball, so he could concentrate on baseball. Can you imagine the response of his hoops coach! “Sure, Ryan, no problem. I’ll just use your 6’1 back-up. We’ll be fine.”
There are four men in Notre Dame history who earned four different monograms in the same year. Dutch Bergman and Rupert Mills did it in 1914 and George Ratterman and Johnny Lujack did it exactly 30 years later. Frank Leahy called Ratterman the finest athlete he had ever coached.
1. Far and away, our greatest early Football-track man was Charlie Bachman. He was an All American Football Player and is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame as a college head coach. He picked up at least 180 ½ points in track meets for ND. His specialty was the discus. He was tough and rugged, at 5’11 and 190. He played Guard and Fullback for ND.
2. George Philbrook was the second best of our men, at home on the gridiron and cinders. He registered 149 points, plus an additional 11 taken away from him when he was ruled ineligible*, by virtue of too many years in too many colleges. Philbrook was a giant for his time, at 6’3, 225. He held the Pacific Coast Championship in the discus (131 feet 5/6 Inches) and the Whitman College record in the high jump (5’10 inches); the high hurdles (16.01 seconds); the 16 pound shot (41 feet 2 inches); and the low hurdles at (26 1/5 seconds). He earned four monograms each in track and football for ND. He was declared ineligible for future ND participation because of his four years of college sports at two prior schools. As a 1912 Olympian, he finished 7th in the discus. In the decathlon, after five events, he trailed only legendary Jim Thorpe. George’s discus through in the Decathlon was greater than the world record prior to the games. After nine events, George was still in fifth place. He was unable to finish the 1,500 meters and ended with the 13th highest overall score. He captained the ND track team, in 1911. He played Tackle for ND.
3. Big Bill Draper registered 142 points in ND track. He was an overall athlete and would have done well in the decathlon. He scored 23 points in a 1905 dual meet with Wabash, winning the 40 yard dash; 40 yard low and high hurdles; and the shot put, while finishing second in the high jump. He picked up 11 points in the 1905 A.A.U. Championship, with a first in the 75 yard low and high hurdles and second in the shot put. He would likely have won the 75 yard dash, except he was competing in the shot when the race was called. He captained the track team in 1903 and 1904. He played fullback for ND.
4. Mike Moriarty would become a Priest in Cleveland, but as a rugged football player, he also picked up 90 ¼ points for the ND track team. He was a pole vaulter and hurdler and captain of the cross-country club. He was a half back-end for ND.
5. Russell Hardy was on the mile relay team (with fellow gridders John Miller and John Voelkers) which held the ND outdoor record. As Wyandotte County (KS) District Court Judge (Democrat), in February, 1942, he presided over the first all-woman jury trial ever held in Wyandotte County. He declared that the trial was “a success”. Notched 88 ½ points for ND track, as a sprinter. He was a sub-end.
6. John Eggeman was a three-sport star at ND, receiving eight ND Monograms. He was Notre Dame’s first large-sized player who was also a skilled athlete. He allegedly received a Valentine, while at ND, addressed to “Baby Elephant”. Served as ND’s Manager of Athletics. The SCHOLASTIC reported: “His favorite game is to throw his opponent out of the way with one arm and tackle the runner with the other. He is a tower of strength in the line; visiting fullbacks have had trouble trying to get by him.” The student writing in the SCHOLASTIC was quite clever during these early years. Here’s an example: “John Eggeman, shot-putter, hammer-thrower, high-jumper, mile-runner and manager: Mr. Eggeman is a lanky youth about seven feet tall, four feet wide and weighs two hundred and sixty pounds and two ounces when in training. His first experience in athletics was in throwing bricks at the neighbor boy. In the war last summer, he caught a sixteen-pound shot from admiral Cervera's flag-ship, and threw it four miles after the enemy. His record for the hammer throw is two hundred feet, which distance he made by throwing the hammer from the top of the water work's stand-pipe in Fort Wayne and hitting a man on the head. If the man was not in the way, it would have gone more than five feet farther. He has posted a challenge to compete with Sweeney for championship in high-jumping, and can run the mile in ten minutes flat. As manager he is a howling success, and will hold his position as head of the training table as long as there is anything to eat.” Delegate to the 1908 and 1928 Democratic Party Conventions. During WWI he was Foreign Secretary of the Knights of Columbus, serving in war zones in France, in charge of providing relief services to our troops. Allen County (IN) Probate Commissioner (1904-1912) and Circuit Court Judge (1912-1918). Board of Directions, National Knights of Columbus. President of the Notre Dame Club of Fort Wayne, the Allen County Bar Association, and the Notre Dame Alumni Association. After his death, the ALUMNUS reported “No sermon was delivered at the funeral of John W. Eggeman…His life, Father Monohan said, was his sermon”. Among the priests who attended his funeral in Fort Wayne, were Rev. J. Hugh O'Donnell, C.S.C, Rev. Thomas Steiner, C.S.C, and Rev. John Farley, C.S.C. O’Donnell was an ND football player a dozen years after Eggeman; Steiner and Farley were classmates of John. Steiner was one of John’s basketball teammates and Farley was one of his football and track mates. John accumulated 82 track points and held down the center spot for ND football.
7. The Vital Viking was a strong track man when he came to ND. In fact, the two Chicago boys who convinced him to come to ND were track pals of his from Chicago who attended ND. One of them, John Plant, was the ND track captain during Rockne’s senior year. Knute earned 78 ¾ points in track meets, with the pole vault being his specialty. He was ND’s track coach from 1916-1924. He played end for ND. The Notre Dame Track and Field Media Guide has a photo of Rockne and Plant, with another track man whose name does not match any ND student. I was able to identify him as Edwin Pritchard. He attended ND only one year (1912-1913). He was one of five ND men who competed in the 1912 Olympics, four in track and field and one in swimming. Pritchard was later a track star for the finest track club of its day, the Irish
8. Three “Dutch” Bergman’s from Peru came to Notre Dame. All played half back. Alfred, the first, was the best. He holds the Notre Dame record for most total monograms earned, with 11. This is a record not likely to be broken He picked up 73 points in track. He played Major League Baseball.
9. About Ray “Eich” Eichenlaub, the Chicago Record-Herald, of 11/15/1913, wrote: “One man at least knows how (Rube) Marquard feels when (Home Run) Baker comes to bat; he is the lone tackler who stands between Eichenlaub of Notre Dame and a touchdown”. The account of the 1913 Alma game included: “Eichenlaub played his regular game, and, of course, could not be stopped through the line at all. One of the touchdowns scored by him was made with the entire opposing back field hanging on different parts of his body.” After ND defeated Texas, in 1913, the Austin Daily Texan reported: “He ran low and hit with a superhuman force that carried all before him. Often he emerged from the line with several sets of tacklers hanging on to him, to stumble on for several yards more.” After the 1914 Syracuse game, the SCHOLASTIC reported: “Syracuse's vaunted line of giants, weighing 210 pounds from tackle to tackle, and with a reputation of being one of the best forward walls in the country, was simply powerless before the smashing drives of the peerless Eichenlaub”. His physique was compared to “Gotch”. Frank Gotch was then in his fifth consecutive year as the World Champion professional wrestler, in an era when the sport was legitimate. Ray won 68 points in track meets and is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.
10. The Five Miller Brothers, of Defiance, Ohio, were Notre Dame stars from the time Red Miller enrolled in 1905 and helped lead ND to its ground-breaking 1909 win over Michigan, until the time that kid brother Don “Midnight” Miller starred on the Four Horsemen. John Miller played football and ran track for ND, but was not one of the brothers. He scorched the track for 64 ½ points. In ND’s 1916 win over Nebraska, it was reported Miller intercepted four passes. If true, this might still be the Notre Dame single-game record. John coached 1919 ND Freshman Team. He was an ND fullback.
11. Ralph Dimick came from Oregon with George Philbrook. Like his pal, he was a big lineman and great track man. And like his pal, he may have spent too much time at too many colleges. He earned 54 points in track meets, plus another three of which that were disqualified*. As a Walsh Hall Senior, he told his classmates: "Among the deepest inspirations of my life will be the thought that I have received my diploma from this grand old University.” He played right tackle for ND and captained the 1910 team.
12. Harley Kirby was ND’s track captain in 1902. Picked up 58 ¼ track points. In the 1905 State Intercollegiate Track Meet, “He started in the very first event, the 120 yard high hurdles, which he won by yards. These were the first high hurdles Kirby ever ran. Then he competed in the 100 yard dash, the 220 yard dash, the 440 yard dash, the shot put, the discus throw, the broad jump, and when the low hurdles came along he was all in and had to be content with second place. Sub halfback in football.
13. James Keeffe was an outstanding runner for ND, in the 220, quarter, and half mile. He captained the 1905 track team. He earned 55 ½ points. The SCHOLASTIC reported: “At the annual convention of the Catholic Students' Association of America held at Iowa City, Iowa, Feb. 13th James T. Keefe (Ph. B., 1907) was elected President of the Association. Worked as County Attorney. He was a sub halfback for ND football.
14. Bill Martin transferred from Whitman College, where he starred in Football, Baseball, and Track and is in their Athletic Hall of Fame. Whitman must have been the top track program in the Pacific Northwest, when they had Dimick, Philbrook, and Martin competing for them. Through 1929, Bill held the Cartier Field record for the 220 yard run (21 and 3-5 secs.). Running for the Seattle A.C. at the 1909 AAU meet, he won the 100 and was 2nd in the 220. He was the Penn Relays champion in the 100-yard dash in 1911. In the Fall of 1911 he enrolled in law school at the University of Pennsylvania, where he also served as Assistant Track Coach. The next fall he was Head Football Coach, University of North Carolina, (3-4). The following spring, he was hired as Head Track Coach at Penn State, where he also served as 1917 Freshmen Football Coach. Listed as Penn State Football Team “trainer” in 1922. Coached Penn State Track Team through 1922. The following year he served as Harvard’s first track coach, leading them to victory in the IC4A Indoor Championship, on March, 3, 1923. Took a trip to several European Countries, in June of 1923, with his passport application indicating that his occupation was Harvard Track Coach. His bio at Whitman College states: “After blossoming into an extraordinary sprinter in two seasons at Whitman and its prep academy, he transferred to Notre Dame, where his times in the sprints in 1911 earned him the title of ‘world's fastest human’. He set a world record in the 100-yard dash at 9.6 seconds, and he tied the world mark in the 220-yard event at 21.1 seconds. Although he did not compete in the 1912 Olympics, Martin was the top U.S. qualifier, beating two rivals who later won gold medals.” He was Head Track Coach at Whitman from 1934-1969, winning many awards. Bill picked up 46 ½ track points at ND. He played three games at End, in 1910.
15. Cy Williams is my favorite guy on this list. In the DOME, he was described as “…the mildest man who ever scuttled a ship or cut a throat”. Outstanding track athlete at ND. Held the Interhall record for the “broad jump” (21 feet). Four-time National League home run leader, during his 19 years in the Majors. He was among the top ten career home run hitters from his 1930 retirement until the early 50’s. Picked up 46 track points, while starring in baseball and playing as a sub end in football. After MLB, he became an architect. He was born in Wadena, IN, a town which nobody has ever heard of. When Cy was born, Wadena had 54 residents. Two of the played MLB and two more played in the high minors.
*The Philbrook-Dimick story is interesting. When Fielding Yost cancelled the 1910 ND-Michigan game, within 24 hours of it being played, his primary reason was that ND used ineligible athletes. He claimed that Philbrook had played NINE years of college football! Rules were murkier in those days, with some conferences having strict rules and others not so much. Another complication was that it was possible to play varsity football, while being a prep student. A further complication was that if a college was not “recognized” as an important school, playing for them would not count against further eligibility. Philbrook and Dimick came from Whitman College, which was considered like a Junior College back them. On June 4, 1910, Notre Dame won the Western Conference (Big Ten) Championship Track Meet, with 29 points. Stanford had 17 points. Several months later, after the Stanford Coach protested, George and Ralph were disqualified and ND’s points were reduced to 17, tying Stanford. The punch line is that the Stanford Track Coach, Edward “Dad” Moulton, had formerly been employed at ND. He laid out the Cartier Field Track and served as our “Trainer”, back in the days when “trainer” did not refer to the medical part of the job, but to “training” the team in its conditioning.