As most of you know, I have been working on a book about early (1887-1917) Notre Dame Football.
Many of the ND students and athletes from this period, like much of the country, were first or second generation Americans.
Here are mini-bios on three of our guys, who I pulled out because of some interesting data about the countries of their origins.
Paupa, Jr., Joseph
b. 11/16/1884, Pressburg, AUSTRIA; d. 11/14/1960 (75), Chicago, IL.
At ND, 1904-1905. Family came to U.S., in 1885. Joseph’s birth city is one of the most historic and fascinating in Europe. It is now called Bratislava, and is the capital of the Slovak Republic. It was once the capital of Hungary. It is located on both sides of the Danube River. It borders the countries of Hungary, Austria, and the Czech Republic. From 1918-1993, the current Slovak Republic was the Eastern half of Czechoslovakia. The origins of Joseph’s birth city go back to 5,000 B.C. In the early 1800’s, it was the home of some of the greatest Rabbi-leaders of Europe. In 1805, the “Treaty of Pressburg” was signed by Austria and France, after Napoleon’s significant victories. Joseph attended Chicago’s North Division High School, one of the top high school football programs in the country. Two of his teammates, Ed Hill and Ron Rennacker, accompanied him to ND. After the first two started out as fine players, all three of them left ND, under controversial circumstances. The boys claimed they were not treated fairly; their Coach claimed that they may have been lured away.
Naturalized as U.S. Citizen, 9/14/1896. Assistant Coach, University of Kentucky, later coaching Chicago Latin, DePaul Academy (through 1921-also coached their Basketball team), DePaul University, and Lane Tech. During WWI, coached the Municipal Pier (later called Navy Pier) team. According to Robert Pruter’s outstanding research, in “A Century of Intersectional and Interstate Football Contests, 1900-1909”, in early December, 1914, “DePaul Academy became the first Roman Catholic school in Chicago to play an intersectional game, when St. John's Preparatory, of Danvers, Massachusetts, came to White Sox Park to play DePaul. The contest was billed as being for the ‘national Catholic prep title’. St. John's was champion of the Essex County League. DePaul under Coach Joe Paupau (sic) was the Catholic League champ for the second year in the row. Helping him prepare the team were a dozen alumni assistant coaches from DePaul and North Division, which included North Division stars Leo De Tray and Walter Steffen. The newspapers built up the contest with extensive daily reports on training and travel of the contestants, but the crowd was kept down to about 2,000 because of cold drizzling rain on game day. DePaul was nipped by their Bay State opponents, 8 to 6, and the Tribune noted ‘for hard, earnest, and diligent playing no prep game of the year excelled this one’. Pruter noted that two years later, DePaul hosted St. John's Prep, in an attempt to even the score. The Prep was undefeated and had a large weight advantage (allegedly 15 pounds), at a time when that much of a size mismatch often led to wins. The game was played in the Federal League’s Weeghman Park (known today as Wrigley Field), on November 18. DePaul dominated St. John's* in all categories, to win 21 to 0 (*Coach Brian Kelly’s alma mater). Paupa’s next game was on Saturday, December 9, in Fenway Park, against Somerville (MA) High School. Both teams were undefeated and newspaper accounts indicated that the winner would have a claim on national honors. Somerville won, 7-0, in front of 10,000 fans, on a bad punt snap which resulted in a 70-yard TD, late in the game. How often does a high school football team play TWO games in one season in a Major League Baseball Stadium? And, ironically, these two Stadiums are still in existence, more than 100 years later.
Salesman, Thomas E. Wilson Co. (Sporting Goods), later worked for Stoner Corporation. Not previously listed in Notre Dame Football Media Guide.
b. 8/8/1876, Alpena, MI; d. 8/12/1932 (56), Detroit, MI. 5’11, 226.
At ND, 1894-1897, B.S., Biology. Both parents born in Prussia, Michigan, Poland, and Russia---as listed in four successive U.S. Census filings. Transfer from the University of Michigan. His 1895 ND coach, hired from Michigan, sent a note back to Ann Arbor with an unkind comment about Jacob: “You can imagine the kind of crowd it is when I tell you that Rosenthal that big lump of guts that was at Michigan last year is the most promising candidate for center”. Penn Medical School Graduate. Played football at each of his three colleges. Moved to Petoskey, MI, after living for many years in Sault Saint Marie. Physician.
b. 2/18/1895, Calumet, MI; d. 12/13/1920 (25), South Bend, IN. 6’, 172
At ND, 1916-1920. One of 7 children. Gipp’s paternal grandparents, Anton and Agnes, were born in Lutzerath, which was then part of Prussia, but is now a German recreational town of 2,000. George played freshman football at ND in addition to four years on the varsity and briefly played basketball and baseball for ND. The SCHOLASTIC reported that in a freshman game, against Western Michigan “Standing on his own forty-yard line in the latter part of the game he sent, a long low field goal sixty yards-directly between the Kalamazoo uprights for what is reputed to be a season's record for a drop kick”. Gipp was a great runner, passer, defender, kicker, and punter.
Rev. Charles O’Donnell, President of Notre Dame, wrote about Gipp in a wonderful October, 1930 football article in the ALUMNUS: “A typical anecdote, possessing that touch of irony we like so well in our campus wit, is that which represents a friend of his boasting that if the fellow on Gipp's left got 40 and the fellow on Gipp's right got 60 in an examination, Gipp was such a genius he could get 90 off the two papers.”
On the 10th anniversary of the death of Gipp, Harry A. Sylvester, Jr. ’30, the former sports editor of the SCHOLASTIC and writer of the “Splinters in the Press Box” column, wrote this about the Gipper: “Much has been written about Notre Dame's greatest of the great — the big, silent youth who came unheralded from the North, and who returned to the North still silent—forever. Much has been written of this man, who was, in his field, a genius every bit as much as were Mozart and Michaelangelo in theirs. Some might question the use of that much over-used term, genius, in its application to an athlete, but the application will bear analysis. There may be physical geniuses as well as mental geniuses, and there may be men whose coordination of the mental and the physical make them also geniuses. Such a man was George Gipp. But we do not propose to deal with his achievements or what made him great. Other and more worthy pens have written indelibly and truthfully of the former, and other minds have speculated as to the latter. Rather we would like to tell you of a belief we have; a rather childish belief, perhaps, but one which we will always hold to. There are those who say that George Gipp is dead. They will tell you the story of the last game he played in, against Northwestern. They will tell you how he arose from a sick bed to make the trip to Evanston, and how "Rock" kept him on the bench until there would be need for him. But there was no need for him that bitter November day; that team was one of Notre Dame's greatest and going into the last quarter, it led by a decisive margin. But, the story goes, all afternoon the stands called for Gipp — the great Gipp! They chanted his name; one would have thought they had little or no interest in the game. And finally, during the last quarter, with, the wind sweeping across that ice-covered field, George Gipp, great showman, too, arose from the bench and trotted upon the field. He played part of that last quarter, and returned to school, sick. He was put to bed and never arose again. Two weeks later he died shortly after Father Pat Haggerty baptized him. They will tell you that George Gipp died that cold December day, when the chapels always had someone in them, and the student body knelt in the snow to pray. But I think that George Gipp lives. I believe that he lives today just as truly as he did that day he trotted on the field at Evanston, just as truly as the day he carried six tacklers across the goal-line to beat Indiana; just as truly as when he would drift In the Van of the Immortals through a broken field telling his interference who to take out and who to leave alone. And I will tell you why I hold to this belief. The Notre Dame team of 1928 was, so far as games won and lost go, about the least fortunate one that ever represented Our Lady's School. Some few, however, know it’s true worth; know of the handicaps it labored under, which the outside world probably never will know of. But be these things as they may, Notre Dame trekked East one day in late November to do battle with one of the greatest teams Army ever produced. Notre Dame went East, and underdog, twice defeated. In a grey dressing-room, deep in the bowels of the huge grey stadium, a little group of athletes sat, and waited, and listened to the Old Man speak. And he told them the story of Gipp — the story that will never grow old. And he told them that as the great Gipp lay dying he called "Rock" over to him and told him that he knew he was going, and that he wanted to make one last request "Someday, 'Rock,' some time—when the going isn't so easy, when the odds are against us, ask a Notre Dame team to win a game for me—for the Gipper." "Rock" paused and then concluded: "Men," he said, "this is that game." The rest is history. You know what happened — how a sobbing, fighting, crying group of youths marched down the field to one touchdown only to see it slither from their grasp; how they came from behind to tie Army as the fiery Chevigny fell across the goal-line crying: "Here's one of them, Gipper." How Chevigny was carried off the field exhausted, absolutely played out, and how, on the next play, as the shadows lengthened and then touched the infield, Johnny O'Brien plucked victory from the air in the form of Niemic's pass, and fell across the goal-line. George Gipp was there that dun November day. George Gipp helped to win that game just as much as did any man who played. And he was at the other games. No one may have spoken of him, or used his name to inspire a team on to victory, but it is safe to say that someone always thinks of him whenever Notre Dame goes to battle. It is not hard to conceive of the shade of this lean, muscular figure kneeling on one knee on the sidelines, watching the progress of a game, exclaiming in disappointment, or shouting in joy. The name of Notre Dame has attracted many youths to her portals. The name of Rockne has attracted many. And the name of Gipp has attracted its share—has attracted those who dwell somewhat in the past as well as in the present and future. There will never be another Gipp, and these dreamers who would be great athletes, know it, but they would, nevertheless, follow in his footsteps, tread the same sod he trod, wear the same dark blue, become part of the same tradition. Always will there be some few who yearly come to Notre Dame because it was there that George Gipp achieved immortality. George Gipp didn't die. His body lies in a little graveyard on the outskirts of the mining town of Laurium, in the land immortalized by Longfellow in his poem, "Hiawatha." But his spirit lives, and will live forever in the heart of Notre Dame. In death as in life he still serves Notre Dame, not always obviously and heroically, but, nevertheless, well. And he will always be there where Notre Dame needs him most—usually in the background, half-realized by those whom he inspires without them always knowing it. Sometimes flaming in the front, apparent, almost visible, as he was that day in the Yankee Stadium. But realized or unrealized, he will always be there — Notre Dame's greatest physical tradition. No, George Gipp did not die.”
Notre Dame’s first, first-team All American, selected by Walter Camp, in 1920. A WWII Liberty Ship was named in his honor. Elected to College Football Hall of Fame, 1951.