Friday, May 29, 2009

Living History

I'm currently furiously trying to finish an article about the Pottsville Maroons, the once-pro football team that hailed from the coal region. In 1925, they were technically the winners in a hotly contested game against the Chicago Cardinals, but in a move that has been mired in controversy for over 80 years, the Maroons lost the title (officials claimed they violated a territory rule and had to give up the championship.) Sports historians, fans, and those who remember the team from Schuylkill County have been very vocal about having the title restored, even 80 years later.

Last night I had the great pleasure to speak with Scott Warren, an unofficial Maroons historian who provided me with more information than I could ever put into an article. He helped to give me a better sense of who these guys were, the odds they faced, and why it's important that their legacy--their correct legacy--lives on. A few months ago I also had the opportunity to speak with David Fleming, a writer for ESPN Magazine who wrote a book about the team, Breaker Boys, a few years ago. I'm as far from a sports fan as you can possibly get, but I love history (particularly the 1920's), and the more I learn about these players, the more fascinated I am by the team's story. Though my article certainly won't reach the audience Fleming's book has, I'm hoping that in some small way I can help to spread the word about these players and right the wrong.

I'm also involved in another local history project--a magazine publication (we think that's what the final version will be, anyway) for Schuylkill County's Bicentennial. Though I'm familiar with some chapters in the county's history, I'm seeing this as an opportunity to learn even more about local landmarks, events, and of course, the people from the county's past. I'm involved in a wild goose chase of sorts, trying to track down any historical documents about Coaldale Hospital (the "old" hospital that was built in 1910). It's right near my house, and I've always been curious about the building and what it looks like inside.

I've had a love/hate relationship with this area for most of my life, but the more I learn about the place where I live, the more I can't help but appreciate its colorful history. I'm very excited about these 2 projects. I only wish I'd spoken with Scott Warren earlier--I'm sure I could've gotten the chance to see some of his memorabilia and learn even more about this long-forgotten team.

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