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Walter Lingo, Jim Thorpe, and the Oorang Indians

How a Dog Kennel Owner Created the NFL's Most Famous Traveling Team

Chris Willis

Hardback
At the beginning of the Roaring Twenties the NFL was just a footnote within the landscape of American sports. The early pro game was played on dirt fields by vagabond athletes who would beat up or punch out their opponent for fifty dollars a game. But one team was different than the rest: the Oorang Indians. Comprised entirely of Native Americans and led by star athlete Jim Thorpe, the Oorang Indians were an instant hit in almost every city they visited.

In Walter Lingo, Jim Thorpe, and the Oorang Indians: How a Dog Kennel Owner Created the NFL's Most Famous Traveling Team, NFL historian Chris Willis tells the story of this unique and fascinating part of professional football history. In 1922 Walter Lingo, a dog kennel owner from tiny La Rue, Ohio, joined forces with Jim Thorpe, the country’s greatest athlete, to create the Oorang Indians. Willis recounts how Lingo used the football team, the star attraction of player-coach Thorpe, and the all Native-American squad to help advertise his kennel and sell dogs, putting the small town of La Rue on the map.

With the complete cooperation of the Lingo family and unlimited access to family photos and archives, Walter Lingo, Jim Thorpe, and the Oorang Indians provides an up-close and behind-the-scenes view into the making of this little-known team. It is a remarkable story that will be enjoyed by football fans and historians alike.
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Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 310Size: 6 x 9
978-1-4422-7765-6 • Hardback • May 2017 • $38.00 • (£24.95)
978-1-4422-7766-3 • eBook • May 2017 • $37.99 • (£24.95) (coming soon)
Chris Willis is the Head of the Research Library at NFL Films, a position he has held since 1996. He is the author of multiple books on pro football, including The Man Who Built the National Football League: Joe F. Carr (2010), Dutch Clark: The Life of an NFL Legend and the Birth of the Detroit Lions (2012), and A Nearly Perfect Season: The Inside Story of the 1984 San Francisco 49ers (2014), all published by Rowman & Littlefield. In 2002 Willis was nominated for an Emmy for his work on the HBO Documentary “The Game of Their Lives: Pro Football in the 1950’s.” Willis was awarded the Professional Football Researchers Association’s Ralph Hay award for lifetime achievement in pro football research and historiography in 2012.
Preface
Acknowledgments
Introduction

PART I: WALTER LINGO, LA RUE, OHIO, AND THE OORANG KENNELS
Chapter 1: The Lingo Family
Chapter 2: Walter Lingo
Chapter 3: The Oorang Kennels and the Rise of the Oorang Airedales
Chapter 4: A Genius of Promotion
Chapter 5: World War I
Chapter 6: Putting La Rue on the Map

PART II: THE FOOTBALL TEAM: THE OORANG INDIANS
Chapter 7: The National Football League
Chapter 8: The Great Jim Thorpe
Chapter 9: “The Idea”: Creating the NFL’s Most Famous Traveling Team
Chapter 10: The Oorang Indians

PART III: THE FOOTBALL SEASONS, 1922–1923
Chapter 11: Training Camp in La Rue
Chapter 12: The 1922 NFL Season
Chapter 13: The 1923 NFL Season
Chapter 14: A Two-Year Experiment Ends

PART IV: THE AFTERMATH FOR WALTER LINGO, JIM THORPE, AND THE OORANG INDIANS
Chapter 15: Athlete and Sportsman Magazine
Chapter 16: The Lingorue and the Demise of the Oorang Kennels
Chapter 17: Walter Lingo Rebuilds His Business and Good-bye to Jim Thorpe
Chapter 18: The Passing of the King of Dogs
Chapter 19: Commemorating the Oorang Indians
Chapter 20: The Legacy of Walter Lingo, Jim Thorpe, and the Oorang Indians

APPENDIXES:
A: Oorang Indians Game Results
B: Oorang Indians All-Time Roster (1922–1923)
C: Oorang Indians Box Scores (1922–1923)

Notes
Bibliography
Index
About the Author
With careful research and an eye for the important details, Chris Willis has written an important history of this fascinating team in the earliest years of the NFL. The Oorang Indians only lasted for two years in the 1920s but, as Willis shows, they provide a unique example of the kind of small town franchise that survives today only with another early NFL team—the Green Bay Packers.
Kate Buford, author of Native American Son: The Life and Sporting Legend of Jim Thorpe


The NFL could be a traveling circus in the early days, and no team fit that description better than the Oorang Indians. Forty-six years after Little Big Horn, an all-Native American team owned by a renowned dog breeder, Walter Lingo, and led by an even more renowned athlete, Jim Thorpe, traveled the country selling Airedales and pro football (not necessarily in that order). Joe Little Twig, Lone Wolf, Dick Deer Slayer, Long Time Sleep—you definitely couldn't tell the Indians without a program. It’s a wonderful story, an American story, and Chris Willis simply had to tell it. We should all be glad he did.
Dan Daly, football historian and author of The National Forgotten League


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