That Time a Guy Playing a Handful of Baseball Games Nearly Changed American History Forever


U.S. Presidents and sports have always been
connected. Gerald Ford played football as a University
of Michigan undergrad. George H.W. Bush played in the first two College
World Series. George W. Bush was part owner of the Texas
Rangers’ baseball franchise. Barack Obama frequently played pickup basketball
games with his staff (who were no doubt all terrified of accidentally hurting the then
Commander-in-Chief during the games.) Ronald Reagan even portrayed “The Gipper”
in the football movie Knute Rockne, All American during his acting days. But only one U.S. President was ever a professional
athlete, albeit for a very brief time. Evidence points to Dwight D. Eisenhower having
played semi-pro minor league baseball in 1911 in Junction City, Kansas. Although for much of his life, this was something
he chose to keep secret. Had he not in the first few years after he
did this, it would have changed the course of American history. In 1911, baseball was really coming into its
own in America. Stars like Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson,
Joe (not yet “Shoeless”) Jackson, and Ty Cobb, all future Hall of Famers, dominated
major league baseball. The introduction of a livelier ball jump started
offenses. Frank Schulte had 21 home runs for the Chicago
Cubs in 1911, the first time anyone had hit over twenty home runs individually in a season. Schulte and Cobb won the first Most Valuable
Player Awards, receiving cars from Chalmers Automobiles as a reward from the sponsor. Attendance at baseball games rose across the
country. Baseball had been popular since the late 19th
century, but now professional teams began to pop up in every state, every city, every
town in the country. This included the state of Kansas and Junction
City. The period between 1909-1913 was “Kansas’
golden age in the professional game,” according to the Kansas State Historical Society. By 1910, twenty five cities and towns in Kansas
had at least semi-pro teams playing organized ball. This included bigger Kansas cities like Wichita
and Topeka with Class A minor league baseball teams (equivalent to Triple and Double A teams
today). It also included smaller towns with Class
D semi-pro teams (equivalent to the lowest level of the minor leagues today), like Abilene,
Clay Center, Ellsworth, and Junction City. Junction City, called so because it was where
the Wisconsin Valley Railroad intersected the Wisconsin Central tracks, actually wasn’t
even its own village until June of 1911. Annexing itself from the nearby town of Carson,
they held elections for officers in the village hall on the sixth of June. Twenty-three voters went to the polls that
day and elected Jacob Skibba president of the village of Junction City. Despite not actually governing itself until
1911, Junction City had a baseball team in the Central Kansas League beginning in 1909. For the first two years of their existence,
the Junction City Soldiers weren’t particularly good, never finishing higher than fifth in
the league. As the 1911 season approached, the Soldiers,
and all of the teams in the Central Kansas League, began to recruit new, young players. Dwight D. Eisenhower was born in Denison,
Texas on October 14, 1890. Two years later, the Eisenhower clan made
the 400 mile trip north and moved to Abilene, Kansas, a place the General and President
for the rest of his life considered his hometown. He was an active kid and, by his own admission,
strove towards “excellence in sports, particularly baseball and football. I could not imagine an existence in which
I was not playing one or both.” When he was boy, he fell and hurt his knee,
to the point where doctors considered amputation. In his autobiography At Ease: Stories I Tell
To Friends, he recounted what he told his brother, Ed, when he heard the possible news,
“When Ed got home, I called him and made him promise to make sure that under no circumstance
would they amputate my leg. “I’d rather be dead than crippled, and not
be able to play ball.”” Needless to say, years later when the Central
Kansas League came calling, Eisenhower couldn’t pass up the opportunity. The Eisenhower family didn’t have a lot
of money, so both he and his brother, Edgar, had to take jobs to support themselves through
school. They struck a deal not unlike the one later
portrayed by the characters George and Harry Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life (incidentally,
Jimmy Stewart, who played George Bailey, in real life also became a General in the U.S.
military). The Eisenhower brothers agreed that while
one of them went to school, the other would work to pay for it. The next year, they switched. According to a 1969 Time Magazine article,
Dwight worked at a creamery in 1909 as part of this deal. While there is no actual written documentation
at the time, there is significant evidence that in 1911, at the age of 21, he found a
new job twenty five miles east of Abilene with the Junction City Soldiers semi-pro baseball
team. The primary evidence comes from several 1945
New York Times and Associated Press articles, written following Eisenhower’s return from
the war. After arriving home, one of the first things
the now-decorated General did was attend a baseball game between the New York Giants
and Boston Braves. In one of the articles, the Times quotes Mel
Ott, then-manager of the Giants and future Baseball Hall of Famer, that the “general
admitted that he done so (played pro ball), under the assumed name of Wilson.” In a separate story from the same game, the
Times reported on a “brief, informal chat” with the two managers (Ott and Braves’ manager
Bob Coleman) and the General. This chat included an admission from the General
himself that playing baseball professionally was the “one secret of my life.” He went on to explain that he played in the
Kansas league. When asked what position he played, Eisenhower
joked, “That’s my secret.” There was, in fact, a “Wilson” who played
centerfield for the 1911 Junction City Soldiers, at least according to the baseball archive
Baseball Reference. This “Wilson” didn’t play very much,
only appearing in nine games with 31 at-bats. He did have eleven hits though, good for a
.355 batting average, and was perfect in the field with eleven chances and eleven putouts,
for whatever that’s worth. Later that month, in an interview with the
Associated Press in his hometown of Abilene, Eisenhower went further,
“I was a center fielder. I went into baseball deliberately to make
money, and with no idea to make it a career. I wanted to go to college that fall, and we
didn’t have much money. I took any job that offered me more money,
because I needed money. But I wasn’t a very good center fielder,
and didn’t do too well at that.” In 1911 (possibly during the baseball season),
Eisenhower was accepted into the prestigious West Point, readying himself to be in the
Army and for his illustrious future ahead. When he arrived, he immediately tried out
for the JV football and baseball teams. He made both. A baseball teammate of his was Omar Bradley,
who also went on to become a famed World War II General. It was actually Eisenhower’s football career
that was a lot more promising. He became a star running back on the varsity
team his sophomore year. The New York Times called him, “one of the
most promising backs in Eastern football.” Later that year, he injured his knee, derailing
his football career. He didn’t make the varsity baseball team
at West Point. Eisenhower would later say, “not making
the baseball team at West Point was one of the greatest disappointments of my life, maybe
my greatest.” So how would any of this have changed American
history? I mean, he played in a few semi-professional
baseball games. Big deal. Here’s the thing. In order for one to participate in college
athletics, one must be an amateur athlete, as in someone who has never made money playing
sports. Playing semi-professional baseball, no matter
if it was for love of the game or financial reasons, should have disqualified Eisenhower
from making the football team. Yet, he told no one of his semi-pro past. Again, so what? He’d just get kicked off the team if they
found out, right? Not quite. The Cadet’s Honor Code states “”A cadet
will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do.” While the Code didn’t get formally written
until 1922 (with the impetus from then-Superintendent of the Academy Douglas MacArthur), it was
still very much applied and honored. Today, Cadets have to sign such a pledge. It is not known if in 1911 West Point required
an actual signature as well. Either way, an “officer’s word was his
bond” and deliberate violation of this was a serious offense in the eyes of the school. If Dwight D. Eisenhower had been discovered
to have lied about his lack of amateur status, he would have been not only kicked off the
team, but kicked out of the Academy. History would have never had the great General
Dwight D. Eisenhower, nor President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who is generally considered
one of the top ten U.S. Presidents to date. By 1945, Eisenhower (or at least someone close
to him) realized that thanks to his little lie, maybe it wasn’t such a good idea for
him to talk about his semi-pro career, especially if he had political aspirations. In fact, within the collected presidential
papers at the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene, KS in “A Guide to the Historical
Holdings of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Library – Sports and Recreation,” there is this:
“DDE-Personals [memo by Schulz, 8-3-61, re DDE playing semi-pro baseball]
DDE did play professional baseball one season to make money, he did make one trip under
assumed name (did not say whether Wilson or not). But, he says, not to answer this because ‘it
gets too complicated.’” If he had been found out while still in school,
he would been kicked out and the world would have likely never known the name Dwight D.
Eisenhower. Then again, this may have suited Eisenhower
just fine. Later in life, he told the press this story,
“A friend of mine and I went fishing and as we sat there in the warmth of a summer
afternoon on a river bank we talked about what we wanted to do when we grew up. I told him I wanted to be a real major league
baseball player, a genuine professional like Honus Wagner. My friend said that he’d like to be President
of the United States. Neither of us got our wish.” Bonus Facts:
• Eisenhower’s football career was actually cut short in a game against legend Jim Thorpe,
who himself was just returning from his triumphant 1912 Olympics. With the future President’s team losing
27 to 6, Eisenhower was tackled at a bad angle and his knee buckled. He had to be carried off. Later that year, he hurt the same knee again
in a horse riding accident. Eisenhower never played football again. • On the website of the Eisenhower President
Library, buried in the biographical section, it actually speaks of Eisenhower potentially
playing professional baseball in 1913 as well, stating, “He returned to Abilene for the
summer following his sophomore or ‘Yearling’ term at West Point in 1913, when he may or
may have not played semi-professional baseball.” By 1913, it wouldn’t have mattered all that
much. His football career was done due to the knee
injury and baseball wasn’t in the cards for him at West Point. He wasn’t playing amateur sports any longer,
so his eligibility wouldn’t have been compromised by taking a summer job playing baseball, and
he wouldn’t have had to lie about it.

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100 Comments
  1. John Veach

    Newt rockney for fuck sake

  2. Mark Meyers

    Odor crushing it in the thumbnail. Go Rangers!

  3. William Jefferson Clinton

    I was a professional pocket pool shark, just ask Monica. Oooooooooooooooh.

  4. Walkin' Tall

    For everyone commenting about the mispronunciations: he's only doing this to make you feel smarter by the end of the video. And didn't it work?
    You came to learn about a baseball player, but finished all high and mighty that you know how to pronounce something Simon did not.
    Feels good doesn't it?
    Thank the man, and stop bitching. Smh.

  5. elenabob

    Be aware about that YouTube scam https://youtu.be/8CXSKHRyhL8

  6. Han Solo

    I made it to 1:45 … Lol

  7. Wil Herren

    You could of not read this baseball story script more British if you tried.

  8. Thomas Eeds

    Denison, Texas

  9. Jim Fortune

    That's a hard "G" on Gipper, and Ronald Reagan never played The Gipper. The Gipper was dead, and Reagan's character gave a speech about him.

  10. Renée H

    Why don't you do any research on name pronunciations, Simone?

  11. Michael Wade

    God love ya, Simon, but it's a famous line that pretty clearly demonstrates it's a hard 'G' in Gipper. https://youtu.be/_e7rmpjBSR8

  12. Jim Fortune

    I kinda think he had some effect on American history anyway.

  13. Jon Stevens

    Win one for the Gypper……:)

  14. Aydemi Popushi

    Nothing would change in history. He was just figurehead – American German. War was conducted by other generals and US president is puppet of capital.

  15. kirby march barcena

    Dwight ain't no Eddie Guerrero

  16. Fred Smurf

    "Payment" probably consisted of meal money if they were lucky. Back then even major leaguers were lucky to get a decent salary.

  17. C Ray Starling

    The oath to not "lie cheat or steal, nor tolerate those who do" applies to all of the Service Academies, not just West Point. I had to sign the oath for acceptance into Norwich for my Graduate Studies, and although I was a Veteran, I was never an Officer nor a member of the Cadets. They will also reject you if you have a criminal record or less than Honorable discharge from the Service. "Do not take frivolous oaths; And the ones' you do make, mean them." Marcus Aurelius-Reflections on Oaths.

  18. Nova2512

    Its the gipper not jipper

  19. Gilbert Gélinas

    All politicians are liars

  20. MoutainMan3000

    You guys worked hard to get this video over 10 minutes. Bravo.

  21. S Christy

    I love you Simon!!! Kanoot Rock Now and the Jipper. It is better the way YOU say IT!!!!For all of you who made a comment on how he pronounced the names. You know he is British. Right???

  22. Elwookiee07

    I was expecting to see the fight between Odor and Bautista, given the tittle shoot being Odor.

  23. jeepien

    The gypper? That's racist. 😛

  24. JOE SMITH

    Oh Simon you britness is showing. Still good though.

  25. Pamela Mays

    Simon, my man, it's Gipper, with a hard G, and Nute (noot), with a silent K. Carry on!

  26. John Wallroff

    Ka-Nute??? Ka-NUTE???? "Jipper???? Really??? Have an american read some of your scrips and help you with pronunciations. This has been an issue for you in the past. Do you pronounce Gnome as Ga-Nome too??

    1. Knute, the K is silent. 2. Gipper is pronounced with a hard G sound.

  27. Rob Kandell

    George W. Bush also played fullback for Yale rugby.

  28. John Jay

    Let's win one for the "Jipper".
    it's actually pronounced with a hard G like the words "girl" and "gum" have.

  29. Jack Marston

    You really can’t pronounce names lol. Ba-rock

  30. David Fortney

    Please add a new water stain to your fake old pictures I'm getting tired of the same fake water stain.

  31. Thomas Holmes

    Being born and raised in Kansas and knowing of all of the towns that you spoke of it makes this one of my favorite videos ever. We love Eisenhower and we love our sports, thanks Simon!

  32. Charles Martin

    Wow……..Eisenhower was keen to keep his time in professional sports a secret because it might jeopardize attending West Point? And continued to keep it a secret because it might hang like a shadow over his impeccable record as a Republican president?His worries are from the age of innocence. It is considered an honorable thing to work to attend college even if the job is in sports.
    So being from a bygone age when honor meant something to be a public servant, he is probably turning over in his grave considering the scandalous secrets and lies of the present Republican president!!!

  33. hankw69

    Ike also coached West Point ball during his career.

  34. Daytwa Qua

    Gypper?

  35. James Kirkland

    If DDE did play semi-pro ball, does that mean the USA has to forfeit WWII to Hitler? Hmm?

  36. Lukas Kenison

    Could you do a video about the development of Cockney Rhyming Slang and how it went to influence language?

  37. Mgrzx3

    blah blah blah Simone's inability to speak english names ( Watch " Airplane" for the Gipper). Nice to see that College athletes can get paid now because of a California law. The NCAA said " None of Our teams will play in California, uh oh No We came up with the same rule somehow. We're not Greedy. " Their going to lose millions boo woo.

  38. Jack Wardrop

    I think he did this purpose guys.

  39. Ronald

    0:10 Bush Jr. was also a college athlete, he was a cheerleader.

  40. Mike Emerson

    As someone from Texas, thanks for putting Odor on the thumbnail.

  41. mpbx3003

    I think they confused Junction City, WI with Junction City, KS. I don't think Kansas had two railroads with Wisconsin in the name.

  42. Mathy Don

    yes, the Jipper… indeed

  43. Sine Nomine

    I don't know, for a guy who's supposedly all about about knowledge, Simon seems woefully lacking in cultural literacy. Win one for the Jipper. 🙄

  44. android rulez

    I mean, if you want to be real about it, it would have changed British history forever, too. Youd be making this video in German instead of English

  45. Craig Prestininzi

    It is like English is not really is first language – but we still like him!

  46. Patrick McDaniel

    The guh guh gipper Knute Rockne (sounds like Newt Rock-knee)

  47. Fab Orwick

    Noot rock-knee. Is how his name is pronounced : )

  48. Hunter Wilbanks

    The way this guy said Knute Rockne actually made it into the video! They have no Americans who proofread this shit?

  49. jrbship

    We need to teach Simon how to speak American.
    Gipper – hard G, as is gap
    Knute – silent K
    Rockne – rock-knee

  50. king james488

    good ol' joe with-shoes-for-now jackson…

  51. king james488

    what?! 31 AT-ATs?!

    someone made a deal with the dark side…

  52. Evolved Copper

    The man's knee got hit so many times 😯

  53. Player_1

    "That's my secret" wow, okay

  54. Jimmy Yu

    Say what??? K-nute who?? Try to spend 10 seconds and look up how to pronounce names. Jesus Christ. I swear I am going to un-suscribe to this channel due to lack of research and stupidities…

    Seriously, you are nothing but a tele-prompter reader and knows nothing. Just keep promoting those video games and the clothing companies.

  55. Jimmy Yu

    Shoeless Joe Jackson is banned, and not in the Hall of Fame. Do some research. Seriously…

  56. James Potts

    From now on, I'm going to refer to Reagan as the "Jipper." 🤣

  57. Changy0886

    Can you please do a video on Marshal law

  58. Shane Stanton

    It’s a hard G in Gipper instead of a j-like sounds in gymnasium

  59. Mark G

    I think you mispronounce the names in order to get people to leave comments…………………..you are either one shrewd motherfucker OR you don't do your research and are a TOTAL MORON!
    I certainly hope it is the former and not the latter to else I would have to "Yoon Soob Skreebe" "Or unsubscribe……….. Whichever comes first I suppose………or is it feerst?

  60. KYoss68

    Simon. Knute Rockne is pronounced "Newt Rocknee"

  61. James Boswell

    I knew this because Mike Rowe did an episode of “That’s the Way I Heard It!” On this very subject.

  62. Bubba Clemson

    Joe Jackson was shoeless from the start. He is a local hero and deserves a Today I Found Out video.. it's a damn interesting story, and he has been misrepresented in history.. he took no money and had a statistically awesome World Series but due to illiteracy and being a "Rube" he was hung out to dry… #ShoelessJoeHOF!!!!

  63. Man InBlack

    Knute= NUTE

  64. morskojvolk

    Read the short story "Ike At The Mike" by Howard Waldrop. Explains everything.

  65. Jeff Hyatt

    When I saw the thumbnail, I was anticipating a video on Rougned Odor. Was disappointed. I would've watched Odor punching Bautista in the face for 10 minutes & 41 seconds.

  66. Miatacrosser

    One of your best stories Simon.

  67. Matt Cairns

    I knew it!!!!!

  68. TheUrgleBurgle

    Why do people in old paintings have no eyelashes?

  69. mustang6172

    "Ronald Reagan even portrayed the Gipper in the football movie 'Knute Rockne All American.'"

    Gipper isn't pronounced with a J sound. Knute Rockne is pronounced NEWT rok-NEE.

  70. Mike Derfler

    Kanute Rockne. Who? Jipper. Bush jr. was a cheerleader. Shoeless Joe was banned from Baseball therefor not a HOFer.

  71. XiaDun

    "Newt Rock-knee"

  72. Ryback TV

    Interesting history.

  73. Eppy Boston funny

    Knute Rocknow, LOL, OK you're British
    I'll forgive you, but it's pronounced
    Noot Roknee

  74. Cephas Martin

    Learn how to pronounce American names you Brit twit!

  75. OnePieceNation

    Sorry but eisenhouwer was one of the worst presidents ever https://www.jochnowitz.net/Essays/Eisenhower.html

  76. roger komula

    Considering EVERY President since FDR should have, and be, imprisoned as war criminals, I'm not surprised his military career began with a fraud.

  77. Mykowser

    The Gipper… not the Jipper. Idiot

  78. Evan Smoak

    Can’t wait for the first president who was a pro mma or boxer previously. How hilarious would it be for every time he spoke, a clip played of him getting tkfo

  79. Ciaban K

    Did he call him Ka-NUTE? It's just Nute

  80. Bryan Eshbaugh

    What an interesting fellow

  81. rushmore IV

    Heh. Ronald Reagan, the Gypper.

  82. LordFryofKent

    GASP! You didn't start with a sponsor!

  83. antiisocial

    Cool

  84. Ryan Campbell

    The jipper?
    Knute Rocknuh?

  85. Doug Sundseth

    Note that the primary industry in Junction City is the US Army. It's the town outside of the gate of Fort Riley.

  86. Joe Sterling

    Let's go win one for the Jipper!

  87. Aurobindo Ghosh

    that time when baseball games were like gadgets and social network

  88. Barbara Ellison

    He should hire me to do proper pronunciations

  89. Jennifer Jones

    Somon needs to google pronunciations of names. He really gets insulting with it. Not even trying.

  90. wes

    2:17 as opposed to enlisted personell who say, usually in regards to tests, " if you ain't cheatin' you ain't tryin'

  91. jane doe

    Ka noot Ro he??!

  92. Eric Taylor

    You can't play ball if your dead, but I know for a fact, from personal experience, you CAN play baseball as a "cripple".

  93. Jean Paul Marat

    Biographics Eisenhower.

  94. Contrafactum

    Win one for the Jipper

  95. John Drummond

    Some (not really) necessary corrections:
    – Ronald Reagan played the (HARD G) Gipper in "Knute Rockne (pronounced rock knee), All-American".
    – Joe Jackson was banned from Major League baseball because of the 1919 Black Sox scandal. So, despite his immense talent, he's not in the HOF and never will be.

  96. Tristan Wolfe

    Canoot Rocknah. wow.

  97. jb888888888

    Jippers preferred to be called "Roma" actually.

  98. Doby Pilgrim

    I about 1920 Ty Cobb came to Georgia and played in several exhibition games. For money if course. One of my grandfather's achievements in life was that he struck out Ty Cobb – twice. He had to finish raising his four sisters so he never tried out for professional baseball.

    But after he finished raising those girls (both his parents had died) he went to college, got his Ph.D, and became a Methodist minister.

    That's my baseball story.

  99. Remianen

    Not having a go at you Simon but Knute Rockne is pronounced NEWT ROCK-KNEE. Hard one, that. It's like knife. I always hated silent letters (if it's silent, why the hell is it there?!?).

  100. mrmustangman1964

    OK, did I miss something? WHY Did Eisenhower play under an assumed name.

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