The 1900s Sports: Headline Makers

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The 1900s Sports: Headline Makers

Willie Anderson
Walter Camp
Charles Daniels
Jack Johnson
Alvin Kraenzlein
Honus Wagner

Willie Anderson (1880–1910) Willie Anderson, the first golfer to win four U.S. Open golf titles, helped popularize the game in America during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Anderson, the son of a Scottish immigrant, learned golf as a boy from his father. Anderson's strong shoulders and forearms provided him with his smooth golf swing. In 1901, he won the U.S. Open by one stroke in a playoff. The following year he finished fifth, but he went on to win three consecutive U.S. Opens from 1903 to 1905. Shortly after his thirtieth birthday, Anderson suddenly died. At his death, Anderson had one of golf's best records and had earned more money in his sport than any other professional.

Walter Camp (1859–1925) Walter Camp, known as the "father of American football," transformed the game from a copy of British rugby into the modern U.S. sport. He played football while a student at Yale University, from 1876 to 1882, and participated in the first Harvard-Yale game. In 1888, he became Yale's athletic director and its football coach. Among his innovations to the game were the scrimmage, the eleven-player team, the quarterback position, the gridiron marks on the field, signal calling, and the fourth-down rule. He also stressed the importance of good sportsmanship. Camp increased football's national popularity through his savvy marketing and his many publications on the game.

Charles Daniels (1885–1973) Charles Daniels was America's best and most famous swimmer of the early 1900s. He was an Olympic champion in 1904, 1906, and 1908. His greatest achievement in swimming was developing the "American crawl," a stroke that used a six-beat kick. The American crawl allowed Daniels to win a record thirty-three individual American Amateur Athletic Union indoor and outdoor titles from 1904 to 1911, in events that ranged from fifty yards to a mile. Many world records mark Daniels's career. In 1906, he became the first American to swim one hundred yards (four laps) in a twenty-five yard pool in less than one minute.

Jack Johnson (1878–1946) Jack Johnson, the first African American heavyweight boxing champion, was a popular and controversial figure during the early 1900s. His first major victory occurred in 1901, when he defeated Joe Choynsky. Johnson was a strong fighter, but he had difficulty finding white boxers willing to face a black opponent. In 1908, he defeated Tommy Burns to win the heavyweight title. Many whites were disgusted that a black man was so athletically superior, and they openly wished for a "Great White Hope" to reclaim the title. Hostility toward Johnson increased in 1911, when he married a white woman. The marriage caused Johnson to be prosecuted for and convicted of violating the Mann Act, which forbids the interstate transportation of women for immoral purposes. He fled to Canada and Europe to continue his career. He returned to the United States in 1920 and was sentenced to a year in prison for his 1912 conviction.

Alvin Kraenzlein (1876–1928) Alvin Kraenzlein is considered one of the most influential figures in the history of track and field. Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Kraenzlein from an early age demonstrated great ability in sprints, hurdles, the high jump, the long jump, and the shot put. By 1898, he was the world's leading hurdler. He soon achieved world records in high and low hurdles and the long jump. Kraenzlein is considered the "father of straight-lead-leg hurdling," a technique that allows the athlete to clear the hurdle without breaking stride. In 1900, he won gold medals in four individual track and field events, a feat that has never been repeated.

Honus Wagner (1874–1955) Many believe that Honus Wagner was the best all-around player in baseball history. His primary position was shortstop, but he played many other positions and even pitched on occasion. Nicknamed "The Flying Dutchman" because of his great speed and ethnic heritage, Wagner is ranked as the most dominant offensive player of the early 1900s. Throughout his twenty-one-year career, his batting average never fell below .300, and he led the National League in batting average throughout the decade. Upon retiring from baseball, Wagner managed the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1933 to 1951. In 1936, he became one of the original inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

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The 1900s Sports: Headline Makers

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The 1900s Sports: Headline Makers