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1917 - Part 2: Newspaper Wars

Continuing to look at the controversial state title of 1917. Here is what appears to be the best timeline for events that can be put together:

Several teams played on Saturday, November 24th and the winners expected to play again on Thanksgiving if a match could be made.

The next day, November 25th, the Milwaukee Sentinel proposed the Marshfield and Watertown match and it was not accepted until Tuesday night, November 27th.

The headline in the November 26th La Crosse Tribune read: "Marinette Turns Back on La Crosse Refusing to Play Title Contest". The paper went on to claim that by refusing to play, Marinette could not be considered a credible title contender and the same went for Eau Claire, Marshfield or Chippewa Falls, all who had turned La Crosse down for a Thanksgiving Day game. Being unable to schedule any Wisconsin schools, La Crosse scheduled a game with Owatonna (MN) to be played there. That would be about a 120 mile trip away to a city that's about 5 miles west of Rochester. In the column next to the Marinette/La Crosse article was one about Rochester scheduled to play St Cloud for the Minnesota state title. There were several digs about the Rochester scores against the Winona schools.

The next day, Tuesday November 27th, the Green Bay Press Gazette stated in "Cal's Comment", a semi-daily sports column, that Marinette was being lambasted by La Crosse for not playing them. Marinette doesn't feel La Crosse is now a team to play instead of others that were undefeated. Because they couldn't find a suitable Thanksgiving opponent the team has now disbanded. Cal asked why Waukesha and Watertown wouldn't play Marinette. Meanwhile, the La Crosse Tribune continued their attack on Marinette and printed a copy of Watertown's season record along with their own. In a side story the school announced that the season was closed as their star back had chicken pox. But the paper claimed that there were but two schools in the race for the title, Watertown and La Crosse.

Wednesday, November 28th rolled around and the Milwaukee Sentinel announced that the title game had been set. The Green Bay Press Gazette made no mention in their evening paper as they focused on the West vs East matchup in that city with a full-page story. The Wisconsin State Journal in Madison also reported the title game. But it was in the La Crosse paper that there was a brief story of the Wisconsin matchup as they also reported the season schedule of Rochester and again questioned their qualifications for the Minesota title. Since I had been unable to track all of Rochester's games before, I now had the complete record and sent it on to Kevin Askeland of MaxPreps.

Thanksgiving Day, November 29th brought Watertown to meet Marshfield and to be fair and at the request of a local reader the La Crosse Tribune printed the Marshfield schedule. They again took another dig at Marinette: "We are nothing but fair; we are willing to admit that Marinette has a grand team, one of the best in the state of Wisconsin. But a 'quitter' can never be conceded a championship of any kind." Watertown and Marshfield played to a scoreless tie before only 400 fans and the title was now still in play. Marshfield had the ball five times on the Watertown one yard line and failed to score on all five occasions.

On Saturday, December 1st, Marinette who had supposedly shut down for the season now took notice that neither team playing for the title on Thanksgiving had won so now they threw down the gauntlet and challenged any team, through a message to the Milwaukee Sentinel asking them to set up a game with any team they thought would qualify as a suitable foe. At the same time the Press Gazette proposed that Green Bay host the game for Marinette.

It took until Sunday, December 2nd for the La Crosse Tribune to continue their attack on Rochester and Marinette and continue their praise for the local high school.

Monday came and the Press Gazette reported that the Sentinel had named Marinette, Marshfield, Watertown and Waukesha for a 'title series'. The semi-finals would be played on Saturday, December 8th. The Milwaukee Sentinel wanted to pit Marshfield against Marinette and Waukesha against Watertown. It also made mention of La Crosse agreeing to play Marinette, contrary to earlier reports, in Marinette but that the game had been cancelled due to heavy rains. The football field being down in sort of a valley had nearly two feet of water and mud on it so they couldn't play there and they couldn't agree on a different site. Cal from the Gazette wrote that day:

"La Crosse High, for some unknown reason, making an awful wail about state championship football honors. It is hard to figure where the Westerners can be considered in the running. They have only played one Wisconsin team; Tomah and this aggregation can be rated along in the 'minor league' class.
'Chesty' Dahlgren, who gets up very capable little sports column in the La Crosse paper, from a high school point of view, raves continually about La Crosse's eleven. He can't seem to see anything but his home team, and when some other sports writers are inclined to hammer out some copy on different lines, he gets peeved and comes back with personalities."

Cal's Comment continued to point out the cancelled Marinette game with La Crosse, the fact that La Crosse cancelled a game with Green Bay West and the fact they didn't put out a challenge for Thanksgiving Day until a few days before the holiday.

On Tuesday the Press Gazette reported that Marshfield had retired for the season and neither Watertown or Waukesha thought Marinette an equal foe. But on Wednesday the Gazette said Marshfield had reconsidered and was willing to meet Waukesha. The Tribune now considered the season over as J.E. Dahlgren wrote that the top teams were, in order: Waukesha, Watertown, Marshfield, La Crosse and Marinette.

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