Monday, 02 April 2018 10:09

'Gridiron On The Great Lake' Depicts Historic Fort Sport

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Gridiron on the Great Lake Gridiron on the Great Lake Submitted photo

New York author Doug Bigelow has recently published his book about the 1918 Fort Ontario (Oswego, NY) Army football team. Gridiron On The Great Lake tells the little known story of a military hospital assembling one of the area’s finest football squads while under the shadow of World War 1.

“The War to End All wars” was the most brutal and deadliest mankind had ever seen. New inventions such as: machine guns, poison gas, warplanes, flame throwers and tanks came about to help mass produce death and destruction.

While training for duties in the battlefield hospitals of Europe and the stateside General Hospital on the shores of Lake Ontario, soldiers from across the country somehow found the time to take the field against the best central New York had to offer. An unbeaten, untied and unscored on team filled their roster with varying ethnic, religious and social representatives. Despite differences in these outward stations the “boys on the lake” became a powerhouse on the gridiron.

Native Americans played with Caucasians. Protestants played with Catholics while playing with Jews – American born teamed with Scots, Brits, Poles, Russians, Germans and Irish. Former farm hands suited up next to doctors, 8th grade educated next to college degreed.

Football in 1918 was old time, tough “you ain’t playing the game right unless you’re bleeding at the final whistle” kind of football.

The stars of the Fort Ontario team were an Irishman from Boston who played in the 1916 Rose Bowl, a Native American who played at the Haskell Indian Institute in Kansas and a local semi-professional tough guy who survived a collision with a train while being run over by a horse & wagon to become one of the best footballers in Central New York.

Bigelow not only explores each of their victories but lays the ground work with descriptions of their opponents. He also shares with the reader stories of other American military football teams both stateside and in the European war zone. Not to be left out, Syracuse University’s championship caliber team has a chapter all unto itself alongside the nations other top collegiate squads.

With football also come chapters on life at the Fort, the city of Oswego, the Red Cross, the city’s assembled Army company affectionately known as “Oswego’s Own”, the influenza epidemic and many other historical tidbits.

Bigelow has pledged to donate 25% of his website’s gross sales to veteran’s charities. This book can be purchased at Amazon or

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