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Irvin “Tiny” Knee [W1923]

From Wabash Athletics Archives

1921 Wabash-Purdue Football Game Inaugurates Ross-Ade Stadium

The interconnectedness of the world today is just stunning and here is a great example of the ways that technology improves our knowledge. This morning Jim Amidon in the Public Affairs office forwarded to me an e-mail from his counterpart at DePauw, Ken Owen.  The e-mail was from the grandson of an alum, Irvin “Tiny Knee” [W1923] who was a football and track star while a student here. It seems that the grandson was searching the web and landed on the DePauw site where the digital media project “Monon Memories” resides. It is an amazing project with many images from Wabash sources. and Tiny’s grandson was just tickled to see the entries for the early 20’s. A copy of this exchange landed in my in-box this morning and prompted this posting.

Tiny Knee is a name I know well…he was quite a star of the football team and really, who could forget such a name? I thought I might share a bit on this fascinating fellow who was, as we at Wabash like to say, “Some Little Giant!” From the college history, Wabash College The First Hundred Years we have this delightful passage:

“But most thrilling of all were the games with Purdue. Each year, almost always, as it happened, on a remarkably fine day in October, the team would go up to Lafayette to play, followed or preceded by all their fellow students and by many citizens of Crawfordsville. Several college Fords would be certain to break down on the way; but their occupants would be piled into other cars. All would arrive at old Stuart Field, noisily and hopefully. The Purdue band would march on with its vast bass drum, followed by the Purdue seniors in beribboned derby hats, intended to be thrown in air at the first touchdown – an intention that could not always in a Wabash game result in any hat-throwing. And the Wabash “Sea Goin” band would be there, in white trousers and red sweaters, making a noise and an appearance out of all proportion to its size. And then the game. And after the game a slow and almost always a happy progress down to the bridge over the river, and across it, and home to a welcoming Crawfordsville.

“Of the six Purdue games from 1920 to 1925 – there was no game in 1919 – Wabash won three, tied one, and lost two. The scores were:

1920       Purdue 19           Wabash 14

1921       Wabash 9            Purdue 0

1922       Wabash 7            Purdue 6

1923       Purdue 7              Wabash 7

1924       Purdue 21           Wabash 7

1925       Wabash 12          Purdue 7

“Not one of these games failed to make heroic in Wabash hearts and minds one, or two, or six, or all elven of sixteen or twenty, of the Wabash team engaged in it. To write a book on Wabash and not recount the deeds of these men seems sacrilege. But the memory of them is still fresh: the time has not yet come to consign them to the archives.”

And so with the men who played in all these games – and against the Michigan Aggies, and Franklin and Hanover and Millikan, and Marquette, and many another worthy rival unmentioned above. It was only yesterday that “Tiny” Knee was plunging through the line for Wabash, and Kessler and Aul and Milstead stopping enemy plays in their tracks, and Stasand and “Forky” Elliot picking forward passes out the air, and Singleton and Roll – but it is entirely necessary now to turn to basketball.”

Irvin Knee was born and raised in Wabash, Indiana so I guess one might say it was his destiny to attend here. A gifted athlete, Tiny played fullback on the football team and was a speedster taking top state honors in both the 100 and 200 yard dash events while in high school.

As a senior at Wabash, Tiny was a member of the four man team which won the 880 yard and medley in the national Drake Relays in Iowa. On campus Tiny was a big man – a member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity, he studied psychology, served on the student council, was a member of the Little Giants Club and served as president of the Athletic Association.

More than just a great athlete, Tiny was also a great man. For forty years he coached in Ripley, Tennessee and is described in a half page happy birthday ad placed in the Ripely paper by a the local bank  in 1968 as, “Outstanding coach in football and basketball and a prime mover in the development of track and field sports in West Tennessee. Planner and builder of one the state’s most beautiful sports arenas, named after him, Irvin Knee Field, and one of this area’s outstanding recreational complexes, known after him, as Tiny Town.”

Here is a link to a picture of the stadium, read down to the comments section for a lovely posting on Tiny. http://www.memphisflyer.com/AskVanceBlog/archives/2009/11/06/ripleys-tiny-knee-stadium

All best,
Beth Swift
Archivist
Wabash College
  1. Sam Hildebrand '61 #878

    Fun read. Sent this to my grandson who may consider Wabash. We can no longer match Purdue’s purchasing power for athletes but we can and do for scholars.

  2. Thanks for sharing this article. “Tiny” was my Great, Great Uncle. His brother, Harry, was my Great Grandfather. Tiny is being inducted to the Wabash High School Hall of Fame in Wabash, Indiana this year. His brother, Homer, was inducted last year.

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