The Sporting Life: Stories from Chicago Collections archives

Academics and Athletics

Hemingway and High School

Member institutions have collections relating to all levels of academic athletic pursuits, but especially high school and college. Examples of high school material include Ernest Hemingway's 1915 season ticket to Oak Park High School's baseball season. Oak Park and River Forest High School opened up in 1892, and by Hemingway's enrollment in 1915 it was a well-established school, competing against other Chicagoland powerhouses like New Trier, Evanston Township and Senn. Hemingway himself covered athletics for his high school newspaper. He reports on baseball games from 1917, "Oak Park has won two games and lost one since April 21st, defeating New Trier and Crane and dropping a close tilt to Senn....The local squad lost a tight contest to Senn last Saturday, 4-1. Senn scored three runs in the ninth, breaking the knotted count and winning the game. Matthews hurled in good form and was knocked for only three safeties. Oak Park knocks out four safe swats but Noeller of Senn kept the hits scattered." (page 78, Hemingway at Oak Park High: The High School Writings of Ernest Hemingway, 1916-1917.)

You can also see Barbara Blatchford's 1912 Oak Park High School basketball team in the Image Gallery below. These images are from the Oak Park Public Library/Ernest Hemingway Foundation and the Newberry Library respectively, showing that sometimes you have to hunt through multiple collections and institutions for items on the same topic.

College Intramural Games

Intramural activities sponsored by colleges are also well represented in Chicago Collections. Here you can see images from both Loyola University Chicago and Illinois Institute of Technology. This Loyola image from 2001 shows students playing inline ball hockey. Roller hockey started in the United States in the 1940s, but did not become popular until the 1960s, when separate divisions were established for puck and ball hockey. These games used quad skates during the early years of the sport, with inline skates taking over in the early 1990s. Chicago played an important role in the development of inline hockey's history—Odeum Arena in Villa Park, Illinois hosted the first World Inline Roller Hockey Championships for Men in 1995, and the first Inline Hockey World Championships for Juniors occurred there again in 1996. There is another great example of intramural sports from Loyola below in the Image Gallery, this time showing intramural pushball from 1946.

Pick up and intramural games were popular ways to pass the time on college campuses, as you can also see in the 1956 image of pickup football from Illinois Institute of Technology. After World War II and the passage of the 1944 G.I. Bill, increased student enrollment also led to increased participation in intramural sports. In our Image Gallery below you can see another student from Illinois Institute of Technology below riding a unicycle in 1973. Activities in public campus spaces might change over time, but students still spend their active leisure time socializing and exercising in the quad.

Chandra Gooneratne and the University of Chicago

The University of Chicago also has a robust sports history, including the first Heisman trophy winner in 1935. Before the Heisman and before Stagg football field became the Regenstein Library, Chandra Gooneratne (center) led the polo team pictured here. Gooneratne was an undergraduate, master's and doctorate student at the University of Chicago, eventually earning a degree in comparative religion. He then traveled widely and lectured on the Chautauqua circuit about topics like Mahatma Gandhi, the poetry of Rabindranath Tagore, the cause of Indian independence and the need to abolish the caste system. A paragon of a well-rounded student, Gooneratne also participated in ROTC while in college and wrote passionately about political issues. His master's thesis states, "No nation ever rose to greatness by allotting to certain of its members fixed positions in the social scheme...‘Educate, agitate, organize’ and fight against social and political injustice are the watchwords of modern India."

Additional photographs of Chicago collegiate athletes appear in the Image Gallery, including three archers from the 1935 University of Chicago archery team and the football great Otto Graham when he was a student athlete at Northwestern University. See Women Athletes and Famous Faces for more information about each.

Learn More

There is more information about Academics and Athletics in EXPLORE Chicago Collections, as well as collections generally about SportsRecreation and Leisure and Education.

Sources consulted for information on this page not linked above and sources for further reading:

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  1. College students playing football, Illinois Institute of Technology, 1956
  2. Intramural In-line Hockey, 2001
  3. Athletics, Men's, Polo 2