This article was written by Chris Rainey
Long before the term “multitasker” made its way into our language, Paul Des Jardien epitomized the word. While a student at the University of Chicago, his goal was to win twelve letters in varsity competition.i In the fall he was an All-American football player, student, and line coach for his alma mater’s football team. Come spring he was known to compete in track meets and baseball games on the same day. Even after graduation he doubled up on his occupations. In 1916 he took on the head coaching job in football for Oberlin College in Ohio and played professional football for a Cleveland team.
Paul Raymond Des Jardien (day’ jar dean) was born in Coffeyville, Kansas, on August 24, 1893. His father was French or French/Canadian probably named Alphonse (census data provides only a first initial) and his mother, Elsie, was from Prussia. The couple met in Canadaii, but moved the family to the United States in the early 1880s. Paul was the youngest of seven children. His sisters were Ida and Anna. Census records are confusing because of the variations in spelling the last name (Des Jardien, Desjardine, Desjardien) and difficulty in reading old handwritten documents. An 1885 Kansas census suggests four older brothers; an 1895 lists only three, Alphonse, Edward, and Gustave (Gustaf?)iii. Paul’s father operated a mechanical shop in Coffeyville. When he died the family moved to Chicago. Paul attended Doolittle elementary school and then went on to Wendell Phillips High School. He enrolled in the University of Chicago in 1912.
The 6’4”, 200 pounder was obviously a fine, versatile athlete. An unknown high school teammate hung the ironic nickname “Shorty” on Paul and it stuck with him. Paul immediately became a starter on the university team coached by the legendary Amos Alonzo Stagg. He played center on offense and probably the equivalent to middle linebacker on defense. The University of Chicago Maroons participated in the Western Collegiate Conference, which was the precursor to the Big Ten. In his freshman season the league football title came down to a November 2 battle with Wisconsin. Paul helped his team by grabbing a deflected pass and running it 25 yards to set up a scoring opportunity. In the end, though, Wisconsin prevailed, 30-12. Shorty was named to Collier’s Magazine All-West first team. This was not as big an honor as making the Walter Camp All-American, but still noteworthy. That winter he played center on the basketball team and was named third team all-conference. In winter and spring track he was a high jumper and threw the discus, shot, and hammer. In May he showed his talents on “Northwestern Day” by winning the high jump, placing second in shot put and playing third base in a 6-4 victory over Northwestern.
In 1913, Paul again played on both sides of the ball and added kickoff specialist to his duties. He suffered an injury in a close game with Minnesota and played the pivotal game with Wisconsin at less than full strength in the Wisconsin victory. He was named to numerous first-team All-American squads including Collier’s, Vanity Fair, and the esteemed Walter Camp list. A pretty fair pass catcher named Knute Rockne was named third team on Camp’s squad. After the basketball season Shorty turned his attention to track and baseball again. On the diamond in Iowa City on May 1, he pitched a spectacular game, putting Chicago into first place. He struck out the first nine Iowa batters and finished the game with 14. More impressively he allowed no base runners in the 8-0 win. We know this as a perfect game, but that word was not used in the headlines of the day.
The Maroons’ hold on first place did not last as Paul lost to Ohio State 6-1 in his next outing. On May 16, Illinois ace and future pro ballplayer Red Gunkle stood in the way of a return to first place. Des Jardien outdueled Gunkle and his reliever, George Halas, for a 4-3 win. Earlier in the day, Paul had won the discus competition with a throw of 118 feet. The two teams would meet again in the league championship on May 29. Paul started in the field and came in for relief in the 4-3 loss.
Coach Stagg put a veteran, well seasoned team on the field in the fall of 1914. The Maroons beat Indiana 34-0 even with Des Jardien sitting out with an injury. Paul played sparingly in a 28-0 win over Northwestern the next week. He was back to his fulltime duty for victories over Iowa (7-0) and Purdue ( 21-0) which set up the yearly showdown with Wisconsin. Once again the Maroons defense did not allow a score, but nor could the offense put points on the board in the 0-0 tie. The team suffered a crushing loss the next week to Illinois, 21-7. The Minnesota Gophers were next up for a Halloween tilt and once again Paul suffered an injury in a 13-7 loss. A kick to the stomach sent him to St. Luke’s hospital where he remained for a month. In late December he went to Pinehurst, North Carolina, for further recuperation. His injury-riddled season did not keep him from being named second team by Walter Cam Coach Stagg proclaimed him the “greatest center who has ever played for a Chicago team.”iv
Paul recovered from his injury quickly enough to make appearances at the end of the basketball season. He was the leading scorer on February 27 with six points in a 19-15 win over Minnesota. As graduation approached newspapers carried the story that Paul and the Cubs had come to a verbal agreement that he would join the club. Manager Roger Bresnahan liked the prospects of adding Des Jardien. In fact, in 1916, when Bresnahan had moved on to Toledo, he still pursued Paul.v “Shorty” never signed with the Cubs and it is uncertain exactly what led to the decision.
The 1915 baseball season was a letdown for the Maroons and Des Jardien. After posting winning records in the previous two seasons (7-2 in 1913, 7-4 in 1914), the team limped in at 5-6-2. One of Paul’s lone highlights was beating Wisconsin, 3-0. Des Jardien chose to forgo a professional career for the moment and stayed with the Maroons team for a summer cross-country exhibition trip that preceded a planned trip to Hawaii, Japan, and the Philippines. Over the next six months the Chicago team would play more than 40 games. On the way to the West Coast, 15 games were played against local aggregations and minor league teams. In San Francisco, the team boarded the S.S. Magnolia and headed for Hawaii, where they played four games. The highlight was a 10-2 victory over the All-Army squad. The low point was a close loss to St. Louis University.
The team arrived in Japan in late September and took the field for the first time on September 24 against Waseda University in Tokyo. A crowd of 20,000 turned out to see the Maroons win 5-3 behind Des Jardien’s arm. He tossed a one-hitter, but walked five and hit two more. Four Maroon errors also aided the Waseda cause. Coach Pat Page was scheduled to pitch the next day versus the University of Keio. The Japanese team protested the use of Page, who was the team’s coach and former player and no longer a student. Page withdrew and Paul stepped in to throw again. The results were very similar, a one-hitter with five walks and four Maroon errors. Paul blasted a home run to lead the team to a 4-1 win. The Maroons would win all the games in Japan and then depart for the Philippines.vi
The trip was delayed ten days when the ship put in at Hong Kong to wait out a typhoon. They played eight games in Manila, posting a 6-1-1 record. The lone loss was to a team formed by the Reach Company. The tie was a ten-inning 0-0 game that “Shorty” pitched. Statistics provided by Coach Page give Des Jardien a record of 19-0-1 on the tri He also batted .263.vii
The team returned to the States on January 2, 1916, and Paul went back to Chicago to become an assistant basketball and baseball coach. In addition to his coaching duties he was dispatched to the West Coast in the spring to meet and escort the Waseda University team that was touring the states.viii Paul’s mother had a home near campus where he had lived during school. He continued to reside with his mother over the next few years when he was in Chicago. On May 4, Paul had a tryout at Comiskey Park in front of Manager Lee Fohl and owner Jim Dunn of the Cleveland Indians. He signed with Cleveland on May 5. The plan was to bring Des Jardien and Grover Lowdermilk along slowly while relying on five or six veteran arms. Fohl gave Paul daily work in the bullpen under the tutelage of Guy Morton and Jim Bagby. “I think I will make him a good pitcher. He already has learned to put more on his fast ball while his control is almost perfect,” said Fohl.ix
Fohl’s words about Paul’s control were far from prophetic. In Washington on May 20, Indians starter Ed Klepfer was touched for seven runs in the seventh inning. Paul was called upon to close out the game in a mop-up role. His debut saw him surrender walks to Milan, Henry, and Shanks, and give up two hits and three runs (two earned). He left for a pinch-hitter in the ninth and never saw action in another major league game.
The Cleveland Press ran an article on May 24 discussing the nature of the Tribe’s pitching staff. No mention was made of Des Jardien in any role. While Fohl had no immediate plans for Paul on the major league level he made an effort to develop him for possible use later on in the season. The Indians loaned Paul to the Bailey’s semipro team on May 28 for a game in League Park. Paul hurled Bailey’s to a 9-4 win over a team from Youngstown, Ohio. He surrendered only four hits, but walked five. He had a double, scored once and got an RBI.x Des Jardien remained with the Tribe until mid-June, when he was sent to the Charleston Sea Gulls of the Class C Sally League for the rights to pitcher Dana Fillingim.
His debut with the Gulls came on June 16, when he lost 11-1 at Jacksonville. He had a horrible first inning, walking two, making an error, and allowing four hits. For the game, he issued seven walks and made a balk. His next performance was at home versus Columbia. The Sea Gulls built a 9-2 lead, but five errors and Paul’s surrender of seven walks and 13 hits led to a 10-9 loss.xi He saw no further action with Charleston.
Cleveland president Jim Dunn was a Marshalltown, Iowa, native, and the Indians made unusually large use of players from the Central Association, especially Marshalltown. The Iowa team paid $300 for the rights to Des Jardien, subject to recall by Cleveland. The Marshalltown Times-Republican on July 28 carried extensive coverage of his debut. The Marshalltown Ansons were in Waterloo when Paul took the mound. The game was tied 2-2 going into the sixth when the Ansons scored six runs to break the game open. Included in the rally was a line drive by Des Jardien that found its way under the right field fence for a home run. The Ansons won 9-2. Paul would split his next six starts to give him a 4-3 record for the league champions. His play was limited by a bout with tonsillitis.xii
The Indians retained the rights to Paul for 1917 and assigned him to Evansville over the winter. However, Paul decided to return to Chicago and go into business. His professional baseball career totaled four wins and five losses in ten games.xiii “Shorty” stayed in Chicago for six months. The Plain Dealer announced on September 22 that he would take over the reins of the Oberlin College football team. His timing was poor for his first head-coaching job, because a fraternity scandal had decimated the ranks of veteran players and he was the replacement for a coach who was hospitalized. He took over less than two weeks before the season began. On October 7, the team suffered a humiliating 61-0 loss to Hiram. The next week they set a school record for worst defeat ever when Ohio State put a 128-0 drubbing to them. The Congregationalists (Oberlin is now the Yeomen) finished 0-7 and scored only 13 points.
While he coached the collegians on Saturdays, he played football for Peggy Parrett’s Cleveland Indians on Sundays. On October 29, they beat Akron 13-0 helped by Paul’s intercepted pass. The next week they traveled to Canton and suffered their first loss to the Bulldogs and Jim Thorpe. Two weeks later they hosted the Massillon Tigers and the passing duo of Gus Dorais and Knute Rockne. The teams fought to a scoreless tie. When football was through for the winter Des Jardien traveled to Pine Village, Indiana, to play with their top-rated basketball team.xiv
Back in Chicago Paul took a job with Sears Roebuck. He would stay with the company for many years as a salesman, supervisor, and buyer. He joined a semipro baseball team called the Mohawks. The clouds of war gathered and Paul was inducted. Like many college athletes he was sent to officer candidate training. He emerged a first lieutenant and was assigned to Fort Sheridan, where he played on the post football team. As part of a fundraiser for the military, Fort Sheridan took part in a Thanksgiving Day matchup with the Great Lakes Naval Station at Stagg Field in Chicago. This was one of seven matches played that weekend around the Midwest and helped bring in $100,000.
Deployed overseas, he eventually was posted to prison camp duty in Paris and remained in the army until the end of hostilities. Paul returned to his civilian life in Chicago and took up his professional football career again. He entertained notions of playing for the Canton Bulldogs, but chose instead to stay near home and played with the Hammond Pros in 1919. The team featured George Halas at wide receiver and played their home games at Wrigley Field. At Wrigley on November 9 they played Canton to a 3-3 tie. In 1920 he joined the Chicago Tigers in the American Professional Football Association, the original name for the National Football League. The next fall he coached a semipro team called the Liberties from St. Paul, Minnesota. It is likely that while in Minnesota he met a woman from St. Paul named Viva Mae Rasmussen. She was two years older than Paul and of Swedish decent. The couple was married on August 12, 1922. That fall Paul signed to play with the semipro Ironwood Legion in Ironwood, Michigan.xv He also played one game for the Minneapolis Marines.
Des Jardien retired from sports and took up family life with Viva. In 1924 daughter June joined the family. Paul eventually moved the family to Los Angeles and sometime in the 1940s left Sears Roebuck. Viva died in 1950 and Paul moved to Monrovia, California. By this time he was an executive with a sheet metal firm. In 1955 he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame along with notables like Davey O’Brien and Cliff Battles. He passed away at his home on March 7, 1956. Some obituaries attributed the death to a heart attack, others a blood clot in the brain. He was buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery. The University of Chicago started a sports Hall of Fame and inducted Paul in 2006.
Online sources included baseball reference, pro football reference, ancestry.com,”2000 Cups of Coffee” by Marc Okkunen, the University of Chicago website, Oberlin website and Google Books.com.
In addition to the newspapers noted above I consulted The Chicago Tribune, Canton Repository, Massillon Independent, Grand Forks Herald, San Diego Union, Daily Illinois State Register (Springfield, Ill), Ann Arbor News, Portland Oregonian.
Lloyd Johnson & Miles Wolff, eds. The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, 1993.
i An AP report that was taken from Salt Lake Telegram of December 14, 1914, on page 10 headlines the intention to get 12 letters.
ii According to records on ancestry.com Paul’s sister Ida E., also called Elsie, was born in Canada in 1881.
iii Ancestry.Com provided the Kansas census files. In 1885 the family included four boys. The 1895 census lists four boys, this time including a year-old Paul, but not mentioning an older brother listed in 1885. The same Salt Lake Telegram article mentioned above tells a story that an older brother died from a rugby injury while at college in Missouri. If true, that explains the missing oldest sibling.
iv Duluth News-Tribune, December 4, 1914, 11.
v Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 6, 1915, 6.
vi http://books.google.com has the University of Chicago Magazine available online. Volume 8 includes the November, 1915, January and February, 1916 editions that cover the Japan trips. Pp. 37, 38, 115, and 162 were used for this bio.
vii Google. Com/Books University of Chicago Magazine.
viii Tulsa World, March 17, 1916, 6.
ix The source of the quotation is the Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 17, 1916, 13.
x Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 29, 1916, 9.
xi Game info comes from the Charleston (SC) Evening Post.
xii Marshalltown Times-Republican over a two week period.
xiii Sources for this are the Plain Dealer from August 8, 1916 and February 27, 1917. An AP article noted earlier in February that he was assigned to Evansville. This would explain the listing of Evansville in 1916-17 in the book “2000 Cups of Coffee.” Neither baseball reference nor “2000 Cups” list his games with Charleston. Cleveland sent a pitcher named Shoup to Evansville, according to the February 27 report.
xiv Flint, Michigan, Journal, April 7, 1917, 12.
xv Duluth News-Tribune, October 12,1922, 10.