August 23 (Morning) – NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame

This morning Debbie was enthusiastic about plans to visit the

Interestingly, the first [temporary] exhibit is a 1920 Hupmobile

Why does a car rate such important positioning in a Hall of Fame dedicated to all things football?

“It’s because one just like it witnessed the birth of what became the National Football League.

By 1920, professional football was experiencing growing pains, many of which stemmed from the fact that there were myriad state and regional leagues, each with its own guidelines and schedules. As salaries rose, players migrated from team to team and league to league in search of the largest payday. There were also varying policies and issues regarding college stars playing pro football while still attending college.

Ralph Hay, an Ohio car dealer with a Hupmobile showroom at the corner of Second and Cleveland streets in Canton, became the owner of the highly successful Canton Bulldogs in 1918. Over the next few years, he and other pro football team owners began to realize that an organization to oversee many teams on a national level that could also standardize the rules was the next logical step for the sport.

The result of an August 20, 1920, meeting at the Ralph E. Hay Motor Company in Canton, Ohio, which was attended by representatives from the Akron Pros, the Canton Bulldogs, the Cleveland Indians (Tigers in 1920 but Indians before and after), and the Dayton Triangles resulted in the formation of the American Professional Football Conference.

Less than a month later, on September 17, a second meeting was held at the same location and drew reps from teams beyond Ohio’s borders – the Hammond Pros and Muncie Flyers from Indiana and the Rock Island Independents, Decatur Staleys (the team George Halas served as a player-coach for prior to being renamed the Chicago Staleys after he became its player-coach-owner and then became the Chicago Bears), and Racine Cardinals from Illinois were among them. Some sources indicate that The Rochester Jeffersons rep and the Buffalo All-Americans rep could not attend but sent letters of intent to join the league. By the end of the meeting, the American Professional Football Conference became the American Professional Football Association, and 1912 Olympic Gold medal winner and star player for the Bulldogs, Jim Thorpe, became its president.

Also in attendance at that historic meeting was a 1920 Hupmobile, just like the one pictured here. Dubbed “Pro Football’s Most Significant Automobile,” according to the placard next to the car, Hall of Famer, George Halas, recalled that there weren’t enough chairs for all who attended the meeting, so some of the representatives of the teams sat on the running boards of the Hupmobile while making pro football history that night in Canton. Two years later, the American Professional Football Association was renamed the National Football League.”

The Hall, itself, does an excellent job of tracing the history and hundreds of highlights

not only of the League, but also the evolution of the football,

equipment to protect players

 

and League’s racial stain of banning African Americans before allowing them to again play … and the slower ability to join coaching staffs and team and League management positions.

However I was personally disappointed in the room where the busts of the 346 inductees, primarily because of the lighting and etched names which were very difficult to read.

That said, a quick quiz … can you name the following nine players, all of who I watched dating back to the early 1950s?

In the center of the rotunda stands a larger-than-life statue of perhaps America’s “greatest athlete” and the first president of the NFL … Jim Thorpe.

Just before the season-ending series between the Canton Bulldogs and the arch-rival Massillon Tigers in 1915, Bulldogs general manager Jack Cusack signed the most famous athlete of the age, Jim Thorpe, for the princely sum of $250 a game.

Thorpe was everything Cusack expected him to be – an exceptional talent and an unparalleled gate attraction. With Thorpe as star and coach, the Bulldogs claimed unofficial world championships in 1916, 1917, and 1919. His mere presence moved pro football a giant step forward in the public’s estimation.

In 1920, when the National Football League was organized, the charter members named Thorpe league president. While Thorpe’s exploits tend to be exaggerated with the passing years, there is no question he was superb in every way. He could run with speed as well as bruising power. He could pass and catch passes with the best, punt long distances and kick field goals either by dropkick or placekick.

Often he would demonstrate his kicking prowess during halftimes by placekicking field goals from the 50-yard line, then turning and dropkicking through the opposite goal post. He blocked with authority and, on defense, was a bone-jarring tackler.

Of mixed French, Irish, and Sac and Fox Indian heritage, Thorpe was born in a one-room cabin in Oklahoma, but when he was sixteen his father sent him to the Carlisle Institute, a school for Indian youth. His Native-American name was Wa-Tho-Huk, meaning “Bright Path,” something he was destined to follow in the sports world.

Excellent at every sport he tried, he gained his greatest fame by winning the decathlon and pentathlon events at the 1912 Olympics, only to have his medals taken away because he had once been paid to play minor-league baseball (the medals were restored posthumously in 1982). Although he played six seasons of major-league baseball, football always remained his favorite sport.

 

 

ANSWERS:

  1.  John Elway
  2. Lawrence Taylor
  3. Joe Green
  4. O J Simpson
  5. Joe Namath
  6. Brett Farve
  7. Peyton Manning
  8. Otto Graham
  9. Bobby Layne
  10. Gale Sayers

 

 

 

 

 

This entry was posted in Pro Football Hall of Fame. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *