October 13, 2012

AAFC (1946-49) featuring the Cleveland Browns – map with selected uniforms and logos of the teams: Baltimore Colts (I), Brooklyn football Dodgers [AAFC], Buffalo Bisons/Bills (I), Chicago Rockets/Hornets, Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Dons, Miami Seahawks, New York football Yankees [AAFC], San Francisco 49ers.

Please note – I am posting this AAFC map and parts of my upcoming NFL, AFC North post here, so that there will be a stand-alone article on the AAFC in my archive. The NFL, AFC North post can be seen by clicking on the following link,
NFL, AFC North – Map, with short league-history side-bar & titles list (up to 2012 season) / Logo and helmet history of the 4 teams (Ravens, Bengals, Browns, Steelers).

    Below: map of the AAFC, with selected AAFC uniforms and logos

AAFC (1946-49) map
Image credits above – map of 1940s USA from Illustrations of AAFC uniforms from teams,, Photo of LA Dons ticket from: Photo of 1949 AAFC Chicago Hornets media guide from Photo of 1946 Cleveland Browns game program from,_September_1946.png. Logos of AAFC teams from and [look in NFL section near bottom of 1st page there].

    The Cleveland Browns, est. 1946 as a team in the rival league called the AAFC (1946-49)

The white-helmeted Cleveland Browns were the flagship franchise of a rival pro football league called the All-America Football Conference, which challenged the NFL in the late 1940s. The Browns origins date to 1944, when taxi-cab magnate Arthur ‘Mickey’ McBride secured the rights to a Cleveland franchise in the soon-to-be-formed All-America Football Conference. The AAFC existed for 4 seasons, starting in 1946, and for its first 3 seasons it had 8 teams, and in its final season in 1949 it had 7 teams.

The AAFC was the brainchild of Chicago Tribune sports editor Arch Ward. Several of the AAFC owners were actually better capitalized than some of the NFL owners at the time (back then, basically, NFL teams other than the Bears, the Giants and the Redskins were usually in poor financial shape). The AAFC challenged the NFL directly in the USA’s 3 biggest cities – in Los Angeles with the Los Angeles Dons, in Chicago with the Chicago Rockets, and in New York City with 2 teams…the New York Yankees (AAFC, 1946-49) and the Brooklyn Dodgers (AAFC, 1946-48).

AAFC Stadia -
The Cleveland Browns played at the 78,000-capacity Cleveland Municipal Stadium (and would play there until 1995). One of the teams in the AAFC played in the same stadium that their NFL city-rival were playing in – from 1946 to ’49, the Los Angeles Coliseum in Los Angeles, CA hosted both the Los Angeles Rams (NFL) and Los Angeles Dons (AAFC). The Brooklyn football Dodgers (AAFC) played at the Brooklyn baseball Dodgers’ Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, NY (note: the NFL’s Brooklyn football Dodgers played 15 seasons in the NFL but had folded two years before [in 1944]). The Chicago AAFC team, first called the Rockets then called the Hornets, played at Soldier Field (however, the NFL’s Chicago Bears played at Wrigley Field back then, and would not play in Soldier Field until 1971). The New York football Yankees of the AAFC played at Yankee Stadium (while the NFL’s New York Giants played at the Polo Grounds back then). The Buffalo Bisons, who changed their name to the Buffalo Bills (I) in the second AAFC season in 1947, played at the first version of War Memorial Stadium in Buffalo, which only had a capacity of 30,000 and did not yet have the giant looming roofed grandstand (which was built in 1960). The Baltimore Colts (I) of the AAFC played in Balltimore’s Municipal Stadium, which only had a single deck back then and a capacity of 30,000 (back in the 1946 to 1953 time period) [the second incarnation of the Baltimore Colts (II), also played at Baltimore's Memorial Stadium from 1953 to 1983]. The San Francisco 49ers of the AAFC played at Kezar Stadium, which was (and still is) a utilitarian-single-stand-with-bleachers-bowl-shape stadium with a 59,000-capacity that was built in a residential neighborhood of San Francisco which was adjacent to Golden Gate Park. The Forty-Niners played at Kezar Stadium from 1946-49 in the AAFC and from 1950 to 1970 in the NFL. The hapless and doomed Miami Seahawks played at the Orange Bowl to tiny crowds, then packed up and moved to Baltimore in ’47.

It may surprise some folks that the AAFC actually outdrew the NFL. From 1946 to 1949, the AAFC, averaged 38,310 a game, versus the 27,602 per game that the NFL drew back then {see this pdf, THE COFFIN CORNER: Vol. 2, No. 7 (1980). “ALL-AMERICA FOOTBALL CONFERENCE”, By Stan Grosshandler.

What made the AAFC a better draw than the NFL in the late 1940s? The huge popularity of the Cleveland Browns there in northeast Ohio, who drew 60,000 to fill Cleveland Municipal Stadium in their first AAFC game on September 6, 1946 (you can see the game program for that first Cleveland Browns game on the map page above), and went on to draw between 40,000 and 50,000 for most of their home games in the AAFC. {Here are the uniforms of the 1947 AAFC Cleveland Browns (} But it wasn’t just the Browns that were drawing above or near the NFL average – 3 other cities that had no NFL franchises at the time – San Francisco, Baltimore, and Buffalo – had AAFC teams that were drawing in the mid-20,000s-to-30,000s-per-game-range. Those 3 teams were the red-and-silver San Francisco 49ers {here are the uniforms of the 1948 AAFC San Francisco 49ers}, the green-and-silver-Baltimore Colts {here are the uniforms of the ‘1948 AAFC Baltimore Colts}; and the original Buffalo Bills (AAFC, 1947-49), who wore dark-blue-and-silver {here are the uniforms of the ‘1949 AAFC Buffalo Bills}. Of those 3, Baltimore had the smaller crowds (low 20K range), Buffalo played almost to capacity in their 30K-capacity stadium, and San Francisco drew the highest of the three, usually drawing above 30,000 and even getting 40,000 a few times. Another solid and very-good-drawing team in the AAFC was the New York football Yankees (AAFC, 1946-49), who lost to the Browns twice in the AAFC championship game – by score of 14-9 in 1946 in front of 41,000 at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium, and in the following season (1947) the football Yankees lost again to the Browns in the title-game, by the score of 14-3 in front of an impressive 60,000 at Yankee Stadium. The AAFC Yankees, like their baseball namesakes, wore dark-navy-blue as their primary color, and added a secondary color of grey {here are the uniforms of the 1946 AAFC New York Yankees}. The Yankees of the AAFC probably would have been able to survive as an NFL team had the NFL allowed them to join in 1950, but the NFL chose not to let in any AAFC teams from cities which already had an NFL team or teams (ie, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York City).

The only problem with the AAFC, one that would prove to be its undoing, was the fact that the Cleveland Browns were too successful, and that, coupled with the fact that the AAFC had no draft, made all the other teams in the league unable to stay competitive with the Browns. A very telling statistic was this…the last 2 AAFC title games, both played in Cleveland, only drew 22,000, because everyone knew it was a foregone conclusion that the Browns would win those games (they won over the Bills 49-7 in front of 22,981 in 1948 and 21-7 over the 49ers in front of 22,550 in the last ever AAFC game in 1949 {see this, ‘AAFC/championship games‘ (}. Another problem was the weakness of the last 2 AAFC franchises to form – the Brooklyn team and the Miami franchise (which moved to Baltimore after losing $350,000 as the Miami Seahawks in 1946). The Brooklyn team closed up after the third AAFC season (1948) and merged with the Yankees AAFC team for the league’s last season in 1949 (they were officially called the Brooklyn-New York Yankees, but no one called them that). The Miami-to-Baltimore franchise was always under-capitalized, while the green-and-silver original Baltimore Colts (I) were never able to muster the large support that the second (blue-and-white) Baltimore Colts (II) had. The Baltimore Colts of the AAFC were the weakest of the 3 teams that the NFL allowed to join in 1950 and only lasted one season. As it says in the AAFC page at, …{excerpt}…”There was some sentiment to admit the Bills rather than the Colts, as the Bills had better attendance and the better team. However, Buffalo’s size (only Green Bay was smaller) and climate were seen as problems”…{end of excerpt}. The NFL chose the Colts (I) instead of the Bills (I) as an expansion team in 1950, and the city of Buffalo would have to wait another 20 years before they got a modern-day NFL franchise.

Three AAFC franchises joined the NFL in 1950 – the Cleveland Browns (NFL, 1950-95; 1999-2012), the San Francisco 49ers (NFL, 1950-2102), and the short-lived original Baltimore Colts (I) (NFL, 1950/defunct).

In less than 4 years, the NFL went from officially ignoring and publicly mocking the AAFC to allowing three teams from the AAFC to join the NFL in 1950. In 1946, NFL commissioner Elmer Layden had remarked that the new AAFC should, “first get a ball, then make a schedule, and then play a game.” That sarcastic statement, often later paraphrased in the media as “tell them to get a ball first”, would not be forgotten. Especially when you consider what an ex-AAFC team did 4 seasons later…the Cleveland Browns won the NFL championship in their first season in the NFL in 1950, with virtually the same squad that had steamrolled through all four years of the AAFC.

    The Cleveland Browns – from AAFC champions to NFL champions in 1950, as an expansion team.

Image and Photo credits above -
Helmet and uniform illustrations from
Photo of 1951 Bowman Paul Brown trading card from
Tinted b&w photo of Otto Graham unattributed at
Photo of 1950 Bowman trading card of Lou Groza at
Photo of Jim Brown from
Photo of Marion Motley in 1948 AAFC championship game from Cleveland Plain Dealer archive via

The Cleveland Browns were founded in the 1946 as a charter franchise of the All-America Football Conference (AAFC), with Paul Brown, the team’s namesake and a pioneering figure in professional football, as its first head coach and General Manager. Paul Brown first made his name as a 34-year-old head coach who led the Ohio State Buckeyes to the school’s first national football championship (in 1942, as the AP #1). During World War II, Paul Brown served in the U.S. Navy near Chicago as a coach and instructor at the Great Lakes Naval Station, where he coached the football team. Later, in 1945-46, when he formed his first Cleveland Browns team, Brown utilized the contacts he had made within both the college football world and within the military. For example, during his time in the Navy there at the Naval Station near Chicago, Paul Brown first met his future Cleveland Browns’ quarterback Otto Graham, who was attending Northwestern University and who became a Navy flier. Brown then signed Graham in April 1945 plucking a future-gridiron-star before any NFL team could ever draft him. Many of the Cleveland Browns players in 1946 were military veterans. With standout players such as Otto Graham (at QB, running a then-innovative T-formation offense), pioneering player Marion Motley (a running back and linebacker and one of the first black players in pro football in the modern era), and northeast-Ohio-born Lou Groza (who doubled as the team’s placekicker and as an offensive tackle), the Cleveland Browns won all 4 AAFC championships.

From ‘Paul Brown‘ (,
{excerpt}…”Brown is credited with a number of American football innovations. He was the first coach to use game film to scout opponents, hire a full-time staff of assistants, and test players on their knowledge of a playbook. He invented the modern face mask, the taxi squad and the draw play. He also played a role in breaking professional football’s color barrier, bringing some of the first African-Americans to play pro football in the modern era onto his teams.”…{end of excerpt}.

Under Paul Brown, not only did the Cleveland Browns win all 4 of the the AAFC’s championships, the Browns also drew huge crowds, averaging a record-setting 57,000 per game in the first season of the AAFC in 1946. Cleveland Browns’ crowds were often above 50,000, and the Browns averaged a much, much higher gate than the NFL of the late 1940s. The Browns continued to succeed after moving to the NFL in 1950. Cleveland won the NFL championship in its first NFL season, and won two more titles in 1954 and 1955. By then, the Browns had appeared in 10 straight championship games (4 in the AAFC, then 6 in the NFL), and won 7 of them.

    Enter Art Modell, exit Paul Brown, and the start of Cleveland Browns fans’ trials and tribulations…

Then Art Modell, who made his money in the New York City advertising industry, bought the team in 1961, fired Paul Brown two years later, and reigned over a team that won just 1 more NFL championship title but never made a Super Bowl appearance, then announced he intended to moved the team to Baltimore in 1996 despite the fact that the city of Cleveland was about to vote on a new stadium referendum (which passed). Art Modell never set foot in Cleveland again after he took the Browns’ front office and the Browns’ player roster to Baltimore, to become the Baltimore Ravens (NFL, 1996-2012). Cleveland Browns supporters raised such an outcry that the NFL was forced to make the unprecedented move of forcing Modell to return the Cleveland Browns’ records, history, colors, and uniform design back to Cleveland to await the re-birth of the Cleveland Browns’ franchise. That occurred in 1999. The only problem was – Modell took that 1995 Cleveland Browns team and turned it into the 2000 Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl champions. So Browns fans might have got their team back, but they will always wonder what might have been if the ’95 Browns had remained in Cleveland.


Thanks to Logoshak for many of the AAFC logos.
Thanks to for several AAFC logos.
Thanks to the contributors to the pages at, ‘All-America Football Conference‘.
Thanks to Chris Creamer’s Sports Logos Page at, for some logos and for dates of logos.
Thanks to The Gridiron Uniform Database for allowing billsportsmaps the use of the site’s helmet and uniform illustrations, teams [APFA, NFL, AAFC),,

January 29, 2008

NFL Thumbnail Histories: The AAFC; the Cleveland Browns; the San Francisco 49ers; and the Baltimore Colts/ Indianapolis Colts.

Click on the image below for my map of NFL, 1920-1960, plus helmets of 49ers and Colts…

The All American Football Conference was formed in 1944, but did not begin play until 1946, due to World War II.  The AAFC had advantages that other competitor-leagues did not.  The AAFC was bankrolled by ownership groups that were, in most cases, wealthier than their NFL counterparts.  And the founder of the league, Arch Ward, was editor of the influential Chicago Tribune newspaper.  This gave the new league much more media attention.  Also, the league began right after a major disruption in the NFL (ie, World War II).


There was one big problem with the AAFC, though.  That was the disparity in team strength.  And while it was true that the Cleveland Browns won all 4 of the AAFC’s Titles, to say they were the only good team would be untrue, as the San Francisco 49ers, the New York (Football) Yankees, and the Buffalo Bills all fielded strong squads.  But aside from the Los Angeles Dons, the other franchises, such as the Chicago Rockets, the Brooklyn Dodgers, and the spectacularly unsuccessful Miami Seahawks, held the league back.  In the end, the league’s lack of a draft kept the talent levels static: the Browns dominated to the point of turning the AAFC boring. 

The crowds that Cleveland, San Francisco, Buffalo, and Baltimore drew could not be ignored, though, and the NFL opted for a merger in 1950.  They balked at allowing the Buffalo Bills in, though, citing the city’s small size, and cold weather (and ignoring the fact that Green Bay is smaller and colder).   So the Cleveland Browns, the San Francisco 49ers, and the original Baltimore Colts were given franchises in the NFL.  The Colts lasted only one season (another franchise was formed as the Baltimore Colts three years later(1953)).   The fans in Buffalo had to wait another decade for football, when the town won a franchise in the AFL (of 1960 to 1969).

Thanks to the SSUR, and (

January 14, 2008

NFL Thumbnail Histories: the Cleveland Rams/ Los Angeles Rams/ St. Louis Rams.


The St. Louis Rams have a convoluted history. The NFL Rams’ franchise played 8 seasons in Cleveland, OH; 49 seasons in Los Angeles/Orange County, CA, and are currently [2011] playing their 17th season in St. Louis, MO. [Update, January 2016: after 21 seasons in St. Louis, the Rams franchise has moved back to Los Angeles, effective for the 2016 season, where they will play in the Los Ageles Coliseum (once again), for a projected 2 seasons, until the new stadium in Inglewood is built for the 2019 season - see this, NFL Returns to Los Angeles With Rams & Sleek Stadium (by Keith Flamer at]

The Rams’ NFL franchise traces its roots to the Cleveland Rams of the short-lived AFL (II) of 1936-37. This 6-then-8-team league lasted just 2 years. Attorney Homer Marshman founded the Cleveland Rams in 1936. His general manager Damon “Buzz” Wetzel suggested their nickname, after the Fordham (NY) Rams college football team (his favorite team). Like the Fordham Rams, the Cleveland Rams originally wore red and black (in the AFL in 1936, and in their first season in the NFL in 1937). After the Rams’ 1936 season in the AFL (II), where they finished in second place to the Boston Shamrocks, Marshman learned of the NFL’s intention of expanding for the 1937 season, and his bid was selected over bids from groups in Los Angeles and Houston (the NFL wished to keep its teams, at that point in time, in a concentrated area of the Northeast and the Upper Midwest). So the Cleveland Rams bolted from the AFL (II), after the 1936 season, and the Rams joined the NFL as an expansion team, while that AFL lasted one more season (1937), and folded. No front office or coaching staff, and just four 1936 Rams’ players made the jump over from the AFL of 1936 to the Cleveland Rams of the 1937 NFL. {See this photo of Mike Sebastian, William “Bud” Cooper, Harry “The Horse” Mattos, and Stan Pincura (the four members of the original AFL-mark-2 Cleveland Rams team [1936], who joined the new NFL Cleveland Rams team in 1937).} The NFL considers the AFL (II) (1936) version of the Cleveland Rams to be a separate entity.

The Cleveland Rams joined the NFL’s Western Division in 1937, making the league a balanced 10-team league again, and filling the gap left by the Cincinnati (football) Reds, who were an expansion team in 1933 (along with Pittsburgh and Philadelphia), but folded midway through the following season (1934). The Cleveland Rams played their first 2 NFL seasons in the cavernous Cleveland Municipal Stadium, but were barely able fill even a fraction of it. The club had a very poor first season, going 1-10. The next season they changed their uniforms to navy blue and yellow-orange; they finished 4-7. In 1939, the Cleveland Rams began playing in dark royal blue and yellow-orange, which would become the colors of the Rams’ franchise from 1939 to 1948, from 1950 to 1963, and from 1973 to 1999 (51 seasons). [The St. Louis Rams have been wearing navy blue and metallic gold since 2000.] The Cleveland Rams organization had a shaky start in the NFL, even playing in a high school football stadium for a while (in 1938, at Shaw Stadium in East Cleveland). They played at Municipal Stadium in 1936 and ’37, from 1939 to ’41, and in December 1945 in the NFL Championship Game. For some games in 1937, and for the 1942, 1944 and ’45 seasons, the Rams played mostly at League Park (which was home of the MLB team the Cleveland Indians from 1901 to 1946). The Cleveland Rams were forced to remain dormant for the 1943 season due to lack of players, because of World War II. The team never had a winning season until UCLA phenom Bob Waterfield was drafted by the team in early 1945. For the 1945 season, Warfield immediately started as quarterback. He also handled kicking and punting duties, as well as playing defensive back (with 20 interceptions in 4 years). Waterfield led the team to a 9-1 record, and they faced the Washington Redskins in the 1945 NFL Championship Game. The Rams beat the Redskins 15-14, on a frozen field, at the Cleveland Municipal Stadium, with Waterfield throwing touchdown passes of 37 and 44 yards. But the margin of victory was the 2 point safety that was awarded to the Rams, after a Redskin pass attempt in their end-zone struck the field goal crossbar, and fell to the ground. {1945 NFL Championship Game.} Bob Waterfield was voted the league’s Most Valuable Player for 1945. That was the first time in the NFL that a rookie won the honor.

The 1945 title game was the last game the Rams played in Cleveland. Their owner at the time, Daniel Reeves, claimed the team had lost $40,000 that year, despite winning the title. He was also threatened by the presence of a Cleveland team in the nascent All-America Football Conference (1946-1949). This league was formed in late 1944, but put off playing the 1945 season because of World War II. By late 1945, it was becoming apparent to the Rams management that this new AAFC team, to be called the Cleveland Browns, would put a dent in the already thin Rams’ fan support. Reeves began talking to the city of Los Angeles about playing at the 90,000 seat Memorial Coliseum. In January 1946, the Cleveland Rams moved west to California. When the Los Angeles Rams began play in the fall of 1946, they became the first major-league team in America to set up shop west of St. Louis, Missouri. Which is ironic, because 48 years later, the franchise would move to St.Louis.

The Los Angeles Rams ended up as trailblazers on another front, as well. Because the Memorial Coliseum commissioners stipulated that as part of the lease agreement, the Los Angeles Rams must be integrated. So the Rams signed two black UCLA players, Kenny Washington {see this}, and Woody Strode {see this}. The Los Angeles Rams played at the 90-to-100,000-capacity Memorial Coliseum from 1946 to 1979 ( 34 years).

And the Los Angeles Rams were trailblazers on yet another front…In 1948, Rams halfback and off-season commercial artist Fred Gehrke painted the team’s helmets with a set of ram’s horns. This became the first example of an insignia on the helmet of a pro football team. You can see an illustration of Gehrke’s 1948 LA Rams helmet, as well as all the helmet designs of the NFL Rams below. Here is an excerpt from the ‘Fred Gehrke‘ page at…
{excerpt}…’In the mid-1940s Gehrke toyed with the notion of painting a football helmet. Rams coach, Bob Snyder suggested that Fred paint a helmet with the ram horns on it that he could present to the team’s owner Dan Reeves. Fred painted two ram horns on an old college helmet and presented the design to Reeves, who was intrigued by the design. Reeves then contacted the NFL for a ruling on legality of having a football helmet painted. It was reported that the answer Reeves received from NFL was “You’re the owner; do what you want!” Reeves then tasked Gehrke to paint 75 helmets at $1.00 per helmet. The project took Gehrke the entire summer of 1948. The newly painted helmets debuted during a pre-season match-up between the Rams and Redskins at the Los Angeles Coliseum before a crowd of [77,000]. Upon seeing the new helmets the crowd began cheering which was followed by a five-minute standing ovation. To this day, Gehrke’s rams horn logo is still worn by the team.’…{end of except}.

Here is a good article on Gehrke and his designing of the Rams helmet logo, from Sports Illustrated, from Sept. 5 1994, by Mark Mandemach, ‘Rembrandt Of The Rams
Fred Gehrke got out his brushes and changed helmets forever
‘ (

Photo and Image credits above -

Below, courtesy of, here is a helmet history of the Cleveland/Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams that I put together…
Above: Helmet illustrations from:

The Los Angeles Rams were about to enter their glory days. They ended up playing in four NFL Championship Games between 1949 and 1955. And though they only won one NFL title in this period, in 1951, the greatness of this team cannot be diminished. Wide receivers Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch and Tom Fears were the Rams two big offensive weapons. Bob Waterfield, and from 1950 on, Norm Van Brocklin, both helmed the squad at quarterback. For a while the two worked in tandem, which is unheard of in pro football. To say the team emphasized the passing game would be an understatement. In 1950, the NFL began allowing unlimited substitutions, and the Rams exploited the rule change. The 1950 Rams ended up averaging an all-time NFL record 38.8 points per game that season {see this post on the 5 highest scoring teams in NFL history}. Their wide-open offense proved so popular that the Rams became the first pro football team to have all its games televised. Despite their local television deal, the LA Rams of the mid-to late 1950s still drew extremely well. In 1958, for example, when the Rams went 8-4, they averaged 83,680 per game (6 games), including 100,470 for the Chicago Bears and 100,202 for the Baltimore Colts.

Below, the Rams’ first star, QB/K/P/DB Bob Waterfield – Photo on left: seen with his high school sweetheart and wife of 20 years, the film star Jane Russell. Photo in middle: Waterfield seen charging down the sideline for a 13-yard touchdown run versus the [now-defunct] Baltimore Colts of 1951, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Sunday, October 22, 1950 – final score Los Angeles Rams 70, Baltimore Colts 27 {boxscore from, here}. At right is an [unattributed] illustration of Bob Waterfield in his 1948 LA Rams uniform (but with a 1950 Rams’ jersey {thanks for catching that, Tony A! [see comment #8, below in the Comments section]})….
Image credits – ’100 Greatest Quarterbacks in NFL History Part II: 50-21‘ (

There were two other successful periods for the Rams in Los Angeles. In the mid-to-late 1960s, the Rams featured the Fearsome Foursome, the great defensive line of Rosey Grier, Merlin Olsen, Deacon Jones, and Lamar Lundy. The 1967 Rams, who were led by head coach George Allen, went 11-2-1, and became the first NFL team to draw over a million spectators in a season (14 games [ie, home and away gate figures combined]). In 1969, Allen hired a 33-year old Dick Vermeil to be the NFL’s first-ever special teams’ coach; the Rams went 11-3 that year. But these Rams were never able to win in the playoffs. And the next good Rams teams, of the mid-to-late 1970s (who were coached by Chuck Knox) had the same problem, losing in the NFC Championship Game 4 times in 5 seasons (1974-76; 1978). The Los Angeles Rams did make it to the Super Bowl – once – in the 1979 season, but lost to Pittsburgh 31-19 in Super Bowl XIV.

In 1980 the Rams moved south-east of the Upton Park neighborhood of south Los Angeles (where the Coliseum is located), to Anaheim, Orange County, CA and Anahiem Stadium (home of the MLB team the California Angels). The Rams needed a smaller stadium, because the dreaded blackout rule was killing them – they couldn’t come close to selling out the then-93,000-capacity Coliseum, so their product was being diminished in their home town because games were being blacked out. The solution was a smaller venue. The Rams played at the 69,000-capacity Anaheim Stadium for 15 seasons (1980-94), but that situation never really worked out for the Rams (or, actually, for the Angels as well, because the renovations made at the stadium to accommodate the Rams ruined the atmosphere for baseball games there, and after the Rams left, the Angels pretty much gutted the stadium and returned it to the respectable, mid-40,000-capacity ballpark it originally was). By the early 1990s, the Rams were foundering, both on-field and with respect to waning fan interest and another inadaquete stadium situation. They found that neither Orange County nor the city of Los Angeles was willing to build a new stadium, and, true to the tenor of the times, the Los Angeles Rams became yet another NFL team in the first half of the 1990s that openly courted other cities (to get a free stadium). Baltimore, MD was first sought after (Baltimore would steal the Browns from Cleveland soon after, in 1995/96), but that deal fell through.

The city of St. Louis, now 7 years without an NFL team, stepped up with a sweetheart deal, and the Rams moved back east, to St. Louis, Missouri. The St. Louis Rams did not change their uniforms at all when they first moved to Missouri (they did do an overhaul of their gear in 2000 [right after they had won the Super Bowl], switching to navy blue and turning their rams’ horns and trim color from yellow-orange to metallic gold). For the first half of the 1995 season, the Rams played at Busch Stadium (II), then moved into the publicly-financed Trans World Dome in November 1995 [the stadium is now called the Edward Jones Dome].

The Rams continued their lackluster form until ex-Eagles coach Dick Vermeil came out of retirement, returning to the Rams’ organization and taking the Rams’ head coach job in 1997. The Rams of this era became a very high-powered offensive force that featured WR Isaac Bruce and RB Marshall Faulk (Hall of Fame, 2011) and were led by a QB, Kurt Warner, who came out of nowhere – from the Iowa Barnstormers of the now-defunct Arena Football League. Warner went from stocking supermarket shelves to hoisting the Super Bowl trophy in 5 years flat. In the 1999 season, in Super Bowl XXXIV [39], the Rams beat the Tennessee Titans by a score of 23-16, with the final touchdown a 73-yard completion from Warner to Bruce, and with the win clinched by a last-second, one-yard-line tackle by Rams’ linebacker Mike Jones on Titans’ WR Kevin Dyson {see this ‘Final play of Super Bowl XXXIV‘}.

Photo credits – unattributed at, ‘Top 10 NFL games of the 2000s‘.

The Rams won 2 NFL Championship titles (1946 [as the Cleveland Rams], 1951 [as the Los Angeles Rams]).
St. Louis Rams: 1 Super Bowl title (1999).
The Rams are 1-2 in Super Bowl appearances [losing to the Steelers in the 1979 season, and losing to the Patriots in the 2000 season].

Thanks to the contributors to the pages at, ‘NFC West‘.

Special thanks to Tim Brulia, Bill Schaefer and Rob Holecko of the Gridiron Uniforms Database, for giving permission to use images from their gridiron uniform database.

January 11, 2008

NFL Thumbnail Histories: the Philadelphia Eagles, the Pittsburgh Pirates/ Steelers.

Click below for for full screen, with Map.

Note: click on the image of the Eagles’ helmets (at the top of the page) to see my map of the NFL circa 1920-1960, plus Steelers’ helmets.

In the late 1920′s, the Frankford Yellow Jackets, of Philadelphia, were a solid franchise.  They had won the 1926 NFL Title, and could draw around 15,000 fans to their games, even though they had to play on Saturdays.  This was because of the draconian “Blue Laws” in the state of Pennsylvania, which curtailed many activities on Sundays, including the playing of professional sporting matches.  But in a few years, the Yellow Jackets became just another casualty of the Great Depression.  They folded part-way through the 1931 season.

In 1933, Pennsylvania relaxed the Blue Laws.  That cleared the way for the NFL to establish a stronger presence there.  That year, three new franchises joined the NFL, two of them from the Keystone State:  the Philadelphia Eagles, and the Pittsburgh (Football) Pirates.  The third new team was the Cincinnati (Football) Reds, who only lasted one and a half seasons.

The Philadelphia Eagles inherited the defunct Yellow Jackets’ franchise, though only a few players came over (I could only find one:  center Art Koeninger).    The Pittsburgh Pirates mimicked the town’s basball club with their name, but changed their name to the Steelers, in 1940, in honor of the region’s steel-making industry.  Both clubs were pretty poor in their first decade: the Eagles failed to post a winning season;  the Steelers finally managed one in their tenth year, in 1942.   At the height of World War II, in 1943, the two clubs were forced to merge, due to the lack of able-bodied men on the domestic front.  They were officially called the Philadelphia Eagles, but fans began calling them the “Steagles.”  [Also, the NFL record book refers to them as "Phil-Pit."] 
The Eagles had a rather interesting helmet design in the late 1940′s, and early 1950′s.  Some call it the feather design, but it was the result of simply having a contrasting color (silver) follow the seam on their green leather helmet.  When the NFL switched from leather to hard shell plastic helmets, around 1949-’50, the Eagles had the helmet manufacturer maintain this wavy shape on the helmets.  (You can see the leather version of the helmet, on my map.)   **{See this page from the Helmet Hut site.}

After the War, the Eagles, under Earle “Greasy” Neale,  turned into a great team, and won the Title in back-to-back seasons, led by Fullback Steve Van Buren, and End Pete Pihos.  The Eagles won their last Title in 1960, led by QB Norm Van Brocklin, and LB Chuck Bednarik. {See this NFL Films’ 4-minute clip on, ‘Chuck Bednarik video‘ [note: that famous hit by Bednarik on Frank Gifford can be seen at the 2:20 point of the video].} The Eagles were the only team to beat Vince Lombardi and his Packers, in the playoffs.  {See this article from the site, from Jan.2011, by Jeré Longman, ‘Eagles’ 1960 Victory Was an N.F.L. Turning Point‘.

The Steelers wore yellow-orange headgear up to 1963, when they switched to black, to better show off their American Iron & Steel Institute “Steelmark.”  The details on the Steelers distinctive crest are oulined here [note, I usually avoid this site, but this article is pretty comprehensive.  If you want even more on this, go to the Wikipedia entry, 'Pittsburgh Steelers/Logos and unifiorm'.   Below are two Steelers programmes, from 1945,and 1955.  I think it's interesting to note that the earlier one is four-color, and the later one is black and white.   pittsburgh_programmes.gif

Through the 1950's and '60's Steelers were pretty much the worst franchise in the NFL (not counting the expansion teams, like the Saints).  They had won no Titles, and were chronically cash-strapped.  But the "lovable losers" finally began to prevail, through solid scouting, and then the arrival of coach Chuck Noll, in 1969.  Franco Harris' "immaculate reception" in the 1972 playoffs was like an indication that their time had finally come.  Divine intervention.  Those Steelers went on to win 4 NFL Super Bowl Titles in 6 seasons, from 1974 to 1979.  

There is a book written during the period right before those Championship days, that I would like to recommend, called  "About Three Bricks Shy...And The Load Filled Up," by Roy Blount, Jr.  He wrote it while he was a reporter for Sports Illustrated magazine, when he was allowed access to the whole team during pre-season training camp.  It is one of the best books I've read in the whole sports genre: it's hilarious, and it really gives you a feel of the era.  Unfortunately, it is out of print, but that's what Amazon is for.  

Thanks to  UK Black and Gold website (pittsburghsteelers[dot]co[dot]uk), for the photos of the programmes;  (helmethut[dot]com);  (nearmintcards[dot]com).

January 10, 2008

NFL Thumbnail Histories: the New York Giants, the Portsmouth Spartans/ Detroit Lions, the Boston/ Washington Redskins.

Click on the following image to see the ‘NFL 1920-1960 Map’, plus the 3 teams’ thumbnail histories…


The New York Giants were formed in 1925.  As was the fashion of the day, the new NFL franchise adopted the nickname of one of the city’s baseball teams.  The team was often referred to as the New York Football Giants.  The Giants have played their home games on northern Manhattan Island (the Polo Grounds);  The Bronx, NY (Yankee Stadium);  New Haven, Connecticut (the Yale Bowl); Queens, NY (Shea Stadium);  and, currently, East Rutherford, New Jersey (Giants Stadium).

The Detroit Lions started out as the Portsmouth Spartans, from the small southern Ohio city of Portsmouth.   The Spartans existed from 1930 to 1933, and were an extremely competitive squad.  They just missed out on winning the NFL Title in 2 of their 3 seasons, and played in the first-ever NFL playoff game.  It was played indoors, in Chicago stadium (inclemate weather forced the league to stage the game this way).  They sported purple and gold uniforms.   **{See this page from the Portsmouth Spartans Historical Society website.}     The Spartans, deep in debt, were bought by Detroit, Michigan businessman George A. Richards, in 1934, and moved north to the Motor City.  As the Detroit Lions, they won the NFL Title two seasons later (1935).


It may seem odd that such a small town as Portsmouth, Ohio could host an NFL franchise, but it was in character with the NFL of the early 1930′s.   Another team from an unlikely location during this era was the Staten Island (NY) Stapletons, who existed from 1929 to 1932.  They wore black jersey fronts/white jersey backs. The Stapletons were yet another franchise killed off by the Great Depression.  The only vestige of the small-town era of the NFL is, of course, the Green Bay Packers.

The Washington Redskins began in New England, as the Boston Braves, in 1932.  They changed their name the next year, to the Redskins.  The franchise moved to Washington, DC, in 1937.  Like the Lions, the Washington Redskins had swift success in their new city, winning the NFL Title in their first season in the nation’s capital.

Thanks to Detroit Lions official site (detroitlions[dot]com);  (helmethut[dot]com);  (nearmintcards[dot]com).      

January 8, 2008

NFL Timeline, with Map: 1920-1933 / A history of the Dayton Triangles’ franchise; and a brief mention of the 1926 NFL-champions the Frankford Yellow Jackets, and the 1928 NFL-champions the Providence Steam Roller / Plus an illustrated list of all defunct NFL teams that played at least 4 seasons.


The early days of the National Football League are criminally under-reported.  In America, there is a gigantic publishing industry for books on baseball… the glorious days of yore, and all that.  Academic sorts just love going on and on about baseball’s storied past.  Meanwhile, the amount of books on professional gridiron football’s wild and wooly formative years is scant.  I think publishers think Joe-six-pack NFL fan doesn’t read books, let alone buy them.  There might be some truth to this, because after all, NFL football appeals to the short attention-span viewer, with its segmented run of play, flashy graphics, and over the top style of reporting by the announcers. 

Very few NFL fans know about the Dayton Triangles,  the Frankford Yellow Jackets,  and the Providence Steam Roller.  

The Dayton Triangles were an original team from the APFA, which was formed in 1920.  [The American Professional Football Association became the NFL in 1922.]  The Triangles wore dark-royal-blue-and-white uniforms, with zebra-striped sleeves.  The Dayton Triangles played 10 seasons in the league, before moving to Brooklyn, NY, in 1930.       **{See this history of the Dayton Triangles.}

The Triangles became known as the Brooklyn Dodgers when they moved east, in 1930.  This team had no affiliation with the Major League Baseball club known as the Brooklyn Dodgers.   The Brooklyn Football Dodgers played 16 seasons in the NFL, from 1930 to 1945, when they were forced to merge with the NFL’s Boston Yanks.  {See this.}  The Boston Yanks moved to New York as the Bulldogs, then the Yanks, but were sold back to the league, in  1952.  This franchise was awarded to a group of businessmen in Dallas, Texas, in 1952, but the Dallas Texans of 1952 couldn’t draw enough fans to the Cotton Bowl, and went belly-up. As it was in the middle of the season, the league took over the club, and played the last couple of games as a traveling team with a base in Hershey, PA. The last two games the Dallas Texans played after being taken over by the league were as the home team versus the Chicago Bears in the Rubber Bowl in Akron, OH on Thanksgiving Day in 1952 [the only game the hapless Dallas Texans of the NFL ever won], and against the Lions in Detroit.

The NFL does not recognize the link between the original Dallas Texans (1952), and the second Baltimore Colts (1953-1984), even though the roster of the old Texans (including players like Art Donovan, and Gino Marchetti) was transferred to the Baltimore Colts, in 1953.  {see this.}  The second Baltimore Colts also maintained the blue and white color scheme of the old Dallas Texans (as well as that of the Dayton Triangles).  [The original Baltimore Colts played 3 seasons in the AAFC, and one season in the NFL, from 1947 to 1950, and wore green and silver uniforms.]    Here is a great article written by NFL historian Bob Carroll (at, {‘How to get from Dayton to Indianapolis by way of Brooklyn, Boston, New York, Dallas, Hershey and Baltimore }.    The second Baltimore Colts existed from 1953 to March 29, 1984, when owner Robert Irsay, threatened with seizure of his franchise by the Maryland State Legislature (due to a dispute over the stadium), snuck the team’s entire possessions out in U-Haul moving vans, at 3 in the morning…  destination, Indianapolis, Indiana, and the newly built Hoosier Dome.  The Indianapolis Colts have remained in their dome stadium since then, finally winning an NFL Title in last season’s Super Bowl.  {See this article, from USA Today, during last year’s NFL playoffs.}

The Frankford Yellow Jackets and the Providence Steam Roller are the last two defunct teams to win an NFL championship.  The Frankford Yellow Jackets were in the NFL from 1924 to 1931, and were from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  They sported dark blue and yellow uniforms.  They won the NFL Title in 1926.  The Providence Steam Roller, from Rhode Island, were in the NFL from 1925 to 1931.  They wore black, with orange trim.  They won the NFL Title in 1928.  They played in a 10,000 seat bicycle velodrome (seriously).  {See this.}  Basically, the Great Depression killed off both these teams.  The NFL was no money-making venture back then, to say the least.  
Click this icon for a list of all defunct NFL teams that played at least 4 seasons..

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