billsportsmaps.com

November 11, 2013

NFL, 1948 season, map of the teams with 1948 scoring leaders. / Plus a short article on high scoring NFL seasons and high scoring NFL teams. / Plus the 1948 Los Angeles Rams’ golden-horned helmet designed by Rams player Fred Gehrke – the first helmet logo in the NFL. / Plus the 1948 NFL championship game, aka the Blizzard Bowl. / Plus, all-time helmet histories of the 9 currently active NFL teams from 1948 (Cardinals, Bears, Packers, Giants, Lions, Redskins, Eagles, Steelers, Rams).

Filed under: NFL>1948 season,NFL/ Gridiron Football,Retro maps — admin @ 10:49 pm

Please note – All helmet and uniforms illustrations on the map, and in the charts, and in the illustrations here, are from The Gridiron Uniform Database site, and were used by billsportsmaps.com here with permission from gridiron-uniforms.com.

1948_nfl-map__segment_b.gif
NFL, 1948 season, with offensive stats leaders & helmet histories of the 9 oldest NFL teams (Cardinals, Bears, Packers, Giants, Lions, Redskins, Eagles, Steelers, and Rams)
NFL helmet and uniforms illustrations from Gridiron Uniform Database.



    NFL, 1948 season

From Pro FootbalHall of Fame site, ‘NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1940s‘ (profootballhof.com/history).

1948: the highest-scoring season in the NFL
There are 3 reasons why the 1948 NFL season stands out. The first reason is, even though it pre-dated the passing era, 1948 was actually the NFL season that had the highest scoring average – 23.6 points per team (per game). From coldhardfootballfacts.com, from July 10, 2010, by Kerry Byrne, ‘The Spirit of ’48: a mind-blowing statistical orgasm‘. However, a mitigating factor must be mentioned. There were a few really bad defensive teams in the NFL in 1948, and, for example, the Eagles (who went on to be the 1948 NFL champions, and who had the league’s third-best offense in 1948 at 31.3 points per game) scored their season-high of 45 points in 4 games that year, three of which were against the three worst defenses in 1948 – the Lions (33.9 points allowed per game), the Giants (32.3 points allowed per game), and the Boston Yanks (31.0 points allowed per game), [more on the hapless Boston Yanks further down in this post] {see this, pro-football-reference.com/years/1948}. But to just blame the points surge in 1948, and also in the high-scoring era of 1947-to-1967, on just some bad defensive teams would be a disservice to teams like the 1948 Chicago Cardinals (32.9 points per game), and the 1948 Chicago Bears (31.7 points per game), and the 1948 Philadelphia Eagles (31.3 points per game). These teams, as well as the 1948 Los Angeles Rams and the 1948 New York Giants, really did have some offensive punch and some real standouts in their squads (illustrations of 1948 offensive leaders are shown on the map page {click on image above} and also further below).

    Below – the 20 highest scoring NFL seasons, as measured by average number of points scored per team

The chart below shows the 20 highest-scoring seasons in the NFL – not by total points (because that would skew the list to all the years recently when there have been the most number of teams [32 teams]), but by points per game (per team) average. Note how the list of the 20 highest-scoring seasons includes many of the recent seasons (the 4 most-recent NFL seasons), as well as many seasons from the 1940s (3 seasons), and from the 1950s (5 seasons), and the 1960s (4 seasons) – but zero seasons from the 1920s or the 1930s or the 1970s. In fact, if you go to the link at the bottom of the chart – to the page at Pro-football-reference.com where I got the data, you will see that the 17 lowest-scoring seasons in the NFL were all from the 1920s and the 1930s, and that the highest-scoring season from the 1970s was only the 44th-highest scoring year in the NFL (in 1975) [please note, to get the list at Pro-football-reference.com to show highest-scoring-average by season, click on the word 'Pts' at the top of the column at the far right-hand side of the chart there].

Please note: chart below will be updated once more, after all the final regular season games are played (ie, after Dec. 29, 2013).

nfl_all-time_most-points-per-game_per-team_1948-highest_2013-currently-second-highest_2m_.gif
Data for chart above from: http://www.pro-football-reference.com/years/NFL/scoring.htm.

You might be thinking…’the scoring record in the NFL had to have been broken in the last couple years.’ And you would be pretty close to being right, because 2012 was the fifth highest points-per-game average in the NFL, and 2013 was the second highest. The NFL averaged 23.4 points per game (per team) in 2013, which was 0.2 points per game less than the NFL record still standing from the 1948 season.

The recent points-per-game numbers in the last several seasons of the NFL (2007 to 2013 NFL season) is a continuation of a trend towards more points-scored in the NFL…2007 was the 20th-highest (at 21.7 pts. per game), then 2008 was the 12th highest ever (at 22.0), then 2009 saw a momentary dip at 25th-highest ever (at 21.5), then 2010 was the 11th-highest ever at (22.0), then 2011 was the 10th-highest ever (at 22.2), and then last year [2012] was the 5th-highest ever (at 22.8), and now 2013 was the 2nd-highest ever (at 23.4). So it is really starting to look like it is only a matter of time before the team average scoring record set in 1948 is broken.

In case you are wondering, the NFL record for most points per game by one team was set two seasons after 1948 by the 1950 Los Angeles Rams, at a staggering 38.8 points per game {‘1950 Los Angeles Rams‘ (pro-football-reference.com)}. But like the situation two years previous [as mentioned in the first paragraph], the 1950 Rams played several games against very poor defenses- 3 of their 12 games in 1950 were against two of the worst defenses ever in the NFL, 2 games versus the 1950 Green Bay Packers, who gave up 406 points (or 33.8 points allowed per game); and one game versus the soon-to-be-defunct 1950 Baltimore Colts [the green-and-silver former-AAFC Baltimore Colts, who folded after one season in the NFL], who gave up 462 points (for a sieve-like 38.5 points allowed per game), went 1-11 and folded. Those green-and-silver Baltimore Colts of 1950 lost to the Los Angeles Rams by a score of 70-27 that season at Memorial Coliseum in LA. Those 70 points the LA Rams scored on October 22, 1950, as well as the 65 points the Rams scored one week later against the Detroit Lions, will always make it very hard for a modern-day NFL team to break the single season average scoring record, especially when you consider that teams in 1950 were playing one-quarter less games – 12 games instead of the present-day 16 games per season – so that 70 points and those 65 points factors in larger. {The 1950 boxscore for that Rams 70, Colts 27 score, plus a photo below the boxscore link (a photo of of Rams’ QB Bob Waterfield running for a TD as the Colts defenders are literally giving up the chase), can be seen in my post on the Cleveland/Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams, here, scroll down the page half-way to the 9th paragraph there.}.

{see this, by Joe Dorish at Yahoo contributor network from Oct. 4 2013, ‘Highest Scoring Teams with Best Offenses in NFL History [top 5]‘ (voices.yahoo.com).

Below,
Illustration of the All-time highest scoring teams (1920 to 2013, regular season/points per game) -
#1: 1950 Los Angeles Rams, #2: 2013 Denver Broncos, #3: 2007 New England Patriots, #4: 1961 Houston Oilers (AFL), #5: 1941 Chicago Bears.

nfl_highest-scoring-teams_1950-la-rams_2013-denver-broncos_1967-afl-houston-oilers_1941-chicago-bears_e.gif
Photo and Image credits above –
Helmet illustrations,
helmet illustrations from The Gridiron Uniforms Database.
1950 Rams,
Bob Waterfield and Norm Van Brocklin photo, from Corbis at corbisimages.com/stock-photo/bob-waterfield-and-norm-van-brocklin-standing.
Crazy Legs Hirsch, action photo from profootballhof.com/fact-or-fiction-hall-of-famer-elroy-hirsch-was-nearly-stripped-naked-by-fans-after-a-game.
Tom Fears, action photo from fanbase.com/Tom-Fears/photo.
2013 Broncos,
Peyton Manning, photo from USA Today Sports Images sports.yahoo.com/blogs.
Demaryius Thomas, photo unattributed at commercialappeal.com.
2007 Patriots,
Tom Brady. photo from Sports Illustrated via imageslides.com/Sports/gallery/4345-Past-10-NFL-MVP-Winners#9 .
Randy Moss, photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images via bleacherreport.com/articles/722541-dallas-cowboys-all-time-biggest-draft-misses.
1961 Houston Oliers (AFL),
George Blanda, photo from casualadultgamers.com/thread-All-Time-Teams.
Bill Groman, photo from spokeo.com.
1940 Chicago Bears,
Sid Luckman, photo public domain from en.wikipedia.org.
George McAfee, photo from profootballhof.com/Bears-vs-Packers-in-1941-NFL-Playoff-Game.
Hugh Gallarneau, photo from whatifsports.com/article_1941BearsPackers.

In 2013 the team average scoring record had a chance of being broken as well, by the 2013 Denver Broncos. The Broncos under Manning finished 13-3 and averaged 37.9 points per game. (Note: also in 2013, Peyton Manning broke the NFL record for TD passes, with 55 TD passes). The Broncos’ 37.9 points per game was 0.9 points per game less than the NFL record set by the 1950 Rams. The Rams of that era had an unusual [read: totally unheard of and unprecedented in NFL history] tandem-QB arrangement of Bob Waterfield and Norm Van Brocklin – both played all 12 games and both had over 120 completions. But don’t forget, those 1950 Rams played against two of the worst defenses ever, while the worst defenses Manning and the Broncos have faced were the 4-12 Oakland Raiders, who averaged 28.3 points allowed per game (453 points allowed), the 4-12 Jacksonville Jaguars, who averaged 28.0 points allowed per game (449 points allowed), and the 2-14 Houston Texans, who averaged 26.7 points allowed per game (428 points allowed). That is not as bad as the 1950 Packers defense (about 6-to-8 points-allowed-per-game worse) or the hapless 1950 Colts (I) defense (about 10-to-12 points-allowed-per-game worse). So to be simplistic about it, the 1950 Rams, as potent as their Bob Waterfield/Norm Van Brocklin-led offense was, still ended up having a bit more “inflated” offensive stats by virtue of the cumulatively worse defenses they faced.

The Broncos didn’t break the Rams’ 1950 NFL record for most points scored per game, but the Broncos broke the NFL record for most points scored by a team in a season, with 606 points. That record had been held by the 2007 New England Patriots, who scored 589 points that season, but then ended up losing to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl that season. Which brings up an important point – the highest-scoring team in the NFL does not usually win the NFL title that season. As the list below shows, the highest-scoring team in a season has won the NFL title in only 26 of the 93 seasons so far (27.9 percent of the time).

Below, NFL, all-time list of seasons that the league’s top scoring team won the title [since 1920], (with the team’s points per game average listed)
1923, Canton Bulldogs (20.5).
1926 Frankford Yellow Jackets (13.6).
1931 Green Bay Packers (20.7).
1932 Chicago Bears (11.4).
1936 Green Bay Packers (20.6).
1941 Chicago Bears (36.0).
1943 Chicago Bears (30.3).
1946 Chicago Bears (26.2).
1949 Philadelphia Eagles (36.4).
1951 Los Angeles Rams (32.6).
1955 Cleveland Browns (29.0).
1958 Baltimore Colts (31.7).
1959 Baltimore Colts (31.6).
1961 Green Bay Packers (27.9) / 1961 AFL champions, Houston Oliers (36.6).
1962 Green Bay Packers (29.6) / 1962 AFL champions, Dallas Texans (27.8).
/ 1963 AFL champions, San Diego Chargers (28.5).
/ 1964 AFL champions, Buffalo Bills (28.6).
/ 1966 AFL champions, Kansas City Chiefs (32.0).
/ 1967 AFL champions, Oakland Raiders (33.4).
1969 Minnesota Vikings [NFL champions but lost Super Bowl IV to the AFL's Kansas City Chiefs] (27.1).
1971 Dallas Cowboys (29.0).
1972 Miami Dolphins (27.5).
1979 Pittsburgh Steelers (26.0).
1989 San Francisco 49ers (27.6).
1991 Washington Redskins (30.3).
1994 San Francisco 49ers (31.6).
1996 Green Bay Packers (28.5).
1997 Denver Broncos (29.5).
1999 St. Louis Rams (32.9).
2009 New Orleans Saints (31.9).

One note – in the list above I included the Vikings’ meaningless 1969 NFL championship title (it is meaningless because, like the Colts’ 1968 NFL championship title, both of those NFL teams went on to lose the Super Bowl that season to AFL teams [Jets and Chiefs]). For the purposes of this exercise, I had to include that, though, and I also felt it necessary to include the AFL seasons (see four sentences below). So there have been 26 NFL titles won by the top-scoring team that year – in 93 NFL seasons (2013 is the 94th NFL season). That means that only 27.9 percent of the time, the top scoring team in the NFL has gone on to be the champions that season. Which only goes to prove, once again, the old adage that Defense wins titles. The wild-and-woolly and high-scoring AFL is an entirely different matter though, seeing as how in 60% of the seasons the AFL played (6 out of 10 seasons), the highest scoring team in their league that year won the AFL title.

    1948 NFL offense leaders (passing, rushing & receiving, with TD leaders noted)

1948_nfl_offensive-stats-leaders_s-baugh_t-thompson_c-conerly_s-van-buren_c-trippi_e-angsman_m-kutner_p-pihos_t-fears_h.gif

1948 NFL offensive leaders [Note: 1948 NFL was a 12-game season.]
NFL Passing Yardage/TD passes:
-Sammy Baugh (Washington Redskins): 2,599 Yds/22 TD passes (plus 1 rushing TD).
-Charlie Conerly (New York Giants): 2,175 Yds/22 TD passes (plus 5 rushing TDs).
-Tommy Thompson (Philadelphia Eagles): 1,965 Yds/25 TD passes (plus 1 rushing TD) (TD pass leader for 1948, with 25 TD passes).

1948 NFL Rushing Yardage/combined TDs:
-Steve Van Buren (Philadelphia Eagles): 945 Yds/10 TDs (rushing TD leader for 1948, with 10 rushing TDs).
-Charley Trippi (Chicago Cardinals): 690 Yds/10 TDs (6 rushing TDs and 2 receiving TDs and 2 punt-return TDs).
-Elmer Angsman (Chicago Cardinals): 638 Yds/9 TDs (8 rushing TDs and 1 receiving TD).

1948 NFL Receiving Yardage/combined TDs:
-Malcolm Kutner (Chicago Cardinals): 943 Yds/14 TDs (recieving TD leader for 1948 plus overall TDs-scored leader for 1948, with 15 TDs [14 receiving TDs & 1 rushing TD]).
-Pete Pihos (Philadelphia Eagles): 766 Yds/11 TDs.
-Tom Fears (Los Angeles Rams): 698 Yds/4 TDs.

Photo and Image credits above & on the map page -
Sammy Baugh, nfl.com/75th Anniversary Team.
Tommy Thompson, [1950 Bowman trading card], miamimigraine.blogspot.com/2010/06/tommy-thompson.
Charlie Conerly, fanbase.com/photo.
Steve Van Buren, [1950 Bowman trading card], vintagecardprices.com/card-profile/154925/1951-Bowman-Steve-Van-Buren.
Charlie Trippi , sportsecyclopedia.com/nfl/azchi/cardschipictures.
Elmer Angsman , ebay.com/elmer+angsman.
Mal Kutner, thegamingtailgate.com/forums/showthread.php?1980-NCAA-Football-12-Countdown-Thread.
Pete Pihos, screenshot of an NFL Films video at youtube.com via fifthdown.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/17/remembering-pete-pihos-pioneering-tight-end.
Tom Fears, fanbase.com/Tom-Fears/photo.
Illustrations of helmets from Gridiron Uniforms Database.

The second reason the 1948 NFL season it noteworthy is because it had the first-ever appearance of a logo on a football helmet
The first helmet logo in the NFL was the famous golden Rams horns worn by the 1948 Los Angeles Rams (and are worn to this day by the franchise [since 1995 known as the St. Louis Rams]). The Rams’-horn logo was created by LA Rams halfback and defensive back and off-season commercial artist Fred Gehrke. Here is an excerpt from the ‘Fred Gehrke‘ page at en.wikipedia.org…
{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
‘ (sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault).

1948_los-angeles-rams_1st-logo-on-football-helmet_desinged-by-rams-player-fred-gehrke_f.gif
Photo and Image credits above -
helmethut.com/leatherram.
toddradom.com/athletes-as-artists-andrew-mccutchen-and-the-1948-la-rams.
gridiron-uniforms.com/1948.
profootballhof.com/history/infographic-wednesday.

Before I get to the 3rd way in which the 1948 NFL season stands out from all the rest, I’ll add a fourth reason, an asterisk if you will. 1948 was the last season that the bizarrely-named Boston Yanks played in the NFL. It is kind of hard to believe, but there actually was once a professional sports team from Boston that was called the Yanks. Their owner was a New York City-based talent agent named Ted Collins (he managed the popular singing star Kate Smith). Collins didn’t really want an NFL franchise located in Boston – he wanted to locate the franchise at Yankee Stadium in The Bronx, NY (his NFL team finally got to Yankee Stadium 6 years later, but not for long). The Boston Yanks (NFL, 1944-48) wore green and yellow {here are the Boston Yanks’ ghastly 1946 NFL uniforms (gridiron-uniforms.com/defunct teams). The Boston Yanks played from 1944–1948 to a lopsided losing record of 14-38-3, and to vast public indifference – when most every other NFL team was drawing 20,000 to 30,000 per game back then, the Boston Yanks were often drawing below 10,000 at Fenway Park. But you really could not blame Boston sports fans for not supporting the Boston Yanks – supporting a team in Boston named after the much-hated New York Yankees would be tantamount to treason.

After the 1948 season the Boston Yanks were folded and for a tax write-off the NFL allowed Collins to have a “new” franchise, which he moved to New York City, to become the New York Bulldogs (NFL, 1949), who played some home games in ’49 at the Polo Grounds in northern Manhattan, NYC, NY, and the 1949 New York Bulldogs also played a couple games in Boston. For some reason, the 1949 New York Bulldogs wore sky-blue-and-silver, which made them look more like lap dogs. In 1950, Collins was finally able to get his team to play in Yankee Stadium in The Bronx, NYC, NY, so he (finally) changed the team’s name to the New York Yanks (NFL, 1950-51), but in NYC, the franchise never had a shot at success because they were very bad in 2 of their 3 years in NY (going 1-10-1 in 1949, 7-5 in 1950, and 1-11-1 in 1951), and they had to compete with the vast popularity of the New York Giants’ NFL team.

In 1950, in their second year in New York City and their first year as the Yanks, the team wore sky-blue-and-white (why?) {1950 New York Yanks NFL uniforms}. In the third and last year of the franchise, 1951, the New York Yanks wore the more Yankees-appropriate dark-blue-and-grey {1951 New York Yanks NFL uniforms}. Those uniforms are actually kind of nice. They would be pretty much the same uniforms that the 1952/soon-to-be-defunct-Dallas Texans NFL team wore (see 2 sentences below). But it was too late – the New York Yanks’ debts had piled up and Ted Collins threw in the towel, and the NFL ‘bought back’ (read: took over) the worthless franchise, and folded it. The 12 players who remained on the 1951 New York Yanks’ roster (including future Hall of Famers Art Donovan and Gino Marchetti) were assigned to another soon-to-be-defunct-new-NFL-franchise, the short-lived Dallas Texans of 1952 (who wore almost the exact same uniforms as the 1951 NY Yanks – {1952 Dallas Texans NFL uniforms}). The NFL had to step in again and take over the 1952 Texans (who ended up 1-11 and never drew higher than 17,000 in their 4 home games in Dallas), and once again the remaining 12 players still on the defunct team’s roster (including, once again, future Hall of Famers Art Donovan and Gino Marchetti) were assigned to a new franchise for 1953 – the Baltimore Colts (II) (present-day Indianapolis Colts). That Dallas Texans team of 1952, which had its roots in the failed Boston Yanks/New York Bulldogs/New York Yanks team – that was the last failed franchise in the NFL. Here is a great little article about the Boston Yanks, from April 2009, by Jay Schreiber, from the, er, baseball blog at NYTimes.com, ‘Remembering a Team of Rivals‘ (bats.blogs.nytimes.com).

    Brief summary of the 1948 NFL season

1948 NFL season‘ (en.wikipedia.org).
[Note, during this season and during the 1946 to 1949 time period, the NFL was fending off a challenge from a rival pro football league, the All-America Football Conference (the AAFC). For more info on that, you can see my recent post on the Cleveland Browns and the AAFC by clicking on the following, '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‘.]

There were 10 teams in the 1948 NFL, and for the second season, teams were playing a 12-game schedule as opposed to the 11-game schedule which the league had from 1937 to 1946. All teams played home-and-away games versus all the other teams in their division (8 games), and they played 4 of the 5 teams in the other division. All the NFL teams (that is to say, all the NFL franchises) from 1948 still exist, except for the previously-mentioned Boston Yanks (the ones that still exist being the Cardinals, Bears, Packers, Giants, Lions, Redskins, Eagles, Steelers, and Rams). This was the last season that players were only allowed to use leather helmets, because, while the new plastic-composite helmets were available and some colleges had started using them, they were banned in 1948 in the NFL because it was felt by the league officials that the much harder plastic helmets were being used more as a weapon than as protection (hmm, that sounds like what some critics say to this day).

Winner of each division would advance to the NFL Championship Game, which was played back then not at the home of the team with the better record, but rather, hosted on a rotating basis between the two divisions. As the Western Division had hosted the previous title game in 1947 (won by the Chicago Cardinals over the Philadelphia Eagles at Comiskey Park (I), by a score of 28-21), in 1948 it was the Eastern Division’s turn to host the title game.

1948 Eastern Division
In the Eastern Division, in the 5th week, the Philadelphia Eagles took a half-game lead on the Washington Redskins after beating them. 5 weeks later, the Eagles took the lead for good with their second win over Washington, putting the Eagles at 7-1-1 and Washington at 6-3. The Eagles finished 9-2-1, and advanced to their second title game in a row (and their second playoff game ever in their 16-year history). The Redskins had won 2 NFL titles at this point in time (their first title coming in 1937 in their first season in Washington DC [following 6 seasons in Boston]; and their second title in 1942). The Redskins were about to enter a long period of futility, with only 3 winning seasons in the next 21 years (up to 1969). As for the New York football Giants, well the Giants were in the midst of a several-seasons slump and, having won their first NFL title in their 3rd year in 1927, and after having won two more titles in a 5-year span (in 1934 and in 1938), the Giants would win only one more title in the pre-Super Bowl era in the NFL (ie, pre-1966 season), in 1956 (though the Giants came close many times otherwise). The Steelers were also in the East then, but the perpetually cash-strapped Steelers were the worst-team-ever in the NFL back then (and were the worst-ever up to the AFL/NFL merger in 1970). Of course, after that, the Steelers became the dynasty they are today, but 65 years ago, the Steelers were also known as the Lovable Losers.

1948 Western Division
In the Western Division, although the Los Angeles Rams were competitive and would finish at 6-5-1 in 3rd place (and would make it to the NFL title game for the next 3 seasons and then win their only NFL title in LA 3 years later in 1951), for all intents and purposes, the 1948 West was really all about the two Chicago teams. The Windy City was the only city in the NFL back then that boasted two NFL teams – the Monsters of the Midway (the Bears) and the perpetually overshadowed Cardinals (who would move to St. Louis 11 years later). The Chicago Bears were the most successful team in the NFL at this point in time, with 7 titles including the 1946 championship (Green Bay had the second-most titles then, with 5, but the cash-strapped Packers were, at this point, about to begin their worst run, with 12 straight seasons without a winning record [and would not have a resurgence until coach Vince Lombardi came to Green Bay starting in 1959]). To round out the NFL teams of this era, the Detroit Lions were horrible in 1948, but were on the cusp of their greatest period ever. The Lions had begun life as the second-to-last small-town team in the NFL – the Portsmouth (Ohio) Spartans, who played 4 seasons in the NFL (1930-33) and finished in 2nd place twice. The franchise moved to Detroit, Michigan in 1934, changed their name to the Detroit Lions, and won their first title the following year in 1935. After 1948, the Lions began rebuilding and would go on to win titles in back-to-back seasons in 1952 and 1953, and win their fourth and last NFL title four years later in 1957.

For the two seasons of 1947 and 1948, the normal Bears/Cardinals dynamic was up-ended. Following massive player-spending prior to the 1947 season, the Cardinals, led by future-Hall of Fame running back Charley Trippi, were temporarily the dominant of the two (of course it didn’t last, and the Cardinals have never won a title since 1947). Here is an excerpt from the 1948 NFL page at Wikipedia (linked to above),
…{excerpt}…’[T]he Cardinals and Bears both had records of 10–1 going into the final week. A record crowd of 51,283 packed Wrigley Field on December 12 to watch. The Bears took a 21–10 lead, on George Gulyanics’ [touchdown run] as the fourth quarter began. Charley Trippi’s touchdown cut the margin to 21–17, but the Bears had the ball and time on their side. The turning point came when the Cards’ Vince Banonis picked off a pass from Johnny Lujack, and ran the ball back to the Bears’ 19, and [Cardinals' running back] Elmer Angsman scored the winning touchdown three plays later for the Western Division title and the trip to the championship.’…{end of excerpt}.

For the second-straight year, the usually-downtrodden Cardinals had beaten out the usually-dominant Bears for the divisional title. Some say that that 24-20 loss to the Cards in the last week of the 1948 season was one of the worst losses the Bears ever suffered. The gentleman who wrote the following article says it was the worst ever loss for the Bears. From ChicagoNow.com, from Dec. 13 2011, by Captain Meatball, ‘Top 10 Toughest Losses in Chicago Bears History [#1. Chicago Cardinals 24, Chicago Bears 21, 1948]‘ (chicagonow.com).

    1948 NFL Championship Game

The final reason why the 1948 NFL season stands out is the title game that year
The 1948 NFL Championship Game, featuring the Philadelphia Eagles versus the Chicago Cardinals, was played in a full-scale blizzard in Philadelphia that almost was postponed. It is testament to the hardiness of the Philadelphia sports fan that the inclement weather did not depress turnout – the game drew a sell-out crowd of 36,000. I guess it wasn’t technically a sell-out, because admission was free if you helped shovel snow.

    1948 NFL Championship Game – Philadelphia Eagles 7, Chicago Cardinals 0.

The 1948 NFL Championship Game was played in a blizzard at Shibe Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on December 19, 1948. Attendance was a full-capacity 36,309. The game was a re-match of the 1947 NFL final, which the Cardinals had won 28-21 at Comiskey Park (I) in Chicago, Illinois the previous December.

The 1948 NFL title game was the first NFL title game that was televised (by ABC), though it was not broadcast nationwide (the first nationwide television broadcast of an NFL title game was by NBC in 1958). The snowfall that day in Philadelphia was so heavy that the NFL commissioner Bert Bell considered postponing the game, but because broadcast rights had already been given to ABC and because the players on both teams wanted to play despite the snow storm, Bell decided to play the game. (It is very doubtful the game would have been played were it to happen today – and with the NFL now playing a Super Bowl this season in a cold-weather location in northern New Jersey in February 2014, this possibility of a snow-storm-during-an NFL-title-game suddenly now exists again.).

From youtube.com, ‘Football Championship Game 1948 Eagles Cardinals‘, a 1:15 video uploaded by historycomestolife [no sound] (youtube.com). [Note: that long pass play by the Eagles, shown in the video, was called back because of an offensive penalty...the reason why it was still featured in the newsreel of the game is that the snowy conditions prevented there being many significant offensive plays that day]. [Note: here is a much longer Youtube video of the 1948 title game, with sound, a 15:41 video uploaded by Caladiscafrosis, '1948 NFL Championship Game'].

The start of the 1948 title game was delayed 30 minutes, as the grounds crew needed the help of both teams’ players to remove the extremely heavy, snow-laden tarp. It snowed so hard all game that the yard-line markers were invisible, and the referee had to basically guess where the ball was to be placed after each down and where the first down line was. The snowfall was so heavy that, at the start of each play, players in the offensive backfield could not even see the opposing defensive backs 15 or 20 feet away. {Here is a classic photo of the freezing Eagles players on the bench that day [in that photo you can see the odd-shaped MacGregor leather helmets that the Eagles wore during the 1944 to '48 time period, which featured a more elongated, quasi-cone-head shape and a different set of seams than the more standard Rawlings leather helmets that most other NFL teams used in the early post-War era] (photo unattributed at goldenrankings.com/[NFL Championship Game 1948]).}

Because of the white-out/blizzard conditions, both teams spent the bulk of their ball possession in three-and-outs and a punt. There was no threat of a score until early in the 4th quarter, when the Eagles recovered a Cardinal fumble on the Cardinals’ 17. Four plays later, Eagles RB Steve Van Buren ran in a 5-yard TD. The Eagles’ defense then held the score, and the Eagles were the 1948 NFL champions.

The Eagles would repeat as champions in 1949, beating the Los Angeles Rams 14-0 in muddy conditions at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, with Steve Van Buren rushing for a then-title-game record 197 yards, as well as scoring both TDs. Steve Van Buren played 9 seasons for Philadelphia, and was a 7-time All-Pro, and was the first RB to gain 1,000 yards in a season twice (in 1947 and ’49). Van Buren was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1965. He passed away at the age of 91 in 2012.

From the New York Times, from Aug. 25, 2012, by Andy Barall, ‘Remembering Steve Van Buren, Hall of Famer for Eagles‘ (fifthdown.blogs.nytimes.com).

1948-nfl_championship-game_eagles7_chi-cardinals0_steve-van-buren_blizzard-conditions_b.gif
Photo and Image credits above -
Illustrations of Cardinals and Eagles’ 1948 uniforms from gridiron-uniforms.com/1948.
Photo of Steve Van Buren being pursued by Cardinals defenders from Getty Images via usaprepares.com/survival/winter-is-going-to-be-much-colder-than-normal-and-therell-be-a-big-storm-for-super-bowl-predicts-farmers-almanac.
Color photo of Steve Van Burennashvillegman.hubpages.com/hub/Philadelphia-Eagles-All-Time-Rushing-Yardage-Leaders
Photo of Steve Van Buren scoring winning TD from Cold Hard Football Facts.com site via secondlevelfootball.com/2012/08/24/steve-van-buren-1920-2012.
Photo of Eagles’ post-game celebrations from profootballhof.com via phillypressbox.wordpress.com/2012/08/26/steve-van-buren-the-eagles-legend.
Photo of 1948 NFL title game program from sports-memorabilia-museum.com/football-history/1948-nfl-championship-program.
___

Thanks to Etsy.com/ Vintage Inclinations, for the base map of United States circa 1940s, http://www.etsy.com/listing/99272564/vintage-usa-map-1940s-united-states-of.

Thanks to the contributors at en.wikipedia.org, ‘1948 NFL season‘.

A big thanks to Pro-Football-Reference.com, for most of the stats used in this post.

Special thanks to Tim Brulia, Bill Schaefer and Rob Holecko of The Gridiron Uniform Database, for giving billsportsmaps.com the permission to use the football uniforms illustrations at http://www.gridiron-uniforms.com/.

January 31, 2013

NFL, 1936 season and 1937 season – with a map featuring 1937 final standings and 1937 uniforms & thumbnail profiles of the 10 teams / Plus the greatest triple threat in NFL history, Sammy Baugh / Plus Helmet History charts of the 9 currently-active teams from 1937 (Cardinals, Bears, Packers, Giants, Lions, Redskins, Eagles, Steelers, and Rams).

1937-nfl-map_w-helmet-histories_post_.gif
NFL, 1937 map, with all-time helmet histories



Note: Scroll down to the bottom of this post to see the Helmet History charts of the 9 currently-active teams from 1937 (1937 NFL teams: Chicago Bears, Chicago Cardinals, Cleveland Rams, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, New York football Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh football Pirates, Washington Redskins).

    1936 NFL -

1936 NFL teams’ uniforms can be seen at the following link, 1936 NFL teams [uniforms] (gridiron-uniforms.com/1936).

The 9-team NFL that made up the 1936 NFL season looked like this (teams listed in final order of finish):
Eastern Division
Boston Redskins, 1936 NFL Championship Game finalist.
Pittsburgh Pirates
New York Giants
Brooklyn Dodgers
Philadelphia Eagles

Western Division
Green Bay Packers, 1936 NFL Championship Game finalist.
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Chicago Cardinals

In 1936, the NFL played its 17th season. It was the first season where each of the teams played an equal amount of games (12 games). Yes, that is correct – it took 17 years for the NFL to finally have a season with a balanced schedule. (This is one of several reasons why the NFL doesn’t really like to mention, let alone celebrate, the league’s fly-by-night and quasi-bush-league early days.) The 1936 NFL champions were the Green Bay Packers, who beat the Boston Redskins 21-6, in a game played at the Polo Grounds in Manhattan, NY. The 1936 NFL Championship Game was the only NFL title game [pre-Super Bowl era] in which the team with the home field advantage declined to play at their own stadium, and instead elected to play at a neutral site. The Boston Redskins, who had won the Eastern Division, had rights to home field for the 1936 title game (it was done on a rotating basis back then). The Redskins moved the venue to New York City because the Boston Redskins’ owner, George Preston Marshall, was so angry about the small turnout for what would be the last game the Boston Redskins played in Boston, Massachusetts. That game, their final game of the 1936 regular season, was a 30–0 win over the Pittsburgh (football) Pirates, and only 4,813 fans showed up at Fenway Park in Boston (where the Redskins played then). So in spite (and Marshall was a spiteful man), Marshall had the 1936 title game moved to New York City at the Polo Grounds, where the New York (football) Giants played their home NFL games [renting the stadium from the stadium-owners, the New York (baseball) Giants of the National League]. [Note: on the map page you can see 2 photos of the Polo Grounds, as it looked for Giants' NFL games (one is an action photo from a 1937 NFL game of New York vs. Brooklyn, and another photo is an undated aerial photo of the Polo Grounds in football configuration {you can see them at the far right-hand side of the map page near the blue-and-red caption-box})].

The 1936 NFL Championship Game was the 4th that the league had played {origins of NFL playoffs, here, ‘NFL/Playoff and championship history/Early years/1932 playoff game/Before the Super Bowl (en.wikipedia.org)}. The Western Division winners were the Green Bay Packers, who were the last-surviving small-town team in the NFL and who had won 3 straight NFL championships in 1929, 1930, and 1931.

1936 NFL Championship Game, Green Bay 21, Boston 6, at Polo Grounds, New York City. So in 1936, Green Bay claimed their fourth NFL title [all-time, the Packers have won 9 NFL Championship titles and 4 NFL Super Bowl titles].

    The 1937 NFL season

1937 NFL teams’ uniforms can be seen at the following link, 1937 NFL teams [uniforms] (gridiron-uniforms.com/1937).

For 1937, the NFL added a 10th team, with the expansion team the Cleveland Rams. The Cleveland Rams were only technically an expansion team, because the same owner, and 4 players, were part of the 1936 Cleveland Rams of the AFL of 1936 [this AFL, AFL (II) was the second of four rival-leagues called the AFL, the last, of course, being the successful AFL of 1960-69, which ended up getting all 10 of its teams into the NFL in 1970 with the AFL/NFL merger].

If you are interested in reading further on the Rams’ early days, you can click on the following link, to my profile of the franchise here, ‘NFL Thumbnail Histories: the Cleveland Rams/ Los Angeles Rams/ St. Louis Rams.’

Like the 1936 Cleveland Rams of the AFL (II), the 1937 Cleveland Rams of the NFL wore red and black. [The Rams changed to dark blue and yellow-orange the following season, 1938.] The Rams were placed in the Eastern Division, balancing the two NFL divisions then at 5 teams each. Most importantly, the NFL returned, after a 3-year spell, back to a league set-up that featured an even number of teams. [Having an even number of teams is something that is always helpful for an organized league to have, because it makes scheduling less complicated, but it is even more important for a gridiron football league to have an even number of teams - because an odd number of teams means that one team has to sit out each week.]

The other change in league membership in 1937 was that the Redskins franchise moved from Boston to the nation’s capital in Washington, DC. The Redskins began playing at the Major League baseball team the Washington Senators’ Griffith Stadium (you can see an undated photo of the Redskins playing at Griffith Stadium on the map page [lower center of page]).

The 1937 NFL regular season
Midway through the 1937 NFL’s 11-game season, the Chicago Bears, coached by owner George Halas and led by an aging but still effective Bronko Nagurski at fullback, were unbeaten (5–0) in the Western Division, while the New York Giants were leaders in the Eastern Division (4–1). At the Polo Grounds on October 31, the Bears and the Giants played to a 3–3 tie. The Giants and Bears held their leads in their divisions through the middle and latter parts of the ’37 season, with the Bears clinching a spot for the title game with a 13–0 win over Detroit at the University of Detroit Stadium on November 25th.

The Giants, on the other hand, lost their lead. On December 5, the final game of the 1937 season had Washington (7–3 and .700) traveling to New York (6–2–2 and .750). A win or a tie would have given the Giants the Eastern title, but the Redskins, propelled by rookie QB Sammy Baugh, won 49–14, and got the division crown and the trip to Chicago to face the Bears in the 1937 NFL Championship game. The Redskins were coached by former New York Giants End Ray Flaherty (who was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1976). But despite the Redskins’ potent and innovative passing-oriented offense, the Redskins were the decided underdogs to the dominant pro football team of that era, the Monsters of the Midway, the Chicago Bears.

Below, 1937 NFL final standings of the regular season…
nfl-1937-standings_.gif

    1937 NFL Championship Game, December 12, 1937 at Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL.
    Washington Redskins 28, Chicago Bears 21.

It was so cold there that day at Wrigley Field on the North Side of Chicago that spectators tore up parts of the stadium to build large bonfires to keep warm. Both teams wore rubber-soled shoes to gain a better footing. The frozen, ice-shard laden and slippery surface of the field left players cut, bloody and dazed. The lead in the game changed hands 4 times. But the ahead-of-its-time passing-oriented offense of the unheralded Redskins prevailed in the end. The Redskins’ rookie QB Sammy Baugh went 17 for 34 for 352 passing yards and 3 TD passes. Those were unheard-of numbers for that era. Redskins’ coach Ray Flaherty further exploited Baugh’s passing prowess in that game by inventing, on that very day there in Chicago, the behind-the-scrimmage-line screen pass. Sammy Baugh completed three long touchdown passes in the 3rd quarter – 55 yards and 78 yards to End Wayne Miller; then the 35-yarder to Wingback Ed Justice that took the lead for good. The Washington defense held the Bears scoreless in the 4th quarter, and the Washington Redskins were professional gridiron football champions for the first time. Attendance was 15,878.

Below, via youtube.com, a newsreel of the 1937 NFL Championship Game, December 12, 1937 at Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL – Washington Redskins 28, Chicago Bears 21
Newsreel: World Football Crown – 1937‘ (Pathegram newsreel via Youtube.com, posted by weidvideos).

Below is an illustration which includes a screen-shot from the 1937 newsreel of the 1937 NFL Championship Game (linked to above) between the Chicago Bears and the Washington Redskins…
nfl_1937-championship-game_washington-at-chicago_sammy-baugh_e.gif
Image and Photo credits above -
Illustration of Bears’ and Redskins’ uniforms from uniformdatabases.com/1937.
Screenshot of Pathegram newsreel via Youtube.com, posted by weidvideos.
fs64sports.blogspot.com.
pophistorydig.com.


1937 Washington Redskins season‘ (en.wikipedia.org) [note: this link includes a team photo of the Redskins at Soldier Field in Chicago in Aug. 1938, 8 months after they had beaten the Bears for the title at Wrigley Field.]


From the Washington Redskins’ official site, from Feb.12, 2012, by Michael Richman, ‘Flashback: Redskins’ First season In D.C.

From NFL Network – ‘Top Ten Most Versatile Players, number one: Sammy Baugh‘ (3:31 video from nfl.com).
In the video linked to above, pro football historian Ray Didinger says, “You’re talking about one guy who was Peyton Manning, Ray Guy, and Ronnie Lott, all in one…” That one guy was Sammy Baugh, the QB/P/DB of the Washington Redskins for 16 seasons from 1937 to 1952. Slingin’ Sammy Baugh was a Texas-born halfback out of TCU. Baugh helped pioneer the quarterback’s role in the modern football game. Baugh, like many of his contemporaries, played both offense and defense – he excelled as a defensive safety, plus he took the Redskins’ punting duties. Baugh threw for 168 TD passes in a 16-year career for Washington. Baugh retired in 1952. In 1963 he was a charter member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH.

From TheHogs.com, the salient points of Sammy Baugh’s NFL career…
» Drafted 6th overall in the first round of the 1937 draft.
» All-NFL seven times.
» NFL passing leader six times.
» NFL passing, punting AND interception champ, 1943.
» Only player to lead the NFL in an offensive, defensive, and special teams category.
» Top punter in NFL history.
» Career records: 21,886 yards, 187 TDs passing, 45.1-yard punting average, 31 interceptions.
» Only player in Redskin history to have his jersey retired (33).


From the Pop History Dig, ‘Annals of Sport – “Slingin’ Sammy” [Baugh]‘.

    Helmet Histories of the 9 oldest-still-active NFL teams (all teams still active from at least 1937)

Est. 1898 as the Independent semi-pro team the Morgan Athletic Club of Chicago, IL (Morgan Athletic Club {Independent}, 1898). / Name changed to Racine Normals (Racine Normals {Independent}, 1899-1901) [Racine being the street where the team's football field (Normal Park) was located, in the South Side of Chicago]. / In 1901 name changed to Racine Cardinals (Racine Cardinals {Independent}, 1901-06;1913-18; 1918-19). / Joined NFL [APFA] in 1920 as the Racine Cardinals (NFL [APFA], 1920-21). / In 1922 name changed to Chicago Cardinals (NFL, 1922-1959). / In 1960 moved to St. Louis, MO: St. Louis Cardinals (NFL, 1960-1987). / In 1988 moved to Greater Phoenix, AZ: Phoenix Cardinals (NFL, 1988-93). / In 1994 name changed to Arizona Cardinals (NFL, 1994-2013).
Arizona Cardinals Helmet History -
arizona-cardinals_helmet-history_1920-2012_segment_.gif
Arizona Cardinals Helmet History
Image credits above – gridiron-uniforms.com/cardinals.

Est. 1919 as the Independent semi-pro team the Decatur Staleys (of the A.E. Staley Co.) of Decatur, IL. / Joined NFL [APFA] in 1920 as the Decatur Staleys (NFL, 1920). / In 1921 moved to Chicago, IL: Chicago Staleys (NFL [APFA], 1921). / In 1922 their name changed to Chicago Bears (NFL, 1922-2013).
Chicago Bears Helmet History -
chicago-bears_helmet-history1920-2012_segment_b.gif
Chicago Bears Helmet History
Image credits above – gridiron-uniforms.com/bears.

Est. 1919 as the Independent semi-pro team the Green Bay Packers (of the Indian Packing Co.) of Green Bay, WI. / Joined NFL [APFA] in 1921, Green Bay Packers (NFL, 1921-2013).
Green Bay Packers Helmet History –
green-bay-packers_helmet-history_1921-2016_16a_segment_c_.gif
Green Bay Packers Helmet History
Image credits above – gridiron-uniforms.com/packers.

Est. 1925 as an NFL expansion franchise, the New York (football) Giants (1925-2013) of New York City, NY.
New York Giants Helmet History -
new-york-giants_helmet-history_1925-2012_segment_.gif
New York Giants Helmet History
Image credits above – gridiron-uniforms.com/giants.

Est. 1929 as the Independent semi-pro team the Portsmouth Spartans of Portsmouth, OH. / Joined NFL in 1930 as the Portsmouth Spartans (NFL, 1930-33). / In 1934 moved to Detroit, MI as the Detroit Lions (NFL, 1934-2013).
Detroit Lions Helmet History -
detroit-lions_helmet-history_1930-2012_segment_.gif
Detroit Lions Helmet History
Image credits above – gridiron-uniforms.com/lions.

Est. 1932 as an NFL expansion franchise, the Boston (football) Braves of Boston, MA (NFL, 1932). / In 1933 changed name to Boston Redskins (NFL, 1933-36). / In 1937 moved to Washington, DC as the Washington Redskins (NFL, 1937-2013).
Washington Redskins Helmet History -
washington-redskins_helmet-history1932-2012_segment_b.gif
Washington Redskins Helmet History
Image credits above – gridiron-uniforms.com/redskins.

Est. 1933 as an NFL expansion franchise, Philadelphia Eagles (NFL, 1933-2013).
Philadelphia Eagles Helmet History -
philadelphia-eagles_helmet-history_1933-2012_segment_.gif
Philadelphia Eagle Helmet History
Image credits above – gridiron-uniforms.com/eagles.

Est. 1933 as an NFL expansion franchise, Pittsburgh (football) Pirates of Pittsburgh, PA (NFL, 1933-39). / In 1940 changed name to Pittsburgh Steelers (NFL, 1940-2013).
Pittsburgh Steelers Helmet History -
pittsburgh-steelers_helmet-history_1933-2012_segment_e.gif
Pittsburgh Steelers Helmet History
Image credits above – gridiron-uniforms.com/steelers.

Est. 1936 as the Cleveland Rams of Cleveland, OH, a team in the second [of 4] AFL leagues that existed in the 20th century, the AFL (II) of 1936. / Joined NFL in 1937 as the expansion team the Cleveland Rams (NFL, 1937-45). / In 1946 moved to Los Angeles, CA as the Los Angeles Rams (NFL, 1946-1994). / In 1995 moved to St. Louis, MO as the St. Louis Rams (NFL, 1995-2012).
St. Louis Rams Helmet History -
st-louis-rams_helmet-history_1937-2012_segment_c.gif
St. Louis Rams Helmet History
Image credits above – gridiron-uniforms.com/rams.

___

Photo credits on map (going clockwise from the upper left of the map page)-
Green Bay’s City Field (1920s) from packers.com/Stadium History/Other Homes.
Brooklyn football Dodgers at Ebbets Field photo from: Brooklyn Ballparks.com.
Large action photo of New York football Giants vs. Brooklyn football Dodgers at the Polo Grounds from 1937: AP photo via brooklynbeforenow.blogspot.com.
Polo Grounds aerial view: history.giants.com.
Washington Redskins playing at Griffith Sradium photo [date and opponents indeterminate] from bleacherreport.com.
Sammy Baugh photo, 1940 vs. Bears, unattributed at pophistorydig.com/topics/sammy-baugh-1930s-1950s/
Sammy Baugh color-tinted photo, unattributed at fs64sports.blogspot.com, ‘List of the day, Best Passing Yardage Seasons, 1940s NFL‘.
Chicago Bears at Wrigley Field aerial photo, unattributed at stadiumsofprofootball.com.
Comiskey Park [Chicago Cardinals], unattributed at SportsE-cyclopedia.com.

_
Thanks to the FootballDatabase.com, for score lines from 1937.
Thanks to mlb.com, for this article, ‘Football at Wrigley has long, storied past‘.

Special thanks to Gridiron Uniforms Database, for allowing billsportsmaps.com use of their NFL uniforms illustrations, gridiron-uniforms.com.

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-map_browns_49ers_1st-buffalo-bills_miami-seahawks_1st-baltomore-colts_la-dons_chicago-rockets_brooklyn-dodgers_ny-yankees_segment_e.gif
AAFC (1946-49) map
Image credits above – map of 1940s USA from etsy.com/listing/99272564/vintage-usa-map-1940s. Illustrations of AAFC uniforms from uniformdatabases.com/defunct teams, uniformdatabases.com/browns, uniformdatabases.com/49ers. Photo of LA Dons ticket from: qualitycards.com. Photo of 1949 AAFC Chicago Hornets media guide from ebay.com. Photo of 1946 Cleveland Browns game program from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Cleveland_Browns_game_program,_September_1946.png. Logos of AAFC teams from logoserver.com/AAFC and logoshak.com [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 (gridiron-uniforms.com).} 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‘ (en.wikipedia.org)}. 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 en.wikipedia.org, …{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.

browns_paul-brown_otto-graham_lou-groza_jim-brown_marion-motley_helmets-1946-61_k.gif
Image and Photo credits above -
Helmet and uniform illustrations from uniformdatabases.com/browns.
Photo of 1951 Bowman Paul Brown trading card from vintagecardprices.com.
Tinted b&w photo of Otto Graham unattributed at gregandmark.blogspot.com/2009/12/otto-graham-episode.
Photo of 1950 Bowman trading card of Lou Groza at vintagecardprices.com.
Photo of Jim Brown from top100.nfl.com/all-time-100.
Photo of Marion Motley in 1948 AAFC championship game from Cleveland Plain Dealer archive via cleveland.com.

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‘ (en.wikipedia.org),
{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 logosever.com for several AAFC logos.
Thanks to the contributors to the pages at en.wikipedia.org, ‘All-America Football Conference‘.
Thanks to Chris Creamer’s Sports Logos Page at sportslogos.net, 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,
uniformdatabases.com/defunct teams [APFA, NFL, AAFC), uniformdatabases.com/browns,
uniformdatabases.com/49ers.

October 22, 2010

Major League Baseball: 1908 National League season, with map and NL uniforms; the post-season replay of Chicago Cubs v. New York Giants at the Polo Grounds on October 8, 1908; and an illustrated article on the Dead-ball Era in Major League Baseball (1900-1920).

Filed under: Baseball,Baseball-1908 MLB season,Retro maps — admin @ 4:41 pm

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1908 National League




[Please note: a similar map was also posted for the 1908 American League, and I covered 1908 MLB attendance figures (for both the AL and the NL) in that post, here,
Major League Baseball - 1908, American League, with season highlights, 1908 uniforms and 1908 MLB attendances (billsportsmaps.com from 17 Oct. 2010).]

The 1908 National League season featured a three-way pennant race between the Chicago Cubs, the New York Giants, and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Because of an unusual sequence of events, the 1908 National League season required an unprecedented post-season replay of a game to decide the pennant winner. That is covered in the two articles on the left side of the map page. The final standings for the 1908 National League season are at the top, left. At the bottom, center of the map page are photos and thumbnail profiles of the prominent figures on the two teams that met in the re-played game which was held on October 8, 1908, at the Polo Grounds in upper Manhattan Island, New York City.
I recommend reading the text in the image sequence below, before jumping over to the map page [note: the bulk of the text below is repeated at the text block in the upper left on the map page]…
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1908 World Series – Chicago Cubs (National League) defeat Detroit Tigers (American league) 4 games to 1 game…
After the extremely tight and unusual pennant races in both leagues {American League, 1908 season map, with 1908 attendances of all MLB teams, here}, the 1908 World Series was destined to be anti-climactic. [This was a re-match of the 1907 Fall Classic, which saw the Cubs sweep the Tigers, 4 games to 0.] In the first game of the 1908 series, at Detroit’s Bennett Field, in front of 10,812, the Tigers’ rookie hurler Ed Summers had a 6-5 lead entering the ninth inning, when he proceeded to give up 6 consecutive hits and 5 runs to the Cubs. Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown got the win for the Cubs. In the second game, at Chicago’s West Side Grounds, in front of 17,760, the Cubs broke a scoreless deadlock with 6 runs in the bottom of the 8th inning, including a 2-run homer by Joe Tinker. Orval Overall was the winning pitcher. In game 3, the Tigers’ bats finally came awake, and Detroit beat Chicago 8-3 in front of 14,543 at the West Side Grounds. Game 4 was played back at Bennett Field in Detroit, and in front of 12,907, Cubs’ ace Mordecai Brown came through, and shut out the Tigers 3-0. By this time, the Tigers, and their fans, had given up the ghost, and in front of an embarrassingly small crowd of just 6,210 at Bennett Field, the Cubs again shut out the Tigers 2-0, behind Orval Overall. So the Chicago Cubs were again the champions. The Chicago Cubs have never won another World Series title.

The Chicago Cubs have never won another World Series title since 1908…
People love to talk about curses in baseball, but it is strange that the curse of unsporting behavior has never been popularly ascribed to the 1908 Chicago Cubs. Cubs shortstop Johnny Evers pressed the point that technically Fred Merkle should have been called out for not advancing to second base after the winning run had scored on that fateful game of September 23rd, 1908 (and in some versions, such as the New York Times account, first baseman/manager Frank Chance was described as having “grasped the situation” and directed the ball to be retrieved from the stands and be thrown to second base). Ball players had been doing what Merkle did for over 30 years in major league baseball, because crowds of unruly fans inevitably would storm the field after a winning run was scored, and it was very dangerous to be tarrying in what was essentially a mob scene. The umpire, Hank O’Day, was coerced into contravening the established procedures of the day, and for doing so he was later criticized by many, including the preeminent umpire of that era, Bill Klem. The whole incident was so convulsive that the National League President, Harry Pulliam, who was totally savaged by the media for allowing the Merkle’s Boner ruling to stand, committed suicide a year later.

On that day at the old Polo Grounds, the Cubs got a baseball from the crowd (it was probably not even the game ball, {see this}), and completed a play for an out when the field was already overrun by boisterous fans. The Cubs got their way that day, overstepping three decades worth of established procedure in baseball games. So the Cubs got their National League pennant in a sneaky way, then the Cubs won their second (and second-consecutive) World Series title…but the Cubs have never won another World Series title since. Hey Cubs fans, forget about that Curse of the Billy Goat malarky {see this}…The Curse of Merkle’s Boner is the real reason your ball club has never won another championship. The Chicago Cubs beat the New York Giants in 1908 with unsporting behavior, and it has been nothing but a century of failure for the Chicago Cubs since then. [The Cubs have failed to win a world championship in 13 post season appearances since 1908, including being 0 for 7 in World Series appearances (their last being in 1945, when they lost to Detroit in 7 games), and 0 for 6 in playoff-era post season appearances (their last in 2008, when they were swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS; their previous appearance being in 2003, when they fell to the Florida Marlins in the NLCS, a series made notorious by the Steve Bartman incident {see this}).
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1908 National League map and 1908 NL uniforms...

The main feature of the map page {see it here} is a railways and population map of the United States, from 1900. To this map I have added the jersey or cap crests of the 8 National League ball clubs. The large crests shown at the top of the map are arranged to reflect the western-to-eastern distribution of the 8 NL ballclubs, while the very small club crests serve to locate the ball clubs' home cities on the map. On the far right of the map page I have shown the 1908 uniforms of the 8 NL ball clubs, as well as the 2010 home ball caps of the modern version of each of these 8 NL franchises, 5 of which still play in the same city over a century later. Those 5 ball clubs are the Chicago Cubs, the Cincinnati Reds, the Philadelphia Phillies, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the St. Louis Cardinals. 3 franchises have moved since 1908. The Boston Doves, originally known as the Boston Red Stockings, then the Boston Beaneaters, later became the Boston Braves (in 1911), before moving to Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1953, becoming the Milwaukee Braves, but then moved again to Atlanta, Georgia, becoming the Atlanta Braves, in 1966. The Brooklyn Superbas (aka Trolley Dodgers) became officially known as the Brooklyn Robins from 1914 to 1933 (after their manager Wilbert Robinson) but all the while were more popularly known as the Brooklyn Dodgers (this name became official in 1934 {see this, a chart of Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers' uniforms and logos, from a post I made a year ago}). The Brooklyn Dodgers moved to California in 1958, becoming the Los Angeles Dodgers. The New York Giants also moved to California in 1958, becoming the San Francisco Giants.
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    The Dead-ball Era, 1900-1920


The Dead-ball era in Major League Baseball is usually defined as the time period from 1900 to 1920, although some baseball people place the starting date of the Dead-ball era all the way back to the beginning of organized baseball, which is circa 1845 [the National League was founded in 1876; and the American League was established as the second major league in 1901]. For the purposes of this article, the Dead-ball era will be framed as the 21 National League seasons and the 20 American League seasons from 1900 to 1920. In 1920, Babe Ruth, newly arrived from the Boston Red Sox, (where he hit 24 HRs in 1919 as a pitcher and a utility outfielder), hit a then-inconceivable 54 home runs as a regularly starting New York Yankee outfielder. Also in 1920, changes were made to the ball (a different yarn and a different wrapping procedure was used), which, while Major League Baseball has always insisted had no effect on the ‘liveliness’ of the ball (citing a US Bureau of Standards test), was nevertheless labelled “the jackrabbit ball” by players and pundits alike. Also, one year later in 1921, a rule was put in place which demanded that baseballs be replaced when dirty. This aided the batter both by putting less “dead” balls in play as well as putting more visible balls into play. Diminished size of the outfields in ballparks also contributed to the surge in home runs in the 1920s. And the effect that Babe Ruth himself had on the end of the Dead-ball era cannot be discounted, as the conventional wisdom of “small ball” was swept away, bringing in an era (that remains to this day) where hitters were encouraged to, and often expected to, swing for the fences.

The Dead-ball era was a time when pitchers dominated the game, and records like Cy Young’s 512 wins or Ed Walsh’s 1.82 lifetime ERA will almost certainly never be broken. The Dead-ball era saw very few out-of-the-park home runs, and saw the lowest-ever slugging percentages {see this chart}. The Dead-ball era was characterized by a base-to-base style of play with the emphasis on advancing runners through stolen bases, sacrifice hits and bunts, hit-and-run-plays, and hitting techniques such as the “Baltimore chop‘ . Because of the vast outfields in many of the ballparks, there were a lot more triples in the Dead-ball era, and inside-the-park home runs were way more common than they are today. During the 1900-1917 time period there were 15 instances between the two Major Leagues when the home run leader hit less than 10 HRs (!)…this happened in the American League in 1905, 1907, 1908, 1909, 1914, and 1916; and this happened in the National League in 1902, 1903, 1904, 1905, and 1909. {From Baseball Almanac.com, Year by Year Leaders for Home Runs}. To give you an idea of how rare home runs were in the first two decades of the 20th century, the Philadelphia Athletics’ third baseman Frank ‘Home Run’ Baker got his nickname by hitting 2 home runs in the 1911 World Series, after he led the AL that season with 11 round trippers. Eleven home runs is a good month for sluggers these days. Baker finished his 13-season career with 96 HR, very good for his day, but the stuff of three good seasons post-1920. If you think all this made for boring baseball, there is perhaps one saving grace about the style of play during the Dead-ball era…the profusion of triples.

All-Time Triples Leaders…
The list of all-time triples leaders is skewed heavily towards the early days of baseball and particularly the Dead-ball era of 1900-1920. And only 2 of the top 20 in the all-time triples leaders list had careers which came after the end of the Dead-ball era…#10 on the list, Paul ‘Big Poison’ Waner, and #19 (tied) on the list, Stan ‘The Man’ Musial. {‘List of Major League Baseball players with 100 triples‘, from en.wikipedia.org}.
All-time triples leaders. Below: The top 8 All-time Triples Leaders, all of whom had at least 200 triples, lifetime. Each player is shown in a photograph or an illustration, with his ball clubs and seasons listed, along with his high for triples in a season…[Note: all these players are in the Baseball Hall of Fame.]
1. ‘Wahoo’ Sam Crawford. 309 triples. {Hall of Fame bio}.
2. Ty Cobb, ‘the Georgia Peach’. 295 triples. {official web site of Ty Cobb}.
3. Honus Wagner, ‘the Flying Dutchman’ [he was German; "Dutch" being a mutilation of Deutsch]. 252 triples. {official site of Honus Wagner}.
4. Jake ‘Eagle Eye’ Beckley. 244 triples. {Jake Beckley bio at SABR.org, by David Fleitz}.
5. Roger Connor [6 foot 3 inches tall and the man who gave the New York Giants their nickname]. 233 triples. {‘Roger Connor: The 19th Century HR King‘, by Mike Attiyeh at The Baseball Guru.com}.
6. Tris Speaker, ‘the Grey Eagle’. 222 triples. {Tris Speaker bio at Baseball Reference.com}.
7. Fred Clarke. [Player/manager of 4 of Pittsburgh's 9 NL Pennants]. 220 triples. {Hall of Fame bio}.
8. Dan Brouthers. [First great slugger in MLB history]. 205 triples. {Hall of Fame bio}.

All MLB players with 200 Triples, lifetime
[Note: click on image below, for an enlarged version.]
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The ball during the Dead-ball era, and the effect of widespread use of the then-legal spitball…
The name dead-ball is pretty straightforward, because back in the early days of professional baseball, the ball was not at all lively when struck by the batter, and the ball usually did not travel too far. Furthermore, as a cost-cutting measure (since balls were expensive back then), balls were very rarely replaced during the game, like in modern baseball games. In the Dead-ball era, balls were routinely used for up to 100 pitches. In the modern Major League Baseball game, a ball lasts, on average, 6 pitches, and 5 or 6 dozen balls are used in the average 9 inning game. {NumberOf.net/ Number of baseballs used in a MLB game}.
Plus, before and during the Dead-ball Era, the moment a new ball was thrown into the field, a pitcher’s first job was to dirty up that ball. So if the baseballs started out soft and not very visble, you can imagine what they were like 3 or 4 innings into the game, after being tossed around, whacked by baseball bats, rolled in the dirt, grass, and mud, and spat upon and scuffed up by the pitchers. In other words, 100 years ago in Major League Baseball, baseballs were not very lively by design, and literally dead by overuse. And because of the inevitable dirtying up of the ball, it stopped being even close to a white orb and started looking like a misshapen brown blur to the batters. The batters had a real hard time seeing the ball.
The spitball was another major reason offensive production was so low in the Dead-ball era. Spitball was the catch-all term for putting something on the ball, it didn’t have to be spit…mud worked fine, and petroleum jelly was (and still is) a popular choice. With a spitball, the ball behaves erratically in flight due to the extra weight on one part of the ball’s surface.

1911: The cork-centered ball pushes up offensive numbers (temporarily)…
Another reason for low scoring and meager offensive numbers in the very early years of organized baseball was that, prior to 1911, the baseball had no cork center. The cork-centered ball was invented by Ben Shibe (who was then co-owner of the American League’s Philadelphia Athletics) and first marketed by the Reach Company, who were then the American League’s official baseball suppliers, in 1909, and were in use throughout Major League Baseball (ie, both the American League and the National League) starting in 1911, causing a spike in offensive statistics, but only temporarily. A telling statistic of the cork-centered ball’s initial impact is that the only two plus-.400 batting averages between 1902 and 1919 were attained in the first two seasons after the cork-centered balls began being used in 1911. Ty Cobb (of the American League’s Detroit Tigers) hit .420 in 1911. This was Cobb’s highest-ever season average. The next year, 1912, Cobb hit .410. Meanwhile, ‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson (of the AL’s Chicago White Sox) batted .408 in 1911. And in the National League, the highest home run total by a player went from 10 HR in 1910 to 21 HR in 1911 (by Pittsburgh’s Frank Schulte); also in 1911 the new cork-centered ball allowed the Philadelphia Phillies’ home run total to jump from 21 in 1910 to 62 in 1911 (more on the Phillies and their home-run-friendly and odd-shaped ballpark later). {League by League Totals for Batting Averages , from Baseball Almanac.com}

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Circa 1913: the scuff-ball gives the pitchers the upper hand again…
But a pitching innovation (more like a rule-infraction) that made its way to major league baseball circa 1912-13 countered the cork ball’s effectiveness…the invention of the scuffed ball, or emery pitch, in 1908, by then-minor league pitcher Russ Ford {Russ Ford bio at Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame site}. The scuffed ball is achieved by rubbing the ball against anything rough or sharp, such as a concrete wall, an emery board, or a sharpened belt buckle. The damage to the ball’s surface causes the ball to take an irregular flight path that with practice a pitcher can control (the scuff marks cause wind drag on one part of the ball’s surface). The scuff-ball was declared illegal in 1914, but that didn’t stop its use by any means. It just made it go “underground”. The scuff-ball still exists to this day…in the 1950s, Yankee legend Whitey Ford had his wedding ring sharpened to surreptitiously scuff the ball; in the 1980s Texas Ranger relief pitcher Rick Honeycutt was caught using an upside-down thumbtack held to a finger on his glove hand by a band-aid; plus the scuff ball was pretty much the basis of the entire career of Joe Niekro, who favored the good old emery board. How to throw a scuff ball?…{see this}. So between the still-legal spitball, and the illegal but soon prevalent scuff-ball, offensive production in baseball significantly dropped circa 1913 to 1919.

The role that ballparks with vast outfields played during the Dead-ball era…
West Side Park (II), Chicago, Illinois -1893 to 1915, home of the Chicago Colts (1893-1897) / Chicago Orphans (ca. 1898-1901) / Chicago Cubs (1902-1915)
west-side-park-II_chicago_1906-08_cubs-uniforms_c.gif
Dressed to the Nines – A history of the Baseball uniform.

Exposition Park – 1891 to June, 1909, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates -
exposition-park_pittsburgh_pirates-uniforms1903-09_.gif

Another factor in low offensive production in the first two decades of 20th century baseball was the fact that most ballparks back then had gigantic outfield dimensions, with many ballparks having parts of their outfield fences well over 500 feet away from home plate (see Chicago Cubs ballpark, above, and Boston [AL] ballpark below), and/or having the foul poles around 400 feet from home plate (see Pittsburgh ballpark, above). But as the 20th century moved out of its first decade, things were about to change and the ballparks being built would start featuring smaller outfield dimensions. This did not happen over night, and some of the new ballparks still had vast outfield dimensions (like Shibe Park in Philadelphia, and the original Comiskey Park in Chicago, and especially Braves Field in Boston), but the trend was towards smaller outfields, or in the case of ballparks like two famous New York City ballparks, the Polo Grounds and the original Yankee Stadium (1923-2008), a mix of short outfield fences on either side of a vast centerfield area. After the 1911 renovation and expansion, the Polo Grounds was basically a very long U-shaped structure with an outfield that resembled half of a rectangle with rounded corners {see this, Polo Grounds [1911-1957] schematic at Clem’s Baseball Blog }. Yankee Stadium (I) had right and left field foul poles less than 300 feet from home plate. The famous Short Porch of right field, which was designed to give maximum benefit to the compact, pull-the-ball swing of left-handed hitter Babe Ruth, was originally just 295 feet from home plate, and pretty much stayed that way until renovations in 1976 put it at 320 feet. {see this, Yankee Stadium, 1923 schematic at Clem’s Baseball Blog}. {Dimensions of Yankee Stadium (I), etc. from Ballparkls.com}. But the original Yankee Stadium had a maximum outfield distance of 500 feet in left-centerfield. So you might say this is the best of both worlds…vast areas in the central outfield to encourage the excitement of a three base hit or even an inside-the-park home run; and short fences near the foul poles to encourage the long-ball, bash ‘em in style of offense that the public began to (and still does) embrace.

In the 1909-1923 time period (15 years), 11 Major League ballparks were built, and, 10 of them were asymmetrical…
Examples of ball clubs that built ballparks circa 1909 to 1923 that were pretty much uniformly smaller than their preceding ballparks were in Cincinnati, with the Cincinnati Reds NL ball club; and in Boston, with the Boston Red Sox AL ball club. In Cincinnati, the vast outfield of the Palace of the Fans ballpark was replaced by the much smaller confines of the new Crosley Field, which opened in 1912. The Palace of the Fans had dimensions of 390 feet in left field / 510 feet in center field / 450 feet in right field. That is huge. Crosley Field had the considerably smaller outfield dimensions of LF: 360 ft./ CF: 420 ft. / RF: 360 ft. The diminished outfield space in Cincinnati after 1911 [this is not mathematically precise, but it will still give you an idea] LF: minus-30 ft. / CF: minus-90 ft. / RF: minus-90 ft.

In Boston, the absolutely gigantic outfield of the Huntington Avenue Grounds was replaced in 1912 by Fenway Park (which is still the home of the Boston Red Sox to this day, and is the oldest currently operating MLB ballpark). Huntington Avenue Grounds was only an MLB ballpark for 11 seasons (1901-1911), and its outfield dimensions were significantly expanded for just its last three seasons (1908-11), but that coincides with the Dead-ball era’s lowest slugging percentage and lowest pitcher’s ERA. In 1908 to 1911, Huntington Avenue Grounds’ outfield dimensions were LF: 350 ft. / CF: 635 ft. / RF: 320 ft. 635 feet in center field is pretty darn far away from home plate. Fenway Park’s outfield dimensions when it opened in 1912 were 324 ft. LF / 488 ft. CF / 380 ft. right-CF / 314 ft. RF. The diminished outfield space in Boston (AL) after 1911…LF: minus-16 ft. / CF: minus-150 ft. / RF: minus-6 ft.
Huntinton Avenue Grounds, Boston, Massachusetts – 1901-1911, home of the Boston American League ball club (1901-1907) / Boston Red Sox (1908-1911)
More ballpark illustrations, etc, at Jeff Suntala Illustration – Suntala.com .

A confluence of events led to most of these ballparks-with-gigantic-outfields to vanish before the 1920s. Basically, ballparks would burn down to the ground with terrifying regularity all through the early days of organized baseball, and this didn’t stop until ballparks stopped being constructed primarily of wood, but rather of steel and concrete, which occurred in the 1909 to 1920 time period (the first ballpark made primarily of concrete and steel was the Philadelphia Athletics’ Shibe Park, which opened in 1909). 9 of the 16 MLB ball clubs built new ballparks between 1909 to 1923 {list of MLB stadiums [current and former] here}. Shibe Park did have vast outfield dimensions, but all of the 8 other subsequent ballparks built between 1909 and 1923 had at least part of the outfield walls a shorter distance to home plate than the previous ballpark. And these new MLB ballparks being built in the time period of 1909 to 1923 were going up right when urban areas all across the United States became more crowded… in other words, in the last stages of the Dead-ball era, the ball clubs could no longer build new ballparks with giant outfields because urban real estate was at a premium. The newly built ballparks would have to conform to the smaller, irregular-shaped lots that were available. This, in retrospect, has made baseball such a fascinating and appealing spectator sport…because most every ballpark that was built in the 1909 to 1923 time period was built on an asymmetrical plot of land. There are exceptions, of course, two of which can be seen in the two Chicago ballparks built in this time period. In 1910, the White Sox built the first Comiskey Park, which was virtually symmetrical (it is said that the White Sox organization consulted with their ace pitcher, [all-time lowest ERA holder] Ed Walsh, when laying out the dimensions for the original Comiskey Park). And Weegham Park, which came to be known as Wrigley Field [in 1926], was built in 1914 in the then-mostly-undeveloped North Side of Chicago. Weegham Park was built for the Federal League team the Chicago Whales [the Federal League lasted only one season], and the Cubs took over the ballpark in 1916. The area soon did become developed, though, and when the Cubs renovated in 1938, they couldn’t expand, and instead built outfield stands in areas that once were part of the field, specifically the power alleys. So in a roundabout way Weegham Park/Wrigley Field conforms to the smaller-ballparks-built-in-established-urban-areas thesis.

The Asymmetrical Ballpark…
The proliferation of asymmetrical ballparks with smaller outfield dimensions wasn’t really planned, but it sure made baseball more interesting. Of course, circa 1960 to 1988 or so, the people running ball clubs and the smug urban planners running metropolitan areas totally ignored this fact, and forced ugly, astro-turf laden cookie-cutter, multi-purpose concrete stadiums on the public. The whole idea was “we can put our baseball team and our NFL football team in the same stadium, and who cares if the dimensions of the two sports fields are totally incompatible”. The multi-purpose stadium era pretty much set baseball back a quarter-century, but I digress.

Perhaps the best example of the marvelous effect that an asymmetrical ballpark can have on the game of baseball can be seen in Fenway Park in Boston, which opened in 1912, and operates to this day. Fenway is simply baseball heaven, and it is all because of the fact that the Boston Red Sox were forced to build a ball park on a plot of land that looks like a rectangle drawn by a blind man with a shaky hand {see this, Fenway Park schematic at Clem’s Baseball Blog}. The key to what makes the asymmetrical ballpark so visually appealing is an outfield wall the defies any sort of uniform sweep or curve, and which also varies in height, and in fact features the much-coveted “nooks and crannies” in the wall’s facade, where batted balls ricochet in unpredictable ways. Fenway Park has a brilliant nook in deep right-center field, called The Triangle {see this}, plus it features a unique shallow right field foul pole, the “Pesky Pole” (after Sox legend Jimmy Pesky) {see the photo here}, in the farthest right field, which is around 60 feet shallower than right field just 50 feet more towards right-center, where the bullpens are, and where the outfield fence is only 3 feet high. Fenway, of course, also features the famous Green Monster {see this}, which is a 37-foot wall, built to prevent easy home runs because the outfield wall there in left field is only 310 to 315 feet from home plate. These days you can watch the game from seats on top of the Green Monster, which is a brilliant concept that should be emulated elsewhere.

Asymmetrical Ballparks Built to Last…
Below: 11 of the 12 MLB ball parks built between 1909 and 1923, 11 of which which had considerably smaller outfield dimensions than the ballparks they replaced – all except Braves Field in Boston had smaller outfield dimensions [not shown, Sportsman's Park in St. Louis (1920-66)]…
[with illustrations from Clem's Baseball Blog {http://www.andrewclem.com/Baseball/Dimensions.html }.
Click on image below for chart...
asymmetrical-ballparks_1909-1923_r_.gif

Philadelphia's Shibe Park ushered in an era of steel and concrete ballparks. Major League ballparks would no longer be built of wood, and thus no longer were the fire hazards of previous structures. So all these ballparks lasted considerably longer than the earlier ones. Several of these ballparks lasted for more than a half-century, and two of these ballparks are still in use today...Fenway Park (1912), and Wrigley Field (1914). It goes without saying that all baseball fans view these two parks as priceless, and the two pretty much give their respective ball clubs, the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs their identities. What all these ballparks, with the exception of the Boston's Braves Field, had in common was that they had outfield dimensions that were smaller than the ballparks they replaced. Some, like Cincinnati's Crosley Field were extremely smaller (and got smaller with renovations). Many, like Yankee Stadium, had smaller dimensions at the foul poles, and vast outfield areas and deep fences around center field. This provided the opportunity for more home runs, but also still allowed for the chance of triples and inside-the-park home runs. And with the exception of Comiskey Park (I), all these ballparks featured layouts which were asymmetrical. In most cases, and particularly in the case of Griffith Stadium, Fenway Park, Crosley Field, Tiger Stadium, Ebbets Field, and Yankee Stadium, this was because the ball clubs were forced to build ballparks in dense urban areas. They had no choice but to fit the ballparks into the pre-existing urban grid. Because of this, each of the ballparks had its own unique charm, each with quirks of its own. Plus, in most instances, a city-view was prominent behind the outfield walls, which, with the slow pace of the game, was a crucial factor in the ambiance of a game at a Major League ballpark. After all, they are called parks, and you go to a park to relax. So premeditated or not, asymmetrical ballparks defined the MLB game until the onset of urban-planner-mentality and the spread of characterless and ugly multi-purpose stadiums circa 1960 to 1990. Thank goodness that era of misguided ballpark design is over.

...
The Baker Bowl- a Dead-ball era ballpark ballpark with smaller outfield dimensions and inflated home run numbers...
To give more credence to the argument that outfield size played a huge factor in the lack of home runs in the Dead-ball era...the modern era [post-1900] record for home runs in a season, prior to the emergence of Babe Ruth as a slugger (ie, from 1920 on), was set by the Philadelphia Phillies’ Gavvy Cravath, when he hit 24 HR in 1915, which was actually a higher total than 12 of the 15 other teams’ entire home runs totals for that season (think about it…one player on one team had more homers than all 25 players on 80% of the other teams in the league that year). Cravath was a powerful hitter who, against the conventional wisdom of the day, consciously tried to hit homers instead of singles or doubles. And he played in the Phillies’ extremely quirky ballpark, the Baker Bowl, which featured a short right-center power alley (300 feet from home plate) and a right field fence that was just 272 to 280 feet from home plate. Baker Bowl could not be built with a larger outfield because the Reading and Pennsylvania Rail Road had a sprawling rail yard bordering its right and center fields. The result was home run numbers at the Baker Bowl were an anomaly for the time period. Even the 40-foot tin-covered brick wall the Philladelphia management erected in right field could not prevent the high percentage of homers being hit there (after 1920, the wall was increased to 60 feet high (!), with the addition of a 20 foot chain link fence above the 40 foot wall).
baker-bowl_philadelphia-phillies_gavvy-cravath_b.gif

The 1906 Chicago White Sox, known as “the Hitless Wonders”…
The low-water mark of the Dead-ball era was around 1907-1908, with a MLB-wide batting average of just .239, an anemic slugging percentage of .306, and a pitchers’ ERA of below 2.40 runs per game. The poster boys for the Dead-ball era would be the 1906 Chicago White Sox, who hit just .230 as a team, with only 7 HR, but still managed to win the AL Pennant, and then go on to upset the Chicago Cubs in the only all-Chicago World Series. The Hitless Wonders featured 4 starters, Frank Owen, Nick Altcock, Ed Walsh, and Doc White who won 77 games between them, and contributed to a team ERA of just 2.13, including Ed Walsh’s 1.52 ERA [Ed Walsh played 13 seasons for the White Sox with a 195-126 record and has the lowest ERA in baseball history, 1.82. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1946.] As anemic as their offense was, with the Pale Hose batting average team leader that year being second baseman Frank Isbell with a .279 BAvg., the team did manage to hit 52 triples, though, but one might say that just shows you how prevalent triples were back then.…

Ultimately, to this day, what exactly caused the end of the Dead-ball era is still debated. Here are the popular theories.
1. In 1919, balls began being wound with a higher grade of yarn, and it was machine-wound as opposed to being wound by hand, leading to the the so-called jackrabbit ball. Major League Baseball denied that the ball was any more lively than the previous balls, but many in the game felt the balls from 1919 on were way more lively, and that MLB did this on purpose to spur more offense and thus more fan interest. Think about it, machine-wound instead of hand-wound…logic has it that those machine-wound balls are going to be tighter and springier.
2. More balls used per game. A new rule for replacing baseballs once they got dirty was enacted following the fatal beaning of Cleveland’s Ray Chapman at the Polo Grounds on August 16, 1920. New York Yankee submarine hurler and notorious headhunter relief pitcher Carl Mays threw a spitball which hit Ray Chapman of the Cleveland Indians in the head; Chapman died later that day {NY Times.com/ August 17, 1920}. There is no doubt that the use of more balls during each game was of huge benefit to batters.
3. Outlawing the spitball [see above], first by limiting it to use by only 2 pitchers per team in 1919, and grandfathering out the spitball in 1920 (ie, phased out, but allowing established spitball pitchers to still use it so as to not harm their careers). This definitely aided batters.
4. The rise of Babe Ruth as a power hitter influenced the hitting styles of other batters and encouraged teams to place less emphasis on station-to-station “small ball’, and swing for the fences. Ruth utilized a pronounced upper-cut in his swing, and others soon emulated it. This thesis is pretty hard to prove one way or the other. There is no denying the fact that Babe Ruth seized the imagination of the nation. And there is no denying the fact that by the late 1920s, scores of players had home run totals into the 40 or 50 mark per season. But offensive numbers were rising before Ruth’s HR totals skyrocketed in the 1920-21 time period.
5. The disappearance of ballparks with huge outfields. Also hard to prove, because so many ballparks didn’t have accurate measurements. But it stands to reason, once ballparks were being built with smaller dimensions in some parts of the outfield, that more homers would be hit, like at Yankee Stadium or at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis (1920-66). But most all of the other ballparks that replaced older and much vaster outfield dimensions had been built in the 1909-to-1913 period (see Asymmetrical Ballparks illustration further above).

-> It probably was that the ball really was more lively. Combined with #2, #3, #4, and #5 above. The outlawing of the spitball (grandfathered in so that 17 spit-ballers were still allowed to use the pitch after 1920), led to increased offensive production. And, from 1921-on, more balls were used per game (after the death-by-hit-pitch Carl Mays/Ray Chapman incident in 1920/see #2 above). Tighter-wound/machine-spun balls – and more new, shiny-white, hard-and-hittable baseballs – were being put in play each game. Of course offensive production would increase simply by that fact alone. The batters could now actually see a hard white orb, whereas before 1921 and especially before 1919, by the 4th inning or so, the batter would have to try to hit a soft, discolored and beaten-up mess of a ball. Which game-ball do you think would be easier to hit, and easier to hit hard…the soft and discolored circa-1908 ball or the rock hard and bright white circa-1922 ball? Ty Cobb insisted that the livelier ball was the reason, in his autobiography. Ty Cobb would be the last person you would want to consult with on ethical behavior (Cobb was a virulent racist who once assaulted a heckling quadrapeligic; here is a nice example of how Cobb liked to treat the opposition. But when it comes to baseball, and specifically hitting a baseball, well, Ty Cobb’s views must be taken very seriously (he is , after all, the all-time leader in batting average).

___
Thanks to The National Baseball Hall of Fame’s “Dressed to the Nines” baseball uniforms database, featuring uniforms templates drawn by Marc Okkonen, {here}.

Thanks to the brilliant baseball ballpark historian and illustrator Jeff Suntala, who made those mesmerizing watercolors of the old ballparks I used in some of the images sequences on this post. I felt guilty using someone else’s artwork, but because I could not find any better images of these remarkable but now gone-and-sadly-forgotten ballparks, I felt I had to feature some of Mr. Suntala’s work. So please go to his site and ponder some commercial transaction (his old ballparks posters are very reasonably priced). www.suntala.com.

Thanks to the excellent Clem’s Baseball Blog, subtitled Our National Pastime & It’s Green Cathedrals. The asymmetrical ballparks chart utilized some of the ballparks schematics from this site.

Thanks to the comprehensive Ballparks Of Baseball site, for info and ballpark dimensions, ballparksofbaseball.com.

Thanks to the Chicago Daily News negatives collection, at http://memory.loc.gov
Thanks to contributor “oldballparks” at Flickr.com, oldballparks’ photostream @ flickr.com

Thanks to the Sports E-Cyclopdeia site, for info and some of the photos, Sports E-Cyclopedia/MLB.

Thanks to the University of Texas Library’s online map collection, for the 1900 Railways map that I used as a base map on the map page, Perry-Castenada Map Colection/ Historical Maps of the United States.
[Note: this map was made in England, by the Cambridge University Press, http://www.cambridge.org/

Thanks to the contributors to the pages at en.wikipedia.org, ’1908 Major League Baseball season”.

Thanks to The Diamond Angle.com, for the write-up on the October 8, 1908 replay that decided the season…1908 NL.

Thanks to BaseballPilgrimages.com, Boston ballparks poster.
Thanks to Corbis Images.
Thanks to Gordon H. Fleming, for his book on the 1908 National League pennant race, ‘The Unforgettable Season’, published by the University of Nebraska Press in 1981; at Amazon, here. New York Times book review by C. Lehmann-Haupt, March 23, 1981, here.

October 17, 2010

Major League Baseball – 1908, American League, with season highlights, 1908 uniforms and 1908 MLB attendances.

Filed under: Baseball,Baseball-1908 MLB season,Retro maps — admin @ 3:04 pm

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MLB: 1908 American League map





Please note
: a similar map was also posted for the 1908 National League, Major League Baseball: 1908 National League season, with map and NL uniforms; the post-season replay of Chicago Cubs v. New York Giants at the Polo Grounds on October 8, 1908; and an illustrated article on the Dead-ball Era in Major League Baseball (1900-1920).

The map page’s main feature is a railways and population map of the United States, from 1900. To this map I have added the jersey or cap crests of the 8 American League ball clubs. The large crests shown at the top of the map are arranged to reflect the western-to-eastern distribution of the 8 American League ballclubs, while the very small club crests serve to locate the ball clubs’ home cities on the map. On the far right of the map page I have shown the 1908 uniforms of the 8 AL ball clubs, as well as the 2010 home ball caps of the modern version of each of these 8 AL franchises, 5 of which still play in the same city, and 3 of which still have the same names. Those 3 ball clubs are the Chicago White Sox, the Detroit Tigers, and the Boston Red Sox. These three were charter members of the American League, which was established in 1901 as the second major league in baseball [the National League, established in 1876, was the first major league in baseball]. The fourth and fifth American league ball clubs from this era that have remained in the same city but later changed their names are the Cleveland and the New York franchises. The Cleveland franchise began as the Cleveland Blues, a charter member of the American League in 1901. The Naps name was the winning result of a newspaper contest for fans to vote on the new name of the Cleveland ball club iin 1905, and was in honor of batting hero and second baseman Napolean Lajoie (who the year later became player/manager of the Naps). The Naps moniker lasted until Napoleon Lajoie retired in 1914, and in 1915, the ball club changed its name to the Cleveland Indians. The New York Highlanders began as the second incarnation of the Baltimore Orioles (II), who were an American League charter member in 1901, but after two seasons the Baltimore ball club moved to the northern tip of Manhattan in New York City, and were called the New York Highlanders for a decade before changing their name to the New York Yankees in 1913. The other 3 American League franchises from 1908 are as follows…The St. Louis Browns (II) started out as the Milwaukee Brewers (I), a charter member of the American League in 1901, but moved to St. Louis after just one year. The St. Louis Browns American League team existed from 1902 to 1953, then moved its franchise east to Baltimore, to become the present-day Baltimore Orioles (III). The Philadelphia Athletics were a charter member of the American League in 1901, and played 54 seasons in Philadelphia before moving to Kansas City, Missouri in 1955. The Kansas City Athletics lasted 13 seasons before moving west to the Bay Area in California, in 1968, as the Oakland Athletics. The original Washington Senators were a charter member of the American League in 1901, and played in the nation’s capital for 60 years, before moving to the upper Midwest in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1961, changing their name to the Minnesota Twins. The confusing thing is that another Washington Senators (II) replaced the Senators-into-Twins franchise, also in 1961…so major league baseball didn’t leave Washington, DC in 1961 (it left in 1971, with the Senators {II) moving to Texas in 1972, becoming the present-day Texas Rangers). [Then in 2005, Washington, DC finally got another chance to have an MLB franchise, when the Montreal Expos of the National League moved to DC and became the present-day Washington Nationals.]

At the bottom, center of the map page are average attendance figures from both the 1908 American League and the 1908 National League. It might surprise some how small these figures are compared to modern-day turnstile numbers, but MLB attendance figures basically did not get into the 20,000 per game numbers until the 1920s, spurred on by the rise of the slugger in major league baseball as personified by baseball’s first superstar, George Herman “Babe” Ruth. Another factor was that, in the early 1900s, attending pro sporting events was not as ingrained in the culture as it is today. Also the population of the country in 1908 was a fraction of what it is today. And finally, the fact of the matter was that around two-thirds of the games were being played during regular work-day hours, because there was no such thing as night games back then.

At the upper left of the map page is a synopsis of the 1908 American league season {which is reprinted in a slightly expanded form a few paragraphs below, for easier reading}, and next to that are the final standings for the AL in 1908. Below that are two sets of images and captions. The upper set pertains to the perfect game thrown by Cleveland Naps pitcher Addie Joss. The lower set of images and captions pertains to the 1908 AL pennant-winners, the Detroit Tigers.
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1908 in the American League…
The 1908 American League pennant race involved four teams, and will always be known as the closest-ever pennant race in Major League Baseball history. As late as September 1st, 1908, the Detroit Tigers, the Cleveland Naps, the Chicago White Sox, and the St. Louis Browns were separated by just 2 and a half games. The Browns soon fell back, but the other 3 teams remained deadlocked all the way to the end of the season.

1908 attendance leaders…
The St. Louis Browns saw a 43 percent attendance increase in 1908, to 7,935 per game, a respectable figure for its day. The White Sox had the highest turnstile count, drawing 8,155 per game. The Tigers saw the largest average attendance increase in 1908…a 48 percent increase (from 3,760 per game in 1907, to 5,592 per game in 1908).
Past seasons MLB Attendance figures, by ball club, at Baseball-Reference.com site, here.

1908 AL Stats leaders…
{1908 MLB stats leaders (en.wikipedia.org)}
The Detroit Tigers had the dominant offense of the day, with a league-high .263 Batting Average (which was 18 points higher than the second-best hitting teams – the St. Louis Browns and the Boston Red Sox, who both hit .245 as a team). These low numbers for offense are emblematic of the Dead-ball Era (circa 1900-1920), but were low even by those standards. [The many reasons for low offensive numbers in the first 2 decades of the 20th century in major league baseball will be explored in my next post, the 1908 National League season and the Dead-ball Era.]

The Detroit Tigers outfield circa 1908, called the outfield of the decade by Bill James…
The Detroit Tigers were led by the outfield trio of Matthew “Matty” McIntyre in left field; all-time triples leader Sam “Wahoo Sam” Crawford in center field (309 triples, lifetime); and all-time Batting Average king Ty “the Georgia Peach” Cobb in right field (.366 BAvg., lifetime). {see photos and captions at the lower left of the map page}.

The 1908 AL pennant race…
The Cleveland Naps opened up a half game lead on September 26, 1908, with a come-from-behind rally over the hapless Washington Senators, which made it 10 wins in 12 games for Cleveland…and after the game at League Park in Cleveland, the team, fans and marching bands celebrated like they had already won the pennant. But on the same day, Detroit commenced a 10-game winning streak. Sunday, Sept. 27 saw the Tigers reach a tie for first place with the idle Cleveland, and the Tigers held a slim half-game lead going into October, with Cleveland half a game back, and Chicago 1.5 games back. On October 2nd, at League Park, Cleveland and Chicago squared off for what became one of the greatest, if not the greatest pitchers’ duels in baseball history. The Cleveland Naps’ ace corkscrew right-hander Addie Joss out-dueled the Chicago White Sox spitball artist Ed Walsh 1-0. Walsh struck out 15 batters in 8 innings, but Joss did even better by not allowing a single Chicago batter to reach first base by either a hit or a base-on-balls…a perfect game. And Addie Joss only needed 74 pitches to do it. {see photos and captions at the left-center on the map page}. But Detroit also won that day, and held their slim lead. {from Cleveland.com, by Marc Bona of The Cleveland Plain Dealer, ‘Perfect flashback: On Oct. 2, 1908, ‘Joss’ gem triumphs in Cleveland’s greatest pitching duel’}.

It all came down to the final day of the season, with the Tigers in Chicago, and an arm-depleted White Sox team were forced to pitch Doc White on only 2 days rest (and coming off a complete game). The Pale Hose were demolished 7-0 by the potent Detroit bats, and Tiger righty “Wild Bill” Donovan (18-7. 2.08 ERA that year) recorded his 6th shutout of the season.

The Detroit Tigers thus won the 1908 American league Pennant by a half of a game. Because, by the rules of the day, the Tigers were not required to re-play a rained-out game from earlier in the season, so that 0.5 game lead over the Cleveland Naps stood. What is stunning about this was that a similar thing had occurred in both 1905 and 1907, but this was the last straw, and the rules on rain-outs were changed during the off-season. After 1908, any rained-out games that had a bearing on the final outcome of the season had to be re-played. The rule became known as “the 1908 rule”.
{‘Fantastic Finishes – American League 1908′ [http://members.cox.net/bngolden1/fantasticfinishes1.htm]}.
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Thanks to Baseball-Reference.com, for attendance figures, at Baseball-Reference.com > Teams > Attendance, Team Age and Ballparks.

Thanks to the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s “Dressed to the Nines” uniform database, with baseball uniforms templates drawn by Marc Okkonen {1908, American League, click here. 1908, National League, click here}.

Thanks to Mitchell & Ness (Boston Red Sox 1908 home jersey). The Detroit Tigers crest I fashioned for the map page also came from a Mitchell & Ness jersey, here.

Thanks to Bill James, and his indispensable ‘The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract’, at Amazon.com, here.
Thanks to Chris Creamer’s Sports Logos Page, for a few old logos, www.chriscreamer.com/Baseball Logos.
Thanks to the Chicago Daily News negatives collection, here.
Thanks to the Boston Public Library’s McGreevey photographs collection at Flickr.com, here.

Thanks to the University of Texas Library’s online map collection, for the 1900s Railways and Populations map that I used as a base map on the map page, Perry-Castenada Map Collection/ Historical Maps of the United States

Thanks to the brilliant baseball ballpark historian and illustrator Jeff Suntala, who made the watercolor of Detroit’s Bennett Field that used on the map page (his old ballparks posters are very reasonably priced). www.suntala.com.

February 1, 2008

The NFL, 1969-Map.

Filed under: NFL/ Gridiron Football,Retro maps — admin @ 8:06 pm

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This map shows the 16 teams that made up the NFL, in 1969.  The four division format had started in 1967.  Two of these four divisions still exist today, but with different names.  The Capitol Division (Giants, Eagles, Redskins, Cowboys) is now known as the NFC East.  The Central Division (Bears. Packers, Lions, Vikings) is now known as the NFC North.   Expansion teams of this era are as follows.

13th NFL team- Dallas Cowboys, established 1960.   14. Minnesota Vikings, est. 1961.   15. Atlanta Falcons, est. 1966.   16. New Orleans Saints, est. 1967. 

Also shown on the map is the helmet evolution of all these 16 teams, from the late 1950′s through to the present time.  All these franchises are still in existance.   City changes,  and team name changes are noted.  The following year (1970), the NFL merged with the 10-team AFL, to form a 2-Conference, 26-team NFL.

Here is a program from the 1968 playoffs that nicely shows some of the helmets of that era.nfl_1968_program_with_helmets.gif 

Click here to see the synopsis of the 1969 NFL season.

January 24, 2008

The NFL, 1960-Map.

Filed under: NFL/ Gridiron Football,Retro maps — admin @ 7:15 am

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The NFL expanded to 13 teams in 1960, with the addition of the Dallas Cowboys.  That season, they would be competing with the newly formed AFL.  They made sure they could meet that new threat head-on in Texas, by establishing a franchise in Dallas.  This, just 8 years after an initial failed attempt (the Dallas Texans, of 1952).  The following season (1961), the NFL would add a 14th team in Minneapolis, with the Minnesota Vikings. 

This was the era when teams were adopting helmet crests.  The Los Angeles Rams had been the trailblazers in this department, sporting their soon-to-be trademark golden horns, in 1947.  In 1954, the Baltimore Colts began wearing a U-shaped horseshoe on their helmet, but strangely wore it on the back of a blue helmet.  By 1957, the Colts’ helmet had evolved into the very same style won today.  Also in 1957, the Philadelphia Eagles began wearing their eagle-wings style design on their helmets.  In 1960, the Chicago Cardinals moved to St. Louis, Missouri, and debuted their striking Cardinal bird’s head emblem (only slightly modified in 2005).  Also in 1960, the expansion Cowboys wore the large blue star they still wear today, but on a white helmet.  Their distinctive pale blue-silver colored helmets did not come until 1964.    

In 1960 and 1961, several teams wore a blank helmet for the last time.  In 1961, the Giants, the Lions, and the Packers adopted helmet insignias; in ’62, the 49ers, the Bears, and the Steelers followed suit.  That left just the Cleveland Browns, who reversed the trend by switching from helmets with the players’ number on it, to a blank orange helmet.  The franchise wears this style helmet to this day.

Thanks to Helmets, Helmets, Helmets website, and the SSUR (http://www.ssur.org/).

January 19, 2008

The AFL (1960-’69). Map, with original team emblems, and helmet evolution.

Filed under: NFL/ Gridiron Football,Retro maps — admin @ 12:25 pm

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The American Football League, of 1960 to 1969, was the only pro football league to ever successfully compete with the NFL.  On this map, I have shown the oldest team emblems I could find, in all their primitive glory.  The helmets on the bottom left show each AFL franchise’s major helmet design changes, up to the present time.   

When the AFL merged with the NFL, prior to the 1970 season, 3 NFL franchises joined the 10 AFL franchises to form the American Football Conference. (The Baltimore Colts, the Cleveland Browns, and the Pittsburgh Steelers were the 3).   **{Click here, for Wikipedia’s entry on the AFL (1960-’69).}   The other 13 NFL franchises became the National Football Conference.   [The NFC and the AFC, of course, would continue to send their champions each season to compete in the Super Bowl (which up until then had been officially called the AFL-NFL World Championship, even though the media had called it the Super Bowl, from the start).  That competition had begun in the 1967 season, but AFL and NFL teams did not play each other during the regular season, from 1967-'69.]    **{Click here to see the summary of the first NFL season that included AFL teams (1970).}

Thanks to the Society for Sports Uniforms Research (http://www.ssur.org).   Thanks  to the Helmets, Helmets, Helmets website (http://www.misterhabs.com).   Thanks to Logoserver (http://www.logoserver.com).

November 1, 2007

The Golden Age of Baseball.

Filed under: Baseball,Hand Drawn Maps,Retro maps — admin @ 8:00 pm

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Between 1903 and 1952, there was no franchise movement among the 8 National League and 8 American League baseball clubs.  This map shows all 16 clubs, with emblems, cap crests and uniform details from that time period.  Included is an inset map of the Greater New York City area.  In it, the locations of Yankee Stadium (NY Yankees), the Polo Grounds (NY Giants), and Ebbets Field (Brooklyn Dodgers) are marked.   The evolution of these three clubs’ crests and the evolution of the ball clubs’ colors are also shown here.  This map was drawn in 1993, and would not have been possible without the incredible book “Baseball Uniforms of the 20th Century” {at Amazon, here}.  This book was researched, written, and illustrated by Marc Okkonen.  His artwork for this book can now be found as the main uniform database (from 1900 to 1994) for the Baseball Hall of Fame site “Dressed to the Nines – A History of the Baseball Uniform“. 

October 22, 2007

The American League, established 1901.

Filed under: Baseball,Hand Drawn Maps,Retro maps — admin @ 11:50 pm

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The World Series starts Wednseday, so this is a good time for a baseball map.  This map was drawn in 2005.  The map includes every ball club that has played in the American League, since its inception in 1901. The American League was created 25 years after the National League, which was formed in 1876.  Since 1903, the winner of each league has gone on to play in the best-of-7-game World Series.  Featured on this map are caps, logos, and cap crests from the past, with the years listed.  Franchise shifts are also noted.

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