Friday, December 10, 2010

December 10, 1925: An excuse to write about the Pottsville Maroons

CHICAGO - In the early days of the league, the NFL wasn't as tightly organized as it is now. In fact, you could barely call it organized at all. The league didn't set the schedule, changed the rules for winning a championship on the fly season after season, and let teams demand to fill their entire schedules with only home games. Basically, the inmates were running the asylum.

This was especially the case in 1925. At the end of the season, the Pottsville Maroons had a half-game lead over the Chicago Cardinals. Since the Maroons had beaten the Cardinals late in the year, they had the inside track to the league title.

After the season seemed to have concluded, the Maroons scheduled a game against a team of Notre Dame All Stars in Philadelphia which, for some reason, would count in the standings. The league warned Pottsville that they would be kicked out of the league if they played the game - mind you, they wouldn't get kicked out because they were playing college players, but rather because Philadelphia was deemed exclusive territory of the Frankfort Yellow Jackets.

Pottsville played the game anyway, winning 9-7 and lending credibility to the NFL. Seeing that Pottsville had added an extra game to the schedule, the Cardinals owner added two extra games to his team's schedule in the hopes of catching the Maroons in the standings. The Cardinals scheduled the Milwaukee Badgers and the Hammond Pros for games two days apart, despite the fact that both teams had dispersed for the end of the season. With the Badgers struggling to find players for the December 10 game, they brought in four Milwaukee high school players to fill out the roster. It didn't matter that they were no match for the Cardinals; in fact, that was kind of the point. It was an easy win for Chicago, as was the Hammond game two days later.

Now Pottsville and Chicago seemed to be tied for the championship. With Pottsville having beaten Chicago during the season, it seemed straightforward to award them the championship. But the league office didn't like the two teams skirting the rules to pad their record. The NFL ruled that Pottsville's game against the Notre Dame all stars be striken from the records, costing them a win in the standings, and temporarily kicked Pottsville out of the league. The league also fined the Cardinals for recruiting high school players to play against them, even going so far as to ban both the Milwaukee owner and the player who recruited the high schoolers. Inexplicably, though, the league let the results of that game count in the standings.

After all the league manuevering, the final standings showed Chicago finished a half-game ahead of Pottsville, a result that still stands in the record books today. All punishments the league handed out were eventually rescinded, further showing just how unorgainzed the league was. However, Pottsville's game against the Notre Dame all-stars remained stricken from the record. The NFL has since reexamined the season, but refused to make any changes. Somehow, the Chicago Cardinals are still listed as the 1925 NFL champions.

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