THE HISTORY OF THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE (NFL) IN DAYTON
Submitted by Mark Fenner
The history of the National Football League began on August 20, 1920, in Ralph Hay’s Hupmobile showroom in Canton, Ohio. Four Ohio teams sent representatives from Canton, Akron, Cleveland, and Dayton. A month later, the group met again on September 17. The assembly grew to represent 12 teams from four states (Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, and New York).
The men who sat in Ralph Hays showroom (some of them on Hupmobile running boards) are considered the founding fathers of the modern National Football League (NFL). The meetings were used to outline rules and regulations and to elect officials for a newly formed football league, called the American Professional Football Association (A.P.F.A.) at that time. Carl Storck, representing the Dayton Triangle Football team, was elected treasurer of the new alliance.
The origins of the Triangle football club began in 1916 when F.B. McNabb, a patent attorney for the organization, developed the Triangle Athletic Association. The Association also fielded a basketball and a baseball team. Financial support for the Triangles came from a triad of Dayton industries, owned by Charles F. Kettering and Edward A. Deeds. The industries were the Dayton Engineering Laboratories Co. (DELCO), Dayton Metal Products, and Domestic Engineering Co. (Delco-Light).
On October 3, 1920, the Triangles took the field at Triangle Park against one of their long-standing rivals, the Columbus Panhandles. At 2:30 p.m. Mr. McCoy (the referee) blew his whistle to begin the first game of the new A.P.F.A. league. Two years later, the league shortened the name to the National Football League. This game is recognized by NFL historians, along with the NFL Hall of Fame, as the first National Football League contest and is considered the most significant in league history by an NFL website. Dayton won the battle 14-0, with Lou Partlow scoring the first touchdown and Hobby Kinderdine kicking the first extra point. Carl "Scummy" Storck managed the team’s business affairs while Nelson "Bud" Talbot, (Yale All-American), was coach.
Although the October 3 contest has become one of national significance, the game played three weeks later, at Triangle Park, is considered to be one of the greatest sporting events in Dayton history. The famous Canton Bulldogs came to town on October 24, 1920. They brought with them, future Hall of Famers, Joe Guyon, Wilbur "Fats" Henry and of course, Jim Thorpe. The Bulldogs had not been beaten since 1915 and their opponents had not scored on them in over a year.
“Fats” Henry burst through the line to block one of Hobby Kinderdine’s extra point attempts. Six thousand fans saw Jim Thorpe kick two field goals late in the game to secure a 20-20 tie with the Triangles. In 1950, the same year All-American Jim Thorpe hit the big screen, Wilbur Henry recalled the game as the greatest in which he ever participated. John Seis, a 96-year old Dayton native, witnessed the game. He remembered a comment that Jim Thorpe made to one of Dayton’s defenders near the sideline, "The last time I was hit that hard, they carried the guy off on a stretcher." Mr. Thorpe came back to Dayton the following year with the Cleveland Tigers, but was sidelined because of broken ribs.
Dayton finished the inaugural season with a 4-2-1 record. The only two losses came from the Akron Pros, who were crowned league champs of 1920.
The years that followed resulted in diminishing returns for the Dayton aggregation. As a result, Brooklyn businessman, John Dwyer, bought the franchise after the 1929 season. The team played in several famous venues including the Polo Grounds, Comiskey Park, Wrigley Field, Crosley Field, and Tigers Stadium to name a few. Lee Fenner was the only player to wear Dayton moleskins each year of the team’s existence (1916-1929). He saw action against 22 inducted Hall of Fame players during his Triangle tenure.
After several mergers and moves in the 1940’s and 50’s, the Dayton franchise came to rest in Baltimore. They were known as the Baltimore Colts until 1984 when they made another move to Indianapolis.
On April 30, 2005, an Ohio Historical Society marker was placed at Triangle Park in Dayton, recognizing the site of the very first NFL football game.