My Town Monday: The First NFL Game

Hopefully you are all recovered from massive amounts of beer, junk food, and the best commercials of the year! Hopefully you had a good time, regardless of which team won. But did you ever wonder how – and where – it all started?

The Marker at Triangle Park today (click to enlarge)

Yup, right here in Ohio! Of course, it’s probably not news to many that the NFL was formed in Canton, Ohio, which is now home to the NFL Hall of Fame. Chartered in 1920, the NFL was originally called the American Professional Football League until the name was changed to the National Football League in 1922. And the AFPL’s first game? It was held in Dayton, with the Dayton Triangles defending against the Columbus Panhandles – a blowout with the Triangles winning 14-0.

The Triangles’ story is an interesting one in itself, a far cry from the multi-billion-dollar industry that the NFL is today. The Triangles roots come from basketball, and begin at St. Mary’s University, now the University of Dayton. Several of the college’s players wanted to keep playing after graduation, and formed a team with other alumni and students in 1912. A year later, they branched into football as the St. Mary’s Cadets and quickly gained a winning record and local business sponsorship.

In 1916, the Cadets reorganized as the Dayton Triangles, pulling their roster from the employees of their three corporate sponsors, DELCO, Delco-Light, and the Dayton Metal Products Company. The Triangles’ Manager, Carl Storck, represented the team in meetings in Canton that ultimately resulted in the forming of the AFPL.

The original franchise fee was $25 (can you imagine?!), there was no league president, no bylaws or standard rules. There was no league schedule – each team set its own. The initial meeting on August 20, 1920 included only representatives from five Ohio teams. The follow-up a month later also included representatives for teams from Illinois, Indiana, and New York. This time, the group adopted bylaws and set the league fee at $100 (which none actually paid). Although Illinois’ Rock Island Independents played on Sept. 26 following the league’s official formation, the first game between two AFPA teams was the one in Dayton, played on October 3, 1920.

The Dayton Triangles, 1920

In 1922, other NFL teams began recruiting top talent from the college pool, but Dayton continued to use local players. This was the beginning of a slow, painful decline culminating in the sale of the team in 1930 to a Brooklyn syndicate, where they were renamed the Brooklyn Dodgers. All of the other eight NFL charter teams had already moved, been renamed, and/or been sold, leaving the Triangles as the last charter team in its original incarnation.

But who knew that the first NFL game was played in Dayton? And if you’d like a little more trivia, the very first touchdown in an NFL game was scored that day by Dayton Triangles’ fullback Lou Partlow.

Did you know about the Dayton connection to the NFL? Until I read the linked article in the Dayton Daily News, I didn’t. Got any other cool sports history trivia? Please share!

Dayton Triangles Logo © The National Football League
Historic Marker photo via
Team photo via Dayton City Paper 

Additional resources:
90 years ago today, NFL began in Dayton,” Dayton Daily News, Oct. 2, 2010
Dayton Triangles,” Wikipedia
Original Class of the NFL,” Dayton City Paper, Nov. 22.2011 

13 Responses to \

  1. Maria, LOL I’m glad it wasn’t just me!

    Pat – thanks so much! One of the things I love about writing this is that there is so much people don’t know about Dayton. Mostly we hear the negative. Hopefully you will get to visit someday!

    Coleen – LOL! I just know our nachos were Tostitos Scoops. I probably learned more researching my post than what happened in the game yesterday. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Super interesting! Now I feel football-smart. Although I have to say I’m surprised that my dad never told me that the SuperBowl started in Ohio. He is from cincinati and he loves to talk about history. I once asked him who was playing in a baseball game and got the history of baseball back to the Negro Leagues. Maybe now I’ll dazzle him with my sports knowledge!

  3. LOL Emma – be careful there – it wasn’t the Superbowl, just the first game between two NFL teams. Have fun!

  4. Thanks for reading, Louise! I’m the same way – not into sports I have to confess, but I love the history and trivia. 🙂

  5. I just happened to come across your blog while doing a little surfing on the net looking into my grandfather who was the Carl Storck of the Dayton Triangles you mention in your blog (he’s the one to the far left in the 3rd row in the photo). I knew much of the history you blogged about but it’s great to see a female relating some of the history and early days of the NFL! Very impressive!! Thanks for passing on some of the history!

  6. Why am I not surprised? My husband has always told me that all good things come from Ohio! But he said nothing about Dayton. Probably because he is a Cleveland boy. Yuck. Truthfully, I like Dayton much more than Cleveland. Well, except for the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame! 🙂

  7. Sandy, I love local history, and this was too good not to blog about! So cool that something so much a part of American life today got its start around here. And so cool that you’re so close to it! Thanks for stopping by!

    Karen, your husband’s a smart man. And you are smarter! 😀 I haven’t been to the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, but that is something I’d like to see sometime. Thanks for dropping by!

  8. Fantastic article Jennette!
    I am a great NFL fan from Europe, and I already knew that it all started in Canton Ohio, but you filled me in with many more wonderful new info.
    Thanks a lot!