1925 Maroons History
During the era of local community football teams and when the college game was king, Pottsville, Schuylkill County, and Pennsylvania had an NFL World Champion.
After establishing itself as one of the best football teams in eastern Pennsylvania and winning the Anthracite League title, the Maroons were awarded a NFL franchise for the 1925 season.
In the interest of fielding a sharp looking team, manager Dr. J.G. Striegel ordered 25 matching jerseys from local sporting goods store owner Joe Zacko. He told him to pick the color. Zacko delivered maroon-colored jerseys, and the team had its nickname.
The Maroons played their home games at Minersville Park, located just outside of Minersville @ the current Kings Plaza. The Maroons were coached by Dick Rauch. They had quite a collection of players including local fellows and men recruited from other areas around the country. Led by a powerful, grind-it-out running attack featuring Tony Latone, Barney Wentz, Hoot Flanagan, and Walt French the Maroons posted a formidable team.
Maroons receiver and placekicker Charlie Berry led the NFL in scoring in 1925 with 74 points. Following Berry’s retirement from footbalkl, Berry went on to become an American League catcher and umpire. He had a lifetime batting average of .267 with 23 home runs and 256 RBI’s during an 11-year manor league career with the Athletics, Red Sox, and White Sox. Tony “The Human Howitzer” Latone had more rushing yards and touchdowns scored than any other pro football player in the 1920’s. Even more than Hall of Famer Red Grange and he accomplished this in 30 less games than Grance.
The National Football League was in its infancy and during the twenties just began formalizing their league by developing new game rules. In fact, 1925 was perhaps the most confusing and controversial in the history of the league and the year that the Pottsville Maroons entered the National Football League and took it by storm and were in the middle of all the controversy.
The Maroons out-scored their opponents 270-45. They punished their opponents posting 7 shutouts and lop sided scores of 49-0 over Frankford and 34-0 over Providence. During an era of low scoring games, the Maroons outscored their opponents 103-0 in four consecutive games.
At that time the league champion was determined by the teams winning percentage. The Maroons second to last scheduled game was against the Cardinals with their last scheduled game against Providence. Providence struggled during the season and it was believed that the Maroons would have no trouble with the club since they defeated them 34-0 earlier in the year.
With the two games remaining, the Maroons (9-2) had the second best percentage in the league only trailing the Chicago Cardinals (9-1-1) and were in contention for the league title.
The game against the Chicago Cardinals was scheduled to be a home game for the Maroons. However, the commissioners office knew that the game would determine the champion and suspected that there would be a better gate if the game was in Chicago. Consequently, the commissioner moved the Maroons scheduled home game to Chicago.
The Championship Game
The Maroons traveled to Chicago the play their scheduled December 6th game against the Chicago Cardinals (the championship game). They won the game 21-7 and finished the season with a 10-2 record and the the Cardinals record was 9-2-1. The Maroons had the better winning percentage and were being identified as the NFL world champions (for a week).
Now, the underlying of the controversy. Early in November 1925, the Frankford Yellowjackets (now the Philadelphia Eagles) were negotiating an exhibition game to be played by the best team in the Eastern division against the Notre Dame Allstar team. The Notre Dame Allstar team was comprised of many of the members of Notre Dame’s 1924 National Championship team, including the infamous “Four Horsemen”. The Yellowjackets assumed that they would be playing the game since they had the best record at the time and had already defeated the upstart Maroons who they had one more game with. The Yellowjackets were stunned when the Maroons defeated them 49-0. Consequently, the game against the Notre Dame Allstars was the Maroons to play.
After defeating the Yellowjackets, Doc Streigel contacted the league office to obtain permission to play the game.
The league commissioner, Joe Carr, was unavailable due to an illness and another representative from the league office granted Doc Streigel permission to play the game. Based on the leagues permission, the Maroons entered into an agreement with the Notre Dame Allstar’s to play an exhibition game at Shibe Park in Philadelphia on December 12th.
Following their embarrassing defeat, the Yellowjackets protested the December 12th game claiming it to be an infringement of their protected territory. This was after they had organized the game. Joe Carr, now back from his illness, upheld the Yellowjackets protest and notified the Maroons that they could not play the game. The league office notified the Maroons on 3 separate occasions; however, the Maroons had already committed to play and wanted to beat the “best team in the country”.
The Controversial Game
On December 12th, the Maroons traveled to Philadelphia’s Shibe Park to play the famed Notre Dame Allstars. With seconds remaining in the game, they trailed 7-6. Charlie Berry’s last second field goal gave the Maroons a 9-7 victory. The game was taunted by local papers as one of the greatest games ever played. The upstart Maroons had helped legitimatize the league. But before they could enjoy their glory, the league office notified them that they were indefinitely suspended from the league, making them ineligible for the championship. Carr also fined Doc Striegel $500.00 for playing the game.
The Cardinals Response
Prior to the season, NFL owners voted to include all league games played through December 20th in the final standings. In order for the Chicago Cardinals to have a better winning percentage than the suspended Maroons and to regain the league lead, the Cardinals scheduled two additional games. Cards’ owner Chris O’Brien quickly scheduled games against the Milwaukee Badgers(December 10th) and the Hammond Pros(December 12th), both of which had already disbanded for the season. The Cardinals won both affairs, including a 59-0 farce against a Milwaukee team which fielded four high school players. These wins moved them one-half game ahead of the Pottsville Maroons. The Maroons would have moved back into the lead when they beat a mediocre Providence team on December 13th ; however, the game was not included in the standings due to the suspension. To further complicate the situation, Cardinals owner O’Brien refused to accept the championship. Not until 1933 when the team was purchased by the Bidwell family did the Cardinals club accept the championship.
The Leagues Response
When the league office reviewed the two additional games that the Cardinals added, Carr said he would strike the Milwaukee game from the standings because the use of the high school players but the game is still listed in the NFL’s official record.
Following appeals by Doc Striegel and the Pottsville Maroons, the league owners reinstated the Maroons; however, the Chicago Cardinals were named the league champion.
1926 & After
The team played again in 1926 and were again very successful. Posting a strong season they entered December just one game out of first place with a 10-1-1 record. The team again featured the All-NFL end Charlie Berry. A loss and a tie in the final two games put them out of the running for the 26 championship.
The retirement of several key players led to a swift demise and the Maroons finished eighth in both 1927 and 28. In 1929, Doc Striegel moved the team to Boston and renamed the team the Bulldogs and then the Braves.
Fight to Restore the Championship
Pottsville city official and dedicated fans, who still believed that the Maroons were the true 25 champion, brought the matter to an 1963 NFL committee meeting. Again, their appeal was denied 12-2 with just the Pittsburg Steelers and the Philadelphia Eagles voting in favor of the Maroons.
Again in 2003, an influential group from the State and City including PA Governor Rendell and Pottsville Mayor Reilly traveled to the NFL’s owner meeting in an attempt to have the issue of reinstatement of the Championship to it’s rightful owner included on their agenda. The owners voted 30-2 not to include the issue on that year’s agenda. Again the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburg Steelers were the only teams to vote for the Maroons. Fortunutally, David Flemming from ESPN was covering the meeting. He became interested in the Maroons cause and penned an outstanding book “The Breaker Boys”. His book was released at Maroons Sports Bar & Grill in October of 2007 and it is an excellent representation of the Maroons Story.
It is said that the residents of Pottsville have placed “a Curse” on the Cardinals organization. “The Curse” states that Cardinals organization will not win another league championship until they return the 25 championship to it’s rightful owners, the Maroons.
(The preceding information is a compilation of information derived from many sources including personal accounts from family members and individuals who information passed on to them. We believe that all the information is correct; however, errors are possible and we welcome any updated information.) Ditts Maroons, LLC
Thanks to the Elm Street Project Renovation Program and the hard work and investment by owners, Maroons has been restored to its former glory. It’s also moved beyond just a bar and grill of its former years. It’s an eclectic mix of sports fans, families and people looking for great food, great company and a great time.
So whether you’re on the main floor or the Skybox, a special room used for private parties or meetings, you’ll feel like your in good company at Maroons.