1920-1924: As the National Football League was playing its first season as the American Professional Football Association, various small leagues professional football were still popping up everywhere. In Pennsylvania football became popular among the various coal towns, with the mine workers playing on weekends. Pottsville was no different as their first teams were made up of fireman working at the Yorkville Hose Company. Playing against other teams in the area the Pottsville Maroons were able to get a sponsorship deal, enabling them to sign star players including Carl Beck, Benny Boynton and Stan Cofall. In 1924 the Maroons were purchased by John G. “Doc” Striegel, a local surgeon who moved the team into the Anthracite League. The Maroons continued to sign star players including three players (Larry Conover, Harry Robb, and Wilbur “Pete” Henry) away from the NFL Champion Canton Bulldogs, this would not sit well with NFL President Joseph Carr. The Maroons dominated the AL and attempted to challenge the NFL Champion Cleveland Bulldogs. The Bulldogs refused, but the Maroons did get a game against the NFL’s Rochester Jefferson which they would lose 10-7. The Anthracite League would collapse after one season, as the Maroons applied to join the NFL.
1925: The Maroons drew well in Pennsylvania, but their stadium Minersville Park was considered small even by 1925 league standards. However, with the Frankford Yellow Jackets nearby and not allowed to play on Sunday’s due to Philadelphia Blue Laws which were not present in Pottsville it gave the chance for teams to play more games and get more money by playing in Frankford on Saturday and Pottsville on Sunday. Several of the Maroons top players returned to their former teams after the league accepted Pottsville’s application to join the NFL. However, they were able to land a few more talented players Eddie Doyle and Walter French who stared at West Point, along with Lafayette stars Jack Ernst and Charlie Berry. Helping the Maroons popularity was the team’s insistence that players live in the Pottsville area. Coached by Dick Rauch the Maroons made a successful NFL debut on September 27th blanking the Buffalo Bisons 28-0. Following a 6-0 setback against the Providence Steam Roller, the Maroons did their own rolling winning their next four games, before a 20-0 loss against the Keystone State rival Frankford Yellow Jackets. The Maroons would exact revenge against the Yellow Jackets two weeks later, winning at home 49-0. The win over Frankford was the Maroons fourth straight, which included three games in eight days, including a 31-0 win over the Green Bay Packers on Thanksgiving.
The Controversy: The Maroons winning streak put them in position to win the NFL Championship as they faced the Chicago Cardinals at Comiskey Park sitting a half game back on the final scheduled game of the season on December 6th. The Maroons would win the game in the snow 21-7 and rightfully should have been awarded the NFL title at 10-2. At the time even though the season was over teams were allowed to play games for another two weeks to make extra money. The Maroons had plans to play a game against All-Stars from Notre Dame, while the Cardinals hurriedly scheduled games against the Milwaukee Badgers and Hammond Pros. The Maroons game in Philadelphia, which was won 9-7 had riled up the Frankford Yellow Jackets, who claimed their territorial rights were infringed. The NFL agreed and the Maroons franchise was suspended and their final game against the Providence Steam Roller was cancelled. Ironically the Yellow Jackets would steal the game and play Providence. Meanwhile with the two extra games, the Cardinals would regain a half game advantage and be awarded the NFL title at 11-2-1. However, things would become even more suspect as it was discovered that the Badgers used High School players using fake names in their 59-0 loss to the Cardinals. This arraignment was made by the Cardinals themselves after the Badgers regular players had all gone their separate ways to their off-season jobs. Hammond also was unprepared to play having their season end a month earlier. The Badgers and Cardinals would be heavily punished, with Milwaukee forced to sell the team. However, despite threats that the game be stricken and the Maroons given the title, NFL President Joseph Carr never followed through and the title remained with the Cardinals. Pottsville still feeling they were the rightful champions created their own trophy made out of coal. The Maroons coal trophy would later go on display at the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton. The City of Pottsville still celebrates the Pottsville Maroons stolen championship, while a request to re-examine the 1925 championship was declined in 1967 on a 12-2 vote with then St. Louis Cardinals leading the opposition. Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell lobbied the NFL in 2003 to reverse the decision, with President George W. Bush even writing in favor of the Maroons, but the title remained with the Chicago Cardinals.
1926: The Pottsville Maroons future remained in the balance as they were still suspended by the league for playing Notre Dame at Shibe Park. However, with Red Grange and his agent forming a rival league called the American Football League the Maroons were reinstated by the NFL in time for the 1926 season. Once again the Pottsville Maroons were one of the strongest teams in the NFL, winning their first four games to start the season. The Maroons winning streak would end with a 14-0 loss to the Providence Steam Roller, but it was a tiny bump in the road as they once again were in the championship hunt after winning their next six games. A scoreless tie against the Buffalo Rangers put the Maroons title hopes in jeopardy, while a 9-7 loss to the Chicago Bears would end them. The Maroons would face the Frankford Yellow Jackets in the final game of the season, with a chance to spoil their rival’s title dreams. However, the Jackets would win the championship, playing the Maroons to a scoreless tie. The Maroons meanwhile would settle for third place with a record of 10-2-2. The late season struggles coincided with rumors of a player strike as Maroons management was struggling to meet financial obligations toward the team.
1927: The financial struggles began to take its toll on the Pottsville Maroons as they lost several key players. The players remaining were starting to show their age as the Maroons struggles from the start of the season, losing four of their first six games. The Maroons would never quite get things righted as they finished the season in eighth place with a disappointing record of 5-8.
1928: Owner Doc Striegel relinquished operational control of the Pottsville Maroons and loaned the team to a group of three players: Herb Stein, Pete Henry and Duke Osborn. Henry would take over the coaching reigns as the Maroons struggles continued as they dropped seven of eight games to start the season. In the next to last game of the season, the Maroons would get their last win in Pottsville, stunning the Green Bay Packers 26-0. The Maroons would finish the season a week later, losing to the Providence Steam Roller 7-0 on November 29th. Doc Striegel would go on to sell the team to owners from New England, who relocated the team to Boston. As a thanks to his players, the Maroons were all given charms made from coal at the end of the season.
©MMXV Tank Productions. Stats researched by Frank Fleming, all information, and team names are property of the National Football League. This site is not affiliated with the Pottsville Maroons or the NFL. This site is maintained for research purposes only. All logos used on this page were from Chris Creamer’s Sports Logos Page.
Page created on February 20, 2015. Last updated on February 20, 2015 at 9:55 pm ET.