1920 APFA season

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1920 National Football League season
Regular season
Duration September 26, 1920 – December 19, 1920
Champions Akron Pros

The 1920 APFA season was the inaugural season of the American Professional Football Association—renamed the National Football League in 1922. The league was formed on August 20, 1920, by independent professional American football teams from Ohio, all of whom had previously played in the Ohio League or New York Pro Football League (NYPFL). At the meeting, they first called their new league the American Professional Football Conference. A second organizational meeting was held in Canton on September 17, adding more teams to the league. At the meeting, the name of the league became the American Professional Football Association. Four other teams also joined the Association during the year. Meanwhile, Jim Thorpe of the Canton Bulldogs was named the APFA's first president but continued to play for the team.

Scheduling was left up to each team. There were wide variations, both in the overall number of games played and in the number played against other Association members. Thus, no official standings were maintained. In addition, football teams in the APFA also faced independent football teams not associated with the league. For instance, the Rochester Jeffersons played a schedule consisting mostly of local teams from their local sandlot circuit and the NYPFL, not the APFA.

The Akron Pros ended the season as the only undefeated team in the Association. Despite this, two one-loss teams—the Decatur Staleys and Buffalo All-Americans—who both tied Akron that year made cases for a co-championship. At the league meetings in Akron on April 30, 1921, the Pros were awarded the Brunswick-Balke Collender Cup for the 1920 season, the only year the trophy was used. According to modern NFL tie-breaking rules, the 1920 Buffalo All-Americans would be co-champions. They would be tied with the Akron Pros in win percentage, 9.5 wins to 1.5 losses (.864), both teams beating out the Staleys, who would have a season that counted 11 wins to 2 losses (.846).

Of the 14 teams that played in the APFA/NFL's inaugural season, the Chicago Cardinals, now named the Arizona Cardinals, and the Decatur Staleys, now named the Chicago Bears, are the only teams that remain in the league.[1]


Ralph Hay, one of the founding representatives

Prior to the APFA, there were several other loose, professional organizations; most of the APFA teams were from either the Ohio League or the New York Pro Football League. On August 20, 1920, a meeting attended by representatives of four Ohio League teams—Ralph Hay and Jim Thorpe for the Canton Bulldogs, Jimmy O'Donnell and Stan Cofall for the Cleveland Tigers, Carl Storck for the Dayton Triangles, and Frank Nied and Art Ranney for the Akron Pros[2]—was held. At the meeting, the representatives tentatively agreed to call their new league the American Professional Football Conference, introduce a salary cap for the teams, and not to sign college players nor players under contract with another team.[3][4] According to the Canton Evening Repository, the purpose of the league was to "raise the standard of professional football in every way possible, to eliminate bidding for players between rival clubs and to secure cooperation in the formation of schedules, at least for the bigger teams."[5] The representatives then contacted other major professional teams and invited them to a meeting for September 17.[6]

At that meeting, held at Bulldogs owner Ralph Hay's Hupmobile showroom in Canton, Ohio, representatives of the Rock Island Independents, the Muncie Flyers, the Decatur Staleys, the Racine Cardinals, the Massillon Tigers, the Chicago Tigers, and the Hammond Pros agreed to join the league. Representatives of the Buffalo All-Americans and Rochester Jeffersons could not attend the meeting, but sent letters to Hay asking to be included in the league.[7] Team representatives changed the league's name slightly to the American Professional Football Association and elected officers, installing Thorpe as president, Cofall as vice-president, Ranney as secretary-treasurer.[2][7][8][9] Under the new league structure, teams created their schedules dynamically as the season progressed, so there were no minimum or maximum number of games needed to be played.[10][11] Also, representatives of each team voted to determine the winner of the APFA trophy.[12]


The regular-season schedule was not fixed but was created dynamically by each team as the season progressed.[10][11] The following table was formed by NFL History, which used contemporary newspapers.[13] The first game involving an APFA team occurred on September 26, when the Rock Island Independents beat the St. Paul Ideals 48–0.

The first official game between APFA (NFL) members occurred on October 3, when the Dayton Triangles beat the Columbus Panhandles 14-0. The Triangle's Lou Partlow scored the league's first touchdown and George "Hobby" Kinderline kicked the first extra point. An historic marker placed by the Ohio Historical Society at Triangle Park in Dayton marks the location of that first ever game.[14]

The final game of the season was a 14–14 tie between the Racine Cardinals and the Chicago Staleys on December 19, 1920.[13] The Decatur Staleys and the Canton Bulldogs played the most games in the season (13), while the Muncie Flyers played the fewest (1).[15] The Buffalo All-Americans scored the most points all season (258), and the Akron Pros allowed the fewest points (7).[16]

1920 APFA teams' roster photos
Akron Pros
Canton Bulldogs
Racine Cardinals
Dayton Triangles
Decatur Staleys
Symbol Meaning
dagger Non-APFA team
(numbers in parentheses) Team's win-loss-tie record
Week 1
September 26, 1920
Visitor Score Home Score Location
St. Paul Idealsdagger 0 Rock Island Independents (1–0–0) 48 Douglas Park
Week 2
October 3, 1920
Wheeling Stogiesdagger 0 Akron Pros (1–0–0) 43 Akron League Park
West Buffalodagger 6 Buffalo All-Americans (1–0–0) 32 Canisius Field
Pitcairn Quakersdagger 0 Canton Bulldogs (1–0–0) 48 Lakeside Park
Columbus Panhandles (0-1–0) 0 Dayton Triangles (1–0–0) 14 Triangle Park
Moline Universal Tractorsdagger 0 Decatur Staleys (1–0–0) 20 Staley Field
Muncie Flyers (0–1–0) 0 Rock Island Independents (2–0–0) 45 Douglas Park
All-Buffalodagger 0 Rochester Jeffersons (1–0–0) 10 Rochester Baseball Park
Week 3
October 10, 1920
Columbus Panhandles (0–2–0) 0 Akron Pros (2–0–0) 37 Akron League Park
All-Buffalodagger 0 Buffalo All-Americans (2–0–0) 51 Canisius Field
Toledo Maroonsdagger 0 Canton Bulldogs (2–0–0) 42 Lakeside Park
Racine Cardinals (0–0–1) 0 Chicago Tigers (0–0–1) 0 Cubs Park
Cleveland Tigers (0–0–1) 0 Dayton Triangles (1–0–1) 0 Triangle Park
Kewanee Walworthsdagger 7 Decatur Staleys (2–0–0) 25 Staley Field
Cleveland Panthersdagger 14 Detroit Heralds (1–0–0) 40 Mack Park
Hammond Pros (0–1–0) 0 Rock Island Independents (3–0–0) 26 Douglas Park
Fort Porterdagger 0 Rochester Jeffersons (2–0–0) 66 Rochester Baseball Park
Week 4
October 17, 1920
Cincinnati Celtsdagger 0 Akron Pros (3–0–0) 13 Akron League Park
McKeesport Olympicsdagger 7 Buffalo All-Americans (3–0–0) 28 Canisius Field
Cleveland Tigers (0–1–1) 0 Canton Bulldogs (3–0–0) 7 Lakeside Park
Moline Universal Tractorsdagger 3 Racine Cardinals (1–0–1) 33 St. Rita's Field
Detroit Heralds (1–1–0) 0 Chicago Tigers (1–0–1) 12 Cubs Park
Columbus Panhandles (0–3–0) 0 Fort Wayne Friarsdagger 14 Fort Wayne League Park
Hammond Pros (0–2–0) 0 Dayton Triangles (2–0–1) 44 Triangle Park
Decatur Staleys (3–0–0) 7 Rock Island Independents (3–1–0) 0 Douglas Park
Utica Knights of Columbusdagger 0 Rochester Jeffersons (2–0–1) 0 Rochester Baseball Park
Week 5
October 24, 1920
Cleveland Tigers (0–2–1) 0 Akron Pros (4–0–0) 7 Akron League Park
Toledo Maroonsdagger 0 Buffalo All-Americans (4–0–0) 38 Canisius Field
Canton Bulldogs (3–0–1) 20 Dayton Triangles (2–0–2) 20 Triangle Park
Racine Cardinals (1–1–1) 0 Rock Island Independents (4–1–0) 7 Douglas Park
Decatur Staleys (4–0–0) 10 Chicago Tigers (1–1–1) 0 Cubs Park
Columbus Panhandles (0–4–0) 0 Detroit Heralds (2–1–0) 6 Mack Park
Syracuse Starsdagger 7 Rochester Jeffersons (3–0–1) 21 Rochester Baseball Park
Week 6
October 31, 1920
Akron Pros (5–0–0) 10 Canton Bulldogs (3–1–1) 0 Lakeside Park
Rochester Jeffersons (3–1–1) 6 Buffalo All-Americans (5–0–0) 17 Canisius Field
Detroit Heralds (2–2–0) 0 Racine Cardinals (2–1–1) 21 Cubs Park
Chicago Tigers (1–2–1) 7 Rock Island Independents (5–1–0) 20 Douglas Park
Columbus Panhandles (0–5–0) 0 Cleveland Tigers (1–2–1) 7 Dunn Field
Cincinnati Celts (0–2–0) 7 Dayton Triangles (3–0–2) 23 Triangle Park
Decatur Staleys (5–0–0) 29 Rockford A.C.dagger 0 Kishwaukee Park
Hammond Pros (1–2–0) 14 Logan Squaredagger 9 Logan Square Park
Week 7
November 7, 1920
All-Tonawanda Lumberjacksdagger 0 Buffalo All-Americans (6–0–0) 35 Canisius Field
Canton Bulldogs (4–1–1) 18 Cleveland Tigers (1–3–1) 0 Dunn Field
Racine Cardinals (3–1–1) 6 Chicago Tigers (1–3–1) 3 Cubs Park
Columbus Panhandles (1–5–0) 10 Zanesville Mark Graysdagger 0 Zanesville, Ohio
Decatur Staleys (5–0–1) 0 Rock Island Independents (5–1–1) 0 Douglas Park
Hammond Pros (2–2–0) 14 Pullman Thornsdagger 13 Chicago, Illinois
Utica Knights of Columbusdagger 7 Rochester Jeffersons (4–1–1) 27 Rochester Baseball Park
Week 8
November 11, 1920
Decatur Staleys (6–0–1) 20 Champaign Legiondagger 0 Champaign, Illinois
Rock Island Independents (5–1–2) 7 Thorn Tornadoesdagger 7 Monmouth, Illinois
November 14, 1920
Akron Pros (5–0–1) 7 Cleveland Tigers (1–3–2) 7 Dunn Field
Columbus Panhandles (1–6–0) 7 Buffalo All-Americans (7–0–0) 43 Canisius Field
Chicago Tigers (1–4–1) 0 Canton Bulldogs (5–1–1) 21 Lakeside Park
Cincinnati Celtsdagger 0 Racine Cardinals (4–1–1) 21 Chicago, Illinois
Dayton Triangles (4–0–2) 21 Rock Island Independents (5–2–2) 0 Douglas Park
Decatur Staleys (7–0–1) 3 Minneapolis Marinesdagger 0 Nicollet Park
Detroit Heralds (2–2–1) 0 Fort Wayne Friarsdagger 0 Fort Wayne League Park
Hammond Pros (2–3–0) 6 Gary Elksdagger 7 Gleason Field
All-Tonawanda Lumberjacksdagger 6 Rochester Jeffersons (4–2–1) 0 Rochester Baseball Park
Week 9
November 21, 1920
Dayton Triangles (4–1–2) 0 Akron Pros (6–0–1) 13 Akron League Park
Canton Bulldogs (6–1–1) 3 Buffalo All-Americans (7–1–0) 0 Canisius Field
Lansing Oldsmobiledagger 0 Racine Cardinals (5–1–1) 14 Chicago, Illinois
Toledo Maroonsdagger 0 Cleveland Tigers (2–3–2) 14 Dunn Field
Columbus Panhandles (1–6–1) 0 Zanesville Mark Graysdagger 0 Zanesville, Ohio
Hammond Pros (2–4–0) 7 Decatur Staleys (8–0–1) 28 Staley Field
Rochester Scalpersdagger 0 Rochester Jeffersons (5–2–1) 16 Rochester Baseball Park
Week 10
November 25, 1920
Canton Bulldogs (6–2–1) 0 Akron Pros (7–0–1) 7 Akron League Park
Decatur Staleys (9–0–1) 6 Chicago Tigers (1–5–1) 0 Chicago Cub Park
Columbus Panhandles (1–6–2) 0 Elyria Athleticsdagger 0 Lorain, Ohio
Detroit Heralds (2–3–1) 0 Dayton Triangles (5–1–2) 28 Triangle Park
Hammond Pros (2–5–0) 0 Chicago Boostersdagger 27 DePaul Field
All-Tonawanda Lumberjacksdagger (2–1–0) 14 Rochester Jeffersons (5–3–1) 3 Rochester Baseball Park
November 28, 1920
Akron Pros (8–0–1) 14 Dayton Triangles (5–2–2) 0 Triangle Park
Cleveland Tigers (2–4–2) 0 Buffalo All-Americans (8–1–0) 7 Buffalo Baseball Park
Decatur Staleys (9–1–1) 6 Racine Cardinals (6–1–1) 7 Normal Park
Thorn Tornadoesdagger 0 Chicago Tigers (2–5–1) 27 Cubs Park
Lansing Oldsmobiledagger 0 Detroit Heralds (2–3–2) 0 Mack Park
Rochester Scalpersdagger 6 Rochester Jeffersons (6–3–1) 7 Rochester Baseball Park
Pittsburgh All-Collegiansdagger 7 Rock Island Independents (6–2–2) 48 Douglas Park
Week 11
December 4, 1920
Canton Bulldogs (6–3–1) 3 Buffalo All-Americans (9–1–0) 7 New York Polo Grounds
December 5, 1920
Akron Pros (8–0–2) 0 Buffalo All-Americans (9–1–1) 0 Buffalo Baseball Park
Canton Bulldogs (6–3–2) 0 Washington Glee Clubdagger 0 New Haven, Connecticut
Racine Cardinals (6–2–1) 0 Decatur Staleys (10–1–1) 10 Cubs Park
Columbus Wagner Piratesdagger 0 Columbus Panhandles (2–6–2) 24 Neil Park
Detroit Maroonsdagger 7 Detroit Heralds (2–3–3) 7 Mack Park
Rochester Scalpersdagger 0 Rochester Jeffersons (6–3–2) 0 Exposition Park
Week 12
December 11, 1920
Canton Bulldogs (6–4–2) 7 Union Club of Phoenixvilledagger 13 Phillies Park
December 12, 1920
Akron Pros (8–0–3) 0 Decatur Staleys (10–1–2) 0 Cubs Park
Week 13
December 18, 1920
Canton Bulldogs (7–4–2) 39 Richmond Athleticsdagger 0 Boulevard Field
December 19, 1920
Racine Cardinals (6–2–2) 14 Chicago Staymsdagger 14 Pyott Field

Final standings[edit]

Template:1920 APFA standings

Postseason and legacy[edit]

File:Akron pros celebrating.jpg
Several Pros players celebrating their championship. The woman in the picture did not play on the team.

As there was no playoff system in the APFA until 1932,[17] a meeting was held to determine the 1920 Champions.[18] Each team that showed up had a vote to determine the champions. Since the Akron Pros never lost a game, the Pros were awarded the Brunswick-Balke Collender Cup on April 30, 1921.[19] The trophy was a "silver loving cup", donated by the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company.[20] This decision, however, would arise with controversy. The Staleys and the All-Americans each stated that they should win the award because they had more wins and were not beaten by the Akron Pros.[18] Each player from the Pros was also awarded with a golden fob; this was in the shape of a football and inscribed with "1920", "WORLD CHAMPIONS", and each player's first initial and last name.[21] The Pros did not officially celebrate their championship season until the following year. In October 1921, most of the team was invited to the Elks Club of Akron, which was labeled as "a grand homecoming celebration for the world's champions".[12] Pollard was congratulated during an Akron Merchants Association of Colored Business Men's meeting.[12]

The Pros were the first team in the history of the APFA to complete a non-modern "perfect season". Only four other teams have accomplished this feat: the 1922 Canton Bulldogs at 10–0–2,[22] the 1923 Canton Bulldogs at 11–0–1,[23] the 1929 Green Bay Packers at 12–0–1,[24] and the 1972 Miami Dolphins at 17–0–0.[25] In 1972, the NFL changed the rules so ties count as a half-win and a half-loss.[26] If this rule had applied in 1920, the All-Americans and the Pros would each have had an .864 winning percentage. Even though the Pros were given the trophy in 1920, the league lost track of the event and for a long time published in its own record books that the 1920 championship was undecided.[27] It was not until the 1970s that the NFL remembered its early vote on awarding the Akron Pros the championship.[27]



Bruce Copeland, sportswriter for the Rock Island Argus, compiled the All-Pro list for 1920. He used the games played in Rock Island, other newspapers, and his own memory to determine the first-, second-, and third-team All-Pro list. Pro-Football-Reference.com uses this list as the official All-Pro list of 1920.[28] Twenty of the players were from Illinois and thirteen were from Ohio. The Rock Island Independents had the most players on the list (9), and Racine Cardinals had the least (1).[29]

First-Team All-Pro
Player Position Team
Guy Chamberlin End Decatur Staleys
Oke Smith End Rock Island Independents
Wilbur Henry Tackle Canton Bulldogs
Hugh Blacklock Tackle Decatur Staleys
Fred Denfield Guard Rock Island Independents
Dewey Lyle Guard Rock Island Independents
George Trafton Center Decatur Staleys
Paddy Driscoll Quarterback Racine Cardinals
Eddie Novak Halfback Rock Island Independents
Fritz Pollard Halfback Akron Pros
Rip King Fullback Akron Pros


Second-Team All-Pro
Player Position Team
George Halas End Decatur Staleys
Obe Wenig End Rock Island Independents
Cub Buck Tackle Canton Bulldogs
Ed Shaw Tackle Rock Island Independents
Alf Cobb Guard Akron Pros
Harry Dadmun Guard Canton Bulldogs
Shorty Des Jardien Center Chicago Tigers
Al Mahrt Quarterback Dayton Triangles
Norb Sacksteder Halfback Dayton Triangles
Joe Guyon Halfback Canton Bulldogs
Gil Falcon Fullback Chicago Tigers


Third-Team All-Pro
Player Position Team
Bob Marshall End Rock Island Independents
Bob Nash End Akron Pros
Burt Ingwerson Tackle Decatur Staleys
Walt Buland Tackle Rock Island Independents
Brad Tomlin Guard Akron Pros
Ross Petty Guard Decatur Staleys
Freeman Fitzgerald Center Rock Island Independents
Milt Chee Quarterback Chicago Tigers
Ed Sternaman Halfback Decatur Staleys
Frank Bacon Halfback Dayton Triangles
Pete Calac Fullback Canton Bulldogs

Hall of Fame[edit]

As of 2012, 10 players have been enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame who played in the 1920 APFA season. One non-player, Joseph Carr, the owner of the Columbus Panhandles in the 1920 season and league president from 1921–1939, was also elected to the Hall.

Template:Center Template:Center Template:0Template:CenterTemplate:0 Template:0Ref.Template:0
Carr, Joseph Template:Center Template:0 1963 Template:0 [30]
Chamberlin, Guy Template:Center Template:Center [31]
Conzelman, Jimmy Template:Center Template:Center [32]
Driscoll, Paddy Template:Center Template:Center [33]
Guyon, Joe Template:Center Template:Center [34]
Halas, George Template:Center Template:Center [35]
Healey, Ed Template:Center Template:Center [36]
Henry, Pete Template:Center Template:Center [37]
Pollard, Fritz Template:Center Template:Center [38]
Thorpe, Jim Template:Center Template:Center [39]
Trafton, George Template:Center Template:Center [40]


  1. "Franchise History". AZCardinals.com. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Crippen, Ken (July 27, 2009). "The Rochester Jeffersons Take to the National Stage (Part 1)". Two Bills Drive. Retrieved December 15, 2012. 
  3. PFRA Research (1980), pp. 3–4
  4. Siwoff, Zimmber & Marini (2010), pp. 352–353
  5. "Template:-'Pro' Football Moguels Form National Body". Canton Evening Repository. August 21, 1920. 
  6. PFRA Research (1980), p. 1
  7. 7.0 7.1 PFRA Research (1980), p. 4
  8. "Thorpe Made President" (PDF). The New York Times. September 19, 1920. 
  9. "Organize Pro Gridders; Choose Thorpe, Prexy". The Milwaukee Journal. September 19, 1920. p. 24. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 Peterson (1997), p. 74
  11. 11.0 11.1 Davis (2005), p. 59
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Price, Mark (April 25, 2011). "Searching for Lost Trophy". Akron Beacon-Journal. Retrieved June 23, 2012. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 NFL History (2003), pp. 1–7
  14. "Triangle Park: Site of First Game In The NFL". 
  15. "Past Standings" (PDF). National Football League. p. 27. Retrieved December 7, 2012. 
  16. "1920 APFA Standings, Team & Offensive Statistics". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Sports Reference. Retrieved January 2, 2013. 
  17. "History: The First Playoff Game". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on June 3, 2011. Retrieved June 10, 2011. 
  18. 18.0 18.1 Carroll (1982), p. 3
  19. Price, Mark (April 25, 2011). "Searching for the Lost Trophy". Akron Beacon Journal. Retrieved December 21, 2011. 
  20. PFRA Research (1980), p. 6
  21. "Medallion from NFL's first champions". Pro Football Hall of Fame. September 29, 2010. Retrieved June 10, 2011. 
  22. "1922 Canton Bulldogs Statistics & Players". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Sports Reference. Retrieved June 10, 2011. 
  23. "1923 Canton Bulldogs Statistics & Players". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Sports Reference. Retrieved June 10, 2011. 
  24. "1929 Green Bay Packers Statistics & Players". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Sports Reference. Retrieved June 10, 2011. 
  25. "1972 Miami Dolphins Statistics & Players". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Sports Reference. Retrieved June 10, 2011. 
  26. Siwoff, Zimmber & Marini (2010), p. 360
  27. 27.0 27.1 PFRA Research (n.d.), p. 1
  28. "1920 APFA All-Pros". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Sports Reference. Retrieved April 11, 2012. 
  29. Hogrogian (1984), p. 1–2
  30. "Joe Carr". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved December 26, 2011. 
  31. "Guy Chamberlin". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved March 17, 2012. 
  32. "Jimmy Conzelman". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved March 17, 2012. 
  33. "John (Paddy) Driscoll". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved June 23, 2012. 
  34. "Joe Guyon". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved June 23, 2012. 
  35. "George Halas". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved March 17, 2012. 
  36. "Ed Healey". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved December 6, 2012. 
  37. "Wilbur (Pete) Henry". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved June 23, 2012. 
  38. "Fritz Pollard". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved December 12, 2011. 
  39. "Jim Thorpe". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved June 23, 2012. 
  40. "George Trafton". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved March 17, 2012. 


Template:1920 APFA season by team Template:NFL seasons