8 things you should know about the Dayton Triangles, the team that started the NFL
By Amelia Robinson
Long before Hank Williams Jr. belted out the first line of “Are You Ready For Some Football?” Dayton in fact was ready.
The very first game of what is now known as the NFL was played right here in Dayton on Oct. 3, 1920, in Triangle Park where the Great Miami and Stillwater rivers join in the DeWeese-Ridgecrest neighborhood.
Our very own Dayton Triangles clobbered the Columbus Panhandles on that historic day.
Legendary Dayton Daily News sports editor and columnist Ritter Collett documented the game in his 1996 book “Sports in Dayton: A Bicentennial Celebration of the Dayton Area.”
“The Triangles made off with a 14-0 victory, the touchdowns scored by Lou Patrlow and Francis Bacon, who had starred at Ohio Wesleyan. George “Hobby” Kinderdine kicked the first two extra points. He later would be elected sheriff of Montgomery County.”
The Triangles’ story started more than a decade before that.
The Dayton Triangles, a charter member of the National Football League, formed in 1916 and faded into history after suffering a 0-6 season in 1929.
Here are a few things you probably didn’t know about Dayton’s NFL team:
Not the only gamers in town
The Triangles were not the only team in town.
As Ritter documents based on research by Steven Presar of the Montgomery County Historical Society (Now Dayton History), the Wolverines, Miamis, Westwoods, Oxfords, McKinleys and Nationals also played here. The team Rosie’s Corners was name for a bar in what was then the Hungarian neighborhood in West Dayton.
The Triangles were rooted in the St. Marys Cadets, a basketball team at St. Mary’s College, now called the University of Dayton. Cadet members started a football team when they graduated in 1912.
The team changed its name to the Dayton Gym Cadets by 1915 and were playing as the Triangles by 1916, according to Ritter’s book.
The team had a 9-1 season that first year, besting squads from Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Detroit and Toledo.
Its name came from three factories founded by Dayton business giants Edward Deeds and Charles Kettering, the team’s sponsors, according to a 2005 the Dayton Daily News article “Where it All Started” written by former DDN reporter Jim DeBrosse, now a visiting assistant professor at Miami University.
Land for Triangle Park was donated by Deeds and Kettering. The park was either named for the three factories or its triangular shape.
Representatives from the Triangles including Carl Storck attended a meeting at Ralph Hay’s Hupmobile showroom in Canton on Aug. 20 with reps from the Akron Pros, Canton Bulldogs and Cleveland Indians, according to the NFL. The American Professional Football Conference was formed with a $25 franchise fee.
Representatives of the Triangles, Akron Pros, Canton Bulldogs, Decatur Staleys, Racine (Chicago) Cardinals, Cleveland Indians, Hammond Pros, Massillon Tigers, Muncie Flyers, Rock Island Independents and Rochester Jeffersons attended a second meeting in Canton Sept. 17, 1920, according to the Football Hall of Fame.
The name of the league was changed to the American Professional Football Association.
The Buffalo All-Americans, Chicago Tigers, Columbus Panhandles and Detroit Heralds joined the league before the start of the 1920 season.
Only two teams remain for the first season.
The Staleys left Decatur for Chicago in 1921 and were renamed the Bears in 1922. Oddly enough, the Chicago Cardinals franchise is now in Arizona.
Green Bay Packers started in 1919 and joined the league in 1921.
The APFA was renamed the NFL in 1922.
Triangle players were each paid about $50 for playing that first game, according to Jim’s article.
That amounts to $595.79 in today’s money, according to the Bureau of Labor Statisitc CPI Inflation Calculator.
Admission to the game was only $1.75. About 4,000 people were there.
Tough as trees
It was a different game, but players were not lightweights.
Lou Partlow, the Triangle who scored the first touchdown in NFL history, practiced blocking by slamming into trees, according to Jim’s article. He’d dodge trees while sprinting through the dense woods along the Great Miami River. He was called “the West Carrollton battering ram.”
He was only 150 pounds, but Leland “Lee” Fenner played 14 seasons with the Triangles — 1916 to 1929, according to Daytontriangles.com.
Carl Storck was a job foreman in the Inspection and Packing Department at the National Cash Register Company when he co-founded the NFL as the Triangles’ unpaid volunteer manager, according to daytonareasportshistory.com.
Storck had a 21-year career with the NFL. He served as its secretary-treasurer under NFL President Joe Carr.
Storck was named acting president when Carr died in 1939. He resigned two years later due to poor health and was replaced as the league’s first commissioner.
He ran the league from a downtown Dayton office.
A New York syndicate lead by John Dwyer bought the Dayton Triangles on July 12, 1930, and moved the franchise to Brooklyn.
The team was renamed the Brooklyn Dodgers. That team later became the Brooklyn Tigers.