The Story of the NFL's Dayton Triangles

Dayton Triangles APFA-NFL
Franchise Summary


1920

Triangles

Opponents

Oct  3 14 COLUMBUS PANHANDLES 0
Oct 10 0 CLEVELAND TIGERS 0
Oct 17 44 HAMMOND PROS 0
Oct 20 20 CANTON BULLDOGS 20
Nov 14 21 @ Rock Island Independents 0
Nov 21 0 @ Akron Pros 13
Nov 25 28 DETROIT HERALDS 0
Nov 28 0 AKRON PROS 14

Totals

127 4-2-2 (t-4th of 14 APFA) 47

1920:  The Triangles were one of the stronger regional powers in the NFL's early era, although an inability to beat Canton or Akron doomed them to also-ran status the first two years of the league. The 1920 season had the Triangles well on their way to a title with 3 wins and two ties to start off the season. Included was a 20-20 tie with the powerful Canton Bulldogs, which saw a Triangle lead disappear late thanks to Jim Thorpe's late dropkicked field goal. In the third quarter, he narrowed the score to 20-17 with a 45-yard dropkick. Then, in the final minutes, he zeroed in on a 35-yard placekick that tied the score. In the early days, ties weren't counted in the winning percentage. So a similar record today (3-0-2) would be an .800 winning percentage. But, in those days, it was 1.000). But the Triangles dropped two of their last three games by shutout to the Akron Pros, APFA champions for 1920. In spite of the disappointing finish, a fourth-place tie in the new league was grounds for optimism.

1921

Triangles

Opponents

Oct 2 42 COLUMBUS PANHANDLES 13
Oct 9 7 @ Detroit Panthers 10
Oct 16 14 CANTON BULLDOGS 14
Oct 23 0 @ Chicago Staleys 7
Oct 30 3 @ Cleveland Indians 2
Nov 6 0 @ Canton Bulldogs 14
Nov 13 27 DETROIT PANTHERS 0
Nov 20 3 AKRON PROS 0
Nov 27 0 @ Buffalo All-Americans 7

Totals

96 4-4-1 (t-6th of 18 APFA) 67

1921 saw the Triangles on a hilly ride where they seemed to balance out the wins with the losses, resulting in a final record of 4-4-1. They opened with a huge home victory over Columbus on Opening Day. After suffering their first loss at Detroit, the Triangles once again tied Canton 14-14 at home. A key game the following week was the Triangles' first meeting with the team later to gain fame as the Monsters of the Midway, the Chicago Staleys, who were championship-bound this season. The Triangles fought to a bitter 7-0 loss. Sadly, this was as close as Dayton-Bears games would ever get. The following week, they won an interesting 3-2 game against Cleveland, then dropped the rematch at Canton. Their shot at the championship long gone, the Triangles won their last two home games against Detroit and Akron before dropping the season finale at Buffalo. The Triangles finished in a 6th place tie, but storm clouds were gathering about this franchise as their first NFL coach, Nelson "Bud" Talbott, left at season's end.

1922

Triangles

Opponents

Oct  1 36 OORANG INDIANS 0
Oct 8 0 CANTON BULLDOGS 0
Oct 15 17 MINNEAPOLIS MARINES 0
Oct 22 0 HAMMOND PROS 0
Oct 29 0 BUFFALO ALL-AMERICANS 7
Nov 5 0 @ Chicago Bears 9
Nov 12 0 @ Rock Island Independents 43
Dec 3 7 @ Chicago Cardinals 3

Totals

80 4-3-1 (t-7th of 18 NFL) 62

1922:  Under new coach (and team owner) Carl Storck, 1922 saw the Triangles start 3-0-1 with the defense posting shutouts in all four games. The caliber of the some of the opponents was questionable save for Canton, who would win the NFL title this season. When Buffalo came to town and shut out the Triangles 7-0, it seemed to be a shock to the team as the offense put up only 7 more points the rest of the season. The Triangles were also shut out their next two games against the Chicago Bears (9-0) and Rock Island (43-0, the worst loss in the Triangles' NFL history). The Triangles regrouped after the three –game skid to win the season finale against the Chicago Cardinals, to finish 4-3-1 for the season, tied for seventh. As events played out, this was the Triangles' second winning season in three NFL years. It was also to be their last.

1923

Triangles

Opponents

Sept 30 7 COLUMBUS TIGERS 6
Oct 7 0 @ Hammond Pros 7
Oct 14 0 @ Canton Bulldogs 30
Oct 21 3 @ Toledo Maroons 6
Oct 28 3 @ Chicago Cardinals 13
Nov 11 0 @ Cleveland Indians 0
Nov 18 0 @ Buffalo All-Americans 3
Dec 2 3 @ Columbus Tigers 30

Totals

16 1-6-1 (t-16th of 20 NFL) 95
M
1923:  The bottom fell out of the team in 1923 It should be interesting to note that the Triangles played only one NFL home game the entire 1923 season, the opener against Columbus, which they won…before going on the road where they dropped six of the seven road games that year with the non-loss being a 0-0 tie to Cleveland. The 1-6-1 record was only good for a 16th place tie. Also of note, the Triangles offense seemed to continue in its funk from the end of the 1922 season. They went from one of the more prolific offenses to one of the worst. After scoring 80 points in 1922, the Triangles scored 7 in their win over Columbus. They scored only 9 more points the rest of the season.
M
1924 Triangles Opponents
Oct 5 19 FRANKFORD YELLOWJACKETS 7
Oct 12 7 @ Buffalo Bisons 0
Oct 19 0 @ Rock Island Independents 20
Oct 26 6 COLUMBUS TIGERS 17
Nov 2 0 @ Cleveland Bulldogs 35
Nov 9 0 @ Chicago Cardinals 23
Nov 16 6 @ Buffalo Bisons 14
Nov 27 7 @ Frankford Yellowjackets 32
Totals 45 2-6-0 (t-13th of 18 NFL) 148
M

In 1924, the Triangles stirred some hopes of a return to the top half of the NFL after winning their fist two games, beating Frankford 19-7 and at Buffalo 7-0. The Frankford win was notable in that it would be the last time the Triangles would score in double digits in one game. But the team was exposed in a 20-0 loss to Rock Island, and the team never won again the rest of the year, yielding an average of 23.5 points allowed per game over their last six games, appalling numbers for the low-scoring era of pro football.

M
1925 Triangles Opponents
Sept 27 0 @ Rock Island Independents 0
Oct 4 0 @ Canton Bulldogs 14
Oct 18 0 @ Detroit Panthers 6
Oct 24 0 @ Frankford Yellowjackets 3
Nov 1 3 @ Akron Pros 17
Nov 15 0 @ Green Bay Packers 7
Nov 22 0 @ Chicago Cardinals 14
Nov 29 0 @ New York Giants 23
Totals 3 0-7-1 (19th of 20 NFL) 84
M

1925:  Attendance had been dropping at the few home games in recent years in conjunction with the drop in the NFL standings, plus the team's inability to schedule opponents the fans would come out to see. As a result, 1925 saw the Triangles play an all-road schedule. This season was the worst in Dayton's NFL history so far, as the Triangles could only manage a 0-0 tie in the season opener at Rock Island, and scored only three points all season while dropping their last seven contests. Three losses were commendably close (6-0 to Detroit, 3-0 to Frankford and 7-0 to Green Bay) but the other games were double-digit deficits by the final gun. The 0-7-1 record was good for 19th place in a 20-team league. In addition to the usual Ohio-Michigan-Illinois opponents were two new opponents: Green Bay's Packers, and the New York Giants, who were playing their inaugural season in the NFL and defeated Dayton in the season finale 23-0.

M
1926 Triangles Opponents
Oct 3 3 @ Buffalo Rangers 0
Oct 10 6 @ Pottsville Maroons 24
Oct 17 6 BUFFALO RANGERS 7
Nov 14 0 @ Detroit Panthers 0
Nov 20 0 @ Frankford Yellowjackets 35
Nov 21 0 @ Hartford Blues 16
Totals 15 1-4-1 (t-16th of 22 NFL) 82
M
1926 had the Triangles playing a short schedule, totaling six games. Against similarly weak teams like the Buffalo Rangers (the old All-Americans under a new name) the Triangles could hold their own, splitting their two games (3-0 road victory and a 7-6 home loss). They also tied Detroit 0-0. The other three games were essentially non-competitive as the weaknesses of the home-grown Triangles against the other clubs' national talent became all too apparent. Carl Storck would bring on a new head coach for the next season.
M
1927 Triangles Opponents
Sept 18 0 @ Green Bay Packers 14
Sept 24 6 FRANKFORD YELLOWJACKETS 3
Oct 2 3 NY YANKEES 6
Oct 8 0 @ Frankford Yellowjackets 0
Oct 9 0 @ Chicago Cardinals 7
Oct 23 0 @ Providence Steamroller 7
Oct 30 6 @ Chicago Bears 14
Nov 13 0 @ Green Bay Packers 6
Totals 15 1-6-1 (10th of 12 NFL) 57
M

In 1927, with the end of Red Grange's AFL, and the NFL nearly drowning in red ink as well, the league shrank from 22 to 12 teams in the hopes of shoring up the talent pool of the remaining clubs.  By now, Dayton was the last of the original Ohio NFL teams still standing.   A new head coach for the Triangles couldn't stop the continued bleeding of losses as Lou Mahrt posted a 1-6-1 record.  Dayton had two home games this season, a change from recent years.  Both were significant in Triangle history, as the first game, a 6-3 victory over Frankford, was the Triangles' last NFL victory.  The other home game, Dayton's 6-3 loss to the New York Yankees in 1927 was significant on two counts: First, it was the only NFL appearance of pro football's first superstar, Red Grange, in Dayton.  Second, as events turned out, it was the Triangles' final NFL home game.  The following week, the Triangles got their last tie game, 0-0, against Frankford.  In a change from the previous three seasons, while Dayton lost the rest of their games, the scores were generally more respectable, as five of the 6 losses were by a touchdown or less.  Only two opponents could score as many as 14 points and every other opponent was held to single digit scoring. The offense, however, provided little punch, posting 15 points all year, and never coming close to breaking into double digits.

M
1928 Triangles Opponents
Sept 29 0 @ Frankford Yellowjackets 6
Oct 7 0 @ Chicago Cardinals 7
Oct 14 0 @ Providence Steamroller 28
Oct 20 9 @ Frankford Yellowjackets 13
Oct 28 0 @ Green Bay Packers 17
Nov 11 0 @ Chicago Bears 27
Nov 29 0 @ Detroit Wolverines 33
Totals 9 0-7-0 (10th of 10 NFL) 131
M

1928 brought on the last head coach in Triangle history as Fay Abbott took the helm. Sadly, his two years brought more of the same as the Triangles, reduced to a road team, reverted from their reasonable 1927 showing back to the disaster of 1924-25. They simply could not stay in games long against the top teams. They would score only 16 points over their last 13 NFL games and lose by horrific margins in most of these contests. The Triangles played their last NFL game on November 24, 1929, a 19-0 loss to the Cardinals in Chicago. After the season, the franchise was sold and moved from Dayton to New York where it would become the Brooklyn Dodgers for the 1930 NFL season. There, they would suffer from many of the same problems Dayton had (not enough talent, not enough home-town fan support, etc) until the brief tenure of 'Jock' Southerland. World War II drained the team of the coach and what few good players they had until the Triangles/Dodgers returned to the murk of losing. This went on until the team merged with the Boston Yanks in 1944. Dodger owner Dan Topping then took his club to the All-American Conference after the war, as the New York Yankees, where they died with most of the AAFC after the 1949 season.

M
1929 Triangles Opponents
Sept 22  0 @ Green Bay Packers 9
Sept 28 7 @ Frankford Yellowjackets 14
Sept 29 0 @ Providence  Steamroller 41
Oct 6 0 @ Staten Island Stapletons 12
Oct 13 0 @ Boston Bulldogs 41
Nov 24 0 @ Chicago Cardinals 19
Totals 7 0-6-0 (12th of 12 NFL) 136

Some Triangle players hung around the NFL for a short period after the team disbanded following the 1929 season. While the franchise was shipped to Brooklyn to become the Dodgers, no Triangle player made the trek to the borough. At least five Triangles continued as active NFL players on different teams. Jim Tays landed on the 1930 Staten Island Stapletons. Ebby DeWeese, Red Joseph, and Lee Fenner (the last of the 1920 APFA Triangles still active as an NFL player) ended up on the 1930 Portsmouth Spartans (the forerunners to the Detroit Lions) for their final NFL seasons as players. Also, according to Pro Football: The Early Years, Al (Pup) Graham, a guard, was the last of the ex-Triangles still actively playing NFL ball when he left the Chicago Cardinals after the 1933 season.

Lifetime Record:
17 wins, 51 losses, 8 ties ,
.250 winning percentage (.276 by current NFL formula)
413 PF, 909 PA

Coaching Records:
Nelson "Bud"Talbott (1920-21)   8-6-3
Carl Storck (1922-26) 8-26-4
Lou Mahrt (1927) 1-6-1
Fay Abbott (1928-29) 0-13-0

NOTES: Abbott set the NFL record for the longest losing streak for a coach starting his NFL career until his first NFL win (or getting fired).  The record is now held by John McKay, going 0-26 in 1976-77 before McKay recorded his first NFL victory…(a streak that will likely never be broken given the current impatient breed of NFL ownership).  Abbott did not get another chance to record an NFL victory after the Triangles' last NFL game in 1929, as he was never again a head coach in the pro ranks.  

Even though the Triangles were gone, the NFL wasn't quite done with Dayton. One more official NFL game was played in Dayton in 1934. The Cincinnati Reds, a 1933 expansion team, were having difficulties and the NFL arranged a 'home' game in Dayton against the Chicago Cardinals early in the season. This was the Reds' second game and the Card's season opener. The Cardinals won the game 9-0 as the Reds dropped their first 8 games before being merged with the St Louis Gunners, an independent team to play out the remainder of the schedule.

Carl Storck, of course, continued to work in the NFL office as Secretary-Treasurer and then NFL President until his retirement in 1941.

 

Source:  Pro Football: The Early Years (An Encylopedic History 1895-1959), by David S. Neft and
Richard M. Cohen, (C), 1978.

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