The Story of the NFL's Dayton Triangles

Portsmouth was Involved in Green Bay's 1st Dynasty

By Ritter Collett
Dayton Daily News (Ohio)
January 15, 1998

With the Green Bay Packers, the NFL's true link to the early years, poised to defend their Super Bowl championship, the Wisconsin cheeseheads are trying to put the finishing touches on a third dynasty in their lengthy history.

The second was the glory years of the 1960s, with five championships ending with Super Bowls I and II under Vince Lombardi.

The first dynasty ended along the Ohio River on a raw, windy December day in 1932.

The city of Portsmouth, then a steel mill town of 43,000, has only a little more than half of that population today. But the memories of pro football there have old-timers boasting about the Portsmouth Spartans winning NFL games in New York, Chicago, Boston and St. Louis and being almost unbeatable at home.

No one is more of a Portsmouth booster and historian than Leo Blackburn, the younger brother of Tom Blackburn, the University of Dayton basketball legend. Among other things, Leo will take you by the arm to the flood wall where huge historical murals adorn the concrete barriers depicting the area's history.

One of them salutes "the game" - a 19-0 Portsmouth triumph on Dec. 4 which prevented the Packers from racking up a fourth straight championship.

As it is, no other franchise has ever won three straight to this day.

Green Bay is in the books for NFL champions in 1929-30-31. A victory over the Spartans that memorable day would have made it four.

Portsmouth coach George (Potsy) Clark had vowed that it would never happen, creating a very emotional atmosphere.

Green Bay allegedly backed out of a date in Portsmouth the year before and had beaten the Spartans in Green Bay back in October, 15-10.

The irate Clark, an Illinois grad who played under Bob Zuppke, promised he would beat the Pack in Portsmouth playing only 11 men.

An account of how that came to pass is covered in a book about pro football in southern Ohio by retired Wright State history professor Carl M. Becker. The book is scheduled to be published later this year by the Ohio University press.

The game attracted a record press coverage and the tiny press box at the oddly named Universal Stadium was jammed, forcing a number of scribes to sit in the stands trying to take notes with frozen fingers.

The players were not locals but salaried former collegiate standouts from across the country.

The 11-man lineup included ends Bill McKalip (Oregon State) and Harry Ebding (St. Marys). The tackles were George Christensen (Oregon), a future Hall of Famer and Ray Davis (Stanford). The guards were Grover (Ox) Emerson (Texas) and Maury Bodenger (Tulane) with Clare Randolph (Indiana) at center.

The backfield found Earl (Dutch) Clark, a future Hall of Famer out of Colorado College, Glen Presnell (Nebraska), Roy Lumpkin (Georgia Tech) and Leroy (Ace) Gutowsky (Oklahoma City).

Lumpkin was a hard-nosed blocker who played without a helmet, exposing a bald head. He was a fan favorite and the Ramblin' Wreck song of his alma mater was the Spartans' theme song.

The Green Bay team was solid under coach Curly Lambeau, who organized the team in 1919 and was a player-coach for the first eight years. He is a Hall of Famer as was big tackle Cal Hubbard and running back Johnny Blood.

Clark scored 13 of the 19 points, rushing for the first touchdown early in the game and then scoring again on a pass from Presnell. He drop-kicked the one good extra point in the tricky winds.

He also had a 55-yard return on an interception with Green Bay threatening to score from the Portsmouth 12-yard line.

An emotional throng estimated at more than 10,000 jammed into the stadium which had only 6,600 seats and helped intimidate the visitors.

An unnamed Packer official was quoted in the Portsmouth Times that it was the most unruly, threatening crowd he had ever seen.

The win set up a championship showdown between Portsmouth and the Chicago Bears, which resulted in the game being played indoors in the Chicago Stadium two weeks later. The Bears won that one, but that's another story.

 

Copyright 1998 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Triangles main page

Reproduction of any part of this work without the permission of the author is unlawful. 

Copyright  2003