Pro Football’s Dayton Triangles Earn Recognition
In the second decade of the twentieth century, Dayton, Ohio had a large number of semi-pro and amateur football teams playing one another, as well as other teams throughout the region. Following trends, these Dayton teams were organized around neighborhood groups, and the many athletic clubs and factories stories mentioned teams like the Wolverines, Miamis, McKinleys, Westwoods, Oxfords, Republics, and Nationals all playing football in the Greater Dayton area.
They played their games at city parks like Westwood Field on Western Avenue (now James H. McGee Boulevard) at Kammer and Mathison; Highland Field on Wyoming Street; McKinley Field at Forest, Lehman and River (now Riverview Avenue) streets; or NCR Field on River (now Patterson) Boulevard.
Out of this background, a group of very talented athletes organized Dayton’s best professional football team. The original team members got together as basketball players at St. Mary’s College, now the University of Dayton. In their four years at the school, 1908-1912, the players took the Saints from obscurity to national renown, according to The St. Mary’s Exponent. During this period, the Saints suffered only two defeats in basketball.
After graduation, the players organized a basketball team of alumni, students, and other local athletes. The interim management was comprised of amateur athletes. They went by the name of the St. Mary’s Cadets. In the first game of their basketball season, they beat the Akron (Ohio) Wilmars 74 to 6 and eventually won eight of nine games that initial season. At first their home games were played in an abandoned church auditorium on North Main Street across from the present Biltmore Towers. Later they played in the main auditorium of Memorial Hall, which at that time had removable seats, making it possible to hold conventions, circuses, and basketball games. At the end of their first basketball season, they claimed the title of World Basketball Champions by defeating the Buffalo (New York) German Ramblers 45 to 30.
By the fall of 1913, the St. Marys Cadets organized a football team. The team was coached by Louis “Foose” Clark, who coached the St. Mary’s college football team as well. Al Mahrt was elected team captain. The Cadets played seven games that season, winning all of them. They won the Dayton City Championship by defeating the Oakwoods 26 to 21 on Thanksgiving Day 1913 and took the Southern Ohio Championship by defeating the Cincinnati (Ohio) Celts 27 to O at Redland Park in Cincinnati.
In the 1914 season, the Cadets played without Al Mahrt and Babe Zimmerman, who were lost due to injuries. Three other important team players were playing for another football team. Despite this, the Cadets won another city championship in 1914. In a series of games with the Oakwoods (of Oakwood, Ohio), the Cadets lost the first game 6-0, then won the next two games 3-0 and 7-0.
The next year, home games were moved to Westwood Field, and the team changed its name from the St. Mary’s Cadets to become known as the Dayton Gym Cadets. The team was probably sponsored by the Dayton Gymnastic Club now located on Wayne Avenue. That season, quarterback and team captain Al Mahrt took over coaching duties as well. The only loss was to the Columbus (Ohio) Panhandles, with Mahrt out of the game. The Cadets also won their third consecutive city championship that year.
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