Rough Times for the Homegrown Team
On June 24, 1922, the American Professional Football Association (APFA) changed its name to the National Football League (NFL). While other teams in the NFL were recruiting and signing top college players from around the country, the Dayton team continued to play with local talent.
During the 1922 season, the Triangles slid from being one of the top teams in the league to one of the weakest, and would not have another winning season in the decade. The Triangles could hold their own through three quarters but were not able to put enough points on the scoreboard to hold off the stronger teams in the league during the fourth quarter.
Though Triangle Park could seat 5000, the Triangles rarely drew that many fans. The city even offered free bus service from the south side of the North Main Street Bridge in downtown Dayton to the Park on game day. A general admission ticket for a game at the park was one dollar.
Because of their poor showing on the field, the Triangles were not able to draw crowds for home games. Thus, in the mid-1920s, the Triangles became a “traveling team”. They would play only a couple of home games a season at Triangle Park and the rest of their schedule on the road. The Triangles would play the Bears at Wrigley Field, the Cardinals at Comiskey Park, or the Giants at the Polo Grounds before crowds of over 10,000, and be assured of $2500 for playing the game at the opponent’s home field. This extensive traveling joined with the lack of recruiting, did not help build a winning football team in Dayton.
In 1925, the NFL set the limit of active players on a team’s roster at sixteen. The Triangles were lucky to carry that many players on the road. Occasionally, the team would play what was known as a “doubleheader”; a Saturday afternoon game in Philadelphia or New York and a Sunday afternoon game in Chicago. On one three-day road trip, the Triangles traveled with a roster of thirteen players. They played a Saturday game at Philadelphia with the Frankford Yellowjackets, a Sunday game in New York City with the Giants, and a Monday game in Cleveland with the Bulldogs.
The next year, 1926, the active player limit was upped to eighteen. This is the number of players that the Triangles were able to travel with in the late 1920s. Players played both offense and defense. According to league rules, if a player was taken out of the game for any reason, he could not return until the next quarter.
Carl Storck, still manager of the Triangles, rented a Pullman railroad car for the Triangles’ road trips. This car was used to eat and sleep in. It also served as a locker room when needed. Their railroad car was parked at the nearest railroad siding during the game, and, depending on the distance, the players would walk, or take a trolley car or taxi to the playing field.
On the day of the game, Dayton’s players would be expected to have eaten breakfast by the time they arrived at Union Station downtown. They would be given one dollar in cash for each meal on the trip. Though the Triangles rented railroad car was hitched to a passenger train, the players were not permitted to go to the passengers’ dining car. All meals were served to the team in their reserved private car.
Road games were always an adventure. During the 1927 and 1928 seasons, the Triangles had a Chinese/Hawaiian running back named “Sneeze” Achiu on their roster. In one game in the New York area, a local sports promoter advertised the Triangles as a “Team of Immigrants”. Since the team’s players carried their equipment and uniforms in burlap feed sacks slung over their shoulders, they probably looked the part.
A game with the Providence Steam Roller was played in a bicycle-racing stadium, the Cyclodrome. One of the Steam Roller co-owners, sports promoter Pete Laudati, built the 10,000-seat Cyclodrome in 1925, the same year his team came into the NFL. He was able to squeeze a football field inside of the wooden bicycle track at his Cyclodrome. One end zone was limited to five yards in depth because of the banked wooden track cut across it. The 1928 Steam Roller was the last team not currently in the NFL to win the league championship.
A luxury for traveling teams of the era was a visitors’ locker room with a shower. If there was no shower available after the game, the players would, if they had time, use the sink in the restroom at the train station. Otherwise, according to player “Mack” Hummon, the players would take what was known as a “spit bath” on the train trip home.
Most professional football players in this era used their NFL earnings as a source of extra income. Most players held regular Monday-to-Friday jobs that allowed them to practice with the team in the evenings and have weekends free for games. That could be a challenge for a traveling player who was not scheduled to get back from a long road trip until early Monday morning.
Some team managers would sign players on an incentive contract. Players would get $100 for winning a game, $75 for a tie (not that unusual an outcome for a game of the day), and $50 for a loss. Probably, all the Triangle players were paid a flat rate of $75 to $100 per game in the 1920s. Out of this pay, the player would receive only 60 percent, the rest being taken out for equipment rental and uniform usage for the game.
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Copyright © 1999