By Mark Fenner
Lou Partlow was born on October 9, 1892 in Miamisburg Ohio. His name became well known throughout the Dayton Football circuit starting sometime around 1913. He was a powerful half-back playing for a local paper mill, the West Carrollton Paper Company.
Lou’s training methods were primitive to say the least. He acquired an unparalleled endurance by running along the Miami River through fairly dense woods. Large trees would serve as opposing players. Lou became quick footed by running full tilt through this wooded maze and dodging his rooted opponents. Occasionally he would lower a shoulder into one of them to build up strength.
In 1914 Lou went south to play for the Cincinnati Celts. Without Partlow in the lineup, the West Carrollton Paper Company felt that it was senseless to field a team. By 1915 Partlow came home to the Miami Valley and the paper mill team was back on the gridiron.
The local schedule consisted of teams such as the Wolverines, the Miamis, the Shamrocks, and the most successful team of them all, the Dayton Gym Cadets.
On Thanksgiving day 1915, the paper mill aggregation hooked up with the Gym Cadets. It was during this game that the Gym Cadets noticed Lou Partlow’s superb abilities. He was recruited to play with the Cadets for their last remaining game of the season.
The following year the Cadets folded; largely because of a new kid on the block, loosely referred to as the Triangle Athletic Association. Many of the Cadet players were absorbed into the Triangle team of 1916 and Lou was one of them. Later in his career he would be referred to as an old Cadet player, even though Partlow only played one game with the Gym Cadets the year before.
The 1916 Triangle squad consisted of athletes from three local factories, thus representing a triad of companies. Prior to their first game against a Northern Cincinnati team, the Dayton Journal referred to them as ‘the consolidated Delco Metal Products team’. Nonetheless, Lou Partlow was a smashing, dashing line plunger on a newly formed powerhouse squad. The Dayton Journal referred to him as the ‘West Carrollton battering ram’. His defensive skills would develop over the next few years, but for the time being, his ball carrying skills made him an instant hero and fans went wild over him.
On October 22, 1916, Lou and his peers woke up in a Detroit hotel. A touring car would pick them up after breakfast and escort them to Navin Field, the home of the Detroit Tigers (later known as Tiger stadium). After getting dressed in the visitors locker room, the Triangles made their way down the long narrow hallways to the playing field. For coach Nelson “Bud” Talbott, the 7,000 fans waiting at the other end of the corridor weren’t a factor. He had played in front of much larger crowds in the Yale Bowl (Yale photo) during his college days. For Louis Partlow and the rest of his Dayton teammates, it must have been intimidating.
Perhaps Bud Talbott injected some of his experience into the Triangle psyche or maybe the large crowd served as an awe inspiring element. In the second quarter Lou took a short pass from Al Mahrt and ran it in for the game winning touchdown. The final score of 14-7 left an impression on the Detroit fans worthy of a standing ovation. The fans and players enjoyed a hard fought and clean style of play. An athletic partnership between these two cities developed on the grounds of mutual respect and lasted for many years.
Four years later Lou took the field at Dayton’s Triangle Park in a game against Joe Carr’s Columbus Panhandles. The players of 1920 were young, fast and strong.
Many of the names that were seen in a professional line-up were of All-American caliber. Lou had been playing this game for nearly twelve years and was starting to see some significant organizational changes. His sport had become increasingly popular in the professional rink over the last few years. His body was still in tree trunk shape but his noodle may have taken a few to many knocks. Lou had a hard time remembering plays and many times could not remember signals coming from the sidelines. These obstacles were overcame by a brief (on the field) tutorial, usually conducted during the huddle.
In six days Louis would turn 28 years old. But on this particular Sunday afternoon, Lou was not concerned about his age. At 2:30 p.m. on October 3, 1920, Mr. McCoy blew his whistle to begin the first game of the newly formed league known as the American Professional Football Association (A.P.F.A.). At some point during the third period Lou broke through the line for a forty yard dash, positioning the Triangles deep into Panhandle territory. The following play was a give to Francis Bacon for short yardage. On third down and goal the signal came for Partlow to finish the drive which he had started. It is safe to say that somewhere between 3:15 and 4:00 p.m., Lou Partlow plunged across the goal line breaking a scoreless tie and scoring the very first touchdown in the league. The significance of coarse lies in the fact that the A.P.F.A simply changed their name to the National Football League (NFL) two years later. Lou’s small trot across the goal line is recognized as the very first NFL touchdown.
Lou went on to play for the Triangles for several more years, retiring in 1927. In 1941 the team joined together at the Miami Valley Hunt and Polo club for their 25 year reunion. Dayton sports writer “Si” Burick was on hand scribing the interesting details. A couple of stories surfaced that pertained to Mr. Partlow. One of which originated in Chicago at Comiskey Park during a game with the Chicago Cardinals. It seems that the Cards had a nifty All-American end who was an expert punt blocker. Evidently he was pretty quick and could penetrate the line easily. Lou’s assignment during punt situations was to seek and destroy this shifty little ball swatter. The first time the Triangles punted, Lou staked his claim by literally picking his opponent up in the air and throwing him to the ground. After this happened a second time the player complained adamantly to the referee, “Did you see what he did to me?” the ref replied, “Yes and it was the best I’ve ever seen”.
The second telling on one of Lou’s feats might be a bit of a fish tale. The story goes, in 1928 Lou came out of retirement for one game against the Chicago Cardinals. The Cards star player was a man named Ernie Nevers. At six foot one inch, and 205 pounds, he was an All-American from Stanford, and a future hall of famer (inducted in 1963). Supposedly Lou hit Ernie Nevers so hard during this game that he never played football again. The problem with this story lies in the facts. Lou may have hit someone hard enough to end their career in 1928, but it wasn’t Ernie Nevers. Mr. Nevers did not play the entire ’28 season because of injuries and furthermore, it was the following year (1929) that Nevers scored 40 consecutive points against the Chicago Bears, a record that still stands. If Lou Partlow did come out of retirement to see action against Ernie Nevers, it had to have been on November 24, 1929, the only time the Triangles went up against him. More than likely, Lou put a pretty good hit on Nevers but it wasn’t hard enough to end his career. For that matter, it didn’t even slow him down. Nevers scored all of the Cards 19 points during their victory and concluded the following week against the Bears with his record setting 40 points. Sometimes you need to overlook the facts to reveal the truth.
The truth is that Lou Partlow was admired by those who surrounded him, admired enough to embellish upon his legacy.
According to the NFL encyclopedia, Total Football II, Lou died in Burbank California on April 14, 1981, at the age of 89 years.
The following was added by Orien W Dodds, Son of Orien M Dodds, October 2007:
Lou Partlow was my grandmothers brother-in-law. He was very strong man as I remember as a young lad. Lou was hired to dig a septic tank hole on our country home property by my farther. Lou chose to use a scoop shovel instead of regular spade shovel.
Over several year’s my farther has told me several stories about Lou’s physical strength .
One being Lou ran through our back yard carrying two bag’s of cement one on each shoulder when we lived in town of West Carrollton Ohio, as he passed through while running at night he was unaware of the newly close line my farther had previously put up in our yard, well Lou struck the line at full speed while running at night he was not hurt this would have hurt any ordinary man.
Another story was Lou was able to swim at the base of the West Carrollton Dam water, allow himself to be summered then hold his breath swim out of and exit the undertow of the turbulent water and repeat this time after time, it was a full size dam and had strong water’s.
Another story was Lou played in a game where a celebrity was playing at this exhibition game also anyway Lou made a terrific body contact hit on this very famous American Indian Athlete, put the Indian under the bleacher’s, the crowd moaned. Finally the Indian Athlete come forth and asked who hit him, he was told and confronted Lou and said to Lou that is as hard as he have ever been hit. (Quote from Frank Partlow). I best remember the Indian Athlete was Jim Thorpe.
Also I remember Lou as having a very raspy voice, and a terrific appetite for his size.
As a young boy I was told by my grandmother he could eat a large mixing bowl full of home made ice cream, plus more.
He had two brothers Frank and Siz and several sisters a large family. Frank told me Siz was a terrific athlete but was to timid as compared to Lou and was afraid he may hurt someone.
You may or may not want this Info. I thought it would provide more Trivia for Lou Partlow from a family related member.as stated above.
Orien W Dodds,
Son of Orien M Dodds.