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Hall-of-Famers Were
Plenty in the 1920s

Unfortunately, they all played for the other guys

by Jeffrey Miller

The Buffalo All-Americans of the early 1920s were a great team, finishing within one game of the title in each of the league’s first two seasons (1920 and ’21). But despite an overall record of 18 wins and just 2 losses, the All-Americans, perhaps the most talented team ever assembled that did NOT win a championship, boast no Hall of Famers. In fact, there is no one from the team’s entire nine-year existence even sleeping on the hallowed hall’s front lawn.

Former Buffalo Bison fullback Pete Calac was nominated, but more for his connection to the great Canton Bulldog teams of the late 1910s and his association with Jim Thorpe than for his brief tenure in the Nickel City. And though Calac himself didn’t make it in as a player, he did get to stand outside the hall and deliver Jim Thorpe’s presentation speech when the former Olympian was inducted in 1964.

Frank McNeil, the founder and first owner of the All-Americans/Bisons, despite being declared a “pioneer” who “did so much to develop football” by George Halas upon Papa Bear’s 1963 induction, never got closer to the hall than Halas’ enshrinement speech.

Adolf “Swede” Youngstrom, perhaps the team’s greatest player, has been called the “greatest lineman of the 1920s not enshrined in the Hall of Fame.” Youngstrom might one day be the first member of Buffalo’s first pro team to make it into the hall (sure, about the same time the league re-instates Buffalo’s 1921 title, but that’s another story).

But despite the fact that the All-Americans/Bisons are not represented in Canton, the rosters of the teams against which they played boast many football immortals. Grid giants bearing such names as Harold “Red” Grange, Joe Guyon, Wilbur “Fats” Henry, Paddy Driscoll, George Halas and Jim Thorpe traversed the opposite side of the field against the great Buffalo teams of the Roaring ‘20s. Below is a listing of all the Hall-of-Famers who faced the All-Americans and Bisons from 1920 through 1929, with dates of games and brief description of the player’s performance:

· Harold “Red” Grange

Tuesday, October 12, 1927--The galloping Ghost of Illinois fame made his first appearance against the Buffalo Bisons a memorable one, scoring on a short touchdown run in leading his New York Yankees to an easy 19 to 8 victory at Bison Stadium.

Sunday, October 13, 1929--Grange returned to Buffalo as a member of the Chicago Bears, throwing a touchdown pass in leading the Bears over the Herd, 16 to 0, at Bison Stadium.

Sunday, November 24, 1929—The Bisons traveled to the Windy City for a rematch with the Bears. Despite Grange’s touchdown run, the Herd prevailed, 19 to 7, in what proved to be the last game in the franchise’s history.

· Joe Guyon

Sunday, November 21, 1920—Guyon, the Chippewa Indian and former teammate of Jim Thorpe at Carlisle Institute, made his first trip to Buffalo as a member of Thorpe’s Canton Bulldogs. Playing before 15,000 fans at Buffalo Baseball Park, the Bulldogs defeated the formerly unbeaten All-Americans 3 to 0.

Saturday, December 4, 1920—The much ballyhooed rematch between Canton and Buffalo, won by Buffalo, 7 to 3, at New York’s Polo Grounds in front of a crowd estimated as high as 25,000.

Sunday, November 6, 1921—Guyon, now a member of the Cleveland Tigers, picks off a pass and races 75 yards for a touchdown before 7,000 fans at Buffalo’s Canisius Villa. But it is not enough, as Buffalo holds on to win, 10 to 6.

Sunday, November 26, 1922—Having joined the Oorang Indians along with Jim Thorpe, Guyon catches a 30-yard touchdown pass and a pass for an extra point, both from Thorpe, as the Indians roll to an easy 19 to 7 victory before 3,000 at Buffalo Baseball Park.

· Ray Flaherty

Tuesday, November 5, 1929—Though perhaps better known for his coaching career with the Washington Redskins, with whom he won two league titles, Flaherty proves he was a fine end as well in catching two touchdown passes as his New York Giants demolish the hapless Bisons, 45 to 6, at Bison Stadium.

· Steve Owen

Tuesday, November 5, 1929 at Bison Stadium with New York Giants.

· Guy Chamberlin

Thursday, November 24, 1921—The Hall-of-Famer who faced Buffalo teams more than anyone else (7 times) in the decade does so for the first time as a member of the Chicago Staleys as the Windy City eleven loses to the tough Buffalo squad 7 to 6 in Chicago.

Sunday, December 4, 1921—The former Cornhusker and future coaching legend returns an interception 70 yards for a touchdown, leading the Staleys to a 10 to 7 win and the 1921 title.

Sunday, November 12 1922 at Canton with Bulldogs.

Sunday, November 11, 1923 at Buffalo with Canton.

Sunday, December 2, 1923 at Canton with Bulldogs.

Saturday, September 26, 1925 at Philadelphia with the Frankford Yellow Jackets.

Sunday, November 1, 1926 at Buffalo with Frankford.

· George Halas

Thursday, November 24, 1921 at Chicago with Staleys.

Sunday, December 4, 1921—Papa Bear, as he would later be known, celebrates his first NFL title as the Staleys defeat the All-Americans by a 10 to 7 count before 12,000 Chicagoans.

Sunday, October 22, 1922 at Chicago with Bears.

Sunday, October 28, 1923 at Chicago with Bears.

· John “Paddy” Driscoll

Sunday, November 5, 1922—Playing in front of 4,000 diehard Chicago fans, Driscoll passes for a touchdown as his Cardinals defeat the All-Americans, 9 to 7.

Sunday, September 30, 1923—Driscoll’s educated toe proves to be the difference as his 47-yard drop kick field goal sticks as the margin. Cards win, 3 to 0, at Chicago.

Sunday, November 16, 1925—Driscoll stars as the Cards run roughshod over the lowly Bisons, scoring one touchdown and adding two extra points in leading the Redbirds to a 23 to 6 drubbing.

Sunday, October 13, 1929—In the only Buffalo appearance of his career, an aging Driscoll manages a mere extra point as the Bears defeat the Herd.

· Wilbur “Fats” Henry

Sunday, November 21, 1920--The three-time All-American from William & Jefferson makes his first appearance against Buffalo at Buffalo Baseball Park in helping Canton win 3 to 0 before 15,000.

Saturday, December 4, 1920 at the Polo Grounds with Canton.

Sunday, November 20, 1921 at Canisius Villa with Canton.

Sunday, November 12, 1922 at Canton with Bulldogs.

Sunday, November 11, 1923—Before 10,000 at Buffalo Baseball Park, Henry dropkicks a 20-yard field in the last minute to secure a 3-3 tie for his Bulldogs.

Sunday, December 2, 1923—Henry dropkicks two extra points in Canton’s 14 to 0 home win over Buffalo.

· George Trafton

Thursday, November 24, 1921 at Chicago with Staleys.

Sunday, December 4, 1921 at Chicago with Staleys.

Sunday, October 28, 1923 at Chicago with Bears.

Sunday, October 13, 1929 at Buffalo’s Bison Stadium with Bears.

· Morris “Red” Badgro

Tuesday, October 12, 1927 at Bison Stadium with New York Yankees.

· Mike Michalske

Tuesday, October 12, 1927 at Bison Stadium with New York Yankees.

· Walt Kiesling

Sunday, September 29, 1929 at Bison Stadium with Chicago Cardinals.

· Ed Healey

Sunday, October 28, 1923 at Chicago with Bears.

· William Roy “Link” Lyman

Sunday, November 12, 1922 at Canton with Bulldogs.

Sunday, November 11, 1923 at Buffalo Baseball Park with Canton.

Sunday, December 2, 1923 at Canton with Bulldogs.

· Jimmy Conzelman

Sunday, November 23, 1924 at Bison Stadium with Milwaukee Badgers.

Sunday, October 2, 1927 at Providence with Steam Roller.

· Jim Thorpe

Sunday, November 21, 1920—The most celebrated athlete of his day makes his first appearance in Buffalo. Thorpe plays just one quarter in Canton’s 3 to 0 victory before 15,000 at Buffalo Baseball Park.

Saturday, December 4, 1920—In what was to be a showcase game for the fledgling professional football league, Thorpe’s Cantonese faced Buffalo’s All-Americans at New York’s Polo Grounds. Despite Thorpe’s field goal, Buffalo pulled off the victory and the glory in winning, 7 to 3.

Sunday, November 6, 1921—Thorpe was present, but did not play in this match up with his Cleveland Tigers and the Buffalo pros at Canisius Villa.

Sunday, November 26, 1922—In perhaps the greatest exhibition of talent displayed by any visiting player during the 1920s, Thorpe scores two touchdowns on scampers of 7 and 20 yards, throws for another, and caps his performance off by tossing a pass for an extra point as his Oorang Indians pound the All-Americans, 19 to 7 before 3,000 fans at Buffalo Baseball Park.

Sunday, October 21, 1923—Thorpe’s last appearance in Buffalo as a player proves to be an embarrassment, as the All-Americans whitewash the hapless Oorang squad, 57 to 0 in front of 12,000. Thorpe, in a vain effort to help his team, plays the entire game—a rare occurrence for the famed Olympian.

A total of sixteen greats who faced Buffalo’s pro teams during the league’s turbulent first decade. Who knows, perhaps one day the Queen City will boast of a member of its first team as one of the Hall-of-Fame’s chosen few.

Reprinted from The All-American (Vol. 2, No. 1), the official Newsletter-Magazine of the Buffalo All-Americans/Bisons.

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