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Philadelphia Football Club
Philadelphia's First All Professional Team, 1901

 

From its very inception football was an amateur game played primarily in the college ranks, where it had evolved to its highest form.  Its growth in popularity, however, was well reflected in its adoption by high schools and local athletic clubs across the county.  By 1900 many athletic clubs had begun paying their better players, and a number of full-blown professional teams had successfully established themselves in Western Pennsylvania.  With the formation of the Philadelphia Football Club, in 1901, the pro game finally moved to the eastern end of the state.

Philadelphia's First Pro Grid Team

Although it was not uncommon to find the Philadelphia Football Club referred to in the press as the Philadelphia Stars, All-Stars, Quakers and/or Phillies, the team was most commonly known as the Philadelphia Professionals or Pros.  Comprised mainly of former University of Pennsylvania players along with a few veterans of such teams as Duquesne and Latrobe, it was region's first entirely professional football squad.  Wilson Wright, a Penn graduate, was the team's manager and chief financial backer.

The Pros opened their inaugural season with shutout victories over the Conshohocken Tigers, the Orange Athletic Club and Susquehanna University.  Following the victory over Susquehanna, Philadelphia began preparations for its first major test of the season, at Lafayette – a perennially successful college squad with a strong following in Philadelphia.  In an effort to strengthen their weakness at fullback, the Professionals promptly recruited Susquehanna Coach John Lang.  Lang was a fine player in his own right, a fact born out by his contribution of three touchdowns as Philadelphia defeated defeated Lafayette 23-0, outplaying the collegians in every aspect of the game.

Next on the Pros’ schedule was the most anticipated game of the season, against the Homestead Library & Athletic Club.  A successful team with a very well established reputation, Homestead had surrendered only seven points over two seasons and was clearly the strongest of the many competitive teams of Western Pennsylvania.  Many, in fact, considered it the best professional team in the nation.  The Philadelphia club, having held all comers scoreless, was also considered to be excellent.  This match-up was generally accepted as the professional championship of the United States. Both teams worked diligently to prepare for the game.

Despite all of the hype surrounding this "battle of giants" Philadelphia proved no match for the well oiled Homestead football machine, losing by a score of 18-0.  The two teams closed out their respective seasons on a muddy field in Pittsburgh the following Saturday.  While falling again, this time by a much closer score of 6-5, the Pros gave an admirable showing.  They held Homestead to a single touchdown and managed to score the only touchdown surrendered by the Western Pennsylvanians against any club in two seasons.   

The (Philadelphia) Inquirer, November 24, 1901

As the Pros' unblemished early season record and strong showing in the season finale at Homestead demonstrated, the Pros had proved themselves worthy on the playing field.  Although still lacking the established following of the collegiate game, the Professionals benefited from being built on a strong foundation of well known local college talent.  Philadelphia's first experience with pro football planted a seed in the city, and left fans full of anticipation for the following season.  Little did anyone realize that this team would then take the field under the banner of John Rogers' Philadelphia Phillies!

1901 Season Schedule

Date

Loc Opponent PF PA W-L-T

Sat, Oct 19

A

Conshohoken Tigers
of Conshohocken, PA

6

0

W

Sat, Oct 26

H

Orange AC
of Orange, NJ

17

0

W

Sat, Nov 2

H

Susquehanna Univ.

34

0

W

Tue, Nov 5

H

Lafayette Univ.

23

0

W

Sat, Nov 23

H

Homestead L&AC
of Homestead, PA

0

18

L

Sat, Nov 30

A

Homestead L&AC
at Pittsburgh, PA

5

6

L

Links to Additional  Information

And Yet Again -- Temple's Last Year: 1901
A brief PFRA article that includes a description of the second Philadelphia-Homestead game
.


© John J. Fenton, 2007-2001, all rights reserved.