Muscle Sport Magazine

No Kneeling Bullshit Then: Canton Bulldogs Merely Played… And Won

Wikipedia Commons/Labeled For Reuse

There’s a reason why the Pro Football Hall of Fame is located in Canton, Ohio and – believe it or not – it’s for an organization that went defunct two years before the Great Depression. If not for the Bulldogs and their success, the National Football League would not have chosen Canton as the location to sit down and form the league itself, albeit under the original moniker of the American Professional Football Association.


That meeting took place in 1920 and the Bulldogs were the model franchise for the then-frowned upon sport of professional football. (Remember the “Leatherheads”movie?) They had just won their third Ohio League championship and were selling out stadiums during their reign, which began in 1903 once the team turned pro after being dominant in the local amateur circuit.



The most famous player to suit up in the maroon and white was Jim Thorpe, who became the Bulldogs’ player-coach for $250 per game in 1915. When the new league was formed five years later, Thorpe was named its first president. The Bulldogs won back-to-back NFL championships (1922 and 1923), but this came with a caveat; the players’ salaries dwarfed the owner’s profit to the tune of being $13,000 in the red even after winning a title.


The franchise was sold for $2,500 to the owner of Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians, Samuel Deutsch, who renamed them the Cleveland Bulldogs. They promptly won the 1924 championship and were sold to a group of investors from Canton, with Deutsch making $500 profit and the original name being restored.



But unfortunately, success was not to follow, as the Bulldogs were a .500 team in 1925 and a hapless 1-9-3 the following season. At the time, the NFL was still in its infancy and many franchises were either vagabond or in business one year and out the next. So a decision was made to eliminate a number of clubs that were not stable and the Bulldogs were one of the Dirty Dozen purged, which included two other charter members, as well.



But their legacy never left and when a location was to be determined where to build a hall of fame, Canton was chosen and ground breaking took place in the summer of 1962… a mere 59 years after the Bulldogs put the city on the map as a hotbed of pro gridiron action.

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