TBT: The First Game in NFL History
Tonight’s game between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears will kick off NFL’s 100th season. In honor of this, and our Throwback Thursday series, I decided to write about what is considered the first game in NFL history.
Before 1920, professional football was played in the United States, but it was very unorganized. The biggest problem was the fact there was no official league the teams all played in. Therefore, there were no official rules that every team abided by. As you can imagine, this created quite a few problems between the teams, so in 1920 a meeting was held and the American Professional Football Association (APFA) was born. Finally, there would be a league that would have one set of rules that every member team would have to follow. Just two years later, the APFA would be renamed the National Football League (NFL), the league we all are so fondly aware of now.
At the onset of the first APFA season, 14 teams were included in the league. On October 3, 1920, the first game between two APFA teams took place (a game was held a week earlier that featured just one APFA team against an independent football team) between the Dayton Triangles and the Columbus Panhandles at Dayton’s Triangle Park. The historic day would be witnessed by about 4,000 football fans in attendance, where they only had to pay $1.75 for admission. Every player was paid $50 apiece that day.
The first touchdown in NFL history was scored by Dayton’s running back Lou Partlow, nicknamed the West Carrollton Battering Ram for his unique training style that included him running through the woods and “ramming” his shoulder into trees. I would love to know what Partlow would think about today’s running back training techniques. The first game would go on to end in a shutout, with the Triangles getting the best of the Panhandles 14-0.
The next day’s edition of the Dayton Daily News concluded, “The old favorites were on the job every minute. The spectacular work of Bacon, the usual ground gaining of Partlow, the squirming of Norb Sacksteder, the generalship of Mahrt, the speed and tackling of Fenner, Thiele, and Reese, the defense of Kinderdine, and the sturdy holding of the various athletes who were in at guard and tackle made the opening play of the season something nifty for the fans to watch. But it was more than a victory which tickled the folks Sunday. The all-around work of the Triangles was excellent.”