Birth of Pro Football | Official website of the Professional Football Hall of Fame
The date was November 12, 1892, a day that will forever be etched in the history of the sport, though no one could have recognized the importance of the occasion. It was the day the Allegheny Athletic Association football team beat the Pittsburgh Athletic Club. The match itself was not a momentous event. But one of the circumstances of the game made it an unforgettable moment in the history of the sport – one of the AAA players, William (Pudge) Heffelfinger, was openly paid $ 500 to play the game. debuted over 100 years ago in a relatively obscure environment that could not have provided any clue of the global popularity the sport would be destined to enjoy, particularly in the last decades of the first century of professional football .
William (Pudge) Heffelfinger, the first professional football player.
Who was “Pudge?” >>>
While the PAC suspected that something illegal was brewing, there was no immediate evidence to support its belief that the AAA had abandoned the standard practices of the time by paying someone to play football. The absolute check, in fact, was not made public for almost 80 years until the Pro Football Hall of Fame received and displayed a document – an expense account sheet from the Allegheny Athletic Association that shows clearly a “game performance bonus to W. Heffelfinger for playing (in cash) $ 500. While it is possible that others were paid to play prior to 1892, the AAA expense sheet provides the first compelling evidence” a cash payment. “
See the professional football “birth certificate”.
American football itself was relatively new in 1892. Its roots came from two sports, football and rugby, which had long enjoyed popularity in many countries around the world. On November 6, 1869, Rutgers and Princeton played what was billed as the first game of college football. However, it wasn’t until the 1880s that a great Yale rugby player, Walter Camp, initiated rule changes that slowly turned rugby into the new game of American football.
Meanwhile, sports clubs that sponsored a wide variety of sports teams became a popular phenomenon in the United States in the years immediately following the Civil War. One of the sports adopted by the athletics club was football.
In the 1880s, most sports clubs had a football team. The competition was fierce and each club was committed to providing their teams with the best players available. To this end, some clubs have secured jobs for star players. Others “awarded” expensive trophies or watches to their players, who in turn pledged their rewards, to receive them again and again after each match they played. A popular practice has been to offer players double spending for their services. As footballers are supposed to be amateurs, these practices have been questioned by the Amateur Athletic Union but for each tactic declared illegal, a new one has been developed.
Thus, the stage was set for the AAA-PAC confrontation. The actions before, during and after the game are as intriguing as the fact that someone was openly paid to play football for the first time. The Allegheny football team, founded in 1890, and the Pittsburgh team, founded a year later, were already passionate rivals when they met in the first of two games of the 1892 season and ended in a 6-6 draw. Adding fuel to the fire, the AAA claimed that PAC’s top player and coach William Kirschner was a professional because, as a paid PAC instructor, his salary increased and his workload increased. declined during the football season. With the controversy raging, both sides began to explore methods to strengthen their teams.
|For years, Brallier was considered the first pro|
Early professional football historians agreed that a 16-year-old Indiana College in Pennsylvania quarterback John Brallier became the first professional football player when he accepted $ 10 and “cakes” ( expenses) to play for the Latrobe, PA, town team against neighbor Jeannette on September 3, 1895.
After the Professional Football Hall of Fame opened in Canton in 1963, further research revealed the payment of Pudge Heffelfinger by the Allegheny Athletic Association in 1892 and thus denied Latrobe’s claim as the birthplace of football. professional.
Today, Brallier is ranked no higher than seventh among rookie players willing to pay to play.
Below are the first seven players known to have been openly paid to play football:
William “Pudge” Heffelfinger – Allegheny Athletic Association, Pittsburgh, – $ 500 for a game on November 12, 1892.
Ben “Sport” Donnelly – Allegheny Athletic Association, Pittsburgh – $ 250 for a game on November 19, 1892.
Peter Wright – Allegheny Athletic Association, Pittsburgh – $ 50 per game (contracted) for the entire 1893 season.
James Van Cleve – Allegheny Athletic Association, Pittsburgh – $ 50 per game (contracted) for the entire 1893 season.
Oliver W. Rafferty – Allegheny Athletic Association, Pittsburgh – $ 50 per game (contracted) for the entire 1893 season.
Lawson Fiscus – Greenburg, PA – $ 20 per game (under contract) for the entire 1894 season.
John Brallier – Latrobe, PA, – $ 10 and expenses for a game on September 3, 1895.
The AAA and the PAC both focused their attention on the strong Chicago Athletic Association team who used the “double-spend” scheme to keep their players happy. Heffelfinger, who had served three times as a Yale All-America guard in 1889, 1890 and 1891, had been granted leave from his job as a low-wage railroad clerk in Omaha so that he could accompany the Chicago team on a six-game tour of the East.
The PAC, with a particular sense of urgency after its star Kirschner was sidelined with injury, spotted Chicago in an opener against the Cleveland Athletic Association. Chicago won easily and Heffelfinger had an exceptional game. The Pittsburgh Press of October 30, 1892 reported that the Chicago team’s Heffelfinger and Knowlton “Snake” Ames were offered $ 250 to play for the PAC against the Allegheny Athletic Association in the next game on November 12.
So alerted, the AAA did its own research and discovered that star Ben “Sport” Donnelly and Ed Malley would be playing with the AAA for the usual “double-spend money.” Ames was unwilling to risk his amateur status at any cost and Heffelfinger only said he couldn’t risk his amateur status for just $ 250. Indeed, professional football experienced its first “detention” even before having its first pro. When AAA officials learned Heffelfinger would play for $ 500, they gladly welcomed him into the fold.
When the teams entered the field on November 12, PAC players quickly noticed that Heffelfinger, Donnelly and Malley were wearing AAA uniforms. The PAC coach brought his team out of the field because, among several reasons, the followers of both camps had bet a lot on the match and the AAA had visibly tipped the scales with the ringers. Finally, it was agreed that the game would be played as an exhibition and that all bets would be open.
The long feuds had delayed the kick-off so much that the game had to be shortened to two 30-minute halves (down from 45 minutes) to beat the fall shadows that soon fell on Pittsburgh. Midway through the first half, Heffelfinger scored the only touchdown of the game when he forced a fumble, recovered it and traveled 25 yards to score. Touchdowns had four points in 1892, so Allegheny won 4-0.
Almost no one was happy with the result. AAA fans were angry that they couldn’t get their bets back. PAC followers were furious at the use of Chicago players and accused Heffelfinger of being paid cash to play. AAA manager OD Thompson insisted he acted cautiously and just did “what the Pittsburghs tried to do.” Only we have succeeded where they have failed ”. It should be noted that the expense account sheet which years later proved the PAC charges to be correct was signed by none other than OD Thompson.
This now famous expense sheet from the Allegheny Athletic Association also showed that the AAA made a net profit of $ 621 for the game, despite the “huge” payout to Heffelfinger. Since gaining and maintaining financial solvency were two goals in 1892 as they are today, the AAA’s first foray into professional football proved satisfactory, both on and off the pitch.