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History of the Eagles - Part I: In the Beginning...
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Steegles46


Joined: 27 Jan 2006
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2007 10:37 am    Post subject: History of the Eagles - Part I: In the Beginning... Reply with quote


The History of the Philadelphia Eagles

Part I: In the Beginning… (1933-1940)

On October 26, 1931, the football team called the Frankford Yellow Jackets, in severe financial trouble brought on by the Great Depression, folded mid-season, a mere day after defeating the Chicago Bears 13-12 at Wrigley Field. For over year, NFL executives searched for a suitable replacement city and ownership team. Finally, in 1933 the NFL found these two. The management team was founded with an entry fee of $2,500, contributed by a team headed by two young businessmen, Lud Wray and Bert Bell. The place chosen for the new franchise was, well, Frankford. However shortly after, Bell, in a genius business decision, realized that he could attract a larger fan base if the team officially hailed from Philadelphia, rather then the simple suburb of the city. This would be the first of many key decisions of his that would largely and beneficially impact the National Football League.

With the location settled, Bell’s first act as the head owner of the team was to select a team nickname. Witnessing the nation slowly climbing its way out of the Great Depression with the help of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s economic recovery plan called “The New Deal,” Bell decided to choose the symbol of its centerpiece, “The National Recovery Act” (NRA): the Bald Eagle. From that moment on – except for a brief moment during World War II – the squad from Philadelphia would be known as the “Eagles.”



There is a bit of confusion regarding the relationship between the franchise of the Frankford Yellow Jackets and the Philadelphia Eagles. Many believe that the Wray and Bell were rewarded the bankrupt franchise, and the two altered its name to give it a new image. This mistake is further helped by the fact that the NFL states that the two “bought the franchise.” However, the NFL recognizes the Eagles as a separate team with its own identity. The NFL notes that in buying the franchise, Wray and Bell merely bought the rights to create an NFL franchise in the area of Frankfort/Philadelphia, and cites the dormant period between the Yellow Jackets’ demise and the Eagles’ creation and the fact that an entirely new team with new players was formed as justification for the ruling. It’s an important ruling to note, as the Yellow Jackets’ championship in 1926 does not count as part of the Eagles’ history.

Although the city of Philadelphia had been home to a professional football team since the earliest days of the sport, the city was still known as a “college football town.” Villanova was a big time program, Penn had won at least a share of four national championships, and Temple was also a large program, coached by a man named Glenn Scobey “Pop” Warner. Professional football played second fiddle to the college game, and there were reservations that a professional team could ever really compete with the college programs in the city.

However, among the team, confidence was high. Lud Wray, appointed to play the role of head coach, was quoted as saying “We’re a first year team, but we’re going to surprise some people.” On October 15th, 1933 (the fifth week of the NFL season) the Eagles played their first professional game, facing the Giants at the Polo Grounds. Many would like to forget it, as the Eagles played every bit like a new franchise, losing 56-0. Wray said after the game, “I don’t think we’re as far along as we thought.” Three days later (technically the next week of the season), the Eagles played their first home game, losing to the Portsmouth Spartans 25-0 at the Baker Bowl. Following a 35-9 loss at Green Bay, the franchise finally got their first ever win on November 5th, at the Cincinnati Reds 6-0. In the fourth quarter, back Swede Hanson (Temple – 1933-37), who would lead the team in both rushing and receiving, scored the game’s only points on a nine yard run.

The very next week the city of Philadelphia saw its first ever Sunday football game. Though the Frankford Yellow Jackets had been playing football in the city from 1899-1931, the state’s Blue Laws prevented the playing of football on Sundays. Therefore, the day of November 12, 1933 holds significance in Eagles’ history. The Eagles notched the franchise’s first tie on this day against the visiting Chicago Bears, 3-3, with tackle Guy Turnbow (Mississippi – 1933-34) kicking the tying field goal in the final quarter. The Eagles would push their unbeaten streak to 4 games with wins against the Pittsburgh Steelers (25-6) and the Cincinnati Reds (20-3) before closing their first season with losses against the Green Bay Packers (10-0) and New York Giants (20-14). All told, the Eagles finished with a record of 3-5-1, and in fourth place out of five teams in the Eastern Division.

The next season displayed a team of promise. In the early seasons, the Philadelphia Eagles was a team comprised mainly of local college products. Because the then-big three city schools of Penn, Temple, and Villanova held respectable talent, the Eagles were able to field a competitive team in the early years despite a severe lack of funds. The 1934 year, however, started horribly for the squad with losses in five of their first six games. While the defense played soundly, giving up only an average of ten points per game during the stretch, the offense could not find a groove. Six weeks into the season, the offense had scored a measly 30 points and were dealt three straight shutout losses.

Relief from the team’s losing ways came from the visiting Cincinnati Reds, a club that would ultimately post a 0-8 record and score an anemic 10 points all season, giving up 243. The Eagles soundly drummed the feeble club 64-0. After losing to the Brooklyn Dodgers (10-7) and the Boston Redskins (14-7) by a combined 10 points, the defense took matters completely into their own hands, not allowing a single point for the remaining two games. The Eagles season ended on a high note, as the club recorded shutout wins against the Brooklyn Dodgers (13-0) and the eventual NFL Champion New York Giants (6-0). All told, the club managed a 4-7 finish and a tie for third in the Eastern Division.

Despite the losing record, the Eagles were a competitive ball club that season. Five of the team’s seven losses were by ten points or less. Although the team was shutout three times, the defense managed four shutouts of its own. Despite their losing record, the Eagles had managed to outscore their opponents for the season 127-85, a testament to the club’s close losses and the lopsided victory over the Reds. Swede Hanson would again lead the team in rushing, averaging 5.5 yards per rush for 147 attempts. His 805 yards rushing was a team record that stood for 10 seasons before being broken by Hall of Fame running back Steve Van Buren. While that doesn’t seem like much, it truly must have seemed like an unbeatable number in its time. The average rushing total of the team-leading rushers in those 10 seasons was a paltry 305 yards!

The remainder of the decade could be best summed up in one word: change. The Eagles went through a series of changes through the 1940 season. Most significantly was Eagles owner and General Manager Bert Bell’s 1935 proposal of an NFL draft, based on reverse order of record. This would allow the struggling clubs a chance a premier talent. While the draft is considered a basic and fundamental need for all sports, at the time it was a radical and revolutionary idea. The proposal was adopted on May 19, 1935, and implemented for the following season. As the holder of the league’s worst record, the Eagles were ironically able to make the first draft pick ever. With the first ever NFL draft pick, the Eagles selected All-American and Heisman Award winning University of Chicago halfback Jay Berwanger. Perhaps even more ironically, Berwanger chose not to sign an NFL contract and opted instead for a career in business manufacturing plastic car parts. Fortunately for the Eagles, complete embarrassment was adverted when they successfully traded Berwanger’s rights to the Chicago Bears before his decision was made. As the holder of the league’s worst record the following year, the Eagles made the league’s first ever successful first overall selection, University of Nebraska fullback Sam Francis.

In addition to the draft, many other changes occurred in 1936 involving the franchise. The Eagles moved their home playing site from the Baker Bowl to (Philadelphia) Municipal Stadium. Bert Bell bought out Lud Wray’s stake in the Eagles for $4,000, and became the sole owner of the team. He named himself the new head coach, a position he would hold and the city of Philadelphia would regret. While the team was competitive under Wray, it was disturbingly inept under Bell, who piloted the team to a 10-34-2 record over his five seasons as head coach. This record includes a 5-6 campaign; over the course of the other four seasons the franchise held a 5-28-2 record.

In 1939, the Eagles again changed home stadiums, moving to what was then known as Shibe Park. On October 22, the Eagles and Brooklyn Dodgers played the NFL’s first televised football game at Ebbets Field, the Dodgers winning 23-14. The game is said to have reached a thousand television sets in Brooklyn. The Eagles drafted their first superstar, the original Doug Flutie. At 5 feet, 7 inches and weighing all of 150 pounds, the fourth overall selection in the 1939 draft was [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Davey_O'Brien]Davey O’Brien[/url] of Texas Christian University. Yes, that Davey O’Brien. Davey is distinguished as the first player in history to win the Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award and Walter Camp Award in the same year. More notably known for the collegiate award named after him (for best quarterback), his professional football career was also brilliant, albeit short. In his first season in 1939, he played in every game and set the NFL passing yardage record with 1,324 yards. Following the next season, Davey O’Brien retired from the NFL to pursue a career as an agent for the FBI. In the last game of his career, at the Washington Redskins, he attempted 60 passes, completing 33 for 316 yards, all team records. During that season, the majority of O'Brien's completions went to receiver Don Looney, who led the NFL in receptions (58) and receiving yards (707), both team records. Looney's receptions mark would stand for twelve seasons before being broken by Hall of Fame end Pete Pihos.

In 1940, Pittsburgh Pirates (of football) owner Art Rooney sold the team to Alexis Thompson, a 30-year old heir to a six million fortune in steel stocks. Rooney then bought half interest in the Philadelphia Eagles to become co-owner with Bert Bell. While this move seems insignificant in just this context, it would have major and tremendously positive repercussions for the future of the Eagles franchise. To find out exactly how, you’ll have to read the next installment of The History of the Philadelphia Eagles, with Part II – The Swap (1941-1942).

To view the results of all of the games played during the period covered by this historical recount, as well as the statistical leaders for the team, click on the link to go to History of the Eagles - 1933-1940 Stats.
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Last edited by Steegles46 on Fri Apr 20, 2007 2:46 pm; edited 3 times in total
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phillyphanatic


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2007 10:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

They say you learn something everyday. You never fail to impress me. Applause
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Eagles27


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2007 10:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

WOW Shocked

Great Post Steegles46. It is definatley good to know the history of a great organization like the eagles.

Great Idea.
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stevec0008


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2007 2:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My high school's football team is the Yellowjackets..
but awsome post, even tho i didnt read all of it, i 'spead read' Smile
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BatCountry!


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2007 2:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great post Steegles46, it takes a lot of work to put together something like that. Good stuff for all Eagles fans to know.
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ibleedgrn


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2007 5:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

spread the knowledge my good man. this is the kind of stuff that goes unnoticed and shouldnt.
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Steegles46


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2007 5:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ibleedgrn wrote:
spread the knowledge my good man. this is the kind of stuff that goes unnoticed and shouldnt.

Thanks man, though with the records that the Eagles had (just check out the stats thread), I can see why fans would want it to go unnoticed. 14 or so losses in a row, streaks of three or four games without scoring a single point, one season where they didn't score a single point in the third quarter all year... Yeesh. It's a good thing the next decade has so many good stories to tell. I can't wait to talk about Steve Van Buren, Pete Pihos, and Tommy Thompson. That's going to be one fun post to write.
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fly eagles fly


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2007 5:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

had no idea how the eagles name came about UNTIL TODAY
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Phire


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2007 5:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That was a beautiful story, lol. Yeah, this is great in extending my Eagles knowledge, good job.
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S.A.cowboyfan


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2007 6:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great read Steagles, very interesting. I would like to know though, why did the Eagles not play their first game until the 5th week of the NFL season?
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McNabbNo5


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2007 7:59 pm    Post subject: Re: History of the Eagles - Part I: In the Beginning... Reply with quote

Thanks for the info man, that made an interesting read.
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acadzow


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2007 9:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yea good post steegles, I wish I just wouldn't have read over a hundred times before in all the eagles history books and DVDs.

I don't get how most of you guys don't know this already I'm 16 and I've known at least part of the history since I was real young. My dad is a DIE hard, the house is covered in history. He has a original Frankfurt jersey, and it's too bad they technically didn't become the eagles b/c that would be some retro jersey to wear.
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Phire


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2007 9:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

acadzow wrote:
Yea good post steegles, I wish I just wouldn't have read over a hundred times before in all the eagles history books and DVDs.

I don't get how most of you guys don't know this already I'm 16 and I've known at least part of the history since I was real young. My dad is a DIE hard, the house is covered in history. He has a original Frankfurt jersey, and it's too bad they technically didn't become the eagles b/c that would be some retro jersey to wear.


I knew most of it, vaguely, never got into books and such just some reading on WIKIPEDIA.
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acadzow


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2007 9:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Phire wrote:
I knew most of it, vaguely, never got into books and such just some reading on WIKIPEDIA.


I trusted wikipedia till i had to do a report on the depression, and it said people rode cats as a way of transportation. That's what happens when anyone can edit it
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fly eagles fly


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2007 9:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

acadzow wrote:
Phire wrote:
I knew most of it, vaguely, never got into books and such just some reading on WIKIPEDIA.


I trusted wikipedia till i had to do a report on the depression, and it said people rode cats as a way of transportation. That's what happens when anyone can edit it


you can usually tell when it's false or true because there is usually something in there that is completely false and gives it away. like, i have to do a powerpoint on chinese history and i was gonna do one of their dynastys but on the first sentence it read "THE HAN DYNASTY WAS A BAD DYNASTY!!!!!!" so decided to just do it on chinese inventions
it's generally true though and there are very few times when people actually make a believable edit but when it is edited, the webmaster or whoever finds out and generally corrects the information if it is false
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