On December 6, 1925, the underdog Pottsville Maroons, the pride of Schuylkill County and Coal Region football, defeated the Chicago Cardinals to the claim the 1925 NFL Championship. The Maroons won 21-7 at Chicago’s Comiskey Park, home of the White Sox.
Their claim to that title has been fought over ever since, but as a true Coal Region native, we of course believe that the Pottsville Maroons are the rightful 1925 champions (to hell with the NFL owners).
On the Maroons home turf, the reaction to the victory over the Cardinals sparked jubilation. And for several hundred Schuylkill County football fans, they actually “watched” the game from Pottsville’s Hippodrome Theatre at 111 East Market Street in downtown. Of course, radio was still in its infancy and widespread commercial television was more than two decades away. So how did they pull this “watch party” off? Pottsville business owners rented a private telegraph line direct from the Hippodrome’s stage to the press box at Chicago’s Comiskey Park.
With the telegraph line set up, fans at “The Hip” learned of the game’s events moments after they took place. These telegrams from Comiskey would have been short, brief updates tapped out in Morse quickly (we’ve been thinking of these almost like tweets from 1925). And telegrams of good luck and ultimately congratulations on victory were tapped out from the Pottsville theatre’s stage.
The whole occasion at the Hip was covered in detail by the reporters of the Pottsville Republican on the following day.
Pottsville Republican, December 7, 1925
FANS ENJOYED GAME AT HOME
It was a great crowd, big and orderly, that jammed the Hip to beyond its capacity yesterday afternoon to hear the returns of the Pottsville Maroon – Chicago Cardinal game as it was played out at the White Sox park in the Windy City.
It was the first time that such a stunt was tried in this community and it went over big. Football fans from the greater part of Schuylkill County were on hand to hear the returns as they were announced play by play from a special leased wire direct from the playing field to the Hip stage. At the Chicago end of the wire was Harry C. Hoffman, assistant editor of the Pottsville “Republican” and “Morning Paper,” who gave a very detailed and descriptive account of the game.
How nice it was to be comfortably seated in a warm theatre listening to the game as it progressed, while those sending it were almost froze, it being so cold that wash boilers filled with coke were in the press box to keep the operator’s hands warm and permit him to work the key.
Just as soon as the play was reeled off on the ice and snow covered field it was ticked off on the Hip stage the next instant. Thus the fans had the advantage of knowing just what was taking place the instant it was staged and they did not have to sit huddled about wrapped in blankets to keep from freezing.
Special arrangements were made so as not only to announce play by play and all the other sidelights of the game, but the specially designed charts showed where the ball was every minute and another chart bulletined the downs and yards to be made. The arrangements were highly satisfactory and the returns were received with complete satisfaction by the football fans. “Almost as good as seeing the game,” said they all.
The large crowd is to be congratulated on the manner in which they conducted themselves. True, it is there was a howling and cheering and a tossing up of hates and even coats whenever the Maroons scored or held the Cardinals. But these cheers were not the cheering of a rowdy gang, but the outburst of cheers from the throats of the enthusiastic fans.
There was an interchange of telegrams between the fans who crowded the Hip, Captain Berry and the players. The first telegram to be sent from this end from the stage was from John Duffy. He sent his message to Captain Berry. Other messages of good cheer to the Maroons were sent by the Rotary and Kiwanis clubs, the Orwigsburg fans, Theo. K. Leninger and the Merchants’ Association.
Just before the game started Captain Berry answered the many messages by saying that he and his Maroons would do their best. Berry’s answer follows:
“Your kind messages received. Thanks very much. Glad to know you are with us. You can depend on me and the Maroons to do our best. We are going out to win.”
Shortly before the returns of the game were started, Howard “Fungy” Lebengood was brought out in front of the footlights and introduced. He was greeted with a tremendous ovation. Fungy was left back home by the management because he suffered an injury to his shoulder and so could be of no service to the club. He carried his left arm in a sling as he appeared before the footlights. When the game was over and we had won, the crowd was asked who should send the message of congratulation and they answered in a single voice that it should be Lebengood and he did so.
There were messages sent from the White Sox park from former town resident Sadie Golden, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Golden of this city, now married and living at Aurora, Ill., came up to the game with her husband.
Jack Picus Quinn, Mack’s veteran spitball artist, former town boy, now living in Chicago, greeted his two team mates, Berry and French, at the Cooper Charlton Hotel and Jack and his wife, formerly Miss Lambert of this city, were at the game. Geo. Whitmeyer, formerly of this city, now editor of a string of weekly papers in the vicinity of Chicago, was also on hand.
Judge Landis greeted Berry and French at the hotel but said it was too cold for him to go to the game.
T.D. Schneider, who has been associated with the football players and the fans since football has taken a hold in Pottsville and surrounding territory, said last evening that the layout at the Hippodrome yesterday in giving the information of the Maroons-Cardinals game, was the best he has ever seen, and its originality, he says, made a big hit with the fans as was attested by the overcrowded house.
“The system used through the combined efforts of the “Republican” and “Morning Paper,” and the Hipp management, was absolutely perfect,” said Schneider. He added that proof of this was given in the comment after the conclusion of the game as the crowd left the theatre and he explained that there were hundreds who were surprised and given a treat with the numerous features, which explained in detail the play at Chicago.
Schneider also took occasion to refer to the wonderful order, there being nothing to make any complaint about, that the crowd was at all times orderly and appreciative of the big feature that was being provided for their benefit.
“The system was so perfect,” Schneider said, “that the regular football patrons could without any trouble picture the actual play. Not a single detail was missing, and the fans are very appreciative of the combined efforts of those who were responsible for putting on this affair.”
In the weeks and months that followed, the Pottsville Maroons ultimately lost their title in a series of near incomprehensible and corrupt management decisions by NFL league management and owners. Want to read more about the Maroons and their 1925 Championship (we know you do!)? Read the fantastic book, Breaker Boys: The NFL’s Greatest Team and the Stolen 1925 Championship, by David Fleming.
Featured Image: The Pottsville Maroon’s star running back Walter French on a 35-yard touchdown run on a snowy, icy field at Comiskey Park – December 6, 1925. (Chicago Tribune)