1939 NFL season

The 1939 NFL season was the 20th regular season of the National Football League. Before the season, NFL president Joseph Carr died, and Carl Storck was named to replace him.

An NFL game was televised for the first time when NBC broadcast a Brooklyn DodgersPhiladelphia Eagles game. The experimental broadcast was broadcast only to viewers in New York and Albany; regular broadcasting of NFL games would not begin until 1951.

The season ended when the Green Bay Packers defeated the New York Giants in the NFL Championship Game.

1939 National Football League season
Regular season
DurationSeptember 10 – December 10, 1939
East ChampionsNew York Giants
West ChampionsGreen Bay Packers
Championship Game
ChampionsGreen Bay Packers

Major rule changes

  • The penalty for an ineligible receiver who touches a forward pass is 15 yards and a loss of down.
  • The penalty for an ineligible receiver who is downfield prior to a forward pass being thrown is 15 yards and a loss of down.
  • If a kickoff goes out of bounds after only being touched by members of the receiving team, the receiving team takes possession of the ball at that inbounds spot.

Division races

Though both the Giants and the Packers finished a game ahead of their closest division rivals, both clinched their divisions on December 3, the final day of the 11-game regular season. The New York Giants and Washington Redskins had played to a 0–0 tie earlier in the season, and both had 8–1–1 records when they met at New York's Polo Grounds before a crowd of 62,404. The Giants did not reach the end zone, but three field goals were enough for a 9–7 win and the division title.

The Western Division race was between the Lions, Bears and Packers. Detroit was unbeaten after four games, but on October 22, Green Bay beat them 26–7 to give both teams records of 4–1–0. The same day, the 4–1 Bears lost 16–13 to the Giants to fall to 4–2. In Week Nine (November 5), the Lions beat the Giants 18–14, while the Bears beat the Packers 30–27, giving Detroit the lead at 6–1–0. The next week (November 12), the Bears beat the Lions 23–13, and the Packers beat the Eagles 23–16, tying Detroit and Green Bay at 6–2–0, half a game ahead of the 6–3–0 Bears. On November 19, the Lions lost to the Rams, 14–3, while the Packers and Bears both won. On November 26, the Bears closed their season at 8–3–0 after a 48–7 win over the Cardinals, while the Packers edged the Rams, 7–6 to reach 8–2–0. Green Bay was behind 7–3 at halftime in its season ender at Detroit, and a loss would have forced a playoff for the Western Division, but Clarke Hinkle's touchdown in the final quarter gave the Packers a 12–7 win and the division title.

Final standings

W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, PCT= Winning Percentage, PF= Points For, PA = Points Against

Note: The NFL did not officially count tie games in the standings until 1972

Eastern Division
New York Giants 9 1 1 .900 168 85
Washington Redskins 8 2 1 .800 242 94
Brooklyn Dodgers 4 6 1 .400 108 219
Philadelphia Eagles 1 9 1 .100 105 200
Pittsburgh Pirates 1 9 1 .100 114 216
Western Division
Green Bay Packers 9 2 0 .818 233 153
Chicago Bears 8 3 0 .727 298 157
Detroit Lions 6 5 0 .545 145 150
Cleveland Rams 5 5 1 .500 195 164
Chicago Cardinals 1 10 0 .091 84 254

NFL Championship Game

Green Bay 27, N.Y. Giants 0, at State Fair Park, West Allis, Wisconsin, December 10, 1939


Joe F. Carr Trophy (Most Valuable Player)   Parker Hall, Halfback, Cleveland

League leaders

Statistic Name Team Yards
Passing Davey O'Brien Philadelphia 1324
Rushing Bill Osmanski Chicago Bears 699
Receiving Don Hutson Green Bay 846


The 1939 NFL Draft was held on December 9, 1938 at New York City's New Yorker Hotel. With the first pick, the Chicago Cardinals selected center Ki Aldrich from Texas Christian University.


Eastern Division

Western Division


  • NFL Record and Fact Book (ISBN 1-932994-36-X)
  • NFL History 1931–1940 (Last accessed December 4, 2005)
  • Total Football: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League (ISBN 0-06-270174-6)
1939 All-Pro Team

The 1939 All-Pro Team consisted of American football players chosen by various selectors for the All-Pro team of the National Football League (NFL) for the 1939 NFL season. Teams were selected by, among others, the NFL coaches (NFL), Professional Football Writers Association (PFW), the United Press (UP), the International News Service (INS), Collyer's Eye (CE), and the New York Daily News (NYDN).Players displayed in bold were consensus first-team selections. Four players were selected for the first team by all six selectors: Chicago Bears fullback Bill Osmanski; Green Bay Packers end Don Hutson; Chicago Bears tackle Joe Stydahar; and Chicago Bears guard Dan Fortmann.

1939 Pittsburgh Pirates (NFL) season

The 1939 Pittsburgh Pirates season was the franchise's seventh season as a professional football club in the National Football League (NFL). The Pirates brought John McNally back for his third year, however, after finishing with a 2–9 record, Owner Art Rooney provided him with support by signing Walt Kiesling during the offseason. Despite this, the Pirates experienced their worst season yet, placing last in the league with a 1–9–1 record. The team just barely tallied a number in the win column, but during Week 11, they beat the Philadelphia Eagles. It was their first win at home in 9 games at Forbes Field (Week 10, 1937).

Frank Steen

Frank William Steen (October 5, 1913 – April 2, 1998) was a player in the National Football League. He played with the Green Bay Packers during the 1939 NFL season.

Jimmy Lawrence (American football)

James "Jimmy" Boydston Lawrence (March 15, 1913 – January 1, 1990) was a professional football player for the Chicago Cardinals and the Green Bay Packers from the 1936–1939 seasons. After starting the 1939 NFL season with the Cardinals, he movedto the Green Bay Packers. A member of the 1939 NFL Champion Packers, he played in the annual All-Star Game that year. He played at the collegiate level at Texas Christian University.

Joel Mason

Joel Gregory Mason (March 12, 1912 – October 31, 1995) was a player in the National Football League (NFL) as well as the National Basketball League (NBL).

John Biolo

John Robert Biolo Sr. (February 8, 1916 – February 4, 2003) was a guard in the National Football League.

John Brennan (American football)

John Carter "Jack" Brennan (September 28, 1913 – March 1982) was an American football player. He played at the guard position for the University of Michigan from 1936 to 1938 and for the Green Bay Packers in 1939.

Karl Schuelke

Karl Schuelke (September 5, 1914 – February 18, 1992) was a fullback in the National Football League. He was a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates during the 1939 NFL season.

Ken Strong

Elmer Kenneth Strong (April 21, 1906 – October 5, 1979) was an American football halfback and fullback who also played minor league baseball. Considered one of the greatest all-around players in the early decades of the game, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1957 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967 and was named to the NFL 1930s All-Decade Team.

A native of West Haven, Connecticut, Strong played college baseball and football for the NYU Violets. In football, he led the country in scoring with 162 points in 1928, gained over 3,000 yards from scrimmage, and was a consensus first-team selection on the 1928 College Football All-America Team.

Strong played professional football in the National Football League (NFL) for the Staten Island Stapletons (1929–1932) and New York Giants (1933–1935, 1939, 1944–1947), and in the second American Football League for the New York Yankees (1936–1937). He led the NFL in scoring in 1934 and was selected as a first-team All-Pro in 1930, 1931, 1933, and 1934. He also played minor league baseball from 1929 to 1931, but his baseball career was cut short by a wrist injury.

Lou Midler

Louis Thomas "Lou" Midler (July 21, 1915 – August 29, 1992) was a Tackle in the National Football League.

McKeesport Olympics

The McKeesport Olympics were a professional football team from McKeesport, Pennsylvania from 1896 until around 1940. The Olympics were considered one of the top football teams in Pennsylvania from 1910 until 1919.

The Olympics played against many of the teams that later formed the National Football League. These teams included the Buffalo All-Americans, Rochester Jeffersons and the Canton Bulldogs. The primary reason the Olympics never joined the NFL during the early era was the state of Pennsylvania's blue laws which prevented football from being played on Sunday; as a result, no Pennsylvania team joined the NFL (which played most of its games on Sundays) until 1924, though because most teams were available to play on Saturdays, they were able to schedule exhibition games against NFL teams fairly easily. Why the Olympics never joined after that was unclear. In 1929, the Olympics were crowned as Sandlot Qrid Champs with Art Rooneys team, Rooneys Majestics, placing second.

The team also played against a current NFL team, the Pittsburgh Pirates (renamed the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1940) twice. The first game between the two clubs was held on October 31, 1938. The Pirates, led by Byron White, won that game 21-6. However, almost a year later, on October 4, 1939, in McKeesport, while the Pirates won that game too, the semi-pro Olympics held them to a much closer score, 9-6.

The Olympics also played against several strong clubs that never made it into the NFL. These teams included the Youngstown Patricians and the Shelby Blues. However, the Olympics main rivals were the Pitcairn Quakers, another strong team from the Pittsburgh-area. In 1919 the Olympics had won the first game of the two-game series, 3-0 and had employed the entire Cleveland Indians team just for that game. However, Pitcairn would win the second game due to a last minute field goal by Paul Rupp.

The team disappears from the records shortly after the 1939 contests and likely shut down, as many professional football teams and leagues did, due to World War II.

Milt Gantenbein

Milton Edward Gantenbein (May 31, 1910 – December 18, 1988) was an American football player who played on three championship teams, as an end and as a defensive end for the Green Bay Packers from 1931 to 1940.

The former University of Wisconsin–Madison standout was a member of three National Football League (NFL) championship teams under head coach Curly Lambeau. In 1931, his rookie year, the sure-handed Gantenbein was the perfect complement to deep-threat Laverne Dilweg in Lambeau's pass-oriented offense and was a solid addition at defensive end. Green Bay's defense limited opponents to 87 points and had five shutouts, while the Packer offense compiled 291 points in fashioning a 12-2 record and winning a third league championship title in the 1931 NFL season. Gantenbein continued as a two-way starter for the next three seasons, playing in the shadow of Dilweg and John McNally.

In the 1936 NFL season, Don Hutson and Gantenbein were the main targets in the Packers' record-setting passing attack, with 34 and 15 catches respectively. The duo was also instrumental in Green Bay's 21-6 victory over the Boston Redskins in the 1936 NFL Championship Game . Gantenbein iced the game with an 8-yard touchdown reception from Arnie Herber in the third quarter.

Gantenbein was named a team captain for the 1937 squad, and he again was a stalwart in the defensive line and the team's second leading receiver with 12 catches for 237 yards (19.8 yard average) and two touchdowns. In the 1937 NFL season, Green Bay slipped to 7–4. In the 1938 NFL season, the team had an 8-3 record and made it to the 1938 NFL Championship Game, where the Packers lost 23–17 to the Giants in New York.

In the 1939 NFL season, the Green Bay Packers struggled at times but posted a 9–2 record to gain a rematch with the New York Giants for the league title in the 1939 NFL Championship Game. This time the game was played on Wisconsin soil, and Gantenbein opened the scoring with a 7-yard touchdown reception from Arnie Herber. It would be all the points the Packers needed on a cold and windy afternoon at Wisconsin State Fair Park in Milwaukee, as they crushed the Giants, 27–0.

He was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in 1972 and finished his career with three NFL championships, 77 receptions, 1,299 yards and eight touchdowns. Milt played in 103 regular-season games as a Packer.

With his playing days behind him, Gantenbein went on to coach football at Manhattan College in New York for several years.


Placekicker, or simply kicker (PK or K), is the player in American and Canadian football who is responsible for the kicking duties of field goals and extra points. In many cases, the placekicker also serves as the team's kickoff specialist or punter as well.

Regis Monahan

John Regis Head Monahan (November 15, 1908 – April 23, 1979) was a professional football player in the NFL.

Warren Kilbourne

Warren William Kilbourne (June 20, 1916 – May 16, 1967) was a player in the National Football League.

1939 NFL season
Early era
Modern era

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