De Benneville "Bert" Bell (February 25, 1895 – October 11, 1959) was the National Football League (NFL) commissioner from 1945 until his death in 1959. As commissioner, he introduced competitive parity into the NFL to improve the league's commercial viability and promote its popularity, and he helped make the NFL the most financially sound sports enterprise and preeminent sports attraction in the United States (US). He was posthumously inducted into the charter class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Bell played football at the University of Pennsylvania, where as quarterback, he led his team to an appearance in the 1917 Rose Bowl. After being drafted into the US Army during World War I, he returned to complete his collegiate career at Penn and went on to become an assistant football coach with the Quakers in the 1920s. During the Great Depression, he was an assistant coach for the Temple Owls and a co-founder and co-owner of the Philadelphia Eagles.
With the Eagles, Bell led the way in cooperating with the other NFL owners to establish the National Football League Draft in order to afford the weakest teams the first opportunity to sign the best available players. He subsequently became sole proprietor of the Eagles, but the franchise suffered financially. Eventually, he sold the team and bought a share in the Pittsburgh Steelers. During World War II, Bell astutely argued against the league suspending operations until the war's conclusion.
After the war, he was elected NFL commissioner and sold his ownership in the Steelers. As commissioner, he implemented a proactive anti-gambling policy, negotiated a merger with the All-America Football Conference (AAFC), and unilaterally crafted the entire league schedule with an emphasis on enhancing the dramatic effect of late-season matches. During the Golden Age of Television, he tailored the game's rules to strengthen its appeal to mass media and enforced a policy of blacking out local broadcasts of home contests to safeguard ticket receipts. Amid criticism from franchise owners and under pressure from Congress, he unilaterally recognized the NFLPA and facilitated in the development of the first pension plan for the players. He survived to oversee the "Greatest Game Ever Played" and to envision what the league would become in the future.
|Born:||February 25, 1895|
|Died:||October 11, 1959 (aged 64)|
|High school:||Haverford (PA) School|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Head coaching record|
|Regular season:||10–46–2 (.190)|
|Coaching stats at PFR|
|Years of service||1917–1918|
|Unit||Mobile Hospital Unit|
|Battles/wars||World War I|
Bell was born de Benneville Bell, on February 25, 1895, in Philadelphia to John C. Bell and Fleurette de Benneville Myers. His father was an attorney who served a term as the Pennsylvania Attorney General. His older brother, John C., Jr., was born in 1892. Bert's parents were very wealthy, and his mother's lineage predated the American Revolutionary War. His father, a Quaker of the University of Pennsylvania (class of 1884) during the early days of American football, accompanied him to his first football game when Bell was six years old. Thereafter, Bell regularly engaged in football games with childhood friends.
In 1904, Bell matriculated at the Episcopal Academy, the Delancey School from 1909 to 1911 and then the Haverford School until 1914. About this time, his father was installed as athletics director at Penn and helped form the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). At Haverford, Bell captained the school's football, basketball, and baseball teams, and "was awarded The Yale Cup [for being] 'The pupil who has done the most to promote athletics in the school.'" Although he excelled at baseball, his devotion was to football. His father, who was named a trustee at Penn in 1911, said of Bell's plans for college, "Bert will go to Penn or he will go to hell."
Bell entered Penn in the fall of 1914 as an English major and joined Phi Kappa Sigma. In a rare occurrence for a sophomore, he became the starting quarterback for Penn's coach George H. Brooke. On the team, he also was as a defender, punter, and punt returner. After the team's 3–0 start, Bell temporarily shared possession of his quarterbacking duties until he subsequently reclaimed them later in the season, as Penn finished with a record of 3–5–2.
Prior to Penn's 1916 season, his mother died while he was en route to her bedside. Nevertheless, he started the first game for the Quakers under new coach Bob Folwell, but mixed results left him platooned for the rest of the season. Penn finished with a record of 7–2–1. However, the Quakers secured an invitation to the 1917 Rose Bowl against the Oregon Ducks. Although the best offensive gain for Penn during their 20–14 loss to Oregon was a 20-yard run by Bell, he was replaced late in the game at quarterback after throwing an interception.
In the 1917 season, Bell led Penn to a 9–2 record. Afterwards, he registered with a Mobile Hospital Unit of the US Army for World War I and was deployed to France in May 1918. As a result of his unit participating in hazardous duty, it received a congratulatory letter for bravery from General John J. Pershing, and Bell was promoted to first sergeant. After the war, Bell returned to the United States in March 1919. He returned to Penn as captain of the team in the fall and again performed erratically. The Quakers finished 1919 with a 6–2–1 record. Academically, his aversion to attending classes forced him to withdraw from Penn without a degree in early 1920. His collegiate days ended with his having been a borderline All-American, but this period of his life had proven that he "possessed the qualities of a leader."
Bell assembled the Stanley Professionals in Chicago in 1920, but he disbanded it prior to playing any games because of negative publicity received by Chicago due the Black Sox Scandal. He joined John Heisman's staff at Penn as an assistant coach in 1920, and Bell would remain there for several years. At Penn, he was well regarded as a football coach, and after its 1924 season, he drew offers for, but declined, head-coaching assignments at other universities. At least as early as 1926, his avocation was socializing and frequenting Saratoga Race Course, where he counted as friends Tim Mara, Art Rooney, and George Preston Marshall. In 1928, Bell tendered his resignation at Penn in protest over the emphasis of in-season scrimmages during practices by Lud Wray, a fellow assistant coach. Bell's resignation was accommodated prior to the start of the 1929 season.
Bell was then an employee of the Ritz-Carlton in Philadelphia. At one point, he tried his hand as a stock broker and lost $50,000 (presently, $729,554) during the Wall Street Crash of 1929. His father bailed him out of his deprivation, and he returned to working at the Ritz. From 1930 until 1932, he was a backfield coach for the Temple Owls football team. In 1932, Marshall tried to coax Bell into buying the rights to a NFL franchise, but Bell disparaged the league and ridiculed the idea. When Pop Warner was hired to coach Temple for the 1933 season, Warner chose to hire his own assistants and Bell was let go.
By early 1933, Bell's opinion on the NFL had changed, and he wanted to become an owner of a team based in Philadelphia. After being advised by the NFL that a prerequisite to a franchise being rendered in Philadelphia was that the Pennsylvania Blue Laws would have to be mollified, he was the force majeure in lobbying to getting the laws deprecated. He borrowed funds from Frances Upton, partnered with Wray, and he procured the rights to a franchise in Philadelphia which he christened as the Philadelphia Eagles.
After the inaugural 1933 Philadelphia Eagles season, Bell married Upton at St. Madeleine Sophie Roman Catholic Church in Philadelphia. Days later, his suggestion to bestow the winner of the NFL championship game with the Ed Thorp Memorial Trophy was affirmed. In 1934, the Eagles finished with a 4–7 record, The Eagles' inability to seriously challenge other teams made it difficult to sell tickets, and his failure to sign a talented college prospect led him to adduce that the only way to bring stability to the league was to institute a draft to ensure the weakest teams had an advantage in signing the preeminent players. In 1935, his proposal for a draft was accepted, and in February 1936, the first draft kicked off, at which he acted as Master of Ceremonies. Later that month, his first child, Bert Jr., was born.
In the Eagles' first three years, the partners exhausted $85,000 (presently, $1,534,688), and at a public auction, Bell became sole owner of the Eagles with a bid of $4,500 (presently, $81,248). Austerity measures forced him to supplant Wray as head coach of the Eagles, wherein Bell led the Eagles to a 1–11 finish, their worst record ever. In December, an application for a franchise in Los Angeles was obstructed by Bell and Pittsburgh Steelers owner Rooney as they deemed it too far of a distance to travel for games. During the Eagles' 2-8-1 1937 season, his second child, John "Upton", was born. In the Eagles' first profitable season, 1938, they posted a 5–6 record. The Eagles finished 1–9–1 in 1939 and 1–10 in 1940.
In December 1940, Bell conciliated the sale of Rooney's Steelers to Alexis Thompson, and then Rooney acquired half of Bell's interest in the Eagles. In a series of events known as the Pennsylvania Polka, Rooney and Bell exchanged their entire Eagles roster and their territorial rights in Philadelphia to Thompson for his entire Steelers roster and his rights in Pittsburgh. Ostensibly, Rooney had provided assistance to Bell by rewarding him with a 20% commission on the sale of the Steelers. Bell became the Steelers head coach and Rooney became the general manager.
During the training camp of the Pittsburgh's inaugural season with the nickname Steelers, Bell was buoyant with optimism about the team's prospect, but he became crestfallen after Rooney denigrated the squad and flippantly remarked that they looked like the "[s]ame old Steelers" (SOS). After losing the first two games of the 1941 season, Rooney compelled Bell into resigning as head coach. Bell's coaching career ended with a 10–46–2 record, his 0.179 winning percentage is second lowest in NFL history to only Phil Handler's 0.105 for coaches with at least five seasons. And at 36 games under .500 he held the record for futility until John McKay passed him in 1983 and Marion Campbell passed him in 1988. His first daughter and last child, Jane Upton, was born several months after the season's conclusion.
By 1943, 40% of the NFL rosters had been drafted into the United States Armed Forces for World War II. The resulting difficulty in fielding a full-strength squad led some owners to recommend the league should shut down until the war ended. Bell auspiciously argued against this as he feared they might not be able to resume operations easily after the war, and since Major League Baseball was continuing unabated, then they should also.
Throughout Bell's affiliation with the Steelers, he suffered monetarily and Rooney bought an increasing allotment of the franchise from him. Compounding Bell's problems, Arch Ward organized the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) in 1944 to displace the NFL's sovereignty in professional football. Ward's AAFC promptly began luring players to join the league, which resulted in salaries being driven up drastically. In Bill Dudley's contract proceedings with the Steelers, he attributed Bell's anxiety during the negotiations to the rivalry from the AAFC. Furthermore, by the end of 1945, the Steelers were in their most economically perilous situation in its history.
Elmer Layden was appointed the first NFL commissioner in 1941, but Ward appeared as dictating his hiring. Layden tendered his resignation for personal reasons January 1946. Bell, who was not well respected in Pittsburgh, was elected to replace him. He received a three-year contract at $20,000 ($256,962) per year, and transacted a sale of his stake in the Steelers to Rooney, albeit for a price Bell did not construe was full-value. He was then immediately placed at the center of a controversy wherein the owners denied Dan Reeves permission to relocate the Cleveland Rams to Los Angeles. Bell moderated a settlement, and, as a result, the Los Angeles Rams were formed. As a precondition to the Rams leasing the Los Angeles Coliseum, they signed Kenny Washington, which marked the beginning of the end of racial segregation on the field, but also caused "'all hell to break loose'" amidst the owners.
The drawing up of a regular season schedule had been a perennial source of contention among the NFL owners since the league's inception. The crux of the problem was the scheduling of games meant weighing the interest of owners who, early in the season, wanted their franchises to confront teams that drew the largest crowds, versus owners who wanted to play the weaker franchises to pad their team's win-loss record. The resultant impasse coerced the owners, in 1946, to confer upon Bell the sole discretion in developing the league's schedule. He utilized this responsibility to, early in the season, pit the weaker teams against other weak teams, and the strong teams against other strong teams. His goal was to augment game attendances by keeping the difference in team standings to a minimum as deep into the season as possible.
On the eve of the 1946 championship game, Bell was notified that Merle Hapes and Frank Filchock of the New York Giants had been implicated in a bribing scandal. Filchock was sanctioned by Bell to play in the game but Hapes was suspended. At the next NFL owners' meeting, Bell was worried the repercussions from this event would lead to his firing. However, he was pleasantly surprised to learn that his contract would be elevated to five years at $30,000 per year. Reinvigorated with renewed support, he persuaded the owners to allow him to put sudden-death overtime into the playoffs.
Subsequently, he wrote an anti-gambling resolution into the league constitution, which empowered him with the ability to permanently ban any NFL associated personnel for betting on a game or for withholding information on a game being possibly fixed. Furthermore, to obstruct gamblers from getting inside information, he secreted the names of officials he would assign to games, and he directed each team to promulgate a precursory injury report which listed anyone who might not participate in a game. Eventually, he lobbied to get every state in the US to criminalize the fixing of sporting events and put employees on the payroll of the NFL to investigate potential betting scams.
The NFL's struggle against the AAFC generated stress on wages, attendance, marketing, and by 1949, it had prevented the NFL for showing a profit for three consecutive years. Bell and representatives from both leagues met to attempt a merger, but their efforts were fruitless. In an unrelated matter, he apprised the owners that attendance records had shown televising games locally had a negative impact on the sale of home tickets. Nevertheless, he actualized the NFL's first television contract—the 1949 championship game. Simultaneously, he dealt with a lawsuit from Bill Radovich, who had been blacklisted for leaving the Lions and gaining employment with the AAFC. Bell and the owners were advised by John C. Jr. that this lawsuit was potentially not winnable, and the ramifications from the outcome of the case weighed heavily on Bell.
One of the primary impediments in an AAFC-NFL merger was the supposed violation of "territorial rights" claimed by Marshall. Eventually, Bell gathered enough support to effectuate a compromise with the AAFC. In late 1949, the leagues merged, and Bell would stay on as commissioner with his contract extended from five to ten years as three AAFC teams (the Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers, and Baltimore Colts) were subsumed. Seeking to capitalize on the publicity of the residual rivalry, he utilized "exquisite dramatic" and business sense and allocated the 1950 opening game to a contest between the 1949 champion Eagles versus the perennial AAFC champion Browns. Feeling financially secure after the merger, he purchased his first home for himself and his family in Narberth, Pennsylvania.
In 1950, Bell originated a blackout rule into the NFL which forbid all teams to televise their home games within a 75-mile radius of their stadium – except for the Rams. Consequently, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) opened an investigation into a violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. Ensuingly, the Rams attendance for 1950 dropped off by 50%, and this signaled a potential financial disaster. In 1951, he licensed the DuMont Television Network to air the championship games for the next five years, and he stipulated that teams were free to develop their own television contracts independently.
However, preceding 1951 season, he reimposed the blackout rule on all teams in the league. The DOJ filed suit over this and Bell publicly retorted, "You can't give fans a game for free on TV and also expect them to go to the ballpark"; nevertheless, the suit was ordered to trial for January 1952. After the 1951 season ended, he gained unilateral control over the setting of a television strategy for the NFL. He negotiated a deal with DuMont, which granted it the rights to nationally broadcast one regular season game every week, and he directed that the income from this contract was to be shared equally between all the teams. In the DOJ's case, the judge ruled that the blackout policy was legal, but both Bell, and the franchises collectively, were enjoined from negotiating a TV contract; Bell was ecstatic. Later that year, Bell forced one of the owners of the Cleveland Browns to sell all of his shares in the team after Bell determined the owner had bet on Browns' football games. Although he hated to fly, at some indeterminate point, he visited the training camps of every team and lectured on the danger gamblers posed to the league.
Bell authorized a Pro Bowl to be held at the end of each season in order to showcase the talents of the best players. But in the early 1950s, on the field activities sometimes denigrated to borderline assault and battery with teams' star players being viciously targeted by opposing players. He answered charges the league was too savage by saying, "'I have never seen a maliciously dirty football player in my life and I don't believe there are any.'" Nevertheless, he ordered broadcasts to follow a strict rule of conduct whereby TV announcers would not be permitted to criticize the game, and neither fights, nor injuries, could be televised by virtue in his belief that announcers were "'salesman for professional football [and] we do not want kids believing that engaging in fights is the way to play football.'"
Bell was criticized for censoring TV broadcasts, a charge he dismissed as not pertinent because he believed he was not impeding the print media but only advertising a product. After CBS and NBC gained the rights to broadcast the games in 1956, he advised the franchises to avoid criticizing the games or the officials, and forewarned that TV would give "'us our greatest opportunity to sell the NFL and everyone must present to the public the greatest games ... combined with the finest sportsmanship.'" This relationship with television was the beginning of the NFL's rise to becoming America's most popular sport.
In Radovich v. National Football League, the Supreme Court ruled in Radovich's favor and declared the NFL was subject to antitrust laws, and the implication was that the legality of the draft and reserve clause were dubious. Bell pressed a case in the media that the NFL should be exempted from antitrust regulations and proffered the league was a sport and not a business. He invited an investigation from Congress with respect to the court's ruling. The House Judiciary committee, chaired by Emanuel Celler—who believed the draft was illegal and should be abolished, convened in July 1957 to discuss the ramifications of the Radovich decision. Red Grange and Bell testified at the committee's solicitation and argued the draft was essential to the sport's success. Representatives of the NFLPA contradicted these statements and said the draft and the reserve clause were anti-labor, and it seemed as if Congress was going to accept their position. Faced with Congressional opposition, Bell formally recognized the NFLPA and declared he would negotiate with its representatives.
However, Bell was speaking only for himself and without the auspices of the owners. At the next owners' meeting, Rooney admonished they either had to recognize the NFLPA or remove Bell as commissioner. In order to do this, they had to agree in a vote that required a super-majority. Bell unsuccessfully attempted to persuade the owners to permit the NFLPA to act as a bargaining agent for the players. However, he did reach a compromise with the owners to get them to acquiesce to some of the NFLPA's requests for salary standards and health benefits.
For the 1958 season, the durations of timeouts was extended from 60 to 90 seconds and Bell mandated officials call a few TV timeouts during each game — a change which triggered criticism from sportswriters. The 1958 championship game became the first NFL championship game decided in overtime and it was considered to be the greatest football game ever played. The game further increased football's marketability to television advertising, and the drama associated with overtime was the catalyst. Years later, after witnessing Bell openly crying after the game, Raymond Berry attributed it to Bell's realization of the impact the game would have on the prevalence of the sport.
The death of Mara in February 1959 unsettled Bell and he experienced a heart attack later that month. He converted to Catholicism in the summer of 1959 because of the lifelong urging of his wife, Mara's death, and his enduring friendship with Rooney, a practicing Catholic. Bell was advised by his doctor to avoid going to football games, to which he quipped, "I'd rather die watching football than in my bed with my boots off." Bell and his children attended an Eagles game at Franklin Field vs the Steelers (both his old teams), on October 11, 1959. The Eagles held complimentary box seats for him and guests to watch the game, but he preferred to buy his own tickets and sit with the other fans. Sitting behind the end zone during the fourth quarter of the game, he suffered a heart attack and died later that day.
Afterwards, he was remembered as "a man of buoyant joviality, with a rough and ready wit, laughter and genuine humility and honesty, clearly innocent of pretense and [pretension]." His funeral was held at Narberth's St. Margaret Roman Catholic Church and Monsignor Cornelius P. Brennan delivered the eulogy, as close friends and admirers attended the mass. Dominic Olejniczak and all the extant owners of the NFL franchises were pallbearers. Bell was interred at Calvary Cemetery in West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania.
|Official name||Bert Bell|
|Designated||November 22, 1997|
|Location||224-226 Haverford Ave., Narberth|
|Marker text||National Football League Commissioner, 1946-1959. Popularized professional football; elevated its ethical standards. Eagles owner; Steelers part-owner. Resided in Narberth. Frequented Davis's store here to discuss sport with local people, coaches, athletes.|
Bell was inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame, the Penn Athletics Hall of Fame, the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame, and Haverford's Athletic Hall of Fame. The Maxwell Football Club, which he founded in 1937, has presented the best NFL player of the year with the Bert Bell Award since 1959. The Bert Bell Benefit Bowl was exhibited in his honor from 1960 through 1969.
Though his career spanned the desegregation and reintegration of the NFL, as an owner, he never had an African American on any of his teams, but Bert Jr. believed the mere discussion of whether his father was prejudiced was absurd. Bell's handling of the merger with the AAFC was acclaimed as a personal triumph. Although he did not have the wherewithal to prevent the wholesale betting on games, he was proactive in ensuring games were not tampered with by gamblers, and he created the foundation of the contemporary NFL anti-gambling policy.
Bell was criticized as being too strict with his refusal to let sold-out games to be televised locally. Nevertheless, his balancing of television broadcasts against protecting game attendance made the NFL the "healthiest professional sport in America", and he was the "leading protagonist in pro football's evolution into America's major sport." He had understood that the league needed a cooperative television contract with revenue-sharing, but he failed to overcome the obstacles to achieve it. He was portrayed by sportswriters as ensuring the owners treated the players fairly, and his decision to recognize the NFLPA in the face of adversity from owners was a "master stroke" in thwarting Congressional intervention. After he initiated terms for a pension plan with the players in 1959, little progress was made with the NFLPA, however, the first players' pension plan-the Bert Bell National Football League Retirement Plan, was approved in 1962.
Bell's implementation of the draft did not show immediate results, but it was "the single greatest contributor to the [league]'s prosperity" in its first eighty-four years. His original version of the draft was later ruled unconstitutional, but his anchoring of the success of the league to competitive balance has been "hailed by contemporaries and sports historians". Bell had often said, "[o]n any given Sunday, any team in the NFL can beat any other team."
|Won||Lost||Ties||Win %||Finish||Won||Lost||Win %||Result|
|PHI||1936||1||11||0||.083||5th in NFL Eastern||–||–||–||–|
|PHI||1937||2||8||1||.227||5th in NFL Eastern||–||–||–||–|
|PHI||1938||5||6||0||.455||4th in NFL Eastern||–||–||–||–|
|PHI||1939||1||9||1||.136||5th in NFL Eastern||–||–||–||–|
|PHI||1940||1||10||0||.091||5th in NFL Eastern||–||–||–||–|
|PIT||1941||0||2||0||.000||5th in NFL Eastern||–||–||–||–|
[Bell said the] $475,000 [received from the contract] goes into the players' pool.; cf. Pro Football and DuMont Sign a $475,000 TV Pact, MacCambridge 2005: 73, 480, Rader: 86–87; contra: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Lyons and Patton report the title game receipts were only $75,000 for the 1951 NFL Championship Game. Fans Rush for Tickets to NFL Game, Lyons: 179, Patton: 35
The 1946 NFL season was the 27th regular season of the National Football League. Before the season, Elmer Layden resigned as NFL Commissioner and Bert Bell, co-founder of the Philadelphia Eagles, replaced him. Meanwhile, the All-America Football Conference was formed to rival the NFL, and the Rams became the first NFL team based on the West Coast after they relocated from Cleveland, Ohio, to Los Angeles, California. A regular season game was played on Tuesday, the last until the 2010 season, on October 1, between New York and Boston.
The season ended when the Chicago Bears defeated the New York Giants in the NFL Championship Game.1949 NFL season
The 1949 NFL season was the 30th regular season of the National Football League. Prior to the season, Boston Yanks owner Ted Collins asked the league to fold his team due to financial woes, and give him a new one in New York City. This new team would be called the New York Bulldogs. As a result, professional football would not return to Boston until the Patriots began play in 1960.
As the regular season came to a close, a merger agreement between the NFL and the All-America Football Conference was announced on December 9. Three AAFC teams joined the NFL in 1950, the Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers, and Baltimore Colts.The season ended on December 18 with the NFL Championship Game. In muddy conditions, the visiting Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Los Angeles Rams 14–0, as heavy rain in southern California kept the attendance under 23,000 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Both teams had potent offenses, but were severely limited by the poor field conditions. The management of the Eagles and Rams had favored a postponement for a week, but were overruled by commissioner Bert Bell.1950 NFL Championship Game
The 1950 National Football League Championship Game was the 18th National Football League (NFL) title game, played on Sunday, December 24th at Cleveland Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio.In their first NFL season after four years in the rival All-America Football Conference, the Cleveland Browns defeated the Los Angeles Rams, 30–28. The championship was the first of three won by Cleveland in the 1950s under head coach Paul Brown behind an offense that featured quarterback Otto Graham, fullback Marion Motley, and ends Dante Lavelli and Mac Speedie.
Cleveland began the season with a win against the Philadelphia Eagles, who had won the previous two NFL championships. The Browns won all but two of their regular-season games, both losses coming against the New York Giants. Cleveland ended the season with a 10–2 win–loss record, tied with the Giants for first place in the American Conference. The tie forced a playoff that the Browns won, 8–3. Los Angeles, meanwhile, finished the season 9–3, tied with the Chicago Bears for first place in the National Conference. The Rams won their playoff, setting up the championship matchup with the Browns, in which the Browns were four-point favorites at home.The game began with a long touchdown pass from Rams quarterback Bob Waterfield to halfback Glenn Davis on the first play from scrimmage, giving Los Angeles an early lead. Cleveland tied the game later in the first quarter with a touchdown from Graham to Dub Jones, but the Rams quickly went ahead again on a Dick Hoerner touchdown run. Cleveland scored two unanswered touchdowns in the second and third quarters, retaking a 20–14 lead. A pair of Rams touchdowns in the third quarter, however, gave Los Angeles a two-possession advantage going into the final period. Cleveland responded with a diving touchdown catch by Rex Bumgardner in the final minutes of the game, followed by a field goal by placekicker Lou Groza with 28 seconds left to win, 30–28.
Lavelli set a then championship-game record with 11 receptions, and Waterfield's 82-yard pass to Davis on the first play of the game was then the longest scoring play in championship history. Los Angeles had 407 total yards to Cleveland's 373, but Cleveland had five interceptions, compared to just one for the Rams. The Browns' Warren Lahr had two interceptions in the game. After the game, NFL commissioner Bert Bell called Cleveland "the greatest team ever to play football".1959 NFL season
The 1959 NFL season was the 40th regular season of the National Football League. Tragedy struck as NFL Commissioner Bert Bell died of a heart attack on October 11 at Philadelphia's Franklin Field while watching the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers play. League Treasurer Austin Gunsel was named interim commissioner for the rest of the season.
The Chicago Cardinals played their final season in the Windy City before relocating to St. Louis for the following season.
The season ended when the Baltimore Colts defeated the New York Giants in the NFL Championship Game for the second year in a row.Austin Gunsel
Austin H. Gunsel (April 2, 1909 - June 17, 1974) is best remembered for serving as the National Football League's interim commissioner following the death of Bert Bell on October 11, 1959.
A native of Irvington, New Jersey and a graduate of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Gunsel joined the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1939. He served as both J. Edgar Hoover's administrative assistant and as a special agent for the Bureau, and during his crime-fighting career, served in the New York City, Detroit and Chicago field offices.
In 1952, Gunsel was hired by the NFL to head the league's investigative department, a move made in response to commissioner Bert Bell's fear of a scandal damaging the league's image. Gunsel became league treasurer in 1956, holding the post until his retirement ten years later. He served as acting president of the NFL after Bell's death in October 1959.
In January 1960 at a meeting of NFL owners, he was the early frontrunner to get the commissioner's job, but Los Angeles Rams general manager Pete Rozelle, 17 years Gunsel's junior, was ultimately elected to the post on January 26 after 23 ballots. Gunsel stayed on as NFL Treasurer until 1966.
Gunsel died at Lankenau Hospital in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania.Bert Bell Award
The Bert Bell Award is presented by the Maxwell Football Club to the player of the year in the National Football League (NFL). The award is named in honor of Bert Bell (1895–1959), commissioner of the NFL and founder of the Maxwell Club. Voters for the Pro Awards are NFL owners, football personnel, head and assistant coaches as well as members of the Maxwell Football Club, national media, and local media. The award consists of a trophy in the form of a statue in the likeness of Bell. The award is presented at the club's annual football banquet.Ding Dong, Texas
Ding Dong is an unincorporated community in Central Texas. It is situated on the Lampasas River, eight miles south of Killeen in southwestern Bell County.Ding Dong was named when two early settlers in the town, Zulis Bell and Bert Bell, opened a store and hired the artist Cohn Cohen Hoover to make a sign for it. Hoover painted a sign with two bells on it. Inside the bells, Hoover painted the initials of the Bell brothers. Underneath one bell he painted the word "Ding" and the word "Dong" under the other bell. Over the years, because of this sign, this community became known as Ding Dong. It has frequently been noted on lists of unusual place names.History of the NFL Commissioner
The Commissioner of the NFL is the chief executive of the National Football League (NFL). This article details the previous history of the chief NFL executive.List of Philadelphia Eagles head coaches
This is a list of head coaches for the Philadelphia Eagles. The Philadelphia Eagles are a professional American football team based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Eagles joined the National Football League (NFL) as an expansion team in 1933. Currently members of the Eastern Division of the National Football Conference (NFC), the team has won three NFL titles and made three Super Bowl appearances (1980, 2004, and 2018), with their first Super Bowl victory coming in Super Bowl LII under second-year head coach Doug Pederson. There have been 22 head coaches of the Eagles in the NFL.
Three different coaches have won NFL championships with the team: Earl "Greasy" Neale in 1948 and 1949, Buck Shaw in 1960, and Doug Pederson in Super Bowl LII. Andy Reid is the all-time leader in games coached and wins, while Neale has the highest winning percentage with .594 (with at least one full season coached). Bert Bell is statistically the worst coach the Eagles have had in terms of winning percentage, with .185 win/loss percentage.Of the 22 Eagles coaches, four have been elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Bert Bell was a charter member of the Hall of Fame. Bell was inducted for his work as the NFL Commissioner from 1946–1959. Wayne Millner, who coached the team in 1951, was enshrined as a player in 1968. Greasy Neale was in the class of 1969 for his work as the Eagles coach in the 1940s. Mike McCormack made the 1984 class for his Offensive Tackle play. Several former NFL players have been head coaches for the Eagles, including Jerry Williams, Ed Khayat, and Marion Campbell. Andy Reid. spent 14 seasons in charge before he was fired on December 31, 2012, after a 4–12 season – Reid's worst season in charge – which left the Eagles bottom of the NFC. He was replaced by former University of Oregon head coach Chip Kelly, who led the Eagles to a 10–6 record and the playoffs. Kelly was fired on December 29, 2015 after going 6–9 through that season's first 15 games. He was replaced by Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmer for week 17. As of January 14, the Eagles named Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator, Doug Pederson their new head coach going into the 2016 NFL season.List of Pittsburgh Steelers head coaches
The Pittsburgh Steelers franchise has had 16 head coaches throughout its history. Founded as the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1933, the name was changed to the Steelers prior to the 1941 season to celebrate the city's heritage of producing steel. Joe Bach served two separate terms as head coach and Walt Kiesling served three separate terms. During the 1943 and 1944 seasons, due to the number of players who fought in World War II, the Steelers combined their team with Philadelphia and Chicago, respectively. During these seasons, Kiesling shared coaching duties with Greasy Neale and Phil Handler, who have not been included within this list.
Struggling for much of the franchise's early years, the team's first season with more wins than losses was coached by Jock Sutherland in 1942. In 1947, under Sutherland, the Steelers played their first playoff game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Ten of the 16 head coaches spent their entire professional coaching careers with the franchise, including Kiesling, John McNally, and Chuck Noll, who have also been voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. One of only four men to coach the same team for 23 years, Noll retired in 1991. Bill Cowher, who was Noll's replacement, coached the Steelers to their fifth Super Bowl victory, in 2005. The Steelers' sixth Super Bowl win came in Super Bowl XLIII, while head-coached by Mike Tomlin, the team's current head coach.List of Pittsburgh Steelers seasons
The Pittsburgh Steelers compete in the National Football League (NFL) as a member club of the American Football Conference (AFC) North division. Founded in 1933, the Steelers are the oldest franchise in the AFC; seven franchises in the National Football Conference (NFC) have longer tenures in the NFL. The team struggled to be competitive in its early history, posting winning records in just 8 of its first 39 seasons. Since the AFL–NFL merger in 1970, however, it has appeared in eight Super Bowls and one of only two teams, along with the New England Patriots have won the Super Bowl six times. The six championships place the Steelers fourth in the league in terms of total championships (including those prior to the first Super Bowl), trailing only the Green Bay Packers (13 championships), the Chicago Bears (9) and the New York Giants (8). The club's 15 AFC Championship Game appearances are second all-time, behind the Patriots (16). In addition, they have hosted the second-most conference championship games (11) than any franchise in either conference, and are tied for second with the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos with eight Super Bowl appearances; the Patriots currently hold the record of eleven appearances, as of 2019.
From 1974 to 1979 the franchise became the first NFL franchise to win four Super Bowl titles in six seasons, a feat which is yet to be matched. The 2005 team was the first sixth-seeded team to advance to a conference championship game since the playoff field was expanded to 12 teams in 1990; the same team also became the first sixth-seed to win the Super Bowl. The Steelers are 6–2 in Super Bowls, winning Super Bowl IX, Super Bowl X, Super Bowl XIII, Super Bowl XIV, Super Bowl XL, Super Bowl XLIII and losing Super Bowl XXX and Super Bowl XLV.
As of the start of the 2018 season, the Steelers franchise are second all-time in playoff appearances, with 31, which is the most among active AFC franchises, as well as the most since the official start of the NFL-AFL merger in 1970. The Giants, Cowboys, and Packers are all tied for first all-time in playoff appearances, with 32 each.
The Finish, Wins, Losses, Ties and Pct columns include only regular season results. Postseason results are shown only within the "Playoffs" column. Regular and postseason records are combined only at the bottom of the table.
T Tied for this position with at least one other team
1 For the purposes of calculating winning percentage ties count as ½ win and ½ loss
2 The Playoff Bowl (a.k.a. Bert Bell Benefit Bowl) is regarded as an unofficial post-season exhibition for third place
3 Ranked by conference rather than division (strike shortened season).List of Playoff Bowl broadcasters
The Playoff Bowl (officially, the Bert Bell Benefit Bowl) was a post-season game for third place in the NFL, played ten times following the 1960-69 seasons. It was abandoned in favor of the current playoff structure with the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. The following is a list of the television networks and announcers that broadcast the Playoff Bowl during its existence.Lud Wray
James R. Ludlow "Lud" Wray (February 7, 1894 – July 24, 1967) was a professional American football player, coach, and co-founder, with college teammate Bert Bell, of the Philadelphia Eagles of the National Football League. He was the first coach of the Boston Braves (now Washington Redskins) and of the Eagles. He also served as head coach at his alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania.Maxwell Award
The Maxwell Award is presented annually to the college football player judged by a panel of sportscasters, sportswriters, and National Collegiate Athletic Association head coaches and the membership of the Maxwell Football Club to be the best all-around in the United States. The award is named after Robert "Tiny" Maxwell, a Swarthmore College football player, coach and sportswriter. Johnny Lattner (1952, 1953) and Tim Tebow (2007, 2008) are the only players to have won the award twice. It is the college equivalent of the Bert Bell Award of the National Football League, also given out by the Maxwell Club.Maxwell Football Club
The Maxwell Football Club (originally called the Maxwell Football Club of Philadelphia) was established in 1935 to promote safety in the game of American football. Named in honor of Robert W. (Tiny) Maxwell, legendary college player, official, and sports columnist, the club was founded by his friend Bert Bell, then owner of the Philadelphia Eagles professional football team and later commissioner of the National Football League. The awards are presented during the spring of the following year.As of 2017, the club's president is Mark Dianno, and the club's Chairman is former NFL defensive back Shawn Wooden. The club's headquarters are located in Ambler, Pennsylvania.Pennsylvania Keystoners
The Pennsylvania Keystoners was the idea for an American football team thought up by then-Pittsburgh Pirates owner, Art Rooney, in 1939 to have a single National Football League franchise based in both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. The team would play half of its home games in each location.
During their early histories, the Pirates and the Eagles were among the weakest in the league. In his first eight years of operating the Pittsburgh franchise, Pirates founder Art Rooney was estimated to have lost $100,000. Meanwhile, the Eagles were owned by a syndicate headed by Bert Bell, however the team lost $80,000 and 21 games in its first three seasons. Soon all of the team's investors left the franchise, and by the end of the 1935 season Bert Bell had the Eagles to himself. He became the coach, general manager, scout and public relations director, and took to selling tickets on downtown Philadelphia street corners. Because the rent was cheap, the team played in the 102,000 seat Municipal Stadium before at least 100,000 empty seats. According to one account, one rainy Sunday, only 50 people showed up for a game against the Brooklyn Dodgers; Bell invited those few fans up to the covered press box, where he provided free coffee and hot dogs. Neither the Eagles nor the Pirates-Steelers had posted a winning record in their first eight years of existence. Losses on the field were compounded by the combined loss of about $190,000 in Depression dollars.
The Steelers were so bad that Rooney sold them at the end of the 1940 season to Alexis Thompson, a 26-year-old steel heir from Boston frequently described in the press as "a well-heeled New York City playboy". Thompson renamed the Steelers the Ironmen, but he planned to move the franchise to Boston and play games in Fenway Park. Eagles owner Bert Bell brokered the deal between Rooney and Thompson for $160,000, and Rooney used $80,000 of the proceeds to buy a partnership in the Eagles, which at the time was owned by Bell. The deal also involved the trade of several players between the two teams.
The two owners planned to field a combined Philadelphia-Pittsburgh team called the Keystoners that would play home games in both cities. The original proposition was that Thompson would buy the franchise and take the Pittsburgh club to Boston and Bell and Rooney would pool their interests in the Eagles to form a Philadelphia-Pittsburgh club, splitting the home games between Forbes Field in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia's Municipal Stadium. Thompson, however, was unable to secure a place to play in Boston. After meeting with Rooney, plans changed whereby Thompson's club (ostensibly the former Steelers) would play in Philadelphia as the Eagles, while the Rooney-Bell owned team would play in Pittsburgh as the Steelers, effectively trading the two clubs between their cities.
Before the 1941 season, Rooney returned the name to Steelers back from the Ironmen. Bell began the season as the Steelers' coach, but after two losses, Rooney hired Aldo Donelli. Bell continued as part owner of the Steelers until 1946 when he was elected NFL commissioner. Bell served as commissioner until 1959 when he died of a heart attack at Franklin Field in Philadelphia during a game between two teams he had helped form, the Steelers and the Eagles.
The notion for a single team between the two cities was revived, when for one season in 1943, forced to do so by player shortfalls brought on by World War II, the two clubs temporarily merged as the Philadelphia-Pittsburgh "Steagles". The league only approved the merger for one year; Pittsburgh was willing to merge again for 1944 but not Philadelphia. This forced the Steelers to merge with the Chicago Cardinals (as Card-Pitt) for 1944.Pennsylvania Polka
The Pennsylvania Polka refers to a series of moves affecting the Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers franchises in the National Football League (NFL) from 1940–1941. The name derives from a popular song composed by Zeke Manners and introduced in 1942 by The Andrews Sisters in their film Give Out, Sisters.
Art Rooney, the owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, sold his team to Alexis Thompson on December 10, 1940, and subsequently bought a 50% stake in the Philadelphia Eagles franchise from owner Bert Bell. At the time of the deals, a mini-draft took place between the two teams, using a pool of players from both rosters. This resulted in the Eagles acquiring seven players formerly of the Steelers, and the Steelers obtaining eleven players formerly of the Eagles. The 1941 NFL Draft was also held during this time.
Rooney later had second thoughts on the transactions, and made an agreement to swap cities with new Steelers owner Thompson on April 3, 1941. This resulted in the Philadelphia Eagles moving their team to Pittsburgh and becoming the new Pittsburgh Steelers, and the Pittsburgh Steelers moving their team to Philadelphia and becoming the new Philadelphia Eagles. Since NFL franchises at the time were territorial rights distinct from individual corporate entities, the Eagles and Steelers are each officially acknowledged by the NFL as single unbroken entities since 1933, especially since all of these events took place during the offseason. However, the players on the Eagles were basically traded to the Steelers in exchange for their players (with the exception of players who changed teams during the mini-draft, in which case those players "stayed" on the same teams). All players drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1941 NFL Draft therefore had their rights held by the Pittsburgh Steelers after the final swap, and vice versa.Pete Retzlaff
Palmer Edward "Pete" Retzlaff, nicknamed "Pistol Pete" and "The Baron", (born August 21, 1931) is a former professional American football player and general manager.Playoff Bowl
The Playoff Bowl (officially known as the Bert Bell Benefit Bowl) was a post-season game for third place in the National Football League (NFL), played ten times following the 1960 through 1969 seasons, all at the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida.Bert Bell was the commissioner of the NFL from 1946 until his death in October 1959. He was a co-founder of the Philadelphia Eagles as well as a co-owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers during much of the 1940s. His death occurred while attending an Eagles-Steelers game in Philadelphia. Over the decade of the 1960s, the game contributed more than a million dollars to the Bert Bell players' pension fund.
# denotes interim head coach
Pound sign (#) denotes de facto general manager.
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Italics denotes players who have been voted in but not yet inducted.