Frankford Yellow Jackets

The Frankford Yellow Jackets were a professional American football team, part of the National Football League from 1924 to 1931, though its origin dates back to as early as 1899 with the Frankford Athletic Association.[1] The Yellow Jackets won the NFL championship in 1926. The team played its home games from 1923 in Frankford Stadium (also called Yellow Jacket Field) in Frankford, a section in the northeastern part of Philadelphia, noted for the subway-elevated transit line that terminates there.

Frankford Yellow Jackets
Frankford Yellow Jackets logo
Founded1899
Suspended1931
Based inFrankford, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,
United States
LeagueIndependent (1899–1923)
National Football League (1924–1931)
Team historyFrankford Athletic Association
(1899–1909, 1912–1924)

Loyola Athletic Club (1909–1912)
Frankford Yellow Jackets (1924–1931)
Team colorsBlue, Yellow, White
              
Head coachesPunk Berryman (1924)
Guy Chamberlin (1925–26)
Charley Moran (1927)
Swede Youngstrom (1927)
Charley Rogers (1927)
Russ Daugherty (1927)
Ed Weir (1927–28)
Bull Behman (1929–31)
General managersTheodore Holden (1924–26)
James Adams (1926–30)
Shep Royle (1930–31)
Owner(s)Frankford Athletic Association
NFL Championship wins(1) 1926
Home field(s)Frankford Stadium
Frankford yellow jackets football 1926
1926 championship team photo.

Origin

Frankford Athletic Association

The Frankford Athletic Association was organized in May 1899 in the parlor of the Suburban Club. The cost of purchasing a share in the association was $10. However, there were also contributing memberships, ranging from $1 to $2.50, made available to the general public. The Association was a community-based non-profit organization of local residents and businesses. In keeping with its charter, which stated that "all profits shall be donated to charity", all of the team's excess income was donated to local charitable institutions. The beneficiaries of this generosity included Frankford Hospital, the Frankford Day Nursery, the local Boy Scouts, and the local American Legion Post 211. The officers of the Association never received a salary or compensation for their work on behalf of the team.

The playing field, known as Wistar Field, became the first official home of the Yellow Jackets. Several years later, when the construction of the current high school was proposed, the team moved to Brown's Field. The Association initially fielded a baseball team; however, soccer and football clubs were also formed.  The Association's football team played several games in 1899, including victorious contests against the Pioneer Athletic Association, Jefferson Medical College, the Philadelphia Athletic Club, and a team from Atlantic City.

The original Frankford Athletic Association apparently disbanded prior to the 1909 football season. Several of the original players from the 1899 football team kept the team together, and they became known as Loyola Athletic Club. In keeping with Yellow Jackets tradition, they carried the "Frankford" name again in 1912, to become the Frankford Athletic Association.

Yellow Jackets and the NFL

In the early 1920s, the Frankford Athletic Association's Yellow Jackets gained the reputation as being one of the best independent football teams in the nation. In 1922, Frankford absorbed the Philadelphia City Champion team, the Union Quakers of Philadelphia. That year Frankford captured the unofficial championship of Philadelphia. During the 1922 and 1923 seasons the Yellow Jackets compiled a 6–2–1 record against teams from the National Football League. This led to the Association being granted an NFL franchise in 1924.

1924 season

The Yellow Jackets assembled in September 1924 under coach Punk Berryman to begin preparing for the upcoming season. The team included players Harry Dayhoff, Russ Stein, Joe Spagna, Whitey Thomas, Al Bedner, and Bob Jamison. The team often played 15 to 20 games a season. Frequently, they would schedule two games on the same weekend, typically one at home on Saturday and, because of Pennsylvania's blue laws, an away game on Sunday. In their very first game as a member of the NFL, the Yellow Jackets defeated the Rochester Jeffersons 21–0. Frankford finished the season with an overall record of 17–3–1, with an 11–2–1 record in league play. They finished third in league standings only behind the Cleveland Bulldogs and Chicago Bears; under modern standings tabulation procedures, Frankford would have finished in first place.

1925 season

In 1925 the Frankford Athletic Association enlisted the services of Guy Chamberlin, who served as a player-coach for NFL championship teams such as the 1922 and 1923 Canton Bulldogs and the 1924 Cleveland Bulldogs. After a 9–0–1 start, Frankford lost several key players, including Chamberlin, to injuries. After a 49–0 defeat to the Pottsville Maroons, Frankford's captain Bull Behman was suspended indefinitely from the team for indifferent play. He was accused of not giving his best during the past few weeks because of some dissension with other players. The move helped improve the team, which posted a 13–7 record in league play.

1925 NFL Championship controversy

The Yellow Jackets had a part in the 1925 NFL Championship controversy. A dispute arose over a game that the nearby Pottsville Maroons had played against the Notre Dame All-Stars in Philadelphia; the Yellow Jackets asserted that their nearby rivals had infringed on their territorial rights by playing the game against a non-league opponent in Philadelphia. The league agreed and suspended the Maroons, allowing the Chicago Cardinals to win the 1925 title. However, the NFL reinstated the Maroons the following year after fears that the team would join Red Grange's upstart American Football League, which posed a threat to the league.

1926 Championship season

The Yellow Jackets began the 1926 season with an exhibition game against the Atlantic City Roses, which Frankford won 45–0. Their NFL campaign started just six days later, in a disappointing 6–6 tie at home against the Akron Pros. The first weekend in October saw the club post two solid victories over the Hartford Blues. They then played a two-game series against the Buffalo Rangers. During the Saturday game, the Yellow Jackets defeated the Rangers 30–0 in Frankford. The Jackets then headed to Buffalo for the Sunday game; however, the Rangers canceled due to "wet grounds". The Yellow Jackets prepared for another two-game set, this time against the New York Giants, resulting in a pair of 6–0 Frankford victories. The Canton Bulldogs were next on the schedule; Frankford won the first game 10–0, while the second game was canceled due to rain.

Frankford Yellow Jackets Hust Stockton and Hap Moran
Stockton and Moran Yellow Jackets 1926

During the final weekend of October, the Yellow Jackets had a league-leading 6–0–1 record. However, they had an upcoming two-game set with their toughest opponent yet, the Providence Steam Roller. The Yellow Jackets managed to split the series. The team's November schedule included only single-game weekends, and a Thanksgiving Day game. This played to the Yellow Jackets’ advantage. The team posted victories over the Chicago Cardinals, Duluth Eskimos, and Dayton Triangles. This string of victories left Frankford in great shape in the standings as the team headed into its Thanksgiving Day game with the Green Bay Packers. For the next five seasons the Frankford-Green Bay Thanksgiving Day game would become an annual tradition. Frankford went on to win the game 20–14, due mainly to a touchdown pass from Hust Stockton to Two-Bits Homan. The Yellow Jackets then posted a 7–6 victory over the Detroit Panthers two days later.

After a win over the Chicago Bears, the Yellow Jackets played a second two-game series against the Providence Steamroller. Frankford won the first game 24–0, but the second was cancelled because of heavy snow. Frankford then had to play their final game of the season against the Pottsville Maroons, who were still upset after their NFL championship title had been stripped from them after complaints from Frankford. The game resulted in a scoreless tie. However, a 14–1–2 final record left the Yellow Jackets alone atop the NFL standings. Since a Championship Game would not exist in the NFL until 1933, the team with the best regular season record was named the NFL Champion. This gave the Yellow Jackets undisputed claim to the league crown. The Jackets' 14 wins during the 1926 championship season set an NFL record for regular season victories that stood until 1984, when it was broken by the 15–1–0 San Francisco 49ers.

One day after capturing the title, however, Theodore "Thee" Holden and Guy Chamberlin stepped down as president and coach of the Frankford Athletic Association.

1927–1929 seasons

James Adams took over as president of the Frankford Athletic Association in 1927. He hired Charley Moran as the team's new coach. However, Moran's son Tom briefly served as the team's interim coach that year after Charley took a leave of absence to officiate in the 1927 World Series between the New York Yankees and the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Jackets suffered as a result of these changes and held a 2–5–1 record after eight league games. This led to Ed Weir becoming the team's player-coach. Weir had fellow players Russ Daugherty, Charlie Rogers, and Swede Youngstrom serve as assistant coaches. Under Weir's leadership the team finished with a 6–9–3 record in 1927. The Jackets rebounded in 1928 with an 11–3–2 league record, behind only the Providence Steam Roller. In 1929, Bull Behman became coach of the Yellow Jackets. The team finished with a 9–4–5 record for third place in league standings.

Decline

1930 season

The Yellow Jackets began to decline mainly because of financial hardships brought on by the Great Depression in 1930. Shep Royle, president of the Franklin Athletic Association, arranged for coaches Bull Behman and Wally Diehl to attend a coaching clinic in Chicago run by Glenn "Pop" Warner and Dick Hanley, in the hopes that it would improve their coaching techniques and develop a way to better utilize their players. At the same time, however, the Association's management decided to retain only a few veteran players, replacing most of the squad with rookies direct from college. This resulted in a string of ten consecutive losses, the worst losing streak in Yellow Jackets' history. To end the streak, Frankford purchased eleven players from the Minneapolis Red Jackets, and George Gibson took over the team's coaching duties from Behman. The Legion Post also tried to rally to the Yellow Jackets, pledging its support. However, the effects of the economic depression and poor performance on the field combined to reduce the team's fan base. The season finally ended with a 6–13–1 overall record and a 4–13–1 record in league play.

Final season

Before the start of the 1931 season, Frankford Stadium was severely damaged by a fire, forcing the club to find another location for its home games. However, most facilities suitable for professional football were already booked. The Yellow Jackets had to overcome this scheduling problem by playing at two different locations around the city of Philadelphia: Philadelphia Municipal Stadium and Baker Bowl. Philadelphia Municipal Stadium and Baker Bowl were located outside of the Frankford area, making attendance difficult for local fans. The team had hoped to draw broader support from Philadelphia at large.

Herb Joesting took over as head coach in 1931. However, the team was in terrible shape. Some members of the press began referring to the team as the Philadelphia Yellow Jackets, in an attempt to increase fan support, which failed to materialize. By October, NFL President Joe Carr, after witnessing the poor attendance at Frankford's home loss to the Portsmouth Spartans, approved a plan for the Yellow Jackets to finish the season as a traveling team. Carr hoped that this move would allow the team to curb spending and rebound financially.

On October 26, 1931, the Yellow Jackets defeated the Chicago Bears, 13–12, at Wrigley Field. This game marked the last time a Philadelphia-based NFL team would win an away game over the Bears until October 17, 1999, when the Eagles defeated the Bears 20–16 at Soldier Field. The 1928 Yellow Jackets win over the Packers marked the last time in 51 years a Philadelphia NFL team won a road victory over the Packers; the Eagles' 1979 win at Green Bay finally ended that streak.

Legacy

The Frankford Athletic Association not only fielded the Yellow Jackets football team, but also the Yellow Jackets' Band and the Frankford Legion Post 211 Drum & Bugle Corps. The Association also sponsored bus and train trips for fans to travel along to games in such places as Pottsville and New York City, where even the host teams' sportswriters took notice of their enthusiasm. The club occasionally sponsored half-time exhibitions by the Frankford Midgets, as well as a women's football team.

During their time in the NFL, Frankford's Ignacio Molinet became the league's first Latino player.

Today the Philadelphia Fire Department's Engine 14, stationed in Frankford, have adopted the Yellow Jackets moniker on their fire trucks.

Philadelphia Eagles

The victory over the Bears would be the last game the Yellow Jackets played. The Yellow Jackets suspended operations the following day. Unable to find a buyer, the Frankford Athletic Association returned the franchise to the league.

The NFL spent over a year searching for a new team to operate in Philadelphia. On July 9, 1933, the NFL granted an expansion franchise to Bert Bell and Lud Wray and awarded them the assets of the failed Yellow Jackets organization. Bell and Wray named their team the Philadelphia Eagles, after the symbol of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal. This has led to assumptions that the Yellow Jackets changed their name to the Eagles and returned to the league after sitting out the 1932 season. However, that is not the case. Bell and Wray did not buy the Yellow Jackets team, but rather the NFL rights to the Philadelphia area that formerly had belonged to the Frankford Athletic Association. Due to the period of dormancy, the Eagles do not claim the Yellow Jackets' history as their own, and the NFL considers the Eagles a 1933 expansion team for record-keeping purposes. Additionally, Bell and Wray assembled an almost entirely new team; only one player from the 1931 Yellow Jackets ended up with the 1933 Eagles.

For the first few years of the Eagles' existence, however, they wore powder blue and yellow uniforms similar to those worn by the Yellow Jackets; these are also the colors of Philadelphia's flag. Replicas were later worn as 1934 throwbacks in a game against the Detroit Lions on September 23, 2007 as part of the team's 75th anniversary season.[2]

Hall of Famers

Other notable players

Season-by-season record

(Record of NFL play only)

Year W L T Finish Coach
1924 11 2 1 3rd Punk Berryman
1925 13 7 0 6th Guy Chamberlin
1926 14 1 1 1st Guy Chamberlin
1927 6 9 3 7th Charley Moran (2–5–1); Swede Youngstrom/Charley Rogers/Russ Daugherty/Ed Weir (4–4–2)
1928 11 3 2 2nd Ed Weir
1929 10 4 5 3rd Bull Behman
1930 4 13 1 9th Bull Behman (2–10–1); George Gibson (2–3)
1931 1 6 1 10th Bull Behman

References

  1. ^ ""Frankford Yellow Jackets, History", HickokSports.Com". hickoksports.com.
  2. ^ "The Pennsylvania Center for the Book - Frankford Yellow Jackets". pabook2.libraries.psu.edu.

External links

Achievements
Preceded by
Chicago Cardinals
1925
NFL Champions
Frankford Yellow Jackets

1926
Succeeded by
New York Giants
1927
1924 Frankford Yellow Jackets season

The 1924 Frankford Yellow Jackets season was their inaugural season in the National Football League. The team finished 11–2–1 in league play and 17–3–1 overall, enough to finish in third in the league.

1925 Frankford Yellow Jackets season

The 1925 Frankford Yellow Jackets season was their second in the National Football League. The team improved on their previous output of 11–2–1, winning thirteen league games to finish the season in sixth place. The team's overall record, against league and non-league opponents in 1925 was 15–7. They set the unofficial record for most games played in a season during the years before the league went to a fixed-length schedule: they played 20 NFL games (plus at least 2 more against non-NFL opponents.) Even counting playoff games, no NFL team has since played more than 20 games in a season.

1925 New York Giants season

The 1925 New York Giants season was the franchise's inaugural season in the National Football League. The team finished with a record of 8–4 against league opponents.

1926 Frankford Yellow Jackets season

The 1926 Frankford Yellow Jackets season was their third in the National Football League. The team improved on their previous output of 10–4, winning fourteen games. By virtue of their league-best record of 14–1–2, they were crowned the 1926 NFL Champions. The 1926 Yellow Jackets are the last NFL franchise to win a championship, and later go defunct.Incidentally, the champions of the rival American Football League that year were also based in Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Quakers. There had been some brief discussion of fulfilling the crosstown rivalry by staging an interleague championship between the Quakers and Yellow Jackets, but the Yellow Jackets declined. (The Quakers instead played the seventh-place New York Giants, losing 31–0.)

1927 Frankford Yellow Jackets season

The 1927 Frankford Yellow Jackets season was their fourth in the National Football League. The team failed to improve on their previous output of 14–1–2, winning only six league games to finish in seventh place in the league standings.

1928 Frankford Yellow Jackets season

The 1928 Frankford Yellow Jackets season was their fifth in the National Football League. The team improved on their previous league output of 6–9–3, winning eleven games. They finished second in the league standings.

1929 Frankford Yellow Jackets season

The 1929 Frankford Yellow Jackets season was their sixth in the National Football League. The team failed to improve on their previous league output of 11–3–2, winning only ten games, losing four, and tying five. They finished third in the league standings.

1930 Frankford Yellow Jackets season

The 1930 Frankford Yellow Jackets season was their seventh in the National Football League. The team failed to improve on their previous league record of 9–4–5, winning only four league games. They lost all eight games they played in October and finished ninth in the league standings.

1931 Frankford Yellow Jackets season

The 1931 Frankford Yellow Jackets season was their eighth and final in the National Football League. The team failed to improve on their previous season's record of 4–13–1, winning only one league game. The team has the dubious distinction of winning only a single NFL game by a single point, and was held scoreless in seven of their eight league games, including the first five of the season.On July 27, 1931, the team's home, Frankford Stadium, was severely damaged by fire, forcing the team to divide its 1931 home games between Municipal Stadium and the Baker Bowl.

Charles Rogers (American football coach)

Not to be confused with Charles Rogers (American football), an NFL wide receiver. For others with the same name, see Charles Rogers (disambiguation).

Charles Stagg Rogers (January 15, 1902 June 26, 1986) was an American football player and coach. He played college football at the University of Pennsylvania and was selected to the 1926 College Football All-America Team. After graduation, he played in the National Football League (NFL) for the Frankford Yellow Jackets from 1927 to 1929. He served the team as a player-coach during their 1927 season. Rogers served as the head football coach at the University of Delaware from 1931 to 1933, comping a record of 12–9–4.

Ed Weir

Samuel Edwin Weir (March 14, 1903 – May 15, 1991) was an American collegiate and professional football player. He was the first Nebraska Cornhuskers football player elected to the College Football Hall of Fame and is known as one of Nebraska's greatest athletes. In 2005 the Omaha World-Herald, as part of a series on the 100 Greatest Athletes of Nebraska, named Weir the 19th best athlete in the state's history.

Frankford Stadium

Frankford Stadium, also known as Yellow Jacket Field, was a football field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania that was the home of the Frankford Yellow Jackets football team of the National Football League, which predated the Philadelphia Eagles.

The stadium, located at Frankford Avenue and Devereaux Street, was the Yellow Jackets' home from 1923 through 1930. On July 27, 1931, a fire caused major damage to the structure, forcing the Yellow Jackets to play their remaining home games at the Baker Bowl and Municipal Stadium, before disbanding during the 1931 season. The site was purchased in 1933 by the Franklin Legion Athletic Association, who demolished the structure to build the Franklin Legion Athletic Field. When the Frankford Legion AA reorganized as the Northeast Philadelphia AA later that year, the stadium's name was changed to Yellow Trojan Field. As of 2017, a Dollar Tree store and rowhouses occupy the site.

Guy Chamberlin

Berlin Guy "Champ" Chamberlin (January 16, 1894 – April 4, 1967), sometimes misspelled Guy Chamberlain, was an American football player and coach. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1962 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1965. He was also named in 1969 to the NFL 1920s All-Decade Team.

A native of Blue Springs, Nebraska, Chamberlin played college football as a halfback at Nebraska Wesleyan University in 1911 and 1912. He transferred to the University of Nebraska in 1913 and played at the halfback and end positions for the undefeated 1914 and 1915 Nebraska Cornhuskers football teams that won consecutive Missouri Valley Conference championships. He was a consensus first-team All-American in 1915, and he was selected in 1936 as the greatest player in Nebraska football history.

He played professional football for nine years with the Canton Bulldogs (1919), Decatur Staleys (1920), Chicago Staleys (1921), Canton Bulldogs (1922–1923), Cleveland Bulldogs (1924), Frankford Yellow Jackets (1925–1926), and Chicago Cardinals (1927). He won professional football championships in six of his nine seasons in professional football: as a player in 1919 with the undefeated Bulldogs and in 1921 with the Staleys, and as a player/coach in 1922, 1923, and 1924 with the Bulldogs and in 1926 with the Yellow Jackets. He compiled a 58-16-7 record in six years as a head coach in the National Football League (NFL), the best win percentage (.759) of any coach in NFL history with a minimum 50 wins. He is also the only coach to win NFL championships with three different clubs.

Jerry Lunz

Jerry Lunz was a player in the National Football League for the Chicago Cardinals and Frankford Yellow Jackets in 1925, 1926, and 1930. He played at the collegiate level at Marquette University.

Joe Carpe

Joseph A. Carpe (January 23, 1903 – November 3, 1977) was a professional football player in the early National Football League. A native of Westville, Illinois, Carpe attended Millikin University. He made his NFL debut in 1926 with the Frankford Yellow Jackets. That year, he was a member of the Yellow Jackets NFL Championship team. He also played for the Pottsville Maroons, Boston Bulldogs, and was an original member of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Jug Earp

Francis Louis "Jug" Earp (July 22, 1897 – January 8, 1969) was a professional American football player. He attended Monmouth College in Monmouth, Illinois with the class of 1921. He played eleven seasons in the National Football League (NFL), mostly with the Green Bay Packers and was inducted into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame in 1970. He also played with the Rock Island Independents, three games for the New York Yankees, and one game for the Frankford Yellow Jackets.

He is the cousin of Wyatt Earp; his father and Nicholas Porter Earp were brothers.[1]

Rudy Comstock

Rudolph S. Comstock (September 23, 1900 – November 1, 1975) was an American football player who played eleven seasons in the National Football League, for the Canton Bulldogs, Cleveland Bulldogs, Frankford Yellow Jackets, New York Giants and Green Bay Packers. he also served as the head coach of the Pittsburgh Americans of the second American Football League.

Swede Youngstrom

Adolf Frederick "Swede" Youngstrom (May 24, 1897 – August 5, 1968) was a professional football player. Over the span of his career in the National Football League, Youngstrom played with the Buffalo All-Americans, Canton Bulldogs, Buffalo Bisons, Cleveland Bulldogs and the Frankford Yellow Jackets. He also served as a player-coach for the Yellow Jackets in 1927. Outside of the NFL, Youngstrom played pro football for the Millville Big Blue and the Haven-Villa of Winter Haven.

The Professional Football Researchers Association notes of Youngstrom's career that “He was, quite possibly, the best guard of his era, considering that the only guards in the Pro Football Hall of Fame who played during the 1920s—Mike Michalske and Walt Kiesling—actually played the majority of their careers in the 1930s.”

Wooky Roberts

Wolcott A. "Wooky" Roberts (September 1, 1897 – August 28, 1951) was a professional American football player during the early years of the National Football League (NFL). Roberts won two NFL championships with the Canton Bulldogs in 1922 and 1923, one with the Cleveland Bulldogs in 1924, and another with the Frankford Yellow Jackets in 1926.

He played college football for the Navy Midshipmen football team while attending the United States Naval Academy. After the 1918 season, he was selected as a consensus first-team halfback on the 1918 College Football All-America Team.Before enrolling at the Naval Academy, Roberts was a student at Colgate University. After completing his service in the Navy, he worked as a structural engineer with the Industrial Power Equipment Company in Philadelphia. He died at his home in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, in August 1951 at age 53.

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