1920 Decatur Staleys season

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1920 Decatur Staleys season
Head coachGeorge Halas
Home fieldStaley Field
Division place2nd APFA
Playoff finishNo playoffs until 1932
Previous seasonNext season
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1920 Decatur Staleys season
Head coachGeorge Halas
Home fieldStaley Field
Division place2nd APFA
Playoff finishNo playoffs until 1932
Previous seasonNext season

The 1920 [1] Decatur Staleys season was their inaugural regular season completed in the newly formed American Professional Football Association. The club posted a 10–1–2 record under first year head coach/player George Halas earning them a second place finish in the team standings. The stars of the Staleys were Ed "Dutch" Sternaman, Jimmy Conzelman, and George Halas. Sternaman has a remarkable season with 11 rushing TDs, 1 receiving TDs, 4 field goals, and 3 PATs, totaling 87 points scored out of the Staleys' total of 164. Jimmy Conzelman ran for two scores and threw two more. Halas led the team in receiving scores with 2. In the last league game of the season, the Staleys needed a win versus Akron to have a chance at the title. Akron, predictably, played for a tie, achieved that, and won the first APFA title.


The Decatur Staleys finished 6–1 in their 1919 season as an independent team.[2] Their 1919 owner, George Chamberlain, asked George Halas to help own the team, and Halas accepted.[3] After the 1919 season, representatives of four Ohio League teams—the Canton Bulldogs, the Cleveland Tigers, the Dayton Triangles, and the Akron Pros—called a meeting on August 20, 1920 to discuss the formation of a new league. At the meeting, they tentatively agreed on a salary cap and pledged not to sign college players or players already under contract with other teams. They also agreed on a name for the circuit: the American Professional Football Conference.[4][5] They then invited other professional teams to a second meeting on September 17.

At that meeting, held at Bulldogs owner Ralph Hay's Hupmobile showroom in Canton, representatives of the Rock Island Independents, the Muncie Flyers, the Decatur Staleys, the Racine Cardinals, the Massillon Tigers, the Chicago Cardinals, and the Hammond Pros agreed to join the league. Representatives of the Buffalo All-Americans and Rochester Jeffersons could not attend the meeting, but sent letters to Hay asking to be included in the league.[6] Team representatives changed the league's name slightly to the American Professional Football Association and elected officers, installing Jim Thorpe as president.[6][7][8] Under the new league structure, teams created their schedules dynamically as the season progressed, so there were no minimum or maximum number of games needed to be played.[9][10] Also, representatives of each team voted to determine the winner of the APFA trophy.[11]


The table below was compiled using the information from NFL History, which used various contemporary newspapers.[12] If a team has a dagger (dagger), then that team in a non-APFA team. For the results column, the winning team's score is posted first followed by the result for the Staleys. For the attendance, if a cell is greyed out and has "N/A", then that means there is an unknown figure for that game. The green-colored cells indicates a win; the yellow-colored cells indicates a tie; and the red-colored cells indicate a loss.

1No game scheduled
2October 3, 1920vs. Moline Universal TractorsNon-APFA team20–0 WStaley Field1,5001–0
3October 10, 1920vs. Kewanee WalworthsNon-APFA team25–7 WStaley Field1,5002–0
4October 17, 1920at Rock Island Independents7–0 WDouglas Park7,0003–0
5October 24, 1920at Chicago Tigers10–0 WCubs Park5,0004–0
6October 31, 1920at Rockford ACNon-APFA team29–0 WKishwaukee ParkN/A5–0
7November 7, 1920at Rock Island Independents0–0 TDouglas ParkN/A5–0–1
8November 11, 1920at Champaign LegionNon-APFA team20–0 WChampaign, ILN/A6–0–1
November 14, 1920at Minneapolis MarinesNon-APFA team3–0 WNicollet ParkN/A7–0–1
9November 21, 1920vs. Hammond Pros28–7 WStaley Field3,0008–0–1
10November 25, 1920at Chicago Tigers6–0 WCub Park8,0009–0–1
November 28, 1920at Chicago Cardinals7–6 LNormal Park5,0009–1–1
11December 5, 1920at Chicago Cardinals10–0 WCub Park11,00010–1–1
12December 12, 1920vs. Akron Pros0–0 TCub Park12,00010–1–2
13No game scheduled

Game summaries[edit]

Week 4: at Rock Island Independents[edit]


October 17, 1920 at Douglas Park

After two games against non-APFA teams, the Staleys played against the APFA Rock Island Independents. Late in the first quarter, the Independents' Freeman Fitzgerald had a hard hit against Jimmy Conzelman and jarred the ball loose; Fitzgerald fell on the ball at the 49-yard line. The Independents drove the ball down the field, and the Staleys were tired. They had to call a timeout. With the ball on the 23-yard line, Arnie Wyman broke through for 10 more yards, and the Independents were about to score. The first quarter ended there. Wyman took the next snap and fumbled as he hit the line. George Trafton recovered the ball at the 8-yard line. Later in the quarter, Conzelman scored the only touchdown in the game.[13]

In the third quarter, Fred Chicken intercepted a Staley pass on his own 28-yard line. Early in the fourth quarter, up 7–0, the Staleys drove to the Independents 14-yard line. Knowing a field goal would put the game away, they lined up for a place kick. The snap was good, and the ball was set at the 25-yard line. Wyman broke though the line and made a game-saving block for the Independents. The Independents moved the ball away from goal and took a shot down field which just missed the outstretched arms of Oak Smith. Wyman punted, and the ball was fielded at the Staleys' 7-yard line. Pearce twisted and dodged his way out to near mid-field. Once again the Independents held as Kuehl intercepted a pass at his own 19-yard line and took it out to his 39. With time running out on third down Wyman pulled up and lofted a beautiful pass 45 yards in the air. The crowd rose as it appeared Kuehl was running under the ball to make a game tying catch. Chamberlain hit Kuehl as he went for the ball and it sailed over both of their heads. The Independents argued interference, but referee Williams stuck with is call and told them to play on. The Independents were exhausted and beaten. The game ended a few minutes later with the Staleys in control of the ball.[13]

Week 7: at Rock Island Independents[edit]


November 7, 1920 at Douglas Park

On a five-game winning streak, the Staleys played against the Independents again. The game ended in a 0–0 tie. Several injuries occurred throughout the game for the Independents. Sid Nichols, Fred Chicken, and Oke smith injured their knees on different plays. Harry Gunderson was hit late by George Traften and the former had to get thirteen stitches on his face, and his hand was broken.[14]

Week 8: at Minneapolis Marines[edit]


November 14, 1920 at Nicollet Park

To conclude their six-game road game streak, the Staleys played against the Minneapolis Marines. The Marines were a non-APFA team but joined the league in 1921.[15] The only score of the game was a 25-yard field goal from Sternaman.[16]

Week 12: vs. Akron Pros[edit]


December 12, 1920 at Cubs Park

The Staleys ended their season in week 12 against he Akron Pros. Prior to the game, Halas moved their home field to the much larger Cubs Park in Chicago and hired Paddy Driscoll from the Cardinals to play on his team in order to help defeat the Pros, which was against league rules at the time.[17][18] Twelve thousand fans, which was the largest recorded crowd of the season,[19] showed up to watch the game.[20] Of the crowd, about 2,000 were from Pollard's hometown.[21] The Pros almost scored twice, but failed once because of ineligible receiver penalties.[20] On the other side, Fritz Pollard stopped a Staleys' touchdown against Sternment in the third quarter.[21] On the same drive, the Staleys missed a 30-yard field goal.[20] Chamberlin attempted to injure Pollard twice in an attempt to remove him from the game.[21] The final score ended in a 0–0 tie;[20][22] however, the Chicago Defender reported that the refereeing was biased towards Decatur.[21]


1920 APFA standings[23]
Akron Prosdagger8031.0006–0–31517T2
Decatur Staleys1012.9095–1–216421T1
Buffalo All-Americans911.9004–1–125832T1
Chicago Cardinals622.7503–2–210129T1
Rock Island Independents622.7504–2–120149W1
Dayton Triangles522.7144–2–215054L1
Rochester Jeffersons632.6670–115657T1
Canton Bulldogs742.6364–3–120857W1
Detroit Heralds233.4001–35382T2
Cleveland Tigers242.3331–4–22846L1
Chicago Tigers251.2861–5–14963W1
Hammond Pros250.2860–341154L3
Columbus Panhandles262.2500–441121W1
Muncie Flyers010.0000–1045L1

  dagger  Awarded the Brunswick-Balke Collender Cup and named APFA Champions.

Post season[edit]

Since there were no playoff system in the APFA until 1932,[24] a meeting was held to determine the champions. Each team that showed up had a vote to determine the champions.[25] The Staleys and the All-Americans each stated they should be the champions because they had more wins and were not beaten by the Akron Pros.[19] However, since the Akron Pros had a 1.000 winning percentage, the Pros were awarded the Brunswick-Balke Collender Cup on April 30, 1921.[26] Seven players from the Staleys were on the 1920 All-Pro team. Guy Chamberlain, Hugh Blacklock, and George Trafton were on the first team; George Halas was on the second team; and Burt Ingwerson, Ross Petty, and Ed Sternaman were on the third team.[27]


Five players from the 1920 Decatur Staleys roster went on to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Guy Chamberlin was in the class of 1965,[28] Jimmy Conzelman was in the class of 1964,[29] Paddy Driscoll was in the class of 1965,[30] George Halas was in the class of 1963,[31] and George Trafton was in the class of 1964.[32] The Pro Football Hall of Fame's selection committee compiled a list of the National Football League 1920s All-Decade Team. Each of the aforementioned Hall-of-Famers are on this team.[33]


  1. ^ "1920 Decatur Staleys". Independentfootball.site90.com. Retrieved November 7, 2012. 
  2. ^ "1919 Decatur Staleys". The Pro Football Archives. Maher Sports Media. Retrieved March 17, 2012. 
  3. ^ "1920s Chicago Bears". Bears History. Retrieved September 20, 2012. 
  4. ^ PFRA Research (1980), pp. 3–4
  5. ^ Siwoff, Zimmber & Marini (2010), pp. 352–353
  6. ^ a b PFRA Research (1980), p. 4
  7. ^ "Thorpe Made President" (PDF). The New York Times. September 19, 1920. 
  8. ^ "Organize Pro Gridders; Choose Thorpe, Prexy". The Milwaukee Journal. September 19, 1920. p. 24. 
  9. ^ Peterson (1997), p. 74
  10. ^ Davis (2005), p. 59
  11. ^ Price, Mark (April 25, 2011). "Searching for Lost Trophy". Akron Beacon-Journal. Retrieved June 23, 2012. 
  12. ^ NFL History (2003), pp. 1–7
  13. ^ a b "Lack of Practice and Poor Physical Condition Account for First Upset of Season". Rock Island Argus. October 18, 1920. 
  14. ^ "Staleys Win World's Dirt Title". Rock Island Argus. November 8, 1920. 
  15. ^ Quirk (1998), p. 2
  16. ^ NFL History (2003), p. 4
  17. ^ Willis (2010), p. 131
  18. ^ Davis (2005), p. 61
  19. ^ a b Carroll (1982), p. 3
  20. ^ a b c d "Decatur and Akron Pros battle to Tie". The Milwaukee Sentinel. December 13, 1920. p. 6. 
  21. ^ a b c d Young, Frank (December 18, 1920). "Fritz Pollard Shows Old Time Form as Akron and Staleys Pros Play Tie". Chicago Defender. p. 6. 
  22. ^ NFL History (2003), p. 7
  23. ^ "NFL – 1920 Regular Season". National Football League. Retrieved January 6, 2013. 
  24. ^ "History: The First Playoff Game". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on June 3, 2011. 
  25. ^ PFRA Research (n.d.), p. 1
  26. ^ Price, Mark (April 25, 2011). "Searching for the Lost Trophy". Akron Beacon Journal. Retrieved December 21, 2011. 
  27. ^ Hogrogian (1984), pp. 1–2
  28. ^ "Guy Chamberlin". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved March 17, 2012. 
  29. ^ "Jimmy Conzelman". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved March 17, 2012. 
  30. ^ "John (Paddy) Driscoll". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved March 17, 2012. 
  31. ^ "George Halas". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved March 17, 2012. 
  32. ^ "George Trafton". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved March 17, 2012. 
  33. ^ "NFL's All-Decade Team of the 1920s". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved March 17, 2012. 


External links[edit]

Akron ProsBuffalo All-AmericansCanton BulldogsRacine Cardinals
Chicago TigersCleveland TigersColumbus PanhandlesDayton Triangles
Decatur StaleysDetroit HeraldsHammond ProsMuncie Flyers
Rochester JeffersonsRock Island Independents