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American Association (American football)

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American Association (American football)

American Association (American football)
Sport American football
Founded 1936
Inaugural season 1936
No. of teams 6 (1940, 1948–1950) to 9 (1937)
Country United States
Ceased 1950
Last champion(s) Richmond Rebels

The American Association (AA) was a professional [1]

The American Association was the first minor football league with a working arrangement with the National Football League as a system of farm clubs, beginning with the purchase of the Stapleton Buffaloes (which played one game as the New York Tigers) by New York Giants owner Tim Mara in 1937.

In the late 1930s and 1940s, the league enjoyed popularity comparable to that of the more established NFL, despite being in direct competition. In 1949 and 1950, the league was adversely affected by instability of membership. After starting its last season with six teams, only two league members were surviving at the end of the year.

Origin of league

The American Association was formed after a proposal by [1]

From 1936 to 1937, there was at least one "groupie" team that never joined the league, but played the bulk of its games against AA franchises: the Harlem Brown Bombers, a barnstorming/traveling team that consisted entirely of black players and was coached by Fritz Pollard, played seven games against AA teams over two years, compiling a 1-4-1 record.[1]

American Association (1936-1941)

1936

While the league did not have official divisions, several sources show the membership divided into a “New York Division” (NY) and a “New Jersey Division” (NJ). Teams are ranked by win percentage.

Team W L T Pct. PF PA [1]
Paterson Panthers (NJ) 4 1 0 .800 59 13
Brooklyn Bay Parkways (NY) 4 2 2 .667 86 32
New Rochelle Bulldogs (NY) 3 2 1 .600 30 40
Mt. Vernon Cardinals (NY) 3 2 0 .600 37 42
Orange Tornadoes (NJ) 4 4 0 .500 54 55
Passaic Red Devils (NJ) 3 5 0 .375 33 76
White Plains Bears (NY) 2 4 0 .333 27 40
Stapleton Buffaloes (NJ) 1 4 1 .200 26 54

Playoffs: Brooklyn 18, New Rochelle 0; Paterson 10, Orange 0 (Mt. Vernon declined to participate in playoffs)

Championship: Brooklyn wins title after Paterson withdraws (Paterson stays in the league)

In the first game of a series between the AA champion and the winners of the [1]

1937

Passaic dropped out (stadium issues) and was replaced by the Brooklyn Bushwicks and the [1]

While the league was “unofficially divided” into two divisions in its first year, the realigned American Association was put into two official divisions for 1937: a Northern and a Southern division. For the 1937 season only, standings were based on two points per win and one point per tie.

Point totals do not include 1-0 forfeit scores.

Northern Division

Team W L T Pct. PF PA Pts.[1]
White Plains Bears 3 2 1 .600 19 49 7
Danbury Trojans 3 1 0 .750 58 0 6
New Rochelle Bulldogs 3 6 0 .333 62 65 6
Brooklyn Bushwicks 1 4 1 .200 17 74 3
Mt. Vernon Cardinals 1 6 1 .143 14 88 3

Southern Division

Team W L T Pct. PF PA Pts.[1]
Newark Tornadoes 6 1 3 .857 96 31 15
Paterson Panthers 4 1 1 .800 95 7 9
Brooklyn Eagles 4 3 1 .571 35 62 9
New York Tigers 0 1 0 .000 0 20 0

Championship: Newark 3, Paterson 3 (co-champions declared when Paterson refused to play an overtime period)

1938

Gone were Mt. Vernon, New Rochelle, and White Plains; the Clifton Wessingtons received the rights to White Plains’ 1937 team and joined the AA for 1938; and the Brooklyn Bushwicks moved to Union City, New Jersey, and became the Rams. Tim Mara, New York Giants owner, purchased the Stapleton franchise, moved it to Jersey City, New Jersey, and made it the first farm team in professional football. Bill Owen, brother of Steve Owen, managed the team. A number of former New York Giant players were on the New Jersey team, including Ken Strong, who was barred from the NFL club until 1939 after defecting to the New York Yankees of the second American Football League in 1936.

In the lineup of the Brooklyn Eagles was a reserve guard who eventually made his mark as a head coach: Vince Lombardi. The Clifton Wessingtons featured tailback Joe Lillard, the last African American NFL player before the imposition of a color line in 1936.

Down to seven teams, the league decided to scrap the divisional alignment for 1938. In addition, there were no plans for championship playoffs: the championship was determined strictly by winning percentage (ignoring tie games).

Team W L T Pct. PF PA [1]
Jersey City Giants 7 1 0 .875 133 7
Danbury Trojans 4 1 1 .800 67 26
Paterson Panthers 6 3 0 .667 114 60
Brooklyn Eagles 3 5 1 .375 81 70
Union City Rams 2 5 1 .286 52 121
Newark Tornadoes 2 5 0 .286 28 119
Clifton Wessingtons 1 5 1 .167 27 199

No playoffs: Jersey City was declared league champions

1939

A year after Tim Mara bought the Jersey City Giants and used it as a farm team for his New York Giants NFL franchise, the AA underwent more change in 1939. Gone was Clifton, but the league returned to a two-division, eight team format as the Wilmington Clippers and the [1]

Northern Division

Team W L T Pct. PF PA [1]
Paterson Panthers 7 5 0 .583 145 115
Providence Steamroller 3 4 0 .429 53 89
Danbury Trojans 0 5 1 .000 26 114
Brooklyn Eagles 0 7 1 .000 26 140

Southern Division

Team W L T Pct. PF PA [1]
Newark Bears 6 2 1 .750 122 71
Wilmington Clippers 9 3 1 .750 158 66
Jersey City Giants 7 3 1 .700 148 52
Union City Rams 2 5 2 .286 82 113

Championship: Newark 27, Paterson 7

1940

Brooklyn, Danbury, and Union City dropped out in the offseason; the [1]

Back to only six teams, the AA instituted a Shaughnessy playoff system, with the fourth-place team facing the first-place team and the second- and third-place teams meeting in semifinal matches, with the winners facing each other in a championship game.

Team W L T Pct. PF PA [1]
Jersey City Giants 6 3 1 .667 104 46
Paterson Panthers 6 4 0 .600 106 133
Wilmington Clippers 5 4 1 .556 139 64
Newark Bears 5 5 1 .500 136 121
Long Island Indians 5 5 1 .500 88 123
Providence Steamroller 2 8 0 .200 41 127

Standings include two forfeits by Providence; the point totals do not. Providence dropped out of the league November 12, 1940, but was expected to return for the 1941 season.

Playoffs: Newark and Long Island tied for the last playoff spot. The two teams played to a 0-0 tie on December 1, 1940. A rematch scheduled for December 5 was cancelled due to snow; the league broke the tie with a best three-of-five coin toss, which Newark won to enter the playoffs.

Semifinal games: Jersey City 7, Newark 6; Wilmington 11, Paterson 8

Championship: Jersey City 17, Wilmington 7

1941

While Tim Mara sold the [1]

The 1941 New York Yankees was not the same team as the [1]

Team W L T Pct. PF PA [1]
Long Island Indians 8 2 0 .800 176 45
Paterson Panthers 6 2 2 .750 142 72
Wilmington Clippers 4 3 2 .571 120 77
Jersey City Giants 4 4 2 .500 47 99
Newark Bears 3 6 0 .333 62 105
Providence Steamroller 0 2 0 .000 7 24
New York Yankees 0 6 0 .000 13 143

Playoffs: Wilmington 33, Paterson 0; Long Island 7, Jersey City 6

Championship: Wilmington 21, Long Island 13

1942

The Hartford Blues were expected to replace the New York Yankees for the 1942 season; the Churchill Pros (based in Springfield, Massachusetts) were enlisted to replace Providence when the team became the new Springfield Steamroller.

American Association president [1]

American Football League (1946-1950)

In the autumn of 1945, after the surrender of Japan in World War II, the American Association returned to business, unlike the third American Football League. John Rosentover remained league president, and the five teams that finished the 1941 AA season (Jersey City, Long Island, Newark, Paterson, and Wilmington) returned to the fold, but the two franchises that were supposed to join the league in 1942 (Hartford and Springfield) did not survive the league's layover.

The third American Football League, which had originally announced intentions of resuming play after the war, didn't survive it either, so the American Association adopted a new name upon resumption of operations: "American Football League". The league renewed its working relationship with the old [1] On March 24, 1946, the formalization of the compact, the Association of Professional Football Leagues as the "Big Three" of the minor leagues of pro football in the U.S.A., was announced by PCPFL president (and Association chairman) J. Rufus Klawans.

1946

The resurrected league had three new entries for the first post-war season: the Scranton Miners, Newark Bombers (replacing the Bears, who moved to Akron, Ohio), and the Bethlehem Bulldogs Bulldogs. As the games resumed, fan attendance returned to prewar levels.

Eastern Division

Team W L T Pct. PF PA [1]
Jersey City Giants 9 1 0 .900 204 86
Long Island Indians 5 5 0 .500 104 124
Newark Bombers 2 7 1 .222 99 166
Paterson Panthers 2 8 0 .000 102 195

Western Division

Team W L T Pct. PF PA [1]
Akron Bears 8 2 0 .800 263 122
Scranton Miners 5 3 2 .625 160 143
Bethlehem Bulldogs 5 4 1 .556 203 172
Wilmington Clippers 1 7 2 .125 57 184

Championship: Jersey City 14, Akron 13

1947

Akron left the AFL in early 1947, leaving Newark as the Chicago Bears’ primary farm team. Newark moved to [1]

Eastern Division

Team W L T Pct. PF PA [1]
Paterson Panthers 8 2 0 .800 152 111
Bloomfield Cardinals 6 4 0 .600 184 134
Jersey City Giants 5 5 0 .500 139 128
Richmond Rebels 3 3 1 .500 112 105
Long Island Indians 0 3 0 .000 19 72

Western Division

Team W L T Pct. PF PA [1]
Bethlehem Bulldogs 8 1 0 .900 264 73
Wilmington Clippers 2 5 1 .286 74 147
Wilkes-Barre Barons 0 9 0 .000 77 251

The Long Island Indians dropped out after three games; they were replaced by the [1][2]

Championship: Bethlehem 23, Paterson 7

1948

Bloomfield folded before the start of play in 1948 and the league scrapped its two-division setup for the upcoming season. The Shaughnessy playoff system was reinstated.

Bethlehem was crippled by a pair of events prior to play. First, the [1]

Team W L T Pct. PF PA [1]
Paterson Panthers 7 1 2 .875 224 103
Richmond Rebels 6 4 0 .600 164 142
Wilmington Clippers 5 4 1 .556 148 137
Jersey City Giants 5 5 0 .500 154 168
Bethlehem Bulldogs 4 5 1 .444 158 155
Wilkes-Barre Bullets 1 9 0 .100 57 200

Won-lost records include four Wilkes-Barre forfeit losses; point totals do not include them.

Playoffs: Wilmington defeated Richmond; Paterson beat Jersey City

Championship: Paterson 24, Wilmington 14

1949

With the dissolution of the Pacific Coast Professional Football League in 1948, the American Football League (formed as the American Association in 1936) became the sole remaining prewar minor league. Charter member Paterson had not missed a week of league play (except refusing to play the 1936 league championship game), and would not until the end of the league. For the first time since the end of World War II, there were no changes in membership prior to league play in 1949.

Team W L T Pct. PF PA [1]
Richmond Rebels 8 1 1 .889 285 99
Paterson Panthers 6 3 1 .667 192 141
Bethlehem Bulldogs 6 4 0 .600 154 138
Wilmington Clippers 5 5 0 .500 93 155
Wilkes-Barre Bullets 3 7 0 .300 81 112
Jersey City Giants 1 9 0 .100 68 228

Playoffs: Richmond 66, Wilmington 0; Paterson defeated Bethlehem

Championship: Richmond 35, Paterson 14

After winning three games in their first four games, Wilkes-Barre was hit by a rash of injuries in their games with Richmond and Paterson. Bob Edgerson, Bullets president, informed the league that the injuries would force him to cancel an upcoming game with Wilmington. Two days later, league president Joe Rosentover revoked the franchise. Rosentover then asked the independent [1]

Richmond owner [1]

1950

Although the Erie Vets could not complete Wilkes-Barre’s schedule in 1949, they did join the AFL for the 1950 season; in addition, the Wilmington Clippers left the league and were replaced by the Brooklyn Brooks. The league made an unsuccessful overture to the [1] The league abandoned the Shaughnessy playoff system and opted to have only the top two finishers play for the championship. It turned out that only two teams were still playing at the end of the season.

Bethlehem called it quits in early October, having lost two games (one by forfeit); later that week, the Brooklyn franchise was revoked for failure to pay the entrance fee. After Joe Rosentover announced the revocation, he announced that none of the games involving the Bulldogs or the Brooks would not count (they are included below). A new league schedule was drawn up, but in early November, charter member Paterson was forced to close up shop because of a financial dispute.[1]

Later that month, longtime league member Jersey City Giants (who entered the league in 1938 after its owners purchased the assets of charter member Stapleton Buffaloes) also called it quits after being crushed by each of the other two remaining teams in the league. Thus after nine weeks, Erie and Richmond were the last teams standing.

Team W L T Pct. PF PA [1]
Richmond Rebels 6 3 0 .667 239 145
Erie Vets 5 3 0 .625 154 142
Paterson Panthers 4 4 0 .500 94 76
Jersey City Giants 3 4 0 .429 83 137
Brooklyn Brooks 0 2 0 .000 21 63
Bethlehem Bulldogs 0 2 0 .200 7 35

Includes forfeits by Brooklyn and Bethlehem (point totals exclude them); official league records have the games involving Brooklyn and Bethlehem stricken.

Championship: Richmond 35, Erie 7

With only two teams remaining in the league, this American Football League (the fourth of that name) folded after the championship game.

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af Nothing Minor About It: The American Association/AFL of 1936-1950 – Bob Gill, Pro Football Researchers Association (1990)
  2. ^ All for One: The Minor Leagues’ “Big Three” Make History in 1946 – Bob Gill, Pro Football Researchers Association (1989)
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