Brunswick-Balke Collender Cup
Brunswick-Balke Collender Cup was a silver trophy donated to the American Professional Football Association (renamed the National Football League in 1922) by the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company, Tire Division.
According to the September 17, 1920 founding meeting minutes of the NFL-APFA, the trophy was a "silver-loving cup", donated to the Association by a "Mr. Marshall". It was then to be presented to the team "awarded championship by the Association". This wording established the precedent for the 1920 season of awarding the title by a vote of the league's managers, rather than who finished at the top of the standings. The minutes also state that "any team winning the cup three times should be adjudged the owner [of the trophy]". The motion to include the cup as the Association's trophy was moved and seconded and a vote of thanks was extended by the secretary to "Mr. Marshall".
The Akron Pros were awarded the 1920 APFA Championship on April 30, 1921 during an association meeting at the Portage Hotel after posting an 8–0–3 record. The trophy was awarded to the team owners, Art Ranney and Frank Nied, by former Penn State star Timmy Bryant. However disputes arose from the Buffalo All-Americans and the Decatur Staleys (renamed the Chicago Bears in 1922) who had been tied, but not beaten, by the Pros that year. Even though the Pros were given the trophy in 1920, the league lost track of the event and for a long time published in its own record books that the 1920 championship was undecided. Neither the All-Americans nor the Staleys, who disputed the 1921 title, inquired of the trophy's whereabouts the next year (the All-Americans commissioned their own trophies, small gold footballs, before the dispute was ruled in the Staleys' favor). It took until the 1970s for the NFL to rediscover its early vote on awarding the Akron Pros the 1920 championship.
What happened to the cup afterwards remains a mystery. The minutes of APFA and NFL meetings never mention it again. Aside from its description as "a silver loving cup", the Brunswick-Balke-Collender trophy remains a mysterious object. The Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio does not have any photos of it.
Had the trophy survived, the Green Bay Packers would have gained permanent possession of the trophy upon winning their third consecutive league title in 1931.
Starting with the 1934 Championship game, 13 years after the original was awarded, a replacement trophy was finally commissioned, and the league's championship team from that season onward received the Ed Thorp Memorial Trophy. The trophy was named after Ed Thorp, a noted referee, rules expert, and sporting goods dealer. Thorp died in 1934, and a large, traveling trophy was made that year, passed along from champion to champion each season with each championship team's name inscribed on it (just like its predecessor). Teams would also receive a replica trophy that would not have only the name of that team engraved on it. The trophy is thought to have been awarded last to the Minnesota Vikings in 1969. Afterwards the Ed Thorpe Memorial Trophy went missing, just like its predecessor nearly 50 years earlier. A trophy greatly matching the description with the names of 18 winners from the 1934 New York Giants through the 1951 Los Angeles Rams engraved upon it that some believe to be the original trophy resides with the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame Inc., but whether this is the original and how it got there remains a mystery.
Since 1970, the league has issued the Vince Lombardi Trophy to the winners of the league's title; unlike its two predecessors, a new one is produced each year. (The Lombardi Trophy dates to 1967 and the first Super Bowl, and was retained when the NFL and the American Football League merged).
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- Price, Mark J. (April 25, 2011). "Local history: Searching for lost trophy". Akron Beacon Journal.
- "Minnesota Vikings: The Curse of the Ed Thorp Memorial Trophy". Bleacher Report. Bleacher Report. October 8, 2010. Retrieved 2012-02-28.