St. Louis Gunners

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St. Louis Gunners
St. Louis Gunners logo

Founded 1931
Folded 1940
Based in St. Louis, Missouri, United States
League Independent (1931–34)
National Football League (1934)
American Football League (1938–39)
Division Western Division
Team History St. Louis Gunners (1931–40)
Team Colors Red, White, Blue

              

Head coaches Jimmy Conzelman (1931)
Bullet Baker (1932)
Gwinn Henry (1933)
Chile Walsh (1934)
General managers Bud Yates (1931, 1933–1934)
Home field(s) Public Schools Stadium (1931–1933)
Sportsman's Park (1934–)

The St. Louis Gunners were an independent professional football team based in St. Louis, Missouri, that played the last three games of the 1934 National Football League season, replacing the Cincinnati Reds on the league schedule after the Reds' league membership was suspended. They won their first game against the Pittsburgh Pirates (now Steelers) 6–0, but lost the last two to the Detroit Lions (40–7) and the Green Bay Packers (21–14). Six of the Reds players joined the team for the last two games. The team was headquartered at the St. Louis National Guard Armory, which accounts for its nickname the 'Gunners'.

History[edit]

Origins[edit]

In 1931, the 128th Field Artillery of the Missouri National Guard, announced through its spokesman that it would sponsor a team for the upcoming football season. The club was originally called the Batter A Gunners from its association with the Guard. Future Hall-of-Famer Jimmy Conzelman, was named the team's first head coach. Bud Yates was named the team's general manager.

1931–1933[edit]

The Gunners posted a 5–2–1 record in 1931. However they lost to the NFL's Chicago Cardinals, 26–6. After the game Cardinals captain, Ernie Nevers, called the Gunners the "best independent club we have ever faced." A game against a second NFL team, the New York Giants, was scheduled but later canceled that season, to avoid conflict with another game involving a team of Notre Dame All-Stars.

For the team's second season, Bullet Baker was named the teams new coach. While most of the core of the team was kept intact, the Gunners brought in Dick Thornton and Mack Gladden from the University of Missouri. Meanwhile Yates left the team for the season, for a position with the cross-town St. Louis Veterans. The 1932 Gunners posted a 7–4–1 record. The team was able to play its rival, the Memphis Tigers, to a standoff in three games, St. Louis winning 6–0, Memphis winning 12–0, and the third game ending in a scoreless tie. Later that year, the Tigers, Gunners and the Oklahoma City Chiefs each laid some claim to a mythical “independent championship,”. Two of the team's losses that season came against NFL caliber opponents, the Cardinals, 20–7, and the Portsmouth Spartans, 12–0.

By 1933, the team had been renamed the "St. Louis Gunners". Most of the ties the team had with the National Guard had been severed. For example, the players were no longer required to stay at the Battery A barracks, as they had in the past. Dick Frahm, Babe Lyon, and Charley Malone were signed from the Washington Redskins. The team posted an 11–2–3 record in 1933. This year, however, it managed to defeat many of the NFL teams it faced. The Gunners defeated the NFL's Brooklyn Dodgers 21–2, and the Chicago Cardinals 28–7. The team also held the Chicago Bears to a scoreless tie. The team's only two NFL losses of the year came against the Green Bay Packers and the Cincinnati Reds. The team had also managed to outscore its opponents 297–72.

Entry into the NFL[edit]

On August 8, 1934, before the start of the NFL season, St. Louis purchased the NFL's Cincinnati Reds for $20,000. However the Gunners needed the other league owners to approve the sale. Only then would the Gunners would be official members. On August 17, the other owners decided to reject the Gunners bid to buy the Reds, probably because St. Louis was considered to be too remote from the rest of the clubs, all in the Northeast, and yearly trips there would have increased travel expenses. Meanwhile, the Gunners declined membership into the minor league American Football League. As a result, the new league decided to form the St. Louis Blues. Gunners GM Bud Yates was credited with founding the team. The Blues lured Dick Frahm away from the Gunners and even took over the lease of Public Schools Stadium. As a result, the Gunners moved their home games to Sportsman's Park. Meanwhile, Chile Walsh became the team's fourth head coach in four years.

The Gunners started their 1934 season, 5–0 against several semi-pro teams. The team was searching desperately for decent teams to compete against. However on November 6, 1934, the NFL finally approved the sale of the Cincinnati Reds to St. Louis for $20,000 – $30,0000. The Gunners were now officially members of the NFL and were invited to play the Reds last 3 games of the 1934 NFL season. The Blues then moved to Kansas City two days later in order to avoid fighting the Gunners for control of the St. Louis fan base.

1934 NFL season[edit]

The Gunners defeated their first NFL opponent, the Pittsburgh Pirates, 6–0. However, a week later they were defeated by the Detroit Lions 40–7. The team managed to defeat the Pirates again in a 10–0 rematch, but the game, scheduled while the Gunners were still playing independently, was subsequently ruled an exhibition. The Gunners lost to the Packers a week later, 21–14, before dropping another close game to the Dodgers 17–14. The Gunners ended their 1934 season with a 7–0 win over the Kansas City Blues.

St Louis Gunners Logo

Season results[edit]

Year W L T Finish Coach
1931 5 2 1 Jimmy Conzelman
1932 7 4 1 Bullet Baker
1933 11 2 3 Gwinn Henry
1934 8 3 2 5th West (NFL) Chile Walsh
1935
1936
1937 1 4 1 5th (MWFL)
1938 4 3 1 2nd (MWFL)
1939 5 6 0 5th (APFA)
1940

References[edit]

  • Carroll, Bob (1983). "The St. Louis Gunners". Coffin Corner (Professional Football Researchers Association) 4 (Annual): 1–14. 
  • Gill, Bob (1982). "Pro Football Spreads South". Coffin Corner (Professional Football Researchers Association) 4 (Annual): 1–2.