Tampa Cardinals

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Tampa Cardinals
Founded 1926
Folded 1926
Based in Barnstorming
League Independent
Team History Tampa Cardinals (game 1)
Haven-Villas (game 2)
St. Petersburg Cardinals (game 3-4)
Lena Vistas (5)
Team Colors Cardinal red, White,
         
Head coaches Jim Thorpe
General managers Jim Thorpe
Owner(s) Jim Thorpe

The Tampa Cardinals was a barnstorming football team, that played pick-up games, led by future pro football hall of famer, Jim Thorpe in 1926. During the time, the team was also billed as the St. Petersburg Cardinals and as Lena Vistas. The team was originally organized to play a New Year's Day exhibition against the Chicago Bears of the National Football League in what would be Tampa’s first professional football game. However the team would later pick up four other games while in Florida. The team has also been referred to as Thorpe's Cardinals.[1][2]

1926 season[edit]

January 1, 1926: Game program from the first pro football game in Tampa.
Tampa Cardinals vs. Chicago Bears

After the 1925 season, Thorpe formed a team composed primarily of Thorpe's teammates from the NFL’s Rock Island Independents, that would play several games throughout Florida. In a 1926 New Year's Day football exhibition, the Cardinals played against the Chicago Bears led by Red Grange. The game itself was billed as a clash of old vs. new, with Grange, the rising star, taking on Thorpe, the aging legend. During the game Grange rushed for a 70-yard touchdown as the Bears notched a 17-3 victory at Plant Field.[3]

After the game Thorpe and the core of his Cardinals team remained in Florida to play a few mercenary games under various other names. One week, the Cards were hired to supplement the line-up of the Haven-Villa of Winter Haven, a local club playing out of Winter Haven. The Villas were set to square-off against the Millville Big Blue, a successful independent club from New Jersey that was headed up by Guy Chamberlin. Chamberlin was a friend and former teammate of Thorpes during their time with the Canton Bulldogs.[2] Despite being scheduled to appear, Thorpe did not take the field during the game. The exact reason for his absence is not clear. The Cardinals, would go on to lose the game 28-7.[3]

In a rematch against Millville was soon scheduled. For the game the Cardinals then headed to St. Petersburg, Florida where they were billed as the St. Petersburg Cardinals. However, this time Millville was now hired to represent Haven-Villa. The game was held at the St. Petersburg Kennel Club in order to accommodate an anticipated large crowd, however the game drew just 300 fans. This time the Cards held Millville to a scoreless tie. A third game was arranged for a few days later in Winter Haven to be played at the local high school stadium. In front of just 500 spectators, the Cardinals were defeated 38-0.[3]

In a fourth game between the two clubs the next day, at Adair Park in Lakeland, in the Cardinals final game in Florida. Thorpe’s team took to the field under the banner of the Lena Vistas while Chamberlin’s team was billed as the Eastern States All-Stars. The Cardinals lost yet again 24-0 to Milleville.[2] The team then ended their season, due a lack of interest that led to a disappointing fan turnout.[2] The team finished their tour of Florida with a 0-4-1 record.

References[edit]

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