Mara circa 1930
|Date of birth:||July 29, 1887|
|Place of birth:||New York, New York, United States|
|Date of death:||February 16, 1959(aged 71)|
|Place of death:||New York, New York, United States|
|1925–1959||New York Giants|
Career highlights and awards
Timothy James "Tim" Mara (July 29, 1887 – February 16, 1959) was the founder and administrator of the New York Giants of the National Football League. The Giants, under Mara, won NFL championships in 1927, 1934, 1938, and 1956 and divisional titles in 1933, 1935, 1939, 1941, 1944, 1946, 1958, and 1959.
Mara, the son of Elizabeth (née Harris) and John Mara, a policeman, of Irish descent, was born into poverty on New York's Lower East Side. At the age of 13, he quit school in order to find work to support his mother. His first job was as an usher in a theater. He then worked as a newsboy selling newspapers on the streets. This job brought him into contact with many of New York’s bookmakers (or bookies), which was a legal business at the time. He soon became a runner for the bookies, earning five percent of the bets he collected and receiving tips from winners when he delivered their cash. By age 18, he was an established bookmaker himself.
New York Giants
Formation of the Giants
In 1925, the NFL was in need of a franchise in a large city market that could be used to showcase the league. NFL President, Joseph Carr, traveled to New York to offer boxing promoter Billy Gibson a franchise. Gibson, the former owner of the NFL's last New York franchise, the New York Brickley Giants, refused the offer. However he referred Carr to his friend Tim Mara. While Mara did not know much about football, Mara's friend, Dr. Harry March, did. March, a former physician for the Canton Bulldogs of the pre-NFL "Ohio League" and the future author of the first professional football history book Pro Football: Its Ups and Downs, soon became the club's first secretary.
This backing led Mara to purchase the NFL franchise for New York at a cost of $500. $500 then is worth about $6,672.74 in 2013. Mara and March, even signed Jim Thorpe to play several half games in order to boost attendance. However many of the New York sports fans still took to college football and stayed away from the pro sport. During the Giants' first season, attendance was so poor that Mara lost over $40,000. To tap into New York's college football fans, Mara tried to sign ex-college football superstar Red Grange only to find that he aleady was a member of the Chicago Bears. However still looking for a way to cash in on Grange's popularity, Mara scheduled a game against the Bears to be played at the Polo Grounds. The gate receipts totalled $143,000 for that one game against Grange and the Bears, and Mara recovered all of his losses for the 1925 season.
Battle with the AFL and first NFL Championship
In 1926, Grange and his manager, C. C. Pyle, formed the first American Football League with a New York franchise named the Yankees to compete with the Giants. New York's coach Bob Folwell and star tackle, Century Milstead, left to join the AFL's Philadelphia Quakers. This led Mara to increase the salaries of all his players by $50 a game to prevent them from leaving the Giants' too. He also signed many players to full-season contracts. Mara suffered $60,000 in financial losses that season. However all but four of the AFL franchises finished the 1926 season. Mara then challenged the AFL champion Philadelphia Quakers to a game and they accepted. In the first inter-league post-season confrontation, the seventh-place Giants defeated the AFL’s champion, 31-0. The AFL folded soon after.
By now, Mara was now willing to admit the Yankees into the NFL, as the only survivor of the defunct AFL. He even allowed the team to play its home games at Yankee Stadium. However, Mara was able to dictate the Yankees' schedule. When the Giants were in the Polo Grounds, the Yankees were to be on the road.
The next year, the Giants went 11-1-1 and Mara had his first championship. At the end of the 1928 season, Pyle turned his Yankees' franchise over to Mara. In 1929, Dan Blaine, the owner of the Staten Island Stapletons, applied for an NFL franchise. However, he first needed permission from Mara to set up his franchise, because Staten Island was within Mara's exclusive territory. But Mara actually had an extra franchise since the Yankees folded after the 1928 season, so the franchise again went back to Mara and he passed those franchise's rights on to Staten Island.
Takeover of the Wolverines
In 1929, Mara was looking for a player who might approach Grange in fan appeal. He saw Benny Friedman of the Detroit Wolverines was the best option available. When he couldn’t make a deal for Friedman, Mara simply bought the entire Detroit franchise for $10,000. For the next few years Mara had ultimate ownership of three NFL franchises; however, he never interfered with the management of any of the teams that operated under his leases.
Great Depression era
During the Great Depression in 1930, New York Mayor Jimmy Walker approached Mara about playing a charity exhibition game, which he quickly agreed to do. The Giants defeated the Notre Dame All-Stars, which included the legendary Four Horsemen. The Giants easily outscored Notre Dame, 21-0. As a result of the game, Mara and the Giants raised $115,153 for the New York City Unemployment Fund.
Battles with other rival leagues
In 1936 and 1937, Mara successfully battled for New York's pro football market against Brooklyn Tigers and the New York Yankees of the second American Football League. He also successfully outlasted the third New York Yankees of the third American Football League.
However from 1946 to 1949, Mara engaged in an all-out war with the All-America Football Conference. Mara and the Giants were faced with two AAFC opponents in the New York City area, the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers. Again Mara fought hard for New York's pro football fanbase and eventually won. When the two leagues parially merged after the 1949 season, Mara demanded and got the best players from the combined New York-Brooklyn franchise that had operated in 1949.
Mara died in 1959 at the age of 71. His vast contributions to the NFL were recognized with his 1963 election to charter membership in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
He was the father of Wellington Mara, who also is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and Jack Mara. His grandson Timothy J. Mara later was part-owner of the Giants, his other grandson John Mara is currently the Giants' president and his great-granddaughters Rooney and Kate Mara are actresses.
- Wellington, the Maras, the Giants, and the City of New York, Carlo DeVito, Triumph Books, 2006, pp 5 & 6
- Gottehrer. pg. 24
- Gottehrer, Barry. The Giants of New York, the history of professional football's most fabulous dynasty. New York, G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1963 OCLC 1356301
- Pro Football Hall of Fame: Member profile
- Pro Football Hall of Fame (1984). "Mr. Mara". Coffin Corner (Professional Football Researchers Association) 6 (11 and 12): 1–2.
- Gill, Bob (1994). "Just Staten Out On The Island". Coffin Corner (Professional Football Researchers Association) 16 (3): 1–11.
- Tim Mara, New York Bookmaker, 1937