Douglas Park (Rock Island)
Site of First NFL Game, 1920.
|Location||18th Avenue and 10th Street in Rock Island, Illinois, 61201|
|Owner||City of Rock Island, Illinois|
|Operator||Rock Island Park and Recreation Department|
|National Football League|
Rock Island Independents (1907–1925)
Minor League Baseball
Rock Island Islanders (1892–1937)
Douglas Park is located at 18th Avenue and 10th Street in Rock Island, Illinois. A former National Football League venue, it was the site of the first National Football League game on September 26, 1920. The park grounds date back to the 1830s, with the formal baseball park being constructed in 1904 and utilized for football beginning in 1907.
The stadium was home to the Rock Island Independents from 1907 until 1925. The Independents were an original franchise of the National Football League (1920–1925). Douglas Park was also a minor league baseball stadium for the Rock Island Islanders from 1894 until 1937.
First NFL game ever played September 26, 1920
Douglas Park was the site of the first ever National Football League contest on September 26, 1920. After the league had formed on September 17, 1920, Douglas Park was the scene when the Rock Island Independents defeated the non-member St. Paul Ideals 48-0 in the new league's first contest.
Rock Island Independents/National Football League (1907-1925)
After beginning play at Douglas Park in 1907 (with undefeated seasons in 1908, 1910, 1912, 1912, 1918), the Rock Island Independents were an original franchise in the National Football League. Today's National Football League was formed on September 17, 1920 at a meeting in Canton, Ohio with Rock Island Independents representation in attendance. Jim Thorpe was the first League President. First known as the American Professional Football Association, the league would change names to the "National Football league" in 1922. The 14 original 1920 Franchises were the: Akron Pros, Canton Bulldogs, Decatur Staleys, Chicago Cardinals, Chicago Tigers, Cleveland Indians, Dayton Triangles, Hammond Pros, Muncie Flyers, Rock Island Independents, Rochester Jeffersons, Buffalo All-Americans, Columbus Panhandles, and Detroit Heralds. The Green Bay Packers would join the league a year later.
Independents owner (and former player) Walter Flanigan was the driving force in establishing the franchise as an early football professional franchise. Flanigan was present at the September 17, 1920 meeting in Canton and after the formation of the league, Flanigan was named to a committee that created the league's constitution.
The Independents posted records of 6–2–2 (1920), 4-2-1 (1921) and 4-2-1 (1922) in the NFL's first three seasons. Five of their six losses were to the Decatur Staleys/Chicago Staleys/Chicago Bears and George Halas. After 2-3-3 (1923), 5-2-2 (1924) and 5-3-3 (1925) records in the next three seasons. The team, now owned by Dale Johnson, fatefully left the NFL after the 1925 season to become a charter member of the short-lived American Football League in 1926. At the same time, Johnson also moved the team's home to Browning Field in neighboring Moline, Illinois. The American Football League and all its teams folded after the 1926 season, ending the Independents existence. The Independents overall NFL record was 26-14-9, with five winning seasons in six years.
Douglas Park played host to several famous NFL teams including the Chicago Bears and their early franchise, the Decatur Staleys, Green Bay Packers, and the Chicago Cardinals. Numerous Pro Football Hall of Fame players played at Douglas Park, including: Jim Thorpe, Curly Lambeau, George Halas, Paddy Driscoll, and George Trafton.
Independents in the Pro Football Hall of Fame
Four Independents players, who played at Douglas Park, were inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame: Jim Thorpe (1963)  Tackle Ed Healey (1964), Back Jimmy Conzelman (1964) and Joe Guyon (1966). Thorpe played with the Independents in 1924 and created a touring team called the "Thorpe Independents" after the season.
Notable NFL games at Douglas Park
- On November 22, 1925, the Independents defeated the Milwaukee Badgers 40-7 in the Final NFL game at Douglass Park.
- On October 4, 1925, the Independents defeated the Green Bay Packers, coached by Curly Lambeau, 3-0
- On Sept 30, 1923 the Independents defeated the Chicago Bears 3-0. The Bears Coach was George Halas.
- On both September 28, 1924 and September 20, 1925, the Independents and the Chicago Bears played to a scoreless tie.
- On October 1, 1922, in the NFL Home opener at Douglas Park, the Independents defeated the Green Bay Packers 19-14.
- On October 16, 1921, the independents defeated the Chicago Cardinals 14-7.
- On October 7, 1920, the Independents defeated the Chicago Cardinals 7-0.
Rock Island Islanders (1882-1937)
The Islanders played in the Western League (1934–37), Mississippi Valley League (1922-33), Illinois–Indiana–Iowa League (Three-I League) (1920–21, 1916–17, 1901–1911), Central Association (1914), Western Association (1894, 1899), Eastern Iowa League (1895) and Illinois–Iowa League (1892).
Other notable events
Douglas Park played host to the ISC World Fastpitch Softball Tournament from 1961 thru 1969, and again in 1973.
In August, 2015 a throwback football game was played at Douglas Park to honor the history of football at the site. Early football rules were used in the game, in which the Rock Island Independents team defeated the Moline Universal Tractors 24-0.
Douglas Park today
The park is still in use today by Little League Baseball and Rock Island High School's freshman baseball team. The Quad City 76ers Semi-Pro Baseball Club has called Douglas Park home since 1986. Friends of Douglas Park, a group formed in 2007 raised money through donations to remodel the large baseball field. The field was labeled "Phase 1" of a total Douglas Park renovation. On May 9, 2017, the large diamond was re-opened with a high school baseball game between Rock Island Alleman High School and Rock Island high school. A crowd of 450 saw the Rocks defeat the Pioneers 2-0.
|1911||Did Not Play|
|1919||9||1||1||Rube Ursella, John Roche|
|Joined the American Professional Football Association|
|1921||4||2||1||5th||Frank Coughlin, Jimmy Conzelman|
|AFPA is renamed the National Football League|
|Moved to American Football League (1926)|
Notable Islanders alumni
- Joe Hoover (1937)
- Paul Zahniser (1937)
- Clarence Mitchell (1936)
- Russ Scarritt (1936)
- Julio Bonetti (1934–35)
- Al Hollingsworth (1931–33)
- Johnny Dickshot (1932, 1934)
- Si Johnson (1928) 17 MLB Seasons
- Tommy Heath (1932)
- Harry Kimberlin (1932)
- Pat Caraway (1927)
- Arndt Jorgens (1926)
- Phil Weintraub (1926)
- Al Schweitzer (1921)
- Butch Weis (1920)
- Fred Hofmann (1917) 1923 WS Champion Yankees
- Harry Bay (1916) 2 X AL Stolen Base Leader
- Charlie Hollocher (1916) 1918 NL Hits Leader
- Baby Doll Jacobson (1910–11)
- Pug Cavet (1910)
- Harry Swacina (1909)
| Rock Island Independents venues
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- Baseball-reference: Douglas Park
- Rock Island High School Athletics
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- "Illinois-Indiana-Iowa League (D) Encyclopedia and History". Baseball-Reference.com.
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