Eastern League of Professional Football
|Founder||James H. Gildea|
|No. of teams||10|
|All-Lancaster Red Roses|
|Most titles||All-Lancaster Red Roses|
The Eastern League of Professional Football was a football league formed in 1926 by independent clubs from Pennsylvania and New Jersey (separate from the "Eastern Pennsylvania Football League" which played in the late 1930s and early 1940s before World War II, along with the Middle Atlantic's Dixie League). The Eastern League was a regional minor league that never intended to challenge either the National Football League or even Red Grange's new American Football League's, dominance over the sport. In the league's only season the championship was awarded to All-Lancaster Red Roses over the Bethlehem Bears in a controversial move.
In January 1926, James H. Gildea, the owner/manager of the Coaldale Big Green football club, began pushing his idea for a football league in eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Gildea's intention was to organize a circuit of teams that were well established and successful but unable to compete financially with the teams of the National Football League. As the core of the new circuit, Gildea sought out the membership of the old Anthracite League clubs. He also courted several other well established Pennsylvania and New Jersey clubs.
The 1926 season
By the time the 1926 football season opened, ten teams were on board with the newly christened Eastern League of Professional Football. The league's first season had plenty of ups and downs, including financial difficulties that led one club to drop out of the circuit, and a controversy surrounding the championship. The game on the field, however, was very competitive. Five teams had league records of .500 or better. However the Eastern League's still remained organized until the next season.
1926 Championship controversy
The Bethlehem Bears and the All-Lancaster Red Roses were the top two teams in the league. On November 28, 1926 both teams meet for a game that would most likely determine the league champion. The Bears won the 3-0 due to a last minute field goal by Gyp Downey.
The Bears ended the season with 6-2-2 record against league opponents and a post-season victory over All-Lancaster. Bethlehem felt that these actions were enough to legitimize their claim to an Eastern League championship. However, there was some question regarding Bethlehem's claim to the championship. These questions may have been related to the introduction of several "ringers" into the Bears line-up for the team's final four games against Eastern League opponents. Local newspapers soon reported that the league awarded the title to the 5-2-3 All-Lancaster Red Roses. Presumably on the basis of that team's October victory over the second-place Gilberton Catamounts. After the season, Bethlehem offered the Pottsville Maroons of the National Football League $4,000 to play them at home. The Bears then lost to Pottsville in a lopsided defeat.
This table is shows both league and non-league unofficial standings.
The All-Lancaster Red Roses were named the 1926 Anthracite League Champions.
|All-Lancaster Red Roses||5||2||3||.714||49||49||Awarded league championship|
|Mount Carmel Wolverines||5||3||1||.625||91||43|
|Coaldale Big Green||4||4||3||.500||63||43|
|Atlantic City Roses||2||4||2||.333||22||65|
|Shenandoah Red Jackets||2||5||1||.286||55||41|
|Mount Airy Athletic Club||1||3||1||.250||13||67|
|Clifton Heights Black & Orange||1||1||1||.500||3||10||Withdrew from league 13 October 1926|