New York Yankees (NFL)
|Based in||New York, New York, United States|
|League||American Football League (1926)
National Football League (1927–1929)
|Team history||New York Yankees (1926–1929)|
Red, White, Blue
|Head coaches||Ralph Scott (1926–27)
Dick Rauch (1928-1929)
|Owner(s)||C. C. Pyle|
|Home field(s)||Yankee Stadium|
The New York Yankees were a short-lived professional American football team from 1926 to 1928. The team was a member of the first American Football League in 1926, and later the National Football League from 1927 to 1929. They played their home games at Yankee Stadium. The team featured Red Grange at halfback.
Challenge to the NFL
The Yankees arose as a result of a contract dispute between Grange and his previous team, the NFL's Chicago Bears. During the early 1920s, Grange was the star attraction for the Bears, in fact he was the greatest attraction in the history of football and his play had done a lot to promote the fledgling NFL. However Red's agent C. C. "Cash and Carry" Pyle challenged the Bears owner George Halas in 1926, by stating that Red's contract was owned by himself, and not Halas. Pyle then approached Halas to demand for Grange a generous salary and one-third ownership of the Bears. Halas refused.
Pyle then took his quest for an NFL franchise to the NFL's 1926 winter meeting. There he showed to the other owners that he had the rights to Grange. As a result, he wanted an NFL team of his own and he wanted it in New York City's Yankee Stadium. If he would be denied, Pyle threatened to start his own league. However a market in the New York market wasn't available. Tim Mara held exclusive NFL rights to the New York Giants. Mara had just struggled through his first year as an owner, and was saved from financial disaster ironically by Grange's exhibition appearance. Nearing the end of their first season, the Giants had gone largely unnoticed by New York fans and newspapers, and Giants' owner Tim Mara was deeply in the red. But Grange's appearance drew 73,000 people to the Polo Grounds; in one afternoon Mara was in the black financially, and professional football had gained new respect among New York's influential sportswriters. Now Pyle wanted to take away half of Mara's market.
The other franchise owners backed Mara, however they didn't want to lose Grange and his drawing power. They were well aware of what a game against Grange could mean to their finances. They were also aware that Pyle might actually carry out a threat to start a new league if they refused his request. As a result, the league proposed a compromise. It was proposed that Pyle could have his "New York" franchise but it would be located in Brooklyn, which was a part of New York City. However Pyle had already gone ahead and rented Yankee Stadium, and that was where he intended to play. Rejecting the NFL's offer, he set out to make good on his threat. With his new New York Yankees franchise as its flagship, Pyle put together a league called the American Football League.
Once the league was under way, Grange lived up to his reputation and drew well wherever he played. 22,000 spectators turned out in Philadelphia to watch the Yankees play the Philadelphia Quakers. In comparison, an NFL game a week later in the same stadium between the Frankford Yellow Jackets and the New York Giants drew only 10,000. However the league would still fold at the end of the season. However Pyle's Yankees were given the NFL franchise that was asked for in the first place.
NFL and decline
While the bulk of the AFL disappeared at the demise of the league, two members had an official existence after the 1926 season. Although the Brooklyn Horsemen disbanded after its last NFL game, the team's franchise was never withdrawn or cancelled by the league. New York Giants owner Tim Mara was awarded the Horsemen franchise in payment of a debt and proceeded to lease it to C. C. Pyle for his New York Yankees team. The agreement between the two rivals limited the number of home games that the Yankees were permitted to play in its namesake stadium (four in 1927) and forced to be primarily a road team displaying the talents of Red Grange. This arrangement lasted for three years: the Yankees were no more after the 1929 season. Grange played for the Yankees in 1927, however he sat out the season with a bad leg, and then returned to the Bears where he played until 1934. He then coached the Bears from 1942 until 1948.
Pro Football Hall of Famers
- David S. Neft, Richard M. Cohen, and Rick Korch, The Football Encyclopedia: The Complete History of Professional Football, From 1892 to the Present (St. Martin's Press 1994), ISBN 0-312-11435-4