|Based in||Orange, New Jersey
Newark, New Jersey
Orlando, Florida (1966–1969)
|League||Independent (1887–1928, 1931–1935)
National Football League (1929–1930)
American Association (1936–1948)
Atlantic Coast Football League (1963–1964, 1970–1971)
Continental Football League (1965–1969)
|Team history||Orange Athletic Club (1887–1928)
Orange Tornadoes (1929, 1931–1936)
Newark Tornadoes (1930, 1937–1938)
Newark Bears (1939–1941, 1963–1965)
Orlando Panthers (1966–1969)
Navy, Orange, White
|Head coaches||Jack Depler (1929)
Jack Fish, Al McGall, Andy Salata (1930)
|Owner(s)||Edwin Simandl (1929–1938)
George Halas (1939–1941)
Sol Rosen (1963–1964)
Tom Granatell (1966–1969)
Paul Massey (1970)
|Home field(s)||East Orange Oval (1887–???)
East Orange Stadium (???–1925)
Knights of Columbus Stadium (1926–1929, 1931–1936)
Newark Schools Stadium (1930, 1937–65)
Newark Velodrome (1930)
Citrus Bowl (1966–1969)
The Orange Tornadoes and Newark Tornadoes were two manifestations of a long-lived professional American football franchise that existed in some form from 1887 to 1941 and from 1958 to 1970, having played in the National Football League from 1929 to 1930, the American Association from 1936 to 1941, the Atlantic Coast Football League from 1963 to 1964 and 1970, and the Continental Football League from 1965 to 1969. The team was based for most of its history in Orange, New Jersey, with many of its later years in Newark. Its last five seasons of existence were as the Orlando Panthers, when the team was based in Orlando, Florida. The NFL franchise was sold back to the league in October 1930. The team had four head coaches in its two years in the NFL – Jack Depler in Orange, and Jack Fish, Al McGall and Andy Salata in Newark.
The Orange Tornadoes can trace their roots back to the Orange Athletic Club. The Orange A.C. was originally an amateur football team that began play in 1887. The team's first ever game was a 36–0 loss to Seton Hall University football team. By the 1890s the Orange became a semi-pro team. In 1892, the team practiced under electric lights at night to prepare for an October 8 game against Rutgers College. The Orange A. C. would go on to win that game 22–10. In 1893, the team won the American Football Union Championship, after posting an 8–2 record. In 1902, the Orange A. C. played against Philadelphia Phillies and the Philadelphia Athletics of the first National Football League. The team also played in World Series of Football in that year, at Madison Square Garden. These games were the first indoor football games. In 1902, Orange lost to All-Syracuse, 36–0. However, the team returned to the World Series of Football in 1903 where they played the Watertown Red & Black and the eventual champion, the Franklin Athletic Club. Orange lost to Watertown, 11–0, and to Franklin, 12–0. However, they did manage to defeat the Oreo Athletic Club of Asbury Park, 22–0.
The Orange team became an established independent pro team from 1919 until 1928, under the nickname the Orange AC Golden Tornadoes. During this time, Orange defeated the New York Brickley Giants of the NFL. They also played pre-NFL versions of the Frankford Yellow Jackets and the Staten Island Stapletons. They also played against the Atlantic City Roses and the Millville Big Blue, two of the top independent teams of the 1920s. By 1928, Orange held the New York Giants and Frankford Yellow Jackets to close scores. On September 16, 1928 Orange held the 1927 NFL Champion New York Giants to just a 7–0 victory. While a week earlier the NFL's previous champions, the Frankford Yellow Jackets, were held to a 12–0 victory. Orange showed that their team could compete in the NFL.
While the Golden Tornadoes played in Orange, a separate Newark Bears played in the original American Football League in the 1926 season in Newark, unrelated to the Tornadoes team that would later take on that identity. That Newark Bears club was later absorbed into the Staten Island Stapletons.
In 1929 Ole Haugsrud, the owner of Duluth Eskimos, sold his defunct franchise rights to Piggy Simandl, a wholesale meat salesman and sports promoter from Orange, who named his franchise the Orange Tornadoes. The Tornadoes played their home games at Knights of Columbus Stadium. The first game for the new team was a scoreless tie against the New York Giants on September 29, 1929. A week later the team recorded their first NFL win by defeating the Boston Bulldogs 7–0. The victory came off a short George Pease pass to Paul Longua who ran 60 yards for a touchdown. However, the following week, Orange experienced its first NFL loss during a 7–0 defeat to the 1928 NFL Champions, the Providence Steamroller. The team regrouped on October 19, 1929, and the Tornandoes held the Frankford Yellow Jackets to a 6–6 tie at Frankford Stadium. A week later the team rallied from a 13–0 deficit to defeat the Boston Bulldogs, 19–13.
On October 29, 1929, the Bulldogs and Tornadoes met again to play, in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. Prior to 1929, the Bulldogs played as the Pottsville Maroons and the teams played for their still loyal fans at the Maroons' Minersville Park. This time however, the Tornadoes lost 6–0 by way of a 4-yard touchdown run from Boston's Tony Latone. On October 3, the Tornadoes held the Staten Island Stapletons to a scoreless tie at Thompson Stadium. During that game the Stapletons were within scoring distance three times, but to no avail. Meanwhile, the Tornadoes only penetrated the Staten Island 20-yard line once.
The Orange then lost a rematch against the New York Giants, 22–0, a week later. But after a scoreless tie against Frankford, the Orange defeated the Staten Island Stapletons 3–0, due to a Felix McCormick field goal. However, the next game, against the Chicago Cardinals, resulted in a 26–0 Tornadoes loss. The Cardinals, led by Ernie Nevers, put up 20 points in the second quarter of the game. The Tornadoes then ended their 1929 season with a 10–0 loss to Frankford. They finished with a 3–5–4 record, scoring 35 points, while giving up 80.
The team's fortune in the NFL changed for the worse after it moved to Newark in 1930. During the team's time in Newark, it played its home games at Newark Schools Stadium. Head coach Jack Depler defected to buy the Dayton Triangles, moving that team to Brooklyn and transforming that team into the Brooklyn Dodgers. He took most of the members of the 1929 Tornadoes with him. Meanwhile, the Tornadoes went through three coaches during the 1930 season, and the team's only victory during the 1930 season was against the Frankford Yellow Jackets.
The last game for the Newark Tornadoes was against the New York Giants, a 34–7 loss on October 29, 1930. The franchise ended league play after the 1930 season and was sold back to the NFL. The league ordered the franchise sold to the highest bidder prior to the 1931 season, but there were no takers and the team took the field as the “Cleveland Indians” under league ownership.
In 1932, a Boston-based group won a new NFL franchise and was awarded the remains of the failed Newark organization. The new team would be named the Boston Braves, now the Washington Redskins. However, the NFL does not consider the Redskins to be a continuation of the Tornadoes, just as it does not consider the Tornadoes to be a continuation of the Duluth Eskimoes.
The Tornadoes and Bears in the American Association
Though the NFL franchise had moved to Newark, owner Edwin Simandl had kept a barebones organization back in Orange, just in case the NFL Tornadoes failed. When they did, he moved as many players as he could from the Newark squad back to Orange. The minor league Tornadoes played in various leagues, including the American Association, of which it was a charter member. The Orange Tornadoes moved back to Newark in 1937 and were eventually bought by the Chicago Bears. Playing under the name Newark Bears (a name previously used by the Newark Bears of the 1926 American Football League), the team played in the AA through 1941.
The team did not return after World War II; instead, George Halas took what was left of the team and split it into the Newark Bombers and the Akron Bears. The Bloomfield Cardinals replaced both teams in 1947. The NFL severed ties with all minor league teams in 1948.
The Bears revived in the ACFL and Continental League
The Newark Bears returned in 1963, when the Atlantic Coast Football League's Paterson Miners (a team that had been in operation since 1958 as the Franklin Miners) moved to Newark and took the Bears name. This version of the Bears was owned by Sol Rosen. In 1965, the team applied to the American Football League to join that league, but were turned down (as the New York metropolitan area already had both the Jets and NFL's Giants, both of which counted North Jersey as their market and would eventually move to New Jersey in later years), and instead joined the upstart Continental Football League, where it played one season in 1965 before moving to Orlando, Florida, and becoming the Orlando Panthers. The Panthers played in the ContFL from 1966 to the league's dissolution in 1969; it was consistently one of the most successful teams in that league. When the Continental Football League folded, the Bears returned to the ACFL, playing one more season in 1970. The Panthers were thrown out of the ACFL following the 1970 season, after the ownership group that bought the team attempted to cut the team's budget by simply not paying its expenses.
Meanwhile, in New Jersey, the ACFL moved the former Charleston Rockets franchise to Newark in 1969, becoming the "Jersey Jays." The Jays played from 1969 to 1971.
|Orange Tornadoes||1929||3||5||4||6th, NFL||Jack Depler|
|Newark Tornadoes||1930||1||10||1||11th, NFL||Jack Fish, Al McGall, Andy Salata|
|Orange Tornadoes||1936||4||4||0||5th, AA|
|Newark Tornadoes||1937||6||1||3||T-1st, AA|
|Newark Tornadoes||1938||2||5||0||6th, AA|
|Newark Bears||1939||6||2||1||AA champions|
|Newark Bears||1940||5||5||1||T-4th, AA|
|Newark Bears||1941||3||6||0||5th, AA|
|Newark Bears||1963||11||1||0||1st, ACFL champions||Steve Van Buren|
|Newark Bears||1964||12||1||1||1st, ACFL Southern, lost final||Steve Van Buren|
|Newark Bears||1965||5||9||0||5th, CFL Atlantic||Steve Van Buren|
|Orlando Panthers||1966||12||2||0||2nd, CFL|
|Orlando Panthers||1967||11||3||0||CFL champions|
|Orlando Panthers||1968||10||2||0||CFL champions|
|Orlando Panthers||1969||10||2||0||Lost in CFL semifinals|
- A complete game-by-game record to 1937 can be found here.
- "Pro Football Club Shifted". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. June 27, 1963.
- Daly, Dan. The National Forgotten League: Entertaining Stories and Observations from Pro Football's First Fifty Years, p. 38. University of Nebraska Press, 2012. ISBN 9780803244603. Accessed January 17, 2018. "Case in point: the 1929 Orange Tornadoes. The Tornadoes didn't wear numbers on their jerseys, they wore letters. Here's their lineup for the first of two games against the Frankford Yellow Jackets:... C - Heinie Benkert, B, Rutgers"