User:Deejayk/Steelers history sandbox
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This page is a sandbox wherein I am working on updating the History of the Pittsburgh Steelers entry. I am attempting to integrate the content found at User:Blackngold29/SteelersSandbox into the main article. This sandbox contains only the first section of the history article as well as the references section.
History of the Pittsburgh Steelers
This article details the history of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers are an American football franchise representing Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They are the seventh-oldest club in the National Football League (NFL), which they joined in 1933. The only surviving NFL teams with a longer history are the Chicago Bears, Chicago (Arizona) Cardinals, Detroit Lions (then the Portsmouth Spartans), Green Bay Packers, New York Giants and Boston (Washington) Redskins. The Philadelphia Eagles joined the league concurrently with the Steelers in 1933.
The team was founded by Art Rooney and the Rooney family has held a controlling interest in the club for almost its entire history. Since its founding the team has captured six league championships and competed in more than a thousand games. In 2008 the Steelers became the first NFL team to capture six Super Bowl titles. Eighteen Steelers players, coaches or administrators have been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Art Rooney, who was born and raised in the Pittsburgh area, was an "exceptional all-around athlete". Rooney was recruited to play football for Notre Dame, baseball for the Boston Red Sox; and invited to join the 1920 Olympic boxing team. His love of sports would lead to him becoming organizer and promoter of sports, including the Hope Harvey Football Club, a semi-professional American football team which he founded as a teenager. "In a way, I guess that was the start of the Steelers. It grew from that," Rooney said.
The team was named "Hope Harvey" after the Hope Fire House, located in the heart of the Pittsburgh's North Side, which served as the team's locker room, and Dr. Harvey, a local physician, who was a sponsor and unofficial team doctor. The Hope Harvey Majestics competed against other semi-pro teams; the teams would pass the hat at their games to collect contributions from fans which would be split amongst the players. In addition to being the team's manager and coach, Art Rooney at times played quarterback for the team, which also included his younger brothers, Dan and Jim.
Although football was popular in Pittsburgh at the time, the city had no fully professional teams due to Pennsylvania's puritanical blue laws, which prohibited athletic competition on Sundays because it was the Sabbath. The teams of the National Football League, which was founded in 1920, played primarily on Sunday to avoid conflicts with college football games which were played on Saturday.
The Hope Harvey club, which would later come to be known as the "Majestic Radios", the "James P. Rooneys" and the "Rooney Reds", played most of their home games at Exposition Park in Pittsburgh. These Steeler precursors were comprised primarily of players from the local colleges: Pitt, Duquesne and Carnegie Tech, all of which were major college programs of the day.
The early years: Decades of futility
In May of 1933, in anticipation of the repeal of some of Pennsylvania's restrictive laws in the fall of that year, Rooney applied for a franchise with the NFL. His request was granted on May 19, 1933, and the Pittsburgh Professional Football Club, Inc. joined the NFL in exchange for a US$2,500 franchise fee. The new team was known as the Pirates in reference to their baseball club landlords at Forbes Field. Since the blue laws were not repealed until November's general election, the team played its first four home games on Wednesday nights.
The Pirates were not Rooney's only focus. The office off the lobby of the Fort Pitt Hotel from which he ran the team was shared with the Rooney-McGinley Boxing Club, which promoted fights. He also spent a good amount of time and energy handicapping and placing bets on horse racing. A life long hobby, Rooney once won an estimated $250,000 to $300,000 in a single 1936 day of betting. It would later become legend that Art Rooney won the Steelers while betting on a horse race, however, this is not true. What can be said is that Rooney's gambling winnings did help keep the football franchise afloat.
While Rooney fared well off the field, the Pirates struggled on it. Over the course of the next four decades, the team was a study in frustration. They posted a winning record only eight times in their first 39 NFL seasons and never sniffed a championship.
Rooney hired Forrest "Jap" Douds to be the team's first head coach; he lasted for just one season. Pittsburgh's inaugural game, against the New York Giants was a 23–2 defeat in front of a crowd of about 20,000. Rooney wrote of the game, "The Giants won. Our team looks terrible. The fans didn't get their money's worth." The Pirates rebounded to gain their first victory a week later, by a single point, against the Chicago Cardinals, this time with about 5,000 fans in the stadium. The team finished their initial season with a 3–6–2 record.
Instead of striving to win, Rooney simply attempted to keep the franchise in business through its early seasons. During the 1930s, while America was recovering from the Great Depression, the Pirates were a financial drain on Rooney. Rooney claimed that the team lost nearly $10,000 in 1934. Bidding wars for players made it difficult for less established clubs to compete with the more seasoned Giants, Bears and Packers. Rooney intended to propose a restriction on the number of players that could be signed by teams that finished at the top of the league. These ideas eventually lead to the creation of the NFL Draft, which first came into being in 1936.
Early Pirates players included Johnny "Blood" McNally and Armand Niccolai. They were led by coaches Luby DiMeolo and Joe Bach. The team played home games at Forbes Field, despite its oft frozen surface. The team's first draft pick was William Shakespeare, who never played in the NFL. The franchise would trade their first round pick multiple times in their first 30 years.
Through the 1930s the Pirates never finished higher than second place in their division, or with a record better than .500. They made history in 1938 by signing Byron "Whizzer" White to what was at the time the biggest contract in NFL history. He only played one year with the Pirates before signing with the Detroit Lions. After a brief football career, White walked away from the game to attend law school; he eventually became a justice on the Supreme Court of the United States.
In order to avoid confusion with the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball franchise, Rooney's franchise became the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1941 at the suggestion of wife of the franchise's ticketmaster Margaret Carr. The term was to represent the city's heritage of producing steel. Bert Bell, Aldo Donelli, and Walt Kiesling—in his second of three terms as head coach—combined to coach the team to one win over the ensuing season.
In 1942 the Steelers posted their first winning season in franchise history, going 7–4 (good for second place in the Eastern Division) behind Bill Dudley's league-leading 696 yards rushing.
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- Rooney, Kathy. "The Hope Harvey Football Club historical fact sheet". Retrieved May 5, 2011.
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- "Art Rooney Seeks Pro Football Franchise". Portsmouth Daily Times. May 3, 1933. p. 19. Retrieved May 5, 2011.
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- Cite error: The named reference
HeinzFieldSmizikwas invoked but never defined (see the help page).
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- O'Brien (2001), p.16.
- McNulty, Timothy (2008-07-10). "Professional football has longtime gambling ties". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2008-07-11.
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- Wiebusch 2002, p. 95.
- O'Brien (2001), p.17.
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- Mendelson (2006), p.22
- O'Brien (2001), p.33.
- Mendelson (2006), p.29
- Mendelson (2006), p.29–30