Early Pro American Football Leagues (1890-1919), World Series of Football (1902-1903)

World Series of Football 1903

Results

DateWinning TeamRunners-Up
Semi-Finals
14.12.1903Watertown Red and Blacks5Oreos AC0
15.12.1903Franklin 12Orange AC0
Final
17.12.1903Franklin12Watertown Red and Blacks0
World Series of Football 1903 [Ref: 1-2]

Report

The second World Series of Football, again scheduled for Madison Square Garden, under the stewardship of Irish-American Tom O’Rourke, pitted the Upstate New York team, Watertown Red and Blacks, who claimed for the third year in a row to be “World Champions” against the Frankin Athletic Club of Pennsylvania, the Oreos Athletic Club of Asbury Park, New Jersey and Orange Athletic Club, also of New Jersey. Also on the bill were Gaelic Football matches and what was billed as the New York City Championship, and a High School All-Star Game.

Franklin AC had won 10 matches in their informal Pennsylvania Professional Circuit, having had paid £20,000 to buy up the best players the Phillies and the Athletics of Philadelphia and the Stars of Pittsburgh had to offer. This was in response to Oil City having done the same in a previous match and humiliated the Franklin team. The two teams were based in the booming Oil County of Franklin in Pennsylvania, then the Oil Capital of America. Franklin scored 438 points in this run, with zero conceded, and claimed to be Professional Football Champions of the World.

In Upstate New York, the defending World Series Champions, Syracuse AC, declined to defend their title. This was similar to the Watertown Red and Blacks of the previous year, the best team in Upstate New York, and one of four powers in Professional Football, who had declined to put their claim to World Champions on the line. Syracuse had beaten Watertown in two games previously in 1903, and Franklin and seen off Syracuse 12-0 during their run, the only game that was not totally one sided. Despite not having a legitimate clai to be Upstate New York Champions, never mind World Champions, the Watertown team jumped at the chance to take part, perhaps stung by criticism the previous year.

In the run-up to the games, Olympic Athletic Club saw off two teams to win the New York City title, and Fort Hamilton and Fort Totten battled to a 0-0 tie in the Championship of New York Harbour. The novelty had worn off for New Yorkers and the biggest draw of the Series was for the New York High School All-Star game.

The first Semi-Final was won by Watertown, 5-0, in a tougher than expected match with Oreos AC, and second went Franklin’s way, again the unfancied New Jersey team putting up a better game than expected, with Franklin winning 12-0 against Orange AC. the Final itself, was won by Franklin with a two touchdown victory over Watertown.

The Series was a disappointment at the box-office and didn’t return for a third year, however, it is with some justification the first attempt at a National Championship Series in Football, albeit on a 70-yard Indoor Field. The focus for Professional Football had already shifted in 1903 to the Ohio League circuit, which until the founding of the American Professional Football Association (now National Football League) in 1920, was the most lucrative, and with some justification, the best league in the country, although matches with both the Pennsylvania and Upstate New York Circuits were keen and competitive.

References

Bibliography

[1] National Football League (2014) “Chronology of Professional Football” 2013 NFL Record & Fact Book. pg. 353

[2] Professional Football Researchers Association | Wayback Machine (2010)  The Coffin Corner Annual Volume 2 (1980)  The First Football World Series Experiment in the Garden https://web.archive.org/web/20101127053946/http://www.profootballresearchers.org/Coffin_Corner/02-An-054.pdf [Accessed 20 May 2020

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Mom Tully.

About this document

Researched, compiled and written by Enda Mulcahy for the

Eirball | Irish North American and World Sports Archive

Last Updated: 20 May 2020

(c) Copyright Enda Mulcahy and Eirball 2020

You may quote this document in part provided that proper acknowledgement is given to the authors. All Rights Resereved.

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