November 7, 2013

1925: Yellow Jackets Knock Akron Out of First in Upset

The Frankford Yellow Jackets, sponsored by the Frankford Athletic Association in Philadelphia, were sporting an 8-1 record (with one more win in a non-league contest) as they hosted the Akron Pros on November 7, 1925. While previously a successful independent team, the Yellow Jackets were in their second year as a NFL franchise. For 1925, they were guided by Guy Chamberlin (pictured at right), who played end in addition to his coaching duties. Successful as a player-coach in Canton and Cleveland, where his teams won NFL titles, it was hoped that he would bring the same results to Philadelphia.

Akron was undefeated at 4-0-2 coming into the game against the Yellow Jackets (schedules were not yet standardized in the NFL), and thus at the top of the standings. Coached by end Scotty Bierce, the team had regained the services of tailback Fritz Pollard, former Brown All-American and star of the team’s 1920 championship season as well as player-coach in 1921 (thus becoming the first African-American to be a head coach in the NFL). The Pros had fallen upon hard times after Pollard’s departure, posting losing records in each of the next three seasons.

There were 12,000 enthusiastic fans in attendance at Philadelphia’s Frankford Stadium for the Saturday afternoon contest (Pennsylvania blue laws prevented Sunday games). Early in the first quarter, the Yellow Jackets had the ball at their 45 yard line. FB Hust Stockton surprised the Pros with a pass to end Rae Crowther (pictured below), who caught it at the Akron 40 and went the distance for a 55-yard touchdown. Bull Behman, a star tackle as well as kicker, added the extra point for a 7-0 lead. Before the first quarter was over, Behman kicked a 20-yard field goal to extend Frankford’s margin to 10-0.

In the second quarter, the Yellow Jackets again put together a drive into Akron territory. After reaching the 20, it appeared that they were maneuvering for another field goal. However, back Tex Hamer threw across the field to Crowther at the five, and the end proceeded to the end zone for another TD. Behman again added the extra point and the home team took a surprising 17-0 lead into halftime.

The Pros attempted to come back in the second half, gaining yards with Fritz Pollard leading the way, but failing to score. Finally, an Akron drive ended in a fourth quarter score. Pollard set up a short plunge by FB Dunc Annan and Obie Newman added the extra point. That was all the Pros could do, however, and Frankford came away with a convincing 17-7 upset.

It was reported that Pollard went to the air 20 times and completed most of his passes, displaying great accuracy. He also ran the ball effectively. For Akron, in addition to Pollard, guard Al Nesser was a standout on defense – and all the more noticeable by his not wearing a helmet.

The Yellow Jackets headed off to Chicago for a game the next day against the Bears that they lost. They went on to lose five of their last nine contests, playing more league games than most teams because of their tendency to schedule Sunday road contests following their Saturday home games, to end up with a 13-7 record. That placed them sixth in the 20-team NFL. The Pros lost again to the Pottsville Maroons and finished fifth at 4-2-2.

There was some controversy surrounding Frankford later in the season. Following a lopsided 49-0 loss to the Pottsville Maroons, Coach Chamberlin, who missed time on the field due to a shoulder separation, suspended Bull Behman for indifferent play. He made explicit to the rest of the team that others would follow if the performance didn’t improve and the future Pro Football Hall of Famer led by example as he returned to action for the next contest – a return encounter against the Bears and their new acquisition, star HB Red Grange. Chicago again prevailed, but had to overcome a strong effort by the fired-up Yellow Jackets to do so.