The Maroon’s Story
The extraordinary story of an underdog football team that won the 1925 NFL Championship and then had it stolen.
In 1925, the Pottsville Maroons, a football team from the heart of Pennsylvania coal country, joined the fledgling National Football League. Built by an eccentric owner, molded by a visionary coach and loaded with hardscrabble miners, college All Americans and the ’sky’s the limit ethos of the Roaring Twenties, the Maroons did the unthinkable and dominated the NFL in their rookie season. (Their improbable rise was chronicled each week in the local paper by a rookie Pottsville sportswriter named John O’Hara.) Little Pottsville outscored its first seven opponents 162-6. The boys so thoroughly pummeled one opponent, angry fans shot up their train car as the Maroons rode out of town. In the final game of that first season the Maroons traveled to the Midwest to face the league-leading Chicago Cardinals in what was viewed as the championship game for 1925. The Maroons overcame a Windy City snowstorm and an injury to their best player to defeat the Cardinals 21-7.
But the fans wanted more.
College ball was still king. And as news of Pottsville’s success was splashed across the news reels and headlines throughout the country, a movement began to have the Maroons face a team of college All-Stars from the University of Notre Dame, featuring the legendary Four Horsemen, the finest collection of talent the game had ever known. Experts believed the NFL was still decades away from competing with college football. But on a neutral field in Philadelphia , in a battle described as The Greatest Football Game Ever Seen, the Maroons shocked the world and turned the football establishment upside-down, defeating Notre Dame 9-7 on a last-second field goal by their captain Charlie Berry who had his kicking cleat bronzed for eternity.
The championship was theirs. The NFL was finally on the map. The Maroons victory over Notre Dame had legitimized the league. It also destroyed the town and the team that made it all possible.
Claiming the upstart Maroons had violated the territory of another franchise by playing Notre Dame in Philadelphia , the NFL suspended Pottsville and awarded the 1925 NFL championship to the Chicago Cardinals. The Cardinals refused to accept the bogus title and the 1925 crown was never officially awarded. For more than 80 years, fans of the Pottsville Maroons the team Red Grange said was the “most ferocious” he ever faced have fought to have the 1925 title returned to its rightful owners.
With Breaker Boys their remarkable story is told at last.