Saturday, January 16, 2010

Milwaukee's Own Football Badgers

The Google News Archive continues to yield treasures. Here we have two extremely rare game action photos of Milwaukee's very own NFL club, the Badgers, playing at Athletic Park in 1926. The Badgers are in the dark colored (orange) jerseys with vertical strips sewn into the chest.

Pictures and caption from the September 27, 1926 Milwaukee Sentinel:
Badger Stars Showing Their Gridiron Skill

When Red Grange made his triumphal tour of the east last fall, playing football almost every day, he had to have an understudy and chose Johnny Bryan, Milwaukee's redhead for the job. In most of the games, Bryan, the understudy "stole the show" from the mighty Grange, playing more sensationally than the star. Yesterday Johnny Bryan's own Badger pro team won its first league game at home, beating Jimmy Conzelman's Detroit Panthers, 6-0, at Athletic Park. Of course, the Sentinel camera man was on the job, with Big Bertha, and he caught these snappy bits of action in the third quarter.
In the upper photo, Murphy, a Badger rookie halfback, playing his first pro game, is shown flashing around end for a neat gain. Below, Hertz, substitute Badger end, formerly of Carroll, is shown bringing down the slippery Conzelman himself. Conzelman and Doane, who is seen on the ground behind Murphy in the upper picture, both former members of the old Badger club, were two of the most popular players ever to star here.
The "old Badger club" and "Bryan's own Badger pro team" reference an NFL scandal of 1925, in which the Chicago Cardinals scheduled a late-season game against a Milwaukee Badger club stocked with high-school ringers (the real Badger players had already disbanded for the off-season). Chicago won the game, drubbing the schoolboys and raising their won/loss percentage on their way to the world championship. When the league got wind of the high-school stand-ins, they levied fines against the Chicago and Milwaukee clubs, forcing the Badgers' owners to sell the franchise to player Bryan, who wore a staggering array of hats as Milwaukee's player/coach/owner.

This triple-threat wasn't enough, however, and the Badgers went bust after the 1926 season. The Orchard would not again be home to professional football until 1933, when the Packers decided to make Milwaukee, and Borchert Field, their part-time home.

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