The 1946 AAFC season was the first season of the All-America Football Conference, a new professional league established to challenge the market dominance of the established National Football League. The league included eight teams, broken up into Eastern and Western divisions, which played a 14-game official schedule, culminating in a league championship game.
The season is significant for its shattering of the color line in the ranks of professional American football, when black athletes Marion Motley and Bill Willis took to the field for the AAFC's Cleveland Browns on September 9, 1946.Both of these stars would later be voted to membership in the Professional Football Hall of Fame.
In September 1944, Arch Ward, sports columnist for the prestigious Chicago Tribune and father ten years earlier of the college all-star football game, presided over two days of meetings in Chicago to finalize his plan for a new American football league.Over the course of several previous months, Ward had garnered financial commitments for franchise ownership from a circle of interested wealthy investors. Teams were already sponsored for seven cities, with the ownership groups including several individuals of national prominence, such as former heavyweight boxing champion Gene Tunney in Baltimore, film star Don Ameche in Los Angeles, and Eleanor Gehrig, widow of Yankee baseball great Lou Gehrig, in New York City. Plans were announced for a launch in the fall of 1945.
The new football league planned to emulate the situation existing in professional baseball, in which two parallel and equal leagues emerged and came to work in close cooperation. The new league, to be called the All-America Football Conference, tapped former Notre Dame legend Jim Crowley as its commissioner, signing the former collegiate teammate of NFL commissioner Elmer Layden to a lucrative five-year contract worth $125,000 and began signing players and fielding additional applications for team charters.
Seven coaches and about 30 players were signed before league owners decided that wartime manpower shortages and the inability of several teams to expeditiously obtain stadium leases would force a postponement until the fall of 1946.
An additional franchise was added, bringing the total to eight, and a schedule was issued — a round-robin format in which every team in the league played every other team in the league twice on a home-and-away basis.The new league prepared for its launch on September 6, 1946.
The AAFC was divided into two divisions of four teams, split "Eastern" and "Western" on a geographic basis.
Several of the league's teams played on fields also used by Major League Baseball teams and even made use of baseball team names, including the Brooklyn Dodgers of Ebbets Field, who did battle with the New York Yankees, playing their games at Yankee Stadium.
With two franchises in California, the AAFC broke new ground as the leading purveyor of professional sports on the Pacific coast, being joined for the 1946 season by the NFL champion Cleveland Rams, which were then relocating to Los Angeles.
|Western Division||Eastern Division|
|San Francisco 49ers (Kezar Stadium)||Buffalo Bisons (Civic Stadium†)|
|Los Angeles Dons (Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum)||Brooklyn Dodgers (Ebbets Field)|
|Chicago Rockets (Soldier Field)||New York Yankees (Yankee Stadium)|
|Cleveland Browns (Municipal Stadium)||Miami Seahawks (Burdine Stadium‡)|
† — Better known as War Memorial Stadium, also the first home of the NFL's Buffalo Bills.
‡ — Later known as the Miami Orange Bowl.
The fledgling AAFC played a total of 7 preseason games in 1946, spaced over a three-week period, with the first exhibition game taking place August 18 in Portland, Oregon, where the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Chicago Rockets battled to a 14-14 tie.Brooklyn would lead the league with three preseason games played; other clubs such as Miami, Buffalo, and Cleveland, would only play a single exhibition contest.
Five of the seven preseason contests took place on the West coast, with contests in Portland, Spokane, San Diego, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.The two games taking place in the Eastern time zone were held at neutral locations, apparently as a means of broadening potential fan interest, with the Cleveland Browns stopping Brooklyn by a score of 35-20 in Akron, Ohio, and the Buffalo Bisons edging the Miami Seahawks, 23-21, in Baltimore.
The 1946 regular season of the All-America Football Conference kicked off the night of Friday, September 6 at Cleveland's Municipal Stadium, where the Cleveland Browns — a team which featured two African-American players, Marion Motley and Bill Willis — hosted the visiting Miami Seahawks.The game, attended by a massive crowd of 60,135, was the largest ever to see a regularly scheduled professional football game. The result was never in doubt, as the Paul Brown-coached Browns, led by quarter back Otto Graham annihilated the hapless Seahawks by a score of 44-0.
The week continued with two games on Sunday, September 9, with the San Francisco 49ers giving up an early lead and falling to the visiting New York Yankees, 21-7, in front of about 35,000 people at Kezar Stadium.In game two, single wing half back Glenn Dobbs passed for one touchdown and lateraled for another midway through a 58-yard scoring run as the visiting Brooklyn Dodgers topped the Buffalo Bisons, 27-14, in front of Commissioner Jim Crowley and a crowd of 25,489 at Buffalo's Civic Stadium. Chicago and Los Angeles had first week byes.
A four-game slate began with two Friday night tilts on September 13, with the Cleveland Browns giving up their first points of the season in the fourth quarter of a 20-6 drubbing of the Chicago Rockets in front of 51,962 fans at Chicago's Soldier Field.Scoring was opened with a 20-yard run by the Brown's powerful running back Marion Motley, with Lou Groza adding two field goals and two PATs, running his season scoring total to 22 points. Game two was a lightly attended contest in the massive Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, in which the Los Angeles Dons managed to hold on for a 20-14 win over the visiting Brooklyn Dodgers in front of an announced attendance of 19,500.
On Sunday, 40,606 fans turned out to Yankee Stadium to watch their New York Yankees win a sloppy, turnover-plagued contest over the visiting Buffalo Bisons.A Yankee fumble in the red zone was run back 95 yards for a touchdown by Buffalo's Al Vandeweghe. Despite substantially outgaining Buffalo over the course of the game, it took two touchdowns in the final quarter for the Yankees to achieve a come-from-behind win. In the second Sunday game, Frankie Albert and the San Francisco 49ers made the Miami Seahawks the league's first 0-2 team with a 21-14 victory in front of a reported 25,000 people at Kezar Stadium.
The league once again split its action between Friday and Sunday in week 3, with the Chicago Rockets salvaging a 17-17 tie with the Yankees thanks to a 36-yard touchdown pass from QB Walt Williams to halfback Bill Boedeker with just 55 seconds remaining.In game 2, about 23,000 fans made their way to the LA Coliseum to see the Dons run their record to 2-0 in a 30-14 victory over the Miami Seahawks. Despite the lopsided final score, the game was close at halftime, with Miami hitting the locker room holding a 14-10 lead. Twenty unanswered points in the second half, with the Dons' Charlie O'Rourke finishing the game with three touchdown passes as part of his 9-17 throwing effort.
On Sunday, September 22, the mighty Cleveland Browns went to Buffalo and took no prisoners in a 28-0 shutout that was virtually beyond doubt by the end of the first quarter.Cleveland star Otto Graham threw for two more touchdowns, including a 33-yard strike to Marion Motley out of the backfield, as the Browns cruised to their third straight victory. The Browns allowed just six points in their first three games, establishing themselves as the team to beat in the AAFC in 1946. In game 2, 35,000 people turned out at Kezar Stadium to watch Frankie Albert throw for two touchdowns and run for one more as part of a 32-13 disassembling of the visiting Brooklyn Dodgers. The Niners moved their season record to 2-1.
The AAFC held its first Wednesday night contest to kick off week 4, drawing 20,768 fans to Soldier Field to witness an offensive shootout, won by the home team Chicago Rockets over the visiting Buffalo Bisons, 38-35.A fourth quarter rally with 17 unanswered point was needed for the Rockets to escape with the narrow win, won with a walk-off chip-shot field goal by Steve Nemeth. The game was marked by the acrimonious departure of head coach Dick Hanley, who watched the game from the stands after leaving the team owing to personal disagreements with owner John L. Keeshin.
With Brooklyn and Miami on the bye, both the Rockets and the Bisons were needed to play again on Sunday, Sept. 29, just four days later. The previously 0-4 Bisons managed a tie with the visiting Los Angeles Dons, 21-21, while the Rockets played another home game, winning twice in a single week with a 24-7 dispatching of the 49ers.In the final game of the week, the New York Yankees more than doubled the season points allowed total of the Cleveland Browns, scoring a first quarter touchdown en route to a 24-7 loss. The Browns went to 4-0 on the year in the victory.
The fifth week of the AAFC's inaugural season opened with a pair of Friday night games. In the first, the visiting New York Yankees began to exert Eastern Division dominance with a 21–13 victory over the Buffalo Bisons in front of more than 17,000 fans.Yankee rookie Spec Sanders, league leader in total offense, led the team to victory with a pair of fourth quarter scores — a touchdown pass and a 76-yard punt return to the house. In the second game, the Los Angeles Dons scored 21 unanswered points after halftime to notch a come-from-behind 21–9 victory over the Chicago Rockets at Soldier Field.
Only one game took place on Sunday, October 6, in which the Cleveland Browns extended their unbeaten record to five games with an easy 26–7 victory over the Brooklyn Dodgers in front of 43,713 of the home faithful.The league's first foray into football in the Deep South, a Tuesday tilt between the Seahawks and the visiting San Francisco 49ers was a debacle, with only 7,621 fans passing through the turnstiles to watch the dismantling of the home team by a score of 34–7.
W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, Pct. = Winning Percentage
PF = Points Scored For, PA = Point Scored Against
|San Francisco 49ers||9||5||0||.643||307||189|
|Los Angeles Dons||7||5||2||.583||305||290|
|New York Yankees||10||3||1||.769||270||192|
AAFC Championship: Cleveland 14, New York 9 (December 22 @ Cleveland)
Glenn Dobbs led the league in passing yards (1,886), pass completions (135), total offense (2,094 yards), and punting (80 punts averaging 47.8 yards)
Otto Graham led in passing efficiency (51.7) and touchdown passes (17).
Spec Sanders led the league in rushing (709 on 140 carries for a 5.06 yard average).
Lou Groza led in scoring with 84 points and also set a professional football record with 13 field goals and 45 extra points.
Tommy Colella of Cleveland led the league with 10 interceptions for 110 yards.
The United Press (UP) selected an All-AAFC team in December 1946. The AAFC also announced an official All-AAFC team in January based on polling of reporters and broadcasters in member cities. The Associated Press (AP) selected an All-Pro team that included selections from both the NFL and the AAFC.
The All-America Football Conference (AAFC) was a professional American football league that challenged the established National Football League (NFL) from 1946 to 1949. One of the NFL's most formidable challengers, the AAFC attracted many of the nation's best players, and introduced many lasting innovations to the game. However, the AAFC was ultimately unable to sustain itself in competition with the NFL. After its folding, three of its teams were admitted to the NFL: the San Francisco 49ers, the Cleveland Browns and the original Baltimore Colts.
The Miami Seahawks were a professional American football team based in Miami, Florida. They played in the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) in the league's inaugural season, 1946, before the team was moved to Baltimore. They are notable as the first major league sports franchise in Miami and the state of Florida's first professional football team.
The 1950 NFL season was the 31st regular season of the National Football League. The merger with the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) expanded the league to 13 teams. Meanwhile, television brought a new era to the game. The Los Angeles Rams became the first NFL team to have all of its games – both home and away – televised. The Washington Redskins became the second team to put their games on TV. Other teams arranged to have selected games televised.
William Augustus "Dub" Jones is a former American football halfback who played ten seasons in the National Football League (NFL) and the old All-America Football Conference (AAFC) in the late 1940s and early 1950s, primarily for the Cleveland Browns. He shares the NFL record for touchdowns scored in a single game, with six.
Oliver Monroe Cline was a college and professional American football fullback who played for the Ohio State Buckeyes, Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions in the 1940s and 1950s. A standout high school athlete in his hometown of Fredericktown, Ohio, Cline attended Ohio State University starting in 1944. He became the football team's primary fullback that year as the school went unbeaten and was ranked second in the nation in the AP Poll. The following year, Cline was named the most valuable player in the Big Ten Conference, rushing for 936 yards as Ohio State built up a 7–2 record and was ranked 12th in the AP Poll. Following a brief stint in the U.S. Army at the end of World War II, Cline returned to Ohio State for a final season in 1947.
The 1946 Cleveland Browns season was the team's first in the All-America Football Conference (AAFC). The Browns, coached by Paul Brown, ended the year with a record of 12–2, winning the AAFC's Western Division. Led by quarterback Otto Graham, fullback Marion Motley and ends Dante Lavelli and Mac Speedie, the team won the first AAFC championship game against the New York Yankees.
The 1947 Cleveland Browns season was the team's second in the All-America Football Conference (AAFC). Coached by Paul Brown, Cleveland finished with a 12–1–1 win–loss–tie record, winning the western division and the AAFC championship for the second straight year. As in 1946, quarterback Otto Graham led an offensive attack that featured fullback Marion Motley and ends Dante Lavelli and Mac Speedie.
The 1948 Cleveland Browns season was the team's third in the All-America Football Conference (AAFC). After winning the AAFC crown in 1946 and 1947, the league's first two years of existence, the Browns repeated as champions in 1948 and had a perfect season, winning all of their games.
The 1949 Cleveland Browns season was the team's fourth and final season in the All-America Football Conference (AAFC). The Browns finished the regular season with a 9–1–2 win–loss–tie record and beat the San Francisco 49ers to win their fourth straight league championship. In the season's sixth game on October 9, 1949, the 49ers stopped the Browns' professional football record unbeaten streak after 29 games. The streak started two years before on October 19, 1947, and included two league championship games and two ties.
Horace Albert "Big Horse" Gillom was an American football punter and end in the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) and National Football League (NFL). He played ten seasons for the Cleveland Browns between 1947 and 1956. Cleveland head coach Paul Brown, who coached Gillom in high school, college and professionally, called him his best all-around high school player and once said there "has never been a better punter than Horace".
Martin Owen Ruby was an offensive tackle and defensive tackle for the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers in the All-America Football Conference, New York Yanks of the National Football League, and the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Western Interprovincial Football Union. He lived in Waco, Texas, while he was a professional player.
Chester Frank Adams was a professional American football tackle and placekicker who played ten seasons in the National Football League (NFL) and All-America Football Conference (AAFC), mainly with the Cleveland Rams and Cleveland Browns. He was selected to the NFL's All-Star game twice. In 1978, he was inducted into the Greater Cleveland Sports Hall of Fame.
Chester A. Mutryn was a professional American football halfback and defensive back in the All-America Football Conference and the National Football League. He was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 20th round of the 1943 NFL Draft.
Rex Keith Bumgardner was a halfback in the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) and National Football League (NFL) for the Buffalo Bills and the Cleveland Browns in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
The 1926 American Football League season is the only season of the existence of the first American Football League. It started with nine teams, with the initial game of the season being played in front of 22,000 fans in Cleveland, Ohio, but by the end of the season, only four teams were still in existence: three teams owned or subsidized by league founder C. C. Pyle and star Red Grange and league champion Philadelphia Quakers. The initial lineup of teams included the traveling Wildcats and a charter member of the National Football League, the Rock Island Independents, which became a second traveling team after having poor attendance in its first three games.
The 1946 Michigan Wolverines football team represented the University of Michigan in the 1946 Big Nine Conference football season. In their ninth year under head coach was Fritz Crisler, the Wolverines compiled a 6-2-1 record, outscored opponents 233 to 73, and finished the season in second place in the Big Nine Conference and ranked #6 in the final 1946 AP poll. The team's two losses came against an undefeated Army team that was ranked #2 in the final AP poll and against an Illinois team that won the Big Nine championship and was ranked #5 in the final AP poll. Michigan won its last four games by a combined score of 162 to 19, starting a 25-game winning streak that continued for nearly three years until October 8, 1949. In the final game of the 1946 season, Michigan defeated Ohio State 58-6, the Buckeyes' worst defeat since joining the conference in 1913.
Albert George Akins was a professional American football halfback and defensive back who played three seasons for the Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills and Brooklyn Dodgers in the All-America Football Conference.
Forrest Porter "Chubby" Grigg, Jr. was an American football tackle who played seven seasons in the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) and National Football League (NFL) in the 1940s and 1950s. Grigg grew up in Texas and attended the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma. After graduating from college, he joined the AAFC's Buffalo Bisons, where he played for a year. Grigg was then sent to the Chicago Rockets in 1947, but stayed only one season before joining the Cleveland Browns in 1948. The Browns won all of their games and the AAFC championship that season. Cleveland again won the AAFC championship in 1949 before the league dissolved and the Browns were absorbed by the more established NFL. Grigg continued to play for the Browns in 1950 and 1951. The team won the NFL championship in 1950, and reached the title game but lost it the following year. Grigg spent a final season with the Dallas Texans before retiring from football.
The 1947 AAFC season was the second season of the All-America Football Conference. The league included eight teams, broken up into Eastern and Western divisions, which played a 14-game official schedule, culminating in a league championship game.