Pacific Coast Professional Football League

Last updated
Pacific Coast Professional Football League
Sport American football
Founded1940
First Season1940
Last Season1948
Reason Famoustop level football league on US west coast prior to 1946
No. of teamsvaried from 4 (1941, 1942, 1948) to 9 (1946)
Last champions Hawaiian Warriors
Disbanded1948

The Pacific Coast Professional Football League (PCPFL), also known as the Pacific Coast Football League (PCFL) and Pacific Coast League (PCL) was a professional American football league based in California. It operated from 1940 through 1948. [1] One of the few minor American professional sports leagues that competed in the years of World War II, the PCPFL was regarded as a minor league of the highest level, particularly from 1940 to 1945, at a time in which the major National Football League did not extend further west than Chicago and Green Bay. [1] It was also the first professional football league to have a team based in Hawaii (the Hawaiian Warriors).

Contents

Formed from the wreckage of a failed California Pro Football League, the PCPFL showcased the Los Angeles Bulldogs and the Hollywood Bears. [1] The league became the “home” of African American football stars (including Kenny Washington, Woody Strode, and, briefly, Jackie Robinson) as the NFL had developed and enforced a color barrier in 1934 and extended until 1946. [1]

After reaching a peak in 1945, the importance and popularity of the PCPFL declined rapidly in the post-World War years as the NFL's Los Angeles Rams and the All-America Football Conference's Los Angeles Dons established a major league presence with games in the Coliseum. [1] [2] The resulting competition was devastating to the PCPFL: teams averaging over 10,000 spectators per game in 1944 and 1945 were having difficulty drawing 1000 fans in 1946. [2]

In December 1948, the PCPFL folded. The Los Angeles Bulldogs, the only league member to have participated in every season of the league's existence, was in such financial straits that they did not play the last two scheduled games in 1948, and the Hollywood Bears had become a traveling team in 1948. [2]

League origins

History of early professional football in California

Prior to 1936, the history of professional football in California was not a hopeful one. While there were two “major league Los Angeles teams” in 1926 (the Buccaneers of the NFL and the Los Angeles Wildcats of the first American Football League), both were actually traveling teams (the Buccaneers were based in Chicago, the Wildcats in Moline, Illinois) that lasted only one season, but several NFL and AFL teams would also play exhibition contests in the West, sometimes with other NFL or AFL teams, but also against some of the local semi-pro teams in the region, in the following year or two. [3]

Pacific Coast League (1926)

In the wake of two barnstorming tours by Red Grange (the latter of which also featured the Buccaneers and Wildcats) a league was formed in 1926 and called the Pacific Coast League, but it lasted only one season. [4]

TeamWLTPct.PFPA
Hollywood Generals5001.000633
Oakland Oaks320.6003633
San Francisco Tigers130.2505335
Fresno Wine Crushers040.000990

American Legion League (1934-1935)

In 1934, four teams from the Los Angeles area and two from San Francisco formed another Pacific Coast League.

1934 Pacific Coast League standings [5]
TeamWinsLossesTies %PFPA
California Giants3001.0004128
Southern California Maroons510.8337913
Westwood Cubs221.5006858
Stanford Braves221.5003733
Del Rey Shamrocks031.1253368
Moraga Wolves020.0001428

When the two San Francisco teams withdrew from the league after the 1934 season, the four L.A. teams continued to compete in 1935 as the American Legion League (some called it the American Legion Football League, or ALFL). It folded after one season under the new name. [6] [7]

1935 American Legion League standings [8]
TeamWinsLossesTies %PFPA
Westwood Cubs521.6879451
Los Angeles Maroons421.6427468
Hollywood Braves230.4004850
California Shamrocks040.000350

After the season Westwood played an exhibition game against the Detroit Lions, in Gilmore Stadium in LA, and drew 16,000 fans. The Cubs lost, 14-67.

The Los Angeles Bulldogs and the formation of the Pacific Coast Professional Football League

The 1930s proved to be a boon for professional football leagues in the United States (the NFL grew in popularity even in light of competition of the second AFL in 1936 and 1937), but it was a “golden age” for minor league football. The year 1936 also marked the first year of the Dixie League of the American South (the DL lasted until the fall of 1947), the American Association (which changed its name to the American Football League in 1946 and lasted until 1950) [4] ... and a team that formed for the expressed purpose of joining the National Football League, but was passed over in favor of the Cleveland Rams: the Los Angeles Bulldogs.

Owned by the local chapter of the American Legion, managed by Harry Myers, and coached by Gus Henderson, the fledgling Bulldogs played all the games in its inaugural season in Gilmore Stadium, playing local teams like the Salinas Packers and the Hollywood Stars, but also the Philadelphia Eagles (won, 10–7), Pittsburgh Pirates (won, 21–7), Chicago Cardinals (won, 13–10), Brooklyn Dodgers (tied, 13–13), Chicago Bears (lost, 7–0), and Green Bay Packers (lost, 49–0). In their six games against the NFL, the Bulldogs compiled a 3–2–1 record while having a 6–3–1 season overall.

Myers was confident of receiving an NFL franchise in the 1937 league owners meeting, but after seeing presentations from Houston, Cleveland, and Los Angeles, the owners offered the franchise to Cleveland, then a member of the second American Football League. The Bulldogs were invited to replace the Rams in the fledgling league, and proceeded with the first perfect season in major league professional football: eight wins in AFL games (and the only AFL team with a winning record in the 1937 season), 18 wins including exhibition games, no losses, no ties. [7] Not even the Miami Dolphins, who lost an exhibition game immediately prior to their "perfect" 1972 season, can make the claim. The Bulldogs' complete dominance of the league exacerbated the financial difficulties of the AFL to the point that the league was forced to fold after the end of the 1937 season.

California Football League (1938)

Another attempt at a league in California in 1936 barely got off the ground. One of the teams, the Hollywood Stars, was sold to Paul Schissler, who coached the Chicago Cardinals (1933–34) and Brooklyn Dodgers (1935–36) of the NFL. Schissler planned yet another league, this one to showcase the Bulldogs and his Stars. Myers declined the invitation to join the new California and opted for a season in which the Bulldogs were an independent team (as was the case for another “survivor” of the second AFL, the Cincinnati Bengals).

The 1938 league started with teams in Stockton, Fresno and Oakland, in addition to Hollywood and Salinas. The CFL had little importance without the Bulldogs and it cancelled after one season, without an attempt to crown a champion. [7]

TeamWLTPct.PFPA
Stockton Shippers2001.000397
Hollywood Stars410.80010339
Salinas Iceberg Packers [9] 230.4008978
Fresno Wine Crushers250.2855190
Oakland Cardinals020.000678

Los Angeles Bulldogs finished the season with a 11-2-2 record, including 5-0 record against CFL members. [10]

American Professional Football Association (1939)

After 1938 "independent" season, the Bulldogs joined the Bengals in becoming members of yet another American Football League (which later changed its name to the American Professional Football Association) for the 1939 season. The Bulldogs won the 1939 league title (and had a new owner, Jerry Corcoran), [3] and before the end of league play, had already given notice that they would be leaving at the end of the season to become a charter member of the Pacific Coast Professional Football League (the AFL/APFA would subsequently end after yet another AFL signed three APFA member clubs and split the older league).

PCPFL History

1940

Charter members of the 1940 edition of the PCPFL include the Bulldogs, the Hollywood Bears (which Paul Schissler had renamed in honor of his alma mater , UCLA), [7] the Phoenix Panthers, the Oakland Giants, and the San Diego Bombers [1]

TeamWLTPct.PFPA [1]
Los Angeles Bulldogs 721.778212142
Hollywood Bears620.75014584
Oakland Giants132.2503065
Phoenix Panthers031.0006797
San Diego Bombers040.0002692

The Bears' and Bulldogs' losses were to each other (two each). Kenny Washington and Woody Strode starred for the Bears after being denied entrance into the NFL due to their race. The Bears also had the leading scorer of the league, former New York Giant Kink Richards. Phoenix and Oakland dropped out at the end of the 1940 season; the San Francisco Bay Packers joined for 1941.

1941

TeamWLTPct.PFPA [1]
Hollywood Bears8001.000167151
Los Angeles Bulldogs440.500156119
San Diego Bombers150.16778147
San Francisco Bay Packers150.16723107

The season was cut short after the attack on Pearl Harbor (the military was fearing another West Coast attack). Kenny Washington led the Bears to a perfect season, having beaten Los Angeles three times to clinch the title. Washington's UCLA teammate Jackie Robinson played briefly for the Bulldogs before moving to Honolulu. Steve Bagarus of San Diego had a 100-yard interception return against the Bears. Kink Richards repeated as the league's high scorer.

1942

TeamWLTPct.PFPA [1]
San Diego Bombers410.8007128
San Francisco Bay Packers210.6673228
Los Angeles Bulldogs220.5003562
Hollywood Bears040.0001335

Unlike the American Football League of 1940 and the American Association, both of which suspended operations after 1941, the PCPFL decided to continue play during World War II. Military service, nonetheless, wreaked havoc with the teams' rosters. Bears owner/coach Paul Schlisser left for the war as Kenny Washington was injured most of the abbreviated season. The Bulldogs roster was depleted by the war effort. Members of the PCPFL also played games with two military teams, the March Field Flyers and the Santa Ana Flyers in response to increasing public interest. San Diego's Steve Bagarus became a star with his versatility as his team won the league title and held its own against the March Field Flyers. The Santa Ana Flyers were 5-0 against the league and claimed the “extended PCL championship.” [1]

1943

Growing in influence, the PCPFL underwent several changes before the 1943 season. Temporarily gone were the Hollywood Bears as owner Paul Schlisser was still overseas; the Oakland Giants returned after a two-year absence; the Alameda Mustangs, Richmond Boilermakers, and the Los Angeles Mustangs joined the league.

Controversy ensued when Los Angeles Mustangs owner Bill Freelove raided the roster of Jerry Corcoran's crosstown Bulldogs. When all was said and done, virtually all the members of the 1942 Bulldogs became members of the 1943 Mustangs. While the controversy was raging, Hollywood got a “leave of absence” from the league until the return of Schlisser from World War II. The former Bears (including former player-coach Kink Richards) became Bulldogs for the 1943 season. Ramifications from Freelove's actions ensued over the next few years. [1]

TeamWLTPct.PFPA [1]
San Diego Bombers710.875214177
Los Angeles Mustangs 440.500167124
Oakland Giants440.500118143
Richmond Boilermakers220.5004441
Los Angeles Bulldogs340.429119125
Alameda Mustangs130.2505372
San Francisco Bay Packers140.20030123

Richmond leaves the PCPFL at the end of the season.

1944

The Alameda Mustangs moved to San Jose and became the San Jose Mustangs; the Hollywood Wolves entered the league for 1944; and the membership of the Los Angeles Mustangs was revoked by the team owners to protest owner Bill Freelove's raiding of Jerry Corcoran's Los Angeles Bulldogs roster. Freelove responded by forming a new league, the American Football League (with Jerry Giesler as president). In 1944, an unprecedented five Los Angeles area teams were competing in either of the rival leagues. [1]

1944 PCPFL Standings
TeamWLTPct.PFPA [1]
San Diego Bombers9001.00033554
San Francisco Bay Packers430.571107122
Oakland Giants430.5714686
San Jose Mustangs240.33369109
Los Angeles Bulldogs250.286105168
Hollywood Wolves 060.00046169

Both leagues had undefeated champions (the PCPFL Bombers had won their third consecutive title).

On December 21, 1944, PCPFL league president J. Rufus Klawans announced a merger between the two leagues. Immediately afterward, the AFL champion Hollywood Rangers and PCPFL champion San Diego Bombers scheduled two games, one at each team's home, to decide the “unified” Pacific Coast championship. Hollywood swept San Diego, winning 42-7 and 21-10, for the bragging rights. [1]

1945

The merger resulted in a “new 1945 PCL” looking remarkably similar to the previous year's edition. The Seattle and Portland AFL teams did not participate in the new league; the AFL champion Hollywood Rangers refused to merge with the Hollywood Bears, which returned after a two-season absence (the Rangers became an independent team in 1945 instead... and then folded after six games). Bill Freelove's Los Angeles Mustangs were refused admittance into the merged league and met the same fate as the Rangers when they tried to play as an independent team in 1945. When the dust of the merger settled, the new PCPFL team lineup was the same as it was in 1944, except with the AFL San Francisco Clippers replacing the Packers and the returning Hollywood Bears replacing the short-lived Wolves of the same locale.

TeamWLTPct.PFPA [1]
Hollywood Bears821.80024895
Oakland Giants720.778151105
Los Angeles Bulldogs551.500163143
San Diego Bombers440.500159126
San Francisco Clippers170.12547195
San Jose Mustangs050.00058162

With the end of World War II, more changes were afoot in the newly merged PCPFL. Kenny Washington and Paul Schlisser returned to the Bears, who ended San Diego's string of league championships. Tailback Dean McAdams, hero of the Rangers' championship campaign of 1944, was scoring touchdowns for the Bulldogs in 1945. San Diego had Bosh Pritchard, who would later be rushing for the Philadelphia Eagles, and the Bulldogs had a new quarterback who would later make a name for himself in San Francisco: Frankie Albert. The NFL's color line was still about a year from being erased; Oakland's Mel Reid, banned by the NFL because of his race, was the PCPFL's most valuable player in 1945. [1]

1946

Seismic changes in the world of professional football were the trend in 1946. The Hollywood Bears and the Los Angeles Bulldogs once had Los Angeles to themselves in 1945, but in 1946, they faced competition from the NFL (with the Los Angeles Rams) and the All-America Football Conference (with the Los Angeles Dons). While two occupants of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum were drawing dozens of thousands to their home games in 1946, the Bulldogs (in Gilmore Stadium) and the Bears (in Gilmore Field) were having difficulty getting paying people to their much smaller stadia. [2] Another major change came with the rebreaking of the NFL's 12-year-old "color barrier:" when the Rams signed two of the PCPFL's top stars, Woody Strode and Kenny Washington (both of the Hollywood Bears), it began a slow erosion of the PCPFL's most important talent base: the black players in American professional football that, up to that point, the NFL had refused to allow into their league. [11]

In the meantime, the PCPFL expanded to a record nine teams and had divisional play for the only time in its history (the two division champions would play a single game for the league title). New teams include the Tacoma Indians, Sacramento Nuggets, and the Hawaiian Warriors. The San Jose Mustangs were sold and relocated to Utah, becoming the Salt Lake Seagulls. [12] The Hawaiians played all their games at home, and generally in two-game sets to minimize travel expenses for the mainland opponents. With their own officiating crew, the Warriors had a perceived advantage as they consistently played in front of crowds of upward of 15,000 people. [2] [13]

The PCPFL, the Dixie League, and the American Association (which changed its name to the American Football League for the 1946 season) entered into a working arrangement with the NFL, agreeing to being, in essence, a farm league to the “big boys” and not allowing any participants in “any outlaw league” (specifically the AAFC) to be a member of any PCPFL team. [13] The compact was formalized March 24, 1946, with the announcement of the formation of the Association of Professional Football Leagues.

Northern Division
TeamWLTPct.PFPA [14]
Tacoma Indians740.636202141
San Francisco Clippers640.600206130
Salt Lake Seagulls251.28681137
Sacramento Nuggets251.28667201
Oakland Giants150.1676089
Southern Division
TeamWLTPct.PFPA [14]
Los Angeles Bulldogs921.818318185
Hawaiian Warriors840.667236179
Hollywood Bears551.500187196
San Diego Bombers170.12565164

The season ended in controversy as the Northern Division title was determined by a game in which the San Francisco Clippers apparently defeated the Los Angeles Bulldogs by a score of 24-19 and claimed the top spot in the division. When Clippers owner Frank Ciraolo entered his team's locker room to participate in the victory celebration, he noticed that John Woudenberg, tackle for the San Francisco 49ers, was wearing a uniform that was assigned to the Clippers' Courtney Thorell. After the “discrepancy” was reported to league officials, the game was declared a 1-0 forfeit to the Bulldogs. As a result, the Northern Division champions were the Tacoma Indians. [1] [2] [13]

The Bulldogs, with 11 players with NFL experience, defeated Tacoma in the league championship game, 38-7, on January 19, 1947. [2] [13] It was the last game of the Indians' existence.

Although the Salt Lake Seagulls had three games cancelled in 1946, they would return for another season; but not so the Oakland Giants. The Hollywood Bears took another "leave of absence." [15]

1947

TeamWLTPct.PFPA [14]
Hawaiian Warriors720.778267121
Los Angeles Bulldogs530.625165126
San Francisco Clippers440.500158175
Salt Lake Seagulls141.20048130
Sacramento Nuggets041.10075161

Back Buddy Abreu was the league's leading rusher and scorer as his Hawaiian Warriors won a narrow “race” with the defending champion Bulldogs (led by quarterback Mel Reid) by beating the team from L.A. 7-6. Sacramento and Salt Lake dropped out of the league after canceling their home-and-home series that was scheduled to finish the PCPFL season. [2] [14]

But having only three active members was not the only issue threatening the continuation of the existence of the league. [2] An investigation led by league president J. Rufus Klawans revealed that members of the Hawaiian Warriors were placing bets on games in which they were participating. Four (Abreu, Ray Scussell, Floyd “Scrap Iron” Rhea, and Jack Keenan) were permanently banned from the league; another ten team members were “suspended indefinitely.” [2] [14]

1948 and the demise of the PCPFL

As the PCPFL continues unraveling, the Hollywood Bears return to the fold after a second “leave of absence.” The revitalized Bears were under the watchful eye of former Bulldogs owner Jerry Corcoran as they re-entered the league as a traveling team. The Bulldogs, who used to sell out games at 18,000-seat Gilmore Stadium, had to move to Long Beach, California, after two years of failing to attract 1000 fans in their home games.

TeamWLTPct.PFPA [2]
Hawaiian Warriors510.83318186
Long Beach Bulldogs310.75010249
Hollywood Bears131.25093152
San Diego Clippers041.00069158

The Warriors were the class of the league, averaging 30 points of offense per game despite losing over half of the 1947 squad. They had claimed at least tie for the league title with a 5-1 record, with the Bulldogs having two games left to play (one with the Bears, one with the Clippers) in Long Beach's Veterans Memorial Stadium.

The games were not played. The legendary Los Angeles Bulldogs (who were the Long Beach Bulldogs in 1948) had called it quits after drawing only 850 fans in the only PCPFL game in Long Beach; the league soon followed suit and folded. [2]

Successor leagues

Pacific Football Conference (19571958)

The Pacific Football Conference was the largest attempt to established a professional football league in West Coast since the PCPFL. The teams were mainly located in California with one lone team in Arizona for the 1958 season. The league attracted strong local talent, including future American Football League stars like Tom Flores [16] and Lionel Taylor. [17]

1957

TeamWLTPFPA
Petaluma Leghorns [18] 5001800
Santa Cruz Seahawks [19] /Salinas Packers4107728
South San Francisco Windbreakers [20] 3204164
Contra Costa Panthers2304598
Fresno Hellcats [21] 1402185
Oakland Gophers0506113

1958

TeamWLTPFPA
Orange County Rhinos [22] [23] 510160103
Tucson Rattlers [24] 51010157
Salinas Packers530193118
Petaluma Leghorns1101332
Eagle Rock Eracs [25] 2308274
South San Francisco Tanners1403677
Bakersfield Spoilers06069193

North Pacific Football League (19631966)

A similar name low-level minor league with teams in the Pacific Northwest region. For the 1965 and 1966 seasons the league had a separate conference in California called Northern California League.

California Football League (19741982)

The new California Football League was a low-level minor league that began as a semi-pro league in 1974 as a six-team circuit, renamed the Western Football League for the 1976 season, but change back to CFL after one season, when the league expended to eight teams, split into two divisions and became pro. [17]

The formation of the United States Football League sapped the league from most of its talent and led to the cancellation of the CFL before the 1983 season.

Teams

The Cougars (1979-1982 champions), Tigers (1977 and 1978 champions) and Rhinos were the three strongest teams during the league lifetime. San Jose was even declared minor-league "National Champions" in 1978 [27] after beating the American Football Association's Shreveport Steamer, in a game between the leagues champions called "King Kong Bowl". [28]

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References

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  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 The End of the PCPFL Archived 2010-11-27 at the Wayback Machine – Bob Gill, The Coffin Corner, Pro Football Researchers Association (1983)
  3. 1 2 The Bulldogs: L.A. Hits the Big Time Archived 2010-11-27 at the Wayback Machine – Bob Gill, Pro Football Researchers Association (1984)
  4. 1 2 Other Minor Leagues Archived 2010-11-27 at the Wayback Machine – a look at football's minor leagues before 1960, Bob Gill, The Coffin Corner, Pro Football Researchers Association (1989)..
  5. "1927 Eastern Football League (EFL)".
  6. Other Minor Leagues Archived 2010-11-27 at the Wayback Machine – a look at football's minor leagues before 1960, Bob Gill, The Coffin Corner, Pro Football Researchers Association (1989)
  7. 1 2 3 4 California Dreamin': West Coast Pros in the 1930s – Bob Gill and Tod Maher, The Coffin Corner, Pro Football Researchers Association (1984)
  8. "1927 Eastern Football League (EFL)".
  9. "The Salinas Packers" (PDF).
  10. "1938 Los Angeles Bulldogs".
  11. https://web.archive.org/web/20060319231337/http://www.footballresearch.com/articles/frpage.cfm?topic=t45black
  12. "The Salt Lake Seagulls" (PDF).
  13. 1 2 3 4 Tacoma Story Archived 2010-11-26 at the Wayback Machine – Bart Ripp, The Coffin Corner, Pro Football Researchers Association (2002)
  14. 1 2 3 4 5 The Salt Lake Seagulls Archived 2010-10-07 at the Wayback Machine – Mel Bashore, The Coffin Corner, Pro Football Researchers Association (1992)
  15. The Salt Lake Seagulls – Mel Bashore, The Coffin Corner, Pro Football Researchers Association (1992)
  16. "Flores blazes trail to HOF Doorstep".
  17. 1 2 Bob Gill, with Tod Maher. Outsiders II: Minor League And Independent Football, 1951-1985, p. vii. St. Johann Press, 2010. ISBN   1878282654
  18. "PETALUMA FOOTBALL HISTORY: Football players led on the gridiron and in the community".
  19. "Seahawks Give Up; Cancel Remaining Contests".
  20. "September 6, 1957 Petaluma Argus-Courier from Petaluma, California".
  21. "Hellcats Will Scrimmage This Afternoon At 3".
  22. "Orange County Rhinos beat the NFL to local TV".
  23. "Orange County Rhinos Will Join New Loop".
  24. "The Tucson Sugar Skulls have joined the pantheon of amateur and professional sports team names in Tucson".
  25. "Eracs suffer 7-3 loss to Anaheim Rhinos".
  26. "It's a Minor Thing" (PDF).
  27. "Looking back after 30 years".
  28. "1978-1981 Shreveport Steamer".