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Did You Know Tonawanda Had Its Own Professional Football Team?

I had to read it a few times myself…but it’s true!

Courtesy of Mike Bonner and Carl Lamendola, Collecting Vintage Football Cards
Courtesy of Mike Bonner and Carl Lamendola, Collecting Vintage Football Cards

There was once a professionally-licensed football team that only lasted for ONE game in the NFL…and they were from Tonawanda!

The Tonawanda Kardex Lumbermen (also known as the Tonawanda Lumbermen and the All-Tonawanda Lumberjacks) were active from 1916 and joined the NFL in 1921 for a brief time…a VERY brief time (more on that in a second).

Wikipedia
Wikipedia

The team played home games at Tonawanda High School, garnering sometimes as many as 3,500 fans!  Lead by head coach Walter “Tam” Rose, the team beat the Rochester Jeffersons in a state championship game, and went on the make state playoffs in 1919, losing the semifinals to the Buffalo Prospects, who later took home the title.

In 1920, the then “All-Tonawanda Lumberjacks” had a 7-1 record against two American Professional Football Association teams (the predecessor to the NFL).  After officially joining the NFL in 1921, their sole away game was the first — and last — game they played.

Leo Lyons Collection via RochesterJeffersons.org

That game was November 6, 1921 in Rochester against the Rochester Jeffersons.  It was the worst game in the team’s history…a 45-0 blowout in front of 2,700 fans.  The team folded after that, in part due to trouble scheduling games with a lack of opponents.  Plus, the NFL’s hefty franchise fee of $1,000 (increased from $50 in 1922…today, it’s closer to hundreds of MILLIONS of dollars) made it too hard for them to play a second NFL season.

While the NFL team is no more, the “Lumberjacks” name lives on as the mascot of North Tonawanda High School.

And now you know.

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