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The Dayton Triangles was one of the ten charter franchises of the NFL. The franchise was in operation from 1920 to 1929. The team is widely recognized as one of the worst teams the league has ever seen. The Triangles can lay a claim to being an ancestor to today’s NFL franchise Indianapolis Colts, though the league does not officially consider it to be so.
How did the Dayton Triangles Start up?
The team was formed in as a spinoff from a basketball team known as the St. Mary’s Cadets which was formed by the alumni of St. Mary’s College, today known as the University of Dayton. In 1916, the team was reconstituted into a semiprofessional team, mainly made up of workers from DELCO (Dayton Electric and Light Company). The team borrowed the name Triangles from the Triangle Park which was their home ground. The field was named Triangles because it was located at the confluence of the Stillwater and Miami rivers. In 1920, they would be one of the founding members of the American Professional Football Association (APFA), which preceded the NFL.
The Dayton Triangles in Competition
The Triangles’ first game, a 14-0 home win over the Columbus Panhandles was played on October 3, 1920. This was actually the first game in the newly formed league. They followed this up with a scoreless draw against the Cleveland Tigers before whitewashing the Hammond Pros 44-0. They finished their first season with a 5-2-2 record. The Triangles again opened the 1921 season in promising fashion, winning 42-13 over the Panhandles before they went on a sort of a spin and finished with a 4-4-1 record.
Following the formation of the NFL in 1922, the Triangles, now playing as a road team ran into headwaters and their performance waned significantly. They would finish the 1922 season with a 4-3-1 record which then dropped to a shameful 1-6-1 record in 1923. In 1924, they would win their first two games before losing all of the remaining six to finish with a 2-6 record.
Despite already being considered one of the worst teams in the league, the Triangles found depth to sink into as they failed to win a single game in 1925, posting a 0-7-2 record. A 3-0 win at the beginning of the 1926 season saw them break their 14-game winless streak but they would fall back into familiar mediocrity, failing to win again that season. They posted a 1-4-1 record that season.
The highlight of the 1927 season was a first home win in three years, but they lost six more and drew only one game, for a 1-6-1 record. In 1928, they lost all seven games, only managing to score in one game. In 1929, they again lost all their games, and scored just one touchdown the whole season. Over their last three seasons, they had been outscored 301-22 and it was harder for a team to sink any lower.
Dayton Triangles’ most Notable Moments
The Dayton Triangles hosted the very first NFL match on October 3, 1920 at the Triangle Park. A memorial plaque commemorating that game, against the Columbus Panhandles stands at the site to this date.
Due to their extensive travelling schedule as a road team, the Triangles came to be known as “Team of Immigrants” by sports writers and other teams. The Triangles used a hired railroad car that was attached to passenger trains and would act as their sleeping, changing and dining quarters during their travels. Even by the standards of the day when a locker room with a shower was a luxury, these conditions were really bad. Nevertheless, many Triangles players said they enjoyed the adventure of being on the road continuously.
Dayton Triangles’ most notable Players
Lee Fenner earned the recognition of being the only player to stick with the club for its entire period in Dayton. In addition, he accomplished the feat of playing two entire seasons without being substituted.
Center Hobby Kinderdine was another long serving member of the Dayton franchise, sticking with the team from 1920 to 1929. An ultra-religious guy, he carried his bible everywhere he went. He was not much of a try scorer which leaves the longevity of his stay with the Triangles as his most notable legacy.
Running back Jerald Partlow played for the Triangles from 1922 to 1922 1nd from 1923 to 1929. He is remembered as the first ever try scorer in the NFL.
What Happened to the Dayton Triangles?
There was no denying that the Triangles were one of the worst teams that in the league, if not the worst. With such an unwanted title, it was no surprise that the Triangles were unable to establish a respectable support base. To compound matters, the Triangle Park was one of the smallest grounds in the league which meant that the team was already struggling financially by its second season. Becoming a road team in 1922, the team brought in $25,000 for each game and at least managed to stay afloat.
However, the vagaries of constant travel took its toll on the players and the team sunk into mediocrity over the rest of the decade. On July 12, 1930, the team was sold to a group of business men from Brooklyn that was fronted by Bob Dwyer. Convinced that a stay in Dayton was out of the question, the new owners relocated the team to Brooklyn and renamed it the Brooklyn Dodgers.