The Toledo Maroons

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The Toledo Maroons were a football team that played in the NFL during the 1922 and 1923 seasons. The Maroons played their home games at the Swayne Field. It is not entirely clear where they got the nickname maroons but their deep red jerseys with white strips on the sleeves could have provided inspiration.

How did the Toledo Maroons Start up?

The Maroons can trace their roots to 1902 as a semi-pro team known as the Toledo Athletic Association. In 1906, the Association started the Maroons team as a farm team which was mainly made up of teenagers who were being prepared for senior football. In 1908, the Toledo Athletic association was disbanded after they were denied the use of the Armory Park. The Maroons however kept playing on other fields against amateur and semi-pro teams.

With the teenagers now grown into adults, they were playing against very strong opponents including future NFL teams by 1915. They travelled to away games on horse and buggy or using the interurban. As the need for a regular playing field grew, the team leased Armory Park and a local firm agreed to set up bleachers and a fence for them. They charged between 50 and 75 cents for tickets and were able to afford salaries of up to $75 per game and retain a small profit. In 1922 they turned pro for the first time as they joined the newly formed NFL.

The Toledo Maroons in Competition

The Maroons opened their inaugural season in promising fashion as they beat the Emansville Crimson Giants 15-0 on October 1, 1922. After tying their second game 12-12 with the Milwaukee Badgers a week later, the Maroons went on a three game winning streak, the highlight of which was a 39-0 win over the Louisville Brecks. During that run, they did not concede once while they scored a combined 59 points.

They extended their shutout streak with a 0-0 draw against the Canton Bulldogs. They narrowly beat the Columbus Panhandles 7-6 in the next game before losing 22-0 and 19-0 to the Chicago Bears and the Canton Bulldogs respectively to conclude the season. This gave them a 5-2-2 record that was only good enough for fourth place in the league.

The team opened the 1923 season with a 7-7 tie against the Racine Legion. Two wins and two losses followed before they registered another win at the Rochester Jeffersons at on November 24, 1923. A 3-3 tie against the Buffalo All-Americans and a 28-0 loss to the Canton Bulldogs finalized the Maroons’ second season, giving them a 3-3-2 record that put them tenth in the NFL.

Toledo Maroons most Notable Moments

The 39-0 steamrolling of the Louisville Brecks on October 22, 1922 was undoubtedly one of the finest moments for the Maroons on the field of play. The culmination of a three game winning streak and five unbeaten games since their first competitive match, the future looked falsely bright for Toledo fans.

The Toledo Maroons most Notable Players

Steamer Horning, played tackle for the Maroons in 1922 and 1923 starting all but one game. He was signed from the Buffalo All-Americans. He boasted lots of experience having played semi-pro football since 1917. He contributed immensely to the Maroons impressive defense in the first season and even added the odd try.

Other notable players include Russ Stein, Herb Stein and Red Roberts.

What Happened to the Toledo Maroons?

During the early days of professional sport, pro teams found it tough to get going. Semi-pro and amateur teams were filed with local talent hence residents were better able to identify with non-professional teams. The Maroons had been struggling to cover their costs as attendance stagnated. In 1922, the Maroons attracted less than 2000 paying fans per game and suffered losses worth $6,600. The situation was even worse the following season as the team performance declined. In order to boost local support the Maroons management tried to package support for the team as an important civic duty, a strategy employed by pro teams in other cities.

A message by Toledo’s mayor urging local support for the NFL franchise was printed in every game program but this met with little success. Following the conclusion of the 1923 season, the league ordered the franchise either to move to another city or suspend operations. The team was purchased by the City of Kenosha in Wisconsin and moved there. They played the 1924 season as the Kenosha Maroons. The team only played one season in Wisconsin before folding.