Breaker Boys: The NFL's Greatest Team and the Stolen 1925 Championship

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In 1925, the Pottsville Maroons, a football team from the heart of Pennsylvania coal country, joined the fledgling National Football League. Built by an eccentric owner, molded by a visionary coach and loaded with hardscrabble miners, college All Americans and the sky's the limit ethos of the Roaring Twentys, the Maroons did the unthinkable and dominated the NFL in their rookie season. (Their improbable rise was chronicled each week in the local paper by a rookie Pottsville ...
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Overview

In 1925, the Pottsville Maroons, a football team from the heart of Pennsylvania coal country, joined the fledgling National Football League. Built by an eccentric owner, molded by a visionary coach and loaded with hardscrabble miners, college All Americans and the sky's the limit ethos of the Roaring Twentys, the Maroons did the unthinkable and dominated the NFL in their rookie season. (Their improbable rise was chronicled each week in the local paper by a rookie Pottsville sportswriter named John OOHara.)

Little Pottsville outscored its first seven opponents 162-6. The boys so thoroughly pummeled one opponent, angry fans shot up their train car as the Maroons rode out of town. In the final game of that first season the Maroons traveled to the Midwest to face the league-leading Chicago Cardinals in what was viewed as the championship game for 1925. The Maroons overcame a Windy City snowstorm and an injury to their best player to defeat the Cardinals 21-7.

But the fans wanted more.

College ball was still king. And as news of PottsvilleOs success was splashed across the news reels and headlines throughout the country, a movement began to have the Maroons face a team of college All-Stars from the University of Notre Dame, featuring the legendary Four Horsemen, the finest collection of talent the game had ever known. Experts believed the NFL was still decades away from competing with college football. But on a neutral field in Philadelphia, in a battle described as The Greatest Football Game Ever Seen, the Maroons shocked the world and turned the football establishment upside-down, defeating Notre Dame 9-7 on a last-second field goal by their captain Charlie Berry who had his kicking cleat bronzed for eternity.

The championship was theirs. The NFL was finally on the map. The Maroons victory over Notre Dame had legitimized the league. It also destroyed the town and the team that made it all possible.

Claiming the upstart Maroons had violated the territory of another franchise by playing Notre Dame in Philadelphia, the NFL suspended Pottsville and awarded the 1925 NFL championship to the Chicago Cardinals. The Cardinals refused to accept the bogus title and the 1925 crown was never officially awarded. For more than 80 years, fans of the Pottsville MaroonsNthe team Red Grange said was the greatest he ever facedNhave fought to have the 1925 title returned to its rightful owners.

With Breaker Boys their remarkable story is told at last.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Fleming, a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine, recounts the tale of the league-leading Pottsville Maroons, whose suspension from the National Football League (NFL) in the closing weeks of the 1925 season resulted in their losing their claim to the pro football championship. Pottsville's first-year team had beaten all comers and signed on to a potentially lucrative exhibition game against a University of Notre Dame All-Star team to be played in Philadelphia. The NFL, however, forbade the Maroons from participating in that game for territorial reason; when the Maroons played anyway, they were expelled from the league. This well-written book breathes life into dead players and other principals in the drama who may be long forgotten but whose stories illustrate just how much the origins of professional football differ from the contemporary game. Fleming makes a good argument for the Maroons' title rights and restoration, but he exaggerates a bit regarding the all-time nature of their greatness and their impact in establishing the viability of the NFL. The controversy has continued on into the 21st century, with the NFL reexamining the case as recently as 2003. Recommended for all libraries. [Fortress Features has acquired film rights to the book.-Ed.]
—John Maxymuk

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781933060354
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/9/2007
  • Edition description: REV
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.60 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.05 (d)

Meet the Author

David Fleming is a seniorwriter for ESPN The Magazine and columnist for ESPN.com's Page 2. Before joining ESPN in 2000, Fleming covered the NFL for six seasons as a staff writer at Sports Illustrated. During the past ten years he has profiled nearly every major star in the NFL. Fleming is a native of Detroit and a graduate of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where he was captain of the varsity wrestling team. He began his writing career at the Pulse-Journal in Mason, Ohio, and later worked at The Cincinnati Post. He and his wife, Kim, live in Davidson, North Carolina, with their daughters.
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2008

    Worth Ten Stars

    Any football fan would enjoy reading The Breaker Boys. David Fleming's tale of the 1925 Pottsville Maroons (the true champions of the National Football League that season) has to rank among the best books about pro football's early years ever written. A tip of the leather helmet to the author. 'Fight...Fight...Anthracite!'

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2007

    A reviewer

    I enjoyed the book immensely. My father was the quarterback and he was potrayed just as he was. I couldn't put the book down. Jack ernst jr.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 18, 2007

    Fleming is an awesome writer, I felt every hit these players took through their efforts in the mines and on the field.

    Rather than being shunned by the NFL and having their Championship taken away in 1925 due to their playing and ultimately defeating Notre Dame, these dedicated players from the Pottsville Maroons should have been celebrated and embraced by the NFL for elevating the perceptions of professional football at a time when college ball was king.

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