NFL Drive starts to bring '25 title to Pottsville
Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell wants the title by 2006.
GRANTVILLE, Pa. (AP) -- Forget about the state budget. Forget about reforms for school funding. Gov. Ed Rendell has a different sort of goal in mind for at least one part of Pennsylvania, and he kicked off a statewide drive Monday to win it.
Namely, reclaiming the National Football League 1925 championship title for the Pottsville Maroons.
Rendell, who kept his gig as a commentator for the Philadelphia Eagles even after he won the November election, began recruiting city councils Monday to ask the NFL to turn over the title to the long-defunct pro team in time for Pottsville's bicentennial in 2006.
"We want to get the Maroons re-certified as champions," Rendell told state Democratic officials during a party meeting Saturday in this Harrisburg suburb. "It's crucial to the psyche of all Pottsvillians."
"So forget about the budget, forget about school finding," Rendell quipped to laughter from the crowd.
Pottsville, population 15,500, is the largest city in Schuylkill County, a vast expanse of farmlands and once-thriving coal towns in northeastern Pennsylvania.
Undisputed, both in Pottsville lore and NFL history books, is that the Maroons beat the Chicago Cardinals in a match-up between the league's two top teams of the 1925 season. Wanting to further clinch their football might, the Maroons then challenged -- and defeated -- a team of Notre Dame all-star college players on the Philadelphia home turf of the Frankford Yellow Jackets.
But playing in Yellow Jacket territory -- after being thrice told not to -- disqualified the Maroons for the NFL title and forever lost them their beloved football franchise. Chicago eventually claimed the championship, and Pottsville residents have cried foul ever since.
Now, Rendell is rallying city councils across the state to pass resolutions demanding the title to be awarded to Pottsville. Philadelphia Councilman Brian J. O'Neill, a former president of the National League of Cities, plans to sponsor the legislation at his City Hall. O'Neill made a similar pitch to the Pennsylvania League of Cities and Municipalities this weekend in Harrisburg.
But the NFL isn't likely to play ball.
"As far as we're concerned -- and unless there's substantial new evidence to the contrary -- we feel this subject has been thoroughly examined," said Joe Horrigan, vice president of communications for the NFL Hall of Fame. He studied the Maroons morass 20 years ago as a member of the Professional Football Researchers Association.
"We're quite comfortable with the way it stands," Horrigan said Monday, adding that Rendell's push "really wouldn't have a bearing on the matter."
Pottsville fans, some of whom have been calling for decades to bring the Maroons' champions cup home, remain happily bitter about the dispute and wished Rendell well in his newest campaign.
"If he goes through all the things I went through to get this in the last 20 to 30 years, I wish him a lot of luck," said Nick Barbetta, chairman of the Pottsville Maroons Memorial Committee. "He knows a lot about sports; he's a good talker, so he might do some work.
"It's been 78 years since they've had the title stolen away from them," Barbetta, 88, said Monday. "Stolen. Put that in quotes."