Patricians’ 100th anniversary celebrated
By Greg Gulas
The Youngstown Patricians sat high atop the football world a century ago where as members of the newly formed professional Ohio League, they claimed the independent football championship of the world.
That league was the frontrunner to what is currently known as the National Football League and as historian Edward “Otto” Pernotto notes, “The road from the Pro Football Hall of Fame to its league offices in New York a century later still runs through Youngstown, Ohio.”
On Thursday, Pernotto, a Youngstown native who grew up on the city’s South Side, hosted an unveiling of artwork commissioned by Ray Simon at the M-Gallery of Erie Terminal Place depicting that team’s championship.
The event attracted family members of players from that squad, who have often wondered if others from the Mahoning Valley were aware of their contributions to the modern game.
“Everyone in our family has a copy of the 1915 Patricians team photo hanging in our house, courtesy of a cousin who went to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in the early 1990’s and retrieved it,” said Jeannie Mulichak, whose grandfather, Ralph Funkhouser was a member of the team. “He passed away in the early 1960’s, right about the time the hall of fame was being built. Two guys from the hall came to my grandmother’s house, hoping she would share, which she did, any materials and memorabilia from that team so she donated his pants and pads, and all of the articles that she had kept.”
According to Pernotto’s research, the Patricians remain the only professional team ever founded in a house of worship.
“In 2011, we had our parish centennial and put out in our newsletter, which goes out to about 35 states, word that we were looking for different artifacts, articles and pictures. We got a preponderance of pictures about the football team and it nearly doubled our archives,” Father Edward P. Noga, Pastor of St. Patrick Church stated. “It was a significant increase in information and with someone like Otto, those people who have parents and grandparents that they are very proud of who were members of that team, this was just a natural fit.”
Mahoning County commissioner, Carol Rimedio-Righetti, is pleased that Pernotto is sharing his research with the entire Valley.
“This event is just another plus for Youngstown and the entire Mahoning Valley. We have so much history in Mahoning County and I am glad that someone like Mr. Pernotto is finally looking at that,” said. “And, he’s sharing the historical value of that team with everyone.”
Simon said that it took a little over a month for him to put everything together.
“I always love telling a story and it was really fun working with both Otto and Father Noga,” he said. “If you look at those Irishmen’s faces, you just know in your heart that they worked in the mill and all of those faces just tell you a story. My art teacher at Ursuline High School, Sister Alice Marie Morley, told me and it’s a lesson that I have never forgotten, that you celebrate the art within you, not you within the art.”
Pernotto didn’t originally know what to expect at the unveiling and was pleased with the overall showing.
“I’m ecstatic between tonight and the last three or four days of people contacting me via social media,; ecstatic that somebody remembered that a team existed 100 years ago and they were considered to be the champions of pro football,” Pernotto said.