Buffalo has a history of heartbreak, and there seems to be a title from each of them, Wide Right, No Goal, The Music City Forward Lateral. Not to mention the shady dealings that lead to the departure of the Buffalo Braves. Yet, heartbreak in Buffalo has an even greater history that goes all the way back to the 1920's. This two part post will help you to see just how far back this despair goes.
The American Professional Football Association (APFA) which later became the NFL, was formed on August 20, 1920. It was started by four independent football teams (Akron Pro, Canton Bulldogs, Cleveland Tigers, and Dayton Triangles) that played in the unofficial Ohio League. On September 17, 1920 the APFA added six more teams (Hammond Pros, Muncie Flyers, Rochester Jeffersons, Rock Island Independents, Decatur Staleys, and Racine Cardinals). Later four more teams were added (Chicago Tigers, Columbus Panhandles, Detroit Heralds, and Buffalo All Americans). Jim Thorpe was named the first president and it was thought that Thorpe would bring the new league creditability because he was a celebrity at the time. Although Thorpe was president, he remained an active player for the Canton Bulldogs.
The group of teams that made up the APFA played independently or in other leagues prior to 1920 (including the Ohio League and the New York Pro Football League) and scheduling games was left up to each team. There was no set number of games to play, nor were there guidelines concerning, which teams you would play. No official standings were maintained and many teams played against local teams not affiliated with the APFA (mostly to cut down on traveling expenses). This lead to confusion and disputes about the league title.
In the first season of the APFA the Buffalo All Americans had a fine team. In fact their first four games weren't even close. The All Americans defeated each of their first four opponents by more than 20 points (West Buffalo 32-6, All Buffalo 51-0, McKeesport Olympics 28-7 and the Toledo Maroons 38-0). None of these teams were part of the APFA, but these games were counted in the All Americans final record. This feat was not duplicated in the NFL until the 2007 New England Patriots did so on their way to an undefeated regular season.
Buffalo only sustained one loss that season, a 0-3 defeat at the hands of the Canton Bulldogs. The All Americans would a take on the Bulldogs once again two weeks later this time beating them 7-3. The game was played on Saturday December 4 in New York at the Polo grounds it was scheduled by Jim Thorpe as a showcase game. One day later Buffalo played the Akron Pros to a 0-0 tie. There final unofficial record was 9-1-1(win-loss-tie).
The All Americans laid claim to the title as did the Decatur Staleys (now the Chicago Bears) who like Buffalo only had one loss, and the Akron Pros. The Pros record was 8-0-3 and they were the only undefeated team in the APFA. The dispute arose because the Pros had ties in the games against the Staleys and the All Americans. However, on April 30, 1921 at the league meetings the Pros were awarded the Brunswick-Balke Collender Cup (given to the league champion, but was only used for the 1920 season). This was done at the motion of Joe Carr who was the manager of the Columbus Panhandles. Carr was also elected to become president of the APFA, to replace the Jim Thorpe during this meeting.
The All Americans were not considered co champions are they wished, however the following season is Part II of, The Lesser Know Buffalo Team of The Week.
The first trade in the NFL (as the APFA was later known) took place after the a 0-0 tie between Buffalo and Akron. Akron's owners Frank Nied and Art Ranney agreed to sell Tackle Bob Nash to Buffalo for $300 and 5% of the gate.