Greatest Pro Football Team Ever Came From Franklin, Pa.: The Last Word
Some people in the Venango County community of Franklin may believe that the Pittsburgh Steelers had the greatest professional football team ever back in the 70s. Well, they're wrong! The greatest pro team of all time came from Franklin.
Let’s go back to 1902. People in Venango County had been thriving since the discovery of oil by Colonel Edwin Drake in nearby Titusville.
"This was the new money that was coming about. From black gold. It definitely influenced that area in almost everything…including sports,” says Darin Hayes.
Darin is from Erie. He wrote a book about football played in Venango County in the years 1902 and 1903. He claims that Franklin produced the greatest pro football team ever. During that time, teams of young men from Franklin and Oil City played each other every year for bragging rights. However, the wealthy citizens of each community saw the games as something more. They placed gambling bets on their city to win. The communities are fierce rivals, only eight miles apart. In 1902, three games were played between Franklin and Oil City. For games 1 and 2, both teams brought in a couple of ringers who played pro football for either Philadelphia or Pittsburgh. Game 3 was played on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Oil City BADLY wanted to win.
"Oil City would then up the ante and hired the entire Philadelphia Athletics football team to come and play the Saturday game and represent Oil City,” says Darin.
Oil City's team of ringers shut out Franklin 10-0. Franklin citizens were fit to be tied. They lost a bundle of money on bets, especially General Charles Miller and Joseph Sibley. The millionaires owned the Galena Oil Company, headquartered in Franklin. Miller knew a young sports fan and businessman from Franklin named Dave Printz. The general gave Printz an open checkbook to recruit as many pro players as he could to play for Franklin the next season. The main goal…BEAT OIL CITY in 1903.!!!
"He told Printz, 'I don't care what it takes. Put together a team that’s going to beat Oil City,” says Darin.
Printz delivered. The Franklin team went 12-0 against various opponents that year. They scored 462 points and their opponents did not score once. Opponents entered Franklin's side of the field only twice all year. Franklin was invited to play in the World Series of Football at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Naturally, they won by shutout.
But what about Oil City, the community that Miller and Sibley wanted to beat so badly? There would be no revenge in 1903. Oil City could not find enough talent to field a team that year.
Darin Hayes' book is called The World's Greatest Pro Gridiron Team, The 1903 Franklin All-Stars. It is available on Amazon. By the way, Darin explains in the book that football rules were much different back then. There was no forward pass. Everything on offense was a running play and field goals counted for five points.