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Mose Kelsch colorised by GDWhen the Steelers (as the Pirates) won their first game in the NFL it was an unlikely hero, Christian “Mose” Kelsch, who kicked the extra points that guaranteed the victory.

Kelsch was unique. Although listed as a place kicker and a halfback, it was solely his kicking ability that brought him to professional football. It is an accepted part of a football team now, but in the infant days of pro football it was unusual to have a kicking specialist.

Restricted by the smaller squad sizes, the requirement was for players to be versatile and to slot into more than one position while playing both ways.

When the Pittsburgh franchise was approved in July 1933, it provided little time for Art Rooney to put together a team before the start of the new season. Although he had spent many years managing and playing in the semi-pro circuit, he was a novice in the world of professional football.

When choosing his squad, Rooney would focus on the local players he had become familiar with. He would also bring in some professional players to introduce experience into his team.

Rooney and Kelsch were both born on the North Side, Pittsburgh. Like many athletes of that era, Kelsch and Rooney played baseball and football. Their paths would often cross, most notably on the Pittsburgh sandlot circuits.

Kelsch never went to college. He learnt about life on the streets of Pittsburgh, and it wasn’t an easy one. He was born on January 31, 1987, spending his early life in the St. Joseph Orphanage.

He would hone his athletic skills in the sandlots of the city and surrounding towns. He began his football trade with the Northside Market Eleven before progressing through the chronology of Pittsburgh’s sandlot football teams.

Sandlot football in Pittsburgh was a hit and miss affair although it did attempt to organize a schedule.  When phones were the only tool of communication, teams would invite rivals to contact them to agree a date.

The teams needed to make money because the players were paid $10 a game and if they were good enough, they might even receive $15.

Although most of the time the organizing worked, there were occasions when teams failed to turn up frustrating the fans who had travelled on the trams to watch the abandoned game.

Games had officials to referee them, usually supplied by the home team. This led to disputed decisions that sometimes would see a game come to sudden end. On a rare occasion, police would be called upon to sort out any ensuing brawls. That was sandlot football.

During the 1921 season, the owners of Americo Park, Donora (20 miles south of Pittsburgh) decided no more football games would be played there for the rest of the season. The action followed the conduct of the Donora Independent Football team due to the players’ improper language, betting, and the charging of admission. The team went on to win the Monongahela Valley championship.

Several teams might remain unbeaten during a season, and it was the newspapers who decided the champions based on strength of opponents and points scored.

Kelsch was a star and always made a huge contribution to the teams who he played for.

When Pittsburgh’s Hope Harvey team began life in 1919, Kelsch and Rooney found themselves as teammates. Kelsch was also credited for playing with the E.V. Babcock eleven that same season. When they two teams played out a 0-0 tie, Kelsch played for Hope Harvey.

The 1920 season would see Kelsch play for the North Side Commercials, Douglas and the Bradley Eagles. At the end of the season the Eagles would play an independent title decider against the Duquesne Apprentices. The Apprentices made use of the forward pass more effectively than any other team on the local circuit. They would be picked off with a 45-yard touchdown pass from Kelsh for the only score of the game.

This story of Mose Kelsch to be continued...




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