Early Professional Football


Pro football first team
Here are the members of the first regularly organised pro football team in American history,
the 1894 stalwarts from Greensburg, Pennsylvania.

Lloyd Huff, shown in the centre, was the manager. This team played on the same type of field as used in football today, charged admission to games, and had a regular payroll. One player still publicised even today was Lawson Fiscus, the burly gent with the handlebar mustache shown to the right of the back row. Fiscus, who served as a schoolteacher at South Fork, Pa. while playing for the Greensburg Pros, was known as the "Samson of Princeton" when he starred at halfback for the Princeton University Tigers.

Many records indicate that pro football started in Latrobe, but research indicates that Greensburg actually deserves that honour. Pittsburgh was the first big city to have a regularly organised pro team, that season being memorable for an all-star game on December 3, 1898, when the City of Pittsburgh beat the All-Stars, 16-0, before a turnout of 6,000.


Larger imageFollowing Greensburg's pioneer feat in 1894, Latrobe came up with a regularly organized pro football squad in 1895 and the above players comprised David Berry's squad. This team, which co-featured Ed Abbattichio, later a first base star with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and Harry Ryan, played 12 games, no fewer than six in the month of November alone. Among Latrobe's victims that fall were Jeannette, Mt. Pleasant, Kiski, Indiana Normal, Johnstown and Greensburg.

The 4-0 victory over Greensburg on November 30th touched off an all-night celebration in Latrobe. Joining Abbatichio and Ryan on this squad were Storey, Welsh, Howard, Shoemaker, Dovey, Flickinger, McDyer, Campbell, Brallier, Schmidt and Saxman. Abbatichio stands next to last on right.


Larger imageNewspaper publisher David J. Berry put pro football on the map, in the United States as far back as 1894. He started the legendary Greensburg group, also the great Latrobe teams and later was in charge of the Pittsburgh Pros.

Berry began as a player-coach, but in a Varsity-Yanigan game his jaw was broken and he turned to the managing end of the sport.

Harry Ryan, a big name in Latrobe football circles, served as advisor to Berry until 1902 when he went to Philadelphia. While in the City of Brotherly Love Ryan guided teams against the Pittsburgh Pros, then directed by his former partner.

All photos and images from the December 13th,1959 official programme for the Steelers vs Cardinals game.

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