The Giants First Game
When you look at the NFL 2007, you see a centrally organized, well planned schedule but back in 1925 it was it very different affair. Each NFL team was obligated to play at least eight different league teams, but they were also free to play non-NFL teams as part of their regular schedule. Those games would not count towards the NFL standings, but the practice of including non-NFL teams in some NFL schedules was common in the 1920s and continued until after World War II.
One of the non-NFL teams that played a number of NFL teams was from New Britain, Connecticut. The Providence Steam Roller team played against New Britain starting in 1921. In 1926 and 1927 the NFL Frankford Yellow Jackets played All New Britain several times. But its 1925 that is the focus of this article, and in 1925 the All New Britain team played both the Yellow Jackets and a new NFL franchise called the All-Collegian Professional Football club, or, more commonly, the New York Football Giants. That game, on October 4, 1925, in New Britain at Willow Brook Park, should be remembered as the first scheduled game in Giants history.
Milstead and John McBride were Giants players pictured in the Courant prior to the game:
McBride was one of the greatest backfield players at Syracuse, known for his kicking
and all-around work with the Orange eleven; Milstead was Yales great
tackle of 1923 and an All-American selection now with the New York Giants. Although
Jim Thorpe played in the game, his name does not show up in the pre-game press, which
beside touting McBride and Milstead also spoke glowingly of Coach Bob Folwell, Heinie
Benkert of Rutghers, Hinkey Haines of Penn State, Ed McGinley of Penn, Art Carney of Navy,
and Joe Alexander of Syracuse.
So Giants fans, if you are looking to make a
pilgrimage to the very ground where the Giants began their legend and legacy, get out your
Connecticut map and look up New Britain its under two hours out of New York
City along Route 9 South of Hartford. Its still called Willow Brook Park and they
still play football there or go to www.mapquest.com (599 S Main St, New Britain,
CT) for an aerial view.
First Home Game Program
If programs for the Giants first game against New Britain with10,000 spectators are non-existent and for their second game against Providence with 8,000 in the stands are extremely rare, the Giants first home game where 25,000 fans attended are seemingly common but that is only because it was reprinted by the Giants and given out as part of the opening day festivities at the Meadowlands. This has caused more than a little confusion even with experienced dealers, not to mention innumerable eBay auctions.
The Giants first home game was at the Polo Grounds on October 18, 1925, against the Frankford Yellow Jackets. When the Giants played their first game at the Meadowlands in New Jersey on October 10, 1976 the opponent was the Dallas Cowboys and a souvenir gift pack included a bumper sticker saying Giants Stadium I Was There Opening Day, a stadium picture, a small New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority flag, and a reprint of the October 18, 1925 program.
The sheet with the stadium picture says the program in the souvenir pack is an exact reproduction of the original game program, but there are some significant differences that help the collector sort out the original from the reprint. On the original (left) the box around the team names on the cover is complete on all sides . On the reprint (right) the line under the team names is mostly removed.
In the original the first inside page is all text and entitled New Yorks First Eleven in the National Football League. In the reprint the first inside page has a picture of Senator James J. Walker and the full text page is now page 5.
Finally, in the reprint the vertical and horizontal fold marks are actually printed in the photo rather than the result of folding, and they are identical in every reprint whether theyve been folded or not as in the Walker picture (right). Even an esteemed auction house like Mastronet has offered the reprint as an original, and it happens every few weeks on eBay, so buyer beware!
Senator James J. Walker