Red Grange’s Pro Football Barnstorming Tour
The MMQB presents NFL 95, a special project running through mid-July detailing 95 artifacts that tell the story of the NFL, as the league prepares to enter its 95th season. See the entire series here.
Before 1925, professional football was struggling to gain an audience. More than 20 franchises had folded in the previous four years, and attendance ranged from a few hundred on a good day to mere dozens of spectators on a slow one. That all changed when Harold “Red” Grange, who was called the Galloping Ghost by fawning reporters, became the first player to drop out of school (the University of Illinois) and become a professional football player.
Days later, Grange joined the Chicago Bears and embarked on a 19-game, 66-day tour during the winter of 1925-26. The cross-country tour was organized by C.C. Pyle, the first football agent who had signed Grange to a multi-year contract. In his first eight games as a professional, Grange played before an estimated 200,000 fans, including over 70,000 at the Polo Ground against the Giants, which helped to rescue owner Tim Mara from $45,000 in debt. Yankees baseball legend Babe Ruth was among those in attendance at the Polo Grounds, as were over 100 sportswriters. Professional football had finally entered the consciousness of the country, and it had Grange to thank for it.
— Greg Bedard