November 21, 1920 -- The greatest players in football have been regular visitors to Buffalo since the American Football League fully merged with the National Football League for the 1970 season. Sometimes the greats visited our city before that too.
Jim Thorpe certainly qualifies as one of those greats. He won the decathlon at the 1912 Olympics, and had played pro baseball and football after that. When the American Professional Football Association was formed for the 1920 season, Thorpe played a major role.
In fact, he had several roles. Thorpe was named president of the league, which was the direct predecessor of the National Football League, but he still maintained his old position as coach of the Canton Bulldogs. What's more, he occasionally suited up to play.
The Bulldogs came to Buffalo Baseball Park to play the Buffalo All-Americans on this date. He guaranteed that he'd play at least a quarter, and so 15,000 turned out to watch him do it. Thorpe didn't make much of an impact in the game.
The All-Americans lost the contest, 3-0, as Al Feeney kicked a 20-yard field goal with four minutes left. It was the first loss of the season for Buffalo, which had won its first seven contests.
The APFA was a loose association of teams in that first year, and the Akron Pros' 8-0-3 record was declared better than the All-Americans' 9-1-1 mark. Thus the Pros were declared league champions.
--- Budd Bailey