September 16, 1938 -- Earlier this year, there was a note in this space about how in 1960 the first pro football game was played in War Memorial Stadium. The trick was that the name of the stadium was changed for the occasion.
If you asked when the first NFL game was played in that facility, you might answer in 1966 -- after the formal merger between the AFL and the NFL -- or in 1970 -- when the merger between the two leagues was completed.
In reality, the first NFL game ever played in Civic Stadium came on this date. The Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates (they became the Steelers two years later), 27-7. The reason the game was played in Buffalo was, we assume, because the Pirates shared Forbes Field with the baseball Pirates, who hadn't finished their season. Even though the baseball team was on the road that weekend, they no doubt didn't want their field chewed up.
A crowd of 19,749 watched the game at Jefferson and Best in Buffalo. The Eagles were coached by future NFL commissioner Bert Bell. Jay Arnold scored three touchdowns for Philadelphia -- one on a fumble return, one on a pass reception, and one on an interception return.
The two teams eventually finished around the bottom of the NFL's Eastern Division that year. Pittsburgh finished 2-9 while Philadelphia was 5-6.
--- Budd Bailey