Douglas Park (Rock Island)

Douglas Park is a public park located at 18th Avenue and 10th Street in Rock Island, Illinois.[1]

Douglas Park
Site of First NFL Game, 1920.
Location 18th Avenue and 10th Street in Rock Island, Illinois, 61201
Coordinates

41°29′42.3″N90°35′07.0″W

Owner City of Rock Island, Illinois
Operator Rock Island Park and Recreation Department
Capacity 5,000 (1925)
Surface Grass
Construction
Built 1904
Opened 1905
Tenants
National Football League
Rock Island Independents (1907–1925)
Minor League Baseball
Rock Island Islanders (1905–1937)

A former National Football League venue, Douglas Park was the site of the first National Football League game on September 26, 1920. The Rock Island neighborhood that is today called Douglas Park dates back to the 1830s,[2] with the athletic park being constructed in 1904 to 1905 and utilized for football beginning in 1907.[3]

The stadium was home to the Rock Island Independents from 1907 until 1925. The Independents were an original franchise of the National Football League (1920–1925).

Douglas Park was also a minor league baseball stadium for the Rock Island Islanders teams between 1905 and 1937, replacing Twelfth Street Park (also called Rock Island Baseball Park), which had been the Islanders home from 1898 to 1904.[3]

Numerous Pro Football Hall of Fame Inductees, including NFL legends George Halas, Curly Lambeau and Jim Thorpe, performed at Douglas Park.

Rock Island Independents Team Photo 1919. The Independents were a charter member of the NFL in 1920. The Independents hosted the first ever NFL game at Douglas Park on September 26, 1920.

. . . Douglas Park (Rock Island) . . .

Douglas Park was the site of the first ever National Football League contest on September 26, 1920. After the league had formed on September 17, 1920, Douglas Park was the scene when the Rock Island Independents defeated the non–member St. Paul Ideals 48–0 in the new league’s first contest.[4][5]

A week later, on October 3, 1920, the Independents defeated the Muncie Flyers 45–0 at Douglas Park in the first full week of league play.[6][7]

Douglas Park, 1920. Site of the first contest with an NFL team, September 26, 1920. The football lines are visible as the Rock Island Islanders minor league team played.

After beginning play at Douglas Park in 1907 (with undefeated seasons in 1908, 1910, 1912, 1912, 1918), the Rock Island Independents were an original franchise in the National Football League.[8]

Today’s National Football League was formed on September 17, 1920 at a meeting in Canton, Ohio with Rock Island Independents representation in attendance.[4]Jim Thorpe was the first League President. First known as the American Professional Football Association, the league would change names to the “National Football league” in 1922. The 14 original 1920 Franchises were the Akron Pros, Canton Bulldogs, Decatur Staleys, Chicago Cardinals, Chicago Tigers, Cleveland Indians, Dayton Triangles, Hammond Pros, Muncie Flyers, Rock Island Independents, Rochester Jeffersons, Buffalo All-Americans, Columbus Panhandles and Detroit Heralds. The Green Bay Packers would join the league a year later.[6]

Rock Island Independents owner (and former player) Walter Flanigan was the driving force in establishing the franchise as an early football professional franchise. Flanigan was present at the September 17, 1920 meeting in Canton and after the formation of the league, Flanigan was named to a committee that created the league’s constitution.[9]

The Rock Island Independents posted records of 6–2–2 (1920), 4–2–1 (1921) and 4–2–1 (1922) in the NFL’s first three seasons. Five of their six losses were to the Decatur Staleys/Chicago Staleys/Chicago Bears and George Halas. After 2–3–3 (1923), 5–2–2 (1924) and 5–3–3 (1925) records in the next three seasons. The team, now owned by Dale Johnson, fatefully left the NFL after the 1925 season to become a charter member of the short-lived American Football League in 1926. At the same time, Johnson also moved the team’s home to Browning Field in neighboring Moline, Illinois. The American Football League and all its teams folded after the 1926 season, ending the Independents existence. The Independents overall NFL record was 26–14–9, with five winning seasons in six years.[6][10][11][12][13][14]

Douglas Park played host to several famous NFL teams including the Chicago Bears and their early franchise, the Decatur Staleys, Green Bay Packers, and the Chicago Cardinals. Numerous Pro Football Hall of Fame players played at Douglas Park, including: Jim Thorpe, Curly Lambeau, George Halas, Paddy Driscoll, and George Trafton.[15]

. . . Douglas Park (Rock Island) . . .

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. . . Douglas Park (Rock Island) . . .