By 1915 pro football began to make headline news and Jack Cusack owner of the Canton Bulldogs was the creator of the news.
Cusack signed legend Jim Thorpe, who was coaching at the University of Indiana, for the then unheard-of sum of $250 for each game. The paid attendance was averaging 1,200 per/game before he signed Thorpe and vaulted to crowds of 6,600 and 8,000 per/game as "Everyone wanted to see the world's best football player in action."
In the season opener against Massillon (an Ohio team),Thorpe did not start but did maneuver for a 40-yard jaunt to the 8-yard line before slipping. Massillon won 16-0.
Two weeks later in a second match between the same two teams, Thorpe led the Canton Bulldogs to a 6-0 victory by dropkicking a field goal from 45-yards out, and late in the game made another 45-yard field goal - this time from placement.
The second game was played before an overflowing crowd so large that fans stood in both end zones. Ground rules for the game stated - that any player crossing the goal line into the crowd had to be in possession of the ball when he emerged from the crowded end zone.
Towards the end of the game, the Massillon Tigers drove the length of the field and then scored what appeared to be the winning touchdown.
But, hold everything!
Here's what happened next! - according to an old story told by Jack Cusack, the Canton Bulldogs owner.
Cuscak said... 'Briggs, right end for Massillon, caught a forward pass on our 15-yard line and raced across our goal right into the midst of the 'Standing Room Only' customers. Briggs fumbled - or at least he was said to have fumbled - and the ball popped out of the crowd right into the hands of Charlie Smith, the Canton substitute who had been following in hot pursuit.
Referee Connors, mindful of the ground rules made before the game, ruled the play a touchback, but Briggs had something to say about that.
'I didn't fumble', protested the Massillon end. That ball was kicked out of my hands by a policeman - a uniformed policeman!'
'That was ridiculous on the face of it. Briggs was either lying or seeing things that didn't happen to be there - for everyone knew that Canton had no uniformed policemen in those days. But Briggs was unable to accept this fact.
'It was a policeman!' he insisted. 'I saw the brass buttons on his coat.'
When the Massillon players argued over the referee's call, the crowd grew more and more restless and vocal. Only three minutes remained in the game - if the Massillon touchdown counted the game would either be tied or Massillon leading by one. However, since the winning team would be champions of the Ohio League, the fans could no longer control themselves broke down the fences surrounding the end lines, and thousands swarmed onto the field.
The officials unable to clear the field, ended the game.
However, the officials were unable to escape - the Massillon team and their fans demanded the officials settle the matter and make a official statement about the referee's decision.
The officials agreed to make a statement, but only if it were to be opened and read by the 'Courtland Hotel' at 30 minutes past midnight. That would give the officials time to leave town, thereby avoiding the wrath of the players or fans.
That night the lobby of the hotel was jammed to capacity with both Canton and Massillon fans. When the official statement was read, those in the lobby heard - the officials backed the referee's decision and crowned the Canton Bulldogs the winners.
But the final chapter was written ten years later, when Coach Cuscak solved the mystery and wrote - "While on a visit back to Canton I had the occasion to ride on a streetcar, on which I was greeted by an old friend, the brass-buttoned conductor. We began reminiscing about the old football days, and the conductor told me what had happened during that crucial final-quarter play back in 1915. Briggs, when he plunged across the goal line into the end zone spectators, fell at the feet of the conductor, who promptly kicked the ball from Briggs' hands into the arms of Canton's Charlie Smith.
'Why on earth did you do a thing like that?' I asked.
'Well,' he said, 'it was like this - I had thirty dollars bet on the game and, at my salary, I couldn't afford to lose that much money.'
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