Meet our charter class
On Saturday, we honor our local community that was pivotal in making the Pro Football Hall of Fame become a reality for Canton, Ohio a half century ago. We’re holding a Community Celebration Day on the 50th Anniversary of when we first opened our doors on Sept. 7, 1963.
On the same day we welcomed our first visitor, we also enshrined the first 17 of the now 280 members of the Hall of Fame.
Some of the names may resonate better than others but here’s a brief description of these legends honored on our first day of operation 50 years ago.
Sammy Baugh revolutionized the NFL’s passing game. Today, he still holds the record for most seasons leading the league in passing (6, a mark tied by Steve Young). He also played defensive back and was one of the game’s great punters. His 1940 punting average of 51.40 has never been equaled.
Bert Bell’s impact on the game was nearly immeasurable. First, as the owner of the Philadelphia Eagles and co-owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, he made his biggest impact as the league’s commissioner from 1946 to 1959. His extraordinary vision and work on television exposure helped the game grow to new heights.
Joe Carr, the former owner of the pro football Columbus Panhandles, reigned over the NFL as the league president from 1921 to 1939. Among his contributions were standard player contracts, rules development and his leadership that helped the NFL from a fledgling endeavor to a sports league ripe for great growth.
Dutch Clark was not only the Detroit Lions biggest star but one of the NFL’s most notable athletes during the 1930s. He possessed a great football mind, quick thinking, and great athletic ability as he earned All-NFL honors six times in his seven-season career. A footnote, pun intended, is that Clark also was the league’s last big-time dropkick specialist.
Red Grange was as big of a college football star that there may have ever been. His signing with the Chicago Bears in 1925 is arguably the most pivotal historic moment in the league’s history. His notoriety brought the pro game into the national spotlight. Oh, and he also led the Bears to back-to-back world championships in 1932 and 1933.
George Halas, the namesake of the Hall of Fame’s street address (2121 George Halas Drive), is simply known as pro football’s “Papa Bear.” From the day he attended the NFL’s formation meeting in 1920 through his death in 1983, Halas never stopped contributing to the success of pro football. He has achieved great success as a player, coach, and owner. And no man ever, and possible never, will match his 40 seasons of serving as a NFL head coach.
Mel Hein was a star attraction in New York City even though he played on the offensive line. The Giants center played 60 minutes a game for 15 seasons. He was injured only once yet never missed a game during his Hall of Fame career from 1931 to 1945. Hein even was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player in the Giants’ 1938 championship season.
Wilbur “Pete” Henry was a huge name and a huge player for his day. The tackle weighed in at nearly 250 pounds and ranked among the most powerful players of the 1920s. His greatest days came with the Canton Bulldogs who he helped become the NFL’s first two-time champion. Noted for his kicking ability, he once punted the football 94 yards and also dropkicked a 50-yard field goal.
Cal Hubbard, the only man enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the National Baseball Hall of Fame, was a domating tackle for the New York Giants and Green Bay Packers before finishing up with one season with Pittsburgh. He was named All-NFL six straight years from 1928-1933 and selected as the NFL’s all-time tackle in 1969.
granted one additional mark, the now defunct statistic of “Most Records Held.”
Don Hutson was the “Jerry Rice” of his day or should we say Jerry Rice was the "Don Hutson" of his day? In 11 seasons from 1935 to 1945, Hutson established himself as the game’s first prolific pass catcher. His statistics were so staggering that it took decades and multiple players to break the receiving marks he set during his Hall of Fame career with the Green Bay Packers.
Curly Lambeau has a stadium in Green Bay named after him since he was the founder of the pre-NFL Packers in 1919 and steered the franchise through 1949. He played halfback during the 1920s but it was his coaching that earned him a bust in Canton. Credited as the first coach to truly integrate the forward pass into their game plan, he racked up 229 career victories, the most in franchise history.
Tim Mara, despite heavy personal financial losses, believed in the NFL and the how important it was to have a franchise in the country’s largest city. As founder of the New York Giants in 1925, he guided the team to great success while helping the league gain a firm footing on the sports scene. His Giants won three league titles during his tenure.
George Preston Marshall, at times controversial and always flamboyant, showcased his Washington Redskins. He started the Boston Braves in 1932, changed the nickname a year later, and moved the team to Washington in 1937. Noted for adding entertainment to the games, he was also an integral leader on the league level and pioneered numerous progressive rule changes.
Johnny “Blood” McNally may go down in NFL history as the most colorful character on an off the field. Known as a free spirit, his athleticism made him one of the flashiest runners, and great pass receiver, of his era in the 1920 and ‘30s. His finest days came in a Packers uniform.
strength and toughness.
Bronko Nagurski was a big, rugged fullback on offense and punishing linebacker on defense for the Chicago Bears in the 1940s. His play earned him All-NFL honors five times in eight seasons before he retired after the 1937 season. After five-year layoff, he returned for one last season and helped the Bears win the 1943 NFL Championship.
Ernie Nevers played just five seasons in the NFL, two with the Duluth Eskimos and three with the Chicago Cardinals, but his performance was so spectacular he was a sure pick for Canton. Named All-NFL each season he played, Nevers scored an amazing 40 points on Thanksgiving Day 1929. That mark has never been matched and remains the league’s longest-standing record.
Jim Thorpe's contribution to the game was so significant that he was named to the NFL’s All-Time Team as “The Legend.” Thorpe began his pro football career with the Canton Bulldogs five years before the NFL was formed. He was the first big-name athlete to play pro football and essentially put the game on the map.
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