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Jim Thorpe and Jack Creasy

Jim Thorpe and Jack Creasy

06/03/2019
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Story courtesy of Sciotohistorical

Portsmouth, Ohio, is renowned as a football town, a community with a deep and abiding love of the sport - a place where both team and stadium history intertwine with the early years of professional football and the National Football League. The city’s football history, like that of the sport in general, dates back to the late-nineteenth century when the game first spread throughout the colleges and towns of the Upper Ohio Valley and Midwest.

 

In the region’s smaller industrial towns, as well as its larger cities, former high school stars (now making a living in their hometown factories and businesses) joined with recent college graduates to form the first semi-professional teams. They worked their regular day jobs and during their free time, they practiced and played ball, traveling to nearby cities to do battle on the gridiron.

The teams attracted commercial backers and chamber-of-commerce, city-booster types (whom themselves were fans of the game). Team sponsors helped offset the cost of fielding a traveling team and local rivalries helped fuel the competition as teams vied for both financial backing and regional league championship titles. City boosters came to view successful professional sports teams and associated sports infrastructure — playing fields and stadiums — as key elements in their city’s economic development. Civic and business groups, such as Kiwanis and the Rotarians, backed ballot initiatives to build stadiums and youth sports complexes.

In Portsmouth, the birth of professional football involved one of America’s greatest athletes of all time — Jim Thorpe — and one of the city’s most forgotten civic leaders — Jack Creasy. Jim Thorpe’s one season in the city as the player-coach of the Shoe-Steels (the precursor of the Spartans), helped build the local support needed for Portsmouth’s entrance into the National Football League (NFL). Jack Creasy, on the other hand, was the Portsmouth native and high school athletic star who managed the Shoe-Steels and brought Jim Thorpe out of retirement to play for Portsmouth. Together, Creasy and Thorpe would help give rise to the Portsmouth Spartans (and what is now the Detroit Lions).

George McMahon and the Portsmouth Smoke House

As early as 1912, George McMahon, proprietor of the Smoke House (a popular Portsmouth tobacco shop), had sponsored an amateur football team that traveled the Ohio-Kentucky-West Virginia Tri-State region, playing its home games at Millbrook Park in nearby New Boston, Ohio. Located on the northwest corner of Fifth and Chillicothe, overlooking the city’s Esplanade (what was then known as Government Square), the Smoke House attracted patrons by offering a variety of cigars and pipe tobaccos, cigarettes, and other “smoker’s articles.”

McMahon’s shop also provided its patrons with the latest sports news and scores for baseball and football games from across the nation, which they pulled from the news wires and radio. When the Smoke House was remodeled in 1912, the Portsmouth Daily Times proclaimed that it would be “one of the finest ‘weed dispensaries’ in the state.”

From 1920 to 1925, McMahon’s teams, which played under the Smoke House name, enjoyed moderate success, with an overall record of 19-16-8. And, while they won against teams from Wellston, Chillicothe, Jackson, Ashland, Columbus, Lancaster, and Huntington, they could never defeat their greatest rivals - the Ironton Tanks. In October 1925, the Smoke House suffered a humiliating 34-0 loss at the hands of the Huntington Boosters and the team fell apart, disbanding after playing only two games of the season. According to football historian Carl Becker, author of Home & Away: The Rise and Fall of Professional Football on the Banks of the Ohio, “no one in Portsmouth mourned the passing of the team. They never held the heart of Portsmouth, emotionally or materially, never came near becoming a team of the town. The community had to await the coming of a new venture in football for that to happen.” A new football venture was indeed on the way. And it was spearheaded by twenty-five year old Jack Creasy.

Jacques (Jack) Creasy

William Jacques Creasy was born on October 9th, 1901, the son of William L. Creasy, who worked as the Assistant Superintendent of the Pocahontas Consolidated Coal and Coke Company. Jacques attended Portsmouth High School (PHS) and graduated in 1922. While at PHS, he worked on the school newspaper and served as senior class president. He made a name for himself as an excellent athlete and team leader, having been chosen captain of both the football and basketball teams.

His senior Yearbook notes: “As captain of last year’s varsity (football squad), Jack finished up his fourth and most successful season for P.H.S. His defensive and offensive work was excellent, and his passing sure and swift.” Creasy was a local football star and, by all accounts, he was fun-loving and well-liked by all who knew him.

After his high school graduation, Creasy took a job with the Portsmouth Daily Times circulation department and eventually found worked as a clerk in the Department of Public Service. In his free time, Creasy trained as a boxer and refereed bouts, while also playing center and serving as the captain of McMahon’s Smoke House team.

In the fall of 1924, Creasy left Portsmouth, hitch-hiking his way to the University of Arizona, where he hoped to play ball under Coach Pop McKale. Creasy, however, never made the team and returned home to Portsmouth in June of 1925 after completing one year of studies.

“Look Who is Here!” read the headline in the Times. “No it was not a senatorial candidate nor a beer baron from Canada that was drawing crowds last night. The center of the handshaking group was one Jacques Creasy, brown and smiling with his broad sombrero suggesting the far southwest. For Jacques has just returned from a winter in Tucson, Arizona where he attended University…Buenos dios, Jacques.”

Creasy would return to the Smoke House roster in the fall of 1925, which turned out to be the team’s last season.

The Studebaker Presidents vs. the Portsmouth Merchants

In the summer of 1926, Portsmouth football fans and backers formed two separate teams, each competing for local talent and financial backing. Jack Creasy would join the squad organized with the primary backing of W.R. Fundenberg, owner of the Scioto Motor Company, a local Studebaker auto-dealer. Creasy was chosen captain of the new team, which took the name of the Studebaker Presidents. Jack Walters of the Hurth Hotel, served as business manager, handling contracts and booking games.

The second team was fielded by members of the Portsmouth Retail Merchants Association and given the uninspired name of the “Portsmouth Merchants.” Pat Shoemaker served as coach and manager. Their uniforms and equipment were donated by various local supporters, including the Dunham Meat Market, Taylor Universal Motor Company, Service Drug Company, Harley Davidson Motorcycle Shop, Ferrell Bros. Confectionery, the Senate Cafe, Gibson Music Shop, Kings Lunch Room, Home Vulcanizing Company, Cannonball Company, Terminal Lunch Room, Horchow Furniture Company, the Play House, Glockner Chevrolet, and the McDonnell Buick dealership.

The Merchants would complete the season with a mixed, but losing record, which failed to rally local fans and financial boosters. Both teams would play on the new Labold Field, which the city had acquired by donation in 1925 from one of the city’s most wealthy businessmen and most generous philanthropists -- Simon Labold. Located at the foot of Brown Street on the banks of the Ohio River, behind a newly constructed floodwall in the city’s East End neighborhood, Labold Field was to be used by the city schools and general public, as well as professional sports teams.

Previously, the Smoke House had practiced at Mound Park and played their home games in New Boston’s Millbrook Park. But in September of 1925, local Boy Scouts and city workers cleaned up and leveled the ground for football and baseball fields. These improvements were spearheaded with $7,500 in donations from area businesses, and included the erection of temporary bleachers, steel wire fencing, steel goal posts, and a new paved city street to the field.

Jack Creasy and the Presidents would win their home-opener at Labold on September 26th, 1926, defeating the Ironton Panthers, 7-0. The Timescoverage of the game was surprisingly critical, perhaps hoping to goad the team to improve their play. “Although the Presidents opened their season with a victory,” reported the Times, “they should not feel very elated over the game as they outweighed the Panthers considerably and should have had no trouble in beating them to a standstill.”

Like Portsmouth, Ironton sported two football teams in 1926. The Ironton Panthers were considered the B-Team and derisively described as the “Junior Tanks.” H. Coleman Grimes, the City Editor at the Times, who wrote much of the paper’s coverage of local football, concluded: “All in all, the game was very disappointing, instead of working like a well-oiled machine as they should, the Presidents showed up poorly, their line failed to hold when it should have, only one [pass] was thrown and received and the backfield men received little or no interference from their team mates.”

For all the criticism, the Presidents, it turned out, were just getting warmed up. Their win over the Panthers at Labold Field kicked off a run of six victories, including a 12-0 defeat of their Portsmouth rivals, the Merchants. The weather for the game was just awful. “A small crowd of spectators paid their admission, but several hundred sat in their cars outside the enclosure and viewed the game,” reported the Times. “The sparkling red jerseys of the Presidents were in contrast to the brand new gray ones of the Merchants as the first whistle blew, but within five minutes there was little difference in the colors.” The game had been “a titanic struggle in the mud” whose results ensured the Presidents would “retain the right to use Labold Field for Sunday games for the remainder of the season.”

Local interest reached a fever pitch after the Presidents vanquished Merchants. Captain Jack Creasy and team boasted an undefeated record (6-0) heading into the next away game against the Ironton Tanks, the city’s biggest and longest standing rival. “The locals are eager to get into the battle, which will either make them or break them,” reported the Times. “The team went through its last workout last night on the Mound Park. …. Indications are that close to a thousand Portsmouth fans will make the trip with the team to the Iron City. Enthusiasm here is at a breaking point. Fans have been talking about the Presidents-Tanks game for the past month and within an hour after 250 tickets for the game arrived at the Smoke House to go on sale most of them were sold.”

Unfortunately, the Presidents lost the grudge match, 0-to-9. It was certainly disappointing to Portsmouth fans. Local press coverage was muted, focusing on interviews with Ironton football fans who only praised their defeated river city rivals. One commentator opined that “the Portsmouth club has really developed remarkably this season. They organized early in the fall with no thought that they soon would be in position to meet with the leaders of valley football and play them almost on even terms.”

Creasy and the Presidents rebounded for their next two games, with two shut out victories over the Columbus Bobbs (12-0) and Cincinnati Friars (31-0). They dropped their next match (0-6) to the Armcos in Ashland, Kentucky, before preparing to meet the Tanks for one last game before the season’s end.

Again, the Presidents would travel to Ironton to play at the Tank’s Beechwood Stadium. And again, they would fall by a score of 33-0. This time, though, Portsmouth press coverage was completely silent. The Presidents had been humiliated. At the end of the season, both the Presidents and the Merchants would dissolve. But, while fans were licking their wounds, Jack Creasy was putting together a new football organization, one that would give the city a fully-professional team that could dominate the region and propel Portsmouth to the highest levels of national sporting leagues.

“A Real Team on the Gridiron”: Jim Thorpe and the Portsmouth Shoe-Steels

At the end of the 1926 season, Creasy, at the age of 25, purchased the President’s equipment and sought out the financial backing of the city’s two largest employers — the Selby Shoe Company and the Whitaker-Glessner Company, owner of the Portsmouth Steel works in New Boston. By the end of August of 1927, Creasy had enough private commitments to call a public meeting for all interested parties.

Held in the old City Building on Government Square, the Times reported that “Jim Thorpe, former Olympic star, one the best all-around grid players this country has produced, is in the city, to discuss with Manager Creasy the city’s prospects for a football team that will be able to hold its own with other teams in this section.” Creasy’s vision was to anchor the squad with Thorpe as a player-coach. The chance to see Thorpe play in person would drive ticket sales and the former NFL superstar’s ability to recruit top-quality talent would ensure the team had a good chance for a winning season and regional championship.

James Francis Thorpe (May 22 or 28 1887 – March 28, 1953) was born near Prague, Indian Territory (Oklahoma), on the grounds of the Sac and Fox Nation. His birth name was Wa-Tho-Huk, which is most commonly translated as “Bright Path.” At the time of first European contact in the 1600s, the Sac and Fox peoples inhabited the Lake Huron and Lake Michigan regions. After having fought against the United States in the Blackhawk War and losing, the nation was forcibly relocated first to Iowa in the 1830s and then, in the 1870s, to a federal reservation in what became Oklahoma.

Jim Thorpe, as he would become known to the wide world, would be sent to the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where he played for the school’s football team and gained national recognition as a two-time “All-American.” Even before his Gold Medal performances at the Stockholm Olympics in 1912, Thorpe was a nationally recognized athlete, known for his Native American ancestry and football playing prowess.

As an “All-American,” Thorpe had been a member of the nation’s original fantasy football team. It was with Major League Baseball, however, where Thorpe first made a living as a paid athlete. Beginning in 1913, Thorpe played six seasons with the New York Giants. In 1915, during the baseball off-season, he returned to football and helped establish the Canton Bulldogs and what became the National Football League, serving nominally as the first President of the NFL from 1920 to 1921.

When Jack Creasy contacted Thorpe in the summer of 1927, the famed athlete, now age 41, was well into the first year of his retirement from professional football. He had led the Canton Bulldogs to three championships before moving to Cleveland, where he played for the NFL Indians in 1922 and 1923. Then, after playing thre more seasons with various other NFL teams, Thorpe returned to Canton in 1926 for one last year. By then he was injury prone and unable to play more than 30 minutes per game. “One must quit sometime,” said Thorpe. “My earning days in athletics are at an end and while sports have been my livelihood, I really played for the love of competition. Now, I have a yearning to hunt and fish back with my people.”

As has become a familiar phenomenon with great sports stars, Thorpe’s announced retirement proved temporary. Job offers would continue to come in. Jack Creasy pursued Thorpe, believing his name would draw attention to a new fully-professional Portsmouth team. By 1927, historian Carl Becker has noted, Thorpe had “lost the decisive edge of his speed and power,” but he had gained “the experience of playing with eight different clubs in the NFL.” His connection with the NFL and his ability to recruit from his extended network of professional players would help Creasy build a new, successful squad.

Following Thorpe’s initial visit to Portsmouth in late August of 1927, H. Coleman Grimes, the City Editor at the Times noted that “Thorpe is regarded as one of the greatest exponents of the game, and should his services be secured here it would mean that Portsmouth would be placed back on the football map.” By all accounts, Thorpe’s first visit to Portsmouth had left him impressed with the community and Creasy’s offer — a 10-game contract that made him both coach and player for the new Portsmouth Shoe-Steels. The amount of Thorpe’s promised salary has been lost to history.

Jim Thorpe Accepts Terms,” read the Times’ headline. Thorpe telegraphed Creasy on September 8th: “Terms satisfactory. Will report to you not later than next Tuesday. …. I am coming to Portsmouth to play and coach the team and you can believe me, it will be a winner.” Coleman Grimes of the Times proclaimed: “This means that Portsmouth at last will be represented by a real team on the gridiron. …. No other man could boost the game in the Peerless City as much as the colorful and well known athlete. …. Thorpe has played on some wonderful teams and needs no introduction to the football fans of the city. All he asks is their wholehearted support. He will get that and then some. Bring on the Tanks.”

Thorpe arrived in the city on the 12th of September, just under two weeks before the season opener against the Columbus Clothiers. The Times reported, “Jim Thorpe, famous athlete, who will coach the team and represent Portsmouth on the gridiron this season, … will don the spangles tonight and take charge of the candidates in Mound Park. …. He is full of confidence and enthusiasm and already likes Portsmouth and its famous cooperative spirit.” The Times called on “every loyal football fan … to buy a ticket and do his bit boosting the team to success.”

After his first practice session on a field laid out on the hilltop’s Mound Park, Thorpe would finally speak with the local press: “I mean business and Portsmouth is going to have a real eleven this fall, It’s too early to do any forecasting. I’m not prepared to make any statement, and I’m not taking any chances on making any wild statement, but the material looks good and from every indication we are going to have not only a heavy team, but a fast one. A few nights of hard work will tell me better just how we stand. Every man has to work for a job on this squad.”

Thorpe would put together the Shoe-Steels from some thirty players who turned out for a chance to make the team. Creasy ended up with a squad of talented and experienced athletes, drawn from Thorpe’s network and local veterans who had played for the Smoke House and Presidents.

Thorpe’s signing worked. It may be true he was often injured and when he did play it was for fewer minutes than earlier in his career, but the living legend of Thorpe gave confidence to the Portsmouth squad and boosted ticket sales. According to historian Carl Becker, “Creasy and Thorpe imparted to the community a sense of intensity, a determination to win hereto unknown in Portsmouth.” Hope and “a determination to win” fueled the efforts of Jack Creasy and the backers of the Shoe-Steels.

For their team captain, Thorpe’s players chose Jake Pfau, a local baker and veteran of the Presidents and the old Smoke House teams. Jack Creasy would also suit up to be held in reserve as a substitute. The opening game would break local sports attendance records and fueled fans’ visions of a new concrete stadium and sports complex at Labold Field. Over 2,500 were in attendance on September 25th, 1927, to see the Shoe-Steels defeat the Columbus Clothiers by a score of 13-0.

Thorpe, it turned out, never played in the opener due to an infection on his left foot, which required multiple lancings. By doctor’s orders and at the behest of his teammates, Thorpe stayed on the sidelines, where he coached them to victory. Creasy, according to the listed substitutions, saw action as a Center in the second half. Coleman Grimes reported that “many fans were disappointed” by Thorpe’s absence on the field, but the Shoe-Steels “showed that they have real football stuff in them and a lot can be expected of them this season. There were few fumbles and play was fast, the team worked like a well oiled machine.”

Thorpe would play the next Sunday and the team would have a winning record of 4-2 before their most anticipated game with the Ironton Tanks, who were undefeated at the time, with four wins and two ties. Interest in the rivalry ran higher than ever as game day (November 6th) approached. “Greatest Game in History to be played between Jim Thorpe’s Shoe-Steels and Tanks,” read the headline for November 3rd, 1927. The Timesnoted “the rivalry of the two teams is far known and will draw football fans from all over the tri-state region. It will be the greatest football battle every played in Portsmouth.”

The Peerless City finally had a team (they hoped) that could topple the Tanks and lead them to a regional championship. In the days leading up to the game, Creasy signed new players to bolster his lineup, a practice that was not uncommon in professional football’s early days. The Times reported: “With the addition of the center and backfield players who arrived here Wednesday to start practice on the Portsmouth Shoe-Steels, the players feel confident.” An estimated 4,500-5,000 fans showed up to see if Thorpe’s squad could finally defeat Ironton’s best.

Portsmouth fans would be disappointed, though. The Tanks shut out the Shoe-Steels 18-0. “Tanks Live up to Reputation; Win Easily from Portsmouth” read the headline the next day. Fans and players alike were shocked, but the river city rivals were scheduled to meet a second and final time just two weeks later.

Creasy and Thorpe worked furiously to recruit more players, pulling out all stops to give Portsmouth an edge. To add more size up front, the Shoe-Steels signed linemen Emil Mayer from Catholic University, as well as George Kidnerdine and Chal Joseph from the NFL’s Dayton Triangles.

The Portsmouth “Floodwallers” Defeat the Ironton Tanks (20 November 1927)

The rematch would be played in Ironton’s Beechwood Stadium. For the first time in the rivalry’s history, Portsmouth beat the Tanks by a score of 7-0. “Tell it to the Wide World, Shoe-Steels Beat Tanks 7-0,” read the headline. The Portsmouth Shoe-Steels, according to Coleman Grimes, had “won back all lost laurels and redeemed themselves in the eyes of Portsmouth football fans when they decisively defeated the famous Ironton Tanks. For the first time this season the Tanks tasted the bitter dregs of defeat. For the first time in gridiron history a Portsmouth professional team defeated the Tanks.”

“After nine years of history that chalked up nothing but defeat after defeat for a Portsmouth gridiron representative, Jim Thorpe’s Shoe Steels, the River City’s 1927 organization came to Ironton yesterday afternoon with blood in their eye and fire on their cleats, and backed the Tanks into the shadows of defeat.” Grimes concluded that the Portsmouth team had “displayed the best football ever shown on the local turf by a team bearing the colors of the Floodwallers.”

The Times City Editor credited Thorpe and Creasy with putting together the team and whipping the “Floodwallers” into shape. “The gridiron loving populace doff their lids to Coach Jim Thorpe, Manager Jack Creasy and every member of the Steel-Shoes team. .... All season long Thorpe and Creasy insisted that ultimately they would mould a team together that would trounce the Tanks. That sounded like a yarn as it has on previous occasions but the trick was turned and before a record crowd in Ironton. What a grand and glorious feeling.”

Thorpe’s Disappearing Act & the Valley Championship Game (4 December 1927)

The elated Shoe-Steels followed up their victory over Ironton with another win over the Columbus Bobbs (32-0). Then, with interest riding high, Creasy booked an eleventh game, a post-season match against the Ashland Armcos in a contest that would crown a regional champion. But Thorpe’s 10-game contract was up. According to historian Carl Becker, Thorpe “quarreled bitterly” with Creasy, who “offered him a raise but he refused it, sulking over a problem he would not publicly disclose.”

Before the championship game, Thorpe left Portsmouth, returning to his home near Marion, Ohio. He disappeared from local press coverage and into the pages of local sports history. Interestly, on the day of the final game (Sunday, December 4th, 1927), a “special dispatch,” headlined, “Portsmouth Plays Armcos at Ashland, Ky., Today — Jim Thorpe to Lead Invaders,” was published in the columns of the Cincinnati Enquirer. The unnamed correspondent (who was most likely Coleman Grimes, himself) reported that “the game is being billed as the final for the Valley championship, inasmuch as the Armcos have played two ties with the once-feared Ironton (Ohio) Tanks, while Portsmouth has a clean-cut 7-to-0 victory over the Tanks, so that the result of today’s conflict should give the ultimate victors undisputed title to being monarch of the pigskin chasers of the valley.”

Assistant Coach Walter Jean (a native of Chillicothe, Ohio) took over for Thorpe and, as a player-coach, Jean would lead the Shoe-Steels during their final match. Jean had joined the Shoe-Steels midseason, when Creasy recruited him from the Green Bay Packers. Meanwhile, Creasy worked furiously to shore up the team’s lineup and, with Jean’s connections, the Shoe-Steels booked more temporary players from Green Bay -- former Packers Joe Dunn, Eddie Kotel, Rex Enright, and Pid Purdy. But both Purdy and Enright were injured in an auto accident on their way from Wisconsin to Portsmouth. They never suited up and their absence may have changed the outcome of the game.

With some 3,200 fans in attendance at Armco Park in Ashland, but without Thorpe and his Green Bay reinforcements on the field, the Shoe-Steels lost a close 7-6 ballgame. “Creasy seemed on his way to building a team that had some standing in the community. His team had defeated the Tanks and enlisted some support from local newspapers and business interests, and had, apparently, solid players returning in 1928.” Creasy, however, in the words of Carl Becker, “would never again see football played along the river shore.”

The Death of Creasy and the Rise of the Spartans

Jack Creasy died unexpectedly at the age of 26, on July 14th, 1928. Following an emergency appendectomy at Portsmouth General Hospital, he contracted a fatal case of pneumonia. “Expressions of regret were heard on all sides Sunday over the passing of the affable, likeable, and courteous ‘Jack’ Creasy,” reported the Times. “Few of his friends realized the seriousness of his illness and the announcement of his death came as a cruel blow to them.”

With only months to go until the next season, football fans scrambled to fill the void left by Thorpe and now Creasy. The Times reported that “hundreds of the fans and downtown coaches” were asking “who will carry on the well laid plans of Jacques Creasy in building another powerful football team in Portsmouth this coming season?” The question, according to Coleman Grimes had “become a regular topic of conversation in the smoke shops, on the street corners, and other popular gathering places. …. In Jack Creasy the football fans lost a champion whose greatest desire was to build a football team that could defeat any other team in the Ohio Valley. He came close to reaching his ambition when he headed the Portsmouth Shoe Steels last fall. There was a football team that all Portsmouth will remember and Creasy had planned an even better team for this coming season when the hand of death stilled the heart of that lovable young fellow.”

On August 20th, 1928 -- five weeks after Creasy’s untimely death -- football fans and civic leaders gathered at Portsmouth’s Hurth Hotel for a dinner meeting and the launch of a new professional football venture. Behind the scenes Howard Graf, the recently elected President of Portsmouth’s First National Bank, worked with Coleman Grimes and the Times to promote the meeting: “It is a foregone conclusion that Portsmouth will support one of the greatest professional teams in history this year. …. Eighteen of the best players in the country, practically the same team that lined up against Ashland Armco [in] the last game of the last season, have been tentatively signed up. .... Walter Jean, who so successfully took charge of the Shoe-Steels last year after Thorpe left and who had charge of a great deal of coaching during the time Thorpe was here, will again coach the Portsmouth team.” Grimes concluded that “the citizens want a good football team in Portsmouth this year and are willing to support it.”

With fifty businessmen in attendance, the city’s diverse commercial interests stepped forward, more united than ever. Upon the suggestion of Howard Graf, it was agreed to organize a “stock company” with a regular board of directors and elected officers who would oversee the management of the new team’s affairs.

Ultimately, Dr. George B. Brown was elected president; William N. Gableman, vice-president; H. Coleman Grimes, secretary; and Howard Graf, treasurer and business manager. The organization would take the name of the Portsmouth Football Association. The board also announced its support for a $80,000 bond referendum to construct a modern stadium and public sports complex at the site of Labold Field.

It was also determined that a new team name should be selected, one that did not reference a local business or manufacturer, a name that all supporters could rally behind — the Portsmouth Spartans.

Jack Creasy’s signing of Jim Thorpe, though mostly a publicity stunt, had worked. As player-coach Thorpe built on the successes of the the old Smoke House teams and the previous season’s Presidents. Thorpe and Creasy led the Shoe-Steels to a victory over the Tanks and a shot at the regional championship. And even though both men were no longer to be seen at Labold Field, Creasy and Thorpe had laid the foundation for professional football in Portsmouth and set the stage for the rise of the NFL Spartans.

Sources

Carl Becker, Home & Away: The Rise and Fall of Professional Football on the Banks of the Ohio, 1919-1934 (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1998).

“New Fixtures Purchased,” Portsmouth Daily Times (25 May 1912).

“Foot Ball Returns Received Every Saturday at The Smoke House,” Portsmouth Daily Times (19 October 1912).

“Football Team Will Practice,” Portsmouth Daily Times (24 October 1912).

"Coming For Easter,” Portsmouth Daily Times (6 April 1917).

"Jack is There,” Portsmouth Daily Times (6 June 1922).

“Team to Organize,” Portsmouth Daily Times (23 August 1922).

"Off for Tuscon,” Portsmouth Daily Times (15 September 1923).

“Smokehouse Eleven Looks Formidable,” Portsmouth Daily Times (28 September 1923).

“Creasy to Leave for Home in East,” Arizona Daily Star (3 June 1925).

"Look Who is Here!” Portsmouth Daily Times (12 June 1925).

“Smoke House Team Practicing,” Portsmouth Daily Times (9 October 1925).

“New Football Team Will Be Organized,” Portsmouth Daily Times (7 September 1926).

"New Football Team,” Portsmouth Daily Times (9 September 1926).

“Studebaker Presidents Enjoy Workout,” Portsmouth Daily Times (14 September 1926).

"Presidents Defeat Ironton Panthers, 7 to 0,” Portsmouth Daily Times (27 September 1926).

“Presidents Win From Merchants 12 to 0 on a Soggy Field,” Portsmouth Daily Times (25 October 1926).

“Simon Labold,” Portsmouth Daily Times (4 April 1927).

“Thorpe, Famous Athlete, May Coach Local Football Team,” Portsmouth Daily Times (30 August 1927).

"Are You Interested in Having Jim Thorpe Coach Football Team?” Portsmouth Daily Times (31 August 1927).

"Jim Thorpe Accepts Terms,” Portsmouth Daily Times (8 September 1927).

“Thorpe is Expected Tonight,” Portsmouth Daily Times (12 September 1927).

“Thorpe Has Infected Foot,” Portsmouth Daily Times (26 September 1927).

"Tanks are Loading for Thorpe Coached Eleven,” Portsmouth Daily Times(4 November 1927).

“Here Is The Tank—Shoe-Steel Battle Sunday,” Portsmouth Daily Times (7 November 1927).

“Hats Off to Creasy, Thorpe and Every Member of Team,” Portsmouth Daily Times (21 November 1927).

“Ironton News Says Tanks Have No Alibis; Admits Better Team Won; So Say We All,” Portsmouth Daily Times (21 November 1927).

"Tell it to the Wide World, Shoe Steels Beat Tanks 7 to 0,” Portsmouth Daily Times (21 November 1927).

“Shoe-Steels Have Powerful Team on Field; Armco Game Will be Greatest of History,” Portsmouth Daily Times (1 December 1927).

“Portsmouth Plays Armcos at Ashland, Ky., Today — Jim Thorpe to Lead Invaders,” Cincinnati Enquirer (4 December 1927).

“Shoe-Steels Drop Heartbreaker to Armoc Team, 7-6,” Portsmouth Daily Times (5 December 1927).

"Last Rites for Popular Jack Creasy Will Be Held Wednesday Afternoon,” Portsmouth Daily Times (16 July 1928).

"Paul G. Williams Suggested as Successor to the Late Jacques Creasy,” Portsmouth Daily Times (7 August 1928).

“Football Enthusiasts to Confer at Dinner Monday: Jean Sends Optimistic Letter and Points Out some Star Players He Would Like to Have on Portsmouth Team,” Portsmouth Daily Times (17 August 1928).

“Optimistic Letter from Jean,” Portsmouth Daily Times (17 August 1928).

“Portsmouth’s 1928 Football Outlook Greatest in Years: Business Men to Meet at Hurth Hotel Tonight to Formulate Plans for Coming Season; May Organize Board,” Portsmouth Daily Times (20 August 1928).

“Portsmouth Football Team Directors Organize Board to Handle Team’s Affairs,” Portsmouth Daily Times (21 August 1928).

“Walter Jean, Football Coach, Expected to Arrive Today,” Portsmouth Daily Times (22 August 1928).

“Former ‘U’ Student Dies in Ohio City,” Arizona Daily Star (3 September 1928).

“Dr. George B. Brown Elected President Portsmouth Football Association,” Portsmouth Daily Times (13 September 1928).

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