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NASHVILLE… Folks, usually a few days after the weekly edition of the Worldwide Reader Weekly comes out, and before I sit down to apply fingers to keyboard once again, I will read through the previous weeks offering to get a feel for readability and so on. The process of doing that usually gets a boost when you haven’t read or thought about it for a few days after submitting. Some weeks I see where a word change here or there could improve a column, or if I achieved what I set out to do; make a reader feel what I was feeling when I saw an event as it unfolded. When I still lived in the Twin Cities, and even for a short time afterward I was usually at 3-5 sporting events per week. Make no mistake, I think back to those days and realize how absolutely lucky I was to be able to do that.
Just from an affordability standpoint today that would cost a small fortune. I was also quite lucky that a lot of times I got free passes from neighbors and friends. And to have a neighbor that would go on to become a Twin Cities sports icon got me into places and chances to meet people that would never have happened otherwise. To say I was lucky would be a vast understatement. When I was young I was crazy about football, college and pro. I took in as much info about those entities as I could. I am much more into my favorite hockey now, but I was into gridiron nirvana way back when. So imagine my surprise when I was doing my weekly re-read of last weeks offering and when I got to the part where I wrote; “Oddly enough, with Minnesota having no NFL club ever before“, I just about fell off of the chair!
You know there are times when you suddenly realize you really stepped in “it” (as in big pile of “it”) and it hits you and there is some level of inner shame and embarrassment as well, and heck, I guess no one got hurt (hopefully not) and I will have to step up and fix it. Enter in the Duluth Kelley’s and the Duluth Eskimos, both of which were Minnesota’s only pre-Minnesota Vikings National Football league teams. How in the h-e-double-hockey sticks did I forget that? And they were right in DULUTH for crying out loud!
Worse yet was that when I was really into the game I am positive I read a biography relative to the Eskimos at least with a minor precursor in the story about the Kelley’s. And knowing my old reading habits and comprehension skills, I probably read it several times. When something interested me back then I took in every bit of info I could find on the topic. Geez I thought, I am getting old, and my memory is going down the toy-lay! At any rate, some younger readers may be aware of the team, and my guess is that most don’t hold any in-depth knowledge of them. And there may still be some real old timers who remember the team quite well perhaps.
The short of the long is that the Duluth Kelley’s competed in the league from 1923-25 going 9-7 in those 3 seasons. They were affiliated with the Kelley-Duluth Hardware store. Evidently the team played a lot on the road, and no home games were held in late season due to the weather conditions up north in November-December. Apparently the team was not with the hardware store after the 1925 season and then became the Duluth Eskimos. At that time they also obtained star player Ernie Nevers to join the club.
They would last only two more years in Duluth, 1926 and 1927, accumulating a 7-13-3 record. They would play only one home game out of those two years and that was the season opener in the 1926 season and that was the final game ever played in Duluth. The team played at Duluth Athletic Park which was originally constructed on the site where Wade Stadium now sits. It was built in 1903 for the baseball Duluth White Sox and eventually the Dukes, and it was replaced by Wade in 1941. One of the original Viking owners, Ole Haugsrud owned the team and after the disastrous 1927 season where the team only won one game, he sold the them back to the league.
Haugsrud did however, maintain the rights to have the first crack at any future ownership if the NFL came back into Minnesota and when the league granted Minnesota the Vikings franchise rights in 1960, Haugsrud had a 10% stake in the new team. Through various sales and maneuvering the team would resurface in Orange, NJ for a season and then was on to Newark, NJ for yet one more year before being mothballed with the country in the middle of the Great Depression and no new buyers were forthcoming.
As for Nevers, let me ask this question first, and I’ll give you the answer at the end; Where was Ernie Nevers born? He played High School football at Superior Central HS, and at Santa Rosa HS in CA. He went on to play at Stanford University playing and starring in the !925 Rose Bowl versus Notre Dame and the Famed Four Horsemen. He rushed for more yards then all 4 of the Horsemen combined and was the star of the game. His jersey is retired at the school, one of only 3. He went on to play with the Eskimos, the St. Louis Browns and the Chicago Cardinals. Upon retirement from playing Nevers went on to a distinguished coaching career.
Nevers entered the College Football HOF in 1951 and the Pro FHOF in 1963. At one time he held the record for most points scored in a game with 40 in a 40-0 rout of cross-town rival the Chicago Bears. He scored 6 touchdowns and 4 extra points. I am not certain, but that record may still stand today. A remarkable athlete for his time and was often compared to Jim Thorpe. Nevers is ranked #25 on the ESPN top 25 college players of all-time and also played professional baseball with the St. Louis Browns, notably giving up 2 homeruns to Babe Ruth in his 60 homerun season in 1927. Where was Nevers born? Willow River, MN! PEACE