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Relocated NFL Teams: The Toledo Maroons

The Toledo Maroons were an American football team that played in the NFL during the 1922 and 1923 seasons. The Maroons began as part of semi-professional team called the Toledo Athletic Association which was formed in 1902. In 1906, the Association formed the Toledo Maroons and operated it as a farm team which groomed teenagers to later play in the senior team and also for other teams in the Ohio region. The Maroons moniker simply referred to the team’s jersey color. Following the disbandment of the Association in 1908, the Maroons started to operate as an independent organization. The teenagers grew into adults and they started playing against amateur and semi-pro teams from across the region.

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They joined the Ohio League, one of the strongest football leagues in the country alongside teams such as the Dayton Triangles, Akron Indians, Canton Bulldogs and Columbus Panhandles. When the other teams left the Ohio league to join the startup American Professional Football Association (AFPA), the Maroons chose to remain independent and played as such during the 1920 and 1921 seasons. In 1922, they joined the newly formed NFL just as it was renamed from the AFPA. The Maroons’ home stadium was the Swyane Field, a 12,000 seat ballpark which had been built in 1909, on a land leased for the team by Noah Swayne Jr. It was located at the intersection of Detroit Avenue and Monroe Street in Toledo. The field is not in existence today as it was demolished in 1956 to make space for the construction of the Swayne Field Shopping Center. Much of the perimeter fence remains but it is in need of extensive repair.

Toledo were an average team in competition, who regularly beat the smaller teams only to be humiliated by the teams that were worth their salt. The 1922 season, their first in competition, ended with a 5-2-2 record that placed them in fourth place. They started with a 5-0-2 record thanks largely to their choice of weak opposition. During their first seven games, they did not play a single team with a winning record. The impact of this mismatch showed when they met stiffer tests in the final two games, in the form of the Chicago Bears to whom they lost 22-0 and the Canton Bulldogs who beat them 19-0. During the 1923 season, the Maroons continued to favor easy opponents but they were worse off than the previous season as they posted a 3-3-2 record. Their three wins that season came against the weakest teams in the league, the Oorang Indians, the Dayton Triangles and Rochester Jeffersons who together won just two games.

Why were the Toledo Maroons Relocated?

In the early days of the league, fans found it easier to identify with amateur teams whose rosters were filled with local talent and as such amateur and semi-pro teams were more popular. The Maroons and other professional teams found themselves struggling due to a lack of fan interest. Toledo had also shot themselves in the foot by organizing easy schedules against teams that fans were not willing to pay to see. Attendance at the Swayne Field remained low, with less than 2000 fans average showing up to see Maroons games. In 1922, the maroons made a loss of $6,600, a situation that worsened further the next season as the team’s on-field product declined. In a bid to boost local support, the Maroons attempted to package support for the team as a civic duty of each Toledo citizen. Other teams were employing this strategy in their respective cities with mixed results. The Maroons printed a message by the Toledo mayor urging the locals to support the team on every game program. However, this strategy was highly unsuccessful and the team continued to be unpopular. At the conclusion of the 1923 season, the league ordered the team to either suspend operations or move to another city. The City of Kenosha in Wisconsin bought the team and relocated it there. They played the 1924 season as the Kenosha Maroons but they barely lasted one year before folding.

Toledo Maroons Notable Players

Dunc Annan WB/PR 1922

Hippo Gozdowski WR 1922

Bob Phelan TB 1922

Rat Watson B 1922-1913

Cowboy Hill TB 1923

Tillie Voss LT 1923

Si Seyfrit RE 1923

Guil Falcon C 1922-1923

Steamer Horning RT 1922-1923

Leo Petree HB 1922

Tubby Roush LT 1922-1923

Russ Stein LT 1922

Truck Myers LE 1922

Tom McNamara RG 1923

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