The Pro Football Chronicle, Dan Daly & Bob O’Donnell

The Pro Football Chronicle (Collier Books, 1990)
Dan Daly & Bob O’Donnell
Out of print – available secondhand
Listed: Pro Football Journal Top 100, #2

The subtitle of this 1990 book offers a good summary: “The complete (well, almost) record of the best players, the greatest photos, the hardest hits, the biggest scandals and the funniest stories in pro football.” As the summary suggests, it’s a fairly irreverent look at the history of professional football – the opening section makes much of how boring football was in the 1920s and there’s a running feature later on listing reasons to hate George Preston Marshall, the longtime owner of the Washington franchise.

One of the best stories in the book concerns Marshall, who was the last NFL owner to accept black players – and then only under pressure from the federal government. Mo Siegel, a sportswriter for the Washington Post, convinced Marshall to let him make a pick in the 1952 NFL Draft. Siegel told Marshall to draft Flavious Smith, an end from Tennessee Tech. “Congratulations,” Marshall told Siegel, “you’ve just become the first sportswriter to draft a player.”

Siegel replied: “Congratulations, you’ve just integrated the Redskins.” Siegel was present when the pick was announced and believed that Marshall traded Smith, to avoid embarrassment. However, there’s no record of Smith being drafted. The authors speculate that Marshall and NFL commissioner Bert Bell altered the records later. Smith went undrafted and joined the Rams as a free agent but the best part of the story is the ending, which reveals that Siegel had been misinformed about a crucial detail:

“[Siegel] chuckles at the suggestion he might have become the player who integrated the Redskins. Smith, you see, is white.”

There are plenty of stories like that one, alongside more traditional tales of amazing games, team history and quotable bits of trivia, such as the fact that most teams had only one uniform, so if they were in the middle of a road trip or playing back-to-back games, they would just have to wear the dirty one again. And the player who broke the 1,000-yard rushing mark in the final game of the season only to lose yardage on a later player and finish the season below 1,000 after all.

The book finishes with a feast of stats – Hall of Famers listed by jersey numbers, head-to-head records for the great coaches, a list of every owner for every team and more.

The Pro Football Chronicle makes a great companion for a history book like America’s Game – it’s like sitting in a pub with a football obsessives.

Photo: Erik Drost

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