October 1, 1922: All-Syracuse vs. Rochester Jeffersons
Historical Game of the Week
By Ken Crippen
- Professional Football Researchers Association
Published: December 1st, 2008
The Rochester Jeffersons had a tough time gaining support within the Rochester community. Team owner Leo Lyons wanted to play on a national stage. The way to do that was to get the best talent the country had to offer. The problem was that the local fans wanted to see home-grown talent on the field. As Lyons added college stars from across the country to his roster, the more the fans turned towards other Rochester football teams like the Scalpers, Russers and Oxfords.
With local interest turning towards neighborhood teams and away from “imported” stars, Lyons decided to play most of his 1922 games on the road. It just made good financial sense. Lyons was having trouble generating enough revenue to pay his players and to meet expenses. If the locals were not going to support his team, he would take his team to other cities. He still did play a few games in the Rochester area, but they were against All-Syracuse and the Buffalo All-Americans; teams whose fans could attend the games to increase the gate receipts.
The league changed its name from the American Professional Football Association to the National Football League at the January 28, 1922 meeting in Canton. This was just one item on the agenda. The number one item on Leo Lyon’s mind was the reimbursement of the $800 he felt the Washington Senators owed him over the “forfeit” at the end of the 1921 season. In what turned out to be the first forfeit in league history, the Washington Pros/Senators “won” their game against the Jeffersons 1-0. Referee C.A. Metsler awarded the forfeit to Washington when (according to the Washington Post), Rochester manager Leo Lyons refused to take the field due to weather. According to the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, the Jeffersons players were willing to play the game as long as Washington paid Rochester $800 in traveling expenses. According to the contract of the game, “if both teams have arrived on the field of play, and it is found that said field is too wet for play, the question of cancellation shall rest solely with the manager of the home team.” Approximately 300 to 400 people showed up to view the contest and Washington manager Tim Jordan wanted to play the game. Rochester did not. During a heated argument that lasted a little over half-an-hour, Jordan wanted the Jeffersons to play for a percentage of the gate receipts (which would come to about $200) and not the full $800 requested by the Jeffersons. Rochester refused and threatened to take legal action against the Washington franchise, due to the failure of the home team to pay the visitor’s traveling expenses ($800). This matter would be held over until the January meeting of the league.
Lyons pleaded his case that even thought the weather forced his decision to keep his team off the field, that Washington still owed him the guaranteed $800 for his team to make the trip. The league agreed and Washington was forced to pay the money for forfeit their franchise in the league. The problem arose in the fact that Washington did not attend this meeting, nor did they have any desire to continue playing in the league. Therefore, the threat was all but useless. Leo would continue to press for the money, but to no avail. With Washington refusing to continue with the league, the league really had no standing to force them to pay the money to Lyons. Heading into the season, Leo Lyons was not happy. He had hoped that the play of his team would lift his spirits.
It was a hot, sunny day at Baseball Park as the Rochester Jeffersons opened their season against Sky Hoffman’s All-Syracuse team. The first score of the game came on a strong run by Jeffs back Larry Weltman, with the drive being highlighted by a fifteen-yard run by Benny “The Purple Streak” Boynton.
In the third quarter, the Jefferson offense put together another scoring drive. Boynton caught a pass for a thirty-yard gain. Bob Argus runs of ten, twelve and fifteen yards followed, and Argus capped off these beautiful runs with the final score of the game.
The score was 13-0 heading into the fourth quarter. At that point, Syracuse started to show some life on offense with Powless running and passing, driving the Syracuse team to the Rochester thirty-yard line. Unfortunately, this would be the best showing of the game for Syracuse and the visitors’ drive stalled. Rochester took over and Argus broke through the line for gains of twenty-five and fifteen yards. Ralph Henricus added more, bringing the ball to the Syracuse goal, but Rochester was unable to cross the line before time expired. The Jeffersons won 13-0.
Rochester would finish the season 0-4-1 against NFL competition and 3-5-1 for the season. This would put them in sixteenth place in the league, just ahead of the 0-8-0 Columbus Panhandles and the 0-5-1 Hammond Pros.