Last week in this column I wrote about the only two professional football games played in Colorado Springs involving NFL teams.
The focus was mainly on the 1938 exhibition game between the NFL’s Pittsburgh Pirates (later renamed the Steelers) and the high-powered independent Los Angeles Bulldogs. That Nov. 11 Veterans Day game, won by the Bulldogs, was played at Will Rogers Stadium, then on the grounds of The Broadmoor, in front of more than 12,000 fans.
This week’s focus is on the Dec. 3, 1939, regular season NFL game between the Cleveland Rams (today’s Los Angeles Rams) and the Philadelphia Eagles. Will Rogers Stadium was again the site of this regular season finale that marks the only time an NFL game has ever been played in the Pikes Peak region and the first played in a western state.
It would be another 21 years before a regular season major league football game was played in Colorado. On Friday, Sept. 9, 1960, the Denver Broncos hosted the Boston Patriots in the first-ever American Football League contest.
The Rams-Eagles game was notable on numerous levels. A reported 9,189 fans attended the affair. The featured attraction was Rams’ coach and former Colorado College and NFL star back Earl “Dutch” Clark, aka “The Flying Dutchman.”
Dutch was from Pueblo — he graduated from Pueblo Central High School in 1926 — and also competed in baseball, basketball and track.
Dutch was a superstar by his junior season at CC in 1928. He was the school’s first-ever All-American and was a threat as a runner, passer and kicker. He joined the NFL in 1931 and played seven seasons. He was a key player on the World Champion 1935 Detroit Lions.
Clark retired as a player following the 1938 season and was named the Rams’ head coach for 1939. The Rams began the season 1-4, but got hot and were 4-5-1 heading into the Eagles’ matchup in Colorado Springs.
Ticket sales were difficult during the Depression era, so moving around the country was common for NFL teams. The Rams-Eagles game had no impact on the championship hunt, so it was no big deal that a neutral site was chosen. Game time was scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Both teams stayed at The Broadmoor.
The choice to play in Colorado Springs was intended to become an annual event for the then state-of-the-art stadium, which was constructed in 1937, but that idea eventually faded away.
The Eagles were coached that day by assistant Jim MacMurdo. Head coach/owner Bert Bell was one of over 62,000 fans assembled in the Polo Grounds that afternoon to watch the New York Giants-Washington Redskins game that was to decide the Eastern Division winner that would be represented in the NFL Championship game against Western Division winner Green Bay.
The Gazette reported, “A squadron of planes from the 120th observation squadron, Colorado National Guard, will dip over the field just before the kickoff time.” There’s a good chance that was the first NFL game in history to feature a flyover.
The plan was for the squadron commander to drop a football to the playing field, but it was “a failure due to the high south wind.”
NFL President Carl Storck appointed four college officials from the Mountain States Conference (Colorado, BYU, Wyoming, et al.) to work the game. The officials lost control of the game as five players were ejected for slugging.
The Rams scored touchdowns in every quarter and cruised to a 35-13 victory. Cleveland built a 21-0 lead after three quarters on touchdown passes from Parker Hall to Bill Lazetich, and Marty Slovak to Paul McDonough, and a Johnny Drake touchdown run.
The Rams also got touchdowns on a Corby Davis run and an interception return by Jerry Dowd.
Eagles quarterback Davey O’Brien, the 1938 Heisman Trophy winner, threw fourth-quarter touchdown passes to Fran Murray and Jay Arnold.
As for Dutch Clark, in 1963 he was part of the inaugural class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. He lived most of his adult life in Michigan, but returned home to Colorado in 1975, buying a home in Cañon City. He died in 1978 and age 71.
Dutch is a member of seven halls of fame, including Colorado Springs, Colorado College, Pueblo and Colorado.
Danny Summers has been covering sports at all levels in the Pikes Peak region since 2001. Send your story ideas and feedback to email@example.com.