Little Bits of History

Professional Football

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 15, 2014
Canton, Ohio's football team in 1906

Canton, Ohio’s football team in 1906

November 15, 1914: Harry Turner’s injuries prove fatal, the first from the Ohio League to do so from game sustained injuries. Little is known of the Canton Professionals’ early life. He began playing professional football in 1907 when he joined the Canton (Ohio) Indians. The name changed in the following years first to Canton Cohen Tigers (1908), then to Canton Simpson Tigers (1909), and then Canton Professionals (1911). Turner played center and was the team captain in 1911. The team was part of the Ohio League, a forerunner of the National Football League. One of their biggest rivals was the Shelby Blues captained by George Watson (Peggy) Parratt. Parrett was quarterback for the Shelby, Ohio team. Before signing on with Shelby, Parratt was captain of the hated Massillon (Ohio) Tigers.

During the 1911 season, Turner pulled his entire team from the game in protest to a referee call favoring the Akron (Ohio) Indians. After the game, Turner held a press conference and vowed to quit the game on November 26, 1911. Instead, he returned to the game and played the rest of the season as well as the next three seasons as well. By 1914, Parratt was with the Akron Indians and they met the Canton team who had home field advantage. There were 3,000 people watching the big rivals at Lakeside Park even though the weather was bad. The game was rough but clean. Just before the end of the first half, Harry suffered a serious back injury and was taken from the field. At the end of the game, Canton took the win with a score of 6-0.

The next day, it was learned that Harry’s injury was far more serious than immediately realized. His back had been broken and his spinal cord severed. There was nothing to be done with this type of injury in 1914. All that could be done was wait for him to die. His last words, according to his friend and team manager was that he was glad to know the team had at least beaten Peggy Parratt. The news of Harry’s death was distressing to the team and many other players quit soon after. While Canton was able to continue play and even get a win the next week, they played Akron once again at the end of the season, on Thanksgiving Day. This final game was lost and ended their season 9-1.

The Ohio League began in 1903 and had 23 teams included, most of them located in Ohio. They remained active until 1919. Massillon took the championship for the first six years with Akron taking that spot in 1908 and 1909. Shelby won the next two championships with the Elyria Athletics top dog in 1912. Akron was back on top for the next two years with Youngstown taking over in 1915. The Canton team, now the Bulldogs, won in 1916 and 1917 with Dayton taking the penultimate championship game. The Canton team was the final champion in 1919. In 1920, more Ohio teams as well as teams from other states formed the American Professional Football Association which in 1922 became the NFL.

He showed a rare type of courage and spirit. I was at his bedside when he died. He was conscious almost to the end, and his last words left an indelible imprint on my memory. – Jack Cusack

I know I must go but I’m satisfied, for we beat Peggy Parratt. – Harry Turner’s last words

I played football for a huge portion of my life, all the way through college actually. – Matthew Fox

When you go out on a football field, you are responsible for taking care of yourself. The more rules you get, the less players truly take care of themselves. – Jim Brown

Also on this day: The King – In 1956, Love Me Tender, Elvis Presley’s first movie, was released.
Clutter Family – In 1959, Herb and Bonnie Clutter and their two children were murdered.
Where’s the Beef? – In 1969, Dave Thomas founded Wendy’s.
Remember – In 1939, the cornerstone for the Jefferson Memorial was laid.


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