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1944 Chicago-Pittsburgh Cardinals-Steelers season
Head Coach Phil Handler, Walt Kiesling
Home Field Comiskey Park, Forbes Field
Results
Record 0–10
Place 5th NFL Western
Playoff Finish did not qualify
Timeline
Previous season Next season
1943 Cardinals
Steagles
1945 Cardinals
1945 Steelers

Card-Pitt was the name for the team created by the temporary merger of two National Football League (NFL) teams, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Chicago Cardinals, during the 1944 season. The teams were forced to merge, because both had lost many players to World War II military service. After the season, the merger was dissolved and with the war over by the start of the following season, traditional operations resumed for both teams. Together, the two teams did poorly as the combined team finished with a 0–10 record in the Western Division. Sportswriters called the team the "Car-Pitts" (carpets).[1] Previously in 1943, the Steelers had combined with the Philadelphia Eagles as the "Steagles".

Sixty-five years after merging for a season, the Steelers and Cardinals (now based in Arizona) met in Super Bowl XLIII.

HistoryEdit

OriginsEdit

In 1944, the Boston Yanks joined the NFL. The Cleveland Rams had just re-joined the league, after finding themselves unable to field a team in 1943. This left the NFL with 11 teams. The league found it impossible to come up with a schedule that would meet the approval of all teams. So NFL commissioner Elmer Layden contacted Art Rooney and Bert Bell of the Steelers and requested that their team merge again. Rooney agreed, on the condition that at least half of the team’s home games were played in Pittsburgh at Forbes Field.

Finding a partnerEdit

Finding a merger partner proved challenging. Before the NFL’s annual meetings in April 1944, rumors had Pittsburgh joining up with either Cleveland or the Brooklyn Tigers. Cleveland would have been a logical geographic choice; however, Layden didn’t think it was fair to the Steelers to ask them to merge with a team that had been defunct a year earlier. Rooney rejected a proposal to merge with Brooklyn and was hesitant to the idea of merging with the new Boston Yanks. Finally, Rooney agreed to combine his Steelers with the Cardinals, who had gone winless in 1943. The merger would compete in the tougher Western Division, which included the perennial powerhouses, Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears.

Pre-SeasonEdit

Training camp began August 15, 1944, in Waukesha, Wisconsin, under the direction of the team’s co-coaches, Walt Kiesling of Pittsburgh and Phil Handler of Chicago. Before the start of camp, the coaching staff made the questionable decision of going with a T formation offense. Some of the Steelers' players had been exposed to the ‘T’ a year earlier, while with the Steagles; but the Cardinals had used it very little. Card-Pitt also lacked a dependable quarterback for the season. However, everyone went into the season optimistic.

During the team's first exhibition game against the Philadelphia Eagles, at Shibe Park with Babe Ruth in attendance, the Eagles ripped off three first quarter touchdowns on their way to a 22–0 victory. The following week, the team regained its footing, but still lost to the Washington Redskins, 3–0. It should be noted though that Washington was predicted to win the game by three touchdowns.

1944 seasonEdit

Slow startEdit

Card-Pitt opened the regular season portion of its schedule on September 24, 1944, at Forbes Field against the Cleveland Rams, who were led by former Steelers head coach Aldo Donelli. The team played in front of a crowd of 21,000 spectators. During the game, Cleveland started with a 16–0 score, however, Card-Pitt came back and took the lead. However, late in the fourth quarter, with the game in hand, a bad punt resulted in a Cleveland touchdown and win with a final score of 28–23. The very next week at Forbes Field, Card-Pitt won an exhibition game against the New York Giants for a final score of 17–16.

"Why don't they call themselves the Car-Pits? I think it's very appropriate as every team in the league walks over them."

Irate fan letter to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

However, two days before the team's second regular season game against Green Bay, quarterback Coley McDonough was drafted into the U.S. Army.[2] The Pittsburgh Press gave the team little chance of defeating the Packers. The Packers and Don Hutson ended up defeating Card-Pitt, 34–7. However, the quarterback that replaced McDonough, a 155-pound rookie named John McCarthy, from Saint Francis University, Loretto, Pennsylvania, flourished at the position during the loss.[3]

Fines controversyEdit

The third game of the season saw the team against fellow Western Division bottom dwellers, the Chicago Bears. Injuries and war had ravaged the Bears' roster, depriving them of MVP quarterback Sid Luckman and coach George Halas. Card-Pitt had a good chance of winning this game. However, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Card-Pitt's effort throughout the game could be summed up as "pitiful". In fact, the coaching staff became so irate over the Chicago game, that Kiesling and Handler fined Johnny Butler, John Grigas and Eberle Schultz, $200 apiece for "indifferent play". The players, already fed up with the coaches' strict, dictatorial style, rallied around their teammates and basically went on strike, refusing to practice on Tuesday, until the fined players received a fair hearing.[4] These actions led to a meeting between the players and Rooney. The outcome of the meeting resulted in Grigas and Schultz agreeing to pay their fines and return to practice. Butler was suspended indefinitely and eventually waived, to be claimed by Brooklyn. Rooney later rescinded those fines, except for Butler's.

"The worst team in NFL history."

Art Rooney, founder of the Pittsburgh Steelers

That week, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette sports editor, Al Abrams, helped slap the team with a fitting, memorable nickname. In his column, Abrams quoted a disgusted fan as writing, "Why don't they call themselves the Car-Pits? I think it's very appropriate as every team in the league walks over them."

The brawlEdit

After losing a rematch against the Giants, the team played Washington. Wearing bizarre blue jerseys, instead of the normal Chicago Cardinal ones, the entire Card-Pitt team found themselves in brawl with the Redskins, midway through the game. Soon, police stormed the field, to break up what had become a near-riot. Coaches Kiesling and Handler found themselves in the middle of the brawl, while Rooney, a former boxer, dashed about halfway across the field to join his team, before it dawned on him that for an NFL owner to get into a fight with opposing players would be a breach of protocol. The Redskins would go on to win the game, 42–20. Card-Pitt's Cliff Duggan found himself with a $200 fine for his role in the fist fight. However, an upset Rooney volunteered to pay Duggan's fine for him.

0–10Edit

After losses against the Rams, Packers and Lions, Grigas left the team to go home to Massachusetts. He had gone 0–2, in winning the league rushing title. During 1944, while in the running for yet another title, he discovered that years of losing had taken its toll and retired. His team was left to be defeated by the Bears, 49–7. Grigas, despite his sudden departure, was named to the New York Daily News all-pro team. Shouldering almost the entire offensive burden for much of the year, Grigas rushed for 610 yards, an average of 3.3 yards per carry. The team had gone 0–10 for the season, tying the Brooklyn Tigers for the league's worst record. The day after the season ended, the merger of the Chicago Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Steelers was dissolved.

Since 1944, only four teams have gone winless in the NFL for an entire season: the 1960 Dallas Cowboys (0–11–1), the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0–14), the 1982 Baltimore Colts (0–8–1) and the 2008 Detroit Lions (0–16). In the case of the Colts, the season was shortened by the 1982 NFL Players Association strike. Both the Cowboys and Buccaneers were expansion teams in the years they went winless.

AftermathEdit

How bad were they?Edit

"The season couldn't have turned out any worse than this one."

Bert Bell, co-owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, reflecting on the 1944 season

Card-Pitt punters averaged just 32.7 yards per kick[5], an NFL record for futility that still stands today. The team was 0–2 in field goals; Conway Baker missed 4 of his 15 extra point tries. Card-Pitt completed only 31 percent of their passes, resulting in just 8 touchdowns. They also threw 41 interceptions in 1944, which is still the third highest total in NFL history. McCarthy threw 13 of those interceptions and completed 0 touchdown passes. His QB rating was only 3.0. They were also the worst run defense in the league and opponents outscored them, 328–108.

Life after Card-PittEdit

Eberle Schultz's fortunes turned most quickly, he went from a winless 1944 season to a NFL championship with Cleveland, the following year. John Grigas, after going AWOL, finished his career by spending three years with the Boston Yanks, leading the team in rushing in 1946. Don Currivan, played alongside Grigas for those three seasons, ranking third in the league in receiving in 1947. He also saw action with the Los Angeles Rams club, which lost to Philadelphia in the 1949 NFL Championship game.

Tackle Chet Bulger and center Vince Banonis would be a part of the 1947 Chicago Cardinals championship team, while Banonis would also help the Detroit Lions to league titles in 1952 and 1953. Card-Pitt's assistant coach, Buddy Parker, coached those teams.

Regular seasonEdit

ScheduleEdit

Card-Pitt 1944 results[6]
Week Date Opponent Time (ET) Result
1 September 24, 1944 Cleveland Rams L 30–28
2 October 8, 1944 at Green Bay Packers L 34–7
3 October 15, 1944 at Chicago Bears L 42–7
4 October 22, 1944 at New York Giants L 23–0
5 October 29, 1944 at Washington Redskins L 42–20
6 November 5, 1944 Detroit Lions L 27–6
7 November 12, 1944 at Detroit Lions L 21–7
8 November 19, 1944 Cleveland Rams L 33–6
9 November 26, 1944 Green Bay Packers L 35–20
10 December 3, 1944 Chicago Bears L 49–7

StandingsEdit

NFL Western
W L T PCT PF PA STK
Green Bay Packers 8 2 0 .800 238 141 W-1
Chicago Bears 6 3 1 .667 258 172 W-2
Detroit Lions 6 3 1 .667 216 151 W-4
Cleveland Rams 4 6 0 .400 188 224 L-2
Card-Pitt 0 10 0 .000 108 328 L-10

Game summariesEdit

Week 1 (Saturday September 24, 1944): Cleveland Rams Edit

1 2 3 4 Total
Rams 3 13 0 14 30
Card-Pitt 0 7 14 7 28



at Forbes Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

  • Game time:
  • Game weather:
  • Game attendance: 20,968
  • Referee:

Scoring Drives:

  • Cleveland – FG Zontini 27
  • Cleveland – Kabealo 6 run (West kick)
  • Cleveland – Benton 10 run (West kick)
  • Chicago-Pittsburgh – Schutz 10 lateral from Thurbon after 52 kick return (Baker kick)
  • Chicago-PittsburghRucinski 40 pass from McDonough (Baker kick)
  • Chicago-Pittsburgh – Grigas 3 run (Baker kick)
  • Cleveland – Benton 18 pass from Colella (West kick)
  • Chicago-Pittsburgh – Butler 67 pass from McDonough (Baker kick)
  • Cleveland – Benton 5 pass from Reisz (West kick)

Week 2 (Sunday, October 8, 1944): Green Bay PackersEdit

1 2 3 4 Total
Card-Pitt 0 0 0 7 7
Packers 7 14 0 13 34



at East Stadium, Green Bay, Wisconsin

  • Game time:
  • Game weather:
  • Game attendance: 16,535
  • Referee:

Scoring Drives:

  • Green Bay – Hutson 55 pass from Comp (Sorenson kick)
  • Green Bay – Starreturn 2 run (Hutson kick)
  • Green Bay – Hutson 7 pass from Comp (Hutson kick)
  • Green Bay – Brock 30 run (kick failed)
  • Chicago-Pittsburgh – Butler 33 pass from Grigas (Robbnett kick)
  • Green Bay – Perkins 83 interception (Hutson kick)

Week 3 (Sunday October 15, 1944): Chicago BearsEdit

1 2 3 4 Total
Card-Pitt 0 0 0 7 7
Bears 7 13 0 14 34



at Wrigley Field, Chicago, Illinois

  • Game time:
  • Game weather:
  • Game attendance: 29,940
  • Referee:

Scoring Drives:

  • Chicago Bears – McLean 8 run (Gudauskas kick)
  • Chicago Bears – Fordham 1 run (kick failed)
  • Chicago Bears – Berry 51 pass from Long (Gudauskas kick)
  • Chicago Bears – Berry 15 pass from Ronzani (Gudauskas kick)
  • Chicago-Pittsburgh – Thurbon 25 run (Baker kick)
  • Chicago Bears – Grygo 8 run (Gudauskas kick)

Week 4 (Sunday October 22, 1944): New York GiantsEdit

1 2 3 4 Total
Card-Pitt 0 0 0 0 0
Giants 0 9 7 7 23



at Polo Grounds, New York, New York

  • Game time:
  • Game weather:
  • Game attendance: 40,734
  • Referee:

Scoring Drives:

  • New York – Paschal 4 run (Strong kick)
  • New York – Safety, McCarthy's punt blocked out of end zone by Cope
  • New York – Paschal 3 run (Strong kick)
  • New York – Paschal 45 run (Cuff kick)

Week 5 (Sunday October 29, 1944): Washington RedskinsEdit

1 2 3 4 Total
Card-Pitt 0 0 7 13 20
Redskins 7 7 7 21 42



at Griffith Stadium, Washington, D.C.

  • Game time:
  • Game weather:
  • Game attendance: 35,540
  • Referee:

Scoring Drives:

  • Washington – Aguirre 58 pass from Filchock (Aguirre kick)
  • Washington – Aguirre 47 pass from Filchock (Aguirre kick)
  • Chicago-Pittsburgh – Grigas 1 run (Baker kick)
  • Washington – Moore 75 run (Weldon kick)
  • Chicago-Pittsburgh – Grigas 8 run (kick failed)
  • Chicago-Pittsburgh – Currivan 7 pass from Grigas (Baker kick)
  • Washington – Seymour 3 run (Weldon kick)
  • Washington – Seymour 23 pass from Filchock (Weldon kick)
  • Washington – Turley 35 pass from Baugh (Weldon kick)

Week 6 (Sunday November 5, 1944): Detroit LionsEdit

1 2 3 4 Total
Lions 21 0 6 0 27
Card-Pitt 0 0 0 6 6



at Forbes Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

  • Game time:
  • Game weather:
  • Game attendance: 17,743
  • Referee:

Scoring Drives:

  • Detroit – Van Tone 19 pass from Westfall (Sinkwich kick)
  • Detroit – Westfall 15 pass from Sinkwich (Sinkwich kick)
  • Detroit – Sinkwich 5 run (Sinkwich kick)
  • Detroit – Van Tone 10 pass from Sinkwich (Sinkwich kick)
  • Chicago-Pittsburgh – Bova 8 pass from Grigas (kick failed)

Week 7 (Sunday November 12, 1944): Detroit LionsEdit

1 2 3 4 Total
Card-Pitt 0 0 0 7 7
Lions 7 7 0 7 21



at Briggs Stadium, Detroit, Michigan

  • Game time:
  • Game weather:
  • Game attendance: 13,239
  • Referee:

Scoring Drives:

  • Detroit – Van Tone run (Sinkwich kick)
  • Detroit – Sinkwich run (Sinkwich kick)
  • Detroit – Sinkwich run (Sinkwich kick)
  • Chicago-Pittsburgh – Thurbon 1 run (Baker kick)

Week 8 (Sunday November 19, 1944): Cleveland RamsEdit

1 2 3 4 Total
Rams 6 6 7 14 33
Card-Pitt 0 0 6 0 6



at Comiskey Park, Chicago, Illinois

  • Game time:
  • Game weather:
  • Game attendance: 14,732
  • Referee:

Scoring Drives:

  • Cleveland – Colella 54 pass from Kabealo (kick failed)
  • Cleveland – Zontini 1 run (kick failed)
  • Cleveland – Pritko 35 pass from Reisz (Zontini kick)
  • Chicago-Pittsburgh – Bova 46 pass from Grigas (kick failed)
  • Cleveland – Gillette 58 run (Zontini kick)
  • Cleveland – Petchel 43 pass from Reisz (Zontini kick)

Week 9 (Sunday November 26, 1944): Green Bay PackersEdit

1 2 3 4 Total
Packers 7 7 7 14 35
Card-Pitt 7 6 0 7 20



at Comiskey Park, Chicago, Illinois

  • Game time:
  • Game weather:
  • Game attendance: 7,158
  • Referee:

Scoring Drives:

  • Chicago-Pittsburgh – Thurbon 1 run (Baker kick)
  • Green Bay – Duhart 1 run (Hutson kick)
  • Green Bay – Duhart 11 run (Hutson kick)
  • Chicago-Pittsburgh – Thurbon 37 pass from Grigas (kick failed)
  • Green Bay – Hutson 36 pass from Comp (Hutson kick)
  • Green Bay – Hutson 6 pass from Comp (Hutson kick)
  • Green Bay – Perkins 40 interception (Hutson kick)
  • Chicago-Pittsburgh – Currivan 72 pass from Grigas (Baker kick)

Week 10 (Sunday December 3, 1944): Chicago BearsEdit

1 2 3 4 Total
Bears 7 7 7 28 49
Card-Pitt 0 7 0 0 7



at Forbes Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

  • Game time:
  • Game weather:
  • Game attendance: 9,069
  • Referee:

Scoring Drives:

  • Chicago Bears – Berry 9 pass from Ronzani (Gudauskas kick)
  • Chicago Bears – Fordham 1 run (Gudauskas kick)
  • Chicago-Pittsburgh – Thurbon 1 run (Baker kick)
  • Chicago Bears – Famiglietti 23 pass from Ronzani (Gudauskas kick)
  • Chicago Bears – Margarita 47 run (Gudauskas kick)
  • Chicago Bears – Fordham 2 run (Gudauskas kick)
  • Chicago Bears – McEnulty 5 pass from Ronzani (Gudauskas kick)
  • Chicago Bears – Turner 48 run (Gudauskas kick)

RosterEdit

Conway Baker, G
Vince Banonis, C
Clarence Booth, OT
Tony Bova, LE
Chet Bulger, RT
John Butler, HB
Don Currivan, E
Ted Doyle, OT
Cliff Duggan, OT
John Grigas, FB
Walt Kichefski, E
George Magulick, HB
Lou Marotti, G
Johnny Martin, WB
Walt Masters, B
John McCarthy, QB
Coley McDonough, QB
Elmer Merkovsky, G
John Perko, G
John Popovich, HB
Walt Rankin, QB
Marshall Robnett, C
Eddie Rucinski, E
Elbie Schultz, LG
Bernie Semes, HB
Bob Thurbon, HB
Clint Wager, E
Al Wukits, C

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. Roberts, R. and Welky, D. (Eds.), "The Steelers Reader." University of Pittsburgh Press, 2001, p.61.
  2. Kiss Em Goodbye: An ESPN Treasury of failed, forgotten, and departed teams, pp.67–68, Dennis Purdy, Ballantine Books, New York, 2010, ISBN 978-1-345-52012-8
  3. 2005 Saint Francis University, Loretto, Pennsylvania Alumni Directory page 307 Class of 1942
  4. Algeo, Matthew, “Last Team Standing: How the Steelers and the Eagles--‘The Steagles’--Saved Pro Football during World War II.” Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2006, p. 207-208.
  5. Kiss Em Goodbye: An ESPN Treasury of failed, forgotten, and departed teams, p.69, Dennis Purdy, Ballantine Books, New York, 2010, ISBN 978-1-345-52012-8
  6. "1944 Chi/Pit Cards/Steelers season recap". Pro Football Reference. http://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/crd/1944.htm. Retrieved 29 March 2010.

External linksEdit

Eastern Division Western Division
Boston Card-Pitt
Brooklyn Chicago
Philadelphia Cleveland
New York Detroit
Washington Green Bay
1944 NFL DraftNFL Championship

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