|St. Louis Gunners|
|Based in||St. Louis, Missouri, United States|
|Home field||Public Schools Stadium (1931-1933)|
Sportsman's Park (1934-)
|League||Independent (1931-34) |
National Football League (1934)
American Football League (1938-39)
|Team History||St. Louis Gunners (1931-40)|
|Team Colors||Red, White, Blue
|Head coaches||Jimmy Conzelman (1931)|
Bullet Baker (1932)
Gwinn Henry (1933)
Chile Walsh (1934)
|General managers||Bud Yates (1931, 1933-1934)|
The St. Louis Gunners, were an independent professional football team based in St. Louis, Missouri, who played the last three games of the 1934 National Football League season, replacing the Cincinnati Reds on the league schedule after the Reds' league membership was suspended. They won their first game against the Pittsburgh Pirates (now Steelers) 6-0, but lost the last two to the Detroit Lions (40-7) and the Green Bay Packers (21-14). Six of the Reds players joined the team for the last two games. The team was headquartered at the St. Louis National Guard Armory, which accounts for its nickname the 'Gunners'.
In 1931, the 126th Field Artillery of the Missouri National Guard, announced through its spokesman that it would sponsor a team for the upcoming football season. The club was originally called the Batter A Gunners from its association with the Guard. Future Hall-of-Famer Jimmy Conzelman, was named the team's first head coach. Bud Yates was named the team's general manager.
The Gunners posted a 5-2-1 record in 1931. However they lost to the NFL's Chicago Cardinals, 26-6. After the game Cardinals captain, Ernie Nevers, called the Gunners the "best independent club we have ever faced." A game against a second NFL team, the New York Giants, was scheduled but later canceled that season, to avoid conflict with another game involving a team of Notre Dame All-Stars.
For the team's second season, Bullet Baker was named the teams new coach. While most of the core of the team was kept intact, the Gunners brought in Dick Thornton and Mack Gladden from the University of Missouri. Meanwhile Yates left the team for the season, for a position with the cross-town St. Louis Veterans. The 1932 Gunners posted a 7-4-1 record. The team was able to play their rival the Memphis Tigers to a standoff in three games, St. Louis winning 6-0, Memphis winning 12-0, and the third game ending in a scoreless tie. Later that year the Tigers, Gunners and the Oklanhoma City Chiefs each laid some claim to a mythical “independent championship,”. Two of the team's losses that season came against NFL caliber opponents, the Cardinals, 20-7, and the Portsmouth Spartans, 12-0.
By 1933, the team had been renamed the "St. Louis Gunners". Most of the ties the team had with the National Guard had been severed. For example, the players were no longer required to stay at the Battery A barracks, as they had in the past. Dick Frahm, Babe Lyon, and Charley Malone were signed from the Washington Redskins. The team posted an 11-2-3 record in 1933. This year however managed to defeat many of the NFL teams it had faced. The Gunners defeated the NFL's Brooklyn Dodgers 21-2, and the Chicago Cardinals 28-7. The team also held the Chicago Bears to a scoreless tie. The team's only two NFL loss of the year came against Green Bay Packers and the Cincinnati Reds. The team had also managed to outscore their opponents 297-72.
Entry into the NFL
On August 8, 1934, before the start of the NFL season, St. Louis purchased the NFL's Cincinnati Reds for $20,000. However the Gunners needed the other league owners to approve the sale. Only then would the Gunners would be official members.On August 17, the other owners decided to reject the Gunners bid to buy the Reds, probably because St. Louis was too far removed from the rest of the clubs, all in the Northeast, and yearly trips there would have increased travel expenses. Meanwhile the Gunners declined membership into the minor league American Football League. As a result, the new league decided to form the St. Louis Blues. Gunners GM Bud Yates was credited with founding the team. The Blues even lured Dick Frahm away from the Gunners and even took over the lease of Public Schools Stadium. As a result, the Gunners moved their home games to Sportsman's Park. Meanwhile Chile Walsh became the team's forth head coach in four years.
The Gunners started their 1934 season, 5-0 against several semi-pro teams. The team was searching desperately for decent teams to compete against. However on November 6, 1934, the NFL finally approved the sale of the Cincinnati Reds to St. Louis for $20,000 - $30,0000. The Gunners were now officially members of the NFL and were invited to play the Reds last 3 games of the 1934 NFL season. The Blues then moved to Kansas City two days later in order to avoid fighting the Gunners for control of the St. Louis fanbase.
1934 NFL season
The Gunners defeated their first NFL opponent, the Pittsburgh Pirates, 6-0. However, a week later they were defeated by the Detroit Lions 40-7. The team managed to defeat the Pirates again in a 10-0 rematch, but the game, scheduled while the Gunners were still playing independently, was subsequently ruled an exhibition. The Gunners did lose a close game to the Packers a week later, 21-14, before dropping another close game to the Dodgers 17-14. The Gunners ended their 1934 season with a 7-0 win over the Kansas City Blues.
When the Gunners left the NFL, they were replaced by the Cleveland Rams. The Gunners returned to being an independent team, which they remained until the founding of an American Football League in 1938. That year, the Gunners finished in second place with a 4-3-1 record, just behind the Chicago Indians' 5-1-0. The following year, in the newly-renamed American Professional Football Association, the Gunners finished fifth in the league with a 5-6-0 record, well behind the league champion Los Angeles Bulldogs, two years after the Bulldogs' perfect season in the second AFL. The Gunners had officially withdrawn from the league after their eighth game in 1939, and agreed to play out the remaining three games of their APFA schedule (with the results counting in the standings for all teams involved). As the minor league fell apart in 1940 (due to a newly-formed major American Football League admitting three APFA teams to its membership), the Gunners applied to join the embryonic league. When the Gunners' application was eventually denied, the team returned to an independent status until they disbanded in 1941.
After the Gunners left the NFL in 1934, the league did not return to St. Louis until the Cardinals relocated from Chicago in 1960. The current version of the St. Louis Gunners is an independent flag football team that plays in and around the St. Louis area.
|1934||NFL||8||3||2||5th West (NFL)||Chile Walsh|
- Carroll, Bob (1983). "The St. Louis Gunners". Coffin Corner (Professional Football Researchers Association) 4 (Annual): 1–14. http://www.profootballresearchers.org/Coffin_Corner/05-An-167.pdf.
- Gill, Bob (1982). "Pro Football Spreads South". Coffin Corner (Professional Football Researchers Association) 4 (Annual): 1–2. http://www.profootballresearchers.org/Coffin_Corner/04-An-122.pdf.