The History of the First 100 Years History of Watertown Red & Black Football 1896 - 1996
The Watertown Red & Black is a semi-professional American football team based in Watertown, New York. Founded in 1896, the team is the oldest semi-pro football team in the United States. Because of this, the team has the most wins (565), losses (268), ties (43) and games played (876) of any semi-professional team; their overall win percentage is .670.
It was in 1902 that Watertown Athletic Association became known as the Red & Black Professional Football Team. Though it declined participation in the first World Series of Pro Football, it loaned players to the Syracuse Athletic Club to participate in that contest, the first ever attempted national professional football championship. (The enhanced Syracuse team, which included Pop Warner, won the tournament in an upset.) Football enthusiasm reached a peak locally in 1903, a year which included a 142-0 rout of a team from Cortland (which still stands as the second-biggest blowout in pro football history, behind the Massillon Tigers' 148-0 win over a team from Marion in the Ohio League a year later). The 1903 season ended with the Red & Black participating in the second (and as it would turn out, the final) World Series of Pro Football. Watertown lost the championship to the superteam Franklin Athletic Club of Pennsylvania by a 12-0 score; J. B. Wise, Mayor of Watertown and the Red & Black's business manager lost $8,000 in bets during this contest.
The Red & Black team, mostly located too far from pro football's core in Ohio and western Pennsylvania to play an extensive schedule against other fully professional teams, then dropped back to the semi-professional level in 1904 and has played with semi-pro status ever since. This allowed the scheduling of teams located within what was then a reasonable travel distance of Watertown. Several teams during the decades of the 1900s, 1910s and 1920s brought the semi-professional championships of New York State home to Watertown. Alex Duffy wore the colors for 17 seasons, the last 15 as captain during the 1910s and 1920s. During the 1923-1925 seasons, the team won 31 games, losing only to Binghamton, 6-0. The 1927 squad was undefeated. In 1935, the Red & Black was reorganized under George (Buzzy) Gibson and produced several outstanding teams.
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