Historical Society program examines Latrobe’s claims to pro football fame | TribLIVE.com
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Jeff Himler

“Latrobe: Home of Professional Football… or are we?” is the question considered in a themed slide show of images from local gridiron history that will be screened Friday and Saturday by the Latrobe Area Historical Society.

Doors open at 9 a.m. each day, and the show begins at 9:30 a.m., at the historical society headquarters and museum, 416 Weldon St. in Latrobe.

The show will offer answers to football questions that have stirred controversy, including: Who was the first professional football player? and Why is the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio?

The NFL for years upheld the idea that professional football got its start in Latrobe on Sept. 3, 1895, when John Brallier was paid $10 and expenses to quarterback the Latrobe YMCA team in its 6-0 victory over Jeannette.

The society program includes a photo of “The Chief” Art Rooney Sr., then president of the Steelers, taking part in the 1960 dedication of a plaque recognizing Latrobe’s Memorial Stadium as the “Birthplace of Professional Football.”

An expense accounting sheet for the Allegheny Athletic Association, surfacing decades after the fact, has since advanced the arrival of the first paid football player to 1892, at Recreation Field in what is now Pittsburgh’s North Side.

Latrobe still has an early football milestone it can claim, according to historical society President Mary Lou Townsend. The Latrobe Athletic Association is credited with fielding the first all-paid team of players.

At least, according to a timeline on the Pro Football Hall of Fame website, the Latrobe squad is recognized as the first team of professionals to play a full season of games — in 1897. The site indicates that the Allegheny Athletic Association fielded a pro team, for just two games, a year earlier.

“We have the first professional football team, if not the first individual player,” Townsend said.

The shows are free, but donations are appreciated. Parking on Friday is on the street. Those attending Saturday’s show may park in the lot at Kelly, Sparber & White, on the corner of Weldon and Alexandria streets.

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