Massillon Tigers - History - 1900s - Inaugural Season

Inaugural Season

When the Tigers began play in 1903, several of the expected starters hadn't touched a football in eight or more years. According to locals belief, Baldy Wittman, 32-year-old proprietor of a local cigar store and a spare-time police officer, had never played the game at all. Charles "Cy" Rigler, who later became a famous major league baseball umpire started at tackle. Wittman opened at an end and was elected the team captain. Meanwhile Stewart lined himself up at quarterback. The Tigers first game against Wooster College ended in a 6-0 defeat. A biased official was the excuse for the loss. The Tigers followed their first ever game with a 16-0 victory over Stewart's alma mater, Mount Union College, a 6-0 victory over the Akron Imperials, and a 38-0 over the Akron Blues. After a 34-0 victory over the Dennison Panhandles, the Tigers prepared for their cross-county rivals, a sandlot team from Canton. Betting on the games, during the early 1900s was common. It is believed that over $1000 was risked on the game's outcome. The Tigers held on to a 16-0 score to win the first game between the two clubs.

After the Canton-Massillon game, the Tigers began to look at winning the mythical "Ohio League" championship. On Thanksgiving Day 1903, the Tigers avenged their only loss of the season against Wooster College with a 34-0 score. This outcome gave legitimacy to the belief that the Tigers were robbed by a corrupt official in their inaugural game. On December 5, an agreement was signed by Massillon and the Akron East Ends to play. The contract called for a 75-25 split of the gate, with the winner taking the 75% of the gate. However Massillon soon found itself in a troubling situation due to injuries to several of their star players. The team's management decided to replace the injured players with "ringers". Several pro football players from the Pittsburgh area soon traveled to Ohio to play for Massillon. Among them was Bob Shiring and Harry McChesney, who played in 1902 with the Pittsburgh Stars of the first National Football League. These player developments did not sit well with the Akron media, most notably the Akron Beacon-Journal. Massillon would go on to the win the championship game 12-0, however the Akron Beacon-Journal later stated that most of Massillon's 75% gate money went to the Pittsburgh ringers. Plans were soon in the mix for spending $1,000 on a 1904 Tigers team.

Read more about this topic:  Massillon Tigers, History, 1900s

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