The league expanded from four to eight teams, with the return of the Oakland Giants after a two-season absence, and the addition of the Richmond Boilermakers (who dropped out midway through league play), the Alameda Mustangs (who moved to San Jose in 1944), and the Los Angeles Mustangs resulted in the league having four Los Angeles teams for competition, with one in particular creating controversy and bitter feelings for succeeding years.
Almost immediately after being granted an expansion franchise for the Los Angeles Mustangs, owner Bill Freelove surprised the league membership by signing virtually the entire roster of the 1942 Los Angeles Bulldogs. Bulldogs owner Jerry Corcoran was contemplating the suspension of the team for 1943 when the league gave a “leave of absence” to the Hollywood Bears, whose owner and star were both unavailable for competition. As a result, Corcoran was able to sign most of the Bears (including Kink Richards), and the Bulldogs had the manpower to participate in the 1943 PCPFL season. The reconstituted team finished in fifth place with a 3-4 record, one win behind Freelove’s Mustangs (4-4), which finished in a tie for second with Oakland. The San Diego Bombers won its second consecutive league title with a 7-1 record.
After the end of the 1943 season, the off-the-field fireworks continued. The league ownership registered their disapproval of Bill Freelove’s raiding of the Bulldogs by refusing to renew his league membership. Freelove responded with the formation of a new American Football League with eight teams from Seattle and Portland to San Diego. As a result, there were an unprecedented five Los Angeles professional football teams operating simultaneously. With the leagues’ talent pool greatly diluted, the Bulldogs struggled to a 2-5 record, good for sixth place in the PCPFL (and only better than the new Hollywood Wolves) as the San Diego Bombers won their third straight league title.
On December 21, 1944, the AFL merged with the PCPFL, with the AFL’s first and second place teams (Hollywood Rangers and San Francisco Clippers) replacing the Wolves and the Packers for the 1945 season. Freelove’s Mustangs were not permitted to join the reformed league and had a short, futile “life” as an independent team. With the return of Paul Schissler and Kenny Washington, the Bears were back, but the Rangers quit the league rather than join forces with the other team from Hollywood (tailback Dean McAdams left the Rangers and signed with the Bulldogs soon afterward). Helped by the defection, the Bulldogs improved to 5-5-1 with the help of a newly-signed quarterback, Frankie Albert. The Bulldogs finished in third place, behind a resuscitated Hollywood Bears team (8-2-1) and the Oakland Giants (7-2) led by league MVP Mel Reid, another victim of the NFL color line.
Seven years after playing in front of crowds of 15,000 people as they marched through a perfect season in the major league American Football League, the Bulldogs were averaging less than 10,000 per game in Gilmore Stadium in the Pacific Coast Professional Football League’s last season as the highest level league on the West Coast. While the Bulldogs have one more league championship in the post-World War II years, the anticipated arrival of the Cleveland Rams into Los Angeles heralded seismic changes in the professional football landscape in California.
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