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DALLAS TEXANS (1952)

Dallas Texans Logo.
Logo of the Dallas Texans football team. In 1952 the short-lived Dallas Texans became the state's first major league sports team. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

DALLAS TEXANS (1952). Texas is a football-focused state. High school, college, and professional teams dominate citizens’ thoughts and loyalties. While the sport played a prominent role in the community identity of Texas at the local and collegiate level throughout first half of the twentieth century, in 1952 the state had its first professional football team—the Dallas Texans.

Following the 1951 season, Ted Collins, owner of the National Football League team, the New York Yanks, decided he no longer wanted to own a franchise. After consistently facing financial difficulties, Collins put the Yanks up for sale. No buyer came forward, so Collins then sold the Yanks to the NFL. With the league now owning the team and no one in New York offering to take over, the league looked for a new home for the franchise. On January 30, 1952, the NFL found a location. Spurred on by Dallas radio entrepreneur Gordon McLendon, two brothers and textile millionaires from Dallas, Giles and Connell Miller, offered to purchase the rights to the Yanks and moved the team to the Millers’ home city. The Millers were the primary investors who headed a group of Dallas businessmen who were interested in the venture. The move required approval from the other NFL owners, and a majority voted in favor of the shift. The total price tag for the team was $300,000—$100,000 for the team itself along with $200,000 to pay off the NFL’s rental contract of Yankee Stadium with the New York Yankees baseball club. The team, initially to be called the Texas Rangers or Dallas Rangers, was ultimately dubbed the Dallas Texans.

Dallas Texans Official Program.
Official Program of the Dallas Texans. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

The arrival of the Dallas Texans marked the first professional football team and major sports franchise for the state. The Texans also represented a significant moment in Texas history.  Texas, as a southern state, possessed strict segregation laws. The Texans, though, became the first integrated major league sports team in the state’s history, with halfbacks George Taliafero and Buddy Young on the team. The presence of African American players on the roster received significant coverage in the state’s black press and interest from the African American community. Segregated seating, however, was enforced at the home games.

The Millers hoped that the Dallas business community would rally around the team and provide financial support. The Texans chose to play their games in the 75,500-seat Cotton Bowl at Dallas’s Fair Park. In order to break even financially, the team needed approximately 23,000 to 25,000 spectators in attendance. Unfortunately for the Miller brothers, professional football existed mainly as a regional sport in the early 1950s. Many football fans in Texas chose to support established local teams, while apprehensively observing the Texans.

Under head coach Jimmy Phelan, who had coached the New York Yanks the previous season, the Dallas Texans played their first game against the New York Giants on September 28, 1952. To the fans excitement, the Texans proceeded to march down the field and score the first touchdown of the game. Unfortunately, in ominous foreshadowing of the upcoming season, they missed the extra point and then failed to score again for the remainder of the game. When the game ended, only some 17,500 witnessed the 24–6 loss. The fact that Southern Methodist University, who also played at the Cotton Bowl, regularly drew more fans made the small attendance figures for the Texans even more glaring.

Losing became a theme on the season. The Texans lost their first seven games. At their home games, the team continued to attract less than 10,000 fans per game. As a result, the team failed to meet its expenses and payroll. When the Millers appealed to local businesses for support, the brothers only found more closed doors. As a result of the mounting debt, the Miller brothers officially sold the team back to the NFL following a November 9 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. Since the team failed to attract fans in Dallas, the league made the Texans a “travelling team,” choosing for them to play all remaining games, even “home games,” at the stadiums of their opponents in the hope that this move might attract larger attendance figures. As a result, the Texans finished the season by playing games at Detroit, Green Bay, Chicago, Philadelphia, and then Detroit again.

When the Texans played the Bears, the team won its only contest of the year. George Halas, coach and owner of the Bears, entered the contest so confident of his victory that he held out his starters in the first half. The Texans took an early lead and then held on for the surprise upset, 27–23. Continuing the disheartening theme of the Texans season, though, the game against Chicago took place on Thanksgiving Day in Akron, Ohio, and made up the second half of a double header, with the first game being a high school game. Only 3,000 fans stayed for the professional game, a number considerably smaller than came to the earlier high school game. The Dallas Texans ended their season with a record of 1–11.

When the season ended, the NFL tried to find a buyer for the team. When no new owners in Dallas came forward, the league folded the Dallas franchise and sold off its assets. As a result, the team moved yet again, this time to Baltimore, Maryland, where the franchise changed its name to the Colts. Thus ended the run of Texas’s first professional football team that, according to writer Thomas H. Smith, began as a “promising venture that ended as a joke.”

While the season for the Texans mostly involved negative events, some bright points did occur. George Taliaferro led the team in rushing and also made the Pro Bowl. Gino Marchetti went on to play thirteen successful seasons with the Baltimore Colts and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Chicago Daily Tribune, January 21, 1952. Dallas Morning News, January 21, 31, 1952; January 18, 1953. Pro Football Hall of Fame: The Dallas Texans (http://www.profootballhof.com/football-history/the-dallas-texans/), accessed April 26, 2017. Pro Football Reference: 1952 Dallas Texans Statistics & Players (http://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/dtx/1952.htm), accessed April 26, 2017. Thomas H. Smith, “Gone and Forgotten: The Dallas Texans,” Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas 17 (Spring 2005).

Rob Fink

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Handbook of Texas Online, Rob Fink, "Dallas Texans (1952)," accessed September 26, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/xod06.

Uploaded on April 29, 2017. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.