The First Pro Team in Dallas

Among the worst teams of all time were the 1952 Dallas Texans. Halfway through their first and only season, they were kicked out of town and forced to play the rest of the schedule elsewhere.

The Texans were the reincarnation of the New York Yanks (Boston Yanks 1944-8, New York Bulldogs/Yanks 1949-51) who were so bad that owner Ted Collins (manager of the beloved singer Kate Smith) gave the franchise back to the NFL. Turning down a bid by the directors of the old Baltimore Colts franchise (1947-9 in All-American League and 1950 in NFL), Commissioner Bert Bell awarded the team to 31-year-old Texas millionaire Giles Miller who moved it to Dallas.

Dallas Texans
A rare photo of the 1952 Texans in action. Halfback Buddy Young, with ball, battles the Green Bay Packers.

The head coach of the team was Jimmy Phelan, a successful college coach at Washington and St. Mary's. Opening day brought only 17,499 spectators to the Cotton Bowl to watch the New York Giants beat the Texans 24-6. The home team actually scored first. Minutes into the game, Dallas recovered a fumbled punt and scored on a pass two plays later. The Giants defender who failed to defend the pass was the one who had fumbled punt. Guy by the name of Landry, Tom Landry, who later had many outstanding days in Dallas as a coach.

That was the high point as the next three home games drew even fewer fans. The fact that the Texans' top two running backs, Buddy Young and George Taliaferro, were black may have contributed to the lack of interest. (Taliaferro was selected to Pro Bowl at the end of the season.) After seven games, Miller, unable to meet his financial obligations, gave the team back to the league, which moved its base of operations to Hershey PA near the league office in Philadelphia.

Dallas Texans 1952 Results

New York Giants
Cotton Bowl
L 24-6
Oct. 5
San Francisco 49ers
Cotton Bowl
L 37-14
Oct. 12
Chicago Bears
Wrigley Field
L 38-20
Oct. 18
Green Bay Packers
Cotton Bowl
L 24-14
Oct. 26
San Francisco 49ers
Kezar Stadium
L 48-21
Nov. 2
Los Angeles Rams
Los Angeles Coliseum
L 42-20
Nov. 9
Los Angeles Rams
Cotton Bowl
L 27-6
Nov. 16
Detroit Lions
Briggs Stadium
L 43-13
Nov. 23
Green Bay Packers
Lambeau Field
L 42-14
Nov. 27
Chicago Bears
Rubber Bowl, Akron OH
W 27-23
Dec. 7
Philadelphia Eagles
Shibe Park
L 38-21
Dec. 13
Detroit Lions
Briggs Stadium
L 41-6

Note: The final game was originally scheduled for Dallas.

The lone win came over the Bears on Thanksgiving in front of about 3,000 fans in Akron OH. A high school game on the same field earlier that day easily outdrew the NFL contest. Coach Phelan suggested that, rather than introducing the players over the PA, they should "go into the stands and shake hands with each fan." Chicago coach George Halas was so confident of victory that he started his entire second team. When the Bears fell behind 20-2, Halas put in the starters and, behind two George Blanda TD passes, took a 23-20 lead. But the Texans scored with 34 seconds left for a shocking 27-23 victory.

The team finished last in total yards and missed all four FG attempts. Coach Phelan hated practice as much as the players did. Once, after they ran a few plays without fouling up, Phelan stopped practice, loaded everyone on a bus, and took them to the racetrack.

When the season ended, 20 Texans, half the team, quit pro football. Here's a list of some of the players on the team: Frank Tripucka (QB Notre Dame), New Orleans' own Hank Lauricella (HB Tennessee), another New Orleanian John Petibon (HB-DB Notre Dame), Zollie Toth (FB LSU), Billy Baggett (HB-DB LSU), Barney Poole (CE-DE Ole Miss/Army), Gino Marchetti (OT-DE U. San Francisco), Art Donovan (DT Boston College), Dick Hoerner (FB Iowa).

For the 1953 season, the franchise was awarded – a year late – to Baltimore, with Carroll Rosenbloom as owner. So the Texans became the Baltimore Colts. Marchetti and Donovan starred for the Colts and were elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The NFL gave Dallas another chance in 1960 with the Cowboys. In the same year, the new American Football League established a new Dallas Texans team, owned by Lamar Hunt. After winning the 1962 AFL championship, Hunt's Texans became the Kansas City Chiefs.

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