Douglas Park (Rock Island)
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Douglas Park Rock Island
Douglas Park
Site of First NFL Game, 1920.
Location 18th Avenue and 10th Street in Rock Island, Illinois, 61201
Coordinates 41° 29' 38.4684 N 90° 35' 1.1724 W
Owner City of Rock Island, Illinois
Operator Rock Island Park and Recreation Department
Capacity 5,000 (1925)
Surface Grass
Built 1907
National Football League
Rock Island Independents (1907-1925)
Minor League Baseball
Rock Island Islanders (1907-1937)

Douglas Park is located at 18th Avenue and 10th Street in Rock Island, Illinois.[1] A former National Football League venue, it was the site of the first National Football League game on September 26, 1920. The stadium was home to the Rock Island Independents from 1907 until 1925. The Independents were an original franchise of the National Football League (1920-1925). It was a minor league baseball stadium for the Rock Island Islanders from 1907 until 1937. The Islanders played in the Illinois-Indiana-Iowa League (1920-1921), Mississippi Valley League (1922-1933) and Western League (1934-1937). Numerous Pro Football Hall of Fame Inductees, including NFL legends George Halas, Curly Lambeau and Jim Thorpe, performed at Douglas Park.

Rock Island Independents Team Photo 1919

First NFL game

Douglas Park was the site of the first ever National Football League contest on September 26, 1920. After the league had formed on September 17, 1920, Douglas Park was the scene when the Rock Island Independents defeated the non-member St. Paul Ideals 48-0 in the new league's first contest.[2][3]

A week later, on October 3, 1920, the Independents defeated the Muncie Flyers 45-0 at Douglas Park in the first full week of league play.[4][5]

Early NFL play at Douglas Park

After beginning play at Douglas Park in 1907 (with undefeated seasons in 1908, 1910, 1912, 1912, 1918), the Rock Island Independents were an original franchise in the National Football League.[6] Today's National Football League was formed on September 17, 1920 at a meeting in Canton, Ohio with Rock Island Independents representation in attendance.[7]Jim Thorpe was the first League President. First known as the American Professional Football Association, the league would change names to the "National Football league" in 1922. The 14 original 1920 Franchises were the: Akron Pros, Canton Bulldogs, Decatur Staleys, Chicago Cardinals, Chicago Tigers, Cleveland Indians, Dayton Triangles, Hammond Pros, Muncie Flyers, Rock Island Independents, Rochester Jeffersons, Buffalo All-Americans, Columbus Panhandles, and Detroit Heralds. The Green Bay Packers would join the league a year later.[8]

Independents owner (and former player) Walter Flanigan was the driving force in establishing the franchise as an early football professional franchise. Flanigan was present at the September 17, 1920 meeting in Canton and after the formation of the league, Flanigan was named to a committee that created the league's constitution.[9]

The Independents posted records of 6-2-2 (1920), 4-2-1 (1921) and 4-2-1 (1922) in the NFL's first three seasons.[10][11][12] Five of their six losses were to the Decatur Staleys/Chicago Staleys/Chicago Bears and George Halas. After 2-3-3 (1923), 5-2-2 (1924) and 5-3-3 (1925)[13][14][15] records in the next three seasons, the team, now owned by Dale Johnson, folded as an NFL Franchise. The Independents then played some of 1926 at Browning Field after joining the short-lived American Football League. The Independents overall NFL record was 26-14-9, with five winning seasons in six years.

Douglas Park played host to several famous NFL teams including the Chicago Bears and their early franchise, the Decatur Staleys, Green Bay Packers, and the Chicago Cardinals. Numerous Pro Football Hall of Fame players played at Douglas Park, including: Jim Thorpe, Curly Lambeau, George Halas, Paddy Driscoll, and George Trafton.[16]

Independents in the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Four Independents players, who played at Douglas Park, were inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame: Jim Thorpe (1963) [17] Tackle Ed Healey (1964), Back Jimmy Conzelman (1964) and Joe Guyon (1966).[18][19][20][21] Thorpe played with the Independents in 1924 and created a touring team called the "Thorpe Independents" after the season.[22]

Notable NFL games at Douglas Park

  • On November 22, 1925, the Independents defeated the Milwaukee Badgers 40-7 in the Final NFL game at Douglass Park.[23]
  • On October 4, 1925, the Independents defeated the Green Bay Packers, coached by Curly Lambeau, 3-0[24]
  • On Sept 30, 1923 the Independents defeated the Chicago Bears 3-0. The Bears Coach was George Halas.[25]
  • On both September 28, 1924 and September 20, 1925, the Independents and the Chicago Bears played to a 0-0 tie.[26][27]
  • On October 1, 1922, in the NFL Home opener at Douglas Park, the Independents defeated the Green Bay Packers 19-14.[28]
  • On October 16, 1921, the independents defeated the Chicago Cardinals 14-7.[29]
  • On October 7, 1920, the Independents defeated the Chicago Cardinals 7-0.[30]

Rock Island Islanders

The Rock Island Islanders were a minor league baseball franchise that played at Douglas Park. The Islanders played in the Illinois-Indiana-Iowa League (1920-1921), Mississippi Valley League (1922-1933) and Western League (1934-1937). The Islanders were Class D affiliates of the St. Louis Browns (1932) and Cincinnati Reds (1933). They won league championships in 1907, 1909 and 1932 and had many alumni play in the Major Leagues.[31]

Other notable events

The first college football game in the rivalry between the University of Iowa and the University of Illinois was played at Douglas Park on November 30, 1899. Iowa beat Illinois 58-0.[32]

Douglas Park played host to the ISC World Fastpitch Softball Tournament from 1961 thru 1969, and again in 1973.

In August, 2015 a throwback football game was played at Douglas Park to honor the history of football at the site. Early football rules were used in the game, in which the Rock Island Independents team defeated the Moline Universal Tractors 24-0.[33]

The park today

The park is still in use today by Little League Baseball and Rock Island High School's freshman baseball team. The Quad City 76ers Semi-Pro Baseball Club has called Douglas Park home since 1986. Friends of Douglas Park, a group formed in 2007 raised money through donations to remodel the large baseball field. The field was labeled "Phase 1" of a total Douglas Park renovation. On May 9, 2017, the large diamond was re-opened with a high school baseball game between Alleman and Rock Island high school. A crowd of 450 saw the Rocks defeat Alleman 2-0.

Independents season-by-season

Year W L T Finish Coach
1907 2 3 1
1908 4 0 0
1909 0 3 0
1910 5 0 0
1911 Did Not Play
1912 8 0 0 Dick Liitt
1913 6 0 1 Dick Liitt
1914 5 2 0 Joseph Smith
1915 5 1 1 Walter Flanigan
1916 5 3 1 Walter Flanigan
1917 7 3 0 Ted Guyer
1918 5 0 0 Walter Flanigan
1919 9 1 1 Rube Ursella, John Roche[disambiguation needed]
Joined the American Professional Football Association
1920 6 2 2 3rd Rube Ursella
1921 4 2 1 5th Frank Coughlin, Jimmy Conzelman
AFPA is renamed the National Football League
1922 4 2 1 5th Jimmy Conzelman
1923 2 3 3 12th Herb Sies
1924 5 2 2 5th Johnny Armstrong
1925 5 3 3 8th Rube Ursella
Moved to American Football League (1926)
1926 2 6 1 7th Johnny Armstrong
AFPA/NFL-AFL Totals 28 20 13

Notable Islanders alumni

External links

Douglas Park Photos:

Preceded by
Rock Island Independents venues
Succeeded by
Browning Field


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  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved . 
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