“Upon further review” is a recurring segment in which This Given Sunday analyzes quirks and fascinating tidbits from the NFL’s history books.
The Hockey Hall of Fame is — rather fittingly — located in Toronto. Basketball’s Hall of Fame is located in the birthplace of that game, Springfield, Mass. But as the NFL world converges on Canton, Ohio, this weekend for football’s annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony, it had me wondering why exactly that particular city is home to such an important tribute to American football.
After all, the game was invented on a series college campuses including Yale, Harvard, Columbia and Princeton. There’s no real connection to Canton there.
The answer? Well, for starters, the NFL itself was formalized at a automobile dealership in Canton back in August of 1920. But the Canton Bulldogs weren’t even a team beyond the 1925 season, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame wasn’t established until 1963.
While that history and the fact that the Bulldogs were the first-ever NFL team to go undefeated were certainly factors, it helped that the city’s citizens lobbied hard for the Hall of Fame with what its website now reflects on as “a determined and well-organized campaign to earn the site designation for their city.”
The Pro Football Hall of Fame concept, as far as Canton was concerned, first was placed before the public by the Canton Repository on December 6, 1959. That newspaper challenged its readers with the headline: “PRO FOOTBALL NEEDS A HALL OF FAME AND LOGICAL SITE IS HERE.”
Canton civic groups quickly took up the challenge and, by January 25, 1961, William E. Umstattd of the Timken Company was in a position, as the selected representative of his city, to make a formal bid to the National Football League for acceptance of Canton as the site for a pro football hall of fame. Three months later, Canton was granted this official site approval.
Originally only 19,000 sq. feet, it has expanded three times in just over half a century and is now approximately 83,000 sq. feet. In other words, it has grown at a rate similar to the world of professional football itself.