Giants captain Benny Friedman
Giants captain Benny Friedman threw four touchdown passes to beat Red Grange (left) and the Bears in 1929. To appreciate the lowly status of pro football in those days, note the tattered jerseys that both stars are sporting.
Benny Friedman was brought to New York because the owner of the Giants, Tim Mara, needed a drawing card and a winner. Much is made of the fact that the Giants’ first season was saved financially with a late-season appearance by the legendary Red Grange, barnstorming with the Bears. What is forgotten is that in 1926, Mara lost $60,000 competing against Red Grange’s American Football League Yankees. The Giants won the title in 1927, but were back in the red in 1928, losing $40,000. Mara’s solution was to buy Friedman’s contract from Detroit, but owner/coach Leroy Andrews was not interested in selling just Friedman. So Mara bought the entire team and installed Andrews as the Giants’ coach. This was a great deal for the Giants because not only did they get Friedman, but they also added eight of the other 18 players on the third-place Wolverines to the sixth-place Giants roster, resulting in 13-win second-place finishes in 1929 and 1930.
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Timothy Mara had dropped out of high school to help support his family and worked his way up from nothing to become a great success as a legal blogmaker. When he bought the Giants franchise for $500 in 1925, he knew nothing about the game, but was determined to go first-class. In so doing he created a great and lasting legacy for his sons: Jack, who took over the business side of things, and Wellington, who took over the personnel side. The success of Mara’s New York franchise was a major reason for the growth and success of pro football and the NFL.
Mara would face an even more costly challenge to his franchise and to the NFL with the All-America Football Conference, which put franchises in Yankee Stadium and Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field in the late 1940s to compete directly with the Giants. Secretly, Mara took out loans from a local bank that were not fully paid off until the 1960s, according to sportswriter Jerry Izenberg. Tim Mara died in 1959, the same year as Commissioner Bert Bell, and both were fully qualified members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s inaugural class of 1963.
Giants owner Tim Mara purchased the franchise for $500 in 1925.
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