Game Program - September 12, 1948, All-Stars versus Petrolia Hard Oils from Ont.
History of Semi-Pro Football in Bay City.
In presenting its program for the 1948 football season, the Bay City All-Stars think it only fitting that a portion of that program be dedicated to the men who pioneered semi-professional football in Bay City.
Before presenting this chronology, the writer wants to assure everyone that the name “semi-pro” is a misnomer, because not once did any team or any member of a team mentioned, make any money on semiprofessional ball. It was always hoped that the gate would pay for expenses incurred by those who were injured, but in most cases, that too was an idle dream.
What we are trying to tell you, football fans, is that these fellows played for the love of the game, and took the hard knocks, physical and financial with a stiff upper lip, and came back for more every season.
About the year 1924, there was formed in Bay City a group of gridders known as the Bay City Independents, and for three years this fine aggregation licked everything in and out of state. One of these years they were recognized as the unofficial semi-pro champs of Michigan, and their deeds at Clarkson Park and foreign gridirons were legendary for years.
For every edification, the Bay City Independents were the first local semi-pro team to be undefeated on a local gridiron.
Time took its toll, and by 1927 the Independents, due to injuries and members moving from this area, dissolved, and new grid groups came into being.
Out Essexville way, the Thomas Drugs formed a team, which played it’s games on Aetna Field and on the road with a measure of success. Among its members were the Essexville boys, Catholic school graduates, and some former Central gridders. At the same time that the Thomas group was operating in Essexville, a newly organized squad, The Reid Billiards, took over Clarkson Park for its schedule. This team was made up of local sand-lotters and Central graduates, and for a new squad, had a fair record.
Meanwhile on the West Side, The combined Secrets and Wenona baseball teams for a football unit, and operated behind Handy High. While this team showed a great interest in football, the lack of equipment and subsequent injuries, hastened its curtailment.
In 1928 was born the Bay City Merchants, made up completely of the ‘26 and ‘27 Bay City Central squads, and for three years this organization followed in the foot-steps of the Independents by licking everything in sight. Operating under the lights for the first and only time in its existence, the Merchants beat the Flint Yellow Jackets, who claimed the state title, in Atwood Stadium.
The Merchants played most of their games Sunday afternoon at Central High Stadium, and for the records was the second semi-pro club to remain unbeaten on a local gridiron.
While the Merchants were getting hot on the gridiron, there was a fine little team working out in Essexville known as the Aetnas, and their record, both at home and on the road was amazing for a small club. Had they remained to-gether state recognition in another year would have been possible, but a number of their stalwarts went over to the Merchants, and their days of glory were over.
When the Merchants and Aenas faded in ‘31, a team known as the Cardinals organized and used St. Hyacinth’s field for their activities. The Cardinals backed by merchants in the South End had fine equipment but found it difficult to secure good games. In fact, at the end of the 1933 season they challenged the non-existent Bay City Merchants to a ball game, and although the Merchants were out of condition, not having played for two years, they accepted. The resultant game was plenty tough for the former Merchants, some of whom were unable to fit in the former uniforms, but experience told, and the Merchants eked out a 6-0 victory over the Cardinals. That game ended the careers of both the Cardinals and the Merchants.
A group of South End boys got to-gether at 27th and Wilson and formed one of the finest semi-pro teams ever to operate here, in 1934. Because it had no playing field locally, the team played a full eight game schedule on the road and never lost a ball game. This group was known as the South End Merchants, and was made up of Central High grads and former Bay City Merchants.
Starting in 1935 and running up to the War, the Red Devils carried Bay City’s semi-pro banner into the football world, but injuries necessitated shortening of yearly schedules, and the coming of World War II sounded the end of that club and real semi-pro ball in Bay City for years to come.
Now the Bay City All-Stars are planning a safe and sane semi-pro football program with sound financial support – the games finest equipment and on the city’s best field, and are scheduling games which will bring the best semi-pro teams in the state to Bay City. The Bay City All-Stars are dedicating their efforts to taking semi-pro football off the sand-lots and putting it on fields where it belongs to carrying Bay City’s name throughout this section of the U.S. in a manner that will reflect credit upon our home town.