In November 1959, Boston businessman Billy Sullivan was awarded the eighth and final American Football League franchise – the Boston Patriots were born. After an 11 year hiatus, professional football returned to the northeast as the Patriots became the fourth pro football franchise to call Boston its home.
Tomorrow, the Patriots will face the second pro football franchise to call Boston its home: the Washington Redskins.
The Redskins are one of the oldest existing teams in the NFL – and it was founded in Boston. In 1932, the National Football League awarded an interest group led by George Preston Marshall a franchise, which would be named after the field it played its first games on: Boston Braves. The team played its first season at Braves Field – which the Patriots would call their home from 1960 to 1962 – and shared the facility with the baseball team also called Boston Braves.
Fooball's Braves played their first competitive game against the visiting Brooklyn Dodgers and lost the contest 14-0. It was one of four losses the Braves suffered in 1932. Overall, the team finished the season with four wins, four losses and two ties (against the New York Giants and Chicago Bears).
While the on-field product was adequate, the franchise struggled financially and Marshall's investment partners soon dropped out, leaving him as the single owner. Under his ownership, the team moved from Braves Field to Fenway Park and – in order to avoid confusion with the other Braves – was renamed "Boston Redskins".
The team was able to find a new name and a new home stadium, but it was unable to find new success – at least yet. Under head coach William Henry Dietz, the Redskins went 5-5-2 in 1933 and 6-6 in 1934. The lone bright spot of those teams was running back Cliff Battles, who was the first professional football player to rush for more than 200 yards in a game, and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1968. Still, Dietz was fired in 1934 and his successor, Eddie Casey, didn't fare much better.
After a 2-8-1 season in 1935, Marshall fired Casey and introduced Ray Flaherty as the new head coach. They would win two NFL titles together – none in Boston, though, because after losing the 1936 NFL Championship Game to the Green Bay Packers, Marshall elected to move the franchise to his hometown of Washington D.C. due to low audience numbers in Boston. The Boston Redskins' last season saw the team win its division for the first time (with a 7-5 record) and draft a Hall of Fame quarterback: Sammy Baugh.
With the Redskins leaving town, so did professional football. It made a short-living and unsuccessful return from 1944 to 1948 in form of the Boston Yanks but disappeared again until 1959, when Sullivan introduced the Patriots – the most successful pro football franchise New England has ever seen, and one that will face one of its pigskin forefathers tomorrow.