December 11, 1927: The Duluth Eskimos play their final game

On this day in 1927, the Duluth Eskimos played their final NFL game in Chicago taking on the Chicago Bears, one of three teams still in contention for the league championship. Duluth was not even in the hunt, having a terrible year as the NFL’s dedicated road team in the league’s attempt to raise ticket sales in big markets: The Eskimos were led by Ernie Nevers, who had enough star power to sell out anywhere he played. Here’s Chuck Frederick’s description of the game: “Duluth was eager to finish the season on an up note, but the Bears drew first blood. Three long passes by Paddy Driscoll, the last one into the end zone to fifth-year veteran Laurie Walquist, gave Chicago the early lead. Duluth, showing no quit, scored twice in the second quarter to snatch back the lead. Both touchdowns came through the air, the first from Nevers to Blood McNally and the second from Nevers to Cobb Rooney. Duluth took a 14–6 lead into halftime. But that was when ‘the Bears buckled down to business,’ as the Associated Press reported. Chicago regained the lead in the third quarter on a forty-five-yard touchdown run around end by Driscoll. With time running down, Nevers tried to pass his Eskimos back into the lead. But the Bears picked off one of his heaves and returned the ball forty yards for a third touchdown. They added a final score late in the game on a pass to Driscoll by twenty-seven-year-old Joey Sternaman.” Chicago won, 27–14. The Eskimos finished second to last in the NFL that year with a 1–8 record; only the winless Buffalo Bisons had a worse record. Read more about the legendary Duluth Eskimos here.

The 1926 Duluth Eskimos (a.k.a. “Ernie Nevers’ Eskimos”) posing in their custom-made mackinaw jackets at training camp in Two Harbors, Minnesota (even though the photo identifies the location as “Duluth”; both locations are in doubt as neither town was known to have a facility like the one the team is standing before). From left: Ole Haugsrud (owner), Walt “Chet” Gayer, Dewey Scanlon, Walt Kiesling, Russ Method, “Jock” Murray, “Porky” Rundquist, Joe Rooney, Ernie Nevers, Art Johnson, Jack Underwood, “Cobb” Rooney, Bill Stein, Johnny “Blood” McNally, James Manion, “Oke” Carlson, and Paul Fitzgibbon (not shown: Charles “Doc” Kelly, “Red” Sullivan, “Doc” Williams, “Red” Quam, Jimmy Manion, and Wally Gilbert). Photo courtesy the Two Harbors Public Library via the Lake County Historical Society.