Have You Seen This Trophy?

We tried tracking down the holy grail of American sports memorabilia — the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Cup, given to the first pro football champions — which has been missing since 1920.

Comments: 35

  1. This is a beautiful trophy, really more like a piece of art. Very impressive. So much nicer than a lot of permanent trophies out there (thinking World Series, Superbowl, etc.).

  2. @Eve Waterhouse I think it's an ugly ugly thing, tipped over with big uneven handles with for some reason suction cups stuck on.

  3. @Eve Waterhouse Agree with you 100%. And keep in mind that rotating trophy is just a CG rendering. The photos of the real trophy show the texture of the horn handles is much more interesting.

  4. @Fred - the 'suction cups' are the bases of a pair of antlers. Judging from the pictures hollymac linked to of another trophy made by Gorham, antler handles seem to have been a motif for them - wonder why?

  5. Sadly, probably melted down later. But, any clues as to who made it? Gorham, Tiffany, or another silver company?

  6. My money’s on Sauron.

  7. I would not be surprised if this trophy was sold for scrap when the silver prices spiked in the eighties. A lot of priceless pieces were liquidated for quick cash at the time.

  8. @hollymac - Awesome!

  9. @hollymac What an amazing find! Clearly, the Brunswick-Balke-Collendar Cup was made by Gorham.

  10. @hollymac: Wow! What a great lead IMO...

  11. It's sad how some pieces of sports lore disappear while others sit silently in a trophy case or on a mantel. I hope the trophy's found. Professional football has rapidly evolved to the point where achievements from a century ago are tossed aside like yesterday's garbage. The team photo is a classic. Every player and coach represents a history many sports aficionados would love to read. Thanks for running this story. It helps to preserve the game's history and the legacy of the game in its infancy.

  12. “Anything like a sterling silver cup, we certainly would have noticed,” Troppe said. One hundred years later, it's not sterling silver anymore. It's oxidized to black. The silver is underneath. Since its loss, we've been through wars and depressions, and desperate times for many. If it had any hint of silver left, it may have ended up being sold and melted down. The deer antler handles may have possible broken off by now.

  13. @Entera One hundred years later, it's not sterling silver anymore. It's oxidized to black Unless it's been cleaned.

  14. My grandfather told me about what happened to this trophy. In 1973, Ralph Perk grabbed the trophy from the bar at the Portage Hotel. Perk was visiting Akron as mayor of Cleveland. Perk became the subject of national ridicule on October 16, 1972, when he accidentally set his hair on fire while he attempted to use a welder's torch for a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a convention in Cleveland. He started to drink a lot and would be seen in bars around Ohio during those days. He apparently grabbed the trophy on his way out of the Portage hotel bar, and he kept the trophy in his living room but didn't know its history, he just liked the elk horns. He was a close friend of my grandfather, and showed him the trophy. Perk was quite a character. Perk's wife, Lucille, achieved notoriety when she rejected an invitation from First Lady Pat Nixon to an event at the White House in order to attend her regular bowling night. Later, Perk explained his wife's comment to mean that she was unable to attend because the invitation had come too late and she was unable to prepare for travel. Perk was rumoured to say, "tell them it's your bowling night. Give them that trophy in our living room and say its a bowling trophy." Though the remark brought howls of laughter, it endeared the Perks to their ethnic base. The trophy was last displayed at Cleveland's Dickey's Lanes Lounge where Perk's wife used to bowl.

  15. Any photos, anything to corroborate? If true, others it touched along the way should also know.

  16. @ConcernedCitizen Anything is possible

  17. The graphic rendering of the trophy is quite compelling to view though I can’t exactly say why. It would be nice if the NFL would recreate the trophy and award it for some type achievement to a team every year.

  18. Great article and a great story, and a first for me: the first article about pro football I've read from beginning to end!

  19. Once silver tarnishes to black, and that only takes a couple of years, people who don't know silver wouldn't recognize the value of the trophy. That could work to its benefit in that no one sells it for the value of the silver, and some kid who thinks the antlers are cool salvages it. Or it could work to its disadvantage, because someone thinks it's a piece of junky base metal and throws it out. It was a unique trophy. I hope it is found.

  20. Truly a gripping, even thrilling story, which I read with mounting and finally tense expectation. The quest for a past that vanishes along with all those faces in the old, old photographs -- this is irresistible for the Romantic in all of us. Kudos!

  21. Thank you for reminding the public that pro football didn't start with Super Bowl I. I hope the people who work at the NFL read this.

  22. Good read.

  23. Ah,. where'd you get the lead rotating picture? Is it secretly on your possession and you're going to the superbowl with it?

  24. Looking at the photo of the Akron Pros there must have been a lot of two-way players back them. Now there's at least three guys for every position plus a field goal kicker, a punter, and sometimes a really interesting specialty: the guy who snaps the ball on field goals.

  25. C'mon you just KNOW LeBron has this in his secret collection!

  26. They’re taking the Hobbits to Isengard. They’re taking the Hobbits to Isengard. They’re taking the Hobbits to Isengard.

  27. Really? I think it’s in my attic.

  28. What, pray tell, is the trophy pictured in the revolving animation at the top of the column and only identified as a "graphic." Is it a similar trophy? A computer-generated image? Very odd that you don't identify it.

  29. That thing is so ugly and untrophy- like that it probably wound up being used as a spittoon, all those cigars not withstanding.

  30. You might get some "leada" if the talking heads announcing the Super Bowl hype the subject.

  31. OK, and once you've found that one, perhaps you can locate the National Champions plaque Richard Nixon handed to the Texas Longhorns...and then took back for engraving... back in December of 1969, after they beat the Arkansas Razorbacks. The former sports information director for the University of Texas recently had a duplicate made, based on old photos, but the real one is probably in a cardboard box someone's closet...along with your missing pro football trophy, the Loch Ness monster, and the sock I lost in a public laundromat while I was in college.

  32. Brunswick-Balke-Collender also made phonographs, and the records to play on them. There's a web site for phonograph collectors, https://forum.talkingmachine.info/index.php. Anyone can join, and you can find out a lot more about Brunswick's contributions to early sound recording and reproduction by using the search feature on the site. Don't think you'll find the trophy there, though, but who knows?----stranger things have happened!

  33. Here's to you Bill! As a history nerd I love this story and it is my profound hope that you eventually find this handsome unit. It's actually quite beautiful and a child of its time in American design. Had the winners then known what a gigantic enterprise pro football would become, they might have taken better care of the original loving cup.

  34. What a fascinating story...I hope you keep searching & write a follow-up!