Hay in Literature
Do any research into the history of American Football and you’re sure to find Ralph’s name liberally mentioned. While some purist writers question Hay’s motives, claiming he was in it for the money, none of them deny that Ralph’s determination is what led to the formation of the National Football League. We are firm believers that it was Ralph’s love of the game and his desire to see the sport prosper that drove him to such great lengths to form the league. It was his selflessness and resolve that brought the league success.
George Halas Quote : Hay as temporary Chairman. ( Halas by Halas: The Autobiography of George Halas – George S. Harris)
I wrote various teams suggesting games. Replies were indifferent and vague. We needed an organization.
I wrote to Ralph Hay, the manager of the Canton Bulldogs, one of the best run and most prominent teams. I mentioned our need for a league. He had already discussed the idea with Stan Cofall, a former Notre Dame star who was running the Massillon Tigers. They met with Frank Nied and A.F. Ranney of Akron and representatives from Cleveland and Dayton on August 20 in Akron. Hay was appointed temporary chairman. He called a meeting on September 17, 1920, at his automobile showroom in Canton.
“Can you write the history of the game without this guy?…That’s my criteria.” – Ira Miller, Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee Member;
National Columnist, The Sports Xchange
“Hay, the owner of the reigning Ohio League champion Canton Bulldogs, had invited representatives from three other in-state teams to an organizational meeting at his showroom on August 20 where they agreed on a broad outline of a new association… Nearly a month later, a deal was ready to be struck. Hay gathered representatives from 11 professional football clubs…The 15 men huddled inside the Jordan and Hupmobile automobile showroom in downtown Canton, Ohio, on the night of September 17, 1920, were finally ready to strike a deal. They had come to Ralph Hay’s dealership not in search of a new set of wheels, however, but a new professional football league to save them from themselves.”
Source: The Birth of the National Football League, By Christopher Klein
“He is well known as an owner of the Canton Bulldogs from 1918 – 1923, but his major accomplishment was organizing the first meetings for teams that would later form the American Professional Football Association (APFA), later known as the National Football League (NFL).”
Source: Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune – Published -7/30/44
“The men who conceived of and developed the first viable organization for pro football teams (they called it first a “conference” and then an “association”) were several businessmen in northeastern Ohio. Chief among them was Ralph E. Hay, a twenty-nine-year-old Hupmobile auto dealer in Canton who took over management of the Canton Bulldogs from Jack Cusack in 1918.”
Source: Pigskin: The Early Years of Pro Football, By Robert W. Peterson
“Ralph E. Hay was the moving force behind the creation of the National Football League.”
Source: Mini-bio: Ralph Hay, by Bob Carroll, Professional Football Researchers Association
“On September 17, 1920, a group of men gathered in Canton, Ohio at the Hupmobile showroom of Ralph Hay, owner of the hometown Bulldogs. The result of the meeting was the birth of the National Football League”
“Ralph E. Hay’s automobile showroom is shown in Canton, Ohio, where Hay held the first meeting of American professional football teams in 1920 with the American Professional Football Association, which became the National Football League in 1922.”
NFL History in Photos
“Ralph E. Hay, owner of the Canton Bulldogs from 1918 to 1923, is seen here. Hay organized the first meeting of American professional football teams in 1920 with the American Professional Football Association which became the National Football League in 1922.”
“Ralph E. Hay was the man who put together the league’s first organizational meeting in Canton, Ohio, on September 17, 1920, in his automobile showroom.”
Source: Ralph Hay: A Forgotten Pioneer by Chris Willis
“Ralph got the idea that he’d like to see a league formed… So he wrote a letter to all the teams east of the Mississippi that had pro football clubs and arranged for a meeting in his salesroom in Canton.”
Source: Old Leather: An Oral History of Early Pro Football in Ohio, 1920-1935, by Chris Willis
“…The 1920 meeting at which the American Professional Football Association (which later became the National Football League) was formed in the Canton Hupmobile showroom of Ralph Hay.”
Source: The Pro Football Hall of Fame Presents Their Deeds and Dogged Faith by Mike Rathet and Don R. Smith
“In August, Hay, owner of the Canton Bulldogs, hosted representatives from the Akron Cleveland and Dayton teams to make preliminary plans for a new league… A month later, amid a cluster of Hupmobiles, a larger group formally established the American Professional Football Association.”
Source: Football Nation: 400 Years of America’s Game, From the Library of Congress, By Susan Reyburn
As acting Chairman of the American Professional Football Conference, Ralph Hay invited all of the professional football managers and teams in the Midwest to lay the groundwork for an organized national league. The purpose of the meeting was to formalize professional football, which would lend structure, regulation, definition and profitability to the still feral sport. It had been discussed for many years, but Hay brought it to reality. Fifteen football professionals representing 11 teams gathered in Hay’s Canton Hupmobile showroom on September 17, 1920.
On a warm muggy Friday evening they met with some standing and others sitting on the fenders and running boards, with cigar smoke in the air and buckets of beer on the floor. This was the birth of the NFL/APFA. Twenty one months later, June 24 1922, at the suggestion of Halas at the Cleveland Hollenden hotel, the name was changed to NFL with unanimous approval.
The Halas Letter
At the time, the Chicago Staleys were one of the few teams who could compete with the Canton Bulldogs, taking the championship title in 1921 and then stubbornly holding onto their position as #2 as the Canton Bulldogs took the next three titles.
Despite the rivalry between the Chicago and Canton teams, George Halas had nothing but respect for Ralph Hay. Below is a letter Halas wrote in 1972, expressing his opinion that Ralph Hay’s name belonged in the Pro Football Hall of Fame due to his tireless efforts to build the league.
If you’re interested in learning more about the game that Ralph Hay loved so much or the league he helped create, please browse the links below, which lead to more in-depth information.