BY David Eskenazi 07:36AM 01/11/2011

Wayback Machine: The Seattle Bombers

World War II-era club became Seattle’s first pro football franchise

The 1944 Seattle Bombers: On the line, starting from the left: Jack Millard RE, Byng Nixon RT, Harry Bird RG, Johnny Tsoutsouvas C, “Miff” Collins RG, Bob Creager RT, Babe Harman RE. In the backfield, left to right: Morrie Kohler RHB, Dean McAdams QB, Milt Popovich FB, Dale Holmes LHB / David Eskenazi Collection

By David Eskenazi

The Seattle Bombers were the Northwest’s first professional football franchise. They are a largely forgotten chapter in Seattle’s sports history.

Born in wartime, the Bombers were initially a member of the American Pro Football League (APFL). The APFL sprung from the Northwest War Industries League, which began play in 1942, and consisted of franchises in Portland, OR, Seattle, Spokane and Vancouver, WA.

Program cover from Seattle's first pro football game / David Eskenazi Collection

The club’s owner was Al Davies, described in the opening day game program as a “Seattle-Tacoma sportsman and industrialist”. Davies was born in Carbonado, WA., and owned three of the Pacific Northwest’s leading metal working companies, along with a number of other smaller businesses in the state.

Shortly before war was declared, Davies was contracted by the U.S. government to construct steel ships for the war effort.

Davies hired gridiron great Earl “Dutch” Clark to coach the team. As a player, “The Flying Dutchman” won All- America honors at Colorado College and, along with UW stalwart Chuck Carroll, was the first westerner to receive this accolade.

Clark entered the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951, the same year that former Washington coach Gil Dobie was enshrined.

Clark played professionally in 1931 and 1932 (Portsmouth Spartans) and 1934-1939 (Detroit Lions), and won All-National League team honors for six straight years. From 1938-1942, he also head-coached the Detroit Lions and Cleveland Rams.

Clark was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH, as a charter member in 1963, going in with 16 others, including Jim Thorpe, Red Grange and Curly Lambeau.

Davies and Clark put together a talented roster of players for the Bombers inaugural season of 1944, heavily infused with former U of W stars, including quarterback Dean McAdams, and guard Steve Slivinski, who also served as assistant coach.

McAdams joined the Bombers after having spent three years in the National Football League (1941-43) as a tailback/kicker with the Brooklyn Dodgers. McAdams went to the Dodgers in 1941 as the eighth overall choice in the first round of the draft, making him Washington’s second No. 1 NFL draft pick (UW teammate Rudy Mucha went to the Cleveland Rams fourth overall in the same draft).

Seattle Bombers 1944 team-issued pocket schedule (exterior) / David Eskenazi Collection

A half dozen former Washington State college football players also dotted the roster, along with footballers from Oregon State and the University of Oregon.

The Bombers played seven home games at Sicks’ Seattle Stadium, with the first home contest in franchise history on Sept. 8, 1944  resulting in a 12-7 loss to the Los Angeles Mustangs. The Bombers ended the season with a record of five wins, five losses and a tie, with three of the five wins coming at home.

Seattle Bombers players QB Dean McAdams (left), HB Dale Holmes (right) / David Eskenazi Collection

The league champion Hollywood Rangers went 11-0 for the season, defeating the Bombers 21-7 at Sicks’ Stadium on September 15th, and 28-7 in the season finale at Hollywood on November 26th.

1944 was the Bombers’ only year of operation. From 1953-54, another “Seattle Bombers” team represented the city in the Western Hockey League.

Sports historian David Eskenazi can be reached at (206) 441-1900, or at seattlesportshistory@gmail.com

(“Wayback Machine” is published every Tuesday as part of Sportspress Northwest’s package of home-page features collectively titled, “The Rotation.”)


YourThoughts

  • Anthony Salazar

    Great story, Dave! I’m sure you know Ebbets Field Flannels has the Seattle Bomber jerseys. It’s fun to wear mine!

    best,
    Anthony

  • Steve Rudman

    I think this is the most-fun feature on Sportspress Northwest!

  • SpudzDP

    A former UW QB, named Hugh said that it was the sloppy and weak play by Okung and Carpenter that forced our highly paid TE to block more.  Robinson’s injury explains it better.  Both factors made the first half hard to watch.  But I think the Seahawks will play better in Pittsburgh.  They will lose, but play better than they did in SF.

  • Mikerice32

    Fletcher Jenkins was a Tacoma native and went to Lake.  I played against him in little league and junior high. Holmes went to Timberline.

  • jack e smazz

    It’s ” flair “.

  • jack e smazz

    Also, it’s ” Tarvaris “.