World War II-era club became Seattle’s first pro football franchise
The Seattle Bombers were the Northwests first professional football franchise. They are a largely forgotten chapter in Seattles 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.
The clubs 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 Northwests 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).
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.
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.
(Wayback Machine is published every Tuesday as part of Sportspress Northwests package of home-page features collectively titled, The Rotation.)