“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Ironton in Lawrence County, Ohio — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)

Tanks Memorial Stadium Opening Day Nov. 25, 1926

Ironton Tanks 47, Cleveland Indians 0


—When the Tanks Were Tops —

Tanks Memorial Stadium Opening Day Marker image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., September 3, 2012
1. Tanks Memorial Stadium Opening Day Marker

November 30, 1930, was a classic Indian summer day in southern Ohio. Balmy, shirt-sleeve temperatures greeted the 10,000 football fans who flocked into old Redland Field in Cincinnati to watch the upstart, small-town Ironton Tanks battle the "Monsters of the Midway," the Chicago Bears. That it was a glorious day for the semi-professional Tanks is perhaps an understatement. And victory coming just two weeks after the Tanks destroyed the New York Giants, another NFL power! Were the Tanks for real?

All too real, it seemed to other semi-pro and profesional teams, as the Tanks stalked 85 victims in 12 years and tasted defeat only 19 times. The Tanks, a combination of ex-college athletes and local boys, provided a much-needed source of pride to Irontonians.

The Ironton Tanks were Founded in 1919, and many legends have developed about how the team started and picked up the nickname of the Tanks.

Some say the Team started when a group of veterans "just wanted to play football." They likened themselves to the battlefield tanks because they rolled over their opponents without mercy, and the name stuck. Perhaps they got their name from a headline of that first season, which read" Ironton Runs Over Portsmouth Like Tanks. However, the name arrived is of little consequence, but it aptly describes the teams
Tanks Memorial Stadium Grandstand Markers image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., September 3, 2012
2. Tanks Memorial Stadium Grandstand Markers
[sic] play. In 12 seasons, the Tank's [sic] rumbled to a record 85 wins, 14 ties and 19 losses against strong semi-professional and NFL teams.

After a series of games in 1919 between some Ironton teams, an all-star team was picked to play a four-game schedule. All of the players were hometown boys who agreed to share any of the gate receipts. The team got a late start compared with other area teams and amassed a 1-1-1 record going into the hightlight [sic] game of the season: A Thanksgiving clash with Portsmouth.

The Portsmouth team, which had been playing all fall, was accompanied to Ironton by 300 confident fans. Ironton fans were confident also, because they had an ace up their sleeve: T.C. "Shorty" Davies, a former Ironton High School star and a running back at Ohio State and West Virginia universities, returned home to play for the Tanks in the big game. (Davies refused his share of the gate receipts so he could retain his college eligibility)

Davies proved to be an early problem for Portsmouth when three minutes into the game he carried the ball around right end and down the sideline for a spectacular 50-yard touchdown run. Portsmouth could never seem to get going against the strong Tank defense, and the game [sic] ended. Ironton 12, Portsmouth 0.

Portsmouth again fielded a semi-pro team, and as usual, the Ironton-Portsmouth game aroused
Tanks Memorial Stadium image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., September 3, 2012
3. Tanks Memorial Stadium
a lot of interest. Stimulating much of the excitement was heavy betting on the game by the teams' supporters. It was becoming a common practice by that time for a number of them to bet on the game by the teams' supporters. It was becoming a common practice by that time for "local sports" in Ironton to get some money together and then send a representative to Portsmouth to see if they could get the bet covered. They usually could.

The game itself proved secondary to the betting as the Tanks officially crushed the Spartans at Portsmouth, 40-0. Unofficially? Two minutes before the end of the game, at the strong urging of the Portsmouth fans, the head official stepped forward and called the game [sic] declaring it a mismatch. His final pronouncement: "All bets off." From that point on, all Tanks-Spartans games were for blood.

It is ironic that just as the Tanks reached their time of greatest glory they were forced to disband. Many of the Tanks went on to play for the Portsmouth Spartans until 1934. In 1934 a franchise called the Detroit Lions purchased the Spartans for $16,500.

Pushed by the depression, professional football became a "big city-money game." No longer would small towns, with a lot of pride and heart, be able to challenge the big cities on the gridiron. A golden era of small town semi-pro football ended.

Sometimes this fall, preferably on a crisp Sunday afternoon, visit Tanks Memorial Stadium, renamed to honor the town's team. Listen closely and you can harken back to an earlier time. If you're lucky, you can hear the faint echoes of football played on the same green field over seventy five years ago, and visualize a packed stadium and sidelines jammed with Tanks faithful, cheering on their beloved Ironton Tanks.
Location. 38° 31.531′ N, 82° 40.206′ W. Marker is in Ironton, Ohio, in Lawrence County. Marker is on Ellison Avenue east of 7th Street, on the right when traveling east. Touch for map. Marker is on Tanks Stadium, on the Ironton High School campus. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1701 South 7th Street, Ironton OH 45638, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 4 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Ironton Tanks / Tanks Memorial Stadium (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Unger's Shoes (approx. one mile away); The Hanging Rock Iron Region / The Blast Furnaces of Lawrence County (approx. one mile away); Replica of the Statue of Liberty (approx. one mile away); Ironton - Lawrence County Memorial Day Parade (approx. one mile away); John Campbell Memorial Home (approx. 1.2 miles away); City of Ironton (approx. 1.2 miles away); Presbyterian Church (approx. 3.7 miles away in Kentucky). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Ironton.
Also see . . .
1. Ironton Tanks. (Submitted on October 7, 2012, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
2. The Ironton Tanks, 1919-30, by Thomas Nikitas. (Submitted on October 7, 2012, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
Categories. EntertainmentMan-Made FeaturesSports
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on October 4, 2012, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page has been viewed 477 times since then and 58 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on October 7, 2012, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.
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