The First Detroit "Depression" Lions

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The First Detroit
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

What can $7,952.08 buy you these days?

Certainly not an NFL franchise, that's for sure (although a lot of Lions' fans would have certainly considered selling after last year's depressing numbers).

In 1934, however, that was the price of the Portsmouth Spartans who were purchased by Dick Richards and moved from Ohio to Detroit—your very own Detroit Lions were born!

Although 12,000 fans watched their very first game, somewhat of a sellout for the fledgling sport, the real story in Detroit in 1934 was the Tigers.  They ended up going to the World Series and losing in game seven to Dizzy Dean's Cardinals.

Bet I'm the only surviving fan of that Lions team left in Michigan.  Double or nothing says you didn't even know they had seven straight shutouts that year. 

Uh huh.  Knew it.

Well, meet my Detroit Lions!  A team of firsts.

They started the Thanksgiving Day tradition that we still watch, but rarely enjoy.  Although it was a 19-16 loss to Halas' Bears, thanks to Bronko Nagurski's touchdown, they still finished the season with a 10-3 record.

And it was played on almost 100 radio stations across the country.  Another first.

The Lions could have tied the game with a field goal from the 20, but opted to go for the win with a touchdown. 

What a team!  Gutsy stuff!

Who could forget the Ox, Mule, Clare, Tarzan, Fleckenstein, Dutch, Buster, Ace, and Lumpkin?

Well, apparently everyone since no one talks about these Lions anymore.  All we hear about is the 0-16 Lions. 

Enough already.  Let's not dwell in the past, Motown...unless it's waaaay in the past.

And why do we Lions' fans live in 2008 and not 1934?  Ya' got me.  I say let's hear more about the '34 Lions. 

These guys played with a real pigskin for a football and wore those leather "hats" they called a helmet.  Think movie star George Clooney here.

Glenn Presnell was our leather-headed star back then.  He's responsible for our Honolulu blue and silver colors too.  Well, actually he and his wife chose that ensemble when Mr. Richards spread out several uniforms to choose from for the Lions' trademark look.

Be thankful.  They passed up orange and black.  (No offense Cincy, but those Halloween duds are pretty scary.)

And Presnell, just like all these Depression-era players, was rugged.  How tough?  He lived to be almost 100 years old...in a town called Ironton! 

What made these guys so steely?  Hard to say since none of them are around anymore, but maybe it was their diet. 

For their Thanksgiving dinner before playing the Bears, Richards, the owner of WJR radio, had a real Michigan bear brought in for the players to eat! 

Grrrreat stuff, eh?

So why is this team my favorite? 

C'mon now. Think about the NFL headlines these days.  These guys were sturdy dudes with an attitude.  They embraced the Motor City's blue collar ethic with both paws and played with flair. 

And did I mention they won?

Presnell's winning kick of 54 yards against the Packers stood for 61 years until a kid named Jason Hanson finally beat it.  Another first.

Oh yeah.  Their coach's name?  And this must be a first too.

Potsy...Potsy Clark. 

Ya' just can't make this stuff up, folks.  Even Richie Cunningham couldn't write this script! 

Happy Days are here again...the skies above are (Honolulu) blue again!

Go Lions!

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