Herb and Russ Stein: All-American Football Brothers

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Stein Home, 853 Vienna Avenue

Stein Home, 853 Vienna Avenue

Many people in Niles will remember the names Herb and Russ Stein as great football players from Niles. They were the first and only brothers from Niles to become All- Americans and play professional football.

Russ and Herb Stein were sons of Frederick David Stein and Nancy Eaton Troxel Stein. It was their maternal great grandfather, Daniel Heaton who had built the first iron furnace in the Western Reserve. Russ was born in 1896 and two years later, Herb was born.

During the early 1900’s, Cherry and Lafayette Streets ended in a pasture of Stein’s farm. Their home was located on 853 Vienna Avenue. Frank Stein was a farmer and a hard task master. He demanded work be completed before fun began and it was told that in order for the boys to play on the football team, they first had to get the crops in from the fields and do their chores. One time the whole football team had to go help get the crops in so that the Stein brothers could play in the game. They were both strong, competitive players who loved the game


W.W. Griffin

W.W. Griffin

Back in the early 1900’s, Niles football teams were in the limelight all over the area. Those were the years when teams were coached by a man who later would become Municipal Judge, W.W. Griffin. For a couple of years he had been building teams that were tops around here. He had started in 1911 and by 1913 he had welded together a grid machine that was a great one.

The team they were laying for was Warren, and they got them too. Actually they made them quit and walk off the field after Niles ripped off two touchdowns and was well on their way to another score. Then the Warren coach called his team out of there, claiming they were getting a raw deal from the officials handling the game…anything to get away from the licking they were receiving from Niles.

The next year rolled around and the schedule makers of the high schools got busy arranging games. Warren absolutely refused to have anything to do with Griffin’s star-studded team. They knew it would be a disaster. No one could beat Niles with the Stein boys on the team as well as Reno Jones, who later became a star performer for Cornell and Paul Lally, who made good at quarterback for Washington and Jefferson College. Warren claimed a technicality to ditch Niles from their schedule in 1914. Niles went on to play Sharon, winning 62-0 that year.

The names are links to see photos of the players on the 1914 Niles football team.


Herb Stein

Herb Stein

In W. W. Griffin’s last year as coach, he had developed a wonderful team. They had everything and plenty to spare. Look at the line. First and foremost at the roving center was Herb Stein. He was the toughest man to get through and as fast as any on the team, uncanny at solving the other fellows plays and a deadly tackler and blocker. He was simply poison to every team he played against.

Then there was Reno Jones, Porter Watson, Ray Holzbach, Stuart Haggerty, and Paul Sheehan and Charles Thomas, two of the speediest defensive ends that any one would care to see. Back of that magnificent line was Alan Gilbert, one of the keenest, craftiest quarterbacks the Niles school ever had. He was pretty much of a light weight and was not required to carry the ball as a rule but when occasion demanded it, he could do a nifty job of it. Left-halfback Paul Lally was a glittering star of the finest quality, a triple threat man with a vengeance. He was hard to lay hands on and besides he could pass and throw forward passes to perfection. He was a dead sure goal kicker too. His running mate, Harry Stevens was not far behind. Stevens was of stocky build and slippery as a pane of glass, and was a holy terror and a ground gainer all year

Russ Stein

Russ Stein

At fullback on this great team was Russ Stein, another triple-threat performer. When he hit the opposing line it was like the force of all out war. This lad was a sure-fire thrower of passes, could boot the ball a mile, more or less, on punts and he always placed the punts right where he wanted them to be, away from the other fellows.

Coach Griffin had a wonderful team that year and he introduced a galaxy of trick plays, including his own version of the Minnesota shift that paralyzed all opposition. The Judge’s word was law and the boys on that team knew it and obeyed it to the letter.

Now, the 1914 team smashed everything in its path to start the season and fans all over the city were excited. When the day came along for Niles to lock horns and play Sharon there was an enormous crowd of backers who made arrangement to attend. It was necessary for Niles to run a special train over to Sharon to accommodate the crowd.

That year Sharon was acclaimed champion of Western Pennsylvania and had not suffered defeat for two years. They were considered the toughest of the tough on the football gridiron and there was some doubt in the minds of quite a few over the results, but the majority were confident that our boys would come out on top.

Gilbert's Gridiron Brass Band at the Niles-Meadville 1914 football game.

PO1.1643

Gilbert's Gridiron Brass Band at the Niles-Meadville 1914 football game.

Score: Niles -34, Meadville-0.

A report of the game written by Ray Gilbert for the Niles Times, 1914.

“ What a game Niles did play with Sharon that day. For a matter of about ten minutes, Sharon held our boys even. Then Griffin’s team began to click and it was just too bad for those would-be champions of the state of Pennsylvania. They went thru them, around them, and over the top so fast and furious that the Niles rooting section went simply “nutty”. Sharon couldn’t keep the ball in their possession at all to speak of and would either fumble or punt. Then that swift backfield combination of Gilbert, Stevens, Lally and Stein would sweep through for great gains, seemingly at will. Touchdown after touchdown was registered on the luckless Sharonites so fast that it was hard to keep count of them and Paul Lally didn’t miss the kick for extra points but once. It was a thrilling exhibition and one never to be forgotten. The superintendent of Sharon School was so shocked at this spectacle that he wrung his hands and shed tears.

A gentleman named Cutts, All-American center for Harvard the year before was the referee, and a good one too. After the game he remarked that it was very doubtful any team in America could have held their own with Niles that day. It was such a smashing victory that several hundred “crazy” rooters from Niles snake-danced all over Sharon streets after it was all over.
Oh! Yes! I forgot to tell you the final score, Niles 62- Sharon 0.”
~~~
They played Rayen winning 10-6, Beaver Falls 34-7, Ashtabula Harbor 43-0, Barberton 57-0, Salem 20-6 , Meadville 34-0 and East Liverpool 31-0 that year. There were only around 250 students in the Niles high school, most of those schools that Niles played against, had far more students


Football fathers of 1914 taken at the Meadville vs Niles game. LtoR: Charles Stevens, Ed Gilbert, Dave Thomas, Fred Stein, W. Jones, Tom Hall (former mayor of Niles).

PO1.1365

Football fathers of 1914 taken at the Meadville vs Niles game. LtoR: Charles Stevens, Ed Gilbert, Dave Thomas, Fred Stein, W. Jones, Tom Hall (former mayor of Niles).

According to the school newspaper, The Hi Crier, on December 17, 1914 the high school football team was given its “Annual Feed” at the home of Russell and Herbert Stein on Vienna Avenue. Beside every member of the team being present, there were the fathers of the players, faculty, the referee and several “rooters” . All in all there were thirty five people. The menu included Chicken, mashed and sweet potatoes, vegetables, salad, bread and butter, Apple and mince meat pie plus cake and ice cream. It was after dinner, a motion was made to elect a captain for the next year. Russ Stein was unanimously voted to carry Niles through the 1915 season.


Herb and Russ Stein
All-American Brothers

Both of the Stein boys went on to play football in college. Herb played both offensive and defensive line at Pittsburgh University, unanimous selection two years in succession as All American center while starring with the Panthers. He was captain of the legendary coach Pop Warner’s team at Pitt.

Russ played for Washington and Jefferson University in Pennsylvania. He was named the All-American tackle by Walter Camp and all other sports writers. Washington & Jefferson played at the Rose bowl to a scoreless tie, in which Russ received the Most Valuable Player award. It is unusual for a lineman to receive the most valuable player award. Russ and Herb were the first brothers to be named “All-American” in 1921.

In the photograph to the left, the letter 'F' on their jerseys represents their early NFL careers with the 'Frankford Yellow Jackets' in 1924. The next year the Stein brothers played for the Pottsville 'Maroons' and defeated that same Yellow Jackets team.

Many remember the famous Stein brothers, Russ and Herb, from Niles, but you may not realize the part they played in a 1925 game with the Pottsville “Maroons”. The Maroons dominated the NFL in their inaugural season as they beat the Chicago Cardinals 21-7. Then they went on to defeat the all-stars from the University of Notre Dame, featuring the legendary four horsemen 9-7. In the end, they lost the NFL trophy for that year.

Their story is being told in a new book, written by senior writer for ESPN The magazine, David Fleming. “Breaker Boys” is one of National Football League’s last great untold stories.

David Fleming has brought to life the players, owners and coaches of the “Maroons” within the pages of this very interesting book. If you like football, history, human interest stories, and yes, some things about Niles, you’ll enjoy this book “Breaker Boys”. The book is available from the Historical Society at a discount price. Please call the society for details. 330.544.214 or contact the Curator


 
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