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|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 built the first iron furnace in the Western
Reserve. Russ was born in 1896 and two years later, Herb was born.
Stein Home, 853 Vienna Avenue
|During the early 1900’s, Cherry
and Lafayette Streets ended in a pasture of Frank 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.
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.
|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, 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.
|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.
|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
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
Fathers of 1914 Football Players
|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 Ave. 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
|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”
|After college the brothers played for various professional
teams. This was about the time, in 1925, when the National Football
League was being formed. Both Herb and Russ had signed on to a team
called the Pottsville Maroons. The team was a group of tough
hard scrabble miners from Pennsylvania and they dominated the NFL
in their inaugural season. They had an outstanding season and in the
final game they played a team called the Chicago Cardinals and won
21-7. (The Chicago Cardinals later became the Green Bay Packers.)
However the fans wanted more and college football was still king.
A movement began to have the Maroons face a team of all stars from
the University of Notre Dame, featuring the legendary Four Horsemen.
On a neutral field in Philadelphia, in a battle described as “The
greatest football game ever seen” the Maroons turned the football
establishment upside down by defeating Notre Dame 9-7 Both Russ and
Herb played in that game.
After their football days, the boys returned to Niles and were associated
in business with their father. Not only was he a farmer, he also was
a general contractor. Way back in 1911 the mausoleum was erected in
Union Cemetery by the Western Reserve Mausoleum Company.
Frederick Stein was awarded the contract of grading the slope on each
side of the mausoleum. They also developed the area of Frederick,
Cynthia, Bowman and Nancy Street in Niles. The Steins built several
homes in theVienna Avenue area. Russ built a home on the hill by Stevens
In 1961 both Herb and Russ attended the reunion of the Pottsville
Maroons at the Schuylkill Country Club renewing old acquaintenances
and visiting with other team members
Herb was founder and president of a steel reclaiming business
in the Cleveland area. Herb also had a Lincoln and Mercury dealership
located at 234 Robbins Ave and he served as a director emeritus of
the Dollar Savings Bank in Niles. He died in 1980 at the age of 82
at his home in Rocky River, Ohio.
Russ served as Trumbull County Sheriff from 1941-1945. Russ was actively
involved in the real estate development and he continued his interest
in football and wrote many articles in the Niles Daily Times about
the games. He and his wife had 4 children and he died in 1970 at the
age of 74. Russ’s grandson and great grandson, Herbert Alfred
Stein and Frederick Stein visited the Ward-Thomas Museum
Herbert Stein and son, Frederick visiting the
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