Rick Gosselin/Talk of Fame: Cooperstown Doesn't Overlook Pioneers, Does Canton?

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By Rick Gosselin/Talk of Fame

Norb Sacksteder was Barry Sanders before Barry Sanders. Was he born too soon for the Football Hall of Fame?

Ever hear of Bid McPhee?

Didn’t think so. He was a second baseman who scored 100-plus runs in 10 of his 18 professional baseball seasons. He led the league in triples one year, in homers another and once stole 95 bases in a season. He’s also the last second baseman to play without a glove – and he has a plaque in Cooperstown to show for his career.

But McPhee never threw a baseball, swung a bat or fielded a grounder in the 20th century. McPhee retired after the 1899 season. He was out of baseball before the American League was even created. He also is the only player in the Baseball Hall of Fame whose best years were spent in the American Association.

But baseball has done a great job of identifying greatness regardless of the era. McPhee is one of 13 players in Cooperstown whose careers ended before the year 1900. Their careers were not forgotten.

Which brings me to Norb Sacksteder.

Like McPhee, Sacksteder enjoyed his greatest seasons in a less-familiar league -- the Ohio League. That’s because the NFL wasn’t even around when Sacksteder began his pro football career in 1915. He spent five seasons playing for the Dayton Triangles and Detroit Heralds. The Ohio League then merged with several other Midwestern teams in 1920 to form the American Professional Football Association (APFA).

Sacksteder played for the Detroit Tigers in 1921 and then moved on to Canton to play for the Bulldogs in 1922. The APFA officially became the NFL that year and the Bulldogs were crowned its first champion. Sacksteder was one of the best players on a team that featured Hall of Famers Guy Chamberlin, Pete Henry and Link Lyman, producing touchdowns rushing, passing and receiving.

That also was Sacksteder’s final season. With only one NFL season on his resume, Sacksteder has never been a candidate for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But baseball recognized the greatness in McPhee – and football should recognize the greatness in Sacksteder.

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