The J.P. Rooneys (or formally the James P. Rooneys) were an independent semi-professional American football team, based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The team was founded by Art Rooney, who is best known for being the founder of the Pittsburgh Steelers of the National Football League, and is considered to be unofficial beginnings of the modern-day Steelers. The team played at Exposition Park and reportedly had up to 12,000 people in the stands at times.
The team was originally founded in 1921 as Hope-Harvey. The team's name was based on two items. The first was a fire-engine house, located in the city's Hope ward, where the team would dress and shower for home games. The second item was based on Dr. Walter Harvey, the physician who tended to injured players. According to Art Rooney, Dr. Walter Harvey never charged the team or players for his services. The team’s uniforms were handmade by the players or members of their families so each one was sewn differently.
Rooney not only served the team as a player-coach, but also recruited players from the neighborhoods and local colleges. After a few years of play, the team was sponsored by "Loeffler's Electronic Store", who renamed the team after one of its best selling products, the majestic radio. Hence the team became known as the Majestic Radios. The team's affiliation with Loeffler's ended prior to the team's 1931 season. The team was then renamed the J. P. Rooneys to promote Art's brother, James P. Rooney, who was running for election to the Pennsylvania General Assembly. James Rooney would go onto to easily win the election. Rooney's semi-professional teams met a fair amount of success, including at least two Western Pennsylvania Senior Independent Football Conference titles in the early 1930s. The Rooney's continued playing football, as Art was looking to add a Pittsburgh team to the National Football League. In 1933, the team morphed into the Pittsburgh Pirates, and were renamed the Steelers in 1940.
The Hope-Harvey team marks the only time that the three Rooney brothers (Art, James and Dan) played football together. It also marked the very beginning of Art J. Rooney’s long-standing career in professional football. Art Rooney also became one of the biggest stars in the Pittsburgh sandlot football circuit as the team's quarterback. Finally, this period stands as the only time when Art Rooney managed, coached and played on a team. Several of the Rooneys players would go onto to play for the Pittsburgh Pirates of the NFL in 1933, such as Mose Kelsch. and Ray Kemp. In 2003 a sculpture of the Hope-Harvey team, consisting of 23 signed and numbered figures, each cold cast in nickel resin, were created by Kathy Rooney, the youngest daughter of the team's ball boy, Vince Rooney, and her husband, Ray Sokolowski. The couple made an original sculpture and 30 copies, which sold from $20,000 to $25,000 a piece.
- ^ "Hope Harvey Players". Heinz History Center. Retrieved March 22, 2012.
- ^ a b c Rose, Dena. "Pittsburgh's Rich Football History Remembered in Sculpture". KRooney.net. Retrieved March 20, 2012.
- ^ a b O'Brien, Jim. "The Patriarch: Stories of the good ol' days". SteelersUK.com. Retrieved March 22, 2012.
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- ^ Kurtz, Paul A. R. (November 11, 1931). "Rooneys Seek to Complete Campaign Without Defeat". Pittsburgh Press. p. 23. Retrieved May 11, 2011.
- ^ Dvorchak, Robert (September 9, 2007). "Birth of The Nation: the Steelers of the '30s". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
- ^ Sell, Jack (July 15, 1935). "Funeral Rites Wednesday for Mose Kelsch". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved May 12, 2011.
- ^ .Gems, Gerald R. (1988). "Shooting Stars" (PDF). Coffin Corner (Professional Football Researchers Association) 10 (Annual): 5–7.
- ^ Collier, Gene (October 22, 2003). "Sculptor shapes men who shaped football". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.