Inside Redskins Park: The Other Championship Trophy

In the early part of the 20th century, Ed Thorp was a referee and friend to prominent early NFL owners. After he died in 1934, the league created a trophy to honor him. Unlike the modern Lombardi trophies, this trophy did not become possession of the winning team, but instead spent a year with the winning team before being passed on to the next year’s champion, much like the NHL’s Stanley Cup.

The Redskins were the winners of this trophy in 1937 and 1942, but that trophy is NOT in Redskins Park.

(In fact, no one knows where that trophy is. The prevailing theory is that the Minnesota Vikings – who were the last to win the Ed Thorp Memorial Trophy, in 1969 – somehow lost it when the league switched over to the Lombardi Trophy the following year. Which is an impressive feat; if this were baseball, there would have been books and stories and TV specials about the Curse of Ed Thorp, especially when the Vikings lost three out of four Super Bowls in the mid-1970s. But it’s the NFL, so apparently everyone just sort of shrugs and looks embarrassed by the whole thing.)

In addition to their year with the Ed Thorp Memorial Trophy, though, teams were awarded a smaller replica of the trophy, which they were allowed to keep. And the 1937 replica IS in Redskins Park, on display in the sidewall in the lobby.

The trophy.

The trophy.

Not as prominent as the glittering Lombardis, but it’s here. (Everyone seems sure that the 1942 trophy is around as well, although no one seems certain where.)

Close up of the engraving.

Close up of the engraving.

The Lombardi Trophies were moved (with gloves, naturally) to public display on Fan Appreciation Day, but the Ed Thorp Trophy was not. Similarly, I posted about the Lombardi Trophies the other day, but overlooked this one. Now that oversight has been corrected, and I can walk past that display case without being completely wracked with guilt.

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20 Responses

  1. Matt- this is a gem of a story and to me, a highlight of your expanding skill as a blogger.

    This is my fave:
    “…if this were baseball, there would have been books and stories and TV specials about the Curse of Ed Thorp, especially when the Vikings lost three out of four Super Bowls in the mid-1970s.”

    Bwahahaha! So true!

  2. Wow. Thanks for this post, I never knew this before!

  3. I thought the Vikings lost all 4 super bowls?

  4. Why wasn’t it moved also? Something that old would be pretty cool to display. Maybe they could set up a display at FedEx where it could be seen during home games…..? (They could put it on the merchandise wall in Hooters, it would be safe there. LOL)

  5. The Vikings lost 4, but three out of four straight years (Super Bowls VIII, IX, and XI). The other loss came a few years earlier, in Super Bowl IV.

  6. Travis, this trophy was apparently what was used before there was a Super Bowl, just “Championship” games. I had never heard of it either.

  7. Very cool Matt, nice work.

  8. Thanks. I’ve been wanting a picture of the 1937 and 1942 trophies for years. Matt, I know you haven’t seen the 42 trophy, but do you know if it looks like the 37 one. In other words, do the 2 trophies look alike?

  9. I’m not 100% sure, but I’m guessing they look mostly similar — the Green Bay one here http://www.packers.com/news/stories/2007/03/12/1/ looks pretty alike. If I do find out, I’ll let you know.

  10. Now I know those flags on top of FedEx have trophies to go with them!

  11. Awesome story thanks

  12. Did the winner’s of Super Bowls one, two and three get the Ed Thorpe Trophy as well?? Since it’s last year was 1969??

  13. Wow-a mystery solved after a friend of mine told me that they didn’t give trophies out to teams that
    won the NFL Championship before the Super Bowl
    era. I KNEW he didn’t know what he was talking about. A printout of this should shut him up. Thank you
    for posting this article.

  14. The ED THORPE trophy has been given out since 1934 to nfl champion. 1933 the bears won the first nfl championship 23-21 over giants but iam not sure if this trophy was given out .I do know the giants got it in 1934 detroit 35 packers 36. The redskins where in boston in 1936 and lost to the pack. 1937 washington redskins take the trophy home and that is the one at redskins park the redskins won it again in 1942 with win over bears 14-6 but know one know what happened to that trophy ! well i hope this gives alittle light on this trophy. it a beautiful piece of art.

  15. The Cleveland Browns were awarded four of these trophies, yet none of the smaller replica ones are on display at the Browns HQ facility. I wonder if the former owner has the 1964 one stashed away somewhere in his attic …just a guess.

  16. I’ve been saying it for years now the Vikings are cursed and it is because of the Ed Thorpe Trophy. Bexause of the Ed Thorpe Trophy they will never win a Super Bowl, look at the all there winning seasons there super bowl blowouts, 1987, 1998, 2000, 2009 and now their 50th season celebration and all that has went wrong this year, dome collapse etc, etc. I wonder if Farve new about the curse, most likely not, otherwise he would have never joined the Vikings!!!!

  17. […] — the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Cup of the American Professional Football Association and the early NFL’s Ed Thorp Memorial Trophy — have been missing for decades. (Um, maybe the NFL needs to keep a closer eye on its […]

  18. […] — the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Cup of the American Professional Football Association and the early NFL’s Ed Thorp Memorial Trophy — have been missing for decades. (Um, maybe the NFL needs to keep a closer eye on its […]

  19. Sorry to be so late to this party, but —- Thanks for the great photos of this trophy. Ed and his brother Tom were famous college officials – Ed was the official at the Rose Bowl when the Four Horsemen and ND went up against Ernie Nevers and Stanford in 1925. Both brothers had a professional connection to Spalding and later the Thorp brand football was the official ball of the NFL. Wellington Mara told me that one of the ways the colleges tried to discourage the pro game was an edict that any official who worked a pro game would be barred from working a college game. Pro ball was fighting to improve its image and competent trusted officials were very important – the Thorp brothers defied the college ban and because they were so highly regarded the colleges relented and dropped the ban. Ed Thorp was also the person picked by the NFL owners to try and broker a deal between Tim Mara and CC Pyle and Red Grange to allow Grange an NFL franchise in New York City – Thorp did not succeed and Pyle and Grange started a rival league, but it does show the great respect Thorp had in the NFL.

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