Sports in the 1920s

1920s Sports

In the 1920s, sports had become more important to the fabric of society than ever before. Many things contributed to this rise in popularity, but none more so than modern radio. With radio, fans were listening to games in near real-time and could cheer on their team from work, home or any other place that had a radio.

In 1921, a game featuring Texas A&M and the University of Texas became the first college football game to offer a live, play-by-play broadcast. Sports had become a social event outside of the stadium. It is impossible to understate radio’s importance to the growth of spectator sport.

Fortunately for broadcasters, there were plenty of larger-than-life characters to talk about. Every sport had a superstar, but none shone brighter than Babe Ruth. His absolutely dominating play on the field, combined with his penchant for living life on the edge, gave everyone at home something to talk about. And Babe laughed all the way to the bank, making more money than any athlete before him.

Stars like Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb, Mickey Cochrane (Mickey Mantle’s namesake), Jimmy Foxx, Rogers Hornsby and many more were bringing fans to the turnstiles in record numbers. Stadiums across the country were renovated and expanded to accommodate the increased demand for sports. But baseball wasn’t the only sport to demand larger stadiums. In fact, the most massive, iconic stadiums in the United States were built in the 1920s for college football.

College (American) football was infinitely more popular than professional football. Michigan Stadium was built in 1927 for a cool $950,000 with an original capacity of 72,000. Ohio Stadium was completed in 1922, costing $1.49 million, with an original capacity of 66,210. At the time of completion, Ohio Stadium was the largest poured concrete structure on Earth. Kyle Field (the stadium), Neyland Stadium and Tiger Stadium were all built in the 1920s.

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Individual sports were a big draw as well. Bobby Jones (golf) and Jack Dempsey (boxing) had become household names. The Summer Olympics were held in 1920 for the first time since 1912 because World War I had cancelled them in 1916. The worldwide competition was held three times in the 1920s: 1920 (Belgium), 1924 (France) and 1928 (Netherlands).

Expand the list of major sports champions in the 1920s by clicking on the plus sign below.

1920s Major Sports Champions


*Before the NIT and NCAA Tournaments, there was no official national champion in college basketball. In 1936, the Helms Athletic Foundation assembled a group of experts to choose a national champion for college basketball, retroactively, back to 1901. Those champions are used here.
**College football champions were named by several organizations. There were no undisputed champions during the 1920s.

1920
Pro BaseballCleveland Indians
Pro BasketballN/A
College BasketballPenn
Boxing (HW)Jack Dempsey
Pro FootballAkron Pros
College FootballCalifornia
1921
Pro BaseballNew York Giants
Pro BasketballN/A
College BasketballPenn
Boxing (HW)Jack Dempsey
Pro FootballChicago Staleys
College FootballCalifornia
1922
Pro BaseballNew York Giants
Pro BasketballN/A
College BasketballKansas
Boxing (HW)Jack Dempsey
Pro FootballCanton Bulldogs
College FootballCalifornia
1923
Pro BaseballNew York Yankees
Pro BasketballN/A
College BasketballKansas
Boxing (HW)Jack Dempsey
Pro FootballCanton Bulldogs
College FootballCalifornia
1924
Pro BaseballWashington Senators
Pro BasketballN/A
College BasketballNorth Carolina
Boxing (HW)Jack Dempsey
Pro FootballCleveland Bulldogs
College FootballNotre Dame
1925
Pro BaseballPittsburgh Pirates
Pro BasketballCleveland Rosenblums
College BasketballPrinceton
Boxing (HW)Jack Dempsey
Pro FootballChicago Cardinals
College FootballAlabama
1926
Pro BaseballSt. Louis Cardinals
Pro BasketballOriginal Celtics
College BasketballSyracuse
Boxing (HW)Gene Tunney
Pro FootballFrankford Yellow Jackets
College FootballMichigan
1927
Pro BaseballNew York Yankees
Pro BasketballOriginal Celtics
College BasketballNotre Dame
Boxing (HW)Gene Tunney
Pro FootballNew York Giants
College FootballUSC
1928
Pro BaseballNew York Yankees
Pro BasketballCleveland Rosenblums
College BasketballPittsburgh
Boxing (HW)Gene Tunney
Pro FootballProvidence Steam Roller
College FootballMichigan
1929
Pro BaseballPhiladelphia Athletics
Pro BasketballCleveland Rosenblums
College BasketballMontana State
Boxing (HW)Jack Sharkey
Pro FootballGreen Bay Packers
College FootballNotre Dame

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1929 World Series: Philadelphia vs. Chicago

Game starts at 3:14

1929 Football: Chicago Cardinals & Bears

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Last modified: Aug 29, 2015 | Written by Paul Phipps