1961 WASHINGTON MERCHANTS
Back Row, 1. to r: L. Forbister, J. Kem, B. Spencer, B. Burgh, G. Robinson, C. Whitehill, H. Hood, B. Grover, J. Riser, B. Rath, J. Deveroux, D. Wells, E. Finney, G. Mercer.
Middle Row, 1. to r: R. Barnes, R. Martini, R. Jackman, B. Sheets, E. Galeski, J. Luck, M. Stefan, E. Schmidt, R. Bowden, B. Mason, C. Wilson, J. Comfort.
Front Row, l. to r: D. Carney, W. Cimino, E. Wright, D. Watson, P. Levers, T. Parisi, R. Adams, M. Lesko, R. Miles. J. Marsh Not Pictured: J. SalamoneThe
Washington Merchants Semi-Pro Football Team was formed in 1961. The founder, Gene Mercer criss-crossed Washington County to put together the greatest Semi-Pro team ever assembled in the Tri-State area.
How do you determine the greatness of a team? Clarke Hinkle, the all-time Chicago Bears Fullback in the NFL Football Hall of Fame in Canton, coached Toronto, Ohio against the locals. At that time, Hinkle was the sportscaster for Channel 9 in Steubenville. On his noon news show, Clarke Hinkle stated. “The best football team outside of the NFL that he’s ever seen is right over in Washington PA. “
In 1961, Joe Comfort, former Wash High and University of Georgia star, coached the team with Gene Mercer handling the General Managers position. The first season was a resounding success, as the team won the Steel Bowl Conference Championship.
The success of the team led Gene Mercer to take the 1962 Pittsburgh Heavyweight team to an Indepenaent status. This team went undefeated against such powerhouses as Columbia, PA, Toronto, Ohio and Canton Massilon, Ohio.
When this team started out in “61 “, it was comprised mostly of Washington area athletes.
The success of that team was the major recruiting tool in building a dynasty in Semi-Pro football.
During those two years, this team drew huge crowds at Washington Park. Later in 1965, the reputation of this team led to the founding of the Pennsylvania Mustangs, who played in the North American Football League.