The Other Steam Roller
The Providence Steam Roller football team began play in 1916 as an amateur/semi-pro squad. The team soon became a regional power and by the mid-1920s was known as the best independent team in the country playing at the Kinsley Park and the Cycledrome in Providence. They joined the NFL in 1925 after a successfull semi-pro campaign. They won the NFL championship in 1928. In 1929 they became the first team to host an NFL game at night under floodlights. However, they weren't the only sports team in Rhode Island to use the Steam Roller nickname. From 1922 to 1926 two more teams used the Steam Roller name in Rhode Island. In 1920 Providence had its first professional basketball team called the Steam Roller. Louis A.R. Pieri, after graduating from Brown University, captained and played forward for the team. In 1922 the Steam Roller five (named after the amount of Providence Steam Roller footballers on it) would go on to defeat Ambulance Company in the State Basketball Championship Series.
The Steam Roller was on the diamond as well. From 1922-1926 the Steam Roller were a semi-pro baseball club that played at Kinsley Park. They were an independent team that played teams from all over. The Havana Giants and Cuban Stars from Cuba and Colored teams like the Cleveland Colored Giants and Brooklyn Royal Giants met the Roller. Joe Morrissey from Warren played for the Steam Roller after graduating from Holy Cross before embarking on a Major League career with the Cincinnati Reds and Chicago White Sox. Major League teams played the Steam Roller too. Rogers Hornsby of the St. Louis Cardinals, Eddie Collins of the Chicago White Sox and Jimmy Cooney (of Cranston) of the Boston Braves came to town with their Big League teams in 1923. Jim Thorpe of Olympic fame also came with his Lawrence, MA team in 1924.
Local players even suited up with the Steam Roller in both football and baseball. Pinky Lester (East Providence) was a slugger who also donned the pads for the Roller eleven. Pard Pearce (Classical), who was the first quarterback in Chicago Bears history, played for both teams after playing baseball in the Pacific Coast League and football in the NFL. The most outstanding multi-sport talent was "Curley" Oden (Classical and Brown). He was a star on the gridiron and diamond for both teams including the 1928 NFL champions. The basketball name resurfaced in the 1940s after an absence ironically by a former player. Pieri was the owner of the Providence Steamrollers (name change), a Basketball Association of America team that operated from 1946 to 1949. The football team disbanded after the 1931 season (officially in 1933) from the NFL but the Steam Roller name was revived by Pearce Johnson in 1932, one of the original team's founders. The subsequent Steam Roller played on a near-continuous basis since that point as a semi-pro, minor league, and independent team through the 1940s before returning once again in the early 1960s.