Baseball-Reference.com attributes states the following about former manager Hugo Bezdek to The Pittsburgh Pirates Encyclopedia:
“In 1937, he was hired by the NFL’s Cleveland Rams to be their head coach. This made him the only man ever to coach a NFL team and manage a MLB team. Cleveland only went 1-13 under his reign.”
HogNation.com made a similar claim. RizzoSports.com echoes that statement. Brendan Macgranachan stated it differently when writing about Bezdek: “The story of the only man to manage in the Major Leagues and coach a professional football team” on SeamHeads.com</as does his claim http://seamheads.com/blog/2008/11/29/the-legend-of-hugo-bezdek/.
They are all wrong. Not only were they wrong when they wrote, it was wrong when Bezdek coached the Rams. It was even wrong when he managed the Pirates. In the very early 1900s, the Philadelphia major league baseball teams were competing fiercely with each other, especially for players. Professional football was beginning to develop a following and, in 1902, David Berry, a football promoter from Western Pennsylvania, founded the National Football League. He succeeded in convincing both Philadelphia baseball teams to sponsor teams. The third member of the league was from Pittsburgh and may have been sponsored by that city’s big league baseball franchise. The Phillies’ manager also managed the football team but did not coach it. However, Connie Mack, the Athletics’ manager did coach the NFL team becoming the first man to manage a major league baseball team and to coach an NFL team. Hugo Bezdek did not manage the Pirates until 1918 and the Rams until 1937. Connie Mack also made his star lefthander, Rube Waddell, play on the football team, thus likely becoming the first person to play both major league baseball and pro football.
The NFL disbanded after its World Series that was played over the New Year holiday in Madison Square Garden. However, none of the three NFL teams participated. The winning team was a Syracuse squad that featured Carlisle Indians Bemus and Hawley Pierce on one side of the line and the Warner brothers, Pop and Bill, on the other.