The Penalty Flag Was Developed At Youngstown
More Than 60 Years Ago
In the game of football, a penalty flag is thrown when a rules
infraction occurs during a game. The creation of that penalty flag was in Youngstown, Ohio
60 years ago.
was created by then head coach, Dwight Dike Beede on
Oct. 17, 1941. The flag was first used in a game against Oklahoma City University at the
Youngstowns Rayen Stadium. Today the penalty flag is used in every competitive
football game throughout the world.
Before the introduction of the penalty flag, the officials used horns and
whistles to signal a penalty. This made it difficult for fans and the media to know that
there was an infraction on the field because they could not hear the signal.
Beede said, "I always
disliked the fish horn signal, figured it was a nuisance, irritating to the ears."
Jack McPhee, who was an
official during the first game the penalty flag was used said, "Through the use of
the signal flag, everyone in the stadium knows that something is wrong. Its been a
Beede came up with idea of the
flag and had his wife sew it together. His wife, Irma Beede, later became known as the
Betsy Ross of Football because she sewed the first flags together. He asked
her to make a flag that had a bright color (red) with white stripes. The flags were put
together using pieces of the Beedes daughters old Halloween costume for the
red part of the flag and an old sheet for the white part. She used some lead sinkers from
Beedes fishing tackle box to weigh it down. It was 16 inches square with the weight
all at one end of the flag. The flag has been modified over the years and today it is
yellow cloth that has sand in it to weigh it down.
Beede came to an agreement
with Oklahoma City Coach Os Doenges to use the flags as an experiment. Beede proceeded to
ask the game officials to use the flag.
"Do me a favor boys,
instead of using the horns, try dropping these flags on violations. The fans never hear
the horns. Besides its just an experiment."
The four game officials Hugh
McFee, Jack McFee, Bill Renner, and Carl Rebele all agreed to use the flag.
Jack McFee later used the flag
at the Ohio State-Iowa game which happened to have the leagues commissioner, Major
John Griffith, as a spectator at the game. He became very curious why the officials were
throwing "rags" in the air when a penalty was called. Griffith was impressed
with the idea after McFee explained what was going on after the game.
The flag was officially
introduced at the 1948 American Football Coaches rules session.
McFee carried the original
flag for many contests including games of Princeton-Yale and various Ohio State games
until it faded. He made his way to the Rose Bowl, where the flag was tossed in front of
Two of the original flags are
on display in Mosure Hall on the fourth level in Stambaugh Stadium.