The National Football League (NFL1) was the first attempt at forming a national professional American football league in 1902. This league has no ties with the modern National Football League. This NFL was a curious mixture of football players and baseball players who adapted to playing football.
Ironically the roots of the league lie with baseball, not football. It began as a part of the baseball wars between the National League and the new American League that began in 1901. When Phillies owner decided to start a football team, the Athletics followed suit. The Athletic's owner fielded a team made-up of several baseball players as well as some local football talent. Each Philadelphia team was named after their respective baseball clubs and became the Athletics and Philadelphia Phillies.
However, both owners knew that to lay claim the "World Championship"; they had to play a team from Pittsburgh, which was the focal point of football at the time. They called on pro football promoter Dave Berry, and a Pittsburgh team named the Stars was formed with players who were considered football stars during the era. The team was owned and operated by Berry. Many historians believe that due to Berry's limited wealth and the amount of talent on team, that baseball's Pittsburgh Pirates owner or president may have secretly owned the team. The first league had no bylaws, no offices and no schedule-making powers. Having three of the top professional football teams in country helped make up for those shortfalls.
These three teams are all that made up the 1902 NFL. Due to the animosity that existed between Philadelphia's owners, Dave Berry was picked to the league's president. Attempts were initially made to expand the league outside of Pennsylvania into other major cities like Chicago and New York City. Investors in neither city were interested in joining the league at the time.
The league quietly folded, and the war between the baseball leagues was resolved the next spring. While the NFL thrived in Philadelphia, it never took hold in Pittsburgh, where professional football had already had its moment in the spotlight come and go over the previous decade. College football would dominate the landscape until the arrival of the NFL in the early 1920s.