The entry reads as dispassionately as an accounting ledger should: "game performance bonus to W. Heffelfinger for playing (cash) $500.00"
But that handwritten note on a 120-year old record -- indicating a secret payment by the Allegheny Athletic Association to William "Pudge" Heffelfinger for an 1892 game against rival Pittsburg Athletic Club on the city's North Side -- is regarded as the birth certificate of professional football.
That document, along with 200 other pieces on loan from the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, will be on display beginning Saturday at the Heinz History Center for the national debut of the Gridiron Glory exhibition.
It is the largest collection of Hall artifacts shown outside of Canton.
Saleem Choudhry, a researcher for the Hall, said Pittsburgh was an obvious choice for the first stop of the traveling exhibit.
"The region's strong historical ties to professional football is a natural point," Choudhry said. "It's just a natural fit."
And, as History Center president Andy Masich points out, this is a year of local football anniversaries: the 120th of the Heffelfinger game, the 80th of the Steelers franchise and the 40th of the Immaculate Reception,
Pittsburgh ties bookend the exhibit: the oldest piece is the Heffelfinger ledger, the newest: the helmet worn by Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas as he streaked to a touchdown in January, dispatching the Steelers from the playoffs last season in the fastest ending to an overtime game in NFL history.
In between are sections devoted to the Steelers -- from Art Rooney's cigars to Walt Kiesling's playbook to Franco Harris's cleats -- and the famed Western Pennsylvania "cradle of quarterbacks" that includes six Hall enshrinees from the region.
Numerous artifacts, interactive features and video displays are also in the exhibit, which runs until Jan. 6.
First Published October 3, 2012 4:00 AM