Founded in 1957, The Westside Cubs were formed by a group young African-American men in an effort to aid the positive transition of the surrounding neighborhood. At the time, the Cubs were the only racially-integrated team in Detroit’s Junior Football League (DJFL). Only 3 years later, in 1960, the Cubs won their first of many championships --- in which they earned by dominating the league accomplishing a 7-0 season. During these early years, only one age/weight classification existed: 12-15 years of age with a weight limit of 170 lbs.
In 1961, the DJFL incorporated 2 additional age/weight classifications: 1. Junior Varsity (C-Team) 9-11 years of age, and 2. Varsity (B-Team) 12-13 years of age; such changes caused the upmost classification of the DJFL to become the Senior Varsity (A-Team) 14-15 years of age. Though there were changes to the age/weight classifications, no official championship game was established; however, both the Cubs’ A-Team and B-Team finished the season suffering only one loss --- while the C-Team earned a 4-3 record.
With the DJFL growing in numbers, in 1962 the league decided to divide it into two divisions: East and West. This year, the Cubs earned a championship berth on all three weight division classifications. The results were less than favorable, however: C-Team tied for a scoreless draw, B-Team lost 6-0, and the A-Team lost 25-0. From that day forward, the Westside Cubs set an organization-wide goal to accomplish championships on all three age/weight classifications.
• 1963: C-Team won championship; A-Team tied in championship game.
• 1964: A-Team, B-Team, and C-Team Cubs all won their respective championship games.
The Westside Cubs also participated in a city-wide baseball league with age ranging from 8 to 17 years. In a 14-year period, from 1961 and 1974, the Cubs were able to accomplish several city and state baseball championships. Also, in 1962, the Cubs led the formation of the North Detroit Little League, as well as its own Wild Cat league for players 13 to 15 years of age. There was a point in history when the Cubs' 15 & under age group had cemented their dominance in such impressive fashion, the need for a playoff system to determine Detroit’s representative in the National Tournament had been eliminated altogether.
There have been quite a few very notable players that have graduated to higher fields of play from their humble beginnings as a Westside Cub:
- Allen Foster
- Sam Poole
- John Cunningham
- Tom Deasfernandez
- Roosevelt Peoples
- Ron Thompson
With time, a number of changes took their toll on the DJFL. Age and weight requirements were modified, a number of teams no longer were able to compete for any number of reasons, and with that, competing leagues were formed.
The notoriety received by The Westside Cubs program opened the door for many coaches and other personnel to begin coaching at higher levels. Ron Thompson utilized ex-Cubs personnel to form the Beacons, a St. Cecilia football team. 1974 marked the end of the DJFL, and many youth football teams chose to join leagues outside of Detroit, MI. By 1979, with ongoing community support, The Westside Cubs baseball team joined the Detroit’s Police Athletic League (PAL).
Westside Cub alumni have moved on to aid in the creation of youth sports organizations in numerous areas, both inside and outside of Detroit, across the country. Youth football programs such as the Broncos, Buccaneers, and Pirates (to name a few) can all trace their founding directly to the Westside Cubs organization. As previously stated, the Westside Cubs have also lent their experience to aid the creation and sustainability of leagues in Illinois, Georgia, and California.
A Cub alumnus, Ron Johnson (Univ. of Michigan, NY Giants) has been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame (1992), and is currently (since 2006) acting as Chairman of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame.
Note: To avoid confusion, the “other” Ron Johnson of the Westside Cubs went on to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers and achieved Super Bowl victories.
From the Cubs, and other Cub-affiliated organizations, have come a number of stars in both football and baseball. Yet, there were many successful Cubs that have not become collegiate/professional athletes. Cubs’ alumni consist of ministers of churches of all denominations all across the city, the list of teachers and coaches is north of one hundred, and there have been more than just a few engineers. In addition, many have become successful entrepreneurs, lawyers, auto executives, and social workers. Westside Cubs can be found in firehouses and all areas of law enforcement. Many have also served with honor in the military. There are also any number who have what might be considered "regular" jobs, that are raising families while being contributing members of their communities. These alumni are the fabric of our legacy, and their accomplishments are worthy of praise and celebration just as our professional athletes.
The Cubs have been in the business of supporting youth development continuously since 1957. There are generations of families with success stories that started with the Westside Cubs. This is way so many Cubs are proud to say:
Once a Cub, Always a Cub!