He couldn't hit his weight, going 2—22 with 8 strikeouts and recording a. As an end, Halas played a season for the Hammond Pros, and then convinced the A. Staley Company—starch manufacturers in Decatur, located a couple of hours south of Chicago—to allow him to fund a football team. The Decatur Staleys were the forerunners to the Bears.
The meeting which founded the first organized professional football league took place in a Hupmobile dealership showroom in Canton, Ohio, on August 17, The league's president was Jim Thorpe, who while still an active player, was the most famous name in the room. By , the league was renamed the National Football League, but the starch company was experiencing financial difficulties.
Afterwards, Halas renamed the Staleys to the Bears because of help from the management of the Chicago Cubs baseball team. He was also going to call the football club the Cubs, but decided on the Bears, since football players were bigger than baseball players. Uniform colors were already orange and blue, selected for the Staleys because they were the colors of the University of Illinois, Halas' alma mater.
The Bears played their home games at the Cubs' Wrigley Field; an arrangement still in place when the season began. And he was protective of every single aspect of the franchise. This even included the team he loved to hate the most: the Green Bay Packers. Actually, when Halas wrote his autobiography decades later, he called the rivalry "the happiest series of games. Happiest, huh? That would be straining the definition of the word.
Game of My Life: Chicago Bears
Intense, competitive, hard-fought, grudge matches—all of those words might percolate to the top of the list before happiest. Players on both teams fed on the attitudes that Halas and Curly Lambeau, Packers founder and coach, brought to the two meetings each autumn. George Musso, one of the Bears' early Hall of Fame players, said he could tell that Halas and Lambeau were coaching friends, but when they played each other, friendship was not involved. And you win any damn way you can.
A Packer lineman from the late '30s named John Biolo said that Lambeau matched Halas' sideline shenanigans. An unnamed player in a biography of Lambeau, who died in , said that in the week of practice leading up to a Bears game, players thought the coach might blow a gasket.
Another thing the two coaches had in common was penury. They headed two of the three the third being the New York Giants biggest-name teams in the NFL and by most assessments of their hired help were cheapskates when it came to forking over player raises. It was Mike Ditka, one of the stars of the '63 Bears team, who uttered perhaps the most vivid description applied to any sports team negotiator ever when he said of the owner, "Halas throws nickels around like manhole covers.
Clouds over the Goalpost: Gambling, Assassination, and the NFL in by Lew Freedman
There was irony in the Bears—Packers symbiotic relationship. Not only were they two of the founding franchises and played each other twice a season, but they were the two most successful teams, winning the most championships, with the most number of great players on each squad.
Like Halas, Curly Lambeau was a team organizer and was the team's coach for decades. While they had so many similarities, they had two distinct personalities. Halas was a strong family man, married to the same woman from the s until he died sixty years later, while Lambeau was an acknowledged womanizer.
'Clouds Over The Goalpost' Gives History Lesson
He flirted with the Hollywood show business lifestyle during the off-season and flirted with the actresses he met there. Too-public relationships with women not his wife caused him much grief during his Packers tenure. Whatever it truly meant, Halas and Lambeau did not engage in the traditional gesture of sportsmanship involving a handshake between coaches at the conclusion of a game. There was some tension between the two egotistical men, but Halas understood that the Packers were almost always going to be a major obstacle between his Bears and a championship season.
Regardless of how Halas and Lambeau felt about one another personally, aside from respect for football acumen, Halas was probably the strongest owner-supporter of Green Bay's existence in the league. This related to Halas' strongest personality traitha—loyalty. If you helped him, he never forgot. If you were with him when times were tough, you were always with him. If you did him a favor, no matter how long ago, as the Packers had when the Bears had financial troubles during the depression of the s, he remembered.
As the old guard changed, all of the teams from smaller towns started to fade away. Green Bay began to lose money. The Packers were playing before smaller crowds and some owners wanted to push them out in favor of a team that would provide them a larger road gate. The other owners sought to pressure Green Bay management to move the team to Milwaukee full-time, first at State Fair Park, and then in County Stadium, where they played twice a season.
Halas wouldn't have it. He did everything he could to defend the Packers. To the astonishment of many in Chicago-and in Green Bay-in , Halas was a guest speaker at a Green Bay sports banquet, where he waxed eloquent about the importance of the Packer franchise and helped raise money for a new stadium. Halas told everyone on his visit that the Bears-Packers rivalry was one of the most important aspects of the NFL's success and continuity. That was the good side of Halas. But no matter how much he did for the Packers franchise, none of that graciousness ever spilled over to game day.
When it was time to play the Packers, there was not a single thing more important going on. Longevity, and Halas, played a large part in making Chicago—Green Bay the most intense rivalry in professional football. It wasn't really the same in the '50s, when Lambeau, who presided over six league championships, left for the Chicago Cardinals, and the Packers fell into the bottom ranks of the league's teams, posting such horrible records as 2—9—1 in '53 and 1—10—1 in ' The arrival of Vince Lombardi in rejuvenated the Packers.
By , Lombardi had the Packers back in the title game, though they lost to the Philadelphia Eagles, 17— In '61 and '62, Green Bay won back-to-back crowns and looked just as strong as the '63 season approached.
Add Lombardi's wins in those two seasons to the Lambeau total of six, and the Packers had eight titles on their resume as a franchise—at that moment one more than the Bears. Lombardi had paid his dues. He played for Fordham as one of the school's famous "Seven Blocks of Granite" in the early s, had been a high profile assistant coach for Earl Blaik at Army, and an even higher profile offensive coordinator for the New York Giants' powerful offense in the late '50s. In April, months prior to the beginning of play, it was revealed that two All-Star players, Paul Hornung and Alex Karras, were gambling on the sport and would be suspended from play for at least a year.
As play began in September, the Pro Football Hall of Fame opened its doors in Canton, Ohio, the same town where the National Football League was founded in and inducted its first class. Also, the war for players and prestige raged with the upstart American Football League trying to obtain equal footing in the public eye. On the field, it was to be the year the Chicago Bears, and their aging owner-coach George Halas knew glory once more, fighting off the latest dynasty of Green Bay Packers led by Vince Lombardi in a season-long chase for the Western Division title.
Yet even that was overshadowed by the assassination of President John F. While the nation mourned and other sports leagues suspended activity, the NFL played on with its regular season that sad weekend - a choice commissioner Pete Rozelle later called the worst mistake of his tenure.