As we prepare for the Chicago Bears’ season opener against the Green Bay Packers, we are providing fans with a list of 100 interesting facts, records, and tidbits to help get you in the football mood.
We’re continuing that list today with 10 facts that we’re nicknaming “In The Beginning.” These facts date back all the way to the team’s founding in 1920, and heavily feature “Papa Bear” himself, George Stanley Halas.
What’s in a name?
“In the beginning,” the Bears were founded in Decatur, Illinois in 1920 and were originally known as the Decatur Staleys, named after the A.E. Staley food starch company. Halas was hired, along with Edward “Dutch” Sternaman, to run the team. The Staleys were one of the charter members of the American Professional Football Association, which was later rechristened as the National Football League in 1922.
When the team was founded in 1920, documents listed Halas as the founder of the team, but he didn’t take over full control of the team until 1921.
Talk about a steal
After the Staleys’ first season, Halas purchased the team from the Staley company for a whopping $100. In today’s currency, that amount would be worth approximately $1,433. That’s not bad for a team that’s worth an estimated $2.9 billion now, according to Forbes Magazine.
Under the conditions of the deal, the team retained the Staleys title for one year upon moving to Chicago, then became the Bears for the 1922 NFL season.
That color looks good on you
The Bears’ iconic blue and orange look is well known in the sports world, but it, like a lot of other things about the team, was borrowed from another iconic brand. In this instance, the Bears got their color palette from Halas’ alma mater, the University of Illinois.
The connection between the team and the school has always been strong. One of the club’s original stars, Harold “Red” Grange, was a legend at the school, and other iconic players like Dick Butkus have hailed from Champaign. The Bears even played home games at the school’s Memorial Stadium in 2002 while renovation work was done to Soldier Field.
“I’m sure the word you were looking for is symbolism”
The Bears’ wishbone “C” logo is iconic nowadays, but it too was borrowed from another source. One of those sources was another NFL franchise, the Chicago Cardinals.
The only other charter member of the NFL still in existence today, the Cardinals used the logo while they played in Chicago, and when they left town after the 1959 season, the Bears pounced, taking over the logo beginning in 1962, according to Chris Creamer's SportsLogos database.
The wishbone “C” was also used by another team in Chicago, the University of Chicago Maroons, and as we’ll see, that’s not the only thing the Bears share in common with the once-legendary collegiate squad.
We’ll just borrow that nickname, too
After the University of Chicago football program was ended in 1939, the Bears were busy winning several NFL championships and needed a good nickname that encapsulated their dominance. To that end, the team borrowed its famous “Monsters of the Midway” nickname from the Maroons, who won the national championship in 1905 and 1913, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Midway does not refer to the Chicago airport, but rather the Midway Plaisance, which came to prominence during the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893.
The “Galloping Ghost” legitimizes the new league
The fledgling NFL got its first real superstar in 1925 when Red Grange signed a contract with Halas’ Bears. The union didn’t last long, as he bolted town to play for the NFL’s New York Yankees in 1927, but after that team failed to experience the same success that the 1927 baseball Yankees experienced, Grange came back for the 1929 season and finished his NFL career with the Bears.
Grange’s best season came in 1932, as he rushed for 136 yards and three touchdowns. He also caught 11 passes for 168 yards and four more touchdowns. He helped to bring legitimacy to the NFL, giving it its first real star and providing a boost to the Bears' gate receipts.
Halas: an original two-sport athlete
Halas is known for his contributions to the NFL, but he also had a cup of coffee as a professional baseball player, appearing in 12 games for the 1919 Yankees (the baseball team, not the football team). He had 22 at-bats according to Baseball Reference, going 2-for-22 with eight strikeouts.
The Yankees eventually replaced Halas in their outfield with some guy named Babe Ruth, who signed with the club in 1920.
Halas: a record keeper of the oddest sort
Halas was mainly known as a coach and an owner during his NFL career, but he also played in 104 games, and he held a playing record that lasted for nearly 50 years.
According to Pro Football Reference, Halas was playing in a 1923 game for the Bears when he forced a fumble from future Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Thorpe, scooped up the ball, and ran it back 98 yards for a touchdown. That fumble return touchdown was the longest in NFL history, and would remain the record for 49 years until it was broken in 1972.
Charter member of the NFL, charter member of the Hall of Fame
In addition to being the founder of a charter member of the NFL, Halas was a charter member of another exclusive club: the Pro Football Hall of Fame. When the first class was inducted in 1963, Halas was among those honored for his achievements, along with Grange and Bronko Nagurski.
What’s in a name: modern day edition
Halas’ name appears on a lot of things nowadays, including a statue soon to be unveiled at Soldier Field, the Bears’ practice facility, and even on their jerseys, but he does have one other thing named after him: the NFC championship trophy.
The Bears have only won the prize on two occasions, winning the conference title in 1986 and 2007.
For more Bears facts:
Part 1: The Bear Necessities: 10 basic facts about the team, and the players now patrolling Soldier Field.