As the 1920 football season began, professional teams faced three pressing problems involving players: Salaries were rising quickly, players were jumping from one team to another and teams were using college players who had yet to graduate.
These issues brought together representatives of 10 pro teams, who gathered on this day in the Jordan and Hupmobile auto showroom in Canton, Ohio. Out of the meeting came a new league, the American Professional Football Association (APFA).Ultimately, one man would stand above all others at the gathering, the representative of the Decatur Staleys, who sat on a car's running board during the meeting: George S. Halas. The very name resonates with the history of professional football.
Between the administrations of Presidents Warren Harding and Lyndon Johnson, his teams won nine titles and galvanized the public's growing interest in pro football with the play of such electrifying stars as Red Grange, Bronko Nagurski and Sid Luckman. Halas was not, however, an easy man to work for. His unwillingness to part with dollars during salary negotiations was legendary.
During his 40 years as head coach (with a then-record of 324 victories and 151 losses), Halas also was known for kicking players and threatening referees.
In 1921, starch and syrup manufacturer A.E. Staley turned the Decatur franchise over to Halas and the team moved to Chicago, where it played in Cubs Park (later called Wrigley Field). The Staleys won the APFA title with a 9-1-1 record. Two significant name changes took place the next year: The Staleys became the Chicago Bears, and the APFA became the National Football League.
Among early championship games, one standout is the 9-0 victory over the Portsmouth Spartans (later the Detroit Lions) in December 1932.
An early-winter snowstorm forced the contest to be played indoors at the Chicago Stadium, where, on an 80-yard field, the Bears won the NFL's first postseason game.
And in 1940, Halas' Bears came out on the right side of perhaps the most famous score in sports history, the 73-0 championship humiliation of the host Washington Redskins.
Early in the game, a Redskins receiver dropped a sure touchdown pass from Washington quarterback Sammy Baugh. After the game, Baugh was asked what difference that touchdown would have made.
"The score," Baugh said, "would have been 73-7."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun