"This is an announcement of the most unusual football game ever scheduled."
So wrote Tribune sports editor Arch Ward on July 6, 1934, in boldly peddling to the world the College All-Star Game, which would "bring together the Chicago Bears, champions of the national professional league, and the strongest team of last year's college seniors that can be recruited."
Ward, who gave the world baseball's All-Star Game a year earlier, did not make small plans. His article went on to confidently explain that "never before has a game of this magnitude been attempted."
The college team and coach would be selected by public vote; the ticket proceeds would go to charity. The professionals were already playing exhibition matches, though it was the Wild West compared with today's antiseptic exercise, but Ward envisioned a game that would be the main event every August.
So why did George Halas and pro football agree to such a stunt?
In the early 1930s, professional football played in the shadow of the college game, which was considered superior. Bears great Red Grange succinctly stated the goal: "There can be no question of the superiority of professional football after we whip them. All I can say is I hope the old bones stand up against those young punks."
The facts didn't dampen the hyperbole. The Aug. 31, 1934, inaugural game ended in a scoreless tie, but the secondary headline read: "79,432 throng sees thrilling football game."
That said, the series, which ran until 1976, did produce some gems, though the college kids won just nine games over the years. Bears fans will take pleasure in noting the first and last collegiate wins both came against the Green Bay Packers. The All-Stars beat the Curly Lambeau-led Pack 6-0 in 1937 and stunned Vince Lombardi's team 20-17 in 1963.
Unlike the much-hyped start, the series ended miserably. The 1976 game was called in the third quarter because of torrential rain, and the Tribune decided to kill the event later that year.
The series had been on life support for years, as the contests became more lopsided (the pros won the last twelve complete contests by a combined score of 304-118). Also, the fear of injuries, big-money rookie contracts and insurance costs kept a growing number of the best college players out of the contest.
In the end, the College All-Star Game, which raised nearly $4 million for charity, proved Red Grange right.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Credit for the idea for this Flashback installment goes to Tribune reader Andy Scelsi of Norridge. Thank you.