Where our history starts..."Papa Bear".

Discussion in 'Front Page News' started by 4dabers, Jul 9, 2014.

  1. 4dabers

    4dabers Veteran DBS Writer

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    The Bears History starts with "Mr. Everything", George S. Halas.

    Many of you know that I recently volunteered to provide a periodic write-up for this forum regarding Bears history. While I am not a professional columnist, I have always been a bit of a novice historian and given my love for Da Bears, this seems like a good fit, at least for me. I hope you all will enjoy some of the “nuggets” that I plan to share as much as I plan to enjoy researching and bringing them to you. My plan is to provide you with some interesting stories about this historic franchise without getting too dry and making this sound like it came from a dusty history book from the depths of some long forgotten library. Some of the history will be “ancient” while some will be more modern. I have given a great deal of thought as to the subject of my first foray into this new endeavor, and I just can’t get past Papa Bear, our beloved founder, and how it all started.

    [​IMG]Most of us know that GSH (George Stanley Halas) was not only the founder of the Chicago Bears, but also one of the few responsible for starting the league, but how did it all come about? While his childhood may have played a role in how it all took shape, I promised to avoid making this as dry as the Sahara desert, so let’s start with his attendance at the University of Illinois. Ever wonder about the origins of the Bears colors? Look no further than his alma mater. However, George didn’t finish school and didn’t attend his graduation. The United States had been drawn into WW I, and with only one semester left, he quit school and joined the United States Navy to serve his country in The Great War. This is where the story takes a unique twist, at least in my mind. George attended Officer Candidate School upon entering the Navy with the intention of serving overseas. However, his youthful exuberance to participate in combat was not to be, and he was put in charge of organizing Navy sports teams (Football, Baseball and Basketball) at the Great Lakes Naval Station. Not only did he miss out on serving overseas, but he couldn’t even get away from Chicago! However, THIS is where his incredible future (and our beloved team) would find its roots. During this time, he learned what he needed to in order to assemble and develop athletic teams, and he did it well as many of those teams would excel. In fact, the Navy football team he assembled (and played on) won the 1918 Rose Bowl vs. the Mare Island Marines; GSH was named MVP of that game. In fact, he caught a TD pass from great lakes QB Paddy Driscoll (that's another name you are likely to see in future write-ups).
    [​IMG]

    After the war and his discharge from the Navy, George had an opportunity that many don’t know about. Most people think of George Halas in terms of football, but he must have been a hell of an athlete all around. He was given the opportunity to play Baseball for the New York Yankees and he did well. He was reportedly an outstanding outfielder, but he just couldn’t hit the curve-ball and he was let go. [​IMG]That’s when the future NFL finally got its break.

    George promised his Mother that he would finally find a real job and that’s when he got a call from a gentleman by the name of A.E. Staley in Decatur, IL. Those of you that don’t know Illinois that well, let me just say that Decatur is in the middle of farm country in Central Illinois and has a heavy industrial base. It currently has a population of about 76,000 and declining, but in 1920 is was about 45,000 and growing rapidly as industry was booming at that time. Their corporate offices used to be known as "The Castle in the cornfields", reflecting the grand architecture of the time and its remote location. Mr. Staley was aware of what George did with the great Navy sports teams and he hired him to organize a company football team for the Staley Starch Works. George accepted and in 1920 the Decatur Staley’s were formed.
    [​IMG]
    This type of corporate sponsorship of athletic teams was the burgeoning trend at the time, and George attended a meeting of similar teams later that same year in Canton, Ohio (hmm, that town sounds familiar). This group would form the American Pro Football Association, which would become the National Football League. Unfortunately for the City of Decatur, A.E. Staley approached GSH at the end of his first, albeit successful year and informed him of his opinion, that the company would not be able to afford to keep the team running and that such an organization needed a bigger market to make it a success. However, Mr. Staley provided him with $5,000 of seed money to help him move the team to Chicago. The only thing he asked in return was that the team retain the Staley’s name for one season. The next big hurdle was finding a venue to play their games. George approached the owner of the Cubs at that time, Bill Veeck, Sr.. Mr. Veeck was reportedly accommodating and since football and baseball seasons did not overlap at that time, he agreed to allow the use of Wrigley Field for the upstart team.
    [​IMG]
    Thus beginning 70 years of Chicago football at Wrigley Field and thus providing GSH with the idea of the team name after the last year of Staley’s, from Cubs, then come the Bears. In conclusion, George Stanley Halas was, and always will be our “Papa Bear”, but let’s give credit to A.E Staley and to a smaller measure Bill Veeck, Sr. for the roles they played, but even more so, the US Navy; who knew an assignment they gave a young officer would result in this glorious franchise and game we all love.

    Final fun facts related to the story:
    The University of Illinois forgave the final 6 credit hours required for George’s degree due to his enrollment in the Navy during a time of war and sent his diploma to his family while he was serving.

    The A.E. Staley Company was still in existence in Decatur, IL until just a few short years ago when it was sold. It is now known as Tate and Lyle and while the entire city was once built around the Staley factory and thousands of jobs, it now only employs about 800 people. I'm thinking old man Staley and his heirs would have been better served to keep the football team and sell the factory.


    George Halas would again volunteer for military service during WW II, re-enlisting in the Navy at the age of 45 and joining other NFL owners (Dan Topping of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Dan Reeves and Fred Levy, Jr., co-owners of the Cleveland Rams; Wellington Mara of the NY Giants; Alexis Thompson of the Philadelphia Eagles) to serve in our second World War. A tip of the hat to ALL those gentlemen for leaving productive going concerns to serving our country in time of need.
    • Winner Winner x 4
    • Bear Down! Bear Down! x 1
  2. soulman

    soulman Pro-Bowler SuperFan DBS Writer

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    Great piece brother and looking forward to more of them. I especially liked the comment that Staley should have sold the business and kept the team or at the very least got a small piece of it in exchange for his $5000. :7 15 5v[1]:LOL

    Who knew.
  3. JustAnotherBearsFan99

    JustAnotherBearsFan99 Coordinator SuperFan DBS Writer

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    Great read!
    My only Bears jersey is Papa Bear's #7. He must have been an incredible all-around athlete. It blows my mind that the guy played outfield for the New York Yankees, and still was good enough at football to make the All-Decade NFL team as a player, while being an owner and coach. Amazing man.
  4. Bearstuff

    Bearstuff Yes, in the woods. Staff Member SuperFan

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    good stuff 4Da. I learned something, which is saying something. My head can be harder to breach than Fort Knox.
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  5. 4dabers

    4dabers Veteran DBS Writer

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    LOL, Mrs. 4Da would agree when I say "You are not alone".
  6. BearJim

    BearJim Veteran SuperFan DBS Writer

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    Wow. Great job 4Da. Hard to imagine that if he would've been put in a combat role the NFL may have never existed! Pretty amazing if ya think about it.

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