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NFL 100 – George “Papa Bear” Halas

03 Sep

The National Football League is celebrating it’s 100th season in 2019, and Rayonsports.com, in addition to our annual weekly Throwback Thursday features each week, will publish articles, as many as 3 per week, highlighting topics and people that played important roles in developing the game that has grown into America’s Game, the true national pastime. This week, the opening week of the season, the NFL chose perhaps the 2 most iconic franchises, and long time rivals in the league, to open it’s historic season – the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers. Our initial “NFL 100” post will therefore feature the father of pro football, Bears’ founder, owner and coach George “Papa Bear” Halas. Halas’ daughter, Virginia McCaskey, is still the Bears’ principal owner to this day, and the Halas family name dates back to the origins of the pro football league.

 

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At Hays’ dealership, you could buy a 1920 Hupmobile, or a pro football franchise

The legendary story of the founding of the NFL will be told many times by many media outlets during this 100th season. It all started with a meeting of representatives of various barnstorming football clubs of the era, who played in different regional leagues with different rules, at a Hupmobile dealership in Canton, Ohio. The dealership was owned by Ralph Hays, who also owned the highly successful Canton Bulldogs football club. In a pair of meetings held at the dealership in August and September of 1920, the American Professional Football Association was formed. It would later evolve into what is now the National Football League. One of the 11 teams that was part of the newly formed professional league was the Decatur Staleys, and their founder and owner was Halas. After a hip injury ended a brief pro baseball career (17 games as a New York Yankee outfielder), he joined the Staleys as a player/coach. He moved the club to Chicago in 1921 and after baseball’s Chicago Cubs agreed to let the gridiron team use Wrigley Field as its’ home stadium, Halas changed his team’s name to the Bears as a tribute. To say this man was a giant of the game is an understatement. He was Bears’ owner for 63 years, and their coach for 40 of those years, winning 8 championships. He won his last title in 1963, and was a member of the inaugural Pro Football Hall of Fame class in 1963 also, even though the Hall generally has a 5 year waiting period for eligibility. Halas passed away in 1983, but gave the Chicago franchise one last gift in 1982 when he made a controversial hire to be the team’s next head coach – former Bear tight end Mike Ditka. Ditka turned out to be the right man for the job as he guided the 1985 “Super Bowl Shuffle” Bears to the Super Bowl championship, the team’s first title since Halas’ last in ’63.

Halas’ name is forever etched in NFL lore, as the National Conference champion each year is awarded the George Halas Trophy. Also, the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton is located on George Halas Drive.

 

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George Halas, NFL legend

 

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