1920, George Halas
George Halas founded pro football and the Decatur Staley’s in 1920 and set membership at $100 per club. The Staley’s posted a 10-1-2 record in that inaugural season as each player earned $1,900 for the season. The Bears won their first title the next season (1921) with a 9-1-1 mark and went on to post winning records in all but one season in the entire decade (1929: 4-9-2). The first major signing took place in 1925 when the Bears signed Red Grange to a contract. Halas then took Grange and the Bears on a coast-to-coast barnstorming tour in which the club played 16 games in nine weeks. The first game of that stretch was played before 36,000 at the team’s home site, Wrigley Field.
50 Seasons at Wrigley
The Chicago Bears played their first 50 seasons in Chicago at Wrigley Field.
The nationally-famous Soldier Field opened on October 9, 1924.
It would remain a symbol of Chicago and Chicago-style football for over 78 years, when it would go under massive renovations.
Dick Butkus was drafted 3rd overall in the 1965 draft by the Bears, and went on to epitomize the terror that was the “Monsters of the Midway”. He is one of the most celebrated Middle Linebackers ever. Butkus was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1979.
Doug Atkins was acquired by the Bears from the Cleveland Browns in 1955. Was a 3-time all-NFL member and an 8-time Pro-Bowler. Atkins was a huge and menacing man (6’8″, 255 lbs) and was an excellent addition to the “Monsters of the Midway”. He was also known for his off-the-field exploits as much as on the field. Atkins finished his football career with the New Orleans Saints. He was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1982.
Early Soldier Field
Plans for Soldier Field started in 1919 as a memorial to the soldiers of WWI. Soldier Field stands on 10,000 pile foundations driving an average depth of 62.5 feet through fill that replaced the lake waters. The stadium is maintained and operated by the Chicago Park District.
First Chicago Bears Player Deal
First Chicago player deal: Bears buy tackle Ed Healey’s contract from the Rock Island Independents for $100-twice the going rate for a franchise that season.
Four New Seats
In 1992, four seats were added to Soldier Field, increasing the capacity to 66,950.
George Blanda is the NFL’s all-time leader in seasons played, games played, points, PAT attempts, PATs, Field goal attempts, and interceptions. He was drafted by the Bears as a Quarterback in 1949, but he excelled more as a placekicker. Blanda retired from the Bears in 1959, but came out of retirement to join the Houston Oilers in 1960, where he played for 7 years and led them to two AFL titles. He finished his career as a placekicker with the Oakland Raiders, after nine seasons with them. George Blanda was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1981.
Hot to Cold
The 1985 season began in September, when a Soldier Field turf thermometer measured the playing surface temperature at 133 degrees. It ended on a frigid January day when half a million Chicagoans ignored a wind chill of 25 degrees BELOW zero to cheer a victory parade that began at Jackson Boulevard and LaSalle Street, wound through the heart of the city’s financial district, and ended at Daley Plaza. Go Bears!
Millions Spent to Reduce by Six Seats
In 1994, the Park District spent millions to refurbish Soldier Field for the World Cup soccer tournament. Capacity was reduced by six to the current figure of 66,944.
On September 19th, 1971, Chicago defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 17-15 before a capacity crowd of 55,701 in the Bears’ first game since moving from Wrigley Field.
Depending on one’s interpretation, the Bears have won either seven or nine NFL Championships: in 1921, 1932, 1933, 1940, 1941, 1943, 1946, 1963, and 1986. Their first two championships were won before the team was called the Bears and before the league title became official.
Packers vs. Bears
The rivalry between the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers began innocently on a mild November Sunday afternoon at Chicago’s Wrigley Field (then called Cubs Park) in 1921. For 80 years, the Bears-Packers series has set the bar with all the bitterness, intensity, and animosity normally associated with rivalries.
On November 22, 1925, Harold “Red” Grange signed with the Bears and pro football left its cradle. His agent C.C. (Cash & Carry) Pyle negotiated a $100,000 deal with the Bears.
Soldier Field was opened in 1924 as a 45,000-seat Municipal Grant Park Stadium. The first football game played on Soldier Field was November 22, 1924, as a capacity crowd watched Notre Dame edge Northwestern, 13-6.
Soldier Field Firsts
Soldier Field hosted the first boxing event, which drew a gate of over $2.5 million (Dempsey-Tunney, 1927), the first ski meet held in a stadium, and the all-time largest football crowd (123,000). The largest crowd for any event in Soldier Field was 260,000 on Sept. 8, 1954, for the religious Marian Year Tribute.
The Staley Bears
The NFL’s Chicago Bears were first known as the “Staley Bears”. They were organized in 1920, in Decatur.
Walter Payton in 1977
Chicago Bear Walter Payton set the NFL record for most yards in a single game when he gained 275 yards against the Minnesota Vikings on November 20, 1977.