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Papa Bear George Halas
"Mr. Everything" George Halas
George Stanley Halas was termed "Mr. Everything" when it came to professional football. He founded the Chicago Staleys, who were later renamed the Chicago Bears. He coached the Bears for 40 seasons and received six NFL titles. He also had a recorded mark of 324 coaching wins which remained for nearly three decades. A member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, his initials are forever to be found on the left sleeve of the Chicago Bears Uniform.
Why George Halas?
As a young girl I can still remember the feelings that I experienced as I watched the incredible story, made into a TV movie, called Brian's Song. The movie begins with a line which includes a quote from Ernest Hemingway, "‘Every true story ends in death.' Well, this is a true story."
The story is told about the relationship of two football friends, Brian Piccolo and Gale Sayers. It depicts the heartbreak and struggle that they both share as they deal with the terminal cancer, which Brian Piccolo suffers, and ultimately dies from. I think, besides the sadness I felt by Piccolo's death, what touched my heart the most was the way the movie related to the viewer the bond of friendship these two men shared. The experience these two men had was during a time period when racial conflict was still common. Sayers, who is black, joins the Chicago Bears and is befriended by Piccolo, who is white. Even though they compete for the same spot on the team, as roommates they learn to appreciate one another and become close friends. Early on in the movie, Sayers is injured in a football game and Piccolo helps with his recovery. Later Sayers is called upon to help and support Piccolo as he learns he has cancer.
- Brian's Song - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- ESPN Classic - Brian's life a Song of friendship, courage
"There's no question that Brian Piccolo's story was amplified by the movie. And now generations later, you don't know how many guys who ordinarily would be loath to admit that they shed a tear, will tell you at the drop of a hat, I still cry.
Halas was their coach.
The reason for relating this remembrance of a great story is because as I was researching for the topic of "football", I came across this great man George Halas, who happened to be the coach of the Chicago Bears when this incident occurred. It is reported that following Piccolo's death that Halas paid all the medical expenses that were incurred. This piqued my interest to learn more about this man.
George Halas was born in Chicago in 1895 to Bohemian immigrants. Being in circumstances that demanded it, he learned growing up to be frugal, self-disciplined and to develop business sense. He saved his money, and supported himself as he attended the University of Illinois. It is here he played football, baseball and basketball. He also became a member of the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity with his older brother.
Just before graduation, prior to his last semester at the university, the United States entered WWI and Halas enlisted in the United States Navy. He was assigned a position at the Great Lakes Naval Base and ordered to organize sporting teams in both basketball and football for the military service men. Even though he was not given the opportunity to graduate from college, because of the war, he was awarded his diploma later in his life.
- The New York Times: This Day In Sports
When the Bears Were Young Lions
- George Halas Biography
Although George S. Halas "officially" retired from the Bears after the 1967 football season, he was far from done. He kept an office at Bears headquarters, and took back over presidency of the team following his son Mugs' untimely death in 1979.
After the war, Halas played baseball for the New York Yankees, which was short lived. He then returned to his home state of Chicago, and started designing bridges for the railroad. Although his mother discouraged it, he still continued to sneak off and play sports on club teams on the weekends.
Because of his experience in the military of organizing sports teams, in 1920 he received a call form Staley Starch Works which was based in Decatur, Illinois, and asked to come to work for the company, as well as organize the company's football and baseball teams. He jumped at the chance. It was here that Halas had the opportunity of meeting with other club team owners, which resulted in the formation of the structure of the American Professional Football Association, which was renamed the National Football League in 1924.
Staleys become Bears
Halas coached the Decatur Staleys, and following a successful season in 1920 , the owner of the company A.E. Staley told Halas to take the team to Chicago to try to establish it as a professional football team. They Chicago Staleys were given permission by the Chicago Cub's owner William Veeck to share the famous Chicago Wrigley Field, this lasted for 70 years. Because of this break the team was given by the Cubs, in 1922 Halas renamed the team the Bears, in their honor.
When WWII broke out Halas again spent his time in the military, he spent three years serving in the South Pacific with the Navy. When he returned he continued coaching the Bears. Although known for his legendary "potty mouth" he was a devout family and religious man who publicly swore off drinking and tobacco. It was through his shrewd business deals that he led the NFL into a lucrative television era, which gave financial stability to a league who has struggled in this area all along.