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Papa Bear George Halas

Updated on January 20, 2009

"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."

Friendship

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.

Papa Bear

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.

Chicago Born

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.

George Halas bottom row, second from far left. Photo credit, Chicago Tribune, April 7, 1911
George Halas bottom row, second from far left. Photo credit, Chicago Tribune, April 7, 1911

The NFL

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.

Da Bears

Chicago Bears players hoisted Coach George Halas on their shoulders after winning the 1940 N.F.L. title. A young Bill Anderson is at right.
Chicago Bears players hoisted Coach George Halas on their shoulders after winning the 1940 N.F.L. title. A young Bill Anderson is at right.

Commitment

Halas had many great qualities. He had a commitment to his country, serving in both world wars. He had a commitment to family, to his wife and two children. He had a commitment to the team; always bringing new and innovated ingenuity to the game. He had a commitment to his fellow man, paying to send players to college and taking care of medical expenses as in the case of Piccolo. He had a commitment to the game. He will always be a part of "Da Bears."

Packers coach Vince Lombardi (left) and Bears owner George Halas Sr. (right) photographed the last time they were on the field together.
Packers coach Vince Lombardi (left) and Bears owner George Halas Sr. (right) photographed the last time they were on the field together.

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    • kingis profile image

      Patrick King 

      8 years ago from Springfield, IL

      I like your hub on Papa Bear Halas. I enjoyed reading this especially because I am a Bear and University of Illinois fan. Keep up the good the work.

    • profile image

      Dan 

      9 years ago

      Yeah Papa Bear

    • profile image

      nathan 

      9 years ago

      that was great information

    • In The Doghouse profile imageAUTHOR

      In The Doghouse 

      10 years ago from California

      Peter,

      Thanks for the encouragement. I have no intention of winning the contest, it is just fun to see if I can write on other subjects than those I am familiar with. I am glad you are back from your break, I look forward to more HUBS from you soon!

    • Peter M. Lopez profile image

      Peter M. Lopez 

      10 years ago from Sweetwater, TX

      Great stuff, Doghouse. Congrats. Keep up the good work.

    • In The Doghouse profile imageAUTHOR

      In The Doghouse 

      10 years ago from California

      Amy

      Thank you for the cudos. I can't believe I actually learned something about football! I have been quizing my boys here all night! lol I taught them a few trivial things they didn't even know. So funny! I hate football!

    • amy jane profile image

      amy jane 

      10 years ago from Connecticut

      What an excellent Hub, Doghouse!

      Congrats on 2nd place!

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