Happy Halloween, Mr. Halas

Today is not just Halloween, it is also the 25th anniversary of the passing of NFL legend George Halas.

Before he became owner/coach of the Bears, he’d already organized and coached teams in the Navy and at Staley Starch Works in Decatur, and earned a civil engineering degree at the University of Illinois, where he starred in 3 sports, football, baseball, and basketball, and was signed by the Yankees to play baseball. Unfortunately for him, but fortunately for future Chicago Bears fans, he quit playing baseball, possibly because he couldn’t hit a curveball.

In return for $5,000 given to him by A.E. Staley to move the Decatur Staleys to Chicago, Halas kept the name “Staleys” for one year, and then struck a deal with Cubs owner William Veeck Sr. to share Wrigley Field, and renamed the team the Bears, to honor the Cubs and Veeck.

His signing of Illini legend Red Grange in 1925 — for $100,000, which was crazy crazy money at that time — and then the subsequent barnstorming tour featuring Grange is what really got the NFL started, by drawing huge crowds, game after game. They played 19 games in 67 days.

Halas went on to coach the team in three different stints until 1968, with a few years off here and there, including 3 more years in the Navy during WWII. He was also instrumental in getting a TV contract for the league, which was the final puzzle piece that allowed the league to flourish in the 60s and become what it is today.

A very interesting bio of Halas, from which most of this info was taken, can be found here.

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