Not long ago, in 2019, Chicago celebrated the centennial of the Chicago Bears. In 2019 the National Football League also marked 100 years. The centennial of the Chicago Bears was also celebrated by assistant curator, Julius L. Jones who put together some highlights of the first 100 years by using different objects and images that appear in the collection at the Chicago History Museum.
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Chicago Bears go back a long way.
In 1920 the Chicago Bears began life as the Decatur Staleys. The charter franchise of the American Professional Football Association. It was sponsored by the A. E Staley Company and was considered an industrial team. They played in Decatur, a town in central Illinois. The following year the team moved to Chicago and won their first NFL Championship. Once in Chicago the team, in 1922, became known as the Bears and their home became Weeghman Park, also the home of the Chicago Cubs baseball team. In 1927 it was renamed Wrigley Field.
In 1932, 1933 and again in 1940 the Bears won the NFL championship. The Bears beat the Washington Redskins 73-0 in the NFL Championship Game in Washington DC. On 8 December 1940. This incredible win is still the most uneven victory ever in the history of the NFL. Following this, the Bears went on to win in 1941, 1943 and 1946 and then again in 1963. To their credit, the Bears have won a total of eight championships.
The founder of the Chicago Bears was George Halas who was also a player for the Bears between 1920-1929. He was also a coach between 1920-1967. Halas was known as “Papa Bear” and remained the owner of the team until he died in 1983. His daughter, Virginia Halas McCaskey took over from him and is still the owner of the team today.
There have been other football teams in town, other than the Bears. The Chicago Cardinals was also a popular team and competed with the Bears for potential fans. However, in 1959 the Cardinals transferred to St. Louis.
The ’40s were successful years for the Bears but they struggled during the years 1964 through to 1976, missing the playoffs. Things began to turn around in 1975 when they brought in Walter Payton. During Payton’s NFL career he broke almost every rushing record. Everyone called him “Sweetness” because of his friendly personality and also because he had a particularly unique running style.
In 1977 he was Most Valuable Player and a nine-time Pro Bowl Selection. In 1993 Payton was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In 1999 Payton passed away from a rare liver disease. He was just 45 years old. His memorial service was attended by many thousands of mourners who packed into Soldier Field. Many more watched the memorial service on television.
Another valuable player for the Chicago Bears, Mike Singletary, was a linebacker between the years 1981 to 1992. He played an important role in the Chicago Bear’s defense line throughout his career with the Bears and he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1998.
William Perry, known as “The Refrigerator” was a defensive lineman. Perry was large and his huge size caused him to be called upon to run for the ball whenever the Bears were close to the goal line.
The season of 1985 was legendary for the Bear and its players. They set an incredible record of fifteen wins and losing only once. At this time, they were hugely popular with a big fan base. It was at this time during the season that the team put together the song and music video called “The Super Bowl Shuffle.” This was done in an effort to raise money for charity. Fans in Chicago and elsewhere were supportive of the team’s enthusiasm and waited excitedly for the victory at the Super Bowl to happen.
Their support was rewarded when the Bears won 46-10 in the Super Bowl XX victory over the New England Patriots. At the Super Bowl victory parade which took place on 27 January 1986, the players and coach Mike Ditka were hailed as heroes by the crowds.
In 2007 the Chicago Bears made it again to the Super Bowl. But unfortunately, this time they didn’t do so well. They lost the game to the Indianapolis Colts 29-17. However, Chicago fans being forever optimistic and patient just waited for the next win.
The Bears today
Today the team resides in Halas Hall which is in a suburb of Chicago – Lake Forest, Illinois and in 2020 renovations were carried out on the adjacent building for hosting their training camp right there at “home”.