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George Stanley Halas, Sr. (February 2, 1895 – October 31, 1983), nicknamed "Papa Bear" and "Mr. Everything", was a player, coach, inventor, jurist, producer, philanthropist, philatelist, owner and pioneer in professional American football and the iconic longtime leader of the NFL's Chicago Bears.

Early life and sports career

Halas playing baseball in 1919
Halas, born in Chicagomarker, Illinoismarker into a family of Hungarian immigrants, had a varied career in sports. In 1915, Halas worked temporarily for Western Electric and was planning on being on the Eastland. He was running late, however, and missed the capsizing. After graduating from Crane High School in Chicago, he attended the University of Illinoismarker, playing football for coach Bob Zuppke as well as baseball and basketball, and earning a degree in civil engineering. He also became a member of Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity. He helped Illinois win the 1918 Big Ten football title.

Serving as an ensign in the Navy during World War I, he played for a team at the Great Lakes Naval Training Stationmarker, and was named the MVP of the 1919 Rose Bowlmarker. On a team which included Paddy Driscoll and Jimmy Conzelman, Halas scored two touchdowns and returned an intercepted pass 77 yards in a 17-0 win; the team was also rewarded with their military discharges.

Afterward, Halas played minor league and semi-pro baseball, eventually earning a promotion to the New York Yankees, where he played 12 games as an outfielder in 1919. However, a hip injury effectively ended his baseball career. The popular myth was that Halas was succeeded as the Yankees' right fielder by Babe Ruth, but in reality it was Sammy Vick who was replaced by Ruth.

Professional football career

Offered a position with the A. E. Staley Company, a Decatur, Illinoismarker starch manufacturer, as a company representative, player on the company-sponsored baseball team, and player-coach of the company-sponsored football team, Halas selected his alma mater's colors — orange and navy blue — for the team's uniforms. In 1920, Halas represented the Staleys at the meeting which formed the American Professional Football Association (which became the NFL in 1922) in Canton, Ohiomarker.

After suffering financial losses despite a 10-1-2 record, company founder and namesake Augustus E. Staley turned control of the team to Halas in 1921. Halas moved the team to Chicagomarker and took on teammate Dutch Sternaman as a partner. The newly minted "Chicago Staleys" won the NFL championship that year. They took the name Bears in 1922 as a tribute to baseball's Chicago Cubs, which permitted the Bears to play their games at Wrigley Fieldmarker.

Halas not only played end (wide receiver on offense, defensive end on defense) but also handled ticket sales and the business of running the club; lore says he even sold tickets before the game. All of that perhaps not being enough to do, Halas also coached the team. Named to the NFL's all-pro team in the 1920s, his playing highlight occurred in a 1923 game when he stripped Jim Thorpe of the ball, recovered the fumble, and returned it 98 yards — a league record which would stand until 1972. In 1925, Halas persuaded Illinois star player Red Grange to join the Bears; it was a significant step in establishing both the respectability and popularity of the league, which had previously been viewed as a refuge for less admirable players.

After ten seasons, Halas stepped back from the game in 1930, retiring as a player and leaving the sidelines as coach; but he remained the owner of the club, becoming sole owner in 1932. The lure of the field was too much, however, as Halas returned in 1933 to coach the Bears for another ten seasons. During his absence from coaching, the team had also won the 1932 championship. His 1934 team was undefeated until a loss in the championship game to the New York Giants.

In the late 1930s, Halas — with University of Chicagomarker coach Clark Shaughnessy — perfected the T-formation system to create a revolutionary and overwhelming style of play which drove the Bears to an astonishing 73-0 victory over the Washington Redskins in the 1940 NFL Championship Game. Every other team in the league immediately began trying to imitate the format. The Bears repeated as NFL champions in 1941, and the 1940s would be remembered as the era of the "Monsters of the Midway."

Halas and Shaughnessy had created a revolutionary concept with the T-formation offense. The complex spins, turns, fakes, and all around athletic versatility required to execute the scheme, limited the possible players available. Halas recruited Columbia University quarterback Sid Luckman in 1939. Luckman launched his Hall of Fame career, playing the position from 1939 to 1950. Halas was not satisfied with other players who succeeded Luckman. During this coaching stint, he had on the Bears roster two future Hall of Fame players, Bobby Layne in 1948 and George Blanda from 1949 to 1958. Other notable players included Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Lujack from 1948 to 1951 and Zeke Bratkowski from 1954 to 1960. Blanda played in the NFL until 1975; Bratkowski moved on to Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers from 1960 to 1971; and Bobby Layne quarterbacked the Detroit Lions to three NFL championship games between 1952-54, winning two.

Halas went on a second three-year hiatus during World War II, serving in the Armed Forces from 1943-45, while the Bears won another title in 1943. Returning to the field in 1946, he coached the club for a third decade, again winning a title in his first year back as coach. After a brief break in 1956-57, he resumed the controls of the club for a final decade from 1958 to 1967, winning his last championship in 1963. He did not, however, enjoy the same success as he had before the war. He did win his 200th game in 1950 and his 300th game in 1965, becoming the first coach to reach both milestones. In 40 years as a coach, he endured only six losing seasons.

Head coaching record

Team Year Regular Season Post Season
Won Lost Ties Win % Finish Won Lost Win % Result
DEC 1920 10 1 2 .909 2nd in AAFC - - - -
CHS 1921 9 1 1 .900 1st in AAFC - - - NFL Champions
CHI 1922 9 3 0 .750 2nd in NFL - - - -
CHI 1923 9 2 1 .818 2nd in NFL - - - -
CHI 1924 6 1 4 .857 2nd in NFL - - - -
CHI 1925 9 5 3 .643 7th in NFL - - - -
CHI 1926 12 1 3 .923 2nd in NFL - - - -
CHI 1927 9 3 2 .750 3rd in NFL - - - -
CHI 1928 7 5 1 .583 5th in NFL - - - -
CHI 1929 4 9 2 .308 9th in NFL - - - -
CHI 1933 10 2 1 .833 1st in NFL West 1 0 1.000 Defeated the New York Giants in 1933 NFL Championship.
CHI 1934 13 0 0 1.000 1st in NFL West 0 1 .000 Lost to the New York Giants in 1934 NFL Championship.
CHI 1935 6 4 2 .600 3rd in NFL West - - - -
CHI 1936 9 3 0 .750 2nd in NFL West - - - -
CHI 1937 9 1 1 .900 1st in NFL West 0 1 .000 Lost to the Washington Redskins in 1937 NFL Championship.
CHI 1938 6 5 0 .545 3rd in NFL West - - - -
CHI 1939 8 3 0 .727 2nd in NFL West - - - -
CHI 1940 8 3 0 .727 1st in NFL West 1 0 1.000 Defeated the Washington Redskins in 1940 NFL Championship.
CHI 1941 10 1 0 .909 1st in NFL West 2 0 1.000 Defeated the New York Giants in 1941 NFL Championship.
CHI 1942 5 0 0 1.000 1st in NFL West - - - -
CHI 1946 8 2 1 .800 1st in NFL West 1 0 1.000 Defeated the New York Giants in 1946 NFL Championship.
CHI 1947 8 4 0 .667 2nd in NFL West - - - -
CHI 1948 10 2 0 .833 2nd in NFL West - - - -
CHI 1949 9 3 0 .750 2nd in NFL West - - - -
CHI 1950 9 3 0 .750 1st in NFL National 0 1 .000 Lost to the Los Angeles Rams in 1950 NFL Championship.
CHI 1951 7 5 0 .583 4th in NFL National - - - -
CHI 1952 5 7 0 .417 5th in NFL National - - - -
CHI 1953 3 8 1 .273 4th in NFL West - - - -
CHI 1954 8 4 0 .667 2nd in NFL West - - - -
CHI 1955 8 4 0 .667 2nd in NFL West - - - -
CHI 1958 8 4 0 .667 2nd in NFL West - - - -
CHI 1959 8 4 0 .667 2nd in NFL West - - - -
CHI 1960 5 6 1 .455 5th in NFL West - - - -
CHI 1961 8 6 0 .571 3rd in NFL West - - - -
CHI 1962 9 5 0 .643 3rd in NFL West - - - -
CHI 1963 11 1 2 .917 1st in NFL West 1 0 1.000 Defeated the New York Giants in 1963 NFL Championship.
CHI 1964 5 9 0 .357 6th in NFL West - - - -
CHI 1965 9 5 0 .643 3rd in NFL West - - - -
CHI 1966 5 7 2 .417 5th in NFL West - - - -
CHI 1967 7 6 1 .538 2nd in NFL Central - - - -
Total 318 148 31 .682 6 3 .667


Later life

After the 1967 season, Halas — then the oldest coach in league history — retired as coach. He continued as the team's principal owner, and took an active role in team operations until his death. He was honored in 1970 and 1980 as the only person involved in the league throughout its first fifty and sixty years of existence. His son George, Jr. served as president of the Bears from 1963 until his sudden death at age 54 in 1979. One of Halas's final significant ownership acts was to hire Mike Ditka as head coach in 1982 (Ditka was a former Halas player in the 1960s).

In the 1971 made-for-television film Brian's Song, about the friendship between Chicago Bears players Brian Piccolo and Gale Sayers, Halas was portrayed by Jack Warden, who won an Emmy Award for his performance.

Halas died of pancreatic cancer in Chicago on October 31 1983 at age 88, and is entombed in St. Adalbert Catholic Cemetery in Niles, Illinoismarker. His eldest daughter, Virginia Halas McCaskey, succeeded him as majority owner, and her son Michael McCaskey served as team President from 1983-1999 at which time Mrs. McCaskey was forced to fire her own son on grounds of incompetence. In the 1985 season when the Bears won their first ever Super Bowl, they recorded a song called "Super Bowl Shuffle." In the song, backup quarterback Steve Fuller states "This is for Mike [then current coach Mike Ditka] and Papa Bear Halas."

Super Bowl XVIII was dedicated to Halas. The pregame ceremonies featured a moment of silence and the ceremonial coin toss by former Chicago Bear Bronko Nagurski.

Impact on football

A pioneer both on and off the field, Halas made the Bears the first team to hold daily practice sessions, to analyze film of opponents to find weaknesses and means of attack, place assistant coaches in the press box during games, and to broadcast games by radio. He also offered to share the team's substantial television income with teams in smaller cities, firmly believing that what was good for the league would ultimately benefit his own team. A firm disciplinarian, Halas maintained complete control of his team and did not tolerate disobedience and insubordination by players. He also insisted on absolute integrity and honesty in management, believing that a handshake was sufficient to finalize a deal; few, if any, intermediaries were necessary.

George Halas' career ledger reads as follows: 63 years as an owner, 40 as a coach, 324 wins, and 8 NFL titles as a coach or owner. He was a charter member of the Pro Football Hall of Famemarker in 1963; the Hall of Fame is appropriately located on George Halas Drive. The NFC championship trophy also bears his name. In both 1963 and 1965 he was selected by The Sporting News, the AP and the UPI as the NFL Coach of the Year. In 1997 he was featured on a U.S. postage stamp as one of the legendary coaches of football. He has been recognized by ESPN as one of the ten most influential people in sports in the 20th century, and as one of the greatest coaches. In 1993, Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula finally surpassed Halas' victory total. To this day, the jerseys of the Chicago Bears bear the initials "GSH" on their upper left sleeves in commemoration of Halas.

References

  1. George Halas Record, Statistics, and Category Ranks - Pro-Football-Reference.com


External links




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