Chicago Staleys’ 1921 Season

In the early days of professional football, games were often brutal low-scoring defensive battles.

In their first game of the 1921 season, the “starchworkers” (Chicago Staleys, soon to known as the Chicago Bears in 1922) defeated the Rock Island Independents. Former Staleys’ quarterback Jimmy Conzelman, now playing for the Independents, drop kicked a field goal in the second quarter for the only score of the first half. In the third quarter, when Independents’ end Obe Wenig was sent in to punt the ball from the 10-yard line, his kick went straight up in the air and the Staleys got possession on the 18-yard line. Halfback Chic Harley passed to George Halas who drove down to the 5-yard line. It took two “smashes” for Fullback Ken Huffine “ to carry the ball over for the score.

In the fourth quarter, a Conzelman pass was intercepted by George Trafton at the Rock Island 20 and carried up to the 15-yard line. A short drive was capped off by a Harley pass to Halas for the Staleys’ second score. Conzelman came back later in the fourth quarter and drove down the field on a series of passes. A short pass to end Dave Hayes gave the Independents the final score of the game, but the Staleys prevailed, 14–10.

Halas’s squad beat the Rochester Jeffersons, the Dayton Triangles, and the Detroit Tigers. The Staleys had to come from behind to beat the Rochester Jeffersons. The Jeffersons were led by a tremendous athlete named Joe Howard Berry from Penn who won the pentathlon 3 consecutive years at the Penn Relays and played both professional football and baseball. In the first quarter, Berry drop kicked a field goal from the 23-yard line. He intercepted a pass in the second half that he ran back for an 85-yard score and kicked the extra point. The Staleys countered with a Dutch Sternaman field goal from the 30-yard line, a blocked Barry punt recovered for a touchdown, and a run by Huffine for the winning touchdown.

The Staleys one loss came at the hands of the Buffalo All-Stars who beat them 7–6 on November 24. Two weeks later on December 4, the Staleys avenged that loss by beating the All-Stars, 10–7. In that game, Guy Chamberlin intercepted a pass and ran it back 70 yards for the Staleys one touchdown.

A team called the Green Bay Packers that would contend with the best of the NFL and offer Halas a worthy foe for the remainder of his career entered the league that season. The Staleys beat the Packers 20–0 in their 8th contest of the year. Wins against Buffalo and Canton followed. In the last game of the season, the Staleys battled to a 0–0 tie with the Cardinals. The Chicago Staleys captured the APFA championship with a 9–1–1 record. For the season, the Staleys scored 128 points and allowed 53 from their opponents.


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