Halas immediately began to recruit some of the best football players in the country for his Staley team. He had met many of them in college and in the Navy. Besides the challenge of recruiting good players, he had another big problem and that was scheduling games.
Having a football organization or league that was made up of teams was the way to solve scheduling problems. NFL schedules have evolved throughout its history.
On September 17, 1920, George Halas and a group of men met at Ralph Hay’s Jordan Hupmobile car showroom in Canton, Ohio. The Library of Congress photo on the previous page shows the Hupmobile about the time George Halas was creating his team.
If you have not heard of the Hupmobile and the Jordan automobiles, chances are you have not heard of the Abbott, Auburn, Cole, Crow, Davis, Dixie, Durant, Elcar, Grant, King, Kline, Lafayette, Kurtz, Marmon, Mercer, Overland, Peerless, Pilot, Roamer, Saxon, Stearns, Velie, Wescott and Winton—all early car makers that merged or went out of business. You might catch a glimpse of these cars at a vintage auto show.
Hay owned the Canton Bulldogs football team and he knew several other team owners. While sitting on the bumpers and running boards of the Jordan and Hupmobile cars, they organized the league that we call the National Football League today. The creation of this league is considered by most historians the beginning of professional football. There were teams affiliated with a town; semi-pro teams with some paid players and some that played for no pay; and teams that were sponsored by companies that would pay for uniforms and expenses. But the Canton meeting turned out to provide a clear line to distinguish the beginning of the pros. The first pro football season was 1920.
A year later in 1921, Mr. Staley discovered that teams needed bigger stadiums and larger crowds to earn enough money to pay the best players. When the economy saw a downturn, Mr. Staley gave my grandfather $5,000 to move the team to Chicago and take over ownership. Halas promised Mr. Staley that he would keep the Staley name for one year. So, in 1921, the team was called the Chicago Staleys. They won the first of nine championships (as the Staleys and then the Bears) that year. They played in the stadium called Cubs’ Park that we call Wrigley Field today. In the winter of 1922, the team’s name was changed to the Chicago Bears.
Papa Bear and the Chicago Bears’ Winning Ways by Patrick McCaskey tells the dramatic story of George Halas and his crucial role in professional football–all written for middle grades and young adult readers. Papa Bear’s leadership took professional football from its beginning into the modern age. In Papa Bear and the Chicago Bears’ Winning Ways, highlights of history are presented with vintage photographs so readers are not only exposed to story of football, but they get American history as well. Halas’s important words of wisdom, his winning ways, are also explored and are tied into Ben Franklin’s self-help methods for young people.