1925 Chicago Bears season

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1925 Chicago Bears season
Head coachGeorge Halas
Home fieldWrigley Field
Results
Record19–7–3 Overall
9–5–3 NFL
League place7th NFL

The 1925 Chicago Bears season was their sixth regular season completed in the National Football League. The club posted a 9–5–3 record under head coach George Halas earning them a seventh-place finish in the team standings, their worst showing to that date. However, the 1925 Bears were the most notable team in the young NFL's history to that point—all because of the addition of college star Red Grange.

Season recap[edit]

The Bears started slow, just like in 1924, opening the season with two ties and a loss to Green Bay (the Packers' first win ever over the Bears). The Bears regrouped, however, and won 6 of their next 7. During the fall, Bears owners George Halas and Edward Sternaman reached an agreement with C. C. Pyle to sign Illinois Fighting Illini football star Red Grange, a deal that included organizing a barnstorming tour that spanned 19 games and 67 days. As part of their agreement, the Bears received 50 percent of the ticket gate, while Pyle and Grange got the other half. The negotiations took longer than the Bears owners had expected, with Halas recalling in 1967 that he and Sternaman "figured that a middle-aged small-town theater operator who wore spats might not prove too tough a negotiator for a couple of bright young extra football executives from Chicago. But then again, we had also made other mistakes."[1]

On November 22, after the Illini season ended, Grange formally announced his intention to sign with the Bears.[2] That same day, he attended the Bears' 21–0 win over the Packers.[3]

Grange made his NFL debut in the Bears' Thanksgiving Day game against the Chicago Cardinals on November 26. An estimated 40,000 attended what ended in a scoreless tie.[4] In the next game against the Columbus Tigers, Grange threw a touchdown pass as the Bears won 14–7.[5] Shortly after, the Bears signed Grange's Illinois teammate Earl Britton.[6]

Between December 2 and December 13, the Bears played an astounding eight games, during which the team lived in a special railway car, with its women's restroom converted into a makeshift training room.[7] The first game was against the Donnelly All-Stars, a team sponsored by a local mortician, at Sportsman's Park in St. Louis.[1] The Bears won 39–6, though only 8,000 attended due to poor weather and being played on a Wednesday.[8][9] This was followed by a two-touchdown day by Grange, including the game winner in a 14–7 defeat of the Frankford Yellow Jackets.[10]

Immediately after the Yellow Jackets game, the Bears boarded the train to New York, still wearing their dirtied uniforms; when the players noticed their gear, Pyle told Halas, "This tour will make you so wealthy, Halas, that next year you'll be able to afford two sets of uniforms."[11] On December 6, Grange and the Bears played the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds; Giants owner Tim Mara had attempted to sign Grange, and after that failed, he instead secured a game with the Bears.[3] Although the Giants lost 19–7, the game attracted nearly 70,000 fans and saved the team from financial ruin.[12][13]

From New York, the team traveled to Washington, D.C. to take on an all-star team. Before their game, the Bears – accompanied by Illinois Senator William B. McKinley – visited President Calvin Coolidge who greeted them, "Glad to meet you. I always did like animal acts."[14][15] The Bears defeated Washington 19–0 with Sternaman, Johnny Bryan, and Frank Hanny scoring touchdowns.[16]

Despite the victories, the demanding schedule led to an increase in injuries, including Grange who was hit in the left arm during the Giants game, causing it to swell by the team's next game against the Providence Steam Roller in Boston. The pain from the injury was too much for Grange, who struggled to return a punt and allowed it to sail over his head.[17] In addition to allowing a safety, Hanny lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown, while Bryan scored the Bears' lone points in the 9–6 loss.[18]

Before their next game against an all-star team in Pittsburgh, former All-American Bo McMillin visited the Bears in the locker room and advised Grange to not play upon seeing his arm.[19] At kickoff, only ten players were available, forcing Halas to choose between center George Trafton and tackle Ed Healey to serve as the required 11th man; Trafton, who was able to at least stand and walk, was reluctantly called to action.[1] Trainer Andy Lotshaw, who had never played football before, was also ordered to play tackle; Grange remarked, "He played about half a game before they killed him. Not literally of course."[17] Twelve minutes into the game, Grange attempted to block for halfback Johnny Mohardt, but tore a ligament and ruptured a blood vessel in his arm, the latter of which resulted in artery hemorrhaging.[20] With Grange out, the Bears lost 24–0.[19] His injury prompted the Bears to cancel a game against the Cleveland All-Stars, leading to the game organizer suing for breach of contract.[21]

Grange missed the following game against the lowly Detroit Panthers after a blood clot developed in his arm.[22] Nevertheless, he joined his teammates at the stadium and was greeted by fans at halftime.[23] In front of a crowd of just 4,111, he watched from the sideline as his team was shut out once again 21–0; $18,000 was later refunded to the fans in attendance.[24]

On December 13, the Bears returned to Chicago to host the Giants, but with Grange still out, many canceled their ticket reservations and only 18,000 watched as the Bears lost 9–0.[25] "No other team before or since has ever attempted such a grueling schedule as the 1925 Bears and I'm sure never will," Grange wrote in his 1953 autobiography.[26] Grange had some success in this season, scoring 3 touchdowns overall. Still, the star of the team was Joe Sternaman who scored 6 touchdowns, threw for 3 more, and added 3 field goals and 18 PATs. Sternaman scored 72 of the Bears 158 points.

January barnstorming tour[edit]

At the end of the 1925 season, the Bears embarked on a barnstorming tour, playing games in Florida, Louisiana, California and Washington, usually against local pick-up teams. To avoid further injuries like in December, the team held week-long breaks between stretches in which they played games on consecutive days.[27] The Bears' roster, which typically carried 18 players, grew to 21 for the tour with additions like quarterback Richard Vick, halfback Harold Erickson, end Paul Goebel, tackle Roy Lyman, and center Ralph Claypool.[28] The team left for Florida on December 21,[29] traveling in a Pullman train car called "Bethulla" that the players nicknamed "Dog House". Pyle also hired a porter to carry their luggage and arranged for matching sweaters.[30] The train arrived in Miami two days later, from which they went to Coral Gables for a banquet attended by alumni from the University of Illinois.[31]

Prior to their Christmas Day game against the Coral Gables All-Stars, Halas, Sternaman, and Pyle visited the game site and noticed it was merely a field of sand. To their surprise, a group of 200 carpenters quickly began constructing a temporary 25,000-seat stadium;[32] however, the poor field conditions led Halas to contact New York for new cleats. Britton, who also played kicker, received a new pair of shoes which he argued would not help him; although he had two 50-yard punts in the game, he subsequently reverted to his original footwear.[30] The Bears won 7–0 with Grange scoring on a two-yard touchdown in front of just 8,000 (tickets were $20, over five times more expensive than an NFL game at the time).[33][30] The stadium was demolished the next day.[32]

On January 1, 1926, the Bears played the Tampa Cardinals in Plant Field; the Cardinals were led by Jim Thorpe, who decided to participate despite being 41, and featured several members of the NFL's Rock Island Independents.[34][35] Thorpe struggled with fumbles as Grange and Sternaman scored in the Bears' 17–3 win.[36][37] The next day, the Bears defeated a Jacksonville team featuring former Stanford All-American Ernie Nevers by a score of 19–6, with Grange throwing two touchdown passes, one of which went for 30 yards to Verne Mullen.[38] Mullen was also involved in a fight with a Jacksonville player that sparked a brawl before teammates and police intervened.[39]

After resting for a week, the team departed for New Orleans, though Halas' wife Minnie, daughter Virginia, and son George Jr. decided to return to Chicago. "My brother had been born that September 1925, and [the tour] was just before my third birthday, so I don’t have any real memories," Virginia recalled in 2019. "But I have heard many stories about the traveling on the train with my mother and her sister, my aunt. And we went as far as Florida and then decided, my mother decided we would go home and not make the trip to California."[40]

In New Orleans, a Southern-based all-star team led by former Tulane captain Lester Lautenschlager hosted the Bears. Grange scored a touchdown and recorded 136 rushing yards in a 14–0 shutout victory.[38] From there, the Bears went westward to play the Los Angeles Wildcats, led by Washington Huskies football star and Grange admirer George "Wildcat" Wilson, who agreed to join as they offered the chance to play against him.[41] In front of 65,000 fans at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Grange and Joey Sternaman scored for the Bears in the 17–7 win, while Roy Baker recorded the Wildcats' lone touchdown.[42] According to game organizer P. S. Halbriter, gate receipts amounted to nearly $135,000, including $50,000 to Grange.[43]

The following day, the California Stars hosted the Bears on a high school field in San Diego. Chicago struck first with Oscar Knop's touchdown, while Grange added a score of his own in the fourth quarter for a 14–0 win.[44][45][46] A day after the game, Portland Coast Baseball League president Tom Turner announced his intentions to attract Grange and the Bears to Portland for a game later in the month.[47]

After another week of rest, the team went to Kezar Stadium in San Francisco to play Wilson's San Francisco Tigers.[48] Despite being betting favorites, the Bears fell behind as the Tigers' James Bradshaw recorded two interceptions, while his teammates Bob Fitzke and Houston Stockton scored. Sternaman threw a touchdown pass to Paul Gobel as the Bears fell 14–7.[49][50]

On January 30–31, Grange and his team visited the Pacific Northwest to play all-star teams in Portland and Seattle, both led by Wilson. Wilson had agreed to play provided he be paid in advance and game organizers provided him with a strong offensive line; he described the Bears as having "the biggest and best line I ever saw on a football field."[51] As such, his teammates for the games consisted of players from the Waterfront Athletic Club who also worked as longshoremen.[52]

In Portland, with a "small but highly critical crowd" of between 5,000 and 6,500 watching, Grange and Britton combined for five touchdowns, including three by the latter, en route to a 60–3 blowout.[53] However, Grange left the game before halftime after suffering an injury in a pile-up; Wilson also did the same.[54][48]

Chicago wrapped up the barnstorming tour in Seattle. Grange recorded a rushing and passing touchdown in the first half, while Wilson injured his right leg during the second quarter while trying to tackle him.[55] Seattle's Rollie Corbett broke his leg in the game, leading to Grange, Pyle, and Wilson setting up a fund to support him for which they donated $50 apiece.[56] The Bears won 34–0.

The Bears ended the tour with an 8–1 record.[57] Grange was richly rewarded for his rookie year in professional football, netting salary and bonuses totaling nearly $125,000 — far more than any individual player had ever received.[7]

Future Hall of Fame players[edit]

Other leading players[edit]

Schedule[edit]

League schedule[edit]

Date Opponent Location Result Score Record
Sep. 20 at Rock Island Independents Douglas Park Tie 0–0 0–0–1
Sep. 27 at Green Bay Packers City Stadium Loss 14–10 0–1–1
Oct. 4 at Detroit Panthers Navin Field Tie 0–0 0–1–2
Oct. 11 Hammond Pros DePaul Field Win 28–7 1–1–2
Oct. 18 Cleveland Bulldogs Cubs Park Win 7–0 2–1–2
Oct. 25 at Chicago Cardinals Comiskey Park Loss 9–0 2–2–2
Nov. 1 Rock Island Independents Cubs Park Win 6–0 3–2–2
Nov. 8 Frankford Yellow Jackets Cubs Park Win 19–0 4–2–2
Nov. 15 Detroit Panthers Cubs Park Win 14–0 5–2–2
Nov. 22 Green Bay Packers Cubs Park Win 21–0 6–2–2
Nov. 26 Chicago Cardinals Cubs Park Tie 0–0 6–2–3
Nov. 29 Columbus Tigers Cubs Park Win 14–13 7–2–3
Dec. 5 at Frankford Yellow Jackets Shibe Park Win 14–7 8–2–3
Dec. 6 at New York Giants Polo Grounds Win 19–7 9–2–3
Dec. 9 at Providence Steam Roller Braves Field Loss 6–9 9–3–3
Dec. 12 at Detroit Panthers Navin Field Loss 21–0 9–4–3
Dec. 13 New York Giants Cubs Park Loss 9–0 9–5–3

Schedule against independent teams[edit]

Date Opponent Location Result Score Attendance
Dec. 2 Donnelly All-Stars St. Louis, Missouri Win 39–6 8,000
Dec. 8 Washington All-Stars Washington, D.C. Win 17–3 7,000
Dec. 10 Pittsburgh All-Stars Forbes Field Loss 24–0 6,000

Barnstorming tour schedule[edit]

Date Opponent Location Result Score Attendance
Dec. 25 Coral Gables Collegians Coral Gables, Florida Win 7–0 8,200
Jan. 1 Tampa Cardinals Plant Field Win 17–3 8,000
Jan. 2 Jacksonville All-Stars Jacksonville, Florida Win 19–6 6,700
Jan. 10 Southern All-Stars New Orleans, Louisiana Win 14–0 6,000
Jan. 16 Los Angeles Tigers Los Angeles, California Win 17–7 70,000
Jan. 17 California All-Stars San Diego, California Win 14–0 10,000
Jan. 24 San Francisco Tigers San Francisco, California Loss 14–9 23,000
Jan. 30 Portland All-Stars Portland, Oregon Win 60–3 6,500
Jan. 31 Washington All-Stars Seattle, Washington Win 34–0 5,000

Standings[edit]

NFL standings
W L T PCT PF PA STK
Chicago Cardinals * 11 2 1 .846 229 65 W2
Pottsville Maroons * 10 2 0 .833 270 45 W5
Detroit Panthers 8 2 2 .800 129 39 W1
New York Giants 8 4 0 .667 122 67 W1
Akron Pros 4 2 2 .667 65 51 L2
Frankford Yellow Jackets 13 7 0 .650 190 169 W2
Chicago Bears 9 5 3 .643 158 96 W3
Rock Island Independents 5 3 3 .625 99 58 L1
Green Bay Packers 8 5 0 .615 151 110 W1
Providence Steam Roller 6 5 1 .545 111 101 L1
Canton Bulldogs 4 4 0 .500 50 73 L1
Cleveland Bulldogs 5 8 1 .385 75 135 L1
Kansas City Cowboys 2 5 1 .286 65 97 W1
Hammond Pros 1 4 0 .200 23 87 L3
Buffalo Bisons 1 6 2 .143 33 113 L4
Rochester Jeffersons 0 6 1 .000 26 111 L5
Dayton Triangles 0 7 1 .000 3 84 L7
Duluth Kelleys 0 3 0 .000 6 25 L3
Milwaukee Badgers 0 6 0 .000 7 191 L6
Columbus Tigers 0 9 0 .000 28 124 L9

Note: Tie games were not officially counted in the standings until 1972.
* The Pottsville Maroons were suspended from the league in December, resulting in the Chicago Cardinals being named the NFL champions.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Halas, George (January 26, 1967). "Galloping Ghost's U.S. Tour Got Pro Football Off and Running". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 15, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  2. ^ Grange & Morton 1953, p. 97.
  3. ^ a b Willis, Chris (August 19, 2010). "The Galloping Ghost and Pottsville Controversy (1925)". The Man Who Built the National Football League: Joe F. Carr. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0810876701.
  4. ^ "'Red' Grange plays bang-up game but bets his team can do is tie". The Morning Call. AP. November 27, 1925. Retrieved June 15, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  5. ^ "35,000 cheer as Grange batters Columbus Tiger". The Evening News. November 30, 1925. Retrieved June 15, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  6. ^ "Britton, Illinois Star, Joins Chicago Eleven". The Evening News. November 30, 1925. Retrieved June 15, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  7. ^ a b "The Galloping Ghost Hits the Road," Sports All Stars 1963 Pro Football, pp. 36-39.
  8. ^ Carroll 2004, p. 110.
  9. ^ Alexander, John H. (December 3, 1925). "Grange's shifty running delights crowd of 5300 as Bears win". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved June 15, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  10. ^ Hunt, Marshall (December 6, 1925). "Chicago Bears beat Frankford at Shibe Park". New York Daily News. Retrieved June 15, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  11. ^ Carroll 2004, p. 111.
  12. ^ "Ghost of Illinois". ESPN. Retrieved May 18, 2008.
  13. ^ Neft, David S., Cohen, Richard M., and Korch, Rick. The Complete History of Professional Football from 1892 to the Present. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1994 ISBN 0-312-11435-4 p. 52
    *Gottehrer, Barry. The Giants of New York, the history of professional football's most fabulous dynasty. New York, G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1963 OCLC 1356301 pp. 35–6
    *Vidmer, Richard. 70,000 See Grange in Pro Debut Here, The New York Times, December 7, 1925, accessed December 3, 2010.
  14. ^ D'Angelo, Robert (September 13, 1987). "At 84, NFL savior Red Grange prefers baseball". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved June 15, 2019.
  15. ^ ""Where Do You Live?" Coolidge Asks Grange". The Tennessean. December 9, 1925. Retrieved June 15, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  16. ^ Pegler, Westbrook (December 9, 1925). "Bears Beat Washington by 19-0; Harold Stopped". New York Daily News. Retrieved June 15, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  17. ^ a b Carroll 2004, p. 115.
  18. ^ "Grange is stopped as Bears lose, 9-6". The Boston Globe. December 10, 1925. Retrieved July 20, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  19. ^ a b Grange & Morton 1953, p. 104.
  20. ^ "Pittsburgh All-Stars Hand Trouncing To Chicago Bears, 24-0". Montgomery Advertiser. December 11, 1925. Retrieved June 15, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  21. ^ Grange 1954, p. 105–106.
  22. ^ "Grange on his way to play at Detroit". Lincoln Journal Star. UP. December 11, 1925. Retrieved June 15, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  23. ^ Grange & Morton 1953, p. 106.
  24. ^ "Bears harmless". The Butte Miner. AP. December 13, 1925. Retrieved June 15, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  25. ^ "Bears defeat Redless Bears by 9 to 0 score". Quad-City Times. December 14, 1925. Retrieved June 15, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  26. ^ Grange & Morton 1953, p. 107.
  27. ^ "Grange act billed for San Francisco today". Los Angeles Times. January 23, 1926. Retrieved June 15, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  28. ^ Grange & Carroll 1953, p. 108.
  29. ^ "Grange, Bears invade Florida". The Des Moines Register. December 21, 1925 – via Newspapers.com.
  30. ^ a b c Carroll 2004, p. 120.
  31. ^ "Grange and Bears welcomed into the Magic City". The Miami News. December 24, 1925. Retrieved July 21, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  32. ^ a b Grange & Morton 1953, p. 109.
  33. ^ "Red Grange Presents Bears With Touchdown And Helps Defeat Coral Gables Team". Pensacola News Journal. AP. December 26, 1925. Retrieved June 15, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  34. ^ Ghosts of the Gridiron, Virtual Scrapbook Library, Vol. 8, Thorpe's Cardinals
  35. ^ Pro Football Archives: 1925 Chicago Bears season
  36. ^ Grange & Morton 1953, p. 109–110.
  37. ^ McCarthy (January 2, 1926). "Grange comes through with touchdown". The Tampa Tribune. Retrieved June 15, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  38. ^ a b Grange & Morton 1953, p. 110.
  39. ^ "Grange wins again". The Cincinnati Enquirer. AP. January 3, 1926. Retrieved July 21, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  40. ^ Stankevitz, JJ (June 8, 2019). "Q&A: Virginia McCaskey on the Bears, past and present". NBC Sports Chicago. Retrieved July 21, 2019.
  41. ^ "George Wilson To Play With L.A. Grid Team". Oakland Tribune. AP. January 4, 1926. Retrieved June 29, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  42. ^ "Grange is pushed for spotlight". The Anniston Star. AP. January 17, 1926. Retrieved June 29, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  43. ^ "Grange Makes $50,000 in L. A. Game". The San Francisco Examiner. January 18, 1926. Retrieved July 21, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  44. ^ "10,000 Secure Thrill as Red Does His Stuff". The San Bernardino Sun. AP. January 18, 1926. Retrieved July 21, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  45. ^ "Grange and Bears beat San Diego, 14-0". The Journal Times. January 18, 1926. Retrieved July 21, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  46. ^ Grange & Morton 1953, p. 111.
  47. ^ ""Red" Grange Sought For Portland Game". Oakland Tribune. January 18, 1926. Retrieved July 21, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  48. ^ a b Grange & Morton 1953, p. 112.
  49. ^ Borba, Harry J. (January 25, 1926). "Slashing S. F. Tigers Cramp Grange's Style". Oakland Tribune. Retrieved June 29, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  50. ^ "Grange's star dimmed; Wilson outplays him". Albuquerque Journal. AP. January 25, 1926. Retrieved June 29, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  51. ^ "Red Grange Arrives At Portland; Bears Have Giant Linemen". Albany Democrat-Herald. UP. January 27, 1926. Retrieved July 8, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  52. ^ "Chicago Bears Are Getting Into Shape For Portland Game". Albany Democrat-Herald. UP. January 29, 1926. Retrieved July 8, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  53. ^ "5,000 see Bears triumph". The Standard Union. January 31, 1926. Retrieved June 29, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  54. ^ "Bears Romp Over Portland Loggers, 60-3". Chicago Tribune. January 31, 1926. Retrieved June 29, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  55. ^ "Red and Bears Beat Seattle All-Stars, 34-0". AP. February 1, 1926. Retrieved June 29, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  56. ^ Rocene, Ray (February 1, 1926). "Sports Jabs". Missoulian. Retrieved June 29, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  57. ^ Carroll, John M. "The impact of Red Grange on pro football in 1925" (PDF). Pro Football Researchers Association. Retrieved June 15, 2019.

Further reading[edit]

  • Grange, Red; Morton, Ira (1953). The Red Grange Story: An Autobiography. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0252063295.
  • Carroll, John M. (2004). Red Grange and the Rise of Modern Football. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0252071662.