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George Halas is forever “Papa Bear”, the man who founded the Chicago Bears as the Decatur Staleys in 1920.
Corporate teams, especially baseball, were common in the early part of the 20th century, as wealthy owners sought prestige for their businesses. AE Staley Sr. was no exception, but he also had his eye on a new sport: soccer. Halas moved to Decatur and lived at 280 W. William St., according to the city street directory.
On September 17, 1920, the Staleys, with Halas as their representative, joined the American Professional Football Association, which was renamed the National Football League in 1922. The franchise fee was $ 100 ($ 1,225 in today’s money ‘hui). The Bears are now worth $ 2.7 billion, according to Forbes.
From the start, Halas’ side, for which he was also a player, proved formidable. Representing Decatur in sister cities in the Midwest like Akron, Rock Island, Dayton and Canton, the team got 10-1-2. The Staleys’ first game, October 3, 1920, was a 20-0 victory over the Moline Universal Tractors at Decatur.
In 1921, the team moved to Chicago, keeping the Staleys name for a year before becoming the Bears in 1922.
Halas served the Bears as owner, player, coach, general manager, traveling secretary, and in virtually every other function imaginable from 1920 until his death in 1983.
When he retired after the 1967 season, he ranked as the all-time leader in coaching wins with 324, a record that spanned 27 years. He won eight NFL championships and his beloved Bears won Super Bowl XX after the 1985 season.
Halas is inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame in Canton, but it all started for him and the Chicago Bears with AE Staley Mfg. Co. in the Pride of the Prairie, Decatur.