Throwback Thursday: Da Bears Play First NFL Game As Decatur Staley’s

The organization that well all know today as the Chicago Bears first starts out as one of the first official teams of the NFL. However neither the NFL or the Bears were known as such at the time. The team was originally conceived by the A. E. Staley food starch company in Decatur, Illinois as a company team. The company hired George Halas and Edward “Dutch” Sternaman in 1920 to run the team, turning over full control to them in 1921.

On September 17, 1920, representatives from 13 teams, including Halas team reps, met in Canton, Ohio to create a new football league. The intention was to “raise the standard of professional football in every way possible.” In regards to ticket sales, crowning a yearly champion, scheduling and eliminating bidding of players between rival teams, they decided to form the American Professional Football Association. Consisting of 14 teams, the Decatur Staleys (now Chicago Bears) and the Chicago Cardinals (now Arizona Cardinals) are the only remaining original teams from the APFA.

On October 3, 1920 the Decatur Staley’s begin to play for their first official league game, taking on the Moline Univeral Tractors followed by the Kewanee Walworths. However since these first two teams were non APFA, the Staley’s first league game is attributed to their win against the Rock Island Independants, an official APFA team, on Oct. 17. In 1921, A. E. Staley recognized the potential of the Staley’s and moved them to Chicago to play in Wrigley Field for larger audiences. At the end of the 1921-22 season, the team decided to change their names. Since playing in the same field as the Cubs they argued, tongue in cheek, that football players were much larger and appropriately named the team Chicago Bears. On June 24, 1922 the APFA changed its name to the National Football Association.

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