By J. Thomas McNamara Sports Editor
For those interested in learning all they want about the storied origin of the Chicago Bears in Decatur Mark Sorensen is the person to contact. And there’s no better time for this as the Bears are starting to celebrate their Centennial season. Sorensen, the official Macon County historian, has spent hours researching and writing extensively about the Decatur Staleys, the Chicago Staleys and the Chicago Bears. He will speak July 20 at the Staley Museum about A.E. Staley’s and George Halas’s creation of the Decatur Staleys that eventually became the Chicago Bears with Decatur the original home of the Chicago Bears. The Staley Museum, on its website, is promoting it as “The History of the Decatur Staley Football Team.”
To whet Bears fans appetites, Sorensen summarizes here: “In September 1919 A. E. Staley announced that he would provide $1,000 for a company-sponsored Industrial League football team. Wearing their new maroon sweaters that fall, six future professional football Staley men compiled a 6-1 season as they outscored their central Illinois opponents 294 to 13. The following year Mr. Staley hired former Illini athlete and 1919 ‘Rose Bowl’ MVP George Halas to be the company’s athletic director, play on the factory baseball team and organize a higher level football team. Halas agreed only if the company would not only give jobs to the football players he recruited, but also allow them time off each day to practice while still getting paid for their day job.
“Thus, starting in May 1920, Halas recruited 14 other players who were not 1919 factory players–mostly former college stars, especially men who had played at the University of Illinois or were earlier teammates of his on the 1918-19 national champion Great Lakes Naval squad or the 1919 Hammond All-Stars, who had played most of their games in Chicago at Cubs’ Park with an average of 6000 spectators attending on Sundays…”
(For complete article, go to the July 10th print or online edition of the Decatur Tribune.)