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On This Date in Sports December 15, 1946: Tarnished Title

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The Chicago Bears win their fourth NFL Championship in seven years by beating the New York Giants 24-14 at the Polo Grounds. The game set an NFL Championship attendance record of 58.346 fans saw Sid Luckman and the Bears score ten unanswered points in the fourth quarter. The story of the game is that gamblers attempted to bribe Giants' fullback Merle Hapes and quarterback Frank Filchock to throw the game. Although both refused, the two Giants players were suspended indefinitely for not informing the team or the league. 

The Chicago Bears were the top team in the NFL during the 1940s. The Bears started the decade with a 73-0 win over the Washington Redskins in the 1940 NFL Championship Game. They repeated in 1941, with a 37-19 win over the New York Giants. In 1942, the Bears posted an unbeaten regular season but lost the NFL Championship to the Redskins 14-6. They rebounded with a 41-21 win over Washington in the 1943 NFL Championship Game. The Bears struggled in the next two seasons before George Halas, who had been serving in the Navy, returned to the sidelines in 1946. The Bears reclaimed their spot at the top of the Western Division with a record of 8-2-1. During Halas' absence, Hunk Anderson and Luke Johnsos served as co-coaches for Chicago. 

The New York Giants won the Eastern Division with a record of 7-3-1 under coach Steve Owens. The Giants acquired longtime Sammy Baugh backup Frank Filchock to fill their quarterback role and won the East for the second time in three years. Filchock passed for 1,262 yards and 12 touchdowns after receiving the biggest contract in franchise history at $35,000 for three years. 

The day before the game, news broke that notorious gambler Alvin Paris was charged with bribing players to fix games. Giants fullback Merle Hapes and quarterback Frank Filchock were named in the investigation. Both players were hauled into City Hall to discuss with investigators and Mayor William O'Dwyer. NFL Commissioner got involved and ruled that Hapes could not play after admitting to contact with Paris. Flichock denied speaking with the gamblers and was allowed to play, as the scandal took the wind out of the Giants' sails. 

The Bears jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, as it was clear the scandal had caused a big distraction for the Giants. Sid Luckman connected with Ken Kavanaugh on a 21-yard touchdown pass, while Dante Magnani returned an interception return. Down 14-0, Frank Filchock who had a dark cloud of suspission around his game, completed a 38-yard touchdown pass to Frank Libel to get the Giants back in the game at the end of the first quarter. 

The Bears held a 14-7 lead until the third quarter, when Steve Filipowicz hauled in a five-yard pass from Filchock to tie the game. Frank Filchock had two touchdowns and six interceptions, raising several eye brows. Sid Luckman gave the Bears a 21-14 lead in the fourth quarter with a 19-yard run, while Frank Maznicki iced the game with a 26-yard field goal. The Bears would win the game 24-14, as the focus after the game surrounded the gambling scandal. 

Merle Hapes was suspended indefinitely and never played in the NFL again. Frank Filchock admitted he was contacted by the gamblers under oath a few weeks after the game. This led Bert Bell to suspend Filchock as well. The NFL later reinstated Frank Filchock after spending four seasons in Canada. Filchock returned to Canada after struggling with the Baltimore Colts in 1950. Hapes also played in the CFL as a teammate of Frank Filchock with the Hamilton Tigers.