On This Date in Sports May 27, 1968: Papa Bear Retires
In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com
George Halas announces his retirement as coach of the Chicago Bears. One of the league’s founders, Halas, was the franchise's first coach in 1920 when they were the Decatur Staleys. Halas previously stepped down as coach after his playing days ended in 1955 but returned in 1958 to coach another ten seasons. In total, Halas coached 40 seasons, compiling a record of 324-154-31. Jim Dooley would be named his successor.
George Stanley Halas was born on February 2, 1895, in Chicago. A two-sport star, Halas briefly played Major League Baseball with the New York Yankees. After his brief stint with the Yankees, Halas signed to play with the Hammond Pros in 1919. Football was his true passion; after serving in the Navy in World War I, George Halas was the MVP of the 1919 Rose Bowl, playing for the Great Lakes Naval Training Station.
After being released from the Yankees, George Halas took a sales job with the A.E. Staley Company, a starch manufacturer. The Staley company was looking to get in the business of professional football and selected Halas to represent the team at a meeting that led to the founding of the National Football League in 1920. Halas was both a player and coach for the Decatur Staleys when they debuted. He became the team’s owner when the Staley Company began having financial troubles a year later. George Halas eventually was able to get the rights to play at Wrigley Field for the Staleys. They became the Chicago Bears in 1922 after winning the championship of what was called the American Professional Football Association in 1921.
George Halas retired as a player in 1929 but was forced to return to the field due to financial difficulties during the depression in 1933. Halas led the Bears to an NFL Championship in 1933 and a 13-0 regular-season record in 1934 before losing in the Championship Game to the New York Giants. He won two more championships in 1940 and 1941 and saw another unbeaten season end with a loss to the Washington Redskins in the 1942 Championship Game. Halas would remain the Bears coach for the next decade before returning to the Navy in 1942.
George Halas led the Bears for another decade as he helped the NFL begin to modernize. The man nicknamed Papa Bear returned to the sidelines in 1946, leading the Bears to another NFL Championship. He briefly stepped down as coach in 1956 but returned in 1958 and coached another decade, winning a sixth championship in 1963. The decision to retire was health-related as he was 73 and the NFL’s all-time winningest coach with a record of 324-154-31. Halas’ record would be topped in 1993 by Don Shula, but he still ranks second in wins, with Bill Belichick set to pass him in 2022.