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Markers of Distinction

George Halas
1895–1983
Football coach

For half a century, George “Papa Bear” Halas was
synonymous with the Chicago Bears. Founder of
the football team, he was the team’s coach for 40
years and general manager for an additional decade.

Of Bohemian parentage, George Halas was born on
Chicago’s West Side. A star athlete in school,
he began his professional sports career in baseball,
as an outfielder for the New York Yankees. His
baseball career ended prematurely when he
suffered a knee injury sliding into third base.
Turning to football, Halas played and coached for
the Decatur Staleys in Decatur, Illinois. By 1921,
he owned the team and moved it to Chicago, renaming it the Chicago Bears after one season.

Halas guided the Bears to six world championships—1921, 1933, 1940, 1941, 1946, and 1963—and two perfect seasons. Halas lived at 4356 West Washington Boulevard in 1922, when he founded the Bears.

A founder of the National Football League, Halas advocated rule changes that encouraged the passing game, and he introduced the T-formation. Halas left a legacy of defense-oriented football suited to Chicago’s gritty civic image.

Some of the Bears’ finest athletes played for Halas, including Harold “Red” Grange, Dick Butkus, Gale Sayers, Mike Ditka and Bronko Nagurski.