The real beginning of the Bears and Packers rivalry

The real beginning of the Bears and Packers rivalry

The great Bears-Packers rivalry doesn’t just go back to the first game between Chicago and Green Bay. It goes back even farther when the Bears were named the Staleys and the Packers were just a fledgling organization.

In fact, not many fans know this, but the NFL we have today did not start out as the National Football League. It began rather inauspiciously as the American Professional Football Association. And while the Bears (originally the Decatur Staleys of course) were one of the founding franchises in the APFA, that team known as the Packers did not officially become a member until the 1921 season.

That membership, however, was quickly revoked after their first season when it was discovered that the Packers’ owner/coach Curly Lambeau had illegally used college players in at least one game. As it turned out, the man who ratted out Lambeau was none other than the owner/coach of the Staleys. A Mr. George Halas.

It is widely believed that this one incident is what led to the fierceness that is the current Bears-Packers rivalry.

So while Lambeau was busy getting his team back into the APFA, by paying what essentially amounted to a fifty dollar fine as a reinstatement fee, Halas and his partner Dutch Sternaman were themselves busy. They had already moved the team to Chicago to begin the 1921 season. And now they felt it inappropriate to keep the name Staleys.

The two co-owners decided that they wanted a link to the Cubs since they were sharing a stadium (then known as Cubs Park. Now as Wrigley Field) and felt that it would help attendance since the Cubs were already very successful and wildly popular in Chicago. It was thus decided that to begin the 1922 season the team would be known only as the Chicago Bears. Also in 1922, the APFA decided, at the behest of George Halas, to change it’s organization and became the National Football League.

Surprisingly enough, the Bears and Packers did not play each other in the 1922 season. The rivalry would begin to take shape in 1923. The animosity between the two teams then got it’s first real jolt in November of 1924 during a hard fought tightly contested match.

Late in the first half of a 3-0 Bears victory, the first ever ejections for fighting in an NFL game were levied on the Bears’ Frank Hanny and the Packers’ Tillie Voss. According to most reports the two got into a heated verbal exchange that led to punches being thrown.

And so it has continued that way since their first encounter on November 27, 1921. A span of more than 98 years that includes over 195 games and many ejections like those first two back in ’24.

The most storied rivalry in the annals of the NFL continues today at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field. The Bears are looking to keep their slim playoff chances alive while the Packers are hoping to stay in first place in the North division. Despite the records, this rivalry always delivers.

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