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1963 season: Epilogue

Posted Jan 3, 2014

In a ChicagoBears.com series, Chicago sports media icon Chet Coppock looks back at the games of the franchise's 1963 championship season.

Chicago sports media icon Chet Coppock shares his memories of the 1963 Chicago Bears World Championship season with you on ChicagoBears.com this season. This is the final installment of an 11-part series.

'63 to'64 Epilogue:

For years I've had this football dream. It involves two running backs who ran darn near as fast east-to-west as they did storming straight ahead. Both had greased hips. Both had tremendous vision. Both were blessed with the ability to make tacklers look darn near hopeless and, at times, foolish.

While Gale Sayers required just 68 games to earn a ticket to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I've always said that Willie Galimore was the greatest running back that nobody remembers - a product of an era when the NFL and TV were gradually beginning to recognize the benefits of a full blown marriage.

I'll always wonder just what kind of offense George Halas would have delivered to Bears fans if Willie and Gale had arrived in Chicago, say, a year or two apart. We'll never know. It's a gridiron fantasy.

This is the cruel side of reality. Galimore, "Willie the Wisp", left us all too soon - July 27, 1964. Less than seven months after the Bears had won that 14-10 street fight and a World Championship against Allie Sherman and the New York Giants at Cubs Park, Willie was dead.

Galimore and his teammate, wide out John "Bo" Farrington, were killed when the car they were driving flipped just several miles from the Bears' training headquarters at St. Joseph's College in Renssalaer, Indiana. As I recall, Chicago Tribune writer, and later Sports Editor, Cooper Rollow was the only local media guy at camp when the crash took place. Mind you, this was long before the dot.com era and the arrival of Twitter. It was not uncommon into the mid 70's for newspapers to cover Bears' pre-season training on a "catch as catch can" basis. You just didn't see - you never saw - TV crews. Really, the first modest degree of legitimate press coverage of the Bears during the pre-season season began when the club first conducted training camp at the old Halas Hall, east of Green Bay Road in Lake Forest in the mid 70's.

Galimore was mesmerizing. He scored just 37 touchdowns during his career in Chicago, but his ability to find space was nothing short of artistic.

Willie was also hampered by on again-off again knee problems. During the '63 title year he played on, not one, but two bad knees and still scored five touchdowns.

Defensive coaches had to acknowledge Willie. He had some Barry Sanders in his blood. Willie could carry the ball five times for 9 yards and then knock your block off with a cutback off a sweep that would gain 37 yards and feature five missed tackles.

Bo was a tall, angular wide receiver who never achieved his full potential. He's best remembered for his 98-yard touchdown reception against the Detroit Lions at Briggs Stadium in 1961. When old timers talked to me about Bo in the 70's and 80's, they always talked about what might have been had he put a grip on a full-time starting position.

Now, 50 years after the fact, the Galimore-Farrington tragedy still seems unthinkable. As a young kid, I recall a photo of Ed O'Bradovich in one of Chicago's local papers with his head bowed, clearly sobbing over the devastating loss of his teammates.

The Bears would simply not recover. The team was left in a mental funk, later beset by an enormous degree of early season injuries. By year's end, the Bears had drifted from championship glory to a season that shut down 5-9.

Willie, Bo -- gone, but not to be forgotten.

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