Dan Pompei has heard a lot of great things from fans about the Chicago Bears Centennial Scrapbook, a 320-page masterpiece he co-authored with Don Pierson that chronicles the founding NFL franchise’s first century.
“The response has really been overwhelmingly positive,” Pompei said. “I’ve had a lot of people say they enjoy the product and like the feel of it, the look of it. A number of people have said that they’ve got copies of it on their coffee table. Some people have said that they’ve bought multiple copies and they’re keeping one in the wrapping and they’re not opening it as kind of a permanent keepsake. I would say the people who have bought it have really loved it.”
Pompei and Pierson enjoyed the process of creating the Centennial Scrapbook as much as the fans seem to like the way it turned out. When they began the project, they decided they weren’t going to just regurgitate events.
“We started out with the idea that we weren’t going to write the definitive history of everything that happened to the team,” Pompei said. “There was just too much and that would be too boring and I think it’s been done to an extent before. What we wanted to do was look at what was most significant, what was most interesting and entertaining. We kind of looked at it in a different way. We tried to tell the story of the team through the things that weren’t necessarily chronological or linear.”
One chapter in the Scrapbook about Devin Hester focuses on how to return a kick.
“It’s not something that you would normally see in a book that you would consider a history of a team,” Pompei said. “But it was an interesting way to look at an important part of Bears history.”
The Scrapbook consists of five sections with chapters on 1) Owners, management and coaches; 2) Seasons, games and championships; 3) Innovations and milestones; 4) Rivalries; and 5) Players.
“I had the most fun writing the rivalries because I can remember a lot of those games,” Pierson said. “Some of the stuff that happened is hilarious.”
One highlight of the Scrapbook is a ranking of the top 100 players in Bears history. As you’d expect, the list has generated a ton of debate among fans on sports radio stations, at corner bars and around office water coolers.
“We combined a lot of objective criteria into this subjective list and surprisingly we didn’t argue a lot over it, although we suspect it might start more arguments than end them,” Pierson said.
Pompei revealed that the most difficult thing about constructing the top 100 list was “comparing players from different eras and players from different positions and trying to value their worth.”
“The statistics are so different from different eras and so many things changed,” Pompei said. “The nature of offenses and defenses. The number of teams in the league. The number of players on a team. You could go on and on and on about how the game is completely different from the way Beattie Feathers played it to the way that Jordan Howard played it. That to me was the biggest challenge.”
Virginia Halas McCaskey is featured prominently throughout the book, and with good reason. She was born three years after the NFL was founded in 1920 and has experienced over nine decades of Bears history.
Mrs. McCaskey spent 14 hours being interviewed by Pompei and Pierson for the Centennial Scrapbook. She wrote the foreword for the book and shares her thoughts and anecdotes throughout the keepsake.
“What impressed me the most,” Pompei said, “was her recall and her ability to tell stories about players from every era; tell personal stories about players and their wives. She really kind of put it in perspective when you talk about the Bears being a family because she really looks at it that way. It gave me a different view of the team hearing the history of the Bears through her eyes.”