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Bears, NFL celebrate 100th birthday Thursday


Exactly 100 years ago Thursday, George Halas and 14 other men gathered in a Hupmobile car dealership in Canton, Ohio, for one of the most significant meetings in American sports history.

Representing 10 football teams from across the Midwest, Halas and the other men founded what would become the National Football League.

Ralph Hay, who owned the Canton Bulldogs football team as well as the Hupmobile dealership, wasn't expecting such a large group to attend. As a result, he moved the meeting out of his office and onto the showroom floor, where some of the men sat on the running boards of the Hupmobiles because there weren't enough chairs available.

Each team paid a $100 entry fee. Halas was there on behalf of the Decatur Staleys. The other nine teams represented were the Bulldogs, the Akron Pros, the Racine Cardinals, the Cleveland Indians, the Dayton Triangles, the Hammond Pros, the Muncie Flyers, the Rock Island Independents and the Rochester Jeffersons.

The league was initially founded as the American Professional Football Association before being renamed the National Football League in 1922. The Decatur Staleys moved to Chicago in 1921 and were known as the Chicago Staleys in 1921 before becoming the Chicago Bears in 1922. 

Of the 10 teams that formed the league in 1920, the Bears and Cardinals are the only two remaining. The Cardinals were initially known as the Racine Cardinals not because they hailed from the Wisconsin town, but because they played their home games on Racine Avenue in Chicago.

The men who founded the APFA 100 years ago Thursday in Canton had no idea they had just created what would become the most popular and prolific sports league in North American history.

When the NFL celebrated its 50th birthday in 1970, Halas said: "Thinking back to Sept. 17, 1920, and that meeting in Canton, Ohio, I am pretty sure none of us had the remotest idea what we were starting."

Sept. 17, 2020 marks the 100th birthday of the Chicago Bears. Celebrate the franchise's centennial birthday by taking a look at the top 100 players in team history as listed in the Bears Centennial Scrapbook.