1919 Decatur Staleys season
The 1919 Decatur Staleys season was the first in the team's long existence. It was also the only season in which the Staleys-Bears team was amateur, not a member of the National Football League or managed by George Halas. The team was industrial team, which was made up purely of regular A. E. Staley Manufacturing Company employees, and posted a 6–1 record to win the Central Illinois Championship.
|1919 Chicago Bears season|
|Head coach||Robert E. Brannan|
|Home field||Staley Field|
|League place||Central Illinois Champions|
A.E. Staley never intended to create a national powerhouse. He founded the "Staley athletic program" because he thought that employees participating in sports, either actively or as spectators, would grow to value the lessons learned of being a team player, good sportsmanship, character building as well as building a sense of team/factory loyalty. The first team was constructed by company workers, only as a club football team, and played games against other industrial or semi-pro teams.
Per original plan, the football team would have been part of the company sports club, joining the baseball team that founded at 1917, and the basketball team that would be found the following year. Although the team was made up of the existing pool of Staley employees, about half of the squad had played the sport in college. The Staleys coach was Robert E. "Red" Brannan and the starting quarterback was Chuck Dressen.
After an incident occurred in the last schedule match of the season, Staley altered his plans, and decided to grow his own professional team. He first contacted Dutch Sternaman to build his team, but the future Bears great was not ready to make a commitment to an on-going sports program. Staley then turned his sights to Halas, which was hired to coach and play football, as well as play baseball under the management of Joe McGinnity, for a weekly wage of $50.
The Staleys played home games at Staley Field, the Staley Manufacturing athletic field, which had a seating capacity of 1,500 with another 1,000 standing. Fans were charged $1 to attend games and company employees received a 50% discount. The field was later used by the minor league baseball team Decatur Commodores.
|Sunday, Oct 5||Peoria Tractors||Lake View Park||Loss||3–0||0–1||1,000|
|Sunday, Oct 12||Stonington||Staley Field||Win||50–3||1–1||1,000|
|Sunday, Oct. 19||Staunton||Staley Field||Win||89–0||2–1||1,000|
|Sunday, Oct. 26||Rantoul Aviators||Staley Field||Cancelled||2–1|
|Sunday, Nov 2||Champaign Eleven||Staley Field||Win||32–0||3–1|
|Tuesday, Nov. 11||Taylorville Independents||Hoover Field||Win||21–7||4–1||5,000|
|Sunday, Nov 16||Chanute Field||Staley Field||Win||61–0||5–1|
|Sunday, Nov 23||Arcola Independents||Staley Field||Win||41–0||6–1|
|Sunday, Nov 30||Arcola Independents||Arcola, IL||Cancelled||6–1|
Season results and game summariesEdit
The Staleys finished the season with a record of 6–1, only losing to the Peoria Tractors 0–3, in their first ever game. The team played their games mostly on Sundays, the company day off, apart from their road game against the Taylorville Independents, which draw about 5,000 attendees. As of 2018, the win against Staunton (89–0) is still the largest victory in the history of the Staleys-Bears franchise.
In the final game of the season they played against an area pro team called the Arcola Independents (Staleys won 41–0), which supposed to be part of a home-and-home series, but the resounding defeat caused the businessmen of Arcola to rally and create a more competitive team before their next match, that was scheduled a week later. The Independents contacted Dutch Sternaman, University of Illinois's top running back, and asked him to find players among the university sector to build a more competitive team. Sternaman succeed in his endeavors, but Decatur did not show, because A.E. Staley was unwilling to send his team after he became aware of the plan.
Game 1: at Peoria TractorsEdit
October 5, 1919, at Lake View Park
The Staleys played their first game against another industrial team by the name of Peoria Tractors, which represent a nearby branch of the company later called Caterpillar Inc.. Because the team held just four practices leading up to the game, they focused on a defensive game plan. Unfortunately the Tractors scored the only points of the game on a drop kick in the third quarter, giving them the win (3–0).
Game 2: vs StoningtonEdit
October 12, 1919, at Staley Field
For their second game, coach Brennan decided to employ an offensive strategy that resulted in the first win (unofficially) in franchise history, 50–3 (44–0 at halftime). The MVP of the game was "Jack" Mintun, which had a pick-six and three successful drop kicks.
Game 3: vs StauntonEdit
October 19, 1919, at Staley Field
Decatur won, 89–0, in a game that was the first (unofficially) shutout and still the biggest win in franchise history.
Game 4: vs Rantoul AviatorsEdit
October 26, 1919, at Staley Field
The planned game against the Aviators was cancelled and the team got a week off.
Game 5: vs Champaign ElevenEdit
November 2, 1919, at Staley Field
In the game against Champaign the Staleys got their second shutout, as Mintun had a fumble return touchdown and quarterback Chuck Dressen had two running ones.
Game 6: vs Taylorville IndependentsEdit
November 11, 1919, at Hoover Field
In their biggest game to date, Decatur traveled to Taylorville to face the Independents at Hoover Field and drew 5,000 spectators. Taylorville scored on a fourth down goal line run, but the Staleys prevailed and won, 21–7. That was the first game for Sidney H. "Sunshine" Gepford and Roy Adkins for the Staleys, after they left the Millikin varsity football team. Gepford was later known as the first NFL player to die of football related brain damage (C.T.E.). The two May brothers, Walter and Chester, sat out the game against their old hometown.
Game 7: vs Chanute FieldEdit
November 16, 1919, at Staley Field
The Staleys came back to Decatur and won in another shutout, 61–0.
Game 8: vs Arcola IndependentsEdit
November 23, 1919, at Staley Field
The game was scoreless in the first quarter, after Arcola had a chance to score early in the game on a drop kick, but missed. Dressen scored the first two touchdowns, while running back Jake Lanum had two touchdowns of his own, to win a 41–0 en route to end the season 6–1.
Game 9: vs Arcola IndependentsEdit
November 30, 1919, at Arcola, IL
After the resounding defeat in the first game, Arcola executives decided to rally and field a more competitive team before their next play date with the Staleys. The Independents contacted Dutch Sternaman, University of Illinois's top running back and urging him to build a better roster. Sternaman did assembled a team but when the day of the game came round, the Decatur Staleys were a no-show, because Staley received word of the news and ordered his players to not play, aware it would result in a revenge blowout.
In 1920, after Halas assumed control of the Staleys, Sternaman was the first player to sign with the club, and the team would become a founding member of the NFL. Later, when the team moved to Chicago in 1921, Halas and Sternaman each bought 50 percent of the club shares and ran the team as co-owners. During the Great Depression, Sternaman lost money in bad investments, and sold his share of the Bears to Halas.
|Robert E. "Red" Brannan||E/Coach|
|Fred P. "Fritz" Wasem||E/Manager|
|Andrew David "Andy" Lotshaw||Trainer||Cubs longtime trainer|
|Roy S. "Bement" Adkins||G||1920 Team member|
|(John W.)? Brant||HB|
|Frank Manley Chase||G|
|Robert L. "Bob" Crisp||G|
|Chuck Dressen||QB-HB||1920 Team member|
|(Edward G.)? Eckhoff||E|
|Sidney "Sunshine" Gepford||HB-FB||1920 Team member|
|Henry J. Halterman||G|
|Robert “Bob” Adam Charles Koehler||T||1920 Team member|
|William Lutz Krigbaum||G-FB||Colonel U.S. Army|
|Ralph Lewis "Jake" Lanum||HB-DB||1920 Team member|
|Chester A. "Baldy" May||T|
|Walter Orel “Red” May||G||1920 Team member|
|John Theodore "Jack" Mintun||C-MG||1920 Team member|
|George H. Moffett||T|
|C. Lawrence Thrift||FB-E|
|(Willard C.)? Valentine||E|
|W. Walter Veach||HB||1920 Team member|
|A. Wade Wacaser||T|
|Paul C. Wilson||E||Methodist Minister Rev. Paul C. Wilson|
|Ray C. "Buster" Woodworth||E|
|Lester "Lefty" Wallack|
- "The Chicago Bears NFL franchise began in Decatur as the Staleys". Herald & Review. September 17, 2018.
- "Staley's defeated by Peoria 3-0". The Decatur Daily Review. October 5, 1919.
- "Visitors snowed under by staley organization". The Decatur Herald. October 13, 1919.
- "Staley's defeated by Peoria 3-0". The Decatur Daily Review. October 5, 1919.
- "Staleys win game from Champaign Eleven 32-0". The Decatur Herald. November 3, 1919.
- "Staleys win game from Taylorville 21 to 7". The Decatur Herald. November 12, 1919.
- "Arcola team falls to Staley's by score 41-0". The Decatur Herald. November 24, 1919.
- "History of the Decatur Staleys". The Staley Museum.