Sunday, February 15, 2015

Bears and Packers Stock Market Crash in 1929

When there is trouble in the front office, it usually shows up on the field as well.  Halas and Dutch Sternaman were having their differences at the end of the decade.  They disagreed on how the Bears should be coached and how the team should be managed.  In 1929, the Bears lost 8 of their last 9 games to end the season at 4–9–2.  It was Halas’s first losing season.  At the same time, Halas’s own playing career wound down and ended on December 15, 1929.

The Great Depression was taking hold of the country.  Having played in the days of leather helmets, Halas had broken his jaw and his leg, twisted knees and ankles, bruised ribs and lived with a painful hip injury—he knew what the sport demanded.  In the early days of professional football, several player-coaches took the field, but few would have Halas’s stamina.  His decade playing for the Bears naturally earned him growing respect among players and coaches as his association with the Bears continued.  

Packers' 1929 Championship Season

While the Bears had some work on their hands to manage the season, the 1929 Packers would go undefeated with only one tie to blemish their record.  They scored 198 points and grudgingly allowed only 22 points from their opposition.  

The Packers faced the Dayton Triangles in their first 1929 match.  Although one of the original NFL teams, the Triangles had not been able to afford top talent and after 1922 played mostly as a traveling team that featured local players.  When traveling, teams would routinely get a guarantee minimum to show up for an away game.  Teams that did not draw well at home, could make money when traveling.  Taking it on the chin, 9–0, from the Packers, the Triangles provided a respectable warm up game for Green Bay. 

At the end of a long drive, the Packers scored when Red Dunn hit Verne Lewellen on a 20-yard pass in the end zone.  Dunn kicked the point after.  A safety was scored when Triangles’ back Steve Buchanan was tackled in the end zone attempting to punt.  Next, the Packers shut out the Bears, 23–0, in game two and knocked off another Chicago Team, the Cardinals, 9–2, in game three.  Green Bay easily defeated the Frankford Yellow Jackets, 14–2, and the Minneapolis Red Jackets, 24–0, before they squeaked past the Cardinals, 7–6, in their second meeting of the season.  Then they defeated the Red Jackets, 16–6, the Bears, 14–0, and the Cardinals, 12–0, yet one more time.  

When they played the Giants on November 24, the game was broadcast on Milwaukee’s WTMJ radio—a first for Green Bay.  It may seem odd to radio listeners today, but no one from the station was actually in New York to do the broadcast.  Announcer Russ Winnie broadcast the game by interpreting the teletype report of events. Winnie worked at WTMJ into the late 1950s and the station itself continues to cover the Packers to this day.  The Packers easily defeated the Giants, 20–6, in person and on the teletype as well.  After a 0–0 tie with the Yellow Jackets, the Packers slammed their last two opponents: the Providence Steam Rollers, 25–0, and the Chicago Bears, 25–0. 

The 1929 Packers were a special team, even for a championship team.  The Packers played the last eight games on the road and they handily beat their chief rivals, the Chicago Bears, three times in one season.  The Cardinals were not a problem and the Packers beat them three times as well.  The mighty Giants went down easily enough.  In fact, Green Bay shut out their opponents that season in eight games and no opponent scored more than 6 points against them.  Their 12-0-1 record won them the NFL Championship. 

Copyright 2015, Sporting Chance Press
 Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Have Won Three or More Championships.