Sunday, 11th December, 2016

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Relocated NFL Teams: The Chicago Cardinals

The Chicago Cardinals were an American football team that was part of the NFL from 1920 to 1959. The Cardinals Franchise is today based in Phoenix and is known as the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals are the joint oldest franchise, along with the Chicago Bears in the NFL among those that are still in existence today. The Cardinals’ beginnings go all the way back to 1898 as a club known as the Morgan Athletic Club. The name Cardinals was first used to refer to the team in 1901. The nickname arose from the team’s jersey color, of which team owner Chris O’Brien famously scoffed at an observer were not faded red but “cardinal red.” The Cardinals were one of the charter franchises of the NFL’s predecessor, the American Professional Football Association (APFA) in 1920 and two years later the NFL itself. They changed home stadiums severally during their time in Chicago; Normal Field (1920-1921), Comiskey Park (1922-1925, 1929-1958) Normal Field (1926-1928) and Solider Field (1959)

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The Cardinals were largely an inept team in play. During their four decades in action, they only won the NFL Championship twice. After four average seasons, they won their first Championship in 1925 with an 11-2-1 although it was marred by controversy. A questionable decision by the league would see the Pottsville Maroons suspended for infringing on the territorial rights of the Frankford Yellowjackets thus forfeiting the title to the Cardinals. The Cardinals would then go through a tough time during the rest of the 20s and the 1930s, recording only three winning seasons. Following a merger with the Pittsburg Steelers in 1944, the Cards saw an improvement in results and they showed signs of revival with a first winning season in eight years in 1946.

The following season, the Cardinals went all the way to the Championship game after beating the Chicago Bears in a decider. They then defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 28-21 to win only their second and last NFL championship. The star of that game was without a doubt running back Charles Trippi who totaled 206 yards for the game. Trippi had been signed for a then record sum of $100,000 at the beginning of the season. In the blizzard battered game, Trippi improvised by wearing basketball shoes to provide better traction. He scored a touchdown from a 44-yard run and another from a 75-yard punt return. Sadly, two members of the Cards fraternity would not witness Trippi’s heroics. Team owner Charles Bidwill who had played a big role in Trippi’s signing died only months before the game. Rookie punter Jeff Burkett died in a plane crash on December 7th on the way to a game against the Philadelphia Eagles having been left behind recovering from an appendectomy. At the time of his death he was the league’s leading punter with an average 47.4 yards. In 1948, the Cardinals posted their best regular season record (11-1) but they would be felled by the Eagles 7-0 in the Championship Game. From then on, the team sunk into familiar mediocrity as they only recorded one more winning season throughout the 50s before their relocation to St. Louis in 1959.

Why were the Chicago Cardinals Relocated?

The thorn in the Cardinals side during their stay in Chicago was the success of crosstown rivals, the Chicago Bears. While the Bears were at the top of their game from the start, the Cardinals were at times little more than schedule fillers. The Cardinals simply could not fill their home ground as fans were more interested in the Bears. Things got particularly hard during their last 10 seasons, as they won a mere 33 games in that period. Citing the obvious financial losses, the Bidwills sought to relocate the team as soon as possible. However, the league demanded a hefty relocation fee which impeded the move from materializing. Attempts by the owners to sell a minority stake in the team to finance the move were unsuccessful. At around the same time, a rival league, the AFL came into being, jolting the NFL into reality. Needing a team in St. Louis to prevent the AFL from getting there first, league owners engineered a deal that allowed the Bidwills to relocate the team to Minnesota. Starting the 1960 season, the team was known as the St. Louis Cardinals.

Chicago Cardinals Notable Players

Paddy Driscoll QB 1920-1925
Charley Trippi RB/QB 1947-1955
Fred “Duke” Slater T 1926-1931
Elmer Angsman RB 1946-1952
Leo Sanford LB 1951-1957
Paul Christman QB 1945-1949
Stan Mauldin T 1946-1948
Billy Dewell WR 1940-1941, 1945-1949
Mal Kutner E 1946-1950
Pat Harder FB 1946-1950
Ollie Matson RB 1952-1958
Gern Nagler WR 1953-1958

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