I: Sept. 17, 1920
II: Nov. 7, 1920
III: Nov. 28, 1920
IV: Oct. 7, 1923
V: Nov. 26, 1925
VI: Dec. 6, 1925
VII: Nov. 6, 1929
VIII: Nov. 28, 1929
IX: Oct. 24, 1933
X: Nov. 28, 1935
XI: Oct. 14, 1945
XII: Apr. 19, 1947
XIII: Dec. 28, 1947
XIV: Dec. 19, 1948
XV: Mar. 23, 1959
XVI: Mar. 13, 1960
XVII: Dec. 6, 1964
XVIII: Nov. 7, 1965
XIX: Nov. 16, 1970
XX: Dec. 27, 1975
XXI: Jan. 8, 1983
XXII: Dec. 16, 1984
XXIII: Nov. 8, 1987
XXIV: Mar. 15, 1988
XXV: Dec. 23, 1990
XXVI: Dec. 24, 1994
CARDINAL CHRONICLE XII
April 19, 1947: Charles W. Bidwill, Sr.
- - - - - On April 19, 1947, the NFL lost one of its most colorful and enthusiastic owners. Charles W. Bidwill, Sr., owner of the
Chicago Cardinals, had just put together the final pieces of a championship contender when he was suddenly stricken with pneumonia and died.
However, this future Hall of Famer's influence in sports was not limited to the NFL's Cardinals. A long-time executive with the Bears, he
also owned various race-horses as well as owning and managing several race-tracks around the nation. His interest in sports was demonstrated
by his two aims in life: to win an NFL Championship and the Kentucky Derby. He would accomplish neither during his lifetime, although his
Cardinals would go on to win the NFL title only eight months after his death.
- - - - - Born in Chicago on September 16, 1895, Bidwill's only participation in athletics would come at St. Ignatius High School and
Loyola University. After graduation in 1916, he began his law practice, serving as assistant prosecutor for Chicago and corporation counsel.
Nine years later, he would abandon his practice and enter the sports world. As a businessman, Bidwill was a non-conformist. He spurned the
traditional white shirt for one of dark-blue (leading to the nickname of "Blue-Shirt Bidwill") and wore high-top black boots. Bidwill would
work non-stop, sometimes throughout the entire night.
- - - - - He entered the NFL scene in the 1920s. It was mostly Bidwill's money that allowed George Halas to purchase complete ownership
of the NFL's Chicago Bears franchise. For the next several years, he would be closely associated with this team, but his purchase of the
cross-town Cardinals would force him to clear himself of his devotion to the Bears. It has been said that Bidwill would often root for the
Bears against the Cardinals when his old team was a contender and the Cards were perpetually stuck in last place. For example, in 1941 the
Bears needed a victory over the Cardinals to force a playoff game, but trailed the 3-6-1 Cardinals by a score of 24-20 before pulling out two
last-minute touchdowns to win, 34-24. After the game, instead of complimenting coach Jimmy Conzelman on the fine showing, the nervous Bidwill
sighed, "Whew, that was a close one, wasn't it?"
- - - - - The wealthy Bidwill was known to toss money around, once paying $100,000 for a glass wall in his office by a race-track so he
could watch the progress of the races. However, as owner and president of the Cardinals, he was much more careful with his money. When, in
1946, another pro-football league began play and the owner of the Chicago Rockets (the city's third professional football team) publicly pushed
for the Cardinals to leave town, Bidwill grew angry and vowed once again to turn his team into a winner. Finally, he opened wide his wallet,
shelling out enough cash to attract big-name players. The Cardinals' "dream backfield" would consist of QB Paul Christman and backs "Mad
Marshall" Goldberg and Marlin "Pat" Harder. Elmer Angsman would later replace an injured Goldberg (who returned to playing his primary
position of defensive back full-time). At head coach, NFL legend and offensive mastermind Jimmy Conzelman was brought back. The final
piece to the championship puzzle, running back Charlie Trippi, would be signed on January 16, 1947, for an NFL record $100,000 over four years.
This would complete what Bidwill called his "Million-Dollar Backfield." However, three months later, Bidwill would be dead, never getting the
chance to see this team take the field.
- - - - - His widow, Violet, authorized business partner Ray Bennigsen to carry on management of the team. She would remarry in 1949 (to
St. Louis businessman Walter Wolfner). Two years later, Bidwill's two adopted sons, Charles, Jr. (Stormy) and Bill would be named president and
vice-president of the team, respectively. In 1960, Violet would move the Cardinals to St. Louis. When she died in 1962, Charles and Bill became
legal owners of the team. The two jointly ran the team until September 12, 1972, when Bill Bidwill bought his brother's share. The Cardinals
would go on to win their first game under Bill's leadership, a 10-3 opening day decision at the Baltimore Colts. Victories have been hard to come by since. . .
NEXT : December 28, 1947 - The Chicago Cardinals make their first appearance in the NFL
post-season with the 1947 championship title at stake. Coming to the frozen Comiskey Park are the Philadelphia Eagles, survivors of the Eastern Division.
This contest would prove to be tougher than (but just as explosive as) the 45-21 Big-Red victory earlier in the month.