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CardChron


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 XV
March 23, 1959: One Equals Nine

- - - - - In 1947, the Chicago Cardinals had finally climbed to the top of the NFL mountain, winning the NFL Championship, and although they lost the championship game the following year, they still managed an impressive 11-1 regular season record. Things were looking good for the team that had struggled for so many years; little did they know that their darkest days loomed ahead.
- - - - - Following the 1948 season, head coach Jimmy Conzelman resigned, leaving the Cardinals' management in chaos. Violet Bidwill, and her new husband Walt Wolfner, wanted to promote assistant Phil Handler to the top coaching spot while GM Ray Bennigsen preferred Buddy Parker. A compromise was worked out and both men were made co-coaches. On opening day, the Cardinals appeared to continue their dominance, demolishing the Washington Redskins, 38-7. But, the team then dropped five of its next six games. By the time Handler was moved into a front office job and Parker made the sole head coach, the season was already lost. However, Parker did his best to restore some of the magic from the previous two seasons, leading the Cardinals to impressive victories over the Lions (42-19), Bulldogs (65-20), and Packers (41-21). The 65 points scored against the New York Bulldogs still stand as a franchise record for the most points scored by the Cardinals in a single game. In the season finale, the Cards once again met the Bears at Wrigley Field. Although little was at stake this time, the Bears had not forgotten the season-ending defeats handed to them in 1947 and 1948, and stomped the Cardinals by the count of 52-21. Such big losses would not be uncommon in the decade that followed.
- - - - - In the 1950s, none of the magic was left. Benningsen hired Earl (Curly) Lambeau to replace Parker, then resigned. Most of the champions from 1947 were either injured or retired when the decade began, and by 1952, only Elmer Angsman and Charley Trippi remained. The co-coaching fiasco of 1949 was only a sign of things to come, and the next ten years were riddled with inept management decisions, not to mention inept play on the field; from 1950 to 1959, the Cardinals finished with a losing record nine times. Once, in a ridiculous display of poor decision-making, the Cardinals spent a first-round draft choice on a quarterback because they liked the way he looked in his photo in "Street and Smith's College Football Guide;" when he showed up for practice, he could not throw the ball more than 15 yards.
- - - - - In 1952, the Cards drafted superstar Ollie Matson in the first round. A spectacular halfback, Matson was also an Olympic medalist. Within several years, this future Hall-of-Famer broke many of the Cardinals' rushing records, including the record for most rushing yards in a single season (924 yards in 1956). Another future Hall-of-Famer, cornerback Dick "Night Train" Lane joined the Cardinals in 1954, but these two stars alone could not save the Cardinals from sinking to the bottom of the NFL standings.
- - - - - Instead of trying to build a strong team around these players, the Cardinals dealt both of them away after the 1958 season in another example of poor management. "Night Train" Lane went to Detroit in exchange for DE Perry Richards. But the Matson deal was much more eye-catching: the Cardinals traded him to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for the rights to nine players! In return for Matson, the Cards got T Frank Fuller, DE Glenn Holtzman, T Ken Panfil, DT Art Hauser, E John Tracy, FB Larry Hickman, HB Don Brown, the rights to the Rams' second round choice in 1960, and a player to be delivered after the 1959 training camp. The nine players traded for Matson rank as the second-largest number traded for one player in NFL history. Symbolizing the Cards' plight, half of these players never even showed up, and only two, Fuller and Panfil, played with the team for any length of time.
- - - - - Yet, despite their struggles, the Cardinals of the 1950s were always exciting to watch. Gamedays were usually filled with wild plays, many to the Redbirds' advantage, including down-field laterals, multiple-fumble touchdowns, and halfback option passes. And, although in the end, the ball usually bounced in favor of the opposing teams, the Cardinals seemed to always get the better of the Chicago Bears. Between 1950 and 1955, the Cards won six of the nine meetings, including a shocking 53-14 win. Twice, the victories by the Cardinals cost the Bears a chance for the championship. Yet, although the Cardinals won many of these intra-city contests, it was the Bears who won the hearts of the fans. With dwindling support, the Cardinals knew that their days in Chicago were numbered.

NEXT : March 13, 1960 - With a losing team and declining attendance, the situation in Chicago becomes even more desperate for the Big-Red. So, after 62 years in Chicago, the Cardinals leave the Windy City for St. Louis, Missouri. The shift proves to be beneficial, and the team's losing ways are halted, at least temporarily.

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