The Early Years

The Soaring '20s

Hard Times

Glory Days

The End of an Era


1932 GAME TICKET: The ticket at the left would have gotten a fan into the Cardinals-Spartans game at Universal Stadium in Portsmouth, Ohio. The original price of $2.26 ($2.05 plus tax) was lowered to $1.93 ($1.75 plus tax). The game ended in a 7-7 draw. The Spartans, with a 6-1-4 record, forced a playoff game against the Bears, the first of its kind in the NFL. The Portsmouth team, which later became the Detroit Lions, lost 9-0 in the indoor playoff.

JOE LILLARD: As the Great Depression deepened, the Cardinals sank lower in the standings. Perhaps their only legitimate superstar was tailback Joe Lillard, who excelled at rushing, returning, and kicking, leading an opposing newspaper to dub him "the ace of the Cardinals backfield." He was also one of only two African-American players in the NFL at the time, making him a marked-man in the race-conscious league. Coach Paul Schissler would later say that opponents would "give Joe the works," forcing him to take Lillard out of the game. Still, despite such actions, Lillard provided a spark for the otherwise hapless team. Against the Bears in Wrigley Field, Lillard raced fifty yards for a score, perhaps the event shown here, with Hall of Famers "Red" Grange and Bill Hewitt left in the dust.

CHARLES W. BIDWILL: One evening in 1932, Cardinals owner Dr. David Jones attended a private dinner party aboard a yacht owned by Chicago tycoon Charles W. Bidwill, a vice-president with the Bears. Jones was content as owner of the Cardinals and had no plans to sell the team despite a dropping win-total. However, someone remarked that he should sell the team to Bidwill and being in the midst of the Great Depression, Jones could certainly use the money. He set his price at $50,000, an amount found to be agreeable by his host. So, with $2,000 from his pocket, Bidwill secured the deal. Since the transaction could not be finalized until he cleared himself of all his holdings with the Bears, it was not until October 24, 1933, nearly one year later, that Bidwill officially became the new owner of the Chicago Cardinals.
- - - - - Bidwill was born in Chicago on September 16, 1895. After graduating from Loyola University 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. In addition to his association with the Bears and Cardinals, Bidwill owned various race-horses and race-tracks around the country. As a businessman, he was a non-conformist; he spurned the traditional white shirt in favor of a dark blue one and wore high-top black boots, as evident in these photographs. Bidwill would work non-stop, sometimes through the entire night. Here, "Blue-Shirt Bidwill" is shown sitting between Bert Bell (left) of the Eagles then Steelers, and Jack Mara (right) of the New York Giants, in 1941.
- - - - - Although the wealthy Bidwill was known to toss money around, once paying $100,000 for a glass wall to be installed in his office at a race-track, he was very careful with his money as owner and president of the Cardinals. However, in 1946, another football league began play, and its Chicago Rockets publicly pushed for the Cards to leave town. An angry Bidwill vowed once again to turn his team into a winner, finally opening wide his wallet to attract big-name players. Yet, shortly after signing running back Charley Trippi, completing the "Dream Backfield," or the "Million-Dollar Backfield," as he called it, Bidwill was suddenly stricken with pneumonia. On April 19, 1947, the NFL lost one of its most colorful and enthusiastic owners. Charles Bidwill once said that his two aims in life were 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 eight months later. He was inducted to the NFL Hall of Fame in 1967.

1935 GAME ACTION PHOTO: This photograph appeared in the New York Times on October 28, 1935, one day after the Cardinals' 14-13 victory against the New York Giants. Trailing by six in the fourth quarter, the Cards finally broke through for the tying score. Bill Smith, who failed to connect on several field goals, connected on the extra point to put Chicago up for good. The ball carrier in the photo is the Cards' Ken Peterson, pursued by the white-shirted Giants. Note the change in the Cardinals' uniforms; before long, they would adopt the solid red design that is still used today.

COACH JIMMY CONZELMAN: The look on his face says it all: he is the coach of the Chicago Cardinals. However, times were not always this bad. When Jimmy Conzelman took over the Cards in 1940 he already possessed an impressive list of achievements, starring on five NFL teams as a player, coach, or owner. He was also an actor, author, executive, songwriter, and orator. Yet, despite his many talents, he was unable to turn around the struggling Cards, winning only eight contests in three seasons. Although he left after the 1942 season to take a front-office job with baseball's St. Louis Browns, he returned to the "Big Red" in 1946, eventually leading the team to two divisional titles, and, in 1947, the NFL Championship. He retired from pro football in 1948 and was inducted to the NFL Hall of Fame in 1964. He died on July 31, 1970.

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