The Early Years

The Soaring '20s

Hard Times

Glory Days

The End of an Era


1951 GAME PROGRAM: The fifty-cent game program shown at the right is from the August 31, 1951 game versus the New York Yanks. The exhibition "Football Classic" was sponsored by the Chicago Herald-American, with the net profits going to its Benefits Fund. Late owner Charles Bidwill, Sr. may be gone, but the program shows that he was not forgotten, billing the contest as the "5th Annual Charles Bidwill Memorial." By now, though, a losing team and declining attendance threatened the Cardinals' future in Chicago. From 1950 to 1959, the team finished with a losing record nine times.

OLLIE MATSON: Selected by the Cardinals in the first round in 1952's draft, Ollie Matson, of the University of San Francisco. A genuine superstar, the halfback took home the bronze medal in the 400-meter run of the 1952 Olympics. With the Cardinals, he tallied over 1,000 total yards in his rookie season. Returning from military service in 1954, Matson continued to excel in rushing, receiving, and returning, during which he was especially dangerous. However, his play-making ability, along with that of cornerback Dick "Night Train" Lane, was not enough to prevent the Cards from sinking to the bottom of the NFL standings. After the 1958 season, the Cardinals dealt both of these future Hall of Famers away. Lane went to Detroit in exchange for defensive end Perry Richards, while
Matson was traded to the Rams for the rights to nine players. Symbolizing the Cardinals' plight, only two of these acquisitions played with the team for any length of time: tackles Frank Fuller and Ken Panfil. Ollie Matson would later play on the Lions, then the Eagles before retiring from the NFL after the 1966 season. He was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1972, two years before "Night Train" Lane. Both photos shown here depict Matson; note the dark helmet used by the Cardinals during part of the 1950s.

THE ST. LOUIS CARDINALS: By the time the Chicago Cardinals won the 1947 NFL Championship, it may have been too late to win back much support. By comparison, the Chicago Bears played in the title game nine times between 1932 and 1946, winning six. The 1950s saw the Big-Red slowly deteriorating and it was clear that something had to be done to save the franchise. Team owner Violet Bidwill, wife of the late Charles Bidwill, decided in 1960 to relocate the franchise. Expansion studies done around the country found St. Louis to be a very desirable city for a new team. Anxious to prevent the rival AFL from taking away this promising territory, the NFL owners unanimously voted to allow the Chicago Cardinals to move to St. Louis, on March 13. Above is a scene from the inaugural game as the St. Louis Cardinals against the Rams, a Friday night battle
in Los Angeles. The Cards would win 43-21; note the absence of a helmet logo. The bird-head logo, used in a slightly modified form today, made its debut the following week in the home-opener against the Giants. The Cards lost 35-14, leading Chicago newspapers to describe them as the "Same Old Cards." The team experienced some success in its 28-year stay in St. Louis, but failed to host or win a playoff game during this time. Current owner Bill Bidwill, shown at the right in this 1970s photo, moved the team to Arizona in 1988.

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