Bears History is a 128-page, softcover book covering the history of the
Chicago Bears from 1920 to 2004. From their founding as the Decatur Staleys,
through the move to Chicago, championships in the 1930's and 40's, the Monsters
of the 1950s, to the present, it's all covered in the book.
Interviews were conducted with Bear greats Doug Buffone, Ed
Sprinkle, Al Baisi and others, as well as Cathy Core, founder of the Honey
Bears, who will forever be remembered as Chicago's only professional football
The book is carried by all major book retailers, including
Barnes and Noble, Borders and Waldenbooks. It is available online at
Amazon, Books-a-Million, Barnes and Noble and elsewhere.
If you would like to purchase an autographed, personalized
book from the author please contact me using the feedback link
above. I would be glad to ship one out to you and you can pay me via
Paypal. Otherwise you may purchase the book online using one of the links
The book includes 74 photos from the public domain (pre-1978)
and Bears photographers
. Chicago Bears History the website covers each season of
Bears football from 1979 on a season-by-season basis; due to space limitations
in a 128-page book, I cover the team's 85 years by era:
The early Bears, George Halas, and the founding of the APFA/NFL
Dominant Bears teams of the 1930's and 1940's
Insight into hard-nosed Bears teams of the 1950's
Full recap of the 1963 championship season
Sayers' and Butkus' emergence in 1965; brushes with the playoffs in '65 and '68
George Halas' final retirement
Mediorcrity in the late 1960's; Brian Piccolo's battle with cancer
Abe Gibron's colorful, if unsuccessful, era
The Jack Pardee/Neill Armstrong years
The Honey Bears
Mike Ditka takes over, buildup to a Super Bowl, Walter Payton
Wannstedt's Dallas North
Jauron: Third-string coach
Lovie Smith's hiring
I owe great thanks to former Bears Al Baisi, Ed Sprinkle,
Ronnie Bull, Doug Buffone and Mark Green for speaking with me, as well as Cathy
Core, the founder of the Honey Bears cheerleaders. I also thank Roger Hacker of
the Bears for allowing me media access at the convention to talk to some of
these players. Many thanks, of course, also go to my photo partners.
An excerpt from the book:
From Chapter 3: Tragedy, New Legends and Mediocrity
"Finks Takes Charge"
In the ’75 draft, the Bears struck gold from top to bottom. By virtue of their
4-10 record from the previous season, the Bears owned the fourth overall pick
in that year’s auction, which was held in late January. Of high priority for
the new regime was the running game, of course, since a rotating unit of
mediocrity had been manning the backfield since Sayers and Bull retired.
Improving the running game would necessitate rebuilding the offensive line as
well as the backfield. In 1974, Chicago had yielded 36 quarterback sacks to
their opposition, Pardee noticed, even though the league did not count them as
a statistic at that time. “We can’t have 50 sacks a season and expect to win
any games,” the new coach said.
On draft day, quarterback Steve Bartkowski was selected first overall by
Atlanta. Next, Dallas selected defensive lineman Randy White, followed by
Baltimore picking guard Ken Huff. With the fourth selection overall, the Bears
were able to select the man they wanted all along-running back Walter Payton
from Jackson State in Mississippi. When he first addressed the press, the
soft-spoken yet confident Payton said “when I get through with Chicago, they’ll
be loving me.”
Throughout the rest of the draft, the Bears selected eight more eventual
starters on both sides of the ball. Defensive end Mike Hartenstine was their
second-round pick, followed by corner Virgil Livers in the fourth, guard Revie
Sorey in the fifth, quarterback Bob Avellini and linebacker Tom Hicks in the
sixth, defensive lineman Roger Stillwell in the ninth, safety Doug Plank in the
12th, and finally running back Roland Harper in the 17th round.
As the regular season began, Gary Huff was again the Bears’ starting
quarterback, and the rookie Payton was in the lineup from the beginning. In a
disappointing 35-7 loss to Baltimore in Soldier Field, Payton attempted to rush
the ball eight times, but gained zero net yards. It was an inauspicious start
for the future star. Payton showed flashes of brilliance throughout his rookie
season, but also suffered the low-point of his career. Against Pittsburgh,
Payton’s ankle was slightly injured, and a trainer insisted he sit out the
game. It would be the only game the running back would miss in his career.
The Bears started the season 1-6, then 2-9, then 3-10. In the season finale of
the 1975 season, they finally put things together when they defeated the New
Orleans Saints 42-17 in their new home, the Superdome. Payton was brilliant on
the day, rushing for 134 yards and ripping off what he called the best
touchdown run of his career.
As the 1975 season came to a close, many facets of the Bears’ game had
improved. At season’s end, seven rookies were starting for the team in
Avellini, Payton, Harper, Hartenstine, Stillwell, Plank and Livers. In fact,
the Bears were now led by the youngest coach in the NFL, and fielded the
highest number of rookie players in the league with 17.
For Hartenstine, despite the record, the players took a great deal of pride in
how they played his rookie season. “We were 4-10, sure, but of the ten teams
that beat us, only one of them won their game the following week. We laid it on
the line and played some tough football,” he said.
Despite the improvement and hope for the future, the Bears finished 1975 where
they left off the previous year with a 4-10 record.
In 1976, the rebuilding continued, and this time focused on the offensive line.
The Bears’ top pick in that draft, eighth overall, was tackle Dennis Lick from
Wisconsin. They also added tackles Dan Jiggetts in the draft and Wayne
Mattingly in a trade. Also drafted that season was wide receiver/running back
Brian Baschnagel and linebacker Jerry Muckensturm. Signed as free agents were
safety Gary Fencik, who had been injured and released by the Miami Dolphins,
and wide receiver James Scott.
That season, Chicago would finally turn their record around for the first time
since Dooley’s departure. They finished the season 7-7 despite playing an
extremely difficult schedule that featured playoff teams in Dallas, Minnesota,
Oakland, Los Angeles and Washington. Of those opponents, the Bears defeated
Washington and Minnesota (second meeting), and lost by a very small margin to
Oakland and Minnesota (in the first game).
Payton made his first pro bowl appearance in 1976 after he rushed for 1,390
yards and 13 touchdowns in his sophomore season. Avellini had nailed down the
starting quarterback job, although he completed less than 50% of his passes and
threw for twice as many interceptions as touchdowns. Pardee was named NFC Coach
of the Year.
One young player that was making an impact on defense was safety Doug Plank,
whose reputation for punishing tackles in the secondary was beginning to grow.
“Doug Plank started the 1975 season probably fourth-string on the depth chart,
but somehow he ended up starting before the season was over,” Buffone
remembers. “We used to call him “bullet” because he absolutely loved to hit
people. He loved it so much that a lot of times it didn’t matter if it was the
opponents, or his teammates. My tackling improved so much, because if I saw
Plank racing over to the pile, I wanted to make sure I had the opponent down so
I could get out of the way before Doug came in.”
Buffone remembers one time, specifically, where Plank’s subliminal urge to hit
reared itself above the circumstance. “It was third down and long, and I called
the defense and said ‘ok, Plank, here’s your chance for an interception. We’re
going to blitz, and we’ve watched these guys and know they’re going to throw
that pass over the middle.’ Just as I said, they threw a pass right over the
middle, and I expected Plank to step in front of the ball and get the
interception. What happens? Plank takes a clean hit at the guy. ‘What were you
doing?,’ I asked him, and he said ‘I just can’t help hitting them.’”
Plank was never selected for a pro bowl, but he and Fencik teamed to become the
most feared safety tandem in the NFL from 1976 through 1981.