CHICAGO – When she made the proposal for the remodeling of Soldier Field on Monday, it was done in order to entice the Bears to stay in the City of Chicago.
That’s a necessity after the team signed a purchase agreement for the Arlington Park property in the northwest suburbs and now are investigating the feasibility of building a new stadium there.
But when presenting two scenarios to improve the venue on the lakefront – each with increased capacity and a dome in mind – Mayor Lori Lightfoot was asked if there could be another tenant for this remodeled Soldier Field should Bears turn it down.
“I could see that as an option for someone else, yes,” said Mayor Lightfoot in response.
The follow-up question was whether that could be another National Football League franchise.
“Plenty of cities have had multiple, two NFL teams,” responded Lightfoot.
While some may not realize it, that was Chicago for a number of years in the early days of the NFL, with a pair of teams calling the city home.
From 1920 through 1959, the Cardinals played in the “Windy City” as they carved out their own football history in Chicago at a number of different venues while the Bears played in town as well. They had Hall of Famers and even came home with a pair of championships before making the move to St. Louis in 1960 and eventually the greater Phoenix area where they currently play.
Joining what was then the American Professional Football Association (later the NFL), the Cardinals started professional play in 1920 at Normal Field at 61st and Racine. In fact, the franchise was known as the “Racine Cardinals” because of that early in their time in the APFA/NFL, which was preceded by a number of years in the area as an amateur team dating back to the late 1800s.
Primarily the team played their games at Comiskey Park, doing so from 1922-1925, 1929, 1930, then from 1940 through 1958. They also played at Wrigley Field from 1931-1939 and at Soldier Field for four of their six games played in Chicago in 1959.
Normal Park, where the team started playing, was home to the team in 1920, 1921, then from 1926-28.
The team won the NFL championship during the 1925 and 1947 seasons, winning that last one in the title game against the Eagles at Comiskey Park 28-21 on December 28th of that year. The team also appeared in the 1948 NFL Championship Game, but this time lost to Philadelphia on the road 7-0.
A number of Hall of Famers took the field for the Chicago Cardinals, including Paddy Driscoll, Ollie Mattson, Charley Trippi, Dick “Night Train” Lane, and Jim Thorpe. Curly Lambeau, who helped found the Green Bay Packers and had a legendary career with that franchise, coached the Cardinals during the 1950 and 1951 seasons.
During their final decade in Chicago, the performance of the team slipped, which led to poor attendance and the franchise’s desire to move. In 1959, they played four games at Soldier Field and two at Metropolitan Stadium in Minneapolis, where the Vikings were set to begin play in 1961.
Their final home game was against the Bears at Soldier Field on November 29, 1959, a 31-7 defeat. They’d play two more road games, with their last contest as the Chicago Cardinals taking place on December 13th at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, where they lost to the Steelers 35-20.
The Cardinals finished their time in the “Windy City” with losing records in nine of their last ten seasons, including a 2-10 mark in 1959.
Shortly after that, they’d move to St. Louis, ending Chicago’s last era with two NFL franchises.