Cardinals Are nation’s oldest pro football team

You could not know this, however the Arizona Cardinals are the oldest, steady team in pro football historical past. This franchise has referred to as Chicago, St. Louis and Phoenix residence, and as soon as thought of a transfer to Dallas and Atlanta.

Four Franchise Name Changes

They started to play in 1898 because the “Morgan Athletic Club” positioned on the south aspect of Chicago; which was a neighborhood fitness center the place boxing was the utmost exercise. An area portray contractor named Chris O’Brien began the team from members of the membership. Back then, groups would kind and play different neighborhoods or close by cities/cities and referred to as it skilled football as a result of they charged a gate and divided up the proceeds after all of the bills had been coated.


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1900 Morgan Athletic Club

That meant there is likely to be a number of groups in a big metropolis corresponding to Chicago alone and generally would play solely a handful of video games after which disband when curiosity waned or gamers merely give up. Scheduling video games in opposition to native and regional groups lower down on journey bills. Most groups had been comprised of manufacturing facility staff, policemen, store house owners, dock staff, mechanics, coal miners, former faculty athletes and males from all walks of life.

And schedules had been simply thrown collectively in any matter. Teams would additionally cancel at any time and it was not unusual to play double-headers to be able to save on the journey expense. Stadiums had been truly small fields with minimal bleachers and normally had been troublesome to maintain out patrons who didn’t pay. The officers wore all white garments and wide-brimmed hats and had been one a part of the expense report.

Later, the Morgan Athletic Club started enjoying all of its video games at Normal Park on the nook of Racine Avenue and 61st in Chicago. With the transfer to a brand new enjoying area, O’Brien renamed the team the “Racine Normals.” There had been a number of groups in Chicago and the brand new team title recognized what a part of Chicago they had been from.

In 1901, the University of Chicago purchased their football squad new uniforms to which O’Brien bought their previous threads. The University’s colours had been maroon and white, however the previous uniforms had a light burgundy hue at this level. When O’Brien noticed the colours, he exclaimed that they weren’t maroon, however cardinal pink. From this level, his team was often called the “Racine Cardinals.”


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1902 Racine Cardinals

Today, the franchise’s brand is the Cardinal chook, however the team’s origin was named after the colour and never the fowl. The University of Chicago was referred to as the Maroons, so for a team to be christened a pigment corresponding to Cardinal Red wasn’t something irregular.

For years, the Cardinals performed in a really unfastened affiliation referred to as the “Chicago Football League” fashioned of a number of native golf equipment such because the Chicago Tigers in addition to some outdoors groups like Hammond, Indiana, Rockford, Decatur and Racine, Illinois and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. At this similar time, there was the Ohio League and the New York State League; all three had been precursors of forming a reputable, steady pro football entity – the NFL.

The Cardinals had been champions of the Chicago League in 1917 however suspended operations briefly in 1918 throughout World War I. A newly organized skilled football league was introduced to be fashioned in 1919 however waited one other season earlier than turning into an precise enjoying league. They referred to as it the “American Professional Football Conference” at first after which renamed it the “American Professional Football Association.” So, in 1920 this new pro football league fielded 14 golf equipment. Two years later this group can be renamed the “National Football League.” Among that constitution group had been the Racine Cardinals, Chicago Tigers, and Decatur Staleys.

The following 12 months the Staleys relocated to Chicago and referred to as Wrigley Field residence. They grew to become the “Chicago Staleys” after which in 1922 had been renamed once more because the “Chicago Bears.” The Tigers disbanded after a single season.


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In 1922, a membership from Racine, Wisconsin joined the NFL. In order to keep away from confusion, O’Brien once more renamed his franchise, this time the “Chicago Cardinals” to distinguish his team from the newly-formed membership from Racine referred to as the “Racine Legion.”

Champions of the World

The franchise’s first championship got here in 1925, however not with out controversy.

Back in these days schedules had been constructed by every team. Each franchise might play as many video games on a schedule as they selected, and will additionally add or delete video games as they noticed match. This might be accomplished earlier than, throughout or after their season was accomplished. Oftentimes, golf equipment would add video games in the direction of the top of the 12 months to be able to acquire one other gate in an try to interrupt even for the season. The similar might be stated a few team that will cancel a contest merely as a result of they didn’t have journey funds. At the time, the league champion was the team with the best win proportion as playoffs weren’t put in till 1932.

The Cardinals completed the 1925 season with a 9-2-1 file (.818) whereas the Pottsville (Pennsylvania) Maroons had a 10-2-Zero file (.833). Ties weren’t counted within the proportion column. This positioned the Maroons forward of the Cardinals for the league championship. Plus, the Maroons had crushed the Cardinals 21-7 within the common season. Chicago then scheduled two additional video games in opposition to inferior groups who had been present NFL golf equipment however each had disbanded in the course of the season after enjoying a handful of video games. The Cardinals then defeated the Milwaukee Badgers 58-Zero and the Hammond Pros 13-Zero to maneuver in entrance of Pottsville with a .846 win proportion.

Weeks later, it was found that the Badgers had used highschool gamers to be able to area a team. When NFL President Joe Carr discovered of this, he instructed some newspapermen that the Cards victory over Milwaukee wouldn’t be official, however this by no means occurred. The win over the Badgers continues to be within the NFL file books at the moment. O’Brien was fined $1,000, however the championship was nonetheless his though he introduced that he didn’t find out about the highschool gamers and he didn’t declare the title.


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Charles Bidwell

Until 1932. That’s when the Bidwell household purchased the Cardinals and subsequently claimed the 1925 championship as belonging to the franchise. The Maroons and your complete city of Pottsville protested the truth that the Cardinals had stolen their championship, however the NFL acknowledged Chicago as being the champion primarily based on the win proportion facet.

In 1963, Maroons’ followers petitioned the NFL to acknowledge their former team because the rightful NFL champions however to no avail. In 2003, the difficulty was raised once more. The governor of Pennsylvania supplied an answer by a suggestion that the NFL declare joint possession of the 1925 title between the Maroons and the Cardinals. A 30-2 vote squashed that concept and the Cardinals remained the champs. A ebook was later printed on your complete ordeal entitled, Breaker Boys: The NFL’s Greatest Team and the Stolen 1925 Championship.

The 1947 Season

Because of World War II, in 1944, the Cardinals had been all the way down to seven gamers. The NFL then melded their roster with the Pittsburgh Steelers who additionally had a handful of gamers. Formed as “Card-Pitt”, after displaying a horrible assemblage of gamers and dropping each recreation, newspaper writers labeled them the “Carpits.” The team would ultimately end Zero-10-Zero.

Beginning in 1947, the franchise formally adopted the Cardinal chook as its brand. They additionally had all of their offensive gamers again from the struggle and fashioned the “Million Dollar Backfield” which featured FB Pat Harder, HB Charley Trippi, QB Paul Christman, and RB Elmer Angsman. After a 7-1 begin, the Cardinals captured the Western Division title with a 9-Three-Zero file. This positioned them within the NFL Championship Game in opposition to the Philadelphia Eagles who they’d crushed earlier 45-21 within the common season.


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The Bears had gained the NFL crown in 1946 so a Cards’ victory would preserve the title within the City of Chicago. The Cardinals had been 12-point favorites plus had been going to play this one at residence. A crowd of 30,759 was handled to an exception contest, ultimately gained by the Cardinals 28-21.

The Chicago Cardinals now had been two-time NFL Champions, and this time no one was disputing who one of the best team within the league was.

Move to St. Louis

The 12 months 1960 proved to be a major one within the annals football. Another rival league, the American Football League (AFL) was set to play its maiden season. To counter, the NFL positioned enlargement golf equipment in Dallas and Minneapolis, though the latter didn’t start till the next 12 months.


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St. Louis Cardinals brand

The Cardinals’ chook brand now appeared on their football helmets for the primary time. And, the franchise moved from Chicago to turn into the “St. Louis Cardinals.”

During the late 1950s, many wealthy males had inquired to the NFL about an enlargement membership however had been instructed the NFL was not going to increase and in the event that they wished a franchise they need to see if one of many present 12 groups had been on the market. And for a number of years, the Cardinals had been that courted franchise.

The proprietor of the team, Charles Bidwell, had handed away shortly after the 1947 championship season. His widow, Violet Bidwill, later married St. Louis businessman Walter Wolfner in 1949. From 1949-1957, the Cardinals had been one of many worst golf equipment yearly. Bidwill-Wolfner agreed to area quite a few provides for her franchise which included 4 males who ultimately would personal constitution golf equipment within the AFL; whereas on the similar time petitioned the NFL to relocate the team to St. Louis the place she and her husband lived. For a number of years, the Cardinals had performed an annual preseason recreation in St. Louis which was referred to as the “Glennon Hospital Benefit Game” that furthered a neighborhood medical facility.

Despite these conditions, the NFL house owners all the time voted “no” to any relocation. The possession group was tight-knit and preferred issues the way in which they had been. The metropolis of St. Louis was simply over 800,000 on the time and the league wasn’t certain they’d assist an NFL team.


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The Bears had been extremely profitable and had already performed in 10 NFL Championship Games and captured seven titles. Because of this, they had been highly regarded and the toast of the city. Because the Cardinals struggled on the sector year-after-year, they had been lifeless final within the league in attendance from 1953-1955 and 1957-1958 whereas the Bears averaged fourth finest. Losing all these years was dangerous sufficient, however the team’s bills continued to rise regardless of the gate’s decline. So, the very first feminine principal proprietor of an NFL team determined to promote the team as a substitute.

Cardinals to Texas?

The Cardinals had been near being bought to Lamar Hunt, who would later invent the AFL and begin the Dallas Texans (who later grew to become the Kansas City Chiefs). The Wolfners wouldn’t promote the membership outright to Hunt however later agreed to promote him 20% of the franchise. However, as said within the settlement, they’d not relocate the team to Dallas as Hunt wished. So, he handed on the provide. Instead, Hunt contacted these different males who additionally had tried to buy the Cardinals and inquired to them about beginning a brand new league. Thus started the AFL’s future.

Because of the AFL’s beginnings and the specter of a brand new league, the NFL house owners had been involved that maybe a few of their franchises may go away their cozy confines and bounce leagues. This occurred in 1946 when the All-America Football Conference started as a brand new rival league and took away one franchise and nearly nabbed a second. This time round, the NFL house owners had been involved what could occur once more.


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Violet Bidwell-Wolfner

So, when Bidwell-Wolfner requested for an additional relocation to St. Louis, this time the reply was sure with two stipulations: 1) that they may get a stadium settlement with Busch Stadium, and a couple of) TV preparations might be labored out. What additionally helped this relocation vote was the very fact that there have been rumors that the AFL had an curiosity in inserting considered one of their constitution franchises in St. Louis, so such a transfer now would definitely destroy these ambitions and provides the elder league a foothold in that market.

The AFL would by no means have fashioned if the Cardinals had agreed to maneuver the membership to Dallas with Hunt as a minority proprietor. The Cardinals would later play one other key function that will assist drive the success of the AFL.

In 1965, the Cardinals took QB Joe Namath with the 12th choose within the first spherical of the faculty draft. Meanwhile, the AFL New York Jets chosen Namath first total of their league’s draft. The Cardinals had been assured they may signal Namath and supplied him the good-looking sum of $200,000 for a three-year deal. The Jets got here out and initially supplied him $300,000 and ultimately signed Namath to a three-year contract value $427,000. At the time, this was the richest contract in pro football historical past and would open the checkbooks for future gamers in each leagues.

The Namath-led Jets had been the primary AFL membership to defeat the NFL’s finest In Super Bowl III and helped the youthful coalition solidify its place as an equal league. It has been speculated that if the Cards had been in a position to signal Namath, maybe the merger in 1970 won’t have occurred.

After the Cardinals had relocated to St. Louis, there was a minor effort to rename the membership to keep away from confusion for the reason that metropolis already had the baseball Cardinals. In the 28 years the membership referred to as St. Louis residence, the team would win solely two division titles, play in three playoff video games (all losses) and end a mere three seasons with 10 or extra victories.

Off to the Desert

The fan base in St. Louis was bored with the identical ole Cardinals and their dropping methods. Attendance waned because the losses piled up every year. When Violet Bidwell-Wolfner handed away in 1962, the team grew to become the property of her two sons, Charles, Jr. and Bill Bidwell. In 1964, the membership checked out transferring to Atlanta. Bill lastly purchased out his brother in 1972 and have become sole proprietor. The fan base had grown very disenchanted with possession and the selections being made yearly with none optimistic outcomes. Plus, the Bidwell household did not appear to supply a lot hope or love for a metropolis dying to present it again.

Meanwhile, the City of Phoenix approached Bill Bidwell about the potential for a relocation of the Cardinals. Phoenix officers had as soon as thought they’d the Baltimore Colts within the mid-1980s and had been in critical competition for an AFL enlargement franchise earlier than the merger was introduced. Civic leaders nonetheless had aspirations of attracting pro football to the desert. For years, Bidwell had wished a brand new venue to interchange growing older Busch Stadium, which solely housed 60,000 followers for football, however all efforts grew to become lifeless ends.

Phoenix was providing a state-of-the-art stadium which might home 20,000 extra paying patrons, tax incentives, plus $2.5 million in untapped annual income due to the brand new stadium’s luxurious sky containers.


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At the proprietor’s assembly in 1988, they voted 26-Zero (with two abstentions) in favor of the relocation and thus grew to become the “Phoenix Cardinals.” They performed their residence video games on the 70,491-seat Sun Devil Stadium in close by Tempe, Arizona whereas their new digs had been being constructed. In 1994, the franchise as soon as once more had a reputation change and have become the “Arizona Cardinals” to extra symbolize the fan base throughout your complete state.


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In 2005, the Cardinals grew to become the primary NFL membership to play a daily season recreation outdoors the confines of the United States border with a 31-14 defeat of the San Francisco 49ers in Mexico City in entrance of 103,467 new followers of the NFL recreation.

A Sterling new stadium

The Cardinals moved into the $455 million University of Phoenix stadium in 2006, positioned in Glendale, Arizona. The stadium can max out to 78,600 followers and has over 14,000 onsite parking areas. This spectacular venue has hosted two Super Bowls, one Pro Bowl, a NCAA remaining 4 plus a BCS National Championship Game, a Gold Cup, and is residence to the Fiesta Bowl.


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In 2008, the Cardinals gained the NFC West division after which defeated the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, and Eagles in playoff video games to propel them into Super Bowl XLIII in opposition to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Leading within the remaining moments of the championship recreation, a late Steelers TD stole the Cards’ likelihood at their first Super Bowl victory and third franchise title.

The National Football League was usual in 1920. The Cardinals, nevertheless, had been fashioned 25 years earlier.

Barry Shuck is a pro football historic author and a member of the Professional Football Researcher’s Association

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