SI Vault
Myron Cope
October 13, 1969
In the decades that preceded the unblinking camera's eye, professional football was a very different life. Its famous figures can still be found—on a farm here, in a parlor there—and as they talk they evoke memories of an American sport—and an America—that is gone forever
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October 13, 1969

The Game That Was

In the decades that preceded the unblinking camera's eye, professional football was a very different life. Its famous figures can still be found—on a farm here, in a parlor there—and as they talk they evoke memories of an American sport—and an America—that is gone forever

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Well, the condition of the field was muddy and slippery—a very unsafe field. Halas pulled his little trick once more, and I come across with a right, because his head was going to my right. Fortunately for him he slipped, and my fist went whizzing straight into the terra firma, which was soft and mucky. My fist was buried. When I pulled it out it was with an effort like a suction pump. But I'm telling you, I felt very, very happy that I had not connected. Had I connected I might have dismantled Halas. This was on a Sunday, and on the following Tuesday, I believe it was, I was told to report to the Bears. George Halas had bought me for $100.

I was the first professional football player to have his contract sold, but at the time I knew nothing about that. I mean, I was totally not cognizant of the fact that I was actually the Bears' property. But I went to Chicago as instructed and talked with Halas and Sternaman in their "private" office, which was the lobby of the Planters Hotel. They offered to pay me $75 a game. I said, "I wouldn't sit on your bench for $75 a game." So after a discussion of remuneration, which lasted two hours, they agreed, and rightfully so, to pay me 100 bucks a game. Two days later I played 60 minutes on Thanksgiving Day against the Chicago Cardinals and learned a lot about Chicago and the atmosphere that existed there.

In that game Halas raced downfield on a punt to tackle Paddy Driscoll, the Cardinal star, but Halas wasn't holding on to him very well. Driscoll was one of my dear friends—I had a lot of friends on the Cardinal team—but I was going in to give him an affectionate enclosure, don't you know. I was going to make him secure. And then, holy cow! Out from the Cardinal bench poured a group of men with rods on! They were going out there to protect their idol, Paddy Driscoll.

As you may recall, the vogue at that time was that all the gangsters in the world were functioning in Chicago. And they were. Immediately I stopped in my tracks. I stood there in amazement. All I could think of was that a couple of days before I'd signed up for 100 bucks, and now I was liable to be killed. I said, "Jesus, Mary and Joseph! For a hundred bucks?" Luckily, George Halas hung on and completed the tackle of Paddy Driscoll by himself.

Well, I performed for the Bears from 1922 through 1927, and did you know that one year we played eight games in 12 days? As I recall, we won five of the eight, but it was a schedule fit for neither man nor beast. It came about as a result of the club signing none other than the Redhead—Red Grange.

On a Saturday prior to Thanksgiving 1925 Red performed in his last game for Illinois, his alma mater. He played against Ohio State at Columbus, then took the sleeper to Chicago and the next day joined the Bears. And then, with Grange as the main attraction, we set out on a trip and exploded the Eastern Coast, playing by day and hopping to the next city by overnight sleeper. Of course, we did not always play up to our capability, because the human body can stand just so much. But the Redhead broke away in Philadelphia on a Saturday. He broke away in New York on Sunday. I could tell you where he broke away in any of those games. With Red Grange, a gentleman and a scholar, we exploded not only the Eastern Coast but likewise the Western Coast and the South with the introduction of professional football, and about the middle of February we got back to Chicago. Now I must tell you a story that involved none other than Mr. C. C. Pyle, Red Grange and company. C. C. Pyle was the Redhead's business manager, and during the lengthy trip he apparently had been impressed with the performance that I had exhibited, both on the field and off. George Halas, you see, had turned over to me the keeping of the men in tow. Like the others, I, too, enjoyed the frivolity of our travels, but you must have somebody who evidences leadership, who takes charge. So I was that man, and apparently C. C. Pyle was impressed. He addressed a letter to me, inviting me to the Morrison Hotel in Chicago.

He had a room engaged for me there, and when I arrived I found that likewise as Pyle's guests at the hotel were such personalities as Suzanne Lenglen, the great tennis player, Joie Ray, the great runner, Red Grange, the great performer on the field. And not to leave out a member of the female sex, C. C. Pyle, who had been married and divorced three or four times, had in another room someone that did not answer to the name of Mrs. Pyle.

The prime purpose of my being there, I found out, was that C. C. Pyle had a big offer for me. He was forming a football team to be known as the New York Yankees that would open in the fall of 1926, with Grange as the attraction. [In fact, Pyle was setting up a whole outlaw league against the NFL.] Pyle propositioned me to not only coach the club but select and manage the playing personnel. I listened very attentively.

He offered me $10,000 to change the scene of my activity. Ten thousand dollars! That was more than I was making altogether from Mr. Halas and from another employer, Mr. George A. France of the France Stone Company, which by now employed me in the quarry business in the state of Indiana, And, mind you, I had gotten a total of about $150 a game for 30 ball games that season, which figures out to $4,500, doesn't it? Furthermore, pro football by this time was a week-long proposition, although Halas would give me a few days off from practice to attend to my other job, when necessary. I was the only player he would exempt from practice. He could rest assured I would keep myself physically capable.

So having listened to evidence of a magnanimous parting of money on the part of Mr. Pyle, I said, "Charlie"—that was his name, Charlie—I said, "Charlie, I'll give you an answer on that today."

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