Charles Bidwill

Charles Bidwill’s pioneering spirit, his continued enthusiasm for the game of professional football, and unyielding support place him as one of the guiding lights of the early years of the National Football League. His financial support enabled George Halas to retain ownership of the Chicago Bears in the early days of the Great Depression. He took over the Cardinals in 1932 from Dr. David Jones, a Chicago physician, for the asking price of $50,000 and would subsequently divest himself from his interests in the Chicago Bears. Despite the financial strains he endured, Bidwill remained steadfast in his quest to gain respectability for not only the league but also for his beloved Cardinals. According to his son, Bill who was batboy at Bidwill Stadium on the Southside, Charles loved 16 inch softball. He was a 16 inch softball organizer and early supporter of diversity for women and blacks and led by example. He owned his own stadium that featured two-to-three games each night during the 1930′- 50s. The first game was for the girls…his Bluebirds… then followed by the professional men’s Windy City league. The Bluebirds players also participated in the professional baseball “League of Their Own” during World war II. He was also a supporter of diversity of color. He organized the best black team at the time Brown Bombers on tour of western states…with Eddie Rochester, Jack Benny’s associate. Many of the those players were on the Harlem Globetrotters, including the great first baseman, “Sweetwater” Clifton, one of the first black athletes to play in the NBA. After patiently enduring several losing seasons in his fifteen years as team owner, he signed Georgia all-America running back Charlie Trippi in 1947 to the biggest contract the NFL had seen- $100,000 over four yearscompleting an ensemble he would dub the “Million Dollar Backfield “- Paul Christman, Pat Harder, Elmer Angsman, and Trippi. In the process, he won a bidding war with the New York Yankees of the All-America Football Conference to give the NFL a decisive victory over the rival league. Joined by Christman, Harder, Goldberg, and Angsman, Trippi would lead the team to a 10-3 record, capped by a 28-21 win over the Philadelphia Eagles at Comiskey Park to be crowned NFL Champions. Bidwill sadly died on April 19, 1947 at age fifty-one, only a few months prior to seeing his soon-to-be ‘dream backfield’ take the field. A noncomformist, Bidwill was often referred to as “Blue Shirt Charlie” because he sometimes spurned the traditional white shirt and businessman’s shoes in favor of a blue shirt and high boots. He was truly a “working man’s” man whose love of the game will remain one of the building blocks of the NFL, the Cardinals and 16 inch softball. Inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967 and Chicago 16 Inch Softball Hall of Fame in 2013.