In the world of sports, certain uniforms take on a life of their own. Everyone, for example, can recognize the New York Yankees’ famous pinstripes. Among NFL fans, though, the Chicago Bears’ orange and blue gear is one of football’s iconic outfits.
If you’ve spent any amount of time watching the Chicago Bears, though, you’ve probably noticed one extra addition to their jerseys: the letters ‘GSH’ on the sleeve. While those three letters may seem pretty inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, they’re incredibly important to the Windy City.
The history of the Chicago Bears
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These days, the Chicago Bears are simply part of the NFL landscape. When the franchise began 100 years ago, however, they had a different name and home city.
The Bears began life as the Decatur Staleys; as the name would lead you to believe, they were the company team of the A. E. Staley Manufacturing Company and were based in Staley, Illinois. Under the leadership of George Halas, a player-coach, the team joined the American Professional Football Association, which later became the NFL, in 1920 and moved to Chicago in 1921. The following year, the club rebranded itself as the Bears, in reference to the Chicago Cubs.
Regardless of their name, though, the Bears became a force in the early years of professional football. The team won three championships in the 1930s; during the 40s, the Monsters of Midway claimed four more titles. After that dominance, however, the Bears fell on hard times.
While there were a few notable successes, like the 1963 championship, the Bears remained in the doldrums until Mike Ditka came to town. Under the mustachioed head coach, Chicago returned to form, dominating the NFC North and winning a Super Bowl title.
Since then, though, the Bears have been a bit of a mixed bag. There were some successful seasons and quality players, but Chicago fans have also endured plenty of losses along the way.
George Halas was the franchise’s ‘Papa Bear’
As mentioned above, George Halas was a player-coach during the earliest days of the Chicago Bears/Decatur Staleys. His influence, however, stretches far beyond those two admittedly important titles.
While Halas’ playing career ended after the 1928 campaign, his fingerprints remained all over the Bears. He took the reigns of the franchise as head coach for a grand total of 40 seasons over a few different spells; he posted a career record of 318-148, winning six championships.
Halas also owned the Bears until his death in 1983. Due to his incredible tenure and willingness to get involved with every aspect of the team, he became Chicago’s ‘Papa Bear.’
“George Halas was associated with the Chicago Bears and the National Football League from their inception in 1920 until his death in 1983. He represented the Bears, originally known as the Decatur Staleys, at the NFL’s organizational meeting held in Canton, Ohio,” the Pro Football Hall of Fame explains.
“During his incredible career, he filled the shoes of owner, manager, player, and promoter, and was an influential leader among the NFL’s ownership. … As a coach, Halas was first in many ways: the first to hold daily practice sessions, to utilize films of opponents’ games for study, to schedule a barnstorming tour, and to have his team’s games broadcast on radio.”
The Chicago Bears still commemorate George Halas on their jerseys
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Given George Halas’ influence on the Chicago Bears, it’s not surprising that the team would want to honor their late owner.
Halas, as mentioned above, died in October 1983; shortly after, the team added his initials, GSH, to their jerseys. While the design has changed a bit since the early days still remain there to this day, paying tribute to Papa Bear.
Dating back to Halas’ earliest days with the franchise, the Chicago Bears have a rich history full of traditions; now, commemorating their old owner, coach, and patriarch is another part of that legacy.
Stats courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference