With Title on Line, Bears Cut Giants Down to Size


For all the madness and hype of modern-day Super Bowls, it’s interesting to note how the NFL came to have its first championship game, 66 years ago today.

In the 1932 season, the Chicago Bears and Portsmouth Spartans ended the regular season with 6-1 records, and the league quickly put together a title game--indoors--at Chicago Stadium.

Chicago won, 9-0, and claimed the title, although the result was listed as a regular-season game. But the game’s success led NFL officials to split the league into two divisions and to schedule a championship game for 1933.


On a foggy afternoon in Chicago, 26,000 filed into Wrigley Field to watch the Chicago Bears meet the New York Giants in pro football’s first scheduled championship game.

It was a classic. The lead changed six times in a game the Bears won, 23-21. Playing major roles for the Bears were two future Hall of Famers, Red Grange and Bronko Nagurski.

Nagurski, the powerful fullback from Minnesota, gained 65 yards in 14 carries and figured in two touchdown plays.

First, he threw an eight-yard scoring pass to Bill Karr.

In the fourth quarter, in the final minutes from the New York 33, Nagurski threw a jump pass to Bill Hewitt, who ran 14 yards before lateraling to Karr, who ran the remaining 19 yards for the winning touchdown.

Grange made a key 17-yard run early in the fourth quarter to keep a drive alive.

The NFL’s title games would be called the NFL Championship Game until 1967 when, after the NFL-American Football League merger, the two leagues met in what was first called the AFL-NFL Championship Game. By 1969, it became known as the Super Bowl.

Also on this date: In 1952, Archie Moore decisioned Joey Maxim to win the world light-heavyweight boxing crown. . . . In 1963, Northwestern’s Ara Parseghian became Notre Dame’s new football coach. . . . In 1974, 19-year-old jockey Chris McCarron rode his 516th winner of the year to beat the one-year record of 515 set by Sandy Hawley the previous year.