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Daley Recalls 1941 Packers-Bears Playoff Tilt

Posted Jan 18, 2011

The memories are admittedly sketchy, and that’s understandable for a 94-year-old.

But Art Daley, longtime Green Bay Press-Gazette sports reporter and eventual originator of the Green Bay Packers Yearbook, does recall attending what prior to this week has been the only postseason meeting between the Packers and Bears, a Western Division playoff at Chicago’s Wrigley Field on Dec. 14, 1941.

“It was the first time I’d ever been to a big city,” Daley recalled in a phone interview with Packers.com. “It was really quite an experience.”

Daley actually was shocked his editors sent him to the game. He had just joined the Press-Gazette staff a month earlier, about a week after the Packers had knocked off the Bears, 16-14, to give both teams one loss on the season.

Only 25 and fresh from the staff of the Fond du Lac Commonwealth Reporter, he was asked to go along to help his new newspaper’s coverage team, which back then meant riding to and from Chicago on the same train with the players and coaches.

Seven days earlier, on the final weekend of the regular season, the Packers were off while the Bears were playing the crosstown rival Chicago Cardinals, needing to win to forge a tie at 10-1 with Green Bay atop the Western Division.

The Packers themselves were actually in attendance at Comiskey Park to watch the game, on Dec. 7, when they heard over the public address system that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor.*

Daley was listening to the game at home on the radio and remembers the broadcast being interrupted for the breaking news, though he didn’t know what to make of it at the time.

“When you’re young you look at it a whole lot different,” he said. “I remember we heard about it, and the biggest thing is you always thought, ‘Where the hell is Pearl Harbor?’ That was a common expression. I remember Tony Canadeo always said that. It didn’t seem it was that bad a thing, but of course obviously it was.”

As for football, the Bears beat the Cardinals 34-24 to set up the playoff matchup against the Packers on Dec. 14, with the winner advancing to the NFL Championship Game the following week.

The playoff game did not contain the competitiveness or drama of the two regular-season meetings. The Bears had won the first encounter, 25-17, on Sept. 28 before the Packers returned the favor with the two-point victory on Nov. 2.

In the winner-take-all grudge match, Bears halfback Hugh Gallarneau fumbled the opening kickoff, and the Packers capitalized with Clarke Hinkle’s 1-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead. But Gallarneau quickly made up for his blunder with an 81-yard punt return for a touchdown, the first of 30 straight points the Bears scored before halftime.

Chicago rushed for 277 yards, including 119 from George McAfee and 79 plus two touchdowns from Norm Standlee as the Bears cruised to a 33-14 win. The Packers couldn’t hang with them, as end Don Hutson had just one catch for 19 yards.

“As far as the game itself, it was one of those things – Don Hutson was hurt,” Daley recalled. “He played, but he had a bad leg, I think it was. He just had a bad leg and could not play as well, and that was about the size of it.

“I think that was a factor, because he was the biggest thing they had. That was too bad.”

One of the biggest memories for Daley had nothing to do with the game itself. He remembers that day getting to meet Arthur J. Daley, the New York Times columnist with whom he shared his name, all the way down to the middle initial.

Daley couldn’t remember anything specific any of the players or coaches said to him on the train ride back to Green Bay, but there wasn’t a whole lot of emotion in general. Perhaps with the season over, everyone’s mind was beginning to focus on the United States’ pending involvement in World War II, which ultimately drew many players, and Daley too, into military service.

“On the way home, nobody was too upset (about the game), really,” Daley said. “The Bears had a hell of a team that year. They really did.”

The Bears went on to win their second straight NFL title with a 37-9 beating of the New York Giants the next week, also at Wrigley Field. In a measure of the stature of the Bears-Packers rivalry at that time, a crowd of 43,425 attended the playoff game against Green Bay, while only 13,341 returned to Wrigley a week later for the championship contest.*

The Bears eventually won two more NFL titles in the 1940s to give them four in the decade.

Meanwhile, Daley went on to cover the Packers for more than 35 years, minus a three-year military commitment in the mid-1940s. In 1960, he also founded the Green Bay Packers Yearbook, which celebrated its 50th anniversary this past summer, and in 1993 he was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame as a contributor.

Daley still attends Packers home games regularly, watching from a seat in the Lee Remmel Press Box at Lambeau Field. He’ll be watching Sunday’s Packers-Bears NFC Championship, slated to kick off at 2 p.m. CT from Soldier Field in Chicago, on TV with the keen interest he’s always had.

“I’m excited about this team,” he said. “I think it’s amazing what they’ve done.

“I think we’ve got the better team, I really do. But the problem is playing down there. This team we got now, it’s just amazing how they’ve played. I think they should go all the way, really.”

 

*Information obtained from the book Mudbaths & Bloodbaths, The Inside Story of the Bears-Packers Rivalry, by Gary D’Amato and Cliff Christl, copyright 1997.

 
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