The NFL’s oldest rivalry: Chicago Bears vs. Chicago Cardinals. A look at the rivalry that started in 1920.

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The oldest rivalry in the NFL doesn’t include a team from Green Bay.

This matchup began in 1920 when two professional football teams called Illinois home. That’s when the Chicago Bears, then known as the Decatur Staleys, faced the Racine Cardinals — named after Racine Avenue where their home venue was Normal Park and not for the city in Wisconsin — for the first time.

The Cardinals started in 1898 as the Morgan Athletic Club on Chicago’s South Side before becoming the Chicago Cardinals in 1922, then moved to Missouri to become the St. Louis Cardinals in 1960, and then to Arizona in 1988. Two winning seasons were capped by championships for the Cardinals in 1925 (though it is still controversial) and 1947. These remain the franchise’s only titles.

The team’s color has a history too. The Cardinals first used borrowed maroon jerseys from the University of Chicago.

The Bears hold the overall advantage in the series: 60-29-6 in regular-season games. But let’s look at their first 72 meetings from 1920-59, when the teams were mostly crosstown rivals.

Bears-Cardinals rivalry: Record

For 72 games played between 1920 and 1959

Bears-Cardinals rivalry: Results by venue

For 72 games played between 1920 and 1959

Bears-Cardinals rivalry: Points scored

For 72 games played between 1920 and 1959

Bears-Cardinals rivalry: Memorable moments

For 72 games played between 1920 and 1959

Nov. 28, 1920: Cardinals 7, Staleys 6

In the teams’ first meeting, when the Bears still were the Decatur Staleys, Paddy Driscoll kicked the deciding extra point in the Cardinals’ 7-6 win and kept the Bears in poor field position all afternoon with his precision punts.

“How I wished I could get him on my team!” George Halas remembered thinking in his 1979 autobiography, “Halas by Halas.”

Driscoll later signed with the Bears in 1926. He was named first-team All-Pro six times, served as a player/coach for the Cardinals for three seasons, rejoined Halas as an assistant in 1941, then stayed with the Bears through their championship season of 1963. In 1965, Driscoll was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s third class.

Nov. 26, 1925: Bears 0, Cardinals 0

More than 36,000 fans packed Wrigley Field for the professional debut of Harold “Red” Grange, who signed with the Bears less than 24 hours after his last game at the University of Illinois. Fans came away disappointed as the Bears and Cardinals tied 0-0.

Driscoll, later Grange’s teammate on the Bears, punted the ball away from Grange all game, drawing a chorus of boos, and Grange rushed for only 36 yards.

“I decided if one of us was going to look bad, it wasn’t going to be me,” Driscoll told the Tribune’s David Condon 40 years later. “Punting to Grange is like grooving a pitch to Babe Ruth.”

After the game, Driscoll went to see his future wife, Mary, in the stands. He lamented fans were wrong to boo Grange for his uninspiring debut. “Don’t feel sorry for Grange,” Mary said. “It’s you they’re booing.”

Oct. 14, 1945: Cardinals 16, Bears 7

The Cardinals broke a 29-game losing streak — extending back to the 1942 season — by defeating the Bears 16-7 at Wrigley Field.

Sources: Tribune reporting and archives; Pro Football Reference

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