December 27, 1947: $2 For Your Evening Meal

As we continue our tribute to the 1947 Chicago Cardinals NFL championship, we head back to December 27, 1947, the day before the title game with the Philadelphia Eagles at Comiskey Park in Chicago.

Absolutely no one gave the Eagles a chance in this game, except, perhaps Cardinals’ coach Jimmy Conzelman who was overly cautious in his approach to the title contest: “We keep hearing that we’re two-touchdowns better. That’s all out of line.

Anybody who saw the Eagles beat Pittsburgh last Sunday knows that they should not be a two-touchdown underdog to any team. That Steve Van Buren is a terrific runner, give him an inch and he’ll go all the way.

And their passer, Tommy Thompson, has a better percentage of completions than our Paul Christman. How can people say those things, that we’re so much better?”

They Would Have Worked All Day

The underdog Eagles were both excited and hungry in their final practices before heading to Chicago on December 26. Even on Christmas Day, the players were exuberant as Coach Greasy Neale marched his charges through a two-hour session.

Said the coach: “I think they would have worked out all day, Christmas or not, if I hadn’t called things off.”

For the final practice in Philadelphia on Friday, December 26, Coach Neale moved the session from Shibe Park to an indoor armory on Broad Street. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on that practice: “The squad split up into four teams and had a half-hour of touch football.

Then, they got together and worked on defense, with particular emphasis on the Cardinals’ potent passing attack. A session on their own offensive maneuvers completed the practice.” 

Coach Neale was very pleased with the practices, including chalk talks, leading up to the game, telling his players: “I’ll give you an A+ on your brainwork. If you are as alert in Chicago, we can give them a worse jolt than some people think possible!”

Write Something Grim and Frightening

And then, the happy crew headed for the train station, being described as “higher than kites” by Eagles’ publicity man Ed Hogan.

The Morning News added: “Emotions over the forthcoming spectacle are affected, further, by the fact that the Cards have already played the Eagles twice this season and won both games.” 

In Chicago, Coach Jimmy Conzelman ran the Cardinals through their final drills and pronounced himself content, but still, a bit apprehensive as he told Chicago Herald American writer Edgar Greene: “Do me a favor will you?

Write something grim and frightening about that game Sunday. The boys are working good. They feel fine. But they’re not grim enough. Shucks, we felt fine before we played Washington. We were happy as clams before the New York game and we got beat both times!”

Throw Away The Crystal Ball

Although the Cardinals had defeated the Eagles twice in 1947, once in the pre-season and another just recently on December 7, neither club was confident about issuing a prediction, or as columnist Arthur Daley of the New York Times wrote: “When Conzelman and Neale get together, it’s wise to throw away the crystal ball because forecasts are useless!”

The Eagles train departed at 5:09 p.m. on Friday, December 26 from the North Philadelphia Station. Reporter Frank O’Gara of the Philadelphia Inquirer described the team’s departure: “The party, comprising a squad that is physically well and eager for the chance to wreak vengeance on the cocky Cardinals, plus the usual traveling retinue, filled three sleeping cars of the Pennsylvania Railroad train.”

As the overnight train headed west with an arrival time of 8:20 am in Chicago on December 27, the team would check into the hotel, and then practice in the early afternoon at Armour Field, which was near Comiskey Park. Initially, there was an understandable mix-up with the preferred hotel according to the Evening Herald newspaper:

“The Eagles had intended to stay at the Edgewater Beach Hotel, adjacent to Wrigley Field, until someone reminded them that for approximately the first time in history, they were not coming to town to play the Bears.”

Do Not Take Taxicabs!

While the Cardinals’ players were allowed to remain at home the night before the game, the Eagles settled on the Hotel Sherman in downtown Chicago for their accommodations.

As with other NFL clubs at the time, the Eagles closely watched expenses and provided strict guidelines for the players to follow while in Chicago: “Buses will meet the train upon arrival in Chicago to transfer the team to the hotel. All players must use this method of transportation. DO NOT TAKE TAXICABS.

The club will not be responsible for any of your expenses except room and meals. Any other expenses which you may incur will be charged to your account and will be deducted from your next paycheck…Your time is your own after the game, and the Road Secretary will give each of you $2.00 for your evening meal.”

At Comiskey Park, the site of the game on Chicago’s south side, the tarp had been removed from the field on December 27. The weather forecast on game day predicted temperatures between 32 and 35 degrees but with “a light snow expected which might cause the field to turn slippery. There was a possibility the ground would freeze overnight,” according to the wire services.

Eagles coach Greasy Neale and halfback Steve Van Buren wait for the train to Chicago for the 1947 NFL title game (Philadelphia Inquirer, December 27, 1947).
Caption: Eagles coach Greasy Neale and halfback Steve Van Buren wait for the train to Chicago for the 1947 NFL title game (Philadelphia Inquirer, December 27, 1947).

I Hope I Will Be Ready

In final comments, Eagles’ Coach Greasy Neale sounded satisfied: “Earlier in the week, I worried a little that the players wouldn’t be ‘up’ mentally as they were for the last two games.

It’s practically impossible for a group to avoid a letdown in three straight games that mean everything. But this gang has done it!”

Jimmy Conzelman added: “We’ll just throw the works and hope for the best. It would be silly to say that we’ll concentrate on running or passing against the Eagles. So, we’ll just give them everything we have and hope that something clicks. The Eagles will be ready for this game and I hope we will be, too.”

Would the Cardinals be able to achieve a “three-peat” over the Eagles in 1947? Would the weather cooperate for the biggest game of the year?

Please join us tomorrow on December 28 for our final “bonus” podcast on the 1947 Chicago Cardinals NFL championship season here on the Sports History Network.

Bears vs. Cardinals: The NFL's Oldest Rivalry book cover
Photo Credit: McFarland Publishing of the Bears vs. Cardinals: The NFL's Oldest Rivalry book cover (authored by Joe Ziemba)

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Author and Host - Joe Ziemba

Joe Ziemba is the host of this show, and he is an author of early football history in the city of Chicago.  Here, you can learn more about Joe and When Football Was Football, including all of the episodes of the podcast.

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