CHICAGO (CBS) – The Bears and Packers have played each other more than 180 times, it’s football’s longest rivalry, but it’s taken 69 years for them to meet again in the postseason.
The last time was December 14, 1941 and CBS 2’s Jim Williams talked to an historian about game that was played as the U.S. entered World War II.
Peter Alter of the Chicago History Museum says outside of Chicago and Wisconsin there was little interest in a football game, one week after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
“I think the United States in general was maybe looking away from the NFL and a big matchup between the Packers and the Bears,” said Alter.
But here and among our neighbors just to the north, there was enormous excitement and big hype in a pre-television era.
“There was coverage in the newspapers on what are the Bears players’ wives doing on the eve of the game,” said Alter, “George Halas is tearing out what hair he has left because he could not keep up with the ticket sales. And he’s worried the Bears will be distracted by all the hub-hub.”
The Bears owner and coach had a sellout at Wrigley Field with 46,000 fans and at least 12,000 rooted for the Packers.
“Standing room only tickets were selling for a $1.65. It would be like $25 today, still a bargain,” according to Alter.
It was a hard fought game. The Bears won, 33-14.
“None of them have face masks,” said Alter, “Others didn’t wear shoulder pads.”
The equipment was different then, but the emotions were the same.
“They really have the same roots,” said Alter, “It’s almost as if they’re brothers, fighting each other.”
The next week, the actual NFL championship game, the Bears and New York Giants drew only 13,000 at Wrigley Field. There were more than 30,000 empty seats.