The Chicago Charities College All-Star Game

1934-1976

 

The Night the Stars Came Out

 

On Aug. 31, 1934, a year after sponsoring Major League Baseball's first All-Star Game, Chicago Tribune sports editor Arch Ward presented the first Chicago College All-Star Game at Soldier Field. A crowd of 79,432 turned out to see an all-star team of graduated college seniors battle the 1933 NFL champion Chicago Bears to a scoreless tie. The preseason game was played at Soldier Field and pitted the College All-Stars against the defending NFL champions (1933–1966) or Super Bowl champions (1967–75) every year except 1935 (the NFL runner-up Bears were the professional representatives) until it was cancelled in 1977. The NFL champs won the series, 31-9-2.

 

This monumental event in the history of American football and in the history of sports charity fundraising was, to the modern sports mind, an enigma. The professional team would be expected to win handily because of superior talent and team experience. But, to truly understand the impact of this game on modern football, one must understand the history of the NFL. In the 1930’s, the new league fought to establish a foothold in the sports entertainment pantheon in the United States. It was back in the days of Red Grange and Bronko Nagurski. Traveling road shows were the earliest venues for the professional game. Red Grange toured the country after a stellar career at Illinois. He was football’s first superstar. The great names of the game were still the college players. Slingin’ Sammy Baugh was famous at TCU before he was famous for the NFL’s Redskins. The talent of the college game would be tapped into through the thirties. The importance of colleges as player developers has increased to the present day. Arch Ward acknowledged this entire process at just the right time in history and he gave the public and press what they wanted; the superstars of the college game, the most famous persons in the football world, against the champions of the football professionals.

 

The names on the rosters from each game have become larger than life: Bronko Nagurski, Sammy Baugh, Don Hutson, Johnny Unitas, Dick Butkus and Roger Staubach. Like the modern baseball All-Star Game, the rosters were chosen through public vote. The superstars of the early game were showcased in a contest which was viewed as a toss-up. The colleges could be expected to win on occasion, and they did. The first game ended in a scoreless tie and this was not surprising to the press and public who watched with fascination. Eventually as many persons as attended the Rose Bowl would attend the game. In 1947 the largest crowd in NFL history on an American field, 105,840, saw the All-Star Game at Soldier Field. When the fact that this was a pre-season game is taken into consideration, those numbers become staggering.

 

It has been suggested that the game died for two reasons, the salaries of the modern game and the refusal by players to risk injury, and decreased fan interest. The salary consideration was a valid concern, but the public never lost interest. The attendance numbers for the 1930’s and 1940’s reflect a growing fascination of the public for the stars of college football. As the pros leveled the playing field and surpassed the colleges in talent, the game appeared to be a potential pro rout every year. It became a no-win situation for the pros as they launched the pre-season with a game as important as today’s Rose Bowl. To win was expected, to lose ultimately humiliating for the pros. It became a coaching nightmare for the All-Stars as coaches attempted to piece together a unit that could stay on the field with the Packers of the 1960’s and Dolphins and Steelers of the 1970’s. In short, it was impractical.

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By 1976, the College All-Star game had run its course and had served its purpose. It had generated tremendous interest and enthusiasm to become a major source of charity contributions to the city of Chicago. It had assembled and showcased college football’s mega-stars of the generation for the general public. And, it had suggested in the early days of the game that the NFL was developing into a sports phenomenon that could hold its own with college football or professional baseball. So, in a very real sense, The College All-Star Game’s success in promoting professional football’s presence in American sports resulted in the discontinuance of the game. As the game of football grew in popularity, as pro football took its place as king in the hearts and minds of the American public, an all-star game of the magnitude of the Super Bowl became unrealistic. The Chicago Charities College All-Star Game was a uniquely American sports experience and an All-American experience. The history of this game serves as a valuable resource in the study of football’s growth and evolution in America in the 20th Century.

 

This page has been posted since 2005. From 2005-2009, I was contacted by many persons who shared with me that they had relatives who played in this game and wanted to verify that fact. For this reason, I have updated this section to include additional newspaper accounts of the games, photos, videos and rosters of the college players who participated through the years. Occasionally I am contacted by people who say that the game should be brought back. As much as this would be a dream come true for me personally, it is simply too unnecessary and too dangerous to be considered.

 

Enjoy!

 

 Listed below are the final scores through the years. Click on each score to get a recap of the game:
 

1934 Chicago Bears 0, All-Stars 0

1935 Chicago Bears 5, All-Stars 0
1936 Detroit 7, All-Stars 7
1937 All-Stars 6, Green Bay 0
1938 All-Stars 28, Washington 16
1939 NY Giants 9, All-Stars 0
1940 Green Bay 45, All-Stars 28
1941 Chicago Bears 37, All-Stars 13
1942 Chicago Bears 21, All-Stars 0
1943 All-Stars 27, Washington 7
1944 Chicago Bears 24, All-Stars 21
1945 Green Bay 19, All-Stars 7
1946 All-Stars 16, LA Rams 0
1947 All-Stars 16, Chicago Bears 0
1948 Chicago Cards 28, All-Stars 0
1949 Philadelphia 38, All-Stars 0
1950 All-Stars 17, Philadelphia 7
1951 Cleveland 33, All-Stars 0
1952 LA Rams 10, All-Stars 7
1953 Detroit 24, All-Stars 10
1954 Detroit 31, All-Stars 6
1955 All-Stars 30, Cleveland 27
1956 Cleveland 26, All-Stars 0
1957 NY Giants 22, All-Stars 12
1958 All-Stars 35, Detroit 19
1959 Baltimore 29, All-Stars 0
1960 Baltimore 32, All-Stars 7
1961 Philadelphia 28, All-Stars 14
1962 Green Bay 42, All-Stars 20
1963 All-Stars 20, Green Bay 17
1964 Chicago Bears 28, All-Stars 17
1965 Cleveland 24, All-Stars 16
1966 Green Bay 38, All-Stars 0
1967 Green Bay 27, All-Stars 0
1968 Green Bay 34, All-Stars 17
1969 NY Jets 26, All-Stars 24
1970 Kansas City 24, All-Stars 3
1971 Baltimore 24, All-Stars 17
1972 Dallas 20, All-Stars 7
1973 Miami 14, All-Stars 3
1974 No Game (NFLPA Strike)
1975 Pittsburgh 21, All-Stars 14
1976 Pittsburgh 24, All-Stars 0*
*Downpour flooded field, game called with 1:22 left in 3rd quarter.

 

-RECORDS

-ATTENDANCE
-MVP's
 

Mark Bolding

mmbolding@sbcglobal.net

 

 

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