Cards led NFL in laughs
Updated: October 14, 2012 12:58PM
A Chicago politician advanced a theory last month that the city is capable of supporting a second National Football League team to form a true rivalry with the Bears.
That’s highly unlikely considering the NFL doesn’t even have a team in Los Angeles.
Besides, Chicago had a rivalry for 40 years with the Chicago Cardinals, who left for St. Louis after the 1959 season with only one world championship to show for it, a 28-21 decision in 1947 over the Philadelphia Eagles.
No one has kept the memory of that special ‘47 Cardinals’ team alive more than Oak Brook Terrace’s Phil Bouzeos who, as the Cardinals’ equipment manager from 1947 to 1958, helped organize reunions through the years.
“Those players were like brothers,” said Bouzeos, who’s now 91 and is an active member of the Riverside Golf Club. “There are only a few of us left.”
Charlie Trippi, an all-American from Georgia, still is alive. A member of the NFL Hall of Fame, Trippi was part of the Cardinals’ “Dream Backfield’’ of Tom Christman of Missouri, Pat Harder of Wisconsin and Elmer Angsman of Notre Dame (he replaced Pittsburgh’s Marshall Goldberg, who had been switched to defense).
The 1947 Cardinals practiced under spartan conditions, including a wooden blocking sled with no padding.
“We gave kids $5 each to do something about it,” lineman Chet Bulger said. “About midnight they came back and burned the sled down. Two days later someone put a new sled back up. One year the coaches put blocking dummies in the railroad baggage car.
We had to go in there and hit the dummies. We came out smelling like a bunch of goats.”
Coach Jimmy Conzelman had unique ways of amusing his players while getting ready for practice.
“I want to make one thing plain before we go out there,” he said. “Stay away from the sand boxes and the swings, and stay off the merry-go-rounds. It would be just our luck for Christman to fall off the giraffe and break his arm--not Paul--the giraffe’s. Let’s go!”
Conzelman enjoyed smoking. “He’s the only one who could blow smoke out of his mouth and nose at the same time,” a player said.
Joe Ziemba revealed some interesting tidbits in the Cardinals’ 1947 media guide while researching his 1999 book “When Football was Football” (Triumph Books):
* Trippi was a slow-footed center in high school.
* Christman collected counterfeit coins.
* Goldberg “invented’ the safety position and had a secret pizza recipe.
* Angsman broke two ribs and lost eight teeth in games against Navy.
Mario “Motts” Tonelli was cheated out of a professional experience by World War II. The Notre Dame star weighed 210 pounds as a Cardinals’ rookie fullback in 1940, but was less than 100 pounds as a Bataan Death March survivor when liberated from Japanese internment.
“Many of my best friends died on that march,” he said. “We were burying 30 to 50 of our soldiers a day. I thought my turn had come when a motorcycle carrying a Japanese officer in a sidecar stopped near us. The officer got out and said, in perfect English, `Is there a captain Tonelli here?’
“I had no choice but to identify myself. He returned my salute and said, `I was a student at Southern Cal and saw you play a great game for Notre Dame. I’m honored to return your class ring.’ With that, he got back in the side car and left. I never saw him again.”
Tonelli, who lived a long life, became a trusted politician. ~.