Charles Bidwill

Charles W. Bidwill (September 16, 1895 – April 19, 1947), sometimes known as Charley Bidwill, was an owner of the National Football League's Chicago Cardinals.[1][2] He owned the team for 14 seasons, from 1933 through 1946. His interest in sports was demonstrated by his two aims in life: to win an NFL Championship and the Kentucky Derby. He would accomplish neither during his lifetime, although his Cardinals won the 1947 NFL title only eight months after his death. The title still remains the most recent in franchise history.

Charles Bidwill
Charles Bidwill
Personal information
Born:September 16, 1895
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Died:April 19, 1947 (aged 51)
Career information
High school:Chicago (IL) St. Ignatius
College:Loyola of Chicago
Career history
As executive:
Career highlights and awards

Early years

Charles was the son of Chicago 9th Ward Alderman Joseph Edward Bidwill and Mary Anne Sullivan. His eldest brother Joseph Edward Bidwill Jr. was a clerk of the Chicago Circuit Court; his younger brother Arthur John Bidwill was a Republican State Senator; and Loretta was Charlie's only sister.

Before the Cardinals

Prior to his ownership of the Cardinals, Bidwill was a successful businessman and wealthy lawyer in Chicago, with ties to organized crime boss Al Capone.[3] He was owner of a racing stable, the president of the Chicago Stadium Operating Company and owner of a printing company. Bidwill's only physical participation in athletics came only during his time at St. Ignatius High School and Loyola University. After graduation in 1916, he began his law practice, serving as assistant prosecutor for Chicago and corporation counsel. As a businessman, Bidwill was often referred to as "Blue Shirt Charlie" because he sometimes favored a blue shirt and high boots instead of the traditional white shirt and businessman's shoes.[4]'



One night in 1932, Dr. David Jones, the then-owner of the Cardinals, and his wife were guests at an informal dinner party aboard Bidwill's luxurious power-cruising yacht, The Ren-Mar. Bidwill, then a vice president of the Chicago Bears, spoke with Jones that night and the conversation turned to pro football, with Jones complaining of the poor state of his team. Half jokingly, Charles' wife, Violet, asked Jones, "Why don't you sell the Cardinals to Charley?" Jones replied that he would sell anything he owned if the price was right. Bidwill soon turned to Jones and the two began to discuss an offer. Bidwill went on to buy the Cardinals from Jones for $50,000. Bidwill handed Jones a down payment of $2,000 and the two men shook hands. The sale was not announced until 1933 to allow Bidwill time to dispose of his stock in the Bears. It was well known that Bidwill would have much preferred to buy the Bears, but George Halas refused to sell.[5]

As the owner

In spite of Bidwill's enthusiasm for the game, the Cardinals were not a successful club during the 1930s and early 1940s. Despite Bidwill's wealth and enthusiasm, the Cardinals found the going difficult both on and off the field for most of his tenure as owner. In addition to the Great Depression, they had the misfortune of sharing Chicago with the popular Bears. Bidwill had become so discouraged that by 1940 he made a try at buying the Detroit Lions. When that effort fell through, he redoubled his efforts to rebuild the Cardinals. One move was to hire Jimmy Conzelman as coach. However, the Cards continued to lose, and Conzelman quit as coach to go into the front office of baseball's St. Louis Browns.[6]

Bidwill remained a Bears fan for years, even after he purchased the Cardinals. He would often root for the Bears against the Cardinals when his old team was a contender and the Cards were perpetually stuck in last place. For example, in 1941 the Bears needed a victory over the Cardinals to force a playoff game, but trailed the 3–6–1 Cardinals by a score of 24–20 before pulling out two last-minute touchdowns to win, 34–24. After the game, instead of complimenting coach Jimmy Conzelman on the fine showing, the nervous Bidwill sighed, "Whew, that was a close one, wasn't it?"

Cursed by Pottsville

Cardinals founder Chris O'Brien did not attempt to publicly take credit for the Cardinals winning the 1925 NFL Championship. The 1925 NFL Championship was surrounded in a controversy, since the Pottsville Maroons won the championship that year only to have their title stripped after playing an illegal game in Philadelphia after they had finished the season with the NFL's best record. However Bidwill claimed the 1925 title after he took over the team in 1933. There are some who believe that a "curse" was placed on the Cardinals as a result of the debacle, and that in an era where the NFL has implemented measures to ensure competitive parity, the curse is the reason for the failure of the Cardinals to win as many championships as would be expected with a team of such longevity (the Cardinals' only other championship came in 1947).

World War II years

The lowest point of Bidwill's tenure came in 1944. Due to World War II, many players were serving in the United States military. This left a league-wide shortage of players. As a result, the Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Steelers merged their teams for the season. The team's name Card-Pitt was quickly changed to the "Carpets" as "every team in the league walks over them". The team lost ten straight to post an 0–10 record.[7]

Battle against the AAFC

The end of the war brought another problem when the upstart AAFC placed a team in Chicago, the Rockets. The new AAFC franchise publicly pushed for the Cardinals to leave town, believing that Chicago wasn't big enough for three top-level pro football teams. Bidwill grew angry and vowed to turn his team into a profitable winner. He stunned the football world in 1947 when he outbid the Rockets for the rights to All-American Charley Trippi, signing him to a then record $100,000 contract. Trippi was the final piece of what Bidwill called his "Dream Backfield" of Paul Christman, Pat Harder, Marshall Goldberg, Elmer Angsman, and Trippi. They led the Cardinals to their first (and, to date, only) undisputed NFL championship in 1947.

Death and legacy

Bidwill was not around to see his "Dream Backfield" win the 1947 title; he died of pneumonia in April,[1][2][8] shortly after signing Trippi. His widow Violet inherited the team and ran it until her death in early 1962.[9] During Violet's tenure as the Cardinals owner, she and her husband Walter Wolfner relocated the franchise to St. Louis in 1960. Following her death, she left the team to her adopted sons from her first marriage, Charles Jr. and Bill.[10][11][12][13][14]

The team has been owned outright by Bill since 1972, when he bought his older brother's share. Since Bill took over, the team has since relocated once more, to their current location in Phoenix, Arizona in 1988, and since 1994, have been known as the Arizona Cardinals.[15][16] Only the Bears (owned by Halas and his descendants since 1921) and the New York Giants (owned by the Mara family since their founding in 1925) have been in the hands of one family longer than the Cardinals. He is a member of the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967.


  1. ^ a b "Bidwill's aids will carry on sports empire". Chicago Sunday Tribune. April 20, 1947. p. 1, part 2.
  2. ^ a b "Charles Bidwell, dog track owner, dies in Chicago". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Associated Press. April 20, 1947. p. 11.
  3. ^ Coenen, Craig R. (2005). From Sandlots to the Super Bowl: the National Football League, 1920-1967. University of Tennessee Press. ISBN 1-57233-447-9.
  4. ^ *"Arizona Cardinals History". Arizona Cardinals. Retrieved 2010-09-02.
  5. ^ Carroll, Bob; Braunwart, Bob (1981). "Blue Shirt Charlies Big Red Dream" (PDF). Coffin Corner. Professional Football Researchers Association. 3 (4): 1–2. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-11-27.
  6. ^ Carroll, Bob; Braunwart, Bob (1981). "Blue Shirt Charlies Big Red Dream" (PDF). Coffin Corner. Professional Football Researchers Association. 3 (4): 1–2. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-11-27.
  7. ^ Forr, James (2003). "Card-Pitt: The Carpits" (PDF). Coffin Corner. Professional Football Researchers Association. 25 (3): 1–8. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-10-22.
  8. ^ Jenkins, Lee (2009-01-29). "Bidwills Restore Their Family Name". Sports Illustrated. CNN. Retrieved 2010-09-03.
  9. ^ "Mrs. Wolfner, Cardinals' owner, dies". Chicago Daily Tribune. Associated Press. January 30, 1962. p. 1, part 3.
  10. ^ "Card owners to be active". Milwaukee Journal. press dispatches. February 8, 1962. p. 13, part 2.
  11. ^ "Court fight begins for Cards' control". Pittsburgh Press. UPI. March 29, 1962. p. 48.
  12. ^ "Bidwills face court action". Milwaukee Journal. Associated Press. March 31, 1962. p. 2, final.
  13. ^ Howard, Robert. "Court rules for Bidwills". Chicago Daily Tribune. p. 1, part 4.
  14. ^ "High court rules in favor of sons". Milwaukee Journal. Associated Press. February 2, 1963. p. 2, part 2.
  15. ^ "Bill Bidwill sole owner of Cards". Southeast Missorian. Cape Girardeau. Associated Press. September 12, 1972. p. 8.
  16. ^ Baum, Bob. "Long, rocky history marks Bidwills' ownership". Boston Globe. AP. Archived from the original on February 4, 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-17.

External links

1925 Chicago Cardinals season

The 1925 Chicago Cardinals season resulted in the Cardinals winning their first NFL championship. The 1925 championship is contested and never awarded by the NFL after the Pottsville Maroons were suspended.

The end of the Cardinals season was centered on two historic, but controversial, situations. The first was a team scandal with the Milwaukee Badgers. The scandal involved a Chicago player, Art Folz, hiring a group of high school football players to play for the Milwaukee Badgers, against the Cardinals. This would ensure an inferior opponent for Chicago. The game was used to help prop up their win–loss percentage and as a chance of wresting the 1925 championship away from the first place Pottsville Maroons. When NFL president Joseph Carr learned high school players had been used in a league game, he told reporters the 58–0 Cardinals win would be stricken from the record. However, the league had never got around to removing it and the game is still a part of the NFL records. Cardinals' owner Chris O'Brien was also fined $1,000 by Carr for allowing his team play a game against high schoolers, even though O'Brien claimed that he was unaware of the players' status. Finally Badgers' owner, Ambrose McGuirk, was ordered to sell his Milwaukee franchise within 90 days. Folz, for his role, was barred from football for life.

However, by the summer of 1926, the $1,000 fine against O'Brien was rescinded, probably since the amount would have put the Cardinals out of business. McGuirk though had already sold his Badgers franchise to Johnny Bryan, a fullback with the Chicago Bears. Two of the high school football players used in scandal even earned high school all-star recognition at the end of their season. Art Folz reportedly told the high schoolers that the game was a "practice game" and would in no part affect their amateur status.The Milwaukee scandal did have implications for the 1925 NFL Championship and the second controversy. In December 1925, the Pottsville Maroons had their title removed by the NFL and given to the Cardinals for playing in an unsanctioned game against the Notre Dame All-Stars. To this day, Pottsville residents and supporters still demand to know why Chicago was awarded the title even though they too were found by Carr to have violated the NFL's rules. According to Bob Carroll of the Professional Football Researchers Association, "The Cardinals didn't defy the league", Carroll said. "Pottsville did. It was a great team, but the owner made a mistake." However, it is still not entirely known if O'Brien knew of the high school players on the Badgers team.For his part, Cardinals owner Chris O'Brien refused to accept the championship title for his team. At the owners' meeting after the season was over, he argued that his team did not deserve to take the title over a team which had beaten them fairly. It appears that his reasons for scheduling the Milwaukee and Hammond games had been not to take the title, but rather to convince the cross-town Chicago Bears to play his team again – the Bears, with Red Grange in their roster, were a very lucrative draw. The NFL said it would revisit the issue later, but never did. It was only later, under the ownership of Charles Bidwill and his son Bill Bidwill, that the Cardinals began claiming the championship title.

1925 NFL Championship controversy

The 1925 National Football League Championship, claimed by the Chicago Cardinals, has long been the subject of controversy. The controversy centers on the suspension of the Pottsville Maroons by NFL commissioner Joseph Carr, which prevented them from taking the title.

The Maroons were one of the dominant teams of the 1925 season, and after defeating the Chicago Cardinals on December 6, came away with the best record in the league. However, Carr suspended and removed the team from the NFL after they played an unauthorized exhibition game in Philadelphia, on the grounds that they had violated the territorial rights of the Frankford Yellow Jackets. Chicago played and won two more games against weak NFL opponents, but were sanctioned because a Chicago player, Art Folz, hired four Chicago high school football players to play for the Milwaukee Badgers under assumed names to ensure a Cardinals victory.

Pottsville supporters argue that the suspension was illegitimate because the League did not then grant exclusive territory rights and that, in any event, they had verbal League approval to play the game in Philadelphia. Further, they argue that the Maroons, who were reinstated the next year, would have had the best record had they not been suspended. Others claim that Chicago were the legitimate champions based on the rules of the time. In 1963, the NFL investigated and rejected Pottsville's case, and in 2003 refused to reopen the case. Both the NFL and the Pro Football Hall of Fame continue to list the Cardinals as the 1925 NFL champion.

1932 Chicago Cardinals season

The 1932 Chicago Cardinals season was their 13th in the league. The team failed to improve on their previous year's 5–4 record, winning only two games. This was the NFL season without a scheduled postseason or divisions.

This was the last season of ownership for Dr. David J. Jones, who sold the team to attorney Charles Bidwill for $50,000.

1933 Chicago Cardinals season

The 1933 Chicago Cardinals season was their 14th in the National Football League. The team failed to improve on their previous year's record of 2–6–2, with only one victory and the worst record in the ten-team league. They failed to qualify for the first scheduled playoff, the 1933 NFL Championship Game.

This was the first season of ownership for attorney Charles Bidwill, who bought the team from Dr. David J. Jones for $50,000.

1971 St. Louis Cardinals (NFL) season

The 1971 St. Louis Cardinals season was the 52nd season the team was in the National Football League and twelfth in St. Louis. The team failed to improve on their previous year's 8–5–1 record, winning only four games. They failed to reach the playoffs for the 23rd straight season, their previous appearance was in 1948 in the championship game.

This was the last season the team was co-owned by Charles Bidwill, Jr.; he sold his share to his younger brother Bill in September 1972. The adopted sons of Charles and Violet Bidwill, the two had co-owned the team since their mother's death in January 1962.

2006 Arizona Cardinals season

The 2006 Arizona Cardinals season was the teams 87th Season in the NFL and 19th season in Arizona. The season began with the team trying to improve on their 5–11 record in 2005. They also moved into the Cardinals Stadium in Glendale, Arizona (one of the western suburbs of Phoenix), the first ever stadium in the United States with a retractable playing surface. The stadium was christened University of Phoenix Stadium on September 26. Despite a somewhat promising start, the team suffered a few setbacks, including key losses to the Dallas Cowboys and the eventual NFC Champion Chicago Bears, and ended the season (again) at a disappointing 5–11 record. Head coach Dennis Green was fired after the season, replaced by Ken Whisenhunt.

Arizona Cardinals

The Arizona Cardinals are a professional American football franchise based in the Phoenix metropolitan area. The Cardinals compete in the National Football League (NFL) as a member of the league's National Football Conference (NFC) West division. The Cardinals were founded as the Morgan Athletic Club in 1898, and are the oldest continuously run professional football team in the United States. The Cardinals play their home games at State Farm Stadium, which opened in 2006 and is located in the northwestern suburb of Glendale.

The team was established in Chicago in 1898 as an amateur football team and joined the NFL as a charter member on September 17, 1920. Along with the Chicago Bears, the club is one of two NFL charter member franchises still in operation since the league's founding. (The Green Bay Packers were an independent team until they joined the NFL a year after its creation in 1921.) The club then moved to St. Louis in 1960 and played in that city through 1987 (sometimes referred to as the "Football Cardinals" or the "Big Red" to avoid confusion with the St. Louis Cardinals of Major League Baseball). Before the 1988 season, the team moved west to Tempe, Arizona, a college suburb east of Phoenix, and played their home games for the next 18 seasons at Sun Devil Stadium on the campus of Arizona State University. In 2006, the club moved to their current home field in Glendale, although the team's executive offices and training facility remain in Tempe.

The franchise has won two NFL championships, both while it was based in Chicago. The first occurred in 1925, but is the subject of controversy, with supporters of the Pottsville Maroons believing that Pottsville should have won the title. Their second title, and the first to be won in a championship game, came in 1947, nearly two decades before the first Super Bowl. They returned to the title game to defend in 1948, but lost the rematch 7–0 in a snowstorm in Philadelphia.

Since winning the championship in 1947, the team suffered many losing seasons, and currently holds the longest active championship drought of North American sports at 70 consecutive seasons after Major League Baseball's Chicago Cubs ended their 108 year drought in 2016. In 2012 the Cardinals became the first NFL franchise to lose 700 games since its inception. The franchise's all-time win-loss record (including regular season and playoff games) at the conclusion of the 2018 season is 560–762–40 (553–753–40 in the regular season, 7–9 in the playoffs). They have been to the playoffs ten times and have won seven playoff games, three of which were victories during their run in the 2008–09 NFL playoffs. During that season, they won their only NFC Championship Game since the 1970 AFL–NFL merger, and reached Super Bowl XLIII (losing 27–23 to the Pittsburgh Steelers). The team has also won five division titles (1974, 1975, 2008, 2009 and 2015) since their 1947–48 NFL championship game appearances. The Cardinals are the only NFL team who have never lost a playoff game at home, with a 5–0 record: the 1947 NFL Championship Game, two postseason victories during the aforementioned 2008–09 NFL playoffs, one during the 2009–10 playoffs, and one during the 2015–16 playoffs.

From 1988 through 2012 (except 2005, when they trained in Prescott), the Cardinals conducted their annual summer training camp at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. The Cardinals moved their training camp to State Farm Stadium (then known as University of Phoenix Stadium) in 2013. The stadium was the site of the 2015 Pro Bowl, unlike in past years, where it was held at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii. The stadium also played host to Super Bowls XLII and XLIX, and will host Super Bowl LVII in 2023.

Bidwill (surname)

Bidwill is a surname. Notable people with the surname include:

Arthur J. Bidwill, American politician

John Carne Bidwill, a botanist the suburb was named after

Bill Bidwill, American businessman and sports franchise owner

Charles Bidwill, American businessman, father of Bill Bidwill

Michael Bidwill, American football executive, son of Bill Bidwill

Bill Bidwill

William V. Bidwill, Sr. (born July 31, 1931) is an American businessman. He is the principal owner and chairman of the Arizona Cardinals of the National Football League (NFL). He was co-owner from 1962 for ten seasons with his brother Charles Jr. and has been sole owner since 1972.

Charley Trippi

Charles Louis Trippi (born December 14, 1921) is a former American football player. He played professionally for the Chicago Cardinals of the National Football League (NFL) from 1947 to 1955. Although primarily a running back, his versatility allowed him to fill a multitude of roles over his career, including quarterback, defensive back, punter, and return specialist. A "quintuple-threat", Trippi was adept at running, catching, passing, punting, and defense.

Trippi attended the University of Georgia, where he played college football for the Georgia Bulldogs from 1942 to 1946, with an interlude in 1944 while serving in the military during World War II. As a sophomore, he guided Georgia to victory in the 1943 Rose Bowl and was named the game's most valuable player. As a senior in 1946, he won the Maxwell Award as the nation's most outstanding college football player, was named the Southeastern Conference's player of the year, and earned unanimous first-team All-America recognition.

Drafted first overall by the Cardinals as a "future pick" in the 1945 NFL Draft, Trippi was also pursued by the New York Yankees of the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) as well as multiple professional baseball teams. He ultimately signed a record $100,000 contract with the Cardinals. As a rookie, Trippi led Chicago's "Million Dollar Backfield" to victory in the 1947 NFL Championship Game. By the time he retired he had compiled the most yards of total offense by a player in NFL history. Trippi was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1959 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1968.

History of the Chicago Cardinals

The professional American football team now known as the Arizona Cardinals previously played in Chicago, Illinois as the Chicago Cardinals from 1920 to 1959 before relocating to St. Louis, Missouri for the 1960 season.

History of the St. Louis Cardinals (NFL)

The professional American football team now known as the Arizona Cardinals previously played in St. Louis, Missouri as the St. Louis Cardinals from 1960 to 1987 before relocating to Tempe, Arizona in 1988. The Cardinals franchise relocated from Chicago to St. Louis in 1960. Their first home game in St. Louis was at Sportsman's Park against the New York Giants on October 2, 1960. Their last game played at Busch Memorial Stadium in St. Louis was against the Giants on December 13, 1987. Their last game as a St. Louis-based club was on December 27, 1987 at the Dallas Cowboys.

During the Cardinals' 28-year stay in St. Louis, they advanced to the playoffs just three times (1974, 1975, and 1982), never hosting or winning in any appearance. In spite of what was considered lackluster performance in St. Louis, their overall record there (winning 187 games, losing 202, and 13 ties) (a winning percentage of .481) is easily the highest winning percentage for any of the three locations that the Cardinals have been associated with.

John Carne Bidwill

John Carne Bidwill (5 February 1815 – 16 March 1853) was an English botanist who documented plant life in New Zealand and Australia. He is attributed with the discovery of several Australian plant species.

Million Dollar Backfield (Chicago Cardinals)

The Million Dollar Backfield was a National Football League (NFL) offensive backfield of the Chicago Cardinals in 1947 after an unprecedented amount of money by Cardinals owner Charles Bidwill lured several of the day's top players to the team. The Million Dollar backfield was also referred to separately as the Dream Backfield by Bidwill.

Pottsville Maroons

The Pottsville Maroons were an American football team based in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, in the Northeastern part of the state. Founded in 1920, they played in the National Football League (NFL) from 1925 to 1928. In 1929 they relocated to Boston, where they played one season as the Boston Bulldogs.

The team was founded as the Pottsville Eleven, an independent team playing in the local eastern Pennsylvania circuit. Home games were played at Minersville Park, a high school stadium in nearby Minersville. They joined the local Anthracite League in 1924, the same year they adopted the "Maroons" nickname, and won the league title. The next season they joined the NFL under owner John G. Streigel. Though dominant on the field, a controversial suspension cost them the 1925 NFL Championship. They were reinstated the following year, but after two successive losing seasons in 1927 and 1928, Streigel sold the Maroons to a group in Boston, where they played one season before folding.1925 was their best season. The 1928 roster included three future Pro Football Hall of Fame members – Johnny "Blood" McNally, Walt Kiesling, and coach Wilbur "Pete" Henry – but posted the worst record in franchise history. Writer John O'Hara, who would go on to become a world-famous novelist with Appointment in Samarra, covered the team for the local newspaper.

St. Ignatius College Prep

Saint Ignatius College Prep is a selective private, coeducational Jesuit high school located in the Near West Side neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois. The school was founded in Chicago in 1869 by Fr. Arnold Damen, S.J., a Belgian missionary to the United States. The school is coeducational, Catholic, college preparatory, and sponsored by the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits).

Sue Kellaway

Sue Kellaway (born c. 1940/1941) is a New Zealand-born former Australian television journalist and presenter, best known as the original hostess of breakfast news program, Good Morning Australia, opposite Gordon Elliot, and Today, opposite Steve Liebmann.

Kellaway initially trained as a nurse, before switching to modelling and singing. She was Miss Universe New Zealand, before entering public relations and advertising. She then worked on New Zealand television as a reporter and presenter, before being selected to host Good Morning Australia on Network Ten in 1981. In 1982, she moved to co-host the Nine Network's Today program when it launched and continued until 1985.She now lives in the United Kingdom with her husband, New Zealand business mogul Charles Bidwill.

Violet Bidwill Wolfner

Violet Fults Bidwill Wolfner (January 10, 1902 – January 29, 1962) was the owner of the Chicago / St. Louis Cardinals of the National Football League (NFL) for over 14 years, from 1947 until her death in early 1962. She inherited the team in April 1947, following the death of her husband Charles Bidwill, Sr., who purchased the team in 1933. She was the first woman to become principal owner of an NFL team.

Running backs
Wide receivers /
Tight ends
Pre-modern era
two-way players
Defensive backs
and punters

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