Chicago Cubs: One of Wrigley Field’s greatest moments

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - SEPTEMBER 05: A recently unveiled statue of George S. Halas resides outside Soldier Field on September 05, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - SEPTEMBER 05: A recently unveiled statue of George S. Halas resides outside Soldier Field on September 05, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images) /

There have been a lot of moments in the century-long history of Wrigley Field, but not all involve the Chicago Cubs or even baseball for that matter. 1963 saw one of the most significant moments in Chicago sports history take place at the corner of Clark and Addison.

In the spirit of Super Bowl weekend, we rewind the clocks to December 29th, 1963. It was a day that saw the Friendly Confines host the 1963 NFL Championship between the Chicago Bears and New York Giants. This would be the fifth and final NFL title game the Bears would host at Wrigley Field in their near-50 years playing there.

Why is this particular championship such an essential piece in Chicago sports history? A few reasons. For starters, it was the final title won by “Papa Bear” George Halas, who is after all one of the most significant figures in Chicago sports history. He coached many games along the Wrigley sidelines, and this was his final moment being on top. It would also be the Bears final NFL title in the pre-Super Bowl era and the last major sports championship to be clinched at Wrigley Field.

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From 1940-1963 the Bears won five titles and made seven of them. Several of those being clinched at Wrigley Field, including 1941, 1943 and 1963. The 1963 team itself featured one the best defenses of that era as they went 11-1-2 in the regular season which included a season sweep of the Green Bay Packers to help clinch their ticket to the title game. That fierce defense intercepted the opponent 36 times and generated a total of 54 turnovers.

Note this season was just before both Gale Sayers and Dick Butkus would be drafted. This team featured the likes of Billy Wade at QB, fan-favorite Ed O’Bradovich and Hall of Famers Mike Ditka and Doug Atkins. 11 future Hall of Famers would participate in this game between the two sides.

The Championship Game

Wrigley Field was under a bright sunny sky on the day of the championship…but the sun did not warm the place up. A temperature reading of four degrees with a -11 wind chill would require the field to be thawed and warmed up by heaters.

This game was pushed by the league to move to Soldier Field, but Halas refused. Regardless of the weather, the stadium was fully packed to witness the Bears take on future Hall of Famer Y.A. Tittle and the Giants. Jack Brickhouse, Chris Shenkel and George Connor would broadcast the game.

The Giants (who were favored in this game) struck first on a Tittle 14-yard pass for a touchdown to another Hall of Famer, Frank Gifford. Later that quarter the Bears tied it up when Wade took the ball on the goal line scored on a QB sneak. After the Giants kicked a field goal in the second quarter, the Bears would go into the locker room trailing 10-7.

In the third quarter, the Bears would take their first lead of the game as Wade once again took the ball himself into the endzone. The defense buckled down and stopped the Giants offense cold the rest of the way. It all ended when Richie Petitbon intercepted a desperation throw from Tittle in the endzone in the final minute.

45,801 spectators at Wrigley roared as the band played a victorious tune and the Bears rushed back to the old locker room entrance in the left-field corner to celebrate. Tittle, who was picked off five times that game, limped back to the old visitor’s clubhouse surrounded by cheers and taunting after getting bashed around by the Monsters of the Midway. An effort that deserves a lot of credit being able to play until the end.

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Next time you go to a Cubs game at Wrigley Field, remember great moments like this that also happened in that historic stadium.. The 1963 title really is a defining moment for the Bears franchise, Wrigley history and the city of Chicago. Also, if you want to see some cool home footage from that game, click here!