Bears fed Wheaton's Grange in first Thanksgiving game

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • This is a vintage trading card of Harold "Red" Grange, who played most of his pro football career with the Chicago Bears. Grange, the Wheaton legend known as the "Galloping Ghost," made his pro debut on Thanksgiving Day in 1925.

    This is a vintage trading card of Harold "Red" Grange, who played most of his pro football career with the Chicago Bears. Grange, the Wheaton legend known as the "Galloping Ghost," made his pro debut on Thanksgiving Day in 1925. Associated Press

  • Just 10 days after completing his Illini football career, Harold "Red" Grange of Wheaton joined the Chicago Bears for their first Thanksgiving Day game. The "Galloping Ghost," as he was known, helped to draw 36,000 fans to Cubs Park, which later became Wrigley Field.

    Just 10 days after completing his Illini football career, Harold "Red" Grange of Wheaton joined the Chicago Bears for their first Thanksgiving Day game. The "Galloping Ghost," as he was known, helped to draw 36,000 fans to Cubs Park, which later became Wrigley Field. Associated Press/1925 file

 
 
Posted11/27/2014 6:00 AM

When you think NFL and Thanksgiving Day, the mind likely turns to the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys.

For decades, while families from coast to coast have huddled around the table to gorge turkey, the Lions and Cowboys suited up and hosted football games.

 

With the exception of a six-year break for World War II, the Lions have been playing on Thanksgiving since 1934, a tradition started by G.A. Richards, the franchise's first owner.

The Bears haven't played a holiday game in Detroit since 1999, but that changes on Thursday when they meet the Lions at 11:30 a.m. (CBS).

While it has been 15 years since the Bears last teed it up on Turkey Day, they've played some memorable games on Thanksgiving:

1925

The Detroit Lions were not yet born, but Chicago's two pro football teams -- the Bears and Cardinals -- played a Thanksgiving Day game at Cubs Park, which is now known as Wrigley Field.

The 0-0 final score hardly stands out, but the game was highly notable because it marked Red Grange's debut with the Bears.

The Wheaton High School product and three-time All American at the University of Illinois was signed by George Halas to draw some attention to the NFL. Grange, playing for the Bears just 10 days after his final game for the Illini, helped to draw a standing-room-only crowd of 36,000, giving the league a much-needed boost.

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For Grange, it was a modest beginning as he rushed for 96 yards and intercepting a pass, but the "Galloping Ghost" certainly set the stage for a Hall of Fame career spent with the Bears (1925, 1929-35) and the short-lived New York Yankees football franchise (1926-27).

Ten days after his Thanksgiving debut for Chicago, Grange and the Bears beat the New York Giants before more than 70,000 fans at the Polo Grounds.

1929

The Bears and Cardinals hooked up again, with the latter winning 40-6.

The game remains memorable because Cardinals fullback Ernie Nevers set an NFL record that still stands, scoring all 40 points on 6 touchdowns and 4 extra-point conversions.

1934

Looking to spark interest in the first Thanksgiving Day game in Detroit, Richards got the unbeaten, defending world champion Bears to play in the Motor City.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Under Halas, the legendary head coach and owner, the Bears beat the Lions and went on to a 13-0 season, an NFL record that held up until the Miami Dolphins went 17-0 in 1972.

1938

In the fifth-straight Turkey Day matchup with the Bears and Lions in Detroit, the home team prevailed 14-7.

This was the final Thanksgiving game in Detroit until 1945 due to the outbreak of World War II.

1949

Bears quarterback Johnny Lujack passed for 2 touchdowns and kicked 4 extra points to spark a 28-7 win over Detroit.

The lone highlight for the Lions was Bob Smith's 102-yard interception return for a touchdown, an NFL record that stood until 1987.

1952

The Bears played in Akron, Ohio -- not Detroit -- for this Thanksgiving Day game and lost to the Dallas Texans 27-23 before an underflow crowd of 3,000 at the Rubber Bowl.

George Blanda was the Bears' quarterback and kicker, and he passed for 2 touchdowns and added 3 extra points.

1964

After the Lions played 13 straight Thanksgiving games against the Green Bay Packers, the Bears returned to Detroit and won 27-24.

Johnny Morris caught 7 passes from Bears QB Rudy Bukich and had 100 yards and 1 touchdown. Mike Ditka had 4 catches for 35 yards.

1977

It was the Walter Payton Show for the Bears in a 31-14 holiday win at Detroit.

"Sweetness" rushed 20 times for 137 yards and a touchdown and caught 4 passes for 107 yards, including a 75-yard scoring toss from quarterback Bob Avellini.

1980

The Bears won in Detroit 23-17 in overtime thanks to some late heroics.

QB Vince Evans scored on a 4-yard run on the final play of regulation to tie the game, and David Williams returned the kickoff 95 yards for the game-winning touchdown just 21 seconds into OT.

1997

The Lions exacted some revenge over the Bears in a 55-20 win.

Detroit piled up 38 points in the second half en route to scoring the most points in a regular-season game in franchise history.

The 55 points were also the most ever allowed by the Bears, and Lions running back Barry Sanders did most of the damage with 167 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns.

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