What is now known as the Arizona Cardinals actually started way back in the year 1898. This particular team was set up in the Chicago area and soon came to be known around town as the Morgan Athletic Club.
The area where the future Cardinals played held predominantly Irish neighborhoods of Chicago and was strictly amateur at this time. Helping to found this very first professional team was the fabled Chris O’Brien, who played significantly in the founding of the NF L’s precursor the American Professional Football Association. Of the 11 teams that founded the NFL in 1920 only two still exist, the Arizona Cardinals and the Chicago Bears. It is to be noted though that the Green Bay Packers did exist, they were founded in 1919 but were NOT founding members of the league, joining in 1921.
Upon the founding of the league the team was known as the Racine Cardinals which was the teams headquarters near Chicago. Getting the name of the Cardinals happened by accident as the founder of the team looking for a bargain purchased old uniforms from the University of Chicago for a discounted price. The old uniforms having faded over the years were exactly maroon anymore. Proclaimed by O’Brien as being Cardinal red the name stuck with the team.
As the American Professional Football Association expanded in 1922 and became known as the National Football League or NFL a name change happened again, this time the team changed its name from the Racine Cardinals to the Chicago Cardinals. This was due to the league expanding to include a team from Racine, Wisconsin, which was known as the Racine Legion.
At this point in time O’Brien was trying to get the team to the point of making money. They started to play at Comiskey Park sharing it with the Chicago White Soxs. But what puts the mark on this young team was the coup that O’Brien pulled off by getting a young superstar to sign with his organization by the name of John Driscoll. This young man played as a runner, punter, and blocker and also ended up coaching the team through the first few years of existence in the National Football League.
After hiring a new coach, Norman Barry, in 1925 the Cardinals earned their very first NFL championships. At this point in time of the NFL a playoff system was not in place and the league winner was determined by the best record. In fact the Cardinals had the second best record in the league behind the Pottsville Maroons, but this was vacated due to a controversial dispute. Thus the Cardinals were credited for their very first Championship.
This was the highlight of the early Cardinals. In 1929 the team was sold to a Dr. David Jones. Dr. Jones then coaxed Ernie Nevers out of retirement to play and coach which solidified a solid campaign that year. But the team was sold again in 1932 to Charles Bidwell whose family still owns the franchise to this day. This was after one of only two winnings seasons that occurred in the twenty years after the first championship.
Running up in the 40’s the team hit hard times, much like all the teams did during the WWII era. During 1944 due to player shortages the team actually combined with the Pittsburgh Steelers and were known as the ‘Card-Pitt’. But there was a bright spot for in 1947, for only the second time, the Cardinals from Chicago recorded a national championship in the NFL against the Philadelphia Eagles using the fabled ‘Million-Dollar Backfield’. They even returned the following year to the title game but lost in the rematch. But during this time Bidwell passed away and left the teams holding to his daughter, Violet Bidwell.
During the 1950’s the team excelled at poor play. This lead to the Bidwell family looking for a move which resulted in the franchise being moved to St. Louis in 1960. Over the next 20 years the Cardinals remained competitive but could not get over their playoff hump due to the limited number of teams taken into the playoffs at the end of the season. Only three times did the St. Louis Cardinals advance to the playoffs, in 1974, 1975 and 1982.
During the 1988 season the sons of Violet Bidwell decided to move the team when the city declined to build the team a new stadium. This finally brings us to the present day location in Arizona.
List of Sources:
Arizona Cardinals Wikipedia Article