August 22, 2010

1947: College All-Stars Shut Out Bears Before Record Crowd

The Chicago Bears had represented the NFL in the College All-Star Game five times, once as the league runner-up (the only time the pro team was not a defending NFL or, later, pre-merger AFL champion that had won the Super Bowl), and had a record of four wins and one tie with no losses. Most of the contests, sponsored by The Chicago Tribune on behalf of Chicago Charities, had been close and the pro teams enjoyed an edge of just seven wins against four losses and two ties. Just the year before, the All-Stars had shut out the Los Angeles Rams, 16-0.

On August 22, 1947 the Bears, coached by George Halas and champions of the NFL in ’46, took on an All-Star squad for the sixth time at Soldier Field. Notre Dame’s Frank Leahy coached the All-Stars, who were utilizing the T-formation for the first time. A record crowd of 105,840 was on hand to witness the home town Bears against a team that included QB George Ratterman of Notre Dame, HB Doc Blanchard of Army, Georgia HB Charlie Trippi, G Alex Agase from Illinois, and T Dick Barwegan of Purdue. And there was the small but very fast Buddy Young, halfback from Illinois, at 5’5” and 165 pounds (pictured).

Overall team speed proved to be the key to the game for the All-Stars. In addition to quick halfbacks like Young and Trippi, the line, while lighter than Chicago’s, had speed to make up for it.

The All-Stars got the jump on the NFL champions by scoring two touchdowns in the first quarter. In their first possession, they drove 82 yards on 11 plays, highlighted by a 31-yard run by Young and capped by a four-yard touchdown carry by Notre Dame HB Jim Mello. The Bears blocked the ensuing extra point attempt, but the All-Stars came right back on their next possession. This time it took only two plays to go 87 yards – Young gained 41 yards on a pass from Ratterman and then the Notre Dame quarterback threw 46 yards for the TD to end Jack Zilly. The PAT was good this time, and the Bears found themselves in a 13-0 hole that they would not be able to climb out of.

There was only one more score the rest of the game, a 21-yard field goal by UCLA’s Ernie Case in the third quarter that provided the final tally of 16-0. It could have been even more lopsided – twice the collegians recovered fumbles inside the Chicago 10 yard line but failed to put any points on the board.

The All-Stars outgained the Bears in total yards by 340 to 116, and rushing yardage by 189 to 35. Chicago never got closer to the opposing end zone than the 20 yard line and the offense was unable to sustain any sort of meaningful drive.

Buddy Young was the MVP for the All-Stars as he gained 165 yards from scrimmage and electrified the crowd with his open-field running ability. Having made a statement as to his ability to play against pro competition despite his small stature, he went on to have a successful pro career in the AAFC and NFL. George Ratterman, who also went on to play in both leagues professionally, performed capably as he completed 8 of 12 passes.

The win over the Bears was the last time that the College All-Stars won two games in a row (they had previously done so in 1937 and ’38) and the only time they recorded back-to-back shutouts. They would win only four more times in the remaining 28 games of the series.