Edward W. McCaskey
April 27, 1919
|Died||April 8, 2003 (aged 83)|
|Alma mater||University of Pennsylvania|
Upon graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, McCaskey served in the 80th Division of the United States Army during World War II for two-and-a-half years. Though he was later injured, he refused the Purple Heart, and was subsequently awarded the Bronze Star Medal and a combat infantry badge.
After the war, McCaskey became a salesman and a singer in a band, though lost out to Frank Sinatra to join the Harry James Band as a singer, and in 1943, he married Virginia Halas, daughter of Bears founder, owner and head coach George Halas. However, George Halas expressed his doubts about McCaskey, sending two "agents", Bert Bell and Art Rooney, owners of the Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers, respectively, to inspect McCaskey.
Chairman of the Board
In 1967, McCaskey became vice president and treasurer of the Bears. When George Halas died in 1983, Virginia became principal owner, and Ed became chairman of the board with their son, Michael as team president. The following year, McCaskey made his son operating head of the franchise. In 1999, McCaskey relinquished his position as chairman of the board to Michael, who was promoted after various incidents occurred, such as the botched hiring of Dave Wannstedt's replacement and failed attempt to get a new stadium.
"I got to be a big shot with the Bears through some clever planning. George Halas had two children, Mugs and Virginia. I took one look at Mugs and I married Virginia, and that's how I got this job. But Coach (Halas) still waited 25 years before he hired me, because he wanted to make sure the marriage was secure."— Ed McCaskey
Relationship with Brian Piccolo
The summer before McCaskey officially joined the Bears he befriended the Bears player Brian Piccolo, and the two remained close friends until Piccolo's death of cancer in 1970. As the story goes, he was the person behind the idea to put Piccolo and Gale Sayers in the same room - the first interracial roommates in team history.
After Piccolo's death, McCaskey wrote the famous speech that was immortalized in the movie "Brian's Song": "I love Brian Piccolo and I'd like all of you to love him too. Tonight when you hit your knees, please ask God to love him." He was also long time contributor to the Brian Piccolo Cancer Research Fund.
On April 8, 2003, McCaskey died in his Des Plaines, Illinois home; he had been in declining health, and was survived by his wife and eleven children. At his funeral, a "plaintive piano rendition" of the Bears fight song "Bear Down, Chicago Bears" was played. McCaskey left a lasting impact on the Bears, such as befriending Brian Piccolo, and placing him with Gale Sayers in the same room, making them the first interracial roommates. McCaskey wrote a speech dedicated to Piccolo that was recited by Sayers after being awarded the George S. Halas Courage Award, which was later memorialized in the film Brian's Song, which McCaskey was a consultant for.
To honor McCaskey during the 2003 season, the Bears added an orange shamrock-shaped patch to their jerseys with his initials "EWM".
- "NFL executive Ed McCaskey dies". United Press International. 2003-04-08. Retrieved 2013-04-08.
- Steadman, John (2000-05-24). "Bears' McCaskey a throwback to NFL founding owner Halas". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2013-04-08.
- "Ed McCaskey, chairman emeritus of the Bears, dies at 83". USA Today. Associated Press. 2003-04-08. Retrieved 2013-04-08.
- Pierson, Don (2003-04-09). "Edward McCaskey". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2013-04-08.
- Mooshil, Maria (2006-12-01). "10 more things to know about Bears fight song". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2013-04-08.
- Berlin, Jonathon (August 30, 2019). "Take a look back at a century of Chicago Bears uniforms, including 97 years of orange and blue (and 3 of red and gold)". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved September 16, 2019.