Off-season readin’: Nagurski’s Biography


If there’s one book that provides depth to Chicago Bears’ history, it’s Monster of the Midway by Jim Dent. This book has it all: a tough-as-nails Bears’ player and his teammates, George Halas who struggles to keep this sport alive, and believe it or not, Al Capone. Yep, it’s that kind of a history lesson.

After being introduced to Nagurski’s childhood and college years, November 9, 1930, marked the Packer/Bears game, but the typical tension we have come to know, was amplified by Capone’s presence. Not only was Capone personally taking bets, the snow descended and there was pressure placed on George Halas who had hoped the game would bring in spectators, and the team out of the red, despite the financial woes of Chicagoans brought on by the Great Depression.  That day at Wrigley Field, Halas met a packed house, where he faced Packers fans and their head coach, Curly Lambeau, whom he despised so much. His temper grew when he saw Capone in stands and feared that the game might have been fixed (64). During that game, Nagurksi ran for 123 rushing yards, had one touchdown and 19 tackles; not bad for a rookie.

Throughout the book there are moments when a Bears’ fan understands why our team is called “The Monsters of the Midway.” In yet another game against Green Bay, all hope lied with Nagurski in the fourth quarter to maintain their 9-0 victory.

"It was December 11, 1932, Nagurski kept moving down the field with a face that “was plastered with ice. …[since that] afternoon, the temperature plummeted to minus two degrees” (95)."

Actions like Nagurski’s demonstrate the power the players of this team are expected to be. Given this history, is there any wonder where these players of yesterday are today?

A well-feared reputation developed as a result of Nagurski’s drive. Giants’ coach Steven Owen commented in an interview where he praises Nagurski’s athleticism, “Football is a game played down in the dirt by two people. The one who scraps the hardest is going to win” (121). He reflects that it was invented by a mean man, George Halas, and was meant to be played in a similar fashion.

Even though Dent describes a 35 year old Nagurski being an “old man” with his “crooked nose,…bent fingers,…arthritic joints, and a degenerating hip…,” Nagurski kept playing. I would recommend this book for anyone who wants to get a complete understanding of the early years in the NFL’s history, which happens to coincide with Chicago Bears’ history.