Golden Football Magazine
NFL Championship Games
1946: Chicago Bears @ New York Giants
This series covers the history of the NFL through the prism of its yearly championship games.
Note: The gray boxes contain asides that provide interesting material but could be skipped without losing the continuity of the article.

Rams B Kenny Washington
Kenny Washington

Bears E Ken Kavanaugh
Ken Kavanaugh

Bears C Bulldog Turner
Bulldog Turner

Bears T Joe Stydahar
Joe Stydahar

Steelers B Bullet Bill Dudley
Bullet Bill Dudley

Giants FB Bill Paschal
Bill Paschal

Alvin Paris
Alvin Paris

Ida McGuire
Ida McGuire, "minor" actress who dated Filchock at Paris's request.

Major rules changes for 1946:
  1. A forward pass that strikes the goal post is automatically incomplete. This change resulted from the safety incurred by the Redskins in the '45 championship game when Sammy Baugh's pass from his EZ hit the upright, resulting in a safety that ultimately cost Washington the title.
  2. With so many veterans (of the NFL and the military) back in action, the free substitution rule was repealed. Teams could now substitute no more than three players at a time.
  3. Punts and missed FGs that traveled into the EZ could be returned by the receiving team.
  4. The penalty for an invalid fair catch signal was 5y from the spot. The signal could be made only when the ball is in flight.

With World War II over, 1946 saw teams rebuild their rosters with players returning from military service.

  • The Los Angeles Rams, having abandoned Cleveland to the Browns of the new AAFC, signed an agreement to play in the Memorial Coliseum on condition that they integrate the team. So owner Dan Reeves signed two former UCLA stars, RB Kenny Washington and E Woody Strode. But after several players from '45 stayed in Cleveland to play for the new team, the Rams didn't capture the spark that led it to the '45 championship and finished 6-4-1, good for second in the West.
  • The Bears benefitted not only from the return of former stars like QB Sid Luckman, HB Hugh Gallarneau, E Ken Kavanaugh, E George Wilson, T Joe Stydahar, and C Bulldog Turner over the last two seasons but also Owner-Coach George Halas after he served 39 months in the Navy. With their patented T formation offense back in high gear, Chicago won the Western Division with an 8-2-1 record.
  • Halas adapted his coaching to fit men fresh from the military. Relax, he told them the first day of training camp. Nobody will be cut because he's a little rusty. ... You've probably had enough discipline and regimentation to last a lifetime - I know I have. All rules are off. No curfews. No bed checks. You're on your own. It's up to you individually to get in shape and play football.

In the East, the Pittsburgh Steelers started surprisingly strong.

  • Bullet Bill Dudley, in his first full season after several years in the service, led the league in rushing, punt returns, and interceptions. He amassed 1830y of total offense. His Steelers began the season 5-2-1 before losing three of their last four games to finish tied for third with the Redskins.
  • With all-star RB Steve Van Buren hampered by injuries that limited him to 529y, 303 less than in '45, the Eagles slumped to 6-5.
  • That opened the door for the Giants to earn a berth in the championship game for the ninth time since the contest began in 1933. Like their archrivals, the Bears, New York benefitted from the return of some veterans, including FB Bill Paschal and receivers Jim Poole and George Frank. Steve Owen's club also obtained the Washington's backup QB Frank Filchock. Out of the giant shadow of Baugh, Filchock outpassed Sammy to finish fifth in passing yards (1262) and third in passing average (7.47 per completion).
Frank Filchock and Steve Owen
Frank Filchock and Steve Owen at a 1946 regular season game in the Polo Grounds

The Bears and Giants had met three times before in the championship game: 1933 (Bears 23-21), 1934 (Giants 30-13), and 1941 (Bears 37-9).

  • Amazingly, one of the Giants who played in the 1933 and '34 games, Ken Strong, still graced the roster as a PK.
  • Eight of the '46 Bears had played in the '41 title game - QB Luckman, backs Gallarneau and Bill Osmanski and linemen Ed Kolman, Ray Bray, Turner, Kavanaugh, and Wilson,
  • Giant alumni from that contest were Franck and linemen Frank Cope, Orv Tuttle, Chet Gladchuk, Jim Poole, Jim Lee Howell, Kayo Lunday, Bill Edwards, and Len Younce.

Chicago ruled as 10-point favorites despite their loss to the Giants 14-0 October 27.

  • Part of the reason for the large margin was the Giants' loss of pile-driving FB Paschal. He had been hospitalized with a broken jaw received in the previous week's game against the Redskins. BB Cecil Hare's shoulder separation in the same fray ruled him out as well.
  • On the bright side, ace runner/kicker Frank Reagan and star G Edwards, who put pressure on Luckman by submarining the Bear centers in the regular season meeting, were available.
  • Chicago had missed George McAfee, one of the best backs in the league, and several other key players in their shocking shutout loss in the Polo Grounds.
  • Halas's crew worked out at the Polo Grounds after they arrived Saturday an hour behind time.
  • Meanwhile, the Giants drilled at Bear Mountain, their home since Wednesday. They would bus directly to the park Sunday morning.
  • The game would pit the Bear offense, the highest-scoring unit in the league, against the Giant defense, which had pitched four shutouts in their eleven-game season.

The NFL faced its first major scandal the day before its championship showcase.

  • Shortly after 3 PM, Saturday, December 14, New York Mayor William O'Dwyer telephoned Tim Mara, owner of the Giants, to ask him to come immediately to the mayor's home.
  • Tim had started the NFL franchise in the Big Apple in 1925 at the request of Commissioner Joe Carr despite the fact that Tim didn't know much about football.
  • His enthusiasm for the big game the next day was considerably dampened when he arrived at Gracie Mansion with his two sons. Police Commissioner Arthur Wallender was already there, and Owen would soon join the group.
  • O'Dwyer told Mara that police, suspicious by rapid changes in the point spread for the championship game, had arrested a 28-year-old small-time gambler named Alvin Paris after tapping his telephone. Under questioning, Paris admitted offering bribes to two Giants, Filchock and FB Merle Hapes. Each could earn $2,500 for throwing the game. In addition, a bet of $1,000 apiece would be placed for them on the Bears. Paris also offered the players off-season jobs.
  • Owen wanted to ring the bookie's neck. Give me that Paris. Let me take him in a room and lock the door. I'll get your confession, Steve told Wallender, who didn't accede to the request.
  • Further investigation found that Paris was merely the go-between for four members of a wealthy New Jersey bookmaking syndicate. He had courted Hapes for several weeks, wining and dining Merle and his wife.
  • The two players were questioned separately, each not knowing the other was elsewhere in the Mansion. Breaking into tears, Hapes admitted receiving the offer but swore that he hadn't accepted it. Filchock, on the other hand, denied everything.
  • NFL Commissioner Bert Bell, former owner of the Eagles who had headed the league since January, declared Hapes ineligible "pending an investigation by the authorities." However, he did not sideline Filchock, giving him the benefit of the doubt.
  • Paris was arrested after midnight and brought to the police station. The gambler claimed Hapes had turned him down four times, the last being at Bear Mountain on Friday, and Filchock, three times. Paris quoted the players as saying, The other boys say we are going to win, and we wouldn't let them down. So he advised his "associates" that he had failed, and they began to hedge on their $20,000 worth of bets.
  • Filchock didn't leave the police station until 3 AM. He later admitted that he had denied receiving any offer so that he could play and show what he could do.
  • An ironic twist to the story was that Tim Mara's main occupation when he became the founding owner of the Giants was bookmaker.

    The news reports brought back unhappy memories in the New York area of the basketball scandal of 1945.
The Polo Grounds, New York1946 NFL Championship Game Program
Polo Grounds
1946 Championship Game Ticket
1946 Chicago Bears
# Player Pos. Hgt. Wgt. College Exp.
3 Dante Magnani HB 5-11 180 St. Mary's 5
4 Frank Maznicki HB 5-9 185 Boston College 2
5 George McAfee HB 6-0 180 Duke 4
6 Don Perkins FB 6-0 200 Platteville Teachers 3
7 Ed Sprinkle E 6-1 205 Hardin-Simmons 3
8 Hugh Gallarneau HB 6-0 190 Stanford 4
9 Bill Osmanski FB 5-11 200 Holy Cross 6
10 Noah Mullins HB 5-11 185 Kentucky 1
11 Bob Margarita HB 6-0 180 Brown 3
12 Walter Lamb E 6-1 195 Oklahoma 1
13 Joe Stydahar T 6-4 250 West Virginia 9
14 George Zorich G 6-1 210 Northwestern 3
16 Rudy Mucha G 6-1 235 Washington 3
18 Joe Osmanski FB 6-2 220 Holy Cross 1
20 James Keane E 6-4 215 Iowa 1
21 Chuck Drulis G 5-10 215 Temple 3
22 Lloyd Reese FB 6-2 233 Tennessee 1
23 Connie Berry E 6-3 218 No. Carolina State 7
24 Fred Davis T 6-3 245 Alabama 4
25 Mike Jarmoluk T 6-5 262 Temple 1
29 Ed Kolman T 6-2 235 Temple 4
30 George Wilson E 6-2 210 Northwestern 10
31 Stuart Clarkson C 6-1 215 Texas A&I 2
34 John Federovitch T 6-5 255 Davis Elkins 2
36 Tom Farris QB 6-1 185 Wisconsin 1
41 John Schiechi C 6-3 245 Santa Clara 4
42 Sid Luckman QB 6-0 198 Columbia 8
45 Walter Stickel T 6-3 245 Pennsylvania 1
48 Dick Schweidler HB 5-11 175 Creighton 3
51 Ken Kavanaugh E 6-3 212 LSU 4
53 Pat Preston G 6-2 215 Wake Forest 1
57 Ray McLean HB 5-10 170 St. Anselm's 7
62 Ray Bray G 6-0 240 Western Michigan 5
86 Bulldog Turner C 6-1 250 Hardin-Simmons 7
1946 New York Giants
# Player Pos. Hgt. Wgt. College Exp.
1 Frank Cope LT 6-2 230 Santa Clara 9
10 Howie Livingston RH 6-1 190 Fullerton J.C. 3
12 Dave Brown RH 5-11 190 Alabama 2
15 Hank Soar RH 6-0 215 Providence 9
22 Cecil Hare FB 5-11 195 Gonzaga 4
23 Steve Filipowicz QB 5-8 200 Fordham 2
25 Peter Gorgone QB 6-0 220 Muhlenberg 1
30 Merle Hapes FB 5-11 195 Mississippi 2
37 George Franck FB 6-0 190 Minnesota 3
38 Bill Paschal FB 6-0 200 Georgia Tech 4
40 Frank Filchock LH 5-11 190 Indiana 7
41 Emery Nix LH 5-11 180 TCU 4
44 Frank Reagan LH 6-0 185 Pennsylvania 2
50 Ken Strong FB 6-1 210 NYU 11
51 Chester Gladchuk C 6-5 245 Boston College 2
55 Lou DeFilippo C 6-1 230 Fordham 3
57 Lou Palazzi C 6-0 195 Penn State 1
60 Len Younce LG 6-1 210 Oregon State 4
61 Orville Tuttle RG 5-9 215 Oklahoma City 6
65 Ken Lunday LG 6-3 220 Arkansas 6
66 Bill Edwards RG 6-0 215 Baylor 4
67 Bob Dobelstein RT 6-1 210 Tennessee 1
70 Joe Byler RT 6-5 255 Nebraska 1
71 Phil Ragazzo RT 6-2 220 Western Reserve 6
77 James White LT 6-2 225 Notre Dame 1
79 DeWitt Coulter LT 6-4 225 Army 1
80 Jim Poole LE 6-3 225 Ole Miss 7
81 Jim Lee Howell RE 6-6 215 Arkansas 7
83 John Weiss RE 6-3 205 None 3
85 Jack Mead RE 6-3 210 Wisconsin 1
87 Don McCafferty LE 6-4 220 Ohio State 1
88 Frank Liebel RE 6-1 220 Norwich 5
90 Victor Carroll RT 6-4 230 Nevada 11
1946 New York Giants
The game was expected to break the attendance record of 46,016 established in the Giant-Packer playoff game at the Polo Grounds in 1944 and also top the gate receipt record of $162,000 set at Cleveland in '45.
  • Only a few scattered reserved seat tickets had not been sold in advance. 4,000 bleacher seats went on sale at noon.
  • The kickoff was moved up four minutes from 2:05 to 2:01 to provide as much daylight as possible for the game, which would go into a sudden death overtime if regulation play ended in a tie. The game could not start before 2 PM because of a New York City ordinance for Sunday events.


  • Meanwhile, the Giants were stunned when told of the attempted bribery when they were at breakfast at Bear Mountain. Franciscan priest Benedict Dudley, a close friend of the Mara family who had just said Mass, told the team, I have been a good friend of the club for many years, and there has never been a finger of suspicion lifted against any man. You will see one of our boys is missing, Merle Hapes - at the moment under a cloud. Apparently, some gamblers had made an attempt to bribe him. No matter what happens, I know you will go in and play the game for all it is worth.
  • The players' initial reaction gave way to indignation and cold rage by game time. The Bears were reportedly incensed as well when they heard about the bribe offer.
  • As 58,346 - a record attendance by over 12,000 - filled the stands, the bribery attempt dominated the conversation.
  • The crowd greeted Filchock with a chorus of boos as he came down the steps of the CF clubhouse with his mates. Frank would turn the Bronx cheers to accolades by playing his heart out.
Not surprisingly, the Giants started slowly on the cold afternoon.
  • Quarter 1
    The Bears scored twice in the first eight minutes.
    However, they did nothing with the opening kickoff, losing 8y on a busted first down run. So Luckman got off a good punt into Giants territory.
    The home team started on the wrong foot. Filchock, anxious to make his mark right away, aired out a long one that was overthrown. When Franck took the handoff on the next snap, LB Turner smacked him hard, causing a fumble that LB Stu Clarkson recovered on the NY 32. It was the first of a staggering eight turnovers by the Giants.
    It took only four plays for the Bears to capitalize. A short pass and a smash by George McAfee picked up a first down on the 21. Luckman, playing in the city where he starred for Columbia, spotted Kavanaugh outsprinting DB Howie Livingston into the EZ and hit the former LSU Tiger between the goal posts for a TD. The tally broke a tie between Luckman and Baugh for most scoring passes in championship games and gave Kavanaugh a record with two TD catches in title contests.
    Filchock returned the kickoff to his 24. But with the Bears plugging holes in the line and placing well-timed hits on receivers, the Giants had to punt.
    A third down sack of Luckman forced the Bears to kick it right back.
    On 3rd-and-13, Ed Sprinkle, whom line coach Hunk Anderson had switched from LE to RE, Ed's preference, for the game, got around his blocker and forced Filchock to scramble. Ed hit the former Hoosier as he threw. The ball went directly to DB Dante Magnani, who raced 39y down the left sideline untouched to pay dirt. Frank Maznicki's second PAT made it 14-0. It may have been Sprinkle's smash or another one in the half that broke Filchock's nose.
    The Giants' bad luck continued on the next possession as Gallarneau punched the ball out of a runner's hand into his own. Filchock barely missed an INT, but a holding call killed the drive anyway.
    After a short Luckman punt, the bloody-nosed Filchock brought the Giants back. Franck gained 1 to the NY 49. Then Filchock threw to Jim Poole, who made a great catch to the 38. From there, Filchock lofted an "inartistic wobbler" over the head of Tom Farris into the arms of Frank Liebel on the 4, and he crossed the goal line with 1:30 on the clock.

Bears LB Stu Clarkson
Stu Clarkson

Bears B Dante Magnani
Dante Magnani

1946 NFL Championship Game Action
Bears QB Sid Luckman (42) has just handed the ball to George McAfee (5) in early action.
  • Quarter 2
    The Chicago offense stalled on the next possession, and Turner had to make a TD-saving tackle on Filchock's punt return to keep NY in their territory.
    Given new life because of a roughing the kicker penalty, the Giants edged into Chicago territory. But Filchock threw another pick into Magnani's hands.
    But the Bears were making their own mistakes. A holding call put them into 3rd-and-14. Undeterred, Luckman hit Kavanaugh in double coverage 42y downfield. But the Giants rose up and forced a FG attempt on 4th-and-10. The try fell short, Filchock returning all the way to the 32.
    Frankie tried another deep shot, but McAfee was in position to snare it and bring it back to midfield.
    With six minutes left in the half, the offensive futility continued. The Bears went three and out, then McAfee got another great INT.
    George showed his versatility on the next play, running off tackle for 37y to give the Bears a good chance to add to their lead before the break.
    Luckman threw a jump ball to Magnani at the goal line, but Livingston spoiled the plan with an INT.
    The home team ran one play before the gun.
    The period had proved costly to the Giants. Reagan, whom Owen had pinned his hopes on with his top two FBs, Paschal and Mapes, out of action, joined the broken nose brigade in the period and was taken to the hospital. Reagan's loss also left the Giants without a punter. First Len Younce, then Livingston were pressed into service.
    Near the end of the half, Franck went to the sidelines with a shoulder separation, never to return.
Franck starts on a reverse.
Giants HB George Franck takes the ball on a reverse for a 38y gain, longest run of the game.

Owen asked Filchock at halftime if he wanted to leave the game because of his broken nose and other hurts, but the QB insisted he wanted to show the crowd that his reputation was above reproach.

  • Quarter 3
    This half started badly for the Bears. Giant E Jim Lee Howell suddenly found himself in possession of Joe Osmanski's fumble on the Chicago 20. Jim was so surprised it took him a long time to get up and start running. A roughing penalty advanced the ball to the 10. Filchock tore through a hole at G for 5. After an incompletion, the Giants completed their comeback when Filchock tossed into the EZ to "fire hydrant" Steve Filipowicz, who had run precisely one play from FB in practice, and Strong booted the tying point. On the scoring play, a Bear had been guilty of a blatant holding penalty when he grabbed Steve by the shirt as the Giant tried to get free in the left flat, but no flag was throw.
    Then the game reverted to its Q2 form - three straight three-and-outs.
    Then Filchock hit Filipowicz in stride down the sideline for 37y. Had Steve been a little faster, he might have gone all the way. But a holding call on the next snap took the starch out of the threat, and the Giants punted yet again. But Livingston's boot went off the side of his foot and traveled only 16y, going out of bounds on the Bear 34.

  • Quarter 4
    Chicago moved to the NY 42 thanks to two Luckman aerials, one to McAfee for 18 and another to E Jim Keane in triple coverage for another 12. Joe Osmanski, a dentist in the off season, broke away for 8 and a first down on the 34. Luckman's next pass fell incomplete, but the Giants were guilty of unnecessary roughness to make it first down on the 19.
    The Bears had noticed earlier that the Giant backers were being suckered over to the strong side and planned to take advantage with a play called "Bingo Keep It."
    So Luckman called time and ran to the bench. "Now?" he asked Halas. "Now!!" replied the coach. Let George describe what happened next.
    Sid called the play. It began exactly as the previous ones. Sid took the ball, pivoted as though to hand the ball again to McAfee who was already driving to the left behind a row of blockers. The Giants went for him. Sid put the ball on his hip, drifted around the right end and made a touchdown. Nobody touched him. [Your memory played tricks on you, George. Newspaper accounts said two Giants hit Sid on the 5, but he kept his feet and went over.] Luckman had not intentionally carried the ball a single time all season.
    Behind again, Filchock took to the air only to have Turner pick it off at the NY 23. But Luckman gave the ball right back, Livingston grabbing his second INT at the 13.
Luckman scores winning TD.Livingston intercepts.
L: Luckman scores the winning TD. R: Howie Livingston intercepts a pass intended for Ken Kavanaugh.
Filchock squeezed out a first down on an over-the-top pass to gain some breathing room. But Sprinkle struck again with a vicious sack to put the ball inside the 20. Livingston's punt went only 27y to set the Bears up at the NY 37.
They ran the ball six straight times, gaining 12y before bogging down. So Maznicki toed a 26y FG to make it 24-14 with four minutes left.
Filchock didn't give up, gaining 20y on a QB keeper. But his next pass would be his last. Luckman, whom Halas had "rewarded" for his TD by keeping him in on D, intercepted on his own 30. As the crowd filed out, the Bears ran straight ahead four times to exhaust the clock.

Despite Filchock's throwing six INTs, no one questioned his effort. Favored by 10, the Bears won by exactly that spread, which meant that no bettor won.

Final statistics:
  • First downs: Bears 10 Giants 13
  • Yards rushing: Bears 40-101, Giants 33-120
  • Passing: Bears 22-9-2/144, Giants 26-9-6/128
  • Return yardage: Bears 104, Giants 60
  • Fumbles-Lost: Bears 2-1, Giants 3-2
  • Penalties: Bears 9-112, Giants 6-70
Bears exult after winning 1946 NFL Championship.McAfee kisses Luckman.
L: Halas and Luckman at the center of Bears' locker room celebration
R: George McAfee kisses Luckman as Ray McLean looks on.
  • Luckman explained his winning TD. We had set the play up early in the game with McAfee going around the end. This time I figured in my mind the time was ripe for it.
  • Owen thought the scandal breaking on the eve of the playoff hurt his team's chances. Naturally they were upset, but they went in there and played their heads off. They played harder but missed Hapes.
  • Filchock, tired and dejected as he stretched out on a trainer's table, his leg swathed in heavy bandages, refused to talk about the scandal.

As expected, the game topped all previous gates, bringing in $282,955.25.

  • Each victorious Bear collected a new record $1,975.82.
  • Even in defeat, the Giants took home $1,295.57 per man, a new high for the losers.
  • Alvin Paris was convicted January 8. The same day, Commissioner Bell placed both Hapes and Filchock on the league's suspended list despite the fact that Judge Saul Streit ruled that Frank Filchock was not an accomplice, and was in fact an unfortunate victim of circumstances.
  • Subsequently, Paris's grand jury testimony resulted in the indictment of three men on bribery and conspiracy charges.
  • Alvin was also the star witness at the trial, telling the story of what happened in public for the first time.
  • All three defendants were convicted, two receiving sentences of five to ten years and the third, a maximum of three. Judge Streit told the men at their sentencing that they had attempted to destroy the faith and confidence of the public in American sport.
  • Paris received only a one-year sentence because of his cooperation with the prosecution and was paroled after nine months.

Within a day of the verdicts, Bell extended the suspensions of the two Giants indefinitely.

  • He said the players were guilty of actions detrimental to the welfare of the National Football League and of professional football.
  • Hapes felt the penalty was a little bit stiff. It's a bunch of baloney about hurting the league. All that they got against us is just not reporting the attempt. I don't think we did anything to hurt the league, but I'm through with professional football anyway.
  • Filchock, whose wife divorced him shortly after the scandal, played and coached football in Canada from 1947-59. Bell finally reinstated him in 1950, but no U.S. team signed him. In 1960, Frank returned to the U.S. as the first coach of the Denver Broncos of the new American Football League.
  • On January 23, 1947, the team owners extended Bell's contract with a substantial salary increase and added a provision to the league constitution giving the commissioner stronger powers to deal with gambling infractions.
References: Championship: The NFL Title Games plus Super Bowl, Jerry Izenberg (1970)
Halas by Halas: The Autobiography of George Halas, with Gwen Morgan and Arthur Veysey (1979)
Papa Bear: The Life and Legacy of George Halas, Jeff Davis (2005)
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