His name is synonymous not only for the team he established but also the league in which it plays. He is an icon in his home city to this day. But how many people know of the brief time that George Halas spent with the New York Yankees.
Enrolling at the University of Illinois in the fall of 1914, Halas became a star in basketball, baseball, and football.
A Yankee scout named Bob Connery wanted to sign him, but Halas declined. He stayed at Illinois until World War I, where he enlisted in the Navy. He came back from the war, and eventually signed with the Yankees for $400 per month.
On April 1, 1919 the Yankees were playing the Brooklyn Dodgers in a spring training game. Halas came up and belted one over the center fielder's head and it rolled to the wall.
Halas rounded second and raced to third, where he hook slid into the hard clay dirt. He was safe, but he appeared to have hurt himself, as he limped off the field after the inning was over.
He missed a week before playing again on April 8, striking out his first three times. He singled his fourth time up, but he was in pain as he ran to first base. Since MRI's weren't around then, no one knew exactly what was wrong with Halas.
Halas would make his Major League debut on May 6 at Shibe Park in Philadelphia, going 1-4 while batting leadoff and playing right field.
Two days later, he repeated his 1-4 effort while leading off and playing right. No one knew that it would be the last hit in the big leagues, as Halas continued to feel discomfort and limping.
Finally in mid-June, Halas asked manager Miller Huggins if he could go to Youngstown, Ohio to see a trainer and chiropractor named John "Bonesetter" Reese; Huggins consented. Reese discovered that Halas had a dislocated hip caused by the slide back in April. It twisted his thighbone out of joint.
Reese simply felt around and twisted it back into joint. Halas was finally pain free.
When he joined the team in Cleveland, Huggins informed Halas that he was wonderingif he should join the minor league team in St. Paul due to his struggles hitting the curve.
In 39 games with the Saints, Halas hit a respectable .274. Then the day after Christmas, the Yankees made the deal that changed the fortunes of both the franchise and Halas when they acquired Babe Ruth from the Red Sox. The deal wasn't officially announced until eight days later on January 3.
Halas agreed to play for St. Paul in 1920, provided he got the $400 per month he got in 1919. St. Paul manager Mike Kelley agreed, but wanted the Yankees to release Halas to his team. The Yankees refused, as the Saints were not affiliated with them. This meant they could sell to any team they wanted, and the Yankees didn't want that.
The Yankees then tried to lowball Halas by offering him less money. Halas wanted none of that, and he walked away from baseball and the Yankees. Halas then got an offer from a Decatur, Illinois businessman named A.E. Staley, who gave Halas the opportunity to work for him and help form a professional football team. This set the stage for the formation of what would become the National Football League and the birth of the team now known as the Chicago Bears.
In the end, things worked out just fine for Halas, the Yankees, and Babe Ruth. Still, it makes you wonder how sports history would have looked had Halas stayed with the Yankees instead of trying his hand at football.