Pro Football Hall of Fame
August 7, 1982
GEORGE MUSSO: Thank you Mr. Halas (presenter George Halas). Ladies and Gentlemen. First, a lot of you see me walking with a cane and having people help me. I want you to know that this didn't have a thing to do with football. Twenty years ago I was in a head-on accident in Illinois. I was going to an old-pro meeting in St. Louis and someone made a mistake and went around a truck and hit one of my old teammates. Bill Butler from Alabama and I were going over to a pro football meeting over at a place called, “The Hill” which is an Italian area over at St. Louis. Well, we never made it. It put me in the hospital with 54 broken bones. Both my legs were broken, my knees, my chest, my back, one ankle and a break down below the knee. I was unconscious for five weeks and was not expected to live. When I finally came to and the smoke cleared and my legs hanging there in the state of ropes and wires, I just couldn't believe it. But that didn't stop me, I just made up my mind that wouldn't stop me and I would just get out of here and I did within 5½ months. Using walkers and canes, I was out of there and finally went home and took a lot of therapy and that is why I use the cane and I wanted you to know about it.
The first time I meant Mr. Halas was in the Spring of 1933. I was in Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois and I had received a letter from the Chicago Bears. In the letter it said that he would like to see me. He would like for me to come up and have a tryout with the Bears. Enclosed was a $5.00 check. This $5.00 check will take care of your $3.00 train fare from Decatur to Chicago on the Wabash and $2.00 for incidentals. Well, that was about the largest bonus I have ever gotten and I think it was hard back in those days for even Halas to mail me the $5.00 because in 1933 he still owed some of the boys in 1932. I was fortunate to get that $5.00.
I went on to work 12 years for Mr. Halas and his ball club. One thing about Halas, he was fair, he was honest, he is a man of his word and a great coach and a great businessman. He had all the qualities. He saw way back when he told a few of us fellows back then that football was going to be larger than baseball. And we are about there now. Because I remember back in those years we played the kind of football your Canton Bulldogs played – rough, tough and get out there and play. Played 60 minutes and, of course. Halas wanted to try to make gentlemen out of some of us. You know a lot of them liked to go on the train and go into the other big cities with just shirts and short sleeves, but Mr. Halas put a rule. When we travel we are going with coats and ties, if we go on trains we go with coats and ties, when we go into the hotels we have coats and ties. And he was building all the time. He could see this from way back. And he had, of course, in this amount of time, had changed some of the rules about the college ball players not being able to go ahead to sign until after their class was graduated. Trying to get these things so the people would think more of the pros and gradually and gradually as it went on things happened. And I don't think we would have this today if it wouldn't have been for Mr. Halas, Art Rooney, Tim Mara, Curly Lambeau, and George Marshall. If Halas hadn't gotten all these fellows together and kept this league going, even though a lot of them had to go out and borrow money like he did, even Charlie Bidwill in Chicago. I think Charlie was a good friend of Halas and a millionaire in Chicago and I think Halas could talk him out of anything he wanted and I think that was how he kept the Bears going.
In my 12 years up there we were known as the “Monsters of the Midway. We won seven Western Conferences and four World Championships, which today are known as Super Bowls. Of course, we didn't get the diamond rings and the things they are getting now. We did get a watch or some kind of ring with the initial on it with the Bear face on it and we appreciated it because back In those days it wasn't really the money. We played because we liked the game, we had to like it because we weren't making much money. We kept it going for the next generation to come in just like this newest generation is keeping it going for the rest. Of course, we didn't have the problems back in those days like the problems they have now. We didn't have the unions, we didn't have the dope that some of them are using now, but that's just another problem that the league will get straightened out, because it is too big to let something like that take it over. And with people at the head of the NFL like Pete Rozelle, these things are going to be straightened out. They are either going to stop it or they are not going to play pro ball, because they will not let them take pro ball and run it down the drain, and they will stop it.
I would just like to mention some of my coaches. When I was in grade school I had a coach by the name of Hawkins, in high school I had a coach by the name of W.O. Larson, at Millikin University I had Leo Johnson and Hank Gill. Leo Johnson later on became the head track coach at the University of Illinois for 38 years and he was in the Hall of Fame as far as track was concerned. But they were all good coaches, they all helped because they molded me into what Halas needed. I guess. I was big. I weighed 270 pounds and I was fast. In fact, I played all sports in high school, football, basketball and track and basketball was one of my favorite sports and I played all those sports at the University too. And, by the way, I think one of my coaches is here today. Hank Gill and the President of the University, Dr. Miller and a gentleman named Lindsey from Decatur, Illinois. We have quite a few folks here from my hometown Collinsville, Illinois, which is about 20 miles on this side of St. Louis and Edwardsville, Illinois and Madison County. And, of course, I have my family here. I came from a large family of nine boys and three girls. Three of the boys have passed away, the other two are here with their boys, my three sisters are here. Evelyn and her husband; Dora and Emily and her husband Bob. They are all here, plus my three daughters and my 12 grandchildren, so we have quite a mob here.
Of course, my father and mother, they worked hard all their lives. My dad was a coal miner, you know with nine kids, I was the first one to go to high school. I was the fourth boy, there were six boys and then three girls and I was the fourth boy to go to high school and, of course. A few of my brothers and sisters wanted me to go on to college and I did receive a scholarship from Millikin that would help some. But back in those days our tuition was only about $125 and a person didn't even have that so you had to get a scholarship to go and with their help and working I did finally graduate from Millikin and signed that contract with George Halas.
It has been a long time since I played football. It was back in 1944 my last year which was 38 years ago. Back when your Hall opened up here they had a ballot with some nominees on it with 20-30, 30-40, 40-50, 50-60 and my name happened to be on that ballot. I was one of the nominees on that ballot to be enshrined here and as time went by, 20 years went by and I said, ‘well they probably have taken too many Bears in there now’ and I kind of figured well I guess that's it. But I never gave up hope because they called for my uniform back 20 years ago and I said they still have my uniform up there and if they didn't want to keep it up there, they sure would mail it back to me. So l received a call the day after the Super Bowl game, Pete Elliott called me and told me I was elected into the Hall of Fame and I thanked him and, of course, I didn't believe him because I didn't know who was calling to begin with. I had never talked to Pete on the phone so I thanked him and thought maybe a vote, because back a few years ago I had the same thing pulled on me and it didn't happen. But, I waited until Monday and called up here and tried to get a hold of Pete at the Hall of Fame, but he wasn't back from Detroit yet from the Super Bowl so I talked with his secretary and told her what I wanted and she said, ‘that is right George you have been elected to the Hall of Fame.’ I said that is wonderful, after all these years. I thought they surely forgotten all about me. But, as most of you know, they have a senior committee that goes back to pick up the old ball players and they write letters to the teammates and opposition and, of course, it is wonderful when the letters come back to this senior committee and the piers that recommended you to be in the Hall of Fame. But that still doesn't put you In, you still have the 20-member team of the Hall of Fame and you have to get 80% of that. Well, I guess the researchers have done a good job because here I am before you and I am going into this Hall of Fame and there is nothing greater in anyone's life to finally finish in a sport that he has participated in and that it is as high as he can go.
And I am proud to be here today with these other enshrinees, Atkins, Sam Huff, and Merlin Olsen, otherwise known as ‘Father Murphy.’ And I think one thing that I am proud of and honored is, of course, my wife and three daughters and my 12 grandchildren all sitting out here and you will probably meet them later on. My wife, Pauline, we will be married 46 years in December and we have gotten along pretty good all these years. Of course, we never argue because when we start, I take a walk and go outside. I spend a lot of time outside.
Another thing that I am really proud of in receiving this honor is that I am proud that the family name Musso will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. After generations to come I did my part, I'm in there, so I hope a lot of you will see the uniform, the bust and a lot of other things they have in there and I just want to thank you again and I want to take up more of your time because I am honored to have this honor bestowed upon me and thank you all. It is a pleasure to be here with you.
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