In March 1994, the Cardinals were christened with a new name, the Arizona Cardinals. But there is nothing new about the oldest team in terms of continuous operation in pro football history. A charter member of the National Football League, the Cardinals trace their history back to 1898 when Chris O'Brien formed the Morgan Athletic Club. A few years later, he bought used jerseys from the University of Chicago. He described the faded maroon clothing as "Cardinal red" and the team, then playing at 61st and Racine Street, became the Racine Street Cardinals.
The American Professional Football Association, the direct forerunner of the NFL, began play in 1920. The Cardinals faced an immediate challenge for territorial rights in Chicago from a team named the Tigers, who joined the league after the organizational meeting on September 17. O'Brien and the Cardinals promptly challenged the Tigers to a game, with the losers to leave town. The Cardinals won the game and the franchise rights when the legendary Paddy Driscoll scored the only touchdown in a 6-0 victory.
Except for 1925, when they edged out the Pottsville Maroons for their first NFL championship, the Cardinals experienced only minimal success on the playing field during their first 26 seasons in the league. A Thanksgiving Day game in 1929 did produce an all-time highlight when the Cardinals' superstar running back, Ernie Nevers, scored all 40 points -- an NFL record that stands today -- in a 40-6 victory over the Chicago Bears.
The Cardinals began a continuous period of family ownership in 1932 when Charles W. Bidwill bought the team. His son, William V. Bidwill, now operates the team. Bidwill kept the Cardinals operating during the depression days of the 1930s and the World War II years of the early 1940s and then finally put together a winning unit just as the war ended. Bidwill's building program produced a team that won an NFL championship in 1947 and the NFL Western division title in 1948. The Cardinals' 28-21 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles for the 1947 championship stood as the team's last playoff victory until a 20-7 win over the Dallas Cowboys in the 1998 NFC Wildcard Game. The team's coach, Jimmy Conzelman, is now a member of the Hall of Fame as is Charley Trippi, a key member of the famed "Dream Backfield" that Bidwill fashioned. The unit also included Paul Christman, Pat Harder, Marshall Goldberg and Elmer Angsman when Goldberg moved to defense. In a cruel twist of fate, Bidwill died before seeing that team in action.
Since joining the NFL, the Cardinals have called three cities home. After 40 seasons in Chicago, they moved to St. Louis in 1960. The Cardinals seriously challenged the Cleveland Browns twice for divisional honors in the 1960s, but they fell one-half game short both in 1964 and 1968. For a time in the mid 1970s, the St. Louis Cardinals were serious championship challengers. They won NFC Eastern division championships in both 1974 and 1975 but lost in the first round of the playoffs each year. The franchise was moved for a second time in 1988 when William Bidwill selected Phoenix as the new home city, where they played at Sun Devil Stadium.
The Cardinals, who opened the state-of-the-art University of Phoenix Stadium in 2006, found instant success in their new home, winning multiple division titles and an appearance in Super Bowl XLIII.