World Football League (1974)
Born: October 1973 – WFL founding franchise.
Died: January 1975 – The Fire ceases operations.
Stadium: Soldier Field
Owner: Tom Origer
Chicago apartment developer Tom Origer was the first man to buy into the World Football League in October 1973, paying a reported $440,000 to acquire his Chicago Fire franchise. It did not turn out to be a happy investment for the 41-year old builder.
The Fire featured a handful of names familiar to local football fans, including ex-Chicago Bears Virgil Carter (QB) and Jim Seymour (WR). Rookie receiver James Scott was a breakout star. After the demise of the WFL Scott would play seven seasons for the Bears from 1976 to 1983. Another rookie – Chicago native Mark Kellar - was one of the league’s most productive running backs until a mid-season injury.
The Fire started out hot, winning seven of the first nine games in 1974. The team was also a fairly popular draw, averaging 29,220 fans for 10 home dates at Soldier Field, despite competing for fans with the Bears during the WFL’s fall season. But injuries and bad luck took their toll and the Fire lost their final 11 games to finish 7-13 in what would prove to be their only season. Origer, fed up, forfeited the team’s final contest rather than travel to Pennsylvania to play the Philadelphia Bell on November 13, 1974.
The team muddled along in semi-existence until January 1975, when Origer laid off the Fire’s final few staff members and closed up shop. The World Football League quickly put a new team into Chicago – the Chicago Winds – for the 1975 season. But the Winds went belly up after only 5 games in 1975, and the league itself closed down on October 22, 1975 without managing to complete its second campaign.
==Chicago Fire Programs on Fun While It Lasted==
|8/29/1974||vs. Birmingham Americans||L 22-8||Program|
|9/2/1974||@ Southern California Sun||W 32-22||Program|
|9/7/1974||@ Birmingham Americans||L 41-40||Program|
|9/18/1974||vs. Memphis Southmen||L 25-7||Program|
- Virgil Carter
- James Scott
- Jim Seymour
Footage from the July 17, 1974 Chicago Fire at Jacksonville Sharks WFL game from the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville.