During the off season, Keane attended Northwestern University and also worked in the home construction business, a career he eventually would enter full time. He is now semi retired and lives in the Chicago suburbs. Golf has replaced football as Keane's sport of choice. Jim shares his memories of Halas style football with Bear Report readers:
Right after the end of World War II returning GIs had a lot of options. Some of us who had played high school and college ball went back to get our degrees, others like myself had families to support and chose to come to the pros. I had played some while I was in the service and I felt that my skills were sharp enough to get me a place in the league. It was time to move on to what I hoped would be a well-paid job.
When I arrived at Bears training camp, I saw that there were over 20 guys all lined up trying out for the spot at RE. That was where I had planned to be. I was confident enough so I wasn't really surprised when George Halas chose me, but it was somewhat of a relief when the other candidates who were trying out for that spot left the field.
Everybody has Coach Halas stories to tell. We all know about his legendary tight fisted behavior with a dollar, particularly where player salaries were concerned. It was just as true with me as with anybody else. I knew that I was never to discuss what I was making ($10,000) with any member of the team. In retrospect if we'd gotten together over this money thing, we probably could have made a lot more. But we all knew that nondisclosure rule and most of us abided by it.
The players always noticed that whenever we'd get into heated salary discussions with the coach, his secretary would come into the room and tell Halas that he'd been called into another meeting. Halas said we'd talk again later but somehow that never happened.
It was quite a while before we figured out that Coach had a buzzer under his desk. Anytime a player would ask him for a raise, Halas would ring the secretary who would come in and break up our negotiations. I didn't begrudge him that, however. I always felt that if Halas hadn't been so close to his money, the league wouldn't have survived its early lean years.
My rookie season was the year that we played the Giants for the championship. It was quite a start to a career. We were glad that the Giants were our opponents. We felt quite confident about the whole thing and were eager to play at the Polo Grounds. The crowd there that day was close to 60,000,which was sizable for a professional game at that time. It was incredibly exciting.
Our bonus for the championship win was a check for $1980. I had my heart set on a brand new car, which at that time retailed for $2000. As soon as I received the money, I went directly to the dealer and got a shiny new Oldsmobile. MY friends were both amazed and impressed. ‘You got almost $2000 for one football game?' It was quite a big deal in the mid 1940s.
We also received a tiny gold football as a souvenir of the winning season. It was to be used as a type of pendant with a watch chain. Mine had been stolen from my home years ago. I was incredibly upset, as I had always planned to pass it on to my son. There was no way to get a replacement.
Tim McCaskey called me aside when I was at one of the Bears mini-camps last year. Somehow, he had run across my gold football when he was looking at sports merchandise on eBay. He bought it and wanted to give it back to me. I will always be grateful to him and to all of the McCaskey family for that kindness.
I was extremely lucky in that I was never really injured during the entire time that I played football. I played for the Bears for six years. I had planned to play for a seventh but was cut just before the game against Green Bay. It was a complete surprise. I went to Canada for a few days and returned to find a number of offers from other teams. Since I had a close friend who was with the Green Bay organization, I signed with that franchise.
I did make it on to the field during the Green Bay-Chicago game, just not on the side I had planned on playing for. One of my more satisfying moments was when I had the ball and ended up on the sidelines practically at Halas' feet. The Packers were ahead 40-7,the first time they would beat the Bears at Wrigley Field since about 1940. I just looked up and smiled and flipped Coach the ball. He wasn't amused. But once I retired from football, we ran into each other socially and became friends again.
I am very optimistic about the future of the Bears. I feel that they have an excellent group of coaches on staff right now. There is a strong base of talent on the team. The players they are adding through free agency come with fine credentials.
I met Lovie Smith at the fan convention and was quite impressed. I don't know a lot about his background but he is knowledgeable and seems to be an excellent motivator. The 2004-5 season should be very exciting time for all of the Bears family.