1964: Why the Big Red Almost Moved to Atlanta

Twenty four years before the St. Louis Football Cardinals moved to Arizona, the Bidwill brothers almost relocated to Atlanta.

In April of 1964, Bill and Stormy Bidwill denied a Nashville Banner report of the Cards interest in moving to the Georgia capital.

“No. 1, I’d rather not comment. No. 2, neither I nor my brother ever has talked to the person who carried the story. No. 3, we’re not contemplating any change,” Cards vice president Bill Bidwill told the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

However, a month later, Bidwill admitted that he had received a “fine proposal” from Atlanta to play in their new $18,000,000 stadium starting in 1965.

BIDWILL’S CONCERNS

The Bidwill brothers wanted to stay in St. Louis, but had a number of concerns. First, they weren’t happy with the length of the proposed 30 year lease in an unproven football market. They also weren’t happy with the rental agreement of 12% of the gate revenue and the 5% city tax on ticket sales.

Bill (L) and Stormy (R) Bidwill in a 1965 photo (courtesy Sports Illustrated)
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Why Stormy Bidwill Sold The Cardinals

After ten years of co-owning the St. Louis Football Cardinals, Charles “Stormy” Bidwill had had enough. Either he or his brother Bill had to go.

The Bidwill brothers took over Cardinals after their mother had suddenly passed away in 1962. Violet Bidwill Wolfner was the first female owner in NFL history and she left most of her multi-million dollar estate, including the football team, to her sons. The brothers already held titles of President and Vice President, but Violet’s husband, Walter Wolfner, pretty much controlled the team. After being pushed out after Violet’s death, Wolfner filed a lawsuit claiming the brothers were illegally adopted as babies. This shocked Stormy and Bill who had not known they were adopted until they heard about it in Probate Court.

Judges ultimately ruled against Wolfner and the Bidwills finally assumed full control of the Grid Birds in early 1963.

Charles “Stormy” Bidwill Jr.
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Remembering Violet Bidwill Wolfner: First Female NFL Owner

Violet Bidwill-Wolfner

Violet Bidwill became the first woman to own an NFL franchise after her husband passed away in April 1947. Charles Bidwill had purchased the Chicago Cardinals in 1933 and would eventually acquire horse and dog tracks in Chicago and Florida, all of which Ms. Bidwill inherited at the time of Charley’s death.

Violet Bidwill was born Violet Fults in Red Bud, IL (40 miles southeast of St. Louis) on January 10, 1900. Her father died when she was just four years old and her mother worked as a waitress. Violet met Chicago sportsman Charley Bidwill in the 1920s and were soon married. Charles “Stormy” Bidwill Jr. was born in 1928 and younger brother William (Bill) Bidwill was born three years later. The boys would later learn, after Violet’s death, that they had been adopted.

Violet was a tall, beautiful, soft-eyed woman, who former Cardinals head coach Jim Conzelman and others described as so shy that she was uncomfortable except in the presence of her family and close friends. Youngest son Bill would acquire this same trait.

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