Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Gerald Ford — Football Player

Today’s Packers artifact is a 1935 letter from Curly Lambeau to college prospect Gerald Ford, who was a student and football player at the University of Michigan at the time.

Ford attended Grand Rapids South High School and was a star athlete and captain of his football team. In 1930, he was selected to the All-City team of the Grand Rapids City League. He also attracted the attention of college recruiters. Attending the University of Michigan as an undergraduate, Ford played center and linebacker for the school’s football team and helped the Wolverines to undefeated seasons and national titles in 1932 and 1933. The team suffered a steep decline in his 1934 senior year, however, winning only one game. Ford was the team’s star nonetheless, and after a game during which Michigan held heavily favored Minnesota (the eventual national champion) to a scoreless tie in the first half, assistant coach Bennie Oosterbaan later said, “When I walked into the dressing room at half time, I had tears in my eyes I was so proud of them. Ford and [Cedric] Sweet played their hearts out. They were everywhere on defense.”

Ford himself later recalled, “During 25 years in the rough-and-tumble world of politics, I often thought of the experiences before, during, and after that game in 1934. Remembering them has helped me many times to face a tough situation, take action, and make every effort possible despite adverse odds.” His teammates later voted Ford their most valuable player, with one assistant coach noting, “They felt Jerry was one guy who would stay and fight in a losing cause.”

During the same season, in a game against the University of Chicago, Ford “became the only future U.S. president to tackle a future Heisman Trophy winner when he brought down running back Jay Berwanger, who would win the first Heisman the following year.” In 1934 Gerald Ford was selected for the Eastern Team on the Shriner’s East West Crippled Children game at San Francisco (a benefit for crippled children), played on January 1, 1935. As part of the 1935 Collegiate All-Star football team, Ford played against the Chicago Bears in an exhibition game at Soldier Field. The University of Michigan retired Ford's #48 jersey in 1994.

At Michigan, Ford became a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity and washed dishes at his fraternity house to earn money for college expenses. Following his graduation in 1935 with a degree in political science and economics, he turned down contract offers from both the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers of the National Football League in order to take a coaching position at Yale and apply to its law school. Each team was offering him a contract of between $100 and $200 a game, but he wanted a legal education. Ford continued to contribute to football and boxing, accepting an assistant coaching job for both at Yale in September 1935.

Monday, October 29, 2007

There WAS Color Back Then...

Today’s blog entry features a gorgeous color photo of Packer legends Don Hutson and Earl “Curly” Lambeau on the practice field sometime in the 1940’s. Most of the images you see from this era are black and white, which is what makes this one so special.

Hutson’s professional career, all spent with Green Bay, spanned the years 1935 to 1945 and 116 games. A graduate of the University of Alabama, Hutson played both End and Defensive Back in a time when even the great players went “both ways” for the whole game.

Before moving on to just the coaching responsibilities on game days — in which capacity he’s seen here — Curly Lambeau played in 77 games as a Back from 1921-1929.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

One More Max Photo

Today, as the funeral for Max McGee is going on in Minneapolis as we post this, we present a page from the 1967 Green Bay Packers Yearbook. It is a photo of a grinning McGee giving a glance to two Kansas City Chiefs defenders after scoring on a 37-yard pass from quarterback Bart Starr to give the Packers a 7-0 lead. He would go on to catch another TD pass in the game which Green Bay won, 35-10. McGee retired after the 1967 NFL season to become a successful businessman, which he was until his death last Saturday.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Lombardi in the office

Today’s image is from the 1964 Green Bay Packers Yearbook, showing head coach and general manager Vince Lombardi gazing out over a decidedly more rural Highland Avenue setting than it appears today. The street was renamed Lombardi Avenue a few years later in his honor. This is one of the few photos that we’ve come across over the years that shows Lombardi in this setting, giving us the chance to see things “behind the scenes.” The photo was taken around the holidays when the season was over, as evidenced by the Christmas cards on the window sill.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Lombardi Barks at the Troops

Today’s blog posting is a classic image of coach Vine Lombardi urging his players to hit the sled harder during an unspecified training camp. It is probably from 1966 or 1967, as the publication it appeared in was put out after his stepping down into the general manager role after the ’67 season.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Vince Lombardi — The Player

Today’s blog entry features a side of Lombardi that people rarely think about... Lombardi the average football player. Vince Lombardi, back when he was being yelled at by the coach instead of doing the yelling. In 1933, Lombardi accepted a football scholarship to Fordham University in the Bronx to play for new head coach Sleepy Jim Crowley, one of the Four Horsemen of Notre Dame in the 1920s. Lombardi was an undersized guard (5'8" 185 lb.) on Fordham's imposing front line, which became known as “The Seven Blocks of Granite.” It held Fordham's opponents scoreless several times during a string of twenty-five consecutive victories. Frank Leahy, future head coach at Notre Dame, was Lombardi's position coach. In the classroom, Lombardi was, at best, a slightly above-average student. He was awarded his bachelor's degree from Fordham in June 1937, five days after his 24th birthday.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Packer Coaches — 45 Years Ago

Today’s blog entry features a photo of the Green Bay Packers’ coaching staff from May 1962 — 45 years ago. In this photo, head coach Vince Lombardi runs the projector as he and his coaches review films in the offseason. From left are assistants Bill Austin, Red Cochran, Norb Hecker, Phil Bengtson and Tom Fears. Much in the same manner as today, the assistants on pro football’s successful teams often became head coaches in their own right. Many of Lombardi’s coaches had opportunities with other teams because other clubs wanted to hopefully have some of Lombardi’s success rub off on their teams.

Bill Austin later became head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1966 through 1968, compiling a 11-28-3 record. He also served as interim coach of the Washington Redskins after Lombardi’s death in the 1970 season, accomplishing a 6-8-0 record. He retired from football after that season.

Red Cochran, originally brought to Green Bay in 1959 by Vince Lombardi, served the organization 42 years in all, 12 as an assistant coach and the last 30 as a college scout. He was still working for the Packers as a scout at age 82 when he died in 2004. Cochran also served as an assistant coach for the St. Louis Cardinals (1968-69) and San Diego Chargers (1970). Dan Devine brought him back to Green Bay as offensive backfield coach (1971-74), a role in which Cochran tutored John Brockington, currently the team's third all-time leading rusher. All told, Cochran was an NFL coach for 18 years, including three seasons with the Detroit Lions (1956-58).

Norb Hecker played for the Los Angeles Rams from 1951-1953, and the Washington Redskins from 1955-1957. Hecker was one of 12 players who founded the National Football League Players Association in 1956, briefly serving as the Redskins’ representative. He coached in Green Bay from 1959 through 1965. He was hired as head coach by the expansion Atlanta Falcons in 1966. With Atlanta, he endured season records of 3-11-0 and 1-12-1 before being fired mid-way through the 1968 season. He served as assistant coach later with the New York Giants, Stanford University, and the San Francisco Forty-Niners. With San Francisco, he won four Super Bowl rings, eventually moving into a front office position until his retirement in 1991. Hecker closed out his career in 1995 with the Amsterdam Admirals of the World League of American Football, handling both coaching and front office duties. He died of cancer in 2004.

Phil Bengston was one of the first four assistants hired in Lombardi's first week with the Packers in early February 1959. He would be the only assistant coach to stay during the entire nine-year tenure of Lombardi (1959-1967). Bengtson replaced Lombardi following the 1967 season.His Packers were 20-21-1 in his three seasons as head coach. After a 6-8 record in 1970, he was relieved of his duties, replaced by Missouri head coach Dan Devine for the 1971 season. Bengtson resurfaced with the San Diego Chargers and New England Patriots, becoming the interim head coach of the Patriots in late 1972. Later, he was named the team's Director of Pro Scouting, staying through the 1974 season. He died at age 81 after a long illness at his home in San Diego on December 18, 1994.

Tom Fears was named as the head coach of the expansion New Orleans Saints in 1967, and spent nearly four years at the helm of what became a perennial losing franchise — an exercise in frustration. His record with the Saints was 13-34-2, and he was 1-5-1 in 1970 when he was fired on November 3rd. Fears’ last head coaching job was with the fledgling World Football League's Southern California Sun in 1974. He spent the last four years of his life with Alzheimer's disease, dying in 2000.

Photo Source: Green Bay Press-Gazette archives

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Max McGee: His Packer Career

Yesterday, we lost Packer great Max McGee in a tragic home accident. For those of us too young to remember much of his playing career, we remember the many, many radio broadcasts we listened to with Max and his partner Jim Irwin on WTMJ radio in Milwaukee. If you couldn't get the Packer game on television, you listened to the AM radio, if you were fortunate enough to live close enough to Milwaukee.

In his rookie season, McGee led the NFL in punting yards while also catching 36 passes for 614 yards and nine touchdowns. He missed the next two seasons to serve as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force, but returned to become the Packers' leading receiver from 1958-62. McGee was one of the few bright spots on the 1958 Packers team, which finished the season with a league worst 1-10-1 record. During that season, he lead the NFL in yards per catch average (23.2), punting yards (2,716) and net yards average (36.0).

After Vince Lombardi took over as the team's head coach in 1959, McGee helped the team to six NFL championship appearances, five NFL championship wins, and two Super Bowl wins during the remaining years of his career. He also was a Pro Bowl selection during the 1961 season. In his final two seasons, injuries and age had considerably reduced his production and playing time. Ironically, these two seasons would be the ones for which his career is best remembered. In the 1966 season, McGee caught only four passes for 91 yards and a touchdown as the Packers recorded a 12-2 record and advanced to Super Bowl I against the Kansas City Chiefs. Because McGee didn't expect to play in the game, he violated his team's curfew policy and spent the night before the Super Bowl out on the town. The next morning, he told starting receiver Boyd Dowler, "I hope you don't get hurt. I'm not in very good shape."

However, Dowler went down with a separated shoulder on the Packers' second drive of the game, and McGee, who had to borrow a teammate's helmet because he couldn’t find his own on the bench, suddenly found himself thrust into the lineup. A few plays later, McGee made a one-handed reception of a pass from Bart Starr, took off past Chiefs defender Fred Williamson and ran 37 yards to score the first touchdown in Super Bowl history. By the end of the game, McGee had recorded seven receptions for 138 yards and two touchdowns, assisting Green Bay to a 35-10 victory.

The following year, he recorded a 35-yard reception in the third quarter of Super Bowl II that set up a touchdown in the Packers 33-14 win over the Oakland Raiders. McGee retired shortly after the game. He finished his 12-season career with 345 receptions for 6,346 yards and 12 carries for 121 yards. He also scored 51 touchdowns (50 receiving and 1 fumble recovery). On special teams, he punted 256 times for 10,647 yards, an average of 41.6 yards per punt, and returned 4 kickoffs for 69 yards.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Sad News in Packerville

Former Green Bay Packer Max McGee, the first National League Football player to score a touchdown in a Super Bowl, died today. The police department in Deephaven, Minn., where McGee lived, confirmed McGee's death and said it would be issuing a statement soon providing details. Minneapolis television station KARE reported that McGee died late this afternoon following an accident at his home in Deephaven, which is 15 miles southwest of Minneapolis. Police were called to his home around 5:20 p.m. on a report of an unconscious man who had fallen off the roof, the station reported. Emergency crews arrived and performed CPR on McGee but their efforts were not successful and he was pronounced dead, the station said.

McGee played as a wide receiver for the Green Bay Packers from 1954 to 1967. He helped his team capture two Super Bowl wins and five NFL championships. He scored the first touchdown in Super Bowl history. Later, McGee became the color commentator for radio broadcasts of Packers football games. McGee also co-founded the popular restaurant chain “Chi-Chis.” McGee was 75 years old and is survived by his wife, Denise, four children and numerous grandchildren. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Source: Green Bay Press-Gazette, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Friday, October 19, 2007

Hornung in the Training Room

Today’s blog entry, being produced straight from the brand new Packerville laptop, is a fine photo of long time Packers’ trainer Bud Jorgensen wrapping halfback Paul Hornung’s right ankle before a workout in July 1964.

Source: Green Bay Press-Gazette archives

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Bart Starr Day, 1970

The blog posting for today is an image of Packers’ great quarterback Bart Starr acknowledging tributes given in his honor during “Bart Starr Day” on October 18, 1970. The ceremony was held during halftime of a game against the Los Angeles Rams at Lambeau Field. Green Bay lost that game, 31-21. Starr would continue playing for the team through 1971.

Source: Green Bay Press-Gazette archives

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Tailgating in the Olden Days

Today’s blog image is from the mid-Sixties, showing how tailgating has changed a bit since then. Most noticeable is the attire that folks wear to Packer games. The original caption for this photo reads: “The Packer Picnic Club tailgates before the September 13, 1964, opener against the Chicago Bears. From left, are George and Betsy Yonan of Chicago and Mr. and Mrs. James Kimberly, formerly of Neenah. The club, made up largely of prominent people from Appleton, Neenah and Menasha, had rented tailgating space for 65 cars across from City Stadium since its opening in 1957.”

Source: Green Bay Press-Gazette archives

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Man Behind the “G” Logo

For today’s blog entry, we have a photo of long time Packers’ equipment man “Dad” Braisher, shown here working on players’ helmets during training camp in 1968. Braisher was the one who designed the now infamous “G” logo that appeared on the team’s helmets for the first time in 1961.

Source: Green Bay Press-Gazette archives

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Packer Band — 1963

Today we present another photo of the Green Bay Packers band, which was in existence until 1996. This image is from 1963, the year the Packers lost only two games — both to the Chicago Bears. The Bears went on to win the NFL championship over the New York Giants.

“Packerville” will be on break until Monday due to out-of-town travel. See you next week.

Source: Green Bay Press-Gazette archives

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Packer Band

After two days of recovery from the Sunday night loss to the Bears, we're back with yet another image from the Green Bay Press-Gazette's collection of historical photos. Today's caption reads: “Wilner Burke directs the Packer Band before the game against the Oakland Raiders on Sept. 27, 1978. Tracing its roots to old City Stadium, the Packer Band was a familiar sight — and sound — before and during games at Lambeau Field through the 1996 season.”

Source: Green Bay Press-Gazette archives

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Post-Bear Game Therapy

For those of us who watched tonight as the Packers self-destructed against the Chicago Bears, we offer a couple of images from the past when such an ugly outcome was not the case:

The original caption for this photo reads: “New coach Vince Lombardi is carried off the field by his players after the Packers beat the Chicago Bears 9-6 in the season opener at City Stadium on September 27, 1959. Closest to Lombardi, from left, are Max McGee (#85), Bobby Dillon (#44), Bill Quinlan (#83), Lew Carpenter (#33), Don McIlhenny (#42) and Paul Hornung (#5). Source: Green Bay Press-Gazette archives

In this photo, “Packers’ halfback Paul Hornung (5) heads upfield during a 49-0 victory over the Chicago Bears at City Stadium on September 30, 1962. One Packers lineman blocks Bears defensive back J.C. Caroline (#25), and guard Jerry Kramer (#64) stops Bears defensive tackle Maury Youmans (#82). Source: Green Bay Press-Gazette archives

Hornung Scores

Today brings the last installment of our series on the 1961 championship game. The original caption to this photo reads: “Packers halfback Paul Hornung (#5) darts into the open, past the outstretched hand of Giants linebacker Cliff Livingston (#89) on his way to the end zone to score on a 6-yard run in the second quarter of the NFL championship game at City Stadium on Dec. 31, 1961. Wide receiver Boyd Dowler (#86) is about to put the last necessary block on Giants defensive back Joe Morrison (#40) at the goal line.

Source: Green Bay Press-Gazette archives

Saturday, October 06, 2007

1961 Champ Game Fans

Today we have another photo taken during the ’61 championship game at City Stadium, only this time the camera is turned towards the fans rather than the action on the field. The original photo caption reads: “A Packers fan holds up a sign with the phrase “Giant Meat” during the NFL championship game against the New York Giants at City Stadium on Dec. 31, 1961.”

Source: Green Bay Press-Gazette archives

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Watching from the Sidelines

In today’s photo from the 1961 championship, the original caotion reads: “Cigarette in hand, Packers coach Vince Lombardi watches the action from the sidelines during the NFL championship game against the New York Giants at City Stadium on Dec. 31, 1961.”

Source: Green Bay Press-Gazette archives

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Other Kramer Scores

Continuing with our series on the 1961 NFL championship game, we have today’s image from the Green Bay Press Gazette. The original caption for this photo reads: “Packers tight end Ron Kramer (88) knocks over three New York Giants players, including linebacker Sam Huff (70) and defensive back Joe Morrison (40), on his way to the end zone for one of his two touchdowns during the NFL championship game at City Stadium on Dec. 31, 1961. The Packers won 37-0.”

Source: Green Bay Press-Gazette archives

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

During the Game — From the Outside

Today brings another in our series of images from the 1961 NFL championship game. The original caption for this photo reads: “A man, perhaps a photographer, stands atop a snow pile to get a better view of the field during the NFL championship game between the Green Bay Packers and the New York Giants at City Stadium on Dec. 31, 1961.”

Source: Green Bay Press-Gazette archives