Monday, November 30, 2009

Holiday Time in Packerville

The Christmas holidays are upon us, and today we have a photo of the Packerville Headquarters “Packer Tree,” which always stays up as long as Green Bay’s season lasts. This year, that could be as early as January 3rd, or as late as February 7th. Later would be better, obviously.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Your 1943 Green Bay Packers

In our first post-Thanksgiving post here on the “Packerville” blog, we feature a fine team photo of the 1943 Green Bay Packers squad. In the organization’s 23rd season in the National Football League, the Packers finished with a 7-2-1 record under coach Curly Lambeau. This earned them a second place finish in the Western Conference. The Chicago Bears won the conference that year with an 8-1-1 record, while the Detroit Lions (3-6-1) and Chicago Cardinals (0-10-0) finished behind Green Bay.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Coach and Bart

After returning from our second Packer game in as many weeks, we have a photo for you of Coach Vince Lombardi and Quarterback Bart Starr, quite possibly from the same game as yesterday’s photo. We don’t know about you, but we can’t get enough of these images from that era.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

On the Bench; In the Stands

In today’s photo, we see two great aspects of Packerville in the mid-Sixties. We see a fascinating shot of the team’s bench area along the western side of the City Stadium playing field, with players resting and getting some footwear adjustments. Most notably, QB Bart Starr (#15) sits at right, intently watching the performance of the Packers’ defensive unit.

Also interesting to see is the mostly older crowd in the stands immediately behind the Packers’ bench. It is obviously a later-season game, which is indicated by the fans’ attire (love those hats!). Also strikingly different than today’s crowd is the fact that no one in the photo is wearing officially licensed Green Bay/NFL merchandise. That was a phenomenon that wouldn’t hit our wallets until much later. Even in the late 1980’s it was not easy to find a fine selection of Packers’ merchandise even while in Green Bay.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hornung on the School Playground

Today’s image is a fine shot of Green Bay legend Paul Hornung playing with some kids on a school playground. We assume this is in conjunction with a visit to a local school by the Packers’ star running back in the mid-Sixties, as the players do to this day for special functions. These kids are now grandparents, but we’d love to hear their stories of this day — and of growing up in Titletown during the “Glory Years.”

Monday, November 16, 2009

Cowboys in Green Bay

On the day after your “Packerville” editor attended the Packers’ victory over Dallas, we present two images from the Texas team’s first visit to what later became known as “Titletown.” On Sunday, November 13, 1960, the two teams squared off in Green Bay’s City Stadium under sunny skies and 51-degree temperatures — very similar to yesterday’s conditions at game time. Before 32,294 fans, Vince Lombardi’s third-year team thrashed the Cowboys 41-7. Above, we see fullback Larry Hickman (#37) plunging for a couple of yards after taking the handoff from quarterback Bart Starr (#15). Tight end Ron Kramer (#88) can be seen blocking in front of him, as well as center Jim Ringo (#51), still on his feet and keeping a Cowboy out of the play. Note also the smaller height of the endzone grandstands in the background, which at that time were basically below ground level.

In this second photo, the Packer defense is on the field, and we see defensive tackle Dave “Hawg” Hanner (#79) pursuing the back coming out of the backfield, while what appears to be fellow lineman Henry Jordan (#74) is stopped in his effort at getting the quarterback, Don Meredith.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Update from Green Bay

As we’re in town for the Cowboys-Packers game tomorrow afternoon, we present an image of “old” Lambeau Field, as it appeared in the 1990’s. The famous green corrugated metal exterior has given way to the retro-brick of the renovated stadium and atrium, but the field and stands mostly remain the same, with some more seats added during the process.

We apologize for the irregularity of the updates to our little green-and-gold slice of the internet here, but keep checking back, as we have much more material to share with fellow Packers history lovers.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Lee Roy Caffey Gets an Endorsement

Today we have a 1969 advertisement for Rexall® drug stores that featured Green Bay Packers’ linebacker Lee Roy Caffey. And, as an added bonus, we present the Caffey story to provide some Sunday afternoon reading after the Packer game:

Blessed with the body of a lineman, but the speed of a running back, Lee Roy Caffey was a unique athlete. His special abilities took him all the way from Thorndale, Texas to the NFL with a pit stop at Texas A&M University for a dose of big-time college football. His life was cut short by cancer at the age of 53 after a four-year battle and he was a popular member of the Rockdale, Texas community for over 20 years after his retirement from pro football. His success story is a simple one: small town boy done good.

Despite Texas A&M’s poor performance, the pros took notice of him and Philadelphia snatched him up in the seventh round of the 1963 draft. He was also selected in the fourth round as a fullback by the Houston Oilers in the fledgling American Football League. Caffey would have his brush with the AFL on down the road. “Playing in the NFL went way beyond what he had thought of,” Dana Caffey said. “He was real excited about it." In his first year in pro football, he performed well enough to be named to the all-rookie team.

Green Bay Days

After one year with the Eagles, Caffey became a part of one of the most famous trades in NFL history. Veteran Packer center Jim Ringo was one of the first professional players to hire an agent, so when he introduced his agent to Vince Lombardi at contract time, Lombardi was not amused, and excused himself from the room. Lombardi returned a few minutes later and informed “Mr. Ringo and Mr. Agent” that they needed to continue their negotiating with Philadelphia because that’s where Ringo had just been traded. Lombardi called Caffey himself and informed him, ‘You’re gonna be my linebacker.’ As soon as he hung up the phone with Coach Lombardi, we had to look on the map and see where Green Bay was,” his wife Dana remembers. After the season, Caffey had gone back to A&M to finish off his final six hours and earn his business degree. It was a serendipitous circumstance for Caffey, who found himself in the heart of the football world with the Packers, who were about to embark on a legendary journey.

The Caffeys loved Philadelphia, but Green Bay was a little closer to Thorndale in atmosphere and they felt right at home there, despite the freezing cold. “People were so nice, they loved the team,” Dana said. “It was a lot of fun.” Dana Caffey made acquaintenances then that are still friends to this day, 45 years later. Their oldest child, Lee Ann, learned the alphabet in school by reciting the Green Bay roster. “Everybody in town knew everything there is to know about football,” said Dana. “It wasn’t a guy thing, it was a family thing.”

Caffey started at right linebacker alongside middle linebacker Ray Nitschke, one of the meanest men to ever play the game and a Hall of Fame selection. Years later, he would play alongside undoubtably the meanest man to ever step on a football field, Dick Butkus, when Lee Roy was traded to Chicago. In June, the Packer linebacking corp of Nitschke, Caffey and Dave Robinson was voted the sixth best linebacking corps in the history of the NFL by the NFL network. At Green Bay, Caffey earned the reputation as the fastest linebacker in the league.

During his six seasons there, Caffey became entrenched in the NFL’s first dynasty and he also witnessed the birth of the world’s greatest sporting event, up close and personal. After grabbing the NFL title in 1965, the Packers participated in the inaugural Super Bowl in 1966 and whomped the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10 in Los Angeles. They defended their world champion status by dumping the Oakland Raiders 33-14 and proving the NFL was far superior to the weak little sister AFL.

Dana Caffey says that to the coaches and players, the first game — which was called “The World Championship Game” not the Super Bowl — was just another game and nothing special. “It really wasn’t,” she said. “We had no idea and never dreamed what it would become. It was just another game, with a little more pressure. They knew they had to win it though. We never thought, ‘We are playing in the first Super Bowl.’ ” The game wasn’t even sold out and was broadcast on two different networks and there was very little publicity about the game. “There were seats everywhere,” Dana said. “Within our league, it was a big deal. Not with the public though.”

Dana Caffey says that at the second Super Bowl, Green Bay had just come off playing in one of the NFL’s iconic games, “The Ice Bowl,” in which they defeated the Dallas Cowboys 21-17 in frigid 20-below temperatures at Lambeau Field on a Bart Starr quarterback sneak in the closing seconds. “ The ‘Ice Bowl’ was so consuming — that was the big game to us,” Dana said. “Everybody was tired. They were sick. They had the flu. They still had frostbite.” “It’s tough to get up again when you’ve been on the stick for two big games,” Lee Roy told Sports Illustrated. “I know we did not play as well as we have. We made mistakes we don’t make in most games. But I guess it turned out all right, didn’t it?” The second Super Bowl was just an afterthought, but because it was supposed to be Lombardi’s last game, that made it special for the Packers and motivated them to win again.

Lombardi Rules

While the name Lombardi conjures up the epitome of strict discipline and an in-your-face coaching style and is synonymous with winning, Dana Caffey had the opportunity to see the other side of this driven man. “He was always very good to Lee Roy, he liked him,” she says. “He was also very good to the wives. Of course, we were all a little afraid of him.” In his seminal sports book Instant Replay, Packer guard Jerry Kramer points out that Lombardi was hardest on the players he liked the best. He was hard on Caffey. “Lombardi thinks of himself as the patriarch of a large family and he loves all his children and he worries about all of them,” Kramer said, “but he demands more of his gifted children. Lee Roy Caffey, a tough linebacker from Texas, is one of the gifted children and Coach Lombardi is always on Lee Roy, chewing him, harassing him, cussing him. ‘Look at yourself, Caffey, look at yourself, that stinks,’ Lombardi would shout at Caffey. ‘Lee Roy, you may think that I criticize you too much, a little unduly at times, but you have the size, the strength, the speed, the mobility, everything in the world necessary to be a great football player, except one thing–you’re too damn lazy!’ ”

Lombardi’s chiding worked. Caffey earned the highest individual honors by being named to the NFL all-pro team in 1965 and 1966. No one was happier for Caffey than Lombardi. Dana remembers the annual Thanksgiving day dinner that Lombardi would throw for the players and their families. “He would have baby sitters there to help out. He was very thoughtful to the families. A lot of people might be surprised by that, but Packer people would not. He was good to everybody.”

And what about his aggressive style of coaching? “He yelled at everybody,” Dana said. “I remember all the good things about him... I remember the yelling too though.” She keeps a picture of Lombardi on a wall in her office at home. Lombardi — who died of cancer in 1970 — retired at the end of the 1967 season and Caffey became disenchanted with the Packers and asked to be traded. He was hoping to be sent south to Dallas. He was sent south alright — to Chicago, where he played alongside the player who many people consider the best linebacker to step on a football field anywhere, Dick Butkus.

The next season, Caffey was indeed shipped off to Dallas. “We were thrilled to death,” Dana said. “But, when we got there, we found out he wasn’t going to get to play.” “I just picked up splinters and got rusty,” he would say. Despite earning his third Super Bowl ring after Dallas captured the 1972 championship, Caffey considered retiring after his disappointing stint with the Cowboys, but he went to San Diego where his former Packer linebacker coach Carl Bankston and former Packer teammate and friend Forrest Gregg were coaching. “He absolutely loved it out there,” Dana said. “He said he could have played there for another 20 years because it’s not cold and nothing hurts.”

Life After Lombardi

While Caffey felt like he could still play — he had been injury free in his career — he started thinking about his future and his growing family, which included Lee Ann, who was 11 at the time, Jennifer, 7 and son Bradley, 2. Unlike today’s spoiled professional athletes, NFL players back then were making just an average of $20,000 a year and most had to find jobs in the off-season. He told Dana, “We’ve got to get settled.” “Football was great to me,” he told the Reporter in 1973. “I had a good career and a lot of thrills.”

The Caffeys settled in Rockdale, Texas where he became partners in the Miller Chevrolet-Buick automobile dealership, which became Miller-Caffey Chevrolet. He was also involved in a real estate agency in town and developed both residential and commercial properties. He had already accumulated a lot of land in the Thorndale-Salty area over the years. “It’s really quite a thrill to settle down back in home country,” he said. “There are a lot of new kinds of challenges now.”

Caffey dealt with life after football by ignoring it. “The first couple of years, he just didn’t watch it,” Dana said. “He’d go fishing or go hunting on Sundays. The way he handled it was he didn’t go to games.” The Caffeys finally attended a Houston Oiler game after being invited by good friend Gregg who was now the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals who were in town. He was shocked by what he saw. “I can’t even imagine hitting someone like we used to or even being hit,” he told Dana. “I’d forgotten that part.”

Despite the fact that Caffey has been gone for 14 years and played for the Packers 40 years ago, Dana Caffey is still very much a part of the Packer family. “We all stayed very good friends,” she says. “I talked to Forrest and Barbara (Gregg) just yesterday.” Dana makes a yearly trip back to Green Bay for the alumni game and children Brad and Jennifer have gone with her as well. “When I go up there, they are so good to me,” she said. “They make sure I am included in everything.”

Caffey made a imprint on the game wherever he played. He is included in the Texas A&M Hall of Fame, the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame and was selected to the A&M All-Decade team (1960s) and the 75th Anniversary All-Time Packer team. Not too bad for the boy from Thorndale who just wanted to play basketball.

Rockdale Reporter, Rockdale, Texas
Thursday, August 28, 2008

Saturday, November 07, 2009

No Daylight To Run To

When you have eight defenders against one running back, chances are that the offense will gain no ground. In this Milwaukee home game against Detroit, we can see the following Packer defenders making the stop: Jesse Whittenton (#47), Henry Jordan (#74), Dan Currie (#58), Lionel Aldridge (#62 — before he switched to his later #82), Willie Wood (#24), and Willie Davis (#87). The defending-champion Packers came out on top on this day, 31-10, in front of what appears to be 45,912 damp fans.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Willie Strips the Ball

It’s been a while since the last Packerville update, but we’re going to try to be more faithful in presenting pieces of our vast Green Bay Packers archives for your enjoyment. Today we see the Packers’ Willie Davis (#87) stripping the ball from Baltimore Colts’ RB/QB Tom Matte as linebacker Ray Nitschke (#66) looks on. Note the “old style” helmet that Matte is wearing in this mid-Sixties image from a home game in Green Bay.