Saturday, February 27, 2010

The “Alabama Antelope”

Your “Packerville” staff will be off for a week in the warmer region of a certain peninsula at the southeastern tip of the United States for a week, so this will be the last post for a short while. We are featuring Don Hutson (seen above in his Alabama uniform and number) today, the Packers’ greatest receiver and an NFL legend. Here is a good article about the man and his career:

Hutson was first modern receiver

By David Whitley, Special to

Before there was Jerry Rice, before there was Steve Largent, before there were even pass patterns, there was Don Hutson. He was a receiver ahead of his time by a half-century. That's how long it took for the National Football League to catch up with the “Alabama Antelope.” Hutson didn't merely catch more passes and score more touchdowns than anybody imagined possible. He changed the way football was played.

Few teams threw the ball in 1935 unless they were desperate or wanted to surprise the opponent. Hutson was football's Copernicus, proving that the universe did not revolve around the run. By the time he retired in 1945, passing was part of the game. As for the receiving part, nobody played the game like Hutson. Statistically, his only rivals weren't born when Hutson left the game. He led the NFL in touchdowns eight times. More than 50 years later, nobody else has led the league more than three times. He also led the league in catches a record eight times, including 1942, when he had a then-astonishing 74 receptions. His nearest rival caught 27 passes that season. In nine seasons he was the top touchdown receiver in the league (Rice is second all-time with six). Amazingly, not only is Hutson listed first for most consecutive years (five) leading the NFL in touchdown catches, he also is second with four.

Hutson finished his career with 99 touchdown receptions, an astounding 62 TDs ahead of his closest competitor. Largent finally broke Hutson's record 44 years later. Largent, Rice and other modern-day receivers simply traced the footsteps that Hutson blazed. He began setting records when the NFL had nine teams and little offensive imagination. It was single-platoon football, and Hutson had 23 interceptions in his final four seasons as a defensive back. He also scored 193 career points as a place-kicker. Hutson retired with 488 receptions and 7,991 yards. The second-place receiver had 190 catches and 3,309 yards. Hutson played in an era of 10- to 12-game seasons, so his records might have stood forever if he had the 16-game opportunities enjoyed today. As it was, Hutson was still an obvious choice to be a charter member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963. "I love to see my records broken, I really do," he said in 1989. "You get a chance to relive a part of your life, the whole experience."

Hutson was born on Jan. 31, 1913, in Pine Bluff, Ark. As a Boy Scout he played with snakes. He said that's where he got his quickness and agility. While he didn't start for Pine Bluff's high school football team until his senior year, he was a star in baseball. He came to the University of Alabama on a partial baseball scholarship and was an outstanding centerfielder. He also ran track. But it was on the gridiron that Hutson made his most lasting impression. A walk-on, he became an All-American end in 1934. In the 1935 Rose Bowl, he caught six passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns in Alabama's 29-13 victory over Stanford. "Don had the most fluid motion you had ever seen when he was running," said the other end on that Alabama team, some player named Bear Bryant. "It looked like he was going just as fast as possible when all of a sudden he would put on an extra burst of speed and be gone."

Hutson was 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds when he showed up in Green Bay in 1935, and people wondered if he could take the pounding of pro football. Defenders weren't limited to a five-yard zone in which they could legally hit a receiver back then. It turned out, the pounders were the ones in trouble. The only reason he was in Green Bay was because most of the other coaches in the league thought he was too fragile. The Chicago Bears were the first team to change their mind, in the Packers' second game of 1935. Before a crowd of 13,600 at City Stadium, on the first play from scrimmage, Green Bay quarterback Arnie Herber threw a pass deep downfield. Beattie Feathers, Chicago's defensive back, was sure it was out of everyone's reach. Then a rookie flew past him, caught the ball without breaking stride and scored the game's only touchdown in a 7-0 Packer win.

Defenses couldn't contain Hutson. He ran a 9.7 100-yard dash and could shift and shake. His precise routes were revolutionary. Defenses began double and triple-teaming him, concepts that were unheard of at the time. "He would glide downfield," Packers coach Curly Lambeau said, "leaning forward as if to steady himself close to the ground. Then, as suddenly as you gulp or blink an eye, he would feint one way and go the other, reach up like a dancer, gracefully squeeze the ball and leave the scene of the accident — the accident being the defensive backs who tangled their feet up and fell trying to cover him." They kept falling over themselves for 11 seasons.

"Hutson Does It Again!"

"Don Paces Packers to World Title!"

"Amazing Hutson Can't Be Stopped!"

Those were the headlines Green Bay fans were treated to during the World War II era. Perhaps Hutson's greatest performance came on Oct. 7, 1945. He caught four touchdown passes and kicked five extra points — in one quarter. The 29-point quarter is a record that may never be broken. "He had all the moves," said teammate Tony Canadeo. "He invented the moves. And he had great hands and speed, deceptive speed. He could go get the long ones; run the hitch, the down-and-out. He'd go over the middle, too, and he was great at getting off the line because he always had people popping him." In that era, sportswriters usually did not get comments from players. That was fine by Hutson, a humble man who liked to let his feats speak for themselves. About his 29-point quarter, he later recalled, "Well, the wind was blowing hard and straight downfield, and you couldn't throw the ball 20 yards the other way. Those defenders just couldn't get that in their heads, that's all."

The weather always seemed to work in his favor. Like the afternoon he had 14 catches against the New York Giants, or 237 receiving yards against Brooklyn. Hutson caught passes in 50 straight games from 1941-45. Twenty percent of all his receptions were touchdowns. He scored a total of 105 touchdowns in just 117 games. The Packers won three NFL championships (1936, `39 and '44). He retired with 19 NFL records, was named to the all-pro team in 8 of his 11 seasons and was NFL MVP in 1941 and '42.

Following his retirement as a player, Hutson was an assistant coach for the Packers under Lambeau for three seasons (1946-48). He served on the club's board of directors from1952-80, when he was elected a director emeritus. When the Packers built their indoor practice facility in 1994, they needed a name. Despite the many great names that played for the storied franchise, there was never any doubt which athlete the place would honor. It was christened the Don Hutson Center. "I don't know if there is such a thing as royalty in professional football," said Packers general manager Ron Wolf as he stood next to Hutson at the dedication ceremony, "but this is the closest I've ever come to it." The king of receivers died three years later, on June 26, 1997, at age 84. At the time, he still held 10 NFL records and 18 team marks. "He most certainly was the greatest player in the history of this franchise," Wolf said. "In the era he played, he was the dominant player in the game."

Friday, February 26, 2010

Another Look at the ’44 Champs

After Tuesday’s blog post, we received a reply from Irv Comp’s grandson. His grandfather was shown in a photo with Don Hutson and coach Curly Lambeau. So, today we present another image from 1944, this time showing the Green Bay offensive unit. Irv can be seen at far right in the backfield, #51 in your game day program.

From Wikipedia: “Irving Henry Comp, Jr. (born May 17, 1919, the same year as the Packers) played his entire seven year career with the Green Bay Packers and was inducted into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame in 1986. Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Comp had sight in only one eye. He attended college and played college football at Benedictine College, then known as St. Benedict's College. He graduated in 1942, and became a member of the Ravens Hall of Fame in 1988. Comp was drafted in the third round with the 23rd pick by the Green Bay Packers in the 1943 NFL Draft. He set a Packer record with 10 interceptions in his rookie season, 1943. In 1944, the 6'3", 200-pound Comp threw for over 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns. He led the Packers to that season’s NFL championship win over the New York Giants. Comp passed away in Woodruff, Wisconsin, on July 11, 1989 at the age of 70.

For more on his playing career statistics:

And, as an added bonus, here’s a short newsreel clip which shows Comp throwing to Don Hutson:

Thursday, February 25, 2010

When It All Began

On Aug. 11, 1919, a score or more husky young athletes, called together by Curly Lambeau and George Calhoun, gathered in the dingy editorial room of the old Green Bay Press-Gazette building on Cherry Street and organized a football team. They didn't know it, but that was the beginning of the incredible saga of the Green Bay Packers.

Lambeau and Calhoun struck the initial spark a few weeks before, during a casual street-corner conversation. It was apparently a “Why not get up a football team?” remark, but once they were interested, they wasted no time.

First they talked Lambeau’s employer — a war-time industry called the Indian Packing Company, where he worked as a shipping clerk for $250/month — into putting up money for jerseys.

Because the company provided jerseys and permitted the use of its athletic field for practice, the club was identified in its early publicity as a project of the company. With this tie-in, the name “Packers” was a natural, and Packers they have been ever since, although the Indian Packing Company had practically faded out of the picture before that first season was half over.

That first season the team won 10 and lost only one, against foes from Wisconsin and Upper Michigan. Games were played in an open field with no fences or bleachers, and interested fans “passed the hat.”

Sept. 14 — Menominee North End A.C. (W, 53-0)
Sept. 21 — Marinette Northerners (W, 61-0)
Sept. 28 — New London (W, 54-0)
Oct. 05 — Sheboygan Company (W, 87-0)
Oct. 12 — Racine (W, 76-6)
Oct. 19 — Ishpeming (W, 33-0)
Oct. 26 — Oshkosh Professionals (W, 85-0)
Nov. 02 — Milwaukee Maple Leaf A.C. (W, 53-0)
Nov. 09 — Chicago Chilar A.C. (W, 46-0)
Nov. 16 — Stambaugh Miners (W, 17-0)
Nov. 23 — Beloit Professionals (L, 0-6)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What is Vince Thinking?

We’re not sure what’s on the mind of coach Vince Lombardi in this 1962 sideline photo, be we know we haven’t seen this expression much before. Perhaps the play of his team is perplexing him at the moment. Behind him, defensive coach Phil Bengtson (in fedora hat like Lombardi) is engaged in the action, while a policeman keeps order and provides protection from unruly fans. Not to worry, coach... your team will go on to win its second consecutive NFL title this year. Congratulations.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Coach and His Boys in Wartime

During the 1944 season, head coach Curly Lambeau poses for a shot with two of his best players, future Hall of Fame end Don Hutson (left), and running back Irv Comp (right). Green Bay won the NFL championship that season, the last they would win until Vince Lombardi’s team in 1961.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Depression-Era Packers

A play from the regular-season matchup between Green Bay and the New York Giants in 1936 is the subject of today’s photo. As the original caption states, the Packers beat the Giants that day by a score of 25-14 at the Polo Grounds in New York.

The 1936 NFL season was the 17th regular season of the National Football League. For the first time since the league was founded, there were no team transactions; neither a club folded nor did a new one join the NFL. 1936 was also the first year in which all league teams played the same number of games. The season ended when Packers defeated the Boston Redskins in the NFL Championship Game (their fourth championship overall). For the only time in NFL history, the team with the home field advantage declined to play at their own stadium and instead elected to play at a neutral site. Due to poor attendance, the Redskins moved the game from Boston to the Polo Grounds in New York City.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Numerical Oddity

The original caption to today’s historical photo reads:

“Roy McKay, Packer fullback and the National League’s punting champion for the last two seasons, returns a kick against the Detroit Lions in Milwaukee in 1945. This was the game in which the Packers scored six touchdowns in the second quarter. McKay got back to the 27-yard line before he was stopped.»

McKay, out of the University of Texas, played for Green Bay from 1944-1947. For reasons unknown to us now, he wore the number usually worn by the great Packer back Tony Canadeo while he was in the service during the Second World War. When Canadeo returned, McKay switched to another number for the 1946 and 1947 seasons.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Papa Bear and St. Vince

Today ’s photo is an unlikely pairing of two enemies at an unknown function in 1968 — probably some sort of fundraising or awards banquet. The Chicago Bears’ founder George Halas (left) jokes with Packers’ general manager Vince Lombardi… a much friendlier time than when they faced each other along the sidelines. The Washington Redskins would soon be the destination for Lombardi, where he would coach for only one season before succumbing to cancer in 1970.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Bart’s Back

In another installment from our archives of press material, we have this from November 24, 1963, when the NFL went ahead and played its full slate of games two days after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The original caption (as seen attached on the left side of the photo) reads:

“Milwaukee, Nov. 24 -- BART’S BACK -- Green Bay Packer quarterback Bart Starr (#15) spots receiver Tom Moore (#25) as he makes a turn to take the pass. The pass was complete to Moore for a 6 yard gain in the first quarter at Milwaukee County Stadium today. Starr started the game against the San Francisco 49ers, his first full-time appearance since he suffered a broken hand against St. Louis more than a month ago. The Packers beat the 49ers 28-10. (AP Wirephoto).”

The young NFL Commissioner at the time, Pete Rozelle, made the decision to play the games while the majority of events that weekend around the country were being cancelled. Even the rival American Football League (AFL) postponed its games out of respect for the fallen President. Rozelle soon came to regret his decision to have the NFL play, and frequently stated publicly that it had been his worst mistake. However, Rozelle and then-White House Press Secretary Pierre Salinger had been classmates at the University of San Francisco years before, and Rozelle consulted with him. Salinger urged Rozelle to play the games. Rozelle felt that way, citing that “it has been traditional in sports for athletes to perform in times of great personal tragedy.”

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Packers on the South Side

Here's a snapshot of NFL football at Chicago's old Comiskey Park. Chicago Cardinals receiver Mal Kutner leaps into the air to snatch a pass under the goal post in first quarter of a game with the Green Bay Packers on November 27, 1949. The ball slipped out of his grasp momentarily but he grabbed again and held on for a touchdown. The pass was thrown by Jim Hardy in a game the Cardinals won 41-21. Old Comiskey Park, which was home to the White Sox from 1910 to 1990, was also the Cardinals' longtime home. The "Big Red" played there from 1922-1925 and from 1929-1958.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Vince’s Last Championship Trophy

On January 14, 1968, the Green Bay Packers played the Oakland Raiders in the second AFL-NFL championship game, now known as “Super Bowl II.” The Packers triumphed by a score of 33-14 that day at Miami’s Orange Bowl, in front of 75,546 football fans. It would turn out to be, as was speculated, head coach Vince Lombardi’s final game with Green Bay. Lombardi announced his retirement as Packers coach on February 1, 1968, but remained with the team as General Manager through that season before taking the reigns in Washington, D.C. with the Redskins.

Monday, February 08, 2010

U.S. Savings Bond Drive

In 1950, the Packers were enlisted to promote the sale of U.S. Savings Bonds to the public. We have no idea how effective this type of promotion was in the Green Bay community, but if we were residents back then, we surely would’ve taken the team’s urging seriously and bought bonds every pay day.