Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Stepping Out With a Star (UPDATED)

One of the things I love most about writing this blog is the contact I have with other Packer fans worldwide, although it sometimes takes me a while to act on that feedback. Reader Jim Prebil sent me this question a few months ago:
I have a question regarding a t-shirt that a fellow Packer fan and friend of mine wore once. As an avid reader of your blog, I was shocked when I did not recognize the logo at all. I know these days there are a ton of "retro" t shirt groups who give little to no care to historical accuracy (or to the legal rights of the team's name for that matter) and will slap on any logo, fade it, and call it retro.
This is the shirt in question, manufactured by Junk Food and sold by the NFL's online shop:

NFL Shop

Jim is absolutely correct about the creation of "retro" logos. It's very common for leagues to design new logos (often in an old-ish style) for events, games or teams that might not have had one at the time, merchandising then not being what it is now. This logo, however, is 100% genuine, and dates back to the late 1950s. At the very least, it was used on merchandise from that period, if never actually used by the Packers themselves. It can be found on this pennant, which was auctioned off by MEARS last month:


It's a striking image, with the player stepping out of the state of Wisconsin (Green Bay shining like a beacon behind him). They've solved the player-identification problem by giving him a letterman-like "P" on his chest, and I especially love the fact that Wisconsin is labeled. If anyone's interested, there's another one for sale at Scooter G Sports Apparel & Memorabilia in Appleton, Wisconsin, giving us a better look at the small figure near the tip:

Scooter G Sports

I love that little detail, a player backed up near his own end zone, punting the ball. The diagonal lines in the endzone are pure old-school football, and there's something about the crossed-goalposts that reminds me of those used in the Packers' 1950s logo.

Legendary Auctions

Thanks for the question, Jim. Your friend can wear his Junk Food t-shirt with pride, knowing that he's connecting with a little-known slice of Green Bay's illustrious football history. UPDATED 04/04/11: Reader Mark Schneider of GLORY DAYS Sports Pub in LaCrosse, WI (who is also behind the Facebook campaign for shareholder Super Bowl rings) sends this:
I have scanned a rare pennant because I saw your story. This is the ultra-rare with the added national football league Champions. Note the goalposts on the end by the tip are located at the back of the endzone. This was done in mid to late 60's to avoid player collisions. This pennant is clearly not licensed by NFL or Packers because it does not have logo or trademark- they were officially THE Green Bay Packers. There is a video from 1965 that shows an outside vendor selling this pennant (without added champions)
Wow. Outstanding.

I didn't realize that about bootleg merchandise and the corporate name, but I'll be looking for it from now on. Thanks, Mark!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Of Course Fonzie's a Packer Backer

Slow week here, and we just can't let go of Super Bowl XLV. So once again, we look back to that glorious evening last month.

Out of a fairly lackluster field, this was my favorite Super Bowl commercials:

I love that the Bears got saddled with Urkel.

And Richie Cunningham, rocking the retro gear. And somehow, The Fonz can make even a foam finger look cool.

Somebody add one of those to the hideous Techicolor statue on the Riverwalk.

And, in case you were wondering what the footage originally looked like:

Monday, March 21, 2011

Unexpected Consequences

Graham Roberts/The New York Times

The Packers have been uniquely positioned to ride out the NFL lockout. The team has a stable coaching staff, established game plan and is expected to get even better when the starters injured in 2010 return to the field.

That is not to suggest there are no complications for the Packers. One of the surprising ones is their Super Bowl rings have been put on hold.

The New York Times, in an article on the Super Bowl champs' response to the lockout, notes:
Mark Murphy, the team's president and chief executive, said many planned events had been postponed because of the lockout.

The Packers, for example, have yet to accept an invitation to the White House, since team leaders did not think President Obama would want to welcome only Packers executives and coaches. They have not ordered their Super Bowl rings because they want to consult with the players, whom they are prohibited from contacting during the lockout.
Interesting that the players will have input on the design process.

This also means that Packer fans can still make their voices heard. If you want a shareholder ring, let the team know.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Support From a Very Unexpected Place

Green Bay Packers

This is probably old news for many of you, but I missed this when it first came out. Cliff Christl, writer for the Green Bay Press-Gazette, had a lot to say about the Packers' uniforms, regular and throwback.

Before we begin, I should stress that Christl has covered the Packers for over three decades. This isn't some rookie scribe we're talking about here, but a seasoned journalist who has a long relationship with the team and league. He is one of 44 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and also is on the Packer Hall of Fame selection committee. He is also apparently something of a contrarian when it comes to gridiron fashion.

Green Bay Packers
Writing about the 49er game, he had this to say:
(T)he best part of all Sunday were the throwback uniforms worn by the Packers; uniforms patterned after the ones the team wore when it won its first NFL championship in 1929.

For the first time in more than 50 years, the Packers donned uniforms befitting their great tradition.
Wow. Bold statement.

There's a lot here, so I'm going to address some of the issues he raises.
The Packers' regular uniforms are among the ugliest in the league. The Chicago Bears' uniforms, for example, fit the team’s image and history perfectly. So does Detroit's – or, at least, their uniforms fit the image of the old Lions.

Those two teams dress like they belong in the "Black and Blue Division."

But mustard yellow? It might be a nice color for a prom dress, but for a football uniform? No, take that back. Mustard yellow wouldn’t look good on anybody anywhere. And what does the 'G' on the helmet stand for? Greenbay? Is that where the Packers are from?
Setting aside for a moment the fact that the throwback uniforms still use the same shade of athletic gold, he's got a point about the helmet logo.

Milwaukee marketing executive Charlie Radtke made some waves in September of 2009 when he made the same point. Christl continues:
My favorite Packers’ jersey of all time was the hunter green and gold that the Packers wore in 1951. But the blue and gold throwbacks, along with the chocolate helmets, worn Sunday would be a close second. Maybe they’d look better with a large number on the front in place of the smaller number and circle. And a small "GB" logo might dress up the helmet. But the design and color scheme fits a team that exudes pro football nobility.
Green Bay Packers
In late 1993, the Packers considered changing their uniforms to gold, along with their dark green, but abandoned the idea after Ted Thompson, then an assistant in the pro personnel department, modeled it in front of Bob Harlan, Ron Wolf and others in Lambeau Field.

They rejected it, in part, because Harlan and Wolf didn’t like the look, but also because fans seemed to be overwhelmingly opposed to change.
For the record, I'm one of the only Packer fans who's still disappointed that Ron Wolf never followed through with his re-design.

Loved it then, still love it now.
And fans were downright outraged over the prospect of the Packers changing the team’s primary color from green to blue, even though blue was the Packers’ original and primary color for most of their first 40 years. The team was even called "The Big Bay Blues" back in the early '20s.

But here’s my argument if you’re one of the fans who still feels that way.

The current Packers’ jerseys essentially date to 1959, Vince Lombardi’s first season as coach. No doubt, he approved the colors and design if he didn’t pick them out.

Well, guess what?

Lombardi was color blind. He might have been the greatest coach ever, but nobody ever called him dapper.

On the flip side, the original 1929 jerseys would have been chosen by Curly Lambeau, a ladies’ man who always dressed to the nines. When he was coaching and playing for the Packers in the 1920s, he was a store salesman for Stiefel’s, a men’s clothing store that was a fixture on Washington Street when downtown was Green Bay’s shopping hub.

So tell me now — which of those two men would you want choosing your fashions?
That's a very pithy line, but a little unfair to Lombardi.

Sure, Curly was an extremely dashing fellow:

But Vince cleaned up nicely. Although we're used to seeing him in football pants and sweatshirts at Training Camp or anchoring the sidelines in a camel hair coat, Coach Lombardi knew the value of dressing for success:

Looking good, Coach.

In any case, it's interesting to see so much love for the throwbacks, and from a source like Cliff Christl.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

That Touch of Mink

We've been discussing the rewards given to players following championship seasons; rings, watches and the like. But to quote the old saw, behind every successful man is a woman. Coach Lombardi knew that, and made sure those women were similarly rewarded.

George Silk/LIFE

LIFE Magazine had this to say:
Snuggling happily in their new furs, the Packers' wives get together with their grinning benefactor, Coach Lombardi, who says: "Happy wives make for happy football players," gave each of them a mink stole after Green Bay won the National Football League championship last December. The single players were not neglected. Their mothers got minks.
Barbara Kramer, then wife of right guard Jerry, was one of the wives who received a stole from Lombardi on that day. Her mink was put up for action at Heritage Auctions in May 2008, providing us with an excellent look at this memento:

Heritage Auctions

No wonder that Lombardi's players would have run through walls for him.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

No Sophomore Slump

GREEN BAY "PACKER'S" (sic) 1920

Delloye, Powers, Dwyer, Klaus, Nichols, Rosenow, Wilson, Sauber, N. Murphy, Tebo, Petcka, Gavin, Wheeler, Lambeau, Ladrow, Wagner, Dalton, F. Jonet, Zoll, Leaper, Zoll, Martell, McLean, Abrams, Medley
This is the 1920 Packers squad, in their second year of competition. They played home games on a sandlot at Hagemeister Park, next to the East River. The park was upgraded for the 1920 season with the addition of a single section of grandstand along one side, which allowed the Packers to charge their first admission fee.

And what games the fans saw for their fee; the Packers, playing other Upper Midwest-based teams, cruised to a record of 9-1-1. The lone loss came at the hand of the Beloit Fairies (named for their sponsor, the Fairbanks-Morse manufacturing company). That same Beloit team had dealt the Packers their only loss in the inaugural 1919 campaign. It has been suggested recently that the Beloit team called themselves the "Professionals", and the Fairy nickname was thrown at them by George Whitney Calhoun in his Press-Gazette coverage of the games. If so Calhoun's influence was vast indeed, as it shows up in many contemporary newspapers from across the Midwest.

"Dominant" is a word often overused in sports, but it certainly fit the 1920 Packers, who outscored their opponents 227-24 and recorded eight shutouts in those eleven games.

The following year, seeking tougher competition and higher profits, the Packers joined the American Professional Football Association, which changed its name in 1922 to the National Football League. And the rest, as the saw goes, is history.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

1962 World Championship Ring? (or 1961?) (UPDATED)

Continuing our quest to catalog all of the championship jewelry won by the Green Bay Packers, we have another ring issued to scout Lew Anderson and sold at auction by Sotheby's in New York.

The face has the same basic elements as the 1965 World Championship ring, except oval in shape. Same green stone, uses a football shape, topped with a diamond, and a similar inscription around the perimeter. Extra points for the informal "CHAMPS".


The first shank features a classic Packers logo, with an unidentified player superimposed over the state of Wisconsin with the Packers' two homes—Green Bay and Milwaukee—marked by stars. Variations on this image pre-date Lombardi, going back at least as far as the 1950s, and serve as the forerunner of the iconic logo he would eventually adopt.


The other shank offers up a simple "NFL" block letter design over another football. The empty scroll is interesting - the 1965 championship, Super Bowl I and Super Bowl II rings all put the scoreline above the NFL logo. Wonder why it was omitted from Anderson's ring?


From the auction catalogue:
LOT 61


20,000—25,000 USD
Lot Sold. Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium: 13,750 USD


Anderson's ring is embossed "Green Bay Packers World Champions 1962" around a Packer green football shaped synthetic stone, with one diamond, set in a white metal bezel, approximate total .21 carats, embossed on one side reads "Lew Anderson" and "NFL'" stamped "Josten 14K" inside. In 1962, the defending champion Packers and Giants played a rematch in the NFL Championship Game. The title game, played on December 30, 1962 at Yankee Stadium, featured two of the NFL's powerhouses, boasting seventeen future Hall of Famers. However, 40 mph winds and 13 degree temps kept the high flying offenses on the ground. In the third quarter, the Giants cut the Packer lead to 10-7 on a blocked end-zone punt. But the Packers prevailed on the surprising foot of Jerry Kramer and the determined running of Jim Taylor, defeating the Giants, 16-7. "That was the hardest football game I ever played in," is how Packers' Hall of Fame halfback Paul Hornung described the win. The victory marked the Packers' second straight league title, Lombardi's dynasty in the making. The ring shows minor wear. Size 12.
That's four of Lombardi's five championship rings, leaving only the 1961 yet to cover.

UPDATED 04/03/11:     Speaking of the 1961 ring, this appears to be it.

Bart Starr never received a ring in 1962, only a watch. Perhaps only players and staff who didn't get a ring in 1961 were given one in 1962.

This Josten's ad from a 1967 program, featuring the 1961, 1965 and 1966 championship rings, indicates that players' numbers were enscribed on the football below the State of Wisconsin logo.

Look at the image on the left:

Same as this 1962 ring. Strange.

UPDATED 06/14/11:     Mark Schneider of GLORY DAYS Sports Pub in LaCrosse, WI, offers some insight:
Chance- none of the players I know ever got 1962 rings and none of the Packers media or photos ever show a 1962 ring. I think Lew Anderson's ring was special order and probably not by the team.