Friday, December 30, 2011

Photo Gallery: The Ice Bowl

AP Photo
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Don Meredith (17), white jersey at center, falls back on top of a Green Bay Packers player as players chase a fumble during the NFL Championship game at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisc., on Dec. 31, 1967.
The 1967 NFL Championship Game, determining the winner of the NFL crown and representative to the second Super Bowl, was held 44 years ago tomorrow, on December 31, 1967.

Today, the game is much better known by its sobriquet "The Ice Bowl" for the treacherously cold conditions under which it was played. Gametime tempuratures were down as low as -15°F with a wind chill measured at 48 below zero. This was also one of the brief period (1966-69) when because of the AFL/NFL rivalry the NFL title game didn't also decide the "World Championship."

NFL.com has a mavelous photo gallery of the game up now.

We begin with this shot of Coach Lombardi, taken four days before the game as he shows reporters the elaborate $80,000 system of heating coils embedded in the playing surface to ensure that conditions stayed optimal for football.

AP Photo/Paul Shane
Packer Coach Vince Lombardi explains how the Green Bay stadium "electric blanket" is keeping the playing surface soft for Sunday's NFL championship game against Dallas Cowboys on Dec. 28, 1967 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Buried electric heating cables provide the heat.
Unfortunately for Coach Lombardi, and the players, the system famously failed on the day, resulting in a frozen, rocky surface.

National Football League
Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame quarterback Bart Starr in a action in a 21-17 win over the Dallas Cowboys in a NFC Championship game on December 31, 1967 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
In many of these photos, you can clearly see the full stirrups under the Packers' low whites.

For the record, and just because its such a common mistake, Mr. Starr is wearing them the correct way; big hole goes in the back.

Here's The Coach himself, prowling the sidelines in his camel-hair coat and cleats. I love the white detailing around the opening of cleats from this period. I wonder if it was merely decorative, or served some sort of purpose?

Of course, no Ice Bowl retrospective would be complete without John Biever's iconic photo of Bart Starr sneaking in for a touchdown at the end of the game.

Another (albeit well-known) facet of the game is that was reportedly the only time this particular style of pennant was sold at Lambeau Field.

MEARS

Because of their provenance, and the Ice Bowl's hold on football fans' imaginations, the pennants draw a pretty good price at auction. This autographed example sold for over $800 at MEARS last January.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Seasons 'G'reetings from the 1970s

This holiday card was sent to Packers staff members sometime in the 1970s.

MEARS

The cover features a seasonally-colored rendering of Lambeau Field. Presuming that the stadium actually resembled this rendering at the time, the drawing helps us date the card, as the stadium bowl was completely enclosed beginning with the 1970 season.

I love using Dad Braisher's "G" logo in the greeting.

On the inside, an elegant script mark and helmet graphic.

Season's Greetings to all, from The Wearing of the Green and Gold!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

"Change is Good," Sayeth Nike



Nike recently posted this video on its YouTube page, advertising that they're going to do to Sunday football what they've done to Fridays and Saturdays.

So long as they're talking about technical innovation, I'm all for it. Design-wise, I'm not so sure...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Scrapbook: Super Bowl I Gallery

In advance of this weekend's game in Kansas City, the Press-Gazette is currently running a photo gallery of Super Bowl I, the first meeting between the clubs.

Press-Gazette archives
From left, Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi, left, and tackle Bob Skoronski watch during the AFL-NFL Championship Game (Super Bowl I) against the Kansas City Chiefs at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Jan. 15, 1967.
Seems strange to see the Coach in shirt sleeves, doesn't it? Especially short sleeves. I always picture him in a camel-hair coat.

Press-Gazette archives
Wisconsin Gov. Warren Knowles and Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi celebrate in the locker room after Green Bay's 35-14 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFL-NFL Championship Game (Super Bowl I) at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Jan. 15, 1967.
There it is - the first Super Bowl trophy, years before it would receive its name.

This is an unusually static shot of Max McGee, who had a pretty good case for MVP of the game.

Press-Gazette archives
Green Bay Packers tight end Marv Fleming (81) makes a catch against the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFL-NFL Championship Game (Super Bowl I) at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Jan. 15, 1967. Packers receiver Max McGee (85) stands at right.
You can just make out the stenciled numbers on the back of McGee's helmet:

The constant thread in these photos is the fields of empty seats in the background. I know that much has been written about the small crowd in attendance that day, but sheesh:

Press-Gazette archives
Green Bay Packers return man Donny Anderson heads upfield against the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFL-NFL Championship Game (Super Bowl I) at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Jan. 15, 1967. Chiefs linebacker Smokey Stover (35) is at left and Chiefs linebacker Bud Abell (52) is on the ground at right.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Auction Gold - Jim Taylor's 1960s travel blazer

The current Leland's auction brings us another look at Packers history, this time the blazer worn by Hall of Fame fullback Jim Taylor on team trips.

Lot 814: 1960s JIM TAYLOR GREEN BAY PACKERS WORN TRAVEL BLAZER

Hall of Fame fullback Jim Taylor spent nine of his 10 pro seasons with the Green Bay Packers, and he wore this official team travel blazer during his later years, as per the edict by legendary coach Vince Lombardi, who insisted his players look dapper on all road trips. It is signed in silver ink on the front, with "HOF 1976" under his name. The black jacket features the '60s-style Packers logo depicting the runner in front of the state of Wisconsin. There are three front buttons featuring the NFL crest. A button on each sleeve has the same logo. The inside lining shows a 3" x 3" patch that reads "McDelmas Official National Football League." The blazer is in EX overall condition.
The details are amazing, beginning with the chest patch featuring a version of the "Holstein Heisman" logo enclosed in the outline of the NFL shield logo.

The "29" or "24" appears to have been written on with a marker. I'm not sure what it means; Taylor always wore #31.

The buttons proudly display the NFL shield, and the interior label also features the league's branding.

Travel blazers are an underappreciated segment of the team's design. I'd love to learn more.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Taking Stock, Part II (UPDATED)

At 8 o'clock this morning, Central Standard Time, shares in the Packers went on sale.

In a press conference this morning, Mark Murphy, the Packers' president and chief executive officer, posed with copies of the four previous certificates.

Packers.com

Vice president of finance Paul Baniel then gave us our first look at the new stock certificates:

File/Press-Gazette

Packers.com

Overall, a fantastic design.

I particularly love the sublimated picture of Lambeau Field in the background. This is a great choice. Lambeau Field is inseparable from the team, a symbol of its connection to the fanbase. I loved that the Packers included a rendering on the Super Bowl XLV ring, itself a callback to the 1965 World Championship rings.

In my review of previous stock certificates, I wondered if the Packers were going to replace the photo-negative logo with Dad Braisher's classic (if subsequently tweaked) logo. I'm pleased to see that they have.

I also like the collection of old Packers logos along the bottom, but they jump right from 1921 to 1950, ignoring some blue-and-gold beauties from the 1940s. With all respect to Mr. Murphy, it's hardly "every one of the logos that the Packers have utilized over (their) history." I understand that this late-1940s wordmark might not have made the cut:

Certainly this mid-1940s beauty, used during the Packers' sixth World Championship, would have merited inclusion.

Shame that Curly Lambeau's ├Žsthetic contributions are largely absent from this little gallery of Packers history. Other than that omission, it's a sharp design.



UPDATE 12/7/2011: There's a small-but-crucial detail that I didn't notice until now. Check out the lower-left corner:

Yep. There it is:

Est. 1919

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! Obviously I'm not the only one who cares about this.

Nice to see that the Packers themselves remember, even if the League sometimes forgets.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

1962 Team Photo

The 1962 Packers, widely regarded as Lombardi's strongest team, finished their season 14-1, including the championship game against the Giants. They have been getting significant attention in recent weeks, as the 2011 Packers' winning streak brings their dominance to the minds of sportswriters and fans alike.

Many points of interest in this promotional photo, from Dad Braisher and Bud Jorgensen (here misspelled "Jorgenson") to the coaches in their "GB" caps.

There's also a numerical oddity, as cornerback Jesse Whittenton is wearing an older jersey with mis-matched numbers.

We've seen this before, with players wearing 1959 jerseys in a 1960 game. But my research indicates that the 1960 sans-serif numbers were only issued in that single season, which would mean the jersey Whittenton is wearing in the team photo is two years old.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Taking Stock (UPDATED)

The new stock sale is official, and the Packers have announced the first details. Beginning on December 6, the team will be offering 250,000 shares at $250 apiece.

If you weren't able to take advantage of the 1997 offering, this is your chance to put one of these beauties on the wall:

The upcoming issuance is the fifth stock sale in Packer history. In addition to the 1997 offering, stock was sold in 1923, 1935 and 1950.

The Packers first hit on the idea of selling stock as a means of rescuing the team from very precarious financial straits. Head coach and co-founder Curly Lambeau joined with Dr. W. Webber Kelly, grocery man Lee Joannes, attorney Gerald Clifford and A.B. Turnbull, publisher of the Green Bay Press-Gazette in dedicating themselves to raising money for the club, spending so much time with their hands out that they became known collectively as "The Hungry Five". Not just content with seeking donatations, they hit upon the idea of converting the team into a publicly-held, non-profit corporation. 1,000 shares were sold at $5 apiece in conjunction with at least six season tickets.

That first stock certificate was a fairly generic corporate design.

Saved in the short-term, the Packers managed to stave off disaster for a decade before financial problems caught up with them and forced a second sale. In 1935 another sale was held, and $110,000 was raised to help the club. That stock certificate also employed a standard template .

Collection of Don Sipes

As part of the sale the team re-organized with a new corporate name, reflected on the certificate.

This second sale was enough to keep the Packers afloat, but the NFL's smallest market would again be plagued by financial troubles in the late 1940s, and after a series of fundraising drives the Packers still found themselves in need of the cash infusion only a stock sale had brought them. This third sale, in 1950, also helped give the Packers a new start. Curly Lambeau had been forced out, giving the franchise a new head coach for the first time in its history. The team also had a new colorful graphic design, and for the first time the Packers' stock certificates were customized to match:


These certificates featured the team's brand-new wordmark, the team's name superimposed on a football and flanked by goalposts. The Packers raised $118,000 at $25 per share, money the team would need during the lean years ahead.

It was nearly a half-century before the Packers would authorize another stock offering.

This fourth stock sale couldn't have more different circumstances than the previous three. Instead of coming from hunger, the Packers were flush at the very top of the NFL. Instead of needing funds to keep the doors open, the Packers were instead raising money to fund a massive renovation and expansion of Lambeau Field.

Coming on the heels of a Super Bowl win (and immediately before a second consecutive Super Bowl appearance), the Packers raised more than $24 million towards the 2003 renovation. Although 105,989 new shareholders joined the ranks of NFL owners, 279,090 shares remained unsold, and those unsold shares form the basis of the current offering.

I wonder if the new certificates will have the same design as the previous version, or if they'll take the opportunity to tweak it. I've never liked the photo-negative green-on-white Packers logo, not even when they put it on the side of Lambeau Field in the 1990s:

Aside from being less visually pleasing, there's just no reason to have the inverted coloring. Braisher's classic logo, white "G" in green oval surrounded by gold, works as well on a white certificate as it does the team's gold helmets. Maybe the 2011 certificates can fix this ├Žsthetic wrong.

Although those five men could not have known it at the time, the creative solution they devised not only saved the Packers in 1923 but also laid the foundations for a prosperous and successful future, ensuring that the Packers would remain in the NFL, and in Green Bay, long after every other small-town team had either folded or moved to a larger market.

The legacy of the Hungry Five lives on, every glorious autumnal Sunday in old Green Bay. If you haven't joined that legacy yet, your chance begins on December 6th.



UPDATE 12/6/2011: Here is is, and she's a beauty:

A great design. They have indeed replaced the photo-negative logo, and I'm partial to the sublimated photo of Lambeau Field in the background.

Here's the full series, from 1923 through today:



(h/t: Mark Schneider of GLORY DAYS Sports Pub in LaCrosse, WI)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Auction Gold - 1940s Larry Craig Jersey

The current Lelands Auction features this game-worn beauty:
Lot 753: 1940s LARRY CRAIG GREEN BAY PACKERS GAME WORN JERSEY

Back before Aaron Rodgers was leading the Packers to Super Bowl titles, Hall of Fame running back and defensive back Larry Craig guided Green Bay to two NFL championships, perhaps while sporting this very game-worn jersey from the 1940s. 100% original and in great condition, the uniform bears Craig's number 54 on the front and back in gold while an O'Shea Knitting Mill tag is in the collar. There's a Size 44 tag sewn inside the crotch piece. There's nice use and evidence of several team repairs. In short, this is one of the nicest vintage football jerseys that you will ever lay eyes on. A six-time All-Pro, Craig holds the dubious distinction of being one of the first two players fined by the NFL league office for fighting.
Another fine look at Lambeau's classic uniform. Like most examples from this era, the jersey buttons at the crotch. Note also that the yoke extends lower on the back than it does on the jersey's front, and the larger back numbers.

Like other examples we've seen, this was manufactured by O'Shea Knitting Mills in Chicago.

Craig played for the Packers from 1939-49. This jersey fits neatly in that window. And, as the auction description mentions, he was one of the first two players fined by the league for fighting. In the fourth quarter of a game in 1941, he got into what the Milwaukee Journal called "a couple of fist fights" with halfback Henry Soar of the New York Football Giants. Those fight fights cost the men $25 each.

Bidding on this jersey opened at $2,000 and continues through December 16, 2011 at 9:00 PM EST. This would be the centerpiece of some lucky Packer fan's collection.


UPDATED 10/17/2011: The hammer price for this jersey was $9,189.94. Including bidder's premium, that means a final sale price of $10,981.98.