Thursday, November 29, 2012

1939 Team Photo

This photo was published in the Milwaukee Journal's color Sunday supplement on November 12, 1939.

Always a leader among professional football teams, the Green Bay Packers this year are again in the thick of the championship battle. Since this picture of the squad was made there have been several additions and releases of players. Cecil Isbell, star halfback, was not present for the photo. Shown are:

Front row (left to right) — Paul Engebretsen, guard; Francis Tewdell, guard; Pete Tinsley, guard; Buford Ray, tackle; Charlie Schultz, tackle; Paul Kell, tackle; Clarence Thompson, halfback; Don Hutson, end.

Second row (same order) — Capt. Milt Gantenbein, end; Eddie Jankowski, fullback; Buckets Goldenberg, guard; Arnie Herber, quarterback; Joe Laws, quarterback; Andy Uram, halfback; Russ Letlow, guard; Dick Weisgerber, halfback; Hank Bruder, quarterback; Frank Balazs, fullback.

Third row — Ernie Smith, tackle; Jack Brennan, guard; Frank Steen, Clarke Hinkle, fullback; Larry Craig, end; Bud Svendsen, center; Charlie Brock, center; Bill Lee, tackle; Al Moore, end; Harry Jacunski, end; Asst. Coach Richard (Red) Smith.

Back row — Ernie Smith, tackle; Jack Brennan, guard; Frank Steen, end; Tom Greenfield, center; Larry Buhler, fullback; Warren Kilbourne, tackle; Carl Mulleneaux, end.

—Journal color photo
You'll notice that the caption is a bit off. They've skipped the first two people in the third row, reprinting the first three people in the back row instead.

So who are our two mystery men? The first unidentified person is obviously Head Coach Earl Louis (Curly) Lambeau. The second eludes me. The Packers' website doesn't list anyone wearing #18 in 1939. Quarterback Hank Bruder wore the number in 1938, but there he is in the second row wearing his new #5.

I have another team photo from 1939, this time featuring the Packers' new white alternate jerseys, and there we find the answers.

There he is: second row, third from the right.

The caption identifies him as "Mulleneaux". Not wide receiver Carl Mulleneaux, who played for the Packers from 1938-41 and 45-46; he's there in the back row, fifth from the right, wearing #19. No, this was Lee Mulleneaux, Carl's brother.

Lee was in his eighth NFL season in 1939, having previously played for the New York Giants, Cincinnati Reds, St. Louis Gunners, Pittsburgh Pirates (now Steelers) and Chicago Cardinals. He came to the Packers from Chicago partway through the 1938 season and played six games for the Blue and Gold that year.

Lee Mulleneaux was injured early in 1939, possibly during Training Camp. It doesn't appear that he ever played in a game that season—he has no stats on—but he reamained on the inactive list, and when the Packers won their fifth World Championship in December, the players voted to give Lee a full share of the championship purse.

Lee retired after that season, his brother Carl went on to have a Packer Hall of Fame-worthy career in his own right, and our mystery for the day has been solved.

Monday, November 26, 2012

I Can't Stand No "Mo".

Ugh. What an ugly game last night at the Meadowlands.

Setting aside the Packers' play—of course, not easy to do—this should have been a good-looking game. The Giants have a truly classic uniform, and a number of their players wore blue undershirts, giving the illusion of actual jerseys (something I've long been advocating for Green Bay). There were, however, two æsthetic developments worthy of our attention in last night's debacle.

The first is the newly-moustachioed faces of Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers. The pair grew their lip fuzz as part of "Movember", a month-long cancer awareness initiative held this month every year.

Nice hat, Aaron.

The second item of note from last night was the black coat McCarthy was wearing.

Seriously, Nike?


"On, you Green and Gold AND OBSIDIAN, to Glory" get added to the fight song while I wasn't looking?

I understand that they want to sell as much stuff as humanly possible, but it shouldn't be at the expense of the team's æsthetic heritage. There's something very wrong when two coaches, representing teams with great and historical looks, meet at midfield and you have a hard time telling them apart.

All in all, a night best forgotten as quickly as possible.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Last Game at Old City Stadium, 1956

The Green Bay Press-Gazette is currently running a great feature (written by the always-sterling Jeff Ash) on the last game at Green Bay's old City Stadium, which was played 56 years ago today.

Of course, it would not be complete without a photo gallery, and the P-G does not disappoint.

Green Bay Packers receiver Gary Knafelc (84) hauls in a pass against the San Francisco 49ers at old City Stadium on Nov. 18, 1956. He's flanked by 49ers safeties Bob Holladay (27), left, and Dicky Moegle (47), right. The Packers lost 17-16. It was the last NFL game played at old City Stadium. Press-Gazette archives
The Packers are wearing their dark blue-green jerseys with dark gold helmets, numbers and Northwestern stripes on sleeves and socks. A classic uniform, even if the team's play couldn't quite live up to it. As the caption notes, the Packers lost the game after trailing for the entire second half. Not that the Green Bay fans saw; as Ash notes, the game had 7,000 empty seats and was blacked out of Green Bay television screens. The fans following at home had to do so via the Press-Gazette's radio station WJPG, with Tony Flynn and Wisconsin sports fixture Earl Gillespie.

The view looking north from old City Stadium during the Green Bay Packers' last game there on Nov. 18, 1956. A less-than-capacity crowd of 17,986 saw the Packers lose 17-16 to the San Francisco 49ers. Press-Gazette archives
That particular game was notable not only for its celebration of the Packers' past—saying good-bye to their home of over thirty years—but the glimpse at the team's future, as rookie quarterback Bart Starr made his first NFL start.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Bart Starr (15), making his first start, looks downfield against the San Francisco 49ers at old City Stadium on Nov. 18, 1956. 49ers linebacker Matt Hazeltine (55) rushes at right. Press-Gazette archives
As befitting these sturdy, if not flashy, uniforms, the game was marked by a brutal ground game. The Packers struck first, as Starr connected with Billy Howton for a 39-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter. After completing six passes for 63 yards, Starr was pulled in the second quarter for veteran Tobin Rote.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Tobin Rote (18) looks downfield against the San Francisco 49ers at old City Stadium on Nov. 18, 1956. From left are 49ers defensive linemen Bruce Bosley (77) and Ed Henke (75), Packers guard Forrest Gregg (75) and 49ers defensive tackle Leo Nomellini (73). Press-Gazette archives
Good to see another future Hall of Famer in those uniforms, this time Forrest Gregg. It's a reminder that Lombardi's dynasty teams had its roots in a far less glamourous era.

The offense sputtered under Rote, and after Fred Cone's field goal staked the Bays to a 9-0 lead, the 49ers came back to control the game.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Y.A. Tittle (14) dives over the goal line on a 1-yard touchdown run during the second quarter against the Green Bay Packers at old City Stadium on Nov. 18, 1956. Packers linebacker Tom Bettis (65) is closest to Tittle. Packers defensive end Nate Borden (87) is at right. Press-Gazette archives
In addition to the uniforms, we also get a fantastic view of the Packers' sideline capes in action:

San Francisco 49ers halfback Hugh McIlhenny (39) changes direction to try to evade Green Bay Packers safety Val Joe Walker (47) on an 86-yard touchdown run during the third quarter at old City Stadium on Nov. 18, 1956. From left are 49ers center George Morris (52), Packers defensive end Gene Knutson (81) and 49ers receiver Billy Wilson (84). The Packers lost 17-16. It was the last NFL game played at old City Stadium. Press-Gazette archives
There's one more photo from this gallery I'd like to share with you, although it doesn't relate to the Packers' uniform history. As befitted the final game in their old stadium, the Packers cast their eye backwards with a halftime ceremony featuring team co-founder George Whitney Calhoun, who was presented with a scroll honoring his contributions to the city.

Green Bay Packers co-founder George Whitney Calhoun, center, is honored at halftime of the game between the Packers and the San Francisco 49ers at old City Stadium on Nov. 18, 1956. Calhoun is assisted by Jim Cook, a former Green Bay East High School star who played for the Packers in 1921. Press-Gazette archives
Not his more famous partner Curly Lambeau, interestingly enough. This was just six years after Curly's feud with the Packers' Board of Directors finally boiled over into his ouster, and although he had retired from coaching by this time (following stints with the Chicago Cardinals and Washington Redskins), the bad blood hadn't quite settled.

The disappointing loss left both teams level at 2-6 as the Packers began their customary end-of-season road trip. They won at Detroit and Chicago (Cardinals), but lost both halves of their West Coast swing (a rematch with the 49ers and a final game at the Rams) to close out 1956 at the very bottom of the Western Conference, 4-8. The seeds of greatness might have been being sewn on that chilly November field, but it seems unlikely that the fans knew it at the time.

There's more at the Press-Gazette's site, check it out.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Evolution of the NFL Football Helmet

The NFL has posted a very interesting graphic, charting the evolution of the football helmet from Curly Lambeau to Wes Welker.
Great to see three references to the Packers. You can't tell the history of the NFL without Green Bay.

I am a little disturbed to see the note about the Revolution helmet in the '00s. I know it makes us all feel better to talk about reducing concussions , but 1) we can't innovating our way out of the NFL's current health crisis, and 2) it's not about concussions. But perhaps that's a longer discussion for another time.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Dark (Blue-Green) Days of the 1950s

Reader Jeremy Weber sends these two photos of the Packers' 1950s uniforms in action against the Cleveland Browns. The first one comes from a game in Cleveland on October 23, 1955:

Special Collections, Cleveland State University Library
Cleveland Browns' Otto Graham (#14) shakes loose from Green Bay Packer Bobby Dillon (#44) as the Browns defeat the Packers 41-10 at Cleveland Stadium.
Jeremy adds "love the clear facemask on Dillon". And I agree. The ever-indispensible Helmet Hut has this to say about this style:
Prior to the mid 1950s most players would only wear a face mask after suffering a facial area injury. By the end of the decade face masks were worn primarily to prevent facial injuries and used by almost every player. In the early 1950s Riddell introduced this clear Lucite face mask bar. The mask was securely attached to the helmet by three bolts on each side of the helmet, one of which also served as the snap to buckle the leather chin strap. Unfortunately the mask would occasionally shatter upon direct impact causing Riddell to replace it with the tubular plastic mask which was almost indestructible.
The second photo was taken November 4, 1956 at Milwaukee County Stadium.

Special Collections, Cleveland State University Library
HB Joe Johnson gains 10 yds & first down on Browns 38 before being dumped by Tommy James. Coming up to help on the pass completion from Starr is (70) captain Don Colo." -- photo verso. The Browns won the game 24-7.
The uniform Messrs. Dillon and Johnson are wearing is this "midnight green" beauty, with gold numbers and Northwestern stripes:

This uniform remains largely forgotten by Packer fans, if not the team itself. Not surprising, in that it represents a dark time in the team's history—the Packers went 6-6 and 4-8 in these two seasons—but I like it on its æsthetic merits.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Fool's-Gold Gloves

It's too late for Halloween, but for the fan who really wants to dress up like a Packer comes this little gem, now available from the NFL Shop.

Setting aside the small matter of the pink-out scam across the bottom, for only $100 you can have the same touchdown-celebration gloves that your favorite Packer player wears.

Or if you really love the design, but find $100 receiver's gloves just a teensy bit impractical, you could always buy a t-shirt with a picture of the gloves on it.

Yep, that's a real thing.

Monday, November 5, 2012

2012's "Salute to Service" Event, Part 1

We have the first pictures from yesterday's "Salute to Service" event, giving us a look at the NFL's digital-camouflage-draped tribute to our military members past and present.

There were logos aplenty throughout the stadium, a missing-man formation flyover by Navy F/A-18 jets, and a special tribute to the 157th Wisconsin National Guard unit that just returned home from a tour of duty in Kosovo.

There were, of course, uniform elements to this event as well. Although the Packers didn't wear captain patches, the visiting Cardinals do, and those were the same digi-camo as the ubiquitous logo.

The Packers did, however, make two alterations to their helmets for the event. Here's punter Tim Masthay modeling a very cluttered helmet the digi-camo ribbon and service decals, in his case the Navy:

Jim Biever,
Incidentally, that's not only another example of the faux-bumper decal common to some helmet styles but the best look I've seen yet of the new player ID label. I hadn't realized that the football-shape also included laces. Nice touch.

Coach Mike McCarthy wore an honest-to-goodness digi-camo ribbon on his cap.

Jim Biever,
As promised, the ribbon logo was liberally sprinkled throughout the stadium, including on the field of play.

Jim Biever,
Jarrett Bush wore a Coast Guard decal on his helmet:

Jim Biever,
Safety Morgan Burnett and linebacker Brad Jones wore the Marine and Air Force versions, respectively.

AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps
I wonder if players were given any choice in the decal selection, or if they were distributed at random?

My feelings about this event are much more conflicted than about the pink-out swindle, largely because the NFL hasn't tried to monetize the fans' good feelings in the same way. The league isn't selling digi-camo merchandise (yet), so there's no otherwise-reputable charity set up as a front, receiving any pennies on the dollar raised.

This showy, over-the-top celebration still seems unseemly to me. Singling out certain of our society's heroes for so much public adulation requires ignoring others, leading either to unequal treatment or to a further watering-down of our appreciation through overuse as they lobby for similar attention.

The whole exercise also smacks of exploitation from a multi-billion dollar industry eager to wrap itself in the flag, which was brought home when the Cardinals dug out their Pat Tillman memorial helmet decals from 2004.

Todd Rosenberg/NFL
Paul Lukas described his reaction on Uni Watch:
By far the most interesting move on the field yesterday was made by the Cardinals, who chose to appreciate the military by wearing "40" helmet decals — Pat Tillman’s old number. Of course, the military lied about the circumstances of Tillman's death in an attempt to create a fraudulent propaganda narrative. In other words, they exploited his status as an athlete to promote their own agenda. Now the NFL is exploiting his status as a solider to promote the league's agenda. Nice now everything comes full-circle, eh?
I find it very hard to disagree. Eisenhower was right.

One more week of this (two for the rest of the NFL, since the Packers get their bye next weekend), and we'll be on to the next event.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Not Just an Ugly Ribbon

The Packers have released some of the details from this Sunday's "Salute to Service" event to their Facebook page.

First, a look at Lambeau Field being set up for the card stunt (their words, not mine).

Over on the left, does that look like the tail end of "THANK YOU MILITARY"?

In addition to the stunt, Lambeau Field will be draped with event-specific signage. The NFL's digi-camo ribbon created for last season will be festooned on the goalposts and goal line pylons, game balls and sidelines. It will be worn as a decal on helmets, a patch on the officials' uniforms and a pin on the coaches' sideline gear. For whatever reason, the NFL didn't slap its logo on uniforms last season, but they're more than making up for that this year.

Of course, Nike will get in on the action as well, loaning out their attention-seeking gloves to a new cause:

The biggest element of this event, from my perspective, is the helmet decals. Right next to the afore-mentioned digi-camo ribbon decal, Packer players will be wearing a service decal on the back of their helmets.

Rodgers will apparently be repping the Navy, but all branches will be included.

Seeing all this, I can't help but wonder if I'm the only one who is very wary of the growing military-as-video-game aspect of our culture in recent years.

Sure, servicemembers deserve our respect and our thanks. So do cops and firefighters and paramedics and others who similarly put their lives on the line for us every day (so do teachers, for that matter, but they of course have fewer friends in Congress). I have long since become tired, however, of renting out the Packer uniform in the service of any cause, no matter how worthy.

Tie an Ugly Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree...

Today, the Buffalo Bills tweeted out this photo of the special footballs to be used at the weekend's "Salute to Service" promotional events all around the NFL.

We also got a look at the special captains' patches that will be worn by many clubs, including the Bills.

Fortunately, we will be spared those, as the Packers do not wear captains' patches during the regular season.

We can, however, expect to see a special helmet decal featuring the GI Joe drag ribbon this weekend against the Cardinals and November 18th at Detroit (the week in between is the Packers' bye).

I just hope that this "support the troops" show is no more than half as scam-tastic as the NFL's pink-out. The troops deserve real support, not flashy marketing gimmicks.