Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Rams at Packers, 1966 (UPDATED)

These amazing color photos were taken at Lambeau Field on September 26, 1966, as the Packers were hosting the Los Angeles Rams.

The Green Bay Packers' cheerleaders wave pompons as the team runs onto the field before the second half against the Los Angeles Rams at Lambeau Field on Sept. 25, 1966. From center, the Packers players are defensive tackles Jim Weatherwax (73) and Henry Jordan (74), receiver Max McGee (85), tight end Marv Fleming (81), quarterback Bart Starr (15) and fullback Jim Grabowski (33). The Packers won 24-13. Press-Gazette archives
The Rams were in their short-lived blue and white phase, creating a beautiful uniform contrast.

Los Angeles Rams punter Jon Kilgore (13) boots the ball over Green Bay Packers linebackers Ray Nitschke (66) and Dave Robinson (89) at Lambeau Field on Sept. 25, 1966. Heading downfield are, from left, the Packers' Willie Davis (87), Rams snapper Ken Iman (50), the Packers' Ron Kostelnik (77) and the Rams' Tom Mack (65) and Henry Dyer (35). The Packers won 24-13. Press-Gazette archives
Green and blue, field and sky. Perfect football.

Green Bay Packers fullback Jim Taylor (31) follows guard Fuzzy Thurston (63) through the hole during a game against the Los Angeles Rams at Lambeau Field on Sept. 25, 1966. The Packers won 24-13. Press-Gazette archives
This is the iconic Packers uniform, introduced and finally refined under Vince Lombardi. The initial experimentation with number fonts was long-over, the Packers having settled in to the athletic block numbers they still wear today. The Braisher stripe pattern was firmly established on the pants, sleeves and helmets, again an element which persists (in a slighly modified form) today.

The classic Lombardi-era "GB" cap also made an appearance on that day:

Green Bay Packers halfback Paul Hornung walks off the field after being injured against the Los Angeles Rams at Lambeau Field on Sept. 25, 1966. The Packers won 24-13. Press-Gazette archives
I can't make out the gold graphic on that gray t-shirt, though. Anybody?

(Update: Jeff Ash of the Press-Gazette writes to tell me it says "GREEN BAY" arched over a football and "PACKERS" horizontally below. All gold on gray with no drop-shadows. Thanks, Jeff!)

1966 was a rough year for the Golden Boy. He missed most of the season, including the first Super Bowl, due to injury, and retired in the off-season on the advice of doctors.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Zeke Bratkowski holds a football on the sideline before the game against the Los Angeles Rams at Lambeau Field on Sept. 25, 1966. Also on the sideline are, from left, fullback Jim Taylor (31), tight end Allen Brown (83), receiver Red Mack (27), tight end Marv Fleming (81) and quarterback Bart Starr (15). The Packers won 24-13. Press-Gazette archives
Hmm. We've seen that bag before.

I'm intrigued by the number of players who rolled up their sleeves under that September sun, presaging the shortened sleeve lengths that would come into fashion within a few years.

Green Bay Packers linebacker Dave Robinson (89) comes off the field after making an interception against the Los Angeles Rams at Lambeau Field on Sept. 25, 1966. Packers cornerback Herb Adderley (26) reaches out to congratulate him. Rams guard Don Chuy walks off the field behind him. The Packers won 24-13. Press-Gazette archives
Check out the full gallery on the Green Bay Press-Gazette's website.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Howard Johnson, the Packers' Only WWII Casualty

On this Memorial Day, when we remember the soldiers and sailors who fell in battle, I'd like to offer the story of Howard "Smiley" Johnson, the only active Green Bay Packer to die wearing his country's uniform.

Johnson enlisted in the Marine Corps following Pearl Harbor and was killed in action on Iwo Jima on Feb. 19, 1945.

The indispensible Packerville, U.S.A. did an excellent write-up on Johnson several years ago - check it out here.

Friday, May 17, 2013

"Titletown Five" and the Preakness

Tomorrow will see the 138th running of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. All eyes will be on Orb as he tries to take his second race en route to the Triple Crown, but there's another horse in the field that every Packer fan should be watching.

"Titletown Five" is a 3-year-old dark bay colt co-owned by Packers Hall of Famers Paul Hornung and Willie Davis.

The colt's name is derived from a combination of the City of Green Bay's nickname and Hornung's jersey number. Hornung owns 30% of the horse, Davis reportedly slightly less, which might tell us why Paul gets to put his number on the horse.

His name is not the only connection Titletown Five has to the Packers; check out the green and gold silks worn by jockey Joel Rosario last July (pictured here with trainer D. Wayne Lukas:


That "G" logo looks great by itself on the side of a helmet, but just doesn't work when paired with another letter. They would have been better off using the Packers' interlocking "GB" logo instead.

The Preakness website shows slightly different silks, with a generic "GB". I don't know if that means the silks have been changed or if the graphic isn't 100% accurate. We'll have to see.

I find it ironic that Hornung is now part-owner of a racehorse, given his 1963 suspension for gambling.

Jockey Julien Leparoux will ride Titletown Five in tomorrow's race. He faces odds of 30-1, the longest in the Preakness, but I would never bet against the Golden Boy. He knew a thing or two about running in his day.

Monday, May 13, 2013

"Number One in Your Programs," Part II

Something happened recently that the Green Bay Packers haven't seen in nearly 90 years.

A player has been issued jersey number 1.

As we discussed last year, Curly Lambeau is the only Packer to wear the digit in a football game. Vince Lombardi had the number emblazoned on his sideline gear. And to that select group, we add... Matt Brown?

Brown is a quarterback out of Illinois State, signed by the Packers as an undrafted free agent. If he makes it through training camp and into a preseason game, he'll be the first number one since Lambeau in 1926.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Packers Heritage Trail Trolley Tours

There's a new way to see the Packers Heritage Trail - from this fetching trolley car.

Trolley is the new way to tour the Packers Heritage Trail

GREEN BAY, WI (WTAQ) - City leaders are rolling out the latest way to learn about Packers history. It's the Packers Heritage Trail Trolley Tours, which will begin July 19th and departing from the Resch Center.

Riders will travel the new Packers Heritage Trail on a 90 minute tour. There will be 22 stops guided by the players from Let Me Be Frank Productions.

"In particular during training camp it'll be a great attraction for us," says Greater Green Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau President and CEO Brad Toll. "The heritage trail was very popular last year, now we have a way that people can tour it and learn beyond just reading the plaques, so we've been able to expand the attraction."

The tours run through August 17th. Organizers say private tours are offered year round. Tickets go on sale May 16th and are $25.
Sounds like a great idea. The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in Green Bay.

I'm curious about the guides - Let Me Be Frank Productions appears to be a community musical theatre group in Green Bay. I've hired actors to serve as museum guides before, it also makes sense that they would make good tour guides aboard the trolleys. I'd be curious to know who's writing the scripts for those twenty-two stops, if former Green Bay Press-Gazette writer Cliff Christl, Packer historian and father of the Packers Heritage Trail, had any hand in them.

If anyone's able to take one of these tours, let me know what they're like. I love the Heritage Trail concept, and this could be an excellent way to see it.

Monday, May 6, 2013

On You Blue and Gold to Glory, Again!

Green Bay Packers

Today the Packers announced that after a year's absence, they will be bringing back the 1929 uniforms for one game:
Packers donning throwback uniforms vs. Browns

The blue and gold is coming back to Lambeau Field.

After taking a break last season, the Green Bay Packers announced on Monday that they’ll bring back their 1929-inspired alternate uniforms during an Oct. 20 home game against the Cleveland Browns during the upcoming 2013 NFL season.

The Packers unveiled the third jersey during a 34-16 win over San Francisco on Dec. 5, 2010, and wore them again the following season during a 24-3 win over St. Louis before taking the 2012 season off.

The alternate jersey is based on the Packers’ 1929 jerseys, which were blue with the jersey number in a gold circle on the front. The modern version differs from the original model in that it uses a larger gold circle and also includes a full-sized number on the back along with the player’s last name, to conform with NFL uniform regulations

The alternate uniforms also feature tan pants and a solid brown helmet, representing the leather helmets that players of that era wore. The Packers won the first of their 13 NFL championships in 1929.
We knew that the throwbacks were in the NFL Style Guide last season, even after the shift from Reebok to Nike, but I hadn't heard any indication we'd see them again.

It's probably too much to hope that Nike will pair them with blue undershirts this time, but I do wonder if we'll see a new helmet treatment, utilizing the same leather-textured look that Nike and HGI whipped up for Washington last season.

Something to wonder about as the season approaches.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Auction Gold - 1940s Leather Helmet

Heritage Auctions continues to serve up amazing Packers artifacts. This leather helmet, since painted white, once sat on the head of a Packer hero.
1940's Green Bay Packers Game Worn Helmet.  In the sports memorabilia game, sometimes it takes a bit of uncanny knowledge and a keen eye to spot a treasure. Here we present one of those special instances, as this auction listing features one of the only 1940's Green Bay Packers game-worn helmets ever to see hobby light.
Most likely donated to a local Green Bay high school after its time in professional football was through, this leather helmet once was used by a Packers player during the later part of the Curly Lambeau era. Now baring a light application of white paint throughout, a careful look at the shell's edges shows clear evidence of an original application of yellow paint. Originally obtained from the collection of a Green Bay media personality years ago, the helmet's front portion displays an extremely faint "PAC" from what once was stamped "PACKERS," and team historians and vintage game photography will confirm that this is the exact style as worn by the team about 70 years ago. While not a perfect example, it was unquestionably worn by a Packers player in the 1940's, and it could easily be brought back to life with the proper paint restoration. LOA from Heritage Auctions.
It's an amazing piece of history.

We've discussed this helmet before, when it was in the collection of Titletown Nostalgia. Shame about the repainting, but the faint trace of the "PACKERS" stamp tells us its story. You can see similar branding on the leather of Don Hutson's helmet in this undated photo:

Here's the stamp:

Game-worn Packer leather helmets are exceedingly rare. I'm aware of four in private hands, including this one and one in my collection. The Packers Hall of Fame has some, of course, as does the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton. Now's your chance.