Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Numbers Game

Although pictures of early Packers squads are not uncommon, most tend to be posed team photos, such as this view of the 1931 squad at the beginning of their third consecutive World Championship season.

So while we know what the uniforms looked like from the front, solid blue shirts and socks paired with gold pants, views of the back are few and far between. This leaves a large hole in our knowledge of Packers uniforms - the jersey numbers, worn only on the back from their introduction in 1925 until 1934 (except for the 1929 & 1930 seasons).

This Milwaukee Journal article from Monday, October 10, 1932 provides us with a very rare glimpse of those numbers. The picture was taken the previous day, as 5,500 fans watched the Blues defeat the Portsmouth Spartans at Old City Stadium.

Standing deep in his own end zone Earl Clark, all-American pro quarter, attempted to kick. But Joe Zeller, all-conference guard at Indiana last season, rushed in and blocked the punt. A second later Rose (No. 52 in the picture) fell on the ball (indicated by an arrow) for the touchdown. Zeller is the player lunging forward directly under Clark's foot.
While the Spartans are wearing an oversized version of a common block, the Packers' numbers are thinner, rounded and more stylized. Although I'm very reluctant to judge such things from old photographs, let alone old black-and-white newspaper photos photocopied, bound into a book and scanned decades later, it looks to me as though the numbers are darker in color than those worn by the Portsmouth players. The Spartans' colors were purple and gold, but it seems likely that they wore large white numbers (as the Packers would adopt in 1934).

"Rose" is Al Rose, wide receiver for Green Bay from 1932 through 1936. He was the first Packer to wear number 52 on his jersey, and only for that one season. Rose never really settled on a number - after 1932, he moved to #34 in 1933, #49 in 1934 and #47 in 1935 and 1936.

The most notable Packer to sport the number was Frank "Bag of Donuts" Winters, who wore it from 1992-2002. The longtime center was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in 2008.

52 is currently being worn by outside linebacker Clay Matthews.


Tom said...

Chance, is there a resource for back issues of the Milwaukee Journal or Sentinel?

It's great to see that full page from 1932.

Chance Michaels said...

Sure thing - I use the Google News archive to find old papers:


A lot are pay-per-view, including the Chicago papers, but the Journal and Sentinel are well-represented and free.

Be prepared - once you start poking around you won't get anything done all day.

Tom said...

That's OK. I'm off today. ;-) Thanks!

Jeremy said...


What a great blog & site you have going. I'm going to be so busy going through all of this. I customize McFarlane sports figures and my favorite is a Don Hutson I did a while back.

I remember referencing your site for uniform details. I was having trouble finding good pictures at the time for Hutson's style of helmet. A friend of mine took some pictures at the Packer's HOF of a leather helmet from Don's era but I'm not sure he ever wore this style.

Would you mine taking a look at the pictures of my figure and let me know if it's possible Don wore this style helmet (you should recognize it)? I'm a real stickler for details! Thanks and keep up the great work!

4Star Customs