Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Mean Green Machine, Part II

After overhauling their uniforms for 1935, the Packers kept their kelly green and gold uniforms for a second season.

They are pictured here in the Sunday color section of The Milwaukee Journal from September 20, 1936, in advance of their Week Two contest against the Bears:

THE GREEN BAY PACKERS didn't come far from the national professional league championship last year and the 1936 team, shown above, is determined to do even better. They play their traditional game with the Chicago Bears at Green Bay today. In the lower row are Gantenbein, end; Scherer, end; Hinkle, back; Gordon, tackle; Letlow, guard; Butler, center; Rose, end; Smith, tackle; Engebretsen, guard; and Monnett, back.

Second row players are Eiduayan, guard; Paulekas, guard; Paul Miller, back; Mattos, back; Croft, guard; Oliver, back; Prime Miller, tackle; Clemens, back and Bruder, back.

In the third row are Laws, back; Herber, back; Kiesling, guard; Sauer, back; Becker, end; Agatore, tackle; Svendsen, center and Johnston, back.

Left to right in the fourth row are Trainer Woodward; Schneidman, back; Goldenburg, back; Evans, guard; and Hutson, end. On top are Coach Lambeau; Schwammel, tackle; Seibold, tackle; and Asst. Coach Smith.
These Packers would lose and lose badly to the Bears that day, 30 to 3. Curly's boys would bounce back, and that would be their only loss of the season, as they rolled to a 15-1-2 record and their fourth World Championship.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Golden Ghost

Here we see Tony Canadeo, the Gray Ghost, modeling one of the Packers' most unusual uniforms - gold over gold.

This was part of Coach Ronzani's rotating series of mix and match uniforms. Here are the all-golds in action against the Lions:

How likely is it that we could see the Packers in gold/gold/gold again? Well, the Packers have been selling a gold fashion jersey for years.

Of course, this is just merchandising. The Packers have never expressed any inclination towards wearing them on the field. But plans can change.

It wouldn't be unheard of; the NFL is no stranger to fashion faux pas. Even the once-reliable Black and Blue Division has had its share of regrettable choices in recent years. And we all know the Packers aren't immune.

NFL uniform regulations allow for alternate jerseys, so long as they remain within the team's color palette. So no problem there. The team would then have to keep it as the only alternate for five years. It's not likely the Packers would adopt another alternate during that period, so again, no problem.

If the Packers were to make this a real alternate and not just a fashion jersey, they'd have yet another set of mismatched sleeve stripes that need fixing. Hopefully, it'll never get that far.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Summer Camping

In the 1930s, the Milwaukee Journal started running a special Sunday section of color photography, highlighting world destinations, cultural superstars and local events. Little wonder that the Packers, who were on the cusp of their fourth world title, would be prominently featured (sporting their then-new kelly green and gold uniforms).

Click either image for the full-size "Action in Color" page from September 22, 1935 (the morning of the second game of the season):

The caption reads:
FOOTBALL ACTION PICTURES IN COLOR, never before possible, are brought to you through The Journal's new film, many times as fast as any color negative yet devised. These photographs were made as the Green Bay Packers, the state's big time professional football team, practised at the Rhinelander High school field. The picture above shows a line play, while the picture (below) shows the start of an end run. Joe Laws is taking the ball, Clark Hinkle (23) is at the right, No. 11 is Bob Monnett and No. 14 is Al Rose, an end.
All errors, spelling or otherwise, per the original (Clarke Hinkle never gets his due).

The photo was taken before the season during the Packers' training camp, which was then being held in Rhinelander, 130 miles northwest of Green Bay.

Interesting that Al Rose is wearing #14. The number is most famously associated with Don Hutson, then in his rookie year. According to the team, he wore it the entire season (Johnny Blood wore #14 in 1934).

It certainly seems plausible that Rose, who wore four jersey numbers in his five seasons with Green Bay, might have worn #14 in training camp before it was issued to Hutson. But if so, what number did Don Hutson wear?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Bearing Down

In honor of this season's sweep of the Bears, we get a peek at a 1940s game between Green Bay and Chicago at old City Stadium:

Before television broadcasts became commonplace, it was not unusual for both teams to take to the field wearing the same color. Although the Packers had a white alternate as early as 1938, this kind of navy v. navy "color clash" with the Bears continued until the Packers adopted green uniforms in 1950.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Coolest Jersey You Didn't Know You Could Buy

One of the things that bothers me, as a fan of the Packers' Lambeau-era uniforms, is how thoroughly forgotten they have become by the team.

The navy and gold with gold shoulder yokes was the look which defined the Bays for much of their first three decades, including a couple World Championships.

You wouldn't know that, however, from looking around the Packers Pro Shop. The Packers sell all manner of Lombardi Green and Gold, and they have recently started showing some love (if not historical fealty) for the Acme Packers of 1921. But there's an awful lot of history between those two points, and it's largely being ignored.

Sure, you can buy a blue and gold Favre throwback jersey, but that's a 1994 throwback, not 1944. Mitchell & Ness has at times made Tony Canadeo jerseys - a 1949 navy and 1946 white - but those have been out of production for years.

Enter HR Derby. They're an outfit in western New York state, near Niagara Falls, specializing in throwback jerseys of all kinds. Aside from their website, they also maintain a store on eBay.

HR Derby carries the standard Mitchell & Ness baseball flannels, but also a line of custom-made historical football jerseys in a number of styles, but - and here's where it gets good - they also do custom orders, which means they can make just about any classic football jersey you want.

For years, I've been lobbying for a 1940s Hutson throwback over at the Database, but never with any success. So, finally given the opportunity to own one, I couldn't resist.

jersey front

It's absolutely stunning. Deep navy and vivid gold are a beautiful combination, sadly unused in the NFL today.

jersey back

Now, the design's not perfect. The gold yoke should be higher in the front, exposing some of the gold collar, as seen on this 1943 photo of (left to right) Tony Canadeo, Irv Comp, Lambeau and Hutson:

This low yoke is more reminiscent of the first 1937 version, as seen here on Arnie Herber and Hutson:

This wouldn't be a problem, except that it probably means that my 1940s numbers are inaccurate for this jersey. But that's fairly fine nitpicking.

I can't recommend these guys highly enough. But if you're thinking of ordering one yourself, you should be aware that the process takes a long time. HR Derby has the base jerseys themselves manufactured by Southland Athletics (who outfitted, among other NFL clubs, the Cowboys of the 1960s and 1970s), before HR Derby sews on the letters, numbers and other insignia.

Southland Athletic tag

This results in amazing quality but also means you have to wait until HR Derby compiles enough custom orders to meet Southland's minimum. In my case, it was about six months from the time I placed my order until delivery. I've heard of others having to wait longer than that. But once you actually receive the jersey, you'll find they're well worth the wait.

And heck, since Mitchell & Ness no longer sells Canadeo jerseys, HR Derby is picking up the slack there as well. This beauty (perhaps the same Southland batch as mine?) recently sold on their eBay store.

If anybody over at the Packer Pro Shop is reading this, you should really work out a deal with the guys at HR Derby. I know I'm not the only one who's been wanting one of these for a long, long time.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Mean Green Machine

In 1935, fifteen years before Gene Ronzani made the obvious-in-retrospect Green Bay connection, Curly Lambeau added green to his Notre Dame-inspired navy and gold color scheme. He sent his boys onto the gridiron wearing dark green jerseys with gold numbers over green pants.

The string bean look must not have been too pleasing; midway through the season, the Packers scrapped them in favor of kelly green jerseys with gold raglan sleeves and gold pants.

Here's the squad, most of which saw service in every game, which made the Green Bay Packers a deciding factor all the way in the National Professional league cahampionship.

At the bottom (left to right) are Mike Michalske, Bob Tenner, Nate Barragar, Ade Schwammel, George Svendsen, Lon Evans, George Sauer, Bob O'Connor, Bob Monnett, Trainer Bob Woodward.

In the second row are Buckets Goldenberg, Joe Laws, Tiny Engebretsen, Clark Hinkle, Arnie Herber, Roger Grove, Hank Bruder, Milt Gantenbein, Herman Schneidmann and Swede Johnston.

On top are Coach Curley Lambeau, Johnny Blood, Al Rose, Frank Butler, Champ Seibold, Cal Hubbard, Walter Kiesling, Claude Perry, Don Hutson and Ernie Smith.
These sharp uniforms would return for 1936 (and the Packers' fourth world championship), but proved to be short-lived. For the 1937 campaign, the Packers returned to their traditional blue with the introduction of Lambeau's classic navy-and-gold uniform.

Green remained in the Packers' scheme as an alternate color, but wouldn't again be on the home jerseys until after Lambeau left the Packers. Coach Ronzani, looking to looking to emerge from Lambeau's long shadow, would re-introduce a green-over-green uniform. It seems likely that he was unaware that Lambeau had done the exact same thing.