The NFL has a particular myopia when it comes to the pre-Super Bowl era. It's rare to see much coverage of those games, but the fact that the Packers and Bears haven't met in the postseason since November 14, 1941 is a compelling enough story to overcome that.
On that day, a mere week after Pearl Harbor, Curly Lambeau and his Packers journeyed south to Wrigley Field for the Western Division playoff.
The Packers would take a long train ride back to Green Bay after the game, falling to the Bears 33-14. The Chicago Bears' site provides us a six-minute highlight film of the loss on their site.
The New York Times offers a retrospective of the era through the eyes of the last two surviving players from that game, John Siegal of the Bears and Ed Frutig of the Packers.
Frutig can be seen far left in second row of this team photo, one of the only pieces of memorabilia he still has:
The Green Bay Press-Gazette offers us a great photo gallery of that 1941 postseason game.
The ball bounces free after the Packers' Baby Ray fumbles on a kickoff return during the first quarter of a 33-14 loss to the Bears in the Western Division playoff game at Wrigley Field in Chicago on Dec. 14, 1941. Bears lineman Ray Bray (82) is on the ground in front of Packers lineman George Svendsen, whose legs are showing, but the Beras' Dan Fortmann (21) and John Siegel (6) are among those eyeing the ball. The Bears' Ray McLean -- who in 1958 was the Packers' coach -- recovered the ball.
Chicago fullback Norm Standlee (22) heads upfield during the first quarter of the Bears' 33-14 victory over the Packers in the Western Division playoff game at Wrigley Field in Chicago on Dec. 14, 1941. Packers defenders Cecil Isbell (17) and Don Hutson (14) are among those closing in on Standlee.
Chicago defensive end George Wilson clotheslines Packers quarterback Cecil Isbell after he makes a throw during a 33-14 loss to the Bears in the Western Division playoff game at Wrigley Field in Chicago on Dec. 14, 1941.
Fullback Norm Standlee scores the Bears' second touchdown of the second quarter on a 2-yard run in a 33-14 victory over the Packers in the Western Division playoff game at Wrigley Field in Chicago on Dec. 14, 1941. The Packers' Herman Rohrig (8) stands between the officials and Charley Brock (29) is at right.
Packers end Hal Van Every hands the ball to an official after scoring on a 10-yard pass from Cecil Isbell in the third quarter of a 33-14 loss to the Bears in the Western Division playoff game at Wrigley Field in Chicago on Dec. 14, 1941. Packers end Carl Mullineaux (19) is at left, next to the Bears' George McAfee (5). Bears defensive end Hampton Pool (76) is at right.
The Green Bay Packers defense takes down a Chicago Bears ball carrier during the Western Division championship game at Wrigley Field in Chicago on Dec. 14, 1941. Among the Packers in the photo are Charles Schultz (60), Clarke Hinkle (30) and Cecil Isbell (17).
Action from the Western Division championship game between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears at Wrigley Field in Chicago on Dec. 14, 1941. The next photo shows the play in close-up detail.
The ball comes loose during the Western Division championship game between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears at Wrigley Field in Chicago on Dec. 14, 1941. Clockwise from lower left are Bears guard Dan Fortmann (21), Packers guard Bill Kuusisto (45), Bears end John Siegal (6), Packers tackle Bill Lee (40) and Packers end Larry Craig (54).The Chicago Tribune offers up a sharper look at the first photo:
Chicago Bears Hall of Fame guard Danny Fortmann (21) and Bears end John Siegel (6, far right) reacts to the ball in the air after a tackle by Bears guard Ray Bray (82) in the Western Division Playoff game against the Green Pay Packers played at Wrigley Field on Dec. 14, 1941. Other players are unidentified.Not wanting to miss the party, the Chicago Sun-Times gives us a few of the same photos and two more:
This image from the December 14, 1941 NFC Championship game featuring the Green bay Packers against the Chicago Bears, Bears Norm Standlee runs the ball during the game at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame running back Clarke Hinkle runs around Chicago Bears end Hampton Pool on a 12-yard run in a 33-14 loss on 12/14/1941.While that is indeed Clarke Hinkle, it's not from the game in question (unless Hamp Pool was the only Bear wearing white). I don't know exactly when the photo was taken, but from the two gold sock stripes I'm guessing late 1930s, as the Packers had abandoned them in favor of solid blue socks by 1941. It would have to be 1940, Pool's first year in the league, if that is indeed him.
Still, that's an awful lot of black and white to find in the press.
It's a rare and wonderful treat for sportswriters to remember the game's pre-Super Bowl past. Even more to do so in the context of a Packer win, avenging the playoff loss from seven decades ago.