Saturday, February 19, 2011


Much has been made this season of the Packers' distinctive 1929 uniforms, which inspired this season's throwback. The uniform which proceeded it, however, was equally notable, if not so iconic.

End LaVern (Lavvie) Dilweg is seen here modeling one of the lesser-known uniforms in the Packers' historical closet.

Described as an "elaborate, jockey-like jersey" by the Packers in modern media guides, this jersey is characterized by the rough friction strips of gold fabric sewn onto the chest and sleeves. These were intended to grip the ball when held tight against the player's body; under the NFL's rules of the time, ballcarriers were not down by contact but had to be physically stopped. So it wasn't uncommon for backs to go down to the turf and scramble back up again, and they sought any advantage they could get to help them hang on to the ball.

The pants are described as "faded blue canvas", the first time the Packers moved away from gold or canvas-colored trousers. Finishing off the look is a pair of gold socks with two navy blue stripes.

This uniform was worn for two seasons, 1927 and 1928, before being replaced by the famous "circle" 1929 uniforms.

Lavvie Dilweg is a fascinating character. A Milwaukee native and Marquette University graduate, he played for the NFL's Milwaukee Badgers at old Borchert Field for the 1926 season before moving north to spend the rest of his career in Green Bay. A lawyer in the off-season, he moved his practice with him.

His on-field and off-field activities sit side by side in this scan, taken from a 1932 program. Next to a photo of Dilweg the player is an ad for Dilweg the lawyer.

Dilweg's partner, Gerald Francis Clifford, was also an important figure in Packers' history, serving as the team's vice-president and attorney. In that capacity, Clifford had drawn up the club's articles of incorporation and organized the first stock sale. He was a member of the "Hungry Five" who kept the team afloat in hard times by raising money, hands always out.

In Dilweg's eight years wearing the Blue and Gold, he was a member of three World Champion squads, which won consecutive flags in 1929-30-31 (and which really should have been four in a row). After hanging up his cleats in 1934, he kept his hand in football by officiating Big Ten games. He was a Democratic Congressman for one term (January 3, 1943-January 3, 1945) before returning to his law office in Green Bay. He died in 1968, and he was posthumously selected to the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame two years later (his former law partner would have to wait until 1991 for his induction). Dilweg's grandson Anthony Dilweg played three years in the NFL as a quarterback for the Packers and Raiders.

As I said in an earlier review of this jersey, I love this uniform, evoking as it does a rough-and-tumble struggle for yards in the mud. As the game grew up, the ribs fell out of style and disappeared from football jerseys, only making a brief cameo in 1994 when the Steelers and Bears wore updated versions as part of the NFL's 75th anniversary throwback celebration. The ribbed look is therefore a fixed image in time, very handy for anyone looking for some quick visual shorthand to borrow some of the mystique of early football:

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