Monday, May 2, 2011

A Look Ahead - By the Numbers

Peeling back the curtain just a bit, I haven't been able to post as much as I'd like recently, so here's a sneak peek at an article I'm working on for a future entry.

This post-game celebration photo was taken on December 17, 1960 in the Los Angeles Coliseum, where the Packers had just clinched the Western Conference title with a win over the Rams.

Although I always appreciate an opportunity to see the Packer coach hoisted in victory, what really intrigues me is the jersey numbers.

Jerry Kramer's "64" is a bold, simple sans-serif font. Behind him is defensive back Emlen Tunnell, whose jersey features serifed numbers, very similar to those still worn today.

It looks as though Tunnell is wearing an old jersey — this photo from 1959, featuring Lombardi being carried off the field after his first victory as coach, shows the Packers wearing serifed numbers in the 1959 season:

This style disparity often indicates that the two jerseys came from different uniform suppliers. In those days, manufacturers would have their own number styles, and teams would switch from one to the other, season by season, depending on where they were buying their uniforms. I'm trying to track the number variances, and thereby the Packers' manufacturer history.

Kramer wore many jersey number styles in his Packer career. We might be able to track that history based on photos of him alone:

This wire photo, stamped 1963 but possibly taken earlier, shows us a third style, with the serifed "6".

We think of the classic 1960s Packer uniform as being very solid and fixed, but Lombardi's early days were filled with this type of tweaking and minor fluctuation. More to come.

(Updated after comments - h/t: Tom)


Tom said...

Chance, they're carrying Lombardi off after clinching the Western Conference title on Dec. 17, 1960 with a win over the Rams. You can see one side of the L.A. Coliseum peristyle entrance at the extreme right of the photo.

I had noticed the sans-serif on a few of the 1960 jerseys, but I hadn't noticed that they were mixing serif and sans-serif.

Chance Michaels said...


I knew it was the Coliseum, but didn't know if it was their December 6, 1959 game against the Rams or the 1960 game. But clinching the Western makes perfect sense - I should have realized that and made the connection.

Chance Michaels said...

Tom, that's such a great catch I'm going to update the body of the article to include it. Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

If memory and prior review of team pictures is correct, the jersey Emlen Tunnell is wearing is from 1959, and Kramer's is from 1960. If you check various team pictures and in Eric Goska's Packer Legends book, you will notice quite a few players wearing jersey's with different fonts on the number. Max McGee especially is seen in several pictures wearing what I believe is a 1960 jersey in later years.

Bill Walsh

Chance Michaels said...

Thanks, Bill. That's part of what I'm trying to put together - the next step is to match number styles with manufacturers to build a timeline of Packer uniform suppliers.

I know Lombardi's brother worked for Rawlings by the time Vince took over the Redskins (which is how Washington ended up looking like Green Bay), but I'm not aware of the Packers ordering from them at the time.

And, of course, by the end of the 1960s the Packers had more or less stabilized their number design and made it harder to track manufacturers. I still find it a little hard to believe that pro football teams would just adopt the house number style of the suppliers, but that was the time.