Monday, February 28, 2011

1965 World Championship Ring (white gold)

The Packers' 1965 World Championship is often an afterthought, overshadowed by the two Super Bowl victories which followed it. It was the team's ninth crown, Lombardi's third, and the first of the Packers' second three-peat (the first being 1929-31), a feat so rare no other team has ever accomplished it even once.

This 1965 championship ring, issued to scout Lewis Anderson, was auctioned off by Sotheby's in New York City in April of 2008. It's different than the other Packer championship rings I've seen in that it's made out of 10K white gold, instead of yellow.

The face features a green stone, similar to the Super Bowl II ring, overlaid with a football shape and topped by a diamond.

Sotheby's

This is something else I've never seen on a Packers ring: Lambeau Field, recently renamed from City Stadium (or "New City Stadium," to differentiate it from the Packers' previous home). It's a unique touch, fitting for a team which has become so identified with their home park. If the Packers are to commission a shareholders' ring for Super Bowl XLV, including the distinctive post-renovation Lambeau Field would be a great way to honor the diehard fanbase.

Sotheby's

The other shank features the NFL shield, Dad Braisher's "G" logo, and the scoreline of the championship game.

Sotheby's

From the auction catalogue:
LOT 64

SCOUT/RECRUITER LEW ANDERSON'S 1965 GREEN BAY PACKERS NFL 10K GOLD AND DIAMOND CHAMPIONSHIP RING


15,000—20,000 USD
Lot Sold. Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium: 9,375 USD

Description

Anderson's ring is embossed "World Champions Green Bay Packers 1965" around a Packer green synthetic stone, with one diamond, set in a white metal bezel, approximate total .68 carats, embossed on one side reads "Anderson" and "character" and on the other "Green Bay 23 Cleveland - 12, NFL, Dedication"; stamped "10K" inside. Former longtime Giants kicker Don Chandler joined the team in 1965, taking over field goal and extra point duties from Paul Hornung. He proved a valuable addition, as the Packers had to play a Western Conference tie-breaking play off game against the Baltimore Colts, winning 13-10 on Chandler's overtime field goal. Making their first appearance in the NFL title game in three years, the Packers held the home field advantage against the defending NFL champion Cleveland Browns (11-3), as the game was played at Lambeau Field. At halftime the Packers held a slim 13-12 lead, but scored all the points in the second half on a Hornung touchdown and Chandler's third field goal. With the victory the Packers won their ninth overall NFL title, sixth in the championship game era. The ring shows minor wear. Size 11 1/2.
The 1965 Championship Game saw the Cleveland Browns, reigning champs , come to Lambeau Field for a bruising contest in the Northern Wisconsin snow, sleet and mud. These scans from Sports Illustrated tell the story:

Packerville, U.S.A.

The Packers trailed in the game only once, by two points at the end of the first quarter. And when the final gun sounded, the hometown Packers had won 23-12. The reigning NFL champs had been defeated and Lombardi's dynasty was in full swing.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

One Ring to Rule Them All - 1996 (Super Bowl XXXI), Part 3

(Hunt Auctions)

This beauty is unique - a Super Bowl XXXI commemorative shareholders' ring.

Makes sense - we're the owners, right? Bob Kraft got one following the Patriots' Super Bowls, the Rooneys have fistfuls from theirs. Makes sense that Packers shareholders get in on the action.

I have to admit that I'd never heard of these before, but I wasn't a shareholder back in January of 2007.

(Touchdown Treasures)

This ring has a green glass stone with the famous "G" logo inlaid in gold. This particular exemplar is a woman's ring—I don't know if the men's version had a similar face.

The shanks are identical to the staff ring, with "STOCKHOLDER" in place of "DIRECTOR".

(Touchdown Treasures)

(Touchdown Treasures)

(Touchdown Treasures)


I've seen two of these (or maybe only one, in two separate auctions): one was sold earlier this month for $1,800 and the other was up for auction last November, but failed to draw its $1,100.00 minimum bid.

Can any pre-1997 shareholders out there help me out? I'd love to know how were these offered, how much they cost, and what the men's version looked like.

Here, then, we can compare all three Super Bowl XXXI rings - players', directors', and shareholders'.

I don't know if the Packers are intending to offer a Super Bowl XLV shareholder ring, but there is a Green Bay Packers Shareholders group on Facebook advocating just that. Could be done easily enough, taking orders on the shareholders' page of the Packers Pro Shop. If you're interested, sign up with them and let the team know.

Friday, February 25, 2011

One Ring to Rule Them All - 1996 (Super Bowl XXXI), part 2

Following the Packers' 1996 World Championship season, there was plenty of glory to go around. We've seen the Super Bowl XXXI ring issued to players, but the team's staff also received rings. This ring, commonly designed the "B" style, was issued to a member of the Board of Directors.

The first shank is almost identical to the players' ring, with "DIRECTOR" replacing the player's name and a football in place of his number. I'm somewhat surprised that a director doesn't warrant having his or her name on the ring, but there are nearly fifty of them now. Perhaps the eight directors who are also on the Executive Committee received something more personalized.

The second shank is, to my eye, an improvement on the players' ring. I love the Super Bowl XXXI logo, and it's nice to have it included. The logo forms a stronger image than the players' three lines of text.

The ring was made from 10K yellow gold, as were the players' rings.

Overall, very sharp.

A side-by-side comparison:

There was at least one more Super Bowl ring commissioned after the Packers' victory—for shareholders—which we'll look at tomorrow.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

One Ring to Rule Them All - 1996 (Super Bowl XXXI)

After winning the first two Super Bowls, the Packers struggled for nearly thirty years before finally fighting their way back to the top of the mountain and bringing Green Bay its twelfth world championship.

Of course, champions deserve a ring to wear, and Jostens came through with a doozy, with 93 diamonds arranged across the top and highlighting Dad Braisher's famous "G" logo:

(Legendary Auctions)

The rings are crafted out of 10-karat yellow gold, with an 18-karat gold "G" crest on the top.

(Legendary Auctions)

The shanks are simpler than the rings worn by the Packers' Super Bowl I and Super Bowl II teams.

(Legendary Auctions)

This ring is the players' version. A different design was created for the Packers' staff, and a third design was offered to shareholders.

This particular ring was given to linebacker Ron Cox, who played one year in Green Bay in between two stints with the Bears. It was sold by Legendary Auctions in December of 2007 for $19,467.60, and was put on eBay a few months later with a "Buy It Now" price of $49,999.99. Although the eBay seller had tried to obscure his name in photos, harp-eyed bloggers noticed the "X" underneath the black bar and identified it as Cox's. The ring failed to sell at the outrageous asking price, and 28 "Best Offer" bids were all declined.

A Super Bowl ring is a powerful symbol. In recent years, former Packer coach Mike Holmgren wears his ring to press conferences in Cleveland, as he seeks to inspire his Browns toward greatness.

(AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)

Hard to argue football with a man wearing one of those on his finger.

Monday, February 21, 2011

For Art's Sake

Press-Gazette archives
Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi looks over the first Green Bay Packers Yearbook with Press-Gazette sports editor Art Daley in July 1960. Daley and Press-Gazette promotions manager Jack Yuenger founded the publication.
Longtime Press-Gazette reporter Art Daley passed away yesterday at 94. He had a long relationship with the Packers, first covering the team in 1942.

Daley went into the Army in 1943 before returning to the Press-Gazette as sports editor in 1946. He was on the Packers beat for the rest of his life, first for the Press-Gazette and then for Packer Report magazine.

Art Daley
Green Bay Press-Gazette sports editor Art Daley's notebook from the game between the Packers and the Chicago Bears at old City Stadium on Sept. 28, 1947. This page shows the beginning of the game, with the first drives by both teams. The Packers won 29-20.
Daley came to the Packer beat at a very turbulent time. Team icon Curly Lambeau was locked in a struggle for control with the board of directors, a struggle which would eventually force Lambeau away from the team he founded thirty years earlier.

Press-Gazette archives
Green Bay Packers coach and general manager Curly Lambeau, left, walks out of a meeting at the Brown County Courthouse in Green Bay on Nov. 30, 1949, at which his contract was renewed for two years. From left are Lambeau, team president Emil Fischer and Green Bay Press-Gazette sports writer Art Daley, who's listening to a statement by team director John Torinus.
The contract renewal should have been a triumphant moment, an affirmation of Curly's position as head of the club, but their faces betray darker emotions. The power struggle was coming to a head, and twelve short weeks later, Lambeau would resign his position in Green Bay and take over as coach of the Chicago Cardinals.

After Lambeau left the Packers, Daley was saddled with some of the worst teams the Packers have ever seen. Historian Larry Names called the 1950s the "the shameful years" in his four-volume history of the team. All that would change in 1959, when the Packers hired the New York Football Giants' offensive coordinator to coach the team, and Vincent Thomas Lombardi started transforming a perennial loser into the sport's greatest dynasty. All of a sudden, it must have been much more interesting to cover the Packers.

Daley worked closely with Lombardi, who saw the Yearbook as an excellent promotional tool.

Press-Gazette archives
Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi looks at the 1962 Packers yearbook with Green Bay Press-Gazette sports editor Art Daley, its publisher.
There was a time when the relationship between the two men was strained. For the cover of the 1965 Yearbook, Daley selected a photo of Lombardi shaking hands with Curly Lambeau, who had passed away on June 1.

Daley didn't count on the animosity between the two men. Lombardi's disdain for Lambeau was legendary—he reportedly opposed renaming New City Stadium after Lambeau's death—and the coach wasn't happy to share the cover with him. Daley remembers the angry phone call when Lombardi saw the finished product: "'What do you mean putting me on the cover with him?' After he said, 'That was the worst yearbook you ever put out,' the phone clicked." Lombardi didn't speak to Daley for weeks.

Daley was a charter member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee, casting his vote as the Green Bay representative from 1963, the Hall's first year, through 1998. He was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame as a contributor in 1993.

As for the Yearbook, Daley bought out his partner in 1978, taking sole ownership of the Yearbook before selling it in 1984. It was later sold to the Packers, who publish it today.

The Green Bay Packers Yearbook is an invaluable record of the team's history – if only it had been around for the team's first four decades. And speaking of that history, Daley must have seen some great football games from his vantage point in the press box. How many can lay claim to watching Coaches Lambeau and Lombardi prowl the sidelines?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Rock-ribbed

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:

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Boys in Blue

AP Photo/Mike Roemer

Quick observation from the "Return to Titletown" rally at Lambeau Field last week: Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson both wore "ACME PACKERS" sideline jackets.

AP Photo/Mike Roemer

Mark Murphy was decked out in the customary green and gold.

Rick Wood/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

I don't know if this was their choice, or the jackets were given to them because they were handy, but they sure looked good.

One of the great strengths of the Packer organization is its rich history. Another is the team's own awareness of that history, which hasn't always been the case.

AP Photo/Mike Roemer

It's fitting that the 1929 team, which brought Green Bay its first World Championship, got an invitation to this party. Good for the Packers.

Monday, February 14, 2011

"G" Still Stands for "Gullible"

Okay, this ought to put it to rest.

You'll remember, as we talked about two weeks ago, that Tiki Barber hosted a Yahoo! Sports video in which he claimed that the Packers' famous "G" helmet logo, designed for Lombardi by Gerald "Dad" Braisher, originally stood not for "Green Bay" but rather for "Greatness".

If you missed the original conversation, here's the video:



Of course, it's not true. Barber doesn't even get Braisher's name right - it was Gerald, not George.

It appears that, as I suspected, Tiki Barber got this little piece of knowledge from Wikipedia, where it was added by an anonymous author in June of 2010 (who failed, of course, to provide a source). It subsequently got picked up by Yahoo! Answers, answers.com, and dozens of other content-hungry sites which copy-and-paste text from Wikipedia. Not to menton countless blogs and message boards, all of which repeated it uncritically.

After Barber's video, the false assertion was removed from Wikipedia. Most of the inaccurate information eventually is, but the damage was done. Barber's little tidbit was out there, on all those sites.

The Sioux City Journal fanned the flames when it reprinted the falsehood as fact:
Leave it to Tiki Barber, the intrepid former star running back now turned broadcaster, to unveil information not many people – including myself – knew about the Green Bay Packers logo.

Like most, I assumed the familiar "G" stood for Green Bay. As in Wisconsin. Titletown U.S.A.

Nope.

According to Barber, and later verified by a google question search, the "G" actually stands for Greatness. Apparently, equipment manager George "Dad" Brashier[sic] thought up and designed the logo in 1961.
A google search? That's research?

And now, because the Sioux City Journal is a reputable, legitimate source, the bogus story has acquired the sheen of legitimacy. And so, back on Wikipedia it goes to confuse countless other lazy researchers.

An anonymous reader tipped me off to what we think is the origin of this nonsense. It comes from a 2003 DVD called Legend of Lambeau Field. In the chapter on the 1961 NFL Championship Game, the narrator intones:
"Lombardi added a 'G' to the Packers' helmet in 1961. And it stood for 'great.' The team posted the league's best record, and earned the right to host the championship game."
And that's it. A rhetorical flourish, and not even a good one. Picked up and repeated, until somebody believed it enough to put it on Wikipedia (while getting the actual word wrong).

Which is, as I said before, the problem with Wikipedia. Anybody can post any nonsense they please, and although it may eventually be removed, the damage can already be done.

Just to close out the story, MidwestSportsFans.com did what I should have done in the beginning, and asked the Packers. The team's response:
The Packers' Assistant Director of PR and Corporate Communications had the following to say: "There’s nothing in our history that suggests there's any truth to this. The Packers Hall of Fame archivist said the same thing."
And they really ought to have the final word.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The "Braisher Stripes"

Certain uniform striping patterns are so universal that they take on a life of their own. For example, Northwestern Stripes (the combination of one thick stripe surrounded by two thin) are named after the university which popularized them. UCLA stipes, looped around the shoulder, are similarly named after their first famous wearers.

There is another example, one found in the pros. The combination of team color/white/team color stripes on helmet and pants but also sleeves and even socks, was introduced to the NFL by the Green Bay Packers in 1959.

Paul Lukas calls this pattern "NFL stripes", but as much as I hate to disagree with the godfather of athletics ├Žsthetics, that seems a bit bland. In the tradition of Northwestern and UCLA, I propose we name them Braisher stripes after then-Packers equipment manager Gerald "Dad" Braisher. These Braisher stripes made their first NFL appearance when a certain new coach decided to overhaul his team's look.

Green Bay Packers
"Dad" Braisher

By tracing the uniform histories of the teams that wear Braisher stripes today, or wore them for a significant portion of their history—the Packers, Browns, Cowboys, 49ers, Jets, Saints and Lions—we can see how Braisher's stripes became synonymous with pro football.



1959

The Packers hire Vince Lombardi, who begins to remake the organization in his own image, including the uniforms. Equipment manager "Dad" Braisher designs new gold helmet with one white stripe flanked by a green stripe on each side. The same striping pattern is repeated on twice on each sleeve and sock. The pants feature a green/gold/white/gold/green striping pattern. Not Braisher stripes - yet.

1960

Almost instantly, the look is picked up by other teams. The Cleveland Browns add brown stripes to their existing helmet, and the expansion Dallas Cowboys echo the Braisher Stripe configuration with their white-and-blue helmets.

The new American Football League also gets in the act, as the Boston Patriots wore Braisher Stripes (red-white-red) in their first four seasons before adding a blue stripe down the middle.

1961-62

In 1961, the Detroit Lions add two parallel blue stripes to their silver helmet. Not quite Braisher stripes – yet.

1963

The San Francisco 49ers adopt Braisher stripes in 1963.

1964-66

The NFL's Cowboys and AFL's Jets modify their uniforms in 1964. Dallas changes the helmet from white to silver, retaining the white stripe, making it a true Braisher configuration.

Beginning with 1965, the Packers chance their pants stripes to Braisher stripes. The classic Lombardi-era uniform is finally complete.

1967

The New Orleans Saints enter the league, adopting the very contemporary look of their fellow NFL franchises, Braisher stripes and all. It lasts for one season before they start tweaking.

1968

After their inaugural season, the Saints invert their helmet stripes, briefly dropping out of the Braisher stripe club.

The Lions, on the other hand, add a white stripe to their helmet, finally moving into Braisher stripe configuration.

1969

The Saints change helmets again. They had wanted to adopt a black helmet, but failed to inform the league. NFL merchandise still depicts New Orleans in gold, so the Saints are forced back into their first-year look.

Aside from minor changes, the Saints still wear this helmet today. The San Francisco 49ers kept their Braisher strips through the 1996 season, and brought them back in 2008 as part of a throwback-inspired uniform overhaul. The Detroit Lions wore them through 2002 before adding small black stripes to the edges of the blue.



So there you have it. By the time of the NFL's merger with the AFL, seven of the new combined league's 26 teams — over one-quarter — were wearing Braisher Stripes.

Everybody wants to look like a winner.


UPDATED 2/23/11: Sportspress Northwest is currently running an excellent article on the Seattle Kings, a proposed NFL expansion team in the late 60s/early 70s (their group would eventually lose out to the Seattle Seahawks in the 1974 expansion).

Among the gems in this story is a look at the Kings' helmet mockup:

David Eskenazi Collection

The mockup shows that, had their group been approved, there would have been another team in Braisher stripes starting in 1976.

David Eskenazi Collection


(h/t: uniform graphics from Football Uniforms Past and Present)