Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Green, Gold and White House - 1997 edition

Following up on the Packers' visit to President Obama, today we turn back the clock to May 27, 1997, the Packers last visit to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

William Jefferson Clinton welcomed the conquering heroes to the South Lawn with a smile and warm words.
"In a world where professional athletics, in sport after sports, seems more transient ... The Green Bay Packers are something special, unique, old-fashioned, and heartwarming."
President Clinton was recovering from surgery for a torn tendon in his knee, hence the cane.

Yep, that's backup quarterback Jim McMahaon in the back row, wearing his old Bears jersey. The '85 Bears' White House visit was cancelled after the shuttle Challenger explosion, and was never rescheduled. Since he didn't get to visit the President as a Bear, he thought his victorious Chicago team should be honored.

Although the custom of giving the Commander in Chief a personalized jersey had not yet become de rigueur, the boys from Green Bay didn't show up empty-handed. The Packers presented President Clinton with a game ball from Super Bowl XXXI and a very 1990s green and gold leather jacket.

We'll see what the 2011 Packers have for President Obama.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Fight Goes On

A host of new caps have hit the Packers Pro Shop, including the 2011 sideline caps. You too can wear the look that Rodgers and Company will be wearing on the bench:

Or maybe not. Not so good.

But that's not the worst of it. Reebok is chiming in again with this "Est. '21" fashion cap:

Come on, everyone, say it with me:

"The Packers weren't established in 1921."

Ugh. We're going to be fighting this battle for a while, I suspect. Maybe by the Centennial we can get the NFL to acknowledge the entirety of the Packers' history.

Monday, July 18, 2011

That'll Leave a Mark.

Well, cornerback Sam Shields sure seems excited about the Super Bowl win.

Ouch. I think the less said about this, the better, although it should be noted that somebody took a little liberty with the ring design.

TMZ.com

There are some minor deviations from the actual ring — fourteen diamonds on the "G", not one for each of the thirteen World Championships — but the biggest is that the shank we can see should have the team's name on it, not his.

Jostens

Saturday, July 9, 2011

1939 Championship Watch

As we've seen, not all championships are celebrated with rings. From time to time the Packers have gaven watches to players as a reward for getting to the top of the mountain; first a pocket watch in 1929 and again a wristwatch in 1962.

This smart wristwatch commemorates the Packers' 1939 World Championship.

On the reverse, this inscription:

Bud Jorgensen
"PACKERS"
World Champions
1939

Carl "Bud" Jorgensen was a trainer and coach. He joined the Packers as an equipment manager in 1924 after graduating from Green Bay West High School. The way he told it, "I first got involved with the club because my dad worked for the railroad and he got me a pass so I could make a trip with the team. Pat Holland was the trainer and equipment man then. He wanted to hang it up, so Curly Lambeau said, 'Why don't you help Pat and learn the ropes so you can step in there?'"

That casual remark would begin an association with the Green Bay Packers that would last for nearly five decades.

Jorgensen worked his way up the Packer ladder. By 1939, when the Packers bested the Giants in the title game, Jorgensen was so instrumental to the club that the players voted him a half-share of the playoff money. He was only one of three non-players to be so honored; the other two were trainer David Woodward, Holland's successor, who received the other half-share, and assistant coach Richard "Red" Smith. Curly Lambeau himself was also offered a full share, but returned it to the pool.

Woodward died in Feburary of 1940, and Jorgensen took his place as head trainer, a position he would hold until the Dan Devine era. During his career, he missed only two games; one in 1929 for the birth of his son, and one in 1958 when his wife was recovering from major surgery.

Those two games aside, Jorgensen was a fixture in the training room and on the sidelines.

Press-Gazette archives
Jorgensen wraps halfback Paul Hornung's right ankle n the Packers' new training room, nicknamed the "White Room," before a workout in July 1964.
We can see Jorgensen in these two team photos, each one representing a championship team under his two Hall of Fame coaches:

Press-Gazette archives
Front row (left to right): Charles (Buckets) Goldenberg (43); Paul Duhart (42); Ben Starret (63); Pete Tinsley (21); Forrest McPherson (72); Larry Craig (54); Charley Brock(29); Lou Brock (16); Roy McKay 93); Joe Laws (24). Middle row: Trainer Carl (Bud) Jorgensen; William Kuusisto (45); Ray Wheba (17); Glen Sorenson (33); Bob Flowers (35); Harry Jacunski (48); Ted Fritsch (64); Don Perkins (23); Charles Tollefson (46); Joel Mason (7); Trainer Gust Seaburg. Back row: Coach Curly Lambeau; Don Hutson (14); Paul Berezney (47); Ade Schwammel (58); Irv Comp (51): Milburn (Tiny) Croft (75); Bob Kercher (18); Bob Kahler (8) Buford (Baby) Ray (44); Amadeo (Mike) Bucchianeri; Assistant Coach George (Brute) Trafton.
Press-Gazette archives
Front row (left to right): Dave Robinson (89); Don Chandler (34); Lionel Aldridge (82); Doug Hart (43); Hank Gremminger (46); Ron Kostelnik (77); Willie Wood (24); Herb Adderley (26); Bob Jeter (21); Marv Flemming (81). Second row: Trainer Carl (Bud) Jorgensen; Lloyd Voss (71); Carroll Dale (84); Bart Starr (15); Elijah Pitts (22); Bill Anderson (88); Zeke Bratkowski (12); Dan Grimm (67); Tom Moore (25); Bob Long (80); Tom Brown (40); Equipment manager Gerald (Dad) Braisher. Third row: Assistant trainer Domenic Gentile, Bill Curry (50); Tommy Crutcher (56); Junior Coffey (41); Henry Jordan (74); Jerry Kramer (64); Fred (Fuzzy) Thurston (63); Bob Skoronski (76); Willie Davis (87); Ray Nitschke (66); Assistant equipment manager Bob Noel. Back row: Allen Jacobs (35); Rich Marshall (70); Dennis Claridge (10); Ken Bowman (57); Boyd Dowler (86); Forrest Gregg (75); Steve Wright (72); Jim Taylor (31); Paul Hornung (5); Max McGee (85).
Jorgensen retired in 1971, and was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in 1976. His record of 47 contunuous seasons with the team still stands as a record today, as does his run of championships. Jorgensen was a part of eleven championship teams. For this, he undoubtedly received many mementos and awards, but I doubt any of them had the particular style of this 1939 wristwatch.

(h/t: Mark Schneider for the wristwatch photos)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Hutson Jersey Resurfaces

The 1940s Don Hutson jersey which sold for $60,000 in 2009 is back on the market.

It's part of the same upcoming Heritage Auction which will showcase Fuzzy Thurston's Super Bowl II ring.

From the auction listing:

Heritage Auctions
1937-45 Don Hutson Game Worn Green Bay Packers Jersey. One of the most influential players in the development of the modern game, Hutson was the first star wide receiver in NFL history, credited with authoring many of the pass routes still utilized today. His utter dominance of NFL flight paths during his eleven-season tenure comes into focus when considering the many records he continues to hold six and a half decades after his retirement. No other player has led the NFL more seasons than Hutson in receptions (8), passing yards gained (7), receiving touchdowns (5) or overall scoring (5). In the famous 1999 ranking of the 100 Greatest Football Players by The Sporting News, Hutson earned the number six spot, the highest position of any Green Bay Packers veteran.

This distinctive jersey style is the one most commonly associated with the pioneering pass catcher, utilized by the Packers franchise from 1937 through 1948. Hutson's retirement at the close of the 1945 season accounts for the possible range of this specific jersey's potential vintage, though the included letter of provenance would suggest the later years of that span. The handwritten page from the son of Packers equipment manager John Proski states, in part, "The enclosed Don Hutson jersey #14 Green Bay Packers jersey along with picture has been with me and my family since 1944 or ? It was given to me by Don on my 5th or 6th birthday when my dad would invite Packer players over for my birthday party."
Heritage Auctions
This dating presents the exciting possibility that Hutson may have worn this jersey in the historic 1944 NFL Championship game victory over the New York Giants at Yankee Stadium, where the Packers did indeed don these gold-shouldered navy blue beauties. The jersey exhibits solid use throughout with five team repairs clearly dating to Hutson's ownership, though we must note that the young Proski's letter admits some of the wear may be due to some of his own childhood backyard games. This later use may also account for the loss of the manufacturer's label on the amputated crotchpiece, though MEARS was able to match the material, style and collar to a Ken Keuper jersey which was supplied by the Shea Knitting Mills Co. of Chicago, IL. MEARS deducts three points for the loss of the tagging and the unrepaired holes, accounting for the final A7 rating.

The opportunity to own a genuine gamer from one of the great stars of the pre-war NFL might surface on two or three occasions in a hobby lifetime, and this is unquestionably the most important example to reach the public auction block in recent memory. In the football-mad town of Green Bay, where devotion to the team borders on religious zealotry, the jersey would be considered one of the franchise's most sacred artifacts. Letter of provenance from Joe Proski. LOA from MEARS, A7. LOA from Heritage Auctions.
The auction listing includes this photo of Hutson with fellow Packer legend Tony Canadeo.

Heritage Auctions

The closeup comes from the Packers' 1943 team photo:

I love this number style. There's something both solid and elegant about the straight block, maximizing the right angles in Hutson's famous #14.

Hutson is pictured wearing a jersey like this on the cover of the NFL's 1943 press book.

Looking at the auction listing, while "Hutson may have worn this jersey in the historic 1944 NFL Championship game victory over the New York Giants" (emphasis mine), I'm not sure I'd be willing to say that it's very likely that he did. I think the straight number font was phased out after the 1943 season. 1944 team photos clearly show a different number font, much more like the ones the Packers still wear today.

Unfortunately, decent photos of the 1944 Championship Game are rare, and surviving films are inconclusive. While it's not impossible that Hutson trotted out onto the field of the Polo Grounds for the biggest game of the year wearing an old jersey, the likelihood seems remote. Just one month before, as the Packers were preparing for their November 19 game against the Giants at the Polo Grounds, Hutson is seen wearing the new-for-'44 notched numbers.

I think it's far more likely that this jersey dates no later than 1943. Would make sense if it was in fact given to Joe Proski in 1944.

Regardless, it's a gorgeous-looking jersey, an example of the Packers' Lambeau-era iconic look.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Fuzzy's Loss is Somebody's Gain

By now, most Packers fans know that Fuzzy Thurston's Super Bowl II ring is being auctioned off to satisfy part of a $1.7M debt.

Heritage Auctions, who is handling the auction, has released its auction preview.

Heritage Auctions
1967 Green Bay Packers Super Bowl II Championship Ring Presented to Frederick "Fuzzy" Thurston. It's often been theorized that Thurston's lack of Canton credentials is due only to the Hall of Fame's resistance toward enshrining yet another figure from a team featuring the most members in NFL history. But few would dispute that Fuzzy had been a leader both on the field and off of it during his nine seasons at Lambeau Field, paired with Jerry Kramer in the famed Packer Sweep, which beneficiary Paul Hornung decreed as "the best play in football" and Vince Lombardi called his "bread and butter."

Today Thurston remains one of the most beloved players ever to wear the green and gold, a man who epitomized Lombardi's mantras of teamwork and the unyielding pursuit of perfection. The hard-nosed guard did not abandon the city that embraced him after hanging up his cleats, opening a string of restaurants and taverns where he would hold court nightly, regaling patrons with tales of the Ice Bowl and his six World Championships.

Presented is the very ring he earned for his participation in the very last game of his career, likewise the final Championship claimed by the iconic Lombardi. The story of its current availability is a sad one, the sale mandated by the United States government due to an unpaid $1.7 million federal tax bill accrued by the popular Packer.
Heritage Auctions
The design is refreshingly elegant and understated compared to its recent Super Bowl XLV counterpart, the trio of diamonds on its face (1.50 carat weight total) representing the team's three consecutive Championships. They are set in a football-shaped green stone, edged by raised text reading "Green Bay Packers World Champions." The left shank announces the scores of the Ice Bowl (NFL Championship) and Super Bowl with crown imagery, a Packers helmet and the word "Challenge." Right shank announces "Thurston 63, NFL/AFL, Run to Win." Interior band is stamped "Jostens 10K," and measures to a size 13.25.
Heritage Auctions
One of the most important post-war Championship rings ever to be placed upon the public auction block, this Super Bowl II representation from a key figure in the team's ability to "Run to Win" should bring the most devoted Packers fans to the table. We expect a battle of wills that would make Lombardi himself proud.
They're right about this being a sad story. There's a certain movement amonst Packer fans for somebody — the team? — to buy it and return it to Fuzzy. Personally, I think the bigger shame is that this could have been taken care of for a fraction of that decades ago. It's also a shame because Thurston has nobody to blame but himself.

The action goes back to the chain of restaurants Fuzzy co-owned called "the Left Guard." The original location, in Menasha, was opened before the 1963 season. The restaurant was popular enough to be expanded into multiple locations, including Madison and Milwaukee.

The IRS action dates back to sometime betwee 1978 and 1980. The restaurant withheld taxes from its employees' paychecks but then failed to turn that money over to the IRS, landing the employees in trouble with the IRS and opening an IRS case against Fuzzy and his partners. His partners settled their obligations years ago, but Fuzzy kept fighting. Not the right move. And now it's come to this.

The bidding on this Super Bowl II ring opens on or about July 16th, and runs through August 4th.