Monday, September 23, 2013

Have a Coke (or a Smoke) and a Smile [UPDATED]

This photo has been making the rounds a lot lately.

Press-Gazette Archives
And no wonder - it's a beauty.

Vince Lombardi enjoying a Coke in the locker room, surrounded by Jim Taylor, Paul Hornung and Bart Starr. Taylor, like his coach, is enjoying a Coke. Hornung has a cigarette and Starr a rather uncomfortable facial expression.

I don't know when it was taken. Speculation has been that it was after a championship game, and Lombardi's expression certainly leans in that direction.

The uniforms can help narrow our timeframe; the green/white/gold pant stripes were only used through 1962. In 1963 the Packers adopted the green/white/green Braisher stripe pattern they still wear today.

Similarly, that jewelry on Lombardi's finger looks like a men's fashion ring than the Packers' 1961 World Championship ring. That could help us narrow it down even further - perhaps even to that 1961 Championship Game itself.

If we could see more of Hornung's number font, maybe we could know for sure.

UPDATE 9/26:  We have confirmation - Tom Farley recognized the locker room as County Stadium. Jeff Ash from the Green Bay Press-Gazette recognized the photo as one of theirs, and was able to supply us with this caption:
In the locker room at County Stadium after clinching Western Division championship with a 20-17 victory over the New York Giants on Dec. 3, 1961.
Jeff comes through again! I have added a photo credit to the image above.

I'm glad that our little detective work had us on the right track. I had the year right, and it was a victory party of sorts, just not the one I thought it might be. This was Week 12 out of a 14-game season, when the Packers clinched their conference.

Looking at the Milwaukee Journal's coverage of the game, we get a couple good shots of the game itself, including a photo of the Packers wearing the blue-and-gold sideline capes left over from previous years:

And there, along the right margin, is a photo of Jim Taylor. Note the distinctive cuts on his nose, matching our original post-game photo (although it does appear that his dentist was given new work to do between the two).

Taylor looks pretty pleased with himself, and rightly so; his 186-yard rushing performance against the New York Giants that day was a Packers team record, and remained his career best.

The only thing I love more than a good mystery is a good mystery solved.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Bye-Bye Brown Helmets, Part II [UPDATED]

As I reported last night, the NFL has suddenly eliminated alternate helmets, causing at least one team to cancel a planned throwback event.

Paul Lucas at Uni Watch did some digging, and is able to clarify the policy. To a point.

This is what the Bucs' site had to say:
The league-wide guideline, which requires players to use the same helmet for all games during the season, was recently implemented based on the strong recommendation by the NFL’s Head, Neck and Spine Committee as well as the Player Safety Advisory Panel. … Due to the new regulations, Buccaneer players will wear their standard pewter, red and white uniforms in place of the classic Florida orange, red and white throwback attire that had previously been scheduled.
Uni Watch then quotes from an article released a few hours later on That article says the new rule "forbid[s] teams from switching helmets during the season." It also includes some clarifying quotes from NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy:
"This offseason, we communicated a recommendation from the Head, Neck and Spine Committee and the Player Safety Advisory Panel to those teams planning to wear throwback uniforms for at least one game this season. They recommended that players no longer wear different helmets as part of a 'throwback' or 'third' uniform. … Teams may continue to wear throwback uniforms under league guidelines, but players must wear their regular helmets. The outside of the helmet can be modified by removing or replacing decals, as long as it does not affect the integrity of the helmet."
Regardless of whether this is a "rule" or a "guideline" (and the NFL seems to be treating it more like the former), this is a pretty stunning turn of events. When exactly was the rule implemented? Couldn't have been that long ago, since teams still have throwbacks scheduled and the Buccaneers apparently didn't know until recently that they couldn't wear their white helmets.

This also indicates that, as I feared, the brown helmets will be eliminated from the Packers' throwbacks. Presuming that they just strip the logos and Braisher stripes from their current helmets, this is what we can expect Week 7 against the Browns:

(Photoshop by Phil Hecken)

I hope they at least swap out the green facemasks, unlike the 1994 throwbacks.

I'm in favor of the new rule, although I loved the brown helmets (and was hoping for a Washington-style leather print treatment this year). I've long argued that the NFL doesn't take head injuries seriously, even when they make lots of noise about concussions, but perhaps this is a signal of changing times.

Much more to come, I'm sure.

We have confirmation, from Jason Wilde at ESPN Wisconsin. That's exactly what we're getting:

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Bye-Bye Brown Helmets?

Breaking news - the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have announced that they're scrapping an upcoming throwback game over a brand-new NFL rule prohibiting (or at least discouraging) the use of alternate helmets.

This could mean the end of brown shells with the Packers' blue throwbacks.

Ironically, when throwbacks were first introduced to the NFL many teams elected to re-use their current shells, labeled with period-appropriate decals, out of these same safety concerns:

Ultimately, nobody was seriously injured wearing a throwback helmet, so all teams started wearing a second set with their throwbacks. But since we now know that concussions aren't the real problem, all those tiny cumulative hits are, the NFL looks to be reconsidering its previous stand.

So, presuming that the Packers will still hold their throwback game Week 7 against the Browns, it appears that they will have to wear the standard gold shells. That's what they did in 1994, removing the logo and Braisher stripes but retaining the green facemask.

It would also mean no leather-textured helmets for the Pack.

Monday, September 16, 2013

A Team By Any Other Name Would Play as Sweet

The Washington Redskins came into Lambeau Field last night, bringing along their Vince Lombardi-inspired uniforms.

It was a great-looking game, from the scoreline to the uniform matchup.

Two uniform-related notes. First, running back Eddie Lacy was knocked out of the game in the first series with a concussion after a helmet-to-helmet hit from Brandon Meriweather (who later suffered his own concussion when he tried the same trick on Lacy's replacement James Starks). This means we're going to hear all about concussions, and how to prevent concussions, and which helmets protect best against concussions. Which will allow the press, players and league to keep sweeping the real issue under the table; namely, that concussions aren't the real problem.

The other note relates to the visitors. A group of about two dozen Native Americans, most from the Oneida Nation, gathered outside Lambeau Field to protest the use of the "Redskins" name.

This has bubbled under the surface for the last few decades, but really gained national prominence in recent weeks. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has backed down from his previously strong defense of the nickname; four months ago it was "a unifying force that stands for strength, courage, pride and respect", and today "If we are offending one person, we need to be listening and making sure that we're doing the right things to try to address that."

Closer to home, Packers CEO Mark Murphy (who played for Washington from 1977-1984) has made recent statements expressing a degree of support for the protestors' position. Everyone agrees that the decision to keep or change the nickname ultimately belongs with Washington owner Dan Snyder, but his defenders are becoming quieter as his opponents gain strength.

This issue shows no sign of going away. From the Atlanta Braves and their tomahawk chop to the Cleveland Indians' "Chief Wahoo" logo, the appropriation of native names and iconography by sports teams continues to be problematic at least.

I'm reminded that one of the original names considered for our Packers, way back in 1919, was the "Indians". That would be after "Indian Packing Company", Curly Lambeau's employer and sponsor of that first team.

Lambeau convinced his bosses to put up money for uniforms, and in return (whether part of the agreement or not) he named his team after the company.

Fortunately for us, Curly chose the second word in the company's name over the first. Of course, "Indians" might have been short-lived, as the meat packing plant was and purchased by the Acme Packing Company in 1920.

But who knows? If things had turned out just a little differently, we would be facing the same issue Snyder is today.

Now, "Redskins" is a pretty extreme example of the native-nickname controversy in sports, so the "Green Bay Indians" wouldn't be exactly the same. Still, I'm glad that we can honestly say our nickname really is a unifying force that stands for strength, courage, pride and respect.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

1962 Schedule Broadside

This oversized cardboard broadside was hung all around Green Bay in 1962, celebrating the 1961 team while preparing fans for the upcoming season.

I love the crowned "'61 Champions" graphic. Below it, an oval divided into six parts: fullback Jim Taylor, halfback Paul Hornung, quarterback Bart Starr, and head coach Vince Lombardi over facsimile team signatures and a team photo.

That 1961 title was the Packers' first championship under Lombardi, as well as their first in nearly twenty years. It was also, coincidentally, the first season they wore John Gordon's "G" logo on their helmets. It marked the end of a long drought and the beginning of the Glory Years.

1962 was going to be even better. Fans listening to the games on those Wisconsin radio stations were in for a real treat, as they improved on their 11-3 season from '61 by going 13-1. The 1962 team is widely considered the best Packer squad ever.

Interesting to see Taylor in such a prominent position. He was an essential member of that squad, and the first Lombardi-era player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in Canton, but I'd suspect that if fans today were asked to name prominent players from that team, Ray Nitschke would come to mind sooner. Such is the power of retired numbers.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

On This Day in 1965...

(New) City Stadium was renamed Lambeau Field.

(h/t: Jeff Ash)

Monday, September 9, 2013

Another Look at the Steroid Stripes

Over on the Chris Creamer boards, a user named "slats7" posted a new look at the enlarged Braisher stripes worn by the Packers last weekend in San Francisco.

Although we've seen that some players were wearing the older (narrower) stripes, from this screencap it sure seems as though most of the team is wearing the enlarged version.

You can really see the contrast with the 49ers' Braisher stripes in this shot of Clay Matthews:

I have to say that I really prefer their version to ours. Theirs are in better proportion with the helmet stripes, which is what makes Braisher stripes so aesthetically pleasing. That's ironic, since the current 49ers is a throwback to the Montana-era uniform, which was notable for engorged pant stripes:

Personally, I hope the Packers revert to a more classic look:

Small details make all the difference.

Braisher Stripes on Steriods

Several readers emailed me to mention that the Packers' Braisher pant stripes were looking a little larger this pre-season.

After yesterday's game, it sure looks that way.

It's especially noticable when you compare the Packers' stripes with those of the 49ers, as in this photo of Clay Matthews sacking Colin Kaepernick:

What's especially interesting to me is that there seems to be some inconsistency between players.

In some shots, it almost looks like the stripes are overwhelming the pants.

Take a closer look at that last photo - are we seeing last year's pants versus this year's?

I did think that the stripes started looking a bit wider last season, presumably due to the elastic fabric the Packers were using, but not like this. We'll need to keep an eye on it.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Class of '63

Fifty years ago today, the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio inducted its inaugural class.

Not surprisingly, the Packers were well-represented. The Packers had already won eight World Championships and were the reigning champs.

Eleven of the 17 charter members who were enshrined into the national pro football Hall of Fame on Sept. 7, 1963 in Canton, Ohio. From row from left: Earl (Dutch) Clark, Earl (Curly) Lambeau, Mel Hein, John (Blood) McNally and Don Hutson. Back row from left: Sammy Baugh, Cal Hubbard, Bronko Nagurski, George Halas, Red Grange and Ernie Nevers. They hold busts of themselves to be displayed in the Hall. (Associated Press)
Of the seventeen members of that Class of 1963, four were Packers. Two of them were such towering figures that their names still hang at the stadium today, Curly Lambeau obviously first among them. The other titan was Curly's longtime collaborator Don Hutson; player, coach, entrepreneur and to this day considered by many to be the best receiver ever to play the game.

The other two were no less deserving of immortality. Johnny "Blood" McNally, the fabled "Vagabond Halfback", spent the bulk of his career with Green Bay but also had stints with the Pittsburgh Steelers and three franchises that even in 1963 must have seemed like ancient history: the Pottsville Maroons, Duluth Eskimos and Milwaukee Badgers. Cal Hubbard was a dominating tackle who forced a trade to the Packers from the New York Giants after a 1928 road game in Green Bay. His off-season job as a minor-league baseball umpire led to an interesting second career. Before his football days were even over, Hubbard had worked his way up to the majors. He went on to be a pioneering figure in baseball, introducing the concept of the modern-day officiating crew, and was enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 1976. He remains the only person enshrined in the country's two great halls of fame.

Here we see the four former Packers touring the new museum:

Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees, from left, Cal Hubbard, Johnny McNally, Don Hutson and Curly Lambeau stand at the Green Bay Packers display inside the Hall of Fame at Canton, Ohio, on Sept. 7, 1963. The former Wisconsin players were enshrined today in a ceremony. (Associated Press)
Interesting. That sideline jacket is still on display:


As it was in 1963, so it remains today: you can't write the story of the NFL without the Green Bay Packers.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

That "Los Angeles" Style

Uni Watch recently ran this photo from December 13, 1964, of defensive tackle Dave "Hawg" Hanner wearing a visor that wasn't exactly standard Packer issue:

Today we were supplied the explanation by reader Paul Hirsch:
"I was a Rams fan growing up in the 1960s. The Packers used to end the season with a road trip to San Francisco and Los Angeles, so they always played at the Coliseum in December. Late in the year the sun would set in the visiting team’s eyes during the second half of the games. The Rams would issue visors to the visiting coaches and players with the Rams logo on it. It was a simpler time."
I don't know that I've ever seen Packer players wearing Rams visors, but I've definitely seen head coach Vince Lombardi adopt some local headgear for those Coliseum games:

Dec 9, 1967; Los Angeles, CA, USA; FILE PHOTO; Green Bay Packers head coach Vince Lombardi and quarterback Zeke Bratkowski on the sidelines during the 1967 season game against the Los Angeles Rams at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: David Boss-USA TODAY Sports
Not "Rams" this time, but "UCLA", who also played in the Coliseum in those years.

Here's a better image of Lombardi's visor:

Nowadays, the NFL would provide Lombardi and his coaches with a supply of these:

As Hirsch said, it was indeed a simpler time.