Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Auction Gold - Brett Favre's 2001 Thanksgiving Throwback Jersey

Heritage Auctions comes through again.

This time they bring us this amazing throwback jersey from 2001, worn by Brett Favre in that season's "Thanksgiving Classic" game, and in the process give us a closer look at the details of on-field jerseys from that era.

2001 Brett Favre Thanksgiving Day Game Worn Green Bay Packers Jersey
Heritage Auctions
Throwback style worn as Favre claimed the coveted "Galloping Gobbler" Award

2001 Brett Favre Thanksgiving Day Game Worn Green Bay Packers Jersey. A late sixteen-point advantage for the Packers in this nationally televised contest threatened to heighten America's turkey stupor, but the winless Detroit Lions staged a noble fourth quarter rally, ultimately falling just a two-point conversion short of pulling even with Green Bay to finalize the scoring at 29-27. This first victory in five years for the Pack saw their future Hall of Fame quarterback doing most of the heavy lifting, completing eighteen of twenty-six for 252 yards and two touchdowns. "Hallelujah," Favre responded to reporters' questions about his team's narrow escape from disaster. "What else do you want me to say?"
Heritage Auctions
Within minutes of the final whistle, the Gunslinger was feasting on a turkey leg along with his teammate Ahman Green, who caught one touchdown pass and rushed for another to earn joint ownership of the Galloping Gobbler Award with his QB. Presented is the jersey worn by Favre throughout the nail-biting contest and turkey-biting aftermath, a "throwback" to the simple style worn by the 1939 NFL Championship team. The 2001 Thanksgiving contest would begin a four-year tradition of Turkey Day throwbacks, though the drama of this first edition establishes it as the most memorable of the series.

While several Favre 2001 throwbacks have surfaced in the collecting world, it's important to note that this is the one and only gamer, distinguished by several key Favre traits absent in the pretenders. Notably, this model boasts a deeper "double cut" of the spandex sides that the replicas do not, as well as a swatch embroidered with a number "1" at interior seam, an indicator of primary gamer status. Finally, two small areas of gold stitching, serving no purpose other than identification, appear at interior rear shoulder and tail, key attributes of a genuine Favre.

Heritage Auctions

Game wear is evident (including a nice hit mark on the green tackle twill of the rear numeral), though laundering has removed the most visible signs. our consignor confirms that marks evident on the jersey as Favre exited the field at the half remained as he reappeared for the third quarter, assuring that only one jersey was used that Thanksgiving day. Interior collar holds proper "01-52" year/size swatch.

Heritage Auctions

For those calculating investment potential, Favre is one of the best bets out there. His 2015 Hall of Fame induction is an ironclad lock, and the love lost during his uncomfortable departure from the Pack is steadily rebounding. He'll be getting standing ovations at Lambeau before you know it, assuring this is a commodity on the rise. Letter of provenance from Guy Hankel. LOA from Heritage Auctions. DVD of the game also included.
Guy Hankel is the most reliable authority on game-worn Packers jerseys of the last several decades. And this is a marvelous one.

The style is a throwback to 1939, when the Packers adopted a white alternate jersey.

The gold interior stitching is a new detail. The Packers sold "authentic" versions of this jersey, made by Berlin and with all the appropriate tagging, leading to the rush of jerseys on the collectible market mentioned in the description. This gold stitching separates the true authentic from the retail version.

What a game that was. I watched all sixty minutes on the edge of my couch.

And what an amazing piece of Packers history.

I'm insanely jealous of whomever gets to add this to their Packers collection.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

About that "1921" Photo...

You may remember this photo, which sold at auction in November of 2011.

It was billed as "the earliest known action photo of the Green Bay Packers franchise", purporting to show a 1921 game.

You may also recall that I expressed skepticism at the time, based on the "Packer" uniforms. As it turns out, I was right in that.

Yesterday, Green Bay Press-Gazette scribe Cliff Christl (who knows a thing or two about early Packers history) blew the lid off of this story.

With thousands of Green Bay Packers shareholders descending upon our city for their annual meeting Wednesday and swarms of other fans preparing to make their annual pilgrimage to training camp, now might be a good time to remind them that when buying Packers memorabilia, buyer beware.

That may be especially true when purchasing early Packers pictures, many of which are unmarked in the Neville Public Museum collection but have been tagged with incorrect captions in a number of books and publications about Packers history, including the team’s own 75th anniversary book.

The picture that appears along with this column was sold on Mears Online Auctions site in 2011 for $4,674, including a buyer’s premium.

Mears claimed the picture was an original from 1921 and that Curly Lambeau was the one about to take the pitchout and run with the ball; in turn, “making it the earliest action image of Lambeau known” and also “the earliest known action photo of the Green Bay Packers franchise.”

Too bad for the proud owner, but here’s the bad news: You were fleeced. You bought a picture of a high school football game and Lambeau is nowhere to be found in it.

Mears also stated in its online description that the picture was commissioned by Buff Wagner of Marinette and remained in his family until about 2000. Wagner played for the Packers in 1920 and ’21.

The picture alone should have raised at least three red flags.

One was the Allouez Water and Beverages sign. It appears to match the sign that stood in the old minor-league baseball stadium in Hagemeister Park, which also doubled as a football field.

What doesn’t add up is that Green Bay lost its minor-league team following the 1914 season and that ballpark was torn down in the spring of 1918, the year before the Packers were born.

Two was the snow. The Packers played 18 games, including exhibitions, at Hagemeister Park in 1920 and ’21, but only six after Nov. 1. Those were the only two seasons that Lambeau and Wagner played together with the Packers, although they also participated along with a number of their teammates in a local benefit game at Hagemeister on Dec. 5, 1920.

The problem is that of those 19 games, including the benefit, the only one in which there was snow on the ground was played Nov. 13, 1921, based on National Weather Service records reviewed by local meteorologist Roy Eckberg.

Three was the jerseys. If the game was played in 1921, that was the year the Acme Packing Co. sponsored the Packers.

Here’s the flag-raiser: The Packers’ 1921 team picture shows that at least a handful of players, including Lambeau and Wagner, wore jerseys with Acme Packers written in large bold letters across the front. Only two of the jerseys worn by players on the team with the ball are clearly visible in the picture in question, but there’s no sign of any lettering.

What’s more, the Packers’ jerseys were darker than their pants in their team photo and it’s just the opposite in the action photo; and the players’ socks differ in the two photos.

Mears’ online description also suggested an ignorance of Packers history.

It noted that Wagner played for the Packers in 1920 and ’21 and that Lambeau joined the team in ’21. As most every Packers fan knows, Lambeau helped found the team in 1919. The description also stated that it was the Packers’ second professional season when, in fact, it was their third season and first league season, and whether they were a professional or semipro team in their first two years is a debatable point.

So who was playing and where’s the proof that it wasn’t an actual shot of Lambeau and the Packers?

The $4,600 picture was of a high school football game played at Hagemeister Park between Marinette and Watertown on Dec. 8, 1917. That was long before high school football playoffs — back when any successful high school team in the state could challenge any other to play for the state championship.

Marinette claimed to be champions of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan and invited any of four other undefeated teams in the state to try to prove otherwise. Watertown accepted and Green Bay made a strong pitch to serve as host. The local promoters — Brown County Red Cross chapter, Green Bay Association of Commerce and Green Bay Press-Gazette — then went all out to hype the game.

Wagner was Marinette’s captain and fullback, and the game was played in zero-degree weather with about an inch of snow on the ground. As for Lambeau, he went to Green Bay East High School and graduated the previous spring.

Proof that it wasn’t a Packers game can be found in Snapshots, Green Bay West’s 1918 Yearbook. The picture appeared there on page 100 more than a year before the Packers were born.
Amazing, amazing work from Mr. Christl.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

No More Number Five

I missed this when it first happened, but the Packers have released WR Terrell Sinkfield.

Sinkfield had been issued Paul Hornung's #5, only seen once since the Golden Boy left the game. Coupled with the release yesterday of quarterback Matt Brown (who wore Curly Lambeau's #1), that means we won't be seeing those iconic jersey numbers on the field for a little while longer.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

No More Number One

Breaking news: just minutes ago, the Packers announced that they have waived quarterback Matt Brown.

This means Curly Lambeau's record as the only Packer to wear #1 is safe for now...

Monday, July 15, 2013

Don Hutson's Packers Playdium

Press-Gazette Archives
Don Hutson assists an unidentified young woman at the Packer Playdium, February 7, 1942.
Until relatively recently, "football player" was not a year-round occupation. Even Packer legend Don Hutson, whose career as a player spanned from 1935 through 45 (and who continued to coach for three years after that), ran two well-known Green Bay businesses — an auto lot named, appropriately enough, Don Hutson Motors, and a bowling alley and bar named the Packers Playdium.

Hutson's partner in the Playdium was another Packer great, Charles "Buckets" Goldenberg, who joined the Packers in 1933 and wore the Blue and Gold (and sometimes Green) through the 1945 season. Together, the two men had enough star power in Green Bay to change the city's liquor ordinance; until 1942, alcoholic beverages could only be sold in premises located on street level. That would have left the ten lanes of the Playdium's second floor dry, so Hutson and Goldenberg convinced the city council to exempt hotels, clubs and "bowling alleys with not less than five alleys on the second floor." The two were aided by over 1,000 signatures supporting the change.

Glassware from the Playdium is prized by collectors. This particular glass is currently available from Titletown Nostalgia.

This linen postcard, postmarked 1949, gives us our best look at the interior of the Playdium.

You can see those distinctive swirls on the alley's walls in the photograph above.

I love the mural on the bar's wall, depicting a generic Packer surrounded by mascots of the other NFL clubs, including an Eagle, Lion and Cardinal:

Why not Hutson's #14?

The player depicted is wearing the Packers' 1935-36 uniform, with its distinctive gold raglan sleeves:

The reverse bears a photo of Hudson in his navy and gold mid-1940s Packer jersey. This particular card was sent to a customer as an appointment reminder.

Sherwood is over 30 miles from Green Bay; perhaps Mr. Runge was a Packer fan, or the Playdium was a particularly good place to bowl.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

"Through Curly's Eyes"

Opening July 19, we have a new entry into the "stage and screen" category: "Through Curly's Eyes", from Green Bay's Let Me Be Frank Productions. As a writer and theatrical producer myself, I'm very intrigued about the dramatic possibilities of the team's earliest days.

The same company, you might remember, supplies actors for trolley tours of the Packers Heritage Trail around Green Bay.

The photo of three Packers in their sepia-toned blues is a nice image, even if the text could use some work (there's no apostrophe in "Packers", fellows).

Unfortunately, information about "Through Curly's Eyes" is scant and somewhat contradictory online. The show is described on its ticket service page this way:
A little bit of history and a lot of laughs are the best ways to describe this Let Me Be Frank show. Learn about the Pack and take the tour in downtown Green Bay from 1919 to 1950. But this isn't just any tour - it's through Curly's eyes! Join us for this all-original show with original songs written by Cliff Christl!
Songs by Cliff Christl, the former Green Bay Press-Gazette and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writer who covered the Packers from 1974-2007? Creator of the Packers Heritage Trail? Count me in!

I think they might mean the "all-original show" is written by Cliff Christl, with some original songs added in. The production company's site describes it this way:
Nobody really knew Curly Lambeau, but he is probably the best known person from Green Bay. He started the franchise and the stadium is named after him. Known as a ladies man and a braggart, Let me be Franks takes you back to the 1932 season and the great stories of Cliff Christl. You will laugh and remember the glory days before Lombardi. July 19th through August 17th at the Meyer Theatre!
Also on the company's site, but on the "Show Schedule" page, we have this summary:
Nicolet Bank and Let me be Franks present a little bit of history and a lot of laughs with the new musical about Curly Lambeau. Learn about the Pack and take a tour of downtown Green Bay and the Packers from 1932-1934. But this isn't just any tour – it’s through Curly’s eyes! Join us for this all-original show with stories from Cliff Christl!
So now we have three different settings: '1919 to 1950", "the 1932 season" and "1932-1934". It's also a bit hazy as to how Cliff Christl and the Packers Heritage Trail factor into this production. Christl may have written the show or it may just be based on his stories. The show is branded with the trail's name over the title, and the press materials lean heavily on the word "tour", but they don't seem to have anything in common other than the actors they've already been using as guides. "Tour" here seems more likely to have the more poetic "stroll-through-history" meaning than the literal trolley jaunts. We could really use a proper press release to clear this up.

Think of it, though: site-specific/environmental theatre, with historical scenes performed at the actual locations where the events happened! Sounds like fun, but I don't think that's what they have in store.

This report in the Green Bay Press-Gazette might clear it up:
Packers history explored through new musical

For Let Me Be Frank Productions' latest show, "The Packers Heritage Trail: Through Curly’s Eyes," the group travels all the way back to the 1932 season of the Green Bay Packers and Curly Lambeau.

Set to popular tunes from the '40s and '50s, the musical begins in the old Hagemeister Park where Curly is declaring to his future wife that he’ll conquer the world, and continues along the story of the fund-lacking Packers chasing a title, just trying to stay financially afloat.

In addition to the show, Let Me Be Frank and C&M Marketing are putting together trolley tours of the Packers Heritage Trail hosted by one of the cast members.
That seems to indicate that the musical at the Meyer Theatre is a separate project, related only by the actors the two have in common.

The same Press-Gazette offers this publicity photo, giving us a better look at the uniforms.

That's definitely not the 1932 uniform: in 1932, the Packers were wearing plain blue jerseys as seen at right (with large numbers on the back). They do look like pretty decent reproductions of the Packers' 1929-30 uniforms, made famous via the throwback uniforms worn in 2000 and in 2011 and which will be revived this season. Can't really fault the costume designer for going with the more distinctive numbered jerseys, even if they aren't strictly period.

Looking again at Let Me Be Frank Productions's site, we can piece together some information on the cast, at least those three pictured above. Perhaps the numbers can also give us some insight into which characters might make appearances.

That's company founder and namesake Frank Hermans as Curly Lambeau in the center. He looks good in the part, too. Although Lambeau wore many numbers during his playing career (and remains so far the only man to wear #1), 20 was his number in 1929. Lambeau retired after the 1930 season.

On the right is Jack Janowicz. I don't know who he's playing; number 14 was issued to back Paul Fitzgibbon in 1932, although today it's most remembered for legend Don Hutson, who wore it from 1935 through 1945 and for whom it was retired in 1951.

The other player is played by Paul Evansen, although I can't make out his number. Perhaps he's playing Johnny "Blood" McNally (who wore #20 in '32); by all accounts Johnny Blood was a colorful character to justify a musical of his own life, and should at least feature prominently in a show about those Big Bay Blues Glory Days.

"Through Curly's Eyes" runs July 19th through August 17th at the Meyer Theatre in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Tickets are available at the Resch Center box office, at ticketstaronline.com or by calling 1-800-895-0071.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

National Pro Quarterbacks,1961

This picture has been making the rounds lately. Taken by famed photographer Ralph Morse, it was published in the November 17, 1961 issue of LIFE magazine. It shows the starting quarterbacks for each of the NFL's teams (the AFL was in its second year of existence, but hadn't yet broken through to the big time).

(back, L-R) Milt Plum, Bobby Layne, Sam Etcheverry, Bill Wade, Bart Starr, Johnny Unitas, Norm Snead & Zeke Bratkowski, (front L-R) Jim Ninowski, Fran Tarkenton, Don Meredith, John Brodie, Sonny Jergensen & Y.A. Tittle.
Of course, every football fan recognizes Bart Starr, although there's something appropriate about his unassuming place in the back row. Nothing flashy about him, always the good son, but getting the job done. And there's his future backup, Zeke Bratkowski, representing Los Angeles.

I think what I love most about this photo is the variety in the uniforms. There's almost no overlap in the color schemes. Three red jerseys, but each paired with a different color pants. I suppose you could say that the Lions (blue/silver) and Giants (blue/gray) and then the Colts/Cowboys (each blue over white) overlap, but even those are distinctive.

Even without their helmets, we can go right down the line. Browns, Steelers, Cardinals, Bears, Packers, Colts, Redskins, Rams. Lions, Vikings, Cowboys, 49ers, Eagles, Giants. You don't even need custom stripes or details to tell them apart; the color combinations are enough. The trend towards moving many teams to navy and black was still decades away.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

"G" Now Stands for "Great-Big"

The Lambeau Field South End Zone expansion project is going full-speed, and the Packers have added their logo to the back of what will become the scoreboard.

That could well be the largest version of Dad Braisher's classic "G" logo ever. Have to compare it to the 50-yard line paint job.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

What's "the Greatest Uniform in NFL History"?

NFL.com's "Uniform Monitor", Dave Dameshek, is now running a bracket-style poll to determine the "Greatest Uniform in NFL History".

The Packers have two entries. Their regular uniforms are the 5 seed in the NFC Uniforms Bracket:

The 2010 throwbacks (which will make their first appearance since 2011 this season) are the 16 seed in the NFC Throwback Bracket:

Interestingly, in both brackets the Packers are matched up with the Philadelphia Eagles (regular and 1961 throwbacks).

The voting process is a little confusing; there are checkboxes for each team but no "vote" button, nor is there any indication that the vote has been counted. I've looked in two different browsers but don't see any sort of confirmation. Head on over to NFL.com and tell me what I'm missing here.

We'll continue to give updates as the brackets progress.

Packer fans have come through before, securing nine consecutive victories in the Chunky Soup "Click for Cans" promotion before it was shut down. Time to do it again!