Friday, April 17, 2015

R.I.P. Lee Remmel, Packers Historian

Sad news out of Titletown; Lee Remmel, who has been associated with the Packers since the Curly Lambeau days, has passed away at the age of 90.

Remmel was a true icon in a sport which tends to over-use the word. He started covering Packers games for the Green Bay Press-Gazette in 1945.

Reporters wait while the Packers’ board of directors meets for four hours in the Brown County Courthouse in Green Bay on Nov. 30, 1949, deliberating the fate of coach and general manager Curly Lambeau. From left are Lee Remmel, Art Daley and Dave Yuenger of the Green Bay Press-Gazette; Packers publicity director George Strickler, Don Arthur of radio station WDUZ, Bob Savage of radio station WBAY and Earl Gillespie of WJPG, the Press-Gazette’s radio station. (Press-Gazette Media archives)
For nearly thirty years, he reported on the ins and outs of the team, and when he finally left his beat in 1974, it was to join the Packers as their public relations director. Remmel's second career was as long and illustrious as his first, through the lean years of the 1970s and 1980s and finally renewed glory days that continue today. In February 2004, he was named team historian. Aided with an uncanny memory and a true gift for personal stories, he has done as much to educate modern football fans as anyone in the sport.

Lee Remmel stands next to the plaque erected in the Lambeau Field press box after it was named for him in August 2003. (Green Bay Packers archives)
The Press-Gazette has a wonderful gallery of Remmel's life. Of course, there are a few uniform gems in the gallery, including these two glimpses of 1950s uniforms. This period has been almost forgotten, lost between Curly's famous gold-yoked jerseys and the world-famous Lombardi design that endures (with a few tweaks) to this very day.

Packers fullback Fred Cone walks past Press-Gazette sports writer Lee Remmel, left, on the sideline at old City Stadium during the Packers’ 37-14 victory over the Baltimore Colts on Oct. 18, 1953. (Press-Gazette Media archives)
Press-Gazette sports writer Lee Remmel kneels along the sideline during the Packers’ 17-13 victory over the New York Giants in a preseason game at old City Stadium on Aug. 25, 1956. He’s flanked by Packers coach Lisle Blackbourn, left, and end Gary Knafelc. (Press-Gazette Media archives)
It's fascinating to watch the evolution of his career, as he starts out covering the players for the paper and transitions into working with them to manage that paper's coverage.

Press-Gazette sports writer Lee Remmel interviews Packers quarterback Bart Starr after Green Bay’s 13-10 victory over the Baltimore Colts in overtime in the Western Division championship game at Lambeau Field on Dec. 26, 1965. (Press-Gazette Media archives)
He flips from one side of the notebook to the other, but maintains the same intense look on his face.

Packers director of public relations Lee Remmel, second from right, stands between Press-Gazette sports writer Cliff Christl and Packers coach Bart Starr during an interview during the 1979 season. (Press-Gazette Media archives)
I love this look at a Lindy Infante's press conference, partly for the peek at 1989's sideline gear but also the guy next to Remmel wearing a Bucks jacket; you're more likely to find Packer apparel inserted in the background of unrelated sporting events than the other way around.

Lee Remmel, the Packers' director of public relations, stands at second from right as coach Lindy Infante meets the media during the 1989 season. (Press-Gazette Media archives)
For generations, Remmel has been a living link to the club's history. For people of my generation, it was to Lambeau and Lombardi. To younger fans, he was an official witness to those long-ago glory days of White and Favre.

Lee Remmel enjoys a laugh with Packers quarterback Brett Favre in the team's locker room during the mid-1990s. (Press-Gazette Media archives)
The Packers have created a tribute page to Remmel on their site with links to press releases and galleries covering his career (with an emphasis on his most recent recognitions). It's well worth a read.

Longtime Packers public relations man and historian and former Press-Gazette sports writer Lee Remmel talks about his life with the Packers at his home on Feb. 10, 2009. (Press-Gazette Media archives)
It is perhaps inevitable that loss seems to stalk any team with the long history of the Packers, as every year we lose one more human connection to that glorious past. I've long enjoyed reading Remmel's reminisces on that history, and we are the poorer now for his voice being silenced. R.I.P., Mr. Remmel.

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