Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Spirit of Curly Lambeau on the Sidelines

Along with the new throwback alternate jerseys, the Packers have started selling sideline gear and fan merchandise featuring the classic blue and gold color scheme and a new "GREEN BAY PACKERS" wordmark.

The lettering is obviously based on this 1949 sideline jacket, which I posted in 2009. With its unique three-line layout, it squares off the words and fits well across a cap, jacket or t-shirt.

What's also interesting is that they're treating this wordmark just like a logo, dropping it into the standard merchandise templates for the throwback sideline gear.

I wonder if this means the wordmark logo will make it to the Style Guide, and if the team will use it as a primary logo in connection with their annual social media rebranding. Two years ago I bemoaned the lack of a proper throwback logo they could use in place of the iconic "G" during Throwback Week; we'll see if this is their solution.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Hall of Fame Uniform Timeline - "G" Whiz

In addition to the white lettering on the "ACME PACKERS" jersey, the recently-unveiled uniform timeline at the Packers Hall of Fame contains another element of note. Unlike the 1921 uniforms, which may be the product of new research, this one's just an error.

The ingenious timeline shows the march of progress of Packers uniforms.
© Jeff Ash, used with permission

As you move from right to left, the figures appear to be throwing a pass, and you advance through the highlights of the team's uniform history from the earliest days to modern times:

© Jeff Ash, used with permission

© Jeff Ash, used with permission

But let's take a closer look at one of the elements. These pictures don't show it very well, so we'll examine this photo, released by the club:

Do you see it?

The figure labelled "1959" clearly shows the iconic "G" logo. Unfortunately, that logo wasn't added to the helmets until 1961.

I presume that'll be fixed soon, but until then we can take comfort in the fact that even the big guys can get the details wrong now and then.

Hall of Fame Uniform Timeline - ACME PACKERS

In a previous post, we looked at the uniform timeline just unveiled at the Packers Hall of Fame in Lambeau Field:

© Jeff Ash, used with permission

There's an absolutely stunning revelation on one of the figures:

© Jeff Ash, used with permission

White lettering on the "ACME PACKERS" jersey?

The only other time I've seen white indicated was in the book "Packers by the Numbers". I had noted this as an outlier in our timeline, as all other sources with which I'm familiar have it as gold.

As far as I know, no jerseys from the era survive. Nor do we have any color photos.

For at least four decades, however, the jersey has been depicted as navy and gold. Consider this artwork, commissioned for the 1972 book NFL: The First 50 Years:

That may well have been the first time a modern artist attempted to re-create the old jersey. Have we been parroting a mistaken presumption since then?

There's also the small matter of the Packers selling navy and gold merchandise for over five years now:

Even today, the Packers' website is using the same Maple Leaf Productions painting as featured on the fridge magnets. You guessed it, navy and gold:

If the Packers now have credible evidence that the lettering was white, it would upend half a century of presumptions. It wouldn't necessarily surprise me; after all, the NFL has been until recently a pretty terrible steward of its own history, the Packers only slightly more so. It's also an exciting reminder that there's so much more to learn and discover about our club.

While we're on the subject, there's also another rumor I've heard for years, that the jerseys also said "ACME PACKERS" on the back. I can't tell from this angle if that's the case on the mannequin's jersey.

See the New Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame

This morning, the revamped Packers Hall of Fame opened to the public, and we're seeing some great views of what's in store for visitors to Lambeau Field.

The new museum displays are very impressive.

Gone are the old plaques; each inductee is now represented by a sculpture of a football.

It's a stunning representation, even more impressive close up. Each football is engraved with the inductee's name, picture, years with the team and year of induction.

Jeff Ash of the Green Bay Press-Gazette has suggested that these football sculptures would make excellent souvenirs if the Hall of Fame should ever sell them.

I think he's on to something there.

The reminds me a little of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, which ditched its plaques about ten years ago in favor of staggered rows of busts. Using footballs, however, emphasizes the team nature of the game. From a distance, it's all a unified whole. Only when you get close can you see the individuals comprising the team.

Of course, there's a lot for uniform fans to like. This is the new locker room section:
How could they get these reproductions so right and yet the new 2015 on-field alternate uniforms so wrong?

Of course, it's not all reproductions. The authentic Don Hutson jersey is still on display:

© Jeff Ash, used with permission

I think my favorite area has to be this overhead display of Packers uniforms, arranged in a chronological timeline:

© Jeff Ash, used with permission

As you move from right to left, the figures appear to be throwing a pass, and you advance through the highlights of the team's uniform history from the earliest days to modern times:

© Jeff Ash, used with permission

I'm a little jealous; the effect is one I was planning to use for a lithograph to celebrate the team's Centennial in a couple years.

© Jeff Ash, used with permission

There are two items of note I see in this tableau, which we'll address in separate posts.

Overall, the new Hall looks outstanding. Can't wait for my next trip to Lambeau Field.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

First Look at the "Titletown District"

For the past several years, the Packers have been buying up strip mall land along Lombardi Avenue, west of Lambeau Field. They have already begun closing the big box stores, fast food restaurants and gas stations to prepare for their own development. Today, they announced just what the "Titletown District" will look like, and it's nothing short of spectacular.

In the shadow of Lambeau Field, the Packers are planning a year-round destination space, incorporating medical, retail space, restaurants, a microbrew and hotel around a 10-acre public plaza.
Packers unveil vision for Titletown District

10-acre public plaza to serve as centerpiece of district with Kohler Co., Bellin Health and Hinterland to be key tenants

The Green Bay Packers announced details Thursday for the master plan for the Titletown District, a destination area to be created on approximately 34 acres of land immediately west of Lambeau Field.
Building upon the success of Lambeau Field's major redevelopment in 2003 and subsequent expansion and renovation completed in 2015, the planned Titletown District will maximize its unique location to attract more visitors to the area, spur additional regional economic growth, offer new amenities to residents and complement the greater Green Bay area's draw as an excellent location to live, work and play.

Central to Titletown will be a planned 10-acre public plaza, a park-like setting with year-round, diverse programming that will feature fitness-related activities, cultural opportunities, versatile space for a variety of uses, a winter ice skating rink and team-inspired public art, in addition to festive gameday action.
Three key tenants in Titletown to be integrated around the public plaza will include LODGE KOHLER, a hotel built and managed by Kohler Co., a Bellin Health Sports Medicine Clinic and Hinterland Restaurant and Brewery. These initial tenants will be located on approximately eight acres of land in Titletown. Future development on the remaining 16 acres calls for additional commercial and retail elements, as well as a residential component.

"We're very excited to share our vision for the Titletown District," Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy said. "The public plaza, with its size and location near Lambeau Field, will be a draw that is very unique in our area and a wonderful public space for our community.
"Kohler Co., Bellin Health and Hinterland are three great Wisconsin organizations that provide exceptional service in their respective areas. We’re thrilled they will be a part of Titletown. They each will bring more visitors to the area, serve our current residents and add to the draw for our community as a whole."

Targeted completion is set for Fall 2017 for all initial components and planning for the development is already underway. Groundbreaking is anticipated for this fall with infrastructure and utilities serving as the first work on the area, land that stretches west along Lombardi Avenue from Ridge Road to Marlee Lane.
In addition to further planning and design by each of the three tenants for their facilities, the Packers will hold focus groups in the coming weeks with community stakeholders to determine the desired programming and activities for the public plaza.
Well, you can't accuse them of thinking small.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has an excellent overview of the project:

Not so sure about the "public art" portion of the plan. Check out the 40-foot replica of Bart Starr's Super Bowl I ring:

This is the culmination of the work started with the Lambeau Field Atrium, opened in 2003. For the first time, the stadium itself became a year-round destination with shopping and dining.

I like the fact that they're replacing retail space with retail space, rather than losing much of the residential character that defines the area and solidifies the team's connection with its community.

Such a far cry from the team's earliest days, playing on a roped-off field in front of a few dozen spectators standing around or sitting on their cars. This will take the Packers into their second century in style.

Monday, August 17, 2015

"This Ron Wolf Mistake"

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinal published an outstanding article yesterday about Ron Wolf's planned 1994 uniform change. We've heard much of this story before, but there are some fascinating new details:

Packers allowed this Ron Wolf mistake on the field just once
Associated Press
By Bob McGinn of the Journal Sentinel
Aug. 16, 2015

Green Bay — Last month, the Green Bay Packers rolled out the navy blue jersey with a faded gold yoke they will wear Oct. 18 against the San Diego Chargers and in other "throwback" games over the next five seasons.

It brought to mind the months of experimentation with uniform color and design commissioned by general manager Ron Wolf in 1993 that would have left the Packers looking much like Notre Dame in its green jerseys.

Nothing came of it, however, and the Packers continue to wear the same basic color combination and design that Vince Lombardi brought to Green Bay 56 years ago.

Hired by the Packers in November 1991, Wolf set about fumigating a franchise that had been a chronic loser for a generation.

"I wanted to change the uniforms just to get the stigma (of defeat) away," Wolf said in a recent interview. "Hey, I proposed a lot of things. It wasn't that big of a deal."

The attachment of the team's fan base then to the forest green jerseys and mustard yellow pants was nothing like it is now. From 1968-'91, the Packers made the playoffs twice.

As the Packers pondered dramatically altered uniforms, they were deluged with calls and letters from followers in the state and across the country.

At the time, Wolf said at least half of the contacts he had indicated considerable distaste for the existing uniform. Then-Packers president Bob Harlan, in better position to gauge public sentiment, said the majority of fans favored staying with what the Packers had.

When the Packers displayed enormous improvement in 1992, Wolf made his move.

"We got Mike Holmgren. Pretty good, huh?" said Wolf. "We get Brett Favre. We win nine games. Now I'm feeling pretty good about myself."

Long a student of football history, Wolf associated the Packers' pants with the maize of the University of Michigan. He didn't like that color.

Wolf wasn't enamored of the stripes on the Packers' helmets, jerseys or pants, either. He wanted a less cluttered look.

He pored over various shades of gold before selecting what Harlan remembered as a metallic gold for the pants.

"Ron was very excited about it," said Harlan. "He just thought the Notre Dame gold or the UCLA gold, whatever you wanted to call it, would be perfect."

The jersey that Wolf really liked had been worn by the Packers in the early 1950s.

"That gold (numbers) and green (body) one," he said. "But they wouldn't work today because you couldn't see the numbers."

At last, the Packers had a manufacturer produce three slightly different styles of uniforms.

Wolf needed someone he could trust to be the model. He summoned Ted Thompson, who was in his second year as an anonymous pro scout.

"I said to Ted, 'Would you mind doing it?'" Wolf said. "He said, 'Sure.' In those days, when you asked somebody to help you out, they did it, you know?"

Thompson, then 40, probably hadn't been in uniform since his 10-year career as an NFL linebacker ended in 1984. Attempts to reach Thompson through the Packers' publicity department for this story were unsuccessful.

It was a beautiful late fall day. Harlan, Wolf and some other club officials convened in Lambeau Field, taking seats fairly high up in the bowl.

"There were some other guys there," Wolf said. "(Lee) Remmel must have been there, or somebody from the public relations department. Maybe some of the executive committee guys were there."

From the tunnel emerged Thompson, who would become GM of the Packers in 2005.

He was attired in the dark green jersey, metallic gold pants, solid metallic gold helmet with the 'G' logo that had existed since 1961 and solid green socks. There were no stripes on the helmet, jersey or pants.

"He (Thompson) was on the field down there all by himself," recalled Wolf. "The guy ran up and down the field. I was thinking to myself, 'Holy (expletive), I must have been smoking dope.'"

Then Wolf looked at Harlan, and Harlan looked at Wolf.

"All it took was that one trip up and down the field for me to say, '(Expletive), that's terrible. No, no, no. There's no way we can do this,'" Wolf remembered. "We would have changed it, but after that I said, 'This is foolish.'"

Grateful for what Wolf had done in just two years on the job, Harlan wasn't going to deny his new GM if he wanted a new look for the Packers.

"We kind of made the decision on the spot," said Harlan, laughingly adding, "and it had nothing to do with the model.

"We were sitting out there in short-sleeve shirts in the sun waiting for Ted to come out of the tunnel. He kind of walked up and down the sidelines to let us see what it looked like.

"Dull is the only way I can describe it. It just looked blah out there. You see Notre Dame on TV and it looked like such a great uniform, but it just didn't look that way for us."

One of those two metallic gold 'G' helmets can be found displayed in the home of Pepper Burruss, the Packers' director of sports medicine.

Feigning ignorance of the entire initiative, Holmgren said at the time, "I was the last one to know. I like the way the uniforms are now."

Wolf never revisited uniforms.

"It was one of those things you say, 'Oh, just let that disappear,'" Wolf said with a shrug.

And it basically has.
Outstanding work as usual from Mr. McGinn.

Interestingly enough, Uni Watch columnist Paul Lukas was one of those who called Bob Harlan to express his concerns about the changes. The letter Harlan sent to him in response describes the proposed uniforms:

This is the mockup I made of that uniform several years ago, based on the reports we had at the time:

It still comports with the description in McGinn's piece. There's a lot I like about this uniform, especially the lack of sleeve stripes. Given that most football players don't wear sleeves anymore, the vestigial stripes are a problem in desperate need of a solution. I do have to say that it would have been criminal to lose the Braisher stripes from helmet and pants.

McGinn gives us valuable new insight into the process itself. I'm somewhat surprised that Wolf was able to look over old Packers uniforms, since they haven't always been the most accurate historians of their aesthetic past. Not that they haven't tried. This 2004 Media Guide cover attempts to create a link between the team's present and its glorious history:

Unfortunately, every single one of their reproductions is historically inaccurate. From the navy blue color on the Hutson jersey to serifs on the "Acme Packers" font, they got all the details wrong. That media guide was a major influence in my decision to move my Packers-uniform zine online. Perhaps Wolf was able to peruse the Hall of Fame's archives.

When Wolf mentions a an old Packers jersey he really liked, with gold numbers on green that "wouldn't work today because you couldn't see the numbers", I presume he means this bright number from 1953:

If you can look past the Kermit the Frog suits, the jerseys are quite nice.

It's also possible that he meant this darker version, as worn by Jim Ringo in 1957 or 1958:

I'm surprised to hear that Wolf felt gold-on-green wasn't legible. The Rams wear metallic gold numbers on their regular drab navy jerseys and athletic gold on their beautiful throwbacks:

They've worn those since the 1960s, and I'm not aware that legibility has ever been an issue.

Now "blah" I can see. The modern-day Rams are proof enough of that. Metallic gold can be drab and flat under anything but bright light, and I prefer the Packers' vivid athletic gold.

I'm also intrigued to learn that there were two prototype helmets made. I knew that there was one in a private collection, but this is the first I've heard that Pepper Burruss, the Packers' director of sports medicine, has one. I wonder if Mr. Burruss would be kind enough to give us a look.

It's interesting to think what might have happened had Wolf actually pulled the trigger way back then. The last twenty years of of Packers history, the new "Glory Days", would have looked very different. Wolf's uniforms would be synonymous with Holmgren and McCarthy and Favre and Rodgers, eleven divisional titles and two World Championships. We would have fans today for whom Lombardi's classic uniform is as much an historical curiosity as Lambeau's blue and gold. And we can all guess what the the Packers would have chosen for their throwback alternate uniforms.