Tuesday, September 1, 2015

"Champions of Them All"

Heritage Auctions

This amazing team photo comes from Heritage Auctions. They have a pair of championship banquet programs to be auctioned off next month, and this is the preview of the first.

The Packers had held a championship banquet for the Packers following every title won to this point, starting in 1929. This, the fifth World Championship, was no exception.

The Packers had been strong all season, finishing 9-2. The only team with a better record was the Eastern Division champion New York Giants at 9-1-1. On December 10, 1939, the two teams faced off at Wisconsin State Fair Park in the Championship Game. You might have expected two such dominant teams to play an even game, but when they took the field the Packers dismantled the visiting New Yorkers, 27-0.

Four days and 120 miles later, two thousand fans packed the Columbus Community Club building on South Jefferson Street in downtown Green Bay. Among the revelers was Wisconsin governor Julius P. Heil, "perhaps as real, honest to goodness sports fan as ever sat in the governor's chair".

In the words of the Milwaukee Sentinel, the room was
"jarred to the rafters with the flood of adjectives as speaker on speaker lauded the Bays for their marvelous performance all season and for the "greatest football display in the game's history" last Sunday. The Packers, themselves, took the adjectives like blushing school girls, but actually beamed with and more than one made a passing remark: "Gee, boys, this Green Bay town is the place to play your pro football."
The venue itself had a long history with the Packers; the Columbus Club building opened in 1925 as a recreational and social center, and immediately began playing an important role in Packer history.

Columbus Club Building circa 1930

There is a Packers Heritage Trail plaque on the building, listing some of that history:
In the 1920s, before radio broadcasts of Packer games, large crowds gathered on Sunday afternoons when the team was playing on the road. A play-by-play was transmitted by telegraph wire from the site of the game, and the results were posted here on a large board built in the shape of a football field.

From 1927 until the mid-1930s, the Packers used the top floor as a clubhouse. For five years, starting in 1930, their ticket office was located here, as well.

The building also was the site of championship celebrations and rousing public rallies that helped save the franchise. Banquets were held in the first-floor auditorium after the Packers won NFL titles in 1936 and 1939. On April 11, 1950, more than 1,500 fans filled the auditorium to kick off the Packers' third stock drive. And on March 31, 1956, more than 1,000 fans attended a rally in support of building what is now Lambeau Field. George Halas and Curly Lambeau were among the speakers. Three days later, the city-wide referendum passed in a landslide.

This also was where the Vince Lombardi Show was taped by WBAY-TV.
The building is now studios for WBAY, the ABC affiliate in Green Bay.

Google Maps
Columbus Club Building in 2012

Let's take a closer look at that team photo. Curly Lambeau is in the front row, far left, and on the far right of the second row we can see assistant coach Red Smith. Smith spent his offseasons as a catcher, coach, and eventually general manager for the Milwaukee Brewers, and in the early 1940s managed the Brews' farm team in Green Bay.

This is Lambeau's classic blue and gold uniform, introduced in 1937 and emblematic of the franchise through the 1949 season. Their socks still had stripes in 1939, although those would only last for a few years.

You can also see that the players are wearing at least two different number styles; undoubtedly the result of old uniforms being carried over (we would see this happen into the Lombardi era as well).

Some of the players are wearing "4"s with a "foot" on the bottom of the vertical line, and some are a fully sans-serif version.

For what it's worth, the photos I've seen of the Packers' white alternate jerseys from that season featured the sans-serif font.

The numbers on Hutson's jersey don't match any I've ever seen before on a navy jersey, and in any case by 1943 he would be wearing the "footed" 4.

What an amazing piece of Packers history this banquet program is. It's going to make some lucky collector very, very happy.

1 comment:

Tom Farley said...

"This also was where the Vince Lombardi Show was taped by WBAY-TV."

Indeed. In the 1968 NFL Films special "Lombardi" you briefly see him walking out of the building right before the segment on the 1967 Western Conference championship game.