I have a book on early NFL coaches coming out next spring. One of the chapters in Pioneer Pro Football Coaches is on Coach Potsy Clark of the Portsmoth Spartans, forerunner to the Detroit Lions franchise. This excerpt concerns the end of the Packers’ three-peat in 1932:
The Spartans had a tentative agreement with Green Bay for the Packers to finish the 1931 season in Portsmouth’s Universal Stadium on December 13. However, once the Packers lost to the Bears on December 6, dropping Green Bay’s record to 12-2, just one game better than Portsmouth’s 11-3, Curly Lambeau decided not to risk the Packers’ third straight NFL title with a finale in Ohio. Clark, the Spartans and their fans were incensed. The Portsmouth Times referred to the Packers as the “Yellow Bay Pikers,” “Cheese Champs,” and “limburger champions.” Clark pleaded with league president Joe Carr, “I don’t see how a team can claim a pennant when they haven’t played all the teams in the league.” The protest was to no avail; the league ruled the Packer-Spartan game was never part of the official schedule, so Green Bay was under no obligation to play.
Still angry over the Packers backing out of a tentatively scheduled showdown at the end of the 1931 season, Portsmouth was aching for revenge in 1932. The fact that the Packers whipped the Spartans 15-10 in October in Green Bay only intensified those feelings. Potsy Clark frothed to the press before the first match, “We’ll take the Packers, Sunday, and get even for the raw deal of last December. My team is in the pink of condition and we are tuned up for a battle royal. It is a grudge game if there ever was one…We’re out to show up the Packers.”
After that bitter loss, Clark upped the ante for the December 4, 1932 rematch. Years later, Glenn Presnell recalled to Richard Whittingham, “Before the game, Potsy Clark gave one of his most impassioned pep talks. Then he named the starting lineup and said, ‘You people, you eleven men, are going to stay in the game. The only way any one of you is going to come out is by being carried off on a stretcher.’ And sure enough, we played that game with eleven men, didn’t make a single substitution all afternoon.”
On a very windy day, Portsmouth dominated. The run-based Spartans completed five of 10 passes for 87 yards, while the aerial Packers completed just one of 17 passes for nine yards and had three passes picked off. Local broadcaster Grant P. Ward observed in the Ohio State Journal that the Packers made several unaccustomed tactical mistakes and seemed flat and tired all day. The Spartans scored following a 60-yard drive in the first quarter, a drive aided by a 22-yard interference call on the Packers’ Clarke Hinkle and a 25-yard pass from Presnell to Father Lumpkin. Presnell ran the final four yards for the score.
In the second quarter, Arnie Herber’s punt from his own 20 went straight up in the air and was buffeted down by the wind at the Green Bay 25. A five-play drive was culminated by Dutch Clark’s nine-yard touchdown burst off-tackle. Portsmouth tacked on one more score in the final period when Presnell returned a punt 27 yards to the Green Bay 28. After one running play, Presnell tossed to Clark at the five and Dutch powered in to make the final 19-0. The loss knocked the Packers out of first place and ended their drive for a fourth straight NFL title.
(Adapted from Pioneer Pro Football Coaches: Shaping the Game and the League in the Days of Leather Helmets and 60-Minute Men.)
Custom cards are colorized.