That GM Opening in 1959

After the Packers bottomed out in 1958 and Head Coach Scooter McLean resigned at season’s end, it was not just the coaching job that needed to be filled, but the GM slot as well. Verne Lewellen was listed as the team’s GM, but he was simply the team’s Business Manager; player procurement was not his role.

In a December 31, 1958 Milwaukee Sentinel article, Bud Lea asserted that four men had applied for the vacant GM position: Curly Lambeau, Liz Blackbourn, Jack Vainisi and Frosty Ferzacca. Lambeau and Blackbourn, of course, were both former Packer coaches whose reigns did not end well…Blackbourn’s just one year prior. Lambeau’s career was already over; Blackbourn would coach Marquette again for two losing seasons before the football program was discontinued. Vainisi was the team’s lead personnel man for the decade of the 1950s. There is some evidence that Vainisi was edging the board subtly to consider Vince Lombardi for the opening.

Meanwhile, Faust Ferzacca was a native of Iron Mountain, Michigan (like one-time Packer coach Gene Ronzani) and played under T-formation innovator and future Chicago Bears’ coach Ralph Jones at Lake Forrest College as a young man. He spent nine seasons coaching Green Bay West High School before replacing Blackbourn as coach of Marquette in 1954, once Liz moved on to the Packer job. Frosty spent two losing seasons at Marquette and was fired. Following one year as the Packers’ Milwaukee ticket manager, he became athletic director and head football coach at Northern Michigan in 1957. Frosty never had a losing season in nine years at Northern and would work as a college administrator at multiple schools until he turned 80.

While these four men tossed their hats in the ring, it is doubtful that any of them were seriously considered for the post. It is also doubtful that the Packers’ Executive Board realized just how forceful a man they hired as Head Coach and General Manager a month later. In a February 4, 1959 article in the Milwaukee Journal, Chuck Johnson wrote a piece on Vince Lombardi’s busy first day on the job, noting not only that he hired assistants Phil Bengtson and Red Cochran that day, but also found a house to rent, retained Jack Vainisi as personnel chief and, most significantly, “startled members of the board of directors at a noon luncheon by stating flatly, ‘I want it understood that I am in complete command here.’” From then on, there was never any doubt about that.

1949lclambeau  1957tlblackbourn

1959tvlombardi

Custom 1949 Leaf Lambeau and 1957 Topps Blackbourn are colorized.

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