A Season to Remember: Books about One Packer Campaign

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1959: That First Season: How Vince Lombardi Took the Worst Team in the NFL and Set It on the Path to Glory. By John Eisenberg. (Houghton Mifflin, 2009). Eisenberg grew up in Dallas and previously wrote about the Dallas Cowboys of his youth in Cotton Bowl Days. Here, he writes the Cowboys’ conquerors from Wisconsin, specifically about the beginnings of Vince Lombardi’s regime in Green Bay. Eisenberg takes up the story from the Packers low point of the 1958 season, covers the hiring of Vince Lombardi and then goes game-by-game through the 1959 season, from the preseason to the promising end of a bad decade of Packer football. The author interviewed players, coaches, fans, board members and sportswriters to give a full portrait of the turnaround year.

1962: The First America’s Team: the 1962 Green Bay Packers. By Bob Berghaus. (Clerisy, 2007). Berghaus grew up in Milwaukee and wrote for both Milwaukee papers as well as the Green Bay Press-Gazette for several years. This book allowed him to revisit the team of his childhood in perhaps their finest iteration, 1962 when the team lost just once and dominated the NFL. Primarily, he follows a game-by-game account of the 1962 season in a short book that is extended with full stats for each game and a closing chapter comparing the 1962 Packers to the undefeated 1972 Dolphins. Aside from a few factual errors, this is a very enjoyable retelling of a great year.

1966: The 1966 Green Bay Packers: Profiles of Vince Lombardi’s Super Bowl I Champions. Edited by George Bozeka. (McFarland, 2016). The Pro Football Researchers Association is meeting in Green Bay this July, and its members (one of whom is me) have produced this account of the very first Super Bowl Championship team to commemorate the 50th anniversary of that iconic team. There are chapters on each member of the team as well as accounts and statistics for each game, not to mention chapters on several other aspects of that team.

1967: Instant Replay: the Green Bay Diary of Jerry Kramer. Edited by Dick Schaap. (World, 1968). This book is my personal favorite sports book. With Schaap’s editing of Kramer’s anecdotes, opinions and insights, this book gives as engaging an account of a championship season in the NFL as has ever been written. For a Packer fan, it still provides a thrilling connection to the pinnacle season of the Lombardi era that culminated in perhaps the NFL’s most famous game, The Ice Bowl.

That game is masterfully relived in The Ice Bowl: The Cold Truth about Football’s Most Unforgettable Game. by Ed Gruver (McBooks Press, 1998). Gruver delivers a fine description of the buildup to this epic clash between Tom Landry’s Cowboys and Vince Lombardi’s Packers and then goes through the game play by play, bringing it all to vibrant life. Oddly, the same year this book was published, there was another book written about the game by Texas writer Mike Shropshire, and it is awful; the author spends more time writing about himself than about the game and players.

1996: Green Bay Replay: the Packers Return to Glory. By Dick Schaap (William Morrow, 1997). Dick Schaap was close to a number of the players on Lombardi’s Packers, so he took a special interest in the 1996 championship team that drew such public support from so many of Lombardi’s stars. Schaap was a very clever and entertaining writer, although sometimes a bit glib. This book aims to make every possible connection between the teams from two very different eras and it uses the 1996 NFC Championship Game and the ensuing Super Bowl against the Patriots as the framework to explore the team in detail. It’s a breezy, fun read.

Custom card features the photo used on the cove of Instant Replay.

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