Telling and Selling Lombardi Stories


Over the 46 years since Vince Lombardi died, there have been several books written about him. One subset of Lombardi books is the oral history. The first to appear was Lombardi: Winning Is the Only Thing by Jerry Kramer in 1970. Kramer started the book in 1969, but completed most of the 24 interviews after Lombardi’s first trip to the hospital in 1970. His approach is to edit the transcripts into a stand-alone narrative and offer his own view before and after the interview. Unique among the interviews are Red Blaik, Bob Mischak, Sid Gillman and Norb Hecker.

A year later, NFL Books produced Lombardi edited by John Wiebusch. This book is a high-end production that features the photographs of Vern Biever and organizes interviews with close to one hundred players, coaches, friends and family into a running narrative of block quotes in subject-themed chapters. Those chapters include: Moods, Coach, Beginnings, Winning, Games, Players, Home and Remembering.

In 1976, George Flynn, who had worked with Lombardi on Vince Lombardi on Football, published The Vince Lombardi Scrapbook.  Flynn’s approach is similar to Kramer’s, but with more of Vern Biever’s photos. The 20 interviewees are arranged to provide a chronological view, and Flynn introduces each transcript. Flynn begins the book with a 1968 interview he did with Lombardi. Besides the usual suspects that turn up in every book (Bart Starr, Willie Davis, Frank Gifford…), Flynn also talks with W.C. Heinz, the co-author of Run to Daylight, broadcaster Ray Scott and Packer insiders Tony Canadeo, Tom Miller and Chuck Lane.

After a lull of 30 years, one of Lombardi’s favorites, Paul Hornung, came out with Lombardi and Me in 2006. Hornung was aided by former Sports Illustrated writer William Reed. Hornung’s main contribution to this thin volume, which is supplemented by appendices reprinting a couple speeches by Lombardi and a list of Paul Hornung’s top players, is a brief commentary on the interviewee at the end of each of the 18 chapters. Unique subjects include Vince Lombardi Jr., Bill Curry, author David Maraniss and reporter Lee Remmel. Comments by the long deceased Henry Jordan are included as well, but they were taken from an article by Stan Gosshandler that originally appeared in The Coffin Corner, a publication of the Pro Football Researchers Association.

Finally, Hall of Fame linebacker Dave Robinson, with writer Royce Boyles, produced The Lombardi Legacy in 2009 and followed that two years later with The Lombardi Impact. Between the two volumes, 50 players, coaches, friends and family members are included. These books have a different style in that the transcripts are not stand-alone narratives, but instead quotes are woven into the text written by Boyles. Unique interview subjects include Boyd Dowler, Ron Kramer, Ken Bowman and several wives (Olive Jordan, Peggy Kostelnik, Ruth Pitts and Vicky Aldridge).

Custom card in the Topps 1970 style.

One thought on “Telling and Selling Lombardi Stories

  1. One of the more interesting inclusions (IMO) in George Flynn’s “The Vince Lombardi Scrapbook” was the interview with the Bilotti brothers – Ray and Duds (Ron) – who owned the Forvm Supper Club.

    Their perspectives shared are by those outside of the game and as members of the community. They talk of the friendship that developed when Lombardi came to town and sought out fellow Italian-Americans (an oft-repeated narrative in the Lombardi considers/goes to Green Bay story), an outside perspective on his success in Green Bay, the pressures of his success in Green Bay and his decision to go to Washington.

    That Flynn would have talked with them – and others interviewed – in the years immediately following Lombardi’s death in 1970 to publish in 1976 makes them more interesting, IMO, to a reader came to the game in the past ten or twenty years.


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