A Thanksgiving Story

In November 1949, the Packers were on the brink of financial ruin. Two days after losing to the Giants 30-10 to drop the team’s record to 2-6, 100 local businessmen met on November 15 to fashion a plan to “Save the Packers,” according to the Chicago Tribune:

The public spirited committee met with club officials at a breakfast in the Northland Hotel this morning and made plans for an intrasquad game Thanksgiving afternoon. Each of the 100 will contact 20 people or organizations. Tickets for the game will be priced at $1, $2 and $3, plus tax. In addition, contributions will be accepted.

Four days after a 30-7 loss to Pittsburgh, the intrasquad game was staged on Thanksgiving Day, November 24. 15,000 fans showed up for the contest despite it being a windy, snowy day. The Green Bay Press Gazette reported that:

More than a thousand prizes were given away, ranging from a second hand automobile to 2,000 feet of lumber, 100 pounds of butter, baskets of groceries and even a shave and a haircut. Fans with lucky numbers sat on the bench and helped the coach. The spirit of Thanksgiving was so rampant that even small boys threw back the balls kicked into the stands, something that has become almost unheard of in football in recent years.

The intrasquad game pitted the Blue-jersey team of veterans led by quarterback Jug Girard against the Gold-jersey team of newcomers led by quarterback Stan Heath. Girard had been the Packers first round pick in 1948, but would complete just 34% of his passes and throw five touchdowns to 12 interceptions before shifting to halfback in 1950. Heath was the Packers first round pick in 1949 and completed just 24.5% of his passes with one touchdown and 14 interceptions in his single NFL season before leaving for Canada.

Playing against Packer defenders proved a tonic to both signal callers, though, as the Blues beat the Golds 35-31, with Girard throwing five touchdown passes to Ted Fritsch, Bob Forte, Nolan Luhn, Larry Craig and Ralph Earhart. Gold touchdowns wee scored by Heath, Jack Kirby, Bill Kelley and Walt Schlinkman The assistant coaches also got into the act, with 36-year old assistant Bob Snyder kicking placements for the Golds and 36-year old assistant Don Hutson kicking an extra point for the Blues, while 33-year old assistant Charley Brock and 38-year old former player Joe Laws also lined up for the play. 44-year old assistant Tom Stidham did not suit up.

At halftime, Curly Lambeau threw passes to Herb Nichols, his 1919 teammate. Verne Lewellen threw to Lavvie Dilweg, and Arnie Herber bombed one to Hutson. Old favorite Johnny Blood addressed the crowd, as did Lambeau who asserted:

This is the town they think is going to surrender its franchise. It will never happen here. Over there sits Jimmy Cowles, the son of a bootblack. Young Jimmy is a laborer in a mill here. He gave $100. It is about time they quit worrying about Green Bay and directed their attention to some less fortunate franchises in the business. Green Bay will be around for a long time.

The Thanksgiving festivities raised $50,000, as the fans helped save the Green Bay Packers once again. Three days later, the team traveled to Chicago and put up a season-high 21 points against the Cardinals. Unfortunately, the Cardinals scored 41. The Packers then lost the final 2 games of 1949 by a combined 51-7 score, but they survived the storm and remained solvent.

1949ljgirard  1948lsheath

1949lassts2  1949lassts1

1949ltfritsch  1949ljkirby

1949llcraig2  1949lbkelly3

1948lbforte  1949lwschlinkman

1948lnluhn  1949lrearhart

Custom cards in Leaf style are all colorized.


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