Trafton’s Touch

A Detroit News piece by the above title published November 21, 1945 recalls a colorful Bears Hall of Fame center, George Trafton. Trafton was famous in Green Bay for his tough guy duels with Packer center Jug Earp in the 1920s, but also made a name for himself for the occasional celebrity boxing match. He famously defeated Chicago White Sox first baseman Art Shires in one bout in December 1929, but was knocked out in just 54 seconds by future heavyweight champion Primo Carnera three months later in Kansas City.

Trafton retired from football in 1932 to run a Chicago gym and manage some boxers. A dozen years later, he ran into Packers’ coach Curly Lambeau and told him his linemen lacked toughness. Curly hired Trafton to replace Red Smith as the team’s line coach on June 11, 1944, and Trafton reported to training camp on August 20th when the Packers started drills.

With all the same linemen except for Mike Buchianeri replacing Chet Adams, Trafton elicited improvement. Under Smith in 1943, the Packers gained 3.6 yards per rush, fourth in the league, and allowed 3.2 yards per rush, also fourth. Under Trafton in 1944, they improved to 3.8 yards per rush, second in the NFL, and remained at 3.2 allowed, still fourth.

The Packers won the title in 1944, but two months later, Trafton was released. Apparently, he and Curly had their differences. Walt Kiesling was brought in to coach the line in 1945, and the yards per rush offensively and defensively evened out to 3.5, with the team rankings dropping to fifth on offense and sixth on defense.

Green Bay dropped to second in the conference that year to the Rams, led by rookie quarterback Bob Waterfield, who was protected by a line coached by George Trafton. That Rams line improved from sixth in rush average to first on offense and from ninth to third on defense. George remained the Rams line coach for five years, spent one year in the Los Angeles front office and then became the head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers with former Packer quarterback Jack Jacobs calling signals. Trafton’s record as head coach for three seasons was 28-17-1, with Winnipeg reaching the Grey Cup finals in 1953. At that point, he retired from coaching and returned to Los Angeles to work in real estate.

1944TEAMcard  1944clambeauc

Custom cards are colorized.

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