Packers Top Rookie: 1944

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For his final championship run of 1944, Curly Lambeau took on six rookies. The only one drafted was Texas tailback Roy McKay who was a fifth round pick the year before in the 1943 draft. McKay was known mostly for his punting during his three seasons in Green Bay. Of the 30 Packer draft picks in 1944, only the top pick, Michigan lineman Merv Pregulman, ever played in Green Bay.

The five free agents were Georgetown end Bob Kercher who appeared in just two games, Marquette halfback Dick Bilda who appeared in just three, Iowa guard Chuck Tollefson who appeared in 18 games over three seasons, Wisconsin-Platteville fullback Don Perkins and Florida halfback Paul Duhart.

Perkins finished second on the team in rushing with 207 yards and intercepted two passes on defense. He was released after seven games in 1945 and picked up by the Bears. A year later, he pulled off the rare feat of winning a championship with each of the NFL’s oldest rivals.

Duhart, a Canadian, left Florida in 1942 to join the military but was discharged in 1943. The NFL allowed him to sign with the Packers because Florida had disbanded for the War. As a rookie Packer, he gained 183 yards rushing and caught nine passes good for 176 more yards, scoring two touchdowns rushing and two receiving, as well as intercepting four passes on defense; Paul Duhart was the Packers’ top rookie in 1944.

The postscript is that the NFL then made Duhart eligible for the draft since his class had graduated. He was selected by the Steelers with the second overall pick and then sold to the Boston Yanks after just two games. He appeared in just three games for Boston before injuries ended his career.

1944pduhart2  1944dperkins2

1944rmckayc  1944ctollefson2

All custom cards are colorized.

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Dick the Bruiser

Today would have been the 88th birthday for William Frederick “Dick” Afflis, who played guard, tackle, and defensive line in his four years with Green Bay and wore a higher uniform number each year.  He was a credible performer, but will never be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. However, he was selected for the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2005 based on his 35-year career within the scripted ring as “Dick the Bruiser.”

Dick wasn’t the greatest lineman the Packers had, but he was one of the most interesting characters.  In college he moved around a lot. He left Purdue after punching one of the coaches and departed Miami after being caught making book. He lasted only two weeks at Notre Dame and also passed through Alabama before landing in the desert at Nevada-Reno. He was drafted in the 16th round by the Packers and was most noteworthy for his strength.  He was an early proponent of body building and looked odd in his football uniform with his 52-inch barrel chest and 30-inch wasp waist.

Afflis was not someone to make angry.  In the early 1950s many Packer fans would take the train to Chicago and back for the Bears game, and sometimes they would run into players in the dining car.  Once a fan got in Afflis’ face about the game on the trip home, and Dick broke off a beer bottle on the bar and invited the fan to do something about it.  The sight of an angry Dick the Bruiser holding a broken beer bottle was enough to quell the disturbance.

He made an impression when he arrived in Green Bay for his first training camp in 1951 fresh from working as a bouncer in Las Vegas.  He was packing two .45s in shoulder holsters and asked to check them at the Northland Hotel front desk.  Another time, Hawg Hanner attempted to instigate some trouble when he told Afflis that fellow lineman Jerry Helluin considered himself stronger than Dick.  Dick went and found Helluin and they engaged in a series of feats of strength smashing beer cans with their hands and so forth until Afflis smashed a beer can on his face causing the blood to run down his contorted visage.  At that, Helluin grasped that discretion truly is the better part of valor and said simply, “You win.”  Dick was a good man to have on your side, though.  The Packers’ first black player Bob Mann once hailed a cab in Baltimore, but the driver would not let him in the car.  Dick took matters in his own large hands by opening the passenger door and dragging the driver out on to the sidewalk.  At that point, the cabbie decided to cease his discriminatory business practices, and Mann got his ride.

Afflis left the game after the 1954 season to go into professional wrestling from which he made a lucrative income for 35 years.  Reminiscent of his altercation with Jerry Helluin, Dick’s trademark was blood streaming down his face from a hidden patch on his head, and his billing was the “World’s Most Dangerous Wrestler.”  He was obviously a difficult man to get along with and was married four times. One time in the ring, he slugged the referee and that earned him a suspension. Another time he went to the Indiana restaurant of his rival Cowboy Bob Ellis and turned over tables and broke windows.

He continued to cross paths with football from time to time.  He and his newest bride were sitting on the Packers bench for a Bears game in Wrigley Field one year.  When a Packer broke off a long return, Dick’s wife got so excited that she followed the player into the end zone.  A fight ensued with Wrigley ushers about this, and both Dick and his wife were thrown out of the park.

During Alex Karras’ gambling suspension in 1963, the banished Lion did some wrestling and arranged for a bout with Dick.  The week before the match Afflis showed up at Karras’ tavern as a staged publicity stunt to hype the fight, but the faux trash-talking session turned serious as Afflis lost his temper and police were called.  Afflis was found swinging a pool cue, and it took eight policemen to subdue him, dragging Dick out with hands and feet bound.  One policeman’s wrist was broken in the scuffle, and Dick took a thumb to the eye. The match itself was held at the Olympia in Detroit.  At first it went according to script, and Karras even managed to hit Afflis’ patch causing the fake blood to flow.  Once again, for whatever reason, the script was abandoned, and Afflis grasped Karras around the Adam’s apple and pinned him to the mat. Afflis’ comment on all this was that, “Football players should leave wrestling to wrestlers and go back to their betting.”

Dick spoke in a distinctive gravelly voice that was caused by a football injury to his larnyx.  During his wrestling career, he broke both ankles, several ribs, and his nose on his way to being called the most disliked and feared man of the profession. For what it’s worth, he won the 1966 American Wrestling Association title and was a five-time tag-team champion with Reggie “The Crusher” Lesowski. In his second career, he was among the wealthiest of wrestlers and also had a construction business and an Indianapolis tavern called the Harem Athletic Club. He died at the age of 62, lifting weights in his Florida home when a blood vessel in his esophagus burst which caused extensive internal bleeding.  He lived a full and contentious life.

1951bdafflis  1953bdafflis3

1954bdafflis4  1954bjhelluin

Custom cards all colorized.

Packer Bulletin 10/4/31

Oct 4, 1931 - I

From 1928-31, the Packers printed up weekly one-sheet promotions called the Packer Bulletin. On the front were newsletter articles and short items, while the back featured the game announcement and often the lineups as well.

The Bulletin dated October 4, 1931 advertised the upcoming October 11 match with the Chicago Cardinals. An interview with Cardinals’ Coach Leroy Andrews held after the Packers-Bears game of September 27 in which Green Bay switched from a seven- to a six-man line on defense quotes him saying: “The Packers’ defense got most of my attention. I’ll be at Green Bay next Sunday because I’m curious to learn if it will work as well against the New York Giants, who have a different offense than that the Bears showed.” He added, “Mark what I tell you. I predict their defense will not get by against other Packer foes – and certainly not against us.”

The Giants came to town and lost to the Packers 27-7 on October 4, however, it is not known whether Andrews was in the house. On October 5, he was back home in Kansas City, having been fired by the Cardinals. When the Cardinals played the Packers on October 11 under new Coach Ernie Nevers, it was just their second game of the season despite being Green Bay’s fifth.

The Packers beat the Cardinal 26-7 on the strength of three touchdowns by Johnny Blood, two on pass receptions from Red Dunn and one on a 35-yard interception return. Blood scored a league-leading 14 touchdowns in 1931. The Packers won their third straight title with a 12-2 record, while the Cardinals finished fourth in the league with a 5-4 record, having played five fewer games than the champs. Andrews, formerly the coach in Kansas City, Cleveland, Detroit and New York, never coached in the NFL again.

1931jblood  1931rdunn

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Oct 4, 1931 - II

Packers Top Rookie: 1943

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Of the 30 players the Packers selected in the 1943 NFL draft only one would play for Green Bay that season, Benedictine tail back Irv Comp. Eight other draftees would join the team later in the decade, with top pick Dick Wildung and 11th rounder Bob Forte the best of the class.

Another of the four Packer rookies in 1943 came from the draft as well, St. Mary’s fullback Tony Falkensein, but he was originally drafted in the 12th round of the 1938 draft. He appeared in 10 games for the 1943 Packers and then split the 1944 season between the Brooklyn Dodgers and Boston Yanks.

Two rookie undrafted free agent guards also were rookies this season: Sherwood Fries from Colorado State and Glen Sorenson from Utah State. Fries lasted just one year, while Sorenson stuck with the team through 1945.

Comp, who would play in Green Bay for six seasons, completed half of his passes for 662 yards, seven touchdowns and four interceptions. On defense, he was second in the league with 10 interceptions; Irv Comp was the Packers’ top rookie for 1943.

1943tfalkenstein  1943gsorensonsfries

Custom cards are colorized.

Game Notes: Packers vs Bears 11/15/42

Packer-Bear games were always meaningful prior to World War II, but by the early 1940s, the Bears’ juggernaut was in a class by itself. The Bears were the only team the Packers would lose to in 1942, but they did so twice, against two opposing coaches. George Halas left the Bears for the military after game five and left his offensive coach, Luke Johnsos, and his defensive coach, Hunk Anderson, in charge. On opening day in Green Bay, a couple of fourth quarter turnovers turned a close game into a rout. Seven weeks later, Green Bay traveled to Wrigley Field with a 6-1 record to meet the 7-0 Bears, but the Bear defense again put the game out of reach…this time earlier.

Fullback Chuck Sample fumbled on the game’s fourth play right into the arms of Bulldog Turner who raced 42 yards for a 7-0 lead. When the Bears got the ball on offense, Harry Clarke burst up the middle untouched for a 40-yard touchdown that was nullified by a penalty. Soon after, Sid Luckman threw a pass into the end zone that the Packers picked off. Baby Ray also had a nice sack in the first quarter.

In the second quarter, Green Bay drove to the Bears’ Red Zone, but turned the ball over on downs. The next time the Packers got the ball at midfield, Sid Luckman intercepted a pass by Cecil Isbell and returned it 54 yards for a touchdown. 14-0. Before the half, Green Bay again turned the ball over on downs, but this time at their own 30. Charlie O’Rourke came in for Luckman and threw a long pass to Bob Nowaskey, and then John Petty ran it in from the two. 21-0 at the half.

In the third quarter, the Bears scored on a field goal and then blocked a punt. However, a Luckman touchdown pass was brought back due to penalty and then Sid was picked off by Don Hutson in the end zone. The Bears extended their lead to 31-0 late in the third quarter on a 29-yard O’Rourke pass to future Packer coach Scooter McLean.

In the final quarter, Green Bay launched a long drive in which Don Hutson caught four passes including a seven-yard scoring toss from Cecil Isbell. The Bears then started to expand their playbook. From their 35, Chicago lined up with one end spread wide, one back in the slot and Scooter McLean in motion to the left. Although it looked like Green Bay was offside, the play continued. Harry Jacunski moved laterally to pick up McLean, but perhaps he stopped because of the apparent penalty. When next the camera picks up McLean, he is catching the ball 30 yards downfield with no one else in the frame, and it’s an easy 65-yard touchdown. 38-7.

Before the end of the game, the Bears try two gimmick plays. On the first, each side of the line shifts very wide away from the center. The center then laterals the ball to halfback Harry Clarke who in turn laterals back to Sid Luckman who passes to McLean 20 yards down the field. On the final play of the game, the Bears use the same alignment, but this time, the center raises up and laterals to McLean who laterals to Luckman who throws short to Connie Berry for no gain.

On defense, the Bears were very active before the snap, jumping around and causing confusion. Several times they aligned in a 3-4 scheme, and Green Bay had no answer for Hunk Anderson’s clever strategies.

Hutson, playing with a sore foot, caught 10 passes for 117 yards and intercepted two passes. Of the 54 offensive plays he was in, Don lined up wide 33 times, mostly at left end, but sometimes on the right. In the 10 other Packer offensive plays, an end lined up wide just twice. On occasion, Andy Uram lined up as a flanker.

In 1942, the Bears went undefeated and led the league in scoring with 34.2 per game and in defense by allowing just 7.6 per game. They outscored opponents by 4 touchdowns per game, but lost the title game to the Redskins 14-6. The Packers finished second to the Bears in the West and in scoring (27.3 points per game). The Packer defense, though, dropped to eighth, giving up 19.5 points per game.

1942cisbell2  1942dhutson

Custom cards are colorized.

Game Notes: Green Bay vs. Detroit 10/25/42

The 3-1 Packers traveled to Detroit to face the 0-5 Lions in Briggs Stadium. After dropping their first three games by a combined 55-7 score, the Lions fired Coach Bill Edwards and replaced him with his assistant, Bull Karcis. Things did not improve. In fact, Detroit lost all 11 games that season. Their passers combined to throw just touchdown pass all year, while tossing 33 interceptions, and it was turnovers that fueled the Packer victory on this day when the Lions actually outgained Green Bay, particularly on the ground.

Green Bay received the kickoff, but the first two drives for each team ended in punts. Finally, the Packers put together a drive consisting of a couple runs by Lou Brock, a button hook pass from Cecil Isbell to Don Hutson, a 10-yard keeper by Isbell and a 35-yard gain on Isbell hitting Hutson on a crossing pattern down to the Lions’ 11. Two more runs by Brock put the ball on the four. After an incomplete pass to Hutson, Isbell hit Joe Carter for the score on fourth down with five minutes to go in the first quarter.

At the end of the quarter, the Packers recovered a Lions fumble at the 35 and began the second quarter with a 21-yard gain on a pass from Isbell to Ted Fritsch in the flat. Chuck Sample put the Packers ahead 14-0 with a 1-yard plunge. Later in the period, the Lions drove to the Packer five, but Ted Fritsch at linebacker batted a Detroit pass in the air and picked it off.  Green Bay immediately punted on first down to the 47. The next Lions’ pass was picked off by Hutson at the 20 and returned to the 36. After still another punt by Green Bay, Lou Brock picked off next Lions pass, but the Packers could not score before halftime.

In the second half, the Packers did not attempt a single pass. They scored a third touchdown in the third quarter after Buckets Goldenberg recovered a Lions’ fumble at the Detroit 35 and returned it to the 10. From there, Lou Brock scored on a run up the middle. 21-0.

In the fourth quarter, the Lions finally completed a long touchdown drive to close the margin to 21-7, but on the ensuing kickoff, Andy Uram went right up the center of the field 98 yards for the final touchdown of the game.

Isbell completed seven of 16 passes and Tony Canadeo one of two. Don Hutson caught four passes for 70 yards. On 30 offensive snaps, Hutson lined up wide 17 times and flexed about four yards seven times. On the 21 offensive snaps without Hutson, only once did a Packer end line up wide and only five times flexed.

1942auram  1942bgoldenberg

1942lbrock  1942jcarter

Custom cards are colorized.

Packers Top Rookie: 1942

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The 1942 NFL draft was held 15 days after Pearl Harbor so it is of no surprise that only one of the Packers’ picks that year played for the team that season. Michigan center Bob Ingalls, an 18th round pick, started six of ten games and then never played in the NFL again. Ripon tackle Tiny Croft was chosen in the 20th round by Washington and cut. Picked up by the Packers, he spent six seasons in Green Bay. The Packers top two draft picks, Urban Odson and Ray Frankowski, would join the team after the war, as would 13th round pick Bruce Smith, the Heisman Trophy winner for 1941.

Of the nine undrafted free agents, USC end John Stonebreaker, Minnesota guard Fred Vant Hull, Minnesota end Earl Ohlgren and Pittsburgh end Tex Hinte never again played in the league after 1942. Fordham tackle Paul Berezney and Nebraska halfback Bob Kahler each stayed with the Packers through 1944. Toledo fullback Chuck Sample finished second on the team in rushing in 1942 and scored five touchdowns, but only returned for one game in 1945.

Meanwhile, Texas Tech center Bob Flowers played for Green Bay from 1942-49 as a steady second center behind Charley Brock for most of that time. The big find, though, was fullback Ted Fritsch of Stevens Point. Fritsch played for the team for nine years and led the Packers in rushing with 323 yards as a rookie. He also made four of five field goals and one extra point; Ted Fritsch was the Packers’ top rookie in 1942.

1942bingalls  1942tcroft

1942csample  1942hhinte

1942tfritsch  1942uodson

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