Eddie Lee Ivery

Eddie Lee Ivery, who turns 60 today, could have been a great running back, if only… At 6’ and 210 pounds, Ivery had all the pure talent a running back can have. He ran for over 3,500 yards at Georgia Tech, including a high of 356 one game against Air Force and was the 15th overall pick of the 1979 draft. At the time, Coach Bart Starr described his top pick with excited anticipation, “He’s a slasher. He can break tackles. He can catch the ball. He can run back punts and kickoffs.” Offensive line coach Bill Curry added, “Eddie Lee has the same kind of speed as [Chuck] Foreman, and he might be a better blocker. He has the ability to come out of the backfield and catch the ball. He can run by and over tacklers.”

To sum up, Ivery had size, speed, power, elusiveness, quickness, vision and hands. He was the complete package, but on his third carry in his first NFL game, he tore his ACL against the Bears at Soldier Field and missed the rest of his rookie season. He rehabbed his left knee and returned in 1980 to have a very effective season, leading the team with 831 yards rushing and also catching 50 passes. Unfortunately, he was unable to build on that comeback because he tore up the same knee at the same place in the opener of the 1981 season.

Ivery came back again, but never would be the back he could have been. Not only were there his physical limitations, but he took up cocaine in 1983 so that he had problems both on and off the field from then on. Ivery did manage to have good years rushing in 1984 and 1985, averaging 5.6 and 4.8 yards per carry, and remained a good pass receiver, but he was damaged goods and retired after the 1986 season. He wouldn’t overcome his alcohol and cocaine addiction problems for another 15 years, but eventually turned his life around in the new millennium.

(Adapted from Green Bay Gold)

1979teivery  1981telivery

1982telivery  1986teivery

Some custom cards of Eddie Lee Ivery.

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Tiny

The Lambeau Era Packers had three linemen known as Tiny: Cahoon in the 1920s, Croft in the 1940s and today’s birthday boy, Engebretsen, in the 1930s. The circumstances that brought Paul Engebretsen to Green Bay were circuitous indeed.  He was a year behind Hank Bruder at Northwestern, but would not join him on the Packers for three years.  In 1932, Tiny was signed by George Halas to play for the local pro team, the Bears and helped beat the Packers 9-0 in December by kicking a fourth quarter 14-yard field goal in the snow.  He spent the entire season with Chicago as they won the championship in the first-ever NFL playoff against the Portsmouth Spartans also by a 9-0 score.

Meanwhile in Green Bay, Curly Lambeau sent veteran end Tom Nash to the football Braves for rookie USC halfback Ernie Pinkert in April 1933. However, Nash refused to report in September, so the trade was nullified. Milt Gantenbein moved into the starting lineup in Nash’s place and Tom did not appear in any preseason or regular season games for the Packers. Four weeks later on October 11, Nash was acquired by the football Dodgers. The AP reported that the packers sold Nash for $1,500 dollars, but the Green Bay Press Gazette quoted Lambeau as saying that it was a loan and no money was involved.

In 1933, Nash played for Brooklyn, and Tiny Engebretsen moved from the Bears to Pittsburgh where he played nine games and then came back to Chicago where he played two games for the crosstown Cardinals.  In 1934, he traveled on again, this time to Brooklyn where Tom Nash was playing the last three games of his career.  All this rambling was mirrored in Engebretsen’s off season activity at the time, prospecting for gold out West.  On October 30, 1934, Curly Lambeau obtained the rights to Engebretsen, and it was reported that the Packers relinquished all claims to the services of Nash. So Tiny was the player to be named later from 1933, although that does not preclude the possibility that Green Bay did get the $1,500 as well. Engebretsen joined the Packers after playing five games with Brooklyn in 1934 and roomed with his old pal Bruder.  He would remain in Green Bay until his career ended in 1941.

In Green Bay, the 6’1″ 240 pound Engebretsen became a solid starting guard and part of the placekicking committee that the Packers employed.  In that era, teams did not carry a separate placekicker; the job was done as a supplement to a player’s regular duties.  Due to injuries, inconsistencies, and varying skill levels, it made sense to use more than one kicker at a time.  Each year the mix for the Packers was a little different.  In 1934, the duties were split between backs, Bobby Monnett, Clarke Hinkle, and Hank Bruder.  During 1935 and 1936, Ernie Smith handled most of the extra point tries, while Hinkle and Ade Schwammel attempted field goals in the former year and Smith and Engebretsen tried them in the latter.  By 1937, Tiny was helping Smith with the points after touchdown as well as trying his share of field goals.  For the remainder of his time in Green Bay, Tiny was the primary extra point man and tried his share of field goals as well.

Although amongst the 300-pound linemen of today his nickname would be meant literally, it was said with irony at the time.  Tiny was a big man for the 1930s.  In the New York Times preview of the 1938 championship game against the New York Giants, much fanfare was given to the advantage of the larger Green Bay line — bigger by an average of 10 pounds per man.  One reason the Packers were favored was that they had four behemoth tackles around 250 pounds each, together weighing “almost half a ton.” The packers lost that game, though, despite Engebretsen contributing five points with a field goal and two extra points.

As to Engebretsen, he would return to help the Packers win another title in 1939 when he would once again score five points with a field goal and two extra points as the Packers main kicker. As a Packer, he kicked 43 extra points and 14 field goals in the regular season for a total of 85 points to add to his 10 postseason points. He would spend just one more full year in Green Bay, leaving after one game in 1941 to spend most of the year coaching the Buffalo Tigers in an early version of the American Football League.  Despite the presence of his old Packer teammate 38-year-old Johnny Blood, the team finished 2-6. He eventually returned to his native Iowa and ran a farm until his death in 1979. Tiny was elected to the Packer Hall of Fame in 1978.

(Updated from Packers By the Numbers.)

1934tengebretsen  1935tengebretsen

1938tengebretsen2  1940pengebretsen

Custom cards all colorized.

Packers Top Rookie: 1948

Rookies1948jrhodemyer

All eight rookies who played for the 1948 Packers were draft picks, although SMU center Lloyd Baxter was a 24th round pick from 1945. From the 1948 draft, Wisconsin jack-of-all-trades Jug Girard came in round one, Texas El Paso halfback Ed Smith came in round three, Minnesota guard Larry Olsonoski came in round six, Kentucky center Jay Rhodemyre came in round seven, Illinois quarterback Perry Moss came in round 13, Washington halfback Fred Provo came in round 14 and Texas Tech halfback Ralph Earhart came in round 32.

Baxter, Moss and Provo all were out of the league by 1949; Smith, Olsonoski and Earhart each lasted two years. The only positive impact from these six was that Provo averaged 11.6 yards per punt return and Earhart averaged 12.5 in 1948.

Girard and Rhodemyre each played four years in Green Bay. Although Girard would go on to become a useful role player for the championship Detroit Lions under Buddy Parker for five years in the 1950s and finish his 10-year career under Parker in Pittsburgh in 1957, as a rookie in Green Bay he was a bust with 26 yards rushing and a 4 of 14 passing mark. The undersized 210-pound Rhodemyre moved into the starting lineup as a rookie and earned second team All-Pro notice in 1951; Jay Rhodemyre was the Packers’ top rookie in 1948.

1948bjgirard  1948bjgirard2

Two of Jug Girard.

1948brearhart2  1948bfprovo2

Earhart and Provo

1948bpmoss  1948blbaxter

Moss and Baxter.

All custom cards are colorized.

Game Notes: Packers vs. Detroit Lions 10/1/1944

The 2-0 Packers hosted the 0-0 Lions at the State Fairgrounds in Milwaukee on October 1, 1944. Led by tailback Frankie Sinkwich and center Alex Wojciechowicz, the Lions would have a successful 6-3-1 season, but not on their opening day. The Lions ran their own version of a shift offense, continually coming out in a T with Sinkwich under center before shifting to the single wing. Middle screens were part of their game plan this day, and the Lions moved easily at the start. After intercepting a Packer pass that went right through the hands of Don Hutson, a 34-yard toss from Sinkwich to end Dave Diehl took them to the Packer five, and a Sinkwich toss to halfback Bob Westfall earned Detroit an early six-point lead a play later. Pete Tinsley blocked the extra point. At the end of the quarter, the Lions were on the Green Bay one.

Opening the second quarter with fourth and goal, the Lions went for the touchdown, but Don Hutson broke through to nab Sinkwich at the five and Charley Brock helped bring him to the ground. From that point on it was the Packers’ game. After an exchange of punts, the Packers scored in the second quarter on a Lou Brock touchdown pass to Paul Duhart. Joe Laws intercepted another Lions pass, but another pass bobbled by Hutson was picked off by the Lions. In fact, Hutson, would drop a third pass before the end of the half but the Packers maintained a 7-6 lead.

A long drive in the third quarter was culminated by an 11-yard gallop up the middle by Ted Fritsch and a 14-6 lead. Later in the quarter, Larry Craig picked off another Lion pass and returned it 20 yards to the Detroit 13. Three plays later, Irv Comp hit Hutson for a three-yard touchdown and a 20-6 lead (Hutson’s PAT was blocked.)

The Packers added a fourth touchdown in the final quarter on an 11-yard pass from Lou Brock to Irv Comp following a long drive to make the final score 27-6 Green Bay.

Several plays were missing from the film, but I saw Hutson line up 49 times on offense, and he was flexed or split wide on 27 of them. On the eight plays without Hutson on the field, only twice was a Packer end split away from the line. There were also two plays when Hutson lined up tight, but Harry Jacunski, the other end, was split wide, and halfback Joe Laws was spread as a flanker.

1944pduhart2  1944ptinsleyc

1944dhutsonc  1944hjacunskic

1944cbrockc  1944lcraigc

All custom cards are colorized.

Dave Hathcock Turns 74

It’s likely that Dave Hathcock was the unlikeliest member of the 1966 Green Bay Packers. One would not expect someone who never played on a winning team in high school or college, only played college football in his senior year, switched from offense to defense midway through that year, and was drafted in the 17th round of the NFL draft to make the cut of the defending world champions, but Hathcock did. And he earned a Super Bowl ring in doing so.

David Gary Hathcock was born on July 20, 1943 in Memphis, Tennessee.  In high school, Hathcock won state championships in the high hurdles and the decathlon and won a full scholarship to his hometown Memphis State University in 1961. He starred at track there for four years, while thinking about training to try out for the 1968 Olympics in the decathlon. Still needing one class to graduate and having used up his track eligibility in 1965, Dave wrangled a one-year football scholarship. By game four, Dave was the team’s starting “Monster Man” (a hybrid safety/linebacker) at six-foot 195-pounds, and Memphis went on a five-game winning streak. Still, in November when he got a telegram from the Packers saying they had drafted him in the 17th round, he thought it was a joke.

With veteran defensive back Hank Gremminger having been traded in late June, Hathcock took advantage of the open slot and made the team. His primary duty was on kick coverage and return teams. The only game in which Dave got to play much on defense was week seven against the expansion Falcons. Green Bay beat Atlanta 56-3 that day, and Hathcock played about half the game at safety. That week, the Milwaukee Journal noted, “Hathcock has impressed the coaches with his quickness and hitting power.”

As part of the 1966 Packers, Hathcock earned an additional $15,000 by being on the winning team in Super Bowl I against the Kansas City Chiefs. Dave made a couple of tackles on returns in that game, but it also signaled the end of his time in Green Bay. Covering a punt in the closing minutes of the game, he was hit in the knee and suffered cartilage damage. Still not fully recovered, he reported to training camp in 1967 but was beaten out for the sixth defensive back slot by third round draft pick John Rowser.  On September 11, 1967, a week before the start of the season, Hathcock was traded to the Giants for a 10th round draft pick.

Hathcock led the Giants in kickoff returns in 1967, but played less than half the season. In week six, ironically against the Packers, Dave aggravated his bad knee on the opening kickoff and never played in the NFL again. Dave spent 36 years teaching drafting and woodworking in a number of primarily black Tennessee high schools, while also coaching several state track champions and serving as an assistant football coach.

1966pdhathcock4  1967pdhathcart

Hathcock custom cards in 1966 and 1967 Philadelphia style.

Packers Top Rookie: 1947

Rookies1947bskoglund

The closing years of the Curly Lambeau Era were all marked by weak rookie classes. None of the six rookies to stick with the Packers in 1947 had an impact on the field. Purdue fullback Ed Cody was a fifth round pick from the 1946 draft and finished fourth on the team in rushing. The team’s top two picks in the 1947 draft – the UCLA passing combination of Ernie Case and Burr Baldwin – both signed with the All-America Football Conference instead. SMU end Gene Wilson came in round six and caught three passes; Miami fullback Bob McDougal came in round nine and appeared in one game; Notre Dame end Bob Skoglund came in round 13 appeared in nine games, mostly on defense. Two free agent guards also signed: Wisconsin’s Ralph Davis and St. Mary’s Ray Clemons.

McDougal and Clemons did not last beyond 1947. Cody, Wilson and Davis all spent two seasons in Green Bay. Bob Skoglund showed the most promise of the group and was on the roster in 1948 but injured his knee in the final exhibition game against the Redskins. 10 weeks later after rehab had not worked, he travelled to Pittsburgh to have the knee operated on by a surgeon who had worked on other Notre Dame players. Four weeks later in mid-December, he was home in Chicago and moving around. On New Year’s Eve, though, he returned to the hospital and died 14 hours later of a kidney infection.

Skoglund was just 23. Art Daley wrote in the Green Bay Press-Gazette that the end’s best game came November 9, 1947 against the Bears when Bob upended a Bear kick returner so fiercely that he fumbled and the Packers recovered, leading to a field goal. Later in the game, he broke through from his defensive end position to intercept a pitchout from Sid Luckman to George McAfee on the Bears’ three-yard line. Daley concluded, “That one game stamped Skoglund as a future Packer star – one who would play a key defensive role.” Bob Skoglund, rest in peace, was the Packers top rookie in 1947.

1947bskoglund  1947gwilson

1947ecody  1947rmcdougal

1947rdavis  1947rclemons

Custom cards all colorized.

Head Exploding

OK, as the headline indicates, I think my head is exploding. With the death of Babe Parilli two days ago, most media outlets have run his obituary. Unfortunately, the New York Times — which recently was in the news for its mass layoffs of its fact-checkers — and CBS Sports evidently relied on the incorrect Wikipedia article on the Babe by noting that he spent three years in two stints playing for the Ottawa Rough Riders — from 1954-55 after leaving the Packers the first time and 1959 after leaving them the second time..

Parilli did catch on with Ottawa in 1959 after being cut by rookie Packers’ Coach Vince Lombardi. However, in 1954, Parilli was inducted into the U.S. Air Force. With the Packers’ needing a backup quarterback, they traded the unavailable Parilli to the Browns for the available-but-unable Bobby Garrett. After two years in the USAF, Parilli spent one season with the Browns before being traded back to Green Bay.

Canadian Football historical stats are online at: https://stats.cfldb.ca/

Tod Maher and Bob Gill have also published a few editions of The Canadian Pro Football Encyclopedia for those who like print sources.

Instead, the NYT and CBS went with alternative facts, to use the phrase of the day.

RIP Babe.

1952bbparilli1953bbparilli

1956tbparilli  1957tbparilli2

1958tbparilli  1959CFLBPARILLI

Most of these custom cards of Parilli are colorized.