Packers by the Numbers Update: #53

Fullback Herdis McCrary was the first Packer to wear 53 in 1933. He was followed by tackle Ade Schwammel (1934), tackle Lou Gordon (1936), center Bud Svendsen (1939), end Dick Evans (1940), center Bob Ingalls (1942 and fullback Don Perkins (1944) in the Lambeau era.

In the modern era, 53 has been worn by two centers and 17 linebackers.

C: Dave Stephenson (1953-55) and Ken Iman (1960-63)

LB: George Timberlake (1955), Sam Palumbo (1957), Fred Carr (1968-77), Frank Chesley (1978), Mike Douglass (1979-85), Bobby Leopold (1986), Miles Turpin (1986), Aric Anderson (1987r), John Corker (1988), George Koonce (1992-99), Mike Morton (2000), Andre O’Neal (2001), Paris Lenon (2002-05), Spencer Havner (2008), Maurice Simpkins (2010), Diyral Briggs (2010) and Nick Perry (2012-18).

The longest gaps when no Packer wore the number were from 1945-52 and 1964-67. Fred Carr and Mad Dog Douglass were the best Packers to don it. They and Bud Svendsen are all members of the Packer Hall of Fame. Carr wore it longest at 10 years, but Douglass and Nick Perry wore it for seven and George Koonce for eight.

1933hmccrary  1936lgordon

1944dperkins2  1953bdstephenson2

1961fkiman2  1977tfcarr2

1983tmdouglass  1998gkoonce

2010msimpkins2  2010dbriggs

First four custom cards are colorized.

Jab Murray

On this day in 1892, Richard “Jab” Murray was born in Oconto, Wisconsin. Murray grew up in Marinette and attended high school there where he played football, basketball and baseball. In baseball, he primarily was a pitcher and spent several years playing semipro ball in the area.

Murray attended Marquette University and the 220 pounder starred as a tackle on the gridiron from 1917-19, with a detour into the Army in 1918. Jab was stationed at Camp Hancock in Georgia and played Army football. After graduating from Marquette law school, he was admitted to the bar in 1920.

Jab joined the Packers in their first year in the NFL in 1921 and appeared in 22 games with Green Bay from 1921-24. He also played eight games for Racine in 1922. Murray is mentioned in the Green Bay Press-Gazette on October 18 as gearing up for the Sunday match with Milwaukee. The next mention of him in that paper comes on October 21 when he is noted as “formerly with the Green Bay Packers” but now with Racine. No explanation is given of the change, but Jab returned to Green Bay in 1923.

In 1925, the 33-year-old Murray retired from football and was hired as the city attorney for Marinette. Three years later he was elected mayor for the first of nine two-year terms. He remained a prominent local leader until his death on April 28, 1958 at the age of 65.

1921jmurray  1922jmurray

1923jmurray  1924jmurray

Custom cards all colorized.

1963 Kahn Weiner Cards Colorized

In the 1950s and ‘60s, Cincinnati-based Kahn’s Weiners released a series of baseball, basketball and football cards with their hot dog packages. Their football series ran from 1959-64 and sometimes just featured players from the two closest teams (the Browns and Steelers). The cards were an odd size, used team publicity shots and were black and white each year except for 1964. In 1963 though, Kahn’s produced its largest set, 92 cards, and the set included players from all 14 NFL teams. Twelve of the 92 were Packers.

I have colorized the Packer cards and proportionally resized them so that they are roughly the dimensions of 1948-49 Leaf cards.

1963kbforester  1963kbstarr

1963kdcurrie  1963kfgregg

1963kfthurston  1963kjkramer

1963kjringo  1963kjtaylor

1963krkostelnik  1963krkramer

1963krnitschke  1963kwwood

Custom cards all resized and colorized.

Packers by the Numbers Update: #52

In recent years, 52 has been worn for long stretches by two very popular Packers, but the early history of the number is not so impressive. It was first worn by end Al Rose in 1932, and he was followed by center Art Bultman (1934), Guard Tiny Engebretsen (1936), back Larry Buhler (1939-41), fullback Ken Snelling (1945, guard Bill Kuusisto (1946) and end Bob Skoglund (1947) in the Lambeau era.

In the modern era, 52 has been worn by six linebackers and three centers.

LB: Cleo Walker 1970), Gary Weaver (1975-79), George Cumby (1980-85), Mike Weddington (1986-90), James Melka (1987r) and Clay Matthews (2009-18).

C: Wimpy Winther (1971), John Schmitt (1974) and Frank Winters (1992-2002).

There was a 22 year gap from 1948 through 1969 when no Packer wore 52. Perhaps some of that was due to Skoglund having died from a kidney infection on January 1, 1949. Then there was a six year gap after Frank Winters ended his 11 year tenure in the number before Clay Matthews took it on in 2009. Matthews now has held the number for 10 years. He and Winters are the most prominent Packers to wear it, and Frankie and Tiny Engebretsen are both members of the Packer Hall of Fame.

1932arose  1947bskoglund

1971twwinther2  1974tjschmitt

1976tgweaver  1985tgcumby

1986tmweddington  1994fwinter


Custom cards of Rose, Skoglund, Winther and Weaver are colorized.

Bill Curry Turns 76

The starting center for Packers in the first Super Bowl had a short career in Green Bay, but that brief time left a lifetime of influence on the man. An articulate speaker and the author of two thoughtful memoirs, Bill Curry spent more seasons, 20, as a head coach than any of Lombardi’s former Packers, although his understanding of the famed coach was much more complicated, questioning, and critical than many of his Green Bay teammates. His coaching success, like that of all his former teammates, was limited, with a cumulative coaching record of 93-128-4.

Curry was selected as a future draft pick in 1964 and then played in the 1965 College All Star Game. He was scheduled to report to Green Bay the day after that game. When the airline could not find his reservation, Bill nearly panicked at the thought of being late for his first practice as a Packer, but had the brilliant thought to invoke the threat of Lombardi’s wrath on the man at the North Central Airlines counter in Chicago should it be his fault that a Packer missed practice. With that, the man chartered a Piper Cub plane to get Curry to Green Bay on time.

Once there, Curry had a personal session with the coach in which Lombardi drew up all of the Packers’ plays on a yellow legal pad and succinctly explained them. Later Ken Bowman would add details and help Curry learn the basics of the position and its responsibilities. In August, he told the Milwaukee Sentinel, “I’m just keeping my stuff in the suitcase in case I’m leaving. I don’t want to leave, of course.” He added, “They ought to call it something else besides football. It’s not like football like I played before. It’s so much quicker. You just don’t have time to fiddle around. Everyone moves so fast. And technique is so important here.”

As a rookie, Curry was a backup at both center and linebacker, snapped the ball on punts and field goals, and played on other kicking and coverage units, too. He also won a ring as a member of the 1965 NFL champions. He returned in 1966 as number two on the depth chart at center, but when Bowman separated his shoulder at the end of the preseason, Bill opened the season as starting center. What’s more, he remained the starter even when Bowman recovered. In December, offensive line coach Ray Wietecha told the Milwaukee Journal, “Curry got his chance because Ken Bowman got hurt. He had to learn all the lessons that Bowman learned the year before. Curry made good progress. But it’s tough breaking in. You could notice his improvement between spring training [sic] and up through about the fourth league game. From then on, it depended a lot on who the opposing middle linebacker was, how good a day he had. That’s always the way.”

Bill started in the NFL Championship against the Cowboys and then the very first Super Bowl against the Chiefs. In the Super Bowl, though, he left early in the second half with a leg injury and was replaced by Bowman. It would be his last game as a Packer; 25 days later on February 9, 1967, Vince Lombardi called Curry to tell him that he had been left unprotected in the New Orleans Saints’ expansion draft and the new team had picked him. Less than a month later on March 6, Curry’s fortunes were reversed again when Don Shula called Bill to tell him he was now a Baltimore Colt, having been included in the deal that sent the Saints’ top draft pick and Curry to the Colts for highly regarded backup quarterback Gary Cuozzo, a second round draft pick and guard Butch Allison. The Colts would select defensive end Bubba Smith with that pick and reap a steal by gaining both two future stars for very little.

Bill would spend the next six seasons in Baltimore, going to two Super Bowls and two Pro Bowls as a Colt. In his first year in the “Charm City,” Curry was a reserve linebacker who got to start a couple of games when starter Ron Porter was injured. The Colts tied for the league’s best record that year at 11-1-2, but missed the playoffs on tiebreakers to the Rams. The Rams then lost in the first round of the postseason to the eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers in Lombardi’s victorious swan song. Shifted to center in 1968, Curry won the starting job for the ill-fated 13-1 Colt team that lost to Joe Namath’s Jets in Super Bowl III. Along the way, Bill became the media’s go-to-guy for quotes on his former coach. Before a December Colts-Packers game, Curry told the Washington Post, “There’s a lot of individual encouragement among the players on this team. At Green Bay, there was a fear of humiliation in front of your peers.” And then in the January build up to the Super Bowl, Bill contrasted Don Shula’s “enthusiasm” with Lombardi’s terror to the New York Times, “Most of the Packers were afraid of his scoldings and his sarcasm. It’s a form of motivation that works for some people. But it didn’t work for me.”

Curry’s brilliant second memoir, Ten Men You Meet in a Huddle, has perceptive chapters on what he learned from ten very influential people in his football life, including his high school coach, Bobby Dodd, Bart Starr, Willie Davis, Ray Nitschke, Johnny Unitas, Bubba Smith and writer George Plimpton. Perhaps the most interesting, though, are the chapters on Lombardi and Shula, written with the benefit of 40 years of hindsight in which he tries to give each man his due. His chapter on Shula, subtitled “Teacher,” concludes, ”He did it without the distance and aloofness of Bobby Dodd, or the anger and cruelty of Vince Lombardi. To me, Don Shula was the model of what an NFL coach ought to be. He was the best.”

His chapter on Lombardi, subtitled “General,” retells the final meeting of Curry and Lombardi by the coach’s hospital deathbed in which he apologizes for the tone of his remarks to the Times and admits Lombardi meant a lot to his life. Lombardi’s response was, “You can mean a lot to mine if you will pray for me.” Despite his distaste for Lombardi’s methods, Curry ultimately says, “Coach Lombardi forced me against my will to grow up and be a man. He took me places I simply could not have gone without him. I fought him every step of the way, but he was steadfast and confident that his path was the correct path to victory. He was right.”

He continues as a sought-after public speaker, a man with the unique background to discuss the qualities and distinctions of both Bart Starr and Johnny Unitas, as well as Vince Lombardi and Don Shula with passion, humor, and insight.

(Adapted from my chapter in The 1966 Green Bay Packers.)

1965pbcurry6  1966pbcurry3

Custom cards are colorized.

303 Yards Rushing

On this date in 1953, the Packers rushed for over 300 yards for the fourth and (so far) last time when they gained 303 yards on the ground against the woeful Baltimore Colts. It was not a team record, in that Green Bay rushed for 366 yards against the Lions on October 26, 1947 and 312 yards against the Yanks on October 8, 1950; they also gained 301 yards against the Redskins on December 1, 1946. While the first two on that list included a 100-yard rusher, that was not the case against the Colts or Redskins.

In the Lions game, unheralded Ed Cody gained 111 yards on nine carries to lead the team, while slippery Billy Grimes gained more than half of Green Bay’s total against the Yanks with 167 yards on just 10 carries.

In the 1953 game, the lead rusher was rookie Al Carmichael with 73 and eight other Packers contributed to the 303 in a 37-14 victory:

Al Carmichael 11-73

Howie Ferguson 12-53

Breezy Reid 8-39

John Papit 5-37

Babe Parilli 3-25

Fred Cone 8-23

Tobin Rote 1-21

By Bailey 4-20

Larry Coutre 4-12

1953bacarmichael2  1953bhferguson2

1953bfreid  1953bjpapit

1953bfcone2  1953btrote

1953bbbailey2  1953blcoutre


All custom Cards colorized.

Jim Taylor, Rest in Peace

A few days back, the most indestructible Packer, Jim Taylor, passed away at age 83. On the field, he was respected by teammate and opponent alike.  In his autobiography, Ray Nitschke said of him, “Taylor was in a class by himself.  In 15 years with the pros, he’s one of the toughest men I ever played against–and we were on the same team.  He’d hurt you when you’d tackle him.  He was as hard as a piece of granite.  He had such strong legs.” Colts guard Jim Parker, Colts tight end John Mackey, and Cowboy tackle Bob Lilly all rated him among the top ten players they ever saw.  Sam Huff and Merlin Olsen both ranked him the second toughest player they ever played against. Ever-tactful Norm Van Brocklin put it crudely, but succinctly, “Taylor is tougher than Japanese arithmetic.”

When he finished his career with 8,597 yards rushing–all but 390 attained in his nine years in Green Bay, he was third all-time in the NFL behind Jim Brown and Joe Perry (counting Perry’s AAFC numbers).  He is still second on the Packers behind only Ahman Green.  Jim ran for over a thousand yards five years in a row and was the only man aside from Jim Brown to win a rushing championship during Brown’s illustrious career.  Taylor’s league leading totals of 1,474 rushing yards and 19 TDs in 1962 led to him being awarded the MVP for the year.  He rarely fumbled, became a dependable receiver, and was a capable blocker as well.  It’s no wonder that he was the first of Lombardi’s Packers elected to the Hall of Fame in 1976.

Taylor was intensely competitive and felt a special rivalry with Jim Brown.  In the handful of times they played against each other, Taylor almost always gained more yards and scored more touchdowns.  Of more importance, the Packers won each game.  By consensus, Brown was the greatest running back of all time.  He had size, strength, great speed, and shifty moves.  His special tool was a powerful straight arm that he wielded to push tacklers away.  Taylor, in contrast, was smaller, did not have great speed, and did not rely on shifty moves.  He was extremely strong (he was one of the first players to seriously lift weights), followed his blocks perfectly, and ran over anyone in his way.  Coach George Allen said of his running that, “He ran with his elbows almost as much as his legs.  He’d lower his shoulders and swing his forearm out in front of him and flail away with his elbows and hurt people as he ran through them.” Taylor himself sums up his career simply, “I was just a player.  I enjoyed football. I enjoyed contact.”

Jimmy felt Lombardi was a master motivator, but the coach thought Taylor disloyal when he played out his option and went home to sign with New Orleans in 1967.  Teammate Henry Jordan astutely said of Taylor that, “he liked to give the impression he was a rough, tough country boy and mumbled a lot, but if you got him talking finances he came out bright and clear.” He may have lacked academic aptitude, but Jim turned out to be a very successful businessman after his career ended.

He was the heart of Lombardi’s offense, and Vince always admired his play.  When Lombardi was coaching the Redskins, Sam Huff remembers him playing and replaying film of Taylor’s runs and saying out loud, “Boy, that son of a bitch could run.”

Taylor’s greatest moment was the 1962 title game against Huff and the Giants in Yankee Stadium.  The Packers were 13-1, first in the league in points scored and fewest points allowed; they beat both the Bears and the Eagles 49-0 that year, but the Lions had displayed some chinks in their armor on Thanksgiving beating Green Bay handily 26-14.  The Giants were no slouches either.  They finished 12-2, second in points scored and fourth in points allowed.  In addition, the Giants were fired up about being embarrassed 37-0 in previous year’s title game to Green Bay.

It was bitter cold day with the temperature 20 degrees at game time and winds gusting to 40 mph.  Some players who also played in the Ice Bowl like Ray Nitschke considered the conditions in the 1962 game even tougher.  The ground was icy, hard, sharp and inflicted pain every time someone was tackled.  The wind negated the Giants vaunted passing offense, and this became a game fought in the trenches.  Taylor was the workhorse, carrying the ball 31 times for 85 yards, and the Giants, led by Huff, gang-tackled him each time, often getting in some cheap shots after the play was dead.  Jimmy needed stitches in his elbow, bit his tongue and was spitting blood the whole game.  After the game according to announcer Ray Scott, Taylor’s body was black and blue and yellow and purple, a complete mess.  In the second quarter, he scored a touchdown from the seven-yard line on the only play he wasn’t tackled all game.  At the half the Packers led 10-0, meaning they had played 6 championship quarters against the Giants in 1961-62 and had outscored them 47-0.  The Giants finally got on the board in the third quarter by blocking a Packer punt and falling on the ball in the end zone, but they never did score on the Green Bay defense.  With Jerry Kramer’s 3 of 5 field goal kicking, the final score was 16-7, and the Packers were two-time champs.

Sam Huff was forced to concede that the Packers were “36 tough s.o.b.s.”  Of the 36, Jimmy Taylor was the toughest.

(Adapted from Packers by the Numbers)

1958tjtaylor4  1959tjtaylor2

1960tjtaylor2  1961fjtaylor

1962tjtaylor2  1963tjtaylor

1964pjtaylor  1964tjtaylor2

1965pjtaylor  1966tvjtaylor

1966pjtaylor  53manjtaylor

First custom card is colorized.

An In-Season Exhibition Game

On Saturday, October 14, 1944, both the 4-0 Packers and the 1-0-1 Eagles met in Nashville, Tennessee for a rare in-season exhibition game. Both teams had an open date on Sunday the 15th and agreed to meet in a game sponsored by the Nashville newspaper The Tennessean as a benefit for the 20th Ferrying Group. The Ferrying Group ferried both troops and materiel between air bases.

The game pitted two teams that were not scheduled to meet in the regular season, but who would be serious contenders for the championship game in December. Although the game was homecoming for tackle Baby Ray who went to school at Vanderbilt, the Packers did not put forth a strong commitment in the contest. Ends Don Hutson, Harry Jacunski and center Charley Brock did not start, while guard Buckets Goldenberg and backs Joe Laws, Ted Fritsch and Irv Comp did not play at all. Instead, ends Bob Karcher and Ray Wehba and backs Paul Duhart and Don Perkins saw extended action

The Eagles broke out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, extended that to 24-7 at the half and rolled to a 38-13 victory before catching a late train to Chicago to scout the Bears on Sunday. Green Bay won its first six games in 1944 before losing to those Bears on November 5. That loss and a second to the Giants two weeks later were the only games the 8-2 Packers dropped all year. They clinched the Western Division a week before the end of the season.

The Eagles stayed in the race right to the end, finishing the season 7-1-2. Unfortunately for them, the Giants recorded a 8-1-1 mark to win the East. The championship game was a Polo Grounds rematch four weeks later, but instead of a 24-0 loss, the Packers rebounded with a 4-6 win for Curly Lambeau’s last title.

1944bkercherc  1944rwehbac2

1944pduhart2  1944dperkins2

Custom Cards all colorized.

Packers by the Numbers Update: #51

51 is most famous in Green Bay as the number worn by Hall of Fame center Jim Ringo for 11 seasons from 1953-63. Following Ringo’s trade to the Eagles, the number was not worn again for five seasons, but aside from that five-year gap, 51 has not been vacant for more than one season at a tie since it was originated by Buckets Goldenberg in 1934.

Goldenberg, then playing the role of blocking back, was followed by tackle Cal Hubbard (1935), guard Lou Evans (1936), backs Herm Schneidman (1938-39) and Jimmy Lawrence (1939), ends Ed Frutig (941) and John Stonebreaker (1942) and tailback Irv Comp (1943-49) in the Lambeau era.

In the modern era, the number has been worn by two tackles, two centers and 16 linebackers.

T: Len Szafaryn (1950) and Bill Hayhoe (1969)

C: Jim Ringo (1953-63) and Blair Bush (1989-91)

LB: Hal Faverty (1952), Larry Hefner (1972-75), Jim Gueno (1976-80), Guy Prather (1981-86), Clay Weishuhn (1987), Ron Monaco (1987r), Ron Simpkins (1988), Jeff Brady (1992), Jim Morrisey (1993), Mark Williams (1994), Brian Williams (1995-2000), Torrance Marshall (2001-04), Brady Poppinga (2005-10), D.J. Smith (2011-12), Nate Palmer (2013, 2015) and Kyler Fackrell (2016-18).

In all, 28 Packers have worn the number, including two Hall of Famers­­, Ringo and Hubbard, and three others who are members of the Packer Hall of Fame, Goldenberg, Evans and Comp.

1934bgoldenberg  1938hschneidman

1942jstonebreaker2  1946icomp2

1954bjringo3  1973tlhefner2

1984tgprather  1995bwilliams

All custom cards aside from Ringo, Hefner and Williams are colorized.

A Card for Everyone: Larry Hickman

Fullback Larry Hickman was born on this date in 1935 in Spring Hill, Texas. The 225-pound Hickman starred at Baylor University from 1956-58, finishing second on the team in rushing as a sophomore and setting season rushing records for the Bears as both a junior and senior. Among his teammates were future pros Del Shofner, Bill Glass, Charley Bradshaw, Paul Dickson, Goose Gonsoulin and Buddy Humphrey. After compiling over 1,700 yards rushing with Baylor, he was picked by the Rams in the third round of the 1959 NFL draft.

Hickman was included among the nine players the Rams sent to the Cardinals to obtain Ollie Matson that offseason. Larry spent his rookie year in Chicago, gaining just 18 yards as a backup. Vince Lombardi obtained Hickman for an unspecified draft pick on September 9, 1960 to backup Jim Taylor. Larry told the Green Bay Press Gazette, “I always wanted to play with the Packers as long as I can remember. I guess maybe it’s because I’m from a little town–a town by the name of Kilgore, Texas.”

Hickman gained 22 yards on seven carries in spot duty with the 1960 Packers, but got to go to the NFL championship game. The following season, though, Lombardi waived Larry in September, electing to go with speedy rookies Herb Adderley and Elijah Pitts as backup runners, with versatile Tom Moore on hand to spell Taylor.

Hickman caught on with the Hamilton Tiger Cats in Canada and went to his second consecutive league championship game in 1961. Once again, his team lost, however.  Larry played for Hamilton and Montreal in 1962 and Toronto in 1963 and amassed 1,225 rushing yards in the CFL.

After retiring from football, Hickman worked for Texas Power and Light for nearly 30 years, was active in his church and was part of a happy marriage for almost sixty years until he passed on February 10, 2017. He is a member of the Baylor University Athletic Hall of Fame.

1960tlhickman3  lc34lhickman

Both custom cards are colorized.