Last month, another of Lombardi’s Packers passed away–left tackle Bob Skoronski. I have written about this Pro Bowl stalwart previously here, but wanted to make a couple more points in tribute.
First, Skoronski figured prominently in two of my favorite plays from that championship time. In the November 8, 1964 game against the Lions, Jim Taylor broke off the longest run of the whole era. He took a quick toss to the right from Bart Starr, followed point-of-attack blocks by Ron Kramer on the defensive end, Paul Hornung on the linebacker and Forrest Gregg on a defensive back to break free and score on an 84-yard run. It’s still the third longest run in team history. What has always been particularly striking to me, though, is the final block by Bob Skoronski. Left tackle Skoronski hustles all the way across the field to make his block 80 yards downfield, clearing away Dick LeBeau so that Taylor can reach paydirt.
Skoronski said at the time: “LeBeau kept backing up on me. I just ran him back. I could feel Jim on my tail, and I knew we were gaining another yard every time LeBeau backed up so that was fine with me. If he’d planted his feet, I would have taken him out – I was kind of hoping he would as a matter of fact.”
Skoronski also made the crucial seal block on George Andrie that allowed Chuck Mercein to slip free to the Cowboy three on a trap play at the conclusion of the Ice Bowl. Skoronski’s comment on that game is my second tribute. He called the game “Our mark of distinction,” and that phrase from the team captain perfectly summarized the greatest moment in team history.
Steady, hustling leadership was his mark of distinction. RIP Bob Skoronski.
Tall Boy and TV set custom cards are colorized.
Hall of Famer John V. McNally, better known as Johnny Blood, was born 115 years ago today. 86 years ago, he celebrated his 29th birthday with a touchdown in the Packers’ final victory of the 1932 season, played three days after Green Bay’s 7-0 Thanksgiving triumph over the Brooklyn Dodgers. Facing the Staten Island Stapletons on a frozen field with temperatures ranging from 25-27 degrees with a stiff wind, the Packers trailed 3-0 at the half in their fifth consecutive road game.
In the third quarter, though, a series of runs took Green Bay to the Stapes four, and Clarke Hinkle blasted in from there for a 7-3 lead. In the final frame, the Packers extended the margin with two pick sixes. Wuert Engelmann nabbed an errant Stu Wilson pass and raced 55 yards for a 14-3 lead. Birthday boy Blood completed the scoring by stealing a Doug Wycoff pass and bolting 45 yards for the final touchdown.
The Green Bay Press Gazette noted that once Johnny reached the end zone, “he got a bit playful and some of his antics didn’t sit well with the Stapleton fans, who leaped the barrier and surrounded Johnny as if a scalping party was to be staged.” Teammate Claude Perry and the game officials intervened to rescue Blood, and the game resumed once the field was cleared.
The Packers finished the game with a 10-1-1 record as they aimed for their fourth consecutive NFL title. Needing at least a tie in both of the closing contests against the 5-1-4 Portsmouth Spartans and then the 6-1-6 Chicago Bears, Green Bay came up empty. They lost in Portsmouth 19-0 and then 9-0 in Chicago to fall out of contention for the title that was won by the Bears in a playoff with the Spartans. Green Bay played Chicago three times that season, previously tying 0-0 in Green Bay on September 25 and winning 2-0 in Chicago on October 16. Blood’s birthday touchdown unfortunately was the team’s final score of the ultimately disappointing season.
All custom cards are colorized.
55 is a generally unremarkable number in Packer history. It was first worn by tackle Chief Franta on the 1930 NFL champs. In the Lambeau era, he was followed by blocking back Hank Bruder (1933), guard Bob Jones (1934), versatile back Johnny Blood (1936), end Allen Moore (1939) and back Bob Adkins (1940-41).
In the modern era 55 was worn by one tackle, one center and 18 linebackers.
T: Ed Ecker (1950-51).
C: Bob Hyland (1976)
LB: Jim Flanigan (1967-70), Noel Jenke (1973-74), Tom Hull (1975), Mike Hunt (1978-80), Randy Scott (1981-86), Kenneth Jordan (1987r), Reggie Burnette (1991), Greg Clark (1991), Brett Collins (1992-93), Joe Mott (1993), Fred Strickland (1994-95), Bernardo Harris (1996-01), Marcus Wilkins (2002-03), Nick Rogers (2004), Robert Thomas (2005), Abdul Hodge (2006), Desmond Bishop (2007-11), Andy Mulmba (2013-15) and Ahmad Brooks (2017).
No Packer wore the number from 1942-49 and from 1952-66. Hall of Famer Johnny Blood was the greatest player to wear 55 in Green Bay, but he did so for only one season. Hank Bruder is a member of the team Hall of Fame, while Randy Scott and Bernardo Harris both wore it for the longest period, six years.
First two custom cards are colorized.
The Packers have had two stretches of over a dozen consecutive Thanksgiving Day appearances. From 1922-1935, Green Bay played 12 league and two nonleague games on the holiday, going 6-5-1 in league games and 2-0 in nonleague games. (They also beat the Stambaugh Miners on Thanksgiving in 1920 before they joined the NFL). In that stretch, Green Bay’s most frequent opponent was the Frankford Yellow Jackets in Philadelphia, with whom they went 2-2-1 from 1926-30.
The Packers reinstituted regular Thanksgiving games in 1951, playing the Lions in Detroit from then through 1963. Vince Lombardi lobbied to get his team out of the regular short-week road trip after the Packers had compiled a sorry 3-9-1 record in that stretch of games. Most notably, the undefeated 1962 team was crushed 26-14 on this date by a fired up Detroit squad.
The other especially memorable November 22 holiday game was in 1956 when the 3-4 Packers met the 7-1 Lions. As the Milwaukee Sentinel described the fourth quarter:
The 14 point underdogs couldn’t punch across a touchdown for three quarters, the only score being Fred Cone’s 12 yard field goal in the first period. But the way Rote plucked apart the savage Detroit defense in the final 15 minutes shouldn’t happen to a turkey. Fifty-one yards in eight plays and the Bays had their first touchdown. Rote doing the honors with a two yard sneak. Four minutes later Tobin hit Cone for a 14 yard TD play which climaxed a 52 yard march in nine plays. And the winning touchdown drive was the best of all as Rote pitched a 13 yard pass to Billy Howton in the end zone – the perfect ending to an 82 yard drive with a minute and a half to play.
Bobby Layne tossed a 56-yard TD to Dave Middleton after the Packers first touchdown, but Rote was hot that day. After taking the 24-20 lead with a minute and a half to play, Green Bay then faced one of Layne’s patented two-minute drives that took Detroit to the Packer 22 before safety Bobby Dillon iced the game with an interception that he returned 36 yards.
Overall, the Packers are 14-20-2 in Thanksgiving league games and 8-12-1 against Detroit. On November 22nd games, they are 3-3. The other dates breakdown thus: 11/23 1-0, 11/24 3-3, 11/25 0-2, 11/26 3-4, 11/27 3-3, 11/28 0-3-2 and 11/29 1-2. All have been road games aside from the first (a 19-0 victory over the Hammond Pros on 11/29/23) and the most recent (an aggravating 17-13 loss to the Bears on 11/26/2015).
All custom cards colorized. Dillon is wearing a Pro Bowl uniform.
Here’s a supplement to the Nation Chicle-style card set featuring Packers who started their Green Bay careers in the 1950s. Seven of these nine cards utilize backgrounds from the Diamond Stars baseball card set from the 1930s. However, Dan Currie fronts Di Chirico’s “The Enigma of the Arrival and the Afternoon,” while Jesse Whittenton is backed by a Mark Rothko work.
All custom cards except Knafelc, Masters and Kramer are colorized.
Bernard “Boob” Darling was born on November 18, 1903 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin where he starred as a schoolboy athlete. His odd nickname was shortened from the nickname his younger sister hung on him, “Boo Boo.” Darling continued his athletic excellence at Ripon College for two years before transferring to Beloit where he was an All-Conference guard on the gridiron. Upon his graduation in 1927, Boob began a professional sports career in both basketball (with the Oshkosh All-Stars founded by his brother Lon) and with the Packers.
Darling shared the center position with Jug Earpe from 1927-31 and started for the 1929-31 three-peat Packers although his playing career ended in October 1931. Years later, Boob told the Milwaukee Sentinel, “On defense, I backed up the line quite a bit, but my position wasn’t a true linebacking spot. In our normal defensive set up, we used a seven-man line. I stayed in the middle of the seven unless I smelled a rat, and then I’d pull out and cover against a pass. I was responsible for the fullback on pass plays.”
Cliff Christl reports that Curly Lambeau cut Darling in October 1931 in order to get the roster down to the limit. Darling told Wolf that he had cracked his breast bone that year and that Lambeau tried to entice him to return in 1932, but Boob had already started his life’s work with Northwestern Mutual and declined.
Darling worked for Northwestern Mutual for 40 years and served as District Manager for 30. In addition, he was an active member of the Green Bay community, serving as president of the Lions Club and of a local country club, as well as serving as a member of the Packers Board of Directors for 17 years. He claimed he conducted the team’s first interview with Vince Lombardi at the league meetings in Philadelphia in 1959.
Boob also worked as an official for over 500 football games and 400 basketball contests, both at the high school and college levels. He was a Big Ten referee for 14 years and worked the 1949 Rose Bowl. He died of lung cancer on March 5, 1968, survived by two children and two grandchildren. His honorary pall bearers included former teammates Mike Michalske, Jug Earpe, Whitey Woodin and Verne Lewellen.
All custom cards are colorized.
54 is associated primarily with two stalwart Packers, both named Larry, one from the early days and one from the modern era: Larry Craig and Larry McCarren. It was first worn by tackle Al Culver in 1932. He was followed by tackle Carl Jorgenson (1934), fullback Swede Johnston (1936) and blocking back/defensive end Larry Craig (1939-49) in the Lambeau Era.
In the modern era, the number has been worn by four centers, one guard, one long snapper and 16 linebackers.
C: George Schmidt (1952), Malcolm Walker (1970), Wimpy Winther (1971) and Larry McCarren (1973-84).
G: Greg Jensen (1987r).
LS: Derek Hart (2017).
LB: Jeff Schuh (1986), Rydell Malancon (1987r), Scott Stephens (1987-91), Keo Coleman (1993), Bernardo Harris (1995), Ron Cox (1996), Seth Joyner (1997), Jude Waddy (1998-99), Nate Wayne (2000-02), Steve Josue (2004), Roy Manning (2005), Brendan Chillar (2008-10), Dezman Moses (2012), Victor Aiyewa (2013), Carl Bradford (2016) and James Crawford (2018).
McCarren wore 54 for 12 season and Craig for 11. Both are members of the team’s Hall of Fame, as is Swede Johnston. There was one lengthy gap of 17 years when the number was not worn in Green Bay from 1953-69.
Culver and Craig custom cards are colorized.
For these National Chicle-style cards I used prominent works from the art world as backgrounds. Thus, Andy Uram invades Gustave Caillebotte’s “Paris Street, Rainy Day,” Don Hutson and Cecil Isbell are drawing up plays in the dirt in Georges Seurats’ “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte,” Moose Mulleneaux is sailing through Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” Dick Stahlman, in a monstrous leather helmet, wards off trouble in Francisco Goya’s “Saturn Devouring His Son,” Ed Jankowski leads the parade in Henri Rousseau’s “The Football Players,” Ernie Smith visits dour pa in Grant Wood’s “American Gothic,” Hank Bruder is in pursuit in Edvard Munch’s “The Scream,” Howard Johnson pops up in Savador Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory,” and Russ Letlow guards Lady Liberty in Eugene Delacroix’s “Liberty Leading the People.”
All Packers are colorized.
On November 11, 1962, the Packers returned to Franklin Field in Philadelphia for the first time since losing the NFL Championship game there on December 26, 1960. The two teams had gone in markedly different directions since then. Although the Eagles won ten games in 1961, injuries and other factors led to them facing the Packers on this day with a 1-6-1 record for 1962. Not only was Green Bay the defending NFL champion, it also came into this game with an 8-0 record, having outscored opponents by a 243-61 spread. They had beaten the Bears twice by 49-0 and 38-7 scores, recorded two shutouts and had only been seriously challenged by one team, the Lions, thus far in the season.
On this day, the Packers unleashed the full fury of the Vince Lombardi attack and outgained the Eagles 628 yards to 56 and recording a league record 37 first downs to Philadelphia’s three. With Paul Hornung nursing injuries, backup Tom Moore started the scoring with a three-yard run in the first quarter. The onslaught began in the second quarter with two rushing touchdowns by Jim Taylor, one by Moore and a 25 yard touchdown pass from Moore to Boyd Dowler to build a 35-0 halftime margin. In the second half Taylor tallied two more rushing totals to bring the final score to 49-0.
Taylor rushed 25 times for 141 yards and four touchdowns, while the team ground out 294 yards on the ground. Through the air, Bart Starr completed 15 of 20 passes for 274 yards, backup Joh Roach added one completion for four yards, and three halfbacks completed three of six option passes for another 56 yards–334 passing yards in total. On the receiving side, both Dowler and Max McGee nabbed seven passes–Max for 174 yards and Boyd for 101. The Packers defense recorded four sacks and picked off one Sonny Jurgensen pass.
Nothing could ever make up for a lost championship, but it was a mighty sweet victory.
Custom card of Tom Moore is colorized.
Mark Murphy’s fellow starting safety at the end of his career was another slowish, hard hitter, Chuck Cecil. Cecil was known almost entirely for his hitting. He told the Sentinel, “I enjoy that part of the game…Not only from the aspect of doing the hitting, but it’s also how much you can endure. It’s a challenge to see how hard you can hit and also find out how much can I take.”
Cecil devoted so much of himself to going for the crushing hit, that he often missed tackles when he left his feet to drill a player. At one point, he was nicknamed “Scud” after the unreliable missiles deployed by Iraq in the Gulf War at the time. A walk-on player at the University of Arizona, he left as an All-American, but wasn’t drafted until the fourth round by the Packers in 1988. He earned the starting free safety job in 1990 and in 1992 made the All-Madden team and was named to the Pro Bowl.
However, when it came time to talk contract, the Packers were not very interested, instead the team signed journeyman Mike Prior to replace him. GM Ron Wolf figured that Prior and draftee George Teague could replace Cecil’s on-field leadership with more speed and better tackling. Wolf also questioned whether Cecil, at his size (6-foot 185 pounds), really did sting people like a Dennis Smith or Steve Atwater.
Cecil signed as free agent in 1993 with the Cardinals and was featured on a famous Sports Illustrated cover asking “Is Chuck Cecil too vicious for the NFL?” Cecil lasted just one year in Arizona and one in Houston before being force to retire due to concussions. Since 2001, Chuck has served as a defensive coach in the NFL.
(adapted from Green Bay Gold)
Custom Cards in Topps styles.