Packers by the Numbers Update: #99

99, the final number in our update series, has been worn by 13 Packers, While the number was not inaugurated until 1979 when defensive tackle Charles Johnson donned it, it has been consistently worn ever since, with two-year gaps from 1981-82, 1989-90 and 1995-96. It has been worn by seven defensive tackles, five defensive ends and one linebacker.

DT: Charles Johnson (1979-80, 1983), Jermaine Smith (1997, 1999), Austin Robbins (2000), Corey Williams (2004-07), Bruce Gaston (2015), Christian Ringo (2016) and James Looney (2018).

DE: Don Davey (1991-94), Jamal Reynolds (2001-03), Jeremy Thompson (2008-09), Michael Montgomery (2010) and Jerel Worthy (2012-13).

LB: John Dorsey (1984-88).

Longtime NFL executive Dorsey wore 99 the longest (five years), and he and Davey probably wore it best, but neither one was more than a serviceable role player. Corey Williams once had three sacks in a game wearing 99.

1979tcjohnson  1985tjdorsey

1993ddavey2  1997jsmith

Dorsey custom card is coloorized.

A Card for Everyone: Bernie Scherer

Born on January 28, 1913 in Spencer Nebraska as the youngest of 12 children, end Bernie Scherer starred for three seasons for the University of Nebraska and became the first Cornhusker drafted in pro football when the Packers chose him in the third round of the inaugural NFL draft in 1936. In Green Bay, Bernie joined former Nebraska teammate George Sauer, and he even lived with Sauer and center George Svendsen in a suite at the Northland Hotel for the princely sum of $5 a piece per month.

Scherer played three seasons for the Packers, mostly as a backup to starters Don Hutson and Milt Gantenbein. From 1936-38, he caught 11 passes for 193 yards and three touchdowns and appeared in two NFL championship games, winning the title in his rookie season. He would wear that ring the rest of his life.

Pittsburgh purchased his contract in 1939, and Bernie briefly played under former Packer teammate Johnny Blood who opened the season as the team’s coach. After catching just two passes in the Steel City, Scherer was hired as the defensive coach for Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa, the same school that gave George Allen his coaching start eight years later. In 1941 though, Bernie was called into the Reserves where he held the rank of First Lieutenant. He subsequently was commissioned into the regular army, served during World War II, Korea and Vietnam and reached the rank of Colonel before retiring in 1964.

Scherer worked as a salesman for the National Sporting Goods Association from 1964-78 and then took on the position of Executive Director of a women’s fast-pitch softball team, the Sun City Saints. The Saints won a national title during his time in charge. He was married for 60 years and died on March 17, 2004 at age 91. He was survived by a son, a daughter and three adopted children.

1936bscherer  1936ncbscherer

1937ybscherer3  1938bscherer2

All custom cards are colorized.

Super Bowl XXXI

Today marks the day the Packers completed the long journey out of a 29-year miasma of mediocre and bad football to return to their championship heritage. In the fifth year of Ron Wolf and Mike Holmgren’s welcome transformation of the team, Green Bay emerged in New Orleans to face the New England Patriots of Coach Bill Parcells and his ace lieutenant Bill Belichick.

The Patriots received the opening kickoff, but were forced to punt after making only one first down. Ace Packer returner Desmond Howard caught the ball at his own 13 and brought it back 32 yards to the Green Bay 45, and after the whistle he got into a heated trash talking exchange with the Patriot bench that would continue throughout the game.  On the Packers second play from scrimmage, Brett Favre audibled and threw a 54-yard touchdown to recent acquisition Andre Rison for the first score of the game.  Brett was so excited that he started to run to the wrong bench in celebration. Following a Doug Evans interception of Drew Bledsoe, Green Bay went up 10-0, but then fell behind 14-10 by the time the first quarter ended–the 24 points scored being a Super Bowl record for combined first quarter scoring.

Another Favre audible on the Packers second possession of the second quarter resulted in an 81-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Freeman–a new Super Bowl record for the longest scoring pass play–and a 17-14 lead that Green Bay would never relinquish.  After stopping the Patriots again, Howard returned the ensuing punt 34 yards to set up a Chris Jacke field goal. An interception by Mike Prior led to a 10-play 74-yard drive that Favre culminated with a two-yard touchdown scamper to close the first half 27-14 Packers.

Green Bay started a long march on the opening possession of the third quarter, but it foundered on an ill-chosen fourth-and-one sweep call that resulted in a seven-yard loss and Patriot ball.  After an exchange of punts, New England went on a 53-yard scoring drive that brought them within six points with three-and-a-half minutes remaining in the third quarter.  Momentum seemed to be swinging in the Patriots’ favor until Desmond Howard caught the ensuing kickoff at the one and headed up the center of the field where special teamers Calvin Jones, Travis Jervey, Jeff Thomason, Keith McKenzie, Lamont Hollinquest and Don Beebe all took out their men so that Desmond burst through nearly untouched.  He even had time to glance at the Jumbotron screen above him as he sped for the goal line where he slowed to strike some dance moves as he scored the clinching touchdown.

Reggie White concluded the next New England drive with back-to-back sacks of Bledsoe, and the Patriots’ four fourth quarter possessions were ended by an incomplete pass, an interception by Craig Newsome, another sack by Reggie and a pick from Brian Williams. Final score 35-21.

Howard finished the game with 244 return yards, 154 from kickoffs and 90 from punts, a record that won him the Super Bowl MVP award.  He was the first special teams player to win it and did so deservedly over Favre’s two TD passes and Reggie White’s record three sacks. In the playoffs against the 49ers, Panthers and Patriots, Brett Favre’s passing line was 44-71 for 617 yards, five TDs and one interception. The Packers outrushed their opponents 455 to 156 and held an average time of possession edge of 35:25 to 24:35. The Packers return teams held a 508 to 288 yard advantage over their adversaries.

(Adapted from Packers by the Numbers.)

1996lhollinquest  1996kmckenzie

1996jthomason  1996tjervey

1996cjones  1996dbeebe

1996dhoward  1996sbtd

Custom cards in the style of 1961 Fleer.

A Card for Everyone: Frank Balazs

Born on this date in 1918, Chicago native Frank Balazs went to Lane Technical High School in the Windy City with Tony Canadeo’s older brother Savior, known as “Savvy.” While Savvy went to St. Norbert’s for college, Balazs travelled to the University of Iowa where he played fullback for the Hawkeyes.

Balazs was an 18th round draft choice of Green Bay in 1939, made the team and won a championship as a rookie. He appeared in five games in 1939, seven in 1940 and just one in 1941 before being sold to Jimmy Conzelman’s Chicago Cardinals in week two of ’41. For the Packers, Frank carried the ball just 38 times for 147 yards, caught two passes for 18 and threw one incompletion. He also scored one touchdown, kicked one extra point and intercepted one pass on defense.

Frank appeared in nine games for the Cards in 1941 and committed a crucial pass interference in the 1941 season finale against the Bears on Pearl Harbor day that helped the Halas men to emerge victorious and force a Western Division playoff with Green Bay a week later.

Balazs entered the Marines where he rose to the rank of Technical Sergeant. While participating in such island invasions as Guadalcanal, Munda and Bougainville, he earned two Presidential citations and five battle stars. Returning to Chicago in October 1945, Frank got married and appeared in one last game for the Cardinals that season. When he died at age 44 after a long illness on July 7, 1962, he was survived by just one half-brother.

1939fbalaszc  1939gfbalazs

1940fbalazs  1941fbalazs

All custom cards colorized.

A Card for Everyone: Ed Ecker

When tackle Ed Ecker joined the Packers, the team reached new heights. Literally–Ecker was the first Packer to measure 6’7” when he joined the team in 1950, exceeding former height leader Baby Ray by an inch. His playing weight is listed at anywhere from 270-306 pounds in various sources, but his impact on the field was relatively light, since he appeared in just 19 games in Green Bay.

Enrique Edward Ecker was born on January 21, 1923 in Cleveland, Ohio and enrolled in nearby John Carroll University where he earned a BS in Pre-Med. His father was a professor of immunology at Western Reserve University and his brother a doctor who worked as a research scientist at the Rockefeller Institute. Both tipped the scales at over 300 pounds.

At John Carroll, Ecker learned football from two Notre Dame alums, head coach Tom Conley and 6’5” line coach Gene Oberst, before being drafted in 1943. Ed was a notable success as a boxer in the Army, and earned a tryout with the Bears when he mustered out of the service. Ecker spent the 1946 season playing for Chicago’s farm team, the Akron Bears under Coach Gene Ronzani. He was promoted to the big club in 1947, but was released before the 1948 season and landed on the AAFC’s Chicago Rockets for one year. He returned to Halas in 1949, but was not on the active roster.

New Packer coach Gene Ronzani signed Ecker for Green Bay in 1950, and Ed appeared in 12 games that season and seven in 1951. He was released in September 1952 and signed shortly after with the Redskins, where he appeared in nine games, starting eight, that season to finish his NFL career.

While he once had indicated a desire to become a doctor, Ecker worked in sales for a construction firm on the West Coast after football. In 1958, producer Blake Edwards spotted Ed at his work and hired him to play a hulking arsonist in an episode of the TV show Peter Gunn. It appears to have been a short theatrical career. Ecker passed away on January 4, 1960 at the age of 66.

1951teecker  1950beecker3

1951beecker  1951tpeecker

Custom Cards all colorized.

Len Szafaryn

Len Szafaryn, a reliable lineman during the dark days of the 1950s in Green Bay, was born on January 19, 1928 in Ambridge, Pennsylvania. Szafaryn played at North Carolina with All-America halfback Charlie Justice in the late 1940s as a 198-pound tackle. Len garnered some All-America notice himself as a senior and was drafted in the third round by the Redskins.

One year later, the Packers were having trouble signing veteran tackle Paul Lipscomb, so they traded him to Washington for Szafaryn in August 1950. After one season, the Packer tackle, now bulked up to 230 pounds, was drafted into the Army and spent the next two years playing service ball in Japan.

Len returned to Green Bay in 1953, but tore a knee ligament in September and missed the first half of the season. His best seasons came in 1954 and ’55 when he was the regular starter at left tackle and was described as the team’s best offensive lineman in the game programs from that time. He was particularly noted for his downfield blocking.

With the arrival of Bob Skoronski in 1956, Szafaryn was moved to left guard and started about half the games that year. The following August, he was traded to the Eagles for defensive back Bibble Bawel. Bawel appeared in just one preseason game for Green Bay before quitting, while Len tore up his knee in the Eagles’ opener and missed the rest of the ’57 season.

Len met up with his old teammates in a September 1958 exhibition game, and he and Bill Forester were ejected for fighting in a match marred by several slugfests. Szafaryn played just seven games for Philadelphia that season and then retired. He later served as the Director of the Beaver County (PA) Recreation Department, where he organized the first World Snow Shovel Riding Championship in 1964 as a winter attraction. Len died from cancer  on September 22, 1990 and was survived by his wife Tina and two sons.

1950blszafaryn5  1953blszafaryn3

1954blszafaryn  1955blszafaryn2

1955tlszafaryn  1956tlszafaryn

All custom cards are colorized.

Dave Brown

Born in Akron, Ohio on January 16, 1953, Dave Brown was recruited by out-of-state rival Michigan where he became a two-time All-America at safety before being drafted in the first round by the Super Bowl champion Steelers in 1975. After winning a Super Bowl ring as a rookie punt returner for Pittsburgh, Brown was claimed by the fledgling Seahawks in the 1976 expansion draft.

In Seattle, Brown settled in as the starter at right cornerback in ’76 and stayed there for the next 11 years. He was a second team All-Pro twice and went to the Pro Bowl after the 1984 season. The speedy and aggressive Brown pilfered 50 passes for Seattle and returned five for touchdowns. By 1987, though, the 34 year old was the oldest cornerback in the league, and Coach Chuck Knox was ready to move on to a younger player.

Forrest Gregg acquired Brown that offseason for a late round draft pick to replace the imprisoned Mossy Cade. Seattle GM Mike McCormack indicated that the last original Seahawk had lost a step, and he was more of a zone corner by the time he came to Green Bay, but he lasted three seasons as a Packer starter before an Achilles problem ended his career in 1990. In those three years, Dave picked off 12 more passes, including six in his final year as a 36-year old, to finish up with 62 NFL interceptions.

Seattle brought Brown back as a secondary coach under Tom Flores in 1992 and he held that position even when new coach Dennis Erickson took the reins in 1995. Dave lost his coaching slot in 1999 when Mike Holmgren came to the Great Northwest, but he continued his coaching career by joining Mike Leach’s staff at Texas Tech in 2001. He was still coaching at Tech six year later when tragically he suffered a fatal heart attack playing basketball with his son on January 6, 2006 in Lubbock, Texas. He was survived by his wife and two sons.

1987tdbrown  1988tdbrown  1989tdbrown2

Custom cards in Topps styles.

Super Bowl II: Lombardi’s Last Game

1967 had been a wearing season for the aging Packers.  Bart Starr, in particular, was injured throughout the year and tossed a career-high 17 interceptions, making many games a struggle.  However, the team was 9-2-1 after 12 weeks and had clinched their division before dropping the last two games of the year to the Rams and Steelers. The playoffs were expanded that year so that Green Bay had to win twice just to get to the Super Bowl.  The first playoff game was against Rams in Milwaukee.  The Rams were young and had lost only one game all year.  After turning the ball over to Los Angeles three times in the first 16 minutes, the Packers settled down and rolled over the confident Rams 28-7, outgaining them by 150 yards.  The Packers returned to Lambeau Field the following week to defeat the Cowboys in the fabled Ice Bowl and then traveled south to Miami to meet the Raiders in the second Super Bowl in much warmer conditions–81 degrees warmer to be precise.

It was fitting that Lombardi should win his final title against Oakland who were dubbed the Pride and Poise Boys by owner Al Davis because the Packers under Vince were known especially for those two qualities. The 1967 Packer season, capped with the Ice Bowl NFL Championship game, exemplified pride and poise. The game itself had some similarities to the first Super Bowl from a year before.  The Packers felt out the Raiders in the first half, maintaining a slight edge and then pulled away in the second half.

In the game, Green Bay drove to a couple of field goals by controlling the ball for 12 1/2 of the game’s first 18 minutes with drives of 9 and 16 plays.  Up 6-0 on those two Don Chandler field goals, Green Bay stopped Oakland on a three-and-out series and got the ball back at its 38 with 11 minutes left in the half.  Starr sensed a blitz on first down and audibled to a  weak side post route for Boyd Dowler who ran through the confused Raider secondary untouched and caught an easy 62-yard touchdown pass to push the lead to 13-0.

To their credit, the Raiders answered with a 78-yard scoring drive that culminated with a 23-yard Daryle Lamonica pass to Bill Miller to make the score 13-7.  After a botched kickoff return and a sack of Starr, Donny Anderson had to punt from his own end zone.  The Raiders got the ball on the Packer 40, but couldn’t advance the ball, and George Blanda missed a 47-yard field goal.  Willie Wood returned the short kick to the eight with 2:20 to play. Unable to run out the clock, the Packers again had to punt three plays later with just 23 seconds left.  However, Raider safety Rodger Bird muffed the left-footed Anderson’s soaring 36-yard punt, and recently-activated Dick Capp recovered for Green Bay at the Oakland 45.  Starr completed a nine-yard pass to Dowler on third down, and Chandler kicked a 43-yard field goal to go into the half with a 16-7 lead.

In the third quarter, the Packers put the game out of reach.  A two-yard Anderson touchdown run was set up by Max McGee’s final catch as a pro in an 11-play, 82-yard drive.  Dowler was momentarily shaken up so Max went in and caught one of Bart Starr’s patented third-and-one surprise passes for a 35-yard gain to the Oakland 25.  The Packers drove to a fourth Chandler field goal on their next possession and ended the third quarter up 26-7.

In the fourth quarter, Dave Robinson recovered a Pete Banaszak fumble and returned it 16 yards to the Raider 37, but the Packers were forced to punt three plays later after another sack. In the subsequent Oakland possession, Herb Adderley applied the final touches to the victory by picking off a pass intended for Fred Biletnikoff and returning it 62 yards for a touchdown and putting the Packers up by four scores.

The Raiders, who would gain 180 of their 293 yards in the fourth quarter after the game was already decided, would add a late touchdown on another pass to Miller, but the final score was a convincing 33-14 Packers.  Green Bay gained 163 yards on the ground, led by Ben Wilson 65 on 17 carries. Super Bowl MVP Starr was 13-24 for 202 yards and a touchdown. In the three game postseason, the Packers outgained its opponents 403 to 274 on the ground and 488-428 through the air. In the postseason, Starr was 44-71 for 615 yards four touchdowns and just one interception, a passer rating of 102.7. In Vince Lombardi’s last game as Packer coach, the offense controlled the ball for 35:38 and won the team’s third straight title.  Vince would retire less than three weeks later.

(Adapted from Packers by the Numbers.)

1967pvlombardi  1967psplayoftheyear2

1967pbstarr  1967pbdowler2

1967pmmcgee  1967pdchandler2

1967pdanderson2  1967pbwilson3

1967phadderley  1967pdrobinson

1967pwwood2  1967pdcapp4

Wood custom card is colorized.

Handyman

Today in 1932, Lew Carpenter was born in Hayti, Missouri. After graduating from West Memphis High School, he enrolled at the University of Arkansas in 1949. Carpenter showed an early propensity for flexibility for the Razorbacks by appearing at halfback, fullback, end and quarterback in his three years on the varsity, where of his teammates was future Packer Dave Hanner.

Carpenter was drafted in the eighth round in 1953 by the defending NFL champion Lions and was part of the Lions second consecutive championship run as a rookie. He spent four seasons in Detroit, primarily as a halfback on offense, leading the team in rushing in 1954 and ’55, but he also played on defense. In his first ever game in 1953, he returned an interception 73 yards for a touchdown.

After a year in the military, Lew was dealt to the Browns in 1957 for former Packer linebacker Roger Zatkoff. In Cleveland, he teamed with his younger brother Preston who played end for the Browns. After two seasons in Ohio, Carpenter was traded to Green Bay as part of a deal that sent end Bill Howton to Cleveland for Lew and defensive end Bill Quinlan. At the time, Lombardi praised him as a steady player who could help keep the offense moving.

Carpenter was third on the team in rushing in 1959 with 322 yards, but would gain only 37 more yards rushing in his remaining four years as a Packer. Instead, he was Vince Lombardi’s eager utility man, playing both as a runner and receiver as well as returning punts and kicks and playing on the kicking teams. In Run to Daylight, Lombardi says, “Lew Carpenter, whose younger brother Preston is with the Steelers, is in his ninth year, but no first year man works harder from July into December than Lew…It is the older ones, like Lew Carpenter and Gary Knafelc and Johnny Symank, who still give you everything they’ve got and who have my deepest admiration. They keep you alive when you are hurt and in pain and would otherwise be dying in some game.”

Following the 1963 season, Carpenter retired to take a coaching position with Norm Van Brocklin’s staff in Minnesota. He would coach receivers and tight ends in the NFL for the next 30 years for the Vikings, Falcons, Redskins (under Lombardi), Cardinals, Oilers, Packers, Lions and Eagles. In Forrest Gregg’s third season as head coach in Green Bay, he replaced Lew as receivers coach with young Tom Coughlin, even though Carpenter was still under contract for 1986. That rejection stung, but Lew moved on to Detroit the following season. He finished his coaching career with Southwest Texas State in 1995 and the Frankfurt Galaxy of the World Football League in ’96.

Although he never coached for a championship team, Carpenter appeared in six NFL title games in his ten seasons as a player (1953, ’54, ’57, ‘60, ’61 and ’62) and won three rings–one with Detroit and two with Green Bay. He died on November 14, 2010 in New Braunfels, Texas, and after his death, it was determined that Lew had suffered from CTE, which explained his erratic behavior in later years.

Carpenter was survived by his wife and four daughters. Youngest daughter Rebecca, who had long worked in the film and television industry, spent four years putting together a 90-minute documentary about her father and CTE entitled, Requiem for a Running Back. It premiered in 2017 and has drawn favorable reviews.

1958tlcarpenter2  1959blcarpenter2

1960tlcarpenter  1961tlcarpenter2

1962tlcarpenter3  1963flcarpenter

All custom cards but 1961 are colorized.

Mike Bucchianeri

Today in 1917, Packer guard Mike Bucchianeri was born in Van Voorhis, Pennsylvania. Mike starred as a schoolboy athlete at Monongahela High School and then won a scholarship to Indiana University where he played from 1938-40. He provided the winning margin for the North’s 14-12 victory in the Blue-Gray All-Star game by booting two extra points on December 28, 1940. The following August, he played in the College All-Star game against the NFL champion Bears on August 28 before reporting to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Bucchianeri was only with the Eagles for about a week. Following a preseason contest between the Eagles and Packers in Milwaukee on September 7, Curly Lambeau obtained the rights to Mike. However, the rookie guard only appeared in the Packers’ opener against the Lions later that week before suffering a severe concussion during a scrimmage on September 17. Bucchianeri was taken to St. Mary’s Hospital and needed several stiches to close cuts in his mouth.

The Packers released Mike on October 8, and he joined the Wilmington Clippers of the American Association soon after. Among his teammates in Delaware were guard Ed Michaels who played for the Bears in 1936 and champion Redskins in ’37 before joining the Clippers in 1938, future Eagle end Jack Ferrante and future Packer end Bob Kercher. Michaels would return to the NFL with the Eagles from 1943-46. Another onetime Clipper of note was Vince Lombardi who played for the team in 1937.

The Clippers won the league title in 1941 with Michaels and Bucchianeri at guard. Mike reported to the Packers again in July 1942, but returned to Wilmingotn in September for a second season as a Clipper. He finally made the Packers in 1944, along with Clipper teammate Bob Kercher, and appeared in eight of ten games for Green Bay that championship season. Mike also appeared in five of the first seven Packer games in 1945 before being released on November 14, 1945.

Bucchianeri settled in Green Bay, working in local industry, and took up coaching in 1950. That year he became the line coach for St. Norbert’s under Tom Hearden and spent five years in that position, the last two under head coach Mel Nicks. In 1954, Mike also served as head coach of the semipro Oshkosh Comets. He finished his coaching career as the line coach for Frosty Ferzacca at Marquette in 1955. Soon after, the Green Bay Drop Forge Company transferred Bucchianeri to its Detroit office. Eventually, he returned to Green Bay, but retired to Ocala, Florida in 1983.

Mike had two sons, Mike and Tom, and one daughter, Patricia, with his first wife and later was diagnosed with Alzheimer ’s disease. He died at age 75 on February 19, 1992.

1941mbucchianeri  1944mbuccianeric

1944wbwmbuchianeri  1945mbuchianeri

All custom cards are colorized.