Jim Ringo

Born on this day in 1931, Jim Ringo was the best center of his time and went to 10 Pro Bowls, seven as a Packer, so it is no surprise that he is in the Hall of Fame. Ringo was a seventh round pick out of Syracuse in 1953 but was undersized at 210 pounds and a bit of a longshot to make the Packers as a rookie. Even Jim had his doubts and left camp for home in Easton, Pennsylvania during training camp. When he got there, his family told him not to be a quitter and sent him back to Green Bay.

Ringo made the Packers in 1953 and became the regular starter in his second season; from 1954-67 in Green Bay and Philadelphia, he never missed a game and set an NFL record with 182 consecutive starts. Although he bulked up to 230 pounds, the 6’1” Ringo was always on the smallish side and relied primarily on his quickness. In Run to Daylight, Vince Lombardi credits the league-wide defensive switch from a 5-3 with a large middle guard lined up over the center to the 4-3 with no one on the center’s nose as allowing Ringo to thrive in the league. The Vikings Mick Tingelhoff was very much Ringo’s successor as the league’s top center and was about the same size. Look at how Mick was manhandled in Minnesota’s Super Bowl appearances against high-quality odd-man fronts, and Lombardi’s point about size is clear.

Teammate Bob Skoronski told the Journal Sentinel that Ringo, “was so quick that when Lombardi came in, he was able to change the blocking schemes. People thought it was impossible to do what he did. We had a sweeping cut-off block that he had to make against those defensive tackles, but he was so quick off the ball he could make it.” Position coach Bill Austin added to Chuck Johnson, “He knows what every lineman does on every play – all five interior men. His desire and personal pride is [sic] tremendous. He is a student of the game. On pass protection, he is very good at moving back and picking up the red dogs and blitzes.”

In 1962, Ringo told Bud Lea, “When I lose my quickness, I won’t kid myself about continuing in the sport.” Two years later, the 32-year old Ringo was traded to the Eagles and the apocryphal story is that he came to negotiate his contract with an agent and an incensed Vince Lombardi traded him within ten minutes. Besides the fact that four-man trades do not come together that quickly and that personnel man and contract negotiator Pat Peppler has rebutted the tale decisively, Lombardi himself gave his view to reporters two weeks after the trade, “There are two ways to look at a team. One, you wait until the team is down in the bottom of the standings. Then you run around like mad trying to plug holes. Or you make your moves when you’re near the top. I have a great deal of respect for veterans. Trading a veteran is one of the toughest jobs for me. But you have to do things to help your club.”

Ringo and fullback backup fullback Earl Gros brought in young linebacker Lee Roy Caffey and a number one draft pick that was used for Donny Anderson. Jim played four more years in Philadelphia. It was a decent deal for Philadelphia, but a great one for Green Bay. Ringo subsequently had a long successful career as an offensive line coach in the NFL. He died two days before his 76th birthday in 2007.

(Adapted from Green Bay Gold)

1954bjringo3  1955bjringo2

1958tjringo2  1962fjringo2

1963fjringo  1964tjringo

1955, 1958 and 1963 custom cards are colorized.

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Two Exciting Wins on November 19

In the 24 seasons from 1968-1991, the Packers won 10 games twice, 1972 and 1989. On November 19 in both of those rare winning years, Green Bay delivered two exciting road wins.

On November 19, 1972, The Packers travelled to the Houston Astrodome to face the 1-8 Oilers and won a very odd game in which two of Green Bay’s three touchdowns came via the kicking game. After a scoreless first quarter, the Packers scored on Jon Staggers’ 85-yard punt return off a 60-yard punt by Dan Pastorini. Houston tied the score and then forced the Packers to punt. However, punter Ron Widby took the snap and tossed a perfect pass to a wide-open Dave Davis who galloped for a 68-yard touchdown.

Widby, a high school quarterback, was All-America in both basketball and football (as a punter) at Tennessee and played professional basketball in the ABA before making the NFL. He was the Packers emergency quarterback, and this was his first NFL pass; four weeks later, he would complete his second and final NFL pass for 34 yards against the Saints, the team that originally drafted him. Ron was the team’s leading passer against the Oilers, since quarterback Scott Hunter went five for 12 for 41 yards in the 23-10 victory otherwise highlighted by MacArthur Lane’s 126 yards rushing.

Seventeen years later to the day, the 5-5 Packers journeyed to San Francisco to battle the 9-1 49ers. Despite being outgained 360-248 in yards, the Pack pulled out a 21-17 victory in the fourth quarter that day and started an impressive stretch run. Joe Montana threw for 325 yards to Don Majkowski’s 153, but the Niners turned the ball over four times. The Majik Man threw a touchdown pass to Sterling Sharpe and ran two yards for a score in the first quarter and eight yards for the winning touchdown with 11:55 to play on a quarterback draw.

The Packers would go on to win four of their last five games but miss the playoffs in Lindy Infante’s sole winning season. San Francisco would win its last five games and then all three playoff games including a 55-10 pasting of Denver in the Super Bowl for its second consecutive championship.

1972trwidby  1972tddavis

1989tdmajkowski  1989tssharpe

Davis custom card is colorized.

Packers by the Numbers Update: #10

10 has been worn by 23 Packers in the team’s history, and the number has progressed from position to position over time. Originally worn by two tackles (Cub Buck and Tiny Cahoon) in the 1920s, it was next worn by three backs (Eddie Kotal, Dave Zuidmulder and Roger Grove) before becoming a quarterback number in 1948 when Perry Moss wore it.

Moss has been followed by 11 signal callers: Babe Parilli, John Roach, Dennis Claridge, Billy Stevens, Frank Patrick, Jack Concannon, Lynn Dickey, Bill Troup, Blair Kiel, Henry Burris and Matt Flynn. This dirty dozen combined for a paltry 16-34 won-loss record. Dickey only wore 10 for his first four years in Green Bay before switching to 12 in 1980, coinciding with his best years as a Packer. Burris never appeared in a game backing up Brett Favre in 2001, but was on the active roster. Flynn wore 10 for two tours and six seasons in Green Bay; he wore 10 longer than anyone else did.

In the last few decades, 10 has also been worn by two kickers (Jan Stenerud and Al Del Greco) two punters (Louie Aguiar and Jacob Schrum) and two wide receivers (Chad Lucas and Jeremy Ross).

Buck, Dickey and Stenerud all are members of the Packer Hall of Fame, and Stenerud is also a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

1957tbparilli2  1961tjroach2

1965pdclaridge2  1968tbstevens3

1972tfpatrick  1974tjconcannon

1979tldickey  1988tbkiel

1976prehburris  1976rbumflynn

Parilli and Patrick custom cards are colorized.

Aaron Taylor

November 14 marks hard luck Aaron Taylor’s 45th birthday. The Packers moved up four slots from 20 to 16 in the first round of the 1994 draft to select the Lombardi Trophy winning guard from Notre Dame. Unfortunately, he suffered a torn patellar tendon in his right knee at a minicamp and missed the entire 1994 season. He returned for his rookie season in 1995, but then tore up his left knee in the first round of the playoffs that year against Atlanta.

Once again, Taylor returned in 1996 and started for the next two Super Bowl seasons at left guard for the Packers. After the two major knee injuries, though, he was still a decent player, but no longer an explosive one, and the Packers’ let him depart as a free agent in 1998 when he signed a four-year contract with San Diego. However, he played just two years with the Chargers before retiring.

Ron Wolf candidly told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel in March 1998 when Taylor left that, “He’s just not the player he was before he had those injuries. It was most noticeable in the passing game, not the running game. He’s not as flexible as he was and he doesn’t have the mobility he once had. He came back and he started, which is a great credit to him and the job that he did. He’s a pretty good player. He’s got to feel proud of his accomplishments here.”

Bob McGinn noted in the same article that Taylor allowed 14 1/2 sacks, 16 1/2 knockdowns and was penalized 14 times in three seasons. He gave his best to the Packers, but injuries kept him from reaching his Pro Bowl potential. He was replaced by Marco Rivera who went to the Pro Bowl three times.

1995ataylor  1997ataylor

Custom cards in Topps 1960s styles.

Packers by the Numbers Update: #9

9 has not been a very popular jersey number in Green Bay. It was worn briefly by two linemen (Whitey Woodin and Jug Earp) and one end (Fred Borak) through the 1938 season. Then there was a 50-year gap before itinerant kicker Dean Dorsey donned it for three games and six points in 1988. Kickoff specialist Dirk Borgognone wore it for two games in 1995.

9 also was worn by two backup quarterbacks: Jim McMahon who completed four of five passes in 1995-96 behind Brett Favre and Seneca Wallace who completed 16 of 24 after temporarily taking over for an injured Aaron Rodgers in 2013.

Most prominently, the number has born worn by four punters in the past 25 years: Bryan Wagner in 1992-93; Josh Bidwell from 2000-03; Bryan Barker in 2004; and Jon Ryan from 2006-07. Bidwell’s four-year tenure is the longest of any Packer, but leather helmeted-linemen Woodin and Earp, who are both members of the Packer Hall of Fame, had the greatest impact.

1925swwoodin  1928jearp

1995dborgognone  1993bwagner

1995jmcmahon  1976rbuswallace

First three custom cards are colorized.

 

The Rock

Larry McCarren turns 66 today. McCarren was a lowly 12th round pick in 1973 out of Illinois and did not appear in a game as a rookie until week 10. From then until suffering a career-ending neck injury in week 12 of the 1984 season, he did not miss a game. McCarren wore the Packer “G” for all 162 games of his NFL career.

Despite undergoing a hernia operation in the 1980 preseason, McCarren was ready to go for the opening game. Later that same year, he broke a finger on his right hand, but switched to snapping the ball with his left hand the following week. He could not be kept out of the lineup. McCarren downplayed his dependability in 1980, “Durability is nice, but I’d rather play good than play all the time. Just being durable is something I take for granted.”

And he did play “good,” although he did not gain recognition till late in his career when the Packers’ offense improved, and he was named to the Pro Bowl in both 1982 and 1983. Nicknamed “The Rock,” the 6’3” McCarren was tough and a hard hitter. Eventually beefing up to 275 pounds, he was strong enough to take on the odd-man defenses that surfaced in the 1970s. McCarren told the Milwaukee Sentinel, “I’d rather see the odd man anytime. It’s what I do all the time; it’s what I do best.” He added, “People get the wrong idea that the nose tackle is in a position to beat on the center. I approach it just the opposite. I’m in a position to beat on him.”

Of course for the past 30 years, Larry has been well known as a local sports broadcaster. In 1995, he joined the Packer Radio Network as the third man in the booth for game broadcasts, and then succeeded the retired and beloved Max McGee as the color commentator in 1999. McCarren has forged his own path as an honest and knowledgeable analyst respected by the Packer faithful.

1973tlmccarren2  1975tlmccarren2

1983tlmccarren  1984tlmccarren

Custom cards in Topps style.

Tiny Croft

For 18 of the 23 seasons from 1926-47, Curly Lambeau had a lineman called “Tiny.” From 1926-29, 235-pound Gonzaga tackle Ivan Cahoon filled the bill. Five years after Cahoon retired due to injuries, Curly obtained 240-pound Northwestern tackle/guard Paul Engebretsen from the Brooklyn Dodgers. Engebretsen was a Packer for eight years from 1934-41. A year later in 1942, Milburn “Tiny” Croft was purchased from the Redskins and began a six-year tenure in Green Bay.

Born on November 7, 1920, Tiny Croft was a 6’3” 285-pound tackle who graduated Steinmetz High School in Chicago then went to Ripon College in Wisconsin. He signed with the Washington as an undrafted free agent in August 1942 and was hailed as the largest player ever to sign with the league at 305 pounds (although I did see one account listing him as 370 pounds.) A month later, Green Bay purchased his contract, and the 285-pound tackle was referred to as the largest man in the NFL. Over the next six seasons, he was listed at anywhere from 270-330 pounds in various stories. No doubt his weight did fluctuate, but he was likely the first 300-pound Packer.

Croft appeared in 51 games for the Packers in his career and generally backed up Baby Ray at left tackle. When Ray battled injuries in 1944, Croft played quite a bit in Lambeau’s last championship run. Tiny recovered four fumbles in 1946, but he was only middling as a player despite looking gigantic on old game film. He retired from the game in 1948 and spent the next 30 years mostly working in the auto industry in the area. He had four children and died at the age of 56 on January 22, 1977.

1942tcroft2  1943tcroft

1944tcroftc  1947tcroft

Custom cards are colorized.