Another Note on Hutson’s Positioning

In August, I did a series of entries looking at game films from the 1940s. One of the points of interest in those posts was a breakdown of where Don Hutson lined up on each offensive play. In the seven games I looked at over a five-year period, Don flexed out at least a few yards from the interior line 64% of the time. The team’s other ends did so only 14% of the time.

I had an opportunity recently to view film from the 1939 championship game against the Giants in which the Packers triumphed 27-0. In this game, Curly Lambeau relied heavily on the ground, running the ball 52 times to just 10 passes. Of those 62 offensive plays, only 40 were on the film. In the 38 with Hutson, he split out wide just twice and was flexed a few yards out nine other times; the other 27 plays Don was lined up tight and trying to seal the edge with cross body blocks mostly. Thus, this small incomplete sample shows Hutson positioned away from the interior line just 28.9% of the time, quite a contrast to the games I viewed from the 1940s. It’s interesting to ponder whether Curly opened up things for Hutson in the 1940s or if this was just an aberration for a run-heavy game plan.

1939dhutsonc  mayohutson

Custom cards are colorized.


Packers by the Numbers Update: #8

Two additional Packers have worn 8 since the publication of Packers by the Numbers, and both are punters. Tim Masthay wore the number from 2010-15, and this year rookie Justin Vogel took over both the punting duties and number 8 jersey. In addition, kicker Ryan Longwell who held the number when the book was published, continued wearing it through the 2005 season, a nine-year span that gave him the longest tenure in that number, exceeding the seven years that Bob Forte wore it in the Post-War period.

Forte was one of six backs (Andy Uram, Herm Rohrig, Bob Kahler, Russ Mosley, Forte and Ray Pelfry) who wore the number in Green Bay and, with fellow Uram, one of two to be elected to the Packer Hall of Fame. Longwell broke Don Hutson’s team scoring record in 2003 and held the team mark until Mason Crosby bested him in 2015; he is likely to be the third of this number to go into the Packer Hall at some point.

Tackle Walt Jean was the first to wear the number in 1925. I have previously noted that research by the Oldest Living Pro Football Players’ website indicates that Jean may have been an African-American passing for white when he played for Green Bay in 1925-26, which would have made him the only black player ever coached by Curly Lambeau.

In addition to the six backs, two punters and one tackle, the number has been worn by two kickers (Longwell and Max Zendejas) and two quarterbacks (Anthony Dilweg and Mark Brunell).

1938auram  1944bkahlerc2

1947bforte2  1987xtmzendejas

1989tadilweg  1994mbrunell

Custom cards of Uram, Kahler and Forte are all colorized.

A Halloween Birthday for Two Packer Hall of Famers

Although both members of the Packer Hall of Fame born on Halloween are deceased, Cal Hubbard and Ted Fritsch all sharing a birthday is a remarkable confluence of Green Bay talent. Robert Cal Hubbard was a big Missouri farm boy who was born at the turn of the last century and who had a celebrated, long and divergent career in professional sports.  After graduating high school, Cal spent a few years working on the farm before enrolling in 1922 at tiny Centenary College in Shreveport, Louisiana in order to play football for his boyhood hero, Bo McMillan.  When McMillan moved to Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania the next year, Hubbard continued to follow him and sat out of football a year.  He then played for McMillan at Geneva from 1924-1926 and made All-America in his senior year.  That final year was highlighted by Geneva’s 16-7 upset of mighty Harvard when Hubbard was practically a one-man team.

He joined the New York Giants in 1927 as they won their first NFL championship; in his second year, he made All-Pro for the first of six consecutive times.  On offense, he played tackle and occasionally end, while on defense he is sometimes credited with being the first linebacker because he would back up off the line to take his stance with the Giants.  After those two years, he had had enough of the big city and made known that he wanted to go to Green Bay and joined the Packers for 1929, the same year as fellow stars guard Mike Michalske and halfback Johnny Blood. It’s no coincidence that Green Bay won the next three championships with their help. That made four titles for Cal. Hubbard and Michalske shored up the defensive line to the extent that the Packers only surrendered 22 points for the entire 1929 season while Johnny Blood helped the offense score 198.  Curly Lambeau had Cal stay in the line on defense, ending his linebacker days.

Hubbard was sometimes listed as weighing as much as 270 pounds, but he asserted that he never weighed more than 250 in his playing days, which was still gigantic stature for those days of two-way football.  Opposing quarterback Harry Newman later told Richard Whittingham that, “Green Bay had the most brutal lineman in the game, Cal Hubbard.  He played tackle and was about 6’5″ and maybe 270 pounds.  He played with the same kind of intensity that Dick Butkus did later.  We used to say of Cal that even if he missed you, he still hurt you.  When he tackled you, you remembered it. I do to this day.”

Hubbard started baseball umpiring in the minor leagues in 1928 and worked his way up to the International League by 1931 as his football career was winding down.  He left the pros in 1934 to be a line coach at Texas A&M for one year, and then returned to Green Bay in 1935.  The following year, he saw action with both Pittsburgh and the Giants, but of more importance, he was promoted to American League umpire.  Over the next 16 seasons as a big league umpire, he worked four World Series and three All Star Games.  When a hunting accident marred his vision in 1952, he was promoted to assistant supervisor of umpires and then to American League Supervisor of Umpires in 1954.  He held that post until 1969 when he retired.

In that same year, Cal was voted the NFL’s greatest tackle for its first fifty years; Don Hutson, Jerry Kramer and Ray Nitschke also made that same team.  In addition, he was selected along with Hutson and Clarke Hinkle to the league’s 75th anniversary two-way team.  Cal is also a member of at least six Halls of Fame.  He is the only man to be a member of both the Baseball and Pro Football Halls, and he is also in the College Football Hall, the Packer Hall, the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame and the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.  He was inducted into Cooperstown in 1976, but was one of four Packers who were charter members of the Pro Football Hall in 1963 along with Curly Lambeau, Don Hutson, and Johnny Blood.

Ted Fritsch was a native Wisconsinite who attended Stevens Point, where the Packers would later hold training camp in the mid-1950s. His coach at Stevens Point, Eddie Kotal, was a former Packer player and assistant coach who talked Curly Lambeau into signing Fritsch as an undrafted free agent in 1942. Fritsch quickly established himself as a fullback/linebacker second only to Clarke Hinkle in team history. Ted was a two-time All-Pro, scored both Green Bay touchdowns in the 1944 NFL title game and the NFL’s top scorer with 100 points in 1946. He actually signed with the Browns of the All-America Football Conference, but Paul Brown let him out of that contract when the Browns brought in Marion Motley. Fritsch spent nine years in Green Bay from 1942-50 and usually served as the team’s field goal kicker as well, although he hit on only eight of 37 attempts in his final two seasons. A convivial and gregarious man who was popular wherever he went, he was elected to the Packer Hall of Fame in 1973.

Two other starting Packer linemen were also born on Halloween: Claude Perry and Ross Verba. While Claude “Cupid” Perry can’t measure up to Hubbard, he was a very good two-way tackle who came to Green Bay in 1927 after starring for Alabama’s first national championship team in 1926. On the Green Bay line, he played alongside two former Tide teammates—Bruce Jones and Jim Bowdoin. He and Jones also played together at Walker High School. Claude was generally a starter for the Packers from 1927-35, aside from four games in the middle of 1932 when he was loaned to the Brooklyn Dodgers. He surfaced in the second American Football League in 1936 before retiring from playing. During World War II, Perry enlisted in the Marines at the age of 41 and later returned to his native Alabama and worked in the coal mining business. Verba was Green Bay’s top draft pick in 1997 and was a solid starter with a nasty streak at tackle and guard from 1997-2000 until he left for Cleveland as a free agent.

(Adapted from Packers by the Numbers)

1931chubbard2  1931hubbardgrove

1945tfritsch  1932cperry

Custom cards all colorized.

Packers by the Numbers Update: #7

When I wrote Packers by the Numbers, 14 Packers had worn number seven: centers Jug Earp and Bud Svendsen, ends Joel Mason and Dick Gordon, punters Sean Landetta and Hanson, quarterbacks Don Majkowski and Danny Wuerffel as well as six other backs. Earp was the first to wear it and Majik Man wore it the longest, five years. Mason and fullbacks Eddie Jankowski and Walt Schlinkman all wore it for four years. Earp, Svendsen, Jankowski and Majkowski are all in the Packer Hall of Fame, but the number is still waiting its first great Packer.

In the ensuing years, four more Packers have donned 7: horrendous quarterback J.T O’Sullivan in 2004, backup QB Ingle Martin in 2006, punter Jeremy Kapinos for the last four games in 2008 and the full season of 2009 and current backup QB Brett Hundley. While Hundley has shown potential, he is just getting his chance to develop it now that Aaron Rodgers is hurt. The other three are entirely forgettable.

1938ejankowski  1942jmason2

1949lwschlinkman  1990tdmajkowski2

1976fbudwuerffel  1976fbujtosullivan

1976fbuimartin  1976rbubhundley

First three custom cards are colorized.

Outlasting the Eagles in 1958

On a rainy October 26 afternoon at City Stadium, the Packers won an explosive game against the visiting Philadelphia Eagles 38-34. Babe Parilli went all the way at quarterback and threw for four touchdown passes. The Packers began the scoring with a Paul Hornung 30-yard field goal in the first quarter and extended their lead to 10-0 in the second quarter on a 35-yard Parilli strike to Max McGee on a post pattern. The Eagles countered with a 70-yard dash from scrimmage by Bullet Billy Barnes, but Parilli answered that with a 52-yard scoring drive that culminated with a Howie Ferguson 2-yard TD plunge.

Eagle QB Norm Van Brocklin then drove the Eagles 69 yards in the final 2 ½ minutes of the half and hit Tommy McDonald for an 8-yard score with just 15 seconds remaining. Packers up 17-14 at the half.

Bobby Dillon’s first of two interceptions gave Green Bay the ball at the Philly 38, and Parilli hit Al Carmichael from the 14 six plays later. After the kickoff, Eagles fullback Dick Bielski fumbled at Eagle 33 and the ball was recovered by linebacker Tom Bettis. Eight plays later, Parilli hit Gary Knafelc from the 10 to make the score 31-14. Babe then closed out the third period by finding Max McGee for a 25-yard touchdown and a 38-14 lead.

Van Brocklin went to work in the fourth quarter. He drove the Eagles 68 yards with Billy Wells running it in from the three, 38-21. A second drive ended with a 15-yard TD toss to Gene Mitcham, 38-28 with 4:30 to play. Van Brocklin struck again with a 19-yard toss to Tommy McDonald with 54 second left, 38-34. Fortunately for the Packers, rookie Ray Nitschke recovered the ensuing onside kick to allow Green Bay to achieve its only victory of its sorriest season, a woeful year that would usher in a certain Fordham graduate from New York as the new coach two months later.

1958tbparilli  1958tmmcgee2

1958tacarmichael  1958tphornung2

1958ttbettis2  1958trnitschke3

All custom cards colorized except for McGee.

Chester Marcol Turns 68 Today

Chester Marcol was as unusual a character as one would expect to find on the gridiron. When he was 16, he emigrated from Poland with his family to Michigan.  A star soccer player in Poland, he had never played American football before picking up the game in high school.  He played end for Imlay City, but his extremely powerful leg brought him notice from the football coach at Hillsdale College, a small school in Michigan.  Marcol had great success at Hillsdale, even setting a field goal distance record by booting a 62 yarder.

Meanwhile in Green Bay, the field goal kicking had been an ongoing problem since Don Chandler retired. In 1968, Jerry Kramer, Chuck Mercein and Mike Mercer went 13 of 29.  In 1969, Mercer and Booth Lusteg went 6 of 22.  In 1970, Dale Livingston got slightly above water with 15 of 28 field goals, and Tim Webster and Lou Michaels followed that with a 14 of 26 performance in 1971.  Altogether the seven kickers made 48 of 105 field goal attempts, a paltry 45.7%, and missed six extra points over the four-year period.

Marcol was drafted in the second round of the 1972 draft. He was the first soccer-style kicker in team history and made an immediate impression by leading the league in scoring and being named All-Pro as a rookie. He again led the league in points and was named All-Pro in 1974, but after that his career went into a slow decline. He was injured and sat out most of 1975 and then started using cocaine.  He returned as the Packers kicker in 1976, but the last five years of his career was a steady downward spiral.

He shared the placekicking with Tom Birney in 1979 due to knee problems.  In 1980 he beat out Birney for the kicking job and improbably scored the winning touchdown on opening day against the Bears by returning a recovered blocked kick for a touchdown in overtime. However, he was released after five games because of his erratic performance and behavior, and Birney was brought back.  Despite having a big leg, Marcol’s 61.5%  overall field goal percentage is a little lower than the league average for the period. He only made 45% of kicks longer than 40 yards, and just three of 16 attempts of at least 50 yards.

Houston brought Marcol in for one game that year, but then his football career was over.  His personal life continued to deteriorate as well — drinking, drugs, divorce, depression all led to an eventual suicide attempt by drinking battery acid in 1986.  From that low point, Chester took a long slow road to recovery with the help of friends and family and eventually wrote an autobiography with Gary D’Amato called Alive and Kicking in 2011.

(adapted from Packers by the Numbers and Green Bay Gold)

1972tcmarcol  1975tcmarcol

1977tcmarcol  1980tcmarcol

1977 custom card is colorized.

Two Forgotten Linemen

Two long-deceased linemen who came to Green Bay via Los Angeles shared an October 22 birthday: Forrest McPherson and Dave Stephenson. McPherson had a strange, bifurcated NFL career. Born in Nebraska, he attended the University of Nebraska and then signed with the Bears in 1935. After one game, he was acquired by the Eagles and spent the next three seasons in Philadelphia at guard and tackle. Beginning in 1938, he played for the Los Angeles Bulldogs, an independent team that joined the Pacific Coast League in 1940, through 1942. With the roster depleted by the War, Curly Lambeau persuaded McPherson to return the NFL in 1943, and Forrest was a reserve tackle and center in Green Bay from 1943-45. His Bulldog teammate Roy Wehba signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1943 and then joined McPherson in Green Bay for the 1944 championship season.

In 1946, McPherson tried out for the Los Angeles Dons of the new All-America Football Conference and then returned to the Bulldogs for two more years. He ended his career as a the player-coach of the Hollywood Bears in 1948. He died in 1989.

World War II veteran Dave “Trapper” Stephenson was drafted out of West Virginia by the Los Angeles Rams in the 13th round of the 1950 NFL draft and played one season at guard for the Western Division champs. Two days before the start of the 1951 season, Stephenson and end Dick Moje were obtained by the Packers for undisclosed terms. Trapper spent the next five seasons at guard and center in Green Bay. He was the team’s starting center in 1953 and then his starting slot to rookie Jim Ringo in 1954. He later coached in the Continental Football League and worked in sales. Stephenson died at the age of 49 in 1975.

1943fmcpherson2  1944fmcphersonc

1952bdstephenson2  1953bdstephenson2

Custom cards are colorized.