A Look Back at 1939

1939team 2 1939clambeauc

After the disappointing loss in the 1938 championship game, the Packers made amends a year later. Although the team was just third in scoring and fourth in points allowed, Green Bay posted a 9-2 mark, with both losses by just three points and both resulting from fourth quarter comebacks by the opposition. The Pack was 5-1 at home and 4-1 on their season-closing road trip that stretched from Halloween on. They were 4-0 against losing teams and 5-2 against all others.

As I wrote in Pioneer Coaches of the NFL:

In a rematch [with Steve Owen’s Giants] in Milwaukeee on December 10, 1939, an effective passing game was again key in a 27-0 Packer blowout. It was the largest title game point differential in history until the Bears beat Washington 73-0 the following year. Lambeau’s attack this time, though, was to rely more on a power running game. On a very windy Wisconsin day, the Packers ran the ball 49 times for 138 yards and threw the ball just ten times, completing seven for 96 yards, with three interceptions. The Giants ran 34 times for 72 yards and threw 25 passes, but completed just eight for 94 yards and had six passes intercepted. Don Hutson was held to just two receptions for 21 yards, but his first catch for 15 yards set up a touchdown pass from Herber to Milt Gantenbein two plays later, with Hutson acting as a decoy.

Leading just 7-0 at the half, Green Bay took control in the third quarter, scoring ten points, including a 31-yard touchdown pass from Cecil Isbell to Joe Laws to make the score 17-0 and making the fourth quarter a time of desperation for New York. The Packers intercepted two more passes and scored 10 more points to complete their win.

Arnie Herber led Green Bay’s two-armed passing attack by throwing for 1,107 yard, eight touchdowns and nine interceptions. Second-year-man Cecil Isbell added 749 yards, six TDs and five interceptions. Isbell also led the team in rushing with 407 yards and caught nine passes. Clarke Hinkle gained 381 yards on the ground. Andy Uram set a team record with a 97-yard touchdown run against the Cardinals. Don Hutson led the league in catches (34), yards receiving (846) and yards per catch (24.9) and led the team in touchdown catches with 6 and points with 38. Hinkle chipped in 35 points, while guard Tiny Engebretsen added 30 points with his foot. Rookie center Charlie Brock led the team with seven interceptions and Joe Laws added three.

An eight-man rookie class made the Packers, led by Brock and versatile Larry Craig. Craig played blocking back on offense and end on defense, allowing the slender Hutson to move to the defensive backfield where he was much better suited.

Hutson, Craig, tackle Baby Ray and guard Buckets Goldenberg all were named first team All-Pros, while Hinkle, Isbell and guard Russ Letlow made the second team.

1939AHERBERc 1939cisbellc2

1939hinklec 1939dhutsonc2

1939cbrockc 1939brayc

1939lcraigc 1939bgoldenbergc

1939rletlowc 1939engbretsenc

1939mgantenbeinc 1939auramc

All custom cards are colorized.

Josh Sitton Turns 34

The beginnings of another dynamic guard tandem in Green Bay were sown when Central Florida’s Josh Sitton was selected in the fourth round of the 2008 draft. Within a few years, Sitton would team with T.J. Lang to give the Packers perhaps the best set of guards in the NFL.

Sitton looked to be headed to the starting right guard position as a rookie, but a preseason knee injury limited his play in 2008. Josh took over as full time starter in 2009 and was a starter and a star from then on despite shifting from the right to the left side in 2013. He was voted the Offensive Lineman of the Year by the NFL Alumni Association in 2010, was named to the Pro Bowl in 2012, ’14, ’15 and ‘16 and drew All-Pro notice for five of six years from 2010-15.

6’3” 320 pounds and tough, Sitton has missed only two starts in the seven years. He had the power and explosiveness to drive block and the strength and agility to protect he passer, allowing only very few sacks as a starter. His nasty, aggressive attitude made him a leader on the Packers’ offensive line, and he was impossible to intimidate.

The finances of the sport caused the Packers to let Sitton leave as a free agent in 2016, and he spent two years as a starter with the Bears before ending his career with one game with the Dolphins in 2018.

(adapted from Green Bay Gold)

2010jsitton

Custom Card in Topps style.

A Look Back at 1938…

1938teamcard 1938clambeau

Once again, the Packers got off to a sluggish start in 1938, losing two of their first five games at home, but the team rallied for a five-game winning streak that placed them in first place with an 8-2 mark going into their season finale against the Giants in New York. Green Bay out gained the Giants that day, but the New Yorkers picked off five Packer passes, and Mel Hein returned one for a 55-yard score to cinch the 15-3 Giant triumph.

The odd thing was that the Packer finale occurred before Thanksgiving on November 20. At that point, all Lambeau and company could do was watch as the second place Lions beat the Bears on Turkey Day and then hosted the 4-6 Eagles on December 4. Fortunately Philadelphia sprung an upset and clinched the Western title for Green Bay. They would face the Giants and their NFL-best defense again in New York on December 11 for the championship. As I wrote in Pioneer Coaches of the NFL:

Four years later, the Packers were a 7-5 favorite with the bookies in the NFL title game, even though the New York had whipped Green Bay 15-3 just three weeks prior. The opportunistic Giants allowed the fewest points in the league and intercepted the most passes. The Packers were big and talented with an exciting passing game, but mistakes were their downfall. The subtitle to Rud Rennie’s game story in the New York Herald Tribune was, “Brilliant Green Bay Passing Attack Futile as N.Y. Capitalizes on Blocked Kicks, Boners, Penalty.”

Statistically, Green Bay dominated: 164 to 115 in rushing yards, 214 to 94 in passing yards, 378 to 209 in total yards, but Steve Owen’s smart kicking teams blocked two punts deep in Packer territory, and both led to easy Giants’ touchdowns. The Packers fought back to take a 17-16 lead in the third quarter, but a Danowski-to-Soar touchdown pass of 23 yards later in the period was the final score of the game as the Giants’ defense held firm.

For the year, Green Bay was 4-2 at home–with both losses coming in City Stadium–and 4-1 on the road. They were 5-0 against losing teams and 3-3 in the rest of their schedule. The Packers scored the most points in the league while yielding the third lowest total.

Top draft pick Cecil Isbell led the team in both passing (659) and rushing yards (445) while throwing for eight scores and 10 interceptions. Bob Monnett was second in passing yards with 465 and threw nine TD passes, while Arnie Herber dropped to 336 yards passing and just three touchdowns. On the ground, Isbell was followed by Clarke Hinkle’s 299 yards and Joe Laws’ 253. Hinkle led the team in points with 58 and Laws in interceptions with 6.

Don Hutson had some injury problems but still led the team with 32 catches and the league with 548 receiving yards and 9 touchdown catches. Milt Gantenbein was second on the club with 12 receptions. Hutson was second on the team in points with 57. Hinkle, Hutson and guard Russ Letlow were all first team All-Pro, while Isbell and Gantenbein were named to the second team.

Isbell led a bumper crop of rookies that included long-time starters at tackle, Baby Ray; guard, Pete Tinsley; end Carl Mulleneaux; and halfback, Andy Uram.

1938cisbell4 1938bmonnett

1938aherber 1938chinkle2

1938jlaws2 1938dhutson

1938mgantenbein 1938rletlow3

1938bray 1938ptinsley3

1938cmulleneaux2 1938auram2

Custom cards all colorized.

A Look Back at 1937

1937team 1937yclambeau

The defending champion Packers had an odd year in 1937. The team was beaten by the College All-Stars on September 1 and then lost its first two games at home, won seven in a row and then lost its last two games on the road to finish 7-4, tied for second in the West with Detroit. The College All-Star Game was just the fourth of the series and the second win for the collegians. The winning score in the 6-0 game was a first quarter 47-yard touchdown pass from Sammy Baugh to Gaynell Tinsley. Baugh would lead the Redskins to the NFL title as a rookie, while Tinsley would pace the league in receiving yards.

Green Bay led the league in points with 220, but scored just 15 in its four losses, while averaging nearly 30 per game in its seven wins. The Pack were 4-2 at home (2-0 in Milwaukee) and 3-2 on the road. While they were 3-0 against losing teams, they were just 4-4 against the rest of a tough schedule. Green Bay trailed the Bears all year and were never able to overcome Chicago, which lost to the Redskins in the title game hat year.

Arnie Herber again led the team in passing with 684 yards, but versatile tailback Bob Monnett completed half his passes and threw for 580 yards. Herber tossed seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions, while Monnett threw eight of each.

Clarke Hinkle led the team with 552 yards rushing, and rookie fullback Eddie Jankowski followed with 324 yards on the ground. Hutson, of course, led the team and the league with 41 catches and seven TD receptions. He also led the team with 552 yards through the air. Milt Gantenbein was second with 12 catches. Joe Laws was third in rushing with 310 yards and third in receptions with 10.

Hinkle also led the team with four interceptions and 57 points; Hutson was second with 44 points. Hinkle, Hutson and guard Lon Evans were named first team All-Pro, while tackles Ernie Smith and Lou Gordon, guard Russ Letlow and Gantenbein were all named to the second team. A midseason exchange of tackles with the Brooklyn Dodgers brought Bill Lee to Green Bay for Av Daniell. Lee was a six-year starter for the Packers, while Daniell played just five games for the Dodgers.

As the cards below indicate, Green Bay unveiled a new look in 1937 with blue jerseys that featured a gold shoulder panel.

1937yaherber 1937ybmonnett

1937ychinkle 1937yejankowski2

1937ydhutson2 1937ymgantenbein2

1937yjlaws2 1937ylevans

1937yesmith2 1937ylgordon

1937yrletlow3 1937yblee2

All custom cards are colorized.

A Card for Everyone: Sam Palumbo and Urban Henry

Two one-year Packers share June 7 as a birthday: linebacker Sam Palumbo and defensive tackle Urban Henry. Palumbo was a schoolboy star in football and basketball in his hometown of Cleveland and played defensive tackle at Notre Dame before being drafted by the Browns in the fourth round in 1955. As a rookie, he played linebacker for the College All-Stars that year when they upset the champion Browns and then spent two seasons with Cleveland. The highlight of his time under Coach Paul Brown was when he replaced an injured Chuck Noll for the 1955 title game and picked off a Norm Van Brocklin pass in the Browns 38-14 triumph over the Rams.

After the 1956 season, Palumbo was included in an eight-player deal with the Packers. He, Babe Parilli, Carlton Massey, Billy Kinard, John Petitbon and John Macerelli came to Green Bay and Bobby Garrett and Roger Zatkoff were sent to Cleveland. Sam earned a starting linebacker position as a Packer but injured his ankle in week eight against the Steelers. Although it was initially diagnosed as a sprained ankle, it eventually was determined that Palumbo had a broken leg.

Sam returned for training camp in 1958, but was one of the final cuts in September. In 1960, he signed on with the fledgling Buffalo Bills of the AFL, but was cut after the season opener. Coach Buster Ramsey said that Palumbo could no longer run fast enough for the pros. Sam returned home to Cleveland and worked as a high school referee for 40 years while maintaining an insurance business. He retired from both in 2001 and was elected to the Greater Cleveland Sports Hall of Fame in 2016.

Georgia Tech’s Urban Henry was a bit of a rough customer.  A Louisiana native, he was drafted in the fourth round in 1958 by the Los Angeles Rams, but signed with the BC Lions of the CFL instead. The defensive tackle was a two-time All-Star in his three seasons up north before signing with LA in 1961. Although a starter, Henry was more renowned with the Rams for his hobby of oil painting on velvet.

The following training camp, Henry suffered a pinched nerve in his neck and was put on the taxi squad. He again returned to Canada where he signed with Edmonton, but did not appear in any games in ’62. The Rams waived Henry in 1963, and Green Bay signed him after having traded Bill Quinlan to Philadelphia. Asst. Coach Tom Fears said at the time, “He’s a rough tough boy who likes to be remembered.”

One option was for Henry to move outside to defensive end. A second was for quick-footed Henry Jordan to move to end with Urban taking Jordan’s interior spot. However, what happened was that rookie Lionel Aldridge emerged as a very talented defensive end, and Urban spent his one season in Green Bay as a backup.

Vince Lombardi dealt Henry to the Steelers for a draft pick in August 1964, and Urban spent his final NFL season in Pittsburgh. There is a memorable NFL Films clip of him from that time in which an opposing runner skitters out of bounds, while Henry, seated on the bench, quickly rises and decks him with his shoulder. Henry died of a heart attack in 1979 at the age of 43.

1957tspalumbo2 1957tbbspalumbo

1963tuhenry5 1963fuhenry3

1963kuhenry

First Palumbo custom card and second and third Henry ones are colorized.

A Card for Everyone: John Petitbon

When Pro Football Hall of Fame safety and New Orleans-native Richie Petitbon was inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in 1992, he modestly accepted by saying, “I want to thank you all for this honor, but I want to tell you something. I was only the second best football player in my family.” Richie was referring to his big brother John who was elected to that same home-state Hall four years later.

Born on June 4, 1931, John was a New Orleans schoolboy star in the late 1940s before being recruited by Frank Leahy to play at Notre Dame. Petitbon originally played safety for the Irish but switched to offense in 1950. He received All-America notice and was drafted in the seventh round by the New York Yanks in 1952. The Yanks moved to Dallas that year, and Petitbon intercepted five passes as a rookie for the ill-fated Texans before joining the Marines for two years.

While in Korea, Petitbon was included in a 15-player trade between the Baltimore Colts (who had taken over for the defunct Texans) and Cleveland Browns. He was one of five Colts becoming Browns, with 10 Browns going the reverse route. John earned a starting spot with the championship Browns in 1955, but lost that safety slot to rookie Junior Wren in ’56.

Now expendable, Petitbon was dealt with Babe Parilli, Carlton Massey, Sam Palumbo, Billy Kinard, and John Macerelli to Green Bay for Bobby Garrett and Roger Zatkoff in 1957. He started all 12 games for the Packers that year and picked off one pass. In February ’58, Petitbon announced his retirement at age 27 to go into the insurance business back in New Orleans. A month later, Green Bay dealt his rights and Doyle Nix to Washington for Steve Meilinger and J.D. Kimmell.

Petitbon stayed retired. He passed away in 2006 at the age of 75.

1957tjpetitbon2 1957tbbjpetitbon

Custom Cards are colorized.

Tyrone Williams

Born May 31, 1973 in Bradenton, Florida, Tyrone Williams was in and out of trouble throughout his life, and his Packer career was maddening at times. Drafted from two-time national champion Nebraska in the third round of the 1996 despite a pending court case concerning Williams firing a gun at a car, Tyrone filled the third cornerback role for the championship Packers as a rookie. A year later, he replaced injured Craig Newsome as the team’s left cornerback for a second Super Bowl run. Williams then moved to the right side in 1998 and started there for five seasons.

Blessed with 4.38 speed in the forty, the 5’11” 195-pound Williams had great talent as a cover corner, but was inconsistent in his coverage and even more so in his tackling. At times, he was very physical and threw his body around recklessly, but at others, he would miss easy tackles to allow big plays. Add in a tendency to report to training camp in questionable shape and periodic off-field distractions, and his career is remembered as being undisciplined and disappointing. His season high of five interceptions came in 1998, and he scored twice on interception returns, once each in 2000 and 2001. Released in 2003, he spent a year with Atlanta and one with Dallas before leaving the game. There have been more tangles with the law since then, but, ironically, Williams has since formed TruPros, an organization to counsel NFL players in life issues.

(Adapted from Green Bay Gold.)

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1998twilliams 1999twilliams

2000twilliams 2002tywilliams

Custom cards in a variety of styles.

A Look Back at 1936

1936TEAM 1936clambeau

Curly Lambeau earned his first championship of the playoff era in 1936 with a dominating Packers’ club that finished 10-1-1 and led the league in scoring with 248 points, while finishing fourth in points allowed with 118. The team started the season with a 5-1 home stand and ended it with a 5-0-1 road trip. They went 4-0-1 against losing teams and 6-1 against all others.

Green Bay opened with a tight 10-7 win over the Cardinals, won on a 23-yard fourth quarter field goal by Ernie Smith, and then played their worst game of the year against the Bears a week later, getting crushed 30-3. Winning their next nine games, the Packers were only challenged twice. A home battle with the Lions pivoted on Johnny Blood catching a 40-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to take a 17-15 lead. After the Lions answered with a field goal to retake the lead, Blood led the team back down the field in a drive that culminated with an 18-yard field goal by Tiny Engebretsen to win the game in the last minute of play. Three weeks later in Boston, Green Bay eked out a 7-3 win over the Redskins on a 19-yard touchdown pass from Herber to Hutson in the third quarter. In the season finale against the Cardinals on December 6, Lambeau rested his stars on an icy day, and the game ended in a 0-0 tie.

A week later in the title game at the Polo Grounds in New York, the Packers long-ball attack prevailed.  Hutson scored on a 48-yard touchdown pass from Herber, while a second Herber scoring toss to Milt Gantenbein was set up by his 55-yard bomb to Blood. Green Bay triumphed 21-6.

For the season, Herber led the league in pass attempts, completions, passing yards (1,239) and touchdown passes (11), while Hutson led in receptions (34) receiving yards (536) and touchdown catches (8). Gantenbein added 15 catches, but the aging Blood grabbed just 7. Clark Hinkle led the team with 476 yards rushing and four interceptions on defense. George Sauer was second in yards rushing with 305. Blood, Hank Bruder and George Svendsen each had three interceptions. Hutson was the top scorer with 54 points, followed by Hinkle with 31 and Smith with 29.

Guard Russ Letlow was the Packers’ first-ever draft choice and was the team’s top freshman. Guard Lon Evans and tackle Ernie Smith joined Hutson, Herber, Hinkle and Gantenbein as first team All-Pros, while tackle Ade Schwammel was named to the second team.

1936aherber 1936dhutson

1936jblood2 1936mgantenbein

1936chinkle2 1936gsauer

1936esmith 1936aschwammel

1936pengebretsen 1936levans

1936gsvendsen 1936hbruder

1936rletlow2 1936rletlowdraft

All custom cards are colorized.