LaVern–End Burly

LaVern Dilweg was the epitome of the scholar athlete.  Born on November 1, 1903, he graduated from Marquette in his hometown of Milwaukee and then enrolled in the law school there while he took up professional football with the local Milwaukee Badgers in 1926.  The team ran into financial difficulties that year, and Dilweg’s rights were nearly sold to George Halas for the Chicago Bears.  Dilweg had no problem with the thought of finishing the season in Chicago, but insisted on being a free agent for the next season so he could return closer to home.  Halas would not agree to that so Dilweg stayed put and signed with Green Bay the next season.

In Green Bay, he also began his legal career.  He would practice football in the morning and law in the afternoon. He had received some All-League consideration in his rookie year in Milwaukee, but in Green Bay he was named All-League for his first five years, and then second team for two more years.  Only in his final year of 1934 did he not receive any postseason notice.

Lavvie had long arms and large hands that he used on defense to ward off blockers.  He was a solid wall against the run and was the unofficial career league leader in interceptions with 27 when he retired.  On offense, even playing for Curly Lambeau who passed more than most, his highest reception total was 25 in the championship year of 1929.  Unofficial counts list him with 126 catches for 2,043 yards, 16.2 yards per catch average, and 12 touchdowns.  He also scored twice on interceptions and kicked two extra points for a total of 86 points. Overall, he was consistently excellent, and was named to the NFL’s All-Decade team for the 1920s.  Dilweg deserves to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as one of the two best ends of his era, with Guy Chamberlin.

Lavvie retired after the 1934 season.  He would be replaced in the lineup by the spectacular offensive force of Don Hutson in 1935 who would make it seem as if no one had ever played end before.  Since Dilweg worked in the law firm of Gerald Clifford, one of the Hungry Five who managed the team, he took part in one last great event in Packer history. In January 1935 he was the witness as the articles of incorporation for the reorganization of the non-profit Packers were signed by Clifford, Lee Joannes and Dr. Kelly.

Dilweg continued to practice law in Green Bay for several years, but kept busy in other ways as well.  He officiated Big Ten football games until 1943.  He ran unsuccessful campaigns for state attorney general and U.S. Senator, and then was elected to Congress in 1942.  He lost his bid for re-election, but built up a lucrative law practice with his Washington D.C. ties. In 1961 President Kennedy appointed him for a three-year term to the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission and he was reappointed twice by President Johnson.  He died on January 2, 1968 in St. Petersburg, Florida, just two days after Lombardi’s Packers won their third consecutive NFL title in the Ice Bowl replicating the achievement of the Packers of Dilweg’s era.

Posthumously, Lavvie Dilweg was a charter inductee into the Packer Hall of Fame in 1970. 55 years after Lavvie retired and 21 years after he died, another Dilweg wore the green and gold, his grandson Anthony.  Anthony Dilweg was a third round pick in 1989 who made the team as a backup quarterback.

1927ldilweg  1928ldilweg

1929ldilweg  1930ldilweg

1931ldilweg  1932ldilweg

1933ldilweg  1934ldilweg2

2waydilweg2c  njsldilweg

All Custom Cards are colorized.

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Packers by the Numbers Update: #53

Fullback Herdis McCrary was the first Packer to wear 53 in 1933. He was followed by tackle Ade Schwammel (1934), tackle Lou Gordon (1936), center Bud Svendsen (1939), end Dick Evans (1940), center Bob Ingalls (1942 and fullback Don Perkins (1944) in the Lambeau era.

In the modern era, 53 has been worn by two centers and 17 linebackers.

C: Dave Stephenson (1953-55) and Ken Iman (1960-63)

LB: George Timberlake (1955), Sam Palumbo (1957), Fred Carr (1968-77), Frank Chesley (1978), Mike Douglass (1979-85), Bobby Leopold (1986), Miles Turpin (1986), Aric Anderson (1987r), John Corker (1988), George Koonce (1992-99), Mike Morton (2000), Andre O’Neal (2001), Paris Lenon (2002-05), Spencer Havner (2008), Maurice Simpkins (2010), Diyral Briggs (2010) and Nick Perry (2012-18).

The longest gaps when no Packer wore the number were from 1945-52 and 1964-67. Fred Carr and Mad Dog Douglass were the best Packers to don it. They and Bud Svendsen are all members of the Packer Hall of Fame. Carr wore it longest at 10 years, but Douglass and Nick Perry wore it for seven and George Koonce for eight.

1933hmccrary  1936lgordon

1944dperkins2  1953bdstephenson2

1961fkiman2  1977tfcarr2

1983tmdouglass  1998gkoonce

2010msimpkins2  2010dbriggs

First four custom cards are colorized.

Jab Murray

On this day in 1892, Richard “Jab” Murray was born in Oconto, Wisconsin. Murray grew up in Marinette and attended high school there where he played football, basketball and baseball. In baseball, he primarily was a pitcher and spent several years playing semipro ball in the area.

Murray attended Marquette University and the 220 pounder starred as a tackle on the gridiron from 1917-19, with a detour into the Army in 1918. Jab was stationed at Camp Hancock in Georgia and played Army football. After graduating from Marquette law school, he was admitted to the bar in 1920.

Jab joined the Packers in their first year in the NFL in 1921 and appeared in 22 games with Green Bay from 1921-24. He also played eight games for Racine in 1922. Murray is mentioned in the Green Bay Press-Gazette on October 18 as gearing up for the Sunday match with Milwaukee. The next mention of him in that paper comes on October 21 when he is noted as “formerly with the Green Bay Packers” but now with Racine. No explanation is given of the change, but Jab returned to Green Bay in 1923.

In 1925, the 33-year-old Murray retired from football and was hired as the city attorney for Marinette. Three years later he was elected mayor for the first of nine two-year terms. He remained a prominent local leader until his death on April 28, 1958 at the age of 65.

1921jmurray  1922jmurray

1923jmurray  1924jmurray

Custom cards all colorized.

1963 Kahn Weiner Cards Colorized

In the 1950s and ‘60s, Cincinnati-based Kahn’s Weiners released a series of baseball, basketball and football cards with their hot dog packages. Their football series ran from 1959-64 and sometimes just featured players from the two closest teams (the Browns and Steelers). The cards were an odd size, used team publicity shots and were black and white each year except for 1964. In 1963 though, Kahn’s produced its largest set, 92 cards, and the set included players from all 14 NFL teams. Twelve of the 92 were Packers.

I have colorized the Packer cards and proportionally resized them so that they are roughly the dimensions of 1948-49 Leaf cards.

1963kbforester  1963kbstarr

1963kdcurrie  1963kfgregg

1963kfthurston  1963kjkramer

1963kjringo  1963kjtaylor

1963krkostelnik  1963krkramer

1963krnitschke  1963kwwood

Custom cards all resized and colorized.

Packers by the Numbers Update: #52

In recent years, 52 has been worn for long stretches by two very popular Packers, but the early history of the number is not so impressive. It was first worn by end Al Rose in 1932, and he was followed by center Art Bultman (1934), Guard Tiny Engebretsen (1936), back Larry Buhler (1939-41), fullback Ken Snelling (1945, guard Bill Kuusisto (1946) and end Bob Skoglund (1947) in the Lambeau era.

In the modern era, 52 has been worn by six linebackers and three centers.

LB: Cleo Walker 1970), Gary Weaver (1975-79), George Cumby (1980-85), Mike Weddington (1986-90), James Melka (1987r) and Clay Matthews (2009-18).

C: Wimpy Winther (1971), John Schmitt (1974) and Frank Winters (1992-2002).

There was a 22 year gap from 1948 through 1969 when no Packer wore 52. Perhaps some of that was due to Skoglund having died from a kidney infection on January 1, 1949. Then there was a six year gap after Frank Winters ended his 11 year tenure in the number before Clay Matthews took it on in 2009. Matthews now has held the number for 10 years. He and Winters are the most prominent Packers to wear it, and Frankie and Tiny Engebretsen are both members of the Packer Hall of Fame.

1932arose  1947bskoglund

1971twwinther2  1974tjschmitt

1976tgweaver  1985tgcumby

1986tmweddington  1994fwinter

2010cmatthews

Custom cards of Rose, Skoglund, Winther and Weaver are colorized.

Bill Curry Turns 76

The starting center for Packers in the first Super Bowl had a short career in Green Bay, but that brief time left a lifetime of influence on the man. An articulate speaker and the author of two thoughtful memoirs, Bill Curry spent more seasons, 20, as a head coach than any of Lombardi’s former Packers, although his understanding of the famed coach was much more complicated, questioning, and critical than many of his Green Bay teammates. His coaching success, like that of all his former teammates, was limited, with a cumulative coaching record of 93-128-4.

Curry was selected as a future draft pick in 1964 and then played in the 1965 College All Star Game. He was scheduled to report to Green Bay the day after that game. When the airline could not find his reservation, Bill nearly panicked at the thought of being late for his first practice as a Packer, but had the brilliant thought to invoke the threat of Lombardi’s wrath on the man at the North Central Airlines counter in Chicago should it be his fault that a Packer missed practice. With that, the man chartered a Piper Cub plane to get Curry to Green Bay on time.

Once there, Curry had a personal session with the coach in which Lombardi drew up all of the Packers’ plays on a yellow legal pad and succinctly explained them. Later Ken Bowman would add details and help Curry learn the basics of the position and its responsibilities. In August, he told the Milwaukee Sentinel, “I’m just keeping my stuff in the suitcase in case I’m leaving. I don’t want to leave, of course.” He added, “They ought to call it something else besides football. It’s not like football like I played before. It’s so much quicker. You just don’t have time to fiddle around. Everyone moves so fast. And technique is so important here.”

As a rookie, Curry was a backup at both center and linebacker, snapped the ball on punts and field goals, and played on other kicking and coverage units, too. He also won a ring as a member of the 1965 NFL champions. He returned in 1966 as number two on the depth chart at center, but when Bowman separated his shoulder at the end of the preseason, Bill opened the season as starting center. What’s more, he remained the starter even when Bowman recovered. In December, offensive line coach Ray Wietecha told the Milwaukee Journal, “Curry got his chance because Ken Bowman got hurt. He had to learn all the lessons that Bowman learned the year before. Curry made good progress. But it’s tough breaking in. You could notice his improvement between spring training [sic] and up through about the fourth league game. From then on, it depended a lot on who the opposing middle linebacker was, how good a day he had. That’s always the way.”

Bill started in the NFL Championship against the Cowboys and then the very first Super Bowl against the Chiefs. In the Super Bowl, though, he left early in the second half with a leg injury and was replaced by Bowman. It would be his last game as a Packer; 25 days later on February 9, 1967, Vince Lombardi called Curry to tell him that he had been left unprotected in the New Orleans Saints’ expansion draft and the new team had picked him. Less than a month later on March 6, Curry’s fortunes were reversed again when Don Shula called Bill to tell him he was now a Baltimore Colt, having been included in the deal that sent the Saints’ top draft pick and Curry to the Colts for highly regarded backup quarterback Gary Cuozzo, a second round draft pick and guard Butch Allison. The Colts would select defensive end Bubba Smith with that pick and reap a steal by gaining both two future stars for very little.

Bill would spend the next six seasons in Baltimore, going to two Super Bowls and two Pro Bowls as a Colt. In his first year in the “Charm City,” Curry was a reserve linebacker who got to start a couple of games when starter Ron Porter was injured. The Colts tied for the league’s best record that year at 11-1-2, but missed the playoffs on tiebreakers to the Rams. The Rams then lost in the first round of the postseason to the eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers in Lombardi’s victorious swan song. Shifted to center in 1968, Curry won the starting job for the ill-fated 13-1 Colt team that lost to Joe Namath’s Jets in Super Bowl III. Along the way, Bill became the media’s go-to-guy for quotes on his former coach. Before a December Colts-Packers game, Curry told the Washington Post, “There’s a lot of individual encouragement among the players on this team. At Green Bay, there was a fear of humiliation in front of your peers.” And then in the January build up to the Super Bowl, Bill contrasted Don Shula’s “enthusiasm” with Lombardi’s terror to the New York Times, “Most of the Packers were afraid of his scoldings and his sarcasm. It’s a form of motivation that works for some people. But it didn’t work for me.”

Curry’s brilliant second memoir, Ten Men You Meet in a Huddle, has perceptive chapters on what he learned from ten very influential people in his football life, including his high school coach, Bobby Dodd, Bart Starr, Willie Davis, Ray Nitschke, Johnny Unitas, Bubba Smith and writer George Plimpton. Perhaps the most interesting, though, are the chapters on Lombardi and Shula, written with the benefit of 40 years of hindsight in which he tries to give each man his due. His chapter on Shula, subtitled “Teacher,” concludes, ”He did it without the distance and aloofness of Bobby Dodd, or the anger and cruelty of Vince Lombardi. To me, Don Shula was the model of what an NFL coach ought to be. He was the best.”

His chapter on Lombardi, subtitled “General,” retells the final meeting of Curry and Lombardi by the coach’s hospital deathbed in which he apologizes for the tone of his remarks to the Times and admits Lombardi meant a lot to his life. Lombardi’s response was, “You can mean a lot to mine if you will pray for me.” Despite his distaste for Lombardi’s methods, Curry ultimately says, “Coach Lombardi forced me against my will to grow up and be a man. He took me places I simply could not have gone without him. I fought him every step of the way, but he was steadfast and confident that his path was the correct path to victory. He was right.”

He continues as a sought-after public speaker, a man with the unique background to discuss the qualities and distinctions of both Bart Starr and Johnny Unitas, as well as Vince Lombardi and Don Shula with passion, humor, and insight.

(Adapted from my chapter in The 1966 Green Bay Packers.)

1965pbcurry6  1966pbcurry3

Custom cards are colorized.

303 Yards Rushing

On this date in 1953, the Packers rushed for over 300 yards for the fourth and (so far) last time when they gained 303 yards on the ground against the woeful Baltimore Colts. It was not a team record, in that Green Bay rushed for 366 yards against the Lions on October 26, 1947 and 312 yards against the Yanks on October 8, 1950; they also gained 301 yards against the Redskins on December 1, 1946. While the first two on that list included a 100-yard rusher, that was not the case against the Colts or Redskins.

In the Lions game, unheralded Ed Cody gained 111 yards on nine carries to lead the team, while slippery Billy Grimes gained more than half of Green Bay’s total against the Yanks with 167 yards on just 10 carries.

In the 1953 game, the lead rusher was rookie Al Carmichael with 73 and eight other Packers contributed to the 303 in a 37-14 victory:

Al Carmichael 11-73

Howie Ferguson 12-53

Breezy Reid 8-39

John Papit 5-37

Babe Parilli 3-25

Fred Cone 8-23

Tobin Rote 1-21

By Bailey 4-20

Larry Coutre 4-12

1953bacarmichael2  1953bhferguson2

1953bfreid  1953bjpapit

1953bfcone2  1953btrote

1953bbbailey2  1953blcoutre

1953bbparilli

All custom Cards colorized.