A Run of 1960s Centers

Born February 8, 1939, center/linebacker Ken Iman signed with the Packers as an undrafted free agent out of Southwest Missouri State in 1960 and spent four seasons as Jim Ringo’s backup. Ironically, both he and Ringo were traded away after the 1963 season, although in Iman’s case it was not an announced trade. He was sent to the Rams to repay Los Angeles for sending Zeke Bratkowski to Green Bay after Bart Starr was injured during the 1963 season.

In Los Angeles, Iman was a sturdy, reliable lineman who started for the Rams for 10 seasons and was a second team All-Pro in 1969. Ken, who died in 2010, was one of several pro centers in the 1960s who began as the property of the Packers.

1956 11th round pick Mike Hudock tore up his knee in training camp in 1957 and did not make the Packers in 1958. He later played 96 games in the AFL, mostly with the Jets, and was second team All-AFL in 1964 and 1965.

Jon Gilliam was a 14th round pick in 1960 who was cut by Lombardi but was an AFL All-Star for the Dallas Texans in 1961 and captained the Chiefs against the Packers in the first Super Bowl.

The 1964 Packer draft brought three pro centers. Jon Morris was selected in round two, but signed with the Patriots. He appeared in 182 pro games and was second team All-AFL behind Jim Otto from 1964-69. Ken Bowman came in round eight and played in 123 games for the Packers. 20th round futures pick Bill Curry joined the team a year later and played 123 games in the NFL as well, but just 28 for the Packers. Lost to New Orleans in the expansion draft, Curry was then traded to the Colts and was All-Pro in 1969 and 1971.

Three years later, Lombardi drafted Bob Hyland in round one and Jay Bachman in round five. Hyland appeared in 136 games, 56 with Green Bay, while Bachman played 45 games for Denver.

1960tkiman  1964pkiman

1960tjgilliam2  1964pjmorris

1964pkbowman2  1967tbcurry

1967pbhyland2  1967pjbachman2

Custom cards in Topps and Philadelphia styles.

Advertisements

Atta Way Jerry!

hofjkramer

Congratulations to Jerry Kramer for finally being elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday.

Here’s a tribute in custom cards:

1959tjkramer  1959bjkramer2

1961tjkramer3  1961fjkramer

1964pjkramer  1965pjkramer

1967pjkramer1  53manjkramer

Infante Arrives

After the failed regimes of Phil Bengtson, Dan Devine, Bart Starr and Forrest Gregg, some of us – well, me, anyway – thought that Lindy Infante looked like a really good hire reading the news stories on February 4, 1988. Infante, who was hired the day before, had produced exciting and effective offenses for the Bengals and Browns in the 1980s under Forrest Gregg and Marty Schottenheimer respectively.

Bob McGinn quoted Dick Vermeil in the Press-Gazette on February 4, “I coached against him when he was at Cincinnati, and I think he’s one of the best (offensive coaches) going. Now the running back’s (Brent Fullwood) got to get of his butt and the quarterback’s (Don Majkowski) got to come on.”

However, the Packers of that time were too much of a mess for Infante to fix. General Manager Tom Braatz did not bring in much talent, but the team did stock up on Plan B free agents and produce an improbable winning season of comebacks behind young quarterback Don Majkowski and receiver Sterling Sharpe in 1989. The Packers missed the playoffs that year, and things went downhill from there, owing to injuries to Majkowski and the team’s overall lack of talent.

When Ron Wolf replaced Braatz in November 1991, he saw it was time to clean house and fired infante at the end of the season. Lindy resurfaced as Ted Marchibroda’s offensive coordinator for the Colts in 1995. When Marchibroda left in the offseason after taking an unlikely team to the AFC Championship game, Infante replaced him. Unfortunately, Lindy’s time was brief in Indianapolis. His 1996 team lost in the Wild Card round and then collapsed to a 3-13 season in 1997. The highlight of Infante’s second season with the Colts was beating the eventual NFC champion Packers 41-38 on November 12 for their first win of the year. He was fired at the end of the year and never coached in the NFL again.

1988tlinfante  1988tdmajik

Custom cards in 1988 Topps style.

Two Legends Depart

On February 1, 1950, the Green Bay Press-Gazette ran a banner headline on its front page announcing that “Lambeau to Coach Chicago Cardinals: Leader of Packers for 31 Years Quits”. On January 31st, Lambeau sent a letter of resignation to club President Emil Fischer that the paper printed:

lambea resign

Also on page one, the Press-Gazette quoted Fischer asserting, “The fans can expect immediate action on this matter,” adding in an understatement, “This was not entirely unexpected.” Secretary-Treasurer Frank Jonas reassured fans of the sinking franchise, “This does not mean the end of the Packers. The Packers will definitely continue in Green Bay.”

18 years later on February 1, 1968, Vince Lombardi in a prepared statement at a press conference announced he was stepping down as coach, saying in part, “ To repeat, because of the growth of the business and the corporate structure of the Packers, I believe it is impossible for me to try to do both jobs and I feel I must relinquish one of them. Fortunately, I have a very capable and loyal assistant. He has been with me since the beginning in Green Bay.

I am positive that under his leadership and direction Green Bay Packer football will continue to be excellent, continue to grow and be everything you want it to be. Gentlemen, let me introduce you to the new head coach of the Packers, Phil Bengtson.”

Legendary times did not immediately ensue in either case.

mayolambeau  mayolombardi2

Custom card of Lambeau is colorized.

Packers by the Numbers Update: #21

21 generally has been a backfield number right from the start, worn by 23 backs, three ends and three guards in Packer history. Verne Lewellen was the first to wear the number in Green Bay in 1927 and was followed by fellow backs Roy “Bullet” Baker (1928), Jack Evans (1929), Buckets Goldenberg (1933, before he switched to guard), Herb Banet (1937) and Ed Smith (1948-49). Ends Tom Nash (1928), Ken Haycraft (1930) and Milt Gantenbein (1931-32) and guards Pete Tinsley (1938-39 and 1941-45) and Al Sparlis (1946) also wore 21 during the Lambeau era.

Guard Ray “Dippy” DiPierro ushered in the 1950s for 21, but then there was a 12-year gap before the number was next worn by cornerback Bob Jeter from 1963-70). Jeter was followed by a slew of defensive backs: Charlie Hall (1971-74), Steve Wagner (1976-79), Mike Jolley (1980-83), Joe Fuller (1991), Carl Carter (1992), Forey Duckett (1994), Craig Newsome (1995-98), Gary Berry (2000), Bhawoh Jue (2001-04), Earl Little (2005), Charles Woodson (2006-12) and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (2014-17).  Interrupting the flow of DBs were quarterback John Hadl (1975) and runners Ray Crouse (1984) and Brent Fullwood (1987-90).

Woodson will be elected to the Hall of Fame and was the best Packer to wear the number, but several others are of note and are members of the Packer Hall of Fame, including Lewellen, Goldenberg, Gantenbein, Tinsley and Jeter, while Dix has had a fine start to his career. On the other side of the ledger, expensive, washed-up Hadl and the blasé Fullwood are not recalled with any fondness in Wisconsin.

1927vlewellen  1937yhbanet

1938ptinsley3  1951brdipierro2

1968tbjeter3  1975tjhadl

1979tswagner  1987tbfullwood

1998cnewsome  2010cwoodson

First four custom cards are colorized.

Packers by the Numbers Update: #20

2017 second round pick Kevin King has the unique opportunity in the coming years to make number 20 his own in Packer history. The number has been worn by 32 Green Bay players, but 22 only donned it for a single season and nine others for just two years. The only player to have a longer tenure in 20 with the Packers was hard-hitting safety Atari Bigby who wore it five years.

Back Rex Enright was the first to wear 20 in Green Bay in 1926, and he was joined by three backs (Curly Lambeau, 1929; Johnny Blood, 1931-32; Cy Casper, 1934), end Dick O’Donnell (1927-28) and guard Norm Greeney (1933) in the Lambeau Era.

No one wore 20 from 1935 till 1952 when defensive back Dan Sandifer took it. Since Sandifer, 12 other defensive backs, 10 running backs, one quarterback (Joe Francis, 1958-59), one punter (Ron Widby, 1972-73) and one wide receiver (Walter Tullis, 1978) have worn 20.

The defensive backs: Billy Bookout (1955-56), John Petitbon (1957), Wylie Turner (1979-80), Ed Berry (1986), Mike McGruder (1989), Kerry Cooks (1998), Allen Rossum (2000-01), Marques Anderson (2002-03), Mark Roman (2005), Bigby (2006-10), Makinton Dorleant (2016 and Kevin King (2017).

The runners: By Bailey (1953), Don Miller (1954), Del Williams (1981), Chet Winter (1983), Maurice Turner (1985), Kelly Cook (1987), James Hargrove (1987 replacement), Kevin Williams (1993), James Johnson (2004) and Alex Green (2011-12).

Lambeau and Blood, of course, are Hall of Famers, but wore other numbers more prominently. None of the others in the 20 fraternity had careers of particular note in Green Bay.

1926renright  1930clambeau2

1955bbbookout2  1957tjpetitbon2

1959tjfrancis  1972trwidby

2000arossum  2010abigby

First four custom cards ar colorized.

Jugger

91 years ago today, Earl “Jug” Girard was born in Marinette, Wisconsin. A multi-sport local phenom, Girard earned All-America notice from Look Magazine as a freshman at Wisconsin in 1944 and then went into the service for two years. He returned to the Badgers in 1947 before being drafted in the first round of the 1948 NFL draft by the Packers, the seventh pick overall. He also was selected 27th by the New York Yankees of the All-American Conference, but the Packers won the bidding war.

Although Jug played quarterback for the Badgers, he clearly demonstrated in two seasons as a Packer signal caller that he did not have the skills to succeed as a T quarterback in pro football. He completed just 35% of his passes and threw a mere five touchdowns to 13 interceptions. His triple-threat versatility would have been better suited to the single wing employed by the AAFC Yankees. In a way, his career in Green Bay was a cautionary tale for the similarly versatile Paul Hornung almost a decade later. Jug did have ample talent and would go on to prove himself as an NFL player as a punter and defensive back with the Packers in 1950 and 1951 and then as a handy bench player in Detroit and Pittsburg from 1952-58.

Girard was traded to the Lions in 1952 for end Ed Berrang and tackle Steve Dowden, both of whom were out of football a year later. Jug proved very useful to Buddy Parker and helped the Lions to consecutive NFL titles in 1952 and 1953. In 1952, he filled in for the injured Doak Walker at halfback, but had his greatest success in Detroit as a receiver, averaging 16.9 yards per catch over his career. He also was the Lions’ punter for two seasons and the Steelers for one. Although he was not a smart selection at the seventh slot in the 1948 draft, his adaptability made him a productive member of several good teams with a smart coach who knew how to use him.

Jug also played and managed minor league baseball and played semipro basketball during his time in Green Bay. After retiring from the Steelers in 1958, he ran a bar in Detroit called “The Lion’s Den” and later worked as a manufacturer’s representative until dying from cancer at age 69 in 1997.

1948bjgirard2  1949ljgirard

1950bjgirard3  1951bjgirard2

Custom cards all colorized.