Congratulations Jerry

A final salute to a long-overdue day with a few more thoughts about Jerry Kramer, probably the most publicized guard in NFL history. That was true not only during his playing career, but also in the decades since. As the lead guard on Lombardi’s famous power sweep in the 1960s, the 6’3” 245-pound Kramer earned a reputation as a swift, agile big man who could clear a wide swath through the opposition. He was a five-time All-Pro, a five-time NFL champion, a member of the NFL’s 1960’s All-Decade team and was voted the top guard of the NFL’s first 50 years in 1969.

A fourth round selection from Idaho in the 1958 draft, Kramer joined the Packers at their nadir and was a major contributor in the team’s quick reversal in 1959. From 1960-68, the only years that Kramer did not attract All-Pro notice were 1961 when he broke his ankle and missed four games, 1964 when he missed the last 12 games of the season due to a life-threatening abdominal condition and 1965 when he worked his way back from the previous year’s physical trauma.

He also combined with Ken Bowman to make the league’s most famous block on Bart Starr’s game-winning quarterback sneak in the Ice Bowl and was the bestselling author of not one, but four books on himself and his teammates. Publicity can be a double-edged sword, though. Being so visible and so willing to tell stories or give opinions can cause resentment. Kramer was a finalist for the Hall of Fame 10 times before getting the belated call this year.

In my view, Kramer was the best guard of his time, and has been a clear Hall of Famer for 50 years. Here’s to you, Jerry.

(Adapted from Green Bay Gold)

1948ljkramer2  1948lpbjkramer

5ringjkramer  53manjkramer

phof1975jkramer  hofjkramer

First two custom cards are colorized,

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Hall of Famer on Deck

On Saturday, Jerry Kramer goes into the Pro Football Hall of Fame at long last. Jerry has packed a lot of living and near-dying into his time on earth.  He has been a football star, best-selling author, successful entrepreneur and businessman, and rancher.  He was also once known as “Zipper” for his frequent medical mishaps: getting his shirt caught in a lathe, accidentally shooting himself in the side, having his groin punctured by several seven-and-one-half inch slivers of wood, and having a colostomy as well as enduring such football injuries as concussions, chipped vertebra, a detached retina, a broken ankle, broken ribs, a broken thumb, and pinched nerves.  Not to mention two marriages, six kids and five grandchildren.  He has had an active life

Above all else, Kramer has been the historian of a special time, a special coach, and a special team, having had a hand in four books about the 1960s Packers.  Instant Replay was his diary of the historic 1967 season that culminated in the Packers third consecutive championship.  It was edited by Dick Schaap and had a most fortuitous climax of Kramer himself opening the hole for the winning touchdown in the Ice Bowl, thereby becoming a household name and making this book a tremendous best seller.  In 1969, he and Schaap followed that up with Farewell to Football, his autobiography in the wake of his retirement after 1968.  Kramer flew solo in his third book the following year in 1970, Lombardi: Winning is the Only Thing, which was a compilation of interviews with friends and former players of the coach.  For Distant Replay in 1986, Kramer was again assisted by Dick Schaap.  It told the story of the 1966 Packers on the 18th anniversary of their Super Bowl I championship.  It was a brilliant idea to relay what had happened to those players in the intervening two decades and was another best seller.  As center Ken Bowman put it, “Jerry had more of a sense of history than the rest of us.  He came in there in that last year that Lombardi coached and started at the beginning of training camp with his little tape recorder.  We all rode him a bit about this. He was chronicling everything that was going on and we kind of teased him about it, and he took it good-naturedly.”

In so doing, the Replay Man became more famous than probably any other offensive lineman.  Even early in his career he and his running mate at guard for the Packers Fuzzy Thurston were better known than most linemen by virtue of them being the prominent pulling guards of the championship Packers= power sweep play.  Add in the fact that Kramer like so many members of that team was an articulate, intelligent man who did not shy away from exposure on camera and you get a true anomaly in football, a famous guard. Despite this, Jerry once said, “I’ve asked Vince a few times to let me play defensive tackle. I’m like everyone else, I guess. Sometimes I’d like to hear my name on the public address system or read it in the newspaper the day after the game.”

During his career, he was a highly respected player.  He was first team All-Pro five times, second team twice, and played in three Pro Bowls.  He also scored 177 points as a kicker, stepping in when Paul Hornung was banged up in 1962 and suspended in 1963.  In the 1962 title game victory over the Giants, Jerry hit three of five field goal attempts in a swirling wind and scored 10 of the Packers 16 points.  Although Henry Jordan would joke about Jerry’s kickoffs that, “We’re the only team that kicks off and then goes into a goal line defense.” And then there is that block to win the Ice Bowl–probably the most famous block in football history.  Ken Bowman, his silent partner on the block, once sized up the men with whom he rubbed shoulders, “Fuzzy probably makes more blocks than Jerry, but they ain’t as pretty.  Jerry used to go out there and he’d just drill somebody, and you’d see the bottoms of the soles of their shoes.  They’d be flying through the air and landing on their backs.” Kramer was selected as the Greatest Guard of the First 50 Years of the NFL in 1969 and inducted in the Packer Hall of Fame in 1975, but he had to wait another 43 years to be elected to Canton, although he was a finalist 10 times before his selection.

He had a spectacular career on the greatest team of his time, and his books not only kept alive that team and the teachings of his unforgettable coach, but they gave Kramer a special place in football history as well. It is fitting that he finally gets to wear the gold blazer.

(Adapted from Packers by the Numbers).

1959tjkramer  1960tjkramer

1963tjkramer3  1965pjkramer

1959 custom card is colorized.

National Chicle: Defensive Line

Continuing with the Custom National Chicle style set I’ve been running, here are some notable defensive linemen. In this group, I have included two-way players Lavie Dilweg and Larry Craig, who were both especially noted for their work on the defensive edge. Dilweg also played end on offense, while Craig was a blocking back for the Packer attack.

Most of these cards use backgrounds from the 1934-36 Diamond Stars baseball card set, also put out by National Chicle. The one exception is Dilweg who uses the Marquette background from Swede Johnston’s actual National Chicle football card.

ncldilweg  nclcraig

ncdhanner  nchjordan2

ncwdavis2

ncbbrown

ncejohnson

ncrwhite

ncmdaniels

All custom cards except for White and Daniels are colorized.

Packers by the Numbers Update: #43

End Dutch Webber initiated 43 for the Packers in 1928. In the Lambeau era, he was followed by ends Les Peterson (1934) and Don Wells (1946-49), back Herdis McCrary (1932) and linemen George Svendsen (1935-37) and Buckets Goldenberg (1938-45).

In the modern era 43 has been worn by two ends, nine defensive backs and five runners:

E: Ab Wimberly (1950), Aundra Thompson (1977-78).

DB: Ace Loomis (1952), Doug Hart (1964-71), Dave Mason (1974), Henry Monroe (1979), Daryl Jones (1984-85), Scott McGarrahan (1998-00), Todd Franz (2005), Patrick Dendy (2006) and M.D. Jennings (2011-13).

RB: Don Barton (1953), J.R. Boone (1953), Larry Morris (1987r), Randy Kinder (1997) and Moe Smith (2002).

The number was not worn at all from 1954-63, 1980-83, 1988-96 and 2007-10. Buckets Goldenberg and Doug Hart worn it the longest, eight years a piece. They and George Svendsen are the best players to wear it and the two linemen are members of the team’s Hall of Fame.

1928dwebber  1936gsvendsen1940bgoldenberg  1949ldwells

1971dhart3  1985tdjones

1999smcgarrahan

All custom cards aside from Hart and McGarrahan are colorized.

A Card for Everyone: Kevin Hardy

Kevin Hardy was an amazing physical specimen. 6’5” and 280 pounds with speed and agility, he was a multisport star at Notre Dame. As a sophomore in 1964-65, Hardy became the first Fighting Irish athlete in 19 years to letter in baseball, basketball and football, and I don’t think it’s been done since. He was .300 hitting left fielder in baseball, the starting center in basketball and part of Notre Dame’s powerful defensive line with Alan Page, Pete Duranko and Tom Rhoads.

Duranko had a solid pro career as a defensive end with the Broncos, and Page was a Hall of Fame tackle with the Vikings and Bears. Hardy was selected highest of all, seventh overall in the 1968 NFL draft by the Saints. Kevin never got to report to New Orleans, though, because he was awarded to San Francisco by Commissioner Pete Rozelle as compensation (along with another first round pick) for the Saints signing 49er receiver Dave Parks who had played out his option.

Hardy played for San Francisco in 1968, but tore up his knee in the 1969 preseason and missed the season. He had previously missed one season at Notre Dame due to a back injury. Green Bay traded a second round pick to obtain Kevin in 1970, and he appeared in all 14 games that year, starting one.

Meanwhile, Harland Svare took over as the head coach and GM in San Diego and unsuccessfully tried to emulate George Allen by trading draft choices for proven talent. He gave the Packers a first round pick for the disappointing Hardy. Kevin lasted two years with the Chargers, appearing in 19 games and starting 10. Green Bay used the first round pick they acquired for Hardy on Jerry Tagge, another disappointment.

Saturday is Hardy’s 73rd birthday, and here’s a card for the one-time Packer.

1970tkhardy

Custom card is colorized.

Packers by the Numbers Update: #42

Curly Lambeau himself was the first man to wear 42 in Green Bay. In his time he was followed by backs Harry O’Boyle (1932), Bob Monnett (1934), Andy Uram (1939-43), Paul Duhart (1944), Bruce Smith (1945-48) and Ken Kranz (1949), as well as linemen Dustin McDonald (1935) and Roy Schoemann (1938).

In the modern era, the number has been worn by four defensive backs and ten runners:

DB: Wally Dreyer (1950), Corey Dowden (1996), Darren Sharper (1997-2004) and Morgan Burnett (2010-17).

RB: Al Cannava (1950), Al Carmichael (1953-54), Don McIlhenny (1957-59), John Brockington (1971-77), Walt Landers (1978-79), Gary Ellerson (1985-86), Walter Dean (1991), Harry Sydney (1992), Leshon Johnson (1994-95) and DeShawn Wynn (2007-09).

There were significant gaps in the use of 42 from 1960-70, 1980-84 and 1987-90.

Lambeau, of course is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Monnett, Uram, Carmichael and Brockington are all members of the team’s Hall of Fame. Burnett and the embarrassing Sharper wore 42 for the longest, eight years. They and Brockington were also the best players to wear it.

1928clambeau  1935dmcdonald

1940auram  1945bsmith

1954bacarmichael  1957tdmcilhenny

1971tjbrockington  1986tgellerson

1992hsydney  1996cdowden

All custom cards aside from Brockington, Sydney and Dowden are colorized.