1954 Green Bay Packers
ROTE, REID, FERGIE OUT FOR NEXT TILT!
DEC 14 (Green Bay) - If this was Nov. 1 and the Packers had five or six games left, they'd be in terrible shape. Fullback Howie Ferguson, the Bays' leading pass catching back; halfback Floyd Reid, the club's top ground gainer, and quarterback Tobin Rote, all probably would be in the hospital and out of action for two or three games. Fergie picked up a hip "point" when the Packers were on their way to their third touchdown and a 20-14 lead shortly before the half and Reid suffered a back injury in the first quarter. Ferguson, for the first time this season, tried a body block and "I'll never do it again," he said en route home Sunday night. "I always shoulder block for the passer but this time I body blocked and the end's knee hit my hip. I wear those light sponge hip pads and they don't give much protection." Ferguson's replacement, Fred Cone, had a chunk of his right thumb all but torn off in the fourth quarter and Coach Liz Blackbourn had to settle for halfback Al Carmichael as a fullback the rest of the way. After Ferguson was hurt, Rote was robbed of his best plunger and fullback pass catcher. Reid's injury was particularly painful as he put in the dressing room: "They were open all afternoon for those traps up the middle - you know?" Breezy was referring to his patented 10, 15-yard gallops between the guards. Rote had the little finger on his right hand pushed back almost to the elbow when he threw a touchdown pass to Joe Johnson for the 20-14 lead. Two plays after that touchdown, Bobby Dillon intercepted Billy Wade's pass and the Packers had the ball on the Ram 28 - excellent position for a 27-14 lead. But Rote couldn't get much of a hold on the pigskin with that finger and on the third play Hall Haynes intercepted one of his passes. Rote tried 10 more passes in the third quarter and completed only three - to show you how damaging an injury to a little finger can be. The Packers' defense left much to be desired and Blackboun was bitterly disappointed with the unit's work. "There's no use saying anything about it now but it has let us down in the last four games," Liz said Sunday night, adding "the defense helped keep us up earlier in the season." In the last four games, Packer opponents scored 119 points - 49 by Detroit in two games and 35 each by San Francisco and Los Angeles. Before the last four battles, the Bay defense had allowed an average of about 17 points. While the loss of Val Joe Walker was a blow to the Bays' pass defense and a chronic knee injury bothered Clayton Tonnemaker, Bay opponents had taken many liberties with the Bay defensive line and tackles Dave Hanner and Jerry Helluin were making fewer and fewer tackles - particularly none in the two coast games. On the bright side, Blackbourn though "McGee was great and Rote was magnificent until he was hurt - And I certainly was happy that Garrett had a good finish." Before he was injured, Rote completed 13 out of 16 passes - two for touchdowns, and scored a TD himself on a fake lateral end run. McGee caught nine throws for 105 yards and averaged 48.33 with six punts...The Packers returned in two sections, 10 of 'em coming in Monday morning after an all-night flight out of LA Sunday night. The others who planned to come in to close up their personal affairs came in Monday night, flying out of LA in the morning. A number of the athletes went directly to their homes and at least two of them took the bus- Bobby Garrett, Jim Psaltis and Al Barry who live in the Los Angeles area. Another Californian, Al Carmichael, returned to Green Bay and will drive home with his wife and youngster via Texas. Barry was bit pale after the game. He had spent most of last week in a Pasadena hospital fighting tonsilitis and was released Friday night. He played all of the game at offensive left guard. Barry's running mate at guard, Buddy Brown, came out with a broken toe though the injury, suffered in the first half, but it didn't bother him...At least two Packers and possible a third will return to the west coast to start training with the Western Conference All Stars in the Pro Bowl classic Jan. 16. Though official announcements haven't been made yet, linebacker Roger Zatkoff and tackle Dave Hanner are getting ready to appear. There was some talk on the coast that quarterback Tobin Rote would be selected - along with Norm Van Brocklin and Bobby Layne.
SWITZER COULD WIN PUNT RETURNING CROWN - - - IF!
DEC 15 (Green Bay) - If Cleveland can contain Detroit's Jack Christiansen Sunday, the Packers' Veryl Switzer will win the NFL punt returning championship. Averaging 20 yards on two returns in his '54 final at Los Angeles Sunday, Switzer forged into first place with an average of 12.8 on 24 runbacks. Christiansen is second with 11.9 on 19 trips. The Browns will be playing the Lions Sunday in a postponed game in Cleveland. The following Sunday, they'll tangle for the world's championship in the same park. Two Packers narrowly missed snaring the punt runback title in the last four years - Billy Grimes in 1950 and Al Carmichael in 1953. Billy ranked second with an average of 19.1 behind Herb Rich, who averaged 23. Al averaged an even 10 behind Charley Trippi, who posted 11.4. Switzer's 93-yard runback of a punt for a touchdown against the Bears in Chicago still ranks as the longest of the season. Carmichael finished third among kickoff returners this season, with an average of 26.6. Switzer placed seventh - 20 trips for 500 yards and an average of 25. Al also returned 20, moving 531 yards. Official figures also disclosed that Green Bay's Bobby Dillon ranked in a four-way tie for fourth place on pass interceptions, with seven swiped, including two against the Rams. Bobby grabbed nine in 10 games in '53 and four as a rookie in '52, giving him a total of 20 in three seasons. Tobin Rote, Breezy Reid, Bill Howton and Max McGee also placed in the league figures. Rote ranked 16th among the league pass catchers but threw the most passes, 382, and had the most completions, 180. He placed second in yards gained, advancing 2,311 stripes with his pitches against Norm Van Brocklin's 2,637. Tobin threw 14 touchdown passes. He completed 47.1 percent of his passes - his second best pro figure. He percentaged 52.2 in '52. Reid, hurt early in the Ram finale, finished ninth among ground gainers, picking up 507 yards in 99 trips for an average of 5.1. A year ago, Reid placed eighth with 492 yards in 95 carries and an average of 5.2. Howton stands a good chance of finishing fourth in pass catches, with his 52 receptions. But Cleveland's Dante Lavelli has 47 and could pass Bill against Detroit. Howton's best previous total was 53 in '52; he caught 25 in '53. McGee, with a 48-yard average against LA, finished sixth on 41.7. He could place fifth if Detroit's Jug Girard has a poor day Sunday. Jug is averaging 42.2.
ONLY TWO PACKERS ON BOWL SQUAD?
DEC 16 (Green Bay) - The people who inhabit Green Bay coffee football dens were unhappy today with the Western Conference All Star team which will play the Eastern outfit in the Pro Bowl game in Los Angeles Jan. 16. Two Packers were chosen - tackle Dave Hanner and linebacker Roger Zatkoff. Nobody seemed to object to the picking of those two stalwarts but the fact that the Bays had only two representatives left the java slightly cold. The Baltimore Colts, for instance, had three appointees - defensive end Gino Marchetti, halfback Buddy Young and tackle Art Donovan. Marchetti has not been himself this season; Young was hurt most of the year - especially after playing one spectacular game, the opener against the New York Giants; and Donovan? Big Art was terrific and richly deserved the honor. The Chicago Bears knocked off five spots - end Harlon Hill, fullback Chick Jagade, tackle Bill Bishop, guard Bill George and, of all people, end Ed Sprinkle. Hill had a great year for a rookie and certainly warrants the honor. Sprinkle, bless him for his fine efforts against Green Bay, was below his usual ferociousness this season. Many of the selections are
made with an eye for business - or rather toward filling the Coliseum. Sprinkle, for instance, has a fat following on the west coast. Paul Cameron of Pittsburgh, chosen on the Eastern Conference team, was one of the lesser defensive backs in that loop. But he's fresh from west coast college stardom. The WC's two quarterbacks both are coast articles - Norm Van Brocklin and Y.A. Tittle. This brings to mind Tobin Rote, the Packers' pitcher. We learned in Los Angeles last week that Rote was seriously considered for one of the quarterbacking post - possibly in place of Tittle. Rote had gained a lot of favor in the west for his showing in the televised Thanksgiving Day game vs. Detroit. And he had the Rams on the ropes in the first half last Sunday until he injured the little finger on his throwing hand. Rote might have been a valuable addition to the Western club since he's the only QB in the circuit who can carry the ball like a halfback and/or fullback - other than Billy Wade of the Rams who is still too inexperienced. One other Packer should have been selected - defensive halfback Bobby Dillon. Three DHB's were named - Jack Christiansen and Jim David of Detroit and Jim Cason of San Francisco. Nobody can argue about Christiansen or David but Cason had been out most of the season and, while he's a handyman (he quarterbacked against the Packers in Milwaukee), offers much less speed and savvy than Dillon. The Pro Bowl game is excellent reward for the players. In addition to their expenses for two weeks on the coast - plus travel, the winner gets $700 and the loser $500. Zatkoff had planned to go into teaching when he returns to his home in Detroit but will put his work off until after the game...RAM LEFTOVERS: Carl Mulleneaux, former Packer star, visited the Packer dressing room after the game and said, "Be sure and say hello to all my friends in Green Bay - playing there for those people was my greatest experience in sports." Carl, now coaching at Arizona State, plans to confer with Coach Liz Blackbourn on the west coast this week on several pro prospects. Also passing his regards to Bay fans was former Packer Ed Ecker. One of the pressbox spectators was Curly Lambeau, founder and head coach for 30 years. Curly said he was "happy about the Packers' showing this year" and pulled hard for them to win their '54 windup. Lambeau said he expects to start work on organization of the College All Stars for the game next August. He was recently named head coach of the Stars...Arriving in the Ram dressing room about a half hour after the resignations of four assistant coaches were announced in the pressbox, we found the long remaining coach, Hamp Pool, in fine spirits. Though he had lost four aides, he won a game and pointed to Billy Wade, the Ram quarterback, as his "future hope". Pool, with his arm around his 10-year old son, pointed to Wade and exclaimed: "He'll be a great one, that kid - just wait." Actually, Pool isn't alone in the matter of aides. Still with him is Eddie Kotal, the former Packer player and coach, although Eddie doesn't act in a coaching capacity. Kotal is chief of the Rams' wide scouting system...The Packers' Mutt and Jeff, 6-4 Stretch Elliott and 5-8 Clarence Self, were mistaken for a couple of robbers in Pasadena last week. They were returning from a movie when a squad car pulled over and police ordered him to move against a wall with their hands up. Stretch and Clarence perfectly fitted the description of a couple of thieves but Green Bay officials soon identified the boys.
PACKER ATTENDANCE UP 14,907 IN 1954
DEC 17 (Green Bay) - Down at home. Up on the road. And up for the season. That's the story of Packer attendance in 1954 as compared to 1953. It's a rather strange story in view of the exciting football played by the disciples of Coach Liz Blackbourn. A total of 347,850 fans watched the Packers play 12 NFL games at home and on the road in 1954, compared to 332,943 in 1953 - an increase of 14,907. The Packers drew 229,182 fans in six games on the road this season and 118,668 in the same number of contests at home - three in Milwaukee and three in Green Bay. A year ago, the Packers pulled in 206,227 in the six on the road and 126,716 in the six at home. Thus, the Packers increased their road attendance by 22,955 over '53, but their home gates skidded to the tune of 8,048 from '53. Breaking down the six homes games this fall, the three in Green Bay drew 65,856 and the three in Milwaukee totaled 52,812. A year ago, the City Stadium trio pulled 64,382 and the three in Milwaukee County Stadium drew 62,334. Thus, Green Bay attendance was up 1,474 while Milwaukee gates skidded 9,522. Each of the three games in City Stadium drew more than 20,000 fans while all of the Milwaukee tests drew below that magic figure. Milwaukee attendance increased with each game, however - 15,571 for San Francisco, 17,455 for Los Angeles and 19,786 for Baltimore. The Packers opened with 20,675 at City Stadium against Pittsburgh and then came up with the usual sellout for the Chicago Bear game. But the big disappointment was the 20,767 for the Detroit test. The Packers were still in the running when the world champions came to town. They were fresh from a whooping victory over Frisco and the Packers had just beaten Baltimore, but there were nearly 4,000 empty seats. Needless to say, Detroit was unhappy and the Packers had reason to be disappointed. The Lions received little more than their guarantee of $20,000. Four days later, Thanksgiving Day, the Packers and Lions played to 55,532 in a nationally-televised spectacle from Detroit, with the Packers receiving more than twice their standard guarantee. The terrific showing Green Bay made in losing 28-24 helped up the attendance on the west coast for the final two games. The Packers had played such an outstanding game that coast TV fans wanted to see 'em in the flesh. Thus, the Packers drew 33,715 in San Francisco and 38,839 in Los Angeles - despite the fact that all clubs were out in the running. Packer officials were encouraged by the attendance this season. The dip in Milwaukee gates, they felt, resulted some from the showing of the team there in '53 - a factor that might have prevented three sellout in Green Bay. The '54 season, which featured a changeover in coaches, ranked as one of the Packers' most sparkling and interesting in years and likely will produce increased attendance in Green
Bay and Milwaukee next fall. The Packers' upswing on the road proves that the "sports wonder of the world" is approaching its ranking as one of the top drawing cards in professional football. Attendance at the Bear game in Chicago was up last fall over '53, a crowd of 47,038 coming out in '54 compared to 38,889 a year ago.
POOL RESIGNS AS LA COACH
DEC 17 (Los Angeles) - Hampton Pool resigned Friday as head coach of the Los Angeles Rams, saying in an announcement that he was doing so "for the good of the team". Pool was not available for comment. Neither was Rams' President Dan Reeves. The brief announcement came from Pete Rozelle, Rams publicity man. Pool completed his third season as head man last Sunday. Immediately after that game, in which the Rams whipped the Green Bay Packers, 35-27, his four assistant coaches quit. A few days later Pool's first lieutenant, Johnny Sauer, accepted the athletic directorship and head coaching job at the Citadel, Charleston, SC. With Pool and his entire slate of assistants out of the picture, speculation began immediately on two possible successors. One is Jordan Olivar, who has one year left on a three-year contract at Yale. He makes his home here when not actively coaching. Olivar said early today that the Ram management had not contacted him. The other possibility is Lawrence "Buck" Shaw, deposed San Francisco 49ers mentor. Shaw is popular in Southern California and his teams have provided the Rams with some of their most potent opposition.
FRED MILLER, SON, TWO PILOTS KILLED IN CRASH AT MILWAUKEE
DEC 18 (Milwaukee) - Wealthy Milwaukee brewer Frederick C. Miller, 48, his son, Fred Jr., 20, and two pilots were killed Friday night in a flaming plane crash just inside the city limits. The plane, a twin-engine Ventura executive model, crashed into an open field moments after taking off from Gen. Mitchell airport. It burned and apparently exploded, but home in the area were not damaged. Miller’s son and the two pilots, brothers Joe Laird, 39, and Paul, 34, were killed instantly, their bodies burned beyond recognition…CONSCIOUS MOST OF TIME: Miller died in Johnston Emergency Hospital of injuries about five hours after the crash. He was badly burned on 40 percent of his body and suffered a compound fracture of the right leg. He was conscious most of the time and told a Catholic priest who administered the last rites of the church that he was “all right”. He died about two hours later. His son had driven home from Notre Dame University in South Bend, Ind., with two friends Friday for the Christmas holidays. He and his father were en route to Winnipeg, Canada, for a hunting trip when the crash occurred. The senior Miller was an All-American tackle at Notre Dame in 1926 and 1928 and captain of the Irish football team in 1928 and 1929. He maintained a deep loyalty to the University and present coach Terry Brennan was often a passenger on the Miller plane which figured in the tragic mishap last night. Miller was an honorary coach at Notre Dame for a time and an honorary coach and a director of the Green Bay Packer professional football team. Miller played a prominent role in bringing the Milwaukee Braves to Milwaukee. His assurance of financial support was a deciding factor with the Braves’ owner, Lou Perini. He was instrumental in keeping the Milwaukee Hawks professional basketball team in Milwaukee when crowds dwindled to nearly nothing…BROUGHT BRAVES TO CITY: Miller was directly responsible for bringing the Braves to Milwaukee in 1953 instead of 1954. There has been considerable confusion on the baseball scene with first talk of the St. Louis Browns coming here. Then Bill Veeck of the Browns, formerly an official of the Milwaukee American Association Brewers, tried to take the Browns to Baltimore in the spring of 1953. When the American League turned down Veeck’s request, Miller called Perini, his close
friend, and told him he had better bring the Braves to Milwaukee then. Miller then went to the county board of supervisors and prevailed upon them to rent the new County Stadium for a “token” rental fee of $1,000 for the 1953 season. He cut other red tape and as a result the Braves moved to Milwaukee to open the season. He also agreed to buy the radio rights of the Braves broadcasts, assuring the then penniless Braves of at least a greater financial success than they had in Boston. Out of gratitude, Perini named Miller a director of the Braves, a post he held until his death, although he was not a stockholder…FAITH WAS JUSTIFIED: Fans justified Miller’s faith in the possibilities of major league baseball in Milwaukee by breaking the National League attendance record in both of the Braves’ first two years. More than two million fans attended the Braves’ home games in 1953 and 1954. Miller died at 10:10 p.m. He was either thrown clear or crawled from the wreckage. Rescuers, George Hagen, 32, and Roy Piorier, 47, who pulled the senior Miller away from the crash scene, said he was lying face down in the open field about a mile from the airport, his clothing aflame. They beat out the flames and dragged him to safety. “My God, don’t worry about me,” Miller said, “there are three others in there.” The men opened the door of the plane, but were forced back by flames. The plane was destroyed in the crash, which occurred in snowy, rainy, foggy weather. The weather was not believed to have been a factor in the crash, however. Miller was given the last rites of the Catholic Church shortly after his arrival at the hospital by the Rev. Raymond Punda, principal of Notre Dame High School in Milwaukee. “Don’t worry about me, Father,” he said, “I’ll be all right.”…DROVE TO AIRPORT: Young Miller’s Notre Dame roommate, Harold (Happy) Meyers, 21, of Milwaukee, told with heavy sobs how he, young Miller, and a Notre Dame sophomore, Ramonde de la Torre, 21, of Bogota, Columbia, drove to Milwaukee. Miller and Meyers were juniors. “We left South Bend about 1 o’clock in Ramonde’s car,” he said. “We drove straight to the airport when we got here. Mr. Miller was waiting for us. I asked Fred if they flew in weather like this and he said, ‘Oh sure, there’s nothing to worry about.’ Then they took off and a few minutes later it happened,” he said. Mrs. Miller, notified of the crash at her home in Oconomowoc by the United Press, sounded calm when first told of the crash, but did not know of her son’s death at that time. Friends said she maintained her calm bearing at the hospital. Young Miller, an outstanding high school fullback, attempted to following in his father’s footsteps as a Notre Dame football player, but dropped out after his freshman year. He had told his friends, “There are two things for me in school – play football or get an education. I want an education.”…WAS PILOT HIMSELF: Miller, a pilot himself, was a constant air traveler between his home in Oconomowoc, a home in Phoenix, and other parts of this country and Canada. Miller joined the Miller Brewing Co., as vice president in 1936 and was elected president in 1947. He was recently elected head of the Milwaukee Association of Commerce in addition to being extremely active in other civic affairs. There are six daughters and another son in the family. Mrs. Miller and a daughter, Mrs. Claire Rosenberg, were the only other members of the immediate family in Milwaukee and vicinity at the time of the crash. The rest of the family, Kate, Loret, Robin, Carl, Gail and Corky, were en route to Oconomowoc. Funeral services for Miller, Junior, were scheduled for Monday morning at St. Jerome’s Church in Oconomowoc.
PACKERLAND SADDENED BY DEATH OF MILLER; CLUB PAYS TRIBUTE
DEC 18 (Green Bay) - Packerland was saddened by the loss of a real friend today. Frederick C. Miller, Sr., who succumbed Friday night to burns and injuries in a plane crash five hours earlier, officially was a member of the Packer board of directors, and sponsor of the Packer broadcasts, but, to the boys in the football trade, he was “one fine guy” and easily one of the best Packer Backers the Green Bay club ever had. Russ Bogda, Packer president, expressed Packer sentiments this way: “Green Bay and the Packers lost a great friend. There will never be a Packer friend exactly like him. He performed a great service through his backing of the team and we shall never forget him.” Miller first came into the Packer picture in 1948 after the broadcast contract with Wadham Oil Co. was terminated. He snapped it up and, showing even more interest in “the pro team I’ve always liked to watch,” purchased the maximum amount of stock ($5,000) in the club’s life-or-death stock drive in 1950. Miller was well aware of the undertone of feeling in Green Bay when he purchased the stock. Writers in various sections of the country predicted that Miller someday hoped to move the Packers to Milwaukee. This was far from Fred’s own feeling. His stock statement, and we’ve heard it many times, was: “Don’t ever let the Packers out of Green Bay.” There was a banquet in Milwaukee before a Packer non-league game three years ago. National League Commissioner Bert Bell reiterated his statement that “the Packers should always stay in Green Bay” and pointed out to Miller as “a Milwaukeean who will always fight to keep the Packers in Green Bay.” Actually, Miller stayed away from Green bay because he felt Packer fans suspected him of taking away their team. He slipped in quietly for several games in the last few years, attended a banquet here in ’50 and stopped at practice one time to pose for a program picture in his capacity as honorary coach. An admirer of Packer Coach Liz Blackbourn for years, Miller recognized him at a banquet sponsored by the Milwaukee Association of Commerce there last spring. Serving as master of ceremonies, Miller, chairman of the AC’s sports committee, that day predicted “new growth for the Packers with Blackbourn up there.” Also honored that day were Frosty Ferzacca, former West High coach who has just signed as Marquette’s head coach replacing Blackbourn, and Terry Brennan, the Milwaukeean who coaches Notre Dame. A great Notre Dame fan (he captained the Irish in ’28), Miller also serves as an honorary coach at his alma mater. Miller assisted in the signing of Notre Dame tackle Art Hunter and helped in pulling a surprise for a Packer ticket drive banquet last spring. He had Hunter flown up from Notre Dame in his private plane, placed him in a giant paper bag behind a closed door at the banquet hall, and then “unveiled” him at an opportune moment. Since joining the Packers, Miller has become a powerful pro football figure with his sponsorship of broadcasts of other clubs. He backed New York Giant and Philadelphia Eagle airings and gradually worked into television. Miller has sponsored the world’s championship playoff broadcast and television for the past three years and last August started radio and TV sponsorship of the College All Star game – a one-night package that cost him close to $300,000. Miller watched Packer affairs in Milwaukee closely and in the early 1950’s he was instrumental in helping the attendance on many occasions with effective distribution of tickets, advertising on his trucks, etc. Many Packer players were given work at his plant when they finished their careers and one, Bob Forte, now has a position in the firm’s sports promotion department. Bob, former Packer captain, also handles the experting on Packer broadcasts. Miller is also widely known for his interest in the Milwaukee Braves. He sponsored the broadcasts and Lou Perini, Braves’ owner, credited Fred with swelling him on making the switch in the National League from Boston to Milwaukee in ’53 – a year earlier than originally planned. He was named a Braves director. He was the logical new owners of the Braves if Perini decided to sell.
BLACKBOURN ONLY PRO HEAD COACH ON COAST, WATCHES REICHARDT SCORE IN BOWL
DEC 20 (Green Bay) - Liz Blackbourn, as of Saturday, was the only NFL head coach on the west coast. The two warm weather clubs, San Francisco and Los Angeles, are without top mentors. Buck Shaw was fired a week ago by the Forty Niners and Hamp Pool quit ‘for the good of the team” Saturday. Packer Coach Blackbourn remained on the coast after the club’s windup in Los Angeles a week ago yesterday and is expected to return to Green Bay Jan. 4 or 5. He’ll interview prospects and scout all of the bowl games on the coast. Liz received his first look at a bowl game yesterday and was happy to see that a Packer chattel, fullback Bill Reichardt, had apparently lost none of his stuff. Lt. Bill did all of the scoring for Bolling Air Force Base in its loss to Fort Sill in the annual Poinsettia Bowl game in San Diego. The Oklahoma Cannoneers, undefeated in the past season, rolled over the Air Force team 27-6. Reichardt scored on 37-yard run from scrimmage. A lot of rumors continued to surround the Ram and Forty Niners camps today. Both clubs are expected to select their head mentors before the National League draft meeting in January. One report had Shaw going to Los Angeles; another had the Rams going after Wisconsin’s Ivy Williamson. Ivy isn’t likely to leave Wisconsin but, just as a guess, Shaw might wind up at LA. West coast sources have injected Curly Lambeau’s name into the Ram-49er picture. The former Packer coach lives in LA…Lee Joannes, vice-president of the Packers, represented the Packer Corp., at the funeral of Fred Miller at Gesu Church in Milwaukee this afternoon. Packer President Russ Bogda also was in Milwaukee today, attending the funeral of a relative…One of the three Packer assistant coaches already is on duty – Ray McLean, who is presently in Miami, O., looking over the practices of the North-South teams who will play in the Senior Bowl there Christmas. McLean will get a close, sideline view of Wisconsin’s battering fullback, Alan Ameche – plus a raft of other draft possible. Lou Rymkus, fresh from a tonsillectomy, leaves Tuesday for Montgomery, Ala., to view contestants in the Blue-Gray game there Christmas. Rymkus underwent the operation after returning from Los Angeles. Tom Hearden will leave shortly to visit Big Ten schools and then head for New Orleans and the Sugar Bowl game New Year’s Day. General Manager Verne Lewellen presently is in Texas, interviewing prospects. He’s due to return this week. In the office, Scout Jack Vainisi is compiling information on the various players and getting ready for the draft. He’ll take in the national collegiate convention in New York early in January.
QUIZ DAY: HOW GOOD IS AMECHE? PACKERS PLANNING TO DRAFT HIM?
DEC 21 (Green Bay) - Howie Ferguson couldn’t get much sleep. The seats were rather narrow in the United Airliner DC-6 carrying about 10 Packers and 40 civilians from Los Angeles to Chicago. It was about 2 a.m. in the morning after the Packer-Ram game in LA Dec. 12. The lights were dim for the lucky people who could sleep without moving and those who didn’t have any aching muscles or injuries. There wasn’t a bit to eat on the entire plane until a sailor volunteered a couple of boxes of homemade cookies. The hostess poured coffee and we drank it like water – 19,000 feet up. A flock of lights appeared below; the hostess figured it must be Las Vegas, the gambling city, and Ferguson recalled his old Army days – “when we’d all get in a car and drive from LA to Vegas and really let ‘em fly.” The talk eventually got around to next football season and Howie asked: “How good is this Ameche anyway?” Ferguson was wondering if the Packers had planned to draft him and, if so, what sort of competition would he have next fall. Howie is far from amazed by his success this year. He can’t understand the fact that he caught 41 passes and “why get excited about that.” We don’t have figures at the moment, but we’ll wager a coffee that no other fullback ever caught that many passes in one season. Old modesty himself, Ferguson feels he’s just not that good, but his teammates feel he’s as good as any of the fullbacks in the league. “And he’s only 24 – just a kid yet,” said Stretch Elliott earlier in the season. Ferguson is an unusual guy because he never played college ball. He was never exposed to the rah-rah, the alumni, the Saturday hero stuff, the bands and all that sort of thing. In short, he jumped from prep football into the Army ranks where he learned advance grid by bumping teeth and elbows with a lot of pros and ex-pros. Presently, Howie is a full-fledged pro but he’s modest and wise enough to give a thought to a direct opposite – one who won everything the collegiate world has to offer. Mr. Ameche! “Wonder if he’ll draft him,” Ferguson said, giving a thought to Coach Liz Blackbourn and the January draft. We tried to relieve Ferguson of a few more sleepless hours with this: “Say we do get him in the draft; you’d have a lot of fun trying to beat him out of his position. Maybe he (Ameche) could play halfback; he’s fairly fast. Or how about you running at halfback.” Ferguson just laughed and for a spell we were wondering who was pulling whose leg. Ameche really does present something of a problem in the draft for Blackbourn, for the simple reason that the Packers are blessed with three fullback – Ferguson, Fred Cone and Army-returnee Bill Reichardt. Ferguson is fresh from his best ball-packing season; Cone turned in his top field goal kicking figure, nine out of 15, and Reichardt gained two seasons of experience with Fort Bolling’s Air Force eleven. While there’s always room for an outstanding back such as Ameche, Blackbourn undoubtedly is shuffling his thoughts aplenty these days since he feels other positions might needs strengthening more than fullback. Actually, Liz hadn’t expressed himself in quotes on Ameche – yet. There likely will be some pressure from various Wisconsin circles to select Alan – if he gets the chance. Ameche is from Kenosha and, therefore, a real Badger product. Ameche could go in the bonus picking, although two of the four clubs left in the magic draw are in need of a quarterback. Drawing with Green Bay will be Pittsburgh, Baltimore and the Chicago Cardinals. Pitt and Baltimore reportedly said they’ll snare Ameche if they win the X card. The Cards need a QB bad, and so do the Colts – for that matter. Could the Packers use a QB? Bobby Garrett, Tobin Rote’s helper last fall, is due for Army service. Rote can’t go it alone forever, though he did just about that this season while Garrett had to be given more experience. Johnny Coatta, signed two years ago by the Pack, will be out in time for next season. Ameche’s record stands as an excellent selling point. The Horse never missed a Wisconsin game, playing in 37 – nine in each of his four seasons plus the Rose Bowl, and racked up 3,335 yards in 701 attempts for an average of 4.8 and 25 touchdowns. The figure includes 133 yards in 28 trips in the Rose Bowl. In his first game as a freshman, Ameche carried once against MU but two games later clinched the starting fullback job with 18 lugs for 90 yards against Ohio State, beating out Jim Hammond who was shifted to the defensive platoon. Ameche, in his best day, rolled up 200 yards in 31 carries against Minnesota in his final game as a freshman. By contrast to Ferguson, who has wonderful pass catching ability, Ameche never caught a pass in his college career. But The Horse, they say, was an excellent receiver at Kenosha High. In addition, he has a fine pair of hands and takes to changes and instructions well!
FREDERICK C. MILLER
DEC 21 (Green Bay) - In the sudden death of Frederick C. Miller, president of the Miller Brewing Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin lost one of its important assets. Milwaukee, of course, received the first and largest benefits from his activities, but his energy was so great that his driving force was felt in all sections of the state. At 48, he was not yet at the peak of his career. He had a great interest in sports and this interest is credited with bringing the Braves to Milwaukee. This venture has a tremendous impact on sports not only in Milwaukee and Wisconsin but not throughout the nation. Green Bay knows him chiefly for his interest in the Packers. He served on the board of directors of the Packer Corporation and made important contributions to the success of the organization. Through his efforts, the Miller company broadcast all Packer games, and in the offseasons Packer players and former Packer players as Miller employees carried on a drum fire of propaganda across the nation intended to help both the Packers and Miller business. Of course, the prime reason for the Miller activities was the promotion of the Miller products, but the Packers, Braves and the other teams whose activities were sponsored received important promotional benefits. It was an ideal arrangement for Fred Miller, when he found it possible to tie in his business interest with his chief recreational interest and thus apply his driving energy to both. The state suffered a real loss in the death of this man whose efforts for many and brought entertainment to thousands of sports-minded persons.
PACKERS SUBMIT NEW STADIUM PLAN TO CITY COUNCIL
DEC 22 (Green Bay) - “The time is ripe to start a study of how additional seating facilities for Packer games in Green Bay can be acquired. The future of the Packers in Green Bay is involved in the matter. The Packer Corp. is ready and willing to participate in such studies at any time.” This was the conclusion of a three-page report received from Packer Corp. President Russ Bogda by the City Council Tuesday night – a report which suggested the building of new steel stands with a capacity of between 30,000 and 32,000 at City Stadium, pointing out the costs involved in building a new stadium, and pledged a percentage of the gate to help pay for the new facilities. The report from the Packers was in answer to questions raised by the Park Board and Council finance committee about a proposed new stadium site at Military Ave. and Boland Rd. on which the Park Board has an option. Copies of the Packer stadium report will be sent to members of the Council and Park Board. “The Packers are of the opinion,” the report said, “that there are certain advantages to a new stadium as increased parking facilities and the lure of a new stadium. But there also would be an increase in cost to replace present facilities as the field itself, ticket windows, gates, walls or fences, concession stands, toilet facilities and the press box.” The report said the Packers had undertaken sufficient studies to determine that steel stands of the type suggested could be built at City Stadium and that these stands would be adequate to meet their needs. Bogda’s summary said the Packer Corp. feels present stands at City Stadium will become obsolete in a very few years, that their wooden construction results in costly maintenance, and that the stands are poorly designed because of entrances only from the field side and a low angle which hampers spectators visions and limits the number of seats available…COMPARE THE POTENTIAL: “Most important of all,” the report said, “a capacity of less than 25,000 puts the Packers at a considerable handicap in scheduling games in Green Bay, especially since the new Milwaukee County Stadium has entered the picture. Opponents compare the potential in the two stadiums and object to playing in Green Bay. While the Packers have the final say on which games are played in Green Bay or Milwaukee, this will be more embarrassing as time goes by, and while it is true that few games have been sold out in Green Bay in recent years, the resurgence of the Packer team makes it probable that a larger seating capacity could be sold out for at least some games. There are also several thousand seats in the corners of the present stadium which are difficult to sell.” The Packer Corp. proposed between 30,000 and 32,000 seats of steel construction, fireproofed as much as possible, with entrances in the rear, and stands of a proper angle with the first row between three and four feet off the ground. The seats should be concentrated as much as possible between the two sidelines with additional seats behind the end zones and preferably none in the corners, the report said. The Packers, Bogda wrote the Council, realize they would have to contribute financially to such improvements but could not pay for them alone. The report proposed that the Packers pay a percentage of the game, the rate to depend on the type of new facilities and extra services. To give an idea of on how much the city might base its annual fee, Bogda reported that receipts from the three 1954 games at City Stadium and one exhibition contest totaled $250,549.14. The possibility that another league game could be played in Green Bay if City Stadium had more seats was raised in the report, which said that new facilities could lead to the scheduling of a fourth game in Green Bay but that the Packers did not believe “attendance could ever be maintained for more than four league games here.” The policy of playing one early-fall exhibition game at City Stadium is to be continued, the report said. If consideration is to be given to building a new stadium as a war memorial, the report said, a special city or stadium commission might be created.
SWITZER WINS PUNT RETURN TITLE
DEC 22 (Green Bay) – Veryl Switzer, the Packers’ most versatile rookie, captured the NFL’s punt returning championship, final NFL statistics showed today. He finished with a steady average of 12.8 yards on 24 runbacks to beat out Herb Johnson of the New York Giants, who placed second with 10.3, and the No. 3 man, Jack Christiansen of Detroit, who averaged 9.8. Christiansen was the leading punt returner until he ran into the Cleveland Browns last Sunday. Switzer’s returns included a 93-yard job against the Bears in Chicago – the longest in the league this year and one of the longest in league history. The Bays came in with two thirds – Bill Howton in pass catching and Al Carmichael in kickoff returns. Howton snared 52 passes – one less than Bob Boyd of Los Angeles, Pete Pihos of Philadelphia and Billy Wilson of San Francisco shared the title with 60 each. Carmichael averaged 26.6 yards on 20 returns; Switzer finished seventh with an average of 25 yards…MCGEE BEATS GIRARD: Bobby Dillon finished well up among the interceptions, tying with three other players with seven each. Others finished with eight, none and 10 by Dick Lane of the Cardinals. The Packers’ Max McGee beat out former Packer Jug Girard of Detroit in the final week in punting. McGee averaged 41.7 yards while Girard, booting in the snow battle against Cleveland, settled for an even 41. That game also knocked Cleveland’s Horace Gillom out of the punting title, Pat Brady of Pittsburgh beating him out 43.2 to 42.9. Fast becoming Green Bay’s old reliable, Breezy Reid placed ninth in ground gaining, moving 507 yards in 99 carries for an average of 5.1. Breezy missed the last half of the season windup against LA due to injuries…ROTE GETS VOTE: Joe Perry of Frisco, named today as the pro football player of ’54 in the United Press poll, won the ground title with 1,049 yards. Perry, incidentally, captured the UP honor with six votes, beating out Otto Graham and Ollie Matson, who picked up four each. Green Bay’s Tobin Rote received one vote in the UP balloting for his courageous play. The Texan placed 16th among the league passers but was the busiest QB in the circuit. He threw 382 passes and completed 180 – both top figures in the league – for 2,311 yards and 14 touchdowns. His yardage figure ranked second. In addition, he ran 67 times for 301 yards and an average of 4.5…Tom Hearden, Packer assistant coach, stopped at Wisconsin in his first visit to Big Ten conference schools, talking with prospects and his former “teammates” on the Badger coaching staff. Hearden sat down with The Horse, and learned that the Kenosha Kid would like to play his football in the Unites States rather than in Canada. In fact, Tom said, “he said he’d like to play with the Packers.” Ameche likely will go high in the draft – possibly before the Packers get a shot at him if they don’t win the bonus choice. Also in the bonus drawing will be Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Chicago Cardinals. After the bonus ceremony, the Bays will draw fourth behind the Cardinals, Washington and Baltimore. Hearden will leave Sunday for a week’s trip that will take him to other Big Ten schools and finally to the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans New Years’ Day.
BROWNS TO COP BIG GO? RONZANI QUITS
DEC 23 (Green Bay) - There are two items to speak of today – the championship game and the resignation of two Pittsburgh Steeler assistants, including Gene Ronzani. As you might know, the Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns battle in Cleveland Sunday for the world’s professional football championship. For comparative purposes, our Packers played the two clubs in three exciting battles this season. The Browns beat Green Bay 14-13 in a non-league affair in August and the Lions nipped the Bays by a total of eight points in the five-day, back-to-back series in November, 21-17 in Green Bay and 28-24 in Detroit Thanksgiving Day. Those scores mean little in analyzing Sunday’s playoff – other than to point out that the Packers aren’t really so far removed from the championship classic. For the benefit of you folks who wager two-bits or less per game, we will attempt to announce the winner with the score. This point might stir some of you: During a lull in the Packer-Lion game Thanksgiving Day – it was between halves because actually there wasn’t a lull in that classic, Bob Latshaw, a veteran Detroit scribe, volunteered this is in the course of a discussion on the Lions and Browns: “The Browns will never beat Detroit – not at least until the present crop of Lions disappear. Do you know why? Because the Lions hate the Browns. They really hate those (censored). They always have. They just don’t like ‘em. Guess it started when the Browns had a lead on Detroit in that tie (24-24) game a couple of years ago. The Browns got cocky on the field and we went on to get a tie. Ever since that, Detroit has had no use for Cleveland.” Not having any particular love for the Lions, ourselves (they bet Green Bay 11 in a row since ’49), we cautioned that “the Browns should have a pretty good hate worked up themselves by this time,” having lose seven (then) straight to Detroit. Coach Buddy Parker’s Lions now only have that hate advantage. They also have another rather important advantage – better personnel. Detroit, in our humble mind, is a great team. The Lions have depth up and down the line, offense and defense; they’ve got two good pass receivers to every one of the Browns’ catchers; they’ve got more running strength at every backfield position, including QB. You might guess that the only thing left would be to pick the size of Detroit’s margin. But we’ll stick with the underdog, habit, you know – Cleveland, and pick the men of Coach Paul Brown to win, 24-20. Why? Just got a hunch, that’s all!...Ronzani resigned along with Chuck Cherundolo, the onetime Steeler captain and idol who had been with the club since 1938 after Pittsburgh owner Art Rooney announced that “some changes” would be made. Now living in Green Bay, Ronzani said today that he submitted his resignation as backfield coach after “Art said there would be some changes made. I got along wonderfully in Pittsburgh. To me, it (the requested resignation) was a big surprise.” Ronzani said he wanted to stay in professional football but “might” consider the collegiate field. “There’s a lot of (pro) openings around,” he said. The former Packer coach, who resigned under fire before the end of the 1953 season, said he hadn’t heard from either the San Francisco 49ers or the Los Angeles Rams as he understood had been rumored in Pittsburgh. “I never had a written contract,” he said. “Rooney and I had a verbal agreement. I like to work that way anyway.” He said he hadn’t “tried to figure out” why he was asked to resign. “It’s just a general shakeup down there,” he said...Pro coaches scouting for jobs have pretty good picking, what with the lucrative west coast field wide open. The Los Angeles Rams have no staff at all, other than Chief Scout Eddie Kotal who has acted in a coaching capacity for that club, while only the assistants are left in San Francisco. Buck Shaw was fired at Frisch and Hamp Pool gave up of his own accord at LA. The remaining 10 teams apparently are happy with their coaching setups. The Pittsburgh situation is rather curious. The only coaches left are Chief Walt Kiesling and Assistant Nick Skorich. It is assumed that Kiesling will stay on since his chief troubles after Pitt’s great start last fall really set in when the club absorbed a raft of serious injuries. Shaw didn’t get that chance at Frisco. It’s possible that Kiesling may hire Bill Dudley, the onetime Steeler flash, as an assistant.
PACKERS PULL IN MORE FANS UP AT GREEN BAY BUT LEWELLEN IS OPTIMISTIC ABOUT MILWAUKEE
DEC 23 (Milwaukee) - Although the figures tell a contradictory story, the Green Bay Packers will keep right on playing as many NFL games in Milwaukee as they do in Green Bay. The figures show a steady decrease in attendance at games here and a corresponding climb at Green Bay for example, three games last fall drew 13,000 more at the Bay than the same number at County Stadium - but the Packers front office has no immediate plans for changing the present three-three split in league contests. "I'm very optimistic about our future in Milwaukee," said General Manager Verne Lewellen in a telephone interview today. "Out potential is as good or better in Milwaukee than it is in Green Bay. I think interest has revived in Milwaukee and that with a continually improving team we'll show great improvement at the gate. I'll be greatly surprised if we don't average 25,000 paid admission at our Milwaukee game next fall." Lewellen said he hoped the Packers could sell 10-15,000 season tickets for next fall's Milwaukee games. A drive last fall produced about 5,500 season sales. Over the past three seasons, Green Bay attendance has exceeded Milwaukee's annually. This year the totals as announced in the press boxes were 65,856 and 52,812. A year ago they were 64,382 and 62,334 and in 1952 came to 65,652 and 41,499. Asked whether on that basis, he didn't feel the Packers would be justified in playing more games at Green Bay, Lewellen said past experience indicated that a saturation point could be reached. "We used to play all six games at Green Bay," he said, "and it got to a point where the fans were becoming choosy. They'd turn out for the three 'name' games, but the three others wouldn't draw at all. I mean, we'd have say 24,000 for the Bears and only 9,000 for the Cardinals." Under present arrangements, the Packers use City Stadium at Green Bay without any specified rental figure. The club handles all maintenance in return for playing its games there. The stadium is owned by the city and operated under direction of the park board. A two-year contract for use of County Stadium here, under which the Packers paid 10 percent of the gross after deduction of federal taxes, has expired. Negotiations for another contract are underway. The Packers have proposed construction of a new stadium at Green Bay to seat 32,000, an increase of about 7,500 over the capacity of City Stadium. Russ Bogda, president of the Packer corporation, has suggested the city finance construction with the football club paying a percentage of its gross for each game as rental. The word is that the Packers will show a net profit of some $20,000. The annual meeting will be held in April, at which time a more exact figure will be available. A year ago the club reported its net was in the neighborhood of $24,000.
CONGRATS SANTA! YOU PROVIDED GOOD ENDS
DEC 24 (Green Bay) - Santa Claus should be congratulated this night. He’s on the ball when it comes to bringing the Packers good offensive ends. The Old Gent probably never will duplicate the package he sent this way in ’35 – Don Hutson, we mean. Don stayed around 11 seasons – long enough to rack up some 17 records and gain recognition as the best period. Hutson put the moleskins away after the 1946 season and, with that proverbial due respect Don’s immediate successors, Santa must have figured that the Packers had had enough luck in the offensive end department for a spell. Everybody’s Friend – be you six or 60 – did a good job in the last three seasons, shuttling two hot Hutson prospects and one of those who could be a real find. First of the gifts was Billy Howton, the Rice Redhead who arrived in 1952 with such a bang that he fractured one of Hutson’s yardage records, moving 1,231 yards on 53 receptions for 13 TDs. Don’s yardage best was 1,211 in ’42. Next to arrive on the scene was Max McGee, the Texan who attended Louisiana’s Tulane University and who now lives in Rochester, Minn. Actually, Packer Coach Liz Blackbourn rates as a Santa’s helper in McGee’s care. Rookie Maxie was a halfback and fullback at Tulane, with two sticky mitts and tricky feet, but Liz switched him to offensive end. Still, a later arrival was Gary Knafelc, the Chicago Cardinals’ second draft choice, who joined the Bays early in the league season – a week after he was cut loose by Joe Stydahar. A long one at 6-4, Knafelc demonstrated in brief appearances that he catches the ball well, will fight for it and can take punishment. And speaking of punishment, if Mr. Howton is still aching this Christmas Eve he can hardly be blamed. Rather slight at 185 and 6-1, Bill spent a good deal of his time in ’54 sharing short passer and then awaiting the crash from behind. Howton was strictly a long-gain threat as a rookie in ’52, which accounted for his far yardage and touchdown totals. He continued to go long in ’53 but injuries knocked him out of the first six games. Blackbourn, realizing that the Packers’ air game would be cut by three-fourths if Howton was stopped on the long throws, shortened the club’s pass game – a trend, incidentally, that has grown throughout the league. As a result, Hotwon was murder on the short hook passes, the down-and-outs, etc., though the continuous punishments seemed to slow him up at times or at least make him “conscious” of somebody behind him with a hatchet. Howton finished ’54 with 52 catches – one less than in his rookie year. His 1954 passes went for 768 yards – a bit short of his 1,231 figure two years ago. He nailed two touchdown passes. Actually, the past season was tougher on Howton that it was on McGee – the onetime plunger who was used to getting gang belted from all sides. But McGee had the big job, learning the shifting, the faking and darting that earmarks a good offensive end. McGee finished up with 36 catches for 614 yards and nine touchdowns. He hailed three TD passes in the Philadelphia Eagle game and closed out the season with nine catches for 105 yards at Los Angeles. His longest gain was an 82-yarder vs. the Lions in Detroit Thanksgiving Day. McGee and Howton worked nicely together. The league was Howton conscious, of course, because of his previous seasons – which helped McGee some. Next year, this pair should be even more formidable – if Max isn’t called into service. Offensive end is one position the Packers won’t have to worry too much about when the league gets together for its draft in January. Even if Max goes into service, Knafelc seems ready to blossom!
ROTE'S HEART STILL IN GREEN BAY BUT...!
DEC 27 (Green Bay) - That big heart in the chest of the Packers’ Tobin Rote is still in Green Bay. “But,” Rote said via telephone from his home in Bellaire, Tex., today, “I’ll have to give some thought to those offers from Canada.” The five-year Packer quarterbacking veteran, offered $20,000 by both Toronto and Winnipeg, added: “$20,000 is an awful lot of money and certainly is too much money not to give some thought to.” Rote said he wouldn’t make any decision until “about the middle of January – after I receive a contract from the Packers.” A real gentleman, Rote is worried considerably about the Packers – “I think too much of Liz (Blackbourn, head coach) to let him down; he’s been better than nice to me. If I felt for Canada, the Packers would be without an experienced quarterback.” Bobby Garrett, who understudied Rote last fall, may go into service. While Rote indicated that his first pro grid love is in Green Bay, he felt that he “just had to give the offer some thought.” Rote said that the Winnipeg offer was the “only interesting one,” in view of the fact that he would take over the club. The Blue Bombers’ QB ace for the last five years has been Jack Jacobs, the former Packer QB, “and I guess he’s about ready to quit, though he’ll get a chance to make the team next fall.” Winnipeg is coached by Al Sherman, former New York Giant. Rote said Sherman contacted him while the Packers were in Pasadena getting ready for the Los Angeles game. Rote disclosed a rather disturbing note in the Canadians’ method of dealing with U.S pros. He said that a representative of Toronto called him the afternoon before the crucial Bear game in Chicago. In other words, a $20,000 offer might tend to throw an athlete off his game – give him something to think about, as it were. As we recall, Rote was off his mark some that day, completing below 50 percent – 17 out of 42. Rote admitted that “offers from Canada are nothing new – they’d been after me all least season, too. They’d also been trying to sign Bill (Howton).” Howton already has signed him contract for ’55. Rote revealed that he kept Blackbourn informed of his offers from Canada and “we talked it over in California.” He also told how the story happened to break. “The sportswriters here (Houston) were over to interview me about the season and I mentioned that Canada had wanted me; it was nothing new but they sure made up a lot of headlines about it. Now everybody is calling.” Rote said he never intended “such a fuss to be made about it.” Packer General Manager Verne Lewellen said today that he did not think Rote would leave the Packers. “We understand he has received offers of very good salaries up there but we are pretty sure he won’t leave Green Bay,” Verne said, adding: “Several other Packers had been contracted by the Canadians but we don’t expect to lose them.” Blackbourn, on the west coast, was not available for comment today.
THE PACKERS COME BACK
DEC 27 (Green Bay) - Now that the professional football season is over, the people of northeastern Wisconsin should reflect on the excellent rebounding job done by Coach Lisle Blackbourn and his staff with the Green Bay Packers this season. Every sports fan knows that the Packers’ 4-8 won-lost record does not represent their accomplishments nor their failures. A few “breaks” at key times would have transformed that into an 8-4 or even a 9-3 record, for the Packers lost six games by a total of only 27 points or less than four points per game. In the two games against the champion Lions, they especially showed their mettle. The Packers are more than just another football team. They are a northeastern Wisconsin institution that has brought fame and acclaim to this area. Their ability to stay in a league made up of the largest cities in the land is testimony to the healthful zest for keen competition and accomplishment that is a trademark of the Wisconsin resident. A good many people in other part of the country were amazed by the way in which this state rallied behind the Milwaukee Braves; but anyone who knew the Packer story could have told them what would happen. One of the healthiest aspects of the recent season, from
the Packers’ point of view, has been the enthusiasm of the fans for the new team despite a succession of hard-to-taker defeats. The Packers played every game as well as they could right up to the last season, and the fans appreciated this fact. If anyone had been complaining about the way Coach Blackbourn and his assistants handled the squad, they have done so with mighty small voices. It should be comfortable to both the coaches and players to know that whatever the statistics at the end of the season, they will continue to have the enthusiastic backing of the people of this area as long as they play hard and cleanly and give the game everything they have.
PACKERS' 3-TITLE RECORD SAFE; FOUR FAIL IN ATTEMPT AT 'TRIPLE'
DEC 28 (Green Bay) - When the Browns made the Lions holler uncle in Cleveland Sunday, the Packers’ record of three consecutive championships remained alone and safe. Time have changes since the Packers winged home first in the glory days of 1929-30-31, but to this day – 20-odd years later – no NFL team has been able to string three tiles together. The system of deciding NFL championships were changed two years after the Packers ended their triple triumph – in 1933 when the winner of the Eastern and Western Division played off for what we refer to those colossal days as the “world championship.” The Packers’ three straight was all but overlooked in chatter preceding last Sunday’s match. Most of the writers – many of whom were in diapers when the Packers accomplished the threesome – referred to the Lions as seeking an “unprecedented three straight titles.” The more thoughtful ones studied their record books and wrote that the Lions were seeking the first triple since the playoff system was introduced or the second in the history of the league. In fairness to those who never liked history in school, it must be pointed out that pro football today obviously is a much tougher, better balanced and a bigger business than it was in the “triple days”. The big guns then were Green Bay, Chicago Bears, Chicago Cardinals and New York; a few years later, Washington stepped into the picture, easing out the Cards. Today, pro ball still has its big guns, but there are more of them and the intense competition makes it possible for any team to beat any team on a given day. The Western conference this year had five big guns – Detroit, Frisco, Los Angeles, Bears and Green Bay, when you consider that the Packers were removed by only 27 points from finishing with 8-4 or 9-3. In the Eastern sector, Cleveland, Philadelphia, New York and Pittsburgh were title possibilities. Thus in the entire league, nine of the 12 clubs had a good chance. To show you how tough it is to win three straight titles, it is reported that only four other (than Green Bay) teams latched together two titles. The old Canton, O., Bulldogs won championships in the bulging league of ’22 and ’23 but didn’t play in ’24. The Bulldogs rejoined the
circuit in ’25 and finished 11th in a 20-team circuit. After the Packers’ triple, the Bears put together two in 1932 and 1933, but in an effort to tie Green Bay’s record fell before the New York Giants 30-13 in that now-famous tennis shoe battle. The Giants came out in the second half wearing rubber-soled shoes and promptly walked away on the frozen turf. The Bears picked up strength seven years later to win in 1940-41, including a 73-0 verdict over Washington, but in the try for No. 3 they fell before the Redskins 14-6 in ’42. The Philadelphia Eagles were the next seekers of three straight. They won handily in 1948-49, but ran into the Cleveland Browns in ’50 and failed to win the division crown. The Browns defeated Los Angeles for the crown. Which brings us up to date. The Lions captured the bacon in 1952-53 but really fell flat in the try for No. 3 – by 56-10. Green Bay still ranks as the only team to score twice in the 50s on Detroit, the Packers winning 57-21 in ’45 and 50-7 in ’40. But let us not tell too much, since the Lions hold 11 straight decisions over our Bays. In the matter of championships, the Bears claim seven, the Packers six and New York and Detroit three each. The Bears’ titles include one in 1921 – the league’s first year, when the club played as Staleys. Philadelphia, Cleveland Browns, Washington, Chicago Cardinals, and Los Angeles (one as Cleveland Rams) each won two crowns.
GROVE QUITS COACHING JOB
DEC 28 (Pullman, WA) - A former star quarterback of the Green Bay Packers, Roger Grove, has resigned as backfield coach at Washington State. Grove, 46, said Monday his resignation is effective February 1. He said he plans to enter private business in the Pacific Northwest. A football star at Michigan State where he earned nine varsity athletic letters, Grove was quarterback for the professional Packers when the club won three divisional titles and one league championship. After leaving the Packers Grove went into coaching and for awhile was assistant coach at Ripon College. He also coached a professional team at Canton, IL.
BROWN EDGES LIZ FOR COACH OF YEAR CROWN
DEC 29 (Green Bay) - A year ago, Liz Blackbourn was head coach at Marquette University and the Packers were looking for a successor to Gene Ronzani. Today, Packer Coach Blackbourn held the distinction of ranking as the No. 2 Coach of the Year in the NFL. Selected as head coach of the Packers last Jan. 7, Blackbourn narrowly missed beating out Coach Paul Brown of the world champion Cleveland Browns for the United Press’ annual Coach of the Year. Brown received 10 votes and Blackbourn nine in balloting by 29 sportswriters who covered the games in the various league cities.
Springfield Author publishes Remembering Fred Miller - from Notre Dame to the High Life
(Springfield, Illinois - June 17, 2016) - Phil Eck, a Springfield High School educator for over thirty-one years and the former Springfield High soccer coach, has written his first novel. Remembering Fred Miller from Notre Dame to the High Life chronicles the accomplishments and spirit of Fred Miller, Phil’s grandfather, during his brief forty-eight years of life. The Inaugural Book Talk and signing will be Thursday, June 23 at 6:00 pm. The event will be held at Springfield High School in the Schnirring Auditorium. The book talk is free and open to the public. Frederick C. Miller experienced two golden eras of Notre Dame Football first-hand. An All-American player under Coach Knute Rockne, he was team captain and played in 1928 when the team “won one for the Gipper.” Miller later served as an assistant coach with his friend, Frank Leahy. Fred became president of Miller Brewing Company in 1947. His talents propelled Miller to the fifth highest producer of beer. He was a master at marketing his product "Miller High Life", becoming the first brewer to combine sports marketing with beer on a grand scale. Miller is also credited with saving the Green Bay Packers from financial ruin in 1950 and was the driving force that brought Major League Baseball to his beloved hometown with the arrival of the Milwaukee Braves. To the citizens of Milwaukee and all of Wisconsin, Frederick C. Miller was a civic hero. Eck’s first novel is a passion project to keep Miller’s story and significance alive. His seven-year journey doing research at Notre Dame, MillerCoors Milwaukee Archives and numerous Wisconsin newspapers along with interviewing family members, and sports icons, Johnny Lattner, Y.A. Tittle, Paul Hornung, Frank Gifford and others make this story come to life. To purchase the book on Amazon, click here.
Only two other coaches received votes. Jim Lee Howell, who moved up from end coach to head coach of the New York Giants this year and compiled a 7-5 record, received six. Buddy Parker, whose Detroit Lions won the Western Division title for the third straight year, had four. The selection of Blackbourn ranks as a moral victory in the coaching department for the veteran mentor in his first year in the pro whirl. And the voting represents one of the few times in the annual picking that the scribes overlooked the won-lost records. Blackbourn finished with 4-8, Brown 10-3 including a 56-10 championship game victory, Parker 9-3-1 including the playoff loss, and Howell 7-5. Blackbourn, presently in San Francisco studying athletes of the East and West squads in their practice sessions, unquestionably gained the high coaching recognition for (1) two major upsets and (2) losing six heart-breaking games by a total of
27 points. The upsets, which hardly could be called that because they were so convincing, came at the expense of Los Angeles 35-17 and Philadelphia 37-14. The six tight losses were topped by two four-point setbacks to world champion Detroit, 21-17 and 28-24, in the short space of five days. The Bays lost their first three games by 14 points, 21-20 to Pitt, 10-3 to the Bears and 23-17 to Frisco before belting LA. They followed with wins over Baltimore and Philly and then ran into the toughest loss of the year, 28-23, to the Bears in Chicago. The Packers’ two lopsided-by-comparison losses on the west coast apparently failed to disturb the scribe voters. The ballot was completed a week after the season closed. The Bays, reeling badly after two tough games with Detroit, ran into two teams with a purpose on the coast. Frisco fought for its coach, Buck Shaw, in blanking the Bays, 35-0, and the Rams had two honored stars, Elroy Hirsch and Don Paul, to win for in posting a 35-27 verdict. Blackbourn credits the success of the Packers this year to the spirit of the players and the hard work of the coaching staff which is composed of, besides himself, Defensive Backfield Coach Tom Hearden, Offensive Coach Ray McLean and Line Coach Lou Rymkus. Brown, who won the Coach of the Year poll by a wide margin last year, won it the hard way this season. His team lost two of its first three games, but bounced back to take all the bacon.
HANDICAPPED DILLON ON AP'S ALL-PRO DEFENSE
DEC 30 (Green Bay) - Big, jovial Hog Hanner, the Packers’ hungry tackle, takes great delight in ribbing his teammates in a friendly way. Somewhere along the ’54 trail he came up with a real dilly and we’d been hoping for this day to use it – the day Bobby Dillon and/or Val Joe Walker make an all-pro team. Well, Dillon was revealed today as a member of the Associated Press’ all-pro defensive first team and Walker received honorable mention. As carrot-head Hanner put it one day: “You know something? We got the darndest deep defense in this league. Nothing like it anywhere in football. It’s got three eyes and 17 fingers – yep, three eyes and 17 fingers. Count ‘em!” Actually, we never heard Hanner say that, but Walker, himself, quoted Hog as “how he describes us.” Hanner later confessed that he was the “guilty” party. Dillon and Walker certainly are unusual professional football cases and stand as an inspiration to anyone who is physically handicapped. Dillon, 24, lost his right eye in a B-B gun accident while still in grade school. Walker, 23, had two fingers off his right hand cut off at the knuckle in an oil field accident while he was a freshman in high school. “I caught ‘em in the gears of a machine,” Walker said, “and they had to remove the index and forefingers; the ring finger is still there but it’s useless; that’s why old Hog says I got only seven fingers – Bobby’s got 10 good ones, though.” Actually, Dillon and Walker were bothered more by hurts other than the natural handicaps in the last two years. Dillon intercepted four Detroit passes in the first three quarters of the Thanksgiving Day game in 1953, giving him nine for the season, and then reinjured his knee, forcing out of the last two games. Bobby underwent surgery on his knee last winter and came through the ’54 season unscathed – plus seven interceptions. Walker, who almost quit pro ball this year, came up with knee trouble in the first Detroit game, missed the second and then limped through the last two battles on the coast. Walker also may undergo surgery this winter. Dillon, in making the first team, richly deserves the honor. A rugged competitor despite his 175 pounds and physical handicap, Bobby intercepted 20 passes and directed
Packer outfield in his three pro seasons, snaring four as a rookie in ’52, nine in ’53 and seven in ’54. Oddly enough, Dillon made his first west coast trip this year. Injuries knocked him out of the two games in his first two campaigns. In the AP’s defensive outfield, Dillon joins halfback Tom Landry of the New York Giants and the skilled Jack Christiansen of Detroit at safety. Linebackers in front of them are Chuck Bednarik of Philadelphia and Joe Schmidt of Detroit. The Packers gained five honorable mentions. Besides Walker, the AP selected John Martinkovic, Clayton Tonnemaker, Roger Zatkoff and Walker on the defensive HM squad and quarterback Tobin Rote on the offensive HM unit. Otto Graham of Cleveland was named QB of the squad and “works” in a backfield composed of Detroit’s Doak Walker at left half, Chicago Cardinal Ollie Matson at right half and Sam Francisco’s Joe Perry at fullback…The Canadians produced something interesting to the NFL today. Leo Dandurand, president of the Montreal Alouettes, said he had invited executives of other Big Four clubs to a caucus in Montreal Jan. 14. The executives will discuss a “no raiding” pact with the National League. The NFL likely will ponder the move, if taken, at its annual convention and draft in New York Jan. 27.
LAMBEAU DENIES THREATENING WIFE WITH BODILY HARM
DEC 30 (Santa Monica, CA) - Former professional football coach Earl (Curly) Lambeau, 56, denied today in a cross complaint to his wife’s divorce suit that he threatened her with bodily harm. Lambeau appeared in Superior Court yesterday to show cause on demands by his estranged wife, Mrs. Grace Garland Lambeau, for alimony payments and attorney fees. Judge Edward R. Brand ruled that Mrs. Lambeau should forego her current expense claims pending trial of the divorce suit, but ruled that previous restraining orders enjoining Lambeau from harming his wife or disposing of community property would remain in effect. In a cross complaint, Lambeau denied he threatened his wide with bodily harm should she seek her share of community funds.
PROGRESS! IT'S '54 PACK TALE; LIZ TOP FIGURE
DEC 31 (Green Bay) - Progress. That one words best describes the Packer year of ’54. While progress in professional football is generally measured by the size of the figure in the “won” column, the Packers not only upped their “W” total from two to four but progressed to the point where their fans are confident of another increase in ’55. The year that runs its course tonight has been a year of drastic change – in some respects more drastic than the switch from Curly Lambeau to Gene Ronzani in February of 1950. This year, the Packers shifted from the old-pro philosophy to the fresh collegiate way of thinking and doing things by the simple method of hiring a college coach – Liz Blackbourn, whose only previous connection with pro ball was a spectator seat at a Packer game…RANKS AS MAJOR STEP: The shift from the old-line pro headmasters to the systematic college thinkers began to take hold five or six years ago in pro ball – especially when Paul Brown proved that he could step from the Halls of Learning and make a success in the cruel world of football business. The hiring of Liz last Jan. 7 ranks as the major step in the progress that characterizes 1954. His signing followed by a few weeks the appointment of Verne Lewellen as the club’s first full-time general manager – actually the first step in the reorganization that helped make ’54 a year of progress. Blackbourn started the progress ball a-rolling the first day he arrived here. The first move was the selection of assistants; he picked a veteran college man, Tom Hearden, to handle the defense; a holdover from the ’53 staff, Ray McLean, to operate the offense and maintain the seasons; and a “youngster” fresh out of pro football, Lou Rymkus, to handle the line and teach protection for the passer…PROCESS WENT SMOOTHLY: Jack Vainisi remained on the staff as chief scout and part-time assistant coach. The long process of building the Packers went smoothly, although Liz and his staff worked tirelessly on such items as the draft, scout reports, game reports and a 1,001 other things, including a flock of introductory speeches throughout the state. Just when the decks were cleared for the start of practice in Stevens Point, the roof seemed to fall in. Only 43 boys turned out opening day. There wasn’t a healthy defensive back in the lot; several teachers college boys had to be signed to get enough talent together for an intra-squad game; and a lot of the draft choices and free agents didn’t look good – by pro standards. This prompted Blackbourn to make his first major trade, sending Babe Parilli and Bob Fleck to Cleveland for Bobby Garrett, Don Miller, Chet Gierula and John Bauer. While Garrett was the only player to make the squad, the deal served as a much-needed shot in the arm among the fans and members of the squads. The Packers got off to a hopeful start in their ’54 non-league opener against the Cardinals at Minneapolis. The Cards won 27-10 but the Bays showed so much fight that everyone was encouraged. Next came the debut here – against the powerful Browns. The Packers allowed two quick TDs, changed their defense, scored two touchdowns and then almost won in the last seconds. The final score was 14-13. The Bays won two of their next four exhibitions…LOST FIRST THREE GAMES: The Packers were well organized when they set off on the league trail, thought Liz privately was extremely worried but far from discouraged. They lost their first three games by a total of 14 points. They were scheduled, according to the experts, to lose their fourth straight by two touchdowns but terrified the west coast by belting the Rams 35-17. Two more victories followed and the Pack was back in the running with 3-3. The ’54 Packers apparently were destined to become Cinderella Kids because in trying for their fourth victory they dropped a 28-23 heart-breaker to the Bears in Chicago. They bounced back by blasting Baltimore but then dropped two tough four-point losses to world champion Detroit. In those two setbacks, the Packers gained much national respect – especially in the nightcap which was televised coast to coast. With a natural letdown, the Packers followed with the only game they were soundly beaten, 35-0, to Frisco. Injuries racked ‘em up badly midway in their windup at Los Angeles and the Rams won 35-27. Actually, the Packers were only 27 points removed from a 9-3 season, six of their eight losses being absorbed by a total of four touchdowns and three extra points. Briefly, that is a review of ’54 – a season of hope and progress. What will happen in ’55? Much will depend on whether the Packers are able to “maintain” such service-possibles as Veryl Switzer, Art Hunter, Gene White, Max McGee, Al Barry, Bobby Garrett and others. And much will depend on the draft next month. Keep your fingers crossed!