Green Bay Packers: Players Who Have Been Rookie of the Year

In 1967, the the Associated Press started to recognize NFL rookies by giving them an award. Since then, there have been 96 players who have won either the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year or the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Of those 96 players, only three times has a member of the Green Bay Packers won that award.

Those three players were running back John Brockington, who won the Offensive Rookie of the Year award in 1971, cornerback Willie Buchanon, who won the Defensive Rookie of the Year award in 1972 and running back Eddie Lacy, who won the Offensive Rookie of the Year award in 2013.

This isn’t to say there have not been other players on the Packers who have deserved the honor in their rookie year.

In 1972, rookie kicker Chester Marcol was named NFC Rookie of the Year by both UPI and the Sporting News. No. 13 kicked 33 field goals and made 29 extra points. That added up to 128 points, which led the NFL.

In 1984, rookie safety Tom Flynn was named NFL  Rookie of the Year by Pro Football Weekly. Flynn had nine interceptions that year. That led the NFC and was second in the NFL.

Also, before 1967, wide receiver Boyd Dowler was named Rookie of the Year by UPI in 1959. No. 86 had 32 catches for 549 yards and four touchdowns.

There have also been a number of players who won the rookie award with other teams, but later played with the Packers. This would include running back John Stephens (New England Patriots in 1988), defensive tackle Bill Maas (Kansas City Chiefs in 1984), Charles Woodson (Oakland Raiders in 1998) and Julius Peppers (Carolina Panthers in 2002).

Quarterback Vince Young (Tennessee Titans in 2006) was also with the Packers in the preseason in 2013, but did not make the final roster.

So that takes us to Brockington, Buchanon and Lacy.

Brockington was drafted out of Ohio State and was ninth pick of the NFL draft for the Packers in 1971. No. 42 rushed for 1,105 yards (5.1 average) and four touchdowns. The former Buckeye also caught 14 passes for 98 yards and another score.

Big John was named first-team All-Pro in his rookie year and also made the Pro Bowl.

Buchanon was drafted out of San Diego State and was the seventh pick of the draft by the Packers in 1972. No. 28 intercepted four passes his rookie year, plus recovered three fumbles.

Willie also scored on a 57-yard touchdown via a blocked field goal in 1972.

Lacy was drafted out of Alabama and was 61st pick of the draft (Round 2) by the Packers in 2013. Lacy rushed for 1,178 yards (4.1 average) and 11 touchdowns in his rookie year.  No. 27 also had 35 catches for 257 yards.

The former Crimson Tide star was also named to the Pro Bowl in his rookie year, plus was named second-team All-Pro.

Time will tell if anyone from the 2015 draft class for the Packers will get the same honor. Perhaps it might be someone like cornerback Quinten Rollins of Miami of Ohio.

Rollins looks to be a quick study in terms of being an impact player. In 2014, in his one and only season playing football (after four years of hoops for the Redhawks), Rollins had seven picks for 35 yards and a touchdown.

Rollins was also named the MAC Defensive Player of the Year.

If someone like Rollins can get that honor, he would be just the fourth player from the Packers to get that recognition in 49 years, which would include 98 players.

We shall see. But the odds don’t favor it happening.

Actually, there is less than a five percent chance of that occurring. At least based on the data since 1967.

Covering the Milwaukee Brewers in the Bambi’s Bombers and the Harvey’s Wallbangers Days

The Milwaukee Brewers were born in 1970. That was due to the fact that the expansion Seattle Pilots had gone into bankruptcy after only one year (1969) in Seattle. Bud Selig took advantage of that situation, as he bought the team and moved it to Milwaukee.

My grandfather took me and two of my cousins to the airport to greet the Brewers when they first arrived in Milwaukee.

In the early years in Milwaukee, the Brewers were pretty bad. From 1970 through 1977, the team never won more than 76 games in a season, plus had six seasons when the team had less than 70 victories.

That all changed in 1978 when the Brewers made George Bamberger their new manager. The Brewers also had a rookie on that team by the name of Paul Molitor. Add to that, veteran Mike Caldwell had a career-year, as he won 22 games and had a whopping 23 complete games.

Bamberger put together a lineup which could really hit. Especially the long ball. The Brew Crew led the majors in home runs with 173. Larry Hisle had 34 dingers. Gorman Thomas also hit 32 round-trippers. Five players had 13 or more home runs. They were Ben Oglivie  (18), Sal Bando (17), Sixto Lezcano (15), Don Money (14) and Cecil Cooper (13). As a team, the Brew Crew hit a very robust .276.

Because of their hitting prowess, the Brewers were nicknamed Bambi’s Bombers.

Bamberger also turned around the team in terms of pitching. Besides Caldwell having a great season, Larry Sorensen also won 18 games. Because their bullpen was somewhat porous, the Brewers as a staff had 62 complete games.

That would be unheard of in today’s game. The pitching staff had a team ERA of 3.65, which was a great improvement from the team ERA of 4.32 in 1977.

Bottom line, the Brewers won 93 games in 1978, which was good for third place in the tough American League East.

Then in 1979, even with a shoulder injury which sidelined Hisle almost the entire year, the Brewers still hit 185 homers, led by Thomas’ 45. The team batting average went up as well, as the Brewers hit .280.

The Brewers also had four pitchers who won at least 14 games. They were Caldwell (16), Sorensen (15), Jim Slaton (15) and Bill Travers (14). As a staff, the team ERA went up to 4.02, however.

When it was all said and done, the Brewers won 95 games and finished second in the AL East.

During the 1980 season, I was given the ability to watch the Brewers from a much different perspective. While I was at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, I was given an internship to work for the WTMJ sports department. I was honored to work with the likes of Hank Stoddard, Jim Irwin, Mike Hegan and Carl Cherkin.

Although I had a number of responsibilities at WTMJ, my main duties were to cover Brewer games. I would say I went to close to 50 games that year covering the Brewers in Milwaukee.

The 1980 season was a setback for the Brewers, as the team only won 86 games. The bad karma started when Bamberger suffered a heart attack and was replaced by Buck Rodgers as manager about midway through the season.

The Brewers were still hitting home runs like crazy as the team had 203 taters. The Brewers had four guys who hit over 20 homers that year. They were Oglivie (41), Thomas (38), Cooper (25) and Robin Yount (23). The team also hit .275 as a team, led by Cooper who hit .352. Moose Haas led the team with 16 wins, but the bullpen was still a weakness.

That led to a huge trade during the 1980 offseason. General manger Harry Dalton was able to acquire relief pitcher Rollie Fingers, starting pitcher Pete Vuckovich and catcher Ted Simmons.

In 1981, I stayed on at WTMJ and continued to cover the Brewers. It led to a very surreal and magical season. The 1981 season was a strike year in baseball. It led to the season basically being played in two halves in each division in baseball.

Fingers was awesome all season long as he was 6-3 with 28 saves, plus had a phenomenal 1.04 ERA, which led the Brewers to the second-half AL East title. That performance garnered Fingers the AL MVP award, as well as the Cy Young honor in the AL.

The second-half crown in the AL East meant that the Brewers would play the Yankees in the postseason, as New York had won the AL East in the first-half of the season.

The Brewers lost the first two games at home to the Yanks, but proceeded to win the next two at the old Yankee Stadium. The Brewers ended up losing Game 5 to the Yanks, but at least the team got an opportunity to taste the postseason.

In 1982, I worked for Viacom cable and continued to cover the Brew Crew. The year started out slowly, as the team struggled somewhat and were just 23-24. There were some rumblings about the players not being real happy playing under Rodgers, so Dalton made a change.

He fired Rodgers and made Harvey Kuenn the new manager of the Brew Crew. It turned out be a fantastic move by Dalton. The Brewers played lights out under Kuenn and were 72-43 under Harvey.

As usual, hitting led the way and the Brewers were again given a nickname. This time it was Harvey’s Wallbangers. It was very apropos. The Brewers were led by Yount, who hit .331, with 29 homers and 114 RBIs. That production allowed No. 19 to become the AL MVP.

As a team, the Brewers blasted 216 homers and hit .279. Vuckovich won the Cy Young award, as he was 18-6 with a 3.34 ERA. Fingers was magnificent again, as he had five wins and 29 saves. But an arm injury ended his season in early September.

Milwaukee went into Baltimore with a three-game lead with four games to play in the final weekend of the season. Just to make things more dramatic, the Brewers lost the first three games of the series. That meant the winner on Sunday would win the AL East. That game pitted Jim Palmer versus Don Sutton, who the Brewers had traded for late in the 1982 season.

Once again it was Yount who led the way. Robin was three for four, scored four runs and had two homers, as the Brew Crew won 10-2.

That meant the Brewers would be facing the California Angels in the AL Championship Series. Just to be even more dramatic, the Brewers lost the first two games of a best-of-five series in Anaheim. But the Brewers stormed back to win the next three in Milwaukee to earn a trip to their first World Series versus the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Brewers dominated Game 1 in St. Louis, as they blew away the Cards 10-0. Molitor had five hits, while Yount had four. Caldwell pitched a complete game, three-hit shutout.

The loss of Fingers hurt the Brewers in the rest of the series. If the Brewers had the services of No. 34, the Brewers probably win the series. Milwaukee lost late leads in both Game 2 and Game 7. Bottom line, the Cardinals won it all, with ex-Brewer Darrell Porter winning the series MVP.

In 1983, I continued to cover the Brewers for Viacom. Milwaukee looked like they had a chance to repeat as AL champs most of the season, as they were in first place as late as August 25. But a 10-game losing streak sunk the Brewers, as they finished 87-75 and 11 games out of first place.

Still, it was a great ride for me to cover the team from 1980 through 1983. During that time, I was able to interview just about everyone associated with the team. This included Dalton, Bamberger, Rodgers, Kuenn, Yount, Molitor, Fingers, Sutton, Simmons, Thomas, Cooper and many others. This would include Mr. Baseball…Bob Uecker.

I was also able to speak with Selig for over an hour in his office at County Stadium one time, as I looked to broaden my horizons in covering baseball.  Bud set me up with another interview with Bill Haig who was the VP of Broadcast Operations for the Brewers.

The Brewers were a great team to be around. They were a diverse group of players, who had lots of fun on and off the field. I was roughly the same age as many of the players and I fit in pretty well. I probably interviewed Bamberger and Kuenn more than anybody. Talk about great guys. No wonder the Brewers had so much success under them.

I also got to speak with four future Hall of Famers in Yount, Molitor, Fingers and Sutton.

Plus there was more. I also covered the All-Star game at old Comiskey Park in 1983, which had four Brewers (Yount, Simmons, Cooper and Oglivie) named to the AL squad. In addition to that, I was able to interview players like Johnny Bench, Carl Yastrzemski, Cal Ripken, George Brett, Wade Boggs, Fred Lynn, Gary Carter, Mike Schmidt, Dale Murphy, Jack Morris and Ron Guidry.

I also was able to speak to some of the stars from the past at the Old-Timers game the day before the actual All-Star game. This would include former greats like Hank Aaron, Eddie Matthews, Willie Mays, Ernie Banks, Ron Santo and Joe Torre.

Yes, I was like a kid in a candy store in those days. A very fortunate and happy kid, who was able to brush shoulders with many of the great icons in all of baseball.

Vince Bugliosi’s Take on the JFK and RFK Assassinations

As a young boy growing up in the early 1960s, I felt like all was right with world. I had great parents, a great sister, great friends and I was just starting to see my love of sports blossom.

My dad started taking me to Milwaukee Braves games where I was able to see players like Hank Aaron, Eddie Matthews and Warren Spahn. I also started to become an ardent follower of the Green Bay Packers, who won back-to-back NFL titles in 1961 and 1962.

I also had a picture of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy on my bedroom wall. I didn’t know much about politics at that age, but I know I was happy he was President.

While I was in kindergarten, the Cuban Missile Crisis occurred in October of 1962. Thankfully, JFK decided to use a naval blockade to end the drama with the Soviet Union after they had placed medium-range and intermediate-range missiles into Cuba.

Had JFK listened to the Joint Chiefs and invaded Cuba instead, there was a very good chance that World War III would have started.

Fortunately, the naval blockade worked and the Soviets pulled the missiles out of Cuba.

Then a little over a year later, everything changed.

I can remember precisely where I was when President Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963. I was in the first grade at Corpus Christi grade school in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Our teacher sent us all home after lunch after the word came out that Kennedy had indeed been assassinated.

I remember huddling around the television that day and entire weekend with my family as events unfolded. Like so many, I saw Lee Harvey Oswald get shot by Jack Ruby on national television on Sunday morning, November 24.

I was never comfortable about the official story that Oswald was the lone assassin. Even as young as I was. Perhaps that was because my dad was not convinced that it went down that way either.

My feelings were confirmed when dad brought home Rush to Judgment by Mark Lane a couple year’s later. Lane’s book really opened my eyes. It also made me realize that Oswald didn’t even take part in the assassination. He was “a patsy”, just like he said he was.

Then came June 5, 1968. My mom and I both stayed up late to watch the California primary in which Bobby Kennedy won. Bobby was his brother’s Attorney General when JFK was President, but later became a Senator from New York when he ran for President.

Mom and I saw Bobby’s speech and then we heard the news that RFK had been shot. We were obviously shocked like everyone was. I basically stayed up all night trying to get more information about what happened and to check on the status of Bobby.

At the time, I was an altar boy at Corpus Christi and I was scheduled to serve the first Mass of the morning. As I was getting ready for the Mass at church, I saw the priest who would doing the Mass and I told him what had happened to RFK, as he was unaware. I told him that Bobby was shot in the head, but was still fighting for his life. He almost fell over with shock and anguish, as he was a big supporter of RFK and the civil rights movement.

When Mass started, the church was only about a quarter filled, as summer vacation had started at school, plus this was a Wednesday morning. Almost immediately the priest announced to the crowd what had happened to RFK the night before. The response was surreal, as people were gasping, shrieking and sobbing with the news. There wasn’t a dry eye in the church. We all said a prayer for Bobby, but as we know, he later succumbed to his fatal wound and died on June 6.

From that point on, I tried to read as much as I could about what really occurred when both JFK and RFK were assassinated. That was also about the time Jim Garrison started his investigation about the JFK assassination. I followed that case quite closely.

A few years later, while I was at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, I heard that Vincent Bugliosi was going to speak at our school. Bugliosi was famous for being the prosecutor in the Charles Manson murder trial. I had read his book Helter Skelter, which documents how he successfully prosecuted Manson and some of his followers in the Tate-LaBianca murders.

Bugliosi was going to speak not only about the Manson case at our school, but also about the RFK assassination, which really lit my interest. I was floored by what Vince had to say. Bugliosi told us that the RFK assassination was a conspiracy which reached to the highest levels of government. Wow.

But it sort of made sense in my mind, as the JFK assassination had many of the same trademarks, based on the books I had read and the research I had done.

About 11 years later in 1986, Showtime had a 21-hour mock television trial of Lee Harvey Oswald, which was filmed in London. Bugliosi played the role of prosecutor in trial, while Gerry Spence was the defense attorney. At the end of this mock trial, the jury found Oswald guilty.

I was a bit bewildered at that point in time. Think about it. If Bugliosi thought that the RFK assassination was a clear conspiracy which reached the highest levels of government, surely the JFK assassination had similar or even stronger evidence that was also the case.

Basically I thought that Bugliosi was just playing a role as prosecutor in this case. A role in which he was very good. Surely he didn’t believe that Oswald was the lone assassin.

But in 2007, Bugliosi wrote another book called Reclaiming History: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy. That 1,612-page book basically said that the Warren Commission was right. Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin.

I was flabbergasted with the opinion of Bugliosi. Especially comparing that book with what he told us in 1975 about the RFK assassination.

Something was amiss. At that point in time, I had become a pretty passionate researcher regarding both Kennedy assassinations. I read as many books as I could, plus used the internet to find more information about those two murders.

While this was ongoing, I happened to hook up with another researcher. This particular researcher had long been studying David Atlee Phillips, who had been in the CIA for over 25 years in his career there.

Phillips reached a very high level with in the CIA, when he became Director of Covert Operations in the Western Hemisphere. While looking up material on Phillips at the Library of Congress, this researcher happened upon a letter that Phillips had sent Bugliosi in 1986.

Phillips letter to Bugliosi

Phillips letter to Bugliosi II

After I read the letter, things started to make sense to me. Bugliosi had made a key association with one of the most powerful men in the CIA when Kennedy was assassinated, plus was also meeting with him as the mock trial of Oswald was taking place in London.

This was all very interesting, because Phillips had been suspected of playing a key role in the JFK assassination. This bring us to Antonio Veciana, who was a Cuban exile leader who worked with a man called “Maurice Bishop” from the CIA.

On the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination, Veciana put out this letter:

Veciana Letter

Many researchers have suspected that Oswald was a CIA operative. It make sense if you look at his history in the military. Oswald was in the Marines and was assigned to the Atsugi Air Base in Japan. To work at that air base, one would need a high security clearance to work there, as that is where the U-2 spy plane use to fly out from.

Oswald also learned how to speak Russian in the Marines. When Oswald “defected” to the Soviet Union, it was really more of a case of taking part in a mission for the CIA. Coincidentally, the U-2 spy plane piloted by Francis Gary Powers, was shot down in Soviet airspace while Oswald was in the country in May of 1960.

Back to Bugliosi. I found a couple of interesting videos on You Tube that talks about Bugliosi’s differing takes on the JFK and RFK assassinations:

Vince Bugliosi passed away earlier this month on June 6. The 47th anniversary of RFK’s death. Talk about apropos.

When he died, I immediately thought of his opposite stances regarding both the JFK and RFK assassinations.

His opinions on both are 180-degrees different. That never made any sense to me.

Not until I read about Bugliosi’s connection with Phillips. Everything became very clear after that.

Neil Young

I have always loved music for as long as I can remember. My dad played the saxophone and we always had music on in our house. The Beatles really captured me as a fan with their fantastic music when I was just seven years-old. I loved all the music from the 1960s. This would include The Fab Four, The Doors, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, The Animals, Cream, The Dave Clark Five, The Beach Boys, The Byrds, The Jefferson Airplane, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Jimi Hendrix, Credence Clearwater Revival, The James Gang, The Young Rascals, The Kinks, Led Zeppelin, Three Dog Night and on and on.

I also loved the Motown sound with artists like The Supremes, Smokey Robinson, The Temptations and Marvin Gaye. In addition to that, I really enjoyed listening to the records my dad would play which would feature the sounds of the Big Band era, like Glenn Miller.

When I went to UW-Oshkosh, I had two radio shows at the college station. One was a rock show and the other was a jazz show.

In the 70s, I learned to love other music as well, as I became a big fan of Pink Floyd, Steely Dan, David Bowie, Bad Company, Deep Purple, Steve Miller, The Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Allen Parsons Project, Rod Stewart, Grand Funk Railroad, Rush and so many other great groups of that era.

Over all those years, my favorite artist has been Neil Young. I have seen Neil in person many times over four decades. That would include him being with CSN&Y, plus I’ve seen him with Crazy Horse or just on his own. I believe I’ve seen Neil seven times.

My favorite show had to be when he was on the Live Rust tour in 1978. Some buddies and I saw him in Madison, Wisconsin.

It’s incredible that Neil has put out such great music spanning over six decades. I enjoyed him with Buffalo Springfield, with CSN&Y, with Crazy Horse or just on his own. I enjoyed listening to him yet again this afternoon.

Neil’s music never gets old, even as we do.

Recent NFL Drafts for the Packers

Anyone who has ever read my work over the 12 years I covered the Packers for various sites and publications, know that I absolutely love the NFL draft. I’ve been doing mock drafts for the Packers for several years. Since 2009, I’ve correctly identified a number of players who would later be chosen by Green Bay in the draft.

This would include players like B.J. Raji, Bryan Bulaga, Mike Neal, Alex Green, Davon House, Lawrence Guy, Nick Perry, Casey Hayward, Mike Daniels, Datone Jones, Eddie Lacy, Micah Hyde, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Carl Bradford, Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Janis.

A lot of my success comes from the relationship I have built with NFL scout Chris Landry over the years. Chris has given me some really good insight and information.

In this past draft, I correctly identified three players who the Packers would select. I had the Packers selecting Ty Montgomery in this mock draft, while I had Green Bay selecting both Quinten Rollins and Jake Ryan in my final mock draft.

Jerry Kramer Archive from Bleacher Report

I have written several stories about Jerry Kramer over the past few years. Here are some of them:

Why Jerry belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame

The “Ice Bowl”

Remembering Fuzzy Thurston

Brett & Jerry

Instant Replay

The Power Sweep

Addressing Cliff Christl’s Story About Why Jerry is Not in Canton

A Scout’s Take on Jerry’s Omission from Canton

The 1965-1967 Packers: The Boys Were Back in Town

A Conversation with Jerry

Jerry Talks Packers Football

Steve Sabol: A Friend to the Green Bay Packers

Jerry and the 1958 Draft Class of the Packers

Jerry in the 1962 NFL Title Game