The Pro Football Hall of Fame: The Green Bay Packers Deserve More Recognition

hall of fame packer logo 2

The Green Bay Packers have won 13 NFL championships, which is the most in league history. The next closest team to that total is the Chicago Bears, who have won nine NFL titles.

Yet, da Bears have 28 members of their team in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, while the Packers have just 25. Something seems amiss to me here.

Here are the Packers who have a bust in Canton:

They are Curly Lambeau (Class of 1963), Robert “Cal” Hubbard (Class of 1963), Don Hutson (Class of 1963), Johnny “Blood” McNally (Class of 1963), Clarke Hinkle (Class of 1964), Mike Michalske (Class of 1964), Arnie Herber (Class of 1966), Vince Lombardi (Class of 1971), Tony Canadeo (Class of 1974), Jim Taylor (Class of 1976), Forrest Gregg (Class of 1977), Bart Starr (Class of 1977), Ray Nitschke (Class of 1978), Herb Adderley (Classof 1980), Willie Davis (Class of 1981), Jim Ringo (Class of 1981), Paul Hornung (Class of 1986), Willie Wood (Class of 1989), Henry Jordan (Class of 1995), James Lofton (Class of 2003), Reggie White (Class of 2006), Dave Robinson (Class of 2013), Ron Wolf (Class of 2015), Brett Favre (Class of 2016) and Jerry Kramer (Class of 2018).

Now here are the Bears who are in the Hall of Fame:

They are George Halas (Class of 1963), Bronco Nagurski (Class of 1963), Harold “Red” Grange (Class of 1963), Ed Healey (Class of 1964), William Lyman (Class of 1964), George Trafton (Class of 1964), Paddy Driscoll (Class of 1965), Dan Fortmann (Class of 1965), Sid Luckman (Class of 1965), George McAfee (Class of 1966), Bulldog Turner (Class of 1966), Joe Stydahar (Class of 1967), Bill Hewitt (Class of 1971), Bill George (Class of 1974, George Connor (Class of 1975), Gale Sayers (Class of 1977), Dick Butkus (Class of 1979), George Blanda (Class of 1981), George Musso (Class of 1982), Doug Atkins (Class of 1982), Mike Ditka (Class of 1988), Stan Jones (Class of 1991), Walter Payton (Class of 1993), Jim Finks (Class of 1995), Mike Singletary (Class of 1998), Dan Hampton (Class of 2002), Richard Dent (Class of 2011) and Brian Urlacher (Class of 2018).

Now let’s look at the years the Packers have won the NFL title:

The years are 1929, 1930, 1931, 1936, 1939, 1944, 1961, 1962, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1996 and 2010.

Here are the NFL titles won by da Bears:

1921, 1932, 1933, 1940, 1941, 1943, 1946, 1963 and 1986.

The Bears were in the league right from the start in 1920 (when it was the American Professional Football Association), while the Packers joined the league in 1921.

Both the Bears and Packers each won six NFL titles through 1946. Yet, Chicago has 13 players recognized in Canton who played on some of those teams, while the Packers only have eight.

That tells you something right there.

Now I’m not saying that the members of the Bears from those teams don’t deserve to have a place in Canton. They absolutely do.

What I’m saying is that more Packers from that era deserve a place among the best of the best in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Players like Lavvie Dilweg, Verne Lewellen and Cecil Isbell.

Dilweg was a first-team member of the All-Decade team of the 1920s in the NFL. He is the only member of that All-Decade team not in Canton. Dilweg was named first-team All-Pro team six times and was also a second-team selection at All-Pro once. There was no Pro Bowl (started in 1938) when Dilweg played.

The former Marquette star set all the Green Bay receiving records until a fellow by the name of Don Huston came on the scene. Dilweg was part of the squad that won three consecutive NFL titles from 1929 through 1931. This was prior to the playoff era in the NFL. Unbelievably, Dilweg has never been a finalist for the Hall of Fame.

Dilweg was also the grandfather of Anthony Dilweg, who played quarterback for the Packers in 1989 and 1990.

Lewellen was also part of the team which won three straight NFL titles in 1929, 1930 and 1931. The former Nebraska star was a do-it-all type of player. Lewellen rushed for 2,410 career yards and 37 TDs, passed for 2,076 yards and threw nine TDs and gained another 1,240 yards receiving and had 12 more scores.

Lewellen was also the Green Bay punter, as he averaged 39.5 yards per kick. Lewellen was named All-Pro four times and should have been named to the NFL All-Decade team of the 1920s like Dilweg was. Also like Dilweg, Lewellen has never been a Hall of Fame finalist.

Cecil Isbell in the 1939 NFL title game at State Fair Park

Cecil Isbell  carries the ball in the 1939 NFL Championship Game at State Fair Park.

Then there is Isbell, who had a short five-year career before he retired. But what a great career he had in those five years. Isbell was a two-time first-team All-Pro and a three-time second-team All-Pro. Isbell also went to four Pro Bowls.

Isbell was so prolific throwing the ball to Don Hutson, that he was named to the NFL All-Decade team of the 1930s. From 1920 through 2000, there have been 21 quarterbacks selected to the All-Decade teams. All but Isbell are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The two best years that Hutson ever had were in 1941 and 1942 when Isbell was throwing him the ball. In 1941, Hutson caught 58 passes from Isbell for 738 yards and 10 touchdowns. In 1942, Hutson caught 74 passes from Isbell for 1,211 yards and 17 touchdowns.  In ’42, Hutson became the first-ever 1,000 yard receiver.

The NFL was mostly a three yards and a cloud of dust league before Hutson came into the league. That all changed when No. 14 became a huge receiving threat and had Isbell throwing him the ball.

In his short career, Isbell threw 61 touchdown passes versus 52 interceptions for 5,945 yards. He was not a bad runner either, as he rushed for 1,522 yards and 10 scores. Isbell also found time to catch 15 passes.

So if you can make the case for 13 Bears to be in the Hall of Fame because of the six NFL titles won through 1946, you can also say that the Packers, who also won six championships during that time, deserve more than eight players in Canton from those teams.

Dilweg, Lewellen and Isbell are three more that should definitely have busts right now.

Plus, there are the other Packers who deserve consideration for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I have written about a number of them. Players like Bobby Dillon, Ron Kramer, Boyd Dowler, Fuzzy Thurston, Don Chandler, Gale Gillingham and Sterling Sharpe.

Plus you have to also consider players like Bob Skoronski and LeRoy Butler.

And we can’t forget scout Jack Vainisi either. Vainisi was just as responsible for the success of the Packers of the 1960s, as Ron Wolf was for the Packers of the 1990s.

So, will the Packers ever catch the Bears in terms of having as many or more individuals in the Pro Football Hall of Fame? Well, the Pack certainly has some excellent candidates to get a bust in Canton.

Plus there is this. The Packers now have a 96-93-6 advantage (regular season) in their series against the Bears dating back to 1921. But it wasn’t until last season that the Packers were able to get ahead in the series for the first time since 1932.

The Packers and Bears are also 1-1 against each other in the postseason, which includes the 2010 NFC title game at Soldier Field, when Green Bay won 21-14.

Packers-Bears Helmets

The bottom line is that the Packers are the most successful franchise in NFL history. They have proven that with their league-leading 13 NFL championships. But some of the great players who helped win some of those championships have been ignored by the Hall of Fame.

That needs to change.

Plus there are players like Dillon, who played on mostly bad teams in Green Bay in the 1950s. Or Gillingham or who played on mostly bad or mediocre teams except for his first two years in the NFL (1966 and 1967) when he played for the Super Bowl I and the Super Bowl II champion Packers.

Gillingham was also on the 1972 Green Bay team which won the NFC Central title, but he missed almost the entire season due to a knee injury after Dan Devine ridiculously decided to move him to defensive tackle.

Playing on mostly bad teams didn’t stop voters from putting Sayers and Butkus in the Hall of Fame. Neither No. 40 or No. 51 ever played in a NFL postseason game. But they were both among the best of the best at their position when they played in the NFL.

That is also true of all the Packers I have mentioned.

And that’s why the Packers deserve more recognition in terms of individuals who belong in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Milwaukee Brewers: Deja Vu, Just Like in ’82?

Brewers Celebrate Winning the 1982 ALCS

It’s been 36 years, but the Milwaukee Brewers are hoping it will be a case of deja vu when they take on the Los Angeles Dodgers at Miller Park to close out the 2018 NLCS. The Brew Crew lost two of three games at Dodger Stadium to go down three games to two in their seven-game series.

The Brewers of 1982, better known as Harvey’s Wallbangers, lost the first two games of a five-game series in Anaheim to the California Angels in the ALCS before returning home to Milwaukee County Stadium and winning three straight and punching a ticket to the World Series.

The 2018 Brewers have the same task as the ’82 Brewers. Just win, baby!

Otherwise it’s lose and pack up the cars and go home.

Unlike the ’82 Brewers who had to win three straight games to advance to their first ever Fall Classic, this year’s Milwaukee team needs to win just two.

Call it a California closeout.

In 1982, when the Brewers traveled to Anaheim to take on the Angels after winning the AL East on the last game of the season against the Baltimore Orioles, things did not go well for Milwaukee in SoCal.

The Brew Crew lost Game 1 by a score of 8-3 and then lost Game 2 by a score of 4-2. That meant that the Brewers could not lose at County Stadium. They had to win all three games at home to get to the World Series.

In Game 3, on a Friday afternoon, behind a great pitching effort by veteran Don Sutton, the Brewers beat the Angels 5-3, as Pete Ladd closed out the game to get a save.

In Game 4, the Brewers beat the Angels 9-5, as the star of the game was Mark Brouhard, as he had three hits (including a homer), scored four runs and had three RBIs. Moose Haas got the win and Jim Slaton got the save in another afternoon contest.

That set up Game 5 on Sunday.

But before I get to that game, I want to point out an encounter I had with Rod Carew earlier in the year when I was in the Angel clubhouse. I saw Carew and I went up to him and introduced myself politely and asked him for a quick interview.

At that point, Carew did not utter a word and just stared at me. The stare probably lasted about a half of a minute, although it seemed a hell of a lot longer to me. Then Carew just walked away. I was shocked and I’m sure it showed.

Thankfully Bobby Grich of the Angels quickly came up to me and told me that Carew never talks to the media and that it wasn’t personal. When Grich told me that, he put his arm around my shoulder and was just as nice as he could be. Not only that, but he also did an interview with me. Anyway, I never forgot that great gesture by Grich.

Which takes me to Peter Ladd. I formed a pretty nice relationship with Ladd after he was brought up late in the season to help the bullpen. Pete always had time for me. He also became the closer for the Brewers after Rollie Fingers suffered a season-ending arm injury in September.

Ladd saved three games down the stretch for the Brewers in 1982. He would go on to save 25 games in 1983, as Fingers missed the entire ’83 season due to his arm injury (Tommy John surgery).

I wanted to bring up those circumstances before I set up the ending to Game 5. The Brewers started Pete Vuckovich (1982 Cy Young award winner), but he scuffled like he did towards the end of the season and into the postseason. Vuckovich was pitching through a shoulder injury we would find out later.

The Brewers fell behind 3-2 in the game before they scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh, as Cecil Cooper singled home Charlie Moore and Jim Gantner. The Brewers had a precarious 4-3 lead.

Which brings up the drama in the ninth inning between Ladd and Carew. The Angels were able to get the tying run on second base, when Ladd needed to get two outs. No. 27 first got Brian Downing to ground out to 3B Paul Molitor and then enticed Carew to hit a one-hopper to SS Robin Yount to end the game.

I thought the ending was very apropos based on my interactions with both Carew and Ladd.

It should also be noted that Yount only hit .250 in the series against the Angels. No. 19 would later win the AL MVP honor, as he hit .331 with 29 homers and 114 RBIs.

Yount played up to his MVP status in the World Series however, as he hit .414, with one homer and six RBIs.

Dodgers vs. Brewers in 2018 NLCS

Which brings me to the NLCS, where now the 2018 Brewers can not lose another game in this series. They need to win both Game 6 and Game 7 to get to their second ever World Series.

Milwaukee needs another SoCal shutdown, just like the 1982 Brewers accomplished.

I believe it can happen as well.

It’s going to come down to good pitching and clutch hitting. The pitching has been very good for the Brewers for the most part in their matchup against the Dodgers. But the clutch hitting failed the team in both Game 4 and Game 5.

That has to change in Game 6 and Game 7.

The Brewers, who are about $90 million dollars below the payroll of the Dodgers, need to hit better at the top and middle of the lineup.

Clean up hitter Jesús Aguilar has been really struggling this postseason, although he got a hit in the ninth inning of Game 5. All in all, Aguilar is hitting just .172 this postseason, which includes 10 strikeouts. The big guy does have two homers though.

You might see manager Craig Counsell move Aguilar to the fifth spot in the order and hit Travis Shaw at clean up. Shaw is hitting .307 this postseason, with one homer and two RBIs. Shaw at least is seeing the ball better, even against lefthanders, as his home run came against Alex Wood.

The soon to be NL MVP, Christian Yelich, is hitting just .200 in the postseason, but I believe that will change. Still, No. 22 has been able to get 10 walks, which has allowed him to score five runs this postseason.

The guy who sets the table in the Milwaukee order, Lorenzo Cain, is starting to get into a groove. Cain hit only .083 in the Colorado series, but is hitting .250 in the series with the Dodgers. I see him continuing to hit the ball hard.

So if Cain (10-38-.308) and Yelich (36-110-.326) can basically do what they did in the regular season and get on base and be difference makers, that sets things up quite well.

The No. 3 hitter, Ryan Braun, is continuing to do what he did in the last week or two of the regular season, as he’s hitting .312 in the postseason.

If the top of the lineup can start making noise like it did did in the regular season, the Brewers will be in great shape in Game 6 and Game 7.

The middle of the order has had it’s issues, specifically Aguilar. 3B Mike Moustakas had a great series against the Rockies (.364), but is only hitting .095 against the Dodgers. That has to change. I believe it will.

The bottom of the order has been fabulous. Both catchers are hitting the ball well. Manny Piña is hitting .429 this postseason with five walks, while Erik Kratz is hitting .316 this postseason, but has struggled a bit in the series against LA, after hitting .625 versus the Rockies.

SS Orlando Arcia has had a stellar postseason, as he has three homers and is hitting .296.

The pitchers are getting their share of knocks as well. Brandon Woodruff hit a monster homer off of Clayton Kershaw, while Wade Miley had two hits in Game 2.

The Brew Crew just needs to get more consistent at the plate and drive in runs when the situation arises. I see that happening.

The Brewers are also in good shape pitching in Game 6 and Game 7. Miley gets the start in Game 6 and he has really pitched well against Los Angeles in 2018, both in the regular season and postseason (see Game 2).

If the Brewers can win Game 6, then they can put out staff ace Jhoulys Chacin, who is 2-0 this postseason, with an ERA of 0.00. No. 45 pitched 5.1 innings against the Dodgers in Game 3 at Dodger Stadium, as the Brewers won 4-0.

Things are also setting up well for the bullpen, as both Josh Hader and Corey Knebel will be well rested going into Game 6. Jeremy Jeffress is struggling a bit, but Counsell will not hesitate to use him if it is warranted.

The best case scenario is for the Brewers to get a relatively easy win against lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu in Game 6 and rest the main guys in the bullpen.

That way, Hader and and Knebel can finish out Game 7 when the Brewers will be most likely facing rookie Walker Buehler.

Josh Hader

Hader has been absolutely fabulous this postseason, as he has pitched seven innings and given up just four hits and struck out 12. Did I mention his ERA is 0.00?

Knebel has been almost as good, as he has pitched 7.2 innings this postseason, allowed only two hits, has 11 strikeouts and an ERA of 1.17.

Bottom line, I can see the Brewers of 2018 duplicating what the Brewers of 1982 did. That would be recovering from a tough trip to the west coast and coming home and taking care of business.

It would be really apropos if Manny Machado made the final out. If not him, David Freese would be appropriate as well.

Green Bay Packers: Why Fuzzy Thurston Deserves to be Considered for the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Fuzzy leading Jimmy

Photo by Jack Robbins

When Vince Lombardi became head coach and general manager of the Green Bay Packers in 1959, the first trade he ever made was to acquire guard Fred “Fuzzy” Thurston from the defending NFL champion Baltimore Colts.

Lombardi traded linebacker Marv Matuzak to acquire Thurston, who had been drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1956 out of Valparaiso, where he was a two-time All-American in 1954 and 1955 as an offensive lineman. The Altoona, Wisconsin native ended up getting cut by the Eagles that year and then spent 1957 in the Army before signing with the Colts and being a backup guard on the Baltimore NFL title team.

After watching film of the Packers, Lombardi knew he had an excellent young guard in Jerry Kramer, but he saw that the Pack needed another guard to team with No. 64.

The year before in 1958, then head coach Scooter McLean cut guard Ken Gray, who was part of the great rookie class of that year, when the Packers drafted Dan Currie, Jim Taylor, Ray Nitschke and Kramer.

Cutting Gray turned out to be a big mistake by McLean, as Gray turned into one of the best guards in the NFL with the Chicago/St. Louis Cardinals, where Gray was named to six Pro Bowl squads, plus was named first-team All-Pro four times.

But the departure of Gray from Green Bay opened the door for Thurston to come to the city that would soon become Titletown.

Lombardi saw that Kramer and Thurston had the attributes that would make his signature play succeed. That play was called the power sweep.

When Lombardi looked at the Green Bay film, he saw that Paul Hornung could become his Frank Gifford, who Lombardi had coached (as offensive coordinator) in New York with the Giants from 1954 through 1958.

Lombardi also saw that Taylor could play a similar role that Alex Webster had with the G-Men.

But for Hornung and Taylor to become successful, the offensive line had to be configured correctly. Which is why Lombardi acquired Thurston to play left guard.

In 1958, in a 12-team league, the Packers were 10th in the NFL in running the football. Toting the rock was not a strength for that woeful 1-10-1 team. But all that changed once Lombardi came to Green Bay.

In 1959, the Packers vastly improved running the ball to finish third in the NFL in rushing. From 1960 to 1964, the Packers were ranked either first (three times) or second (twice) in the league in that category.

The staple play was the power sweep.

In one of my many conversations with Kramer, he talked about why Green Bay and Lombardi were a perfect fit.

“Hornung was the reason I believe Coach Lombardi came to Green Bay,” Kramer said. “Bart [Starr] was an unknown then. There were three or four guys trying to become the quarterback then, and we didn’t know who the hell the quarterback was going to be.

“But we did know who Mr. Hornung was. And Coach Lombardi said many times, ‘That the power sweep was the number one play in our offense. We will make it go. We must make it go. And Hornung is going to be my [Frank] Gifford.’

“Hornung was the key with all that. To me, it seemed like Hornung was probably more instrumental in what Coach Lombardi had envisioned for his offense than who his quarterback was. So I think Hornung was the number one reason why Coach Lombardi came to Green Bay.”

The Packers took to the power sweep like a fish takes to water, as Kramer alluded to me.

“Bobby, in the first three years we ran that play, we averaged I believe 8.3 yards a carry.”

There were a lot of important factors as to how successful the power sweep would be on a given play. Center Jim Ringo needed to make the onside cutoff block on the defensive tackle. Right tackle Forrest Gregg also had an important role.

“If Forrest hit that defensive end with a forearm, he would occupy him for the running back who was going to block him,” Kramer said. “Then Forrest would have a really good shot at getting the middle linebacker.

The tight end (Gary Knafelc or Ron Kramer) had to get the outside linebacker.

If all that happened, the pulling guards (Kramer and Thurston) could lead the ball carrier (Hornung or Taylor) to the second and third level of the opposing defense for a big gain.

Jerry and Fuzzy III

Photo by Jack Robbins

The very successful duo of Kramer and Thurston were awarded for their excellent play.

Back in the day when Thurston and Kramer played, awards were given out by a number of media outlets. This included The Associated Press (AP), United Press International (UPI), The Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA) and The New York Daily News (NY).

Thurston was first-team All-Pro at left guard in both 1961 (AP, UPI, NEA and NY) and 1962 (UPI), plus was named second-team All-Pro in 1963 (UPI), 1964 (NY) and 1966 (NY).

Kramer was named first-team All-Pro at right guard in 1960 (AP), 1962 (AP, NEA and UPI), 1963 (AP, NEA, UPI and NY), 1966 (AP, UPI, FW and NY) and 1967 (AP, UPI and NY), plus was named second-team All-Pro in 1961 (NY) and 1968 (AP).

That’s a combined 12 All-Pro honors. Five for Thurston and seven for Kramer.

Kramer also went to just three Pro Bowls, while Thurston never went to any. That seems pretty ridiculous to me, based on their excellent level of play.

That exceptional play at guard led the Packers to five NFL titles in seven years, including the first two Super Bowls.

Thurston loved to tell anyone who would listen, “There are two good reasons the Packers are world champions. Jerry Kramer is one of them, and you’re looking at the other one.”

Never was that more apparent than the 1965 NFL title game at Lambeau Field versus the defending NFL champion Cleveland Browns and their great running back Jim Brown.

Although the running game of the Packers had struggled almost the entire year in 1965, the Packers could not be stopped on this snowy and muddy day on the frozen tundra.

Green Bay rumbled for 204 yards behind Taylor and Hornung, as the Packers won 23-12.

Meanwhile, Brown, who was the NFL’s leading rusher that year with 1,544 yards, was held to just 50 yards by the stingy Green Bay defense.

The power sweep was especially effective for the Pack, as Kramer and Thurston kept opening big holes for the backs, mowing down defenders left and right, as the Packers kept getting big chunks of yardage on the ground.

Hornung scored the last touchdown of the game on one of those power sweeps. Kramer pulled left and first blocked the middle linebacker and then a cornerback as the “Golden Boy” found the end zone.

Kramer talked about the great success he and Thurston had blocking.

“Fuzz never made a mistake,” Kramer recalled. “We never ran into each other in the eight or nine years that we played together. He was bright and was aware about what needed to be done on a given play.

“Fuzzy also had a lot of heart. He wasn’t the strongest guy in the world, but he gave it everything he had. Fuzz had a lot of energy and he also had a lot of pride. He was going to do his part in helping the team out, no matter what it took.

“He was a great mate. We were like a balanced team of horses. You see pictures of us today, Bob, and you can see us planting our foot at the same precise instant. There is a great picture of the sweep where Hornung plants his right foot, I plant my right foot and Fuzzy plants his left foot. It happened almost precisely at the same instant heading up field.

“We just ran that damn play time and time again at practice. It got to be second nature. But early on in Coach Lombardi’s tenure, when somebody would screw up on the play in practice, we would hear Coach yell out, ‘Run it again! Run it again!’

“Then as time went on and when somebody made a mistake on the play in practice, we wouldn’t wait for Lombardi to yell. One of us would scream, ‘Run it again! Run it again!’

The Power Sweep

I share all this with you because I believe Thurston deserves consideration for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Kramer finally received that honor after over four decades of waiting.

I also contend that the player who replaced Thurston at left guard when Fuzzy injured his knee during a scrimmage early in training camp in 1967 deserves the same consideration. That player is Gale Gillingham.

You see, Thurston was not just a great player on the field, but also a great teammate. And not just when he was a regular, but also when he lost his job to Gillingham in ’67.

“Fuzzy sat besides Gilly for the rest of the ’67 season, ” Kramer told me. “He coached Gilly. They sat together in every film session. Fuzzy gave him the benefit of everything he had learned about the defensive tackle that Gilly would be facing that given week.

“Fuzzy told Gilly what he liked to do against that tackle and told Gilly that he should think about doing the same thing. Basically, Fuzzy was Gilly’s personal coach.”

Thurston was always in a positive state of mind. It was always party sunny or the glass was hall full.

Thurston always found something positive even under trying circumstances. Case in point is the 1962 Thanksgiving day game against the Detroit Lions at Tiger Stadium. The Packers were 10-0 going into that game.

Kramer remembers that occasion well.

“Before we played the Lions on Thanksgiving, Fuzzy lost his mother about three days before the game,” Kramer said. “Fuzzy decided to play, but his heart was somewhere else. The Lions just guessed and gambled correctly all day long that game.”

It was that kind of day for Thurston and his Packer teammates, as the Lions whipped the Packers 26-14. The score looked much closer than the game actually was, as the Packers scored 14 points in the fourth quarter after being down 26-0.

The Packers had just 122 total yards and quarterback Bart Starr was sacked 10 times for 93 yards.

But even with all of that, Thurston found some humor in the painful lesson he and his teammates had experienced.

“We are going home on the plane,” Kramer recalled. “And Fuzz says, ‘You know Jerry, at least the whole day wasn’t a loss.’ And I go, “What the hell are you talking about?” And Fuzzy goes, ‘You and I introduced a new block. You know, the look out block. Because every time Bart would go back to pass we would go, “Look out!”

“We giggled about that a little bit. I mean we were feeling lower than whale crap then, but Fuzz was making a joke and being positive. He was still Fuzz. He wasn’t sulking or sucking his thumb. He was just Fuzz.

“He was just that way no matter where you saw him. He always had a big smile and he was always happy to see you. Fuzzy was just a genuine pleasant guy to be around.”

After the debacle in Detroit in 1962, the Packers won the last three games of the regular season to finish 13-1 and then went on to win the 1962 NFL title game 16-7 over the New York Giants at Yankee Stadium.

The ground game and Kramer’s placekicking were the difference in the game.

Kramer ended up scoring 10 points (three field goals and an extra point) on a day when there were the wind gusts up to 40 miles per hour. Plus, Kramer, Thurston and the rest of the offensive line helped lead the way for Taylor to gain 85 yards rushing and also score the lone Green Bay touchdown. As a team, the Packers gained 148 yards rushing that day.

When Kramer kicked the game-winning field goal late in the title contest, Thurston, No. 63, jumped into the air and signaled for all to see that the kick was good.

Jerry's game-winning FG in the 1962 NFL title game.

It was an apropos gesture for Thurston, because to him, life was also good, even when he was dealing with tough times in business and in health.

Off the field, Thurston loved to hang with his teammates and hoist a couple.

“Fuzzy didn’t fish much and he didn’t bow hunt,” Kramer said. “He didn’t do some of the things I would do with Doug [Hart] and some of the other guys in terms of hunting or fishing. But if I wanted a beer, Fuzzy was the first one in line that I would call.

“He and I and Boyd Dowler used to go out on Monday nights once in awhile. We called ourselves the Three Muskepissers, instead of the Musketeers. Our wives would come looking for us and they we go to a place and find out that we weren’t there yet or that we had just left.

“We would go to a number of different bars and just socialize. We didn’t get in any trouble. We were just relaxing and having some laughs. It was pleasant to be with Boyd and Fuzzy. They were good company!”

Thurston retired after the 1967 season, due to a little prodding from Coach Lombardi.

“It was the 1,000 Yard Club banquet in Appleton,” Kramer said. “It was the dinner when Alex Karras and I exchanged some pleasantries. Anyway, Fuzzy was there and he ran into Coach Lombardi. Coach stopped and said, ‘Fuzzy, when are you going to announce your retirement?’ And Fuzz says, ‘Hmm, right away I guess, Coach.’

Shortly after the conversation with Lombardi, Thurston retired from football. Eight years later, in 1975, Thurston was enshrined in the Packers Hall of Fame along with Lombardi, Kramer, Hornung, Taylor, Don Chandler, [Ron] Kramer, Willie Davis, Max McGee and Henry Jordan.

Off the field, Thurston owned a number of Left Guard restaurants before they went out of business. He also owned a couple of taverns that I always stopped in whenever I was in the Green Bay area.

The first was Shenanigans, which was right across the road from the Fox River. More recently, it was Fuzzy’s #63 Bar & Grill. I always enjoyed going to both places.

If Fuzzy was there, he would be joking and taking pictures with patrons. If he wasn’t there, it was still a great time to walk around the place and look at the photos Fuzzy had accumulated. It was just a great atmosphere.

Thurston passed away in December of 2014 due to liver cancer.

But he will never be forgotten by family, friends and anyone in Packer Nation who ever met him.

“Fuzzy was always positive,” Kramer told me shortly after Thurston had passed away almost four years ago. “He was just consistently up. And he insisted that we all have a good time whether you wanted to or not. You were going to have fun. He would take that upon himself whether it was one or 40. Fuzzy would be the spark.”

When I saw Rick Gosselin at the party the Packers threw for Jerry on the day he was enshrined in Canton on August 4, he told me that he was hopeful that 10 seniors could be inducted on the 100th anniversary of the NFL in 2020.

Gosselin is on the Seniors Selection Committee for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

That is why I am writing a series of articles about former Green Bay players who are in the senior category so that they might be considered to be in that group of ten. I’ve already written pieces about Dowler, Gillingham, [Ron] Kramer, Don Chandler and Bobby Dillon.

I realize that maybe only one or two of the players I have written about will be given strong consideration for being placed among the best of the best in Canton in 2020.

All that being said, I believe every one of the players I have written about need to be thoroughly discussed by the seniors committee. That certainly includes Thurston.

“Fuzzy had a great sense of humor,” Kramer told me. “Always up and always positive. He was like an internal flame that never goes out. That fire, that spirit inside of him was constantly there.”

I also stayed positive over the 16 years I wrote about getting Jerry his rightful induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

I feel the same way about getting at least one or maybe even two former Packers in as seniors in 2020.

Green Bay Packers: Why Ron Kramer Deserves to be Considered for the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Ron Kramer

Now that Jerry Kramer (first team) of the Green Bay Packers was finally rightfully inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame after over four decades of waiting, that means that there are just two players who were on the NFL 50th anniversary team who do not have busts in Canton.

Those players are Boyd Dowler (second team) and Ron Kramer (third team).

I wrote about why Dowler deserves to be considered to have a place among the best of the best in pro football about a month ago. Today I am going to state the case for Kramer.

But before I do that, I want you to see the words that Rick Gosselin, who is on the Seniors Selection Committee for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, said about both Dowler and Kramer in a podcast on the Talk of Fame Sports Network shortly after Jerry Kramer was named to the Class of 2018 for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“Can you enshrine too many players from one franchise in the Hall of Fame? That’s the question that came up last week when those of us on the Hall of Fame selection committee enshrined the 12th member of the 1960’s Packers. That’s guard Jerry Kramer.

“That’s more than half of the starting lineup, plus the head coach from one team. A team that won five championships in a span of seven years. And went to six title games in a span of eight seasons. No team of any era, has more players in Canton than those 1960’s Packers.

“They have indeed been rewarded for their success. Should the committee now draw the line there with the Lombardi Packers? Well, ponder this. In 1969, this same Hall of Fame selection committee was commissioned to pick the greatest players in the game’s first 50 years.

“There were 45 players selected to that team. And 43 are now enshrined in Canton. Only two are not. They both played for the ’60’s Packers, split end Boyd Dowler and tight end Ron Kramer. Dowler was selected to the 1960’s All-Decade team as well and Kramer would have been had the committee selected more than one tight end.

“Yet neither of those players has ever been discussed as a finalist for the Hall of Fame. If you were chosen as one of the best players in the game’s first half-century, don’t you deserve a spin through the room as a finalist to determine if you are indeed Hall of Fame worthy.

“It took [Jerry] Kramer 45 years to get in. It took teammate Dave Robinson 34 years and Henry Jordan 21. The Hall of Fame is a process. Maybe Dowler and Ron Kramer deserve to be Hall of Famers. Maybe they don’t. But they certainly deserve a few minutes in that room to start the process and have their cases heard, regardless how many teammates have been enshrined.”

Both Jerry Kramer and Dowler were on the NFL’s All-Decade team of the 1960s, as well as being on the 50th anniversary team. And as Gosselin stated in his comments above, Ron Kramer would have been on the All-Decade team of the 1960s if the team would have had more than one tight end.

That in itself makes a compelling case why both Dowler and Ron Kramer deserve to be in Canton.

Besides Jerry Kramer, Dowler and Ron Kramer, there were also a few of their teammates on the 50th anniversary team. They were Ray Nitschke (first team), Forrest Gregg (second team) and Herb Adderley (third team).

Nitschke, Gregg and Adderley were also all on the NFL’s All-Decade team of the 1960s. Plus, like Jerry Kramer, all three have busts in Canton.

The thing that voters need to realize is that the NFL was a different game back in the 1950s and 1960s. It was a much more violent game and the running game was still the main staple of most offenses in the NFL.

Originally, when the tight end position morphed into play in the NFL, it was mainly a position that helped out the running game by blocking. Catching the ball was almost an afterthought.

In fact, on the NFL’s All-Decade team of the 1950s, there isn’t even a tight end listed.

That was the state of the NFL when Ron Kramer was drafted in the first round by the Packers in 1957, thanks to the great scouting work done by Jack Vainisi.

Also selected in that draft was Paul Hornung, who was the first overall selection that year by the Packers, as teams were awarded bonus picks (the No. 1 overall selection) from 1947 through 1958.  Once a team was awarded a bonus pick, they were eliminated from further draws.

Ron Kramer didn’t win the Heisman Trophy like Hornung did in 1956, but he he did finish in the top 10 in Heisman voting, both in 1955 (eighth) and 1956 (sixth), when he was a consensus All-American at Michigan.

Kramer earned nine letters at Michigan, as he was also a talented basketball player who averaged 17 points a game and almost nine rebounds a game, as well being an excellent track athlete.

Kramer was so good at Michigan, that his No. 87 was retired after his senior year. Plus, Kramer was also inducted into the University of Michigan Athletic Hall of Honor, as well as the College Football Hall of Fame.

In one of our many conversations, Jerry Kramer talked about the tight end from Michigan who shared his last name.

“Ron was a 260-pound runaway truck,” Kramer said. “He was an outstanding athlete at Michigan. He high-jumped 6’4”. He threw the shot put around 60 feet. Ron was also very good in basketball, was the captain of the team and at one point was the all-time leading scorer in team history at Michigan.

“He was an All-American in football for two years running. Overall, Ron won nine letters in sports at Michigan, three each in football, basketball and track.”

Kramer had a nice rookie year in 1957 under then head coach Lisle Blackbourn, as he was second on the team in receptions to Billy Howton, as No. 88 had 28 receptions.

Kramer missed the 1958 season due to military service in the Air Force, which was probably for the best, as the Packers had their worst season ever that year finishing 1-10-1 under Scooter McLean, who took over for Blackbourn that season.

Kramer was back in 1959 with the Packers and also their new head coach and general manager Vince Lombardi.

In 1959 and 1960, Kramer did not start a lot of games, as Gary Knafelc was the starter at tight end most of the time. Because of his athleticism, Kramer played in every game in both 1959 and 1960 (mostly on special teams), but only started four games at tight end.

Ron Kramer and Vince Lombardi in 1961 NFL title game.

That all changed in 1961. Lombardi recognized that he had an immense talent in Kramer. Not only a receiver, but as a blocker. In fact, the power sweep was the signature play of the Packers under Lombardi, and Kramer was a key attribute on the success of that play due to his great blocking.

From 1961 through 1964, Kramer became the first of the great tight ends to ever grace the NFL. Kramer led the way for players like John Mackey and Mike Ditka, who were also on the NFL 50th anniversary team, plus also have busts in Canton.

I talked to Dowler recently and he talked about Kramer, who was his roommate in Green Bay for five years.

“You should talk to somebody who can talk about the tight end position and tell you who he thinks the best at that position was,” Dowler said. “Give Mike Ditka a call. Ditka has said, and he and Ron were pretty close friends, that the best of the bunch was Ron.”

In 1961, Kramer had 35 receptions for 559 yards (16 yards per catch) and four touchdowns.

In the 1961 NFL title game against the New York Giants at City Stadium (now Lambeau Field), No. 88 caught four passes for 80 yards (20 yards per catch) and two touchdowns, as the Packers won 37-0.

That was the year Titletown was born.

In 1962, Kramer caught 37 passes for 555 yards (15 yards per catch) and seven touchdowns. He later caught two passes in the 1962 NFL title game at Yankee Stadium, as the Packers won 16-7, as the other Kramer (Jerry) was the star of the game.

In 1963, Kramer caught 32 passes for 537 yards (16.8 yards per catch) and four touchdowns. And in 1964, Kramer caught 34 passes for 551 yards (16.2 yards per catch).

Ron Kramer in 1961 NFL title game

As you can see by the yards per reception average, Kramer made a lot of big plays down the seam, as quarterback Bart Starr scanned the field. And besides being a big receiving threat, he was also considered the best blocking tight end in football.

While he was in Green Bay, Kramer was named first-team All-Pro by AP in 1962, plus was named second-team All-Pro by various media sources like AP, UPI, NEA (Newspaper Enterprise Association) and the New York Daily News six times in 1962 and 1963.

Kramer was also named to the Pro Bowl in 1962.

Kramer played out his option in the 1964 season, which allowed him to sign with another NFL team. Kramer wanted to go back to Michigan to be with his family, so he signed with the Detroit Lions.

Back then, if a player played out his option like Kramer did, the team he played for would get a first-round draft pick. The Packers did receive one from the Lions and used that pick on fullback Jim Grabowski in the 1966 NFL draft.

The player that was probably the closest to Kramer was Hornung, who entered the NFL and Green Bay with No. 88. Hornung has as much fun as anyone in the NFL did off the field when he played. Kramer was with No. 5 on a number of those occasions.

Jerry Kramer recounted that with me.

“Ron was also quite the character off the field,” Kramer said. “He and Paul Hornung were very close. Ron was a unique human being. He was a bit wacky at times. He loved to put a drink on his head because he had a flat spot up there, and he would dance with it up there.

“Ron also like to mess with you. He would kiss you in the ear or some silly-ass thing. Just to irritate you. He would do that just for aggravation and he would giggle and laugh.

“So when Ron died, Hornung goes to his funeral up in Detroit and Ron’s son Kurt picked up Paul at the airport. When Kurt sees Paul, he gives him a big kiss right on the lips. And Paul yells, ‘What the hell are you doing?’ And Kurt said, ‘Dad told me about three months ago that if he didn’t make it and if you came to his funeral, I was supposed to give you a big kiss on the lips and to tell you it was from dad.’

“Paul started crying like a baby after that.”

You can bet that there will be more tears shed if Ron Kramer gets inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Perhaps it will be in 2020, as Gosselin has told me that he trying to get 10 seniors inducted into Canton on the centennial year of the NFL.

When I told Rick that I would be writing a series of articles about Packers who I believe deserve consideration for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he told me to make sure I wrote about Kramer, Dowler and Gale Gillingham.

I have done that now. And it is my sincere desire that at least one of those three players is included among the ten seniors who will hopefully be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2020.

Milwaukee Brewers: It will be David vs. Goliath in the NLCS

Craig Counsell and David Stearns

On Friday night at Miller Park, the Milwaukee Brewers will be hosting the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series.

It will be like David battling Goliath. Almost literally.

The Brewers behind the great work of general manager David Stearns and manager Craig Counsell, won the NL Central with a fabulous run in the month of September and also had the best record in all of the National League (96-67).

This with a payroll of just under $109 million, based on the great data that Spotrac provides. That puts the Brew Crew at No. 22 in payroll in all of MLB (30 teams).

Meanwhile, the Goliaths…er…Dodgers, have a payroll of close to $200 million, which place them third on the MLB totem pole, only behind the Boston Red Sox and San Francisco Giants.

Now the Dodgers did win the NL West in a one-game playoff against the Colorado Rockies, just like the Brewers had to do with the Chicago Cubs. All in all, the Dodgers finished with a record of 92-71.

Of the four teams still remaining in the postseason, three of those teams are in the Top 10 in payroll. The Red Sox are No. 1, the Dodgers are No. 3 and the Houston Astros are No. 9.

In fact, if the Brewers doubled their payroll, they still wouldn’t match the payroll of the Red Sox ($228 million-plus).

That’s what the Brewers are up against in the NLCS and perhaps the World Series, if Milwaukee is fortunate enough to get there again for the first time since 1982, when they were called Harvey’s Wallbangers.

The irony in all of this for the Dodgers is that their president of baseball operations, Andrew Friedman, used to be the GM of the Tampa Bay Rays, who almost always had the lowest payroll in baseball, even when the club was making the postseason a habit under manager Joe Madden.

Friedman was assisted by Matt Arnold in Tampa Bay, when Arnold was the director of pro scouting. Arnold is now the assistant GM of the Brewers and was the first hire by Stearns three years ago.

I wrote about how much the Brewers and Rays had in common last year.

Getting back to the Brewers and Dodgers, just before the trade deadline, both teams were interested in trading for SS/3B Manny Machado of the Baltimore Orioles. In the end, it was the Dodgers who were able to acquire Machado.

But Stearns did not sit on his hands at the actual trade deadline (July 31), as well the waiver trade deadline which ends on August 31. Stearns added 3B Mike Moustakas, pitchers Joakim Soria, Gio Gonzalez and Xavier Cedeno, 2B Jonathan Schoop and OF Curtis Granderson.

When the Dodgers, who are managed by Dave Roberts, and Brewers start going at it on Friday night in Game 1, the payrolls of each team will go out the window. The only thing that matters is winning baseball games.

That being said, this should be one hell of a series, based on that talent of each team.

The Brewers are riding an 11 game winning streak. A win on Friday night and people will be heading in masses to George Webb for some free hamburgers. Getting free burgers will be great for the fans of the Brewers, but getting a win on Friday night will be even more important.

George Webb

And winning is something that the Brewers have done a lot of lately. The Brew Crew went 20-7 in September which allowed them to catch the Cubs and tie for the NL Central lead.

Then in game No. 163, the Brewers beat the Cubs 3-1 at Wrigley Field which gave the team home field advantage for the rest of the National League playoffs.

The Brewers just totally dominated the Colorado Rockies in the NLDS, outscoring the Rockies by a 13-2 margin. Colorado scored those two runs in one inning, which means the team went scoreless in 27 of the 28 innings played in the series.

The major reason? The bullpen. That dynamic of the team has been fairly consistent throughout the season, although there have been a few glitches from time to time. The relief corps posted a 3.47 earned run average during the regular season, which was second to the Cubs (3.35) in the NL.

Plus, the bullpen knows how to close the door. The Brewers are 82-3 (including the postseason) when leading after seven innings. And when the Crew takes a lead to the ninth, they are 86-3.

I mentioned how dominant the pen has been in my most recent story about the Brewers, especially when you take a look at the job Corbin Burnes, lefty Josh Hader and Jeremy Jeffress did in the regular season. Their combined stats were unbelievable.

The trio were a combined 21-2 in the bullpen and had a combined ERA of 2.04. Plus the three combined for 25 saves, with Hader having 11 and Jeffress having 13.

Jeffress had a minor malfunction in Game 1 of the NDCS, but bounced right back in Game 2. Hader has been lights out, both in Game No. 163 vs. the Cubs and the postseason thus far. Burnes has continued to be effective in the middle innings for the Brewers and he notched a win in Game 3 of the NLDS.

Besides those three, the Brewers also have a guy who saved 46 games last year. I’m talking about Corey Knebel. The hard-throwing righty had a rough start in the first half of the season due to a hamstring injury and some ineffectiveness due to his inability to throw the curve ball. But after being sent down to the minors and working some kinks out, he has been almost flawless.

Knebel finished the season with 16 consecutive scoreless outings, striking out 33 hitters in 16 1/3 innings. Nothing changed in the NLDS for Knebel either, as he pitched three innings without giving up a run and struck out four.

In fact, the ERA of the Brewers in the NLDS was a sparking 0.64. Jeffress was the only pitcher on the Brewers who allowed a run (he allowed two). All the other pitchers had a perfect 0.00 ERA. That group includes starter Jhoulys Chacin who got a win in Game 2, as he went five innings.

Wade Miley also had a fine start in Game 3, as he he went 4 2/3 innings without giving up a run. Other than that it was bullpen by committee. That all started in Game 1 when Brandon Woodruff started the game and went three innings without giving up a run.

The rest of the bullpen did the job in the series, except for the hiccup by Jeffress in Game 1. Burnes, Knebel, Soria and Hader combined to pitch 12 innings and allowed only two hits and zero runs. They also struck out 18 batters.

The offense in the NLDS was led by catcher Erik Kratz, who hit .625 against the Rockies. Soon to be NL MVP Christian Yelich also had a nice series, as he seemed to be on the base all the time, as he had two hits (including a homer) and six walks.

Moustakas was clutch in the NLDS with his hitting, and he finished the series with a .364 average and two huge RBIs (including the game-winning walk off single in Game 1).

Ryan Braun, who is the only holdover from the 2011 Milwaukee team which also won the NL Central and advanced to the NLCS, also had a very solid series, as he hit .385.

Travis Shaw hit .364 and also walked three times.

The Brewers are going to need an effort like that and maybe more to beat the Dodgers.

Brewers vs. Dodgers 2018 NLCS

The Dodgers can really hit. They led the NL with 235 homers and also led the league with 804 runs scored. Los Angeles also had seven players hit over 20 homers this season. They are Max Muncy (35), Joc Pederson (25), Cody Bellinger (25), Yasmani Grandal (24), Yasiel Puig (23), Enrique Hernandez (21) and Matt Kemp (21).

The best hitter on the Dodgers is 3B Justin Turner, who hit 14 homers himself and hit .312. Machado hit 13 homers and drove in 42 runs after he was acquired from the Orioles.

The Dodgers also have Brewer-killer David Freese (2011 NLCS) on their bench.

So in a snapshot, one can see that the Dodgers will be tough to shut down offensively.

This where I could see the Brewers making some roster alterations to the pitching staff for this series. I could see the Brewers adding someone like Zach Davies, who has had good success against the Dodgers in his career.

Plus, with all the big power hitters that the Dodgers can bring up to the plate from the left side, I could see the Brewers adding someone like Cedeno to the pitching staff.

Speaking of having success against the Dodgers, the Brewers have two pitchers who throw from the left side and who have had their way with LA. I’m talking about Gonzalez and Miley.

Gonzalez is 4-1 lifetime vs. the Dodgers, with an ERA of 1.89. Miley has a career ERA of 3.55 against the Dodgers and was 1-0 in 2018 against them and had a 0.00 ERA. In 13 innings, Miley gave up just six hits.

Chacin is 11-9 lifetime against the Dodgers and has a career ERA of 4.41, which skyrocketed after his worst start of the season at Dodger Stadium, when LA thrashed Milwaukee 21-5.

In terms of the pitching for the Dodgers, it all starts with lefty Clayton Kershaw, who will start in Game 1. The three-time Cy Young award winner was 9-5 in 2018, with an ERA of 2.73.

Throughout his career, Kershaw has pitched well against the Brewers, as he has a career ERA average of 2.86. Still, he is only 6-5 against Milwaukee, including a loss to the Brewers at Miller Park earlier this year.

As good as Kershaw has been in the regular season in his career (153-69, 2.39 ERA), he hasn’t had the same success in the postseason. In that scenario, Kershaw is just 8-7, with an ERA of 4.08.

That could be a good omen for the Brewers.

The rest of the LA pitching staff is very good as well, as the Dodgers had a team ERA of 3.38. Next to Kershaw, the best starting pitcher on the Dodgers is Walker Buehler, who went 8-5 and had an ERA of 2.62.

The rest of the starting staff is rounded out by lefty Rich Hill (11-5, 3.66), Alex Wood (9-7, 3.68) and lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu (7-3, 1.97).

The closer for the Dodgers is still Kenley Jansen (1-5), who isn’t as imposing as he once was. Still, he saved 38 games and had an ERA of 3.01.

The Dodgers also have lefty Caleb Ferguson, who always seems to pitch well against the Brewers. In 2018, he was 7-2 with a 3.49 ERA.

The LA bullpen also can bring in pitchers like lefty Scott Alexander, Pedro Baez, Ryan Madsen and Kenta Maeda.

Bottom line, this should be a very good series. The Brewers obviously want to get out of the gate quick by beating Kershaw and the Dodgers in Game 1.

Kershaw gives up homer to Yelich

Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers gives up a solo home run to Christian Yelich of the Brewers.

At this stage of the game in the MLB postseason, it doesn’t matter who comes up with the clutch hit, as long as someone does. It could be Yelich, Braun, Moustakas or Kratz. Then again it might be Jesús Aguilar, Lorenzo Cain, Orlando Arcia, Hernán Perez or Manny Piña.

The Brewers are playing their best baseball of 2018 at the very best time. I expect that to continue in the NLCS as well.

If that happens, the Brewers will be going to their second ever World Series and will be in the Fall Classic for the first time since 1982.