Halloween Eve in 1967: The Green Bay Packers Get a Return on Investment

Travis Williams vs. Cardinals

Before the NFL made Monday Night Football a weekly event for the fans of the league in 1970, the Green Bay Packers played three Monday night games in the 1960s.

The Packers beat the Detroit Lions 14-10 in 1964 on a Monday night at Tiger Stadium, plus beat the Dallas Cowboys 28-17 in 1968 at the Cotton Bowl on another Monday night.

In between those two games, there was another game on Monday night in 1967, on Halloween eve, as the Packers defeated the St. Louis Cardinals 31-23 at Busch Memorial Stadium.

Bart Starr started every one of those Monday night games at quarterback, plus was also the starting QB in the inaugural season of MNF in 1970, as the Packers defeated the then San Diego Chargers 22-20 at San Diego Stadium.

The current Green Bay team plays the now Los Angeles Chargers this upcoming Sunday at Dignity Health Sports Park, as Aaron Rodgers tries to lead the 7-1 Packers to their fourth road victory of the season.

The Chargers were originally the Los Angeles Chargers in 1960 when they joined the AFL, but moved to San Diego the next year and remained there through 2016. In 2020, the Chargers will play at the new L.A. Stadium and Entertainment District at Hollywood Park and share that venue with the Los Angeles Rams.

Back to the 1967 Monday night game in St. Louis now. It was a very important game for the Packers, as they realized that they now had a huge weapon returning kickoffs as Travis Williams returned the first of four touchdowns he scored via the kickoff in 1967.

The game itself was a bloody battle before the kickoff return for a touchdown by Williams.

The Cardinals, led by quarterback Jim Hart, who threw for 317 yards, had 405 total yards, compared to just 245 by the Packers.

Starr struggled in the game, only throwing for 117 yards and a touchdown. No. 15 also threw two interceptions.

Hart also threw two picks, but he also threw two touchdown passes to Dave Williams, who had six receptions for 147 yards.

Boyd Dowler was the leading receiver for the Packers, as he caught five passes for 50 yards and a score.

The Green Bay ground game was quite efficient though, as the Packers averaged over five yards per carry.

Fullback Jim Grabowski rushed for 71 yards on just 10 attempts, while halfback Elijah Pitts rushed for 52 yards and a touchdown on 13 attempts.

As it turned out, the game was the last game that Grabowski and Pitts would finish together, as Pitts was lost for the season (Achilles tendon tear) the following week in Baltimore versus the Colts and Grabowski suffered a knee injury in that same game that would basically end his season except for just four carries later in the year.

The Packers were trailing 23-17 in the fourth quarter to the Cardinals, when Williams returned a kick from former Wisconsin Badger Jim Bakken for 93 yards and a score.

The Packers never looked back, as they added another touchdown on a pass from Starr to Dowler, as Green Bay won 31-23.

But the return was just the start of what Williams would do in 1967. Williams was part of a rookie class that included two first round picks in offensive lineman Bob Hyland and quarterback Don Horn.

In his rookie season, Williams returned 18 kickoffs for 739 yards, which averages out to 41.1 yards-per-return, which is still a NFL record. No. 23 returned four of those 18 kicks for touchdowns and almost had a fifth against the Chicago Bears.

Travis Williams Kickoff Return TD vs. Rams in LA

But it all started with that kickoff return for a touchdown against the Cardinals.

Jerry Kramer wrote about that play in his classic book, Instant Replay, which was edited by the late, great Dick Schaap.

“When the Cardinals went ahead 23-17 in the last quarter, I felt we were in real danger. But then they kicked off, and Travis Williams , playing on the kickoff return team for the first time because [Herb] Adderley had bruised his hand, took the ball and headed straight up the middle. I was on the front line, nearest the Cardinals. I hit one guy with a forearm and knocked him backwards, then took about four more steps towards another guy. Suddenly, I felt Travis breeze by me, zip, zip, zip, zip, like I was standing still. He went all the way for a touchdown, 93 yards, and we were back in the lead.”

And that play happened 52 years ago tonight, on Halloween eve.

That was quite a trick by Williams and quite a treat for the Packers.

The Packers would go on to win their third straight NFL title in 1967, a feat that has never been duplicated, as well as winning their second straight Super Bowl.

The 1967 season was also the last year Vince Lombardi roamed the sidelines as head coach of the Packers.

The legacy of Lombardi in Green Bay turned out to be a fantastic treat for Packer Nation.

Wisconsin Filmmaker is Producing Jerry Kramer Documentary

Glenn, Diana and Jerry II

Glenn Aveni, Diana Kramer and Jerry Kramer.

A number of months ago, while I was chatting with Jerry Kramer regarding the book we are working on, he suggested I call someone.

Jerry told me to call Glenn Aveni, an award-winning filmmaker who was in the process of doing a documentary on Kramer. Jerry thought we might be able to share some information. Before I called Aveni, I checked out his biography and I was very impressed. I also noticed that Aveni was a Milwaukee native, just as I am.

When I called Glenn, I soon found out that we had a lot in common. We both grew up on the northwest side of Milwaukee and we knew a lot of the same people, although Aveni is a couple of years younger than I am.

Both of us agreed that we surely crossed paths at some point because of a mutual friend and also because we had similar interests, like sports and music. And just like I am with Jerry, I was at ease talking to Glenn, just like he was a close high school or college buddy.

One thing that really stuck out for me in my conversation with Aveni was hearing the passion that he had for the Green Bay Packers. Like me, Glenn grew up when the Packers under Vince Lombardi won five NFL titles in seven years, including the first two Super Bowls in the 1960s.

I also found out that at the age of nine, Aveni read Instant Replay, the classic book co-written by Kramer and the late, great Dick Schaap, which was a diary of the magnificent 1967 season for the Packers. A year when the Packers won their third straight NFL title under Lombardi, who was coaching his last team in Green Bay.

The documentary that Aveni is producing about Kramer is called You Can, If You Will – The Jerry Kramer Story. The Kickstarter campaign about the film is going live today. You can pre-order by going to this page.

I talked again with Aveni recently and he told me how this documentary idea about Kramer originated.

“A photographer friend of mine, who had done some photos of Jerry a few years ago, saw him at a signing event here in Milwaukee,” Aveni said. “So my friend called me on the phone and told me that Jerry Kramer was there. He told me that he saw Jerry there and congratulated him on being recently inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“So my friend said to Jerry, ‘Isn’t it about time that somebody does a film on you Jerry?’ And Jerry said, ‘You know, I was just talking about that with my marketing agent, Mark Mayfield.’

“So my friend says, ‘I know the perfect guy to do this. His done films on people like Les Paul, plus he’s from Wisconsin and a huge Packers fan.’ Jerry told my friend to have me call him on his cell phone. So I called him and had short conversation and I told him my background and apparently Jerry had seen my Les Paul film and liked it.

“Jerry cut to the chase and said, ‘How would we do this?’ And I told him that we would basically use the same template I utilized when I did the Les Paul piece. So I told Jerry that my company, Icon TV, would produce the film, handle the distribution and that I would direct the film.

“So Jerry goes, ‘That sounds really good and I think that we could make this work. I’m going to be up at Lambeau tomorrow and perhaps we can meet there for lunch. At least I can look in the whites of your eyes and maybe we can finalize this along with my marketing agent Mark.’

“So we met for lunch and I got us a private table in the back. We had a real nice lunch and I gave Jerry my ideas about how we would do the film. Then he looked at me and says, ‘Let’s do it!’ And then he says, ‘What do you think Mark?’ And Mark goes, ‘I think it’s a great idea. I have checked out Glenn’s background and he checked out great.’ So we shook on it.

“The one thing that was real reaffirming to me, because I’m such a passionate fan of the Packers, was that when we left our table, the entire 1919 Kitchen & Tap crowd stood up and gave Jerry a standing ovation. The place was packed too. Plus, he was mobbed by everyone. Young and old. I knew then that this film was going to be fantastic!”

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So Aveni started working on the film and was in Canton for Jerry’s enshrinement and was able to film Kramer’s acceptance speech. Plus, Aveni and his film crew were able to get a number of interviews with pro football icons like Ron Wolf.

Aveni told me about when he decided to utilize Kickstarter for this film.

“Well, when we started the project, I told Jerry that I would put up my own money to get the film started,” Aveni said. “My business model for all my films is to put up money to get rights for a film.  So I put up enough money to start shooting material to get into production. But I can’t really fund the entire film out of my pocket, as I just don’t have the resources to do that.

“The first goal in my films is to try and get some pre-sale. So I went to the obvious choices, who are NFL Network and ESPN. While both were very interested in the project, because they love Jerry, they really didn’t want to pre-buy, they preferred to wait until the project was done.

“So when I realized there was a high probability that we wouldn’t get pre-sale, I had told Jerry in our very first meeting that would probably crowd-fund the film, like I had done in the past with one of the other films I directed, which was called The US Generation.”

That film was about the Us Festival in 1982, which included musical acts like The Police, Tom Petty, Fleetwood Mac, Santana, Jackson Browne, The Cars, The Talking Heads, The Ramones, The Grateful Dead, Pat Benatar & The B52s.

Aveni worked with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak in getting that film done. Aveni sees a lot of similarities comparing Kramer and Wozniak.

“Steve is very much like Jerry,” Aveni said. “Steve’s whole goal in life is to help other people’s lives. Not enriching himself, but to help other people. I took that project to Kickstarter and it definitely helped us get over the finish line. The film has had a fantastic response as well.”

One of the people who is assisting Aveni with this film is Jerry’s son Dan, who has had also worked with Kickstarter in the past. In fact, I did a story about his project, which was for his Return To Glory book.

Aveni talked about his association with Dan.

“I met Dan in Canton,” Aveni said. “He did some photography work there and he told me a little bit about his background. Dan is a really talented photographer. He’s very savvy about the media, plus he also has a past with the Kickstarter program.

“Dan and I hit it off personally. Jerry’s family is really a warm, loving family, as I’m sure you know. They were very gracious and very kind to me. They were thrilled that I would be doing the film about their dad.

“Once we realized that we were going to go the Kickstarter route, we thought it would be a good idea to bring Dan aboard on the project and be part of the production team. Dan is going to be invaluable.

“We are also working with Mark Mayfield of Mayfield Sports. Mark is an executive producer for the film. Mark has unbelievable contacts within the sports community, the Green Bay Packers community, as well as the NFL community.”

Bart's QB sneak behind Jerry

Aveni summed up to me why Kickstarter is the perfect vehicle to drive this film.

“Kickstarter is the best, as I’ve had a great experience with it,” Aveni said. “They are more suited towards films and documentaries as well. Kickstarter makes you reach your goal. There is no funny business. You can’t raise a third of the money and just not deliver.

“We think that this will give great rewards to people who pledge to be part of this film. The thing I really like about Kickstarter is the unity that it creates. So whatever story that you are telling, you are able to work within a community of people who have a similar love and passion like you do.

“One of things I would like people to know is that we are going to give a tribute to Bart Starr in the film. Packer Nation loved Bart and they love Jerry as well. I know they will love this documentary.

“The people who help out feel like they are making the film with you. People will get a lot of real cool stuff for the money that they pledge. It’s just a unifying enterprise where the  people who are backing you become your biggest cheerleaders. It’s just a fantastic journey.”

Similar to the journey that Kramer and his teammates made on that epic 68-yard drive in the “Ice Bowl” or the 44 years it took for Kramer to get his rightful place among the best of the best, which is being a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

This film will illustrate all that and much more!

The Primary Reason Jerry Kramer Retired 50 Years Ago

Bart's QB sneak behind Jerry

Photo by John Biever

On May 22, 1969…Jerry Kramer of the Green Bay Packers announced his retirement from the NFL.  The 50th anniversary of that occasion is soon coming up.

Thanks to the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame, we have a record of that announcement.

May 22, 1969 – Guard and author, Jerry Kramer announces his retirement from football after an 11-year career that stretches back to 1958. Kramer’s decision is not a surprise as just days earlier an advertisement on the front page of Publishers’ Weekly, a book industry journal, said as much. In promoting Kramer’s soon-to-be-released Farewell to Football, the ad hyped the book as the guard’s “inside look at the frustrating 1968 Green Bay season (and) his personal decision to give up the game he loves so much…” Packers coach and general marnager Phil Bengtson says: “He’s only 33, but apparently he felt he had so many outside interests that he couldn’t devote the time to football.”

Yes, it was true that Kramer did have a number of outside interests. But that was not the main reason that he retired.

The primary circumstance for Kramer’s retirement? The strained relationship between Kramer and offensive line coach Ray Wietecha.

Kramer explained that situation to me.

“I was struggling with Ray Wietecha, my line coach” Kramer said. “I’m having a difficult time with him because I thought he was doing some things which were stupid. And that year, Lombardi was not head coach anymore, he was just general manager.

“For instance, we are getting ready to play the Bears, and Chicago has an odd-man line. They had a defensive tackle named Dick Evey, who went about 245 pounds. They also had a middle linebacker named [Dick] Butkus, who also went about 245 or 250.

“On an odd-man line, Evey, who would normally play on my outside shoulder, moves over and plays head up on the center, where normally Butkus would line up. But on an odd-man, Butkus lines up over me. So, normally if we want to run in the hole where I am, I would block Butkus. And the center would block Evey.

“But the fullback is also in that blocking assignment. So Wietecha wants Jimmy Grabowski, who was 220 pounds with a gimpy knee, to block Butkus one on one and he wants me to double-team with the center on Evey.

“So I go up to Ray and say, ‘Why don’t you let me have Butkus and let [Ken] Bowman and Grabo take care of Evey? It’s a much stronger play that way. And Ray goes, ‘I’m the coach. I’m the coach. We are going to do things my way.’ So I tell him that it’s stupid. And he yells, ‘I’m the coach!’

“So, the next day I’m in the sauna before practice and so is Lombardi. He says, ‘Jerry, how are you running that 53?’ And I told him that Ray had me on Evey and he’s got Grabo on Butkus. Lombardi says, ‘Go talk to him.’ And I said, ‘Coach, I talked with him yesterday and got my ass chewed.’ So Coach goes, ‘Go talk to him again,’ and he pushes me on the shoulder.

“So I try to communicate with Ray and ask him about the play. I said, ‘Coach are you trying to set something up with this particular call?’ And Ray goes, ‘I’m the coach and that’s the play we are running!’ That was the end of the conversation.”

In addition to that situation, Kramer had issues with Wietecha about the spacing between the linemen on the offensive line. Spacing which had worked for Kramer and the offensive line for over a decade that Wietecha wanted to change.

The spacing changes Wietecha made did not work. By then, Kramer was about fed up.

“The whole situation was so demotivating, especially when it’s so hard to win,” Kramer said. “You can’t give things away. You can’t let the opponent know what you were going to do, whether it’s a drive block or if you are going to pull. You try to not give the defense a clue about anything. But we were telling people what we were going to do by the way we would line up.

“It just made the whole situation that much more difficult. It was just very defeating. It was hard to get your heart going and playing with conviction when we were doing something stupid. So I decided it was time for me to move on leave football.”

Besides writing another best-selling book with Dick Schaap, Kramer also did color commentary for NFL games for CBS in 1969. But in that season, Kramer got two invites to come back and play in the NFL.

The first offer came from the Los Angeles Rams and their head coach George Allen.

“I was doing television work for CBS in 1969, and George Allen called me to see if I wanted to play for the Rams,” Kramer said. “Apparently they had lost two guards to injury. So I flew out to LA and had a chat with George. He told me that he would pay me whatever I made the year before on a proactive basis, as it was the middle of the season.

“So I agreed to the thing and I went back home, but the Packers wouldn’t release me. They didn’t want the Rams to have me because they had been to the playoffs and they thought I might tell them something about the team, which might be a detriment to the Packers. So the deal never happened.”

Readers of Instant Replay may recall something which Kramer mentioned in the book.  Kramer says that as a high school senior at Sand Point, Idaho, he wrote in his yearbook that his ambition was to play professional football for the Los Angeles Rams.

After being asked to play again by the Rams, Kramer received another offer.

“I got a call from the Minnesota Vikings,” Kramer said. “Bud Grant and I always got along.  I did some television stuff with him and I liked him a lot. Bud called and said, ‘Jerry, we would love to have you come to Minnesota and play for us.’ And I said, ‘Shoot, Bud. Hollywood would have been pretty exciting. Minnesota, not so exciting. I think I’ll just stay in the booth.’

Jerry leading the sweep in Super Bowl I

Wietecha became the offensive line coach in 1965, after Bill Austin left to become the new head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Austin had held that position from 1959 through 1964 and the team had great success, especially in running the football.

For instance, Austin had the Packers ranked third in the NFL in toting the rock in 1959, second in 1960, first in 1961, first in 1962, second in 1963 and first again in 1964.

The signature running play for the Packers then was the power sweep which was very successful, as Kramer elaborated to me.

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

The play needed the entire offensive line to be in sync. And the line was, as left tackle Bob Skoronski, left guard Fuzzy Thurston, center Jim Ringo, right guard Kramer and right tackle Forrest Gregg blocked for that play magnificently and consistently.

But things changed once Wietecha became the offensive line coach in 1965. The Packers finished 10th in rushing in the NFL that year. The Packers slightly improved that aspect of their game in 1966, as the team finished eighth in rushing.

In 1967, the Packers jumped up to second in the league in rushing, as Gale Gillingham had taken over for Thurston at left guard, while Ken Bowman and Bob Hyland split the playing time at center.

In 1968, the Packers finished 10th again in running the ball. And that’s when Kramer had just about enough regarding Wietecha’s coaching philosophy.

Kramer wasn’t the only offensive lineman who had issues with Wietecha. Hyland told me that he too had problems with his coach while he played with the Packers. Hyland was traded to the Chicago Bears in 1970.

A year later, da Bears traded Hyland to the New York Giants. Guess who the offensive line coach of the G-Men was then? You guessed it. Ray Wietecha. I think you might imagine Hyland’s reaction when he heard the news.

Somebody was listening to the complaints of Kramer, Hyland and others on the offensive line, as head coach Phil Bengtson made Gregg the offensive line coach in 1969 and moved Wietecha to running game coach.

But by the time that change was made, Kramer had already decided to move on from a life in the NFL, even with a couple other opportunities being offered down the road.

Jerry Kramer Talks About Dick Schaap

Dick Schaap

When it comes to authors who write about sports and the star athletes who play in those sports, there was no one better than the late, great Dick Schaap.

Schaap wrote autobiographical books about stars like Hank Aaron, Joe Montana, Joe Namath, Tom Seaver, Bo Jackson and Mickey Mantle.

Schaap also wrote that same type book about Jerry Kramer, called Instant Replay. More about that book a bit later.

The Brooklyn native also wrote books about golfing events like the Masters and the U.S. Open.

It wasn’t just sports that Schaap wrote about either, as he wrote about Robert Kennedy in his 1967 book called RFK, plus he also wrote about the Son of Sam, along with Jimmy Breslin, in a book called .44 Caliber.

Schaap also wrote about comedian/actor Billy Crystal in the 1986 book called Absolutely Mahvelous.

Schaap was a well-rounded author who also excelled on TV, as he hosted The Sports Reporters on ESPN for several years, plus had a show called Schaap One on One on ESPN Classic.

Schaap also had a show on ESPN radio called The Sporting Life with Dick Schaap. In that show, Schaap discussed the sports stories of the week with his son Jeremy.

Sadly, Schaap died in 2001 at the young age of 67 due to complications from hip replacement surgery.

In 1961, Schaap wrote another book called, Paul Hornung: Pro Football’s Golden Boy. Schaap spent a number of weeks covering the Packers that season, which also turned out to be the year the Packers won their first NFL championship under head coach Vince Lombardi.

That was also the first time Schaap got to know Kramer. Schaap was walking through the dorm of the Packers at St. Norbert that training camp. As he passed by the room shared by Kramer and fullback Jim Taylor, he heard Kramer reciting poetry to Taylor.

Schaap found that situation somewhat unusual, so he stopped for a few seconds to listen to the poetry.

I had a chance to talk with Kramer this week about his great relationship with Schaap, which basically blossomed due to that encounter and he recalled the poetry he was reading to Taylor.

“I was reading some work by Robert Service,” Kramer said. “Things like Spell of the Yukon and Dangerous Dan McGrew.”

That episode stuck in the mind of Schaap and in 1966, he asked Kramer about doing a book together.

That book turned out to be Instant Replay. I wrote about how that iconic and wonderful book was put together back in 2016.

“Dick asked me if I wanted to write a book,” Kramer said. “I said, ‘What the hell do I know about writing a book?’ He says, ‘Well, you talk into a tape recorder and record your day, your activities, your observations, your stories, your team, your coach, things that are happening that might be interesting and then send me the tape and I’ll transcribe it and I’ll organize it into a book.’

“I then asked Dick, ‘Who gets final say?’ And he told me that I did. And I said, ‘Let’s talk.’

After they had put together a game plan, Kramer and Schaap met with the publisher in New York.

“We went to our first meeting with the publisher with our agent Sterling Lord,” Kramer said. “I don’t know if that was his real name, but it sure was memorable. So we get to the meeting and it’s a large boardroom table with around seven or eight folks there.

“I asked the publisher how many books did we have to sell to do good. And he says, ‘Jerry, if we sell 7,500 to 10,000 that would be good. Sports books just don’t sell, Historically they have never been a big seller. This is kind of a niche deal, so if we sell 10,000 books, we would do real well.’

“So in the end, I think we sold 440,000. That was pretty stunning that the head of a publishing company missed the mark that badly. But Dick and I traveled and promoted the book like crazy. There was no internet back then, so you would go to San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Dallas, Miami, Detroit or wherever you could get on a show to promote the book.”

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All that promotional work paid off, as did the book itself, which is widely considered a sports masterpiece, as it told the story of the historical 1967 season for the Packers.

Green Bay won it’s third straight NFL title that season with the legendary “Ice Bowl” win, as well as it’s second consecutive Super Bowl win. In the book, Kramer also gives an insightful glimpse of Lombardi, the team’s storied leader. The 1967 season turned out to be Lombardi’s last year as head coach of the Packers as well.

Kramer and Schaap were somewhat shocked by the success of the book.

“I was stunned by the reception,” Kramer said. “Just to see it on the best seller list. It started at 16 or somewhere like that. But even there that was pretty exciting. Then it got to No. 2. And I believe it stayed there for like 15 or 16 weeks.

“Dick told me, ‘Those SOBs, they won’t put a sports book No. 1.’ He thought it might be a literary bias or something. Finally, the book did make it to No. 1 for about four weeks.”

That success led to another book written by Kramer and Schaap called, Farewell to Football,  which was a story about Kramer’s last year in the NFL (1968), which was just a year after the magical 1967 season.

One of the main reasons Kramer retired was due to his differences with his offensive line coach.

“I was struggling with Ray Wietecha, my line coach” Kramer said. “I’m having a difficult time with him because I thought he was doing some things which were stupid. And that year, Lombardi was not head coach anymore, he was just general manager.

“For instance, we are getting ready to play the Bears, and Chicago has an odd-man line. They had a defensive tackle named Dick Evey, who went about 245 pounds. They also had a middle linebacker named [Dick] Butkus, who also went about 245 or 250.

“On an odd-man line, Evey, who would normally play on my outside shoulder, moves over and plays head up on the center, where normally Butkus would line up. But on an odd-man, Butkus lines up over me. So, normally if we want to run in the hole where I am, I would block Butkus. And the center would block Evey.

“But the fullback is also in that blocking assignment. So Wietecha wants Jimmy Grabowski, who was 220 pounds with a gimpy knee, to block Butkus one on one and he wants me to double-team with the center on Evey.

“So I go up to Ray and say, ‘Why don’t you let me have Butkus and let [Ken] Bowman and Grabo take care of Evey? It’s a much stronger play that way. And Ray goes, ‘I’m the coach. I’m the coach. We are going to do things my way.’ So I tell him that it’s stupid. And he yells, ‘I’m the coach!’

Vince and Jerry after Super Bowl II

“So, the next day I’m in the sauna before practice and so is Lombardi. He says, ‘Jerry, how are you running that 53?’ And I told him that Ray had me on Evey and he’s got Grabo on Butkus. Lombardi says, ‘Go talk to him.’ And I said, ‘Coach, I talked with him yesterday and got my ass chewed.’ So Coach goes, ‘Go talk to him again,’ and he pushes me on the shoulder.

“So I try to communicate with Ray and ask him about the play. I said, ‘Coach are you trying to set something up with this particular call?’ And Ray goes, ‘I’m the coach and that’s the play we are running!’ That was the end of the conversation.”

In addition to that situation, Kramer had issues with Wietecha about the spacing between the linemen on the offensive line. Spacing which had worked for Kramer and the offensive line for over a decade that Wietecha wanted to change.

The spacing changes Wietecha made did not work. By then, Kramer was about fed up.

“The whole situation was so demotivating, especially when it’s so hard to win,” Kramer said. “You can’t give things away. You can’t let the opponent know what you were going to do, whether it’s a drive block or if you are going to pull. You try to not give the defense a clue about anything. But we were telling people what we were going to do by the way we would line up.

“It just made the whole situation that much more difficult. It was just very defeating. It was hard to get your heart going and playing with conviction when we were doing something stupid. So I decided it was time for me to move on leave football.”

Besides writing another book with Schaap, Kramer also did color commentary for NFL games for CBS in 1969. But in that season, Kramer got two invites to come back and play in the NFL.

The first offer came from the Los Angeles Rams and their head coach George Allen.

“I was doing television work for CBS in 1969, and George Allen called me to see if I wanted to play for the Rams,” Kramer said. “Apparently they had lost two guards to injury. So I flew out to LA and had a chat with George. He told me that he would pay me whatever I made the year before on a proactive basis, as it was the middle of the season.

“So I agreed to the thing and I went back home, but the Packers wouldn’t release me. They didn’t want the Rams to have me because they had been to the playoffs and they thought I might tell them something about the team, which might be a detriment to the Packers. So the deal never happened.”

Readers of Instant Replay may recall something which Kramer mentioned in the book.  Kramer says that as a high school senior at Sand Point, Idaho, he wrote in his yearbook that his ambition was to play professional football for the Los Angeles Rams.

After being asked to play again by the Rams, Kramer received another offer.

“I got a call from the Minnesota Vikings,” Kramer said. “Bud Grant and I always got along.  I did some television stuff with him and I liked him a lot. Bud called and said, ‘Jerry, we would love to have you come to Minnesota and play for us.’ And I said, ‘Shoot, Bud. Hollywood would have been pretty exciting. Minnesota, not so exciting. I think I’ll just stay in the booth.’

Something else happened in 1969, as the second book (Farewell to Football) by Kramer and Schaap was published. Jeremy Schaap was born. Jeremy was named after Kramer, plus is also his godson.

Kramer and Schaap continued writing and had another classic book published as co-authors.

The book was Distant Replay, which was published in 1985, as Kramer reminisced with his teammates who had won Super Bowl I. Kramer traveled to many landscapes across the country to meet and talk with his former teammates whom he had played with almost 20 years before.

I personally have all of the books that Kramer and Schaap have co-written, plus I have a number of books written by just Schaap, which includes RFK, Green Bay Replay and Flashing Before My Eyes.

From my many discussions with Kramer over the years, I always knew that Schaap was very close to his heart. And when we talked earlier this week, he confirmed my suspicion.

“I consider Dick to be among a handful of close friends,” Kramer said. “I’ve had a lot of friends and acquaintances along the way, but there are only a few that I really felt close to. One was Art Preston, who recently passed on. Willie Davis is another. As is Claude Crabb. And Dick Schaap is the other.

“Dick was like family to me. When we would be working on books, he would tell me that we may not want to go there about this subject or that. And he was always right. I remember one time we were supposed to write a letter to one of the major publications at the time.

“He told me that he would mock it up and that I could correct it. The first one he did, I made four or five changes. The second one he did, I made two or three changes. The third one he did, I made one change. And the fourth one he did, I didn’t make any changes. He truly understood me and knew what I liked and didn’t like.

“He got to know me awfully well and I go to know him awfully well. The more I know him, the more I loved him as a human being. He was extremely bright, aware and thoughtful. He was just a great guy and we became really good friends. He guided me gently and intelligently along the trail.”

Speaking of writers, Kramer received a congratulatory note from Mike Lupica about being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this past February. In the note, Lupica said, “Schaap is smiling somewhere.”

How true that is. Back in 1997, when the Packers played the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI, Kramer was a senior nominee for the Hall of Fame. Just about everyone thought that No. 64 was a shoe-in for Canton.

Kramer recalled being there in New Orleans with Schaap awaiting his induction.

“Yes, we planned on it happening,” Kramer said. “Dick had shirts made. We had a big party the night before. Everything seemed to be in place.”

But alas, it didn’t happen for Kramer in 1997.

Jerry with David Baker

But it did happen for Kramer in 2018. And yes, there is no doubt that Schaap smiled broadly with the news. I’m sure Coach Lombardi did as well, along with former teammates and close friends like Fuzzy Thurston, Max McGee, Don Chandler, Henry Jordan, Ray Nitschke, Tommy Joe Crutcher, Lee Roy Caffey, Dan Currie and others.

But few knew Kramer better than Schaap. In Green Bay Replay, Schaap wrote about how Kramer handled the news about not being inducted in New Orleans at Super Bowl XXXI.

“In the afternoon, Jerry Kramer and Willie Davis, once roommates and still friends, encountered each other on Bourbon Street and embraced,” Schaap wrote. “Willie almost cried for Jerry, who smiled and signed autograph after autograph for Packer fans flooding the sleazy street, outnumbering Patriot fans by a huge margin.”

Kramer handled that omission into the Pro Football Hall of Fame with dignity and grace. And Schaap was there with Kramer in New Orleans lending support to his good friend.

Now 21 years later, Dick Schaap is in another place applauding the great achievement of getting to Canton by his good friend Jerry Kramer.

 

Jerry Kramer Talks About the Book ‘Instant Replay’

instant replay

I do it every summer around training camp. I get out the book Instant Replay and read it. I’ve been doing this for over 40 years. It’s been a ritual for me. Why? The book is that good.

In 1967, when Jerry Kramer of the Green Bay Packers was 31 years old, he kept a diary of the season. Kramer would recite his thoughts into a tape recorder and then submit those words to Dick Schaap, who edited the words into the final version of Instant Replay.

Little did Kramer know that the 1967 season would be one of the most remarkable in the history of the NFL, culminating with the NFL Championship Game against the Dallas Cowboys, better known as the “Ice Bowl.” No. 64 played a key role in the outcome of that game as well, as the Packers won 21-17 in the final seconds of that classic contest.

From training camp, through the Ice Bowl victory, then the win in Super Bowl II, Kramer provides a fascinating perspective about the viciousness of the NFL back then, when the game was truly a mixture of blood, sweat and tears.

Kramer also offers an insightful view of the team’s legendary leader, head coach Vince Lombardi. The 1967 season was Lombardi’s last year as head coach of the Packers as well.

Vincen And Jerry III

In one of my many conversations with Kramer, he gave me his perspective about the book and how it came to be. Kramer told me how he first got to know Schaap, who co-wrote the book with him.

“Dick was doing a story on [Paul] Hornung, and he walked by the room I shared with Jimmy Taylor,” Kramer said. “Our door was open and I was reading some poetry to Jimmy. Dick walked by the door and then stopped. Then he walked back and looked in to see if he had really seen that.

“About five or six years later, Dick called about doing the book. Apparently, the episode about me reading the poetry stuck in his mind.”

The first conversation between Schaap and Kramer about doing this undertaking was interesting.

“Dick asked me if I wanted to write a book,” Kramer said. “I said, ‘What the hell do I know about writing a book?’ He says, ‘Well, you talk into a tape recorder and record your observations, activities, impressions, thoughts and your life. Then you send it to me and I’ll transcribe it and I’ll organize it into a book.’

“I had one more question for him. And I said, ‘Who gets final say?’ And Dick said, ‘You do.’ And I said, ‘Let’s talk.’ We went to New York and talked to the publisher. But I was still new to all this. I asked Dick how may books would we need to sell to do well. Dick said, ‘If we sell between 15,000 and 20,000 books, we did good.’ We ended up selling over 400,000 hard-cover books.”

Kramer had to contemplate as to what approach he would use to write the book.

“I was thinking about being an ‘author’ and how flowery my language should be,” Kramer said. “And that I would have to use some big words. I was worried about how I would be perceived. Finally, I said that it is what it is and I am who I am. You aren’t going to change that.

“So I decided to just write it from the perspective of being as honest as I could be and straight forward. Tell it like it is. If they don’t like it, they don’t like it.”

Kramer got a critique from one of his teammates, Forrest Gregg, the following training camp after the book was published in August 1968.

Gregg and his roommate, Gale Gillingham, were visiting Kramer in his room. They began talking about the book, when Gregg offered up an observation as retold by Kramer.

“That damn book. Everywhere I go, people want to know about that book,” Gregg said. “I’m getting sick and tired of that damn book. But I’ll tell you one thing Jerry, you were dead-honest.”

Kramer said that was probably the nicest compliment he ever had about the book. Coming from someone like Gregg made it extra special. Gregg was right there with Kramer during the legendary ’67 season.

The book came at a perfect time. Sort of like a perfect storm, according to Kramer.

“It was very fortunate timing,” Kramer said.

Jerry on a knee

It was also fortunate timing that Kramer helped to create. Jerry was named All-Pro that season at right guard along with getting named to the Pro Bowl.

Kramer and his teammates overcame a lot during that season. Hornung and Taylor were gone. There were multiple injuries on the team. Quarterback Bart Starr missed a couple of games due to injuries. Both starting running backs, Elijah Pitts and Jim Grabowski, were lost for the season with injuries in the eighth week of the season.

Despite all of that adversity, the Packers still finished second in the NFL in rushing in 1967 with players like Donny Anderson, Travis Williams, Ben Wilson and Chuck Mercein filling the void.

The team also lost a couple of heartbreaking games (including one to the Los Angeles Rams) in the last minute during the course of the season.

A couple of weeks after that loss to the Rams, Green Bay whipped Los Angeles 28-7 at Milwaukee County Stadium in the Western Conference Championship Game.

The week after that came the “Ice Bowl” at Lambeau Field. The Packers were down 17-14 to the Cowboys with just 4:50 remaining in the game. It was extremely cold, as the game-time temperature was 13 below zero. The offense of the Packers had to trudge 68 yards across a truly frozen tundra to win the game.

It came down to this: just 13 seconds to go with no timeouts at the 1-yard line of the Cowboys. Starr called a 31 Wedge play in the huddle, which calls for the fullback to get the ball. However, after conferring with Lombardi, Starr decided to keep the ball because of the slippery and icy conditions near the goal line.

Starr followed Kramer’s block on Jethro Pugh, and he found a hole behind No. 64 to get into the end zone with the winning touchdown.

Bart's QB sneak behind Jerry

Photo by John Biever

Kramer talked about that block with me in one of our discussions.

“Jethro was high, and I actually suggested that play on Thursday when we were studying short-yardage films,” Kramer said. “I said we could wedge Pugh if we had to. And Coach Lombardi said, ‘What?’ And I said that we can wedge Pugh if we have to. So we ran the film back three or four times, and coach says, ‘That’s right. Put in a wedge on Pugh.’

“On the play, Pugh is up high, like I expected, and I got off the ball really well. I got a great start, and Jethro was up where I expected him to be. I kept my head up and my eyes open and I put my face in his chest, and at that point it’s over. I had control of Jethro, and he’s up in the air and he’s just dead. As soon as he comes up, and I get into him, I had the power of position on him.

“There was no way in hell he was going to do anything but slide. Now Kenny [Bowman] was there, and he was part of it [the block], there is no question about that, but I have always felt that the thing was over as soon as I got into Jethro.”

That block propelled the Packers into Super Bowl II, where the Packers beat the Oakland Raiders 33-14. A couple weeks later, Lombardi resigned as head coach and stayed on with the Packers as a general manager only for the 1968 season.

The Packers have won 13 NFL titles. No team has won more. All of those championship teams were special. But the 1967 championship team will always be my favorite.

It was the last Green Bay team that Vince Lombardi coached, and his last squad overcame all sorts of adversity to win the team’s third NFL title in a row. No team in the modern NFL has ever accomplished that incredible feat.

The ’67 team also won Green Bay’s fifth NFL championship in seven years.

Besides all of that, Jerry Kramer opened a door for all of us to see how that epic 1967 season unfolded with his co-authoring of Instant Replay.

The book is truly a masterpiece, just like the 1967 season was for the Packers.

Daniel Kramer Talks About the Kickstarter Campaign for his Upcoming Book

Dan and Jerry

As many of you know, I have written dozens of stories about Jerry Kramer. I recently did a series of articles where Kramer talked about his former Green Bay Packer teammates who already were in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

A place where Kramer should be as well.

Kramer talked about playing with Jim Taylor, Forrest Gregg, Bart Starr, Ray Nitschke, Herb Adderley, Willie Davis, Jim Ringo, Paul Hornung, Willie Wood, Henry Jordan and Dave Robinson before they all were given a bust in Canton.

No. 64 also talked about the man who made it all possible…Vince Lombardi.

My most recent story with Kramer has him discussing the career of another former teammate, Dan Currie.

In doing these stories and many, many more, I have had the opportunity to talk with Kramer countless times.

In those conversations, most of which would last an hour or so, Jerry has been very engaging and insightful in our discussions.

No. 64 also has an unbelievable memory regarding his playing days with the Pack.

I recently had an opportunity to talk with Daniel Kramer, who is Jerry’s son.

Let’s just say that the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree, based on my conversation with Dan.

Dan and I talked for over an hour and discussed many things, which included the kickstarter campaign which is currently ongoing about the upcoming book he plans to publish.

Brett and Reggie

The book is going to be coffee-table photography book of the 1996-97 championship season for the Packers.

Another Kramer would be proud.

The kickstarter campaign has five days to go and Dan has already reached his goal of $20,000. Kramer also has 81 backers for the book.

Hopefully the campaign will end up bringing in a lot more than Kramer’s goal. Why? Photography books are very expensive to publish. Especially if the photos are in color.

In talking to Dan, I found him to be as interesting and as fascinating as his dad.

Dan talked about how his love for photography first started.

“My dad gave me my first camera for my 18th birthday,” Kramer said. “I took a photo class and it was an art class. I was at the University of Minnesota and it was winter. The class was at 8:00 am on a Saturday on the opposite side of campus.

“That means I would have to leave at around 7:00 or 7:15 to get there. It was my second year in college. That’s not a good equation. So I didn’t make too many of those classes. And those I did, I didn’t really care for.”

But even with that inauspicious beginning, Kramer stayed with it.

“I started to follow the journalism path,” Kramer said. “I got better as I found my way. It took me two or three years to sort of gravitate towards journalism. I started playing rugby for the University of Minnesota and I started writing articles about my team for the school newspaper.

“That sort of got me thinking that maybe journalism is the route I want to take. The last class required for me to take was called Visual Communication. I’m now a senior and I’m going to graduate at the end of the semester and I have to take Visual Communication.

“Now this was a 10:00 am Saturday class. Now there’s a big difference between 8:00 am and 10:00 am. Plus, there was a difference in my maturity as well. My teacher for the class was David Rae Morris.

“He came into class with a bag of warm muffins and he turned on The Grateful Dead. We sat around and talked about photography and photo journalism. I was taken with him and his teaching.

“I did a project for him on a reclusive old man who sold books. David published my project in the school newspaper, which was a double-page spread. Wow, that just blew my hair back! That really hooked me.

“I graduated and got a job as a sports editor. I had tried my whole life up to this point  to not let people know who my dad was. I wanted them to like me for who I was. I wanted people to genuinely like me and not try and suck up because of who my dad was.

“I would let people know  who my dad was eventually after they made it into the inner sanctum and they became my friend. That was something that I didn’t let out lightly.

Jerry and Dan II

“I certainly didn’t want a life in sports. Being a sports editor? Being a sports reporter? No, no, no. I had to find my own path. That was way too close to his world.”

Kramer did do an internship with the Minneapolis Star Tribune, where he was a sports writer. But that was not the career path which Kramer wanted.

He eventually ended up with a small twice-a-week newspaper in Sturgis, South Dakota, where Kramer was for nine months.

From there, Kramer ended up with a small once-a-week newspaper in southern California.

Kramer’s goal was to be a photographer for a major-metro newspaper, similar to what the Minneapolis Star Tribune is.

Kramer had many roles in his position at the small newspaper in SoCal. He was a sports editor, a features reporter, a photographer, plus directed the other photographers on the staff.

Kramer would drive 90 miles to Los Angeles, where he would photograph the Kings, Lakers, Rams and Raiders (the Rams and Raiders were in LA then).

Kramer was hoping to transition himself from a reporter to a photographer.

After about a year and a half, Kramer applied a for a photographer’s position at the Long Beach Press-Telegram. There, Kramer met a guy named Hal Wells.  Kramer showed Wells some of his previous work.

Wells told Kramer that his work was not even in the ball park. He advised Kramer to go study photography exclusively.

Kramer took that advice.

“I took out loans. I pursued my master’s degree,” Kramer said. “I got a MFA in Documentary Photo Journalism at the Academy of Art in San Fransisco.  What a great city to study art in! What a great time in my life!”

Because of his work at the Academy of Art, Kramer was chosen among the top 100 college photo journalists in the country. Because of that designation, Kramer was selected to go to the Eddie Adams workshop. Adams was a Pulitzer Prize-winning  photographer.

At the workshop, Kramer was able to network with well known magazines/newspapers like National Geographic, Time, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.

In 1995, Kramer ended up landing an internship with Newsday. During that internship, he stayed at Dick Schaap’s guest apartment, which was a half block off of Central Park.

Schaap was Jerry Kramer’s best friend. Dick and Jerry had co-written three books together, the most famous being Instant Replay. The other two books were Farewell to Football and Distant Replay.

Dick and Jerry

Dan also embarked on his first professional project. And what a project it was!

Kramer retraced Mark Twain’s trip around the world, which had happened 100 years before. To give you an idea of where Kramer traveled, I suggest you read Following the Equator by Twain, which chronicles his adventures on that long trip.

Kramer ended up publishing a blurb book about that fantastic endeavor.

After his trip around the world, Kramer first called his dad and then Schaap. He wanted to see if they could arrange a situation where Dan could photograph Brett Favre and Bart Starr together for a  Sports Illustrated article.

When Dan talked to Schaap, he mentioned the idea of photographing Favre and Starr together.

Schaap replied without missing a beat, “And Willie and Reggie!”

Bottom line, Schaap turned Dan’s idea of a SI article into a book which was called Green Bay Replay, where he chronicled the 1996 championship season for the Packers.

All the photos in that book were done by Kramer.

When the idea for the book started, neither Schaap or Kramer envisioned that the Packers were going to win the Super Bowl for sure that year. It was eerily similar to the book that Schaap and Jerry had put out about the 1967 season, Instant Replay.

Brett and Bart

In both cases, the Packers did win it all. Which made both books even more enthralling.

In Green Bay Replay, all the photos taken by Kramer in the book are in black and white. In addition to that, some of the best photos that Dan took were not used.

Since that time, Kramer worked for the Houston Press, where he was a staff photographer.

After leaving that job, Kramer has freelanced with Sports Illustrated, The Wall Street Journal and the USA Today.

The Packers will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the 1996 Super Bowl Championship team in 2016. That popped an idea into Dan’s head about utilizing the photos he had taken of the team then.

After a  conversation with his photo editor Jimmy Colton,  Kramer decided to use a kickstarter campaign for a book about that team. Why?

Because of the kickstarter strategy, Kramer will maintain complete creative control of the book, which wouldn’t be the case with a major publishing organization.

After the kickstarter campaign is over, and remember there are still five days remaining, Kramer and Colton will start doing the editing for the new book, which will mean looking at all the photos that Kramer took during the 1996-97 season of the Packers.

Wille, Reggie, Brett & Bart

Once the editing is done, the book will also include some remembrances and quotes from the people in the book.

Kramer also needs to hire a designer for the book. The final step is to find a place to get the book printed.

The goal is to get the whole book ready to go and be shipped by September of 2016.

There is no doubt that everyone in Packer Nation will enjoy this book immensely, just like they have with previous books like Instant Replay, Distant Replay and Green Bay Replay.

Until then, pass the word about Dan’s kickstarter campaign for this book, because full-color photography books are very costly to publish.