Wisconsin is Currently Going Through a Great Era in Pro Sports

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2019 was a pretty good year for the state of Wisconsin in terms of professional sports.

The Milwaukee Bucks, who had a 60-22 record, made it all the way to the Eastern Conference finals before they were beaten by the eventual NBA champions, the Toronto Raptors.

The Milwaukee Brewers, who were 89-73, made it to the MLB postseason for the second consecutive year, before they were beaten by the eventual World Series champion Washington Nationals in the National League Wild Card round.

The Green Bay Packers won the NFC North with a 13-3 record in 2019, plus made it all the way to the 2019 NFC Championship Game before they were beaten by the San Francisco 49ers, who then lost to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV.

All in all, I would say that pro sports in Wisconsin was pretty, pretty good in 2019.

In fact, only once before in the history of professional sports in Wisconsin, have the Bucks, Brewers and Packers all played in the postseason at the same time. That was in 1982.

Sidney Moncrief

In the 1981-82 season, the Bucks won the NBA Central Division under head coach Don Nelson with a 55-27 record. The Bucks later lost to the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The Bucks were a very balanced team that had seven players average double digits in points per game. They were Sidney Moncrief (19.8 ppg), Marques Johnson (16.5 ppg), Brian Winters (15.9 ppg), Bob Lanier (13.5 ppg), Mickey Johnson (12.9 ppg), Quinn Buckner (12.9 ppg) and Junior Bridgeman (12.5 ppg).

The Brewers made it to the postseason for the second year in a row after narrowly winning the AL East with a 95-67 record behind the leadership of manager Harvey Kuenn. Not to mention the play of MVP shortstop Robin Yount and Cy Young award winner Pete Vuckovich.

Seeing as I was covering the Brewers back in those days, really made this is fantastic experience for me personally.

In the final series of the 1982 season, Milwaukee went into Baltimore with a three-game lead with four games to play.

Milwaukee made Brewer Nation very nervous, as the Brewers lost the first three games of the series. That meant the winner on Sunday would win the AL East. That game pitted Jim Palmer versus Don Sutton, who the Brewers had traded for late in the 1982 season.

Once again it was No. 19 who led the way. Yount was three for four, scored four runs and had two homers, as the Brew Crew won 10-2.

Robin Yount in 1982 postseason

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

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

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

The Packers made it to the postseason in 1982 for the first time since 1972, when the team finished 5-3-1 in a strike-shortened season behind head coach Bart Starr.

Green Bay was ranked sixth in the NFL in total offense. Quarterback Lynn Dickey had a dynamic wide receiver tandem to work with in James Lofton and John Jefferson, plus had a very productive tight end to pass to as well in Paul Coffman.

The Packers also had two talented running backs in Eddie Lee Ivory and Gerry Ellis.

On the other side of the ball, the Packers were ranked 11th in total defense. Linebacker John Anderson led the Packers in interceptions with three, while Ezra Johnson led the team in sacks (5.5).

James Lofton and John Jefferson

In the 1982 NFC playoffs, the Packers won their first postseason game at Lambeau Field since the “Ice Bowl” game in 1967 by beating the St. Louis Cardinals 41-16, as Jefferson caught two touchdown passes, while Lofton had one.

The following week the Packers lost to the Dallas Cowboys 37-26 at Texas Stadium.

In 2020, things look promising again for the Bucks, Brewers and Packers.

The Bucks are having a record-setting year and now have a 47-8 record. Milwaukee has a chance to better the record of the 1970-71 team which had a 66-16 record and won the NBA title.

The current Bucks team is led by 2018-19 NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who looks like he will win his second straight MVP. The “Greek Freak” is averaging 30 points per game and has had 40 double-doubles (points and rebounds) this year. In addition to that, No. 34 has also had four triple-doubles (points, rebounds and assists).

The Bucks have a very balanced team under head coach Mike Budenholzer. The Bucks lead the NBA in scoring by averaging 119.7 points per game, plus lead the NBA in rebounding as well, as Milwaukee averages 51.8 rebounds per game.

There is plenty of talent on the Bucks even when Antetokounmpo is on the bench or doesn’t play. I’m talking about players such as Kris Middleton (20.9 ppg), Eric Bledsoe (15.7 ppg), Brook Lopez (10.8 ppg), George Hill (9.6 ppg), Donte DiVincenzo (9.2), Wesley Matthews (7.5 ppg) and Ersan IIyasova (7.3 ppg).

The Bucks also have a very deep bench and can play the matchup game with players like Kyle Korver (6.4 ppg), Robin Lopez (5.3 ppg), Sterling Brown (5.2 ppg), Pat Connaughton (4.8 ppg) and have recently added Marvin Williams (4.5 ppg) to their roster.

Giannis II

I like the chances of the Bucks to bring back their second NBA title to Milwaukee in 49 years.

The Brewers have had a number of roster changes going into the 2020 season, but the team still will be led by Christian Yelich, who narrowly missed winning his second straight NL MVP award in 2019. No. 22 probably would have won it if not for a knee injury which ended his season in early September.

The Brewers also have one of the best managers in the game in Craig Counsell, plus have a general manager in David Stearns who has one of the sharpest eyes in searching for talent in MLB.

While the Brewers saw players like Mike Moustaskas, Yasmani Grandal, Zach Davies, Gio Gonzalez, Drew Pomeranz. Jordan Lyles, Eric Thames, Jimmy Nelson, Junior Guerra and Travis Shaw all leave the team via trade or free agency, the Brew Crew has added some very intriguing talent to the team the same way.

The starting rotation of the Brewers has three new additions going into the 2020 season, as LHP Brett Anderson (free agency), LHP Eric Lauer (trade) and RHP Josh Lindblom (free agency) will get every opportunity to hold down a starting role for the pitching staff.

RHP Brandon Woodruff is the No. 1 starter on the staff, while RHP Adrian Hauser or RHP Freddie Peralta look to be the fifth starter.

In terms of the relief pitching, LHP Josh Hader will welcome the addition of RHP Corey Knebel, who missed all of the 2019 season due to Tommy John surgery. When he is right, Knebel is sometimes unhittable and he and Hader would be a great one-two combination late in the game.

The rest of the bullpen will have LHP Brent Suter, LHP Alex Claudio, RHP Ray Black, RHP David Phelps, RHP Devin Williams and RHP Corbin Burnes, who is hoping for a season like he had in 2018 and not the nightmare year he had in 2019.

The catching corp lost Grandal, but the Brewers did sign slugger Omar Narvaez (22 homers in 2019 for Seattle) to team with Manny Piña.

The infield in 2020 will have unbelievable depth and very versatile players manning down the positions. The only everyday starter looks to be 2B Keston Hiura.

At 1B, Ryan Braun looks to get some time playing there along with Justin Smoak, who is a switch-hitter.

At the SS position, Counsell has a number of options. Orlando Arcia will have to beat off the competition if he wants to remain a starter, as the Brewers traded for a young talented player in Luis Urias, plus have veterans like Eric Sogard and Brock Holt who they signed in free agency to play there as well.

At 3B, Holt, Sogard and Urias can all play the hot corner, plus the Brewers also have Jedd Gyorko and Ryan Healy to get some opportunity there as well.

In terms of playing the matchup game, both Holt and Sogard hit from the left side of the plate.

Christian Yelich II

The outfield situation will change up somewhat in 2020, as Braun will not get as much playing time out there, as the Brewers signed Avisail Garcia in free agency to get the majority of time in the outfield, along with Yelich and CF Lorenzo Cain.

Ben Gamel will come off the bench like he did in 2019, plus Holt can also play the corner outfield positions. Corey Ray will get an opportunity to make the roster, plus the Brewers brought back Keon Broxton, who can play any outfield position with defensive prowess, plus has some nice pop in his bat.

The NL Central looks to be the best division in the National league this year, as the Cincinnati Reds look much improved, plus the St. Louis Cardinals are always tough. One can’t sleep on the Chicago Cubs either, even without manager Joe Madden.

Time will tell what the Brewers will do in 2020 with all their new additions, but I wouldn’t put it past Counsell and Stearns to go to the postseason for a third consecutive year.

The Packers have some holes to fill, even with the 13-3 record they had in 2019. We will find out what moves the team will make this offseason, as free agency begins in March, plus the NFL draft will take place starting on April 23.

Speaking of the NFL draft, I’ll be doing my first mock draft after the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine is over.

Currently, the Packers have almost $24 million in cap space going into free agency. General manager Brian Gutekunst will have a number of options available to him, but he wants to hold off on any decisions until the combine is over and the CBA situation is settled.

On offense, the Packers need to add another bookend to Davante Adams at wide receiver, plus need to shore up the situation at right tackle. Both Bryan Bulaga and Jared Veldheer are free agents. The Packers would be very happy to re-sign both of them if at all possible, plus add another RT in the draft.

Even with the great season running back Aaron Jones had in 2019 (1,558 total yards and 19 touchdowns), both he and Jamaal Williams will be free agents after the 2020 season. The Packers are aware of that heading into the draft, which is why they will most likely select another RB, perhaps early in the draft.

Aaron Jones vs. Seahawks

And even with Aaron Rodgers having another nice season in 2019 (26 TD passes, four interceptions and 4,002 passing yards), the Packers are aware of No. 12’s injury history, plus they know he is 36 and not getting any younger.

The Packers like backup QB Tim Boyle, but if the right QB is there for the taking in the draft, I could see Gutekunst selecting that player early in the draft. Plus, I would not be shocked if the Packers took at look at free agent QB Marcus Mariota, who played under head coach Matt LaFleur in Tennessee when LaFleur was the offensive coordinator there in 2018.

On defense, the Packers have to get the Front 7 of their defense better in playing the run, plus the linebacker speed has to improve in pass coverage. Which is why I would not be surprised if the Packers do not re-sign Blake Martinez. No. 50 has been a tackling machine, there is no doubt about that, but his lack of speed has hurt him, both in stopping the run and covering receivers.

I could see Gutekunst adding a faster free agent linebacker to play on the inside to replace Martinez, plus add another linebacker or two in the draft.

The addition of the “Smith Brothers” was huge for the defense of the Packers in 2019, as both La’Darius and Preston had big years. Gutekunst will try and add some more talent like that to the D via free agency, although it depends on the player and his price tag.

The Packers also know the cornerback Kevin King will also be a free agent after the 2020 season, plus are aware of his shoulder issues since he came into the NFL, so I would expect the Packers to draft a CB in the draft for sure.

One never knows what will occur for a NFL team in terms of injuries, but if the Packers stay as injury-free as they were for most of the 2019 season, I like LaFleur’s team to get to the postseason again in 2020.

Bottom line, no matter what, 2020 will be an exciting year for professional sports teams in Wisconsin and if it’s anywhere near what happened in 2019 and 1982, fans from the Badger state will be quite pleased.

Plus, in addition to that, the professional teams in Wisconsin all have fabulous venues to play in front of their fans. The Bucks have Fiserv Forum, the Brewers have Miller Park (American Family Field in 2021) and the Packers have Lambeau Field.

All the better for viewing sports in the postseason.

Green Bay Packers vs. Dallas Cowboys: A Historical Perspective

Lombardi celebrates 1966 NFL title

The Green Bay Packers joined the NFL in 1921, while the Dallas Cowboys joined the league in 1960. Since that time, the teams have met 28 times in the regular season, with the Packers holding a 15-13 edge.

The two teams have also met eight times in the postseason, with each team winning four times.

Overall, the Packers have won 13 NFL titles, including four Super Bowls, one of which was won at Cowboys Stadium (now AT&T Stadium). The Cowboys have won five Super Bowls overall.

When the two teams meet on Sunday at AT&T Field, it will be the 15th time that the Packers have played Dallas on the road in the regular season. The Packers were 2-1 at the Cotton Bowl, 2-7 at Texas Stadium and now are currently 2-0 at AT&T Stadium.

The Packers are also 2-4 in the postseason in the Big D area. With the latest game being the 2016 NFC title game, as quarterback Aaron Rodgers led Green Bay to a stirring 34-31 victory.

In Wisconsin, the Packers defeated the Cowboys in their inaugural year 41-7 at then City Stadium (now Lambeau Field) and are now 7-2 overall versus the Boys in Green Bay during the regular season.

The Packers and Cowboys also played five games at County Stadium in Milwaukee in the regular season, with the Cowboys holding a 3-2 edge.

The Packers have also won two postseason games against the Cowboys at Lambeau Field, including the legendary “Ice Bowl” game on December 31, 1967.

The two teams were destined to become quite a rivalry, as Vince Lombardi was head coach of the Packers when the Cowboys joined the NFL in 1960 and their head coach was Tom Landry.

Lombardi and Landry had coached together in New York with the Giants, as the team won the NFL title in 1956. In essence, Lombardi ran the offense for the G-Men, while Landry ran the defense during their tenure in the Big Apple.

Lombardi never lost to Landry while he coached the Packers, both in the regular season (3-0) and in the postseason (2-0).

Both postseason games were NFL title games, with the first being played at the Cotton Bowl on January 1, 1967. The winner of that 1966 NFL championship game would be playing in Super Bowl I.

Bart Starr 1966 NFL title game at the Cotton Bowl

Quarterback Bart Starr was magnificent in that game, as he threw four touchdown passes (including a beautiful 51-yard pass to Carroll Dale) without throwing an interception for 304 yards. No. 15’s passer rating for that game was 143.5.

The game came down to the Cowboys being on the 2-yard line of the Packers with less than a minute to go, trailing 34-27. And on fourth down, quarterback Don Meredith of the Cowboys was pressured by outside linebacker Dave Robinson and with No. 89’s arms draped around him, Meredith threw an errant pass that was intercepted by safety Tom Brown of the Packers to seal the victory.

The Packers then went on to defeat the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10 in Super I two weeks later.

The two teams met again the very next year in the 1967 NFL title game, this time in Green Bay at Lambeau Field. I have written about that classic game a number of times, including a story that has fullback Chuck Mercein, halfback Donny Anderson and right guard Jerry Kramer describing their epic final drive to win the “Ice Bowl” 21-17 with just seconds remaining.

Starr was once again the hero, as he threw two touchdown passes to Boyd Dowler in the game and then scored the game-winning touchdown on a quarterback sneak with just 13 seconds remaining in the game and with his team having zero time outs.

Two weeks later, the Packers beat the Oakland Raiders 33-14 in Super Bowl II, which turned out to be Lombardi’s last game as head coach of the Packers.

Bart's QB sneak behind Jerry

The next time the two teams met in the postseason was after the 1982 season, when Starr was the head coach of the Packers and Landry was still at the helm of the Cowboys.

Quarterback Lynn Dickey threw for 332 yards, while wide receiver James Lofton had five catches for 109 yards and a touchdown, plus had another score on a 71-yard run. Still, that wasn’t enough as the Cowboys, led by the three interceptions of Dennis Thurman, won 37-26 in a second-round NFC playoff game at Texas Stadium.

The next three postseason games would all be played at Texas Stadium in the 1990s, as Jimmy Johnson was now the head coach of the Boys after owner Jerry Jones had fired Landry after the 1988 season.

The Packers were coached by Mike Holmgren during that time.

The Cowboys were led by their triplets, quarterback Troy Aikman, running back Emmitt Smith and wide receiver Michael Irvin. The Pack was led by quarterback Brett Favre on offense and defensive end Reggie White on defense.

In 1993 (27-17) and 1994 (35-9), the Cowboys beat the Packers in NFC divisional playoff games. In 1995, the Boys beat the Packers 38-27 in the NFC title game. Dallas would end up winning the Super Bowl twice after defeating the Packers in the postseason that decade.

In all, the Cowboys won three Super Bowls in the 1990s, while the Packers won Super Bowl XXXI after the 1996 season.

The Packers won Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium (now AT&T Stadium) after the 2010 season, when Rodgers was the game’s MVP, as the Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25.

Green Bay and Dallas again met in the postseason in a 2014 divisional playoff game at Lambeau Field. Rodgers threw three touchdown passes in the 26-21 victory by the Packers, but the game was marked by controversy.

That occurred when quarterback Tony Romo completed a long pass to wide receiver Dez Bryant on fourth down which took the ball to the 1-yard line of Green Bay that was later ruled a non-catch. The Packers than marched down the field and ran out the clock.

The last postseason game that the two teams played was a 2016 NFC divisional game at AT&T Stadium. The Cowboys came into the game as the No. 1 seed in the NFC, but the Packers behind Rodgers got off to a quick 21-3 lead.

But Dallas came roaring back behind quarterback Dak Prescott and tied the game 28- 28 with four minutes left in the game.

The Packers then took a 31-28 lead on a 56-yard Mason Crosby field goal with about 1:30 to go in the game.

Prescott then led the Cowboys to a game-tying 52-yard field goal by Dan Bailey with 35 seconds left.

Aaron vs. the Cowboys

Then, with just 12 seconds left in the game on a third-and-20 from their own 32-yard line, Rodgers completed a 35-yard pass to tight end Jared Cook to set up a game-winning 51-yard field goal by Crosby as time expired.

The last time the two teams met was in the 2017 regular season, when Rodgers once again led the Packers to a late victory, as he completed a 12-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Davante Adams with 11 seconds remaining, as the Packers won 35-31.

Overall in his career versus the Cowboys, Rodgers is 4-2 against them in the regular season, as he has thrown 11 touchdown passes, compared to just one pick for 1,702 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 101.2.

No. 12 has also rushed for 162 yards on 30 carries and had two more scores.

In the postseason, Rodgers is 2-0 against the Cowboys and has thrown five touchdown passes versus one pick for 671 yards. That adds up to a cumulative passer rating of 111.0.

So, what to expect on Sunday? The Packers are banged up a bit and Adams has been ruled out because of a turf toe injury. Still, the track record of Rodgers against the Cowboys has been fantastic.

Plus, the Packers have never lost in AT&T Stadium in four games, with one of them being Super Bowl XLV. That being said, every game against the Cowboys has been very close and in one of the wins, it was backup quarterback Matt Flynn who led the Packers to a victory.

Bottom line, I also expect the game on Sunday to be very close. It may come down to which team has the ball last. And if it’s Rodgers and the Packers, I like their chances.

Green Bay Packers: Give Aaron Jones the Rock Often vs. the Miami Dolphins

Aaron Jones at Lambeau

When the 3-4-1 Green Bay Packers host the 5-4 Miami Dolphins at Lambeau Field on late Sunday afternoon, the host team should be in a good position to win the game.

For one, the Fins are starting Brock Osweiler, who is their second-string quarterback. In addition to that, Miami might be without three of their starting offensive linemen, as guard Ted Larsen (neck) is doubtful, while both left tackle Laremy Tunsil (knee and ankle) and right tackle Ja’Wuan James (knee) are questionable.

The 15th-ranked Green Bay defense has to take advantage of that against the 28th-ranked Miami offense in the NFL.

But the big edge that the Packers should have against the Dolphins is when they are on offense. The Packers are ranked sixth in the NFL in total offense, while the Dolphins are ranked 26th in total defense.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who has thrown 15 touchdown passes versus just one interception for 2,542 yards (98.9 passer rating), should have a nice game against the 21st-ranked pass defense of Miami.

But the biggest advantage should come in the Green Bay running game, specifically by utilizing running back Aaron Jones.

Why is that?

Well, the Dolphins are ranked 28th in the NFL in stopping the run. Miami gives up an average of 136 yards per game on the ground and allow a whopping 4.6 yards per carry.

The Dolphins have also allowed 10 runs of 20 or more yards and two runs of 40 or more yards.

And this is where the Packers need to use Jones to their advantage.

Jones leads the NFL (with 50 rushes or more) with a rushing average of six yards per carry. Jones has also had two runs of 20 yards or more. But his touches have been limited.

Right now Jones has averaged less than 10 carries a game over the six games he has played. That is ridiculous based on his production.

Yes, I know that until Ty Montgomery was traded, Jones was part of a three-man rotation along with Montgomery and Jamaal Williams. Now, thanks to the subtraction of Montgomery, Jones should get ample opportunity to carry the rock.

But that also means that head coach Mike McCarthy has to be committed to the run game.

Jones has rushed for 349 yards in just 58 carries. Williams has rushed for 267 yards in 70 carries (a 3.8 average). Between the two of them, they only have three rushing touchdowns, with two of them coming from Jones.

The Packers are ranked 29th in the NFL in rushing attempts. Green Bay averages 22 rushes per game. That total need to get closer to 30 per game, even with Rodgers as your quarterback.

For one thing, that will make the play-action pass that more dangerous for Rodgers and give the opposing defense something to think about instead of pinning their ears back and rushing Rodgers.

Rodgers has been sacked 23 times this season already (tied for 8th in the NFL), including one that almost ended his season in Week 1 versus da Bears.

It just doesn’t make any sense why the Packers don’t run more often. The team is ranked 20th in rushing in the NFL, but that is almost solely based on the lack of rushing attempts.

The Packers are tied for fourth in the NFL in rushing average, as the team averages 4.8 yards per carry. And remember, Jones averages six yards per carry.

In the last two weeks, with both games on the road, Jones ran for 86 yards (and one TD) on just 12 carries (7.2 average) against the 8-1 Los Angeles Rams, and for 75 yards on just 14 carries (5.4 average) against the 7-2 New England Patriots.

Aaron Jones vs. the Pats

Yes, it was a fumble by Jones in the fourth quarter that turned the game against the Pats around. But it wasn’t a case of being careless with the ball. Jones had two hands wrapped around the ball as he ran through the hole and it took a great defensive play to force the fumble as Jones was rushing for more yardage.

That is the only fumble of the year for Jones, by the way. It was also the first fumble of No. 33’s NFL career…in 139 carries.

Bottom line, the Packers need to run the ball at least 30 times against the Dolphins, with Jones getting at least 20 of those carries.

For the Packers to salvage their postseason hopes, the team is going to need both of the guys named Aaron on offense to come through.

It’s pretty obvious to me that Jones needs to shoulder the load this week.

The Green Bay Packers and Jerry Kramer Have a Couple of Big Weekends Upcoming

Jerry in 2017 at Alumni Day

Both the Green Bay Packers and Jerry Kramer have a couple of big weekends coming up.

The Packers are preparing to open their 2018 NFL season (the 100th anniversary of the Packers being formed) on Sunday night at Lambeau Field versus the Chicago Bears and their newly acquired pass rusher Khalil Mack.

The following week the Pack will host the defending NFC North champions, the Minnesota Vikings.

The upcoming game against da Bears also marks the annual alumni weekend, as Kramer and many of his former teammates, as well as other former Green Bay players will be on hand.

And when the Packers play the Vikings the following week at Lambeau, Kramer will receive his Pro Football Hall of Fame ring, as well as seeing his name unveiled on the facade, along with the other 24 Packers enshrined in Canton.

The Packers and Bears have been playing each other since 1921 when the NFL was called the American Professional Football Association. When Green Bay defeated Chicago 35-14 last September at Lambeau Field, that victory put the Packers ahead in the series against their long-time rivals for the first time in 85 years.

The series now stands with the Packers holding an edge with a 95-93-6 mark. Kramer knows all about this heated rivalry, as No. 64 talked about that story line in a piece I wrote a couple of years ago.

It was an era when Vince Lombardi coached the Packers and George Halas coached the Bears. In the nine years that the two coached against each other, the Packers held a 13-5 edge in the series.

During that period, the Packers won five NFL titles in seven years under Lombardi, which included three NFL championships in a row (which has never been duplicated in the playoff era of the NFL), as well as winning the first two Super Bowl games.

Da Bears won the 1963 NFL title under Halas.

Lombardi was always primed to play the Bears and he let his team know about as well.

“We were practicing on day before playing the Bears and Coach Lombardi brought us together,” Kramer said. “Coach said, ‘You guys go out and kick the Bears’ ass. And I’ll go out and kick old man Halas’ ass too.’

One of Kramer’s teammates who will be at the alumni weekend get-together is Zeke Bratkowski. The former Georgia Bulldog was the backup to Bart Starr for the Packers in the 1960s, but he started his NFL career with the Bears in the 1950s.

Bratkowski had the honor of playing under both Halas and Lombardi and Zeke talked about that scenario in a story I wrote last summer.

Besides Kramer and Bratkowski, there will be several other former Packers who played under Lombardi at the alumni function this weekend. The list includes Paul Hornung, Jim Taylor, Boyd Dowler, Dave Robinson, Marv Fleming, Doug Hart, Don Horn, Carroll Dale and Donny Anderson.

Dale and Anderson are the featured alumni this weekend and they will be signing autographs and visiting with fans on Saturday, Sept. 8, from 11 to noon in the Lambeau Field Atrium.

Other former Packers who are expected to attend are LeRoy Butler, John Brockington, Lynn Dickey, Paul Coffman, Jan Stenerud, Johnnie Gray, Ezra Johnson, Mark Lee, Al Matthews, Karl Swanke, David Whitehurst, Gerry Ellis, Gary Ellerson, Tiger Greene, Ron Hallstrom, Perry Kemp, Don Majkowski, Ron Pitts, Blaise Winter, Vince Workman, Don Beebe, Bucky Brooks, Mark Chmura, Earl Dotson, William Henderson, Ryan Longwell, Bryce Paup, Bill Schroeder, Frank Winters, Nick Barnett, Kevin Barry, Colin Cole, Brad Jones, Aaron Kampman, Buddy Aydelette, Craig Nall and Jason Spitz.

At halftime on Sunday night, the Packers will be introducing all of those players.

I talked to Kramer earlier this week and he talked about how great it is to see his former teammates. Plus, this will be the first time he has seen most of them since he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Jerry with his Gold Jacket hugging his bust.

“It’s always great seeing the fellas,” Kramer said. “But I’m going to bust my ass to make sure that they know I haven’t changed. I want to show that I’m the same guy I have always been the past 40 years.”

From my perspective, having known Kramer for several years now, I can honestly say that Jerry has not changed one iota since he was inducted among the best of the best in Canton.

The game itself will be a big test for the Packers against the Bears, who are definitely a team on the rise. Chicago added a defensive force with the addition of Mack.

Mack and company will be trying to stop Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense, which will not be an easy task, based on the way Rodgers has historically played versus Chicago.

In his career against da Bears, Rodgers is 15-4 in the regular season. In those 19 games, No. 12 has thrown 42 touchdown passes, compared to just nine interceptions for 4,596 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 107.2.

Rodgers and the Packers also beat the Bears 21-14 in the 2010 NFC title game at Soldier Field.

The defense of the Packers, which is now headed by new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, will be trying to force some mistakes by second-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky.

When the Packers go up against the Vikings, Rodgers will definitely keep his eye peeled for linebacker Anthony Barr, as it was Barr who broke the collarbone of Rodgers last season when he took No. 12 down hard to the ground after Rodgers had thrown the ball.

And as good as Rodgers is against the Bears, he is almost equally as good against the Vikings historically. In 19 regular season games, Rodgers is 12-7 against the Vikes, plus has thrown 39 touchdown passes compared to just six picks for 4,571 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 111.7.

And like he did against da Bears, Rodgers has defeated the Vikings in the postseason as well, as the Green Bay beat Minnesota 24-10 in a 2012 NFC Wild Card game at Lambeau Field.

I like Rodgers and the Packers to go 2-0 after their games against da Bears and the Vikings.

Aaron Rodgers 2018.jpg

At halftime of the Vikings game, Kramer will have his cherry on top of the sundae moment, as he receive his Pro Football Hall of Fame ring, as well as seeing his name unveiled on the facade at Lambeau Field in front of the great fans he played in front of for 11 seasons.

Kramer will see his name unveiled along side of the coach who made this all possible, Lombardi, along with several of his Hall of Fame teammates, which include Taylor, Starr, Hornung, Robinson, Forrest Gregg,  Ray Nitschke, Herb Adderley, Willie Davis, Jim Ringo, Willie Wood and Henry Jordan.

“That is going to awesome,” Kramer said. “I’ll never forget the reaction of Jim Ringo when he saw his name on the facade. It was back in 1984, when I was writing Distant Replay with Dick Schaap. We had an alumni get-together at Lambeau and Ringo was there.

“A bunch of us went to Fuzzy’s [Thurston] bar, Shenanigans. Then at the game, we were introduced and had some photos taken of us. Jim was a little unsteady at the time and I helped him down the ramp heading to the field before we were introduced.

“We got about three-quarters down the ramp and then Jim saw his name on the facade. And Jim goes, ‘Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!’ He just kept repeating that over and over. Jim was just stunned and awestruck by that honor.

“I have a feeling that I’ll have similar emotions.”

1957 Was a Very Special Year for the State of Wisconsin

Milwaukee Braves Lambeau logo

Back in 1957, in both the United States and in the state of Wisconsin, things were quite different than they are today. For example, a gallon of gas cost just 24 cents. You could buy a brand new car in a price range of $1,800 to $3,400. The average cost of a new home was around $20,000. You could rent an apartment for $90 per month.

And with Wisconsin being the dairy state in the country, products in that genre were quite inexpensive based on today’s prices. A dozen eggs cost just 55 cents. A gallon of milk cost just $1.00. Butter was just 75 cents per pound. American cheese cost around 55 cents per pound.

And seeing that Wisconsin also loves it’s beer, it’s important to know the beer prices at the time. You could go into a tavern and a have a glass of beer for just 10 cents. You also could buy a six-pack of beer for less than a dollar.

Yes, things were quite different in 1957 when Dwight D. Eisenhower was President of the United States. The man who would follow Eisenhower as President, Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts, wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning book called Profiles in Courage.

I bring up Kennedy for two reasons.

One, JFK played a big part in the Green Bay Packers winning the 1961 NFL title, due to his friendship with Vince Lombardi.

Secondly, I was born on JFK’s birthday, which is May 29. I was born on that day in…you guessed it…1957.

That year was very special in the hearts of sports fans in Wisconsin.

In Green Bay, the Packers were going through a very tough time. The team was losing on a consistent basis and hadn’t had a winning season since 1947.

Plus, the NFL was seriously looking at moving the Packers out of Green Bay due to the antiquated stadium that the team was playing in, which was old City Stadium, which had been built in 1925 and was also used by Green Bay East High School. The capacity for the stadium was just 25,000.

That is why the Packers also started playing some of their games in Milwaukee starting in 1933, which had larger venues (State Fair Park, Marquette Stadium and Milwaukee County Stadium) for the Packers to utilize.

And unless the Packers built a new stadium in Green Bay, the team was likely going to move to Milwaukee permanently or to some other location.

But in April of 1956, in a 2-to-1 vote in a municipal referendum, a new stadium was financed by the way of a bond issue. The original cost of the new stadium was $960,000 and was to be shared equally by the Packers Corporation and the city of Green Bay.

City Stadium Dedication Program

The stadium was located in southwest Green Bay and surrounded on three sides by the village of Ashwaubenon. Work started on the stadium in February of 1957 and the stadium was christened as new City Stadium on September 29, 1957, as the Packers opened their season against the rival Chicago Bears and their founder and head coach George Halas.

It’s also important to note, that Halas himself campaigned for the new stadium in Green Bay before the vote in April of 1956.

The Packers beat da Bears at their new stadium 21-17 in front of 32,132 fans, as Vice President Richard Nixon was in attendance, along with NFL Commissioner Bert Bell.

But even with the new stadium, which would later be re-named Lambeau Field in 1965, in honor of one of the founders of the team and their first head coach, Curly Lambeau, the team went 3-9 in 1957.

In fact, after the season-opening win against the Bears, the Packers did not win again at home, either in the new stadium or in Milwaukee, where the Packers still played three home games per season.

One of the teams which visited new City Stadium were the New York Giants, who were the defending NFL champions in 1957. The offensive coordinator for the G-Men then was none other than Lombardi, and it was he who would take Green Bay back to greatness in 1959, when he was named head coach and general manager of the Packers.

In that case, Halas availed himself to Green Bay once again, as both he and Paul Brown of the Cleveland Browns were staunch supporters of Lombardi getting the new head coaching gig in Green Bay.

Also in 1957, thanks to the scouting prowess of Jack Vainisi, the Packers drafted Paul Hornung out of Notre Dame with the first pick in the 1957 NFL draft. The “Golden Boy” had won the Heisman trophy with the Fighting Irish in 1956 and may have been the catalyst for Lombardi coming to Green Bay. That is certainly what legendary right guard Jerry Kramer believes.

Hornung played a big role in the success of the Lombardi Packers, that is for sure.

Back to new City Stadium, now Lambeau Field. The stadium has seen three NFL titles (1961, 1965 and 1967) won by the Packers over the years.

The 1967 NFL championship game, better known as the “Ice Bowl”, is considered among the best games in NFL history. Who can forget Bart Starr scoring the game-winning touchdown behind a classic block by Kramer with just 13 seconds remaining?

New City Stadium, now Lambeau Field, has seen many renovations over the years and is now considered the crown jewel in the NFL in terms of having a great game-time experience.

Between the actual stadium, the Atrium, the Packers Hall of Fame and the new Titletown district, the stadium has become a year-round place to visit. The current capacity of Lambeau Field is now 81,441.

Lambeau Field is now the longest continuously occupied stadium in the NFL by a large margin. The next closest is Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, which opened in 1972, which is 15 years later than when new City Stadium opened.

Lambeau Field in 2017

Besides Green Bay getting a new stadium in 1957, there was a lot of excitement at Milwaukee County Stadium, where the Milwaukee Braves played.

The city of Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin were very passionate about the Braves and had led MLB in attendance ever since the Braves moved to Milwaukee from Boston in 1953. In fact, the Braves were No. 1 in attendance from 1953 through 1958.

  • 1953- 1,826,397
  • 1954- 2,131,388
  • 1955- 2,005,836
  • 1956- 2,046,331
  • 1957- 2,215,404
  • 1958- 1,971,101

As you can see by the figures above, the attendance in 1957 really blossomed. The Braves had finished just one game out from winning the National League pennant in 1956, as the Brooklyn Dodgers took the crown instead. The Braves were in first place for 126 days during the 1956 season and Milwaukee and Wisconsin knew that the Braves were ripe for winning the NL pennant and perhaps the World Series in 1957.

Everything did indeed fall into place for the Braves in 1957, as the team went 95-59 and won the National League pennant and advanced to the World Series to face the New York Yankees.

The Braves were managed by Fred Haney and their general manager was John Quinn.

1957 Milwaukee Braves

The 1957 Milwaukee Braves

The starting pitching was led by Warren Spahn, who had a 21-11 record and an ERA of 2.69. No. 21 also had 18 complete games. “Bullet” Bob Buhl was 18-7 and had an ERA of 2.74 and had 14 complete games. Lew Burdette was 17-9 and had an ERA of 3.72 and he also completed 14 games. No. 33 would later have one of the greatest World Series performances in history.

Saves were not considered to be a big part of the game back in 1957, but in the late innings, the Braves usually brought in Don McMahon, who was 2-3, had eight saves, finished 19 other games and had an ERA of 1.54. McMahon struck out 46 hitters in 46.1 innings.

In closing out games, the Braves also used Ernie Johnson, who was 7-3, had four saves, finished 16 other games and had an ERA of 3.54.

In terms of how the pitching was ranked in the National League, the Braves were second in ERA (3.47) and first in complete games (60).

The offense of the Braves was led by NL MVP Hank Aaron, as the right fielder hit 44 homers, drove in 132 runs and had a batting average of .322. Aaron was helped by slugging third baseman Eddie Mathews, who hit 32 homers, drove in 94 runs and hit .292.

Both Aaron and Mathews were National League All Stars in 1957 and they were joined by Spahn, Burdette, shortstop Johnny Logan (10-49-.273) and second baseman Red Schoendienst (6-32-.310).

Schoendienst came to the Braves via a trade earlier in the 1957 season, when Milwaukee acquired him from the New York Giants.

Other players chipped in offensively, as left fielder Wes Covington had 21 homers, 65 RBIs and a .284 average, while catcher Del Crandall had 15 homers, 46 RBIs and hit .253.

Because of a knee injury to Billy Bruton, time was split in center field, as both Bruton (5-30-.278) and Andy Pafko (8-27-.277) each saw playing time there.

At first base, Frank Torre (5-40-.272) and Joe Adcock (12-38-.287), platooned at the position.

One of the biggest things which helped the team in the second half of the 1957 was the call up of Bob “Hurricane” Hazel, who also received some playing time in the outfield as a left-handed hitter. Hazel hit seven homers and drove in 27 runs and hit .403 in 41 games.

The Braves were led in the World Series by a number of players, but especially the performance of Burdette. Burdette pitched 24 consecutive scoreless innings, won three games, pitched two shutouts (Game 5 and Game 7) and had an ERA of .067.

Lew Burdette in the 1957 World Series

Lew Burdette in the 1957 World Series

Aaron hit .393 in the World Series and hit three homers and drove in seven runs.

It took seven games for the Braves to beat the Yankees in the World Series.

  • Game 1- Yankees 3, Braves 1 at Yankee Stadium
  • Game 2- Braves 4, Yankees 2 at Yankee Stadium
  • Game 3- Yankees 12, Braves 3 at Milwaukee County Stadium
  • Game 4- Braves 7, Yankees 5 (10 innings) at Milwaukee County Stadium
  • Game 5- Braves 1, Yankees 0 at Milwaukee County Stadium
  • Game 6- Yankees 3, Braves 2 at Yankee Stadium
  • Game 7- Braves 5, Yankees 0 at Yankee Stadium

But when it was all said and done, the Braves had won their first World Series since 1914, when they were still in Boston.

The Braves and Yankees would face each other in the 1958 World Series again, but this time the Yankees won it, as they came back from a three games to one deficit and beat the Braves four games to three.

Burdette did go 20-10 and had an ERA of 291 in 1958, but he did not fare as well in the 1958 World Series, as he was 1-2 with an ERA of 5.64.

Aaron had another fabulous season in 1958, as Hammerin’ Hank hit 30 homers and drove in 95 runs, plus hit .326. No. 44 also hit .333 in the 1958 World Series, but didn’t hit a homer and only drove it two runs.

Still, the 1957 season was the crowning achievement for the Braves in Milwaukee. And even though the team left for Atlanta after the 1965 season, Milwaukee fans will never forget players like Aaron, Mathews, Spahn and Burdette.

In his time in Milwaukee as a Brave, Aaron hit 398 homers, drove in 1,305 runs and hit a cumulative .319.

Meanwhile, Mathews hit 452 homers, drove in 1,271 runs and hit a cumulative .277 in his 13 years in Milwaukee.

Mathews and Aaron

Eddie Mathews and Hank Aaron

In his 13 years in Milwaukee, Spahn was 234-138, which included winning over 20 games per season nine times. No. 21 had a cumulative ERA of 2.88. Spahnie also had 232 complete games.

Burdette meanwhile, was 173-109 in 11 years in Milwaukee with an cumulative ERA of 3.28. The Nitro, West Virginia native also had 146 complete games in Beertown plus had 17 saves.

Warren Spahn II

Warren Spahn

But all in all, 1957 was truly a special year in Wisconsin, as the Packers had a stadium built for then which is now considered the ultimate shrine in the NFL, while the Braves did something that has yet to be achieved again in Milwaukee, although the 1982 Milwaukee Brewers came close. That is, winning a World Series title.

When people talk about classic cars, you always hear about the ’57 Chevy Bel-Air. When people in Wisconsin talk about memorable years in the history of sports in the Badger state, 1957 should be one of the years that should be right near the top.

I know 1957 will always be a special year for me, because that’s when my journey through life began.

Jerry Kramer Talks About the “Ice Bowl”

Bart Starr QB Sneak in Ice Bowl

I wrote this article just prior to the 2014 NFC Divisional Playoff Game between the Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys while I was still with Bleacher Report. The Packers won that game at Lambeau Field, 26-21. Since it’s now December, and the Packers are hosting the Cowboys once again this week at the legendary stadium on Lombardi Avenue, I thought it would be apropos to republish this story.

When the Dallas Cowboys play the Green Bay Packers this Sunday in an NFC Divisional Playoff Game at Lambeau Field, there will be one very interested observer in attendance.

That observer will be former Packers great Jerry Kramer. Talk about a very apropos occasion.

Kramer knows all about playing the Cowboys in the postseason, as he played against them in two NFL Championship Games: in 1966 in Dallas at the Cotton Bowl and in 1967 at Lambeau. The Packers won both of those contests.

The second game was the legendary “Ice Bowl,” which was played on December 31, 1967. It was also the last time the Cowboys and Packers have played at Lambeau Field in the postseason.

That is, until this upcoming Sunday.

Kramer played a key role in the victory over the Cowboys in the Ice Bowl as the right guard for the Packers. The game was called the “Ice Bowl” because it was extremely cold that day in Green Bay, as the game-time temperature was 13 degrees below zero.

If you added the wind, it was bone-chillingly cold, as there was a minus-48-degree windchill for the game.

I had another chance to talk with Kramer recently, who shared some of his memories from that frigid contest.

One thing Kramer had going for him was that he was used to playing in cold weather.

“I grew up in that kind of weather,” Kramer said of growing up in northern Idaho. “I remember hunting for ducks one time when it 25 below zero. But in that part of the country, if you didn’t go out and do things in the winter time you would go nuts. We learned to deal with the severe cold.

“I knew enough to put thermal underwear on, and I cut them off at the knees and the elbows. And I put a dickey around my neck and chest and put gloves on. Gale Gillingham came up to me and asked if I was keeping the gloves on. I said, ‘Hell yes, I’m going to wear gloves.’

“So I got prepared for the weather and got it out of my mind and just focused on the game.”

Kramer talked about the flow of that classic game, in which the Packers jumped to an early 14-0 lead as quarterback Bart Starr threw two touchdown passes to Boyd Dowler.

“It seemed so easy in the first half. Then it became so damn difficult in the second half,” Kramer said. “At the end of the first half there were a couple of fumbles (by Starr and punt returner Willie Wood) that you don’t really count on.

“Those things can be the difference in the game.”

Those fumbles led to scores by the Cowboys which made the score 14-10 at halftime.

The second half was a real struggle for the Packers, as the Cowboys ended up taking a 17-14 lead when wide receiver Lance Rentzel caught a 50-yard touchdown pass from halfback Dan Reeves on the first play of the fourth quarter.

The Packers were not doing anything offensively, either.

“We had minus-nine yards in 31 plays in the second half at one point,” Kramer said.

The score remained 17-14 late into the fourth quarter. The Packers got the ball back at their own 32-yard line with just 4:50 remaining in the game. Somehow the Packers were going to have to trudge 68 yards across a truly frozen tundra to win the game.

It didn’t seem likely, not with the way the offense had performed in the second half.

Kramer described his mindset and that of his teammates at that moment.

“I don’t think we ever considered the possibility of losing,” Kramer said. “We didn’t really acknowledge the fact that we didn’t gain any yardage in 31 plays prior to that. We knew where we where when we got in the final huddle. We knew what we had to do.

“I asked Bart about that years later, about what made him think we could go 68 yards and score a touchdown after we had made minus-nine yards on 31 plays prior to that. Bart said, ‘Jerry, I came into the huddle and started to say something. Then I looked in your eyes, I looked at Forrest’s eyes and everyone else in the huddle, and I knew I didn’t have to say anything. So all I said was, ‘Let’s go.’

Kramer said there was calm in that huddle.

“Even at that point of the game there wasn’t any panic with us,” No. 64 said. “There was a sense of urgency however. We still believed that we could do it.

“The beautiful part of that was the contribution by so many different players in that drive. Players like Chuck Mercein, Boyd Dowler and Donny Anderson. Bob Skoronski made a key block on the give play later in the drive.

“On that play, if Bob didn’t block [George] Andrie on that play, Mercein would get killed. It was a very difficult block, too. So Bart looked at “Ski” and asked if he could make that block before the play. And “Ski” simply said, ‘Call it, on two.’

Mercein picked up eight yards on the play, and the Packers now had the ball at the 3-yard line of the Cowboys. As a matter of fact, Mercein had accounted for 34 out of the 68 yards the Packers gained in that drive.

When it was over, the situation came down to this: just 16 seconds to go with no timeouts at the Dallas 1-yard line.

Starr called a 31 Wedge play in the huddle, which calls for the fullback to get the ball. However, after conferring with coach Vince Lombardi, Starr decided to keep the ball due to the slippery conditions near the goal line.

That play was called earlier in the week when the team was studying the defensive tendencies of the Cowboys. Kramer actually suggested the play to Lombardi.

“Jethro [Pugh] was high, and I actually suggested that play on Thursday when we were studying short-yardage films. 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.’

So after Starr called the play with just seconds to go in the game, what was going through Kramer’s mind?

“Responsibility. I mean I had suggested the play on Thursday. It seemed like the play was squarely on my shoulders,” Kramer said. “I knew I had to perform. I knew that to be successful as a blocker that I had to keep my head up and my eyes open.

“And also put my face into the chest of the defensive tackle [Pugh]. That is not the easiest thing to do, but it’s the safest and the surest way to make a block. I felt great personal responsibility to the team on that block. When I came off the ball, I was on fire.”

Center Ken Bowman also helped to move Pugh out of the way so Starr could score.

“I’ve analyzed that play a lot. “Bow” was there, there is no question about that,” Kramer said. “But when Jethro got up like I expected and then I got into him, the rest was a forgone conclusion. Jethro was then out of position and also out of the play. The play was over for him then.”

What did Kramer feel when he saw Starr laying in the end zone after his game-winning quarterback sneak?

“I turned around after the play and looked for Bart,” Kramer said. “And I saw him laying fairly close to me across the goal line, and I had an incredible sigh of relief. It was just a wonderful moment to see Bart in the end zone.”

That touchdown occurred with just 13 seconds left in the game, which the Packers won 21-17. After the game, Kramer’s block was shown over and over again on instant replay. Because of that, Kramer made that the title of the book he and Dick Schaap had been working on during the 1967 season.

wrote about how Instant Replay was put together after another conversation with Kramer last August.

Kramer was also able to talk about Lombardi after the game as well.

“After that game, I was interviewed by Tom Brookshier,” Kramer said. “There had been a negative article about Coach Lombardi that had come out recently from Esquire magazine. The article compared him to Mussolini and a pigeon walking around with his chest thrown out. It was just a hatchet job.

“Tommy asked me about Coach Lombardi. I had made up my mind previously to talk about him, as I heard that Coach’s mother was really upset with the article. She even cried over it.

“So when Tommy asked me about the coach and mentioned the criticism, I said, ‘People don’t understand Coach Lombardi. They don’t know him. But we know him. We understand him. And we love him. And this is one beautiful man.’

“And that still fits today. I still feel that same way.”

A few minutes later Brookshier was interviewing Lombardi himself. They were both looking at the block Kramer made on Starr’s game-winning sneak. Kramer recalls watching that interview.

“Tom says, ‘Here we see Jerry Kramer make a block on Jethro Pugh for Bart Starr’s touchdown.’ So Coach is watching the replay and he yells, ‘Way to go, Jerry! Way to go!’

“He said that with that incredible smile on his face, and he just enjoyed the hell out of it. And so did I.”

After the game, some of the players from the Packers decided to go to the Left Guard restaurant in Appleton, which left guard Fred “Fuzzy” Thurston owned, and toast the New Year.

“That was a fun night,” Kramer recalled. “Fuzzy and I were toasting the two greatest guards in the whole world all night long.”

Kramer and his teammates had the right to celebrate long and hard. The Packers had just won their third straight NFL championship (which no other team has ever done) and were on their way to winning their second straight Super Bowl.

The 2014 version of the Packers hope to celebrate after their game on Sunday versus the Cowboys. The fact that Kramer will be on hand to watch certainly won’t hurt.

The forecast for Sunday calls for a temperature of 17 degrees for the game. We shall see.

The forecasters were saying the same thing prior to the Ice Bowl before an arctic blast from a front moved in, causing the temperature to plummet downward and downward.

One never knows what will happen in the region where the Fox River connects to the bay off Lake Michigan this time of year.

Just ask Jerry Kramer.

Jerry Kramer Talks About Alumni Weekend for the Green Bay Packers

When the 1-0 Green Bay Packers take on the 0-1 Seattle Seahawks on Sunday night at Lambeau Field, there will be some very interested observers at the game.

Yes, this is alumni weekend for the Packers. Several former Green Bay players will be in attendance, including a number of players who were on the team which won Super Bowl I.

Some of the the Packers scheduled to attend are John Anderson, John Brockington, Willie Buchanon, Leroy Butler, Al Carmichael, Paul Coffman, Fred Cone, Dan Currie, Lynn Dickey, Gerry Ellis, Ken Ellis, Antonio Freeman, Johnnie Gray, Ahman Green, Chris Jacke, Ezra Johnson, Gary Knafelc, James Lofton, Don Majkowski, Chester Marcol, John Martinkovic, Mark Murphy, Ken Ruettgers and Frank Winters.

In addition, Esera Tuaolo will be singing the national anthem, plus Butler and Ruettgers will be taking part in fan activities at the Tundra Tailgate Zone and Legends Club leading up to the kickoff of the game.

The Super Bowl I alumni which will be on hand include Donny Anderson, Zeke Bratkowski, Allen Brown, Tom Brown, Bill Curry, Carroll Dale, Willie Davis, Boyd Dowler, Marv Fleming, Jim Grabowski, Forrest Gregg, Doug Hart, Dave Hathcock, Jerry Kramer, Red Mack, Dave Robinson, Jim Taylor and Steve Wright.

A number of players from the Super Bowl I team will stay the week and take part in various events in both Green Bay and Milwaukee, as they will have a week-long celebration leading up to a Monday night game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sept. 28.

I talked to Kramer earlier this week and he gave me his thoughts about alumni weekend.

“It’s like going home to a family reunion,” Kramer said. “There has always been a deep emotional bond with the guys who I played with. There’s also a professional admiration for all the former Packers.

“As a ballplayer you would look at the other players and you measure them subconsciously. You would look at their legs, you would look at their shoulders, you would look at their their fat and look at their physique.

“Then you would watch them run, watch them catch and watch them block. Then you would form opinions about the player. Like, this guy has great speed, but is a little shy about contact. Or this other guy is not shy about contact, but he doesn’t have the speed.

“You kind of gravitate towards the contributors. If a guy is making a contribution to your team, your organization, to your group, it didn’t matter what the hell he looked like. It didn’t matter what his skin color was. It didn’t matter where the hell he came from.”

Kramer then talked about the dynamic which bonded the players together.

“There are two things about that, Bobby,” Kramer continued. “First of all, Coach Lombardi put us through a hellacious training camp. There were kids losing consciousness on the field and in the chow line.

“For instance, Hawg Hanner spent three days at morning practice and three afternoons in the hospital getting an IV for dehydration. So it was an intense workout. And it pushed you close to the edge of your tolerance.

“So you got angry at Coach Lombardi and called him every name in the book. And if the guy next to you was a black person, he was united with me in our resentment of Lombardi. He was my pal. We were in a fox hole together. We shared a common survival trait.

“That bond that developed between us is still there today. I love Willie Davis. I love Herbie [Herb Adderley] and I love Robby [Dave Robinson]. They are family to me.

“So I think it was a strategy that Coach Lombardi was aware of and was done on purpose to try and build team unity. That type of treatment came from the military, as a drill sergeant does basically the same thing.”

It’s important to know that before Lombardi came to the NFL and joined the New York Giants as an assistant coach in 1954, he was an assistant to the legendary Earl “Red” Blaik at Army from 1949-1953.

No. 64 continued.

“The other thing is the contribution of the player on Sunday afternoon,” Kramer said. “If a guy made a contribution, he automatically elevated himself in my eyes. And you have a fondness for him and a good feeling about him.

“There was a great bond there. Even if somebody did a little something out of line, you wouldn’t say anything about it. We didn’t get into each others personal life. And we didn’t judge them by their personal habits. We judged them by their contribution to the team on Sunday.

“And by that judgement standard, they were all pretty damn sensational. So there was an emotional bond, as well as a physical analysis or measuring process.

“In the emotional bond, you shared the depths of bitterness and defeat. Plus you shared the heights of elation, glory and victory. Most of us were together for most of Coach Lombardi’s years in Green Bay.

“Whether it was two years or 10 years, there was a hell of a feeling there. And it still exists today.”

Kramer also knows that alumni weekend is also somewhat bittersweet because some of his teammates are no longer around. Kramer, who will turn 80 in January of 2016, has seen some of his closest friends pass away in recent years.

Great friends like Fuzzy Thurston, Don Chandler and Max McGee.

“It’s like family again, Bob,” Kramer said. “It’s like losing a member of your family. We were fortunate to have a large family of 35 to 40 guys, and now we are losing some of that family. There is sorrow and sadness every time you lose one of them.

“There is a definite awareness of the dwindling time that we have together. The clock is ticking. We have lost about half the guys. I think there will be 21 guys at the [Super Bowl I] reunion, as Bart [Starr] and Paul [Hornung] won’t be there, as Bart is sick and Paul has something else going on.

“So it is very much like a family. You are acutely aware of every guy. You’ve been worrying about Bart. You’ve been worrying about Forrest [Gregg]. You’ve been worrying about Willie [Davis] now.

“There isn’t a hell of lot that you can do, except give them a hug when you see them and tell them that you still love them. Try to enjoy the time you have.”

Bottom line, I know the 80,000-plus crowd at Lambeau Field on Sunday night will show Kramer and the rest of the alumni of the Packers how much they still love and appreciate them.

The Packers Can Even Up the All-Time Series with the Bears in 2015

The Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears have been playing each other in the NFL since 1921. The Bears hold 92-90-6 edge in the regular season while the teams are 1-1 in the postseason.

The Packers can even up the series in the 2015 season if they can sweep the two games versus the Monsters of the Midway.

It’s been a long, long time since the Packers were ahead in this series. It’s been 83 years as a matter of fact. The Packers held a 11-10-4 edge after the 1932 season.

The Bears swept the Packers in 1933 by winning three games and the Packers have been trying to catch the Bears ever since.

The Packers have been able to narrow the margin with the Bears thanks to the play of Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. In the 23 years that those two quarterbacks have played against the Bears, the two have combined to have a 33-13 record versus Chicago.

The Packers have won 11 NFC Central/North titles in that time, plus have won two Super Bowls, while da Bears have won four NFC Central/North titles.

Favre was 22-10 versus the Bears in his career in Green Bay, while Rodgers has been even better than that. No. 12 is 11-3 against Chicago (plus 1-0 in the NFC title game).

In 14 regular season games, Rodgers has thrown 31 touchdown passes versus just eight picks for 3,448 yards. That adds up to a 109.8 passer rating.

Another quarterback for the Packers has also done very well against the Bears. That would be Bart Starr, who was 15-5 against Chicago.

Jerry Kramer told me a story about Starr when the Packers were facing the Bears early in the Vince Lombardi era.

“We were playing the Chicago Bears,” Kramer said. “Bill George was their middle linebacker at the time. On a deep pass attempt, George thought he would try to intimidate Bart.

“Bill took about a five-yard run and he gave Bart a forearm right in the mouth. George timed it perfectly and put Bart right on his behind. He also cut Bart badly, from his lip all the way to his nose. After that, George said, ‘That ought to take care of you Starr, you pu**y.’ Bart snapped right back at George and said, ‘F— you, Bill George, we’re coming after you.’

“My jaw dropped after that exchange, as I was shocked. Meanwhile Bart was bleeding profusely. I told Bart that he better go to the sideline and get sewn up. Bart replied, ‘Shut up and get in the huddle.’

“Bart took us down the field in seven or eight plays and we scored. That series of plays really solidified Bart as our leader and we never looked back.”

Starr and the Packers won five NFL titles in seven years under Lombardi, which included the first two Super Bowls.

The Bears did win the 1963 NFL title, however. Chicago was 11-1-2 that season, while the Packers were 11-2-1. Starr only played against the Bears once that year due to a broken hand. That injury cost No. 15 four games that season.

Would Starr have been the difference in the second game in 1963, a 26-7 loss at Wrigley Field? We will never know.

Another reason that the Packers have come so close to evening the series with the Bears is their domination at Soldier Field in Chicago recently.

That storied site is where the Packers and Bears will open the 2015 season this upcoming Sunday.

Since 1992, the Packers have won 17 of 22 regular season games at Soldier Field. The Pack also won the 2010 NFC Championship Game there.

If the Packers can beat the Bears this upcoming Sunday, it will mean the Packers can even up the series on Thanksgiving night when the Bears come to Lambeau Field.

That is the night in which Favre will have his retired No. 4 formally unveiled on the facade at the legendary stadium.

It will be quite the atmosphere that evening. It will be the first time the Packers have hosted a Thanksgiving game since 1923, when the Hammond Pros came to Bellevue Park in Green Bay.

Plus, there will be the ceremony honoring Favre.

Rodgers will also be playing in the game.

And Starr is determined to be there as well, as he continues to battle through some severe medical issues. About a year ago, Starr suffered a heart attack, two strokes and four seizures.

Ian O’Connor of ESPN recently wrote a heartwarming story about Starr and the nice progress he has been making with his health.

Yes, Thanksgiving night in Green Bay will be special for many reasons.

One of them might be the Packers evening up the series with the Bears for the first time since 1933.