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High Five: Packers future at stake in 1921 game

Posted Mar 6, 2014

Win in New York claimed 1929 league championship

The Packers’ biggest games during the 1920s:

1. Packers 20, New York Giants 6 (Nov. 24, 1929) -- The Packers played only 11 men until the closing minutes and dominated the previously unbeaten Giants at New York’s Polo Grounds. With the Packers clinging to a 7-6 lead in the fourth quarter, Hurdis McCrary capped an 80-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown and then, in the closing seconds, Johnny Blood scored on a 3-yard run. But the deciding factor was Vern Lewellen’s booming punts that allowed the Packers to win the battle of field position. The league champion at that time was determined by the final standings. The Packers finished 12-0-1; the Giants, 13-1-1.

2. Packers 25, Bears 0 (Dec. 8, 1929) -- After leading 6-0 at halftime, halfback Eddie Kotal made two spectacular running catches of Lewellen passes within a five-minute span in the third quarter, and the Packers rolled from there to clinch their first NFL title in their final league game of the season. That night, when the Packers returned home from their conquest at Wrigley Field, an estimated 20,000 fans greeted them at the Chicago & North Western train depot (now home of Titletown Brewery).

3. Packers 7, Minneapolis Marines 6 (Oct. 23, 1921) -- With the Packers trailing 6-0 late in the fourth quarter of their first game in what is now the NFL, end Dave Hayes recovered a fumble on the Marines’ 35-yard line. Halfback Buff Wagner made a spectacular catch of a Curly Lambeau pass to advance the ball to the 14, and Art Schmaehl eventually plunged over from the 1. Lambeau’s extra point proved decisive and set off a wild celebration at Hagemeister Park. Talk about must wins, years later historian Jack Rudolph, a colleague of Packers co-founder George Whitney Calhoun, wrote that the story was never verified but some believed the Packers were admitted to the loosely-organized league on a conditional basis and if they hadn’t beaten the Marines they would have lost more than a game, they would have been expelled from what was then the American Professional Football Association. As a footnote to that claim, the Packers essentially scheduled their league games that year from week to week.

4. Packers 10, Duluth Kelleys 0 (Nov. 30, 1922) -- Although it wasn’t officially counted as a league game, it might have been as seminal a one as the Packers ever played after a morning-long downpour created a quandary. Do they play and risk losing a boatload of money that could sink the franchise by nightfall, or do they cancel it and hope to play another day? Andrew Turnbull, publisher of the Green Bay Press-Gazette, encouraged Lambeau and Calhoun, two of the owners that year, to play no matter how much cash would be washed down the drain. Turnbull also promised he’d try to get the business community to throw its support behind the team after the season ended. The Packers won a mud bath with Lambeau scoring the only TD, but finished on the ropes financially when no more than 1,000 people showed up at Hagemeister Park. True to his promise, Turnbull led the effort to create the non-profit corporate structure that exists today. And Calhoun, who doubled as a sportswriter at the Press-Gazette, would write years later “it was a turning point in the history of the Packers.”

5. Packers 14, Chicago Bears 10 (Sept. 27, 1925) -- Quarterback Charlie Mathys threw a 6-yard pass to Lewellen early in the fourth quarter on a fourth-and-goal play and it proved to be the winning touchdown as the Packers beat the rival Bears for the first time. The game was played at Bellevue Park, the Packers’ home in 1923-’24.

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