Murphy Takes 5

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The G Stands for Green Bay

Posted Sep 24, 2015

Is Paul Hornung's number retired?

We’re going to stick to questions here about the Packers’ uniforms and kudos to everyone who submitted one. I’m impressed by your interest and knowledge.

Raquel from El Paso, TX

Where can I find something stated in black and white about the meaning of the G on the helmets? I constantly have to debate this topic. Many fans say it stands for greatness. I am a true believer it stands for Green Bay.

The G stands for Green Bay. Prior to Super Bowl XLV, former NFL running back Tiki Barber concocted a story on media day about how the G stood for greatness. Although completely unfounded, the story spread like wildfire on the Web. So much so, there are more questions in my inbox on this subject than any other. Sue of Hopewell Junction, N.Y.; Bill of Toronto, Canada; Thomas of Fountain City, Wis.; and Raymond of Oshkosh also inquired about it. I think Vince Lombardi might have said at some point he hoped to turn the Packers into the New York Yankees of football, but he hadn’t won an NFL title yet when he put the G on the helmet. In passing, Raquel, keep fighting the good fight. I’ve always felt the best fans are those who are stewards of Packers history.

Terry from New York, NY

Is it true that in the 1960 NFL championship against Philadelphia the famous Packers G wasn’t on the helmet?

Yes. There was no G on the Packers’ helmet until 1961. Scott from Oelwein, Ia., asked when it was unveiled. The Packers wore it for the first time in their annual intra-squad game, played on Aug. 5, 1961, at old City Stadium. (The photo to the right is from that game.)

Matt from Menasha, WI

Who really invented the G?

John Gordon sketched it. Mike Counter, director of media relations at St. Norbert College, tells the story in this video. (Sketch to the left by John Gordon)

John from West Lawn, PA

I’ve noticed the shape of the G has changed from the original design. What precipitated the alteration?

The original G was shaped like a football, and the Packers wore it when they won all five of their NFL titles under Lombardi. The current G is an oval. Based on my research of old Packers photos, the change – or at least the first change – was made prior to the 1970 season. Perhaps the new G was phased in. Back then, I’m not sure every player would have been issued a new helmet each year. Why the change? Not sure, but it was a tumultuous time in Packers history. The 1970 season would have been Phil Bengtson’s last as coach and general manager and, even before it started, the way was being paved for his termination.

Andy from Gambrills, MD

I heard this from a fella in the University of Georgia marching band: An assistant coach from the Packers took a job at Georgia and asked if the school could use the Packers’ G. Truth?

Mike of Seguin, Texas, also asked if there were ever any issues over Georgia using the G. According to Georgia’s football media guide, former coach Vince Dooley proposed the idea of putting a G on the school’s helmets. A newly hired assistant coach, who had no ties to the Packers, was married to a commercial artist who designed it. Georgia wore it for the first time in 1964. Here’s more from the Georgia media guide: “Since the Georgia G – though different in design and color – was similar to Green Bay’s G, Coach Dooley thought it best to clear the use of Georgia’s new emblem with the NFL team. Athletic Director Joel Eaves called for permission which was granted. However, since its inception in 1961, the Green Bay G has been redesigned several times and now looks like Georgia’s original 1964 G. Georgia is proud the Packers apparently liked the special nuances of the Bulldog’s forward-looking G.”

Bill from Bradenton, FL

We’ve done some research and believe the Packers wore yellow jerseys, not navy blue, in 1929. Have you found any evidence of that?

Yes, the Packers wore gold jerseys with blue numerals in 1929. My source is several Press-Gazette stories from that year, as well as stories in other papers. We note that on the uniform panel in the new Packers Hall of Fame.

Don from Greensboro, NC

When and why green and gold? Why the G and not a P?

Thomas from Appleton, Wis., also asked that question. Here’s what I know. According to minutes I found this summer at the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s research center, owners unanimously passed a motion at a July 1933 NFL meeting requiring every team to register the colors of its uniform. Green Bay listed navy blue and did so through 1937. From 1938 through 1940, they listed myrtle green and gold as their colors. Myrtle green is a bluish green. I could find no listing for 1941 and ’42. Starting in 1943 and for the next 21 years, the Packers listed navy blue, green and gold as their colors. They listed green and gold for the first time in 1964. Why a G and no P? No doubt because Vince Lombardi wanted it that way. Read the next answer and you’ll see that not even the commissioner could stop Lombardi from doing what he wanted. (A 1939 Pete Tinsley sideline sweater is pictured to the left. Credit: Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame, Inc.)

Jeff from St. Paul, MN

Tony Canadeo’s No. 3 was retired in the 1950s. In 1961, the Packers had to sign kicker Ben Agajanian when Paul Hornung was called into service. Why was he given No. 3?

The Packers acquired Agajanian on Nov. 17, 1961, in a trade with the Dallas Texans of the rival American Football League. It wasn’t even a legal deal. The NFL and AFL were warring leagues at the time. Anyway, Agajanian was 42 years old and owned several businesses in the Los Angeles area. But Lombardi paid him $1,000 a game to be a security blanket if Hornung wasn’t available and didn’t require Agajanian to show up until the weekend. Lombardi also issued Agajanian No. 3, last worn nine years earlier by his good friend on the executive committee, Canadeo. If Lombardi explained why, I couldn’t find it in the Green Bay and Milwaukee newspapers from 1961. However, keep in mind there was never a formal ceremony held to retire Canadeo’s number or even an official announcement. That, too, was how things were back then. (Photo to the right. Credit: Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame, Inc.)

Ric from Green Bay, WI

Has No. 5 been worn since Paul Hornung retired? Is it unofficially retired?

On July 10, 1967, at the Packers’ pre-camp press party, Lombardi held his annual state of the team press conference and announced Hornung’s number was being retired. Lee Remmel covered the event for the Press-Gazette and wrote, “Paul Hornung’s number, 5, is being retired.” The eight-column headline over Remmel’s story read: “Vince Tabs Hyland Potential Starter, Retires Paul’s ‘5’.” Later that year, Lombardi collaborated on a two-part series for Look magazine and emphatically stated: “There will never be another No. 5 on the Packers.” Lombardi held no official ceremony before leaving the organization a little more than a year later, but No. 5 was not issued for the next 18 years. Then in 1986, Forrest Gregg assigned it to Vince Ferragamo. The next year, Willie Gillus and Don Majkowski wore it. In 1988, Lindy Infante gave it to Curtis Burrow. Again, times were different. I don't believe the names and retired numbers were listed in the media guide until 1988 and in Lambeau in 2003 with the redevelopment. Bob Harlan told me last week he doesn't remember why Hornung wasn't included. Whatever, soon after Ron Wolf arrived in 1991, he decided nobody was going to wear 5 on his watch. He told me last week, “I just did not want anyone to wear 5 because when I got here I was told by people who know a great deal about the Packers that Paul Hornung was the best player of all the people who played for Lombardi. I decided not to have anyone wear that number and I think they are still following it.” Nobody has worn 5 in a regular-season game during Ted Thompson’s reign, either.

Bill from Thornton, CO

Why is No. 1 not retired?

Our media guide lists Curly Lambeau as the only Packer ever to wear No. 1. He wore it in 1925 and ’26. To be honest, I don’t know if the subject of retiring Lambeau’s number ever came up until recent years when fans started asking about it. But clearly it has become a topical subject. Steve from Plainfield, Wis., and Bruce from Las Vegas asked the same question. I don’t believe the Packers have any set policy regarding No. 1. It just hasn’t been worn in a game for almost 80 years.

Rachael from Cary, IL

My great uncle was Cecil Isbell. I’ve always wondered why his number wasn’t retired.

Isbell wore No. 17 and was a great player. When their careers overlapped, he was more decorated than the legendary Sammy Baugh, who entered the league a year earlier. But Isbell retired after five seasons. Considering how brief your great uncle’s career was, I’d be proud he is a well-deserved member of the Packers Hall of Fame.

Scott from Colorado Springs, CO

Did Ron Wolf really make a push to dramatically change the Packers’ uniform in the 1990s? Such a bright and successful GM, why would he even attempt to break such a tradition?

Yes. Wolf wished to have a true gold be part of the Packers’ color scheme rather than mustard yellow. Troy of Cottage Grove, Minn., asked if the plan was to mix the gold with blue or stick with a green. The answer is green, and the Packers had a prototype made that Ted Thompson modeled before no more than a dozen members of the organization inside Lambeau Field. The onlookers weren’t thrilled by the look. What’s more, some felt the uniform looked too much like Notre Dame’s. Because of the Packers’ great tradition, they thought the team should stick to its own distinct design. Was it a cockamamie idea on Wolf’s part? You sound like you’d say yes. But chew on this: Lombardi selected the green and yellow colors, and he was color blind, according to his daughter Sue. She once told me her dad gave her a ride to school almost every day and had particular difficulty deciphering the colors at a stoplight: Green, yellow and red.

Phil from Winchester, KY

Been a Packers fan since 1959. Love the team, love the history! But they’ve had the same uniform for 55 years. With all the colors and design to choose from today, why the same old jersey?

When selecting their alternate jerseys, the Packers have preferred a historical look. You’re not alone in asking. Pete from Sussex, Wis., also wondered with all the new designs why the Packers wouldn’t at least try something different. I get the question. I recently watched Montana play North Dakota State on TV and thought both teams had really cool-looking, contemporary color schemes.  In fact, North Dakota State’s colors were green and yellow. But considering the rich history of the Packers, how do you argue with the rationale to showcase it?

Todd from Havre, MT

With the opening of the new Packers Hall of Fame I am intrigued with the uniform exhibit. The 1959 uniform, for example, includes a logo. I always understood the logo was introduced in 1961. Also, the green and white 1958 uniform seems dubious. I have never seen any reference to the Packers wearing green and white. What was the origin and source of the information used in the exhibit?

While I had some involvement in the uniform display, my expertise is limited. Brent Hensel, our Hall of Fame curator, did most of the research, and I passed your question on to him. He said due to space constraints it was impossible to show every change to the uniforms and that’s explained on the panels alongside the stairwell. The 1959 uniform represents the years 1959-69, and the history of the logo is explained in the text. He said the green and white uniform was worn for the 1956 opener and in 1958. (A ’58 action photo is to the right.)

Jim from Oshkosh, WI

The Packers received hand-me-down uniforms from Notre Dame. Why switch to green from blue?

Not true. The Indian Packing Co. purchased new blue jerseys in 1919.

Matt from Spring, TX

I’m a railroad enthusiast and my favorite railroad is the Chicago & North Western. The CNW was a major presence in Green Bay, and its colors were dark green and golden yellow. A rumor keeps surfacing the Packers borrowed the CNW’s colors. I tell people it’s a coincidence. Can you put this to rest?

Never heard that canard. I’d be intrigued if the Packers had started wearing dark green and yellow before 1959. But by then, they were rarely taking the train to games.

Bill from Brooklyn Park, MN

Years ago, I could swear I saw a uniform in the Packers Hall of Fame that had several stars on the shoulders. Do you know anything about this?

Was this it? The Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame, Inc., collection includes some College All-Star Game uniforms worn by the Packers. (Photo to the left. Credit: Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame, Inc.)

Christopher from Hudson, WI

My grandfather told me the Packers at one time had a star on their uniform or helmet. Any truth to that?

See the previous answer. Maybe that’s where your grandfather got the idea.

Peter from Elgin, IL

I saw a gold and white jersey from the 1950s, I think. How did this color scheme come about?

Brent, our curator, tells me there was a white jersey with gold yoke and numbers on display in the old Hall of Fame. He said he has a photo of it being worn in a home game against Pittsburgh in 1946. The Packers tried a number of different looks in the late 1940s and through most of the 1950s. (Photo to the right. Credit: Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame, Inc.)

When did the NFL add names to the back of the jerseys?

1970.

For more of Cliff Christl's historical perspectives, click here.

 
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