If Hearden was coach, Lombardi might not have been

Fan feedback on historical pieces is appreciated


Tom Hearden

First, thanks to those who have expressed an appreciation for some of the history pieces on packers.com. In fact, I learn things from you on occasion. Also, I've seen feedback at times that has literally floored me. Such was the case when Bill from Kabul, Afghanistan, raised a question on July 28 as to whether Dan Devine had the Packers play a real intrasquad game one year. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw his comment under my blog about the history of "Family Night." I had written in the story that the last "regulation" game had been played in 1958 under Scooter McLean -- and I stand by that. But in the 56 years since, there was one other time -- in 1972, when Devine was coach -- when the Packers nearly played a regulation game. Here was the only difference between 1958 and '72. In '58, McLean assigned different specialists to his two teams. Paul Hornung was the kicker and Dick Deschaine the punter for the Greens, whereas rookie John Moerchen was the kicker and Max McGee the punter for the Whites. In 1972, Devine had Tim Webster kick and Ken Duncan punt for both teams. But kudos to Bill! Again, I find it amazing that any fan would remember the details of an intrasquad game played 42 years ago. Now, to your questions. Many of you have asked about relatives and others who played with or had ties to the Packers, and I'm going to focus on those this week because they've been piling up.

Curt from New Berlin, WI

My 89-year-old mother-in-law's father coached a team of Iron Mountain All-Stars against the Acme Packers in an exhibition game in 1925 and '26. I have not been able to find any record of the game.

Yes, there were two non-league games: One played on Sept. 13, 1925, and the other on Sept. 12, 1926. But the opponent was the Green Bay Packers. Acme was involved with the Packers for part of just one season: 1921. Anyway, the Packers won, 48-6 in '25, and 79-0 in '26. The first game was historically significant. It was the first played at City Stadium, home to the Packers for the next 32 years. Curly Lambeau started at right halfback and was the star of the game. Iron Mountain's roster included at least four former Packers -- Wally Niemann, Jab Murray, Rudy Rosatti and Les Hearden -- and close to 1,000 of its fans traveled to Green Bay for the game. In 1926, Iron Mountain still had four former Packers -- Sammy Powers, Toody McLean, Niemann and Hearden -- but also a depleted roster. Hearden arranged the game, but several players bailed out on him and organized another Iron Mountain team that invited the Milwaukee Badgers to play a game the same day. That Iron Mountain team lost only 2-0. I'd be curious to know the name of your mother-in-law's father. Icky Erdlitz was listed as the manager of the Iron Mountain team in '25 and Hearden in '26. Also see the next answer for more information on Rosatti.

Rudy from Chico, CA

I'm told by my family that I'm named after my great uncle, Rudy Rosatti, who played for the Packers in the 1920s. What can you tell me about him?

Rudy played for the Packers in 1924 and again in 1926 and '27. As you might have read in the previous answer, he played for Iron Mountain against the Packers in 1925 -- then he played for the Packers against Iron Mountain the next year. As background, your uncle was a native of Norway, Mich., in the UP, and also played for the Cleveland Indians in 1923 and the New York Giants in 1928. He was a 6-foot, 211-pound tackle. When the Packers signed him on Sept. 11, 1924, the Green Bay Press-Gazette said Rudy was living in Vulcan, Mich., had played at the University of Michigan (in 1922) and had doubled as coach of the freshman line at Michigan the previous year at the same time he was playing for Cleveland. Before the Packers signed him, the Ironwood Daily Globe *said Rudy was going to play with Ironwood that year, then *the Iron Mountain News said he wasn't, he was under contract to Cleveland. The Press-Gazette also made reference to a dispute between the Packers and the Cleveland owner when Rudy signed. Your uncle was the Packers' starting right tackle in 1924, and also started for most of the '26 season. In '27, he started some games, but might have been hurt for some of the others. The reason he didn't play with the Packers in '25 was because he had a job "up north" and was running the Iron Mountain team, according to the Press-Gazette. When Rudy re-signed in '26, the paper referred to him as "one of the Packers' best linemen in 1924," that "his brilliant defensive work had won him a lot of followers," and that "Rosey is a big, husky footballer." On Aug. 23, 1928, the Packers traded Rosatti and another lineman, Hector Cyre, to the New York Yankees for Roy "Bullet" Baker and Larry Marks.

Pat from Neenah, WI

I grew up in Green Bay, am a longtime Packers shareholder and longtime season ticket holder. According to my family lore, my great grandfather, Joseph Clusman (1884-1945), owned a grocery store near Three Corners and also Hagemeister Park and had some involvement with the Packers. My grandfather, Norman Clusman (1907-1974), attended East High and was a head usher at Lambeau Field. Any information would be helpful.

Your great grandfather was a member of the Green Bay Football Corporation's original board of directors. Following the first stock sale in 1923, Joseph Clusman was one of 15 members elected to the board, and he remained on it in 1924 and '25. I'm not sure about 1926 and '27. Those are the only two years I don't have a list of board members. (So if anyone out there does, please let me know.) By 1928, Joseph was no longer on the board. But he obviously was still a fan. When the Packers won their first NFL title in 1929, before there were championship games and a gate for the players to divide, the citizens of Green Bay started a "Championship Fund" and raised more than $5,000 to split among the players. Your great grandfather gave $5 to the fund, which was a typical contribution. The Press-Gazette, by the way, ran a list of all the contributors. Joseph Clusman's obituary also said that "whenever able," he accompanied the Packers on road trips. Don't know if that was when he was on the board, or before and/or after. When the Packers were reorganized in 1935 as the Green Bay Packers, Inc., Clusman's Grocery, purchased one share of stock. (That list also was printed in the Press-Gazette.) Your grandfather, Norman Clusman, purchased stock in the 1950 drive. (That list was printed in a program.) Don't know much about the ushers.

Sean from Chicago, IL

Could you provide some insight into the connection between Lester Hearden, Tom Hearden, Jim Crowley and Vince Lombardi? There is a personal connection for me. Lester, my grandfather, died in 1978, three years before I was born. Tom was my great uncle.

Jim Crowley and Les and Tom Hearden were all football stars at Green Bay East High School, the same school Curly Lambeau attended. Crowley played four years at East, the last two under Lambeau, who coached the team from 1919-21 at the same time he was playing for the Packers. Crowley then went on to star at Notre Dame where he was a member of the famed "Four Horsemen" backfield. Later, Crowley served as head coach at Fordham when Lombardi played there and was one of the "Seven Blocks of Granite." Les and brother Len were a year ahead of Crowley at East and also played for Lambeau in 1919. Tom was on that team as a freshman and later served as a captain for Knute Rockne at Notre Dame. They also played briefly with the Packers: Les in 1922, Crowley in 1925 and Tom in 1927-28. The story comes full cycle in the 1950s. Tom was an assistant coach for the Packers in 1954-'55 and rehired in '57 only to suffer a stroke before the season. Former Packers historian Lee Remmel told me he heard from a board member that Hearden would have been hired as head coach instead of Scooter McLean in 1958 if not for the stroke that ended his coaching career. Tom had a 51-3-2 record as the coach at East High from 1936-'42, where his program drew comparisons to Paul Brown's at Massillon High (Ohio). Then Hearden was 17-2 coaching a service team during World War II and 40-14 at St. Norbert College. He was so highly regarded, Remmel used to reflect on whether Lombardi would have found his way to Green Bay if Hearden had gotten the Packers' head job the year before. Lee's assumption was that Hearden would have won, unlike McLean, and held the job for maybe several years. Jan Mancheski and his father, Al, who played for Hearden at East, recently teamed up to write a book, "Shoot for the Stars: The Tom Hearden Story."

Joshua from Pineville, LA

Many years ago, I was pleasantly surprised to discover a very distant relative, Clyde Goodnight, played for the Packers. I know he was an end and wore No. 23 and have found various websites with his statistics. I'm wondering, though, if there's anything anecdotal about him on record.

I interviewed Clyde Goodnight in 2000. I should post it at some point as an oral history. Goodnight and Nolan Luhn were the Tulsa Twins, both ends, both from the University of Tulsa and both drafted by the Packers in 1945. They played one year with Don Hutson then ranked No. 1 and 2 in Packers receiving each of the next three years. Goodnight had the misfortune of replacing Hutson at left end and couldn't measure up, even though he finished seventh in the NFL in receptions one year. He was cut the day after the Packers lost their season opener in 1949, perhaps the most tumultuous season in Packers history. The speculation was that the Packers cut him to cut salary. They were in such financial straits they were fortunate to finish that season. As for an anecdote, Goodnight signed with Washington after he was cut and was part of a 30-0 victory over the Packers later that season. His new teammates signed a game ball and presented it to him after the game.

John from Merrimack, NH

About five years ago, I inherited a great uncle's Green Bay Packers Association card dated 1953. His name was Anthony Gardella. I know he played fullback for the Packers for seven games in 1922 and, according to my grandfather, was nicknamed, "Bullet." Is there anything else you can dig up?

It was probably a Green Bay Packers Alumni Association card. The Packers always have maintained close ties with their alumni. Officially, the Green Bay Packer Alumni Club was organized in 1949 when your great uncle was still alive. The Packers signed Augustus or Gus or "Bullet" or "Hope" Gardella -- he apparently went by several names -- on Oct. 11, 1922, and he started three games at fullback. I think Gus hooked up with the Packers on the recommendation of George Carey, who was the football coach at St. Norbert College and also doubling as an assistant with the Packers. I believe both Gardella and Carey had ties to Worcester, Mass.

Benjamin from Venray, Netherlands

Can you help me with a family story? My grandfather, Barney Vogds, did extra chores on the farm so his brother, Red Vogds, could play with our beloved Packers. What can you tell me about grandpa's brother?

Evan "Red" Vogds from Johnsburg, Wis., -- what's called the "Holyland." It's a rural area northeast of Fond du Lac with other little towns named St. Peter, Mount Calvary, St. Cloud, Marytown and St. Anna, each with an old Catholic church as its protruding landmark. Red played at Fond du Lac High, but the Holyland has been a fertile football spawning ground for Bob Hyland's Fond du Lac Springs program for 40 years. Red lettered at Wisconsin in 1941, '42, entered the service and then played for Chicago in the All America Football Conference in 1946-47. He refused to report to the Rockets in '48, received his release and signed with the Packers just before the start of camp. He started games at both guard positions in '48 and was the starting left guard in '49. He was released on the final cut in 1950 and played semipro ball with the Wausau Muskies for two years. In 1952, the Muskies named him head coach.

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