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Letters To Lee Remmel


Lambeau at Rockwood Lodge, the Packers' training camp site from 1946-49.

Lee: The Packers played exhibition games in Minneapolis almost every year in the '40s and '50s. Where were the games played prior to 1956 when Metropolitan Stadium opened? Thank you. - Jim (Mound, MN)

Lee Remmel: Jim, the Packers played eight preseason games in the Twin Cities area during a 12-year span (1948, 1951-54 and 1957-58-59-60) at two sites prior to the Vikings entering the NFL in 1961: Parade Stadium in Minneapolis and St. Paul Central Stadium.

Can you please give a rundown of where the Packers held their training camp since the beginning? - Mark (La Crosse, WI)

LR: Mark, in the early years of their existence (1919-45), the Packers held their training camp on Green Bay's East Side, in the vicinity of East High School, and, beginning in 1925 of the original City Stadium behind the high school. In 1946, GM/Head Coach Curly Lambeau and the Packers organization purchased Rockwood Lodge, located along the shore of Green Bay approximately 17 miles north of the city. Previously a retreat house for the Norbertine Order, it was to become what is believed to have been the first self-contained team training facility and headquarters in pro football history, a complex which included housing for staff and players and a natural outdoor "amphitheater" in which team meetings were held.

The Packers utilized Rockwood Lodge through the 1949 season -- Lambeau's last with the team -- even though players complained during this period of being leg-weary because there were stones imbedded in the practice field surface, leading to difficult footing.

Perhaps poetically, the Lodge burned down following the '49 season. Almost concurrently, Lambeau left Green Bay to become vice president, head coach and general manager of the then-Chicago Cardinals, thus closing out the "Lambeau Era."

Former Chicago Bears halfback Gene Ronzani, who succeeded Lambeau as head coach shortly thereafter, conducted his initial training camp in 1950 behind Green Bay East High School, but moved operations to Grand Rapids, Minn., in 1951 and returned there for training camp in1952 and again in 1953.

Ronzani's successor, Lisle Blackbourn (1954-57), subsequently shifted training camp to the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point during his tenure.

Ray "Scooter" McLean was Green Bay's head coach for only one dismal season (1-10-1) in 1958, but he left a lasting imprint upon the franchise during that brief process, moving the team's training camp to St. Norbert College in West De Pere, 6 miles south of Green Bay, where they have been billeted annually ever since, a span of 46 years. Every head coach the Packers have had in the interim, beginning with the incoming Vince Lombardi in 1959, has presided over training camp on the St. Norbert College campus.

Lee: I have heard several stories about how the Packers were responsible for the NFL union being formed. One of those stories has to do with the Packers demanding clean uniforms daily, including socks, before they hit the practice field. Legend has it they were turned down. Is any of this true? Also what was the first year the Packers were required to wear facemasks on their helmets? And are there any plans to sell retro jerseys to fans of the ACME Packers or the Indian Packing Company? Thanks for all your great years serving the Packers! Pete - (Norway, MI)

LR: Pete, the stories you have heard are accurate. The second paragraph in the first chapter in the published history of the NFL Players Association includes the following: "The players started standing up for themselves in 1956. By one account, players for the Green Bay Packers asked the owner for clean jocks, socks and uniforms for two-a-day workouts. The owners refused; the players organized."

Packers players, led by end Bill Howton, subsequently continued to take a leading role in the process which led to the formal establishment of the NFLPA, with Howton becoming the first president of the fledgling organization when it was founded in 1958.

With respect to your facemask question, Pete Fierle of the Pro Football Hall of Fame staff tells me that the NFL "rule book" did not officially list the face mask as required equipment until the early '90s. Prior to that, "it was just assumed" that players would be wearing a mask as standard equipment, he says, but it was not listed as required. He says that the best estimate of when the facemask informally became a fact of NFL life from the standpoint of general use was in the late '50s or early '60s. Fierle says that quarterback Bobby Layne was the last player known to have gone without a facemask -- although he may have worn one late in his career -- and he retired following the '62 season.

In reply to your final question, plans are in the works to develop retro jerseys memorializing the Acme Packers and the Indian Packing Company but, at this point, there is no finished product ready for sale.

I'm from Kansas and I have a passion for the Packers. I want to know why, in your opinion, are the Packers loved by so many people around the country whether they are natives of Honolulu, Juneau, or Green Bay? - Christopher (Shawnee, KS)

LR: Christopher, I think there is more than one reason why the Packers are as beloved as they are nationally. First of all, representing by far the smallest city in all of professional sports, they are unique, a factor which inevitably creates the "David and Goliath" perception -- one that pictures "little" Green Bay battling the NFL's population giants -- and often outdoing them. It is a perception which I'm sure strikes a responsive chord with the legions around the country who invariably root for the underdog.

Also, the Packers were successful early on, establishing themselves by becoming the first team in NFL annals to win three championships in a row, back in 1929-30-31. In addition, the Green and Gold inevitably attracted national attention in the late '30s and early '40s by pioneering extensive use of the forward pass, leading to the exciting quick strike potential it offered with the arrival of the fabled Don Hutson upon the Green Bay scene in the mid-'30s to team with Arnie Herber and, later, Cecil Isbell -- both great long passers...

Then, the simultaneous and serendipitous coupling of the Packers' dominance of the NFL under Lombardi and pro football's mercurial rise to great popularity on the television scene in the '60s, also created a new generation of Packers fans.

And, more recently, I believe the Packers' consistent success over the past decade with the charismatic Brett Favre leading the way -- in company with Bob Harlan's fan-friendly administration, a model for the NFL as a whole -- have contributed greatly to the team's current popularity. Under Harlan, the Packers have proved to be a rarity on today's professional sports scene -- a franchise that does not forget to say thank you to its fans.

What do you think was the most entertaining game you have ever seen? - Gary (Suamico, WI)

LR: Gary, for sheer entertainment, it would have to be the 48-47 victorious shootout the Green and Gold had with the Washington Redskins on "Monday Night Football" in Lambeau Field on October 17, 1983, the highest scoring game in both Packers and 'MNF' history. It is the only football game, of the 700 or 800 I have seen, that left me with "tennis neck" after witnessing 11 touchdowns, six field goals and the combined scoring of 95 points in 60 minutes.

Being that Curly Lambeau was from Green Bay, does he have any family remaining in the area? And if so, are they active in any way with the Packers? - Mike (Madison, WI)

LR: Mike, three of Curly's five grandchildren -- Stephen and John Lambeau and Barbara Lambeau Grishaber -- still live in the Green Bay area. All are children of Curly's only acknowledged offspring, the late Don Lambeau. A fourth grandchild, Mary Lambeau, lives in the Bahamas, and a fifth, Jeff, is deceased. There also are four great-grandchildren, three of whom (children of Stephen) live in the Green Bay area.

In answer to the second part of your question, no member of the Lambeau family is actively involved with the Packers organization now. However, a 14-foot-high statue of team founder Curly Lambeau, a "monument" that weighs 2,400 pounds, does occupy a prominent place of honor in the Robert E. Harlan Plaza immediately in front of the main entrance to the Lambeau Field Atrium.

Lee: I have been reading your comments for almost sixty years and I am convinced that nobody in any professional sport knows more about his/her team than you! What is your favorite Hank Gremminger story? I am a Green Bay native but my wife and I now live in a house built by Hank. Also, Hank was our County Commissioner when he died a few years ago. - John (Weatherford, TX)

LR: John, my favorite story about Hank Gremminger involves the most productive play of his 10-year Green Bay career. The circumstances were: The Packers, playing the Vikings at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, Minn., on October 13, 1963, held a tenuous 30-28 lead with 2 minutes remaining in the game. But the Vikings were then at the Green Bay 3-yard line and lining up for a "gimmee" -- and presumably game-winning -- field goal by Fred Cox. Fortuitously, Packers cornerback Herb Adderley swept through to block the kick and Hank alertly pounced upon the loose football and raced 60 yards to a decisive touchdown -- the only touchdown, incidentally, of his NFL career. Jerry Kramer kicked the extra point and the Packers prevailed, 37-28.

Many say that the '82 offense was the best the Green and Gold have fielded, do you agree? I keep thinking that teams that win championships have more going for them. - Jessie (Oviedo, FL)

LR: Jessie, I would have to disagree with that opinion about the '82 offense. One year later, the 1983 offense was one of the most potent such units in Packers history, posting 429 points which at that stage represented a club single-season record. Overall, I would have to vote for the 1962 offense, which scored more than 40 points in four different games and averaged 29.64 points per game, which remains a team record. Its 415 points also represent a club record for a 14-game schedule. The 1996 Super Bowl XXXI team would be a close second. It averaged 28.5 points per game and scored 456 points, a record for a 16-game season and the team's all-time season scoring mark. (Note: Last year's team is second on that list, scoring 442 points -- 27.6 per game.)

Who gave Travis Williams his nickname "Roadrunner"? Is there a related story? - Dave (Hilliard, OH)

LR: Dave, as far as I have been able to determine, Travis Williams was labeled the "Roadrunner" during the course of his rookie, 1967 season with the Packers, after he began running back kickoffs for touchdowns en route to establishing a still-standing NFL record average of 41.1 yards for 18 KOR, four of which he returned for touchdowns, a record he continues to share with Cecil Turner of the Bears. He undoubtedly was so nicknamed because of his Arizona State connection (the roadrunner bird is a common sight in Arizona) and his blazing speed (9.3 seconds in the '100' and a legitimate 4.3 in the '40'). The author of the nickname, as far as we know, remains anonymous. In other words, we don't know who was responsible.

When Vince Lombardi arrived as coach/general manager, how did the front office staff and players react to him? Did anyone anticipate the turn around of team fortunes that Lombardi led? - Jim (Kensoha, WI)

LR: Jim, I think Bart Starr's initial reaction to Lombardi's first talk to the team in 1959 eloquently addresses your question. Enthused by what he had heard, Bart has said that he called his wife, Cherry, at their home following that meeting and said, in essence, "Honey, we're going to win."

John "Red" Cochran, offensive backfield coach under Lombardi, says he remembers Lombardi saying in that first meeting, "I've never been a loser and I don't intend to start now." He also said that, in his view, Lombardi's arrival raised "hopeful expectations -- because things had been so bad here before he came."

From another perspective, a member of the office staff at that time, Carol Daniels, recently told me, "I think people were a little bit intimidated by him. We called him Mr. Lombardi from the start, we never called him Vince."

Lombardi, speaking for himself at his first press conference, said with supreme confidence, "You will be proud of this football team because I will be proud of it." And, of course, he was right.

Hi Lee: Could you tell us the story about Randy Duncan, the Iowa quarterback who was the No. 1 overall pick in the draft that year by the Packers. I know he went to the Canadian league, but what were the details of his decision not to play for the Packers. I wonder if he regrets his decision? - Jim (George, IA)

LR: Jim, the Packers made Randolph Hearst Duncan, Jr., the very first pick in the 1959 NFL Draft (he actually was chosen on December 2, 1958, because the NFL was attempting to beat the then forming American Football League to the personnel punch by drafting early) but Duncan opted to sign with British Columbia of the Canadian Football League, presumably because of a better contract offer. (The fact that the Packers then were en route to the worst season in their history, 1-10-1, also could have been a factor in his decision).

Duncan played for the B.C. Lions in 1959 and 1960, punctuating his '60 season with a five-touchdown pass performance in his best outing. He then signed on with the Dallas Texans of the AFL in 1961, his third and final pro season, which saw his on-field exposure limited to five rushing attempts with which he gained 42 yards, an 8.4-yard average.

I have never seen or heard of any indications from Duncan suggesting that he had -- or had not -- any regrets over his decision.

Mr. Remmel: Please settle the following discussion about Brett Favre. I know Brett has thrown 207 interceptions in his Packers career. But how many of the 207 interceptions were returned for touchdowns? This has been a major topic of discussion at Green Bay Packaging in Wausau. Look forward for your input. Thanks. -- Erv (Wausau, WI)

LR: Erv, Brett has had 17 of his 207 career regular-season Packers interceptions returned for touchdowns, three of them in each of the 1993, 1997 and 1998 seasons. He has had four seasons (1994-96 and 2002) in which he escaped having any pass returned for a score. The year-by-year breakdown: 1992 (1), 1993 (3), 1994-96 (0), 1997 (3), 1998 (3), 1999 (2), 2000 (1), 2001 (2), 2002 (0), 2003 (2).

Continuing an association with the team that is more than 55 years old, Lee Remmel was named the first official Team Historian of the Green Bay Packers in February 2004. The former *Green Bay Press-Gazette reporter and Packers public relations director, Remmel will write regular columns for as part of his new assignment.

In addition to those articles, Remmel will answer fan questions in a monthly Q&A column. To submit a question to Remmel, click here. *

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