Listen to Lombardi; Hornung was the best

You could buy a season ticket for $2.25


John from Casablanca, Morocco

Just watched the NFL Network story on the top 10 Packers players. How did you react?

Picking the all-time greatest Packers is a subjective exercise, but my advice would be to pay close attention to the words of the people who knew best. Based on the comments about the Lombardi players, I don't think that was the case here. For starters, Vince Lombardi called Paul Hornung his biggest playmaker in Lombardi's book, "Run to Daylight," and he wrote "Paul may have been the best all-around back ever to play football," in the twin volumes, "Vince Lombardi on Football." Lombardi also called Hornung his best clutch player. So how does someone leave him off the list? Hornung doesn't have longevity on his side due to injuries and a one-year suspension, but he was a great athlete, much like Larry Bird. Unfortunately, those who didn't watch or follow Lombardi's teams can't grasp the value of a triple-threat halfback, one who could run, pass and catch. Plus, Lombardi said Hornung was a much better blocker than Jim Taylor, who like many fullbacks of his day was the featured runner. Again, Hornung's stats don't translate to today's game so the stat geeks can't comprehend his value. Also, Ron Wolf was scouting for the Oakland Raiders when they faced the Packers in Super Bowl II. As general manager, he had three former Lombardi assistants on his scouting staff that he peppered with questions about Lombardi and his players. When Wolf says Brett Favre was the greatest Packer ever, he probably has more insight into the subject than anyone. Wolf and I have talked about this many times and I sense he wrestles with the Favre-Don Hutson comparison, as I do. Wolf has watched some film, but I never saw Hutson play. I have no doubt he was a great player. I've never heard anyone say otherwise. Still, when I think about comparing Hutson to Favre, there's one stat I can't get past. In the three seasons from 1942-44, when most NFL players were away at war and talent was diluted beyond what any of us can grasp, Hutson averaged 60 catches and 12 TDs per season. In his other eight seasons, he averaged 39 catches and eight TDs.

Roger from Oshkosh, WI

When Bart Starr called timeout with 16 seconds left in the Ice Bowl, NFL Films caught someone handing him hand-warmers while he talked to Lombardi. Do you know who it was?

It was Hornung, who had retired prior to the season. Lombardi insisted Hornung stand near him on the sidelines that day. Hornung had made the key plays in so many big games for Lombardi that his mere presence apparently provided him comfort on a -16-degree day.

Gary from Plymouth, WI

What year were season tickets first offered for sale at Lambeau Field?

The first year, 1957, when it was called City Stadium. Keep in mind the NFL played a 12-game schedule and the Packers played only three games in Green Bay that year, but here were the prices for a season ticket: $14.25 (or $4.75 per game) between the goal lines; $9.90 (or $3.30 per game) in the south end zone; $6.75 (or $2.25 each) in the north end zone; and $2.25 (or 75 cents per game) in the two student sections. While the new stadium seated 32,154, the Packers were able to sell only about 24,000 season tickets. They didn't sell out the stadium on a season-ticket basis until 1961.

Mark from Parks, AZ

The Packers were kicked out of the league after playing the Staleys late in the 1921 season because the college players were recognized on the sideline. George Halas had designs for the players, so the rule was invoked to boot the Packers and, thereby, free up the players for the Staleys. Is there any truth to this twist on the story?

Mark, you weren't the only one to ask. So did Brian from Fond du Lac, and he even sent along an NFL Insider story on the subject. Contrary to that story, I don't believe George Halas discovered anything in this case. The University of Notre Dame Faculty Athletic Board uncovered the scandal. The Racine Journal-News *reported the day following the game that the Notre Dame players had played, and the *South Bend Tribune was the first to report on the incident in detail following the athletic board's investigation. Actually, I think the story about Halas' involvement originated with Larry Names' first book in his series titled: "The History of the Green Bay Packers." I respect that Names was the first to thoroughly research Packers history by looking back at old newspapers. But, in this case, his reporting, timeline and attributions don't stand up based on my research last year at the University of Notre Dame Archives, the St. Joseph County Library in South Bend, the Harold Washington Library in Chicago and the Wisconsin State Historical Society in Madison. The Notre Dame athletic board conducted its inquiry over a weekend, and the South Bend paper reported that the board's investigation uncovered evidence that three Notre Dame athletes had played for the Packers in a game in Milwaukee on Dec. 4, 1921, against an American Legion team (which was Racine's sponsor), not the Chicago Staleys, as Names wrote. Also, Notre Dame Coach Knute Rockne didn't learn of the scandal from the Chicago papers, as Names wrote; he sat in on the athletic board meetings, heard the confessions of the players and threatened retaliation against pro football if action wasn't taken. Let's be clear here. This was 95 years ago. College players participating in pro games to pick up extra cash was not uncommon. Who knows how often the Packers were guilty? But I found no evidence to support Names' conspiracy theory about Halas and the Staleys. In fact, at the same Jan. 28, 1922 meeting, where the Packers were essentially booted out, Halas was in a battle with Bill and Chic Harley for the Staleys franchise. Halas clearly had bigger things to worry about. He won, but on a split vote.

Bill from Opelousas, LA

I lived in Baton Rouge for 58 years. Both of my parents graduated from Baton Rouge High School, the same school Jimmy Taylor attended. Your article comparing Clarke Hinkle and Taylor taught me a lot about Hinkle, and I plan on trying to find out more.

Thanks for the feedback. Researching should be never ending. Since I wrote the piece on Hinkle, I came across a story written by Lee Remmel about Fritz Gavin, center on the original Packers in 1919. Here's what Gavin told Remmel in 1951: "The greatest guy I ever saw on a football field was Clarke Hinkle. They can talk about Jim Thorpe and some of the others, but (Hinkle) had everything. He was the toughest little devil I ever saw and he could do anything with a football." To show how times have changed, Gavin played with Curly Lambeau at Green Bay East High School, then with the Packers from 1919-21 before playing four years at Marquette University.

John from Appleton, WI

Having seen both Hinkle and Taylor play (I'm 87 and my father had season tickets to old City Stadium), I'd call it a draw!

John, you're a lucky man to have seen both. I saw only Taylor. Thanks for sharing, and I can't argue with someone who witnessed what I didn't.

Gerald from Madison, WI

I have been researching John "Ikey" Karel, a football star for the Wisconsin Badgers in the 1890s. In the book "Before They Were The Packers," there is a story that Karel came to Green Bay as a part-time coach in 1897. He is quoted as saying, "Some day Green Bay will be world champions." The book wasn't footnoted so I don't know the primary source. I'm taking the easy way out and asking you.

If Karel came in 1897, I'm not aware of it. He came in 1895 to coach Green Bay's first city team in its final game of the season. He arrived three days before the game, worked with the Green Bay team and then refereed the game against Fond du Lac. That first Green Bay team was a sad lot. It went 1-5 against outside competition, lost three games by 30 points or more and lost to Fond du Lac, 14-0. *The Green Bay Gazette *quoted Karel as saying there were several players on the team "who will make first-class players," but he wasn't overly complimentary so I'm suspicious of the quote. What Karel was quoted as saying at the time was "inexperienced players cannot beat such a team as the Fond du Lacs."

Tyler from Wausau, WI and New Mexico Highlands

My brothers and I were reminiscing recently about how Howie Blindauer, back in the late 1950s and '60s, would be at the Oneida Street practice field during training camp passing out a green sheet with the Packers roster. Is there anyone who still passes out that information to railbirds today?

Is this the same Tyler McCormick, who as a sophomore guard stole the ball and drove for a layup in the closing seconds of overtime to beat Sturgeon Bay in 1962? One of the memorable basketball games in De Pere High history. As for your question, the answer is yes. The Packers' guest services staff hands out rosters at camp practices. Blindauer, a local businessman, started handing out his sheet when Vince Lombardi arrived. Blindauer once said he handed out close to 20,000 rosters a year and would get mail requests for them from around the world. By the way, I stopped and walked around the football field at New Mexico Highlands this past winter on my way back from Arizona. My favorite Packers' nickname of all time is still Graveyard Garrett, tight end from Highlands who played from 1971-73.

Curt from York, PA

Been a diehard fan since the early '60s. Question: As of today, who is the oldest living ex-Packer?

I believe it's Ben Agajanian, who filled in as kicker for three games in 1961 when Hornung was summoned into the service. Agajanian is 95. Based on your question, you might be interested in the following website:

Terry from Jasper, IN

I've been a Packers shareholder since 1997. My great grandfather had a brother named Theodore "T.A." Pamperin, who was involved in civic matters in Green Bay and Oconto, and donated six acres of land along Duck Creek that today is part of Pamperin Park. I have often wondered if Uncle T.A. was one of the original 1923 shareholders?

No, he wasn't. I believe out of roughly 200 original shareholders, all but about 10 lived within the city limits of Green Bay. Even with the 1950 stock sale, out of about 1,100 Brown County shareholders, more than 91% lived or worked in Green Bay. Back then, the franchise was truly owned by people residing in the City of Green Bay.

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

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