'46 Packers-Cardinals Result Marred Historic Day; Williams Shined in '67 Meeting
The Arizona Cardinals, due to confront the Packers in Lambeau Field Sunday, are in what might be termed their fourth "context."
Possessors of the oldest continuous operation in professional football - one dating to 1899 - they began their existence as the Chicago Cardinals on the South Side of the Windy City in 1920, remaining there through the 1959 season.
They next became the St. Louis Cardinals, it may be recalled, moving to the Missouri metropolis in 1960 and holding forth in Stan Musial's favorite playground through 1987.
They subsequently headed west and assumed a new "identity" as the Phoenix Cardinals in 1988, then broadened their horizons in 1994, becoming the current Arizona Cardinals.
Although the Packers haven't seen much of the Big Red in recent years (they have played each other only five times since the Cardinals moved to Phoenix in '88), they have been involved in some historical happenings along the way.
Fittingly, they played to a 3-3 tie in their very first meeting - in a game played at Chicago in 1921 - the year after the NFL formally launched operations as the American Professional Football Association (the league played games in '20 but no official standings were kept).
A quarter-century later, we find the Cardinals literally raining on the Packers' parade during a misty November Sunday afternoon in 1946 at "old" City Stadium - the day the Green and Gold introduced their "All-Time 25-Year Team," chosen by vote of Packers fans.
The Big Red, showing little charity for their hosts, rode their "dream backfield" of quarterback Paul Christman, halfbacks Charlie Trippi and Marshall "Biggie" Goldberg and fullback Marlin "Pat" Harder to a 24-6 victory before a gathering of 16,150.
It thus was a dismal afternoon for the very first "all-time" Packers team ever chosen, representing the team's first 25 years in the NFL and boasting such greats as Don Hutson, who had retired just a year earlier, and Johnny (Blood) McNally.
Saluted during halftime ceremonies, they were joined on the field by such other storied stalwarts as Arnie Herber, Jug Earp, Verne Lewellen, Lavvie Dilweg, Cub Buck, Charlie Brock, Clarke Hinkle and Charles "Buckets" Goldenberg.
A score of years later, the Cardinals were unwitting collaborators in the unveiling of Travis Williams, the memorable "Road Runner," as he launched the greatest single season of kickoff return brilliance in NFL history.
It was a Monday night in October of 1967 at Busch Memorial Stadium in St. Louis (three years prior to the advent of Monday Night Football), and the Big Red was out front, 23-17, early in the fourth quarter.
The Cardinals' Jim Bakken, who had just made an 8-yard field goal, was preparing to kick off and Williams, a rookie, was back deep to receive.
A newcomer to his assignment, largely because of a preseason fumbling problem, Williams had returned two previous Bakken kickoffs 30 and 28 yards.
Gathering in the football as it arrived, Williams proceeded to streak 93 yards to a touchdown, thus forging a 23-all tie. It was a deadlock shortly dissolved by Don Chandler's conversion, putting the Packers up by what became a deciding point.
Bakken subsequently missed a 39-yard field goal attempt for the rallying Cardinals, whereupon Packers quarterback Bart Starrr engineered an 80-yard drive, capped by a 5-yard scoring strike to Boyd Dowler.
Chandler converted and the Packers were on their way to a 31-23 victory - and the NFL's Central Division championship.
And the wing-footed Williams was on his way to the record book.
The Road Runner returned 12 more kickoffs over the seven remaining games of the '67 regular season, three of them for touchdowns, to close out the year with an imposing 41.06-yard average for 18 runbacks, which remains an all-time NFL record.
It was to be another 15 years before the Packers were to have what has become their signature game against the Big Red.
It came in the Super Bowl Tournament which followed the strike-shortened 1982 season.
The Packers drew the Cardinals as their first opponents and thus found themselves hosting a playoff game for the first time since the '67 "Ice Bowl."
They immediately set out to make it a day to remember for the faithful, halting a Cardinals drive at the Green Bay 1-yard line and proceeding to score a franchise-record 41 points and win going away, 41-16.
*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 Packers.com 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.*