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Remmel: Lombardi Solved Packers' West Coast 'Problem'


For the Green Bay Packers of today, this weekend's airborne excursion to California will be, essentially, what has become a routine trip to the West Coast.

But, historically, it will be something more than that.

The Green and Gold may not even be aware of it as they take to Monster Park's turf, but as an organization, they will be marking the 56th anniversary of their first-ever appearance in San Francisco.

That, for the record, would have been on Dec. 10, 1950 - exactly 56 years ago Sunday - and, frankly, a day of which the Packers would rather not be reminded.

With good reason. Their initial visit to the "City by the Bay" was hardly a success. The 49ers, hosting the Packers in Kezar Stadium, departed the premises with a 30-14 victory while closing out their first season in the National Football League.

It thus became a highly unprofitable road trip for the Packers, who had fallen to the Rams in Los Angeles a week earlier, 51-14.

It also was a precursor of things to come. For the next dozen years, the Packers would annually close out their regular-season schedule with a trip to the West Coast for back-to-back games with the Rams and the 49ers - taking on one or the other the first weekend, then practicing in California for a week at some plush "facility" before taking on the other team on the second weekend.

Unfortunately for the Packers, it was a customarily painful process, more often than not resulting in back-to-back losses - in the early years of the arrangement.

That was the case, at least, until Vincent Thomas Lombardi arrived in Green Bay in 1959 to resuscitate the Green and Gold...and essentially put an end to the persistent "problem" with the Rams and 49ers, who won an astounding 17 of 18 year-end games against Green Bay from 1950 through 1958.

In Lombardi's first year on the job, however, his Packers swept the back-to-back games, downing the Rams at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, 38-20, and following that conquest with a 36-14 victory over the 49ers in San Francisco a week later.

Proving that it was no accident, Lombardi presided over another such sweep the following year, Green Bay blanking the Niners at muddy and rain-soaked Kezar Stadium, 13-0, and then turning back the Rams in L.A., 35-21.

He did settle for a split the third time around, losing to the 49ers, 22-21, before rebounding to dispose of the Rams, 24-17, to close out the '61 season.

Lombardi then went on to sweep those season-ending "doubleheaders" in 1962 and 1963 for an overall 9-1 record before NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle took professional pity on the Packers and changed the scheduling formula to avoid such a burden falling upon any one team annually.

{sportsad300}It is safe to assume that the Rams and 49ers themselves breathed a gusty sigh of relief when Lombardi stepped down as head coach of the Packers following the 1967 season, after leading Green Bay to nine consecutive winning seasons, three consecutive NFL titles and victories in the first two Super Bowls

Lombardi especially was hard on the 49ers, escorting the Packers to 14 victories over the Golddiggers, compared to only two losses and one tie during the back-to-back modus operandi.

He also was not overly magnanimous to the Rams, who now make their home in St. Louis after originally moving from Cleveland to Los Angeles and then to Anaheim.

The one-time Fordham "Block of Granite" closed out his career against the former Angelenos with a 12-5-1 record, including a 28-7 verdict over the Rams in a Western Conference playoff at Milwaukee County Stadium in 1967 - eight days before the Packers were to forge a major pro football legend by outlasting the Dallas Cowboys in the memorable "Ice Bowl."

*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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