Happy birthday, Green Bay Packers!
The Green Bay Packers get to celebrate their 95th birthday on Monday, but the facts that surround the birth of the NFL's most storied franchise are actually a bit of a mystery.
One thing we do know is, as Packers Team Historian Cliff Christl told me, "the first meeting was held on August 11, 1919, and it was held at the old Green Bay Press-Gazette building on Cherry Street (in Green Bay)."
The main participants of the meeting were Curly Lambeau, a dropout from Notre Dame who was born in Green Bay and had recently suffered tonsilitis, and the Green Bay Press-Gazette's George Calhoun. Other football players certainly came for the organizational discussion.
"Nobody really knows what happened at that meeting. There was no announcement beforehand in the Press-Gazette."
However, the genesis of a town football team in Green Bay, and town teams across the state, came decades beforehand.
"Teams in almost every little burgh," said Christl. "Racine, around that time, had three teams, for example. Anyplace they played football, they had some form of city team. Green Bay had one going back to about 1895."
It may not have even been Lambeau who started the idea of getting the Packers going in 1919.
"Val Schneider was the sports columnist for the Green Bay Press-Gazette at the time," explained Christl. "Starting in April, he talked about creating the best city football team was in the works. I think a lot of preliminary work had been done well before that."
How Lambeau and Calhoun got involved may have had to do with either bumping into each other on the street...or over a beer.
"The story that has been passed down for generations, was that it started with a street corner conversation. John Torinus, who was a member of the Packers' executive committee, wrote in a book that they met over a glass of beer. Was there likely a street corner conversation? Likely. That's how people communicated back then. Not everybody even had a telephone at that point."
Then came that meeting on August 11th...
...and another meeting.
"By the second meeting, they had a sponsor. They knew where they were going to play their games (Green Bay's Hagmeister Park). Curly Lambeau was named the captain. Calhoun was named the manager. Things moved quickly from there."
They moved quickly on the field to winning, too. Their first game was September 14, against a team that wasn't so prepared to face them.
"In many cases, the Packers were playing teams that were organized within days of the game," Christl recalled.
"They played several teams that year which played one game, maybe two games at most. Record books showed the Packers played the Menomonee North End in their first game. Both the Menomonee and Marinette papers say it was a neighborhood team. Who knows who was on that team? A lot of them were just makeshift teams, a group of guys in the neighborhood who got up a football team, came down and played the Packers."
They beat North End, 53-0, and won other games by scores like 76-6, 85-0 and 87-0. They lost their final contest to the Beloit Fairies, 6-0. Two years later, they joined the NFL.
They're not winning 87-0 anymore, but 13 world titles later, the dominance of Curly Lambeau's first Packers team still continues.