Curly Lambeau

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Curly Lambeau
CurlyLambeauNotreDame.jpg
Lambeau during his college career at Notre Dame in 1918.
Date of birth April 9, 1898
Place of birth Green Bay, Wisconsin
Date of death June 1 1965 (aged 67)
Position(s) Head Coach
College Notre Dame
Honors NFL 1920s All-Decade Team
Green Bay Packers HOF
Pro Football HOF
Wisconsin Athletic HOF
Records Green Bay Packers
Career Wins (209)
Career Record 229-134-22
Championships
      Won
1929 NFL Championship
1930 NFL Championship
1931 NFL Championship
1936 NFL Championship
1939 NFL Championship
1944 NFL Championship
Coaching Stats Pro Football Reference
Coaching Stats DatabaseFootball
Team(s) as a coach/administrator
1919-1949
1950-1951
1952-1953
Green Bay Packers
Chicago Cardinals
Washington Redskins
Pro Football Hall of Fame, 1963

Earl Louis "Curly" Lambeau (April 9, 1898 – June 1, 1965) was a founder, a player, and the first coach of the Green Bay Packers professional football team. As a standout player from 1919-1929 he pioneered the forward pass in professional football.

As a player Lambeau threw the first official touchdown in team history in a 14-7 win over the Hammond Pros, Nov. 13, 1921, and also kicked the first field goal in team history—a drop-kick from approximately 25 yards—in a 13-3 loss to the Rock Island Independents.

Lambeau led the Packers to six world championships as head coach and is one of just five coaches in NFL history to record 200 wins (others are Don Shula, George Halas, Tom Landry and Chuck Noll). Lambeau's career coaching record with the Packers was 212-106-21 (.656), including postseason (1921-49).

After their sixth championship in 1944 Lambeau began to slip out of favor with fans and players alike as his teams never won more than six games and in 1948 and 1949 fell into losing records. His relations with players and fans came to a head when he tried to arrange a takeover of the team and it failed. He left the team after 30 years as player/coach in 1949.

He went on to coach the Chicago Cardinals (1950-51) and Washington Redskins (1952-53), but never regained his winning ways.

Contents

Founder

Lambeau had been an outstanding athlete at Green Bay East High School and after enrolling at the University of Notre Dame and making varsity as a freshman under Knute Rockne, Lambeau was back in Green Bay by in 1919 after severe tonsillitis forced him to miss the spring semester.

After recovering he began working at the Indian Packing Company, a meat-packing plant in his home town. Lambeau missed playing football, so in the summer of 1919 he helped organize a local team. Lambeau and George Calhoun, the sports editor of the Green Bay Press-Gazette, put together a group of young athletes.[1]

The 22 year old Lambeau then went to his Indian Packing Company boss and sought company sponsorship of a Green Bay 25. For its first two seasons, the team played games against other teams from small towns in Wisconsin and Michigan. In their inaugural season the team went 10-1 and outscored their opponents 565 to 12.

In 1921 Indian Packing was purchased by Acme Packing Company and the team became the Acme Packers. Lambeau appealed to the new owners to put up $50 to buy the Packers a franchise in the newly formed American Professional Football Association (later renamed the National Football League). The team did well, playing against clubs from Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois.

Not long after, poor finances and the illegal use of college players in a non-league game forced the team to be forfeited, but Lambeau bought it back at a league meeting in Canton, Ohio, for a franchise fee of $250, including $50 of his own money, in 1922.[2]

Financial problems continued but with the aid of Andrew B. Turnbull, the general manager of the Press-Gazette, a group of local businessmen were persuaded to purchase stock and turn the Packers into a nonprofit organization and launched the Green Bay Football Corporation in August 1923. The first stock sale generated $5,000 by offering 1,000 shares for $5 apiece, including a stipulation that the purchaser buy at least six season tickets. As a result the Packers came to be the only community-owned franchise in major professional sports and they remain so today as they are run by a seven-member executive committee.

Player

Lambeau's official Packers playing career ran from 1921-29. At 5-foot-10, 187-pounds, Lambeau was listed at halfback. But in those days—when the passing game was in its infancy—it was the halfback that received the snap from center, so in reality Lambeau was the Packers' first field general.

In the Packers' first official NFL game, Oct. 23, 1921, Lambeau threw both of the Packers' two forward passes in a 7-6 come-from-behind win over the Minneapolis Marines at Green Bay's Hagemeister Park. Lambeau booted the game-wining extra-point and the Packers celebrated in front of a crowd of 6,000.

With the the forward pass a novelty in the early 1920s Lambeau threw the first official touchdown in team history in a 14-7 win over the Hammond Pros, Nov. 13, 1921, when a fake kick led to a 35-yard completion to Bill DuMoe.

Lambeau was also the Packers' kicker that season and scored the first field goal in team history—a drop-kick from approximately 25 yards—in a 13-3 loss to the Rock Island Independents, Oct. 30, 1921.

For his career, Lambeau played 77 games, throwing 24 touchdown passes and rushing for eight scores. In addition, he had three touchdown receptions, six field goals and 19 extra-point kicks.[2]

Coach

Lambeau coached the Packers as an NFL team from 1921-49. As the head coach, he led the Packers to six NFL championships (1929, 1930, 1931, 1936, 1939, 1944), including a record three straight. Lambeau's regular season record as head coach of the Packers was 209-104-21 (.626 winning percentage) with a playoff record of 3-2.

In 1929, Lambeau's Packers won the first NFL Championship in team history, going 12-0-1, outscoring their opponents 198-22.

The following two seasons saw the Packers go 10-3-1 and 12-2, respectively, en route to NFL Championships in 1930 and 1931.

The Packers didn't play an official postseason game until 1936—championships were decided on overall record until the playoff system was added in 1933—when they defeated the Boston Redskins 21-6 for their fourth NFL title after a 10-1-1 regular season.

The Packers were back in the title game in 1938, but fell to the New York Giants by the score of 23-17.

In 1939, the Packers got their revenge, blanking the Giants 27-0 to win their fifth crown after a 9-2 campaign.

In 1944, the Packers won their sixth and final championship under Lambeau, defeating the Giants 14-7 following an 8-2 regular season.[2]

After that championship, the Packers' record took a turn for the worse. All but the first of Lambeau's championships had been aided by Don Hutson, considered by many to be the greatest Packers player in team history. But Hutson retired following the 1945 season.

Hutson was one of six players coached by Lambeau who would make it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Others were tackle Cal Hubbard (1929-33, 1935), halfback Johnny 'Blood' McNally (1929-33, 1935-36), fullback Clarke Hinkle (1932-41), guard Mike Michalske (1929-35, 1937) and quarterback Arnie Herber (1930-40).

In 1946 the All-American Football Conference was organized, which split the sport between the old NFL and the new league. This drastically increased the number of professional teams. As a result, good players were in high demand, and they began to command large salaries. Because of this, running the Packers became more expensive.

Also in 1946, Lambeau purchased Rockwood Lodge, creating the first self-contained training facility in professional football. The purchase was controversial among the Packers' board of directors. His purchase of the lodge and an unpopular effort to take over the non-profit organization and turn it into a for-profit company resulted in his resignation on January 31, 1950. He was replaced by Gene Ronzani.

Lambeau's tenure as head coach included some pioneering developments: implementing daily practice (late 1920s), bringing Knute Rockne's "secret weapon" of the forward pass to the pro game (1919), implementing pass patterns and flying to road games (1938).[2]

After his career with the Packers came to an end, he went on to coach the Chicago Cardinals for the 1950 season and most of the 1951 season. His record with the Cardinals was 7-15 (.318 winning percentage). After leaving the Cardinals, Lambeau went on to coach the last two years of his career with the Washington Redskins for the 1952-1953 seasons. His record in Washington was 10-13-1 (.417).

Lambeau completed his 33 year coaching career with an overall record of 229-134-22 (.595 winning percentage). He was a member of the inaugural class inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963.

Preceded by:
First coach
Green Bay Packers Head Coaches
1919–1949
Succeeded by:
Gene Ronzani
Preceded by:
Buddy Parker
Chicago Cardinals Head Coaches
1950–1951
Succeeded by:
Phil Handler
Preceded by:
Dick Todd
Washington Redskins Head Coaches
1952–1953
Succeeded by:
Joe Kuharich

Family

Lambeau married his high school sweetheart, Marguerite Van Kessel in 1919. Their only child, John was born in 1920. As the glory years of the Packers began to wane Lambeau alienated himself from players and backers and also from his wife, and on May 23, 1934, he and Van Kessel divorced.

He moved to California, bought a house and a ranch, married twice more, and divorced both times. He was married to his second wife, Sue (a former Miss California), from 1935 until their divorce in 1940; his third marriage, to Grace Nichols, lasted from 1945 to 1955.[3]

It wasn't until nearly four months after the fact that the public learned of his third marriage. Their marriage remained a secret until it was exposed in early November by gossip columnist Louella Parsons. While Lambeau returned to Green Bay to coach the Packers, his wife remained in Hollywood.[4]

On her 100th birthday his first wife, Marguerite, said that despite his reputation for living in the fast lane, or "going Hollywood," as locals put it, Lambeau always treated her and their son kindly. "I always felt very close to him," Mrs. Lambeau said. "I thought he did what he wanted to do and did it right. And I always liked him."[5]

Legacy

The Packers' stadium, Lambeau Field in Green Bay, is named after Curly Lambeau. The venue opened in 1957, called the new "City Stadium" for its first eight years. It was renamed "Lambeau Field" in September 1965, three months after Lambeau's death in June. Only two other pro sports stadiums in North America have been in use longer than Lambeau Field.

In 2003 a bronze statue of Curly Lambeau was unveiled in the main plaza outside the Lambeau Field Atrium.

In 2003 research lead to the discovery of Curly Lambeau's birthplace home at 615 North Irwin Avenue. Further research proved that the home was not only the birthplace home of Curly Lambeau, but was also one of the oldest houses in Green Bay still standing on its original foundation with its original exterior walls. The home has now become one of Green Bay's Historical Landmarks.[6]

Notes

  1. Birth of a Team and a Legend Packers.com. Retrieved August 6, 2008.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Earl L. (Curly) Lambeau - Class of 1963 Packers.com. Retrieved August 6, 2008.
  3. Earl Lambeau Novelguide.com. Retrieved August 6, 2008.
  4. Scandal Sheet Jsonline.com. Retrieved August 6, 2008.
  5. Marguerite Lambeau turns 100 Archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com. Retrieved August 6, 2008.
  6. Lambeau House Lambeauhouse.com. Retrieved August 6, 2008.

References

Further Reading

  • Names, Larry D. 1987. The History of the Green Bay Packers, Book I: The Lambeau Years, Part One. Wautoma, WI: Angel Press of WI. ISBN 093999500X
  • ———. 1989. The history of the Green Bay Packers, book II: the Lambeau years, part two. Wautoma, WI: Angel Press of WI. ISBN 0939995018
  • ———. 1990. The history of the Green Bay Packers, book III: the Lambeau years, part three. Wautoma, WI: Angel Press of WI. ISBN 0939995026
  • Stotts, Stuart. 2007. Curly Lambeau: Building the Green Bay Packers. Badger biographies. Madison, WI: Wisconsin Historical Society Press. ISBN 9780870203893
  • Zimmerman, David. 2003. Lambeau: The Man Behind the Mystique. Hales Corners, WI: Eagle Books. ISBN 188298708X

External links

All Links Retrieved August 6, 2008.

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