Green and Gold Memories
Berghaus is back to Packers
By Bob Berghaus
Special to packerlqnd Titletown USA
Hello, Wisconsin, it’s good to be back in Packers country.
Well, not physically, although my heart never really left when I departed the Badger State for North Carolina 14 years ago. But it’s good to have my byline back in another Wisconsin publication. I appreciate the folks at Packerland Titletown USA for taking a chance on me as a regular correspondent.
Some of you may remember my days as a newspaperman, first with the Milwaukee Journal and Journal Sentinel as a reporter and later for five years as sports editor of the Green Bay Press-Gazette before leaving for the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina in the summer of 2003 for another newspaper job.
I covered a variety of sports in Milwaukee until becoming part of the Packers beat in the mid-1990s. The majority of my time in Green Bay was spent covering the football team that has been the pride and joy of Wisconsin for almost 100 years.
I’ve also written two books, The First America’s Team, the 1962 Green Bay Packers, and Black and Blue: A Smash-mouth History of the NFL’s Roughest Division.
Writing those books took me back in time, to when I first became a fan of the Packers in the early 1960s. Vince Lombardi was the coach and his players included many future Hall of Famers — Paul Hornung, Bart Starr, Willie Davis, Forrest Gregg, Herb Adderley and Willie Wood, to name a few. Sundays meant sitting on our living room floor with bowls of popcorn and chips and watching the Packers roll over opponent after opponent.
When the game was over my brother and I would go outside and find some of the other boys in the neighborhood, go to a nearby school and play a game of tackle. If nobody was around we’d play against each other, along with our own commentary. Since I was the big brother I was always the Packers.
“Starr fakes the handoff to Taylor and throws a bomb to Dowler for another touchdown … ”
My first Packers game in person was as a 10-year-old during the summer of 1964 when they played the Bears in the annual Shrine game at Milwaukee’s County Stadium. It was an exhibition, but those were the days when the starters played most of the game. Hornung – back after serving a one-year suspension for gambling – scored three touchdowns and kicked all the extra points in a 21-7 Packers win.
My enduring memories of those teams are from 1965 through ’67 when the Packers won three straight NFL titles and the first two Super Bowls.
As a reporter, I was in New Orleans on Jan. 26, 1997 when the team that Ron Wolf put together beat the New England Patriots 35-21 and brought the Lombardi Trophy back to Green Bay for the first time in 29 seasons. When people ask me to recall that game it’s not Brett Favre’s two touchdown passes or Desmond Howard’s electrifying kickoff return that stands out. No, it was seeing former Packers guard Fuzzy Thurston from those great Lombardi teams look down at the field with tears in his eyes when he knew the Pack was going to win the game.
Those type of moments resonate with me more than wins and losses and memorable plays.
Please allow me to share a few more.
Oct. 17, 1983: The day is memorable for two reasons: it was my first time at Lambeau Field and I covered one of the more exciting games in the history of Monday night football.
The Packers and Washington Redskins scored early and often in a contest that seemed more appropriate for Arena League football.
Packers quarterback Lynn Dickey (387 yards, three touchdown passes) went pass for pass with future Hall of Famer Joe Theismann (398 yards, two TD passes) in a game that had Packer fans screaming from the opening kickoff to the final frantic seconds.
I was covering it for the Milwaukee Journal, and also had a freelance assignment for the Washington Post. In those days, most reporters went down to the field and watched the final minutes from behind one of the end zones. Since I was covering the Redskins locker room, I was on the south end of the field when Washington’s Mark Moseley lined up for a potential game-winning kick with his team trailing 48-47 with seconds remaining.
The 39-yard attempt was more like a chip shot for the usually dependable Moseley. This time, though, the ball drifted just wide and the Green Bay fans let out a roar that could be heard in Sheboygan.
“I wish I could have been in the stands watching,” Dickey said. “Everything you could want in a football game happened.”
Oct. 5, 1998: Another Monday night game, this one was the national coming out party for Randy Moss, then a rookie receiver for the Minnesota Vikings.
Moss caught five passes for 190 yards and scored twice as Minnesota jumped out to a 27-point lead and held on for a 37-24 win as the Packers lost at Lambeau for the first time since the 1995 season.
The Packers were heavy favorites and most writers predicted them to win. Me? I went with the Vikings and was glad for it because it gave me a moment to remember.
I was in the Minnesota locker room following the game and the Vikings’ John Randle was taunting the Minnesota media for picking against his team. All of a sudden, he looked at me and said, “Hey, you’re the Packer dude, I ain’t talking to those other guys, but I’ll talk to you.”
My prediction had appeared in “Packers Plus,” a weekly publication published by the Journal Sentinel. I asked Randle how he saw my pick.
“Man, I read everything,” he said. “You’ve got to have some pair to pick against those guys in this place.”
Winter of 2010: Writing two books enabled me to talk to players I watched on a little black and white TV so many years ago.
My book on the 1962 Packers was a fun trip back in time when Lombardi’s team was the talk of football. A couple of chapters in that book were on the games between Green Bay and the Detroit Lions,
Both teams started 3-0 and had breezed through their respective schedules. The Lions defense kept the Packers out of the end zone the first time they played in Lambeau Field, in October, but three field goals by Hornung enabled the Pack to escape with a 9-7 win.
When the teams met in rematch in Detroit on Thanksgiving, the Packers were 10-0. There was plenty of talk about the possibility of Lombardi’s team finishing 14-0. The Lions had other ideas and in a nationally televised game, jumped out to a 23-0 halftime lead before finishing with a 26-14 win.
The Packers went on to win the NFL title and the Lions finished with an 11-3 record, losing three games by a total of eight points.
One of my favorite interviews about those memorable battles was with Joe Schmidt, the Hall of Fame linebacker on that Lions team. He and his teammates firmly believed they were better than the Packers that year. Time, though, made him appreciate his rival across Lake Michigan.
“They have to be considered one of the best of that era, certainly,” Schmidt told me. “I was lucky to play during that time, lucky to play against such good football players, and I always felt blessed that, as a young man, I had the opportunity to play when I did.
“After all these years, those Green Bay guys, I have a lot of admiration for them. Vince (Lombardi) was always very, very kind to me, so as a result, I have a little soft spot in my heart for those guys.”