Fisher’s roots run deep
BY RICH PALZEWIC
Green Bay native Bob Fisher’s Packers’ roots go all the way back to the 1928 season, just nine years after the team became a reality in 1919.
It was during that ’28 season where his father, Laurence “Babe” Fisher, would climb up the trees overlooking old City Stadium to watch his beloved Packers play for free. Babe and his friends would get chased out by the cops, but they always managed get back up.
Since then Fisher has lived the dream of a youngster seeing some of the greatest games in the team’s history, moved away for over 35 years, collected hundreds of pieces of memorabilia and now is back in the area carrying on the tradition of his late father, who passed away in 2008.
“My family was in the wholesale fish business for three generations – we owned Wisconsin Fishing Company – and Curly Lambeau’s father, Marcellin Lambeau, actually built the smokehouses in our fish house,” said the 66-year old Fisher. “My dad was always a rabid fan. When I was growing up in the late 50s I was really too young to know what was going on with the team. My older sister and brother would always laugh at him for going to the games because they would always be losing. It wasn’t until the ’59 season when Lombardi came and they won their first game that year, that something clicked in me and I started following the team.”
Bob went to his first game, a preseason contest, in 1960 against the St. Louis Cardinals and then his first regular-season game later that year against the expansion Dallas Cowboys. In 1961 he became a regular at the games as a fourth grader because his family had season tickets.
“My dad got tickets to the 1961 championship the day before the game for $5 apiece,” Fisher said. “The game was at the new City Stadium and they had built these temporary bleachers for the big crowd – that’s where my friend and I had to sit. We get to our seats and all we could see was the top of the scoreboard. We maneuvered around enough so we could see the game.
“The Packers won 37-0 that day against the New York Giants and after the game there were cars driving down Main Street with parts of the goal post dragging behind their cars. It was the coolest thing to see.”
Bob also recalls watching the ’62 championship win in New York on TV and attending the 1965 Western Division championship game against the Colts in Green Bay. Both Colts’ quarterbacks Johnny Unitas and Earl Morrall were hurt that day, but it still turned out to be a memorable game.
“What I remember about that day is Bart Starr threw a pass to Bill Anderson on their first play of the game, Anderson fumbled it and the Colts’ Don Shinnick ran it in for a touchdown,” said Fisher. “On the play Starr got leveled by Steve Stonebreaker and had to leave the game with a rib injury. Zeke Bratkowski had to come in and it came down to a game-tying field goal. I was sitting in the corner of the end zone and Don Chandler’s kick went just over the top of the goal post. The Colts’ sideline was going ballistic because they didn’t think it was good. Chandler ended up kicking another field goal in overtime and the Packers won it.”
Fisher attended the ’65 championship game the next week in Green Bay (a 23-12 victory over the Cleveland Browns) as well. There had been about four inches of snow that fell the morning of the game which turned the field into a quagmire. The Packers’ defense and the sloppy field limited league MVP Jim Brown to just 50 yards rushing on 12 carries. Dating back to 1929, it was the Packers ninth NFL championship.
All the games Bob ever attended were great, but nothing topped the New Year’s Eve “Ice Bowl” in 1967 against the Cowboys when he was a sophomore at Green Bay East High School. Since it was too cold for his father to attend the game, Fisher was given Babe’s ticket, which was at the 45-line behind the Cowboys’ bench.
“I went with my uncle who was retired,” Fisher said. “That morning I had to work in the fish business and we had these giant fish freezers that were as big as a house. It was so cold out that I remember having to go into one of those freezers just to warm up.”
Bob noted that he could tell a few people from Dallas were sitting by him because they were wearing 10-gallon hats and weren’t dressed properly. Since it was New Year’s Eve, he recalls seeing a woman from Dallas wearing a blue cocktail dress.
“That woman’s face was as blue as the dress she was wearing,” laughed Fisher. “At the end of the first quarter, they were out of the there.”
To help endure the 13-below temperature that day, Fisher’s mom (Judy) had packed him a thermos of hot chocolate. At halftime he went out to drink some and dropped the thermos on the concrete floor. Later when he took a sip he noticed shards of glass were in his mouth, as the inside of the thermos had busted when it hit the floor.
“Of course the Packers pulled the game out in the end on the Starr sneak,” Fisher said. “What I remember most is after the game my uncle grabbed me and yelled, ‘three straight, three straight championships.’ His nose was running and it was frozen all over his face. To think that I was at what many consider the greatest game in NFL history is pretty cool.”
Bob wasn’t a star player at East High, but what he could do was kick a football. One of his most cherished memories was kicking two extra points at Lambeau Field in Oct. of ’68 in the annual East/West game, which was played at the iconic stadium back in those days.
After his own playing days were finished and the great Green Bay teams of the 60s faded away, Fisher went to UW-Oshkosh for two years before following his parents – who had since retired from the fish business and given up their season tickets – to Miami, Florida. He landed a job with a local radio station covering football and baseball for the University of Miami, and even got to meet legendary Notre Dame coach Era Parsigian.
After finishing up at Miami, Fisher decided he wanted to be a chiropractor, so he attended New York Chiropractic College in Long Island.
“I stayed in New York for three years, graduated and then set up my practice in Flemington, New Jersey, about an hour away,” noted Fisher. “It was kind of hard to follow the Packers. I could maybe see them once or twice a year and of course they were going through some lean times anyway.”
His uncle back in Green Bay would help him keep in touch with the team by sending the news clippings from the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
He met his wife Maggie in the early 90s and she was a sports fan as well. They became close with other Packer fans from the area and would always find a place to watch the games, whether at a sports bar or one of their houses.
“From 1992 all the way through when I retired in 2007, we’d get together and watch every game,” Fisher said. “That’s how we survived out East. The first 15 years were kind of dismal, but the last 15 years were a lot more tolerable. When it was time for Maggie and me to retire, the only logical place was back ‘home’ in Green Bay. We always vacationed in Green Bay in the summer and came back three times a year for games since we had the ‘Gold Package’ for season tickets starting in 2004.”
Bob had also been slowly collecting Packers memorabilia over the years, starting in the ‘80s. Today he estimates he has at least 500 different items relating to the team.
“Maggie and I got really serious about collecting in the 90s,” said Fisher. “We’d buy a piece here, buy a piece there or have our picture taken with one of the players. We’d see them down the road and then they’d autograph the picture. Little by little we started accumulating things. A lot of it was being at the right place at the right time and the contacts we’ve made over the years.”
Bob says his favorite players are the ones from the 60s – Starr, Paul Hornung, Jim Taylor, Bratkowski, Forest Gregg, Jerry Kramer and Dave Robinson. He’s met Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers a few times as well.
So, what is Fisher’s favorite piece of Packers’ history?
“Maggie always asks me that and I’d have to say the signed check I have of Lombardi’s from 1959,” Fisher said. “I went to a flea market in New Hope, Pennsylvania, right on the Delaware River. I saw this beautiful signed check from Lombardi. The gentleman asked me if I could figure out the other signature on the check. I said, ‘yeah, that’s Dominic Olejniczak,’ who was the president of the team (at the time the check was written) and also the former mayor of Green Bay. This guy couldn’t believe that I could recognize that signature after seeing it for a few seconds. Years later I tracked down the lady who the check was written to and talked to her. She thought maybe she didn’t cash the check, but it was cashed. I’m not sure how it got in the guy’s hands that I bought it from, but I have it now.”
Fisher’s other favorite pieces are a signed picture by both Favre and Starr, a signed Ice Bowl picture from Starr and Kramer, a signed helmet from Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji, a Gilbert Brown “Grave Digger” shovel, a signed Don Hutson picture and a helmet that Lombardi himself had his hands on at one point.
“I have this friend who is developmentally disabled who was given this helmet by an old car dealer in the city,” added Fisher. “Lombardi gave it to this car dealer guy, who then gave it to my friend. I’d say it’s from ’61 or ’62 because it has the ‘G’ on the side. My friend wanted me to have it. It’s cool to think that Lombardi touched that helmet.”
Will Fisher ever sell anything in his legendary collection?
“Nothing is for sale. It’s for my own personal self,” added Fisher. “It’s like having art work that you really enjoy. Unless there’s another ‘Great Depression’ and I need the money or something, I won’t be selling anything.”
Editor’s note: if you have a unique Packers’ fan story, have a “Fan (not just a man) Cave” or an idea on a historical feature about the team, feel free to reach out and drop Rich a note (firstname.lastname@example.org).