April 9, 1898|
Green Bay, Wisconsin
|Died:||June 1, 1965
Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin
|High school:||Green Bay (WI) East|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Head coaching record|
|Regular season:||226–132–22 (.624)|
|Player stats at PFR|
|Coaching stats at PFR|
Earl Louis "Curly" Lambeau (April 9, 1898 – June 1, 1965) was a professional American football player and coach in the National Football League (NFL). Lambeau was a founder, player, and first coach of the Green Bay Packers professional football team. He shares the distinction with rival George Halas of the Chicago Bears of coaching his team to the most NFL championships, with six. He was an inaugural inductee to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963.
Lambeau was a standout multi-sport athlete at Green Bay East High School, and captain of its football team as a senior, graduating in 1917. He attended University of Notre Dame in 1918 and played for legendary coach Knute Rockne, making the Irish's varsity squad, but a severe case of tonsillitis forced him to miss the Spring semester.
Founding the Packers
After returning to Green Bay, Lambeau went to work as a shipping clerk at the Indian Packing Company. Lambeau and George Whitney Calhoun founded the Green Bay Packers on August 11, 1919, after the packing company put up $500 for uniforms. That fall, the founders secured Willard "Big Bill" Ryan, former coach of Green Bay West High School, to coach the team. The team's name reportedly was offered to Curly by his girlfriend Agnes Aylward after a pickup game; Curly had wanted to call the team "The Green Bay Indians" to respect Indian Packing's purchase of uniforms for the team; so Agnes simply blurted, "Well, for heaven's sake, Curly, why don't you just call them the Green Bay Packers!" The team's naming rights were sold to the Acme Packing Company, and the team remained Packers.
The Packers initially played teams from Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula. However, the success of the team in 1919-20 quickly led to its joining of the American Professional Football Association (now called the National Football League) in 1921. During that season the team was owned by the Acme Packing Company and John and Emmet Clair of Chicago.
Green Bay Packers
Following Willard Ryan's initial year with the Packers, Lambeau was the head coach of the Packers from 1920 to 1949, 1921 and after in the NFL. For the better part of that time, he had almost complete control over the team's day-to-day operations.
Lambeau was a player-captain at first. Playing halfback in the then-popular single wing offensive formation, he was both the primary runner and passer. Lambeau threw 24 touchdown passes, rushed for eight touchdowns, and caught three touchdowns in 77 games. Lambeau was the first Packer to throw a pass, throw a touchdown pass, and make a field goal in Green Bay Packer franchise history. He won his only National Football League championship as a player-coach in 1929, thereafter coaching only. In 1921, he was the team's kicker. He also kicked 1 field goal each in 1922, 1924, and 1925.
Before joining the NFL, the Packers achieved an overall 19–2–1 record in 1919 and 1920. Under Lambeau in the NFL, the Packers won six championships (1929, 1930, 1931, 1936, 1939, 1944). He compiled an NFL regular-season record of 209–104–21 (.657) with a playoff record of 3–2, 212–106–21 (.656) overall. Lambeau is still far and away the winningest coach in Packers history; his 209 wins are nearly twice as many of runner-up Mike McCarthy, who is the current coach of the team. His 104 losses will likely never be matched as well.
The Packers' most successful period came in the 1930s, thanks to the addition of receiver Don Hutson, one of the best receivers in the history of the NFL. Lambeau and Hutson pioneered the passing game, which allowed the Packers to dominate their competitors throughout the 1930s.
End of the Lambeau era in Green Bay
In 1946, Lambeau purchased Rockwood Lodge, a former Norbertine retreat, creating the first self-contained training facility in professional football. The purchase was controversial among the Packers' board of directors, many of whom balked at the $32,000 purchase price and $8,000 spent on renovations. Two of the directors nearly resigned. Lambeau's players grew to hate the facility as well, partly because they were severely battered by the brick-hard limestone under the fields.
In addition, the Packers had begun noticeably slipping on the field after Hutson's retirement in 1945. Still, the Packers remained competitive until 1948, when they suffered their first losing season since 1933, and only the second losing season in franchise history. The bottom fell out in 1949, when the Packers won only two games—at the time, their worst season ever.
The Packers were also suffering financially, mainly due to the Rockwood Lodge purchase. Early in the 1949 season, Lambeau largely turned over control of the team to his assistants to devote his attention to the team's financial situation. Even reducing the payroll and his own salary were not enough to stanch the bleeding. By the end of the season, the Packers were on what seemed to be an irreversible slide toward bankruptcy. Desperate for cash, Lambeau found investors willing to pump money into the team if it abolished its then-unique public ownership structure. This proposal was considered rank heresy in Green Bay, and led to rumors that the NFL was pressuring Lambeau to move the team. Team officials responded by offering him a revised contract that stripped him of nearly all control over non-football matters. Lambeau rejected this offer almost out of hand. For all intents and purposes, this was the end of his 31-year tenure at the helm of the team he founded. However, he didn't formally resign until February 1, 1950, seven days after his beloved Rockwood Lodge burned down in a fire that remains unsolved to this day. The insurance money relieved the Packers' financial woes at one stroke, and ensured they would stay in Green Bay.
After Green Bay
Lambeau coached the Chicago Cardinals in 1950 and 1951 and the Washington Redskins in 1952 and 1953 but was nowhere near as successful as he had been in Green Bay, winning only 12 games total in these four seasons. In August 1954, Lambeau got into a heated argument with Redskins owner George Preston Marshall in the lobby of Sacramento's Senator Hotel and was promptly fired.
Lambeau completed his 33-year NFL coaching career with an official overall record of 229–134–22 (.623).
Lambeau was married three times: first to Marguerite Van Kessel (1899–1901) from 1919 to 1934, ending in divorce with one son. His second wife, Susan Johnson, was a former Miss California, and they were married from 1935 to 1940. He married Grace Garland in 1945 and was divorced in 1955.
Lambeau, the man who never lived in the past, died on June 1, 1965, in Sturgeon Bay from a sudden heart attack. While waiting for his girlfriend, Mary Jane Van Duyse, who was half his age, to get ready for a date, he had stepped out of his new red Cadillac convertible and helped her father cut the grass and collapsed. Mary Jane was the Green Bay Packers Champion Majorette, and was a Packer Golden Girl. He died at age 67 of a heart attack in Wisconsin, while mowing the lawn at his girlfriend's residence in Sturgeon Bay in June 1965.
The Packers' home stadium, Lambeau Field, was named after him. The venue opened in 1957 as the second City Stadium, and was informally called "New" City Stadium for its first eight years. It was renamed in August 1965, two months after Lambeau's death. The Packers then won three consecutive league titles, which has yet to be repeated.
Erected after the stadium's 2003 renovation, a 14-foot (4.3 m) statue of Lambeau greets visitors.
Lambeau Street, in Green Bay's Packerland Industrial Park, is also named in his honor.
Lambeau was elected to the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame in 1961.
- List of National Football League head coaches with 50 wins
- List of professional gridiron football coaches with 200 wins
- "Hall of Famers: Earl L. (Curly) Lambeau — Class of 1963". Retrieved 2017-05-10.
- "The story that was wrong on every count: Curly Lambeau's flirtation with the University of Wisconsin". Retrieved 2017-05-10.
- The Legend of Lambeau Field DVD
- Fleming, David (September 19, 2013). "Blaze of Glory". ESPN The Magazine. Retrieved March 21, 2014.
- "Curly Lambeau quits to coach the Cardinals". Milwaukee Journal. February 1, 1950. p. 1, part 1.
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- "Lambeau fired as Skins coach". Daytona Beach Morning Journal. Associated Press. August 1954. p. 6.
- "Lambeau dismissed as Redskins coach". Milwaukee Journal. Associated Press. August 23, 1954. p. 9, part 2.
- Don Bosley (March 5, 2000). "Sacramento's Big 10: This Summer's U.S. Olympic Track And Field Trials Figures To Make Major News, But The City's History Is Filled With Momentous Sports Happenings. Here Is A List Of The Ones Our Panel Thought Mattered Most..". Sacramento Bee. p. C1.
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- "Lambeau, Packer founder, dies; led club to 6 pro league titles". Milwaukee Journal. June 2, 1965. p. 19.
- "Crowd of 32,132 fills Green Bay's new City Stadium, sees Packers upset Bears". Milwaukee Journal. September 30, 1957. p. 7-part 2.
- "Packer board backs Lambeau Field idea". Milwaukee Journal. UPI. August 3, 1965. p. 18-part 2.
- "'Lambeau Field' voted by council". Milwaukee Sentinel. Associated Press. August 5, 1965. p. 3-part 2.
- "Green Bay Packers Coaches - Curly Lambeau". Packers.com. Archived from the original on 2010-12-05. Retrieved 2008-03-22.
- "Green Bay Packers History - Birth of a Team and a Legend". Packers.com. Retrieved 2008-03-22.
- "Member - Pro Football Hall of Fame - Curly Lambeau". Profootballhof.com. Retrieved 2008-03-22.