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Don Hutson

“The Alabama Antelope”

Many Packer fans know that Don Hutson barely escaped the claws of the Brooklyn Dodgers back in 1935 when his disputed contract was awarded to Green Bay by league president Joe Carr.  What many fans may not know is the incredible performance Hutson put on in his first two games against the arch-rival Chicago Bears.

September 22, 1935  /  City Stadium, Green Bay
PACKERS  7    BEARS  0  

Before this game, a local fan, Emmett Platten, bought radio time to comment about the Packers.  His thoughts about the rookie Don Hutson were heard in the locker room – and by Hutson – before the game. “What’s Lambeau thinking of to sign a little guy like that?  What’s he thinking of starting him today?  Those Bears will kill him.  Let’s get some size in there.”* he cried on the radio.  The comments fired up the Packers and Don Hutson.  Little did Platten know that Don Hutson’s first play from scrimmage as a rookie would change the NFL forever.  

Curly Lambeau played his new rookie, Don Hutson, very little in the season’s opener against the Chicago Cardinals.  He wanted to keep Hutson under wraps, so Chicago Bears coach George “Papa Bear” Halas wouldn’t know about him.  On the game’s first play from scrimmage, Packer quarterback Arnie Herber uncorked a long pass from his four-yard line that Hutson caught in full stride as he crossed midfield.  Fans rose to watch this high, arcing pass land in Hutson’s arms, and they cheered wildly as he raced untouched for an 83-yard touchdown!  

Those were the only points of the game.   The Packer defense kept the Bears out of the end zone despite them getting inside the Packer 35-yard line four times.  The Packers protected that 7-0 lead “through 59 minutes of bruising football.”**

October 27, 1935  /  Wrigley Field, Chicago      
PACKERS  17    BEARS  14

After the Bears were shocked by Hutson’s catch in September, they were determined not to let it happen again.  While September’s game had a fantastic beginning, this one had a fantastic finish!  

With Green Bay leading 3-0 in the third quarter, the Bears began their comeback.  They took the lead on a fantastic catch by Gene Ronzani (future Packer head coach) that went for a 44-yard touchdown.  Chicago’s big running back, Johnny Sisk, then galloped 55 yards down the sideline for six to put the Bears in front 14-3.  With Green Bay trailing 14-3 late in the game,  Packer fans began to leave Wrigley in droves.  The late sportswriter and Packer historian Lee Remmel remembered it well.  “I was eleven years old living in Shawno, Wisconsin, and I listened to the game on radio.  Many people had left Wrigley Field to go to the railroad station to catch the “milk train” back to Green Bay. They didn’t even know until they got back that the Packers had won the game.”#

With two and a half minutes remaining in the game, quarterback Arnie Herber and Don Hutson teamed up to lift the Packers to victory.  Herber threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Hutson went 69-yards and dodged six would-be-tacklers to cut the deficit to 14-10.  On Chicago’s next series, Buckets Goldenberg broke through the defense and hit quarterback Bernie Masterson who fumbled.  Ernie Smith recovered for the Packers on the Bears’ 13-yard line.  Five plays later, with 10 seconds left, Herber threw four yards to Hutson for the win!   When Packer fans found out about their team’s stunning comeback, 3,000 came to the train station at 1:00 a.m. Monday morning to welcome their heroes home!

*  Packers of the Past, Milwaukee Journal, Kuechle, p. 5 

**  packershistory.net/1935Packers 
#  Mudbaths and Bloodbaths , D’Amato & Christl, p. 144