Peterson: Not hard to see U.P., Packers tie

After watching a show on NMU-TV the other night about the early days of the Green Bay Packers, I began to understand how close Upper Peninsula fans are to the Pack.

After all, the Packers of the early 1920 used to play semi-pro teams in the U.P. back in those days.

In fact, they probably even “borrowed” some of the more notable players to play with them. More on that later.

The show, “Linked to Legends” will be shown again on Thursday on Channel 13.

And if you ever wondered, like I often did, why there were so many Green Bay rooters up here, this is a must to see.

I was told at a young age by my late father that being from Michigan automatically made you a booster of the Detroit Tigers, Red Wings, Pistons and yes, the Lions.

Never mind that residents in the U.P. seldom saw the Lions on television. The Green Bay games were faithfully shown by CBS in Marquette for thirty straight years.

It probably didn’t hurt that the Packers under Vince Lombardi were winning most of the time back then. They won the first two Super Bowls ever played.

And players like Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Ray Nitschke, Willie Wood and Herb Adderley were in starring roles.

Those were names I came to know very well, thanks to all-time Packer homer announcer Tony Canadeo, and his partner Ray Scott.

Back to the U.P. connection, the first road game ever played by the Packers was against an Ishpeming-Negaunee team.

Town teams were popular back in the day and often played Green Bay.

Stambaugh, Iron River, Ironwood featured teams, and I believe that Houghton, Hancock and Calumet also fielded squads.

So it wasn’t uncommon for guys putting in a tough shift in the mills and copper mines to don a football uniform after work.

That kind of dedication can lead to long-standing fans of the sport.

OJ Larson and Moose Krause were former Calumet High and Notre Dame products who were recruited to play in Green Bay under assumed names.

It wouldn’t surprise me if famed Fighting Irish All-American George Gipp also wasn’t involved in that practice, although it’s never been proven.

The late Wally Savela of Tapiola was one of the most avid Packer fans I ever knew. I used to ask him why he supported the Green and Gold, instead of the Lions.

“Green Bay is just four hours down the road. I’ve been following them for as long as I can remember.” was his answer.

I guess that’s as good an explanation as you’ll find.


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