It was Thanksgiving Day in 1962, and my father (may he rest in peace) and I were bundled up in three layers of clothes as we sat in the cold and blustery bleachers at Detroit’s old Tiger Stadium watching our beloved Lions host the undefeated Green Bay Packers.
The Packers were the gods of pro football in 1962, and legendary coach Vince Lombardi was building a dynasty. The Packers won the NFL championship in 1961, the first of five under Lombardi. The Lions finished second to the Packers in the Western Division for three straight years, 1960-62.
By 1962, the Packers-Lions rivalry was as fierce as any. The rivalry was fueled partly by the Thanksgiving matchup. The Packers were the opponent for 13 straight years, from 1951-63. After that, the NFL began rotating opponents.
Green Bay entered the game with a perfect 10-0 record, while Detroit came in with an 8-2 ledger and plenty of incentive to hand Green Bay its first loss.
The Packers had already defeated the Lions 9-7 earlier that that season when cornerback Herb Adderley intercepted an ill-advised throw from Detroit signal-caller Milt Plum late in the fourth quarter.
Detroit featured a defensive line of Roger Brown, Alex Karras, Darris McCord and Sam Williams, who together formed the league’s original Fearsome Foursome.
What I remember most about that afternoon 49 years ago (other than my father drinking lots hot coffee and me sipping hot chocolate through a thermos bottle that we were allowed to take into the stadium) was 52,000 fans yelling “get ’em” every time Packers’ Hall of Fame quarterback Bart Starr went back to throw.
And get ’em they did, as the quartet showed an overpowering display of defensive dominance that day. Starr was sacked an incredible 11 times. The charge was led by Brown, who was in on seven of the 11 muggings. Brown also sacked Starr in the end zone for a safety.
The Lions more than atoned for the loss to the Packers earlier in the season with a 26-14 victory. It would be Green Bay’s lone setback that season, as the club finished with a 13-1 record en route to its second straight NFL title.
I screamed until I was hoarse that Thanksgiving Day, and had one of the best family gatherings ever that afternoon.
Here’s wishing all the Rx.com readers a very memorable Thanksgiving. Have some turkey, watch some football and above all, enjoy your family. Though they won’t be around forever, your memories of them will.
I will be thinking of my father Thursday, and I am sure he will be watching from a place a little higher than those Tiger Stadium bleachers. Hopefully, the Lions will give us a repeat performance of that Thanksgiving Day game 49 years ago.