Instant Replay: The Green Bay Diary of Jerry Kramer

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9780941372053: Instant Replay: The Green Bay Diary of Jerry Kramer

In 1967, when Jerry Kramer was a thirty-one-year-old Green Bay Packers offensive lineman, in his tenth year with the team, he decided to keep a diary of the season. “Perhaps, by setting down my daily thoughts and observations,” he wrote, “I’ll be able to understand precisely what it is that draws me back to professional football.” Working with the renowned journalist Dick Schaap, Kramer recorded his day-to-day experiences as a player with perception, honesty, humor, and startling sensitivity. Little did Kramer know that the 1967 season would be one of the most remarkable in the history of pro football, culminating with the legendary championship game against Dallas now known as the “Ice Bowl,” in which Kramer would play a central role. Nor could he have anticipated that his diary would evolve into a book titled Instant Replay, first published in 1968, that would become a multimillion-copy bestseller and be celebrated by reviewers everywhere, including the Washington Post’s Jonathan Yardley, who calls it “to this day, the best inside account of pro football, indeed the best book ever written about that sport and that league.”

This groundbreaking look inside the world of professional football is one of the first books ever to take readers into the locker room and reveal the inner workings of a professional sports franchise. From training camp, through the historic Ice Bowl, then into the locker room of Super Bowl II, Kramer provides a captivating player’s perspective on pro football when the game was all blood, grit, and tears. He also offers a rare and insightful view of the team’s storied leader, Coach Vince Lombardi.
 
Bringing the book back into print for the first time in more than a decade, this new edition of Instant Replay retains the classic look of the original and includes a foreword by Jonathan Yardley and additional rarely seen photos from the celebrated “Lombardi era.” As vivid and engaging as it was when it was first published, Instant Replay is an irreplaceable reminder of the glory days of pro football.

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About the Author:

jerry kramer was a right guard for the Green Bay Packers from 1958 to 1968. During his time with the team, the Packers won five National Championships and Super Bowls I and II. He was inducted into the Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame in 1977, and his jersey has been retired. He lives in Boise, Idaho.

dick schaap (1934–2002), a sportswriter, broadcaster, and author or coauthor of thirty-three books, reported for NBC Nightly News, the Today show, ABC World News Tonight, 20/20, and ESPN and was the recipient of five Emmy Awards.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

1
PRELIMINARY SKIRMISHES

FEBRUARY 10

I drove downtown to the Packer offices today to pick up my mail, mostly fan mail about our victory in the first Super Bowl game, and as I came out of the building Coach Lombardi came in. I waved to him cheerfully--I have nothing against him during the off-season--and I said, "Hi, Coach."

Vince Lombardi is a short, stout man, a stump. He looked up at me and he started to speak and his jaws moved, but no words came out. He hung his head. My first thought--from force of habit, I guess--was I've done something wrong, I'm in trouble, he's mad at me. I just stood there and Lombardi started to speak again and again he opened his mouth and still he didn't say anything. I could see he was upset, really shaken.

"What is it, Coach?" I said. "What's the matter?"

Finally, he managed to say, "I had to put Paul--" He was almost stuttering. "I had to put Paul on that list," he said, "and they took him."

I didn't know what to say. I couldn't say anything. Vince had put Paul Hornung on the list of Packers eligible to be selected by the Saints, the new expansion team in New Orleans, and the Saints had taken him. Paul Hornung had been my teammate ever since I came to Green Bay in 1958, and he had been Vince's prize pupil ever since Vince came to Green Bay in 1959, and it may sound funny but I loved Paul and Vince loved Paul and everybody on the Packers loved Paul. From the stands, or on television, Paul may have looked cocky, with his goat shoulders and his blond hair and his strut, but to the people who knew him he was a beautiful guy.

I stood there, not saying anything, and Lombardi looked at me again and lowered his head and started to walk away. He took about four steps and then he turned around and said, "This is a helluva business sometimes, isn't it?"

Then he put his head down again and walked into his office.

I got to thinking about it later, and the man is a very emotional man. He is spurred to anger or to tears almost equally easily. He gets misty-eyed and he actually cries at times, and no one thinks less of him for crying. He's such a man.
JUNE 15

Practice starts a month from today, and I'm dreading it. I don't want to work that hard again. I don't want to take all that punishment again. I really don't know why I'm going to do it.

\I must get some enjoyment out of the game, though I can't say what it is. It isn't the body contact. Body contact may be fun for the defensive players, the ones who get to make the tackles, but body contact gives me only cuts and contusions, bruises and abrasions. I suppose I enjoy doing something well. I enjoy springing a back loose, making a good trap block, a good solid trap block, cutting down my man the way I'm supposed to. But I'm not quite as boyish about the whole thing as I used to be.

A couple of months ago, I was thinking seriously about retiring. Jimmy Taylor, who used to be my roommate on the Packers, and a couple of other fellows and I have a commercial diving business down in Louisiana. Jimmy, who comes from Baton Rouge and played for Louisiana State University, is a great asset to the business; he's such a hero in Louisiana I wouldn't be surprised if he ended up as governor. We've been building up the company for three years now, and this year, with Jimmy playing for the Saints--he played out his option here and jumped to New Orleans--we should really do well. He'll be able to entertain potential customers, wine them and dine them and take them to the Saints' games.

I thought of retiring so that I could devote more time to the company. And I would have retired, I believe, or at least tried to shift to the New Orleans team, if a deal hadn't come through with a man named Blaine Williams, who's in the advertising business in Green Bay. We're getting portraits made of all the players in the National Football League, and we're selling them to Kraft Foods to distribute on a nationwide basis. It can be a very lucrative thing for me, so I decided I'd better stay here in Green Bay and keep an eye on it.

Coach Lombardi heard that I was thinking about retiring--he hears everything--and he suspected I was going to use this as a wedge to demand more money. That wasn't what I had in mind, not this time.

Still, I haven't heard a word from Lombardi about a contract for this year.
JULY 5

Pat Peppler, the personnel director of the Packers, phoned today and asked me if I wanted to discuss my contract. I told him I wanted $27,500, up from $23,000 last year, and I said it isn't as much as I deserve, of course, but I'll be happy with it and I won't cause any problems, any struggle.

I mean it. I know I'm worth more than $27,500, but I don't want a contract fight over a few thousand dollars. I can remember what happened in 1963.

That was the year after I kicked three field goals in the world championship game against the New York Giants, and we won the game by three field goals, 16-7. During the 1962 season, I kicked extra points and field goals, and I was named All-Pro offensive guard, and, in general, I had a pretty good year. I came in wanting a sizable raise, and Coach Lombardi started out with the standard 10 percent he offers when he wants to give a guy a raise. I said I wanted nearly 50 percent, from $13,000 up to $19,000, and he hit the ceiling and said absolutely not. He said he'd give me $14,500 or maybe $15,000.

In the back of my mind, I was thinking about playing out my option--the one-year professional football contract allows a man to play out a second year at the same salary and then become a free agent, the way Jimmy Taylor did last year--and jumping to Denver in the rival American Football League. Denver wanted me badly.

Coach Lombardi, with his spy system, found out what I was thinking about. He has a real thing about loyalty, and he got doubly upset. He called me into his office and offered me $15,000 and said, "Look, I'm going to give you fifteen, but you have to take it today. Tomorrow, it'll be down to fourteen." I didn't take it.

I started training camp without a contract, and Vince made practice almost unbearable. Every block I threw, every move I made, was either slow or wrong or inadequate. "Move, Kramer, move," he'd scream, "you think you're worth so damn much." And the contract negotiations weren't kept at any executive level. They were held at lunch and dinner, at bedtime and during team meetings, and the rest of the coaches joined in, all of them on my back, sniping at me, taking potshots at me. I got bitter, I got jumpy, and then a lot of the other guys, my teammates, began to tease me, to ride me, and the teasing didn't sound like teasing to me because I was getting so much hell from all angles.

And then I almost exploded. We have a ritual the day before a game. The offensive linemen get together with the defensive linemen and throw passes to each other. We take turns playing quarterback, and you get to keep throwing passes until one of them is incomplete. It's a silly little game, but it loosens us up and it's fun. Every lineman's dream, of course, is to be a quarterback. So, in 1963, the day before an exhibition, we were playing this game, and I stepped up for my turn to play quarterback and Bill Austin, who was our line coach, yelled, "No, get out of there, Kramer, you can't be a quarterback."

I said, "Why not?"

And he said, "Just 'cause I said so."

There was no reason, except for the contract, and this burned me up. Later, Austin approached me in the lobby of the hotel we were staying in, and he said, "Jerry, I want to talk to you."

I said, "Look, you sonuvabitch, I don't want to talk to you at all. I don't have a word to say to you. I don't want to have anything to do with you. Stay away from me."

I was out of my head a little bit.

Bill said, "Now, now, don't be like that."

"I mean it, Bill," I said. "Stay away from me." I stopped just short of punching Austin.

That night, Coach Lombardi put me on the kickoff team, the suicide team, which is usually reserved, during exhibition games, for rookies. "The kickoff team is football's greatest test of courage," Lombardi says. "It's the way we find out who likes to hit."

I knew how dangerous the kickoff team could be. In 1961, when I was kicking off for the Packers, I had to be on the kickoff team, of course. I kicked off once against the Minnesota Vikings, the opening play of the game, and when I ran down the field, I ran straight at the wedge in front of the ballcarrier. The wedge is made up of four men, always four big and mobile men, more than 1,000 pounds' worth. One of the guys from the Minnesota wedge hit me in the chest and another scissored my legs and buckled me over backwards and then the ballcarrier stumbled onto me and pounded me into the ground and a couple of other guys ran over me and stomped me in deeper, and the result was a broken ankle. I missed eight games in 1961.

And then in 1963, for that exhibition, I found myself on the kickoff team again. I took out all my fury on the field. I was the first man down the field on every kickoff, I hit everyone who got in my way, and after the game Lombardi came up to me and said that he wasn't the vindictive type, that we could get together and settle the contract. I signed the next day for $17,500.

***

Pat Peppler told me today he would check with Coach Lombardi about my demand for $27,500.
JULY 7

Pat Peppler called back. "You can have $26,500," he said.

"If I wanted $26,500," I told him, "I would have asked for $26,500. If I'd said $44,500, I suppose Lombardi would have come back with $43,500. I want $27,500 ...

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Jerry Kramer
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