Svendsen’s Shrinking Head

a recollection by Lon Evans, “the Purple Lawman

George Svendsen was a Green Bay player from the University of Minnesota.  He was a linebacker, a big tall fellow of Swedish descent with hair like corn silk.  He would walk around outside with just a tee shirt during those cold northern winters.  All his team mates had never known George wear a hat so we arranged a little trick at George’s expense.  Our coach, Curly Lambeau, was a stickler for dressing well and required all the players to wear a suit when we travelled to play a game.

There was a men’s clothing store in Green Bay owned by “Snick” Gross.  We talked George into buying a hat at Gross’s and said how much it would impress Curly.  It was green and we assured him it was the latest fashion.  On the sly we bought another green hat, identical to Svendsen’s, except that it was size 8-1/4 instead of the 7-3/4 that George had just picked out.

The team took the train to Soldier Field in Chicago to play an exhibition game with George proudly wearing his new, green hat.  The day after the game we took another train to Philadelphia but this time we switched hats on Svendsen.  When we stopped at Cleveland that big hat came down over George’s ears.   He checked the hat, which was identical, even down to the “Snick Gross’s Men’s Store” stamped inside.  He couldn’t understand why the hat no longer fit, but was determined to wear it.  He even stuffed paper into the hat to make it fit.  We conspirators all commented that we had never seen anything like it, but that Svendsen’s head seemed to be shrinking.  We were on the exhibition tour for four or five weeks, and he never seemed to catch on.  We switched hats on George five or six times on the trip and he never found out the truth but remained puzzled and perplexed for the rest of his career.

George Svendsen

George wasn’t as colourful as Johnny “Blood” McNally, or as tough as Clarke Hinkle, or as talented as Don Hutson but the 6 foot 4 inch, 230 pound Svendsen helped pave the way to the Packers’ success during his five-year career.  George was the starting centre on offense and a linebacker on defense on Green Bay’s 1936 National Football League championship team.  He was a fierce competitor who prided himself on playing 60 minutes in the era of two-way players and he endeared himself to his team mates and Curly Lambeau with his toughness and dependability.  George always did his job.

The 1936 championship Green Bay Packers with George, centre row wearing number 43

When he returned to the Packers in 1940 and 1941 he wore number 66
which would have made Ray Nitschke very proud as Raymond loved the “old” guys.


© Soccer Nostalgia

Design: David Ainsworth