Packer Report magazine columnist Art Daley attended that Dec. 14, 1941, playoff game at Wrigley Field as a sportswriter for the local Green Bay newspaper. He has continued to maintain a connection with the Packers ever since, which includes founding the Green Bay Packers Yearbook in 1960 and induction into the Packers Hall of Fame in 1993. At 94, he still attends Packers home games in the Lambeau Field press box.
On Monday, he reflected on the 1941 game leading up to the 2011 playoff clash:
Packer Report: I'm sure you've been contacted already about your thoughts on the 1941 playoff game since you were there, so I'm going to ask as well what you remember about covering that game.
Daley: I was just thinking I wish I could go to the library and look and see what kind of stuff I did. I had just joined the Green Bay Press-Gazette then. We moved to Green Bay early in November and I went there (to Chicago) in early December. … To be honest with you, I don't remember a hell of a lot about the game itself because it's almost 70 years ago. I do remember that Don Hutson was hurt, though. That was the thing that really hurt the Packers. He only caught one pass. And he was the big shot, the No. 1 player. And you know, the Bears were a hell of a team then. That was the year they knocked off someone (the Lions) 49-0. They were heavy favorites.
That playoff game was only seven days after Pearl Harbor. Do you remember what the feeling was like being at the game?
I think the biggest thing about Pearl Harbor then was everybody wondered where the hell Pearl Harbor was. Nobody really knew. It just wasn't common knowledge. But that was my first railroad trip ever. I was working at a paper in Fond du Lac (Wis.) and came to Green Bay that season. … That was the first time I'd been anywhere. Going to Chicago and sitting in the press box was quite a treat — sitting up there with Arthur Daley of the New York Times and Red Smith and all that. It was a thrill."
Did the rivalry intensify with that game since it was a playoff?
Yeah, that's true. They didn't like each other. I know (George) Halas and (Curly) Lambeau, the two coaches, didn't get along. And yet on the other hand, the Packers loaned the Bears — they were partially broke a few years before — and the Packers loaned them $1,500.
Was it just to survive?
Yeah, as I recall they were in bad shape. Pro football back then was not well received. Everything was college football. I remember Halas would complain that he only got two or three lines of publicity in the paper about his team. In Green Bay, it was different. Football was it. That was everything. People came out and spent money and everything. (Note: The Packers media guide says Halas borrowed the $1,500 from the Packers during the Great Depression to meet payroll for his team.)
One of the interesting things about that 1941 playoff was that it attracted a sellout crowd (43,425), and then the next week for the NFL Championship at the same site, there were only 13,341 in attendance.
I think that was maybe the Pearl Harbor thing kind of sinking in. Plus, the Bears were heavy favorites. They were a hell of a team that year. The only game they lost that year was to the Packers 16-14 and that game they scored 14 points in the fourth quarter and almost won.
So the Packers-Bears playoff game that year was bigger than the NFL Championship?
Oh yeah. … I know a lot of people from Green Bay went to that game, but as far as how many, I don't remember anything like that exactly. … But I think the whole train was full when I went down there. It was amazing.
What do you think Sunday's game will do to the rivalry? A lot of people are saying this will be the biggest game in the rivalry.
I think it will be. I mean, there was only one other playoff game between the teams. And back then, that was a different game. People walked to the games. Trains were the only thing. It was only radio back then. What a world of difference.
So, what do you think will happen this Sunday?
I think the Packers will win. If the Bears win, it will be on a lot of luck or something like that. I think the way the Packers are playing; I think they're going to give them hell.
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Matt Tevsh has covered the Packers since 1996. E-mail him at email@example.com