Let’s step back in time to 1910’s-1927 and the early days of professional football, for a brief history lesson of what might have been.
Racine, WI had a professional team called the Horlick-Racine Legion team, many of the players were from the Racine National Guard. When they weren’t performing military duties, they would play other military units and other professional teams. In 1916 Racine won the Wisconsin-Illinois Championship in it’s first season. They had contests versus the Pollard Indians of Chicago, a team from Beloit, Milwaukee Badgers, Chicago Bears, Rock Island Independents, and others. The teams general had about 18 members, very little in the way of equipment. At this time even helmets were optional!
Racine fielded quite a good team led by “Babe” Ruetz, a 285 LBer! One of the most famous games between the Racine Legion team and the Curly Lambeau Packers was in October of 1919. The game was played in Green Bay’s Hagemeister Park and featured the two teams of which neither had lost a game in two years. The Packers had not been scored upon in two seasons and Racine was the undefeated Southern Wisconsin Champions. The Packers prevailed 76-6, but Racine managed to break the Packers defense’s scoreless streak. The Green Bay Press-Gazette labeled the Racine team “scrappy and aggressive” and the 100 fans who accompanied the team “raucous” and louder than the 2-3,000 Packer fans. From 1921-25, William Horlick became the sponsor for the Racine team. They played their games at the now historic Horlick Field in Racine.
Until 1922 most teams had been members of the American Football League, which in June of that year gave way to the National Football League. The Racine Legion opened league play on Oct 1, 1922 with a 6-0 loss to the Chicago Bears. Racine was proud of their first game because the team from Chicago was quite formidable. A week later on Oct 8, the Racine Legion avenged the 1919 embarrassing loss to the Packers, with a 10-6 win of their own. This game once again pitted George “Babe” Ruetz against Curly Lambeau. Curly would later say that having a professional team in Racine, “lifted the quality of the game, while the state rivalry brought attention to the sport which lifted attendance.”
In 1926, the NFL adapted a rule which limited teams to $1200 per game in combined salaries for players, coaches and managers. This rule made it difficult for teams to operate and many were losing money. It was in 1926 that “Babe” Ruetz sponsored the Racine team, changed the name to the Tornadoes, but only managed to play 4 games, one on Oct 24 a 35-0 loss to the Packers at City Stadium. In 1927 Ruetz died, the Racine team folded along with 19 of the 24 NFL teams. Teams like the Milwaukee Badgers, Los Angeles Buccaneers, Detroit Panthers, Canton Bulldogs and the Kansas City Cowboys all disappeared.
The Racine Tornadoes franchise was moved to Portsmouth, Ohio in 1927 and in 1931, moved again. You guessed it to Detroit, Michigan and renamed the DETROIT LIONS. If Racine would’ve survived we would be watching Matt LaFleur leading the Green Bay Packers against the Racine Tornadoes on Monday Night Football, keeping the October tradition alive. [On a side note Racine has had a Semi-Professional football team, the Racine Raiders since the 1960’s and they are currently competing for their 10th National Championship]
Monday night QB Aaron Rodgers will attempt to get the Packers offense rolling for four quarters, again without leading WR Davante Adams. They do however get RB Jamal Williams and C Corey Linsley back. Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford will lead a revitalized offense and a stout defense into Lambeau in an attempt to extend his four game win streak over the Packers. It seems the Lions will do so without the services of former Packers DE Mike Daniels. The Packers have to be super focused on this game for many reasons, it’s a division game, home game and the losing streak to the lions. I believe it’ll be a W for the home team.
As Always, Go Pack Go!
PackerGregPackerGreg Veteran/Go Army @DrGTP on Twitter