Before the Green Bay Packers could conquer the world, first they had to best the state of Wisconsin and parts of Michigan, Minnesota and Illinois. In their first two seasons, before joining what later became the National Football League, the Packers battled the Laphams from Milwaukee, the Oshkosh Professionals and the Stambaugh Miners from Michigan.
In their first two seasons, the only team to beat them was a scrappy factory-backed team from Beloit called the Fairies. Make no mistake, the Beloit gridiron 11 was no group of winged waifs with pixie dust and a magic wand. Named for the Fairbanks Morse & Company, the Fairies handed the storied Packers franchise its first-ever loss in the fall of 1919. The game was decided on the last play and nearly caused a riot at Beloit’s Fairbanks-Morse Field.
With time slipping away, the Fairies led the Packers by a 6-0 score. The Packers punched through the Beloit line repeatedly and reached the opponents 5-yard line. “Beloit then stiffened, threw up a stone wall and fought back,” wrote the Janesville Daily Gazette in its game recap, “but though they were heavier than the Bay boys, Beloit couldn’t hold.”
The Packers scored a touchdown as time expired, but the linesman flagged the Packers for being offsides. “Cries of derision were heard all over the sidelines from the spectators when the penalty was called,” the Gazette wrote. “For a time, with the 2,000 spectators surging over the field towards the two teams and the referee, it appeared that a riot would be in progress, but the players of both teams forced the crowd back.”
It was not the first controversial call of the game. Earlier, the referee whistled the Packers for being out of bounds. “A beefing match then followed, with the referee and the captain of the Green Bay team chewing the fat over the rule book, and the discovery that the referee was using a 1918 set of rules.” The Green Bay captain was none other than the legendary Curly Lambeau, who served as player and coach in those early years.
Adding to the lore of that Packers-Fairies match was an after-game rumor that the Packers offered $5,000 to play the game again on a neutral field with football authority Walter Eckersall as referee. That never happened, and the Pack finished its first season with a 10-1 record. Even in the 1920 season, the Fairies again proved a nemesis, handing the Packers their only loss, a 14-3 decision at Fairbanks-Morse Field.
In those early years of Packers football, they played teams including the Menominee Professionals, the Racine Iroquois Athletic Club, the Marinette North End Badgers, the Chicago Boosters, the Milwaukee Maple Leaf Athletic Club and the Milwaukee Lapham Athletic Club. The first seasons, the Packers were under the sponsorship of the Indian Packing Company of Green Bay, where Curly Lambeau worked.
Those first two seasons, the Packers compiled a 19-2-1 record. They registered eight shutouts in the 1920 campaign. They played their first Thanksgiving Day game versus the Stambaugh Miners in 1920, winning by a 14-0 score. In August 1921, the fledgling American Professional Football Association (later called the NFL) awarded a franchise to Green Bay under the sponsorship of the Acme Packing Co.
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