Kramer Hall of Fame push picking up steam

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If nothing else, we’ve held the NFL Hall of Fame voters’ feet to the fire a little, and hopefully they might take a look in the mirror and ask themselves why Green Bay Packers legend Jerry Kramer does not have his bust in their hallowed halls.

Last week a feature from Kramer’s hometown newspaper in Sandpoint, encouraging football fans from the state of Idaho to write letters to the Hall of Fame in support of his candidacy, was sent out to various state media members in Idaho, hoping a few of them might run it to generate some push.

A lone comment under the feature on the Bee’s website read “we need to get this message outside of Bonner County, and at least state-wide.”

Mission accomplished. After getting picked up by the AP wire, the feature has not just run in most of the Idaho papers, but places like the Houston Chronicle, St. Louis Dispatch, Washington Times, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Madison Journal and a host of other papers and websites from Albany to Bloomington to California. It was even picked up by U.S. News and World Report, USnews.com and USbreakingnews.com, for what that’s worth.

If nothing else, that is proof a lot of people out there love Kramer, and feel the same way we do about his glaring omission from Canton.

If just a couple readers from each of those media outlets takes the time to write a letter to the Hall of Fame (see address below), perhaps it could finally make a difference, and help fix what legendary Packers quarterback Bart Starr just recently termed a “terrible injustice.”

THERE WAS a story a while back on Sports Illustrated’s Monday Morning Quarterback citing how Kramer is actually far more famous because he’s not in the Hall of Fame. There is some truth to that, but it stinks nonetheless.

A case in point was a wonderful email sent to the Bee from Noel Brizzee, who attended Rigby High School around the same time Kramer was at Sandpoint High School. Brizzee played alongside NFL Hall of Fame safety Larry Wilson on those Rigby teams, before Wilson left for the University of Utah.

When was the last time you thought of Larry Wilson, the lone Idaho native in the NFL Hall of Fame after a stellar 13 year career with the Arizona Cardinals? He was All-Pro eight times, finished his career with 52 interceptions and like Kramer is on the NFL’s All-Decade team of the 1960s.

“You know he was the perfect football player both mentally and physically. Tough as nails in practice and games, but just the nicest guy and friend off the field as you could ever hope for,” wrote Brizzee about Wilson, noting Kramer played the same way. “Sounds like both of them were a lot alike.”

Like most of us, Brizzee also can’t figure out why Kramer isn’t already in the Hall of Fame. Brizzee shared this great story in his email: “When Jerry was a senior Larry Wilson, me and a couple of other guys from Rigby made it to the state track meet in Boise. As always, field events started first so the shot put event was called. Who was the first participant called? You guessed it, Jerry Kramer. Very first throw 50 feet or such for a new state record. That stayed in the record books for a few years.”

ANOTHER GREAT interaction happened a while back, when Stubby Lyons, a 1953 Coeur d’Alene High School graduate who played against Kramer as a prep, hand mailed a letter to the Bee. He mentioned Mel Schmidt, who lives in Hayden Lake and was a former teammate of Kramer’s at Idaho and who also had a tryout with the Packers.

Lyons wrote that it was important to mention Kramer’s kicking ability, not just his ability as an six-time All-Pro pulling guard. Kramer was the Packers’ kicker for three years, once accounting for 10 points in a 16-7 win in the NFL Championship game.

Lyons, who went on to teach and coach in Oregon, also had his classes read Kramer’s books Instant Replay and Distant Replay, and said “they went over like gangbusters.”

But the most amazing thing Lyons’ mailed was a copy of a full page The Equitable Insurance ad from a 1969 Sports Illustrated. The black and white ad had three classic photos, one of Kramer kicking with the old-school toe-punching method, one of him pulling on the famous Packers’ Sweep, and lastly a smiling portrait of the crew-cut star guard.

A bold cation reads “Will your boy throw a block like Jerry Kramer?”

A few paragraphs of text below mention Lombardi’s famous quote about Kramer, that “if you told him to throw a block on a trailer, he’d give it a try.”

It talks of the famous block for the aforementioned Starr in the Ice Bowl, and says for 12 years he’s been one of “the most ferocious offensive linemen.”

The ad ends with this: “Maybe your son won’t turn into the next Jerry Kramer. Not many children do become sports stars. But every youngster, including yours, can be as physically fit as the most talented athlete.”

I included the ad in a letter sent to the Senior Selection Committee Hall of Fame voters last week, and can only hope they get to see it.

Bart Starr was right. So are Stubby Lyons and Noel Brizzee. It is wrong.

If anyone out there feels the same way, send a letter to: NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame, Attn: Senior Selection Committee, 2121 George Halas Drive NW, Canton, OH, 44708.

Eric Plummer is the sports editor of the Daily Bee in Sandpoint and can be reached at eplummer@bonnercountydailybee.com.

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