How the NFL made Kramer pay

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You have to admire the way Jerry Kramer handled his Hall of Fame induction.

Pure class.

No bitterness.

Well, I知 not as nice as Jerry Kramer, so I知 going to lay the truth out there and make sure it痴 in print right here in Idaho.

It痴 an absolute travesty that Kramer had to wait 45 years for a vote that should have been automatic the day he became eligible.

Start with this: Green Bay quarterback Bart Starr, himself a Hall of Famer, called Kramer ... probably the best player on our championship teams.

So why, why in the world were 11 of Kramer痴 teammates inducted at Canton before the voters finally remembered the man from Sandpoint?

Kramer was one of the best guards ever to play pro football not to mention a doggone decent kicker who knocked through three field goals to win the 1962 NFL title game 16-7 over the New York Giants.

AND THEN there was 典he Ice Bowl, the championship game against Dallas on Dec. 31, 1967 keep that year in mind when the temperature fell to minus-15 and the wind chill to minus-38 at frozen Lambeau Field.

This was the signature game of Vince Lombardi痴 spectacular run with the Packers his fifth NFL title in nine years.

Have all those Hall of Fame voters somehow not seen footage of that game?

There痴 plenty of it.

In fact, there is an amazing cut that took place just before Starr痴 quarterback sneak to win it 21-17 with 16 seconds remaining.

On Lombardi痴 TV show the week following the game, the replay of the Packers final drive and the fateful call near the goal line came on the screen.

的 just asked Jerry Kramer and (Hall of Fame tackle) Forrest Gregg what would work, Lombardi said to his TV audience.

Starr had a question at that big moment, too.

He asked Kramer if there was enough footing on the frozen turf for one more good block on Cowboys tackle Jethro Pugh.

的t was our wedge play, Starr said. 的t would have worked (on two missed chances from inside the 2-yard line), but the backs were slipping before they could get to the line.

釘ut I would be standing up, right there at the line, and with one block ...

JERRY担 REPLY was yes, and he went low to drive Pugh backward. Starr leaned in and followed Kramer to the end zone.

It is likely the most famous play in NFL history.

Even now, when fans take tours of Lambeau Field, most want to stand at the 1-yard line at the south end of the field and dive into the end zone, pretending that Jerry Kramer is leading them to glory.

(Dallas coach Tom) Landry probably would have called a rollout there, Kramer said, 澱ut with Lombardi ...

Cue Kramer going to the coach痴 loud, gruff voice.

的f you can稚 make one yard, you shouldn稚 be champions.

Now here痴 the thing: Kramer shouldn稚 be defined by that one memorable play great as it was.

This next quote is from a story in The Atlantic magazine, with a writer lobbying for Kramer痴 induction ... five years ago.

滴OW GOOD was Jerry Kramer?

的n 11 seasons, Jerry Kramer played in three Pro Bowls and was a five-time first team All-Pro (and second team All-Pro once).

滴ow good was he at both pass and run blocking?

典he quarterback who threw behind him, Bart Starr, is in the Hall of Fame as are the two runners, Jim Taylor and Paul Hornung, who ran through his blocks.

典he signature play of the Packers during the Lombardi era was the 賎reen Bay Sweep with Kramer and the Packers left guard, Fuzzy Thurston, pulling out of the line and leading interference around either end.

添et these two men, Kramer and Thurston (himself a first-team All-Pro selection and two-time second team selection) are not in Canton.

AS IT happens, I was the author of the Packers 75th anniversary commemorative book in 1994.

I spent months in Green Bay and talked to everyone even remotely connected to the team not to mention people in town and around pro football.

Sadly, I知 convinced from all those connections that Kramer was shut out because of a book he wrote about that 1967 season, a best seller called 的nstant Replay.

It was certainly not some scandalous tell-all expos. Just a great look inside those Packers over a full season.

Lombardi himself loved it.

At that time, though, the NFL was intent on controlling its own messaging. Players weren稚 allowed their own narrative.

There have been books by players since then, but Jerry in the league痴 mind was the first to thumb his nose at convention.

He broke an unwritten rule, much like baseball痴 Jim Bouton (釘all Four), and paid for it by being shunned.

笛erry got screwed by the suits, said the late middle linebacker Ray Nitschke.

It was ridiculous then, and it痴 even more ridiculous in hindsight.

Jerry Kramer should have been in the Hall of Fame decades ago, and everyone associated with keeping him out should be ashamed.

As I said, I知 not as gracious at Jerry.

Steve Cameron is a columnist for The Press.

A Brand New Day appears Wednesday through Saturday each week. Steve痴 sports column runs on Tuesday.



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