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Packers Replay: Playing catch where legends did

Posted: 11:59 PM, Dec 02, 2015
Updated: 2015-12-03 00:59:58-05
Packers Replay: Playing catch where legends did
Packers Replay: Playing catch where legends did
If you take a 30-minute walk west from the current home of the Lions, Ford Field, you might stumble upon a humble baseball field on the corner of Michigan and Trumbull with an open gate, a few benches and a field with a huge American flag flying above it.
 
It's now called Ernie Harwell Park, after the legendary baseball announcer. You can play catch there, with a ball and glove, or you can toss a football around.
 
38 times over 49 NFL seasons, the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions did exactly that, in what eventually was called Tiger Stadium - a ballpark where fans in the upper deck sat so close to the action, they could hear the coaches yelling, or the crack of the pads on impact.
 
The first time the Packers played there in 1926, the stadium wasn't called Tiger Stadium. It was Navin Field, and the opponent wasn't the Lions, but the Detroit Panthers.
 
Three days after Thanksgiving, about 1,000 fans saw Rex Enright score the game's only touchdown in a 7-0 Packers triumph. The first Packers game in Detroit was the last game for the Panthers franchise. They then folded.
 
In 1930, the Packers started their series with the team that would become the Lions, the Portsmouth Spartans, but it wasn't until 1938 when the Lions moved to the renamed Briggs Stadium. 
 
That year, the Packers produced their first win over the Lions in Detroit, with the running of Hall of Famer Clarke Hinkle contributing two touchdowns in a 28-7 triumph.
 
In fact, Green Bay won every game there through their 1944 NFL Championship season.
 
In 1951, the Lions put the Packers in a permanent place in their Thanksgiving Day game rotation. For 13 years, the Packers played a road game on Turkey Day, including a 1962 game in the renamed Tiger Stadium where the Packers were undefeated going in...but 26-14 losers going out.
 
Bart Starr was sacked 11 times and Detroit's defense lived in Green Bay's backfield, taking a 26-0 lead before a pair of oh-by-the-way scores late in the game.
 
Three years later came perhaps the Packers' greatest day in Detroit, though it didn't seem like it at halftime that October 17th, 1965. They trailed 21-3 going into the locker room, before Starr had the quarter of a lifetime - three explosive touchdown passes.
 
The first: A 62-yard catch and carry by wide receiver Bob Long where Carroll Dale provided a perfect downfield block.
 
The second: A 32-yard slant pattern-to-the-end zone by running back Tom Moore.
 
The third: A 3rd-and-1 play-action pass where Starr found Dale on a post pattern. He never stopped running until 77 yards later, when the Packers took a 24-21 lead.
 
Starr added a bootleg touchdown run in the 4th quarter, and the Packers won 31-21 in the first of an unmatched three straight championship seasons.
 
In 1972, the Packers needed another big comeback, trailing 17-0 before heroics by kick returner Ken Ellis and a touchdown pass from Scott Hunter to Leland Glass led to a 24-23 win that powered the Packers to a division title. Two years later, the Packers played their last game at Tiger Stadium before the Lions moved to the Silverdome.
 
Green Bay went 19-17-2 in their 38 games there.
 
Decades later, the seats were torn down. The field remains, though the City of Detroit will be voting on whether to replace that original grass field with turf. 
 
For now, you and anyone can play catch...in the same place where Arnie Herber, Don Hutson, Bart Starr and Carroll Dale did.