In 1959, the Green Bay Packers and the New York Giants traveled to Bangor, ME, in an exhibition game that was one of the showcase events of the city’s 125th year anniversary celebration.
The game took place on September 5th, and was played under the lights of Garland Street Field. Andrew Neff from the Bangor Daily News wrote a great article recalling the exhibition, which includes several rarely seen photos from the game.
It was a once-and-a-lifetime game for many reasons.
- It was the first and only time that the state of Maine has ever hosted a NFL game. It’s also the easternmost NFL game played in the United States.
- It was the only time the Packers were shut out with Vince Lombardi as their head coach. It also marked the first time Lombardi faced his former team. From 1954-1958, Lombardi was an assistant coach with the Giants.
The Giants defeated the Packers 14-0, behind some solid running plays. The play of the game belonged to Frank Gifford, who had a 45-yard run that setup a touchdown. Alex Webster scored the game’s only touchdowns.
A total of 15 future members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame had some role in the game. For the Giants: Roosevelt Brown, Frank Gifford, Sam Huff, Andy Robustelli, and owner Tim Mara. Don Maynard also suited up for the Giants. He fumbled a punt in the game, and was subsequently released before the regular season. For the Packers: Forrest Gregg, Paul Hornung, Henry Jordan, Ray Nitschke, Jim Ringo, Bart Starr, Jim Taylor, Emlen Tunnell (who was with the Giants the previous season), and head coach Vince Lombardi.
However, the player watched the most in the game was rookie lineman Roger Ellis. He was a 14th-round selection by the Giants, but he was from the University of Maine, so the Giants decided to start him at guard to please the local crowd. Robert L. Teague of the New York Times reported that “Roger’s every move evoked a thunderous din from the crowd”. Ellis didn’t make it on the Giants final roster, but he would go on to have a four-year career with the New York Titans/Jets in the AFL, before heading into the United States Secret Service.
The Giants-Packers have shared a lot of history on the gridiron. The exhibition game they played in Maine certainly has a part in that history.
|Green Bay Packers||0||0||0||0||0|
|New York Giants||0||7||7||0||14|
|Team Stats||Green Bay||New York|
NY, Alex Webster 4-yard touchdown run (Pat Summerall kick)
NY, Webster 1-yard touchdown run (Summerall kick)
- After their loss to the Giants, the Packers wouldn’t lose another preseason game until 1963, when they lost to the College All-Stars in Chicago; a 19-game preseason winning streak. They wouldn’t lose another preseason game to a NFL team until 1964, when they lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in New Orleans; a 25-game preseason winning streak vs the NFL.
- The Giants were familiar with northern New England in the summer of 1959. That year the Giants held their training camp in the state of Vermont, near Burlington at Saint Michael’s College. The Giants are the only NFL team to ever conduct a training camp in the state of Vermont.
- The Packers had a busy travel week leading up the game. The week before their battle in Bangor, the Packers were in Portland, OR, taking on the Philadelphia Eagles. Over 2,500 miles separate the two cities. I’m sure when the preseason schedule was released, the Packers players were hoping that the Portland game would be played in the other famous “Portland” that is located in Maine.
Non-Linked Newspaper Sources
Teague, Robert L. (1959, September 5). Football Giants Get No Maine Lobsters Before Bangor Drill. New York Times, pp. 8. Retrieved July 11th, 2012 from ProQuest Historical Newspapers.
Teague, Robert L. (1959, September 6). Football Giants Win From Packers, 14-0. New York Times, pp. S1. Retrieved July 11th, 2012 from ProQuest Historical Newspapers.