When Ishpeming/Negaunee played Green Bay Packers

The 1920 Ishpeming Legion football team is pictured. While no photo of the Twin City Eleven could be located, many of the players joined the Ishpeming Legion team the following year. The players marked with an asterisk were on the 1919 team. Top row, left to right: Peel, August Hendrickson, Lioret, Manager Johnson. Third row, left to right: Coach Sharp, A. Maki, Mitchell, L. Maki, Beauchamp, Taylor, Wengberg. Second row, left to right: Tippett, Fransen, Treweek, Swanson, Captain Flaa, Eldred, Arthur Hendrickson. Front row, left to right: Goethe, Urquhart. Additional members of the 1919 team who are not pictured are Halso, Pearce, Chapman, Pearl and Green. (Photo courtesy of the Marquette Regional History Center)

ISHPEMING — On Oct. 19, 1919, a crisp fall day was unfolding at Union Park in Ishpeming. The newly formed Green Bay Packers were in town for their first away game, but things were not looking bright.

They were playing the Ishpeming-Negaunee Twin City Eleven, known to be formidable around Michigan. In only the first three runs, there were three injuries on the Packers side. Adding to the chaos were 3,000 spectators, all hoping the Packers would be thrashed.

The game so far had been hard fought with no touchdowns on either side, but luckily the Packers had wits on their side.

The Ishpeming-Negaunee squad only had 11 players, they didn’t have alternates, while the Packers had 22 and were able to switch players out.

This meant injuries didn’t impact the team as much, and if someone was tired they could put in a new, equally talented, fresh player. This, however, did not deter Ishpeming-Negaunee, as they had not been defeated on their home turf in five years.

The Twin City Eleven, in the Packers eyes, were the perfect opponent. They had a reputation of being the champion of the “Wolverine State,” and their win record was impeccable. The Packers wanted a challenge.

So far in their first year as a team, they had beaten everyone they played by absurd amounts. Everyone thought that this time the Packers would meet their match.

As a result, the game was advertised as the match of the century and thousands turned out to support their home team, the Twin City Eleven. Unfortunately the proud, and very excited crowd were in for some disappointment.

After the injuries during the first three runs the Packers realized they needed a change of tactics. They just could not match the brawn of the Ishpeming team. They decided to go with no line plays, only passes and punts.

This decision marked the turning point of the game. By half time the score was 14-0, and the game ended with 5 touchdowns for the Packers. When the dust had settled after the game, the Packers had scored 33 points, and the Twin City Eleven, 0.

The severe loss, and multiple injuries created some animosity between the teams, as well as the local newspapers. When a Green Bay newspaper accused Ishpeming-Negaunee of “roughneck tactics,” and favoritism of the head linesman, a back and forth began. The local Ishpeming Iron Ore newspaper was outraged by the accusations and promptly wrote their own article in response. Eventually the newspaper “war” died down, and local newspapers began to take pride in the fact that they only lost by 33.

All the other teams the Packers had played lost by 46 points or more, usually with 0 points of their own.

The final testimony on the game, however, came from a Green Bay newspaper, with the remark that the Twin City Eleven-Packers game showed that “Brawn can be conquered by strategy.”


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