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Whatever happened to Curly Lambeau’s Jewish sidekick?

by Brad A. Greenberg

February 6, 2011 | 7:32 pm

After coming out of halftime a big sluggish—must have been the Fergie—the Packers are rolling. If it’s another NFL championship for the Packers, sorry, Jay. (Don’t worry. I’m not counting your Steelers out.)

For the Packers, it all started in 1919 with the vision of Curly Lambeau, who later coached the team he founded to six NFL championships. But what ever happened to Lambeau’s Jewish sidekick?

JTA has this feature on Nate Abrams, “the forgotten man in Packers’ lore.”

You know the old saying: Behind every Hall of Fame football coach stands a 5-foot, 4-inch Jewish cattle dealer with good hands, a big heart and a “Yiddishe kop.”

For Earl “Curly” Lambeau of the Green Bay Packers, that man was Nate Abrams.

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Abrams (1897-1941) arguably was as instrumental in founding the Packers as Lambeau, the team’s first coach and eventual namesake of Lambeau Field, home of the “frozen tundra.” Abrams’ funds also kept the team afloat during its early years.

Yet Abrams receives no mention in the official founding story, which credits Lambeau.

These rarely heard arguments derive from the meticulously researched “The History of the Green Bay Packers: The Lambeau Years” by Larry Names (1987, Angel Press of Wisconsin). He writes that Abrams, the son of Russian immigrants, grew up in the same neighborhood as Lambeau, son of Belgians, and played football with him.

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In 1921, the Packers joined the professional league that would become the NFL. Abrams played in one game, scoring a touchdown on an interception. Why he never played for the Packers again isn’t recorded, but it’s likely that the players in the new league were just too big for Abrams, the shortest player in Packers history.

But Abrams remained interested. After reading the cash-strapped Packers’ 1922 newspaper appeal for funds, Abrams handed $3,000 to Lambeau for operating expenses. In exchange, Lambeau handed ownership of the franchise to his friend, but Abrams let Lambeau operate the Packers. The team began its unique ownership system of selling stock to the public in 1923, and by 1925 repaid Abrams, who returned the franchise, writes Names.

Ignored in Packer lore, Abrams makes a cameo appearance in the slick Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame at Lambeau Field. He poses in the 1919 team picture and can been seen as a little, dark-haired man in life-size photos that cover some of the walls.

There’s more here. Names blames anti-Semitic attitudes from the 1920s.

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Since launching the blog in 2007, I’ve referred to myself as “a God-fearing Christian with devilishly good Jewish looks.” The description, I’d say, is an accurate one,...

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