TTZ: Derrick Mayes
Club Level: Robert Brooks
The Packers maybe gained more cachet than one might expect of a first-year semipro football team in 1919, but the setting for their home games had a purely sandlot, pickup-game flavor.
There was no fence, no bleachers, no frills.
They simply played on an open field in Hagemeister Park, a large public park located where Green Bay East High School and old City Stadium stand today and connected to Joannes Park.
There had been a ballpark in Hagemeister when Green Bay fielded a minor league baseball team from 1905-14, but it was torn down in the spring of 1918. That version was referred to as the League Ballgrounds or the W-I Ballpark. The latter was a derivative of the name of the minor league – Wisconsin-Illinois – that Green Bay was a part of from 1908-14.
Throughout the summer of 1919, local sports advocates bemoaned the absence of a ballpark in a city the size of Green Bay and worried that it might prevent East and West high schools from playing home games or, worse yet, fielding teams.
It was under that cloud that the Packers were formed. Yet they somehow managed to survive.
Their only way of making money was for co-founder and manager George Whitney Calhoun, with the help of others, to pass a hat during games. Fans walked the sidelines following the ball, even edging onto the field at times, and those who didn’t would pull their Model-Ts up close to the action and watch from their front seat.
The next year, local typewriter salesman C.M. “Neil” Murphy took over as business manager of the Packers and led the effort to build a fence around the field. After getting approval and support from the property owners and others, Murphy invited fans to show up on a Saturday morning with hammers in hand and help build it.
But once the season ended, the contract called for the fence and bleachers to be torn down and the lumber to be returned to the Indian Packing Co. In the spring of 1921, the ballpark was rebuilt on the same spot with the same lumber and the same design.
When the Packers were admitted to the American Professional Football Association in August of that year, seating was expanded to about 3,500. The Packers played their games there that season and again in 1922.
When the Hagemeister ballpark was torn down in the spring of 1923 to make way for a new East High School, Bellevue Park was built across the East River on property owned by Hagemeister Products Co. (formerly Hagemeister Brewery). The ballpark was rushed to completion for the city’s amateur baseball team and used by the Packers in 1923-24.
It’s best remembered as the site of the first Packers-Bears game played in Green Bay on Oct. 14, 1923. The Packers also were tough to beat at Bellevue, compiling a 9-2-1 record.
But the seating capacity was no more than about 3,300, parking was inadequate and fans grumbled that it was located too far from downtown.
One of the reasons Hagemeister Park was chosen as the site for East High was because of the space available for athletic fields. The school opened in 1924, and City Stadium was finished the following year.
The Packers played there for 32 seasons and won six of their 13 NFL championships during that period, but never played a postseason game there.
The first game was an exhibition against the Iron Mountain All-Stars played Sept. 13, 1925, and Curly Lambeau was the star. The first NFL game was played a week later against the Hammond Pros.
The Packers played their last game there Nov. 18, 1956, and rookie quarterback Bart Starr made his first pro start. The game featured nine future Pro Football Hall of Famers, including Starr and fellow rookie Forrest Gregg.
In all, 87 players in the Hall of Fame, including 11 Packers, played in either a regular-season or preseason game there.
When City Stadium opened it had seating for roughly 5,700. Its peak capacity was nearly 25,000.
Its most distinctive feature might have been a 400-foot long, 12-foot high and 17-inch thick sandstone entranceway built in 1940 along the west end facing Baird Street. But other than the wall, City Stadium was made of wood and had become outdated well before the Packers abandoned it for new City Stadium, or what is now Lambeau Field, in 1957.
State Fair Park, for 18 seasons, and County Stadium, for 42 seasons, were the Packers’ primary homes in Milwaukee over the 62 straight years (1933-94) that they played there.
Even though the Packers weren’t based in Milwaukee, fans there embraced them as their own. As a result, when the Packers stopped playing at an aging County Stadium following the 1994 season, they determined that Milwaukee ticketholders should be offered their same allotment each year for two designated regular-season games played at Lambeau Field.
The Packers' Seven Other Homes, 1919-94
Last Updated: 07/09/14