Green Bay Packers History Lesson: 1957 NFL Season Saw the Opening of Lambeau Field
On Sunday, the Green Bay Packers will host longtime rivals the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field. Following a two-game road trip to start the 2016 season, the Packers’ home debut will be their 60th held in the team’s current stadium, dating back to 1957. With Green Bay’s rich history, it is not surprising that Lambeau Field is the NFL’s longest continually occupied stadium. San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium, home of the Chargers, is in second, having opened in 1967.
Opening in 1957, the Packers christened their new home with a 21-17 victory over the Chicago Bears on Sept. 29 of that year. The 32,132 spectators in attendance at the first game included Vice President Richard Nixon and NFL Commissioner Bert Bell. Lambeau Field was known then as “new” City Stadium before being renamed in 1965 after the passing of its legendary founder and first coach, Earl “Curly” Lambeau.
As monumental as the 1957 season was for Green Bay’s new stadium, their victory over the Bears on Sept. 29 was the only home victory of the season. Finishing last in the NFL Western Conference, Green Bay ended the season with a 3-9 regular season record and was still two years away from hiring one of the most influential figures in team history, Vince Lombardi.
For the Detroit Lions, however, the 1957 season was significantly more meaningful. That year, the Lions won their fourth and last NFL championship, a 59-14 rout over the Cleveland Browns. Coincidentally, the Lions and Browns are two of only four current NFL teams (Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans) to have never appeared in a Super Bowl. The first Super Bowl was not played until 10 years after the Lions’ championship season.
Finishing with an 8-4 regular season record, the Lions tied with the San Francisco 49ers for first place in the NFL Western Conference. A playoff game, hosted in San Francisco, decided who would appear in the 1957 NFL Championship Game. Trailing 27-7 early in the third quarter, former Green Bay Packers quarterback Tobin Rote helped Detroit to mount a 20-point second-half comeback to become victorious over San Francisco, 31-27. Rote led the Lions to an NFL Championship one week later over the Browns.
Since Detroit’s last NFL Championship, they have only a single playoff victory in those 60 years. That came in the 1991 season, when Detroit finished 12-4, and beat the Atlanta Falcons in the Division Playoff Round before falling in the NFC Championship game to the eventual Super Bowl winners, Washington Redskins.
For Green Bay, since its inaugural game in 1957, Lambeau Field has hosted 350 regular season and playoff Packer games. Green Bay has an overall regular season and postseason record of 226-119-5 in their stadium.
As Lambeau Field turns 60, it is with near certainty that the Packers will call it home for as far into the future as we can imagine. Just as Boston’s Fenway Park continues to field its Red Sox after 105 years, Lambeau Field has decades of football yet to be played.
Sixty years have passed. The allure of Lambeau Field continues to grow and so, too, does Detroit’s long quest to bring a championship back to its city. Sunday’s matchup will be the 174th between the two teams, both of which are in pursuit of a championship run of their own.
Sources: Packers.com (Media Guide), DetroitLions.com