Chicago Sun-Times

Vintage Bears-Packers: Dowler ejected in preseason tilt

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Doug Buffone, who played in more Bears-Packers games than any player in Bears history, recalled this week when the rivalry was a real rivalry.

''Everything was juiced up,'' Buffone said. ''It was raining. We're smashing. We're fighting. Trying to win. Hornung's in the game. Jim Taylor's in the game. And we played the whole [bleepin'] game. It turned into a free-for-all.''

And that was a preseason game.

The Bears and Packers played annually in the preseason from 1959 -- Vince Lombardi's first season as the Packers' head coach -- until 1975. That's the game when Bears Hall of Famer Bill George, working as the analyst for Brent Musberger on Channel 2, joked that Packers rookie defensive tackle Mike McCoy -- the No. 2 pick in the draft -- had to take a pay cut when he left Notre Dame. George resigned a week later.

The Bears-Packers rivalry always seemed to be causing some kind of trouble. Probably coincidentally, that was the end of the annual exhibition game between the two teams. They've played only once (in 1984) since.

In January of 1937, the Bears and Packers played two exhibition benefit games in Los Angeles that probably did more to establish the nastiness of the rivalry than anything in the regular season -- at least before Mark Lee, Ken Stills and Charles Martin committed heinous acts in 1985-86.

The first game, a 20-20 tie, was marked by several fights and injuries. Packers quarterback Arnold Herber had a broken nose. Bears halfback John Sisk suffered a broken thumb. When the Packers' Lou Gordon tangled with the Bears' Beattie Feathers, Bears star Joe Stydahar ran in from the Bears bench to take a swing at Gordon.

The rematch a week later wasn't nearly as violent, but just as rough. Bronko Nagurski was spiked in the leg and had a severe gash, stayed in the game but eventually had to leave. The Packers' Joe Laws had to be carried off the field with an injury and coach Curly Lambeau was left complaining to the officials about the Bears' rough tackling.

That was the Bears-Packers rivalry at its finest or its fiercest. While the players on both sides went out of their way this week to be respectful of their opponent, there's a reason why the Bears-Packers rivalry is known as an historically mean one -- dating to the beginning of the National Football League.

The Bears Frank Hanny was ejected in 1924 for fighting with the Packers' Walter Voss and again in 1926 for fighting with the Packers' Dick O'Donnell.

In 1932, the Bears tried to add a finishing touch to a shutout victory when Nagurski passed to Red Grange on the final play of the game. Grange was tackled at the 1-yard line.

The Bears' George Musso and Ray Nolting were ejected for fighting with Packers in 1939 and 1940. After the 1939 game, George Halas accused the Packers of running an illegal play, much to the annoyance of Curley Lambeau.

While the Bears were in Kenosha, Wis. preparing to face the College All-Stars in 1941, Halas wouldn't let Packers running back Johnny Blood -- then coaching a local team -- to watch the Bears practice. ''We can't forget that the Packers are our toughest enemy this season,'' Halas said. ''Blood and Curly Lambeau might have a chance meeting and Curly might learn something to his benefit.''

The Packers' Pete Tinsley and Clyde Goodnight were ejected in 1945 for trying to rough up the Bears in retaliation for previous rough-housing. Bears quarterback Johnny Lujack was knocked out in 1949. The Bears' Ed Cody was hospitalized in 1950 after he was slugged by the Packers' Tony Canadeo.

Bears running back Stan Wallace was ejected in 1957 for fighting with the Packers Oliver Spencer. The Packers' Boyd Dowler was ejected in 1963 for taking a swing at the Bears' Roosevelt Taylor. In a preseason game.

Then there was the glorious Forrest Gregg-Mike Ditka era. Mark Lee was ejected in 1985 for driving Walter Payton over a sideline bench. Ken Stills leveled Matt Suhey in the same game. And in 1986, Charles Martin committed arguably the most egregious act of rough play when he body-slammed Jim McMahon after a McMahon interception.

The Bears-Packers rivalry has never been quite the same since then.

But there's always hope.

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This page contains a single entry by Mark Potash published on January 23, 2011 12:55 PM.

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