As Wisconsin families and Packers fans fondly look forward to gathering every fourth Thursday in November to observe the tradition of catching up with relatives and overeating, the Green Bay Packers will revisit a long-standing tradition of playing a football game on Thanksgiving Day. The NFC North battle, set for Thursday, November 23, in Detroit against the Lions, will be Green Bay’s 37th Thanksgiving game, 3rd-most by an NFL team, and they will enter that contest with an all-time 14-20-2 record on the holiday. This will also mark the 22nd Thanksgiving game between the Packers and the Lions, and Detroit holds an 8-12-1 between them.
To get fully prepared for Thursday’s game, fans of the green and gold can relive past Turkey Day memories, as this is the first of a five-part series that recounts in reverse order the most noteworthy and influential Green Bay Packers moments on Thanksgiving Day. Today’s memory, rated the fifth most important, takes us back to when it all began.
5. November 29, 1923: Green Bay Packers 19, Hammond Pros 0
Although the NFL began playing Thanksgiving games in 1920, this marked the first-ever Thanksgiving contest played by the Packers, who in 1923 were in their third season in the NFL. The last game on their schedule that year was a home matchup with the Hammond Pros, who entered the game with a 1-4-1 record, good for 15th place in the NFL standings. On the other hand, the Packers owned a 6-2-1 record, which put them in sole possession of third place behind the Canton Bulldogs and the Chicago Bears.
THE PACKERS ACTUALLY PLAYED A THANKSGIVING DAY GAME AT HOME
Another anomaly about this game was that it was and still is the only home match played by the Packers on Thanksgiving. It was played at Bellevue Park in nearby Preble, which was about 11 miles east of downtown Green Bay. The venue was the site of the Packers’ home games in 1923 and 1924, but because Bellevue Park was lacking virtually every facility required for football and was too far out of town, in 1925, the Packers moved their games to the then-brand-new City Stadium, which is now the home field of Green Bay East High School, and the Packers played their games there until 1957 before the team shifted to its current location.
AN EASY WIN FOR THE PACKERS
Green Bay struck first in the opening quarter, thanks to a 1-yard run by Charlie Mathys, a local product from Green Bay East High School and nearby Ripon College, and that proved to be the only touchdown of his 6-year NFL career. The extra point was no good, and that tally was the only scoring play of the first half, making it 6-0 at the break.
In the third quarter, Penn State alum Stan Mills caught a 35-yard touchdown pass from Packers legend Curly Lambeau, making the score 13-0. Green Bay finished the scoring in the final quarter, thanks to a Mathys-to-Lambeau scoring toss, making the final score 19-0. Lambeau, a 2nd-team all-Pro in 1923, was also the head coach of the team at the time.
THE START OF SOMETHING NEW
Of the previous 36 games played by the Green Bay Packers on Thanksgiving Day, most, if not all, had more action, athleticism, and memorable plays. However, this 1923 game was arguably the most important of them all simply because it was where a 100-year tradition kicked off. NFL games are synonymous with Thanksgiving, just like college bowl games go with New Year’s Day and how the NBA has taken over Christmas. Who knows? Had this game not been played, future games on the fourth Thursday in November may not have been realized, thereby changing the course of both the Packers’ franchise, the NFL, and how Wisconsin families celebrate their Turkey Day forever.