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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Old Number 66 - True Ray Nitschke (Green Bay Packer) Stories!

A blast from the past, originally published 3/3/12

You may remember a great middle linebacker by the name of
Ray Nitschke

Here are some interesting stories, the one at the car wash was indeed with me and my ex-wife.

In 1972, I went to my first Green Bay Packer game during the preseason at Milwaukee County Stadium.  The Packers had drafted a young new linebacker named Jim Carter and since Nitschke was getting older and slower, the new guy was slated to take over as the starting middle linebacker.  A lot of fans, including myself, were resentful and wanted Nitchske to remain the starter. Jim Carter started the game on defense; fans were booing him and during the second quarter, Coach Divine let Nitschke come in to play. The fans were cheering wildly when he came in and on the very next play, he blew through an offensive lineman and sacked the quarterback for a huge loss. The whole stadium erupted and I got a beer dumped on my head from some clown in back of me!  It sure was exciting. Unfortunately, age was taking it's toll on Ray and Jim Carter remained the starter going into the regular season and Nitschke was a back-up player for his final season.  The Packers had a good year under Dan Devine and went 10 and 4 that year.

After moving to Crivitz, in the late 80’s I was at a car wash in Green Bay with my ex-wife Mary.  We were in the narrow corridor watching our car go through the wash behind the glass.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the door fly open and a man come walking through like he was NOT wasting time. He called out in not a mean voice, but quite loudly “ Look out, man coming through!”.  It was Ray Nitschke!, with a big stogie in his mouth and a newspaper blowing past us. He paid for his car wash with the cashier and sat on a stool to read the paper while he waited for his car.  His car was a nice newer Buick (maybe a Park Avenue), but not especially fancy. I wanted so much to say hello and thank him for all the great memories, but I was scared to death!  I will always remember that and regret it. I’m sure he would have been very courteous. He died in 1998.

Nitschke was known for his strength and toughness. Once, a metal tower on the Packers practice field fell over on top of Nitschke. Lombardi ran over to see what had happened, but when told it had fallen on Nitschke, said, "He'll be fine. Get back to work!" According to Nitschke's biography, the tower drove a spike into his helmet, but didn't injure him. The helmet (with the hole) is currently on display in the Packer Hall of Fame in Green Bay.

Ray Nitschke, great middle linebacker for the Packers in the ‘60s played during the same period as when Dick Butkus was a linebacker for the Bears. There was great animosity between the two players, especially after Nitschke got himself a dog and named it “Butkus”.  Butkus then retaliated by naming his cat “Nitschke”.

Mike Ditka: As a rookie tight end in 1961, he nearly came to blows with Ray Nitschke in a Milwaukee bar after the annual preseason Midwest Shrine Game. After that, the players made it a point to seek each other out on the field. In 1964, Nitschke knocked Ditka cold. "I saw the whites of his eyes," Nitschke said. "I thought I killed him."


  1. ray was in portland or. for the payless golf tournament. aboy of about 11 came up to him and asked for his autograph. ray said what. the boy said can i have your autograph. ray said what? the boy said could i please have your autograph. to which ray said yes.

  2. Thanks for the story! Dan