State Your Case: Jerry Kramer


Photo courtesy of the Green Bay Packers

(Editor’s note: Jerry Kramer is one of two senior candidates for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2018. In tribute to Kramer, we reprint Ron Borges’ State Your Case on Kramer, first published in July, 2014, and arguing for the former Green Bay star’s inclusion in Canton). 

When it comes to the Green Bay Packers’ wing of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, it’s a crowded place … but at least one seat remains mysteriously empty. It’s the one Jerry Kramer earned decades ago.

Why it has never been filled is anyone’s guess. But when you are the only guard selected on the NFL’s 50th anniversary team, locking you out seems like more than an oversight. It seems ridiculous.

How can a man selected as the best guard of the game’s first 50 years be told he wasn’t good enough to be canonized in Canton? Positioning was probably part of it.

Guard is a position often ignored by the Hall, as the Chiefs’ deserving Will Shields has come to know lately. There are nearly twice as many offensive tackles (20) as guards (12), and although there are twice as many guard positions as centers, the latter has nearly as many Hall of Famers (8). So there was that hurdle to clear. But, again, after 50 years of league history, Kramer was named the only guard on the all-time team by the same group that votes on Hall-of-Fame inductions. He is the only member of that team not inducted.

Why?

In 11 years with the Packers, Kramer was a five-time first team All-Pro, went to three Pro Bowls, was named to the all-decade team of the 1960s, played on five NFL championship teams and two Super Bowl champions and several times served as Green Bay’s placekicker when Paul Hornung was not available. In that role he provided the winning margin in the 1962 NFL championship game, delivering three field goals and an extra point in a 16-7 win over the New York Giants.

Kramer has been a finalist for the Hall of Fame nearly as many times as he had NFL seasons — 10. His quarterback, Bart Starr, and both his running backs, Hornung and Jim Taylor, are Hall of Famers. How do you think they got there? Standing behind Jerry Kramer.

The signature play of the Packers Era was the power sweep. Who led it? Jerry Kramer and Fuzzy Thurston.

The signature moment of their decade of dominance was Starr diving in from inside the 1-yard line on a quarterback sneak with 16 seconds to play to win the 1967 NFL title in -15 degree temperatures. Who made the key block? Jerry Kramer.

When Starr came to the sidelines to confer with Vince Lombardi, he first asked Kramer if he had enough traction to execute a double-team wedge block with center Ken Bowman on Dallas defensive tackle Jethro Pugh. Kramer insisted he did and then buried Pugh as Starr ran “Brown right 31 wedge” into the end zone for the touchdown that sent Green Bay back to Super Bowl II and so many Packers to the Hall.

How the man who made that block and so often led that sweep wasn’t included is a football mystery.

Some argue Kramer was a victim of numbers. He would be the 11th player from Lombardi’s Packers enshrined, meaning half the lineup was Hall of Famers. Some may have felt enough was enough. How so in this case?

“If any man has been overlooked for induction Jerry Kramer is the one,” Hall-of-Fame defensive end Jack Youngblood once said. “My teammate and fellow Hall of Famer (defensive tackle and long-time Kramer combatant), Merlin Olsen said, ‘Good Lord, he should be in the Hall.’ ”

Arguably one of the greatest defensive linemen of all-time, the Colts’ Gino Marchetti, emphatically agreed, once saying, “I was truly shocked to find out that Jerry was not a member of the NFL Hall of Fame. I know personally that there was no one better at his position.”

No one better at his position? Only guard on the 50th anniversary team? No bust in Canton?

No way to explain that.

“The Packers would not have been the greatest team in history if they would not have had Jerry,” said Hall-of-Famer Mike Ditka, who battled Kramer’s Packers for NFL supremacy for most of his career. “Jerry Kramer is a Hall of Famer.”

Hard to argue otherwise.

Follow Ron Borges on Twitter @ronborgesTOF and @RonBorges

 

Previous State Your Case: Bobby Beathard
Next State Your Case: Robert Brazile

42 Comments

  1. July 29, 2014
    Reply

    I’ve heard that the Pro Football Hall of Fame gets more letters about Jerry Kramer than any other player. Gino Cappeletti also gets a tremendous amount of support in the mail each year as well.

    • July 29, 2014
      Reply

      Correct Bob! Kramer remains the greatest mystery in HOF history. How he didn’t first make the Hall during his years of normal eligibility is difficult to understand although some around at the time of his retirement argue a combination of there already being so many Packers in the Hall and the perception of some of him being a “self-promoter” at the time due to his classic and best-selling insider view of the Packers, “Instant Replay.” It actually was a classic book that added greatly to fans’ knowledge about the game but was a first because it took you inside a world that had been as cloistered as a Trappist monk’s. By today’s standards it was the farthest thing from chest pounding and certainly was nothing like Jim Bouton’s landmark book, “Ball Four.” Once he slipped into the vast seniors’ pool enshrinement became even more difficult. Hopefully one of these days he’ll get his due because he is the most mentioned non-HOFer in HOF history.

  2. July 29, 2014
    Reply

    Thanks for the article Ron. I’ve been campaigning for Kramer the last few years (helping out his daughter’s quest) and it is one tough road. There are multiple letter of support for Jerry from current Hall of Fame players, and the seniors committee seem unimpressed. I just don’t understand.

    • July 29, 2014
      Reply

      Thanks Al. I’m on the Senior Committee and there is near constant debate about Kramer. Problem is, I think, that he has been up so many times before that it begins to work against him. Unfairly so but that’s life.

      • January 30, 2015
        Reply

        If you are on the commity then vote him in. It is way over due!

  3. Jean Hague Stille
    July 29, 2014
    Reply

    What a shame that they are so close minded that so many only concentrate on being worried about how it looks that there is so much representation from one of, if not THE, greatest team in history, and not honor a man that was the epitome at his position for that reason.

    Jerry Kramer not only was a Hall of Fame player every time he stepped on the field, but his work through his books and charity work bought many people to the game as new fans, of both football and the Packers.

    There is a reason they have been referred to as the Greatest team ever, and the Ice Bowl the greatest game, and the appropriate players should be honored as such, regardless of what they think it “looks” like. I think it would look like they are enshrining someone who deserves it. The players they have enshrined from that team were long term members and were given that honor for their career, as would be Jerry.

  4. Suzi Johnson
    July 29, 2014
    Reply

    Ron great article on Jerry Krammer. You certainly stated his case well! He more than deserves to be in the Hall he EARNED it! Idont think people realize how much tougher the conditions were back then. However you are on the senior comittee and the are 9 of you that decide who is in and who is out. I dont understand when someone like Jerry and all his contribution to the game on the playing field is not deemed worthy by the other 8 seniors? This is a no brainer so why dont the other 8 see the same greatness in Jerry that you do? Cant you sway the comittee ? Pleade his case with them? Which im sure u do. Whats wrong with the comittee members hilding Jerrys rightfull seat in The Hall of Fame. I just want to know what they say to justify year after year of not voting him in?
    Thanks Ron :0)

  5. ken hartnett
    July 29, 2014
    Reply

    that’s a puzzle to me. Kramer was so talented and so consistent. and so battle scarred. i found out a short time ago that he was not yet in canton. just assumed he was. so many great players on both sides of the ball but he was their equal. the great players step up in the great games. robinson did that and willie davis and starr, of course, and hornung and adderley, but just as surely did kramer and he was a nice guy too, accessible and straight. could that be the rub? the books, the access? No other explanation comes to mind. nothing on the field. keep fighting for him, ron. it may be life, ron, but it’s also unjust, unfair and dead wrong.

  6. Dave Goldberg
    July 29, 2014
    Reply

    I served for 12 years on the HOF seniors committee with Ron, Rick Gosselin and a group of other very distinguished football writers. Twice Jerry Kramer was one of our two seniors candidates and twice he was voted down by the full committee. Why? No idea because voting is secret and there is no way of knowing who the “no” votes were _ there was very little comment during the discussion of Kramer at least the second time. I’m too old to remember the first, one reason I’ve retired as a HOF voter.

    The answer? Maybe transparency. Hold people responsible for their votes. My fear about that is that in the internet/Twitter/what have you era, a voter has to be able to stand up to the abuse he or she will get, a lot of it unpleasant and some of it misguided and obscene. I can. I know Ron Borges can. I’m not so sure about others.

  7. July 29, 2014
    Reply

    Great article, Ron. How much do you think his book, Instant Replay, has affected him in the eyes of HOF voters?

    • July 29, 2014
      Reply

      More than I would have thought, at least among some of the voters of that time. Hardly register on the radar today but I believe it made some look upon him as a self-promoter. Sad really because so many feel he belongs.

  8. July 29, 2014
    Reply

    Excellent piece, Ron. As you may know, I’ve been writing articles about this unbelievable situation for over a decade now, including my most recent one from a few days ago.

    http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2141259-green-bay-packers-jerry-kramer-talks-about-the-power-sweep

    Before then, I was writing letters to newspapers. This has been an ongoing issue for me for over 25 years.

    I’ve gotten to be good friends with Jerry over the past few years as I’ve been doing what I can in terms of the many articles I’ve written during this crusade. I’ve also been able to get inside the process in terms of communicating with Senior Selection Committee members like yourself and Rick Gosselin. I’ve also been in contact with a number of other voters. Everyone of them believe No. 64 deserves to be in Canton.

    Hopefully you and Rick can convince the other members of the Senior Selection Committee to make Jerry one of your two nominees announced later in August.

    If that happens, I don’t think there would be any doubt that Jerry would be rightfully inducted on Super Bowl weekend next February!

  9. July 29, 2014
    Reply

    FYI, trying to reply to a reply doesn’t seem to work (no where to type the reply).

    Anyway, it’s good to know Kramer has his champions in the room. They probably don’t care, but I hope the other senior committee members realize how petty and small this makes them look. And not just in the eyes of Packers fans – NFL fans, players, and executives of all teams who know anything about NFL history feel Jerry belongs. The only guy on that “Best of the NFL’s First 50 years” not in the HOF. I just can’t get over that.

    Thanks for writing this as a senior committee member, it’s much appreciated.

  10. Eric Olson
    July 29, 2014
    Reply

    I read Instant replay in 1980 I think I was in the 7th grade. I went from a kid who watched a little football to a Packer fanatic (I live about 45 minutes from Green Bay). Any way I have been absolutely amazed by the fact that he is not in the HOF it almost makes a mockery of the place He was the greatest guard of a generation. Then I got to meet him at a banquet about 6 years ago and I had that same copy of the book and I brought it for him to sign. I figured I’d get a hello my book signed and that would be it. I had a 5 to 10 minute conversation with him he was the nicest guy, I was very impressed. He really needs to be in and I wish there was something I could do.

    • July 29, 2014
      Reply

      Kramer’s book was ground breaking and his abilities were clear. The way he took over place kicking duties for Hornung and made those critical kicks to beat the Giants for the NFL title in 1962 only add to his legacy. Maybe one day.

      • Michael Avolio
        September 4, 2017
        Reply

        It’s beyond belief that Kramer is not in the HOF…

        I can think of twenty guys who should be in and,are not…

        Jerry would be # 1 on the list.

        • September 4, 2017
          Reply

          We share your astonishment that he’s not in the Hall. One reason we spent the past three years fighting to keep his candidacy alive.

  11. Rich Quodomine
    July 30, 2014
    Reply

    The Packers built a team in an era where great teams got to keep great players. Free Agency wasn’t what it was, and therefore “too many people on one team” doesn’t make sense. Kramer played before my time of watching the game (mid-80s forward) but if you observe the game, or watched a lot of “NFL Films presents…”, you know of the man. A few years back, they had a batch of guards get in the Hall, like Joe D from the Bills and Ron Yary. I suspect Kramer should come in when the HoF Committee looks at another batch of OLs. I know the senior committee works a bit different from the regular selection but I know more about Kramer than this year’s inductee, Claude Humphrey. I’m not denigratinng the process, but Kramer was the reason Elijah Pitts had a couple of TDs and Bart Starr and Co. have rings. By the way, fun Wikipedia note: Kramer was also a placekicker for parts of 3 seasons. Talk about a multiple skillset player!

    • August 3, 2014
      Reply

      Rich, next time Kramer in room will be his last so seniors committee has to be careful how it plays the timing. To me, simple argument: He was on 50th anniversary team voted by Hall’s board of selectors. That’s all I need to know.

  12. […] oversight should be fixed this year. Gosselin can help. So can Borges. He recently wrote a story about the absurdity of Kramer not being in the Hall of Fame for the new website called the Talk of […]

    • August 15, 2014
      Reply

      Can’t disagree with you but not likely he comes out this year. Jerry’s candidacy has fallen short so many times his next try will likely be his last. That means timing for him is as important as his credentials, which in my opinion are exemplary. Look in our State Your Case section to see the one we made for Kramer and tell otehrs who think like you to come and read it.

      • July 20, 2016
        Reply

        Imsvespire brain power at work! Great answer!

  13. February 11, 2015
    Reply

    The HOF is not complete without Kramer sitting next to his teammates. If he does not make it in there next year I believe some changes need to be made on the voting.

  14. Dave Slick
    February 11, 2015
    Reply

    Mick Tinglehoff was just elected? Really? Please don’t him be the Ron Santo of the NFL.

  15. Gordy Scott
    August 11, 2015
    Reply

    Jerry Kramer absolutely belongs in the HOF. Everyone with an ounce of knowledge about football understands that great teams have great offensive lines. Especially in the era of the 1960s, dominating line play determined which teams won and lost. Kramer was central to the most important play scheme of the Lombardi era, the famed Packer sweep. Yes, Thurston was a major part of that play scheme, but Kramer did it better and for a longer period of time. Kramer also made the most iconic block in the history of Packer football and perhaps all of football history in the Ice Bowl. Kramer stepped in and kicked in pressure situations such as the 1962 title game. It does not matter how many other Packers are already in the Hall. Compare his career with those of the other NFL guards who are already in. His contemporaries laud his ability and are astounded that he is not in. His career work is worthy. His teams won five championships with him setting the tone up front along with Forrest Gregg. Those two guys were the cornerstones. The other Packers up front did not play as long or as consistently as those two. Ringo is in the hall but he did not play in Green Bay as long as Kramer and the Packers won three more championships after Ringo went to the Eagles. The game of football is a team game that combines the efforts of 11 individuals so one guy cannot get all the credit. Forrest Gregg was a great player but he did not do it by himself. It could be argued that Kramer was more central to the success of more plays than his teammate, Gregg. Jerry Kramer belongs in the HOF next to Forrest Gregg. He has also faithfully served the game as an ambassador for many years after his retirement. I can understand why Pete Rose is not in the baseball hall, but what has Jerry Kramer done to be placed in basically the same category of exclusion? Apparently, Kramer had been accused of self-promotion. Kramer’s work as an author is anything but self-promotion. In his books, he has described for all of us the inside story to the historic run of Packer domination during the Lombardi era. We should be thanking him for doing so and congratulating him as he enters the HOF while he is still walking among us. The NFL legends are not immortal and the clock is ticking. Let’s allow Jerry Kramer to take his rightful place alongside the greatest players to ever step onto and perform on an NFL gridiron while he is still here with us to enjoy the moment!! I am sorry that I am a person who has no influence in this situation. I just encourage those who have a say in this to get out there and make this thing right. Go to work! Mr. Kramer deserves this. By the way, God Bless my hero Bart Starr. He is fighting for his health and his life. He remains an inspiration.

  16. Sam Goldenberg
    August 17, 2015
    Reply

    Ron: This was a great article. I had sent you a letter rehashing all of Jerry Kramer’s accomplishments a few months back. I tried to send this letter to as many Senior Committee members as possible. Jerry is so deserving. He is what football is all about. It is so unfair that he is being denied. I understand the Senior Selection Process, but I believe if a name is brought up as a candidate each member should have to vote and explain their reason for not endorsing the candidate. Excuses like being a self promoter and too many Packers in the Hall of Fame are just ridiculous. If someone can provide a football reason that is different. However, I heard someone say well if the writers that failed to elect him when he was a finalist in 1970’s didn’t think he was good enough then he must not have been good enough. Yet Mick Tinglehoff (a great choice by the way) was never even a finalist in the 1970’s and he goes in easily as a Senior candidate. I know it is a delicate process, but Jerry’s name should come up every year. It is a travesty he is not in the Hall of Fame, and the members of the Senior Committee that are blocking him (an ironic term, since he was one of the best blockers in NFL history) should be ashamed of themselves. Thanks again Ron for fighting the good fight.

  17. Joe Morzenti
    August 24, 2015
    Reply

    Not only was Jerry Kramer the lone guard on the NFL All Time 50th Anniversary team but also the only 1st teamer not in the HOF.There are numerous 2nd & 3rd teamers already in the HOF. That is a travesty! There are 3 players from all 3 teams not in the HOF…Kramer, along with Boyd Dowler and Ron Kramer (2nd & 3rd teamers respectively). All 3 Packers.hmmmmm….

    • August 27, 2015
      Reply

      Kramer definitely belongs. Don’t understand why he wasn’t put in years ago.Needs to happen.

  18. John Schilberg
    August 24, 2015
    Reply

    Sooooooo then, how do we explain Warren Sapp being a member? Hall of Shame, I say!

  19. Sam Goldenberg
    August 26, 2015
    Reply

    I cannot deny that Stabler and Stanfel have credentials, but not nearly as many as Jerry Kramer. How Jerry Kramer is overlooked year after year is baffling. Stanfel played during the first 50 years of the NFL and was not on the 50th anniversary team. Kramer was not only on this team, he is only one not in the Hall of Fame. Based on just that, the selection of Stanfel over Kramer is erroneous. Not to mention the clutch performances Kramer made in the 1962, 1965 and 1967 NFL Championships games, or that over 50 Hall of Famers have endorsed him for the Hall of Fame. No disrespect to Stabler or Stanfel, but the Hall of Fame is not complete without Jerry Kramer. I know the selection process is difficult, but Jerry Kramer’s omission is so blatant it cheapens the entire Hall of Fame.

    • August 27, 2015
      Reply

      Sam, agree 100 percent. Kramer is the only member of the 50th anniversary team missing from Canton. And that’s a team that’s voted on by the Hall. Way past time to get him in.

  20. Sam Goldenberg
    August 27, 2015
    Reply

    Clark: Thanks for comment. It is great that knowledgeable football people like yourself, Ron Borges, and Rick Gosselin share this viewpoint. It is a shame Jerry has to wait another year. He is not getting any younger.

    • August 27, 2015
      Reply

      Sam, I’ll be honest with you: I just don’t understand it. Makes no sense.

  21. Carter Dary
    February 17, 2016
    Reply

    The HOF not only should vote Krammer in, but should include an apology signed by every voting member. I too watched him play and no one at the time was better. In fact, without him, the famous Sweep is not as successful as it was—his speed for a big man. Now, having said that allow me to pose a suspicion. My older brother got to know many of those men because he was restaurant manager at the Holiday Inn in Appleton, WI. A favorite hang out for Nitzche, Thurston, Ron Krammer and othes. He did meet Jerry K. and did not like him. Said he was arrogant and very sarcastic (Krammer admitted as much in his 2nd book). I never met him and can’t comment, but if he was sarcastic to the press (which I suspect he was), he pissed off the wrong people. NOTE TO HOF: Get over it and grow-up. Vote this very worthy man into the HOF!!!!!

    • February 17, 2016
      Reply

      Can’t really tell you why he’s not in. If he’s good enough for 50th anniversary team you’d think he’d be good enough for HOF. Has nothing to do with personality. Most of guys in that room never met him or talked to him. Up to senior committee now to bring him out.

  22. bachslunch
    March 16, 2016
    Reply

    I’d vote for Jerry Kramer if I had a vote, but there’s a likely reason why he has gotten passed over. Ken Crippen’s site grades him quite well, but notes that his game apparently had a deficiency in the pass blocking department. And it probably didn’t help that he missed about half the 1961 season and almost all of 1964 due to injury. But in all other phases of the game, he was peerless — run blocking, pulling, screen pass blocking — and these skills were especially integral to the Packers success at the time. Plus his postseason honors are very good at 5/3/60s.

  23. Rob
    July 1, 2016
    Reply

    Ron and Rick, What are Jerry Kramer’s chances of being a Senior Nominee for the Class of 2017?

  24. July 20, 2016
    Reply

    IJWTS wow! Why can’t I think of thnigs like that?

  25. Richard Arndt
    August 25, 2016
    Reply

    Senior members lost to Packers, taking it out on Jerry?
    Don’t believe it!
    He was a hugh impact on my life and still is a positive influence!

  26. Sam Goldenberg
    August 27, 2017
    Reply

    Kudos to you Ron and to Rick and Clark for keeping Jerry Kramer’s case current with your tremendous forum. So thrilled Jerry is getting another shot at the HOF, he is so deserving. Not only are his credentials overwhelming but he is a true ambassador for the game and is really a football treasure. At 81 years old what a tremendous thing this is for Jerry and his family. Just hope that the HOF committee finally votes him in, should be a slam dunk, but keeping my fingers crossed anyway.

    • August 27, 2017
      Reply

      I think all three of us are hoping this is his year. Really don’t understand why it took so long, but this is his last shot. And just have to believe he makes it. Hope so anyway.

  27. Michael Avolio
    September 4, 2017
    Reply

    It’s beyond belief that Kramer is not in the Hall of fame.

    I can think of twenty guys who are not in the HOF and should be….
    Jerry would be # 1 on the list.

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