West Allis 'Dairy Bowl' hosted Packers 1939 title win over Giants

CREATED Jan 11, 2012

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  • (L to R): Packers Andy Uram, Arnie Herber during Green Bay's 1939 NFL Championship victory over the New York Giants at State Fair Park. | Archive photo: Milwaukee Journal

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WEST ALLIS - Among the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants' long history of postseason battles was a world championship contest played in a place most people today would never think of for football - State Fair Park.

Jerry Zimmerman was just 11 years old when, as he put it, he found a way to not have to pay the $2.20 to $4.40/ticket cost to see the 1939 NFL Championship Game between the Packers and Giants on a field that was christened "The Dairy Bowl."

"I gathered with the crowd, and as we often did, found ways to kind of sneak through the turnstile," said Zimmerman, who spoke with Newsradio 620 WTMJ's Jay Sorgi.

"I watched that football game from the south entrance to the field, just off the race track."

Yes, he said race track. 

Zimmerman, who's now State Fair Park's historian, tells us the Packers used to play its Milwaukee games at State Fair Park from 1934-51, drawing more than 32,000 fans when they sold out.

"They took the Packers field and they put it inside the 1/4 mile race track."

The NFL had an inkling that the Packers might host an NFL title game, since Green Bay under Curly Lambeau was a yearly powerhouse in the Western Division.

When the Packers clinched the 1939 Western title, the league moved the Dec. 10 championship game to State Fair Park instead of old City Stadium, which held slightly fewer than 25,000 fans at its peak attendance.

"Much to the dismay of Green Bay fans, I recall, but that was the reason they felt that they needed more seating, they would get a greater attendance for that particular game and garner more coverage."

The Packers dominated the New York Giants on that warm, but windy day

In the first quarter, Arnie Herber delivered a scoring strike to Milt Gantenbein, and the Packers took a 7-0 lead into a halftime locker room that wasn't the most spacious.

"My biggest memory was at halftime, the Packers dressing room was up in the south end, inside the grandstand, in a small room," said Zimmerman.

"You would just not have wanted to be packed into that small area with a shower room that probably couldn't have handled more than six guys at a time, if that many," said Zimmerman.

While the players made their halftime adjustments, Wisconsin's governor Julius Heil decided to christen the State Fair Park field with a name descriptive of the state's most famous product.

"In appreciation of the importance of our dairy industry, this field shall from this day on be known as the 'Dairy Bowl,' " said Heil on Newsradio 620 WTMJ during the station's Packers coverage, according to the Milwaukee Journal.

"Los Angeles has the Rose Bowl, Dallas the Cotton Bowl and New Orleans the Sugar Bowl.  It is therefore fitting that here in Wisconsin, America's Dairyland, we also have an athletic field that shall be typical of this great dairy state."

In the second half, the Packers milked 20 points out of their explosive offense, without the scoring help of future Hall-of Fame receiver Don Hutson.

They added a Joe Laws touchdown reception and a Ed Janowski scoring run, along with two field goals by Tiny Engebretsen, while the Giants were held scoreless.

Zimmerman says he stood in the tunnel while the victorious Packers and sullen Giants went back to their locker rooms after a 27-0 Packers win.

"When the football players came through, you could imagine an 11-year-old seeing these bulky guys come through," said Zimmerman.
 
"I've still got a clear vision of their cleated shoes full of mud, and these giants coming by and walking past me."