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No One Opens Hole Into the Hall of Fame for Jerry Kramer

January 27, 1985|Associated Press

PARMA, Ida. — Jerry Kramer has waited 12 years for professional football's ultimate honor. But once again, Super Bowl Sunday wasn't so super for one of the National Football League's all-time greats.

Kramer, the Green Bay Packer who was a five-time all-league pick and played in three Pro Bowls, was voted the greatest offensive guard in NFL history by a league committee in 1969.

Kramer, who grew up in Sandpoint and starred at the University of Idaho, has been knocking on the Hall of Fame's door since becoming eligible in 1973.

Kramer seems resigned to his fate, but several of his former teammates who are Hall of Famers are not.

"I think it's one of the real oversights," said Willie Davis, who roomed with Kramer while with the Packers.

"There's a lot of inequities and injustices in the world, and this is one of those things," said Bart Starr, the Packer quarterback who used Kramer's blocking.

"If somebody would ask me if Jerry Kramer should be in the Hall of Fame, I would say, 'Absolutely,' " said Forrest Gregg, the current Green Bay coach and another of Kramer's former teammates.

"The Hall of Fame . . . it's a mystery," Kramer says with a sigh.

"The farther it is from the five-year period, the less you are concerned," he said from his 600-acre cattle ranch outside Parma. "The height of anticpation, hope and concern is the first year you are eligible. After two or three years, you begin to get a little irritated, then you get ahold of yourself."

When the newest Hall of Famers were voted in last Saturday, Kramer, who has received the minimum three votes necessary to make the preliminary ballot every year since 1973, was ignored again.

Kramer's star may actually be slipping. He's wasn't one of the 15 finalists this year, as he has been most years since becoming eligible. It's been 20 years since Dan Fortmann joined Mike Michalske (a 1964 Hall of Fame pick) as the only players inducted primarily for their play at offensive guard.

"It's a shame," said ex-Packer middle linebacker Ray Nitschke.

"I haven't looked into it. I haven't checked on it," Kramer said. "It's something I don't really want to get into in a public way."

Davis, Starr, Gregg and Nitschke and four other Packer teammates of Kramer, plus the late coach and general manager, Vince Lombardi, have been inducted.

Two more players from the mighty Packer teams of the 1960s, Paul Hornung and Willie Wood, were among this year's finalists.

"They got tired of picking Green Bay guys, I really believe that," said Nitschke.

"I'm sure there's a little bit of that," Kramer said. "It's human nature."

"I did hear at one time that there really was a growing concern so many Packers were in," said Davis.

"Oh sure, there's no doubt about that," said Seattle Times sports writer Gil Lyons, one of the 29 media representatives on the Hall of Fame selection commitee. "I think just the fact there have been so many (inducted) off that team makes one wonder how many Hall of Famers were on that team."

"When all these guys (the 1960s Packers) became eligible, they all came at once," said Art Daley, a retired Green Bay Press-Gazette sports writer and an original Hall of Fame selection committee member.

Kramer and his supporters believe each man should be considered on his own merit. On that basis, Kramer stands in a select circle.

"There's no question in my mind Jerry Kramer was rightfully characterized as one of the greatest guards of all-time," said Davis, now a beer distributor in Los Angeles. "He was really kind of a model for the pulling, blocking kind of guard in the Green Bay sweep."

"He was always well-prepared, but he had the ability to 'ad-lib' and adjust on the run, so to speak, as well as anyone," said Starr, Gregg's predecessor as Packer coach. "He was a complete player."

"Whaddaya gotta do?" asks Packer publicity director Lee Remmel. "Here's a guy who started seven or eight years on one of the greatest offensive lines of all-time. His team wins five championships in seven years, which no other team has ever done."

Still, the passing of time does not figure to benefit Kramer, 48, who co-authored the best-seller "Instant Replay" and played on the first two Super Bowl championship teams. He currently is involved in oil and gas exploration as well as ranching.

Davis, the legendary defensive end, said he believes the selection committee "focuses more on the most recent players, rather than looking back over the whole period of time."

Kramer agrees, but also expresses surprise Hornung hasn't been elected. "You try to be rational, and look at past recognition, past honors. I'm thankful for them," Kramer said. "But really, why the hell isn't Paul Hornung in? I will never feel bad about not being in or not having been in if Paul is not selected. I feel he truly belongs."

"It's a popularity contest to some degree," said Kramer, who lives just 15 miles from another famous Idaho native, pro baseball Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew.

"For a while after that era, when I retired, Green Bay was fairly fresh in peole's minds," Kramer adds. "More people now think about the Dallas teams or Pittsburgh or Miami. We may have passed our time when we had the best chance."

Kramer said he and author Dick Schaap have been working on a book, expected out next fall, that will take a current look at Packers who played in the glory years.

"There was an awfully high ratio of success with guys on the team," Kramer says. "An awful lot of guys have to be in the millionaire status."

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