Winston-Salem’s most boorish guest ever?

“Disappointed by soft ticket sales for an exhibition game against the Green Bay Packers, [Washington Redskins owner George Preston Marshall] called the host city of Winston-Salem… a ‘lousy town.’

“Stung by the criticism, the Rotary Club invited him to take a tour of the city. He accepted, only to ridicule  the R. J. Reynolds tobacco factory, the Western Electric plant and the airport and people who enjoyed flying. At an underwear plant, he said: ‘I haven’t worn an undershirt in 25 years. Only wear shorts. Guess I cut your business in half.’

” ‘Winston-Salem turned the other cheek to critic George Preston Marshall,’ wrote the Winston-Salem Journal, ‘and he managed to slap it too.’ ”

— From “Showdown: JFK and the Integration of the Washington Redskins” by Thomas G. Smith (2011)

For entirely different reasons, Packers Coach Vince Lombardi had his own ill feelings toward Winston-Salem, where the teams played an annual exhibition 1955-60.


One thought on “Winston-Salem’s most boorish guest ever?”

  1. Lew, I don’t know which of the six games the Packers played against the Redskins in Winston-Salem that the “Marshall city tour” took place, but in 1955, the first year the game was played in Winston, pre- game ticket sales was at 8,000, when Marshall made Charlie Justice an offer to come out of retirement and play in this one game. Justice declined the offer, but did agree to make an appearance in a pre-game ceremony to the delight of the 13,000 in Bowman Gray Stadium.

    That ’55 game, which the Redskins won 33 to 31, has a special place in Redskins’ history. The margin of victory was doubled after the game had ended. With the score 31 to 26 in favor of the Packers and less than thirty seconds left to play, the Redskins had the ball inside the Packer one-yard-line. Redskins’ quarterback Eddie LeBaron took the ball into the line just as time ran out. It took the officials several seconds to untangle the players and determine that LeBaron had indeed scored, making the score 32 to 31 Redskins. The game was over, but Redskins’ place kicker Norb Hecker calmly kicked the extra point making the final score 33 to 31.

    The NFL of 1955 was a different world than the one we see on TV every Sunday, Monday and Thursday. Preseason games, called exhibition games in those days, were played to win with first string players playing the entire game.

    I remember as a little kid, saving my allowance money and mowing my neighbor’s yards to get enough for a ticket, which cost $4.00.

    My wife and I recently attended a Redskins’ game at Fed-Ex Field where we paid $150.00 for two tickets and $35.00 to park. Today’s NFL is indeed a different world.

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