Fish Bowl of 1952: The time Duluth beat the Packers … sort of
For three seasons, the Green Bay Packers divided up their team for inter-squad scrimmage games in Duluth. The first-group players, or “starters,” played for the Packers, and the second group players, or “benchwarmers,” took the name of the Duluth Eskimos. Of course, there was an actual Duluth Eskimos NFL team from 1923 to ’27, but the games referred to in this post were from 1951 to ’53.
The scrimmages were known as “The Fish Bowl,” and attracted crowds of about 8,000. The Packers won two of the three games, both by small margins, but in 1952 the backup players, under the name Duluth Eskimos, defeated the Green Bay starters by a score of 34-7.
Lucky’s Amazing Sports List provides this graphic of the scores from the three Fish Bowls.
According to packershistory.net, the Packers and Eskimos practiced in Grand Rapids in preparation for each of the Fish Bowls. In 1951 the Eskimos were coached by former Denfeld Hunters and Minnesota Gophers standout Frank “Butch” Larson, along with Packer backfield coach Ray McLean. Dick Plasman and Tarzan Taylor coached the Packer regulars that year. Hall of Famer Red Grange — the Galloping Ghost himself — coached the Eskimos in Fish Bowl 3.
Below are synopses of the games from the Packers History site.
Aug. 10, 1951 (Duluth) – Ted Fritsch, the old warhorse of the Packers, proved himself still in the game today after 10 years by the field in the last four seconds of play that won 22-21 for the Packers over the Eskimos. A crowd of 8,500 persons watched the exhibition, actually an intra-squad affair. The play was battering and bitter. Many players were fighting to keep their jobs with the NFL team. The Eskimos took 10 plays from kickoff to score. Quarterback Tobin Rote and a 61-yard run off a reverse game them another touchdown to make it 14-0. In the second period, Rote passed to Ab Wimberly to make it 21-0. Green Bay started scoring late in the first half with Bobby Thomason’s pass to Jug Girard. They missed the try for point. In the third period, Bob Hanlon smashed off tackle to make it 21-13. The Packers recovered a fumble on their own five. After they surged to midfield in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Bob McCraney passed to Carleton Elliott and set the stage for the call on Fritsch and his educated toe.
Aug. 8, 1952 (Duluth) – Duluth Eskimos, offshoot of the Green Bay Packers, Friday night whipped the parent team 34-7 in an exhibition game played in the so-called Fish Bowl here. The Duluth end of the split Packer squad held a 20-7 margin at the half. An even division of the team was sought but the Eskimos, coached by Bernie Bierman, former Minnesota mentor, held the initiative all the way. Bob Forte, Eskimo quarterback, passed to or set up three touchdowns in the first half. The defensive play of the Eskimos smothered Packer passing attempts throughout the contest. The winners returned the opening kick to their own 30 and Abner Wimberly went across the line minutes later for the first touchdown. Fred Cone counted the second on a 38-yard run before the first quarter ended. In the second quarter, Forte passed to Bobbie Mann behind the Packers’ defense and Mann went across. Later, Tobin Rote started the Packer touchdown drive with successive passes to Floyd Reid, Dom Moselle and Carlton Elliott. Elliott went across. Cone started the third quarter scoring with a touchdown plunge. George Hudak, former Minnesota great, copped a Forte pass for a first down on the Packers’ 12. Then with two to go on fourth down, Hudak plunged through his own left guard for the curtain-dropping counter.
Aug 7, 1953 (Duluth) – The forward-passing combination of Tobin Rote-to-Bill Howton spelled the edge Friday night as the Green Bay Packers bested their offshoot Eskimos, 16-13, in an intrasquad game here. Rote tossed to Howton, who made a 58-yard run for a touchdown in the second quarter to start the scoring. The margin was 9-0 for the Packers at the half after Fred Cone kicked a 29-yard field goal. The same combination clicked for a 40-yard pass and run to make it 16-0 early in the third period. Shortly after, Babe Parilli, Eskimo quarterback, slithered 10 yards for a touchdown down the center when he failed to spot a receiver for his intended aerial. Dick Flowers, formerly of Northwestern, engineers the Eskimos’ final touchdown march, ended when Bob Mann went across from the four.
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