With 43 days left until the start of the NFL season, our countdown to the big day continues.
Over the course of the next 43 days we focus on the number that represents the days remaining … and for today that number is 43.
Today we focus in on #43.
Once again, here is one of those jersey numbers that really don’t pop for Packers fans. No, I can’t think of a single player off the top of my head, can you? No, I didn’t think so.
And again, we have to go deep into the annals of Packers history to find a player worthy of associating with being the best to have worn the jersey.
So, who does John Maxymuk, the author of “Packers by the Numbers: Jersey Numbers and the Players Who Wore them,” focus on in his chapter on #43?
None other than Charles “Buckets” Goldenberg, who wore the number between 1938 and 1945.
Who was this Goldenberg guy who played during the war years and helped anchor the Packers offensive line?
Here is what Maxymuk has to say about Goldenberg:
Charles “Buckets” Goldenberg is not remembered much today, but was considered one of the top linemen in the league during his career and was one of the team’s most popular figures for years after his career ended.
He was born in Odessa in the Ukraine in 1911, and his family emigrated to the U.S. when he was four. He grew up in Milwaukee and was an All City halfback in high school where he inherited his older brother’s posterior-inspired nickname “Buckets.”
At the University of Wisconsin he starred both in the line and the backfield, and Curly Lambeau signed him to a pro contract in 1933. He spent the next 13 years in a Packers uniform mostly as either 44 or 43.
Lambeau originally employed Buckets mostly as a single wing quarterback, better described as a blocking back, for his first few years. He led the league in touchdowns with seven as a rookie, but in his backfield years he carried the ball only 108 times and caught 11 passes.
Almost half of his carries came in his rookie year, when he backed up Clarke Hinkle at fullback, but he was the starting blocking back on the 1936 champions. At 5-10 and 220 pounds, he had the body of a 1930s lineman, and Mike Michalske helped convince Lambeau to convert Buckets to guard, where he spent the last two-thirds of his career.
As a guard/linebacker he was first team All Pro once and second team another year. He was known as a flattening lead blocker on offense and a tenacious tackler on defense. Despite his talent and popularity, Lambeau actually traded him and Swede Johnston to Pittsburgh for Pat McCarty and Ray King in 1938 when Johnny Blood became coach of the Steelers. Fortunately for all in Green Bay, the deal fell through when Buckets retired rather than report to Pittsburgh. He returned to the Packers for two more championship runs.
In his off-seasons, Goldenberg was a professional wrestler for many years until the travel became too much of a drain on his family life, so he opened a restaurant in Milwaukee in 1941. His restaurant was very successful for decades and featured several large photographs of Packer players in action. Like many former players of his time, he continued as a fan of the team in his retirement and regularly attended all Packer games in Green Bay, Milwaukee and Chicago. In many ways, he was similar to another guard known more for his nickname than his given name, Fuzzy Thurston. He also served on the Packers Board of Directors from 1953 until the year before he died, 1985.
He was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in 1971 and was named “Outstanding Jewish Athlete of All Time” by the Green Bay B’nai B’rith lodge in 1969.
Had World War II not occurred, however, it is doubtful his career would have lasted as long. With so many of the young and able in the military, league rosters were filled with the old and damaged. One year, Pittsburgh merged its squad with Philadelphia to form the Steagles, and the next season they merged with the Cardinals to form Card-Pitt. Goldenberg tried to enlist in the Army, but he was rejected because his knees were so bad.
The Packers continued to field winning teams throughout the war years, and by 1944 enough of the 1940s Bears juggernaut was in the service that Green Bay was able to slip past the Bears and win the Western Division. They would face the Neew York Giants in the Polo Grounds for the title, which the Packers won 14-7.
In this game, Buckets was there once more when his team needed him, getting the key fourth-and-goal block that enabled Ted Fritsch to score the first touchdown. He would play one more year and then hang up his cleats along with Don Hutson.
Over the next couple of years all of the champion Packers of the two-way era would retire without being replaced adequately.
Green By would not see another guard of Goldenberg’s quality until Kramer and Thurston showed up almost 15 years later.
Here is a list of all the Packers players who have worn #43 since 1950: