Zambrowicz still going strong in Packers’ press box
By Rich Palzewic
GREEN BAY – Larry Zambrowicz has been associated with the Green Bay Packers longer than most Americans have been alive.
Zambrowicz, who lives about six blocks from Lambeau Field, has been working in the south-end scoreboard and in the press box as an unofficial – and uncompensated – employee of the Packers, helping to display the score and game stats since 1953.
“It’s been a fun ride,” said the 85-year-old Zambrowicz from his home. “I was a Packers fan growing up as a young boy and would listen to all the games on the radio.”
Upon graduating from high school, Zambrowicz studied electricity in vocational school.
In 1953, he accepted a position at LaHaye Electric, which installed beer signs for bars and restaurants throughout Green Bay.
One customer, Pabst, had the advertising rights for the scoreboard at Old City Stadium.
During games, Larry and co-workers had the task of standing behind the wooden structure and changing the score by hand.
“At Old City Stadium, there was nothing in the back of the scoreboard to hang on to, so we had to stand on the railing in front of the scoreboard to change the scores,” Zambrowicz said.
Zambrowicz left LaHaye briefly to serve in the U.S. Army for two years.
Stationed at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, he volunteered to work as a lifeguard at a non-commissioned-officer pool, and it was there he met his future wife, Sharon Larkin.
The couple has four kids – Linda, Jim, John and Joe – and have been married for 62 years.
“I went to the pool and met Larry,” said Sharon Zambrowicz. “I was from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and we didn’t have any pro teams. I went to high school football games, but my dad was a New York Yankees fan. When Larry told me he was from Green Bay, I said, ‘What state is that in?’ When he said to me, ‘You know, the Green Bay Packers,’ I said, ‘What’s that?’”
In 1957, the team moved into “New City Stadium” at its current location on Lombardi Avenue, where it was eventually changed to Lambeau Field in 1965.
It was in 1957 that Zambrowicz worked inside the scoreboard and was responsible for manually displaying the scores of other NFL games in action.
“They would call down from the press box to the phone in the scoreboard, and we would post the teams playing and the scores,” he said.
From the time the stadium opened until the early 2000s, Zambrowicz missed only one game – the Baltimore Colts contest on Dec. 26, 1965.
The Western Conference playoff game, made famous by Don Chandler’s controversial, made field goal, was won by the Packers in overtime, 13-10.
The next week, Green Bay defeated the Cleveland Browns for the NFL Championship, 23-12.
“I got stuck on the afternoon shift that day,” Zambrowicz said. “I wanted to trade with someone, but my boss was a strict Scottish man who had no use for football. Someone would have switched with me, but my boss said I couldn’t. It was the only game I missed up until a few years with some health problems.”
Zambrowicz was working inside the press box during the Ice Bowl on Dec. 31, 1967.
“I have a chunk of the goal post from the Ice Bowl,” he smiled. “After the game, the fans tore the goal post down, and they didn’t know what to do with it. At the time, LaHaye had an electrical truck in the stadium parked directly underneath the scoreboard. We got a bunch of hacksaws and helped cut it in pieces. LaHaye was given a 6-foot chunk, so each one of the guys on our crew got a piece.”
In 1969, Zambrowicz tore the cartilage in his knee and was scheduled for surgery but refused until the season was over.
Zambrowicz became a season ticket holder in 1970, never once sitting in his seats – he left the tickets for his family.
Other moments stick out in Zambrowicz’s memory.
“The game against Tampa Bay [on Dec. 1, 1985] in the snow is very memorable to me,” he said. “By the third quarter, they couldn’t keep up with the snow. Former Tampa Bay quarterback Steve Young walked off the field and wouldn’t play anymore. By the time we got outside, there was a foot of snow on the ground. We had a smaller crew at the time, so we all rode in my station wagon – we barely got home. The next morning I bought a snowblower, and I’m still using it to this day.”
Another game Zambrowicz vividly recalls occurred on Jan. 21, 2008, a game the Packers lost to the New York Giants, 23-20, in overtime.
“This was the NFC Championship game when Brett Favre threw the interception in overtime,” he said. “After New York kicked the winning field goal, in the booth next to us, the Giants’ assistant coaches were beating on our wall, screaming and pounding – it’s glass windows between the booths. I thought they were going to come through to our side.”
Zambrowicz got to know a few players over the years but not the legendary coach Vince Lombardi.
“[Running back] Tom Moore lived across the street for three years, so we got to know him, his wife and family well,” he said. “When he left, [linebacker] Lee Roy Caffey moved in. [Linebacker] Nelson Toburen, whose career was cut short with a serious neck injury, also lived in the neighborhood. When Lombardi would come through the press-box area, nobody would talk or breathe. Everybody respected him, but they were also afraid of him.”
Over Zambrowicz’s career, things have changed in more ways than one in the press-box area.
“Years ago, they had three coolers up there,” Zambrowicz said. “One was filled will Pabst Blue Ribbon, another with Miller High Life and the last with pop – everybody used to drink during the games. With the old press box, we only had one little heater, so the windows would frost up. We’d use anything we could find to scrape the windows.”
Zambrowicz also said the fans are different, too.
“Years ago, fans would come to the game in their hunting clothes or Sunday best – now it’s all Packers paraphernalia,” he said.
Currently a spotter in the press box for the past 11 years, Zambrowicz watches the official with a pair of binoculars to see where the ball is located and quickly relays the information so it can be put up on the scoreboard.
All of this is done without the use of a television screen.
“I’ll keep doing it as long as I can and as long as I’m healthy,” said Zambrowicz. “I feel blessed and lucky. I don’t see much of a reason to stop now. I’m the last of the original LaHaye guys still working.”