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That First Season: How Vince Lombardi Took the Worst Team in the NFL and Set It on the Path to Glory Paperback – Bargain Price, September 21, 2010

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Product Description
In the late 1950s the once vaunted Green Bay Packers were a laughing stock. They hadn't fielded a winning team in more than a decade and were very nearly in jeopardy of losing their franchise to another city. The ultimate low came in 1958, when, with 7 future Hall of Famers on the team, they went a lousy 1-10-1 under a too-soft coach, Scooter McLean. They were desperately in need of a savior, and he arrived via wood-paneled station wagon in the dead of winter from New York City.

That First Season chronicles Vince Lombardi's remarkable first year as head coach with the franchise he would reinvent and etch forever in football history. In a single year, as the grizzled coach who took no bull, he would transform a team of underachievers into winners and reignite a city known for its passion for its sport. Based on exhaustive new research and interviews, That First Season is the seldom-studied prequel to a football career marked by greatness. Eisenberg pushes away the mist that surrounds the Lombardi legend to bring readers the real story of how the seeds of a football dynasty were sown. He also brings alive an incredible ensemble tale of a team, a town and their leader.

Photographs from That First Season
(Click to Enlarge)

The Packer offense took off when Lombardi inserted Boyd Dowler Paul Hornung, a key player in Lombardi's offense
Don McIlhenny runs the ball against the Colts A fan congratulates Lombardi as he leaves the field

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

When Vince Lombardi took over as head coach for the moribund Green Bay Packers in 1959, both parties had much to prove, as Eisenberg, a former Baltimore Sun sports columnist, makes clear in this bio. Lombardi, a longtime assistant in college and pro football, hadn't been a head coach in more than a decade, and that was for a New Jersey high school. The Packers were perennial losers, with players who had become accustomed to lazy coaching and good times. Lombardi's arrival was pivotal, as his attitude and discipline inspired the Packers, who became a football powerhouse during the 1960s, while allowing for the emergence of future Hall of Famers like offensive juggernaut Paul Hornung and quarterback Bart Starr. Eisenberg is at his best detailing the players' response to Lombardi's unforgiving approach, especially in training camp, which some veterans treated as vacation. Unfortunately, the author's account gradually loses steam, as too much space is reserved for detailed game recaps that detract from Lombardi's work in constructing a champion team. Still, the book is a brisk, sometimes revealing look at Lombardi's early days in Green Bay and is a nice complement to the existing works on the legendary coach. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books (September 21, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547395698
  • ASIN: B004H8GM12
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (157 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #862,484 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Eisenberg grew up with books in his hands - his first summer job was at his mother's bookstore in his hometown of Dallas, Texas. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, he wrote for newspapers for almost three decades, mostly as a sports columnist at The Baltimore Sun covering major events such as the Super Bowl, Final Four, World Series, Kentucky Derby, and soccer's World Cup while also paying attention to his hometown teams - the Baltimore Ravens, Baltimore Orioles, and Maryland Terrapins. Along the way he wrote 3,000 columns and won more than 20 awards, including several first-places in the prestigious Associated Press Sports Editors contest.

He also has written for Sports Illustrated, Smithsonian Magazine, and Details, and before working in Baltimore. spent five years with the Dallas Times Herald.

No matter if he is writing about a famous football coach, a heartbroken jockey, or a pitcher who wins 20 games, John is known for unearthing original stories and bringing them to life with his clear-eyed analysis and lively narrative style. His book topics have included the start of Vince Lombardi's dynasty in Green Bay, the history of the Baltimore Orioles, his experience as a young fan of the Dallas Cowboys in the 1960s, the tragic breakdown of the horse Barbaro, and an outrageous North-South horse race that captivated the nation in 1823.

John lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Kindle Customer on December 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In That First Season , sports biographer-John Eisenberg-tells the story of Vince Lombardi's coming to the small town of Green Bay to coach the Green Bay Packers. In 1958 the Packers finished one of their worst seasons and were looking hard to turn things around. Native New Yorker, Vince Lombardi, became the man. This book chronicles how a tough-nosed man who had never been a head coach led the undisciplined and "Detroit-Lion-Like" Packers to several championships - with basically the same team of players.

I enjoyed this book from the perspective of being a Packer fan, Wisconsin native and leader of a team - pastor of a church.

This is an inspiring book on the importance of a coach on a football team. The methods and tactics that Lombardi installed in Green Bay would be very difficult to the modern football star who makes so much more money than the head coach. Lombardi's leadership focused on fundamentals, preparation, discipline, training, hard work, loyalty, perseverance, and strategy.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By TMStyles VINE VOICE on September 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Much has been chronicled and written about the highly successful Green Bay Packer football team of the 1950s-1960s that helped christen Green Bay as "Titletown USA" and its iconic coach, Vince Lombardi, who became a legend in his own time. But what would have happened to the Green Bay Packer legend if Vince Lombardi had never been hired following the disastrous 1-10-1 season in 1958? That is a burning enigmatic question I grappeled with as I read sportswriter John Eisenberg's excellent "That First Season".

"That First Season" is a well researched, highly readable portrait of how "the right man for the right job at the right time" ended up in Green Bay and transformed an unfocused, unmotivated group of losers suffering through a horrible one-win season to become a 7-5 winning team in one year and a team that would later send a truckload of its players to the hall of fame. Imagine Paul Hornung unwanted and sitting under-utilized on the bench. Or Bart Starr, considered too nice and too mistake prone to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. Or Jim Taylor, not considered big enough or strong enough to become a hall of fame fullback. Or Ray Nitchke, considered too undisciplined to ever become a true leader. These are poignant characterizations of what Lombardi inherited when he assumed the coaching and personnel reins of the Packers after that disastrous 1958 season.

"That First Season" examines in detail how Lombardi and his coaches took control of a losing team and guided it and its community back to respectability in the world of professional football.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By David Pruette VINE VOICE on September 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
That First Season is the story of the legendary Vince Lombardi's first season with the Green Bay Packers in 1959. The Packers had fallen on hard times in the late fifties, and good seasons were hard to come by. Clearly a coaching change was in order. At the same time, Vince Lombardi was an assistant coach with the New York Giants. Tom Landry was there during the same period. Pretty good staff.

Lombardi had been looking for a way to obtain a head coaching position. He was highly thought of as a coach, but was not well known and was not getting any younger. Recommendations from respected friends in the coaching profession led the management of the Packers to interview Lombardi and finally to offer him the position as head coach of the Packers. Of course, Lombardi took the job and his success in Green Bay is now legendary.

Vince Lombardi was a tough coach. His players said that they would not want him as a friend but that they loved having him as their coach, especially as he began to prove to them that they could win. Mr. Eisenberg's book takes the reader through the first season in detail - offseason activities, practices, preseason games, and regular season. He also gives us a high level play by play of each game plus a wealth of behind the scenes information.

Lombardi's success as the Packers coach is well known. This book gives an excellent picture of how the success began. Any fan of football and the NFL will enjoy the book. For fans of the Green Bay Packers, I would think that the book should not be missed.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Nyghtewynd VINE VOICE on May 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I know that Lombardi is one of those subjects that has been covered to death. I know that everyone and their mother has written a book about him, as well as 75% of the people who played for him. But Eisenberg takes an interesting approach--rather than attempting to do just another biography, he focuses on the first year of Lombardi's love affair with Green Bay. This provides several new wrinkles to the story that aren't often made clear. For instance, how does such a strong, uncompromising personality walk into an atmosphere that isn't already conformed to it? How do you convince a team of losers that they're better than that?

Eisenberg shows this side of Lombardi with loads of details, personal anecdotes, and recreations of conversations. The only thing I can say against the book is that the actual descriptions of the games themselves are not nearly as engaging as the events surrounding them. However, it is just a minor flaw in a good book that adds depth to a field that had previously felt already-plowed.
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