Packers great Jerry Kramer’s long-lost Super Bowl ring pulled from Mastro auction

Packers great Jerry Kramer’s long-lost Super Bowl ring pulled from Mastro auction

WILLOWBROOK, Ill. — On April 21, Mastro Auctions Inc. halted the sale of a Super Bowl ring once worn by Green Bay Packers all-pro right guard Jerry Kramer. The ring had been presented to Kramer after the Packers won the first AFL-NFL Championship game on Jan. 15, 1967, defeating the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10. Fourteen years after Kramer received the ring, the treasured memento disappeared, and until its recent consignment to Mastro’s sale, its whereabouts have remained unknown.

Bidding in the auction containing the ring commenced on April 3. Doug Allen told Antique Trader in a phone interview that the individual who consigned the keepsake is “an experienced collector of championship rings (who) purchased the ring within the last decade.”

“It’s a fantastic piece,” Allen added. “The bidding was at $20,000 when we withdrew it, and I’m sure it would’ve gotten crazy tonight, but we wouldn’t let it get to that point. It’s a Super Bowl ring from one of the most prominent teams ever, that was owned by a famous personality who also is a great guy. I wish I could have sold it, but given the fact that (Kramer) claims he never sold it and that it was stolen, we’re going to take the high road … Jerry has been very supportive of our efforts, and I hope that the next thing people will hear about this is that we’ve watched him slip the ring back on his finger.”

But how did the ring go from cherished sports heirloom to Mastro lot no. 2206? That’s where the mystery comes in. Kramer tells it best in this posting from his Web site,

“Twenty-five years ago, I was on a United Airlines flight from Chicago to New York. I went into the restroom and removed the ring to wash my hands, placing it on the corner of the countertop. As soon as I sat down in my seat, I realized I had left my ring on the countertop and immediately went back to retrieve it. It was gone. It had been stolen.

“The flight attendants and pilots made numerous announcements and pleas, but no passengers stepped forward. One lady, claiming to be psychic, told me she had a vision that my ring was in an old lady’s purse wrapped in tissue. After pacing up and down the aisle, I saw no women fitting that description. My most meaningful possession that I worked so hard to earn was stolen, gone forever!”

Kramer, now 70, first learned that the ring might have surfaced last week during a mysterious call from Canada in which an unidentified man asked, “Are you missing your Super Bowl ring?” The man then said Kramer might be hearing something about his ring in the near future.

That was followed by a call from John Nitschke, son of Ray Nitschke, the Packers’ Hall of Fame middle linebacker, who refused to believe his late father’s former teammate and friend would sell his Super Bowl I ring.

“I see your Super Bowl I ring is up for sale. My dad would never have sold his ring, and I’m pretty damn sure you’d never sell yours, either,” Nitschke told Kramer.

Kramer then contacted Mastro Auctions and asked that the auction be stopped and that they contact the person who consigned the ring to inform them it is property stolen from Kramer. He also had his Chicago-based lawyer contact authorities.

“This is an historic heirloom from Super Bowl I and an important piece of my legacy, one that I had anticipated passing on to my children. If the person who has this ring cannot see their way to return it to me, I will continue with the legal action available to me,” said Kramer on his Web site. “The fact that Mastro discontinued the bidding can help to improve the image of the sports memorabilia industry. It is nice to know there are good people out there.”

Kramer is no stranger to sports marketing. In his penultimate season of 1967, Kramer collaborated with the late Dick Schaap on his best-selling book, Instant Replay, a diary of the season that highlighted the role of an offensive lineman. It climaxed with Kramer’s lead block in front of Bart Starr to win the legendary “Ice Bowl” championship game. Later, Kramer and Schaap would write two more books together.

Last year, Kramer rediscovered historic Vince Lombardi locker room audiotapes from Super Bowl II that had been missing for 40 years (they were in a trunk in his garage). CDs of those recordings, along with signed jerseys and prints, are sold on his Web site.

Kramer is searching for information in an attempt to trace the ring’s journey from the day it was lost. He asks that anyone with information regarding the ring, especially passengers or crewmembers on that United flight, contact him through his site.

Mastro Auctions’ April sale totaled $13.1 million, its second-highest total ever.

— Mark Moran, Associated Press contributed