Friday, April 20, 2018

The Tale Of King Corcoran: The Poor Man's Joe Namath

Topps football cards
Since the dawn of athletic competition, the sports world has been littered with fallen, but colorful figures.  Some make a name for themselves with stellar athletic ability while others teeter between the brink of stardom and the halls of obscurity.  The somewhat unknown Jim “King” Corcoran belongs to the latter category and was one of the more gaudy sports figures that few have ever heard of.

Once called a “poor man’s Joe Namath,” Corcoran spent most of his pro football career tearing up the semi-pro Atlantic Coast Football League.  He also found success in the World Football league but only had minor stints with some NFL clubs in the late 60s and early 70s.  He orchestrated several championships for teams in the Atlantic Coast Football League and lived out the life of a sports superstar.

Born on July 6, 1942 (not in 1943 as often reported) his play in college earned him tryouts with AFL and NFL teams but he often clashed with authority and since his skills weren’t good enough to warrant teams putting up with any shenanigans, his stints were always short lived.  Joe Namath told him, “King, you got the arm. And you got the head. But you got to quiet down. You got to know who butters your bread.” He discovered his niche in semi-pro football where he led his teams to several league championships. He was well known enough that the character “King Sturtevant” was based upon him in the Rockford Files episode “No Cut Contract.”

By the time he hit the WFL in 1974 he was already 31 years old but he managed to lead the league in touchdowns in 1974 playing for the Philadelphia Bell.  He retired after the WFL folded in 1975 and went into real estate.  He contemplated a comeback when the USFL’s Denver Gold called him in 1982 but he declined. 

He continued with an up and down career, a low point coming in 1997 when he served six months in federal prison for tax evasion. He died of a heart attack on June 19, 2009 at the age of 66 while living at a friend’s house in Takoma Park, Maryland. 

Time line of Corcoran’s football career:
1961 University of Maryland – Led freshman team to undefeated season
1962 University of Maryland – backed up Dick Shiner
1963 University of Maryland – kicked off the team
1964 University of Maryland – projected at the starter but broke his ankle
1965 University of Maryland – played sporadically
1966 Denver Broncos training camp - cut
1966 Wilmington Clippers - Atlantic Coast Football League
1967 Denver Broncos training camp - cut
1967 Waterbury Orbits (Connecticut) - Atlantic Coast Football League Champions
1967 New York Jets - taxi squad
1968 Lowell Giants (Massachusetts) - Atlantic Coast Football League – Undefeated until Corcoran joined the Patriots
1968 Boston Patriots - played sparingly
1969 Pottstown Firebirds (Pennsylvania)  - Atlantic Coast Football League
1970 Pottstown Firebirds (Pennsylvania)  - Atlantic Coast Football League
1971 Philadelphia Eagles – cut in training camp
1971 Norfolk Neptunes (Virginia) – Atlantic Coast Football League Champions 
1972 Montreal Alouettes – CFL, refused to play 3rd string
1972 Chambersburg Cardinals (Pennsylvania) – Seaboard Football League
1973 Michigan Sabers (Flint, Michigan)
1974 Philadelphia Bell – WFL, lead league in TD passes
1975 Philadelphia Bell – WFL, backed up Bob Davis until the league folded mid-season

Some facts on the King:
• He majored in Economics at Maryland
• Wanting to shed his poor-kid background, he always dressed to kill and drove a fancy car
• His custom-equipped Lincoln Continental Mark IV had a mobile telephone, copier, coke machine, and bar. 
• He is in the American Football Association’s Semi-Pro Hall Of Fame
• Didn’t smoke or drink
• Was a model for Kelley Tires in the late 1970s
• While with the Philadelphia Bell in 1975, he got cut when he called a quarterback sneak that wasn’t in the playbook.
• He was an expert in military history

Some “King-sized” myths:
• Denver Bronco’s coach caught him in bed with 6 women.  The actual story had a Bronco running back caught with 2 women after bed check.  Corcoran was not involved with the incident.
• Corcoran claimed to have defeated Roger Staubach’s Navy team in the 1964 Crab Bowl.  This was erroneously reported by Wikipedia and repeated by several news sources in the wake Corcoran’s death in 2009.  Maryland beat Staubach’s Navy in 1961 with Corcoran throwing for 2 touchdowns and running for one more.
• He was not, as he later claimed, to be a native American who was born on a reservation.
• He didn’t get his nick-name by coming out at halftime of a high school game with a clean uniform after a muddy 1st half.
• He didn’t play polo with Sylvester Stallone.  He played with his father, Frank Stallone.

Unverified stories from the Corcoran Kingdom
• Corcoran later spent some time in Las Vegas as a singer and performed with Engelbert Humperdinck.
• He wore sunglasses on the sidelines and refused to practice in the rain.

RetroCards shines some light on this seldom-mentioned player with a few cards to put him on the sports collector’s map.  A special thanks to Jim Corcoran, King’s son, for providing several factual verifications.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

1962 Vikings: Expanding Quickly

1962 Topps football

The NFL originally had no plans for expansion after adding the Dallas Cowboys in 1960.  But the new American Football League granted a team in the Twin Cities so the NFL jumped in and offered team ownership the chance to join the NFL instead.  The newly named "Vikings" jumped at the chance and hired newly retired quarterback Norm Van Brocklin as its coach.  An expansion draft was held and the Vikings surprised everyone by destroying the mighty Chicago Bears in their first regular season game.  In that game, starting quarterback George Shaw gave way to scrabbling sensation Fran Tarkenton who threw for four touchdowns and ran for one more!

This 20-card team set is a continuation of the expansive 1962 RetroCards set and features: head coach Norm Van Brocklin, Bill Brown, Bob Denton, Ed Sharockman, Jim Marshall, George Shaw, Oscar Donahue, Grady Alderman, Mick Tinglehoff, Clancy Osborne, Lebron Shields, Cliff Livingston, Mike Rabold, Doug Mayberry, Paul Dickson, Jerry Huth, Bill Butler, Dean Derby, a Vikings Highlight card, and a card of Metropolitan Stadium. Order it here.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

1962 Football: Series 02

Topps football cards, Redskins, Steelers, Cardinals, Cowboys, Packers, Rams, Eagles, 49ers, Lions, Giants

RetroCard continues its expansive 1962 series with a second series of 22 cards. New features not in the original set released in 1962 include a stadium card, a team highlight, as well as a head coach card for each team.

Series two features: Vince Promuto, Chuck Bednarik, Bernie Casey, Earl Morral, Buddy Parker, Merlin Olsen, Ernie McMillan, Dan James, Roy Hord, John Paluck, George Wilson, Joe Morrison, Pervis Atkins, John Nocera, Red Hickey, Dick Lynch, Wayne Walker, Roy Wilkins, Cardinals Highlight, Cardinals Stadium, Giants Highlight, and a Giants Stadium card. Available now!  Check back in the coming weeks for Series three and four!

Thursday, March 29, 2018

1962: Best Football Design of the Decade?

1960 marked the start of an important growth period in professional football with the addition of a new team in the south (the Dallas Cowboys) and the advent of the American Football League which began a competition for the country's best players and instigated a salary war. In an historic move, new NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle cut a television deal that ensured that small market teams could share in the overall revenue, which contributed to the long-term health of the league.

Many collectors have commented on the beauty of the 1962 NFL football set with its dark borders and black and white action photos coupled with an attractive portrait of the player. RetroCards has created and additional 230 cards – released in 10 series, six of which are team sets. Several team sets that have been previously released (Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, Baltimore Colts, Chicago Bears, and Cleveland Browns), will be updated to fit into the new numbering system of Series 1-4, and a new Minnesota Vikings team set will be forthcoming. Series 1-4 will contain the eight teams which have not been represented in the team sets. These series will also include playoff cards, head coach cards, league & team highlights, and stadium cards for each team. 

Series one contains 22 cards and starts off with a wrapper card that enveloped football cards back in 1962, a Championship card (Packers vs. Giants), a Pro Bowl card, and an Playoff Bowl card.  Players / coaches include:  John Lovetere, Timmy Brown, Dan Colchico, Brady Keys, Galen Hall, John Gonzaga, Pat Summerall, Luke Owens, Karl Rubke, Nick Skorich, Dale Hackbart, John Olszewski, Wally Lemm, Irv Cross, and season highlights and stadium cards of the Rams and Steelers. Series two will follow shortly so check back soon!  Available now! Click here.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

1979 Pittsburgh Pirates: Family Matters

Topps baseball cards

The 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates, built with a team of non-stars, won the World Series on the back of 39-year old Willie Stargell.  "Pops" Stargell had the respect of every team member and started the practice of doling out "Stargell stars," golden embroidered stars given to teammates who made exceptional plays.  Piggy backing on momentum from the Pittsburgh Steelers'  January, 1979 Super Bowl win, citizens of Pittsburgh were already in a dancing mood when Stargell chose the hit song "We Are Family" as the team song.

While they were burning disco records in Chicago, the Pittsburgh Pirates were embracing the fad, as "We Are Family" blared out of the speakers at Three Rivers Stadium.  The title of the song was even printed in huge letters on top of their dugout to drive the point home.  Pittsburgh fans, not known for high society tastes, quickly caught "Family Fever" as the slogan appeared on t-shirts, bumper stickers, and pet rocks everywhere. Philadelphia Phillies fans watched in vain as their home grown group Sister Sledge had their hit song appropriated by their hated rival the Pirates.

After getting off to a slow start in 1979, the Pirates hit their stride after the All-Star Game in which Dave Parker was named MVP.  Trades for shortstop Tim Foli and two-time batting champion Bill Madlock proved to be important pieces to the championship run.  After sweeping the Reds in the National League Championship Series 3–0, the  Pirate came back from a 3–1 deficit to beat the Baltimore Orioles in seven games to win the World Series.

This RetroCards set includes Matt Alexander, Burt Bevacqua, Doe Boyland, Dock Ellis, Rod Gilbreath, Gary Hargis, Odell Jones, Vance Law, Tony Pena, Pasqual Perez, Rod Scurry, and Chuck Tanner. Special cards include a stadium card, three We Are Family highlights, All-Star Game HL of MVP Dave Parker, a mascot card of the Pirate Parrot, and four highlight cards from the playoffs and World Series! Order your set here.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Spotlight On: Billy "White Shoes" Johnson

Topps, football cards

One of the more electrifying players of the 70s and 80s was Billy “White Shoes” Johnson.  His “colorful” name conjures up images of his even more colorful touchdown dance the Funky Chicken.  I have never been able to find anyone that did a regular end zone dance after scoring a touchdown before him so he gets the title as being the first.

The nickname originated at Chichester High School in Boothwyn, Pennsylvania where he dyed his shoes as part of a dare.  In the pros he continued to wear white shoes and was in the habit of heavily taping his ankles and shoes, often times obscuring shoe logos, which further emphasized the whiteness of the shoes.  The Houston Oilers drafted the small but quick Johnson in the 15th round of the 1974 draft from Widener College, a small division III school.  He quickly made an impact on the Oilers punt return team and as a wide receiver.  He scored 6 return touchdowns in his first four seasons and was the MPV of the 1975 Pro Bowl (played January of 1976).  He was also a starter on offense but he was mainly known as the originator of the first end zone dance, the "funky chicken."  I saw it for the first time when my buddy emulated the dance on the playground back in 5th grade.

A knee injury in 1978-1979 took him out of action, missing 25 games for the Oilers.  By 1980 he was no longer the main return man, though he started six games. Giving up on him, the Oilers let him go when he signed a lucrative contract in the Canadian Football League with the Montreal Alouettes.  He had a monster year in Canada catching 65 passes for 1060 yards, and returning 59 punts for 597 yards.  Despite the Alouettes signing hot rookie David Overstreet and former NFL stars Vince Ferragamo, and James Scott (in addition to the signing of Fred Biletnikoff in 1980), the hapless Alouettes (worst name ever?) stumbled to a 3-13 season in 1981.

Billy headed back for the NFL, signing a with the Atlanta Falcons in 1982. 1982 was a down year statistically for everyone as the players strike shortened the season to 9 games.  It was in 1983 where Johnson regained his punt return form of the mid-70s and he broke out as a dependable starting receiver. He was voted to the Pro Bowl again in 1983 and was a key player for the Falcons through the 1987 season.  When he retired after the 1987 season, he was the career leader in punt return yardage.  He came out of retirement in 1988 for the Redskins where he played in one game, returning 3 punts.

As of 2018 he remains the only player on the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team not in the Hall Of Fame.  A fan favorite if there ever was one, "White Shoes" Johnson gets the full treatment from RetroCards with a bunch of fun "cards that never were."  Look for them in coming sets.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

1970 Packers: A New Decade, A New Era

Topps football cards NFL

The second season of the Phil Bengston-led Packers was an improvement, increasing the winning percentage of their record from 6-8 in 1969 to 8-6 in 1970.  As more of the Championship-era Packers retired, fewer and fewer rose up to replace them.  Despite a winning record, Bengston was vilified in retrospect for making Villanova defensive tackle Rich Moore the Packers first round draft choice. Going against Player Personnel Director Pat Peppler and GM Vince Lombardi, Bengston drafted Moore number one.  An achilles injury ended his career in 1970 and only one other player from this draft was in the NFL after 1975.  

Still, the Packers appeared to have several up and coming players that showed flashes of excitement.  Unfortunately, many of the “up-and-comers” came and went, without living up to the fanfare.

RetroCards has created a Packers set in the 1970 style, covering quite a few players who never had cards and a few that did: Larry Agajanian, Donny Anderson, Dave Bradley, Bob Brown, Fred Carr, Jim Grabowski, Dave Hampton, Bill Hayhoe, John Hilton, Dick Himes, Bill Lueck, Mike Mercer, Rich Moore, Francis Peay, John Spillis, Bill Stevens, Perry Williams, and Travis Williams.