Friday, February 24, 2017

1968 Bears: More Lean Years To Come


Topps 1968 football cards

The arrival of Gale Sayers and Dick Butkus in 1965 got Bears fans hopes up with their electrifying play, propelling the Bears to a 9-5 record.  Unfortunately, it was downhill from there and by 1968, the old man (George Halas) had stepped down from coaching duties and watched losing season after losing season as the Bears toiled in futility among the NFL’s worst. Fans would have to wait until 1977 for the Walter Payton-led Bears to deliver the next winning season.

1968 was a disaster for the Bears as quarterbacks Concannon (fractured collarbone) and Bukich (separated shoulder) went down with season ending injuries in the same game.  Third stringer Larry Rakestraw was yanked for rookie Virgil Carter, who led the team to four victories but broke his ankle the week after Gale Sayers tore knee ligaments.  Finishing the season 7-7 was a minor miracle.

As fans of any team, we have experienced plenty of losing years and even though our team was losing, we supported them, emulated them, and collected their trading cards.  The fact remains that those teams still bring back great memories and RetroCards feels it is important to give attention to these teams.  The 1968 Bears are the focus of this set.  Doug Buffone, Rudy Bukich, Ron Bull, Frank Cornish, Curtis Gentry, Dick Gordon, Willie Holman, Mike Hull, Bobby Jones, Doug Kriewald, Rudy Kuechenberg, Ed O’Bradovich, Mac Percival, Loyd Phillips, Brian Piccolo, Mike Pyle, Larry Rakestraw, Mike Reilly, George Seals, Rosey Taylor, Cecil Turner, Emolio Vallez, Bob Wallace, and Bob Wetoska.  Get yours now!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Preston Pearson: Original 3rd Down Back



Topps football cards, 1973, 1975, 1976 Wonder Bread, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, Super Bowl
Known as the player who defined the role of “third down back,” Preston Pearson enjoyed a long NFL career, and despite limited but unique physical abilities, he became a crucial team member and adjusted his skills to what the team required.  As a student of the game and rigorous trainer, he was able to outsmart – and consequently outplay – several of his defensive opponents.

Most known for his time with the Cowboys, he created what amounted to a new position on offense – the third down back – a pass receiver whose role it was to work underneath the defense and make the first down as an outlet receiver.  The Cowboys offense during his 6 seasons there was arguably the most complex and fanciful in the league; exploring daring formations and shifts that “hid” the running backs and confused many defenses.  Pearson, though not a big scorer, was generally able to catch a pass that moved the chains and in 1978, he made a first down on 88% of his catches.

Preston Pearson played football in high school, but was mainly a basketball star, playing center.  After writing a letter to head coach Harry Combes at the University of Illinois, be made the basketball team as a walk on at the guard position.  He has the distinction of being one of the few players to ever block a Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) “sky hook.”  Mainly a defensive specialist, he never had much of an offensive game and didn’t have a future in the NBA.  Despite never playing college football, the Baltimore Colts drafted him in the 12th round as a longshot and he responded by impressing coaches with speed, drive, and athleticism.

The Colts first tried him at defensive back where he languished on the taxi squad.  His value began to show through as he excelled on special teams and as a kick returner.  In 1968, he lead the league in kick return yardage (35.1) which included a 102-yard TD return.  He started to play running back and was named captain of the Colts special teams.  He was traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1970 and became a starter and by 1971 was the second leading rusher on the team with 605 yards.  An injury forced him out in 1972, allowing an opportunity for future Hall of Famer Franco Harris, a role Harris would not relinquish.

With Harris developing into a star, a natural move for Pearson was to wide receiver, but he was moved back to running back.  By 1974, he was the outspoken player representative that wore out his welcome during the 1974 strike.  He was waved at the end of training camp in 1975 and was immediately scooped up by the Cowboys.  Needing a roster spot, the Cowboys parted with young quarterback Jim Zorn, who had had a great camp but was merely a third stringer.  Now the Cowboys had a versatile veteran on offense to complement an number of proven weapons.  His biggest game that year is when he caught 7 passes for 137 yards and 3 touchdowns vs the Rams in the playoffs.  Unfortunately, the Cowboys lost the Super Bowl to Pearson’s former team the Steelers.

Tom Landry began using him as a receiver out of the backfield on 3rd downs and he was so effective, this became more important than his running back or kick return duties.  As the second leading rusher on the Cowboys in 1975, he faced the ultimate challenge from Heisman winner Tony Dorsett in 1977. Pearson had earned the starting running back role and he did everything in his power to keep it from Dorsett.  He could only hold off the future Hall of Famer for 9 games as Dorsett ran away with Rookie of the Year honors.  The Cowboys won Super Bowl XII that season and, with the arrival of Dorsett, Pearson’s future role as a receiver became more defined and vital.  He led the team in receptions in 1978 with 47 and continued catching first downs through the 1980 season at the age of 35.

He played in record five Super Bowls (III, IX, X, XII, and XIII) and is the only player to play for Don Shula, Chuck Noll, and Tom Landry.  It is notable that he also played alongside running backs Lenny Moore, Franco Harris, and Tony Dorsett as well as in the same backfield and John Unitas, Terry Bradshaw, and Roger Staubach.  Coach Landry said of him, “He’s one of the best halfback blockers I’ve seen.”  Not bad for a third down back!  Read more about Preston Pearson in his autobiography Hearing the Noise: My Life In the NFL.

Many of the cards shown above are part of exiting Cowboys team sets or are forthcoming from RetroCards.  Check the website and come back often as new cards arrive!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

1974 Steelers: The Dynasty Begins

1974 Topps football cards, Super Bowl IX

Few would have thought in the early 70s that the Pittsburgh Steelers would become the “Team Of The Decade.”  By 1974, the team really jelled, but not without some quarterback controversy.  Terry Bradshaw had been the starter since 1971 but he was not very good. He didn’t have to be because the Steelers were an outstanding running team with an absolutely stifling defense.  Nonetheless, the quarterback is positioned to be the defacto team leader, something that was lacking during the first half of the 1974 season.

Hopes were high after playoff appearances in 1972 & 1973 and because the 1974 season began with a perfect pre season record, Coach Noll started Joe Gilliam, who had out performed Bradshaw and Hanratty.  Gilliam soon found that the regular season was not as easy as pre season and he was yanked after game six and Bradshaw was reinstated.  The Steelers never looked back and the dynasty began to build.

This RetroCards set features many key Steelers: Lynn Swann, Rocky Bleier, John Kolb, Jack Lambert, Ernie Holmes, Mel Blount, John Gilliam, Jim Clack, Larry Brown, Mel Holmes, Sam Davis, Steve Furness, J.T. Thomas, Frank Lewis, Jim Allan, Ed Bradley, Chuck Noll, and a QB card featuring Gilliam, Terry Bradshaw, and Terry Hanratty.  Coming Soon.

Monday, February 6, 2017

1970 Brewers Inaugural Set, Series I

Topps, RetroCards, custom baseball cards that never were, Milwaukee, 1970

When the Milwaukee Brewers were acquired by Bud Selig’s ownership team in 1970, they purchased the Seattle Pilots out of bankruptcy court.  Selig named the club the Milwaukee Brewers after the minor league team of the same name he had watched in his youth, which existed until the arrival of the Braves in Milwaukee in 1953.

Since the move to Milwaukee received final approval less than a week before the start of the 1970 MLB season, there was no time to order new uniforms. Selig was forced to simply remove the Seattle markings from the Pilots' blue-and-gold uniforms and sew "BREWERS" on the front.  As a result of this last minute city change, the Brewer fans of Milwaukee had to resort to collecting Seattle Pilot cards in 1970.

RetroCards has created an extensive inaugural 1970 Brewers set featuring a wonderful mix of up-and-coming players, cast offs, and hopefuls.  Series one includes: Tommy Harper, Dave May, Phil Roof, Skip Lockwood, Mike Hegan, Mary Pattin, Roberto Pena, Floyd Wicker, Russ Snyder, John Gelnar, John O’Donoghue, Bob Humphreys, Ted Savage, Ray Peters, Don Mincher, Ken Sanders, manager Dave Bristol, and a team card/checklist.  Get your set here!  Watch for Series II coming soon!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

1963 49ers: No Where To Go But Up

Topps, San Francisco 49ers, football cards

The 1962 season began with high hopes with coach Red Hickey calling the team the best he has ever coached.  But once the season began, injuries took an immediate toll.  Star lineman Bob St. Claire went down with an achilles tendon and star halfback Bill Kilmer broke his leg in a car accident when driving into the San Francisco Bay.  Their 6-8 record in 1962 dropped to 2-12 in 1963 as more injuries piled up, with Kilmer missing the whole year, starting QB John Brodie breaking is arm, and several defensive starters going down with knee injuries. As dissension seeped into the lock room,  coach Hickey was fired.  

It would be a long climb back but this team was not without some interesting players and future stars and RetroCards has an 18-card set to add to our expansive 1963 set.  This set includes: Kermit Alexander, Clyde Conner, Bill Cooper, Leon Donohue, Eddie Dove, Jimmy Johnson, Carl Kammerer, Roland Lakes, Kay McFarland, Jerry Mertens, Clark Miller, Walt Rock, Len Rohde, Karl Rubke, Monte Stickles, John Thomas, Jim VollenWeider, and Bob Waters.  Coming soon.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

1972 Series II: Super Bowl Winners

Topps 1972 RetroCards, custom cards that never were, Super Bowl VI


If you enjoyed the first RetroCard series on the 72 Cowboys, there is more where that came from.  In honor of the Cowboys 1971 Super Bowl victory,  RetroCards releases the 1972 Series II set.  Series II leaves few stones unturned with more key players, unsung heroes, and Hall of Famers.  The set includes: Gloster Richardson, Blaine Nye, Forrest Gregg, Rodney Wallace, Cliff Harris, Billy Truax, Charlie Waters, Billy Parks, Jack Concannon, D.D. Lewis, Tody Smith, Tony Liscio, Don Talbert, plus a Roger Staubach All-Pro card, a team champions card, and "In Action" cards of Lance Alworth and Chuck Howley.  Order here!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

1972 Dallas Cowboys Series I

Topps football, RetroCards, custom cards that never were

The Cowboys had finally won the big one in 1971 after five straight disappointing post season losses.  Tex Schramm put the crowbar in the old wallet and put together a team that couldn’t possibly lose.  Yet had it not been for Roger Staubach, they probably would have lost.  Coach Landry made the decision to start Staubach over Craig Morton and the Cowboys never looked back.

Every starter on offense consisted of and All-Pro, a Pro Bowler (at one time or another), and/or a future Hall of Famer.  Even late insurance pick up Forrest Gregg, was a shoe-in Hall of Fame player.  Backups Calvin Hill and Dan Reeves plus special teamers Ron Widby and Mike Clark even were Pro Bowlers in their respective careers. Defensively they were just as strong with two of the best linebackers in the game: Chuck Howley and Lee Roy Jordan.  Hall of Famers Mel Renfro, Herb Adderley, Bob Lilly led other stars like Cornell Green and Jethro Pugh.  New and up-and-coming players like D.D. Lewis, Cliff Harris, and Charlie waters also were big contributors.

Consequently, the original football set of 1972, though large, couldn’t possibly include all the greats so RetroCards addresses this with an 18-card set full of Cowboy stars you’ll love: Mike Ditka, Ralph Neely, Ron Widby, Dan Reeves, Dave Manders, Craig Morton, Mel Renfro, Cornell Green, George Andrie, Larry Cole, Jethro Pugh, Dave Edwards, Lee Roy Jordan, Chuck Howley, Ike Thomas, Tom Stincic, Tom Landry, plus an In Action card of Ike Thomas. Get series one here.

Watch for series II coming soon!