Thursday, August 9, 2018

Jerry Kramer: You Can If You Will


I'm not sure how many more old school players will make it into the Hall of Fame while they are still with us, but football fans were treated to a beautiful acceptance speech by Jerry Kramer at the August 2018 Hall of Fame Induction.

He summed up by saying, "The only thing left at this time is for you to lead a life of quality and excellence and make this old world a little better place because you were in it.  You Can If You Will."  Watch the whole speech here..

Thursday, July 26, 2018

1961: Expanding Fleer's Only NFL Set

Topps

In 1961 Fleer issued a football set including both NFL and AFL players.  This was the only year that both Topps and Fleer released a set with players from both leagues.  In 1962 and 1963 Fleer would focus their sets on AFL players before getting the NFL contract for 1964-1967.  The original 1961 Fleer set is a lovely looking set that is clean and backed with minimal bio information on the backs.  At 220 cards covering both leagues, several key players didn’t have a card issued in this set which is where RetroCards comes in.

In the first of several series, this set adds 24 more cards featuring NFL players.  RetroCards has already produced team sets of the Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, and Dallas Texas.  As per usual, these team sets feature players who didn’t have cards in the regular 1961 Fleer set and the new series, which covers the rest of the teams in the NFL and AFL, follow suit.

Players in series one include: Timmy Brown, Buddy Dial, Fran Tarkenton, Lamar Lundy, John Morrow, George Izo, Johnny Sample, Karl Rubke, Don Chandler, R.C. Owens, Pat Studstill, Jimmy Hill, Sonny Jurgensen, Mike McCormack, Joe Lewis, Dan Colchico, Dick James, Zeke Bratkowski, Terry Nosfinger, and Frank Gifford. Additional cards feature the NFL Championship, NFL Pro Bowl, NFL Playoff Bowl, and a wrapper card. Coming soon!

Thursday, July 19, 2018

1963 Steelers: Not Pretty, But Respectable

1963 Topps football cards

The Steelers surprised many fans by posting a 9-5 record in 1962.  Bobby Layne ended his career as the NFL all-time leader in touchdowns as he led the Steelers to three straight wins at the end of the season to take second place in the Eastern Conference.  John Henry Johnson, Ernie Stautner, and Big Daddy Lipscomb, though aging, came through with tough performances and Buddy Dial was now a top receiver

By 1963, the Steelers were still holding steady thanks to a league-leading three tie games to give them a 7-4-3 record.  RetroCards offers custom collectors an additional 18 cards of players that did not appear on a card back in 1963.  Players include: John Baker, George Tarasovic, John Reger, Ron Stenhouwer, Gary Ballman, Jim Bradshaw, Mike Sandusky, Joe Krupa, Clendon Thomas, Brady Keys, Bob Schmitz, Charlie Bradshaw, Harlon Hill, Myron Pottios, Terry Nofsinger, Dan James, John Powers, and Tom Tracy.  Coming soon!

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Super Gnat: NFL's Reggie Smith

Topps, football cards, baseball cards, Smallest player, shortest player

Small athletes in professional sports always seem to grab attention.  Tyrone “Muggsy” Bougues and Spud Webb were regularly featured in magazines and articles due to being very short basketball players.  Both had long careers and the novelty of a short basketball player always drew laughs.  The most famous short athlete has to be Eddie Gaedel of the St. Louis Browns who at 3’ 7” was the subject of one of the strangest stunts in professional sports.

Though he would probably prefer to be remembered more for his playing than his height, wide receiver and kick returner Reggie Smith played parts of three seasons in the NFL and one more in the USFL.  He also made a name for himself in the Arena Football League, for which he was ultimately inducted into the Arena Football Hall of Fame for his considerable efforts.

At 5’4” Smith has been the shortest player to appear in an NFL game.  A kick returner for the Falcons in 1980-1981, he was one of the league leaders in yardage (1,143 in 1981), he made a big impact with the Washington Federals in 1983, taking the leagues first kickoff and returning it 30 yards.  He had a big first game against the Chicago Blitz (5 kick returns for 81 yards, 6 catches for 87 yards) but went down with an injury and was lost for the season.

He was known as “super gnat” as he explains, “My sister’s boyfriend gave me that name when I was in high school, I wasn’t the first to have it, though. I got if from Nolan [sic] (Super Gnat) Smith, who ran back kicks for the Chiefs about 10 years ago. He was my hero for a while”  (Dave Remnick, The Washington Post, February 4, 1983).

Noland Smith, a similar type player from the era before Reggie Smith came to the NFL,  was 5’5” and did have a brief but productive career with the Chiefs in 1967-1969.  He led the AFL in kick return average, yardage, and touchdowns in 1967.  The diminutive Chief was also unique for wearing the number 1 on his jersey.  Lifetime, his 10.1 yards per punt return and 26.1 yards per kick return are impressive but he could extend his career past three years.

RetroCards adds some stature to these pint-sized players.  Look for these custom cards in future RetroCard sets!

Thursday, July 5, 2018

1957 Braves: Milwaukee's Only Championship

Topps baseball vintage cards  1957
Books have been written about Milwaukee’s love affair with the Braves and the heartbreak the city went through when they left for Atlanta in 1966.  The arrival of the Milwaukee Brewers in 1970 quelled the pain but there is still a very special spot in the hearts of many Wisconsinites for their Braves.  Milwaukee’s only World Series Victory came in 1957, when they toppled the mighty New York Yankees and RetroCards fittingly has chosen the ’57 Braves as their first Baseball set with a special 20-card collection.

New cards in the 1957 baseball style include Jack Dittmer, Red Schoendienst, Nippy Jones, Bob “Hurricane” Hazle, Joey Jay, Mel Roach, Hawk Taylor, Toby Atwell, Harry Hanebrink, Carl Sawatski, Bob Trowbridge, and Fred Haney.  There is also a special card for radio announcer Earl Gillespie sporting a Braves uniform!  Other highlight cards feature World Series moments including Hank Aaron’s home run that clinched the pennant, The Shoe Polish Incident, Lew Burdette MVP, Bushville Wins, 1957 Champions Team Card, Braves Celebrate, and a special “wax pack wrapper” card with checklist.  Get your set here!

Friday, June 29, 2018

1963 Packers: At Their Peak

Topps football cards 1963 nil

Coming off the greatest season Vince Lombardi would every coach, the Packers found going for the 3rd straight title difficult.  The eventual champion Chicago Bears handed the Packers their only loses of the season and one tie versus the lowly Detroit Lions gave them a final record of 11-2-1.  The loss of Paul Hornung for the entire season due to gambling issues certainly took away one of the Packers most potent offensive weapons.  As a matter of fact, because of the suspension Hornung was not issued a card for that year, nor was Alex Karras of the Lions, who was also suspended for the entire season.

This custom 1963 Packer set reinstates the "Golden Boy" and offers 17 other Packer RetroCards who were absent from the regular set that year.  Zeke Bratkowski, Jerry Kramer, Hank Gremminger, Tom Moore, Ron Kostelnik, Bobby Jeter, Dan Currie, Willie Davis, Dave Robinson, Bob Skoronski, Jess Whittenton, Dave Hanner, Ken Iman, Norm Masters, Elijah Pitts, Marv Fleming, and Earl Gros are the subject of this attractive set.  Get it here!

Friday, June 22, 2018

Chuck Howley: Right Place, Right Time

Topps, Philadelphia cards, 1965 tallboys
Great defensive players seem to know how to be in the right place at the right time on the football field.  Chuck Howley had that special intuition and his knack for anticipation mixed with his speed made him indispensable on the Cowboys first Doomsday Defense.  One of the great play makers of his day, Chuck Howley played in 191 games over 15 seasons.  He was a seven-time All-Pro, a six-time Pro Bowler and has the dubious distinction of being the only Super Bowl MVP chosen from a losing team. Strangely, he is not in the NFL Hall Of Fame and is on a short list of players from his era who should be in the Hall.

A five-sport athlete at West Virginia, he was the 7th player taken in the 1958 draft by the Chicago Bears.  In 1959 he badly hurt his knee and retired.  By 1961, Cowboy coach Tom Landry caught wind of Howley’s recovery and took a gamble, trading a 2nd and 9th pick to obtain him. The gamble quickly paid off and Howley was an instant starter in 1961, missing only 4 games in the next 12 seasons. His speed was ideal for the weak side linebacker position but he was so athletic, he could play the strong side, cover speedy receivers, and rush the quarterback.

The Cowboys finally made it to the Super Bowl after the 1970 season and although the Cowboys lost a game they should have won, Howley managed to win the MVP award in what was labelled as the “Blunder Bowl.” Howley explained, “It was one of those kind of games when I was in the right place at the right time, all the time.  Even when I made mistakes and was out of position, I was in the right place.” He was in consideration for a consecutive MVP for Super Bowl VI but that prize went to the venerable Roger Staubach.

As his career wound down, so did the old Cowboy regime.  He retired after the 1972 season but Tom Landry convinced him to join the taxi squad in 1973 to mentor some of the young linebackers and retired for the third time at the end of the 1973 season.

His exclusion in the Pro Football Hall of Fame is troubling but he is one of several fine players from the 1960s and 1970s that RetroCards will be featuring over time.  Check out Chuck Howley RetroCards that can be found in many Dallas Cowboys team sets.