Friday, December 2, 2016

1978 Cowboys: Super Bowl XII Winners

Topps 1978 Dallas Cowboys fantasy cards

By trading for Seattle's first round pick, the Cowboys added the final piece to their Super Bowl puzzle.  Tony Dorsett easily took the 1977 Rookie of the Year honors as the Cowboys cruised to their second Championship on a finesse offense and the leagues best defense.  Roger Staubach lead an offense that boasted a wealth of riches in Dorsett, All-Pros Drew Pearson and Billy Joe Dupree, plus important role players such as Preston Pearson, Pat Donovan, Golden Richards, and Robert Newhouse.  On defense, they were even better with the most devastating pass rushers in Harvey Martin (Defensive Player Of the Year), Randy White, Thomas Henderson, Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Charlie Waters, and Cliff Harris.

RetroCards 1978 Cowboys set focuses on the more important role players that gave the Cowboys the Championship over the Denver Broncos.  Players added to the 1978 base set are: Tony Hill, Benny Barnes, Bob Breunig, Aaron Kyle, Randy Hughes, Larry Cole, Rayfield Wright, Jethro Pugh, D.D. Lewis, Bruce Huther, Glenn Carano, and Mike Hegman.  Highlight cards feature a Tony Dorsett Rookie of the Year Highlight, Doomsday Defense, 3 Super Bowl Highlights, plus NFL sack leaders card.  Order yours here!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Hall Of Fame Hopeful: Ken Riley

Topps 1972, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1984

At Florida A&M, Ken Riley was a quarterback who was not just a gifted athlete, but an exceptional student, earning his team’s scholastic award and a Rhodes Scholar Candidacy.  After being drafted in 1969 by the one-year old Cincinnati Bengals, coach Paul Brown had Riley switch to cornerback during his first training camp.  Riley became a fixture as the starting cornerback for the next 15 years.

He had a busy rookie year starting at right cornerback, returning kickoffs and even caught two passes on offense.  Nicknamed “the rattler,” Riley quickly became one of the best corners in the NFL but there was someone getting more attention than him – his teammate Lemar Parrish, who played at the left cornerback position. Though Riley was named to various All-Pro teams between 1975 and 1983, to my surprise (and horror) Riley never played in the Pro Bowl.  From 1970 though 1977, Parrish made the Pro Bowl six times though Riley out performed him by a wide margin based on interceptions (36 to 25).  The most glaring Pro Bowl emission was 1976 where Riley led the AFC with nine interceptions while Parrish only had two.  It’s usually a given that the Conference interception leader is named to the Pro Bowl but the AFC sent Parrish over Riley.  Parrish was a fine corner and excellent punt returner and was deserving of Pro Bowl recognition but sending two corners from the same team in the era of the 70s almost never happened.

This Pro Bowl issue seems to be the sticking point with the Pro Football Hall of Fame committee.  Let’s face it, Cincinnati doesn’t get much respect. Bengal quarterback Ken Anderson faces the same problem.

Rick “Goose,” Gossellin of the Dallas Morning News, who is on the committee of Hall of Fame committee, has made an excellent case for Riley’s inclusion in the Hall (read that article here).  He quotes Riley, “Lemar and I were like Willie Mays and Hank Aaron,” Riley said. “Willie Mays was the flashy one. That was Lemar. But I was the one getting all the interceptions.” 

Samuel G. Freedman’s New York Times article from August, 2013 quotes the Steelers John Stallworth as in support of Riley’s value and worthiness.  Chris Collinsworth is even a bigger advocate of Riley, who taught Collinsworth more than anyone he ever played against.

In 1983 at the age of 36, Riley intercepted eight passes – two for touchdowns – and was named Sporting News  1st Team All-Pro.  But still no Pro Bowl.  He retired with 65 career interceptions, 4th on the all-time list and is the second place cornerback behind Dick “Night Train” Lane.  There is still time for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Committee to get it right while Mr. Riley is still with us.  I hope they do.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Playoff Bowl: A Post Season Exhibition

Topps, philadelphia gum cards, Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions, St. Louis Cardinals, Cleveland Browns, Minnesota Vikings

If coming in second place makes you the first place loser, what moniker would be given to the team that finishes in third? Well, for ten seasons of NFL football from 1960 to 1969, that moniker was called “the winner of the Playoff Bowl.”

Officially named the Bert Bell Benefit Bowl after a league commissioner who suffered a fatal heart attack in 1959, the Playoff Bowl was played the week after the NFL Championship game (except for the 1969 game, which took place the day before) at the Orange Bowl in Miami. The participants were the second-place teams of the NFL’s Eastern and Western conferences.

The Playoff Bowl gave the fans another dose of playoff action and raised over a million dollars for the Bert Bell players' pension fund.  Another motive for holding this game was to compete for television ratings against the new American Football League.  Having another dose of NFL players on television during playoff time generated revenue and gave a gentle reminder to all football fans that the NFL had established stars with established teams.  The Playoff Bowl, given its meaninglessness, drew several critics.  The most vocal critic was Hall of Fame coach Vince Lombardi, who referred to it as "the Shit Bowl" and called it "a losers' bowl for losers." Lombardi went on to say the Playoff Bowl was “a hinky-dink football game, held in a hinky-dink town, played by hinky-dink players. That's all second place is – hinky dink."  Lombardi forgot to refer to himself as the hinky-dink coach who won the Playoff Bowl over the Browns after the 1963 season.  Lombardi lost the game after the 1964 season giving his Packers sole possession of fourth place. 

Even those who came out on the winning side had their complaints. Roger Brown, who won all five Playoff Bowls he played in, called his participation “pitiful.”   Other players appreciated the opportunity to compete against another solid team and the extra money earned from playing in the game always was welcomed.

In 1970, when the merger with the AFL was complete, the league decided to discontinue the Playoff Bowl. Further distancing itself from the “losers' bowl for losers” (and also the pensions of retired players), the NFL only recognizes the Playoff Bowl as an exhibition game—making the official title of third place nothing more than "best case scenario" for the New York Jets.

All-Pro quarterback Frank Ryan of the Browns was asked if teammates reminisce about it when they get together.  “It never comes up,” said Ryan.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

1968 Packers: Lombardi's Last Hurrah

Topps football cards, custom cards that never were Green Bay Packers Super Bowl II

The Super Bowl victory agains the Raiders in January 1968 marked Vince Lombardi's final game coaching the Packers.  Though he maintain his General Manager role in 1968, he wouldn't coach again until the 1969 season with the Redskins when he took the head coach and GM role.  But that only lasted one season as anaplastic carcinoma became terminal and he died a year later.  Packer fans hold that final Lombardi year close to their hearts.

The 1968 Topps design gave the 1967 Super Bowl participants their own horizontal design with illustrated artwork as the background.  1968 was the first year that the NFL and AFL players were combined in the same Topps set and split 219 between 26 teams.  That left very few players per team and consequently, many popular players didn't make the cut in this set.

RetroCards fills in many Packer gaps with this 22-card set featuring Hall Of Famers Willie Wood, Henry Jordan, Willie Davis, Forrest Gregg, Dave Robinson, coach Vince Lombardi.  Other overlooked players are Travis Williams, Tom Brown, Ron Kostelnik, Bob Long, Jerry Kramer, Don Horn, Fuzzy Thurston, Don Chandler, Lee Roy Caffey, Bucky Pope, Chuck Mercein, Bob Skoronski, Lionel Aldridge, plus three post season cards featuring the 1967 Packer playoff appearances.  Coming Soon!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

1971 Bears: Windy City Blues

Topps football cards 1971, fantasy cards

The Bears improved from their 1969 1-13 season to go 6-8 in 1970 - a record that probably would have been better had Gale Sayers not gone down in the first game with a season ending injury.  The recent death of Brian Piccolo to cancer still loomed over the team and Bobby Douglass' brilliant first game as a starter ended with a broken ankle, ending his season and the Bears hopes at a winning record.

In 1971 the quarterback position was shaky as usual and the Bears rotated Bobby Douglass, Jack Concannon, and Kent Nix who combined for 28 interceptions to only 11 touchdowns. Signing washed up ex-Packers like Elijah Pitts, Lee Roy Caffey, and Jim Grabowski did absolutely nothing and with Sayers still useless, the Bears turned to backs Don Shy and Cyril Pinder who responded with a productive performance. The defense was solid with Dick Butkus leading the way and the offense had its bright moments with young receivers George Farmer and Dick Gordon, the later of which, miraculously made the Pro Bowl.

RetroCards is proud to focus not on just the championship years of certain teams, but also of the lean years when real fans loved still gave their love, support, and cheers.  This 18-card set features: Jim Cadile, Wayne Moss, Randy Jackson, Glen Holloway, Willie Holman, George Seals, Rich Coady, Joe Moore, George Farmer, Jimmy Gunn, Bob Wallace, Garry Lyle, Linzy Cole, Ross Brupbacher, Don Shy, Joe Taylor, Bennie McRae, and Bill Staley.  Get yours here!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Anthony Davis: The Star No One Wanted

Topps 1975, 1976, 1978, 1979, 1983 Southern California Sun, Toronto Argonauts, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Los Angeles Rams, Los Angeles Express

Anthony Davis is remembered for his spectacular college football career at USC and for an unfulfilled pro career that spanned four separate leagues.  He led the USC Trojans in rushing, scoring, and kick returns for three straight seasons (1972-1974) but he is most remembered for scoring 11 touchdowns in 3 games vs. Notre Dame.  He finished off his final season with an outstanding performance vs. Notre Dame where the Trojans were down 24–0 and Davis scored four touchdowns to win 55–24. Unfortunately for him, the Heisman Trophy ballots were due prior to the victory over Notre Dame and he consequently finished second to Archie Griffin in the voting.  After this small injustice, Heisman Trophy balloting would take place after all regular season games had been played.  He was also a key member of the USC’s 1972, 1973 and 1974 College World Series.  With two football championships, he was a part of five college championship teams.

After his senior season, Davis was drafted by both the New York Jets and by the Minnesota Twins.  Wanting to play for the Rams, Davis and the Jets could not agree on a contract.  The rap on Davis was that he was too small to play in the NFL, which was why he slipped to the second round in the NFL draft.  He also rejected the Twins, not believing they could come close to his salary demands. The WFL made a strong run for him and offered him a $1.7 million contract with a $200,000 bonus.  He couldn’t turn it down and he delivered the goods.

Davis had a huge season with the Southern California Sun rushing for 1,200 yards and scoring 16 touchdowns in only 12 games.  The Sun, with the surging play of Davis and veteran leadership of Daryl Lamonica, Don Shy, Bill Kramer, and Dave Roller looked like one of the toughest team in the league when the WFL folded midway through the 1975 season.

Out of a job and the failed Jets negotiation fresh in his mind, Davis avoided the NFL and began to talk to the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL.  He signed with the Argos, becoming the CFL’s first “million dollar man.”  The CFL was not a good fit as Davis’ ego clashed with coach Russ Jackson.  After rushing 104 times for 408 yards and scoring four touchdowns, he left the CFL to try out the NFL.  Having selected him in the expansion draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had one thing go their way when Dave became available.  Unfortunately, his time there was not productive as he lasted only one season, rushing for a measly 297 yards with one touchdown.  Short stints with the Oilers and Rams put a temporary cap on his pro career. 

In 1983, he signed with the new United States Football League with the LA Express and somewhat of a player-coach, and helped to promote the new league.  Though he made little impact, his time in the USFL made him the only player to have played professionally in four football leagues. He wound up as a real estate developer after acting in several films including Two Minute Warning with Charlton Heston, Loose Shoes with Bill Murray plus TV programs Roots, Buck Rogers In the 25th Century, and Hotel, among others.  RetroCards honors Anthony Davis with several custom cards that never were.  Get yours here!

Friday, October 21, 2016

1965 Cowboys Become Tallboys

Topps, Dallas Cowboys, NFL design, Tallboys

A great football card design from the sixties is the 1965 Tallboy design made only for AFL players.  In this RetroCards set, the NFL is represented by the Dallas Cowboys in the sharp set which has been newly updated to 20 cards!

The term "tallboys" refers to the size of this design, which was the standard sportscard width at 2.5 inches, but they are 4.75 inches tall, making this a formidable design that gives collectors a good look at their favorite players.

This set includes: Frank Clarke, Mike Gaechter, Tommy McDonald, Cornell Green, Pete Gent, George Andrie, Bob Hayes, Chuck Howley, Lee Roy Jordan, Bob Lilly, Dave Manders, Don Meredith, Ralph Neely, Pettis Norman, Don Perkins, Jethro Pugh, Dan Reeves, Mel Renfro, Jerry Rhome, and J.D. Smith.  Order yours here.