Sunday, October 14, 2018

Spotlight On: Vince Papale

Topps, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1975
One of the fun things about being a sports fan is rooting for the underdog and one of the most famous underdogs was Philadelphia Eagle wide receiver Vince Papale. He was a 30-year-old rookie in 1976 with no college football experience. He made the team under coach Dick Vermeil and earned the nickname "Rocky" paralleling the Sylvester Stallone film character Rocky Balboa, which became a hit the same year.

Though much has been made by the fact he didn't play football in college (St. Joseph's University in the Philadelphia area) he was a superb athlete who attended St. Joseph's on a track scholarship where he had considerable success in the long jump, triple jump, and in pole vaulting.  In high school he lettered in football, basketball, and track and field.  After college Vince taught middle school for 6 years at his High School alma mater while working on his masters degree.  He also found time to be the track head coach, was an assistant high school football coach, AND was trying to qualify for the Olympics in the decathlon. Though he didn't qualify, he was goaded by his buddies into trying semi-pro football. He made the squad of the Aston Knights of the Seaboard League in 1973 and lead the league in touchdown receptions.

The newly formed World Football League put several semi-pro leagues out of business but that didn't stop Papale. Hugh Wyatt, the Player Personnel Director of the Philadelphia Bell, brought Vince in for a free-agent tryout with 1,000 other hopefuls. Only Vince and Dennis Lozzi of Notre Dame (who Vince referred to as "the original Rudy" in a radio interview) were signed from that tryout.

Though the WFL only lasted a year and half, Vince was a serviceable receiver mainly in a backup roll.  After the WFL folded Vince spent time as a substitute teacher and bar tender, while he prepared to go back and resume his teaching position at his alma mater Interboro High School in suburban Philadelphia. At this juncture he was invited to a free agent try out with the Eagles. The talk of his all-out hustle was not just talk and he made cut after cut, eventually co-leading the Eagles in pre-season receptions in 1976.

He played mainly on special teams where he became Special Teams Captain, and became a role model for other players as well as fans.  The inspiring coach Dick Vermeil made the Eagles winners after years of futility and Vince became a life-long friend of Vermeil. A separated shoulder at the end of pre-season in 1979 saw him spend the first half of that season on the injured reserve after which he retired. 
The 2006 film Invincible starring Mark Wahlberg depicts the uplifting story of Vince Papale and he continues to motivate and inspire with speaking engagements and personal appearances.RetroCards is proud to offer 5 Eagles cards featuring Vince Papale. The sixth card is a WFL card of him which is yet to be produced - but will be! Get your Invincible cards here!

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Spotlight On: Rocky Bleier

Topps football, baseball cards

Few players have overcome the obstacles that Rocky Bleier did to make it in the NFL. Born in Appleton, Wisconsin, and a member of the 1966 University of Notre Dame Championship team, Rocky was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1968. After his rookie season, he was drafted by the U.S. Army.

He volunteered for duty in South Vietnam and arrived in early 1969. Wounded by a bullet to the thigh and grenade shrapnel in his right leg (causing him to lose a part of his foot), he was told he would never play football again. While rehabbing in Tokyo from shrapnel and bullet wounds, Steelers founder Art Rooney sent him a letter . “Rock- the team’s not doing well. We need you. Art Rooney.” 

After several surgeries, he went back to the Steelers in 1970 to workout. He couldn’t walk without being in pain, and weighed only 180 pounds. He was put on injured reserve for the 1970 season, but returned in 1971 and played on special teams. He spent several seasons trying to get increased playing time, and was waived on two occasions. But Bleier never gave up. By the summer of 1974 he was in shape and earned a starting position. Though Franco Harris was the featured back, Bleier still contributed to Pittsburgh’s powerful running game and gained 1,036 yards in 1976. His inspirational story, work ethic, and role playing were keys to the four Pittsburgh Steeler Super Bowl victories during his time there.

RetroCards has a couple of new cards featuring Rocky: two from 1979 (a Super Bowl XIII Highlight and a Unsung Heroes card, plus some other customs that never existed. Look for those in forthcoming Pittsburgh Steeler Retrocard team sets!

Friday, September 28, 2018

Frank Clarke: Original Cowboy

The passing of NFL receiver Frank Clarke called to mind some of the old players who have graciously autographed RetroCards or have asked for a stack of RetroCards because no cards had never been made of them.  One of the reasons RetroCards came to be is to create cards for some of the forgotten players or players that had fans but no cards for the fans to collect. 

Frank Clarke was in correspondence with RetroCards after we sent a few cards for him to sign. Any good autograph seeker always slips the athlete a few bucks if one is asking for an autograph by mail and that’s what we did when sending Mr. Clarke some of our original cards to sign. Here is his reply.

Dear RetroCards,
Thank you for the honor of signing these cards....and for the check. With all due respect I am returning your check. Pretty good lookin' dude on that card, huh? No wonder he ran so fast....didn't want anybody to mar that handsome face with an opponents helmet or fist to the face. I'm sure you [at RetroCards] are wonderful people. I'm inspired to be also.  Take care,

Originally from Wisconsin, Frank went to the University of Colorado and was the first black varsity player and his play there got him inducted into the Colorado Athletic Hall of Fame.  Drafted by the Cleveland Browns in 1957 and only caught 10 passes in three seasons before being left unprotected in the 1960 expansion draft.  The Cowboys snagged him and he soon became the team’s deep threat. In eight seasons he caught 281 passes for 5,214 yards and 51 touchdowns and held the team record for most touchdowns in a season (14) until it was broken by Terrell Owens 45 years later in 2007. He became a sportscaster after his career and eventually went into childcare fulltime.

Frank died July 25, 2018 and it struck a chord with many Cowboy fans.  As one of the old gentlemen of the 1960s Dallas Cowboys, he will be remembered as one of the first Cowboys stars. Check for many Frank Clarke cards.

Friday, September 21, 2018

1961 Fleer: AFL Series 3


RetroCards' special attention to the 1961 Fleer football set continues with another 24 cards, this time featuring AFL players. The set starts off with an 1960 AFL Championship card and continues with a few cards from each AFL team (with the exception of the Dallas Texans who have a RetroCards 18 card team set).

Player in this set include: Houston Antwine, Charley Hennigan, Ernie Ladd, Wahoo McDaniel, Charley Powell, Dave Kokourec, Art Powell, Gino Cappelletti, Earl Faison, Harold Olson, Tal Niko, Dick Harris, Dick Guesman, Bob Talimani, John Harris, Richie McCabe, Claude King, Babe Parilli, Fred "the hammer" Williamson, Gene Mingo, Chuck McMurtry, and Laverne "tarzan" Torczon.  Coming soon!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Burt Reynolds: American Good Ol' Boy

Topps 1974, 1977, 1983, 1970

In what Rolling Stone magazine called “the last good ol’ boy movie star, Burt Reynolds not only had mega-star quality, but a varied film career that was a roller coaster of goods, bads, and what might have beens. Punctuated by high profile romances and investments in football teams and race cars, Reynolds was one of America's most recognized celebrities.

Before the acting bug hit, he attended Florida State University on a football scholarship and had visions of playing professionally. But after injuring his knee in the first game of his sophomore season, having his spleen removed, and injuring the other knee in a car accident, he decided to give up the game - on the field that is. In front of the camera was another story.

Known first to mainstream audiences as Quint Asper on the popular TV show Gunsmoke in 1962. He soon got other roles, the most significant being the lead on the TV show Hawk (1966-67). After appearing in several films he landed the lead role in the TV show Dan August, a Quinn Martin Production.  After that was cancelled, he got his lucky break appearing in the film Deliverance, which made him a star.  During this time he posed semi-nude for a 1972 issue of Cosmopolitan and started a relationship with older actress Dinah Shore. 

He then did a series of hits including the football movies The Longest Yard (1974) and Semi-Tough (1977), in-between which he scored with Smokey and the Bandit (1977) and directed Gator (1976).  Other car chase films followed like Smokey and the Bandit II, The Cannonball Run, and Stroker Ace, while The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas and Best Friends kept him as one of the top grossing stars annually. 

After a long-term relationship with Sally Field he became a minority owner of the USFL’s Tampa Bay Bandits and co-owned a NASCAR Winston Cup team, Mach 1 Racing.  His courting, marriage, and subsequent divorce of Loni Anderson kept him in the headlines when his film career was in decline.

Reynolds left behind a formidable portfolio of work that still entertains. RetroCards offers up some cards that never were of this good ol’ boy. Rest in peace, Burt.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

1961 Fleer: Series Two!

Topps, NFL 1961 AFL

The 1961 Fleer RetroCards series continues with s second set of NFL players. This set features 24 more NFL players who didn't have cards in the 1961 Fleer set: John Wooten, King Hill, Joe Perry, Vince Promuto, John Gonzaga, Jim Marshall, Dick Nolan, Dave "Deacon" Jones, Norm Snead, J.D. Smith, Billy Ray Smith, Ernie McMillan, Red Mack, Lenny Lyles, John Baker, Len Dawson, Pat Summerall, Mel Triplett, Alex Karras, Billy Kilmer, Palmer Pyle, Danny Villanueva, and Lou "the Toe" Groza.

This set will be out soon so check back for availability and for the preview of the RetroCards 1961 Fleer series three featuring 24 new cards of AFL players!

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Charley Powell: The Best Athlete You've Never Heard Of

Topps, Fleer, football cards, Jerry Powell, Art Powell, Harlem Globetrotters,

One of the greatest unknown athletes of the 20th century is a guy almost no one has ever heard of. Name one athlete who played professional football, baseball, and boxed professionally. This person also turned down an offer to play with the Harlem Globetrotters as well as offers from UCLA and Notre Dame. His name is Charley Powell.

RetroCards is featuring this somewhat obscure athlete with the intent of showcase his amazing highlight of being a multi-sport athlete. First of all, he may be best known as the older brother of American Football League star Art Powell, who was one of the AFL’s top receivers in the 1960s (his other brother Jerry played in the WFL for the Hawaiians). Charley’s career, however, was far more diverse. Here is a quick timeline of his achievements.

1940s  Boxed as a teen to help support his family.
1947-1950  Won 12 varsity letters. Ran the 100-yard dash in 9.6 seconds, high jumped 6 feet, and put the shot 57 feet 9–1/4 inches.
1950  Named Southern California Prep Player of the Year.
1950  Turned down football scholarship offers from UCLA and Notre Dame.
1951  Turned down an offer to play with the Harlem Globetrotters.
1951  Signed with Cleveland Indians minor league team the Stockton Ports.
1952  Signed with the San Francisco 49ers as the youngest player to ever play in the NFL at the age of 19.
1952  In his 1st game (vs. the Champion Detroit Lions) he sacked quarterback Bobby Layne 10 times.
1950s He and Hall of Famer Joe Perry were the only black players on the 49ers and sometimes had to stay in different hotels than their white teammates.
1954  Took a year off from the 49ers to box full time. 
1955  Rejoined 49ers and played through the 1957 season.
1958  Beat Charlie Norkus in a boxing rematch.
1959  Knocked out the #2 ranked heavyweight boxer in the world, Cuban Nino Valdes Nino.
1960  Signed by the San Diego Chargers and traded to the Raiders.
1960  Joined Oakland Raiders, playing defensive end, playing 2 seasons.
1963  Lost to Cassius Clay (later called Muhammad Ali) in Pittsburgh before 17,000 fans.
1964  Was paid $10,000 to fight Floyd Patterson, to whom he lost in six.
1965  Finished with a boxing record of 25-11-3 (19 KOs).

It’s been discussed that his full potential in any one sport may have been marred by spreading his talents over several sports; a jack of all trades, master of none. Had he focused on one sport, he may be a well-known name today. RetroCards honors this great athlete with a new 1961 Fleer card from the forth coming 1961series three set. Look for it soon!