Saturday, January 30, 2016

Frank Clarke: In The Spotlight

Topps Fleer Bazooka 1961 1962 1963 1964 195 1966 1968
In the very early days of the Dallas Cowboys wins were rare, players were average at best, and the franchise struggled in nearly every aspect of the business.  Through these rough times, there was one player that stood out and became the Cowboys first  “star” player.  Frank Clarke, a cast off from the Cleveland Browns, found himself on the Cowboys roster via the expansion draft.  His time on the Browns was unremarkable as he battled to catch on – both on the field and off. 

Despite the segregation, Jim Crow laws, and prejudices awaiting him in Dallas, Frank Clarke was one of the very few players who actually wanted to play for the expansion Cowboys, which sums up how dismal of an experience he had in Cleveland.  Even the most prolific black player in the NFL, Jim Brown, wouldn’t give Clarke the time of day.  In three seasons with the Browns, Clarke caught only 10 passes for zero touchdowns.

In that difficult 1960 season when the Cowboys went 0-11-1, Clarke was a reserve receiver playing behind old veterans Billy Howton, Jim Doran, and Ray Mathews.  Nonetheless, his numbers were very impressive with 9 catches for 239 yards and three touchdowns.  By 1961, he was one of the stars of the Cowboys offense along with Eddie LeBaron and Don Perkins.  He had back-to-back monster seasons (by early 60s standards) in 1961 and 1962.  Despite his production, there were no cards printed for him from 1960-1963 except for the obscure 1962 Post Cereal Card. 

A native of Beloit, Wisconsin, the soft-spoken and agreeable Clarke was a dependable team player for Tom Landry.  To allow Bob Hayes into the starting lineup, Frank gracefully accepted a move to tight end.  “If Tom Landry wanted me to put on a '70s number and play tackle, I would have done it without a word.”  RetroCards designed several “cards that never were” to honor one of the early Cowboy's gentlemen, Frank Clarke.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

TV-time for the NFL in 1966

Bob Lilly, Commissioner Pete Rozelle, Frank Ryan, John Unitas, Lenny Moore, Alex Karras, Roman Gabriel, Les Josephson, Willie Davis, Sonny Jurgenson, Don Meredith, Pete Retzlaff, 1965 NFL Championship, Vince Lombardi & George Halas, Bob Hayes, Fran Tarkenton, Dick Butkus, Spider Lockhart, Gale Sayers, Paul Hornung, Jim Brown, Jim Parker, Bart Starr


1965 signified a turning point in the growth of the NFL.  It was the last season the NFL and AFL played their respective championships.  By mid-1966, an NFL-AFL merger had been agreed upon but both leagues would continue to maintain separate regular season schedules until the 1970 season.  1966 would be the first meeting of the NFL-AFL Championship, the game that would eventually be called the Super Bowl.

In 1966, two companies produced football cards, one licensed to make NFL cards, the other to do the AFL cards.  This new RetroCards set is an All-Pro set featuring NFL stars in the original AFL card design. 

As the game got faster, more strategic, and the dollars kept getting bigger, older players like Paul Hornung, Jim Brown, Jim Parker, and Bart Starr were winding down their Hall Of Fame careers.  New players stepped into the spotlight like Bob Hayes, Fran Tarkenton, Dick Butkus, Spider Lockhart, and Gale Sayers and this set is essentially an overview of the NFL’s biggest stars of that time.  In addition to the players mentioned above, this set also includes: Bob Lilly, Commissioner Pete Rozelle, Frank Ryan, John Unitas, Lenny Moore, Alex Karras, Roman Gabriel, Les Josephson, Willie Davis, Sonny Jurgenson, Don Meredith, Pete Retzlaff, 1965 NFL Championship, and a special Vince Lombardi & George Halas card. 

Look for team sets in this design coming soon.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

1980 Yankees: You Wanna Get Nuts? Let's Get Nuts!

Doug Bird, Paul Blair, Bobby Brown, Ray Burris, Rick Cerone, Damaso Garcia, Jim "Catfish" Hunter, Tommy John, Cliff Johnson, Jay Johnstone, Ruppert Jones, Billy Martin, Rudy May, Willie McGee, Thurman Munson, Gaylord Perry, Lenny Randle, Dave Righetti, Mickey Rivers, Aurelio Rodriguez, Roy Staiger, George Steinbrenner, Dick Tidrow, Tom Underwood, Bob Watson, Yankee Stadium/checklist, Highlight Carew Attempted Trade, Highlight Bob Kammeyer, Draft Prospects, Don Mattingly, John Elway, Otis Nixon, 1980 wrapper card.

In the words of former Yankees Assistant to the Traveling Secretary, George Costanza, “you wanna get nuts, let’s get nuts!" RetroCards has produced an exhaustive set featuring updates to the regular 1980 New York Yankees baseball set. 

The Yankees finished 89-71 in 1979 (only good for 4th place) after dominating the A.L. from 1976 to 1978.  So why not start with an update set for one of those years?  Because RetroCards has a special affinity for the 1980 set and this is the first of several team set updates for that year.  Though the Yankees were a much hated team (especially by this writer) time has turned that hatred into admiration and thinking back to my pack buying days in 1980, it is very hard not to admire Reggie Jackson and the rest of the Bronx Bombers.  So this set is a tip of the cap to a nostalgic time, when sitting the the bleachers in 1980 was a very different baseball experience than sitting in a luxury box today.

This set paints with a wide brush and includes players that contributed during the 1979 season (even some that were traded away from the Yankees during that season) as well as new arrivals for the 1980 season.  Special cards include Yankee Stadium/checklist, a 1979 draft prospect card featuring Otis Nixon, Don Mattingly, and John Elway, an "In Memoriam" card for the dearly departed Thurman Munson, a card commemorating the botched trade for Rod Carew, and even George Steinbrenner at his bloated best.  You even get a Burger King card (with alternate pose) of Tommy John!  For good measure we are throwing in a 1980 wrapper card for displaying purposes. Get yours here.

Complete list of the set: Doug Bird, Paul Blair, Bobby Brown, Ray Burris, Rick Cerone, Damaso Garcia, Jim "Catfish" Hunter, Tommy John, Cliff Johnson, Jay Johnstone, Ruppert Jones, Billy Martin, Rudy May, Willie McGee, Thurman Munson, Gaylord Perry, Lenny Randle, Dave Righetti, Mickey Rivers, Aurelio Rodriguez, Roy Staiger, George Steinbrenner, Dick Tidrow, Tom Underwood, Bob Watson, Yankee Stadium/checklist, Highlight Carew Attempted Trade, Highlight Bob Kammeyer, Draft Prospects (Don Mattingly, John Elway, Otis Nixon), and 1980 wrapper card.


Sunday, January 3, 2016

Meadowlark Transformed The Sport Of Basketball

Topps Fleer
As a kid in the 1970s it was impossible not to know who the Harlem Globetrotters were.  They had their own cartoon on Saturday mornings Super Harlem Globetrotters (with one of the grooviest cartoon theme songs ever), they guest-starred on Scooby-Doo, The Love Boat, and the White Shadow, and starred in their own live-action show The Harlem Globetrotter's Popcorn Machine.  They also traveled the world showcasing their mixture of comedy and basketball to millions of fans.

The fact of the matter is, the Harlem Globetrotters help make basketball what it is today and offered a wide appeal of showmanship, skill, gags, and family fun.  In the center of all the hoopla during that period was Meadowlark Lemon, the face of the Globetrotter franchise.  He delighted fans for 25 as a Globetrotter before forming his own band of Bucketeers in 1980.  Wilt Chamberlain is on record stating Lemon as the best player of all time.

With his passing on December 27, 2015, RetroCards honors the great Meadowlark Lemon with a design from 1974.