Thursday, June 30, 2016

Spotlight On: Mike Gaechter - Unheralded Hitting Machine

Topps, Fleer, Philadelphia cards, 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969 1970 football cards

The 1960s Dallas Cowboys had many stars and up-and-coming players that are well known to fans and football lovers.  However one player that has escaped attention is Mike Gaechter, who had a solid 9-year career starting in the Cowboys defensive secondary. Only four other Cowboys were fixtures on that defense over that same span: George Andrie, Chuck Howley, Cronell Green, and Bob Lilly. Gaechter (pronounced: `Gek-ter) was a play maker and punishing hitter, who played at a Pro Bowl level, yet never was elected. Eagle star receiver Pete Retzlaff said of him, "If I had him on me every Sunday, I would have gotten out of this business a long while ago."

A former track star at Oregon, the Cowboys signed him as a free agent for his speed. Gaechter was a member University of Oregon’s world record setting team in the 4 x 110 relay, a team that also included future teammate Mel Renfro. Football was his second sport and did not start on the football squad until his senior year, while he was cultivating his track career.  He started his Cowboy career as a cornerback but was switched to strong safety in 1963. His interception totals are 21 for 420 yards (a 20 yard per return average) and he was a terror at pressuring place kickers.

His ball hawking skills were evident with his 5 interceptions during his rookie season and on his record setting 101-yard interception return, a team record that stood for 48 years. That return set another record for two 100 yard plays in the same game (the other was a kick-off return by Amos Marsh).

His career took a bad turn when he tore his achilles tendon in the meaningless Playoff Bowl vs. the Rams in January of 1970.  He spent the entire 1970 season on injured reserve and was traded in 1971 to the Redskins where he was cut at the end of training camp, ending his career. In his retirement, he sued the Cowboys for medical malpractice for the mishandling of his injury. He passed away in August of 2015 of heart failure after suffering from alzheimer’s disease.

Despite a long career with the Cowboys, Mike Gaechter never had a card. This has been remedied as Gaecther now graces several Cowboys RetroCard team sets along with many other players that were overlooked in the sport card world. Check them out here.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

1958 Packers: Lombardi's Inheritance

Topps 1958 Green Bay Packers "pre-lombardi"

The 1958 season was definitely a low point in the storied history of the Green Bay Packers.   After a disappointing 3-9 season, and a sixth place finish in the NFL’s Western Division in 1957, head coach Lisle Blackbourn resigned after four seasons.   Enter Raymond “Scooter” McLean, who had been a Packers interim coach for two games in 1953, to take over the mantle of command for the 1958 season.   Although hope springs eternal, the Packers would sink even deeper with a 1-10-1 record and a last place finish.

As the saying goes, “it is always darkest before the dawn.”   Despite the dismal season of 1958, a look at the roster would reveal a number of highly recognizable names.   In fact, it included those of six future Hall-of-Famers, and numerous other future All-Pros and gridiron greats of Packers lore.   The seeds of a championship franchise were waiting for the coming of a great leader who would arrive the following year.

RetroCards presents a new 18-card set featuring many of those “recognizable names.”  Would-be rookie cards, and second year cards of Packers superstars include Forrest Gregg, Jim Taylor, Paul Hornung, Jerry Kramer, Max McGee, Ray Nitschke, and Ron Kramer. Other stars and notable names “before Vince” include Tom Bettis, Bob Skoronski, Dave Hanner, Norm Masters, John Symank, and Fred Cone.  Lesser known players like John Petibone, Sam Palumbo, Fred Cone, Jim Temp, and Even Scooter himself gets his due in this set.  Order here!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Spotlight On: Dick Allen, Hall Of Fame Hopeful

Topps 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1978, football-style

Perhaps the most deserving of any former professional athlete who has not been inducted to the Hall Of Fame is Major League Baseball star Dick Allen.  Websites, blogs, and many an article have devoted time and space to this topic and RetroCards is weighing in on Dick Allen.  Here's some background on Mr. Allen:

Career

Allen has impressive career numbers: .292 lifetime batting average, .534 slugging percentage, and an on base percentage of .378.  He was known for his amazing power (351 home runs) and ability for tape measure home runs that are calculated as some of the longest ever hit.  He won Rookie Of The Year honors in 1964 and an MVP award in 1972 and has the distinction of hitting two inside the park home runs in the same game.

The Detractors

Although his lifetime averages are impressive, the fact he only played 15 seasons and therefore his totals aren't on par with other Hall Of Famers, has hurt him.  If one looks at other Hall Of Famers with long careers you’ll find multiple seasons where those players were past their prime and were able to pad their number in their twilight years. Allen also had some minor controversies surrounding him during his career

Despite being Rookie Of The Year in 1964 and making the All-Star team from 1965-1967 as Philadelphia Phillie, he was often booed by the hometown crowd.  A locker room fight with teammate Frank Thomas ended with Thomas being cut from the team.  Fans sided with the popular Thomas, leaving Allen as somewhat of a scapegoat.  It has been suggested that Philly fans and writers, long known for being tough on home town players, were upset because a white player got cut in favor of a black player. 

Philadelphia fans showed their lack of support to Allen by throwing objects at him regularly along with abusing him with racial slurs and obscenities. He started wearing his batting helmet in the field after being showered with food, ice, garbage, and batteries!  This is reportedly were his nickname “Crash” came from.

There was also controversy over his first name.  Known as "Dick" since childhood, upon arriving in the majors, he was referred to as “Ritchie” for unknown reasons.  This was a source of distain for Allen as he felt the name Ritchie was a “little boys name.”  When he arrived in St. Louis in 1970 the team acknowledged his name as “Dick” for the first time in his career.

After one year in Los Angeles, he was traded to the Chicago White Sox in 1972 where he proceeded to have his finest season. Which was the first of three straight All-Star seasons (1972-1974).  His time in Chicago ended in controversy when he left the team with two weeks left in the 1974 season.  According to his autobiography, Allen blamed his feud with hometown favorite Ron Santo, who was riding out his career as a reason for leaving.  The White Sox sold his contract to the Braves.  Instead of reporting to the Braves, Allen retired. 

His retirement was short-lived as the Phillies convinced him to play in 1975.  His numbers were down but he was still hitting with respectable power.  His career petered out with a final season in Oakland (1977) in which he left the team with more than half the season left to play.

• Despite rumors to the contrary, several players and managers including Willie Stargell, Orlando Cepeda, Rich Gossage, Mike Schmidt, Gene Mauch, and Chuck Tanner are some of the supporters of Allen’s positive clubhouse attitude, willingness to help mold young players, and ability to come through in clutch situations.

• During Allen's time with the Sixties-era Phillies, he sang lead with a doo-wop group called the Ebonistics.  Dick Allen and The Ebonistics sang professionally at Philadelphia night clubs. He once entertained during halftime of a Philadelphia 76ers game.

RetroCards has created several custom cards to fill in some gaps in Dick Allen’s card career and to call attention to a great player who deserves special recognition whether you believe he is Hall Of Fame worthy or not.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

1966 Dallas Cowboys: America's Team On The Rise

Topps Don Meredith, Bob Lilly, Bob Hayes, Chuck Howley, Don Perkins, Frank Clarke, Mel Renfro, Buddy Dial, Mike Gaechter, Don Bishop, Pete Gent, Jerry Rhome, Pettis Norman, Dan Reeves, Tom Landry, the Cotton Bowl, 1965 Playoff Bowl.

The Cowboys had come within one victory of being NFL champions in 1966 and thus began a dynasty that lasted arguable until the early 1980s.  The original Topps set from 1966 showcased only AFL players in an attractive horizontal TV screen design that has timeless appeal.  An earlier RetroCards set featuring NFL All-Pros in this style has prompted the first team set – the Dallas Cowboys.

This set reflects the accomplishments of the 1965 season and most of the player pictures feature game or sideline shots giving the TV design an added touch of reality.  This Cowboys set includes all the stars: Don Meredith, Bob Lilly, Bob Hayes, Chuck Howley, Don Perkins, Frank Clarke, and Mel Renfro.  Other notable players include Buddy Dial, Mike Gaechter, Don Bishop, Pete Gent, Jerry Rhome, Pettis Norman, and Dan Reeves.  Other cards feature Coach Tom Landry, the Dallas defense, the Cotton Bowl, and the Playoff Bowl.

This set is coming soon!