Friday, December 29, 2017

Lost In 2017: Part Two

Topps baseball, football, basketball, hockey, custom cards that never were

Part Two of RetroCards "Lost In 20017" continues with a cache of "cards that never were."  This entry picks up where Part One left off with some obscure sports players shown on cards you've never seen before as well as several beloved pop culture figures that are quite recognizable.  Here are the honorees from both posts:

Sports figures we lost in 2017: John Reaves, Babe Parilli, Gene Conely, Dave Stallworth, Y.A. Tittle, Connie Hawkins, Bernie Casey, J.C Caroline, Joe Fortunato, Dave Grayson, Johnny Robinson, Wayne Walker, Larry Grantham, Toby Kimball, Lee Maye, Don Baylor, Dave Stallworth, Yale Lary, Steve Jones, Danny Schock, Ken Gray, Mamie "Peanut" Johnson, Tommy Nobis, Charley Hennigan, Pervis Atkins, Jerry Kindall, Ray Brown, Hal Bedsole, Ernie Fazio, Al Luplow, and Willie Townes.

TV & Pop Culture figures we lost in 2017: Patty Duetsch, Richard Anderson, Erin Moran, Bobby “the Brain” Heenan, Adam West, Martin Landau, Stephen Furst, William Christopher, Mary Tyler Moore, David Cassidy, Jerry Lewis, Hugh Hefner, Butch Trucks, Gregg Allman, Richard Hatch, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Walter Becker, Tom Petty, Dick Gautier, Glen Campbell, Chuck Barris, Monte Hall, Jim Nabors, Robert Guillaume, Heather North, John Hillerman, Malcolm Young, Judge Joseph Wapner, Heather Menzies, & Rose Marie.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Lost In 2017: Part One

Topps, Deaths in 2017, sports, celebrities

RetroCards shines one last spotlight on some of the sports figures and pop culture personalities that we lost in 2017. I think it's safe to say many of these people have made life more fun and enjoyable.

Some of the cards you see here have already been released such as the Non-sport sets like Kolchak: The Night Stalker features a card of Dick Gautier, while Patty Deutsch can be found the Match Game set. Many of these sports cards can also be found in RetroCard team sets that are available.

Since we lost so many in 2017, I am splitting this entry into two posts. Here are the honorees:

Sports figures we lost in 2017: John Reaves, Babe Parilli, Gene Conely, Dave Stallworth, Y.A. Tittle, Connie Hawkins, Bernie Casey, J.C Caroline, Joe Fortunato, Dave Grayson, Wayne Walker, Larry Grantham, Toby Kimball, Lee Maye, Don Baylor, Dave Stallworth, Yale Lary, Steve Jones, Danny Schock, Ken Gray, Mamie "Peanut" Johnson, Tommy Nobis, Charley Hennigan, Pervis Atkins, Jerry Kindall, Ray Brown, Ernie Fazio, Al Luplow, Hal Bedsole, and Willie Townes.

TV & Pop Culture figures we lost in 2017: Patty Duetsch, Richard Anderson, Erin Moran, Bobby “the Brain” Heenan, Adam West, Martin Landau, Stephen Furst, William Christopher, Mary Tyler Moore, David Cassidy, Jerry Lewis, Hugh Hefner, Butch Trucks, Gregg Allman, Richard Hatch, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Walter Becker, Tom Petty, Dick Gautier, Glen Campbell, Chuck Barris, Monte Hall, Jim Nabors, Robert Guillaume, Heather North, John Hillerman, Malcom Young, Judge Joseph Wapner, Heather Menzies, and Rose Marie.

P.S. In a effort to further honor humanity, RetroCards refrained from creating a Charles Manson card. 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

1965 Philadelphia: Series 5!

1965 topps NFL football cards that never were

Closing out the 1965 Philadelphia football card set is series five which is split between NFL and ALF players.  We just couldn't stop at four series so here are the remaining 24 players - many very good ones too!  Series five NFL include: J.C. Caroline, Tucker Frederickson, Ted Karras, Larry Wilson, Tom Matte, Les Josephson, Bennie McRae, Bob Brown, Len Hauss, Bruce Bosley, Alex Karras, and Ed O'Bradovich.  AFL players include All-Stars such as Billy Shaw, Tobin Rote, Ben Davidson, Pete Liske, Daryle Lamonica, Tom Addison, Bud McFadin, Fred Arbanas, Emil Karas, Sherman Plunkett, and Chuck Shonta.

This series includes an additional 3 checklists outlining series 1-5 plus the 1965 team sets of the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers. Coming very soon!

Friday, December 8, 2017

1965 Philadelphia: Series 4, More AFL!

Topps 1965 NFL football cards
Continuing with more AFL stars, RetroCards 1965 Philadelphia style series four set does not disappoint. It contains 24 more cards of some of the AFL's top performers of the mid-sixties.

Series four include: Leslie Duncan, Dave Grayson, Houston Antwine, Matt Snell, Elbert Dubenion, Paul Lowe, Babe Parilli, Willie Brown, Tom Sestak, Cotton Davidson, Dave Kocourek, Mike Stratton, Buck Buchanan, George Blanda, Gene Mingo, Sid Blanks, Ernie Warlick, Wahoo McDaniel, E.J. Holub, Ernie Wright, Walt Suggs, Larry Grantham, Goose Gonsoulin, and Jim Lee Hunt.  Get yours here!

Friday, December 1, 2017

1965 Philadelphia Design Adds The AFL!

custom cards that never were, topps, AFL, American Football league

Continuing with the extensive 1965 supplemental sets, RetroCards unveils series three.  What makes this unique when compared with the Philadelphia football cards of the 1960s is that series 3 & 4 feature AFL stars.  Each series offers 24 cards of 1965's greatest American Football League stars along with a few fan favorites.  Most are All-Stars and some even became Pro Football Hall of Famers.

Players in series three include: Joe Namath, Butch Byrd, Tom Flores, Johnny Robinson, Ernie Ladd, Charley, Hennigan, Bobby Bell, Gino Cappeletti, Jack Kemp, Cookie Gilchrist, Lance Alworth, Lionel Taylor, Len Dawson, Ron Mix, Abner, Haynes, Don Maynard, Jim Otto, Winston Hill, Nick Buoniconti, Keith Lincoln, and Fred "the hammer" Williamson.  Also included are a Championship card as well as an AFL All-Star Game card.

The 1964 AFL All-Star Game is notable for the player boycott that took place after New Orleans hotels wouldn't admit black players.  Other black players were stranded at the airport or where given cab rides miles from their destinations.  In a show of solidarity, white players supported the black players in a boycott and the game was hastily moved to Houston where 15,000+ enjoyed the AFL's finest.  Get it here.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Otto Stowe: Outspoken And Out Of A Job

Topps football cards 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, custom cards that never were
One of the flashier players in the NFL in the early 70s was wide receiver Otto Stowe who got himself a Super Bowl ring as a member of the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins.  Born in Chicago, Illinois and having left Iowa State as the all-time leader in receptions and yards, Stowe entered the NFL as a 2nd round pick of the Dolphins in 1971.

Used as the main back up to Paul Warfield, Stowe had productive second year (he caught 6 passes for 140 yards and 2 touchdowns on a Monday night game) and looked like he had the tools to be a star receiver.  Not seeing an opportunity to start in Miami, he requested a trade at the end of the Dolphins undefeated 1972 season. 

The Cowboys, who had been trying to replace the aging Bob Hayes and the retired Lance Alworth, traded the productive Ron Sellers and a 6th round draft choice for the speedier Stowe.  It looked like he had found the perfect home in 1973, catching 22 passes for a league leading 6 touchdowns in what was looking like a Pro Bowl season.  Stylistically, he had one of the leading afros in the NFL and, while with the Cowboys, he modeled suits for Hart Schaffner & Marx.  Unfortunately, he broke his ankle in the 7th game in 1973 and was lost for the rest of the season.

The feeble NFL Player's strike that started in training camp of the 1974 season put everyone in a bad mood and Stowe, who was one of the last of the veterans to cross the line, was soon singled out.  His ankle had not fully healed and he had a difficult training camp running on the rock-hard Thousand Oaks training camp surface.  He was also out-spoken about the way the Cowboys had treated Calvin Hill, who left to sign a contract with the WFL.  Receivers coach Mike Ditka said Stowe "was not applying himself" and was traded to the Denver Broncos on October 6, 1974 for a draft choice. "I hated to see that man go.  He could have helped us win the Super Bowl," said All-Pro tackle Rayfield Wright.  Cliff Harris and Mel Renfro considered him the "best receiver on the team."  Rookie Drew Pearson, who was mentored by Stowe, was also sad to see him go.

Still hampered by the ankle injury, Stowe had a disappointing 1974 season in Denver, catching only two passes.  Somehow, he was still in demand and was traded to the Rams at the beginning of the 1975 season but he announced his retirement on August 18, 1975.

RetroCards pays tribute to this underrated player who, like many other talented and overlooked players, didn’t have any sports cards in his entire career.  RetroCards has created a few and there are more to come so stay tuned.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

1965 Philadelphia Style: Series II

Topps, 1965, Chicago Bears, Baltimore Colts, NFL, AFL, Update cards

Continuing our focus on 1965, RetroCards releases another batch of top NFL players that did not have cards in the original 1965 set.  Series Two includes:

Y.A. Tittle, Joe Schmidt, Gino Marchetti, Ollie Matson, Gene Hickerson, Bill George, Frank Gifford, Billy Ray Smith, Andy Robustelli, Lou Groza, Dave Kopay, Alvin Haymond, John Reger, Roy Jefferson, Walt Rock, Jackie Smith, Jack Pardee, John Wooten, Karl Kassulke, Joe Scarpati, Brian Piccolo, Joe Don Looney, and Bob Toneff.

The next set in this series focuses on AFL All-Stars and fan favorites.  Order here!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

1965: Adding To An Already Great Set

Topps football, custom cards that never were, NFL, AFL

By 1965 the NFL had begun to fully realize the product they had.  Unlike baseball, football was the perfect sport for television.  Seeing the broadcast ratings increasing for both the NFL and AFL, the NFL approved expansion for a team in Atlanta for 1966.  A merger with the AFL began to make sense, if only to drive down the out-of-control salaries that had escalated in the war between the two leagues.

Two NFL league founders, Jack Mira (Giants) and Curly Lambeau (Packers) had passed away during 1965 but an exciting crop of rookies like Gale Sayers, Bob Hayes, and Dick Butkus pointed the league in new and exciting directions. The Packers were still the class of the NFL and recent expansion teams like the Cowboys and Vikings began filling stadiums, while the AFL made football even more compelling with their pass-first philosophy.

As most collectors know, in the mid 60s two different companies handled the release of football cards and for a short period, the Philadelphia Gum Company made classy looking cards exclusively for the NFL. RetroCards plans for seven series (24 cards each) that will add to the already sharp-looking 1965 set that originally had a mere 198 cards.  Series one fills in the gaps with great players like:

Sonny Randle, Gale Sayers, Lenny Lyles, Leroy Kelly, Dave Wilcox, Ordell Braase, Paul Martha, Del Shofner, Pat Richter, King Hill, Dick "Night Train" Lane, Bucky Pope, John Mackey, Dick Butkus, Ernie McMillan, Milt Plum, R.C. Owens, Tommy Wade, Ron Vander Kellen, commissioner Pete Rozelle, plus card featuring the NFL Championship, Pro Bowl, and Playoff Bowl games, and a wrapper card.

Series two will feature another 24 NFL stars and fan favorites, while series three and four will feature AFL All-stars. Order here!

Friday, November 3, 2017

Cardinals Of 1963: Earning Respect

Topps, custom cards that never were

The Cardinals had moved from Chicago to St. Louis in 1960 after years of failure and losing money.  1962 was a down season for the Cards and they posted 4-9-1 record after going 7-7 in 1961.  Despite the losing record, Sonny Randle caught 16 passes for 256 yards in a single game and John David Crow scored 17 touchdowns. Rising stars like Larry Wilson, Jackie Smith, and Bobby Joe Conrad turn some heads.  

A new stadium was in the works for St. Louis and Cards finished with a strong 9-5 record in 1963. Injuries to backs Crow and Prentice Gautt forced veteran Joe Childress into the starting lineup along with converted defensive back Bill Triplett. The Cards found a solid quarterback in Charley Johnson who led the team to a 9–5 record, nearly making the playoffs, earning them some much needed respect.

This RetroCards set features 18 players that didn’t have cards in 1963: Dale Meinert, Ken Gray, Mike McGee, John Symank, Luke Owens, Ken Panfil, Jackie Smith, Buddy Humphrey, Larry Stallings, Jerry Stovall, Joe Robb, Bill Thornton, Bill Triplett, Jimmy Burson, Ed Henke, Mal Hammack, and Bill Stacy. Get your custom set here.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Spotlight On: Dave Kopay - Bringing His Cards Out Of My Closet

Topps football custom cards, gay players coming out
The name Dave Kopay may be familiar to many in the American gay community for having been the first NFL player to announce he was homosexual.  The announcement became official with his autobiography The Dave Kopay Story. But since Kopay’s book was published in 1977, only 4 other NFL players have “come out.” Articles, news stories, and blogs have discussed Kopay’s plight, putting the focus firmly on his homosexuality and the adversity he faced surrounding it. Since pro football players who “come out” are rare, Kopay has become a hero of sorts in the gay community and any retelling of his story is aligned with the politics of gay marriage or discrimination. If one looks past the politics for a moment, the question that might be asked is, “what kind of a player was Dave Kopay?”  

In the 1960s and 70s, it was unusual for a backup running back to enjoy a prolonged career as a spot player and special teamer, but that is exactly was Kopay did.  From 1964 through 1972 he was basically a backup running back that could catch out of the backfield, play some defense, and play vital roles on special teams. These type of players were a dime-a-dozen and teams have been littered with nameless and nondescript players that last two, maybe three years in the league.  But somehow Kopay lasted roughly 10 years as one of these players.  Now you don’t last in the NFL for 10 years without bringing something valuable. So what did Kopay bring?

First of all, he was a student of the game with coaching aspirations.  Kopay was in tune with the bigger picture of strategy and execution that endeared him to coaches throughout his career.  His hard work, intense training, and athletic ability helped him be impactful anytime he was in the game.  He was known for heading the “suicide squad,’ or the kick-off coverage team where he would be the first one down field to make the tackle.  Physically tough, a good blocker, a good pass protector, and special teamer extraordinaire, are the things he brought to the game that don’t show up on the stat sheet.  For what it is worth, here is his stat sheet:

You can search out his book, The David Kopay Story or check out this video for more on Mr. Kopay.  The cards you see above are coming soon!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

1966 Packers: NFL Becoming TV Friendly

1966 Topps football cards, custom, cards that never were
For the Packers, 1965 marked a return to the championship winning ways of 1961 and 1962.  One of the things missing was a solid kicker who can pull out a win in the waning seconds of a game.  Precision kicker Don Chandler was obtained from the Giants and with the return of Jerry Kramer from stomach surgery, the Packers were in shape to compete.

The regular season ended on an odd note for the Packers with an upset tie with the 49ers, giving the Packers an identical 10-3-1 record to the Colts, setting up a showdown with a strong Baltimore team – that is, a strong defensive Baltimore team as both Colt quarterbacks were out with injuries.  Without John Unitas and Gary Cuozzo, running back Tom Matte set up under center.  The Packers won it on a controversial Don Chandler field goal sending them to the Championship against the Browns.  In the Championship game, the packers dominated the running game with Hornung and Taylor combining for over 200 yards rushing while the Packer defense held Jim Brown in check with only 50 yards.

This set includes Bart Starr, Boyd Dowler, Paul Hornung, Jim Taylor, Max McGee, Jerry Kramer, Forrest Gregg, Fuzzy Thurston, Dave Robinson, Willie Davis, Herb Adderley, Willie Wood, Ray Nitschke, Henry Jordan, and Vince Lombardi.  Special cards featuring the “Gold Dust Twins,” Jim Grabowski and Donny Anderson, Tony and Bob Jeter, Elijah Pitts and Son (little Ron), an offensive line card, two playoff cards, and a team card of the Packers “Taking The Field.  Order your set here.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Maury Wills: The Artful Dodger

Topps baseball cards 1960s
Maury Wills is often talked about for not being in the Baseball Hall of Fame.  The 1962 MVP, seven-time All-Star,  three-time World Series participant, 2-time Gold Glove winner, and base stealing extraordinaire has oddly not made it to the Hall yet.  His lack of baseball cards in the first eight years of his major league career may not be helping.

RetroCards can't do much about Maury Wills Hall of Fame induction but we can right some wrongs in his baseball card history.

Wills was originally not considered major league talent.  But fate would intervene and match him with hitting coach Bobby Bragen who turned him into a successful pinch hitter.  A couple of Dodger injuries later and Wills was in the starting line up in 1959!  His biggest season was his fourth when he set a Major league record for stealing 104 bases - the first ever to record 100 steals in a season.  He won the MVP that year and had many successes in his first eight seasons.  But where were his baseball cards?

He did sign an exclusive contract with Fleer and appears in the 1963 Fleer set but he would not appear on a Topps card until 1967, by which time he had been traded to the Pirates.  Unfortunately there were no early Dodger cards of one of the team's most popular players.  Until now.

As a pioneer in the art of base stealing, Maury Wills finally is honored properly with a 10-card set spanning the years 1959-1966, plus a career ending card for 1973.  RetroCards paints with a broad brush giving him two 1959 cards - one in a regular design and one rookie design – cards from 1960-1966, and a final career ending card in 1973.  Order your set here.

For the complete article on why Maury Wills had so few baseball cards, check out Brian Cronin's thorough article here.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Len Koenecke: The Ultimate Bender

Drinking and cavorting have long been associated with professional baseball starting with the Babe Ruth era spanning to the Wade Boggs era.  But none reached the harrowing tale of Baraboo, Wisconsin native Len Koenecke, who was killed after being konked on the head during a flight to Buffalo, New York.

Koenecke, who was a rising star with the New York Giants in 1931, wound up with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1934 where his career started to take off.  Unfortunately, his heavy drinking had begun to affect his performance and by 1935 he was dismissed by the Dodgers in the middle of a road trip.

After being sent home from the road trip, he caught a commercial flight for New York City. During the flight, he drank a quart of whiskey and became very drunk. After harassing other passengers and striking a stewardess, the pilot had to sit on him to restrain him as he was shackled to his seat. He was removed unconscious from the flight in Detroit. After sleeping on a chair in the airport, he eventually awakened and chartered a flight to Buffalo.

According to the Ludington Daily News, pilot William J. Mulqueeny, whose flying career had been “packed with thrills and close escapes with death,” was a former World War I pilot who had to subdue Koenecke.  “Koenecke, allegedly crazed by drink, had hired the plane for a trip to New York across Canada.”

While flying over Canada, Koenecke had a disagreement with the pilot and a passenger (Irwin Davis, a noted parachute jumper), and attempted to take control of the aircraft.  In order to avoid a crash, Mulqueeny, who had left his controls, hit Koenecke over the head with a fire extinguisher “while the ship ran wild in the sky.” After an emergency landing at Long Branch Racetrack in Toronto, it was found that Koenecke had died of a cerebral hemorrhage. The two pilots were charged with manslaughter but were found not guilty in a trial soon after. “It was three lives or one,” Mulqueeny said.  Koenecke was buried in Repose Cemetery at Friendship, Wisconsin.

Full newspaper article can be found here.

Friday, September 22, 2017

1964 Houston Oilers: Philadelphia Style

Topps, 1964 Philadelphia football cards, custom cards

After three years at the top of the Eastern Division, the Oilers dipped to 3rd place in 1963 after winning the AFL Championship in 1961. Despite the downturn in fortunes, the Oilers still fielded a formidable team with George Blanda, Billy Cannon, and the AFL's top receiver, Charley Hennigan.  Unfortunately, 1963 was not an anomaly as the Oilers lost 9 straight games in the middle of the 1964 season.  The highlight of their 4-10 season was Charley Hennigan's 101 receptions.

RetroCards uses the attractive 1964 Philadelphia Gum card design to create a brand new Oilers set that includes: Don Floyd, Charley Frazier, W.K. Hicks, Larry Onesti, Sonny Bishop, Bob MacLeod, Rich Michael, Walt Suggs, Bob Talamini, Charley Tolar, Charlie Rieves, Sid Blanks, Bud McFadin, Donny Brabham, Doug Cline, Sammy Odom, Scott Appleton, George Blanda.

Order your 1964 AFL Houston Oiler set here!

Friday, September 15, 2017

More '87 Strike: Keanu & Gene's Excellent Adventure

1987 Topps football cards, custom cards that never were

All of this Strike talk recalled the 2000 film The Replacements starring Keanu Reeves and Gene Hackman.  It's a fun romp that shows the humorous side of the strike.  For a more realistic view, watch ESPN's 30 For 30 Year Of The Scab, which premiered on September 12th.  Here is the trailer.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

1987 Replacement Cowboys Plus Some History...

1987 Topps football cards, custom cards that never were

In the dying days of the Tom Landry era, the 1987 strike season offered some brief optimism.  Some of us thought, “perhaps the Cowboy replacement players can outplay other NFL replacement players and pad their record?”  Lord knows the Cowboys needed padding as the strike replacement players actually had a higher winning percentage (2-1) than the regular Cowboy players (5-7).  But to be fair, even those strike victories were padded in a rare instance of players crossing the picket line to play in the replacement games.  This is were the story gets interesting.

Tex Schramm, never one to pass up an opportunity make/save a buck, forced the hand of several players who had long annuities that Schramm snuck into player contracts in anticipation of the strike. In short, if those players didn’t play, they lose the money.  Schramm held this over several players head and players begrudgingly crossed the line rather than lose years of contributions.

Randy White, Tony Dorsett, Ed “Too Tall” Jones were the highest profile players affected by this and crossed the line.  Danny White, in an effort to move CBA talks along……  also crossed the line, creating even more team derision.  Dorsett begged not to be played in these games but Tom Landry played him anyway.   (See part one of 1987 Strike Cowboys here).

The aftermath of the strike was difficult for the Cowboys.  Tex Schramm’s level of involvement in the strike earned him the nickname “Commissioner of the Replacement Players,” which made the Cowboys a marked team even after the strike was over.  A quarterback controversy developed when Danny White crossed the line and Tom Landry chose to start him over the exciting Kevin Sweeney (a move that almost got Landry fired) , who was having success in the strike games.  The opponent was the Philadelphia Eagles coached by All-Pro yahoo Buddy Ryan, who resented Landry using union players against his Eagles.  This started a feud by the next game where Ryan ran up the score on the flailing Cowboys.

• The replacement players earned $4,000 a week,
• Cornell Burbage reached into the stands during a road game at New York, grabbed a package and placed it under the bench. It was a box of laundry Burbage’s sister had washed for him.
• In union towns, the replacements were shunned. In places such as Dallas, some fans loved their grit and nicknamed them the “Rhinestone Cowboys.”
• Nearly every replacement team wound up with new fan-given nicknames: The Chicago Spare Bears. The Seattle Sea-Scabs. The New Orleans Saint Elsewheres and the Rhinestone Cowboys.
• New York Jets star defensive end Mark Gastineau, who claimed he needed the money to pay alimony. Gastineau would end up scuffling with a teammate who spat in his face as he crossed the picket line one morning.
• Other stars that crossed the line: Howie Long, Joe Montana, Steve Largent, Lawrence Taylor, Roger Craig, Tony Dorsett, Dwight Clark, Danny White, Randy White
• 37-year-old Jim Zorn, playing in the Canadian Football League, contacted the Seahawks, whom he had QBed for many years, but ended up in Tampa as backup to another 37-year-old, John Reeves, who had started for the Eagles and Bengals in the 70s. 
• Sean Payton, future Saints Coach of the Year, played QB for Mike Ditka’s Bears. 
• The Bears traded QB Doug Flutie to New England while he was on strike. Doug led his new team to a 21-7 win over Houston during the third week of replacement games.
• Lionel Vital, who ran a grocery store in Louisiana before the strike, became the starting RB for the Redskins.
• The Giants signed 12 players from the semipro Connecticut Giants.
• QB Vince Evans had been out of football since the USFL folded. He started the first replacement game for Oakland despite the fact that former starter Mark Wilson suited up. Vince passed and ran for 311 yards in total offense.

While the strikers lost an average of $15,000 per game (approximately $80 million in salaries altogether), the average owner’s profit per game actually rose from $800,000 before the work stoppage to $921,000 during the strike. However, this gain was wiped out by the fact that the league had to refund $60 million to the networks over the next two seasons for the missed weekend of play, the reduced ratings, and the resulting decline in advertising revenues.

On the day the strike ended, the NFLPA filed an antitrust suit in Federal Court challenging the college draft, restraints on free agency, and other practices alleged to be anti-competitive. (The NBA players had filed a similar suit one month earlier.) The Court of Appeals ultimately rejected the suit on a technicality. NFLPA disbanded, then reformed in 1989 in order to file a new suit that ultimately prevailed at a jury trial. This led to a labor agreement that permitted less restrictive free agency in return for salary caps tied to a formula based on players’ share of total league revenues. So the union, while losing the 1987 battle in the short run, won the war in the long run.  This fun set is available now!

Friday, September 1, 2017

RetroCards Strikes Back! 1987 Cowboys

1987 Topps Football Cards, Custom Cards that never were, replacement players

1987 was a trying year for the NFL.  A Players Strike interrupted the season resulting in teams fielding replacement players for three games. At best, the play of the replacement players was fun, at worst, farcical.  The Cowboys, with their superior scouting, fielded one of the league’s strongest “Strike Teams” and, had the NFL replacement players played all season, the Cowboys may have won the Super Bowl!  Back in reality the Cowboys posted a 5–9 record in regular “union” games, helping to bring an end to the Landry era. 

That year started off with two disasters before the season even started: first was the arrest of Rafael Septien for the allegation of sexual assault of a minor, followed by young star Mike Sherrard breaking his leg in a scrimmage.  Then the strike happened after week two of the season and week three games were cancelled.

Cowboys management was anticipating the strike and kept close tabs with players who were the final cuts of the preseason.  The always shrewd GM Tex Schramm inserted clauses into several veteran’s contracts stating if players missed a game or practice due to something other than a football injury, players would lose a large annuity built into their pay structure.  This caused veterans like All-Pro Randy White to cross the picket line, starting a rift between White and the rest of the striking players.  Tony Dorsett referred to him as “Captain Scab,” only to pathetically join White across the picket line when Schramm reminded him of his soon-to-be lost annuities (Dorsett was referred to as "Captain Stab").

Discord grew when Danny White crossed the line. He couldn’t afford to give up the paycheck as his manufacturing business was in debt $250,000 and he was under investigation for mail fraud.  "Too Tall" Jones crossed due to the lost annuities situation and a lawsuit was threatened by players against the Cowboys. Only Doug Cosbie and Everson Walls didn't cross though they stood to lose annuities.

The ever-detached Tom Landry coached his newfound players for the three strike games to the best of his abilities while player representative Doug Cosbie stood helpless as he watched 21 veterans cross the picket line.  Seven of the replacement players showed promise and stayed on the roster after the strike was over.  In the second last game of the season Danny White coached the team briefly against Rams while coach Landry dealt with a threat on his life – an omen if there ever was one. Sadly, the strike experience and the losing carried into the 1988 season where the team dipped to an embarrassing 3-13 record.

RetroCards gives focus to this strange season with two Cowboy 18-card sets.  The first (pictured above) contains players that did not have a card in 1987: Gordon Banks, Vince Albritton, Nate Newton, Garth Jax, Reggie Collier, Gene Lockhart, Ray Alexander, Doug Cosbie, Johnny Holloway, Roger Ruzek, Ron Francis, Danny Noonan, Mark Tuinei, Ron Burton, Everson Walls, and Todd Fowler.  There is also a team card and a yellow bordered “box bottom” card of Herschel Walker.

The second series (to be shown in a separate blog entry) focuses on the replacement players and players who crossed the picket line who did not have a regular card in 1987. First the replacement players: Kevin Sweeny, Kelvin Edwards, Tommy Haynes, Cornell Burbage, Mike Dwyer, and Robert Williams.  Players who crossed: Randy White, Ed “Too Tall” Jones, Mike Renfro, Johnny “Lam” Jones, Robert Lavette, Paul McDonald, Kevin Brooks, Kelvin Martin, and Karl Powe.  A Cowboys management card featuring Schramm and Landry gets a special place in series two along with a Strike Team card, and a yellow bordered “box-bottom” card featuring “Co-Captain Scab,” Tony Dorsett.  Both are available now!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Hall Of Fame Hopeful: Jerry Kramer

Topps, 1962 Topps, 1963,1965, 1968, 1969, 1966,

One popular discussion in sports is who should or should not be in the Pro Football Hall Of Fame.  Perhaps the most deserving name on the list of who should be in is Jerry Kramer, Packer guard from the Lombardi era.  He was a modern era finalist from 1974-1987 and eligible as a senior inductee since 2002. There have been websites and surveys to help get him voted in but induction to the Hall has been elusive.  The most glaring fact is that he is the only member of the NFL’s 50th Anniversary Team who is not in the Hall. Even the NFL Network listed he at #1 as the top player never inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Here are the quick look has his accomplishments:
•  5-time 1st Team NFL All-Pro
•  2-time 2nd Team NFL All-Pro
•  3-time Pro Bowler
•  5-time NFL Champion
•  NFL 60s All-Decade team
•  NFL 50th Anniversary Team
•  Green Bay Packers Hall Of Fame
•  All-Super Bowl Team
•  Kicked winning field goal in 1962 NFL Championship
•  Threw the most famous block in NFL history helping Bart Starr score the winning     
   touchdown in the 1967 NFL Championship

Pretty impressive considering there are not a lot of NFL guards that can claim these lofty accomplishments.  Here are some speculative reasons why he may not be in the Hall with a response for each:

1. Voters are loathe to vote in another Lombardi Packer.  Not true. Twenty-four years after Willie Wood was inducted in 1989, teammate Dave Robinson was inducted in 2013. 

2. The inclusion of Dave Robinson in 2013 now makes it even harder for Kramer to get in. Paul Hornung disagrees, “Hell, we won more than anybody.  Why shouldn’t we have more? We won more championships.”

3. Voters don’t want to vote a third offensive lineman from the same team in (Forrest Gregg and Jim Ringo are the other two).  Not true. Three lineman from the Oakland Raiders made it: Jim Otto, Gene Upshaw, and Art Shell.

4. Kramer struggled playing against Alex Karras and Merlin Olson.  Who the hell didn’t?

5. Kramer’s tiff with Green Bay Press-Gazette sports editor Art Daley, who represented Green Bay with the Hall of fame.  Kramer gave Daley an interview late in his career just after being chewed out by Lombardi on the practice field.  Kramer was in a bad mood and he “blew up,” saying things “I shouldn’t have said.” 

Decades later, Kramer says, former New York Giants linebacker Sam Huff called him to share a rumor. Huff heard a Green Bay sportswriter wasn’t adequately arguing Kramer’s case for induction.  “Sam just said, ‘Your guy in Green Bay isn’t supporting you,’”  Packer historian Cliff Christl knew Daley well and denies this.

6. Some writers didn’t like Kramer’s book Instant ReplayDid Kramer break the taboo of letting the press into the locker room?  I can’t see any of today’s voters caring about this unless they were in the press themselves, which would seem to help Kramer’s case.

7.  Fellow Lombardi-era guard Fred “Fuzzy” Thurston was as good as Kramer.  Thurston was All-Pro once and had no where near the physical abilities Kramer had.  Kramers was at the top of his game longer than Thurston.

9. Gale Gillingham, the guard who came in toward the end of Kramer’s career and replaced Fuzzy Thurston after he retired, was a better guard, and is therefore more deserving.  Does this logic mean that Brett Favre shouldn’t go in because Aaron Rodgers follows him and he was “better?”

10. Canton is a money-making enterprise and adding another small market player from a team that already has 11 is not desirable.  Then why did Dave Robinson get in in 2013?

More than 40 former NFL players, including 34 Hall of Famers, have endorsed Kramer. It started informally with Sam Huff in ’97. The former linebacking great, inducted in 1982, went around and collected seven other letters of recommendation.  Merlin Olsen explained, “Jerry earned my respect as we battled eye to eye in the pits on so many long afternoons. Jerry Kramer belongs in the Hall of Fame.”  Players like Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Frank Gifford, Bob Lilly, Chuck Bednarik, Doug Atkins, and Alan Page have also supported Kramer’s cause.

One explanation is given by Ed Bouchette, Hall of Fame Voter, “I vote in the baseball Hall of Fame too and it’s easy.  You’ve got every stat you want.  We’re still trying to figure out a stat for right guard.”  Ray Didinger, former Hall of Fame voter, offers, “Of all the players not in the Hall of Fame, the one that mystifies me the most is Jerry Kramer.  I don’t know how he isn’t in the Hall of Fame."

Scout Chris Landry, doesn’t have a good answer but suggests that many of the sportswriters that vote may not have the understanding of how good a lineman was during that era - particularly an offensive lineman.  There are no stats for their performance and film footage doesn’t reveal enough.  He also states that more personnel (players and coaches) from that era should be consulted in the process to ensure oversights.  The 46 media members that vote may not be the best judges of seniors.  Kramer has been a Seniors finalist 10 times.  Maybe it is time to have some current inductees weigh in on the process.  

Kramer has come to terms with the fact that he is not in the Hall.  He feels it is part of his legend and would rather be a man everyone believes should be in the Hall as opposed to being a Hall Of Famer no one believes is worthy.

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You'll find many Jerry Kramer cards in RetroCards' Packer set section here.

Friday, August 18, 2017

1962 Bears: Clawing Their Way Back

Topps 1962 Bears, custom cards that never were

The Bears were slowly climbing back up in the ranks going from a 5-6-1 record in 1960 to a 9-5 record in 1962.  The football world would have to wait another year to see if the Bears had the firepower to win a Championship.

On the surface, it didn't seem like the Bears were going to do much but that changed with the arrival of tight end Mike Ditka in 1961 who helped make Billy Wade look like an actual NFL quarterback!  The Bears staunch defense was still tough as nails and the Bears took 3rd place in the Western Division in 1962.

RetroCards focuses on the 1962 Bears for this 22-card set.  Like several past sets, this one includes a stadium card, and a "Bears play" action card along with 20 players that didn't make it in the original set released in 1962, including Mike Pyle, J.C. Caroline, Ed Brown, Bo Farrington, Dave Whitsell, Bennie McRae, Bob Wetoska, Bobby Joe Green, Roosevelt Taylor, Bob Kilcullen, Joe Fortunato, Fred Williams, Harlon Hill, Herman Lee, Earl Leggett, Charlie Bivins, Rudy Bukich, Maury Youmans, Joe Marconi, and the old man himself, coach George Halas.  Get your set here!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Dodgers Finally Do It! Expanded 1982 Set

Topps, RetroCards, baseball custom cards that never were, 1982 Topps baseball

The most memorable thing about the 1981 Major League Baseball season was the players strike which lasted from June 12 through August 9, splitting and shortening the entire season at the same time.  However, Dodger fans remember that year with a smile because it was the franchise’s first World Series title in 15 years.   

Having been a great team with great players for a decade, this Dodger team couldn’t win the big one. And with guys like Cey, Russell, Lopes, Baker, Hooten, Johnstone, Monday, and Garvey getting old, time was running out.  They had lost three World Series in the 70s and narrowly missed the playoffs in 1980, losing a tie-breaker in the 163rd game of the season.  It appeared the curtain was almost closed.  Realizing this, perhaps, manager Tommy Lasorda sent each player a personal letter over the prior winter challenging and encouraging the players.  They knew what was at stake.

Winning 29 of their first 40 games, the Dodgers looked like the hottest team in baseball.  But the strike interrupted their momentum and they stumbled in the second half finishing only one game over .500.  No matter.  They were a veteran team with bright young players like rookie Fernando Valenzuela and they played loose and played smart.  Rick Monday remembers, “I know we were desperate because a lot of us, (we) were not necessarily at the end of our careers, but we were approaching that area, and there was an influx of younger talent. There was an immediacy of wanting to get things done and get things done in a hurry.”

In the playoffs, things got exciting with a comeback win over the Astros after being down 2 games to none.  A second 2-0 deficit against the Expos was erased and won with a dramatic Rick Monday homer.  And finally, the Dodgers got their revenge on the New York Yankees after losing successive World Series in 1977 and 1978.  Again down 2 games to none, the Dodgers kept their poise and won the next 4 games!

This 24-card RetroCards set fills in some gap of players that were missed in the regular and updates sets of 1982 such as: Manny Mota, Tom Niedenfuer, Ron Roenicke, Mike Marshall, Jerry Grote, Jack Perconte, Bobby Mitchell, Dave Sax, Ted Power, and Candy Maldonado.  Also featured are an All-Star card of Burt Hooten and a Cy Young and Rookie Of the Year winners showcasing Valenzuela.  It also has cards of every playoff series including three fun World Series cards and other highlight cards featuring Tommy Lasorda being interviewed by Vin Scully, and the very fun card of Rick Monday shoving a cream pie in Jay Johnstone’s face.  Those were the days!  Coming soon.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Non-Sport Special: Rush

1978 Topps Football Rush

RetroCards’ foray into the non-sport world is typically restricted to 70s television.  Stepping outside of our norm slightly, we made a special gift for a friend.  This set features one of rock music’s greatest treasures: Rush!  Few bands have earned the respect that Rush has over their long career and although they look to be retired at the moment, the 40+ year old band's last tour was still packing arenas everywhere. 

In the 70s, bubblegum cards of rock bands were limited to groups like the Osmonds, KISS, the Bay City Rollers, and the Partridge Family.  So maybe it was time for RetroCards to offer trading cards of a band with a little more substance.  Not that some of us don’t enjoy listening to the Osmond’s Crazy Horses, or watching KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park.  And who doesn’t enjoy Danny Partridge putting Ruben Kincaid in his place?

The fact of the matter is, Rush nerds are approaching Star Trek nerds in number and in fervor, so it seemed appropriate to do a special set for my friend who, is not only a Rush nerd, but a rare FEMALE Rush nerd, of which there apparently are only seven.  This RetroCards set (12 cards) is from a 1978 football card design (for no particular reason) and features the band during their first decade.  Get your set here!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

1967 Cowboys: Beautiful In Blue

1967 Topps football cards, Dallas Cowboys. RetroCards, custom football cards

The Dallas Cowboys officially arrived in 1966 with a 10-3-1 record and won the Eastern Conference by a 1.5 game margin.  Coinciding with their rise in stature and popularity was their first Thanksgiving Day game in 1966.  Every other franchise was uninterested and the shrewd Tex Schramm jumped at the opportunity to foist his young franchise in the TV-friendly world of pro football. Though the Cowboys lost the NFL Championship to the Packers, the Cowboys were the exciting team on the rise.

This somewhat familiar 1967 design was used for a full set of your favorite Cowboys stars.  You may recognize this design that was initially used for AFL players (while the NFL players were contractually obligated to appear on the Philadelphia Gum cards), this design still looks fresh and here the Cowboys are sporting their sharp blue away uniforms.

The 1967 RetroCards set features:  Don Meredith, Bob Lilly, Buddy Dial, Bob Hayes, Tony Liscio, Willie Townes, Ralph Neely, Pettis Norman, Leon Donohue, Obert Logan, Lee Roy Jordan, Mike Gaechter, Jim Colvin, Dickie Daniels, Walt Garrison, John Niland, Cornell Green, and Craig Morton.  Order here!