Thursday, August 9, 2018

Jerry Kramer: You Can If You Will

I'm not sure how many more old school players will make it into the Hall of Fame while they are still with us, but football fans were treated to a beautiful acceptance speech by Jerry Kramer at the August 2018 Hall of Fame Induction.

He summed up by saying, "The only thing left at this time is for you to lead a life of quality and excellence and make this old world a little better place because you were in it.  You Can If You Will."  Watch the whole speech here..

Thursday, July 26, 2018

1961: Expanding Fleer's Only NFL Set


In 1961 Fleer issued a football set including both NFL and AFL players.  This was the only year that both Topps and Fleer released a set with players from both leagues.  In 1962 and 1963 Fleer would focus their sets on AFL players before getting the NFL contract for 1964-1967.  The original 1961 Fleer set is a lovely looking set that is clean and backed with minimal bio information on the backs.  At 220 cards covering both leagues, several key players didn’t have a card issued in this set which is where RetroCards comes in.

In the first of several series, this set adds 24 more cards featuring NFL players.  RetroCards has already produced team sets of the Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, and Dallas Texas.  As per usual, these team sets feature players who didn’t have cards in the regular 1961 Fleer set and the new series, which covers the rest of the teams in the NFL and AFL, follow suit.

Players in series one include: Timmy Brown, Buddy Dial, Fran Tarkenton, Lamar Lundy, John Morrow, George Izo, Johnny Sample, Karl Rubke, Don Chandler, R.C. Owens, Pat Studstill, Jimmy Hill, Sonny Jurgensen, Mike McCormack, Joe Lewis, Dan Colchico, Dick James, Zeke Bratkowski, Terry Nosfinger, and Frank Gifford. Additional cards feature the NFL Championship, NFL Pro Bowl, NFL Playoff Bowl, and a wrapper card. Coming soon!

Thursday, July 19, 2018

1963 Steelers: Not Pretty, But Respectable

1963 Topps football cards

The Steelers surprised many fans by posting a 9-5 record in 1962.  Bobby Layne ended his career as the NFL all-time leader in touchdowns as he led the Steelers to three straight wins at the end of the season to take second place in the Eastern Conference.  John Henry Johnson, Ernie Stautner, and Big Daddy Lipscomb, though aging, came through with tough performances and Buddy Dial was now a top receiver

By 1963, the Steelers were still holding steady thanks to a league-leading three tie games to give them a 7-4-3 record.  RetroCards offers custom collectors an additional 18 cards of players that did not appear on a card back in 1963.  Players include: John Baker, George Tarasovic, John Reger, Ron Stenhouwer, Gary Ballman, Jim Bradshaw, Mike Sandusky, Joe Krupa, Clendon Thomas, Brady Keys, Bob Schmitz, Charlie Bradshaw, Harlon Hill, Myron Pottios, Terry Nofsinger, Dan James, John Powers, and Tom Tracy.  Coming soon!

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Super Gnat: NFL's Reggie Smith

Topps, football cards, baseball cards, Smallest player, shortest player

Small athletes in professional sports always seem to grab attention.  Tyrone “Muggsy” Bougues and Spud Webb were regularly featured in magazines and articles due to being very short basketball players.  Both had long careers and the novelty of a short basketball player always drew laughs.  The most famous short athlete has to be Eddie Gaedel of the St. Louis Browns who at 3’ 7” was the subject of one of the strangest stunts in professional sports.

Though he would probably prefer to be remembered more for his playing than his height, wide receiver and kick returner Reggie Smith played parts of three seasons in the NFL and one more in the USFL.  He also made a name for himself in the Arena Football League, for which he was ultimately inducted into the Arena Football Hall of Fame for his considerable efforts.

At 5’4” Smith has been the shortest player to appear in an NFL game.  A kick returner for the Falcons in 1980-1981, he was one of the league leaders in yardage (1,143 in 1981), he made a big impact with the Washington Federals in 1983, taking the leagues first kickoff and returning it 30 yards.  He had a big first game against the Chicago Blitz (5 kick returns for 81 yards, 6 catches for 87 yards) but went down with an injury and was lost for the season.

He was known as “super gnat” as he explains, “My sister’s boyfriend gave me that name when I was in high school, I wasn’t the first to have it, though. I got if from Nolan [sic] (Super Gnat) Smith, who ran back kicks for the Chiefs about 10 years ago. He was my hero for a while”  (Dave Remnick, The Washington Post, February 4, 1983).

Noland Smith, a similar type player from the era before Reggie Smith came to the NFL,  was 5’5” and did have a brief but productive career with the Chiefs in 1967-1969.  He led the AFL in kick return average, yardage, and touchdowns in 1967.  The diminutive Chief was also unique for wearing the number 1 on his jersey.  Lifetime, his 10.1 yards per punt return and 26.1 yards per kick return are impressive but he could extend his career past three years.

RetroCards adds some stature to these pint-sized players.  Look for these custom cards in future RetroCard sets!

Thursday, July 5, 2018

1957 Braves: Milwaukee's Only Championship

Topps baseball vintage cards  1957
Books have been written about Milwaukee’s love affair with the Braves and the heartbreak the city went through when they left for Atlanta in 1966.  The arrival of the Milwaukee Brewers in 1970 quelled the pain but there is still a very special spot in the hearts of many Wisconsinites for their Braves.  Milwaukee’s only World Series Victory came in 1957, when they toppled the mighty New York Yankees and RetroCards fittingly has chosen the ’57 Braves as their first Baseball set with a special 20-card collection.

New cards in the 1957 baseball style include Jack Dittmer, Red Schoendienst, Nippy Jones, Bob “Hurricane” Hazle, Joey Jay, Mel Roach, Hawk Taylor, Toby Atwell, Harry Hanebrink, Carl Sawatski, Bob Trowbridge, and Fred Haney.  There is also a special card for radio announcer Earl Gillespie sporting a Braves uniform!  Other highlight cards feature World Series moments including Hank Aaron’s home run that clinched the pennant, The Shoe Polish Incident, Lew Burdette MVP, Bushville Wins, 1957 Champions Team Card, Braves Celebrate, and a special “wax pack wrapper” card with checklist.  Get your set here!

Friday, June 29, 2018

1963 Packers: At Their Peak

Topps football cards 1963 nil

Coming off the greatest season Vince Lombardi would every coach, the Packers found going for the 3rd straight title difficult.  The eventual champion Chicago Bears handed the Packers their only loses of the season and one tie versus the lowly Detroit Lions gave them a final record of 11-2-1.  The loss of Paul Hornung for the entire season due to gambling issues certainly took away one of the Packers most potent offensive weapons.  As a matter of fact, because of the suspension Hornung was not issued a card for that year, nor was Alex Karras of the Lions, who was also suspended for the entire season.

This custom 1963 Packer set reinstates the "Golden Boy" and offers 17 other Packer RetroCards who were absent from the regular set that year.  Zeke Bratkowski, Jerry Kramer, Hank Gremminger, Tom Moore, Ron Kostelnik, Bobby Jeter, Dan Currie, Willie Davis, Dave Robinson, Bob Skoronski, Jess Whittenton, Dave Hanner, Ken Iman, Norm Masters, Elijah Pitts, Marv Fleming, and Earl Gros are the subject of this attractive set.  Get it here!

Friday, June 22, 2018

Chuck Howley: Right Place, Right Time

Topps, Philadelphia cards, 1965 tallboys
Great defensive players seem to know how to be in the right place at the right time on the football field.  Chuck Howley had that special intuition and his knack for anticipation mixed with his speed made him indispensable on the Cowboys first Doomsday Defense.  One of the great play makers of his day, Chuck Howley played in 191 games over 15 seasons.  He was a seven-time All-Pro, a six-time Pro Bowler and has the dubious distinction of being the only Super Bowl MVP chosen from a losing team. Strangely, he is not in the NFL Hall Of Fame and is on a short list of players from his era who should be in the Hall.

A five-sport athlete at West Virginia, he was the 7th player taken in the 1958 draft by the Chicago Bears.  In 1959 he badly hurt his knee and retired.  By 1961, Cowboy coach Tom Landry caught wind of Howley’s recovery and took a gamble, trading a 2nd and 9th pick to obtain him. The gamble quickly paid off and Howley was an instant starter in 1961, missing only 4 games in the next 12 seasons. His speed was ideal for the weak side linebacker position but he was so athletic, he could play the strong side, cover speedy receivers, and rush the quarterback.

The Cowboys finally made it to the Super Bowl after the 1970 season and although the Cowboys lost a game they should have won, Howley managed to win the MVP award in what was labelled as the “Blunder Bowl.” Howley explained, “It was one of those kind of games when I was in the right place at the right time, all the time.  Even when I made mistakes and was out of position, I was in the right place.” He was in consideration for a consecutive MVP for Super Bowl VI but that prize went to the venerable Roger Staubach.

As his career wound down, so did the old Cowboy regime.  He retired after the 1972 season but Tom Landry convinced him to join the taxi squad in 1973 to mentor some of the young linebackers and retired for the third time at the end of the 1973 season.

His exclusion in the Pro Football Hall of Fame is troubling but he is one of several fine players from the 1960s and 1970s that RetroCards will be featuring over time.  Check out Chuck Howley RetroCards that can be found in many Dallas Cowboys team sets.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

1963 Eagles: No Escaping The Cellar

Topps 1963 football cards

The 10-4 record of 1961 showed that their 1960 Championship was no fluke.  But by 1962, the franchise had dipped to last place in the Eastern Conference with a 3-10 record.  Injuries decimated the offense as Sonny Jurgensen struggled with the separated shoulder he suffered in the prior season's Playoff Bowl.  Receivers Pete Retzlaff, Bobby Walston , and Dick Lucas all sustained broken arms and Howard "Hopalong" Cassidy, acquired to bolster the receiving corps, when down with a broken leg. Ted Dean's broken foot crippled the offense further.  Timmy Brown and Tommy McDonald continued to thrill, but the Eagles still lost the final nine games.  1963 started with QBs Jurgensen and King Hill staging a joint holdout for more money leaving the team in a state of low morale as they stumbled to a 2-10-2 record in 1963.

This RetroCard set is expanded to include some key players on this underachieving team: Don Burroughs, Ted Dean, Howard Keys, Dick Lucas, Ray Mansfield, Jerry Mazzanti, Mike McClellan, George McKinney, Bill Quinlan, Nate Ramsey, Bobby Richards, Theron Sapp, Ben Scotti, Jim Schrader, Jim Skaggs, J.D. Smith, and John Wittenborn.  Coming Soon!

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Tribute To Al McGuire: Series Two

Topps basketball

Part two of the spotlight on Al McGuire focuses on some of his contributions as an announcer and his knack for inventing new words and phrases for the sport of basketball.  His teams compiled an 295-80 record during his tenure at Marquette but many remember him for his back and forth banter with Billy Packer and Dick Enberg.  Some of his most memorable “McGuire-isms” are:

• air craft carrier – big man in the middle
• congratulate the temporary – live for the moment
• carnival gates are closed – the game is over
• white knuckled – close game
• french pastry – a showy move
• tailenders – walk on players
• cracked sidewalks – bad side of town
• dance hall player – short on talent, big on effort
• seashells and balloons – victory and happiness
• cloud piercer – a good jumping player

‘’I enjoyed only the game. I hated practice, recruiting, administration. Too many memos.’’  This was one of his quotes explaining the surprising retirement.  He announced the retirement in December of 1976 and Marquette struggled to make it into the tournament.  Once there, they played some of their best ball and completed a season only Hollywood could have written.  

A short list of Coach McGuires accomplishments:

• AP Coach of the Year 1971
• UPI Coach of the Year 1971
• USBWA Coach of the Year 1971
• NABC Coach of the Year 1974
• NCAA Champion 1977
• Regional Championships – Final Four 1974, 1977
• Pro basketball Hall of Fame

Series one focused on the earlier part of McGuires years at Marquette, while series two focuses on the glory days of 1973-1977.  Players in series tow include: Jim Boylan, Earl Tatum, Bo Ellis, Jerome Whitehead, Butch Lee, Lloyd Walton, Bernard Toone, Gary Rosenberger, and Ulice Payne.  Five more cards depict the Championship run of 1977 plus a coaching card featuring McGuire and assistant coaches Hank Raymonds and Rick Majerus. Coming soon!

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Al McGuire: Color, Charisma, Character

Topps 1969 football, Marquette Men's basketball, RetroCards, custom cards that never were

Who would have thought the son of a New York saloon keeper would become the Vince Lombardi of college basketball?
Al McGuire grew up in the Queens & Brooklyn playgrounds where he played football against Joe Paterno and played basketball with and against Bob Cousy.  His older brother Dick was a constant basketball companion and both entered the NBA after stellar careers at St. John's.  Al played only four seasons referring to himself as "the worst player in pro ball.”  He was a defensive specialist who could occasionally contain Bob Cousy.  He is famous for pleading for playing time from his coach with the New York Knicks, saying, “I can stop Cousy.”  He was granted playing time and promptly fouled Cousy six consecutive times down the court!

He began coaching ant Dartmouth (1955-57) and Belmont Abbey College (1957-64) when Marquette University came calling.  It was in Milwaukee that McGuire brought his New York-Irish attitude to the midwest and made contenders out of Marquette’s men’s basketball team from 1964 through 1977.

He famously rejected an invitation to the 1970 NCAA tournament because of the unfavorable placement and went on to win the NIT Tournament that year. After losing the NCAA tournament in 1974 (to North Carolina State) they still continued with winning programs.  In 1976, they lost the regional finals to Indiana after posting an impressive 27–2 record.  By the beginning of the 1976-77 season, McGuire surprised the sports world by announcing his retirement effective at the end of the season.  After entering the NCAA tournament with a questionable record (25–7), McGuire’s Warriors went on to win a thriller vs. UNC-Charlotte where guard Butch Lee inbounded a court-length pass to Jerome Whitehead who tipped it in to win in the closing seconds.  Marquette capped off the Cinderella season with an impressive come from behind victory over North Carolina to win the tournament.  When the game was in hand a visibly emotional McGuire tried his best to compose himself.  It was the last game he coached.

Digger Phelps, former coach at Fordham and Notre Dame, called McGuire “a great psychologist.”  Phelps said, “I learned defense from Bobby Knight and psychology from Al McGuire.  People need to be refreshed on who Al McGuire was.  He was a rock.  He was the best.  He did for Milwaukee in college basketball what Vince Lombardi did for Green Bay in pro football."  He went on to have a successful broadcast career with NBC Sports and CBS Sports where he help bring college basketball more prominence with his flare and personal catch phrases he would invent.  He died of leukemia at the age of 72 in 2001.

RetroCards honors Al McGuire and his thirteen years of coaching Marquette basketball with two series.  The first includes a team photo of the 1970 NIT team, the Milwaukee Arena, George Thompson, Dean Meminger, Gary Brell, Ric Cobb, Jim Chones, Bob Lackey, Ally McGuire, George Frazier, Marcus Washington, Larry McNeil, Maurice Lucas, and coach McGuire of course. Get it here!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Robert Indiana: Pop Art Meets The Sports World

Having grown up in Milwaukee in the 1970s and 1980s, I took for granted that every city had a pro football, basketball, and baseball team, that every city had a Summer Fest (the world's largest music festival), and that every NBA/ABA team had a colorful basketball court.  The court I refer to is Milwaukee's MECCA Arena, home to the Milwaukee Bucks, the Marquette Warriors, and for a short time in the late 70s the Milwaukee Does, a women's professional basketball team.

The basketball floor was quite a feather in Milwaukee's cap as city leadership culled pop artist Robert Indiana for the project. Indiana is most known for the very familiar LOVE design, which first appeared in a series of poems in 1958. It quickly found its way onto Christmas cards, postage stamps and also became a striking sculpture. RetroCards would like to honor his contribution to Milwaukee.

Mr. Indiana's passing on May 19, 2018 brought back many memories of the old MECCA floor which was no longer used once the Bucks moved into the Bradley Center in 1988.  Thought lost, the floor showed up in an obscure auction and was purchased by a local fan.  His efforts at saving the floor from the potential scrap heap was detailed in an excellent ESPN 30 For 30 short: MECCA: The Floor That Made Milwaukee Famous.  It outlines the hiring of Robert Indiana, his process, city reaction at his hiring, and much more.

Highlights of the history of one of Robert Indiana's most unique designs:
• The Milwaukee arena floor needed painting and Chairman of Mecca Board Steve Marcus suggested using a world renown artist.
• Judith Posner (Milwaukee gallery owner) remembers, "They wanted to draw attention to Milwaukee and wanted to advertise the incredible arena."
• Marcus consulted with Posner who 'knew the perfect person': Robert Indiana. "He deals in large scale projects and his colors are bold."
• Barbara Brown Lee (Milwaukee Art Museum) adds, "Andy Warhol was known as the Pope of Pop Art, but I think Robert Indiana was the King."
• Judith Posner:  "Steve Marcus and I decided to go to New York to talk to him (Indiana) about the project and he got real excited about it.
• Steve Marcus: "He (Indiana) had one proviso. The public couldn’t see it until the floor was finished."
• $27,500 was cost and the there were many a raised eyebrow in Milwaukee regarding the cost. Keeping the design secret when public money was involved became an issue.  Also the fact that it wasn’t an local artist, was also looked down upon.
• The unveiling occurred on 10/04/77 when a huge tarp lifted to reveal the colorful design.
• It was the only basketball floor where paint covers the entire surface.

Star players remember:  
Doc Rivers (Marquette player) – "[Marquette coach] Hank Raymonds wanted us to go over to the Mecca and practice to get used to the floor and I thought it meant 'to get used to the arena.' When you practiced there you realized that no, he meant 'used to the floor.' It was amazing how many times we got opposing players to step out of bounds or to stay in the 3-second lane.  That court did that to you.  It was a true home court advantage – I never knew it was an art piece.  I thought I was playing on a confusing floor!

Sidney Moncrief (Milwaukee Bucks): “The players did discuss 'what happened to the floor? Are they going to bring the floor over?  Are we going to have the Mecca court seal in the new Bradley Center?' But when we moved to the Bradley Center, we lost a huge home court advantage.”

Robert Indiana was pictured on the MECCA floor in Time Magazine and 265 different newspapers picked up the story.  The people that thought it was money wasted suddenly realized all the free publicity the city was receiving. The Bucks enjoyed much success during those days and the floor became part of the Bucks image.  While playing at the Mecca 1970-1988 the Bucks made the playoffs 18 times, went to 7 conference Finals, and won at least 50 games 12 times.  

Check out ESPN's 30 for 30: 'MECCA: The Floor That Made Milwaukee Famous

Friday, May 18, 2018

Autograph Alley: RetroCards In Action

Many a player has contacted us to have cards made for him for the "autograph industry."  As many fans know, players still can make a little on signing autographs but unfortunately, photography of obscure players can be hard to find.  RetroCards offers a fun alternative to the rigors of finding appropriate photos of our favorite players for autographing.  Many players who never had cards are delighted to get the RetroCards treatment. Look for more custom cards of the obscure, the forgotten, and the under appreciated here.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

1962 Football: Series 04

The 1962 Football update series presents series four with 24 more cards for your collection.  As in the first three series, there are team highlight, coach, and stadium cards.  This one has a special Pete Rozelle card and an attractive President John F. Kennedy card too!

Players included: Deacon Jones, Charley Johnson, Jimmy Johnson, Kyle Rote, Tom Brookshier, Jack Pardee, Ed Khayat, Johnny Sample, Frank Morze, Tom Watkins, Bob Gaiters, Bob Waterfield, Dean Derby, Bob Khayat, Joe Robb, Allie Sherman, Lions Hightlight, Tiger Stadium, Redskins Hightlight, and D.C. Stadium.  When you order series four you also receive three checklist cards that outline all four series plus the team sets!  Order yours here.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

1962 Football: Series 03

The impressive 1962 update series continues with the third installment of 24 more cards. Series three includes: John Baker, Pat Studstill, John Nisby, Ron Miller, Roosevelt Brown, Steve Junker, Howard Keys, Willie McClung, John Thomas, Joe Krupa, Tom Redmond, Lamar Lundy, Bill McPeak, Jim Vollenwider, Allan Webb, Bill Koman, Dick LeBeau, Joe Scibelli, 49ers Hightlight, 49ers Stadium, Eagles Hightlight, and the Eagles Stadium.  Get yours here while supplies last!

Friday, April 20, 2018

The Tale Of King Corcoran: The Poor Man's Joe Namath

Topps football cards
Since the dawn of athletic competition, the sports world has been littered with fallen, but colorful figures.  Some make a name for themselves with stellar athletic ability while others teeter between the brink of stardom and the halls of obscurity.  The somewhat unknown Jim “King” Corcoran belongs to the latter category and was one of the more gaudy sports figures that few have ever heard of.

Once called a “poor man’s Joe Namath,” Corcoran spent most of his pro football career tearing up the semi-pro Atlantic Coast Football League.  He also found success in the World Football league but only had minor stints with some NFL clubs in the late 60s and early 70s.  He orchestrated several championships for teams in the Atlantic Coast Football League and lived out the life of a sports superstar.

Born on July 6, 1942 (not in 1943 as often reported) his play in college earned him tryouts with AFL and NFL teams but he often clashed with authority and since his skills weren’t good enough to warrant teams putting up with any shenanigans, his stints were always short lived.  Joe Namath told him, “King, you got the arm. And you got the head. But you got to quiet down. You got to know who butters your bread.” He discovered his niche in semi-pro football where he led his teams to several league championships. He was well known enough that the character “King Sturtevant” was based upon him in the Rockford Files episode “No Cut Contract.”

By the time he hit the WFL in 1974 he was already 31 years old but he managed to lead the league in touchdowns in 1974 playing for the Philadelphia Bell.  He retired after the WFL folded in 1975 and went into real estate.  He contemplated a comeback when the USFL’s Denver Gold called him in 1982 but he declined. 

He continued with an up and down career, a low point coming in 1997 when he served six months in federal prison for tax evasion. He died of a heart attack on June 19, 2009 at the age of 66 while living at a friend’s house in Takoma Park, Maryland. 

Time line of Corcoran’s football career:
1961 University of Maryland – Led freshman team to undefeated season
1962 University of Maryland – backed up Dick Shiner
1963 University of Maryland – kicked off the team
1964 University of Maryland – projected at the starter but broke his ankle
1965 University of Maryland – played sporadically
1966 Denver Broncos training camp - cut
1966 Wilmington Clippers - Atlantic Coast Football League
1967 Denver Broncos training camp - cut
1967 Waterbury Orbits (Connecticut) - Atlantic Coast Football League Champions
1967 New York Jets - taxi squad
1968 Lowell Giants (Massachusetts) - Atlantic Coast Football League – Undefeated until Corcoran joined the Patriots
1968 Boston Patriots - played sparingly
1969 Pottstown Firebirds (Pennsylvania)  - Atlantic Coast Football League
1970 Pottstown Firebirds (Pennsylvania)  - Atlantic Coast Football League
1971 Philadelphia Eagles – cut in training camp
1971 Norfolk Neptunes (Virginia) – Atlantic Coast Football League Champions 
1972 Montreal Alouettes – CFL, refused to play 3rd string
1972 Chambersburg Cardinals (Pennsylvania) – Seaboard Football League
1973 Michigan Sabers (Flint, Michigan)
1974 Philadelphia Bell – WFL, lead league in TD passes
1975 Philadelphia Bell – WFL, backed up Bob Davis until the league folded mid-season

Some facts on the King:
• He majored in Economics at Maryland
• Wanting to shed his poor-kid background, he always dressed to kill and drove a fancy car
• His custom-equipped Lincoln Continental Mark IV had a mobile telephone, copier, coke machine, and bar. 
• He is in the American Football Association’s Semi-Pro Hall Of Fame
• Didn’t smoke or drink
• Was a model for Kelley Tires in the late 1970s
• While with the Philadelphia Bell in 1975, he got cut when he called a quarterback sneak that wasn’t in the playbook.
• He was an expert in military history

Some “King-sized” myths:
• Denver Bronco’s coach caught him in bed with 6 women.  The actual story had a Bronco running back caught with 2 women after bed check.  Corcoran was not involved with the incident.
• Corcoran claimed to have defeated Roger Staubach’s Navy team in the 1964 Crab Bowl.  This was erroneously reported by Wikipedia and repeated by several news sources in the wake Corcoran’s death in 2009.  Maryland beat Staubach’s Navy in 1961 with Corcoran throwing for 2 touchdowns and running for one more.
• He was not, as he later claimed, to be a native American who was born on a reservation.
• Didn’t get his nick-name by coming out at halftime of a high school game with a clean uniform after a muddy 1st half.
• Didn’t play polo with Sylvester Stallone.  He played with his father, Frank Stallone.

Unverified stories from the Corcoran Kingdom
• Corcoran later spent some time in Las Vegas as a singer and performed with Engelbert Humperdinck.
• He wore sunglasses on the sidelines and refused to practice in the rain.

RetroCards shines some light on this seldom-mentioned player with a few cards to put him on the sports collector’s map.  A special thanks to Jim Corcoran, King’s son, for providing several factual verifications.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

1962 Vikings: Expanding Quickly

1962 Topps football

The NFL originally had no plans for expansion after adding the Dallas Cowboys in 1960.  But the new American Football League granted a team in the Twin Cities so the NFL jumped in and offered team ownership the chance to join the NFL instead.  The newly named "Vikings" jumped at the chance and hired newly retired quarterback Norm Van Brocklin as its coach.  An expansion draft was held and the Vikings surprised everyone by destroying the mighty Chicago Bears in their first regular season game.  In that game, starting quarterback George Shaw gave way to scrabbling sensation Fran Tarkenton who threw for four touchdowns and ran for one more!

This 20-card team set is a continuation of the expansive 1962 RetroCards set and features: head coach Norm Van Brocklin, Bill Brown, Bob Denton, Ed Sharockman, Jim Marshall, George Shaw, Oscar Donahue, Grady Alderman, Mick Tinglehoff, Clancy Osborne, Lebron Shields, Cliff Livingston, Mike Rabold, Doug Mayberry, Paul Dickson, Jerry Huth, Bill Butler, Dean Derby, a Vikings Highlight card, and a card of Metropolitan Stadium. Order it here.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

1962 Football: Series 02

Topps football cards, Redskins, Steelers, Cardinals, Cowboys, Packers, Rams, Eagles, 49ers, Lions, Giants

RetroCard continues its expansive 1962 series with a second series of 22 cards. New features not in the original set released in 1962 include a stadium card, a team highlight, as well as a head coach card for each team.

Series two features: Vince Promuto, Chuck Bednarik, Bernie Casey, Earl Morral, Buddy Parker, Merlin Olsen, Ernie McMillan, Dan James, Roy Hord, John Paluck, George Wilson, Joe Morrison, Pervis Atkins, John Nocera, Red Hickey, Dick Lynch, Wayne Walker, Roy Wilkins, Cardinals Highlight, Cardinals Stadium, Giants Highlight, and a Giants Stadium card. Available now!  Check back in the coming weeks for Series three and four!

Thursday, March 29, 2018

1962: Best Football Design of the Decade?

1960 marked the start of an important growth period in professional football with the addition of a new team in the south (the Dallas Cowboys) and the advent of the American Football League which began a competition for the country's best players and instigated a salary war. In an historic move, new NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle cut a television deal that ensured that small market teams could share in the overall revenue, which contributed to the long-term health of the league.

Many collectors have commented on the beauty of the 1962 NFL football set with its dark borders and black and white action photos coupled with an attractive portrait of the player. RetroCards has created and additional 230 cards – released in 10 series, six of which are team sets. Several team sets that have been previously released (Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, Baltimore Colts, Chicago Bears, and Cleveland Browns), will be updated to fit into the new numbering system of Series 1-4, and a new Minnesota Vikings team set will be forthcoming. Series 1-4 will contain the eight teams which have not been represented in the team sets. These series will also include playoff cards, head coach cards, league & team highlights, and stadium cards for each team. 

Series one contains 22 cards and starts off with a wrapper card that enveloped football cards back in 1962, a Championship card (Packers vs. Giants), a Pro Bowl card, and an Playoff Bowl card.  Players / coaches include:  John Lovetere, Timmy Brown, Dan Colchico, Brady Keys, Galen Hall, John Gonzaga, Pat Summerall, Luke Owens, Karl Rubke, Nick Skorich, Dale Hackbart, John Olszewski, Wally Lemm, Irv Cross, and season highlights and stadium cards of the Rams and Steelers. Series two will follow shortly so check back soon!  Available now! Click here.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

1979 Pittsburgh Pirates: Family Matters

Topps baseball cards

The 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates, built with a team of non-stars, won the World Series on the back of 39-year old Willie Stargell.  "Pops" Stargell had the respect of every team member and started the practice of doling out "Stargell stars," golden embroidered stars given to teammates who made exceptional plays.  Piggy backing on momentum from the Pittsburgh Steelers'  January, 1979 Super Bowl win, citizens of Pittsburgh were already in a dancing mood when Stargell chose the hit song "We Are Family" as the team song.

While they were burning disco records in Chicago, the Pittsburgh Pirates were embracing the fad, as "We Are Family" blared out of the speakers at Three Rivers Stadium.  The title of the song was even printed in huge letters on top of their dugout to drive the point home.  Pittsburgh fans, not known for high society tastes, quickly caught "Family Fever" as the slogan appeared on t-shirts, bumper stickers, and pet rocks everywhere. Philadelphia Phillies fans watched in vain as their home grown group Sister Sledge had their hit song appropriated by their hated rival the Pirates.

After getting off to a slow start in 1979, the Pirates hit their stride after the All-Star Game in which Dave Parker was named MVP.  Trades for shortstop Tim Foli and two-time batting champion Bill Madlock proved to be important pieces to the championship run.  After sweeping the Reds in the National League Championship Series 3–0, the  Pirate came back from a 3–1 deficit to beat the Baltimore Orioles in seven games to win the World Series.

This RetroCards set includes Matt Alexander, Burt Bevacqua, Doe Boyland, Dock Ellis, Rod Gilbreath, Gary Hargis, Odell Jones, Vance Law, Tony Pena, Pasqual Perez, Rod Scurry, and Chuck Tanner. Special cards include a stadium card, three We Are Family highlights, All-Star Game HL of MVP Dave Parker, a mascot card of the Pirate Parrot, and four highlight cards from the playoffs and World Series! Order your set here.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Spotlight On: Billy "White Shoes" Johnson

Topps, football cards

One of the more electrifying players of the 70s and 80s was Billy “White Shoes” Johnson.  His “colorful” name conjures up images of his even more colorful touchdown dance the Funky Chicken.  I have never been able to find anyone that did a regular end zone dance after scoring a touchdown before him so he gets the title as being the first.

The nickname originated at Chichester High School in Boothwyn, Pennsylvania where he dyed his shoes as part of a dare.  In the pros he continued to wear white shoes and was in the habit of heavily taping his ankles and shoes, often times obscuring shoe logos, which further emphasized the whiteness of the shoes.  The Houston Oilers drafted the small but quick Johnson in the 15th round of the 1974 draft from Widener College, a small division III school.  He quickly made an impact on the Oilers punt return team and as a wide receiver.  He scored 6 return touchdowns in his first four seasons and was the MPV of the 1975 Pro Bowl (played January of 1976).  He was also a starter on offense but he was mainly known as the originator of the first end zone dance, the "funky chicken."  I saw it for the first time when my buddy emulated the dance on the playground back in 5th grade.

A knee injury in 1978-1979 took him out of action, missing 25 games for the Oilers.  By 1980 he was no longer the main return man, though he started six games. Giving up on him, the Oilers let him go when he signed a lucrative contract in the Canadian Football League with the Montreal Alouettes.  He had a monster year in Canada catching 65 passes for 1060 yards, and returning 59 punts for 597 yards.  Despite the Alouettes signing hot rookie David Overstreet and former NFL stars Vince Ferragamo, and James Scott (in addition to the signing of Fred Biletnikoff in 1980), the hapless Alouettes (worst name ever?) stumbled to a 3-13 season in 1981.

Billy headed back for the NFL, signing a with the Atlanta Falcons in 1982. 1982 was a down year statistically for everyone as the players strike shortened the season to 9 games.  It was in 1983 where Johnson regained his punt return form of the mid-70s and he broke out as a dependable starting receiver. He was voted to the Pro Bowl again in 1983 and was a key player for the Falcons through the 1987 season.  When he retired after the 1987 season, he was the career leader in punt return yardage.  He came out of retirement in 1988 for the Redskins where he played in one game, returning 3 punts.

As of 2018 he remains the only player on the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team not in the Hall Of Fame.  A fan favorite if there ever was one, "White Shoes" Johnson gets the full treatment from RetroCards with a bunch of fun "cards that never were."  Look for them in coming sets.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

1970 Packers: A New Decade, A New Era

Topps football cards NFL

The second season of the Phil Bengston-led Packers was an improvement, increasing the winning percentage of their record from 6-8 in 1969 to 8-6 in 1970.  As more of the Championship-era Packers retired, fewer and fewer rose up to replace them.  Despite a winning record, Bengston was vilified in retrospect for making Villanova defensive tackle Rich Moore the Packers first round draft choice. Going against Player Personnel Director Pat Peppler and GM Vince Lombardi, Bengston drafted Moore number one.  An achilles injury ended his career in 1970 and only one other player from this draft was in the NFL after 1975.  

Still, the Packers appeared to have several up and coming players that showed flashes of excitement.  Unfortunately, many of the “up-and-comers” came and went, without living up to the fanfare.

RetroCards has created a Packers set in the 1970 style, covering quite a few players who never had cards and a few that did: Larry Agajanian, Donny Anderson, Dave Bradley, Bob Brown, Fred Carr, Jim Grabowski, Dave Hampton, Bill Hayhoe, John Hilton, Dick Himes, Bill Lueck, Mike Mercer, Rich Moore, Francis Peay, John Spillis, Bill Stevens, Perry Williams, and Travis Williams.  

Thursday, February 22, 2018

1964 Cowboys: Still Building

Topps, Philadelphia Gum Cards, NFL

At the start of the 1963 season, the Cowboys were actually considered as a contender to win the Eastern Conference.  Don Meredith was now the full time starter and Bob Lilly was dominating on defense.  The Cowboys showed some offensive fire power but managed only a 4-10 record in 1963 and 5-8-1 record in 1964.  Much work was still needed as quality players were being added to the roster. Two of those players were star receivers Buddy Dial and Tommy McDonald.  With Frank Clarke having emerged as a legitimate deep threat, Cowboy fans were probably drooling at the though of all these great receivers.  Surprisingly, the offense started to sputter. Buddy Dial got hurt, McDonald didn't produce, and Clarke's yards per catch plummeted. Part of the offensive struggles were due to Don Meredith's nagging leg injury and the poor kicking of rookie kicker Dick Van Raaphorst.  The defense carried the team and began to jell.

RetroCards adds some of those players in this 1964 Philadelphia Gum card style.  Players include: George Andrie, Amos Bullocks, Jim Colvin, Buddy Dial, Bob Fry, Mike Gaechter, Chuck Howley, Les Josephson, Jake Kupp, Tony Liscio, Warren Livingston, Billy Lothridge, John Roach, Jim Ray Smith, Jim Stiger, Don Talbert, Jerry Tubbs, and Maury Youmans. Get your set here!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

1980 Miracle On Ice: Still Giving Us Goosebumps

1980 Topps Hockey, O Pee Chee, Olympic Gold, 1980

The improbable victory of the USA Hockey team over the Soviets in the 1980 Olympics never seems to get old. In fact, many forget that the gold medal was won a few days later when USA defeated Finland.

The Soviets had won Gold in five of six prior Olympics and were the favorites once again in 1980.  Comprised of mainly professional hockey players with substantial experience, while the US team, the youngest in the tournament, was comprised entirely of amateurs.  The US team had a bumpy exhibition season that culminated with a 10–3 drubbing at the hands of the Soviets.

Olympic play began with the Americans surprising many with their team work and aggressive style.  Their first game vs. Sweden, though a 2–2 draw, was dramatic and set the tone for a huge 7–3 win over Czechoslovakia, who were the favorite for the silver medal.  With two of their toughest opponents out of the way, the US sailed to victories against Norway, Romania, and West Germany, advancing to the medal round.  Meanwhile the Soviets destroyed all their opponents by an average score of roughly 10–2.

Up against the scrappy US team, the Soviets took the first lead and the first period ended 2–2. The Soviets controlled the second period out shooting the Americans 12–2, but only managed to score once to lead 3–2.  But the Americans stormed back in the third period scoring two goals with their aggressive style and leading for the first time, 4–3.  The Soviets came at the US hard but team USA kept to their offensive play, avoiding going into a conservative defensive mode.  The US team held tight as the crowd in the Olympic Center began to count down the seconds.  Al Michaels made his famous call, “do you believe in miracles? YES!”

The gold medal wasn’t won yet. In the next game vs. Finland, down 2–1 after two periods, coach Herb Brooks address his players in between periods, "If you lose this game, you'll take it to your fucking graves."  The team responded with three goals in the final period to win gold.  Just writing about it still gives me the chills!

This team never had a proper period-style card set so RetroCards is delivering it.  Here is the entire team: Bill Baker, Neal Broten, Jim Craig, Dave Christian, Steve Christoff, Mike Eruzione, John Harrington, Steve Janaszak, Mark Johnson, Rob McClanahan, Jack O'Callahan, Mark Pavelich, Buzz Schneider, Dave Silk, Eric Strobel, Bob Suter, Phil Verchota, and Mark Wells. Also featured is coach Herb Brooks, a team card, and two victory cards.  Get your set here!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

1959 Packers: The Dynasty Begins

1959 Topps football cards, custom cards, Packers Dynasty

After a 1-10-1 record in 1958, the worst in franchise history, Packer fans were disheartened, the players were dispirited, and the fans enraged.  The viability of the franchise surviving became a concern of the NFL.  Few expected the unbelievable turnaround that would ensue with the hiring of Vince Lombardi as head coach and general manager in early 1959.  Lombardi’s punishing training and expectations of complete dedication resulted in a 7-5 record for 1959.  Players began to jell and realize their potential.  Future Hall of Famers Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Jim Taylor, Jim Ringo, Forrest Gregg, Ray Nitschke, Hank Jordan, and Emlen Tunnell were on this team and poised to make a stand.  The prompt turnaround in 1959 earned Lombardi Coach of the Year honors and raised expectation for 1960.  

RetroCards has designed an 18-card supplemental set that includes: Ray Nitschke, Jim Taylor, Bob Skoronski, Ron Kramer, Timmy Brown, Fred Thurston, Forrest Gregg, Norm Masters, Emlen Tunnell, Tom Bettis, Don McIhenny, Boyd Dowler, Bill Quinlan, Gary Knafelc, Lamar McHan, Bill Howton, John Symank, and Vince Lombardi.  This set includes a card of Jim Taylor with the correct photo for a change!  Order your set here!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

1970s Team Of Decade II: Cowboys Runner Up

Topps 1980 Baseball, custom cards

Though the Steelers edged out the Cowboys for 1970s Team of the Decade, there was never a team with more long term flash and glitz than the Cowboys of the 1970s.  In fact, the Cowboys played in more playoff games and graced the cover of more magazines than any other sports team during that time.  Led by Roger Staubach, the Cowboys managed to play in five Super Bowls during that decade, winning two.

Series two of the 1970s Team of the Decade features 26 Cowboys in a 1980 baseball design that shows off America’s Team in style: Tom Landry, Benny Barnes, Bob Breunig, Pat Donovan, Tony Dorsett, Billy Joe DuPree, John Dutton, John Fitzgerald, Cliff Harris, Tony Hill, Randy Hughes, Butch Johnson, Ed Jones, D.D. Lewis, Harvey Martin, Robert Newhouse, Drew Pearson, Preston Pearson, Tom Rafferty, Herb Scott, Roger Staubach, Charlie Waters, Danny White, Randy White, and a stadium card and team card. Get your set here!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

1970s: Battle For Team Of The Decade

The 1970s seemed like a simpler time.  We manually rolled down car windows, we could smoke in an open air stadium and there were only three network channels to choose from.  Boys played baseball, girls played with Barbie's, and to kids, the term "playing games" suggested Monopoly and Sorry!  That decade meant Steelers and Cowboys and both teams didn't disappoint football fans, appearing in seven combined Super Bowls during that time.

This set contains two series - one Steelers, one Cowboys, in the 1980 baseball design.  Both sets feature then-contemporary players and its amazing how teams stayed intact for many years, which further endeared them to fans.

The Steeler set includes: Chuck Noll, Art Rooney, Terry Bradshaw, Rocky Bleier, Mel Blount, Larry Brown, Bennie Cunningham, Steve Furness, Joe Greene, L.C. Greenwood, Randy Grossman, Jack Ham, Franco Harris, John Kolb, Jack Lambert, Donnie Shell, Jim Smith, John Stallworth, Lynn Swann, J.T. Thomas, Mike Wagner, Mike Webster, Dwight White, a Three Rivers stadium card, team card, and a "We Are Family" Terry Bradshaw / Willie Stargell card! Order it here.

Look for the Cowboys set next!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Johnny "Blood" McNally On The Ice Bowl

Milwaukee Badgers,

One of early pro football's most colorful characters was hall of famer John McNally.  Nicknamed "blood" from the Rudolph Valentino movie Blood And Sand, McNally was know as the vagabond half back who started his career with the Milwaukee Badgers, Pottsville Maroons, Duluth Eskimos, and Pittsburgh Pirates.  But he is most remembered for his seven seasons with the Green Bay Packers where he helped guide the team to four championships between 1929-1936.

By 1970 he was still affiliated with the Packers and wrote a piece naming the Ice Bowl the greatest game ever played.  It appeared in the 1970 21st Annual Midwest Shrine Game program, an annual preseason game that had the Packers host the Bears in their home-away-from-home, Milwaukee County Stadium.  Here is the piece in its entirety.

Blood Calls '67 Packer-Dallas Game 'Greatest'

The greatest game I ever played in or saw? Come now, who can make such a choice? There were scores of great ones and time erodes memory.  What may have been the greatest 20 or 30 years ago has lost its impact and been replaced by another.

Maybe because of that, if the question must be answered, my thoughts turn to one of the more recent games.  I think the greatest was the championship game with Dallas on an ice covered field in Green Bay on the last day of December, 1967.  Green Bay won, 21–17.

There must be guidelines first even to attempt a choice.  It must be a game between two closely matched teams.  It must be a game for large stakes. It must be a game filled with 60 minutes of suspense.  It must be a game of great plays and great demonstrations of skill, daring, good judgment, and endurance.  It must be a game in which the lead changes a few times.  It must be a game decided on the last play.  It must be a game in which the fan is emotionally wrung out at the gun.

The game played in Green Bay on that last day of 1967 meets all these guidelines – and really two more.  It was played in weather 13 degrees below zero and was won in the closing stages by a crippled team with a third string man at fullback.

I'm sure few cities if any have ever enjoyed as many cocktails as Green Bay that night or ever woke up on the first day of the new year with fewer hangovers.  Such is the power of real joy.

To cap everything on this bitterly cold afternoon, quarterback Bart Starr called his own number on the ultimate of all clutch plays, the last one, and scored on a sneak from the two foot line over the tangled bodies of Green Bay's Jerry Kramer and Dallas' Jim [sic] Lilly.

The final play as called was anything but a show of egotism.   It was instead an example of uncommonly sound and courageous judgment followed by extreme muscular effort.  What Starr showed was the ultimate in responsible and brave leadership.  It has to be his finest moment as a football player.

Yes, the 1967 championship game with Dallas was the greatest I ever saw.  It shook me as no other has in more than 40 years.

Taken from Tripoli 21st Annual Midwest Shrine Game, August 15th, 1970

Thursday, January 4, 2018

The Ice Bowl: 50th Anniversary New Documentary

Topps, 1967 NFL Championship, Ice Bowl, Green Bay Packers, Lambeau Field, Dallas Cowboys

Michael Meredith, son of Don, has produced a fine documentary on this game called, The Timeline: The Ice Bowl [check out the trailer here].  It is told more from a Cowboys perspective but is enjoyable from any perspective!  Many players are interviewed and in the 4 years Michael Meredith spent researching and shooting the documentary, 12 players have died, so it is fitting that this be released near the 50th anniversary of the game.

The much fabled Ice Bowl (official name: 1967 NFL Championship Game) has taken on such legendary status that has been called the NFL's greatest game. Two teams battling in the most extreme of elements is what football is supposed to be about – not replay, not "touching" the passer, and not end zone celebrations with or without props.  Not much need be said about the game, but this RetroCard set tells a chronological story in words and pictures.  Featured heavily in this set is the fan's contribution and their resilience in –40˚F wind chills. Few people left and when the gun sounded at the end of regulation, they tore down the goal posts!  That's hard core.

The design of this set is a knock off of the 1964-1967 Philadelphia Gum cards that produced NFL cards for a short time in the 60s.  RetroCards is calling this set "1968 Philly Action," and is part of a series of team sets that will also be released in this design.

Players featured included Bart Starr, Boyd Dowler, Chuck Mercein, Travis Williams, Vince Lombardi, Jerry Kramer, Don Meredith, Danny Villanueva, Lance Rentzel, Dan Reeves, Bob Lilly, Lee Roy Jordan, George Andrie, Tom Landry, and of course, the fans.  Order your set here.

The Timeline: The Ice Bowl [check out the trailer here].