Sunday, October 14, 2018

Spotlight On: Vince Papale

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Spotlight On: Rocky Bleier

Topps football, baseball cards

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 28, 2018

Frank Clarke: Original Cowboy

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 21, 2018

1961 Fleer: AFL Series 3


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

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

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Burt Reynolds: American Good Ol' Boy

Topps 1974, 1977, 1983, 1970

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 6, 2018

1961 Fleer: Series Two!

Topps, NFL 1961 AFL

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

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

Thursday, August 30, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 23, 2018

1961 Dallas Cowboys: How Could They Get Worse?

After their inaugural 1960 season where the Dallas Cowboys posted a 0–11–1 record, expectation were not high. Of course it would be hard do to worse than their first season, but Tom Landry had much work to do. Though he installed a defense (the flex) the team had a hard time adopting and even understanding, the Cowboys pressed on winning three of their first four games in 1961. The league quickly caught up with them but some stars were starting to shine.

Don Perkins, who missed all of 1960 with a broken ankle rushed for 815 yards.  Eddie LeBaron made a Pro Bowler out of Billy Howton and young receiver developed into a deep threat. On the defensive side, Chuck Howley regained his speed after an injury that forced him to retire after 1959 and rookie Bob Lilly showed signs of stardom. Quarterback Don Meredith was still developing and helped the Cowboys to at 4–9–1 season.

This 18-card set includes: Gene Babb, Dick Bielski, Frank Clarke, Mike Connelly, Jim Harris, Don Healy, Bill Herchman, John Houser, Chuck Howley, Bill Howton, Eddie LeBaron, Bob Lilly, Warren Livingston, Amos Marsh, Don Meredith, Dick Moegle, Don Perkins, and Jerry Tubbs. Get it here!

Friday, August 17, 2018

Pete Gent: Author, Cynic, and All-Around Good Receiver

Topps, New York Giants, Don Meredith

Pete Gent is rightly remembered for his hard-edge novel North Dallas Forty, a book about how pro football teams exploited their players, which is based on his experiences with the Cowboys. His colorful demeanor clashed with head coach Tom Landry's and GM Tex Schramm's old-school ways but he managed to be a productive member on the team from 1964-1968 in spite of that.

Credit the Cowboys for asking Big Ten basketball coaches for players that might make it in the NFL. At the bottom of the list was Gent who Cowboy's scout Gil Brandt went to visit at Michigan State. Brandt saw him as a defensive back and signed him. The only trouble was Gent had no talent for playing defense. He was able to catch passes however, and the Cowboys kept him as the sixth receiver, cutting quarterback Sonny Gibbs to make room for him.

Gent came to the Cowboys as a fairly mild-mannered non-drinker and non-smoker. He hung with Dave Manders and Frank Clarke and their families and attended SMU Law School at night.  But by the second training camp in 1965, he roomed with Don Talbert, one of the four "Varmint Brothers," and his life was never the same afterward (that story is for a different blog post). In spite of his cynicism and non-conformity, Gent was a solid contributor for five years though injuries often slowed him down. Through his friendship with Frank Gifford, he got a tryout with the New York Giants but Gent, who by this time was insufferable and uncoachable, wore his welcome out quickly in New York and found himself a civilian in 1969.

His first novel North Dallas Forty came out in 1973 and the film of the same name in 1979.  The two main characters were based largely on himself and Don Meredith. He died from a pulmonary disease in 2011. Surprisingly, Gent never had a card so RetroCards has righted that wrong with new custom cards of old number 35. You'll find them in several Cowboys teams sets at

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.