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 RetroCards.net.

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..