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, that was 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, 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 here.

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 MKE 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!