Thursday, August 24, 2017

Hall Of Fame Hopeful: Jerry Kramer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/JerryKramer4HOF/
Petition - http://www.greenbaypackernation.com/jerrykramer4hof/

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

Friday, August 18, 2017

1962 Bears: Clawing Their Way Back

Topps 1962 Bears, custom cards that never were

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

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

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

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Dodgers Finally Do It! Expanded 1982 Set

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Non-Sport Special: Rush

1978 Topps Football Rush

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

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

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