Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Gino Marchetti Hall of Fame card

Gino Marchetti is one of the pro game's best players ever and quite a character to boot. His story is an unlikely one and this article is a great read.

When I bid on this card I was under the assumption that it was standard size but when it arrived I realized that reading the complete description is usually helpful. It turned out to be 5x7 but that's fine. Instead of my Baltimore Colts binder it'll reside on my shelves in a stand-up frame.

I only saw Marchetti play at the end of his career and most of what I know of him came from listening to my uncles in Baltimore 'talking Colts football'. I bought the card for the illustration but the sig is a bonus. I may have to check and see if there are similar cards for the other Baltimore Colts in the Hall.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Monday Morning Quarterback #47 Joe Montana 1992 Sky Box

In this ongoing series of posts I am going to feature cards from my fantasy football player collection, specifically the 117 quarterbacks I've had on my team's roster since 1980. I have one selected card for each player in my All-Time Flyers binder. Through the years I've tried to use as many different card varieties as possible while holding on to my preference which is: a card issued in a year I owned the player showing him in the proper team uni in a vertical format. Card availability and my whims have had a big impact on that standard. 
NFL Info: Not much I can say about Joe Montana that people don't already know. Here is the summary of his achievements and awards from Wikipedia:

I spent probably the most miserable day of my life watching Joe Montana lead his Fighting Irish to a win in the 1979 Cotton Bowl over my Houston Cougars with a last second TD pass. I've been to more football games than I can count but I've never been involved in one with such incredibly awful conditions. It was bitterly cold, the wind blew the whole game, the field was frozen (they used rock salt on it... bad idea) and the stadium, every inch of it and all of the rest of Dallas, was covered with a coating of ice.

I'll never forget how crappy the whole ordeal was. Blowing a big lead to Notre Dame just made it worse. This segment of the CBS broadcast captures the surreal ending. I check to make sure the video works, but I can't bear to watch it.

Fantasy Impact: I had Joe Montana in 1989 and he had a typical Montana year. He helped me go 9-4-1 in the regular season and got me to the championship game, which I lost.

The Card: I was fan of Sky Box football sets and this '92 set in particular. I thought the photography was first rate and the cards are attractive without being overly busy. The back has a different picture, stats and a box that highlights the player's position. I guess they were aiming at younger collectors. All in all this is a nice card from a decade of over produced look-alikes.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Ernie Banks

By now everyone knows that Ernie Banks passed away on Friday at the age of 83. I just thought I'd post a couple of cards and pics from my 1959 Topps blog. When I did a search on his name on that blog about ten posts came up. He was just that big a part of baseball. Has anyone anywhere ever uttered one negative word about him? I doubt it.

His '59 card is among the best cards of the set, maybe among the best cards of the decade. A bright day at a ballpark, a youthful looking Ernie Banks with his glove up and ready, as if he was playing catch, the sun on his face. Pretty much perfect.

The Baseball Thrills card commemorates his 1958 MVP award. He won that playing on a fifth place club.

Here is the original photo (from 1957) that was used for this card.

Ernie had an All Star card in the '59 set as well.

Finally here are my sons at Wrigley Field a couple of winters ago. I made sure we got some shots with the Banks statue.

R.I.P. Ernie. I feel honored to have watched you play.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Baltimore Colt Card History Pt. 5 1968/1969 Topps

After four years of doing AFL sets Topps took control of the entire production of pro football cards in 1968. This 220 card set was made up of two series of very colorful cards 

1968 Topps

There are nine Colts in the set and there was no team card. Each team was color coordinated and the Colts red/yellow combo is certainly one that stands out.

1968 Topps #22 Billy Ray Smith

Most (but not all) of the Colts have posed shots showing them from the numbers up and holding a helmet. The 'leaping colt' is here in a circle making his next-to-last appearance on Topps cards.

1968 Topps #100 John Unitas

This Johnny Unitas card is the poster boy for 'check what you have before you buy something' movement. I had one for my Unitas PC and apparently had an extra from way back that I had stuck in the same pocket in the binder. Not remembering that I went out and found one for this project on COMC. Not remembering THAT I picked up a '68 Colts complete set on eBay. I realized what I had done when my COMC package arrived. And so that's how I came to own (briefly) four copies of this card. I sent one to a non-blogging Colt fan I've known a long time and he was excited about it so it wasn't a total screw-up, but still.

1968 Topps #152 Willie Richardson

Even when John Mackey was smiling he was still a bad ass. One of the great injustices is his long time exclusion from the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Resentment over his work as head of the Players Association by stuffy old-guard writers kept him out for many years. He talent changed the position of tight end forever. </rant>

1968 Topps #74 John Mackey

The backs of these cards are done in green with a series of boxes for number, name, vitals and a blurb. The skill players get a minimal stat section. And sadly the honors listing that Philly Gum always had is gone.

Some cards got 'highlights' cartoons, others had the tried and true 'coin rub' in that section. The Colts cards I have vary greatly in coloring as far as the backs are concerned. Some are much brighter than others. So much brighter that I wonder if it the effects of time or actually different cardboard stock.

But that's not the end of the story.... some cardbacks didn't even have anything related to the player on the front!

This is the back of Willie Richardson's card. It's a puzzle piece that when complete forms a portrait of Len Dawson, Kansas City's Super Bowl quarterback. Two things come to mind: 1) I'd be hacked if my favorite player got a puzzle piece for the back of his card and 2) what the heck was Topps doing using a stale shot of Dawson in his Brown's uniform? He'd been gone from Cleveland since 1961! There was also a puzzle of the other Super Bowl quarterback, Bart Starr.

And speaking of Starr... Topps did something very unusual in the 1968 sets. All cards of the Packers and Raiders, the previous Super Bowl participants, were done in a completely different format. They were horizontal with a pen-and-ink background to the photos. Here is Starr:

They remind me of the '68-'69 O-Pee-Chee hockey set:

There were posters inserted into Series One football packs. The Colts have Johnny Unitas in the set. Really a nice bonus for pack buyers in '68. I picked up mine late last year.

Topps issued inserts in second series packs, a stand-up set of 22 players. Willie Richardson is the Colts' rep. Maybe it was Topps' way of making up for his wasted cardback. I found one cheap and yes, it's way miscut. 

1969 Topps

1969 Topps #94 Jerry Hill

Last month when I was posting Colts cards I'd received from Mark Hoyle I mentioned how I thought that Topps took a step backwards with the '69 set. And completing the two sets of Colts cards hasn't changed that opinion.

I'm just not a fan of the color backgrounds. They have a certain charm on the '58 baseball set but a decade had passed and yet Topps revised that old idea. There were a dozen Colts in the set. The solid backgrounds were red, pink, orange blue, yellow and green. The Colts didn't get any yellow ones but hit the other five colors.
1969 Topps #116 Lou Michaels

The photos are pretty much a continuation of previous Topps shots, posed 'action' or portraits. Earl Morrall's card shows him in the Lions jersey although he'd been with the Colts all through 1968.

As I type this it occurs to me that there hasn't been a Colts player shown on a card wearing a white Colts jersey since the 1953 Bowman set. Wendell Harris wears white (barely visible) on his '62 Topps rookie card. It's likely a shot of him in his LSU uni. Lou Michaels is listed as a Colt in the '65 Philly Gum set but he is wearing his old Steelers white jersey. Checking ahead there is no Colt shown in white until the '72 set.

1969 Topps #185 Billy Ray Smith

The first series in this set had no borders around the top color block. The second series has borders. They don't help much but I think they do make a tiny improvement in the look of the front.

1969 Topps #229 Mike Curtis

The backs of the cards in the '69 set were nothing to write home about either. Black and green with white type is... well....different anyway. The cards give basic info, a short bio paragraph and a stats box for those who handle the ball. Most players had a cartoon with a career fact.

Some cards had the 'coin rub' cartoon box. That gimmick never got old with card manufacturers apparently.

Topps packs in 1969 included these 'Mini-Card Albums' which were designed to house small photo cards which were also inserts known as '4 in 1's'.

Above is the front cover of my album, and if you ever wondered about Topps ability to squeeze every possible use out of an image in their files check out Zeke Bartkowski's 1962 Topps card:

Here's a look at one of the inside pages. The 'cards' were supposed to be moistened and stuck in the album. 

Ten Colts are included on 4-in-1's. I have five of them, all as part of the complete four player 'card'. The individual ones are just too small and don't interest me. I thought I had another one but the Tony Lorrick I snagged from a dealer's junk box isn't really a Colt card. He's shown in the Blue and White but he's listed with his new team, the Saints. I should have looked closer.

Online these things range from a buck for individual 'stamps' to outrageous prices for 'graded intact inserts.

Also available in 1969 were Glendale Stamps. They were also meant to be put in an available album. I did a post on these a few weeks ago. Check it out for more info.

This is the Johnny Unitas Glendale Stamp. I have the set but I have had to replace one that fell victim to our cat's curiosity (and the fact that I was too lazy to put them up after I scanned them!).

I originally grouped the '68 and '69 Colts cards in one post because I thought they were similar and that 1970 was a departure for Topps. But looking at these again I'm not so sure. But I'll stick with my original plan and the next post will feature the early 70's Colts cards.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Baltimore Colt Card History Pt. 4 The Philly Gum Sets

1964 Philly Gum #12 John Unitas

In 1964 the license to produce NFL cards went to the Philadelphia Gum Company while Topps moved on to AFL sets. Philly Gum put out NFL cards for four seasons ending in 1967. The '64 set featured large square photos on a simple design. Each team had it's own color combo for the text box below the player and the Colts got a striking red and white design. This set, as well as the three Philly Gum sets that followed, contains 198 cards. Printing them on sheets of 264 meant that there were 66 'double prints' each year.

1964 Philly Gum

This set, or at least the Colts in it, are a big reason for my taking on this project. I had about half the 12 Colts and wanted to pick up the rest of them. One thing led to another and my goals expanded to finding all the Philly Gum Colts and then to completing all the vintage Baltimore Colts subsets.

The Colts were photographed for this set at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. The lighting, the background, the richness of the colors and the color combo just make for a great team set. It's worth noting that while most of the teams have training camp/practice field backgrounds there are some interesting team sets here. The New York Giants were photographed at Yankee Stadium. Their cards look a lot like the Colts' cards.

The Browns are shown with a chain link fence behind them and behind that fence sits (or so legend has it) is the players' parking lot with Jim Brown's Cadillac featured in most of the shots. Great stuff.

It's impossible for me to pick a favorite among the Colts' cards but if I was asked to keep only one for my collection it would be the Unitas or one of these three I've posted. Gino Marchetti looks so 'Marchetti-ish' in this one. He's definitely the guy who refused to be carried to the locker room after he broke his leg in the '58 title game.
1964 Philly Gum #4 Gino Marchetti

1964 Philly Gum #5 Jim Martin

This is John Mackey's rookie card. Cardboard greatness.

1964 Philly Gum #3 John Mackey

Vertical blue and black backs were easy to read. As has been the case with football cards for years to this point skill guys get a stat box, linemen a blurb.

The listing of Pro Bowl and other honors is new. I'd like to see that on more cards. The cartoons relate to the player on the card and are in the form of a quiz question.

Each team also got a team card and a 'Play of the Year' card. Like all the team cards the Colts' card had a black and white team photo. At least the background is intact. The card has a different color scheme than the players' cards do but contains both the team helmet and logo. A team related paragraph and cartoon quiz question make up the back.

1964 Philly Gum #13 Baltimore Colts Team

The Play of the Year card shows Coach Don Shula as well as Memorial Stadium and has a play diagram linked to a specific game from the previous season. Interestingly the play diagrammed doesn't seem to be the same one described on the back. As a coach I always used the dotted line to indicate a pass in the air and this one shows Unitas hitting Jimmy Orr on an 'out route' rather than Jerry Hill in the flat.

1964 Philly Gum #14 Colts' Play of the Year/Don Shula card

1965 Philly Gum

Philly Gum had come up with a nice template with the inaugural '64 set and it never varied by a whole lot. Each of the four yearly sets had the same 'look and feel'. Again there were 198 cards in the set.

Year Two of Philadelphia Gum's license saw them break out the NFL shield logo for the front of the cards. It was the first time this has happened. Other than making the name box smaller to accomodate the league logo the cards stayed pretty much the same. There were twelve Colts in the set plus the same two 'extra cards', the team card and the 'Play of the Year' card.

Most of the players got posed shots showing them from the waist or numbers up. Tony Lorick's full action pose is an exception. The Colts were given light blue text for the player names and white for team and position. The other teams each had their own combination.

1965 Philly Gum #2 Ray Berry

1965 Philly Gum #12 John Unitas

1965 Philly Gum #10 Jim Parker

1965 Philly Gum #6 Tony Lorick

1965 Philly Gum #4 Wendell Harris

The backs went to a reddish color and the 'coin rub' cartoon returned. The layout remained about the same as the '64 set. Again any honors from the previous season are listed for the players.

Again the team card comes in with a color not associated with any other Colts' card. 

1965 Philly Gum #1 Colts Team

Other than the colors the Play of the Year idea returned unchanged. At least this time the diagram matches the action that's described on the back.

1965 Philly Gum #14 Colts' Play of the Year/Don Shula card

1966 Philly Gum

1966 Philly Gum #24 John Unitas

Philly Gum football returned in 1966 with a few changes but nothing that would make you wonder who produced them. The name-team-position box moved to the top of the card but similar posed portrait cards dominated, at least among the Colts' cards. Each team got it's own colors with light blue again on the Colts' cards.

The addition of the expansion Atlanta Falcons meant that the other teams would get one less card each. There are now 11 Colts players represented plus the two related team cards. There were six members of the College or Pro Football Halls of Fame among the 11 Colts.

1966 Philly Gum #20 Lou Michaels

1966 Philly Gum #25 Bob Vogel

1966 Philly Gum #15 Ray Berry

As seen with Ray Berry and Lou Michaels above and Jimmy Orr below the iconic Colts helmet is present in this set more than any previous one.

Single bar face mask alert!
1966 Philly Gum #22 Jimmy Orr

The backs of the cards have been re-arranged for '66. The alignment is now horizontal and printed in green. The left side has player vitals and a bio paragraph, the right side has a 'Guess Who Quiz'. There is a small black and white photo of a different player or coach and the idea is to guess his identity. You are directed to a different card to find the answer. Previous seasons honors were included in the section with vital stats although neither card I scanned had any. The stats box for 'skill position' players is gone, each player gets a text paragraph. This will hold true for 1967 as well.

Well, look here. The coloring of the team card matches the players' cards. That's new.

1966 Philly Gum #14 Colts Team 

The old 'play of the year' format evolved into a clean picture of a play that is documented on the reverse. I love this shot of Lenny Moore and Jim Parker doing their thing. Merlin Olsen in pursuit makes it three Hall of Famers in the shot. I'm not sure but the Ram player on the ground between Moore and Parker may very well be Deacon Jones. That would make it four Hall guys.

1966 Philly Gum #26 Colts Play of the Year

The back of the play card has an illustrated officials' signals explanation rather than another 'guess the player' picture.. 

I'm going to break my own rule here and stick a non-Colt card into the mix. But only because it's one of the best football cards, ever. This is the Gale Sayers rookie card from this '66 Philly Gum set. It's not my scan. Oh how I wish I had this one to scan. Maybe some day.

1967 Philly Gum

1967 Philly Gum #16 Ordell Braase

The fourth and final Philly Gum NFL set retains the basic elements of the previous three but adds a slight twist... yellow borders. I'm sure someone at the company thought this was a good idea. They borders don't look bad when combined with the colors of some of the teams but when a team was assigned a name block like the pink one of the Cowboys or the purple of the Vikings it made for a bad look.

Another new club, the Saints, caused the team player totals to be reduced to ten per team plus the usual two extra cards per club. The Colts again had blue name/team/position blocks. I find the thin, sans-serif type to be 'cheap' looking somehow. I can't put my finger on it but it just doesn't look right. At least the size of it allowed them to use 'Johnny' as Unitas' first name this time.

Some of the photos look to have been taken in the same photo shoot as those that appeared in the previous year. Others look like Memorial Stadium shots from the '64 set. The Unitas card appears to be taken right after the '66 card. It's as if they said "OK, Mr. Unitas, hold that pose....let us put your helmet on you and try not to move".

It's worth noting that this set marks the first contributions to this project from fellow bloggers. Mark Hoyle and Joe Shlabotnik very both very generous in sending me Colts from many different sets from the late 60s right up through the Topps 1983 set. That's the final year of the Baltimore Colts franchise.

1967 Philly Gum #23 Johnny Unitas

1967 Philly Gum #14 Ray Berry (Error)

This 'Ray Berry" (above) card actually pictures cornerback Bobby Boyd who is also shown on his own card (below) which uses what is likely a shot taken for the '64 set.

1967 Philly Gum #15 Bob Boyd

1967 Philly Gum #19 Lenny Lyles (from Mark Hoyle)

The backs are done in brown with the pertinent player info on the right and a 'coin rub' quiz question pertaining to the player on the left. The questions actually like they were written by hand. Pro Bowl and other awards are listed again. 

The team card matches colors with the players' cards.

The 'officials' signals' feature previously included on the now defunct 'play of the year card' has moved to the team card.

A team logo card has been substituted for the 'play of the year' card. I have lots of love for the Leapin' Colt! I wish the current version of the team, the one that plays in another city, wouldn't use it. To mean it means BALTIMORE COLTS. But that's a whole other story.

The back has a nice summary of the Colts franchise up to that time. Note the reference to Johnny Unitas as "Mr. Quarterback". Indeed.

Semi Off Topic:
I actually love the New York Giants' cards in this set an awful lot. There are about six of them that are taken in Yankee Stadium featuring players with helmets on. They remind me of listening to Giants games with my father (he was a huge fan of them) with Marty Glickmann at the mike. The cards are awesome.

A bit of detective work has shown me that these '67 Giants cards were not necessarily 'outtakes' from the '64 photos. Allen Jacobs wasn't in the NFL until 1965 and he was a Packer that season. He came over to the Giants in 1966 so that likely when the shot was made.  

So that wraps up the four Philadelphia Gum seasons of NFL production as seen through the Baltimore Colts' cards. The sets are all very similar but each has aspects to make it stand out. As noted I'm partial to the 1964 set but collecting any of the four would be a blast.

Topps was back in the NFL card business in 1968. The Colts and the rest of the NFL teams joined the AFL clubs in Topps colorful 1968 set. That one is up next!