Friday, March 6, 2015

Baltimore Colts Card History Pt. 8 The Late 70s

The Colts Topps football sets of the late 70s (and into the 80s for that matter) are more or less interchangeable. 23 or 24 players, a team leaders card more often than not, leagues leaders (if the Colts had someone who fit) and a checklist of some sort. The designs changed but the player pics tended to come from the same few photo sessions with sideline shots mixed in. Any helmet was airbrushed to remove the logo.

1977 Topps

There were 24 Colts in the '77 Topps set. All are vertical and included practice field shots, 'blue wall' portraits, sideline shots, etc. The other teams got different colors and some had actual game action photos.

The All Pro selections got a ribbon under the team banner. The Colts had three, George Kunz as seen below plus Roger Carr and John Dutton.

This Bert Jones is one of my favorites of the late 70s. I bet that jacket he's wearing has a 'jumping Colt' logo on it that's been airbrushed out. I'd sell my family to pirates for one of those.

Lydell Mitchell, the busiest man in show business, got a '1000 yarder' award on his card. Mitchell ran the football, caught the football and sold ads for the yearbook.

The checklist had the leaders for the Colts over the previous eight seasons listed on the back. There was no team leader card per se. I was looking at the leading receivers list on that card and saw that in 1973 Glenn Doughty led the Colts with 26 receptions. That seemed oddly low so I checked. Turns out that the Colts completed only 137 passes in the 14 game season. Yes, 137 completions. For the whole team. In 14 games. Seriously? BTW...BR lists Doughty with 25 receptions. Sheesh.

The card backs, in black and tones of red/pink were fairly readable. I like the bulleted list of accomplishments. It reminds me of the old Seasons Highlights element of the back of the 1960 Topps baseball set.

The 'College Corner' idea was new and kind of neat. A fact from each players collegiate career was included.

Toni Linhart led the NFC in scoring and could have won a role in a Monty Python show with that hair.

Topps had a parallel set that was sold in Mexico. The checklist is identical but the cards themselves are done in Spanish. I have one of the Colts from that set, Howard Stevens. I blogged that one here a few months ago. Here is another look at the US and Mexican versions. Much more is in that post I linked. Other than a slightly different (darker) border, probably due to a different quality of cardboard, and some 'bumpy' edges due to the cutting process, the two cards are identical on the front. The Mexican version is the one on the left.

Of course the backs are is different languages. And the fonts/type sizes are not the same.

I love how it says Stevens was acquired from 'Los Santos'!!!

1977 Fleer

Fleer continued with their licensed set of team and game oriented cards. The checklist for these hardly changed from year to year. The Colts had cards #1 and #2 until Fleer decided that all the teams would be listed in alpha order regardless of their conference. The Colts than had cards #3 and #4 behind the Atlanta Falcons.

Super Bowl III card was always #59 and Super Bowl V was always #61. The pictures changed but the sets are pretty much clones of each other. 

Fleer also had stickers and those things are hard to date. I'm not sure if any of the ones I have now or any of the stack I have coming my way are from '77. There were no other national issues (aside from the Topps Mexican set I mentioned), food issues or oddballs that I could find although there were likely several Baltimore area promotional items that elude cataloging. There are a few Colts that appear on 'Sportscaster cards', the humongous set-by-subscription that were distributed from 1977 through 1979 but I don't have any, nor am I particularly interested in them.

The 1977 Colts were the last good Colts squad. Beginning in '78 the team fell under the mismanagement of a drunk, idiot owner and entered a death spiral that resulted in the team leaving after the 1983 season. 

1978 Topps

Topps came up with a very generic, bland design for 1978. The borders were different colors for each team and the photos were the usual mix. This year the Colts got a few action shots although the were not very 'action-ish'.

But leave it to Topps to come up with another great Roger Carr card. In this one he looks like a guy rousted out of bed by a hotel fire alarm and standing across the street with a Red Cross blanket watching the flames shoot out of the Hyatt's 11th floor windows.

Black on green  backs were among the easiest to read of that era. Vitals, stats and a bio again. The 'extra' was a choice nugget of info on the player with a related cartoon inside a helmet.

If you are familiar with the T206 Chief Bender variation cards, one with a tree in the background, one without, then you can appreciate the Colts leader card with two shots of Lydell Mitchell. Identical pictures except for the fact that one has a tree over his shoulder while the other has the background removed so it look like an overcast day in Timonium.

The team checklist is on the reverse of the leaders card.

Lydell, in a shot we will see again, is on the League Receiving Leaders card. There is also an Interception Leaders card with Lyle Blackwood on it.

1978 Fleer

The four Fleer cards got a yellow border. And different pictures on the Super Bowl cards. 

Kelloggs' issued team stickers in 1978 They came in panels of three. I wasn't able to find a Colts sticker by itself so I picked up the three team intact version.

The second year of the Holsom Bread cards saw them expand from a regional issue (Packers and Vikes) to a national set. Lydell Mitchell had a card as a Charger butthe card's place in the checklist reveals it was intended to be a Colts card before he was traded a few weeks before the '78 season started. Obviously this isn't a Colts card but I like little quirks like this.

1979 Topps

Rather than take a chance on a wild and crazy design Topps opted for bland, again. Not ugly, just un-inspired. Two color ribbon, position on a football, There were no Colts with the All Pro designation. That would have been noted on the football. Topps had a Record Breakers subset but again, No Colts.

The pics mirror the past several years with practice field shots, sideline candids, etc.

Again with the brooding Roger Carr.

I always enjoyed watching Joe Washington play. He was a poor man's Barry Sanders.

The purple and yellow backs held no surprises. The usual info and a player tidbit illustrated with a cartoon. Nothing else to say about the backs, it's Topps, it's the late 70s, it's football cards.

The team leader cards again had the team checklist on the back. Joe Washington got a cropped version of his regular card's pic but Roger Carr got one that makes him look like a kid wearing his old man's helmet.  

1979 Fleer

Fleer got a touch more creative in 1979 by randomizing the colors of the card borders. They threw a few horizontal cards into the mix as well. But other than that it is the same  old thing. And Fleer's Team Action cards would always be 'the same old thing". I like them well enough but I sure wouldn't have bought a second pack of these once I saw what they were.

I have a Fleer sticker, supposedly a 1979 version. The backs formed a puzzle. 

The full set of puzzle pieces made up a Super Bowl panorama. This is an image of a full (uncut?) sheet from the net:

If there are any other national of large food issues, etc. I am unable to locate them. I also don't believe that Topps had any inserts but I reserve the right to amend that belief if proven otherwise.

I'll have at least one more post in this series which will cover the remaining sets of Baltimore Colts' mainstream issues, 1980 thru 1983, the last season before the "Mayflower Incident" that ended the franchise in 1984.

I also will post some of the really neat (to me anyway) stuff I've picked up from earlier years that I didn't get a chance to post before. It'll be a 'Stuff I Missed' post.


  1. When I was a kid, I only collected football from 1975 to 1978, so I wasn't really familiar with the 1979 design... and then for years I was confusing it with the similar 1973 set. I'm pretty sure I've got them sorted out now.

    I'm still annoyed that the Mexican cards don't say "POTROS" instead of "COLTS".

  2. I don't think I have any of the Fleer action cards. One more thing to add the wantlist

    1. The good news is I can put a bunch dupes in that package. The bad news is they'll all be Colts!

  3. You make me want to collect football cards, which makes me resent you slightly. If they start showing up on my blog, all your fault.