Yearly: 2016

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The Ice Bowl: Greatest Game Ever?

Topps, Pliladelphia Gum Cards, RetroCards, custom cards that never were

The much fabled Ice Bowl (official name: 1967 NFL Championship Game) has taken on such legendary status that has been called the NFL’s greatest game. Two teams battling in the most extreme of elements is what football is supposed to be about – not replay, not “touching” the passer, and not end zone celebrations with or without props.  Not much need be said about the game, but this RetroCard set tells a chronological story in words and pictures.  Featured heavily in this set is the fan’s contribution and their resilience in –40˚F wind chills. Few people left and when the gun sounded at the end of regulation, they tore down the goal posts!  That’s hard core.

The design of this set is a knock off of the 1964-1967 Philadelphia Gum cards that produced NFL cards for a short time in the 60s.  RetroCards is calling this set “1968 Philly Action,” and is part of a series of team sets that will also be released in this design.

Players featured included Bart Starr, Boyd Dowler, Chuck Mercein, Travis Williams, Vince Lombardi, Jerry Kramer, Don Meredith, Danny Villanueva, Lance Rentzel, Dan Reeves, Bob Lilly, Lee Roy Jordan, George Andrie, Tom Landry, and of course, the fans.  Order your set here.

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Rhome If You Want To: Jerry Rhome

Topps 1965 1966 1968 1969 1970 1971 1972 football cards

 

Jerry Rhome tore up college football at Tulsa with an offense that had did something no other team – college or pro – had dared to do.  That was pass the ball ALL THE TIME.  If you talk to Jerry Rhome, he has no problem discussing how Tulsa revolutionized the passing game.  He ought to know.  As a senior he passed for 2,870 yards and threw for 32 touchdowns (versus only 4 interceptions), narrowly losing the Heisman Trophy to Notre Dame’s John Huarte.  With numbers like that, he seemed destined for the passing-crazy AFL, but he wound up a Dallas Cowboy.
He was drafted in 1964 as a future pick by both the Cowboys and the AFL’s New York Jets.  Signing with the established league, he backed up Don Meredith with another young quarterback, Craig Morton.  Though he only started one game for the Cowboys during his time there (1965-1968), he felt that coach Tom Landry gave him a legitimate chance at becoming a starter.  Once Roger Staubach arrived permanently in 1969, Rhome asked to be traded. He was dealt to the Cleveland Browns where he backed up Bill Nelsen in 1969.  His time in Cleveland may be most notable for the information he provided the Brown on the Cowboys offensive tendencies, resulting in a whomping 38–14 win in the 1969 Conference Championship game.
By 1970, the Houston Oilers traded for him but he only played there one year before the Oilers went with a youth movement in rookies Dan Pastorini and Lynn Dickey. He played for the Los Angeles Rams in 1971 and then in the Canadian Football League in 1972 for the Montreal Alouettes before calling it a career.  After retirement, he went back to Tulsa and became an assistant coach before reappearing in the NFL as a coach with the Seattle Seahawks and the Washington Redskins during their Super Bowl XXII win.  He was inducted into the College Football Hall Of Fame in 1988.  RetroCards has designed several cards for this college great.
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1961 Cowboys: Building Talent, Building Character

Topps Dallas Cowboys football cards 1961
After going winless in their inaugural season, the Cowboys could only go in one direction.  1961 saw them get off to a quick start by going 3-1(beating the new Vikings and the lousy Steelers) before the league caught up with them.  Their 4–9–1 finish was an improvement and some stars began to develop, namely Don Perkins and Frank Clarke on offense and Bob Lilly and Don Bishop on defense.  Tom Landry was installing the flex defense but it would take some time before the players bought into it – let alone understand it!
RetroCards designed 18 new Cowboy cards that supplement the beautiful 1961 Fleer set which featured both NFL and AFL players.  Players include: Tom Landry, Tom Braatz, Jim Doran, Don Healy, Nate Borden, Bill Herchman, Frank Clarke, Ken Frost, Don Bishop, Glynn Gregory, Bob Lilly, Amos Marsh, Dick Bielski, Jack Patera, John Houser, Dick Moegle, Don Perkins, and Gene Babb.  Get yours here.
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1978 Cowboys: Super Bowl XII Winners

Topps 1978 Dallas Cowboys fantasy cards

By trading for Seattle’s first round pick, the Cowboys added the final piece to their Super Bowl puzzle.  Tony Dorsett easily took the 1977 Rookie of the Year honors as the Cowboys cruised to their second Championship on a finesse offense and the leagues best defense.  Roger Staubach lead an offense that boasted a wealth of riches in Dorsett, All-Pros Drew Pearson and Billy Joe Dupree, plus important role players such as Preston Pearson, Pat Donovan, Golden Richards, and Robert Newhouse.  On defense, they were even better with the most devastating pass rushers in Harvey Martin (Defensive Player Of the Year), Randy White, Thomas Henderson, Ed “Too Tall” Jones, Charlie Waters, and Cliff Harris.

RetroCards 1978 Cowboys set focuses on the more important role players that gave the Cowboys the Championship over the Denver Broncos.  Players added to the 1978 base set are: Tony Hill, Benny Barnes, Bob Breunig, Aaron Kyle, Randy Hughes, Larry Cole, Rayfield Wright, Jethro Pugh, D.D. Lewis, Bruce Huther, Glenn Carano, and Mike Hegman.  Highlight cards feature a Tony Dorsett Rookie of the Year Highlight, Doomsday Defense, 3 Super Bowl Highlights, plus NFL sack leaders card.  Order yours here!

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Hall Of Fame Hopeful: Ken Riley

Topps 1972, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1984

At Florida A&M, Ken Riley was a quarterback who was not just a gifted athlete, but an exceptional student, earning his team’s scholastic award and a Rhodes Scholar Candidacy.  After being drafted in 1969 by the one-year old Cincinnati Bengals, coach Paul Brown had Riley switch to cornerback during his first training camp.  Riley became a fixture as the starting cornerback for the next 15 years.

He had a busy rookie year starting at right cornerback, returning kickoffs and even caught two passes on offense.  Nicknamed “the rattler,” Riley quickly became one of the best corners in the NFL but there was someone getting more attention than him – his teammate Lemar Parrish, who played at the left cornerback position. Though Riley was named to various All-Pro teams between 1975 and 1983, to my surprise (and horror) Riley never played in the Pro Bowl.  From 1970 though 1977, Parrish made the Pro Bowl six times though Riley out performed him by a wide margin based on interceptions (36 to 25).  The most glaring Pro Bowl emission was 1976 where Riley led the AFC with nine interceptions while Parrish only had two.  It’s usually a given that the Conference interception leader is named to the Pro Bowl but the AFC sent Parrish over Riley.  Parrish was a fine corner and excellent punt returner and was deserving of Pro Bowl recognition but sending two corners from the same team in the era of the 70s almost never happened.
This Pro Bowl issue seems to be the sticking point with the Pro Football Hall of Fame committee.  Let’s face it, Cincinnati doesn’t get much respect. Bengal quarterback Ken Anderson faces the same problem.
Rick “Goose,” Gossellin of the Dallas Morning News, who is on the committee of Hall of Fame committee, has made an excellent case for Riley’s inclusion in the Hall (read that article here).  He quotes Riley, “Lemar and I were like Willie Mays and Hank Aaron,” Riley said. “Willie Mays was the flashy one. That was Lemar. But I was the one getting all the interceptions.” 
Samuel G. Freedman’s New York Times article from August, 2013 quotes the Steelers John Stallworth as in support of Riley’s value and worthiness.  Chris Collinsworth is even a bigger advocate of Riley, who taught Collinsworth more than anyone he ever played against.
In 1983 at the age of 36, Riley intercepted eight passes – two for touchdowns – and was named Sporting News  1st Team All-Pro.  But still no Pro Bowl.  He retired with 65 career interceptions, 4th on the all-time list and is the second place cornerback behind Dick “Night Train” Lane.  There is still time for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Committee to get it right while Mr. Riley is still with us.  I hope they do.
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The Playoff Bowl: A Post Season Exhibition

Topps, philadelphia gum cards, Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions, St. Louis Cardinals, Cleveland Browns, Minnesota Vikings

If coming in second place makes you the first place loser, what moniker would be given to the team that finishes in third? Well, for ten seasons of NFL football from 1960 to 1969, that moniker was called “the winner of the Playoff Bowl.”

Officially named the Bert Bell Benefit Bowl after a league commissioner who suffered a fatal heart attack in 1959, the Playoff Bowl was played the week after the NFL Championship game (except for the 1969 game, which took place the day before) at the Orange Bowl in Miami. The participants were the second-place teams of the NFL’s Eastern and Western conferences.
The Playoff Bowl gave the fans another dose of playoff action and raised over a million dollars for the Bert Bell players’ pension fund.  Another motive for holding this game was to compete for television ratings against the new American Football League.  Having another dose of NFL players on television during playoff time generated revenue and gave a gentle reminder to all football fans that the NFL had established stars with established teams.  The Playoff Bowl, given its meaninglessness, drew several critics.  The most vocal critic was Hall of Fame coach Vince Lombardi, who referred to it as “the Shit Bowl” and called it “a losers’ bowl for losers.” Lombardi went on to say the Playoff Bowl was “a hinky-dink football game, held in a hinky-dink town, played by hinky-dink players. That’s all second place is – hinky dink.”  Lombardi forgot to refer to himself as the hinky-dink coach who won the Playoff Bowl over the Browns after the 1963 season.  Lombardi lost the game after the 1964 season giving his Packers sole possession of fourth place. 
Even those who came out on the winning side had their complaints. Roger Brown, who won all five Playoff Bowls he played in, called his participation “pitiful.”   Other players appreciated the opportunity to compete against another solid team and the extra money earned from playing in the game always was welcomed.
In 1970, when the merger with the AFL was complete, the league decided to discontinue the Playoff Bowl. Further distancing itself from the “losers’ bowl for losers” (and also the pensions of retired players), the NFL only recognizes the Playoff Bowl as an exhibition game—making the official title of third place nothing more than “best case scenario” for the New York Jets.
All-Pro quarterback Frank Ryan of the Browns was asked if teammates reminisce about it when they get together.  “It never comes up,” said Ryan.