Monthly: June 2020


1959 Packers: The Dynasty Begins

After a 1-10-1 record in 1958, the worst in franchise history, Packer fans were disheartened, the players were dispirited, and the fans enraged.  The viability of the franchise surviving became a concern of the NFL.  Few expected the unbelievable turnaround that would ensue with the hiring of Vince Lombardi as head coach and general manager in early 1959.  Lombardi’s punishing training and expectations of complete dedication resulted in a 7-5 record for 1959.  Players began to jell and realize their potential.  Future Hall of Famers Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Jim Taylor, Jim Ringo, Forrest Gregg, Ray Nitschke, Hank Jordan, and Emlen Tunnell were on this team and poised to make a stand.  The prompt turnaround in 1959 earned Lombardi Coach of the Year honors and raised expectation for 1960.

RetroCards has designed an 18-card supplemental set that includes: Ray Nitschke, Jim Taylor, Bob Skoronski, Ron Kramer, Timmy Brown, Fred Thurston, Forrest Gregg, Norm Masters, Emlen Tunnell, Tom Bettis, Don McIhenny, Boyd Dowler, Bill Quinlan, Gary Knafelc, Lamar McHan, Bill Howton, John Symank, and Vince Lombardi.  This set includes a card of Jim Taylor with the correct photo for a change!  Order your set here!


1983 Chicago Blitz: RetroCards Goes USFL


The United States Football League of the early to mid 1980s was probably the most successful failure in late 20th century sports. Filling a need for spring football and luring top notch college stars and NFL veterans and has beens, the USFL had more stability and deeper pockets that the mid-70s WFL, which last a season and a half. The USFL was classier and as predicted by some, started a bidding war for players, driving salaries up, up, up.

Generally, the league garnered positive reviews from critics and fans and though attendance varied from market to market, the league was certainly professional. Through a series of mishaps, victories, agonies, and triumphs, the league looked like a solid complement to the NFL until they tried going head to head with the old league in a fall schedule. It never kicked off in fall and ended in humiliation, losing to the NFL in Federal court after being award $3 in damages.

But nostalgia and sports go hand in hand and after flirtations with other start-up leagues like the UFL, XFL (twice!), NFL Europe, and Arena League football, the USFL is the darling of “what could’ve beens.”

Collectors didn’t see USFL football cards until 1984 so RetroCards will be diving into the USFL’s history with a series of team sets starting with the 1983 Chicago Blitz. Starting with the 1983 season allows Blitz fans to enjoy the players that gave them a 12–6 record before the franchise was traded (yes, traded) for the losing Arizona Wranglers. But that story is for another blog entry.

This set includes 22 players from 1983 sporting those cool blue facemasks: Junior Ah You, Carl Allen, Mack Boatner, Luther Bradley, Eddie Brown, Wamon Buggs, Frank Corrall, Doug Dennison, Joe Ehrmann, Jim Fahnhorst, Trumaine Johnson, Greg Landry, Kit Lathrop, Virgil Livers, Kevin Long, Karl Lorch, Wally Pesuit, Bobby Scott, Tim Spencer, Stan White, Lenny Willis, and of course, coach George Allen. Get it here!



Eddie LeBaron Tribute: Little Eddie Stands Tall

Eddie LeBaron was well represented on several Football cards, but some were missed. An early Cowboy card from 1961 showed him in a Redskin uniform so that was corrected on the above 1961 card. Some of these samples will be future releases to check back frequently!

By FRANK LITSKY APRIL 2, 2015 New York Times

Eddie LeBaron, an undersize quarterback who was a college Hall of Famer, became a Marine Corps hero during the Korean War and then played in the National Football League for 11 seasons, died on Wednesday in Stockton, Calif. He was 85. His death was confirmed by the University of the Pacific, where he led the football team to an undefeated season in 1949.
In a position where players are now routinely 6 feet 3 inches or taller, LeBaron was 5-foot-7, and his weight never reached 170 pounds. But he had no fear of scrambling. Grantland Rice, the celebrated sportswriter, called him the most mystifying T-formation quarterback he had ever seen. In 1955, Frank M. Blunk of The New York Times called him “daring, resourceful, mercurial.”

From 1946 through 1949, LeBaron played for the College (now University) of the Pacific under Coach Amos Alonzo Stagg. As a 16-year-old freshman, LeBaron was a quarterback, a safety, a punter and a deceptive ballhandler. In his senior season, his team finished with an 11-0 record, led the nation in total offense (502.9 yards a game) and set an N.C.A.A. single-season record of 575 points. He was a three-time all-American and was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1980. In 1950, Time magazine described his popularity as a college athlete: “To show how they felt, admirers showered him with gifts: a new Studebaker, a $1,000 diamond ring, two suits of clothes, matched luggage, a television set, a 12-gauge shotgun and a year’s supply of ammunition.”

The Washington Redskins of the N.F.L. drafted him in 1950, but before he began his professional career, he served in the Marine Corps as a lieutenant. He was wounded twice in Korea and was awarded the Bronze Star for valor — even though, John Nolan wrote in his 2006 book, “The Run-Up to the Punch Bowl: A Memoir of the Korean War, 1951,” LeBaron “may have been the first Marine officer to go into combat without ever having fired a rifle on a range.” He joined the Redskins in 1952 and was named the N.F.L. rookie of the year that season. In 1954, he moved to Calgary of the Canadian Football League because his college coach, Larry Siemering, had been named the team’s head coach and because LeBaron was upset with the Redskins’ coach, Curly Lambeau, who had criticized his play-calling. In 1955, with Lambeau retired and replaced by Joe Kuharich, LeBaron returned to the Redskins. He studied law at George Washington University in the off-seasons and earned a law degree in 1959.

He retired after the 1959 season to work full time as a lawyer in Texas. (“It’s time I gave my wife and children some permanent roots and a more normal home life,” he said at the time.) But the Dallas Cowboys, preparing for their first season, talked him out of it, traded for him and signed him for $20,000, arranging a partnership in a Dallas law firm. In 1960, against the Redskins, LeBaron set an N.F.L. record for the shortest completed pass: two inches, for a touchdown. He played four years for the Cowboys before turning his job over to Don Meredith. In 11 N.F.L. seasons, LeBaron passed for 13,399 yards and 104 touchdowns. He was chosen for the Pro Bowl four times.

Edward Wayne LeBaron Jr. was born on Jan. 7, 1930, in San Rafael, Calif., and attended high school in Oakdale, Calif. Between his retirements from football in 1963 and law in 1997, he was an Atlanta Falcons executive, a television analyst, a manager of a brokerage firm and a land developer, as well as a consultant to the N.F.L. during negotiations with its players’ union. He is survived by his wife, Doralee; his sons, Edward III, Richard and William; and five grandchildren. LeBaron said that overcoming his lack of height was not that difficult. “I came over the top, and I got very, very few balls knocked down,” he once told an interviewer. “The big thing was the ability to move. If you have the ability to move and the intelligence to know how to read the defenses, you can find the lanes.”


King Corcoran: A Poor Man’s Joe Namath

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
• He spoke Mandarin Chinese and learned it while at University of Maryland
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. (Repost from 2018)