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Dallas Cowboys: The All-American Handsome Blond Receiver

An earlier RetroCard post discussed the innovative “3rd down back” receiving position revolutionized by the Dallas Cowboys and Preston Pearson in the 1970s. But there was another less talked about receiver, also pioneered by the Cowboys. That was the “All-American Handsome Blond Receiver” position.

The string of pretty-boy wide receivers that passed through the organization is interesting if not peculiar. Possibly foreseeing the marketing benefits of combining the long ball and good looks, the Cowboys began their quest and formulated a look becoming of “America’s Team.”

The blond syndrome began in 1964. Despite having a rising star receiver in Frank Clarke (who from 1961-1963 averaged 44 catches for 932 yards, for a 21.3 per catch average and 11 TDs), the Cowboys went out and traded for two All-Pros in Buddy Dial and Tommy McDonald. Both were flashy and boasted gaudy receiving numbers over the previous 4 seasons. However, neither could duplicate success with the Cowboys, while Frank Clarke out shown both of them in every category, including being named to several All-Pro teams in 1964.

McDonald was traded and Dial fizzled out due to injuries, so the Cowboys brought in little known Lance Rentzel who very quickly was paired in the starting lineup with Bullet Bob Hayes. With defenses double teaming Hayes, Rentzel began to be targeted more. By 1968-69, his numbers were outshining those of All-Pro Hayes! Rentzel, now a star in his own right, married smokin’ hot Hollywood starlet Joey Heatherton, further elevating his public image as the all-American male.

The position took a hit when an unfortunate compulsion saw Rentzel suspended in 1970 and then traded to the Rams. The Cowboys, now a perennial Super Bowl contender, needed a replacement.  They probably thought, “maybe the public wouldn’t notice if we brought in another great receiver, whose name is also Lance, wears #19, and has all-American good-looks!” Enter future hall-of-famer Lance Alworth. Though in the twilight of his career, Alworth contributed to the Cowboys first Super Bowl victory with a crucial touchdown. (Editor’s note: Alworth’s hair was actually brown. But his infectious smile, trendy sideburns, and graceful receptions sufficiently allowed Cowboys management to overlook this minor detail).

Upon Alworth’s retirement in 1972, there was no heir apparent for the position of All-American Handsome Blond Receiver, having traded away both Billy Parks and Ron Sellers. In a surprising move, the Cowboys drafted wide receiver Golden Richards in 1973, who had been injured his entire senior season at Hawaii and didn’t have top-notch receiving skills. BUT he was blazing fast and blazingly blond. He was assigned jersey #19 in training camp, continuing the tradition started by “Rentzworth.” However, he was forced to change his number to #83 due to the newly instated NFL position designations for wide receivers. Richards had a commendable career and, for a time, was the fastest guy on the team. He was involved in the local community, was loved by fans, and even dated Olivia Newton-John! After all his name was “Golden.” He made a big splash with several key touchdowns in the playoffs – the splashiest coming as the game sealing touchdown in Super Bowl XII.

Unfortunately, his build was slight by NFL standards, weighing closer to 165 pounds than his inflated listed weight of 184 pounds. It was no accident that the Steelers knocked him out early in Super Bowl X. The hits took their toll as did pain killer abuse which led to an unpublicized overdose. He was quietly traded to the Chicago Bears in early 1978. Fans were outraged. (I found out about the trade on the playground on the mean streets of Milwaukee. I’ll never forget my disappointment).

Luckily, blue-collar long shot Robert Steele was in training camp and made the active roster after Richards’ departure. Wearing #82, (it must have been too early in the mourning period to issue him #83) Steele played on special teams in the mold of the Eagles’ Vince Papale. Despite his great heart and work ethic, Steele only lasted one year.

The Cowboys were desperate. In 1980 Mike Hagen, a former Cowboys ballboy, made the papers by impressing coaches in training camp as he graced the cover of The Dallas Cowboys Weekly with his blond hair glistening in the sun. Despite the good-feel story, he didn’t make the team.

Unable to move up in the 1981 draft to land Chris Collinsworth (who did not have the prerequisite “Hollywood nose”) the Cowboys drafted a Golden Richards clone in Doug Donley, who, like Richards, had blond locks, tremendous speed, and brittle bones. Assigning him – you guessed it – #83, Donley was a suitable backup receiver who didn’t have the game changing abilities of Richards. When coach Landry surprisingly started him over Butch Johnson for a brief time in 1983, the infatuation was all too obvious.  Johnson, a superior receiver, voiced his frustrations and was dually traded the following year to the Houston Oilers for Mike Renfro. Not to be confused with Lover Boy lead singer Mike Reno, Mike Renfro was a tad earthier-looking but could produce where it counted – on the field. Dallas fizzled as the decade of the 80s wore on and the Cowboys gave up on the All-American Handsome Blond Receiver for good as the Landry regime came to an end.

The Cowboys went through a string of young hopefuls like Karl Powe, Leon Gonzales, Mike Sherrard, Kelvin Edwards, Cornell Burbage, Ray Alexander, and Everett Gay until Michael Irvin came along to restore order to the position. Maybe coach Landry just liked his wide receivers like he liked his women: fast and blond. Could you blame him?

P.S. Seems to me that measly Cole Beasley should’ve worn #83? Oh well. Many of the cards shown above are from Cowboys RetroCards sets already available or are from forthcoming sets. Check back often!
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The Match Game – Leaving Nothing Blank

RetroCards continues its assault on nostalgic collectors with more 1970s TV frivolity:  Introducing the all-new, star-studded, big-money Match Game set!  This daring and provocative collection of cards focuses on what many believe to be the best game show in television history.  The 1970s version of the show is full of colorful characters, orange shag carpeting, and wide ties that will cause that funky theme song to play in your head for the first time in ages.  The show was a revamped version of the black and white 60’s version of the show, but this time around, the new Match Game ’73 had a distinct nod to risqué humor and subtle double entendres.  The loose atmosphere and great chemistry between host Gene Rayburn and the celebrities quickly made it the most watched show on daytime television by 1974.

This RetroCards set focuses on the show’s celebrities and includes “stats” of total show appearances and years active on the show.  Where else but RetroCards can one obtain the Charles Nelson Reilly rookie card?  The 18-card sets includes all the show’s regulars and recurring guests such as Gene Rayburn, Richard Dawson, Brett Somers, Charles Nelson Reilly, Betty White, Fanny Flagg, Joyce Bulifant, Patty Deutch, and Marcia Wallace. Other featured stars included in this set are: Nipsy Russell, Elaine Joyce, Lee Merriweather, Debralee Scott, Gary Burghoff, Orson Bean, Jo Ann Pflug, Barbara Rhodes, Mary Ann Mobley, Bert Convy, Bill Daily, Dick Martin, and announcer Johnny Olsen. Get it here!

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Spotlight on Timmy Brown: Running Back, Singer, Actor

As an actor, Timothy Brown is seldom recognized as a former star football player.  Over shadowed by other football players-turned actor like Jim Brown and Fred Williamson, “Timmy” Brown was one of the stars of the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1960s.

After graduating from Ball State in Indiana in 1959, he was drafted by the Green Bay Packers.  With a glut of fine running backs already on the roster, it is hard to blame Vince Lombardi for letting Timmy Brown get away.  But I will blame him anyway.  Imagine a “speed back” running behind the famous Packer sweep.  No other Packer running back that followed or backed up Taylor and Hornung ever threatened becoming an All-Pro through the decade of the 60s.   Brown was signed by the Eagles where he played eight seasons racking up Eagle team records, Pro Bowl appearances, and All-Pro honors.  With the Eagles, Brown rushed for over 3,700 yards, caught 231 passes for 3,346 yards, and amassed nearly 5,000 return yards, while scoring 63 career touchdowns.  He flirted with a music recording career releasing one 45 in the Imperial label, but settled into acting full-time after a final season with the Baltimore Colts in 1968.

Now billed officially at “Timothy Brown,” he is most notable for his role in the 1970 film M*A*S*H, which led to him being cast in the TV show of the same name as Dr. Oliver Harmon “Spearchucker” Jones (a role that was eliminated upon finding out there were no black surgeons serving in Korea).  While appearing regularly in various television shows, he found a niche in Blaxploitation films of the 70s as sort of a B-version of Fred Williamson. RetroCards recognizes the multi-talented Timothy Brown with a smattering of cards filling out his fine career.  Many of these cards will be available in future sets.  Check back frequently for updates!

Timothy Brown Films:
M*A*S*H
Sweet Sugar
Black Gunn
Bonnie’s Kids
Girls Are For Loving
East Meets Watts (The Dynamite Brothers)
Nashville
Zebra Force
Black Heat
Gus
Midnight Ride

Timothy Brown TV Appearances:
Wild, Wild West
M*A*S*H
Mission: Impossible
I’ve Got A Secret
Adam–12
Mary Tyler Moore Show
S.W.A.T.
Cannon
The Rookies
T.J. Hooker
Mobile One
Benson
Gimme A Break
Remington Steele
The Colbys

 

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1958 Packers: Lombardi’s Inheritance

The 1958 season was definitely a low point in the storied history of the Green Bay Packers.   After a disappointing 3-9 season, and a sixth
place finish in the NFL’s Western Division in 1957, head coach Lisle Blackbourn resigned after four seasons.   Enter Raymond “Scooter”
McLean, who had been a Packers interim coach for two games in 1953, to take over the mantle of command for the 1958 season.   Although hope
springs eternal, the Packers would sink even deeper with a 1-10-1 record and a last place finish.

As the saying goes, “it is always darkest before the dawn.”   Despite the dismal season of 1958, a look at the roster would reveal a number of highly recognizable names.   In fact, it included those of six future Hall-of-Famers, and numerous other future All-Pros and gridiron greats of Packers lore.   The seeds of a championship franchise were waiting for the coming of a great leader who would arrive the following year.

RetroCards presents a new 18-card set featuring many of those “recognizable names.”  Would-be rookie cards, and second year cards of
Packers superstars include Forrest Gregg, Jim Taylor, Paul Hornung, Jerry Kramer, Max McGee, Ray Nitschke, and Ron Kramer. Other stars and notable
names “before Vince” include Tom Bettis, Bob Skoronski, Dave Hanner, Norm Masters, John Symank, and Fred Cone.  Lesser known players like John Petibone, Sam Palumbo, Fred Cone, Jim Temp, and Even Scooter himself gets his due in this set.  Order here!

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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!

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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!