Sunday, July 31, 2011

#9 - CLARENCE ELLIS, S, Falcons

Clarence Ellis gets the award as having the first individual card with an airbrushed jersey. Best guess is that picture is from the 1972 College All-Star game, Topps used several photos from the College All-Stars in the 1972 set, non-airbrushed.

Ellis was a great player at Notre Dame, even if Ara P didn't say so himself on the back of the card. The Notre Dame website says he was voted one of the top 25 Irish since 1970, not bad at all. He was a consensus All-American in 1971, picked off 7 passes in the 1970 season.

After being picked first by the Falcons, Ellis stayed for three years, getting a couple interceptions per season. This is his rookie card. Topps would skip a year and bring him back in 1975, at another low number card (18).

He wouldn't play anywhere in the NFL in 1975. Googling up some newspaper articles, we find that Ellis had asked to be traded, which he was, to Denver for Jerry Simmons and more. About a month later the Sarasota newspaper mentions Ellis going in for minor left knee surgery. Minor knee surgery in 1975 does NOT equal minor knee surgery in 2011.

In September of 1975, in a Miami newspaper artice, Ellis is listed as out for the season. In July of 1976, after failing a team physical, Ellis became a free agent after passing through waivers.

In 1979. Ellis lost a lawsuit brought against the NFL for negligence. The AP article stated the Colorado court agreed with the broncos' claim that "Ellis failed to comply with the mandatory arbitration requirements of his contract and his personal injury claims were barred by reason of the Colorado Workmen's Compensation Act." And that was that.

So when you hear about the NFL veterans trying to get a little compensation for the injuries suffered in the "older days" of pro football, now you can see how the players were treated in the court system back in the day.

The matter what position the player is at (Freitas was an OL) he is always HUGE and carrying a football.

Monday, July 25, 2011

#8 - MEL TOM, DE, Eagles

What a great picture of Mel Tom. His uniform has a very odd color to it, a washout green reminiscent of what a washout the 1972 Eagles season was.

Tom had been with the Eagles since 1967, but Topps didn't get around to a card for him until 1973. He had been on the 1972 Sunoco Stamp set for the Eagles. As his career would have it, Tom would go to the Bears during the 1973 season. He would have to wait a year for his last Topps card, a mustachioed picture of him looking quite different than the regal form here. He also was on a 1975 Wonder Bread card.  After playing just a few games for the Bears in 1975, he was done. Wikipedia at one time listed Tom as the first native-born Hawaiian to make the NFL, but that is not true. Charley Ane was a Giant ten years before Tom was drafted.

According to Pro Football Reference, one of the most similar careers to his was Eagles teammate Gary Pettigrew.

Now to the 1972 Eagles. They finished 2-11-1, having started the season 0-5. They beat the Chiefs by one, lost to the Saints, tied the Cardinals 6-6 (!!!!), beat the Oilers by one, then lost five straight to finish the season.

One of their losses was a 62-10 thrashing by the Giants. Another loss, 28-7 to the Cowboys, saw them get only 6 yards net passing for the game. QB John Reaves threw for 85 yards on the plus side, and he was sacked 9 times for a loss of  79 yards. Net gain: 6 yards.

 In that game, Dallas scored TWO safeties on Eagles punting plays, and Cowboy guard John Niland scored a TD on a fumble recovery in the end zone.

The Eagles were a much better offensive team the next season due to some key acquisitions and the emphasis on different players under a new coach, but the 1972 team was just not very good at all.

The cartoon's growling dog refers to the "rover" defensive scheme that the Giants used in 1972. It helps the Giants to a, yes, 2-11-1 record. That dog needed a muzzle.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

#7 - BOB TRUMPY, TE, Bengals

Bob Trumpy was a fine TE for the Bengals from their inception until 1977. The college he was drafted from was Utah, as the card says, but he started college at Illinois. After not cutting it academically (he has been less generous to himself in describing what happened) at Illinois, he went to Utah.

In 1972 he had the most passes caught in a season for his career, second on a pass-happy Bengals team. In 1969 he averaged 22 yards per catch, and in 1971 he lined up occasionally as a WR. He finished with 298 catches, averaging over 15 yards each time. His best comparisons career-wise according to Pro Football Reference include Billy Joe DuPree, Steve Jordan, Alge Crumpler and Keith Jackson, some pretty good company. After he retired, Trumpy went successfully into broadcasting, first on TV football casts on NBC, then to radio. He was on the TV broadcasts of a couple Super Bowls, and has done several other sport events over the years.

This card has a picture taken fro the same set of photos his 1972 card came from. Topps would simply re-use Trumpy's 1975 cards photo for his 1976 final card photo. His rookie card came out in 1970, then Topps skipped a year with him (1971 was another odd year for Topps subject choices in a small set) before issuing cards from 1972-1976 for Trumpy.

Topps had all sorts of trouble with Bengals cards in the team's early years. In 1968, as an expansion, the Bengals pictured all had different uniforms on. In the messy 1969 set, again, none of the Bengals were given shots with Cincinnati uniforms on.

The 1970 cards re-used blurry head shots from the 1969 Glendale stamps set for the few Bengals used at all, Trumpy no exception (Eric Crabtree was pictured in a clear shot, but a different uniform). The worst of these was QB Greg Cook, who had been a rookie sensation, whose blurred photo was used not only for his regular card, but for his glossy, Topps Super, and Kellogg's 3D cards as well! Cook would not get another Topps card as his career was cut short by injury.

In 1971, none of the Bengals featured in the first series were pictures in Bengal uniforms. In the second series, four Bengals were pictured in head shots, fuzzy quality once again, actually in white team uniforms. Two Bengals, Virgil Carter (whose Topps story is a bit strange - we'll get to him later) and Steve Chomyszak were in different team's uniforms. Chomyszak was in a Jets uniform...he had played only two games for them in 1966! He had been on the Bengals since 1968, yet Topps couldn't be bothered to get a picture from the last three years! I'm just one card away from the 1971 set, that deserves it's own blog.

Finally, in 1972, Topps featured all Bengals players in Cincinnati uniforms in good quality pictures. Fifth time's the charm!

The Dutchman Van Brocklin looks awfully burly to be a QB in the cartoon....

Sunday, July 17, 2011


This is the last of the leaders cards for 1973, and the first time Topps put out a punting leader card. Heck for years, Topps wouldn't even acknowledge that punter was a position! Punter specialists were listed as QBs or halfbacks or just backs. Punting stats were on the backs of some cards, but they were not listed as punters only.

In 1968 and 1969, punters got their own cards, but their position was listed as KICKERS. That gave a couple teams two kickers, like the Vikings in 1968 with Fred Cox and Bobby Walden. In 1970 Topps finally relented and cards #185 and #222 were PUNTERS Dennis Partee (who, ironically was also a placekicker) and David Lee. So having a punting leaders card show up just a couple years after Topps finally recognized the position was a victory for punters everywhere!

Dave Chapple is airbrushed into an oddly blue outfit, and that might have been a Bills uni as he played one game for them in 1971. Jerrell Wilson is one of the all-time great punters, you see him right after booting yet another 50-yarder in practice.

On the NFC side on the back, John James finished second in punting but did NOT get a card. HE would wait another year for his rookie Topps card, and would later get a Record Breaker card in 1975, and an All-Pro card in 1976. Strange omission.

Jim McCann would never have a Topps card. He came out of Arizona State and was the regular punter for the 49ers for two years, 1971 and 1972. He floated to the Giants in 1973 and averaged an ugly 24.5 yards/kick and had 3 of his 12 punts blocked. Not good to lead the league in blocks when you only kick 12 times. He got one last chance with the Chiefs in 1975 far a few games as a fill-in and averaged 35.2 in 14 kicks with one block.

Everyone else on this card got their own solo card in 1973. Several on the list played other positions, Bill Bradley led the league in interceptions, Dan Pastorini was a QB, Bill Van Heusen and Larry Seiple were listed on their cards as punters but both were used quite a bit as receivers. Partee and Don Cockroft were among the last combo punter-placekickers in the NFL.

Next up: individual player cards!

Saturday, July 16, 2011


This marked the first time that Topps issued an Interception Leaders card. One the front, you have the angelic-looking Bill Bradley (not the basketball-playing politico) of the Eagles, and Mike Sensibaugh of the Chiefs, looking as if Bradley just passed gas.

Topps found it a little rougher go on the back that the other leader cards...finding a top ten when the leaders don't even HAVE ten we get shortened lists and "players tied with" line.

In the AFC list, the only player to not get his own card in the set was MLB Ken Lee of the Bills. He only played two years, 1971 and 1972, and drops off the pro football planet after that 6 interception season. The Hawaiian-born Lee was with the Lions in 1971, and started 6 games for the Bills in 1972. His 6 picks went for 155 yards and a TD.

On the NFC side, Charlie Waters would have to wait until 1975 to get his first card. Tom Hayes would never get a Topps card, despite an awfully interesting career. (He is on the 1972 Sunoco stamp set at the great Vintage Football Card Gallery here.) In 1971, Hayes scored three touchdowns, one on a fumble return, and TWO on blocked punt returns. He had two interception return TDs for the Falcons in 1973, and one more for the Chargers in 1976. The cornerback finished his career that year in San Diego (he had gone to San Diego State). Given some of Topps choices for cards over the years, Hayes is a strange one to ignore.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Here we have the 1972 Scoring Leaders, featuring 12-year-old Chester Marcol and 88-year-old Bobby Howfield.

This is actually the first card for both, 1972 being Marcol's rookie season, and Howfield not getting a card though he'd been around since 1968. Marcol, originally from Poland, is airbrushed green apparently in a picture of him in a College All-Stars jersey. A LOT of those were seen in the 1972 set. Howfield, originally from England, is coming off his career year by FAR.

Every player on the back is represented in the set except Toni (misspelled Tony on the card) Fritsch. He would not get his own card until 1974, though he was on the team in 1971. Mike Clark got the card nod then as Dallas kicker.

Notice, too, that Ron Johnson guy is there again from the Giants. That makes three of the first four cards his name appeared on.

This is a very green card.

Saturday, July 9, 2011


Ugh please excuse the cockeyed scan of the back, I'll get the hang of this yet. That is a pinhole above the N on the front of the card, the only scar on a nice example.

The receivers are well represented here, listed by number of receptions rather than yardage. Harold Jackson, classy wide receiver from the Eagles at the time, was nicely ahead in the NFC, while Fred Biletnikoff (with the 70's long hair) edged out Otis Taylor of the Chiefs and Chip Myers (!) of the Bengals by just one catch in the AFC.

There is a good sprinkling of tight ends, WRs, and running backs on the lists. With Norm Snead winning the NFC passing title, you'd think there would be a few Giants and there are, TE Bob Tucker and RB Ron Johnson (see the Rushing Leaders card). The 49ers get a pair of  unrelated Washingtons, Gene and Vic in the top 10.

In the AFC, no Dolphins. They just didn't pass that often. The Chiefs had two, Taylor and RB Ed Podolak; the Chargers had the "Grey Ghost" Gary Garrison and RB Cid Edwards; and the Bengals would have two-and-a-half, with Myers, TE Bob Trumpy, and RB Fred Willis, who went to the Oilers during the season. Willis would lead the AFC in receiving while with the Oilers later on.

One sad note, the Colts leading receiver was TE Tom Mitchell. He had pretty much replaced John Mackey at that point. The Hall of Famer Mackey passed away very recently.

The only player on the back to not get a 1973 card was Bob Newland of the Saints, he would have to wait until 1974 for his rookie card. Topps made some strange choices of Saints to feature in 1973...more on that to come!

Big thanks to Johngy for being follower #1! He's always got great stuff on his page, please check it out!

Friday, July 8, 2011


Well after getting card #1 with those great running backs leading the way, you would expect REAL greatness in card #2 and passing leaders. Well...

You get Norm Snead, a perfectly good player for the Giants at the time, and Earl Morrall for the Dolphins. On the back you see a sideways accounting of some sort of bizarro world algebra that decided the top passers of 1972. I didn't understand it when I was 7, and I don't understand it now.

We couldn't even use this card as a checklist of great quarterbacks to look for in the packs! Daryle Lamonica didn't get a card in 1973 and Roman Gabriel's situation was a real mess for Topps.

Morrall ended up playing a lot for the eventual World Champion Dolphins due to an injury to Bob Griese. Unfortunately, Topps couldn't get a picture of him in a Dolphin uniform. Morrall's high number 1972 card has him in a Colts uni and I believe his 1973 close-up shot does too. Here they re-used his shot from the 1972 set and painted his uniform a weird blue hue that I'm sure was all the rage in the early 70's, but wasn't very close to the Dolphin blue.

To our young minds, this card made no sense. Where was Roger Staubach (Craig Morton was the Cowboy representative on the list) and Terry Bradshaw (absent)? Who were John Reaves and Dennis Shaw? Was Bob Berry really a better quarterback than Fran Tarkenton??

Sunday, July 3, 2011


1973 Marked the second year Topps put league leaders in their football sets, and the first to put both AFC and NFC leaders on the same card. When I first got this card way back in '73 I thought it was the greatest thing. First of all, here's O.J. - pre-2000 yard season and all them legal trouble things, looking young and halfbacky (new word for you) and every bit the superstar. Second, here's Larry Brown...just off the Super Bowl all big and fullbacky (spell checker hates me). And on the back...

A handy list of all the great running backs in the league!...Hey! What's that Bobby Douglass guy doing there? Douglass, the Bears QUARTERBACK was a strong-armed big fullbacky guy that was all the Bears running attack after Gale Sayers was retired.

Back in 1972, 1000 yards in a season was an amazing feat...and so many made it! Csonka and Morris of the champs (HAD to get the Mercury Morris, one of the most fun cards of the set)...Brockington of my favorite Packers...some guy Ron Johnson of the Giants....Mike Garrett....the guys used these league leader cards as checklists to get the best players in the league. Most of us were still too young to really KNOW most of the players...but if they were LEAGUE LEADERS they must be good.

The Packers (who almost never threw the ball in 1972), Cowboys and Falcons each had two players in the top ten in the NFC while the Dolphins (who also rarely threw) were the only two-player team in the AFC (and that didn't include Jim Kiick).

The number 1000 was fully ingrained in us as kids with this card and the RECEIVING LEADERS cards...if the player was at or near that magic mark, he was worth hanging onto.