RSS
 

Classic Sports Card of The Day

06 Sep

66toppsstratton

1966 Topps football card of former pro football linebacker Mike Stratton, who played 12 seasons in the American and National Football Leagues, all but one of them for the Buffalo Bills. He was a six-time AFL All Star selection and helped the Bills win AFL championships in 1964 and ’65. His “Hit Heard ‘Round The World” on San Diego’s Keith Lincoln in the ’64 title game lives on in Buffalo sports lore as it put Lincoln out for the game and helped lift the Bills to their first championship.

 

NFL – Throwback Thursday: The Packers Are Derailed

05 Sep

The Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers, two of the NFL’s oldest franchises who will have the honor of kicking off the league’s 100th season this week, will appropriately also be the featured teams for our initial Throwback Thursday post for 2019. The game between these 2 rivals won’t go the full 100 years into the past, but rather to the opening week of the 1963 season, at Green Bay’s City Stadium, which would later be named in honor of Packer great Curly Lambeau. It was September 15 of that year, which nowadays would be considered a late date to start the season, but there were only 14 games on the schedule, with no byes, at the time. Green Bay was coming off back-to-back NFL championships but had received bad news in April. Their star halfback, Paul Hornung, was suspended by commissioner Pete Rozelle, along with Detroit Lions defensive tackle Alex Karras, for “betting on league games and associating with gamblers and known hoodlums”. Taking on the Bears’ “Monsters of The Midway” defense was a huge task in itself but the loss of Hornung put coach Vince Lombardi’s troops at a major disadvantage. Of course, the Packer defense was of championship quality also, and they battled tooth and nail all day to keep their team in the game.

Chicago’s defense swarmed the Pack all day. They held their opponents to 150 yards of total offense for the game, intercepting Bart Starr 4 times and forcing 5 turnovers in all, keying on the other Green Bay runner, fullback Jim Taylor, to limit the Packers to 77 yards on the ground. With Hornung out, guard Jerry Kramer took over the placekicking duties for Green Bay and supplied them with their only points, a 41 yard field goal, in a 10-3 defensive struggle defeat. There were little to no big plays in the game. In fact, the only touchdown came on a one yard plunge by Joe Marconi of the Bears in the third quarter. Chicago took the momentum from this hard fought win over the defending champions and rode it all the way to the NFL title that year, winning the title game using the same defensive strategy in defeating the New York Giants 14-10. Despite the loss of their premier player in Hornung, Lombardi’s squad still pulled together and gave the Bears a run for their money in the Western Conference race, finishing at 11-2-1 compared to the Bears at 11-1-2. The difference in the standings was the 2 wins Chicago managed over the Packers, the only time George “Papa Bear” Halas, Chicago’s owner and coach, ever got the better of his long time friend and rival.

 

63bears

Coach Halas and the Bears celebrate the big win

 

Classic Team Logo of The Day

05 Sep

acmepackers

This is a logo of a pro football team from Wisconsin, originally sponsored by the Acme Packing Company, that eventually evolved into the NFL’s only community owned franchise, the Green Bay Packers. There were many “small town” teams when the NFL was founded in 1920, in fact all of them were, but the Packers are the only one still surviving. Their 13 NFL championships won are the most of any franchise. They were founded by Earl “Curly” Lambeau, and boast 26 Pro Football Hall of Famers, second to only the Chicago Bears. They include Lambeau, Vince Lombardi, Bart Starr, Don Hutson, Ray Nitschke, Herb Adderley, Johnny “Blood” McNally, Paul Hornung, Jim Taylor, Willie Davis, Tony Canadeo, Willie Wood, Dave Robinson, Brett Favre, Forrest Gregg, Jim Ringo, Reggie White and most recently, Jerry Kramer.

 

Classic Sports Card of The Day

05 Sep

62toppsatkins

1962 Topps football card of former NFL defensive end Doug Atkins, a massive 6’8″ man who enjoyed a long, successful 17 year career in pro football. He was a 10 time All Pro, made the Pro Bowl 8 times and was selected to the All Decade Team for the 1960s. He played most of his career with the Chicago Bears, helping them win a pair of NFL titles, in 1954 and 1963. He finished his playing days with the expansion New Orleans Saints, and despite playing only 3 seasons there, made the Pro Bowl in ’68 and had his jersey # 81 retired by the franchise. Atkins, who passed away in 2015, was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1982.

 

NFL 100 – Jim Brown

04 Sep

He played only 9 seasons in the NFL, but what an impactful 9 seasons they were. I’m talking about our next NFL 100 subject, former Cleveland Browns’ back Jim Brown. After a record-breaking college career at Syracuse, where he starred in both football and lacrosse (and reportedly was better at lacrosse than football), Brown was drafted by the Browns for the 1957 season. He won NFL Rookie of The Year that season and proceeded to 1.) lead the league in rushing 8 of his 9 seasons 2.) be named first or second team All Pro in all 9 seasons 3.) become the only player in NFL history to average over 100 yards per game for his career and 4.) be named NFL Most Valuable Player 3 times. Brown’s combination of size, speed and toughness were almost unheard of in the era he played, and it could be argued that he is one of just a handful of former players from earlier days who could play with the much larger, more athletic players of today. In fact, in 1983, Sports Illustrated did a story on the possibility of Brown making a comeback at age 47 with the Los Angeles Raiders, with the legend claiming he could dominate the players of the day even at his advanced age.

 

1983_jim-brown-of-the-raiders

A Jim Brown comeback at 47? It didn’t actually happen but nobody doubted that it could’ve

Another amazing fact about Brown’s career, and a major difference between the game of the 1960s and today, is that he actually played fullback. That position is all but forgotten in today’s game, or at best considered a blocking back spot. There are 6 players considered to be true fullbacks in the Hall of Fame, the most recent being Larry Csonka, whose career ended in 1979. Brown was both charismatic and controversial as a player, but above all he was his own man. He was at odds with his coach, NFL legend Paul Brown, at times due to Paul Brown’s rigid coaching style, and reportedly was behind a player revolt that got the coach fired prior to the 1963 season. Determined to prove his team could win without that rigid coaching, Jim Brown led the Browns to the NFL championship in 1964, still the most recent title the Browns have won. There was a story that during his playing days Brown brought a brief case into the locker room and when reporters asked him what it was for, he replied “I’m a businessman.” He was ridiculed in the press for that remark, with football players mainly being considered Neanderthals at the time, but Brown wasn’t kidding around. He became involved, along with other black athletes at the time like Muhammad Ali, Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul Jabbar, in the Civil Rights movement. He also became involved in movies. He was in a movie during his playing days called Rio Conchos, and in early 1966 was filming the movie The Dirty Dozen in London. Bad weather delayed the filming to the point that Brown would have to miss some of training camp, which angered owner Art Modell. When Modell threatened to fine his star fullback $1,500 a day for his absence, Brown abruptly announced his retirement from the game. He claimed the decision was easy, since he was making more money doing movies than playing in the NFL. He was in quite a few successful films, including Ice Station Zebra and 100 Rifles, where he actually had top billing over Burt Reynolds and Raquel Welch.

jimbrowndirty12

Jim Brown in The Dirty Dozen

Jim Brown is still my favorite football player of all time, a childhood hero of many who grew up in the 1960s. He is still regularly named the greatest player of all time by various surveys over 50 years after his playing days ended. There’s an argument to be made for the likes of Jerry Rice and Tom Brady but for overall impact to the sport, Jim Brown tops my list of greatest players in the NFL’s 100 year history.

jimbrownmud

Another day at the office for Jim Brown

 

Classic Team Logo of The Day

04 Sep

browns4858

Logo of a team that plays in the National Football League, the Cleveland Browns. This “Brownie” logo has been associated with the team since 1948, but this particular version, with the Brownie elf wearing a champion’s crown, was used during their years in the All America Football Conference, when they won all 4 titles in the league’s existence, through 1959. They also won the NFL title in their first year being incorporated into the established league in 1950 under their founder and coach, Paul Brown.

 

Classic Sports Card of The Day

04 Sep

61fleerjimbrown

1961 Fleer football card of the greatest NFL player of all time, Cleveland Browns’ fullback Jim Brown. He played only 9 seasons in the league before retiring to make movies, but those 9 years were amazing. Brown led the league in rushing 8 of his 9 seasons, was Rookie of The Year in 1957, was a three time NFL MVP, named All Pro all 9 years of his career, was named to the All Decade team of the 1960s and led the Browns to an NFL Championship in 1964. He used his fame to help the cause of the Civil Rights movement in the ’60s and still champions causes to help troubled youth today. He also enjoyed a successful acting career, and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971.

 

NFL 100 – George “Papa Bear” Halas

03 Sep

The National Football League is celebrating it’s 100th season in 2019, and Rayonsports.com, in addition to our annual weekly Throwback Thursday features each week, will publish articles, as many as 3 per week, highlighting topics and people that played important roles in developing the game that has grown into America’s Game, the true national pastime. This week, the opening week of the season, the NFL chose perhaps the 2 most iconic franchises, and long time rivals in the league, to open it’s historic season – the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers. Our initial “NFL 100” post will therefore feature the father of pro football, Bears’ founder, owner and coach George “Papa Bear” Halas. Halas’ daughter, Virginia McCaskey, is still the Bears’ principal owner to this day, and the Halas family name dates back to the origins of the pro football league.

 

1920hupmobile

At Hays’ dealership, you could buy a 1920 Hupmobile, or a pro football franchise

The legendary story of the founding of the NFL will be told many times by many media outlets during this 100th season. It all started with a meeting of representatives of various barnstorming football clubs of the era, who played in different regional leagues with different rules, at a Hupmobile dealership in Canton, Ohio. The dealership was owned by Ralph Hays, who also owned the highly successful Canton Bulldogs football club. In a pair of meetings held at the dealership in August and September of 1920, the American Professional Football Association was formed. It would later evolve into what is now the National Football League. One of the 11 teams that was part of the newly formed professional league was the Decatur Staleys, and their founder and owner was Halas. After a hip injury ended a brief pro baseball career (17 games as a New York Yankee outfielder), he joined the Staleys as a player/coach. He moved the club to Chicago in 1921 and after baseball’s Chicago Cubs agreed to let the gridiron team use Wrigley Field as its’ home stadium, Halas changed his team’s name to the Bears as a tribute. To say this man was a giant of the game is an understatement. He was Bears’ owner for 63 years, and their coach for 40 of those years, winning 8 championships. He won his last title in 1963, and was a member of the inaugural Pro Football Hall of Fame class in 1963 also, even though the Hall generally has a 5 year waiting period for eligibility. Halas passed away in 1983, but gave the Chicago franchise one last gift in 1982 when he made a controversial hire to be the team’s next head coach – former Bear tight end Mike Ditka. Ditka turned out to be the right man for the job as he guided the 1985 “Super Bowl Shuffle” Bears to the Super Bowl championship, the team’s first title since Halas’ last in ’63.

Halas’ name is forever etched in NFL lore, as the National Conference champion each year is awarded the George Halas Trophy. Also, the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton is located on George Halas Drive.

 

george-halas-1_original

George Halas, NFL legend

 

Classic Team Logo of The Day

03 Sep

bears100

Not many National Football League teams can boast that they have a special 100 year logo for this historic season, but the Chicago Bears are one of those rare teams. Founded by George “Papa Bear” Halas in 1920 as the Decatur Staleys, the “Monsters of The Midway” are one of the league’s most iconic franchises. They have had many great players don their uniforms over those 100 years, including the most Hall of Famers, 28, of any NFL team. That list includes Halas, Sid Luckman, Bronko Nagurski, Red Grange, Bulldog Turner, Walter Payton, Dick Butkus, Gale Sayers, Mike Ditka, Bill George, Doug Atkins, Mike Singletary, Dan Hampton and Richard Dent. The team has also had a number of memorable players who were not Hall of Fame caliber, like Jim McMahon, William “The Refrigerator” Perry, Brian Piccollo and Devin Hester.

 

Classic Sports Card of The Day

03 Sep

49leafluckman

1949 Leaf football card of a National Football League legendary quarterback, Sid Luckman of the Chicago Bears. After a stellar college career at Columbia University, Bears’ owner George Halas wanted him for his team, but Luckman initially wasn’t interested in pro football, preferring to go work for his father’s trucking company. Halas convinced him otherwise, and Luckman went on to revolutionize the pro game running a T-formation offense that won 4 NFL titles in the 1940s. Besides being a four-time champ, Luckman was a five-time All Pro, NFL MVP in 1943, was named to the All Decade team for the 1940s and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1965. He passed away at the age of 81 in 1998.