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Classic Sports Card of The Day

21 Dec

1972 Topps football card of former pro running back Willie Ellison, whose NFL career lasted 8 seasons in the NFL, most of those coming with the Los Angeles Rams. His biggest season came in 1971, when he was named to the Pro Bowl and also set a new single game rushing record against the Saints. After his playing career ended he worked as a substitute teacher in Texas. Ellison passed away in 2019 at the age of 73.

 

NFL – Throwback Thursday: The Original 12th Man?

14 Dec

This week’s Throwback Thursday post features a game played between 2 old American Football League rivals who meet on the schedule for week 15, the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs. It was played on November 3, 1961 in the fledgling league’s second year of existence, when they were still mocked by the established NFL as a “Mickey Mouse” league. This game probably helped that reputation along, based on an incident that took place. The New England team was still known as the Boston Patriots at the time, and the Chiefs were still the Dallas Texans, 2 years removed from their eventual relocation to Kansas City.

The contest was played at the Patriots’ home field at the time, Nickerson Field. For some reason it was a common practice for teams to switch quarterbacks within games back then, and that strategy worked out for Boston in this contest. In the opening quarter Butch Songin found Jim Colclough from 14 yards out for a touchdown, then Babe Parilli came into the game and threw a 7 yarder for a score to Gino Cappelletti and the Patriots were off and running with a 14-0 lead. The Texans found an answer before the first stanza ended as their signal caller, Cotton Davidson, tossed a 42 yard touchdown pass to Chris Burford, who finished the game with 7 receptions for 137 yards, to cut the lead to 14-7. The only scoring in the second quarter also came from the Texans, as early AFL star Abner Haynes scored from 3 yards out to tie the game.

Boston got a bit of luck to regain the lead in the third quarter. They drove down into Dallas territory but fumbled the ball at the goal line. Parilli smartly picked up the loose ball and carried it the last yard into the end zone to put his club ahead 21-14. Davidson answered with a 40 yard bomb to Bo Dickinson for the tying score, but the draw didn’t last long as Ron Burton returned the ensuing kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown to put the Pats back ahead 28-21. The third quarter now ended, and there was to be no more points for either team in the final quarter. Davidson did drive his team to the Boston goal line in an attempt to gain a tie, but that’s when the infamous play documented in the video below took place. On the game’s last play, a fan, who would become known as “Trench Coat Man, entered the playing field and unbeknownst to the officials, helped break up a pass into the end zone. So I guess in retrospect the AFL introduced more than just the innovations of a wide open passing game, player names on the back of jerseys and the 2 point conversion. They also were the first to have the “12th Man”, in this case literally helping the team win.

 

 

The “12th man” makes a play for the Patriots’ defense

 

Classic Team Logo of The Day

14 Dec

Logo of a football team that played in the old Continental Football League, the Montreal Beavers. The team began play in the league as the Ft. Wayne Warriors but was sold and moved to Montreal in 1966. The franchise lasted 2 seasons there before folding prior to the 1968 season. Some former Beavers include Mike Hafner, Jim LeClair, Ronnie Lamb and Bob Brown, all of whom went on to play in the AFL or NFL.

 

Classic Sports Card of The Day

14 Dec

1962 Fleer football card of former pro halfback Ron Burton, who played 6 seasons in the American Football League for the Boston Patriots, the first 6 years of the team’s existence from 1960 to 1965. He was one of the new league’s early stars and excelled with the Pats as a runner and kick returner. Burton’s 4 children are all successful. He has 2 sons, Paul and Steve, who work in Boston area media, another son, Ron Jr. who is director of community relations for the Boston Red Sox, and a daughter, Veronica, who plays for the WNBA’s Dallas Wings. Burton passed away in 2003.

 

NFL – Throwback Thursday: Raiders Win The “Big One”

07 Dec

This week’s NFL schedule includes a matchup of the Las Vegas Raiders and Minnesota Vikings, 2 of pro football’s winningest regular season franchises of the 1960s and ’70s. Unfortunately, neither could finish the job, and gained the reputation of not being able to “win the big one”. To this day, the Vikings still haven’t achieved the feat, while the Raiders exorcised the demon in the game we’ll feature for this week’s Throwback Thursday. It was Super Bowl XI, played on January 9, 1977, at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. It was the second Super Bowl appearance for the Raiders, who lost to Green Bay in the second such title game, and the fourth (and to this day still the last) attempt at winning the “big one” for Minnesota.

Oakland coach John Madden had always had his team at or near the top of the regular season standings in the AFC, but were forced to play second fiddle to the dominating Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steeler teams in the first half of the decade of the ’70s. They finally slayed the Steeler dragon in the 1976 AFC championship game, and would now get their chance to climb to the top of the NFL mountain. The Vikings, always known for having exceptional special teams, got the game’s first break when Matt Blair blocked a punt to give the Raiders the ball deep in Oakland territory, but a fumble at the 1 yard line ruined that break. After a scorelees first quarter, the Raiders took command. They used a relentless rushing attack, led by Clarence Davis, to pound away at the aging Viking defense to secure the next four scores of the contest – a pair of Errol Mann field goals sandwiching a 1 yard Ken Stabler to Dave Casper touchdown pass and a 1 yard Pete Banaszak run, giving Oakland a 19-0 lead. Minnesota’s offense, stifled for most of the first 3 quarters, finally put together a drive that culminated with an 8 yard Fran Tarkenton to Sammy White scoring pass to cut the lead to 19-7. White, one of Tarkenton’s top receivers, had been held without a catch in the first half, and was almost killed when he caught a pass over the middle by the Raiders’ Jack Tatum, known as “The Assassin” and a guy who always played on the edge.

 

Clarence Davis, the real MVP of Super Bowl XI?

 

Banaszak scored again on a 2 yard run and when Willie Brown picked off a desperation Tarkenton pass and returned it 75 yards for a touchdown, the final nail was driven into the Vikings’ coffin for the day. Minnesota scored a late garbage time touchdown to make the final score 32-14, but Oakland and coach Madden claimed their first title in dominating fashion. Davis was the star rusher in the win, accumulating 137 yards on 16 carries, but the game’s MVP award went to Fred Biletnikoff, who had key receptions on scoring drives among his 4 grabs for 79 yards.  After a couple more seasons Madden would retire as a coach and go into broadcasting and video games, but his replacement, former Raider QB Tom Flores, would pick up the reins and win 2 more “big games” for the Raiders in the early 1980s.

 

“Old man Willie, he’s gonna go all the way!”

 

Classic Team Logo of The Day

07 Dec

Logo of a pro football team that lasted less than a full season in the old defunct World Football League back in 1974, the New York Stars. The WFL wanted a team in the Big Apple, but this franchise was woefully underfunded. They used the New York market to bring in a pair of former New York Jets players, George Sauer, who was lured out of retirement, and Gerry Philbin. Their first head coach was Joe Namath’s former backup quarterback Babe Parilli. Despite compiling a winning record of 8-5, the team failed at the box office and was moved to Charlotte for the rest of the season, eventually morphing into the Charlotte Hornets.

 

Classic Sports Card of The Day

07 Dec

1978 Topps football card of former pro tight end Dave Casper, who played 11 seasons in the NFL, mostly for the Oakland Raiders. Nicknamed “The Ghost”, he was a four-time All Pro and five time Pro Bowler, a member of the NFL’s All Decade team of the 1970s, and a member of the Raiders’ first Super Bowl champion team in 1976. Casper was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2002. He works as a financial planner and business consultant today.

 

NFL – Throwback Thursday: King Of The Hill

30 Nov

This week 2 old NFL franchises meet in a battle of top teams in the National Conference this season – the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers. Our Throwback Thursday feature game, played between these clubs, took place on November 20, 1966 at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium. Both teams were non-contenders at the time, with Eagles entering the game with a 5-5 record while the Niners were barely above water at 4-3-2. They managed to put on a pretty good show this particular week, however. The home team jumped out to a 10-0 lead on a Tommy Davis field goal paired with an 11 yard touchdown pass from John Brodie to running back Ken Willard. Earl Gros, the Eagles’ fullback, cut into the lead with a 1 yard touchdown plunge, but the 49ers countered with another 10 point surge before halftime as Willard scored again, this time from a yard out, and Davis added another three pointer.

The Eagles came out storming in the second half behind their crew cut quarterback, King Hill. He fired a 15 yard scoring strike to tight end Pete Retzlaff, only to be matched by Brodie, who threw 30 yards to John David Crow for a score, putting San Francisco ahead 27-14. Hill kept his club close with another TD strike to Retzlaff of 10 yards. Gary Lewis then scored on a 2 yard run to end the third quarter, with the Niners now ahead by a commanding 34-21. Philly owned the final quarter, cutting the lead to 34-28 with some help from their defense – a Jim Nettles interception returned for a touchdown. Hill then sealed the deal for a 35-34 comeback win for the Eagles when he connected with an aging future Hall of Famer, Ollie Matson, on a short 4 yard TD pass. It was a sweet moment for Matson, who was winding down the final season of a brilliant 14 year career. It was also a bright spot in the ’66 season for Hill, as he was making 1 of only 2 starts he got that year in place of Norm Snead. Philadelphia finished that season strong, winning out the last 3 games after this to wind up 9-5 for the year, tied for second place with Cleveland in the Eastern Division.

 

1966 Eagles’ offense, with King Hill under center

 

 

 

Classic Team Logo of The Day

30 Nov

Older logo of a college football team that plays in the Pioneer League, the Drake University Bulldogs. Their gridiron program began play in 1893 and they’ve been a Pioneer League member since 1993. The Bulldogs have won 14 conference titles and a national championship in 1922. Drake alumni who have enjoyed pro football careers include Billy Cundiff, Karl Kassulke, Felix Wright, Dan Turk, Pug Manders, Jerry Mertens, Eric Saubert and Dennis McKnight.

 

Classic Sports Card of The Day

30 Nov

1962 Topps football card of former pro quarterback and punter King Hill, who played 11 seasons in the NFL for 3 different teams. The top pick of the 1958 NFL draft, he had most of his success with the Philadelphia Eagles but never achieved the notoriety of a top draft pick. Hill was instrumental in the Players’ Association in the 1960s and helped negotiate the first ever collective bargaining agreement. After his playing days ended he served as an assistant coach in Houston and New Orleans and in the scouting department with Philadelphia. Hill passed away in 2012 at the age of 75.