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Classic Sports Card of The Day

31 Dec

1997 Fleer football card of former pro football running back Karim Abdul-Jabbar, who played 5 seasons in the NFL, mostly for the Miami Dolphins. He led the Dolphins in rushing yardage his first 2 seasons with the team, and also led the NFL in touchdowns in 1997 when he scored 16 times. Born Sharmon Shah, the devout Muslim had his name changed by his Imam, but confusion with the famous basketball player led to controversy, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar eventually sued the Miami back. He changed his name again, and now goes by Abdul-Kareem al-Jabbar.

 
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NFL – Throwback Thursday: Growing Pains

24 Dec

It’s week 16 for the NFL season and the battle for playoff positioning is on. One of the important matchups with playoff implications is between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts. We’ll feature these 2 franchises in this week’s Throwback Thursday post. The game chosen was played on Halloween, October 31, 1971. It was played at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium, where the Colts were located at the time. Baltimore was enjoying another fine season after having won the Super Bowl the previous year, while the Steelers, perennial losers in the 1960s, were in their third season under coach Chuck Noll. The team would gradually be built into the dominant force in the NFL in the 1970s, but at this point were still suffering some growing pains, and were a couple years, plus a couple more excellent drafts, from reaching that status.

The Colts opened the scoring on a 1 yard plunge by Norm Bulaich, then added a pair of field goals by their Super Bowl hero of the previous season, kicker Jim O’Brien, to go up 13-0. A young Terry Bradshaw engineered a drive that he climaxed himself with a short touchdown run to get Pittsburgh on the board. The Colts proceeded to own the rest of the first half as their veteran quarterback, Earl Morrall, connected with Willie Richardson on a pair of touchdown throws of 19 and 49 yards. Morrall continued Baltimore’s dominance in the third quarter as he hit Ray Perkins for a 60 yard touchdown. The Steelers now found themselves in a 34-7 hole that they weren’t capable of digging their way out of. In a sign of things to come in the future, Bradshaw showed some growth in his game as he continued to fight the battle against heavy odds. He found Ron Shanklin for a 31 yard touchdown, then scored on a short run by himself for the only score of the final quarter to make the final score a somewhat more respectable 34-21 margin for the Colts.

A look back at that season finds that the outcome of this game was fairly predictable. Baltimore was a seasoned veteran team, with players like Morrall, John Unitas, Tom Matte, John Mackey, Mike Curtis, Rick Volk and Bubba Smith to lean on. Pittsburgh’s future dynasty was still in its infancy. Bradshaw’s offensive options were backs Frenchy Fuqua and Preston Pearson, and his receivers the likes of Shanklin, Jon Staggers and Frank Lewis. Super Bowl stalwarts like Franco Harris, Lynn Swann and John Stallworth were still a few years away.

 

A young Terry Bradshaw leads his Steelers against the Colts

 

 

 

 
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Classic Team Logo of The Day

24 Dec

Logo of a Historically Black College (HBCU) football team that plays in the West Division of the Southwestern Athletic Conference, the Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions. The school began play in 1916 and has won a couple of recent division titles. Former Golden Lions who have played pro football include L.C. Greenwood, Manny Sistrunk, Robert Brown, Willie Frazier, Mike Lewis, Terry Nelson, Wallace Francis and Dante Wesley.

 
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Classic Sports Card of The Day

24 Dec

1968 Topps football card of former NFL wide receiver Willie Richardson, who enjoyed a 9 year career in the league, most notably with the Baltimore Colts. He was twice named to the Pro Bowl and also a two-time All Pro, in 1967 and ’68, and helped the Colts win the NFL title in ’68. His younger brother Gloster Richardson also played in the league. Richardson passed away in 2016 at the age of 76.

 
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NFL – Throwback Thursday: A Century Shootout

17 Dec

The Cleveland Browns and New York Giants clash on this week’s NFL schedule, so for the Throwback Thursday feature we’ll explore a game played on October 29, 1967 between these 2 franchises, back when they were bitter rivals in the league. They had long been Eastern Conference opponents who battled each other for supremacy, but things were slightly different in the ’67 season. The NFL had merged with the American Football League the prior year, with the 2 leagues becoming one starting in 1970. With that being the case, along with the addition of Atlanta and New Orleans as expansion franchises, the league split their 16 teams into 4 divisions with names that all began with the letter “C” – Century, Capitol, Central and Coastal. The Browns and Giants, and also the Cardinals and Steelers, were assigned to the Century. The Cardinals were on the decline and the Steelers were perennial losers in the 1960s, so it was left to the Browns and Giants to renew their rivalry, now as Century Division opponents.

The Browns came into Yankee Stadium sporting a 4-2 record while the G-men were right behind them at 3-3. Cleveland, with most of their championship club intact from a few years earlier, came in as the favorites. Jim Brown had been retired for a full year, but the Browns replaced him with another future Hall of Famer in Leroy Kelly. The Giants were in the midst of a dismal period, but made a bold attempt to improve their standing in the off-season by trading for scrambling quarterback Fran Tarkenton. The Browns owned the opening quarter. With New York’s defense concentrating on stopping Kelly and the ground attack, Cleveland quarterback Frank Ryan went to the air, connecting with flanker Gary Collins for a 14 yard touchdown. Lou “The Toe” Groza, the Browns’ aging placekicker, added a short field goal to put his club up 10-0. Tarkenton and the Giants’ offense came to life in the second quarter. The mad scrambler ran 15 yards for his team’s first score, and Tucker Frederickson scored from 3 yards out to give New York a 14-10 lead. Kelly’s 8 yard touchdown run put Cleveland back on top, but Tarkenton was just getting warmed up.

He found his tight end, Aaron Thomas, open for a 32 yard touchdown and a 21-17 Giant halftime lead. Tarkenton never missed a beat as the second half unfolded. He threw a pair of touchdown passes, of 30 and 12 yards, to Joe Morrison and, now holding a 35-17 lead, it looked like a New York rout was on. The Browns were a proud club in those days, and they were far from finished. Groza cut into the lead with another field goal, then Ryan turned to his other receiving threat, Paul Warfield. The cerebral Cleveland signal caller hit the future Hall of Fame wideout on consecutive scoring throws of 33 and 32 yards, and suddenly the Giants’ lead was cut to a single point at 35-34. New York’s defense stiffened after that, and Pete Gogolak added a late field goal to secure a 38-34 win. The victory moved the Giants into a tie in the standings with Cleveland at 4-3, and celebrated contributions from Thomas, who snagged 5 Tarkenton aerials for 110 yards, and their ground game, with Tarkenton’s scrambles and hard running from Frederickson and Ernie Koy totaling 137 yards on the ground. Cleveland got a huge game from Warfield, who burned the Giants’ secondary for 126 yards on 5 receptions, but bemoaned the fact that 4 turnovers had likely cost them the game.

The Browns extracted revenge later in the year with a 24-14 win over New York on their way to the Century Division crown, while New York fell to 7-7 and a second place finish. Still, it was a major improvement from their 1-12-1 mark of the previous year, and the acquisition of Tarkenton was a major impetus for that.

 

Tarkenton upgraded the Giants in 1967

 

 
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Classic Team Logo of The Day

17 Dec

Logo of a college football team that plays in the  Big 12 Conference, the Texas Tech Red Raiders. The school, based in Lubbock, Texas, began play in 1925 and has won 11 conference titles. Many former Red Raiders have enjoyed careers in pro football, including Patrick Mahomes, E.J. Holub, Donny Anderson, Zach Thomas, Dave Parks, Wes Welker, Joe Walter, LaAdrian Waddle, Bake Turner, Danny Amendola, Michael Crabtree, Curtis Jordan, Dave Lloyd, Anthony Lynn, Sammy Morris and Billy Joe Tolliver.

 
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Classic Sports Card of The Day

17 Dec

1962 Topps football card of former NFL quarterback Fran Tarkenton, who played for an amazing 18 seasons in the league. His time was split between 2 separate stints with the Minnesota Vikings and a 5 year stay with the New York Giants. Known for his scrambling ability, he was a 9 time Pro Bowler, NFL MVP in 1975, and held multiple career passing records when he retired in 1978. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986. Tarkenton has been active since his playing days ended, writing self-help books, investing, founding a software company and appearing on several television shows, including Monday Night Football as an analyst and That’s Incredible! as a co-host.

 
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NFL – Throwback Thursday: Coaching Legends Collide

10 Dec

On this week’s NFL schedule the San Francisco 49ers and Washington Football Team face each other. For Throwback Thursday, we’ll highlight the NFC Championship game for the 1983 season, played between these 2 teams on January 8, 1984 that was a matching of wits between a pair of future Hall of Fame coaching legends – Bill Walsh of the 49ers and Washington’s Joe Gibbs. The Redskins entered the title game as the class of the NFC for the ’83 season, winning the NFC East title with a stellar 14-2 record. The Niners, on the other hand, had gone through a stretch where they lost 4 of 5 games, then rebounded to win their final 3 to clinch the NFC West crown at 10-6. A one point 24-23 win over Detroit advanced San Fran to the title game, while Washington had destroyed the Los Angeles Rams 51-7 to earn their title game berth.

The Redskins were heavy favorites, and played like it for the first three quarters of the contest. John Riggins, Washington’s hard-nosed back who would grind out 123 yards rushing on 36 carries for the day, scored a pair of touchdowns from 4 and 1 yard out to put the ‘Skins ahead 14-0. When Joe Theisman connected with Charlie Brown on a 70 yard touchdown pass to up the lead to 21-0 after 3 quarters, it looked like it would be smooth sailing to the Super Bowl for Washington. The 49ers were a proud franchise and weren’t about to go down quietly. They had won the Super Bowl just 2 years prior and although this was the pre-Jerry Rice, John Taylor, etc. era, Walsh had one potent weapon at his disposal, his unflappable quarterback, Joe Montana.

Joe Cool proceeded to mount a furious fourth quarter comeback. He guided 3 touchdown drives which he ended with scoring passes. A 76 yard hookup with his favorite target of that season, Freddie Solomon (4 catches for 106 yards on the day), was sandwiched between short scoring tosses to Mike Wilson. The stunned Redskins now found themselves in a 21-21 deadlock. With time running out, Theisman engineered a drive downfield, helped by some questionable penalty calls against the Niner secondary, the most costly being a defensive holding call against Ronnie Lott that prolonged the drive, cost San Francisco precious time when they got the ball back, and set up the game winning points. They were provided by the Redskins’ Mark Moseley, one of the last of the NFL’s straight-away kickers. Moseley, who had missed 4 field goal attempts in the game already, knocked a 25 yarder through the uprights to give his team a 24-21 win.

The 49ers felt they were robbed by the dubious penalties, but nevertheless Washington earned their second straight Super Bowl appearance. The defending champs may have been better off not advancing, as they were throttled 38-9 by the Raiders on Super Sunday.

 

John Riggins eyes the end zone vs. 49ers (Sports Illustrated photo)

 
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Classic Team Logo of The Day

10 Dec

Vintage logo, used from 1941 until 1945, of a college football team that plays in the Big 12 Conference, the University of Kansas Jayhawks. The program began play in 1890 and has won 6 conference titles. The list of former Jayhawks who have gone on to play pro football is long, and includes Nolan Cromwell, Gilbert Brown, Larry Brown, Galen Fiss, Bobby Douglass, Ron Jessie, John Hadl, Dana Stubblefield, Aqib Talib, John Zook, Delvin Williams and Pro Football Hall of Famers Mike McCormack, Gale Sayers and John Riggins.

 
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Classic Sports Card of The Day

10 Dec

1984 Topps football card of former pro football running back John Riggins, who enjoyed a long 15 career in the NFL with the New York Jets and Washington Redskins. Inexplicably he was only named to the Pro Bowl once in his career. He was NFL Comeback Player of The Year in 1978 and MVP of Super Bowl XVII when he led the Redskins to a win in the big game against Miami. Nicknamed “The Diesel”, Riggins was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1992. He has dabbled in acting and sports commentating in his later life, including doing color analysis for Sunday Night Football radio broadcasts on Westwood One.

 
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