Saturday, June 1, 2019

1968 Alt-Topps *Football Edition*

A Tribute to Bart Starr

First a tribute to Bart Starr who past away last week. He died the day before Bill Buckner, to whom I have already paid tribute. As much as it pains me (a lifelong Bears fan), I have to respect the man if not the uniform. A five Time NFL Champion including the first 2 Super Bowls. He was also MVP of those Super Bowls. The accolades go on for this first-ballot Hall of Famer, but I won't.

When looking for a suitable card to make, I decided to use one of the discarded Topps demo card designs. This was one of the football card mock-ups among the Topps baseball card prototypes I have been experimenting with.

Overall, it is a pretty cool design. But I'm not sure where to begin when stating what's not right with this mock-up.  Let's start with the obvious, that is a close-up of a basketball.  Not a football.  

Second, that is not Paul Warfield. It is Jimmy Warren.  That photo was taken from his 1968 Topps card.  But we're not done yet. That card has him on the Dolphins but the photo is obviously him in a Chargers uniform. He played for the Chargers in 1964 and 65. The Dolphins took him in 1966 durning the AFL's first expansion draft.

Color photos of football players in that era are pretty hard to find.  I tried unsuccessfully to find one of Warren in a Dolphins uniform. The search did turn up one interesting photo over and over.  Warren was infamously the last man to beat on Franco Harris's "Immaculate Reception". At this time he was wearings a Raiders uniform.

Here is a card that actually features Paul Warfield with a football in the background instead of a basketball. Warfield played for the Browns and Dolphins from 1964-1974. In 1975 he and Dolphins teammates Larry Csonka and Jim Kiick joined the WFL Memphis Grizzlies (AKA Southmen). He returned to the NFL and the Browns in 1976.

And here is a similar treatment for Jimmy Warren.  Alas, I had no luck in finding a color photo of him on the Dolphins so I re-used the same photo on the original prototype.

I also created a few more. First were the eventual MVPs of the 1968 season from their respective leagues.  Joe Namath for the AFL and Earl Morrall of the NFL.

After a pre-season injury to Unitas, Morrall led the Colts to a 13-1 record and ultimately Superbowl III.  After 3 interceptions he was pulled and Unitas was reinstated. But the damage had been done. The AFL Jets beat the heavily favored NFL Colts.

I felt the need to balance these offensive MVPs with defensive stars. So I chose the defensive MVPs from their respective all star games. Although these games were technically played in 1969, they were played by the 1968 season all star selections.
The MVP of the AFL All Star game was George Webster. He was the AFL rookie of the year in 1967 as selected by United Press International. He was an All Star selection in each of his first 3 seasons.

In the NFL, Merlin Olsen was co-MVP of the 1969 Pro Bowl along with Rams teammate Roman Gabriel. Olsen was a Pro Bowler 14 of his 15 NFL seasons and was a first ballot Hall of Famer.  


Just a footnote here: football sets of this era were pretty small. The actual 1968 Topps set was only 219 cards which was actually the largest football set they had issued to date. It was also the first to contain both NFL and AFL players since 1961. These sets contained almost no cards that were not player cards. In 1956 and 1957-1964 Topps also had team cards. The 1961 set also included a handful of "Highlights" cards.  The team cards never really returned. In the late 70s they added team-leader cards. It wasn't until 1972 that Topps had anything other than basic player cards and checklists. In 1972 they went all out. Topps added All-Pro cards, post season cards, leader cards and "Pro Action" cards. That set contained 348 cards and moved football cards into a new era.

The point of this abbreviated history on Topps football cards?  It's my way of saying, "this is it."  I won't be making any additional subsets.  If I ever did choose to make football subsets, I think I would make them for the existing Topps (or Fleer or Philadelphia) football sets. If there is interest, I will make a couple requests. Just be aware of the scarcity of useable player photos from this era.  So I may not be able to cover your request, but I will try.


  1. Awesome job! Great work with the discarded Topps designs!

  2. These football cards are sharp!!

  3. Saw this wonderful post, well ....what, almost 3 months ago! But it is hard for me to "get up"for football right when baseball is heading for its peak. Excellent job on all of them especially the 3 QB's. Readers of your blog may or may not know that Bart Starr incurred a real back problem when he was at Alabama due to a fraternity prank that was played on him. I didn't know this until recently. As result he played in real pain for much of his career. This just magnifies his achievements. I really like the S.B.III antagonists being portrayed. Heck, old "rag arm", "bullpen boy" Earl ended up being one of my real hero's. He was so durable - I can still see him getting it done at age 42 on a Monday night game for Miami. In fact a couple of years later when I heard that he had founded a "school for quarterbacks" - I thought about enrolling!! One small problem, I am sure that no matter how much time he dedicated toward me and how intensive the tutorials, my best in camp would make George Plimpton's performance in "Paper Lion" look like vintage Johnny U,"Peyton", or "Brady". I am tantalized by your hint that you might consider doing a few "Philly" cards. Don't be surprised if I "drop" a few "targets" on you. Hope all is going well with you and that your absence the past few weeks indicates that you are just crusin' in August....Sincerely "Buzz" (Bryant)

  4. Well, as the "dog days of summer" begin to segue into the first hints of autumn, I find a compelling reason to return. Yes, to cop a lick from the "New Frontier", I hear a "distant trumpet". But with each approaching minute I can also hear those booming kettle drums with an overlay of rattling snares - yes we are on the threshold of another NFL season. Some of the promo moments on the tube in past years have even shown sepiaized (bronzed) portraits of Red Grange and Otto Graham with church bells gonging in the background!! It's impossible to miss - right? At every corner bar and widescreen joint one sees the ubiqitous 32 pennants. Even the checkout lines at the supermarkets have the predictable helium balloons perfectly shaped as helmets or prolate spheroids. Seriously, many a dictator or dictatorship could take lessons from the NFL on how to run a propaganda campaign!! And, every year we succumb. Like lemmings going right off the cliff or the eloy in The Time Machine we answer the summons and grovel before them. Well this is just my way of trying to beg a couple of requests here. I did notice that no one took you up on the request "option". So, my motivation is to just go on a crusade for those who either never got a card or were shortchanged by a truly lousy card. First up would be the always engaging John Dockery. I have to tip my hat to anybody from the ivy league who manages to hang in the NFL for what? 5 years!! Pretty good! Next is the Q.B. situation at "beantown" during that tumultous year 1968. I am certain that Tom Sherman never got a card. While Mike Taliaferro did get a card (the exact year escapes me) - it's very vague and was repeated what seems like a decade later -talk about stale photography! And of course there is the one and only James Sean Patrick "the King" Corcoran. Speaking of "one and only" - how about JOE DON LOONEY!! Was he with anybody in 68? If so that would make an interesting "one of a kind" (just like him). Finally we have the case of 2 yr Atlanta kicker Bob Etter. Anybody who is 5'11",and scaled 157 back in the day, had a lot of of guts getting on a NFL field. Like Dockery, this guy must really have been cerebral- last heard he was teaching math at Cal State Sacramento!! Just wanted to give you another chance to exhibit the football of 1/2 century ago (yes I liked your execution of the design)!!! Are you ready for some football? Sincerely "Buzz"(Bryant)

  5. Buzz,
    I appreciate your enthusiasm but this era of football had nowhere near the coverage of present day football. Pictures of your more obscure players are nearly non-existent. So I just can't do the "Buzz Challenge". I did have a disclaimer at the end of the post acknowledging that I may not be able to grant requests. Sorry.

  6. How about a 1968 King Corcoran Boston Patriots card? Or a 1971 Eagles King Corcoran card? He outplayed Rick Arrington in camp but the head coach hated the King and cut him anyway