What’s With the White Footballs?

July 23rd, 2009  |  Published in Football Card Trivia  |  7 Comments

If you browse through the 1952-1954 Bowman cards in the Vintage Football Card Gallery, you will find a few that show the player with a white football. Two are pictured here: a 1953 Bowman Fran Polsfoot and a 1954 Bowman Doak Walker. According to profootballresearchers.org, the NFL and AAFC used a white football in night games from 1929 to 1956, to help the players see the ball in poor lighting. Wikipedia’s article on the Cleveland Browns says that in the 1950s, the NFL also prohibited teams from wearing white helmets and jerseys in night games, so that the white ball could be seen against the players’ uniforms. Some teams thus had different helmets and jerseys for day and night games.

The other mysterious white football is the big, ugly one with the player’s name in it that is part of the design of 1953 Bowman cards. To me, the big football overwhelms the rest of the card and makes the 1953 set the least attractive of the early Bowmans. Might it have been inspired by the NFL’s use of the white ball? On Pete Pihos’s card, Bowman actually put the big white ball in his hands!

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  1. B is for Bowman | Nearmint's Vintage Football Card Blog says:

    August 8th, 2009 at 12:11 PM (#)

    […] follow-up to their classic 1952 sets was the dismal 1953 Bowman set. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the ugly white football on the front of the cards, but that’s not the only problem. Outside of the white football, […]

  2. Jim Doran and His Helmet | Nearmint's Vintage Football Card Blog says:

    June 17th, 2010 at 10:34 AM (#)

    […] I was curious about the color of the helmet, since I thought the Lions had always worn silver ones. Indeed, the Helmet Project web site shows only silver helmets for the Lions. I found a statement on another site, though, that said that in the 1950s, the Lions had to paint their helmets a dark color for night games, so that the players would not confuse the helmets with the white ball. I’m guessing that that’s why Doran’s is blue, and it might also explain why the paint is chipping off. (Also see my earlier article, “What’s with the White Footballs?“) […]

  3. Erin says:

    February 9th, 2011 at 5:07 PM (#)

    That first one is my grandpa! :)

  4. Paul.Wilkie says:

    April 22nd, 2011 at 2:37 PM (#)

    I’m from dundas Ontario Canada and I have a white J5V football and it has 2 black stripes one on each end that rap all the way a round its all hand auto graft from the Hamilton tigers big4 champs its almost identical to the one Doak. Walker is holding and the date of the football was 1947 and it was a game ball its so cool my friend gave it to me and the Canadian foot ball hall of fame in Hamilton has the only other one known to be in existence.

  5. Green Bay Packers in the 1953 Bowman Set | Nearmint's Vintage Football Card Blog says:

    May 4th, 2011 at 5:55 AM (#)

    […] well, I have never been fond of this issue, anyway. (See my posts on the early Bowman sets and the NFL’s use of white footballs.) The odd player selection is just another reason to dislike it. The 1952 Bowman Large set is a […]

  6. Kris says:

    April 30th, 2013 at 10:26 AM (#)

    I have an all white football that the NFL used. It does not have any strips on the end of it. My grandfather caught is at a game. I was wondering what would be the value of this?

  7. nearmint says:

    April 30th, 2013 at 10:37 AM (#)

    Sorry, Kris, but I don’t know anything about footballs. There’s one listed on eBay for $300. Here’s a link: white 50s football.