Player Deaths

Gale Gillingham, Packers Offensive Lineman

October 21st, 2011  |  Published in Halls of Fame, Player Deaths

Gale Gillingham, an offensive lineman for ten seasons with the Green Bay Packers, passed away on October 20. Today’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has a report. Gillingham made the Pro Bowl five times, and he was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in 1982.

The cards pictured here are Gillingham’s rookie card, a 1970 Topps, and his last card, a 1975 Topps. He appeared on a number of cards and stamps in the intervening years, as well. You can see all of Gale Gillingham’s cards in the Vintage Football Card Gallery.
Gale Gillingham 1970 Topps rookie football cardGale Gillingham 1976 Topps football card

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New in the Gallery: Interactive 1964 Topps Oakland Raiders Team Card

October 8th, 2011  |  Published in Interactive Team Cards, New in the Gallery, Player Deaths, Record Holders

1964 Topps Oakland Raiders team football cardIn honor of Al Davis, who passed away today, I added an interactive 1964 Topps Oakland Raiders team card to the Vintage Football Card Gallery. The card pictures the 1963 Raiders team, which Davis coached to a 10-4 record. That was the Raiders’ first winning season, and Davis was named the AFL Coach of the Year.

As always, I learned a few things while assembling the interactive card. One thing I learned is that one of the players pictured, Tom Morrow, holds the NFL record for most consecutive games with an interception. As far as I know, Morrow never appeared on a card by himself.

(Click on the card image shown here to go to the interactive version.)

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Joe Krupa, Pittsburgh Steelers Defensive Tackle

September 23rd, 2011  |  Published in Player Deaths

Joe Krupa, a defensive tackle for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1956 to 1964, passed away on September 13. The Chicago Sun-Times web site has a report. Krupa was a Pro Bowler for the Steelers in 1963.

The cards pictured here are Krupa’s rookie card, a 1958 Topps, and his 1964 Philadelphia card. He also appeared on a 1959 Topps card, and on a number of minor issues. You can see all of Joe Krupa’s football cards in the Vintage Football Card Gallery.
Joe Krupa 1958 Topps rookie football cardJoe Krupa 1964 Philadelphia football card

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Buddy Tinsley, CFL Hall of Fame Lineman

September 15th, 2011  |  Published in CFL Cards, Player Deaths

Robert "Buddy" Tinsley 1950 Bowman football cardRobert “Buddy” Tinsley, a member of the CFL Hall of Fame, passed away on September 14. After spending one year, 1949, with the AAFC’s Los Angeles Dons, Tinsley played eleven seasons for the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers. In those eleven seasons, he played in five Grey Cup (CFL championship) games. The Blue Bombers won two of them, in 1958 and 1959.

Though he never played in the NFL, Tinsley appeared on a 1950 Bowman card for the Pittsburgh Steelers. When the AAFC folded after the 1949 season, the AAFC’s Colts, 49ers, and Browns joined the NFL, and players from the other AAFC teams were distributed among the NFL teams in a “dispersal draft.” The Steelers chose Tinsley in the first round, but he opted to play in Canada instead. (See Tinsley’s CFL Hall of Fame page for a brief summary of his career.)

Tinsley also appeared on a number of CFL cards. I don’t have them in the Gallery yet, but you can find most of them on eBay.

A few other members of the CFL Hall of Fame appeared on NFL football cards, as well. You can search for cards of CFL Hall of Famers in the Vintage Football Card Gallery.

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Sam DeLuca, Argonauts, Chargers, and Jets Lineman

September 14th, 2011  |  Published in Player Deaths

Sam DeLuca 1960 Fleer football cardSam DeLuca, an offensive lineman from 1960 to 1966 for the Los Angeles/San Diego Chargers and New York Jets, passed away on September 13. NYDailyNews.com has a report. DeLuca also spent two seasons, 1957 and 1958, with the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts. After his playing career, DeLuca was a radio broadcaster for New York Jets games; you can see his profile at musicradio77.com.

The card pictured here is DeLuca’s first AFL card, a 1960 Fleer. The image shows DeLuca in his University of South Carolina uniform; there is a similar image on the USC Athletic Hall of Fame web site. DeLuca also appeared on a 1959 Topps CFL card (though he did not play that year) and on several cards while in the AFL.

You can see all of DeLuca’s AFL football cards in the Vintage Football Card Gallery. I don’t yet have CFL cards in the Gallery, but there are usually copies of his 1959 Topps CFL card on eBay.

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Ray Abruzzese, Bills and Jets Defensive Back

August 27th, 2011  |  Published in Player Deaths

Ray Abruzzese 1963 Fleer rookie football cardRay Abruzzese, a defensive back from 1962 to 1966 for the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets, passed away on August 22. He was a member of Alabama’s NCAA National Championship team in 1961 and a member of Buffalo’s AFL Championship team in 1964. I found a photo of the Alabama team on the university’s web site and a photo of the Bills team at livingprimetime.com.

Abruzzese had two football cards with the Bills, and both are error cards. His rookie card, the 1963 Fleer card pictured here, has his last name misspelled. The error on his 1964 Topps card is worse: the card pictures Ed Rutkowski, not Abruzzese. (For more cards that picture the wrong player, see my Mistaken Identities page.)

Abruzzese also appeared on a rare–and pricey–1963 Jones Dairy milk bottle cap. His name is spelled correctly on the cap, and the picture on it is his. I do not have the cap, but I found a clear image of one in an eBay listing.

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Bill Gray, Washington Redskins Offensive Lineman

August 25th, 2011  |  Published in Player Deaths

Bill Gray 1948 Bowman football cardBill Gray, an offensive lineman for the Washington Redskins in 1947 and 1948, passed away on August 18. OregonLive.com has an account of his life.

Gray appeared on one football card, the 1948 Bowman card pictured here.

You can see Gray’s career NFL statistics at pro-football-reference.com.

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Norm Willey, Philadelphia Eagles Defensive End

August 20th, 2011  |  Published in Player Deaths, Record Holders

Norm “Wild Man” Willey, a defensive end from 1950 to 1957 for the Philadelphia Eagles, passed away on August 18. ESPN’s web site has a report of his death. Willey was a Pro Bowler twice, in 1954 and 1955. According to the book The Eagles Encyclopedia, Willey once got 17 sacks in one game–but this was before sacks were counted among the official NFL statistics.

Willey appeared on three football cards, the 1954 Bowman and 1956 Topps cards shown here, and a 1955 Bowman card. I especially like the 1956 Topps card, in which he appears to be imitating the logo in the upper right corner.
Norm Willey 1954 Bowman rookie football cardNorm Willey 1956 Topps football card

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George Wilson Jr., Miami Dolphins Quarterback

August 18th, 2011  |  Published in Player Deaths

George Wilson Jr. 1967 Topps football cardGeorge Wilson Jr., quarterback for the Miami Dolphins in their first season, 1966, passed away on August 6. The Miami Herald web site has a report of his death. Wilson led the Dolphins to their first regular season win, which came against Denver in the sixth week of the season.

The card pictured here is Wilson’s 1967 Topps card, issued the season after he played for the Dolphins. He also appeared on a 1967 Royal Castle Dolphins card. The Royal Castle card is one of the rare short prints in the set, and I have never seen one.

Wilson’s father, George Wilson Sr., was the Dolphins’ coach in their first season. Before joining the Dolphins, Wilson Sr. coached the Detroit Lions for eight seasons. He made a cameo appearance on a Detroit Lions Play of the Year card in the 1964 Philadelphia set.

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Pete Pihos, Philadelphia Eagles Hall of Fame End

August 16th, 2011  |  Published in Player Deaths

Pete Pihos, Hall of Fame end for the Philadelphia Eagles, passed away this morning, according to the team’s web site. Pihos played nine seasons for the Eagles, from 1947 to 1955, and he made the Pro Bowl the last six of those seasons. He was also a member of the Eagles’ 1948 and 1949 NFL Championship teams. Pihos’s page on the Pro Football Hall of Fame web site has a summary of his career.

Pihos had two rookie cards, the 1948 Leaf and 1948 Bowman cards pictured below. The 1948 Leaf card shown here is the variation with yellow numerals; there is also a rare variation with blue numerals. You can see all of Pete Pihos’s cards in the Vintage Football Card Gallery.
Pete Pihos 1948 Leaf rookie football cardPete Pihos 1948 Bowman rookie football card

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Ken Payne, Packers and Eagles Wide Receiver

August 14th, 2011  |  Published in Player Deaths

Ken Payne 1976 Topps rookie football cardKen Payne, wide receiver from 1974 to 1978 for the Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles, passed away on August 1. Payne led the Packers in receptions and receiving yards in 1975 and 1976.

The card pictured here is Payne’s rookie card, a 1976 Topps. He also appeared on a 1977 Topps card.

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Don Chandler, Giants and Packers Punter and Kicker

August 12th, 2011  |  Published in Player Deaths

Don Chandler 1957 Topps rookie football cardDon Chandler, punter and kicker from 1956 to 1967 for the New York Giants and Green Bay Packers, passed away on August 11. Chandler played on four NFL Championship teams: 1956 with the Giants, and 1965, 1966, and 1967 with the Packers. He made the Pro Bowl in 1967, his last season, and he was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in 1975. The Packerville, U.S.A., blog has a summary of Chandler’s career, along with several pictures.

The card pictured here is Chandler’s rookie card, a 1957 Topps. He appeared on several others, as well. You can see all of Don Chandler’s cards in the Vintage Football Card Gallery.

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Jimmy Harris, Eagles, Rams, Texans, and Cowboys Defensive Back

August 10th, 2011  |  Published in Player Deaths

Jimmy Harris 1957 Topps rookie football cardJimmy Harris, a defensive back in the NFL and AFL from 1957 to 1961, passed away on August 8. Harris played one season each for the Philadelphia Eagles, Los Angeles Rams, Dallas Texans, and Dallas Cowboys. He did not play the 1959 season.

Before his pro career, Harris was a star quarterback at Oklahoma. He went 25-0 over three seasons, contributing over half of the wins in the Sooners’ 47-game winning streak. NewsOK.com has an account of Harris’s college career, along with lots of photos.

The card pictured here is Harris’s rookie card, a 1957 Topps. Topps apparently colored a college photo of Harris to put him in Eagles green, because the image closely resembles the photo in the NewsOK.com article, and Harris wore number 20 for the Eagles, not number 15. The image on Harris’s 1960 Fleer card appears to have come from the same photo session, as well.

Harris appeared in a Dallas Texans uniform on a 1961 Fleer card and a 1961 Fleer Wallet Photo, but he played for the Cowboys that season.

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Bubba Smith, Colts, Raiders, and Oilers Defensive End

August 5th, 2011  |  Published in Brothers, Player Deaths, Players Who Became Actors

By now, most NFL fans have heard that Bubba Smith passed away. Smith was a defensive end from 1967 to 1976 for the Baltimore Colts, Oakland Raiders, and Houston Oilers. He made the Pro Bowl twice, and he played in two Super Bowls: Super Bowl III, which the Colts lost to the Jets, and Super Bowl V, in which the Colts beat Cowboys. A New York Times article from earlier this week has a summary of Smith’s career, along with a few photos.

After football, Smith appeared in many films and television shows, most notably the Police Academy movies. I had no idea how many until I checked out his IMDB page.

Smith’s brother, Tody, also played in the NFL. You can see the family resemblance in one of my earlier articles.

Smith appeared on numerous football cards in the 1970s, and most of them showed the same image. Pictured here are his rookie card, a 1970 Topps, and his last card, a 1976 Topps. You can see the rest in the Vintage Football Card Gallery.
Bubba Smith 1970 Topps rookie football cardBubba Smith 1976 Topps football card

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Richard Harris, Winnipeg Blue Bombers Coach

July 26th, 2011  |  Published in Player Deaths

Richard Harris 1974 Topps football cardRichard Harris, the assistant head coach and defensive line coach of the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers, passed away this afternoon. The Winnipeg Free Press web site has a report and a recent photo. Harris was a defensive lineman in the NFL from 1971 to 1977, playing for the Philadelphia Eagles, Chicago Bears, and Seattle Seahawks.

Harris appeared on one football card during his playing days, the 1974 Topps card pictured here. He also appeared on a 1972 Sunoco Stamp.

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