George Saimes, Bills and Broncos Defensive Back

March 10th, 2013  |  Published in Player Deaths

George Saimes 1964 Topps rookie football cardGeorge Saimes, who played defensive back from 1963 to 1972 for the Buffalo Bills and Denver Broncos, passed away on March 8. There is a tribute to Saimes on the Buffalo Bills web site. Saimes was an AFL All-Star five times, and he played on Buffalo’s 1964 and 1965 AFL championship teams. He was elected to the Bills Wall of Fame in 2000.

Before his pro career, Saimes starred at both fullback and defensive back at Michigan State. In 1962 he finished seventh in voting for the Heisman Trophy. He was inducted into the MSU Athletics Hall of Fame in 2000.

Saimes is pictured here on his rookie card, a 1964 Topps. He appeared on numerous other cards and stamps, as well.

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Mr. Irrelevant, Revisited

January 25th, 2013  |  Published in New in the Gallery, Silly Stuff

Jacque MacKinnon 1964 Topps rookie football cardTo make them easier to find, I am converting some of my more popular blog articles into proper web pages and moving them to my Gallery site. Today I converted my article about Mr. Irrelevant and added it to Fun Pages section of the Gallery home page. I recently also converted my Cups of Coffee and Olympic Athletes articles. My experience is that the blog works best for newsy items, and static pages work better for information that doesn’t change much. If you are a site owner and happen to have linked to my blog articles, no worries, the links will be forwarded automatically.

Anyway, if you haven’t a clue who Mr. Irrelevant is, avoid embarrassment and check out the new Gallery page. Mr. Irrelevant 1961, Jacque MacKinnon, is pictured here.

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Chuck Gavin, BC Lions and Denver Broncos Defensive End

December 16th, 2012  |  Published in Player Deaths

Chuck Gavin passed away on December 1; he played defensive end for the British Columbia Lions in 1959, and for the Denver Broncos from 1960 to 1963. Gavin attended Tennessee State University, where he was a two-time All-American. There is a story about him on the school’s web site.

Gavin appeared on two football cards with the Broncos: the 1963 Fleer and 1964 Topps cards shown here. The 1964 Topps card is one of the short prints in the set. Though he appeared on a 1964 card, Gavin did not play in 1964. According to his obituary at, a knee injury ended his football career.
Chuck Gavin 1963 Fleer rookie football cardChuck Gavin 1964 Topps football card

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Dick Felt, New York Titans and Boston Patriots Defensive Back

November 19th, 2012  |  Published in Player Deaths

Dick Felt, a defensive back from 1960 to 1966 for the AFL’s New York Titans and Boston Patriots, passed away on November 17. The Salt Lake City Tribune has a story about him, along with a few photos. Felt played in the 1963 AFL Championship game, which the Patriots lost to the Chargers. After his playing career, he was an assistant coach at BYU for 26 seasons. He was inducted into the BYU Athletic Hall of Fame in 1977.

Felt appeared on two AFL football cards, the 1963 Fleer and 1964 Topps cards pictured here. There are two variations of the 1963 Fleer card, one with a red stripe on the bottom of the back, and one without the stripe. (See the bottom of my 1963 Fleer uncut sheet page for details.) Felt’s 1964 Topps card is one of the short prints in the set.
Dick Felt 1963 Fleer rookie football cardDick Felt 1964 Topps football card

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Sam Gruneisen, Chargers and Oilers Lineman

October 11th, 2012  |  Published in error cards, Player Deaths

Sam Gruneisn 1964 Topps rookie football cardSam Gruneisen, an offensive lineman from 1962 to 1973 for the San Diego Chargers and Houston Oilers, passed away on September 28. There is a picture of Gruneisen and a summary of his career on the Chargers web site. Gruneisen played in two AFL championship games with the Chargers, in 1964 and 1965, both losses to the Bills. At Villanova, Gruneisen was a tight end, linebacker, and kicker. He was elected to the Villanova Wall of Fame in 2000.

Pictured here is Gruneisen’s rookie card, a 1964 Topps. His name, unfortunately, is misspelled “Gruniesen” on the card. He also appeared on a 1966 Topps card–with his name spelled correctly–and on a 1969 Glendale stamp.

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September 26th, 2012  |  Published in Football Card Trivia, Halls of Fame

Can you think of cards that look more like bookends than Bobby Bell and Buck Buchanan‘s 1964 Topps cards? Not only did the players’ rookie cards mirror each another, so did their careers:

  • Bell played from 1963 to 1974, all with the Chiefs. Buchanan played from 1963 to 1975, also all with the Chiefs.
  • Bell played in nine AFL All-Star and NFL Pro Bowl games; Buchanan played in eight.
  • Bell was inducted into the Chiefs Hall of Fame in 1980, Buchanan in 1981.
  • Bell was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1983; Buchanan was inducted in 1990. Buchanan was also a finalist four times previously, starting in 1984.
  • Finally, both are members of the College Football Hall of Fame. Bell was inducted in 1991, Buchanan in 1996.

Bobby Bell 1964 Topps rookie football cardBuck Buchanan 1964 Topps rookie football card

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Houston Antwine, Patriots and Eagles Defensive Lineman

December 27th, 2011  |  Published in Player Deaths

Houston Antwine, a defensive lineman from 1961 to 1972 for the Boston/New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles, passed away last night, according to the Boston Globe web site. His wife passed away today. Antwine was an American Football League All-Star six straight seasons, from 1963 to 1968.

Antwine appeared on numerous football cards and stamps during his career. The cards pictured here are his rookie card, a 1964 Topps, and his last card, a 1970 Topps. You can see all of Antwine’s cards in the Vintage Football Card Gallery.
Houston Antwine 1964 Topps rookie football cardHouston Antwine 1970 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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Mr. Irrelevant

August 13th, 2010  |  Published in Silly Stuff

Since 1976, the last player selected in the NFL draft has been dubbed Mr. Irrelevant and invited to a celebration called Irrelevant Week. The event, which was started by Paul Salata, a former receiver for the San Francisco 49ers and original Baltimore Colts, raises money for Orange County charities. You can read about the this year’s Mr. Irrelevant and the 2010 festivities at

The Vintage Football Card Gallery has pictures of cards only up to 1976, so it includes only one card of an official Mister Irrelevant. It also, however, includes a few cards of players who would have been named Mr. Irrelevant if the title had been awarded earlier. Most of these players turned out to be relevant, after all, or they would not have made it onto football cards. Here are all of players in the Gallery who were chosen last in the NFL draft:

Bill Fischer, 1948

1950 Bowman Bill Fischer rookie football cardBill Fischer was the final player chosen in the 1948 draft; the Chicago Cardinals picked him in the 32nd round. Unfortunately, according to an article on, Fischer was ineligible for the NFL in 1948–perhaps because he was only a junior? So the Cardinals drafted him again in 1949, this time in the first round. Fischer played five seasons for the Cardinals and went to three Pro Bowls.

This is his rookie card, a 1950 Bowman. He also appeared on Bowman cards in 1951 and 1952.

John Schweder, 1949

1952 Bowman Small John Schweder rookie football cardJohn “Bull” Schweder was the 251st and last player chosen in the 1949 draft. The Philadelphia Eagles picked him, but he apparently did not make their roster in 1949. In 1950 he joined the Baltimore Colts, but the Colts folded after the season, and the team’s players were made available in the 1951 draft. In 1951, Schweder was again drafted, this time at pick number 103, by the Pittsburgh Steelers. He played for the Steelers from 1951 to 1955.

Pictured here is one of Schweder’s rookie cards, a 1952 Bowman Small. He also appeared on several other 1950s Bowman cards.

Sisto Averno, 1951

1953 Bowman Sisto Averno football cardSisto Averno was another member of the 1950 Baltimore Colts team who ended up in the draft when the team disbanded. Averno was the last player chosen in 1951, by the Cleveland Browns in the 30th round. He played for the New York Yanks in 1951, and the Yanks folded at the end of that season. The NFL gave the remnants of the Yanks to a new franchise in Dallas in 1952, and–guess what?–that franchise also folded at the end of the season. In 1953, the league awarded the remains of the Dallas team to another Baltimore Colts franchise, and Averno spent two years with the new Baltimore team before calling it a career. (See Bob Carroll’s article at for a detailed description of the churn in the NFL in the early 1950s.)

Averno appeared on one card, this 1953 Bowman.

Jacque MacKinnon, 1961

1964 Topps Jacque MacKinnon rookie football cardJacque MacKinnon was the last player chosen in the 1961 NFL draft. The Philadelphia Eagles chose him with the 280th overall pick. He instead went to the AFL’s San Diego Chargers, and in nine years with the Chargers, he made the Pro Bowl twice.

The card pictured here is MacKinnon’s rookie card, a short print in the 1964 Topps set. He also appeared on several other Topps cards in the late 1960s. (On his 1969 Topps card, he looks like Emilio Estevez!)

Stan Hegener, 1975

1973 Nebraska Playing Card of Stan HegenerStan Hegener was the last player chosen in the 1975 NFL draft. The Pittsburgh Steelers chose him with the 442nd overall pick, but he apparently did not make the team. The card pictured here is a 1973 Nebraska playing card, from his college days. He also appeared on a 1974 Nebraska playing card.

Jim Kelleher, 1977

Jim Kelleher 1974 Colorado Playing CardJim Kelleher is the only official Mr. Irrelevant in the Gallery. The Mr. Irrelevant title was first awarded in 1976, and Kelleher was the last player chosen in the 1977 NFL draft. The Minnesota Vikings chose Kelleher with the 335th overall pick, but he did not see playing time in the NFL. The card here pictures Kelleher on his 1974 University of Colorado playing card.

The Mr. Irrelevant page on Wikipedia lists all of the players chosen last in the NFL draft, before and after 1976.

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T is for Topps, Part 3: 1964-1969

February 12th, 2010  |  Published in ABCs of Vintage Football Cards

In 1964, the Philadelphia Gum Company obtained the rights to print cards of NFL players, and they did so from 1964 to 1967. (See P is for Philadelphia.) For those four years, Topps switched to printing cards of AFL players. The cards that the two companies produced reflected the images of the leagues: Philadelphia’s NFL cards were conservative and consistent, and Topps’s AFL cards were colorful and innnovative.

In 1968, after the NFL and AFL agreed to merge, Topps obtained the rights to both leagues, and Philadelphia stopped printing football cards. Topps closed out the decade with two colorful sets containing both NFL and AFL players.

1964 Topps

The 1964 Topps set contains 176 cards, a large number for only eight AFL teams. 166 are cards of individual players (the others are team cards and checklists), so there are 20 or 21 player cards for each team. At the time, that was about twice the usual number of players per team, so Topps was able to include more cards of non-stars than usual. Give or take a card or two, there are 73 rookie cards in the set! Among the rookie cards are these bookend Hall of Famers, Bobby Bell and Buck Buchanan of the Kansas City Chiefs.

The 1964 Topps cards have colored backgrounds and colored stars around the borders. I don’t see a pattern to the colors Topps chose for the backgrounds, except that each card has a background color different from the player’s jersey color. Most of the cards have the player’s name, position, and team in white letters on a black background, but a handful–such as the Bobby Bell card–have either white-on-blue or white-and-black-on-red labels. If there is any significance to the alternate label colors, I don’t see it.

The 176 cards in the 1964 set would have been printed on two 132-card sheets, with 88 cards repeated. That means that there are either 88 double prints or 88 short prints in the set, depending on whether your glass is half-full or half-empty.

There is one mistaken identity in the 1964 Topps set: Ray Abruzzese’s card actually pictures Ed Rutkowski. Topps evidently was focused on spelling his name correctly.

1965 Topps

I described the classic 1965 Topps set in J is for Joe Namath–and the 1965 Topps Tall Boys, so I won’t cover it again here. On to 1966…

1966 Topps

In 1966, Topps used the “little television” design previously seen on 1955 Bowman baseball cards and on the highlight cards in the 1961 Topps football set. I imagine that by the third time around, it had lost its cuteness. (I noticed today that even the checklists in the 1966 Topps set are in the shape of TVs.)

Though the Dolphins joined the AFL in 1966 and were included in this set, Topps reduced the set size to 132 cards. They also wasted one on the Funny Ring Checklist. Because of the reduced set size, there are only 13 rookie cards in the set, and there are no Hall of Famers among the rookie cards. I’d call the set a letdown after 1965.

So, what’s interesting about the 1966 Topps cards? Well, the brown borders show wear easily, so finding high-grade cards is a challenge, and challenges are always fun. Also, some cards, such as the John Farris card shown here, can be found with a stripe along one edge. (I’ve seen yellow, red, and black stripes.) The stripes don’t seem to affect the grades that PSA assigns the cards, but to me they’re distracting, and I prefer cards without them. I presume that cards with a stripe were on the edge of the sheet, but I have not seen an uncut sheet to verify that.

Since the set fit perfectly on a 132-card sheet, none of the cards are short prints. The backs of some cards are white, and the backs of others have a yellowish-brownish tone, suggesting that some sheets were printed on different paper stock than others. Here again, I prefer cards with white backs to those with toning, but PSA does not appear to discriminate.

1967 Topps

In 1967, Topps returned to bright colors, and 1967 Topps football cards resemble some of the psychedelic art of the time. (The Peace poster shown here is from This is another 132-card set with no short prints, no Hall of Fame rookie cards, and no real oddities. I think, though, that it captures the spirit of the AFL and the country better than any of the other 60s sets.

As I wrote in an earlier article, 33 of the 1967 Topps football cards were reprinted in 1969 for a Milton Bradley game called Win-A-Card. The backs of the Milton Bradley cards have a slightly lighter color than the regular cards (yellow v. orange), and some of them, along their borders, show parts of other cards that were included in the game–such as 1968 Topps baseball cards.

1968 Topps and 1969 Topps

As I said at the top, the 1968 Topps and 1969 Topps sets contain both NFL and AFL players. Topps made these sets bigger to accommodate the larger number of teams, and it released each set in two series. Like most of the Topps cards of the 60s, the 1968 and 1969 sets are colorful and bright.

For more detailed information on these sets, see my virtual uncut sheet pages. Here are the links:

More of the ABCs:

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Shoulder Loops!

September 20th, 2009  |  Published in Sites I Like, Uniforms

Today’s article in the Uni Watch blog bemoans the disappearance of “shoulder loops” on NFL jerseys. (Scroll down to Getting Loopy On You.) The article prompted me to look through my old cards to find which teams’ uniforms had the loops. As I did that, I realized that my favorite uniforms were the ones with the loops, and the loops were the reason I liked them. Here they are, both on 1964 Topps cards: the Patriots uniform, modeled by Ron Burton, and the Chargers uniform, modeled by Earl Faison.

I believe these 1964 cards show the players in their 1963 uniforms, so these are also the uniforms that the Patriots and Chargers are using as throwbacks this year. The eight original AFL teams are wearing throwback uniforms in several games in 2009 to commemorate their 50th year of play. The Patriots chose their 1963 uniform because they won the AFL East Division that year, and the Chargers chose 1963 because it was the year they won the AFL championship.

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