Tuesday, December 30, 2008

1959 Topps Football Team Pennant Cards

My previous post on the Colts 1958 World Championship showcased a card from a great subset from the 1959 Topps Football set - the team pennant cards:

I really like this subset as it does a nice job of highlighting the team's logo in the form of a pennant while giving information on the front about how well the team has done in terms of winning previous Conference and World Championships. I wish we'd see subsets like this in current football sets.

One thing that this subset shows is just how much the NFL has grown in the past 50 years. There are only 12 pennant cards in the set as there were only that many teams in the league at the time.

In a time when 12 teams now make the postseason, its interesting to take a look back at the league and how the teams were aligned right before the NFL made its rapid rise during the 1960's.

In 1959, the NFL consisted of 12 teams, with 6 teams in the Eastern Conference and 6 teams in the Western Conference.

The Eastern Conference consisted of

The Chicago Cardinals

The Cleveland Browns

The New York Giants

The Philadelphia Eagles

The Pittsburgh Steelers

and The Washington Redskins

If you remove the 2 teams that moved to the AFC as part of the merger (Browns & Steelers), you have the old NFC East from the 1970s through the 1990s (without the Cowboys who didn't join the league until 1960)

The Western Conference consisted of

The Baltimore Colts

The Chicago Bears

The Detroit Lions

The Green Bay Packers

The Los Angeles Rams

and The San Francisco 49ers

If you take out the Colts who moved to the AFC in 1970, you've got the old NFC Central (save for the Vikings who didn't join until 1961) and part of the old NFC West.

As kids were collecting their 1959 Topps cards and putting together the subset of the 12 team pennant cards, who could have imagined that within a 2 year period that the number of pro football teams would nearly double with the addition of the 8 AFL teams in 1960:

as well as the NFL's expansion with the addition of the Cowboys in 1960:

and the addition of the Vikings (who they stole from the AFL) in 1961:

These teams (or the teams that they became after relocating) seem like they've been around forever, but its interesting to see that almost 1/3 of the current league's 32 teams were formed within a 2 year period shortly after The Greatest Game Ever Played.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

1958 Baltimore Colts - World Champions 50 Years Ago Today

Today marks the 50th anniversary of The Greatest Game Ever Played.

The ESPN documentary which aired a few weeks ago celebrated the 50th anniversary of the game, but did so a few weeks early, so I wanted to go back to the 1959 Topps Football set to show the card from that set that commemorates that victory from December 28, 1958.

The back of the card summarizes it all perfectly:

I'd like to think that somewhere my dad and Johnny Unitas are sharing their stories with each other about how great this game was for both of them.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

NFL Logo Variation - NFL Illustrated

One thing I noticed when looking at the 1966 NFL program I reviewed in the last post was the NFL logo on the front of the cover:

The NFL shield on the cover is very different from the standard NFL logo that was being used at the time:

Paul Lukas from Uni Watch also picked up on the logo difference (good catch!). The standard logo was included in the Coke ad I reviewed last time (but which for some reason did not include the lines behind the letters):

It appears the NFL created a separate logo for their publishing division which was called National Football League Illustrated, and handled the production of game programs. In addition to the 1966 programs, the logo can be found on programs from 1967 though 1969 as well (programs from 1965 and earlier have the regular NFL logo):




After the merger in 1970, it appears that the NFL Illustrated logo disappeared from game programs as the NFL started publishing PRO! magazine which was essentially the same program for all the games in every city each week with some team specific pages included for the two teams that were playing in that week's games:

By publishing PRO! magazine as the program for all the games instead of having each team handle its own game program (especially after merging with the AFL), there was much more uniformity for the game programs after the merger.

Unfortunately, that meant no more programs with covers where you could definitely tell who the home team was like this:

After the merger, the program covers for PRO! magazine were much more generic, and not team specific.

Getting back to the NFL logo, given the attention that has been paid to the NFL logo after its change this year to this:

from this:

I thought it was interesting to see a variation of the logo that rarely gets mentioned:

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Favorite Coke Ad - Vintage 1960's NFL Program Style!

This is my favorite Coca-Cola ad of all time:

The ad is from the November 20, 1966 Cleveland Browns program where they faced off against the Redskins:

I like they way the ad ties in the NFL logo bottle caps into a map showing where all the NFL teams were located at the time.

The interesting thing about the ad is that it ties into the Coke NFL football bottle cap promotion at the time, although the ad makes no mention of the promotion. Coke did a series of promotions from 1964 - 1966 during each football season with football players and team logos on the underside of bottle caps which are marked with a football (just like those seen in the ad):

Here is an example of the player caps:

and here is an example of the team logo caps:

The Coke ad ran in number of different NFL team programs in 1966, and may well have run in programs from all 15 teams that season (I just don't have a program from each team from 1966 to confirm that theory).

In addition to the Coca-Cola ad, there are a number of other great ads in the program. Two of the most interesting involve the Browns infamous "CB" helmet that was part of the NFL's marketing of the team during the time but apparently never used in a game (legend has it the players peeled the decals off the helmets before a 1965 preseason game and the logo was never used again).

There is an ad in the program for a youth "official" uniform which features the "CB" logo on the helmet:

and another ad for kids to join the Browns Mascot Club which also features a picture of a boy in the Browns uniform with the "CB" helmet as well as a poster with the Browns players wearing the "CB" helmet:

Its interesting to see that although the helmet design was created before the start of the 1965 season (and then never used), it was still being promoted as the "official" uniform a year later.

As for other Browns ads in the program, here's an ad for Schmidt's Beer showing the Browns getting ready to take the head off Eagle Tim Brown:

and an ad for the local TV station:

as well as the Browns' radio affiliate:

Besides ads related to the Browns, there are some interesting NFL related ads as well. How about eating breakfast in the LA Coliseum drinking some delicious TANG:

Speaking of breakfast, here is the January 1966 Pro Bowl training table (again with the TANG!):

And finally, here is one of Johnny Unitas' less flattering endorsements:

Vintage programs like this one are a great way to get a sense of how teams and the league were being promoted at the time.

P.S. In case you are interested, the Browns beat the Redskins 14 - 3