Forgotten Franchises: The AFL’s & NFL’s Houston Oilers

The Houston Oilers were a charter member of the American Football League, which began play in 1960. The NFL took the AFL seriously enough that they intended to expand into Dallas and Houston for 1960, thus potentially taking away two of the prime locations for the AFL. Dallas did get the Cowboys, but the NFL put the second team off for a year, and put the team in Minneapolis/St. Paul.
Houston Oilers Logo
The Oilers were the class of the early AFL years, winning the first two championships and losing the third to the Dallas Texans (who had played their last game as the Texans… But I’ll save that story for another “Forgotten Franchises” post).  The Oilers would never play in another championship game, neither AFL Championship nor Super Bowl.

1971 Topps Football Ken Houston

Despite the lack of championships beyond the early 1960’s, there were a number of Pro Football Hall-of-famers who played for the Oilers, including Curley Culp, Elvin Bethea, George Blanda, Earl Campbell, Ken Houston, Warren Moon and Mike Munchak.

After researching this post, it seems to me that Oilers owner Bud Adams made a hobby out of threatening to leave Houston. In 1967 he made threats about moving to Seattle if season ticket sales did not improve. This was well before Seattle was granted an expansion team which would become the Seahawks.

1975 Topps Football Dan Pastorini

In 1987, Adams made noise about moving to Jacksonville. They eventually got concessions from Houston which resulted in $100 Million in upgrades to the Astrodome, but it wasn’t long before Bud Adams became dissatisfied with what he had. After the 1995 season, it was announced that the Oilers will be moving to Tennessee.

The team spent a lame duck season in Houston and spent one season in Memphis before moving to Nashville. After playing two seasons as the Tennessee Oilers, the team renamed itself the Tennessee Titans.

1982 Topps Football Vernon Perry

Remnants Of A Failed Post Idea: TV Markets Which Are Bigger Than Milwaukee & Cincinnati

I had this idea for a post… I started researching it, found that the facts didn’t support my premise and that was the end of that.

…But some of the facts I found along the way were interesting, so I figured I’d share them anyway.

The basis of everything in this post comes from the list of TV Markets for the 2014/15 season, as defined by Nielsen Media Research – the people who track TV ratings.  They break the entire country into Direct Market Areas (DMA’s), and those DMA’s are ranked by the number of “TV Homes” in that designated market.

Please note that the figures I’m throwing at you apply only to the United States.  I’m sure the results would differ if I could only find the correlating Canadian numbers.

Milwaukee (#35) and Cincinnati (#36) are the two smallest TV markets in the Majors… no big surprise there.

1972 Topps Dave Bristol

What was surprising was that there are eleven TV markets which are larger than Milwaukee and Cincy and do not have Major League baseball… Some of them don’t even have a team above A-ball.

Orlando/Daytona Beach/Melbourne is the 18th largest TV market in the U.S. and the largest U.S. TV market without a Major League team.  Orlando does not have a team at all, but there are a couple of Florida State League teams within that DMA, most notably Daytona and Melbourne .

Sacramento/Stockton/Modesto (#20), Charlotte (#24), Raleigh/Durham (#25), Indianapolis (#27), Nashville (#29), Columbus, OH (#32) and Salt Lake City (#34) have AAA teams.

Hartford/New Haven (#30) and San Antonio (#33) have AA teams.

There isn’t an affiliated team in the city of Portland, OR (#23), but the Hillsboro Hops of the short-season Northwest League play in a Portland suburb.

If you wanted to add teams to the New York market in order to “dilute” the number of TV homes per team down to Cincy levels (876,000 TV Homes per team), you’d have to add six more teams to the Mets and Yankees.  Similarly, you’d have to add 4 teams to Los Angeles and 2 teams to Chicago.

1981 Kelloggs Tom Seaver

And completely unrelated to what I’d been researching, but it’s always my favorite bit of trivia when it comes to DMA’s… The five smallest television markets in the United States are:
Helena, Montana (27,850 TV homes);  Juneau, Alaska (25,480);  Alpena, Michigan (16,580);  North Platte, Nebraska (14,830)… and at the very bottom, with 4,330 TV homes, four-thousandths of one percent of the US TV market… Give it up for Glendive, Montana!

Four Cool 1971’s, Four Random Comments

I’ve got four somewhat-recently-acquired 1971 Topps baseball cards;  I’ve got four comments.  Neither has anything to do with the other.
1971 Topps Dal Maxvill

Every time someone talks about ways to increase offense in baseball, the one point they bring up is that “It’s time to bring the DH to the National League!”

I find that argument to be similar to this one:  “I don’t have a girlfriend.   My friend Skippy doesn’t have a girlfriend.  Girls like hot cars.  Skippy has a Corvette.  I need a Corvette.”

I prefer baseball without the DH, but I’ve become resigned to the idea that it’s just a matter of time before the DH is universal… That doesn’t mean I won’t point out weak, agenda-filled rationalizations when I see them.

1971 Topps Vada Pinson

I’m not a fan of Country music, but I kinda like Johnny Cash.  I would like to say that the fake crowd noise on “Johnny Cash Live At Folsom Prison” is really annoying.

1971 Topps Cesar Geronimo

There’s one line in the Beach Boys song “California Girls” that I never understood… Not until recently when I was listening to it through headphones and I had an epiphany.  The line is:  “I dig a French bikini on Hawaiian Island dolls by a palm tree in the sand”.  David Lee Roth clearly never knew what the line was either, because on his version he’s singing gibberish between “bikini” and “by a palm tree”.

1971 Topps Chris Short

Doesn’t it seem like Jack Black and Jack White should collaborate on a project?

Contrast & Compare: 1977 O-Pee-Chee vs. Topps – George Hendrick and Joe Ferguson

Today I’ve got some more 1977 O-Pee-Chee baseball cards which differ from their Topps counterparts.  1977 was the year that the Toronto Blue Jays entered the American League and OPC was apparently very intent on getting as many Jays as they could into the set. Apparently they figured as long as they were going through all that effort, they may as well update some of the other players.  Here are two of those…

George Hendrick was a two-time All-Star with the Indians, and has a pretty unique Topps card which shows him wearing an Indians visor and one of those generic windbreakers that made it on to a lot of Topps cards of the day (at least George wasn’t wearing it under his jersey).
1977 Topps George Hendrick
In December 1976, Hendrick was traded to the  Padres for Fred Kendall, Johnny Grubb and Hector Torres.  A photo was airbrushed to include a Padres cap, but you can tell that they took a photo from the same session and airbrushed over the visor, which gives it a sort of odd effect.
1977 OPC George Hendrick
It’s kind of a shame that they didn’t extend the airbrushing up a shade to make it look more like a proper cap, because it’s otherwise a pretty decent airbrushing job.

Hendrick would stay in San Diego for a little over one season, as he was traded to the Cardinals in May, 1978 for pitcher Eric Rasmussen.

Joe Ferguson is a guy I always think of as a Dodgers catcher, but he did make some detours during his career.  In June, 1976, the Dodgers traded him and two minor leaguers to St. Louis for outfielder Reggie Smith.  In 1977, Topps showed Ferguson in his Cardinals uniform, a combination which still looks odd to me all these years later.
1977 Topps Joe Ferguson

Ferguson wore #13 most of his career, a number he probably didn’t have much trouble obtaining.

This 1977 Topps card was already out of date by the time it came out, because in November, 1976, Ferguson and Bob Detherage – one of the same minor leaguers involved in the earlier trade – were sent to Houston for Larry Dierker and Jerry DaVanon.  O-Pee-Chee then used an airbrushed photo which is… um… attention-getting.
1977 OPC Joe Ferguson
Joe Ferguson was the Astros’ starting catcher in 1977, and halway through 1978 he was shipped back to the Dodgers.

Before I wrap up with Joe Ferguson, I wanted to go off on a quick tangent.

I had a bunch of cards of Joe Ferguson the catcher as a kid, and I also had several cards of Joe Ferguson the Bills quarterback…
1975 Topps Football Joe Ferguson

…And yet it never occurred to me for the longest time that they had the same name.  I guess that just goes to show how compartmentalized I kept the two sports and collections.

How Many Of You Played The Sport You Collect?

Yesterday I was reading an article about falling participation in “casual sports leagues” (i.e. organized leagues which play all their games internal to that league, as opposed to traveling teams), and it mentioned that some of the major sports leagues were concerned because research suggests that participation in a sport was the most common gateway to being a fan of that sport on the professional level.

This raised an eyebrow (in as Spock-like a way as I can manage) because my own personal experience goes completely in the other direction.  If anything, I attempted playing baseball because I enjoyed watching it.  Truth be told, it wasn’t so much baseball as much as pickup games which involved a wiffle ball, tennis ball or Spaldeen…  suburban adaptations of the stickball many of our parents grew up playing on the streets of New York City.  Some of my friends went on to play Little League, but I was happy with the games we played in backyards or the street.

…But that’s wandering a bit from the conversation I wanted to start.  I’m not really looking to prove or disprove whether or not that article’s premise was true.

I became interested in what the experiences of other collectors were, so I figured I’d just go ahead and ask…

Whichever sport makes up the bulk of your collection, did you play it as a kid? 

What was the highest level at which you ever played? 

Did playing make you a fan, or did being a fan make you a player?

…and if any of this want to write at length on the subject and leave a link here, that would be more than sufficient.


2015 TSR: Series Two Is LIVE! (…As If That Means Anything)

You’re probably wondering what the point is of having different series within a virtual card set.  Well, to be honest, there isn’t much point…But I do it because I strive to make this virtual set everything that I wish an commercially-available card set would be.  Even though I started collecting in 1974 and just missed the boat on collecting sets that came in 5, 6 or 7 series, I still love the concept and would like to experience it someday.

Having artificial series also gives me a sort of breaking point to introduce new subsets, inserts and the like… Plus the opportunity to tweak the wrapper every six weeks.

2015 TSR Series 2 Wrapper

Just like the wrapper says, there will be some faux rub-on tattoos in this series, as well as some other new inserts… I’ll talk about them when I get there.

By a stroke of incredible fortune, nearly all of the cards that came in this pack just happened to involve players and events that have recently impacted my two MLB teams and my two Fantasy teams (points and Rotisserie).

On Sunday, the Orioles called up a promising rookie pitcher to start the game… and the new guy showed why people view him as promising.
2015 TSR #135 - Mike Wright
Mike Wright looked pretty darn impressive in getting the win in his debut.  He shut out the Angels through 7.1 innings, striking out six, walking none and giving up just four hits.  I ended up watching him pitch for a while rather than mow the lawn, and let me tell you, that is a major sacrifice on my part (nah, it really isn’t).

Although it wasn’t his debut, Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard was also impressive on Sunday, giving up one run and three hits over six innings, on his way to his first MLB victory.
2015 TSR #133 - Noah Syndergaard
I recently saw… somewhere… somebody commenting on what the Blue Jays’s outlook would look like if they hadn’t traded away prospects like Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud and Jake Marisnick. Not that I have anything against the Jays, but its nice to hear that kind of talk about a team other than the Mets.

OK, now it’s time for the inserts!

Up first is a faux rub-on tattoo… The idea for this came last September when Matt over at Heartbreaking Cards Of Staggering Genius busted a box of 1986 Topps Baseball Tattoos.  The tattoos from that set were appealing and colorful, but one thing that struck me about them is that they were simple.  “Well, shoot, I could do something like that”… at which point the tiny Barney Stinson in my head said “CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!”

So here’s the first one, featuring the Mets’ Matt Harvey. (The name and logo are backwards because it’s supposed to be a rub-on tattoo).
2015 TSR Tattoo - Matt Harvey
I don’t mean to pat myself on the back, but this turned out much better than I expected.  The artwork is more simple than you find with the 1986 Topps tattoos, and I’ll be frank:  calling it “artwork” is being generous, it’s really just my digitally tracing over a photo.

For the time being, I’m going to enjoy the way it looks… for a little while until I start to worry about whether I’ll be able to do as good of a job on the next one.

Since early in the season I’ve been meaning to feature the Astros… and why not? Given their loaded farm system and a few years of hard knocks, I fully expected the Astros to show improvement this year, perhaps be reasonably competitive… But I did not expect them to be in first place and 10+ games over .500 in mid-May.

The Astros had some lovely throwback uniforms to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Astrodome, so I decided to kill two birds with one stone and introduce another new “insert”.
2015 TSR TB-1 - George Springer
Trivia for you custom card nerds: The yellowing effect on this card was cloned from an actual 1968 Topps “Game” insert card I bought recently. It is authentic Topps yellowing! How can you not like that?

I also love these throwbacks uniforms… Frankly, I think they should use these everyday, but nobody ever asks for my input on these things.

Moving on from the inserts to “Joe’s Fantasy Corner”…. Earlier this month I picked up a pitcher on waivers, and that guy has payed immediate dividends for my floundering team… That guy being Shelby Miller of the Braves.
2015 TSR #153 - Shelby Miller
Since I added Miller, he’s thrown two shutouts and was one out away from throwing a no-hitter this past Sunday. What more could you ask of a guy who didn’t get drafted?

I’m hoping I get a similarly-outstanding results out of my latest acquisition, Delino DeShields. DeShields is a Rule V selection from the Astros (and if they weren’t doing well, they’d probably being saying “D’OH!!!!” about DeShields’ success so far) and he’s been doing quite well in Texas.
2015 TSR #134 - Delino DeShields
I’ve seen him referred to Delino Jr., but he’s got a different middle name than his father, so I don’t think that really makes him a “Junior”…

I’m going to gush over my own custom again… I like the way this one came out, because him looking up like that is very “vintage Topps”. The photo of Delino actually a “Photo Day” image, and I added the background of The Ballpark At Arlington.

Before I wrap up, I’d like to bring up another MLB happening from the beginning of the week…

As most of you know, the Marlins recently made an unconventional choice when they replaced their manager.  The word on the street was that they were going to hire someone who was inside the organization while still being an “outside the box” hire…
2015 TSR MAS-1 Billy The Marlin
…But Billy The Marlin turned the position down, so they put GM Dan Jennings in the job instead.

Thanks, I’ll be here all week, you’ve been a great audience!

Tip your waitstaff!

Major Leaguers On Minor League Cards: Just Like They Was Before They Was

Over the weekend I was looking for cards to scan for yesterday’s post about minor league hockey and baseball, and that got me diving into my monster box that’s partially filled with older minor league sets. I had remembered that I recently saw an image of a 15-year-old R.A. Dickey card, and wanted to dig into the archives to see if I had it or not.

I was pretty sure I owned a copy, and was not wrong…
2000 Just The Preview RA Dickey
…This card no longer has to suffer in crowded conditions in the monster box;  it now luxuriates in the binder reserved for my player collections.

I also found several interesting cards from the same set, so I figured I’d share them with you…

This is the card that surprised me the most.
2000 Just The Preview Josh Hamilton
I could see that the card was of a player named Josh Hamilton, but I couldn’t believe it was THAT Josh Hamilton. Wouldn’t I have noticed long ago that I had a card of a noted slugger? And apparently I would not, because it is that Josh Hamilton, 18-years old and in his first season of pro ball after being selected with the first overall draft pick.

As long as I’m featuring Mr. Hamilton, I’ll just mention that the recent unpleasantness involving him and the Los Angeles Angels has caused me to lose quite a bit of respect for the ownership and front office of that team. I didn’t think much of them after the whole “Technically, ‘Anaheim’ doesn’t have to be in front of ‘Angels’! HA! Gotcha!” situation, and this did nothing to improve my opinion. Yes, Josh Hamilton fell off the wagon, but he also did not try to get away with it.  We shouldn’t even know about any of this, but someone leaked out the information and then the Angels organization got all bent out of shape when their own player did not get suspended.  “We are only looking out for what’s best for our $80 Million —- I’m sorry, I meant to say what’s best for Josh.”  I’m sure that every player in the Angels organization sleeps well at night knowing that ownership has their backs.

Cesar Izturis is no longer an active Major Leaguer, but he has been around enough that most of you should know who he is. (Been around, eh, been around? Nudge nudge, wink wink, say no MORE!)
2000 Just The Preview Cesar Izturis
He looks a lot more mature than the 20-years-old he was at the time, doesn’t he?

Finally, here’s a particularly awful card of a current Met. It’s very hard to read the text or see the face, but trust me, it’s Michael Cuddyer. Whenever I’m going through these cards, I look at the backs rather than trying to read the gold print on a transparent colored background.
2000 Just The Preview Michael Cuddyer
My suspicions for this set was that it looked fine while being designed on their computers, but then when it came back from the printer everybody said “Oh… That doesn’t look as good as I though it would”.

…Or maybe I’m just being generous.