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Sports Then and Now



They are The Topps! 10 Iconic Football Cards 0

Posted on April 18, 2020 by Dean Hybl

In this time when we are all spending time at home, I have spent some of my time looking at some of my old sports cards and memorabilia. As part of a new series about sports cards, I am starting by sharing 10 of my favorite football cards. Not necessarily my favorite players, but 10 cards that I think are cool, different or just unusual.

With a few exceptions, Topps Football Cards for their first couple decades were largely static pictures of players either as staged pictures or later pictures of players standing or sitting on the sidelines.

In 1972 the Sunoco Football Stamps came out with most of the pictures being awesome game action photos that were far better than anything Topps had ever produced on a football card. Beginning in 1972 with their own special action cards and then the next year in the regular series, Topps started trying to have more game action photos, though the results were a bit mixed.

Though cards produced in the last 30 years have gotten significantly better in terms of action pictures, my heart belongs to the Topps Football Cards from the 1950s through the 1970s, so all of my picks for this article are from that time period.

1973 MaCarthur Lane – Green Bay Packers

The 1973 Topps football card set was one of the first where Topps successfully incorporated action photos into the regular set as player cards. They were slightly hindered by the fact they could not show the team logos, so there are some cards with some interested color patches to block out the logos, but some of the action shots are pretty good.

My favorite of the action shots is the card of Green Bay Packers running back Macarthur Lane because it looks like he is holding a flat football. Though likely an illusion created by his hand, I remember seeing this card as a kid and thinking he was so strong that he flattened the football.

Lane spent 11 seasons in the NFL, playing for the Cardinals, Packers and Chiefs. His most productive season was with St. Louis in 1970 when he rushed for 977 yards and 11 touchdowns. Traded to the Packers before the 1972 season, he teamed with John Brockington to help the Packers reach the playoffs for the first time since 1967. In 1976, Lane led the AFC with 66 receptions while playing for the Chiefs.

He finished his career with 4,656 career rushing yards and 2,786 yards receiving. Lane passed away in 2019.

1958 – Lamar McHan – Chicago Cardinals

Though he spent 10 seasons as a quarterback in the NFL, there is a pretty good chance that you have never heard of Lamar McHan. However, from the first time I ever saw his 1958 Topps card, it has been among my favorites.

In 1958 Topps seemed to try and have some type of action within many of their cards, though they were clearly all staged as part of photo shoots. There is the iconic photo of Jim Brown running with the ball, but without his helmet.

Read the rest of this entry →

NFL at 100: Top 100 Players of All-Time – 25-1 1

Posted on February 02, 2020 by Dean Hybl

As part of our celebration of the NFL at 100, Sports Then and Now is finishing our list of the top 100 players in NFL history with picks 25-1.

One of the cool parts of the NFL celebrating 100 years is remembering the great moments and players that have helped shape the history of the game.

The NFL Network has been sharing their selections for the top moments, game-changers, teams and characters. They also picked their All-Time top 100 team, though they did not rank the players 1-100.

In a sport that has seen great change and evolution over 100 years, creating any comprehensive all-time list is going to be subjective and open to interpretation.

That is likely even more pronounced when trying to choose the top 100 players of the NFL’s first 100 years.

Some will certainly rely heavily on statistics as a guide, but my opinion is that while individual season statistics and the number of seasons leading the league in a statistical category can help identify greatness, career and all-time statistics are not as helpful and can be misleading when trying to pick an all-time team.

Whether it is related to the number of games played each season, move from playing both ways to position specialization or rule changes that impact offensive production, there has been enough change over the history of the game that I believe reduce the importance of career statistics.

 That is why for the Sports Then and Now list of the Top 100 Players in NFL history we chose to give greater emphasis to other factors. The things we looked at when choosing our top 100 included All-Pro and Pro Bowl selections, number of times leading their league in statistical categories, how they compared to other players from within their era and peak performance. Team success was given greater weight in ordering quarterbacks, but played only a minor role in selecting players from other positions.

The result is a Sports Then and Now Top 100 list that includes many of the players selected by NFL Network, but does have quite a few differences. For our list, we made sure not to forget those players from the 1920s-1950s whose career statistics are well below players from future decades, but who were clearly all-time greats.

The distribution of players by era for the ST&N Top 100 is very interesting: 1920s-1930s: 8; 1940s-1950s: 13; 1960s: 24; 1970s: 15; 1980s: 12; 1990s: 12; 2000s: 8; 2010s: 7. However, 14 of our top 20 played a majority of their career after 1980.

You can read our players 100-76, 75-51 and 50-26 in previous articles.

25. Bulldog Turner – Chicago Bears – 4 Pro Bowls; 7 time 1st Team All-Pro: A two-way star for the Chicago Bears, Clyde “Bulldog” Turner helped lead the Bears to four NFL Championships. As a rookie in 1940, he played center on offense and had an interception return for a touchdown as the Bears defeated the Washington Redskins 73-0.  Playing primarily center on offense and linebacker on defense, he was an eight-time first team All-Pro.

24. Mike Webster – Pittsburgh Steelers – 9 Pro Bowls; 5 time 1st Team All-Pro: Considered by many to be the greatest offensive center in NFL history, Mike Webster helped lead the Pittsburgh Steelers to four Super Bowl titles. He played in 245 career games, including 150 consecutive starts from 1976-86.

Merlin Olsen

23. Merlin Olsen – Los Angeles Rams – 14 Pro Bowls; 5 time 1st Team All-Pro: One of five players in NFL history to have been selected to 14 Pro Bowls, Merlin Olsen teamed with Deacon Jones to anchor the Los Angeles Rams Fearsome Foursome defensive line during the 1960s. As a defensive tackle, Olsen was a stalwart against the run. A durable player, Olsen missed only two games in his 15 year career. He was the NFL rookie of the year in 1962 while earning the first of 14 straight trips to the Pro Bowl.

22. Chuck Bednarik – Philadelphia Eagles – 8 Pro Bowls; 6 time 1st Team All-Pro: One of the last of the two-way players, Chuck Bednarik earned All-Pro honors as an offensive center and defensive linebacker during his career. Nicknamed “Concrete Charlie”, Bednarik was known for his ferocious hits. In the 1960 Championship Game he tackled Green Bay running back Jim Taylor at the 9-yard line on the final play of the game to ensure a 17-13 Philadelphia victory.

21. Bronko Nagurski – Chicago Bears – 0 Pro Bowls; 4 time 1st Team All-Pro: At 6-foot-2, 235 pounds, Nagurski was one of the largest running backs in the NFL in the 1930s and larger than many linemen of the era. He threw a touchdown pass to Red Grange to help the Chicago Bears defeat the Portsmouth Spartans 9-0 in the first-ever NFL Playoff Game. Nagurski was a first or second team All-Pro in each of his first seven NFL seasons. He retired following the 1937 season, but returned to the team in 1943 and played tackle and fullback to help the Bears win the NFL Championship.

Read the rest of this entry →

Remembering the Greatness of Walter “Sweetness” Payton 7

Posted on July 25, 2011 by Dean Hybl

He didn't have a cape, but Walter Payton could leap over tall NFL players in a single bound.

The images of him flying through the air or high stepping across the end zone are so ingrained in the memories of football fans who had the pleasure of watching his amazing talents that it is hard to believe that it has been 24 years since Walter Payton completed his NFL career and nearly a dozen years since his premature passing.

On what would have been Payton’s 57th birthday (he was born on July 25, 1954 in Columbia, Mississippi), we remember the greatness of a football player who was simply sweet.

I know you hear it all the time, but God definitely broke the mold when he created Walter Payton.

Others are recognized as maybe being better NFL players, but I just don’t know that there was ever a better combination of desire, gracefulness, power and athleticism packed into a 5-foot-10 frame than the man they called “Sweetness.”

By all accounts, Payton never should have been as great as he was.

Given his physical stature, initial preference for playing the drums over playing football and that he played his college football at tiny Jackson State it is really quite amazing that Payton went on to achieve such lofty status.

However, heart and desire cannot be measured at a scouting combine and there is no question that Payton had those required tools in spades.

Payton’s career numbers: 16,726 rushing yards (second all-time), 21,264 yards from scrimmage (3rd), 125 touchdowns (11th) are beyond reproach, but his career was about so much more than mere statistics.

For more than a decade, Payton was the silent assassin of the NFL. His soft voice and quiet demeanor off the field masked his killer instinct on the field.

They also masked his reputation as a locker room prankster and cut-up. Read the rest of this entry →

25 Years Ago: Da Super Bears 2

Posted on January 26, 2011 by Dean Hybl

Few teams in sports history have matched the brashness and brilliance of the 1985 Bears.

It is difficult to believe that it has actually been 25 years since the Chicago Bears completed one of the most dominant seasons in NFL history with a 46-10 thrashing of the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX.

Though it has now been 25 years ago since their Super Bowl victory, the 1985 Bears still hold special place in the memories of many football fans as much because of the larger-than-life personalities as for their dominant performances on the field.

The images of Jim McMahon mooning a helicopter, Walter Payton running through tacklers, William Perry plowing into the end zone and Wilber Marshall running through the snow to a game clinching score are still fresh in the memory.

The Bears didn’t just beat opponents, they punished them. Of their 15 regular season victories, only four were not double digit victories.

They made two proud franchises look old and out-manned with a 45-10 victory over the Washington Redskins and a 44-0 white-wash of the Dallas Cowboys.

Only a 38-24 loss to the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football in week 13 kept them from a perfect season.

But even that loss didn’t stymie the confidence and brashness of the Bears. The day after that loss, members of the team gathered to shoot their “Super Bowl Shuffle” video.

They then went out and out-scored their final three regular season opponents 73-33 to finish with a 15-1 regular season mark.

The previous season, the Bears had reached the NFC Championship Game, only to lose to the San Francisco 49ers.

This time around the Bears left little doubt that they would be the NFC representative in Super Bowl XX. Read the rest of this entry →

Super Bowl XX: Not On This Given Sunday 2

Posted on January 26, 2010 by Phil Andrews

walter payton sweetness

The outcome of Super Bowl XX was never really in doubt as Walter Payton and the Bears dominated the Patriots.

Wow, has it really been 24 years?  Jan 26, 1986. Super Bowl XX, at the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. Tony Eason and the New England Patriots, against Jim McMahon and the Chicago Bears.

After watching the Super Bowl on TV as a kid, I couldn’t believe I was actually there to cover the big game in person. It was just my second year in television so I was still a little wet behind the ears.

At the time, I was working for Channel 9, WMUR TV in Manchester, N.H. and was in the Big Easy as part of the media contingent covering the Patriots.

That year the Pats were actually a surprise Super Bowl suitor given the teams they had the beat to get there.  After finishing the regular season with a record of 11-5 and in third place behind the Dolphins and Jets in the AFC East, New England’s ticket to New Orleans consisted of three wildcard road wins against  the Jets (26-14), Raiders (27-20) and Dolphins (31-14).

Ironically, Miami was the only team that season to beat the Bears, who arrived on Bourbon Street with a gaudy record of 18-1, following play-off wins over the Giants (21-0) and the Los Angeles Rams (24-0).

Yep, back to back play-off shutouts, but no surprise really when you consider at the time the Bears where in the record books as one of the best defenses ever in league history.

That year, the Bears, “46 Zone” defense, allowed the fewest points (198), total yards (4,135), and fewest  yards rushing (1,319). They also led the league with thirty-four interceptions. Read the rest of this entry →

Remembering Walter Payton: Simply Sweet 1

Posted on November 01, 2009 by Dean Hybl

It is difficult to believe that 10 years have passed since the sports world lost a true giant with the passing of Walter Payton on November 1, 1999.

Click here to read “Simply Sweet”, which is an in-depth look at Payton’s glory days at Jackson State and in the NFL with the Chicago Bears.

In remembrance of Payton’s amazing career, we have also chosen several highlight clips that reflect his true greatness.

Walter Payton Highlights:

Read the rest of this entry →

  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Stan Jones – Weight Training Trailblazer
      October 11, 2020 | 1:48 pm
      Stan Jones

      The Sports Then and Now Athlete of the Month was one of the great linemen of his era and is considered a trailblazer for using weight training and conditioning to develop his skills.

      After a standout career at the University of Maryland, Stan Jones spent nine seasons as an offensive lineman for the Chicago Bears, making seven Pro Bowl appearances and earning first team All-Pro three times.

      In 1962, assistant coach George Allen suggested Jones move to defense to help solidify that unit for the Bears. He played both ways in 1962 and then in 1963 moved permanently to the defense.

      Read more »

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