By Dr. Ken 

Jack Clary is one of the truly prolific football related authors, a free-lance sportswriter following his many years in the newspaper business. He is perhaps best known for coordinating the media activities for the Cincinnati Bengals’ two 1980s decade Super Bowl appearances and his great biography of idol Paul Brown. One of his less known books is a coffee table sized volume descriptively titled The Complete Picture Collection, A History Topps Football Cards (1956 – 1986). I am not a card collector although I frequently look through Clary's book on the history of the Topps football line of cards and have kept a few treasured items from my youth. For those who collect football or baseball cards, the hobby can be an all-encompassing passion with few boundaries. My own attraction to this particular book is the ongoing opportunity to review specific players’ photos from different seasons and then allow the memories to wash over me. This is certainly the “no expense” way of continuously enjoying what otherwise can be a bank wrecking pursuit!

Jack Clary presented a distinctively human view of the great Paul Brown


I can recall that during my pre-teen years in the mid-1950s, because baseball was still the nation’s dominant and most popular sport, it was of course “all about the baseball cards” that drove card related conversation, trading, and among older men in the neighborhood, buying and selling. We would hear about the incomprehensible value of “the Honus Wagner card” or a Ty Cobb version but even in the 1950s and especially to young boys, it seemed as if these “names only” had played four hundred years ago! I had a baseball card collection like every other boy in school, on the block, or in the neighborhood, won and lost at the various games we played, and ardently traded when there was a specific player or card of interest that came available. It seemed that football cards did not become popular or at least more accessible until the mid-1950s but these immediately crippled any interest I had in baseball cards. There were a few older teens or fellows in their twenties that seemed to possess some expertise about the new football cards and our rag-tag group learned that as there were baseball cards of “those really old guys,” there had actually been football cards published and traded dating to the 1930s. It did not take long to hear about a Bronco Nagurski card that supposedly had great worth, although like baseball legend Honus Wagner, Bronk was really no more than a name to us.




In today’s market that Nagurski card still has great worth but the $250,000.00 it might fetch does not compare to the multiple millions the market demands for the rarest of baseball cards. Some of the valued cards for us, at least related to players we had heard of even though they were retired, were of the status of Sid Luckman and Sammy Baugh. The “new” cards of the mid-1950s reflected our interest in those who were actively playing and who were popular to the average fan. Unitas, Brown, Bednarik and others could be followed on the radio and less often on television but the cards had meaning with no thought or actual knowledge of monetary value.


I was reviewing a few of the early 1960s professional football seasons, with last month’s Helmet News/Reflections being the result [ see HELMET HUT ] when my attention was drawn to a number of the 1962 cards that displayed errors. In this specific grouping of the Topps cards, an action photo accompanied each of the individual player’s photos and a number of these were so blatantly incorrect that they literally jumped off of the page. I found a note I had made quite a few years ago indicating some of these errors, a note that I never followed up on. Errors on baseball and football cards are certainly old news to collectors and perhaps those interested in football history. The usual mistake is the misidentification of a player and some of the “time honored” ones include:


Jim Taylor, a center and linebacker out of Baylor who toiled for the Steelers in ’57 and with the Chicago Cardinals in 1958 and ’59 identified as “Jim Taylor, fullback, Green Bay Packers” in both the 1959 and 1960 card sets.




Two-way tackle Don Owens who played for the Redskins and Eagles before becoming established as a reliable player with the Cardinals for four seasons was pictured on the Forty Niners rookie card of Raleigh Climon “R.C.” Owens in 1958. For rather obvious reasons other than the sixty pound weight difference between these men, this error should have been avoidable!


Two-way tackle Don Owens is still considered one of the all-time best at Southern Mississippi and was effective as an offensive tackle in the NFL



Niners receiver R.C. Owens was best known for catching the “Alley-Oop” passes of Y.A. Tittle


Former USC line stand-out Volney Peters who bounced through five different pro teams in a ten year career had his photo identified as Redskins running back and a favorite of mine, Jim Podoley in the Topps 1957 set.  Podoley was part of the 1957 Redskins all-rookie “Lolly Pop Backfield” with Ed Sutton and Don Bosseler. With the obvious difference in positions and a forty-five pound weight disadvantage, Podoley and Peters should have been distinguishable from each other.


Tackle Volney Peters identified as Jim Podoley


The “real” Volney Peters


Central Michigan’s former All American Podoley was a serviceable back for the Redskins


In the Topps 1962 set, I spent quite a bit of time looking at the action photos as I had not been collecting cards at the time of their publication. Those with obvious errors where the action photo was not of the player featured on the card included Johnny Unitas’ photo being used for Zeke Bratkowski, J.D.  Smith used for Don Perkins, what appears to be a member of the Cowboys or Packers making a tackle in place of the featured rookie Roy “Moonie” Winston of the Vikings, Sonny Jurgensen’s photo inserted for what is supposed to be Fran Tarkenton, and what might be Dick James taking the place of John Aveni. At least the Topps artists altered the jersey numbers to match the featured player and utilized another professional player when making the errors noted. Jerry Hillebrand’s card, another of the rookie season cards, displayed an action shot of the Colorado rookie but used his Colorado uniform in both the action and featured player presentations.


Although the January 1, 1962 Orange Bowl Game was one of my favorites, even a magnifying glass was unable to confirm that Hillebrand is the Colorado player being tackled by LSU’s Wendell Harris, due to the distortion of the sleeve number


The card of College and Pro Football Halls of Fame great Ollie Matson was so incorrect that I was moved to attempt to contact Mr. Mike Taylor of Nearmint. Some of the fellows I know who do maintain football card collections said that his Nearmint and Vintage Card Gallery sites were “the places to look” in order to view a great history of football cards. I wrote to Mr. Taylor:

“I noted an error I had not seen previously identified and was going to work mention of it into one of my columns and searched your site to confirm the error as my card collecting buddies told me that you are ‘the expert.’ Your site noted:

‘The image on the Denver Broncos Mini-Card Album is the same one used in the inset photo on Ollie Matson’s 1962 Topps card, but again, the player’s number is different. Matson was number 33 with the Rams, so it appears that the image on his 1962 card was altered. Does anyone recognize the player?’”




As I mentioned above, the incorrect action photos on the 1962 card set utilized other professional players, in my opinion, Matson’s does not, thus I continued my response to Mr. Taylor:

“The giveaway is the helmet. Although a number of the professional players wore an externally padded helmet, this is the Ohio State externally padded MacGregor used in 1960 and '61 [see HELMET HUT College site, Ohio State:] It appears as if the game depicted is Ohio State vs. Michigan. The player, #33, is Dave Francis, the fullback who played behind All American Bob Ferguson who was second in the '61 Heisman Trophy balloting to Ernie Davis. After Ferguson entered the NFL with the Steelers for the 1962 season, Francis led the Big Ten in rushing, having a huge game vs. Michigan that year.”

For an athlete of the stature of Matson, and one who truly exemplifies the difference of yesteryear’s Hall of Fame players and those of our current era, this is tantamount to slander. As an admitted “non-expert” I don’t know if Matson has been the only professional player, and certainly one of the professional true greats, to have his collectible card illustrated by a collegiate player but it is a question I am certain those who are ardent collectors could answer. In either case, football trading cards, as we referred to them in my youth, can remain an enjoyable reminder of many pleasant football memories.