Thursday, 30 April 2020

Roughrider's Tradition Generates More Than a Half-Century of Themed Memorabilia

On November 2, 1953 the Saskatchewan Roughriders held their first $100 a plate team fundraising dinner, establishing a tradition that continues to this day approaching seventy years later. For a small market team this revenue was literally the difference in keeping the team afloat for many decades thanks to the fervent support of the team's fans. One hundred dollars in 1953 was roughly equivalent to $1000 today so this was no small financial sacrifice for those that purchased tickets.

The grand-prize for this dinner was a (presumably new) car and according to Melville's column all attendees went home with some sort of a prize. Whether any of those prizes were specifically made to commemorate the dinner is unknown for both 1953 and 1954, but in subsequent years the team started awarding items that were especially produced for the event.

Luckily Saskatchewan super-collector Barry Shefernack has spent considerable time and effort chronicling just what exactly those items were for each year, and he has graciously allowed me to illustrate a subset of these interesting artifacts in this blog post. Barry hopes to publish a comprehensive reference on this material at some point in the future. 

November 4th,  1953 Tom Melville column in the Regina Leader-Post reporting on the 1st Dinner

For the 3rd annual dinner in 1955, besides the car and the other prizes distributed via draws the engraved lighter shown below is believed to be the first known dinner particular prize. Smoking accessories were a popular category for prizes and the 1957 ceramic ash-tray is the first known item that actually is labeled as being from the dinner.

1955 Lighter & 1957 Ashtray 

The dinner continued to be a solid draw through the late fifties with a record 387 attendees in 1958.
Another popular category for dinner prizes was glassware, as the dated combination below shows. The undated glass was possibly marketed separately after the event using the same graphic design.
In 1960 three automobiles were featured as draw prizes.

1959 Glasses and Ice Bucket & Undated Glass
(pics taken on a brown couch)

Attendance at the dinner and subsequent profit for the team grew as the Riders slowly built a contender in the first half of the sixties. No doubt the extra funds helped greatly with signing players who would soon power the team through their most consistent period of success. By 1964 the record for sales was up to 709 tickets and the following year the team started bringing in big-name speakers like boxing legends Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney. By mid-decade the lucky draw winners were going home with new Cadillacs!

1962 Metal Tray with facsimile autographs

In many years there was more than one themed item awarded and the list is not absolute as new items occasionally come to light. A number of attractive metal trays were made in different years that make for fine display pieces for today's collector.

In 1966 after 14 years of annual dinners, the team would finally advance to the Grey Cup for the first time since 1951. A points based system was in place to allocate Grey Cup tickets to the fan base, most points getting the first shot at seats. Points were earned for season ticket holders, program advertisers or patrons, active team memberships and a number of other things but a significant number of points (4) was for buying the annual dinner ticket.     

The Riders captured their first championship in team history that year and promptly commemorated the event with the stein pictured below at the next season's dinner. There would be repeat trips to the big game four times over the next decade but no further opportunity to theme a dinner prize to a victory.

1967 Grey Cup Champions (1966) Stein & 1971 Steak Board with Dinner Ticket

Entering the digital age the 1969 organizing committee tried to replace the manual draw process in place since the dinner's inauguration with a new-fangled IBM computerized system. The system proved buggy and caused delays resulting in it being abandoned after two years. Prizes awarded to the dinner patrons had reached a pretty significant level, $25,000 worth in 1971 for example.

Somewhat mind-bogglingly from today's perspective, a female reporter attended the 1974 dinner and by doing so caused something of a stir. The event was traditionally (although not officially) male only. Apparently the last time a few women had attended as ticket buyers was in the fifties. By 1975 the dinner topped the 1000 attendee mark for the first time.

Despite the robust fan contributions the Rider's team finances were in big trouble. In 1974 the team lost over $100K on football operations but managed to break even with the dinner proceeds and other fundraising activities. In 1975 they lost $100K even with the fundraising income. 1976 was better because of the Grey Cup proceeds but by 1977 the annual dinner ticket cost was raised to $200 to help stem the tide. Glen Dobbs, the Riders' QB from their 1951 Grey Cup bid was the guest speaker for the 25th anniversary dinner.

1977 Silver Anniversary Mug & 1980 Stadium Seat Cushion with Blanket inside 

Towards the end of the decade the team started hemorrhaging money.  A stadium expansion was sought and delivered to allow for more revenue from ticket sales but it was hard to attract the needed additional fans with the team posting back to back 2-14 records in the 1979 and 1980 seasons.  Things were bleak but for the final home game in 1979 the Rider Pride slogan was officially harnessed to convince fans to pack Taylor Field to capacity to help prevent the potential loss of the franchise.

For the most part the eighties were a brutal decade for the team with eight last or second last place finishes in ten years. During that time the high dinner attendance was maintained even with the doubling of the cost and subsequent profits helped keep the team in business. For the team's 75th Anniversary in 1985 the ticket cost was bumped to $250 and an All-Time Roughrider All-Star team was selected and living members attended the banquet.

The 1987 event was listed as the first annual team Hall of Fame dinner and a selection of nine initial players and administrators was made. The associated dinner prize (beer bottles) was one of the rare times that individuals were featured on the items and so these were catalogued in Collecting Canadian Football Volume 2, as was the very nice 1977 prize Mirror with Ron Lancaster and Glenn Dobbs. In 1988 the Hall of Fame was renamed the Plaza of Honor with nine more members selected and the actual Plaza was constructed outside of Taylor Field.

1986 Set of Playing Cards & 1994 Document Bag

Long suffering Rider supporters finally were rewarded in 1989 when an unexpected playoff run from 3rd place, knocking off one of the most powerful teams in CFL history (Eskimos 16-2) along the way, culminated in a dramatic last play Grey Cup victory.

The now renamed Plaza of Honor Annual Dinner had its first pin produced in 1990 and except for  2003 a pin has been produced every year since (with some limited edition variations as well). In 2017 the spelling was changed to the more Canadian Plaza of Honour and a selection of these pins are illustrated.

Selection of Plaza of Honor Pins

The nineties were another tough decade for the franchise, with the exception of another Cinderella run to a 1997 Grey Cup appearance, the Riders would not win another playoff game the whole decade. Budget issues were a constant strain (both for Regina and the league in general) and the team was millions in debt with survival sometimes dependent on emergency season ticket appeals to stave off collapse.

And yet despite the lack of on-field success, Rider fans kept pouring their support into the annual dinner (sponsored by Sasktel from 1991) and the Friends of the Riders Touchdown Lottery with both fundraisers generating millions in cumulative support over the years. Dinner attendance was solidly near the 1000 mark every year and at some point the plaza induction ceremonies began to be televised on local TV.

By the last dinner of the century 76 players/builders had been inducted into the Plaza of Honor and more importantly the team had started to finish in the black again and reduce their accumulated deficit, at least in some seasons. In 2000 a record 1271 fans bought dinner tickets, still at $250 a pop plus gst.

2003 Clock & 2007 Folding Tray with facsimile inductee autographs

The turn of the century saw the Roughriders franchise finally turning the corner on being habitually on the verge of  financial collapse. Their well-oiled fundraising machine was one reason as the dinner alone was pumping close to a quarter of a million dollars into the team every year (the ticket fee was upped to $300 in 2002).

But other factors contributed as well, profits from hosting the Grey Cup in 2003, a general increase in television revenue for the leagues' teams and most importantly a better product on the field. The Riders became competitive again and in 2007 they posted their best record (12-6) for 37 years since the 1970 squad went 14-2! That same year saw a record 1412 attend the dinner and the team capped off their resurgence with a third Grey Cup.

A winning team and frequent Grey Cup trips meant consistent sellouts in Regina further enhancing the club's bottom line. Tom Shepherd, the mastermind behind their fundraising activities who had been helping in that capacity since 1966 was elected to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame as a builder in 2008. 

2009 Grey Cup Champions (1989) Framed Collage

In 2010 the Rider's three Grey Cup winning teams were inducted into the Plaza for the 100th Anniversary of the franchise. Attractive championship team framed collages were issued as dinner prizes for each team in the surrounding years.

The dinner continued to attract roughly the same amount of support as it always had through to 2016 which was the final year of the old format and the final year of dinner specific gifts. With the move to the new Stadium in 2017 the induction was modified to being more of a game day event with tiered pricing. Each year's Plaza inductees had been celebrated during the home game nearest to the dinner date for some time prior in any case.

As of 2019 131 players & builders and three teams have been elected to the Plaza of Honour. Over the span from 1953 - 2016 there at least 70 known Annual Dinner gift items and probably a dozen or so more yet to be discovered.

With a considerable financial surplus, a new state of the art stadium, a rabid fan base and salary cap rules to keep the league competitive, the days of Saskatchewan fans needing to wait decades between improbable Grey Cup underdog runs anymore appear to be over (as shown by their 2013 win). It is also fair to suppose that without the Annual Dinner the Roughriders would probably have been a one-time champion team that folded long ago as a footnote in CFL history.

Sunday, 22 March 2020

Star Studded Lineup Comes Up Short - Early 60's Argos (Volume 2 Updates & Additions)

In most professional sport leagues the vast majority of players are not fortunate enough to win a championship. Many superstar caliber players perform their heroics for their whole careers without ever attaining their ultimate goal for themselves, their teammates and their franchise's fans.

Because the CFL is such a compact league the chances of Grey Cup success are considerably elevated as compared to modern leagues with 30+ teams. Yet still there are numerous historical scenarios where the number of star players aligned together during the same few seasons on a particular team, can only lead one to wonder - How the hell did these guys not win anything?

The Toronto Argonauts of the early 1960's are one such team and this blog post will review some of their great players and of course their related memorabilia, with some previously uncatalogued super rare items as a bonus.

Dick Shatto
Late 1950's Uncatalogued Argonauts Team Issue Action Photo &
Early 1960's Argonauts Team Issue Photo (most likely 1961)

The original Argonaut superstar of the professional era was Dick Shatto who played for 12 seasons (1954-1965) in double blue. Unfortunately for him during most of that time the team was very uncompetitive only making the playoffs once and finishing dead last four times prior to the turn of the decade. Nevertheless Shatto put up phenomenal seasonal and career numbers while playing multiple positions (and both ways for numerous seasons) and incredibly still holds many team aggregate statistical records today, more than fifty years after he retired.

During his career he was a divisional All-Star 8 times, All Canadian All-Star 2* times, the team's nominee for Most Outstanding Player 7 times and the Eastern Division MOP twice (runner up to the League MOP). Shatto was elected to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1975. Naturally he is featured in all of the classic CFL card sets of that era (cereal issues & Topps) as well as the potato chip and soft drink caps novelties. His team issued obscure odd-ball items are of course a lot more challenging  to acquire.

* The All-Canadian All-Star designation did not begin until 1962, so for many of the player's discussed a lot of their careers were played before this was achievable.

Jim Rountree - Early 1960's  Argonauts Team Issue Photo (most likely 1960)
Dick Fouts - 1967 print of 1962 Graphic Industries Action Photo (with B.C. Lions)  

Towards the end of the fifties the Argonauts started to add more talented players to the team including Halfback/Defensive Back Jim Rountree (10 seasons, 1958-1967) who became a divisional All-Star 7 times, All Canadian All-Star 1* time, and the team's nominee for Most Outstanding Player once. Rountree would also play both ways well into the sixties and also owns some team records to this day.

Manning the Defensive Line was All-American from Missouri Dick Fouts who split his career between the Argos and the B.C. Lions. He played (6 seasons in Toronto, 1957-61, 1967) and became a divisional All-Star 5 times, All Canadian All-Star 3* times, and his team's nominee for Most Outstanding Lineman twice.

The 1960 team photos are generally helmeted with more tree foliage visible in the background and the 1961 team photos (see Shatto above) have generally no helmets and low buildings in the background. I could not locate a Fouts photo from his early Toronto years but you can see his 1959 Argonaut Seven-Up photo in this earlier post.

Cookie Gilchrist
1962 News Wire Photo using Cookie's 1961 Argonauts Team Issue Photo
1960 Uncatalogued Argonauts Seven-Up Photo

In 1959 the Argos added arguably one of the best players in all of football when they traded for Cookie Gilchrist who would run, catch, kick and play linebacker while performing for 3 seasons (1959-1961) with Toronto. Over the course of his six year CFL career Gilchrist was named a divisional All-Star 6 times (in 1960 on BOTH sides of the ball) and was his team's nominee for Most Outstanding Player three times and the Eastern Division MOP once.

Gilchrist won championships in every league he ever played in, for the Kitchener-Waterloo Dutchmen of the O.R.F.U. in 1955, the Hamilton Tiger Cats of the CFL in 1957 and the Buffalo Bills of the AFL in 1964. After leaving Toronto Cookie dominated in the old American Football League being named to the AFL 1st All-Star team for four consecutive seasons and was named the Associated Press and United Press International AFL Most Valuable Player in 1962.

The general consensus on Cookie Gilchrist in the US is that he was the greatest player you've never heard of, because from an American perspective he spent eight years north of the border and 6 years in the AFL.

A couple of years ago on ebay the fantastic uncatalogued 1960 Argonaut Seven-Up Photo of Cookie showed up. While the Seven-Up Photos (previously only the 1958 & 1959 issues were known) are definitely extremely rare, I try to price these things quite conservatively in the guides. The most expensive listing being the 1958 Dick Shatto at $37.50 for NRMT. The Cookie Gilchrist photo sold for around $250.00 with all fees and USD conversions in.

Dave Mann
1960 Uncatalogued Argonauts Seven-Up Photo & Photo Envelope 

The only other currently known 1960 Argonaut Seven-Up Photo is the Dave Mann. Mann joined the Argonauts in 1958, had to sit out the 1959 season for a drug bust trial and subsequently suited up for the Argos for 12 seasons (1958, 1960-1970). Prior to his CFL career he played fours years at Oregon State University, concurrently managed two seasons with the Fort Ord Army Warriors west coast military team and then three seasons for the Chicago Cardinals in the NFL.

Nineteen + years is a long time to be playing football, especially when you rush the ball, receive passes, punt, kick, return kickoffs & punts and play a little bit of defence. Dave "Super" Mann was a divisional All-Star 2 times. His 1960 Seven-Up photo sold for around $150 CAD all in, proving that when CFL collectors see something they realize they will probably never see again, they tend to bid considerable amounts.

Tobin Rote
1961 Pre-Season Program Dedicated Player Picture
1960 Argonauts Program Seven-Up sponsored Roster Listing   

In 1960 the Argonauts added what should have been the final piece of the championship capable puzzle. Rote had a stellar 10 year career in the NFL with Green Bay and Detroit setting many impressive Quarterbacking records and leading the  Lions to the 1957 NFL championship with one of the greatest playoff performances up to that time in history crushing the Cleveland Browns 59-14. Rote received either first or second team All-Star votes from the news services in 1955 and 1956.

During Rote's Argonauts career of 3 seasons (1960-1962) he set numerous then CFL quarterbacking records and more importantly piloted the Argos into first place for the first time since 1937! Rote was never named to a divisional All-Star team but in 1960 he had more attempts, more completions, more yards, way more touchdown passes and a higher QB rating than the Eastern All-Star QB Sam Etcheverry.

Just like Cookie when Rote left Toronto he went to the AFL and promptly dominated there as well leading the 1963 San Diego Chargers to an 11-3 season and a 51-10 blowout of the Boston Patriots in the Championship game. Rote was named as AFL 1st team All-Star QB and was the Associated Press AFL Most Valuable Player in 1963. Rote was back in the AFL championship game in 1964 where he ironically lost to Gilchrist's Buffalo Bills.

Danny Nykoluk & Marty Martinello
Mid 1960's Argonauts Team Issue Action Photos (most likely 1963)

Great import players are one thing, but in Canada you don't go very far in November without solid Canadian player supporting depth, and the Argos had that in spades as well. Hard rock lineman Danny Nykoluk spent a whopping 16 seasons with Toronto (1955, 1957-1971), was named a divisional All-Star 2 times and was his team's nominee for Most Outstanding Lineman once.

Marty Martinello spent six seasons in Argo colours (1960-1965) and also was named a divisional All-Star 2 times. The above two pictures are just some of the many great Argonaut media photos that have come to light since the publication of Collecting Canadian Football V2.

Add in naturalized Canadian Bobby Kuntz (born in the U.S. but raised in Canada) who toiled for the Argos for 6 years (1956-1961), was named a divisional All-Star 3 times, All Canadian All-Star 1 time, was his teams nominee for Most Outstanding Canadian 5 times and Eastern Division MOC twice. Another stalwart Canadian Argo was Norm Stoneburgh who played 12 seasons (1955-1967) and made 4 divisional All-Star teams.

Bobby Kuntz & Norm Stoneburgh
Argo player promotional Advertisement from 1960 Program
1966 Program Picture probably sourced from a 1961 Media Photo

So by 1960 the stage was set, the Argonauts had superstars who not only had won championships (and would go on to win more) but they were major critical factors in delivering those championships for their teams. They had future Hall of Famers, they had umpteen All-Stars patrolling the yard lines, they had more than enough Canadian player strength.  All they had to do was put it together at playoff time.

The Argos headed into Ottawa for the first of the two game total points Eastern Final series knowing that while they had compiled a 8-1 record against Hamilton & Montreal they only managed to go 2-3 against the Rough Riders. This trend continued as they found themselves twelve points down after absorbing a 33-21 loss.

For the prior three seasons the Western dynasty Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Eastern Juggernaut Hamilton Tiger-Cats had monopolized the Grey Cup matchup, but by the time the second game of the Final series came around the Edmonton Eskimos had completed a massive upset of the Bombers and the road to the championship was wide open.

Midway through the third quarter of the second game the Argonauts had built a 20-0 lead and an eight point edge in the aggregate score, when the wheels fell off. The riders scored three times in succession set up by a 54 yard long bomb, a 65 yard interception return and incredibly an 80 yard sleeper play on a 2nd and 37 from their own 12 yard line! Meanwhile on Toronto's possessions Rote's accurate passes were being inexplicably dropped by his normally dependable receivers. Toronto General Manager Lew Hayman was quoted the next day "We just weren't fated to win".

Newly discovered Tobin Rote & Dave Mann
Early 1960's Argonauts Team Issue Pinbacks, probably 1961

The following season the Argonauts roster of stars was intact but the team was inconsistent falling to third place and once again they lost the season series to the Ottawa Rough Riders 1-2. They returned to Ottawa for the Semi-Final match and exacted some measure of revenge for last year by thrashing the Riders 43-19. Tobin Rote threw four TD passes and ran for two more while five Argonaut first stringers played both ways.

The first game of the two game total points Eastern Final series in front of a record crowd at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto saw the Argos continue to dominate with a 25-7 beating of the "back to their normal first place residing" Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Carrying an 18 point edge into the 2nd game it is hard to say what factors led to the Argo's almost complete inability to compete offensively as the Tiger-Cat defence held them to 2 measly points while evening the aggregate score leading 20-2. Despite this after a late interception return to the Ti-Cat 27 the Argonauts were still in a position to win the game and go to the Grey Cup, when a quintessentially Canadian football play sealed their demise.

Toronto took a penalty and lost yards running the clock down to the last play, then Dave Mann punted from the 46 into the end-zone for the potential winning single, punted back out by Hamilton which Mann caught at the 35 (no-yards should have been called but wasn't). Mann punted it back to the goal line where Bernie Faloney retrieved it and using illegal blocks (no blocking allowed on punt returns then) ran it all the way back to Toronto's end zone. To prevent the Tiger-cats from having one more play the Argos declined the penalty (the score could not stand once a flag was thrown) which ended the game tied on aggregate, overtime to follow.

In overtime the Tiger-Cats left no doubt as to who was the superior team scoring four touchdowns and winning the game 48-2. I think you would have a pretty hard time finding another instance in professional football where a 48-2 final score win was threatening to turn into a 1 point elimination loss just minutes before. For the Argonauts this monumentally disappointing defeat closed the window of opportunity for this group of outstanding players to win the Grey Cup.

Jackie Parker
Mid 1960's Argonauts Team Issue Action Photo (1963) &
1964 Argonauts Team Issue Portrait Photo

Rote was back in 1962 but the Argonauts fell to last place again. Cookie Gilchrist was suspended for a curfew violation and the team very imprudently allowed him to move on to Buffalo and the AFL. The following season the Argonauts management decided that maybe they could get to the promised land with the help of the most decorated player in CFL history, Jackie Parker.

Unfortunately Parker was past his prime and with the deterioration of the supporting cast the team finished dead last again all three seasons that Parker played in Toronto. It would be another 21  seasons after Rote left before the Argonauts would hoist the Grey Cup again. 

Most if not all of the players featured in this post have passed on now, many of them just since the turn of the century. But now some 60 years later is as good a time as any to reflect on what just might have been, had this team of ultra-skilled athletes not imploded at just the wrong moments so many years ago.

Friday, 28 February 2020

Hall of Fame Ephemera Haul

As with any sport, enshrinement in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame is the ultimate achievement for those who dedicated their careers as players or their efforts as builders to the game. So this post will examine some of the as yet uncatalogued ephemera and memorabilia associated with the institution.

The movement to establish a Hall of Fame for Canadian football can be traced to the late fifties with a temporary location in Hamilton being occupied in 1962 and the first group of players and builders elected in 1963. Subsequently for the better part of a decade the hall had no permanent location while civic minded Hamiltonians raised funds to rectify the situation. Finally in 1972 the new facility across from Hamilton City Hall was opened.     

1973 Inaugural Canadian Football Hall Of Fame Museum Induction Booklet

In conjunction with the new building a 32 page publication detailing the history of the Hall and capsule biographies of the members inducted from 1963 through 1973 was produced. This publication is not that easy to come by nowadays and is chock full of information with more thorough write-ups than you can see today on the CFHOF website.

1983 11th Induction Program

The yearly inductions into the Hall are a little confusingly counted from 1973 forwards, even though selections had been made mostly annually for a decade before. Most of the booklets from each ceremony are fairly plain and the players are typically pictured at the age when they were inducted as opposed to a playing era photo. This aligns with the busts carved for each inductee, they resemble the player in later life. 

1989 17th Induction Program & 1998 26th Induction Program Insert caricatures

Starting at least as early as 1989 caricatures by long time Hamilton Spectator cartoonist Blaine (who legally had only the one name) were drawn and either printed in the booklet or printed on separate pages and inserted in the booklet (along with a page each on their accomplishments).

These separate sheet items are interesting but can be reproduced by photocopying so not particularly collectible with any sort of assigned value. Sheets with multiple inductee caricatures are known from as late as 2007 as well as some sheets celebrating historical induction classes from previous years titled "Where Are They Now?".

2005 33rd Induction Program & 2017 45th Induction Program or Graphic (unsure which)

Finally about 1999 the Hall of Fame programs started to have some variation of colour and graphics design on the fronts to make them a little more interesting.

Another type of fairly common ephemera were pamphlets put out to publicize the Hall and it's attractions. These were issued in many different formats over many years as shown below.

Mid 1970's and Early 1990's through to early 2000's CFHOF Pamphlets 

A number of postcards featuring the Hall of Fame were issued and catalogued in Collecting Canadian Football Volume I but uncatalogued others exist such as the one displayed here.  In addition to the inauguration booklets sometimes additional flyers or brochures were produced for certain year's festivities.

As the induction weekend is now being shared around the league cities, special ephemera is often produced to promote the ceremony held during halftime of the specific game. Sometimes these items have the inducted player images on them and sometimes they are just generic. 

Mid 1970's Hall of Fame Postcard, 1993 Induction Weekend Brochure &
2011 Induction Weekend Promotional Card

From sometime in the 1990's through to at least the mid 2000's the CFHOF published some austere informational pamphlets and periodic gift shop price lists for memorabilia available for sale. The publications themselves are not particularly compelling but the information contained in them about obscure collectibles is sometimes fairly interesting.

Mid 1990's Hall of Fame Brochure and Price Lists &
Mid 1990's Gridiron Heroes B.C. Lions Joe Kapp Figurine 

A case in point was the Gridiron Heroes Collection of 1" hand cast metal figurines which was almost certainly not licensed but accrued at least some legitimacy since it was sold officially by the Hall of Fame.  Thirteen players are listed as available but since the one shown is Joe Kapp clearly the list was not complete.

Sorry for the abysmally bad scan of the figure (shot with patterned wallpaper in the background), could have sworn I had some better ones but of course was unable to locate them when needed.

2008 Framed Induction Sheet and 2014 Induction Sheet

Also catalogued in Collecting Canadian Football Volume I were 1991 through 2007 Induction Photo Sheets (with full colour images starting in 2006) and not surprisingly these have continued to be issued yearly as shown above. 

2006 Framed Induction Sheet & 2009 Toronto Argonauts Matt Dunigan
Framed Picture with CFHOF crest and engraved metal plaque

Sometimes the induction sheets were given the deluxe framed treatment as were player specific commemorative pieces, the latter from around 2009 and 31 of them were catalogued in CCF VI
but the Matt Dunigan version above without the Grey Cup program cover was not among them. More uncatalogued formats for multiple players exist.

In 2015 after more than 40 years in the same location in downtown Hamilton, the Hall of Fame closed and packed up it's collection of artifacts. Three years later in 2018 the Hall reopened at Tim Horton's Field.

The iconic Touchdown statue relocated to Tim Horton's Field

It appears that the Hall is no longer selling any collectibles or memorabilia as there is no mention of it on their website. Maybe there are a few items available at the actual location. My guess is that the archives that used to be open to public researchers many years ago, are now only accessible to the staff of the museum, perhaps because of space limitations in the new facility.

But ephemera relating to the institution and its ongoing operations will no doubt be produced for some years to come.

Thursday, 30 January 2020

Jogo Lives! - (Volume 1 & 2 Additions)

As most veteran CFL card collectors know, the Jogo corporation was synonymous with the CFL card market for over 30 years from 1981 through to 2012. The many thousands of CFL cards produced by JOhn Bradley and Barry GOodman constitute an historical record of the players performing in the league during that time span that is unequaled by any other source.

Unfortunately with the entrance into the CFL card market of Upper Deck in 2013 (too late to do a regular season set, but they did manage an All-Star set released late in the year), Jogo was somewhat unceremoniously relegated to the sidelines. Their response was to embark on an ambitious program to commemorate more of the league's great player history by licensing with the CFL Alumni Association to make commemorative cards for retired players.

2013 Jogo Saskatchewan Alumni Set
25 cards, 1 Checklist, # of sets issued unknown

The first such set featured a variety of former players from the Rider Alumni Association. To nobodies surprise focusing initially on the team with the most rabid fan base made good economic sense for this offering.

2013 Jogo CFL Alumni Association Series 1, 20 cards, 200 sets issued
2013 Jogo CFL Alumni Association Series 2, 20 cards, 200 sets issued
2013 Jogo CFL Alumni Association Series 3, 21 cards, 200 sets issued
Inspired by messages of support from loyal customers who were very disappointed at the news that the company's CFL card run was over, that same year Jogo produced the first of three league wide alumni commemorative sets.

The card designs sometimes utilized multiple B&W images, sometimes a combination of B&W and colour (occasionally in something other than a regular CFL uniform), sometimes a more traditional jogo style game action shot and sometimes multiple colour images of the player.

2014 Jogo CFL Alumni Association Series 4, 20 cards, 160 sets issued
2014 Jogo CFL Alumni Association Series 5, 20 cards, 160? sets issued
2014 Jogo CFL Alumni Association Series 6, 20 cards, 165 sets issued
2014 Jogo CFL Alumni Association Series 7, 20 cards, 165 sets issued
2014 Jogo CFL Alumni Association special unnumbered cards 4

The positive response from collectors to the first year's Alumni cards meant Jogo continued to produce the cards and 2014 saw four separate sets issued. Four special cards that were not part of the regular series were also produced and one of them, the Geroy Simon is shown above.

Since player movement between teams in the CFL was prevalent and these cards were representative of a whole career, many of the players appear in the uniforms of multiple teams. Probably for this reason the card backs stopped listing a particular team, also the players playing history was detailed in the writeup. Cards were also produced with some players represented as both player and coach, and coaches cards with their significant others.

2015 Jogo CFL Alumni Association Series 8, 20 cards, 165 sets issued
2015 Jogo CFL Alumni Association Series 9, 20 cards, 170 sets issued

2015 Jogo CFL Alumni Association Series 10, 20 cards, 165? sets issued

2015 Jogo CFL Alumni Association Series 11, 27 cards, 165? sets issued
2015 Jogo CFL Alumni Association variation cards 5
2015 Jogo CFL Alumni Association corrected cards 3

On to the next year and four more series were issued. For the first time variation cards were produced, usually meaning the individual had a card in the regular series but this card had different images used and just VC as the card number. The Liske back and the Chiu front of these variation cards are shown above.

In some cases players are featured in their Canadian university uniforms, either along with CFL uniform images or occasionally just college alone. Three corrected cards were also issued.

2016 Jogo CFL Alumni Association Series 12, 20 cards, 165 sets issued
2016 Jogo CFL Alumni Association Series 13, 20 cards, 165 sets issued
2016 Jogo CFL Alumni Association Series 14, 20 cards, 165 sets issued
2016 Jogo CFL Alumni Association Series 15, 20 cards, 165 sets issued
2016 Jogo CFL Alumni Association special unnumbered card 1
2016 Jogo CFL Alumni Association variation cards 6
2016 Jogo CFL Alumni Association corrected cards 2

Once again four series were produced in 2016 with the standard 20 cards each, and by now referees and team owners are making appearances on cards. The variation cards are back as well, and it really starts to get confusing here as one of the variations is also indicated as a correction, and another of the variations is eventually corrected in a subsequent year.

Additionally there was a Jim Popp card without a number and two regular cards from previous years that were corrected in 2016 so the trade mark imprints at card bottoms are from a different year than the original cards numbering sequence. The variation father and son duo card of the Oldhams has Chris in his Pittsburgh Steelers uniform as he never played in the CFL.        

2017 Jogo CFL Alumni Association Series 16, 20 cards, 165 sets issued
2017 Jogo CFL Alumni Association Series 17, 20 cards, 165 sets issued
2017 Jogo CFL Alumni Association Series 18, 20 cards, 165 sets issued
2017 Jogo CFL Alumni Association Series 19, 23 cards, 165 sets issued
2017 Jogo CFL Alumni Association special unnumbered cards 3
2017 Jogo CFL Alumni Association variation cards 6
2017 Jogo CFL Alumni Association short print cards 15, 60~70 of each issued
2017 Jogo CFL Lifetime Supporter cards 11 

For 2017 Jogo revisited a couple of concepts they had used towards the end of their regular CFL card sets run and produced a group of short printed cards at somewhere around 35-40% the number of the already limited normal series of cards.The short print cards are all just numbered SP. They also produced a group of cards honoring lifetime collectors who collect Jogo and CFL cards extensively.

Combine this with the regular four new series, three more special cards and six more variation cards and this was the largest group of cards Jogo had produced since 2012. In some cases the B&W images on the short print cards were partially colourized, but just certain portions of the image and not consistently resulting in kind of a disorienting effect, in my opinion anyway.

2018 Jogo Grey Cup Champs 1968-69, 38 cards, 100 sets issued

In 2018 in honour of the fiftieth anniversary of the back to back Ottawa Rough Rider Grey Cup champions of 1968-69, Jogo produced a special 38 card set. Russ Jackson is the only player to get the colour image treatment although coach Frank Clair has his statue in colour as well. Only 100 of these sets were produced so they are somewhat rarer than the normal alumni sets being issued.

Of note there are a couple of players who also appear in other jerseys on the card fronts, and in fact Lovell Coleman is shown twice in his Stampeder uniform with a Stampeder logo in the background. When cataloguing something like this I would assign both Ott and Cal to this card even though the set will go into the team specific category. It would be nice if Jogo eventually makes a team specific set like this for the other seven non-Rider teams as well.

2018 Jogo CFL Alumni Association Series 20, 22 cards, 165 sets issued
2018 Jogo CFL Alumni Association Series 21, 20 cards, 165 sets issued
2018 Jogo CFL Alumni Association Series 22, 20 cards, 125 sets issued
2018 Jogo CFL Alumni Association short print cards 21, 60~70 of each issued
2018 Jogo CFL Lifetime Supporter cards 6

Also issued in 2018 were another three regular series of Alumni cards,  a large number of special cards and a few more lifetime supporter cards. Damon Allen played for so many teams during his career that he has two cards in the first series. Meanwhile the Woody Strode short print card unfortunately has an action image of Sugarfoot Anderson on it.

An interesting card promotes the Gridiron Underground documentary on early black players in the Canada, and there is also a book of the same name. I haven't seen the doc, but the book is worth reading, although the author is under the common misconception that Herb Trawick of the Alouettes was the first black player in senior/pro Canadian football. Hopefully one day I'll have time to write a blog post to clarify that situation.

2019 Jogo CFL Alumni Association Series 23, 21 cards, 120 sets issued
2019 Jogo CFL Alumni Association Series 24, 20 cards, 125 sets issued
2019 Jogo CFL Alumni Association Series 25, 20 cards, 125 sets issued
2019 Jogo CFL Alumni Association Series 26, 20 cards, 125 sets issued
2019 Jogo CFL Alumni Association short print cards 33, 60~70 of each issued

The seventh and most current year of Jogo Alumni issues saw production declining about 25% from previous levels, perhaps indicating that enthusiasm for this vintage themed material is waning a bit. Also the number of short print cards has now grown to be more than 150% of one of the regular series card counts.

Perhaps the subject matter is starting to thin out, as Jack Kemp shows up on three different cards despite having never played a single non-exhibition game in the CFL, and all of his images are unrelated to the short time period in which he tried out for the Stampeders.   

While I have listed as many cards for each year as I am aware exist, there is always the chance that more Jogo variations and corrected cards were produced but not publicized. A Major thanks to AB D. Cards for tracking all of these issues on their website and allowing me to scan most of the images you see in this post.

They have recently decided to break up a complete run of sets to sell singles individually so if you are a team collector now is the time to fill in those alumni card gaps. Especially since so many players appear in multiple team uniforms on each card, the earlier you contact them the more likely your desired players will still be available.

Sunday, 29 December 2019

Corporate Partnerships Produce Collectible Payoffs - (Volume 1 Additions)

The CFL engages in partnerships with a vast number of advertising and sponsor organizations across a wide range of activities associated with the game, hundreds of corporate products being marketed in conjunction with the league, and corporate community support for Canadian sporting traditions. Luckily for collectors of Canadian football material, these arrangements often result in tangible memorabilia items that are nice unusual acquisitions and are normally fairly limited in distribution. 

2007 Reebok What's Your Colour? 5" X 7" Ricky Ray Autograph Card, front & back

Beginning in either 2003 or 2004 Reebok became the league's official uniform outfitter partner and began producing some marketing display material for use in team stores and athletic shops across Canada. The first of these campaigns that we will examine here was titled What's Your Colour? from 2007 and featured one player from each of the then eight franchises.

Henry Burris (CAL), Ricky Ray (EDM), Matt Dominguez (SSK), Milt Stegall (WPG), Dave Dickenson (BC), Jessie Lumsden (HAM), Anthony Parker (TOR) and Anthony Calvillo (MON) were pictured on two-toned posters and autograph cards.  A colour poster of the group composition was also produced and can be seen in this earlier post.

2007 Reebok What's Your Colour? (unknown size) Henry Burris Display Poster &
 Matt Dominguez and Jessie Lumsden 5" X 7" Autograph Cards, fronts

The following season the slogan became "Your Move, Play by your own rules" and once again large posters and small autograph cards were produced, presumably the autograph cards were occasionally made available at team events where the players were participating. 

Interestingly the Montreal cards are in French and more than one Alouette is known to exist so the total number of players that had items issued in the promotion is unknown. Also curious is the interchangeable usages of either the older (more basic) or the newer (more complex) Pro Players CFL Players Association logos on the items. 

2008 Reebok Your Move 18 1/2" X 26 1/2" Ricky Ray Display Poster &
 Jeremy O'Day, Anwar Stewart and Anthony Calvillo 5" X 7" Autograph Cards, fronts

Some of these marketing ideas overlapped seasons so starting in 2008 and extending into 2009 the "This Is Our League" branding was used. The Stampeder image below is an actual poster so presumably these would have been produced as well for each team as digital advertising featuring other players is known, but no small autograph cards from this season have surfaced.

2009 Reebok This Is Our League (unknown size) Henry Burris and Wes Lysack Display Poster &
 Paris Jackson and Doug Brown digital advertising images

Various other posters and life sized cardboard player standups with the tagline "The Authentic Outfitter" were also produced around this same time period. In 2010 the "Reeinspire", "Reedefine", "Reediscover" competition pitted 16 CFL player's motivational stories against each other via online fan elimination voting.

John Cornish eventually won the final vote versus Darian Durant (whose hard backed poster can be seen at the same earlier post link noted above). Exactly how many of these 16 players were issued as the Reediscover large format posters is not known. 

Late 2000's Reebok The Authentic Outfitter (unknown size) Weston Dressler Standup &
 2010 Reebok Reediscover (unknown size) Jeremy O'Day Standup sized Hard Backed Poster

Besides Cornish (CAL), Durant & O'Day (SSK) other players known to have been part of the promotion were Wes Lysack (CAL), Casey Printers & Anton McKenzie (BC), Ian Logan & Fred Reid (WPG),  Patrick Kabongo & Ricky Ray (EDM), Andre Durie (TOR), Marwan Hage (HAM) and Anthony Calvillo (MON). Three additional players, one each from the last three teams also participated.

The old Reebok CFL site at now redirects to somebody's personal non-football blog so the digital history of these sorts of activities is fleeting, here one day and gone the next. 

2014 Reebok CFL Signature Alouettes, Argonauts & Redblacks Digital Artwork

Fast forwards to 2014 and the "CFL Signature Uniform" campaign produced digital artwork to promote the new jersey designs. There is no indication that any actual physical memorabilia was produced for that season but because information on the web is so impermanent it actually makes some sense to "collect" these sorts of images while they are still available in order to preserve this history.

Adidas took over as official CFL outfitter for 2016, 2017 & 2018 and New Era did the same for 2019 and going into 2020.  Probably their digital marketing artifacts are still out there on the internet for some indeterminable period of time.

2016 Shaw (5" X 7") Mike Reilly & Ricky Ray Autograph Cards  

Another of the current partners of the CFL is Shaw Communications based in Calgary who in 2015 became the presenting sponsor of the Grey Cup. Because of the overwhelming trend towards digital and away from physically printed ephemera, it was a pleasant surprise to discover the Team Shaw autograph cards on ebay a few years ago.

The cards were distributed at the Grey Cup festival venue Shaw corporate booth (or tent) which was set up like a simulated locker room. Each of seven different players had scheduled signing windows in the days leading up to the championship game.  

Manny Arceneaux shown signing his
2016 Shaw (5" X 7") Emmanuel Arceneaux Autograph Card 

Players from the two teams playing in the Grey Cup (Calgary & Ottawa for 2016) were not a part of the promotion as they were obviously occupied with preparation for the game. I am only aware of the three cards shown, so that means four more were produced for Saskatchewan, Winnipeg, Montreal and Hamilton.

2019 Shaw (5" X 7") Bo Levi Mitchell Autograph Card, front and back

For the 2019 Grey Cup player caricature cards were made available at the Grey Cup festival in the same manner. From what I could tell only maybe a few hundred of these cards were produced for use during the lead up to the game so unless you are in the Grey Cup city at the right time these are not easy to come by.

2019 Shaw (5" X 7") S.J. Green & Henoc Muamba Autograph Cards

The players on Team Shaw for 2019 besides Mitchell included S.J. Green (TOR), Henoc Muamba (MON), Mike Reilly (BC), Trevor Harris (EDM), Manny Arceneaux (SSK) and Brad Sinopoli (OTT).

2019 Team Shaw simulated locker room at the Shaw tent at the Grey Cup Festival
(with New Era jerseys) 

Whether this promotion only began in 2016 and was also run in 2017 and 2018 is not known, but it seems pretty likely that it probably was so there could very well be another 14 different cards out there distributed in Ottawa in 2017 and Edmonton in 2018.

Since Winnipeg and Hamilton were contesting the 2019 Grey Cup neither Andrew Harris nor Luke Tasker were signing autograph cards at the tent. But they did have caricature illustrations prepared for them so who knows whether or not Shaw might have had cards printed for promotional distribution in each of their own team cities.

2019 Team Shaw informational display regarding Brad Sinopoli's signing schedule &
player caricatures of Andrew Harris and Luke Tasker

As this post illustrates paying attention to who the CFL is partnered with and monitoring their promotional activities can pay dividends for CFL collectors who are looking for obscure, unusual and odd-ball material to augment their collections. Thanks to Mike Smith-Knutsen and Warren Welte for a couple of the images used above.