Tuesday, 30 May 2017

The Curious Case of Kapp's Cards

When I was compiling the two initial Collecting Canadian Football guides, I noted in the listings anytime that a player was featured in a CFL uniform (but not a college uniform) that did not correspond to his team assignment on the particular card. This was usually the result of the player being traded or acquired in some manner and subsequently an existing older picture was used for his card with the new team, as Topps very often reused the same player's photos year after year.

One celebrated player whose card image was recycled multiple times in this manner was Joe Kapp, Revisiting this issue I had initially thought that perhaps this was a case where I had missed making the uniform notation but upon closer examination I believe that the correct procedure was followed (no notation) as will be explained in this post.

Joe Kapp led the University of California, Berkeley, Golden Bears to an appearance in the 1958 Rose Bowl (where he wore jersey no 22) and was drafted by the Washington Redskins. Afterwards Washington failed to contact him and he came north to the Calgary Stampeders in 1959. Kapp competed in a tough training camp and won the number two Quarterback position over future American Football League star and Hall of Famer Jack Kemp, which should tell you something about the quality of import players in the CFL in the late 50's - early 60's.    


Joe Kapp's Action promotional photo taken at Mewata Stadium in 1959 (catalogued in Collecting Canadian Football Volume 2). Quarterbacks wore high numbers in the CFL prior to 1960. 

Joe was captured in the standard action shot used for all of the players at Calgary's embarrassingly antiquated stadium (more on how Calgary's civic leaders continue to fail the population today with regards to stadium suitability in this blog post). The Players scoreboard and sparse bleachers were prominent in all of these photos.



At left (1959 outside of Mewata Stadium) Joe Kapp and Jack Kemp participate in a Calgary promotional staple, a Western styled image complete with white hatted cowboy. At right (1960 McMahon Stadium dressing room) Joe Kapp adopted no 11 once the switch was made to lower quarterback jersey numbers.    

Kapp makes appearances in several pre-season group and team photos from 1959 through 1961, but strangely he is not included in any of the team action or portrait dedicated player photos after 1959. Note the blocky smooth number style of the 2's on fellow quarterback Gene Chichowski's no 22 jersey in the image above right as it becomes relevant shortly.

Kapp did not have a card in the 1959 Topps CFL issue but by 1960 he was well known enough to be included in the set and his rookie card is shown below. The photo is cropped tightly so it is not possible to infer where it was taken but note the serifs at the top of the 2's on the jersey and the slanted body stroke, they are distinctly different from the actual Calgary number styles in use that year.  The other thing of course that jumps out is Topps ridiculously shoddy attention to detail resulting in all of the Calgary Stampeder cards being colorized green, when the team wore red.



1960 Topps Rookie: First usage of Joe Kapp in his college no 22 jersey, colorized green incorrectly while a member of the Stampeders that wore red

The same photo with much more picture area shown was used for Kapp's 1961 Stampeder card shown below. At first glance this might be mistaken for Mewata Stadium, although the detail is obscured in shadow, but the jersey numbers are still are a mismatch, and of course Kapp was wearing no 11 in Calgary, not no 22.


1961 Topps: Second usage of Joe Kapp in his college no 22 jersey, monochrome, making this the only accurate representation of Kapp with this photo

The two photos below are more evidence that the image in question is from Kapp's college career as the picture on the left is taken at his campus field and the jersey number styles match. The right photo with much more visible detail was the source for the image Topps used for Kapp's trading cards. Players were generally known to bring samples of their promotional photos with them when they tried out with Canadian teams, but it's also possible that Topps was able to source Kapp's college photo from news wire services in the States as Kapp was a well known athlete.



Joe Kapp at University of California Berkely campus field at left, and probably on the practice field at college on the right. From what I know of Mewata Stadium environs, I don't think there is any reason to believe that the photo on the right was taken in Calgary.

Kapp was traded after 1 game in August of 1961 to the B.C. Lions where he would eventually lead the franchise to their first Grey Cup appearances and first win in 1963 and 1964. Strangely Topps would make use of a new photo of Kapp in his B.C. uniform for their 1962 double mini card perforated panel issue, but inexplicably return to the prior image for his 1963 and 1964 B.C. Lions cards. In 1965 Topps finally straightened it out and Kapp was again featured in a more current photo as a B.C. Lion.



1963 Topps: Third usage of Joe Kapp in his college no 22 jersey, colorized green incorrectly representing the Stampeders that wore red, while a member of the Lions that wore orange
1964 Topps: Fourth usage of Joe Kapp in his college no 22 jersey, colorized green incorrectly representing the Stampeders that wore red, while a member of the Lions that wore orange


The unusual thing was that Kapp had returned to wearing jersey no 22 the whole time he was with the Lions as the two memorabilia example below show, so if the image was dated and the colour was wrong, at least his number was correct!



1961 at left, Joe Kapp just after his trade to B.C. with the nifty triple stripe helmet and 1966 at right in his final season in B.C., wearing no 22 all the way


Topps CFL sets ended in 1965 so there was no opportunity to further the mistaken usage of the older photo in 1966, but Kapp jumped to the NFL in 1967 and his Topps rookie card was issued in 1968. In another case of Topps laziness or sloppiness or both, the old photo was dusted off from their archives and reused as his NFL Minnesota Vikings rookie card.



1968 Topps NFL Rookie: Fifth usage of Joe Kapp in his college no 22 jersey, colorized green incorrectly representing the Stampeders that wore red, while a member of the Vikings in a different league that wore purple

It didn't end there either, as the same image was once again used in his 1969 Vikings card and the 1969 4 way mini-album insert, all still in the wrong colorized green from a mistake made a decade ago. To top off the incongruity, Kapp was back to wearing no 11 in Minnesota so the jersey number was wrong again too.




1969 Topps NFL: Sixth usage of Joe Kapp in his college no 22 jersey, colorized green incorrectly representing the Stampeders that wore red, while a member of the Vikings in a different league that wore purple


Finally after leading the Vikings to a 12-2 season and a berth in the Superbowl, Topps apparently deemed him important enough to take a new photo as a Viking in 1970, by which time he was playing his final season in New England.



1969 Topps NFL Mini Stamps: Seventh usage of Joe Kapp in his college no 22 jersey, colorized green incorrectly representing the Stampeders that wore red, while a member of the Vikings in a different league that wore purple
Top Right: Kapp as he actually appeared in Minnesota purple


A many are aware Kapp played the opposing quarterback to Burt Reynolds QB character in the 1974 football movie classic, the Longest Yard as pictured below.



Jersey no 11 and Jersey no 22 featured prominently during Kapp's whole career, so perhaps this image is no surprise 

There was a lot of player movement between the CFL and the American leagues (NFL, AFL) during the time that Topps/OPC was producing CFL cards (1958-1965). While I think it is pretty clear that Joe Kapp's jersey no 22 cards were not images of him in a CFL uniform, there is always the chance that the shared photo archives of the company that produced cards on both sides of the border might have been utilized so that there are some players that did show up on US cards in the uniforms of their Canadian teams.



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