Tag Archives: topps 1981

Sims, Billy ‘Kung Fu’ (2)

to81 sims apCard: Topps 1981
Acquired: 2015, Future Considerations
See Also: Billy Sims

Lance picked up this Billy Sims card for me in exchange for all the autographs I randomly drop him. He also gave me an autographed Sports Illustrated with Keshawn Johnson on it as well. The autograph is actually certified on the back with a hologram- for what it is worth. Not much to say about this card. It’s Topps, so it’s a lazy photo. The design itself is not all that exciting, but I guess it was for that era.

It wasn’t all roses for a while with Billy. He really wanted to make a comeback in 1988, but the Lions only expressed a cursory interest. He’s fought back from the brink of financial disaster, even selling his Heisman. Despite that, Billy’s BBQ branded chain continues to fare well. He has quite a few locations in Oklahoma and opened stops in Michigan as well. In 2007 the University of Oklahoma erected a statue in his name as well, and he remains a celebrated hometown hero of Hooks, Tx where they have named a road after him.


Renfro, Mike

to81 renfroCards: Topps 1980, Topps 1981
Acquired: TTM 2013, C/o Home
Sent: 12/10    Received: 12/19  (9 days)
Failure: TTM 2010, C/o Home

Upon his graduation from Texas Christian University, Mike Renfro held virtually all of the schools’ receiving records, and was the Southwestern Conference’s all-time leading receiver for receptions (162) and yards (2,739) . The Houston Oilers drafted Mike in the 4th round of their blockbuster 1978 draft. To say that head coach Bum Phillips was not enamored with kids from the SWC that year was an understatement as Renfro joined fellow SWC rushing leader Earl Campbell as rookies on the team. Mike was fortunate. With Billy White Shoes nursing a knee injury, Renfro was able to begin building a rapport with quarterback Dan Pastorini, while honing his blocking skills. Later in the year Mike scored his first professional touchdown against the Oakland Raiders.

It’d be in the 1979 playoffs the next season, that the team met with that heartbreaking bad luck they always seemed to find in the oddest ways. The Oilers’ battles with the Steelers were titanic by this point and Houston was one of the few teams that was formidible in combat with Pittsburgh. The Oilers rode into 3 Rivers Stadium for the AFC Championship Game that year. Trailing 17-10, the Oilers drove down the frigid field, after starting from their own 14 yard line. Pastorini was hot on Renfro that drive, already striking to him for 21 yards to put the ball on the Steeler 6. It’d be on the next play that Renfro is perhaps remembered most for. Under a nasty rush, Pastorini lobbed the ball up in the air to Mike over the helpless defensive back Ron Johnson (who held Renfro). Despite the no call hold, Renfro pulled the ball in and cradled it before stepping out of the endzone. The side judge, made an initial no call, then made a weak incomplete pass signal. While the replays showed otherwise and the commentators agreed as such, there was nothing that could be done. The Oilers settled for a field goal, and this was the closest the franchise ever made it to the Super Bowl. The Steelers scored a final touchdown with 53 seconds remaining to inflate the score to 27-13. The play caused a national firestorm and debate over the sport. The call today is still regarded as one of the worst made in sports history- ever. While video replay had been in use going back some 20+ years prior, the major sports had been reticent to adopt it as a way to better assist officials in making  better calls in games. The USFL became the first major football league to open the can of worms and adopt instant replay formally in 1985. The fans universally appreciated the program, seeing it as a sign of fairness and transparency. The NFL finally followed suit in 1986. After a lot of trial and error, the program was modified, abolished, and reinvented by 1998 and has been in use with minor tweaks every season since by the league.

to80 renfroMike played with the Oilers for the next 4 seasons. As a run first team, Mike got the knack of being a fearless, possession receiver who had great hands and ran fine routes. Renfro’s stats, especially compared to other receivers (of this current time) hearkens to a bygone era of aggressive defenses and the Dead Ball years of the sport. He finished his tenure in Houston with 160 catches in 51 games for 2183 yards and 11 TDs. Mike was also witness to the dawn and sunset of the Earl Campbell era as well as being one of the last remnants of the old guard to move on before the beginning of the Moon era in 1984. That year, Mike found himself traded to the Dallas Cowboys in exchange for WR Butch Johnson, and a swap of 2nd round picks between the Cowboys and Oilers. Oh the Oilers also threw in a 5th round pick as well, which the Cowboys used to draft some guy named Herschel Walker. In essence, the Cowboys can thank the Houston Oilers for the catalyst that propelled them into the dynasty they became in the 1990s. Renfro stepped into the Cowboys organization at a critical juncture as well. He became the go to man for young quarterback Danny White as the team transitioned between eras at wide receiver from Pearson to Irvin. Mike was there to pick up the slack when Tony Hill began to decline and Mike Sherrard broke his leg. Mike posted a career highs in receptions (60), yards (955), and TDs (8) in 1985. Mike is also remembered fondly for having one of the greatest Thanksgiving performances in memory in 1987 when he caught 7 passes for 100 yards and 3 touchdowns against the Minnesota Vikings. Sadly though, Mike was at the end of the line after finding a new role in Dallas. In 1988, Michael Irvin joined the squad, and with a host of new talent at receiver, and Renfro banged up from the wear and tear over the years, knew it was time to go. No hard feelings for Mike though.  Retiring to the Dallas area, Renfro was a sucessful investor and horse breeder for a while.

I had written Renfro back in 2010, but did not receive a response because I had gotten the address partially incorrect. I did not realize that the error was on my end until I had recently seen some responses from him. I was happy to finally get him on these two Oilers cards. Mike also makes an appearance on the original Tecmo Bowl on the Nintendo Entertainment System.

G/Gs  123/95       Rec  323     Yds  4708       Avg  14.6      Td 28   Lg  60


Stabler, Ken “The Snake” (1945-2015)

to81 stabler to82 stabler

Cards: Topps 1981, Topps 1982
Acquired: TTM 2013, C/o XoXo Foundation*
Sent:  2/25    Received:  5/11    (75 days)
*Donation suggested of $10 per flat.

Okay, so I’m fine with paying a small signers fee for an autograph or two. I’ve gotten to that point in TTM collecting that I’ll indulge myself from time to time on that, but there are two things that get on my nerves. First and foremost, I expect it to be an authentic signature from the player- not an autopen or ghost signer. (I heard OJ Simpson had done this during one of his many legal battles. He will take your money, however much or little it is, and then hand it off to a ghost signer.) It’s got to be legit and consistent from piece to piece (see Ottis Anderson).  Second and finally, when you cash my check, it tells me: “I acknowledge I have received your item and I have completed my end of the transaction,” – namely signing my cards. Having me wait an additional 2 months after that? That’s a bit egregious. I understand if a player has personal problems they are dealing with; That is no problem, but really, the whole turnaround should be more like 2 weeks tops. Anyway, case in point, on the second peeve is right here in Kenny Stabler.  Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy to have the autograph, but out of fear of the ‘mail gods’ voracious appetite, I had to consider cancelling the check and getting new cards to send. Much more hassle than what it was worth, especially if I just wanted to take a chance that he’d sign it without a donation.

Kenny Stabler followed in the footsteps of Broadway Joe Namath at Alabama during the mid-60s, where Stabler carved his own legacy into the Crimson Tide leader books, posting a 28-3-2 record as a starter. He finished 180/303 for 2196 yards, 18  TDs to 18 int, 838 yards on the ground, and 9 touchdowns, all in a little over 2 years as a starter.  The gruff quarterback was drafted in the 2nd round of the 1968 NFL draft (- the second such common pooling of players between the rival NFL and AFL that has now become the norm,) by the Oakland Raiders. Unable to crack the lineup, he found himself playing in the Continental Football League for the Spokane Shockers to pass the time. Things started off slowly for the West Coast rock star QB, as he had to unseat incumbent Darryle Lamonica first. By 1973 however, The Snake was in charge full time for the Raiders, and in 1977, the Silver and Black won its first Super Bowl. During this period the renegade qb flirted with the idea of joining the fledgling WFL and the Birmingham Americans (but the league suffered serious financial setbacks and was unable to last past the 1975 season).  Stabler reached a point in his career where he was basically the West Coast version of Joe Namath- except The Snake was considered a rock star. Things were at their zenith for the Raiders after their Super Bowl win, as Stabler became the fastest quarterback to 100 wins with his penchant for miracle plays and comebacks that were legendary. A prolonged holdout and subpar play doomed his tenure in Oakland, so in 1980, he was traded straight up for Dan Pastorini to the Oilers.

From the Raiders to the Oilers wasn’t such a bad leap for Stabler. Working with Earl Campbell and coach Bum Philips wasn’t such a bad thing either, but the Oilers failed to advance in the playoffs that year, so owner Bud Adams, (who couldn’t keep a good party going if it hit him in the mouth,) fired Philips after the season. The Oilers stumbled into mediocrity under embattled head coach Ed Biles so the Snake took his game after the 1981 season to the New Orleans Saints, where he was reunited with Philips, for the final 3 injury plagued seasons of his career before he retired in 1984.

Stabler has remained popular in football circles, both as a Raider and as a member of the Crimson Tide. He’s spent time in the broadcasting booth and done a lot of charity work through the XOXO Stabler Foundation. He’s had some legal run-ins with the law over back taxes, and besides having his own drink briefly (called Snake Venom,) Stabler has also dabbled in wine making.

One can make an argument for Kenny Stabler needing to be in the HoF, based on his accolades as the 1974 NFL MVP, a Super Bowl champ, 4 time Pro Bowler,  2 time AP, part of the NFL All 1970s team, and for basically owning all the Raiders record book after he left the team, but at this time, injustice remains done, and the honor has escaped the renegade Snake.

Ken Stabler passed away quietly at the age of 69, surrounded by friends and family on July 9th, 2015.

G/Gs  184       Att 3793       Comp 2270      Yds  27938      Pct  59.8     Td   194     Int 222    Rat 75.3   |
Rush 118   Yds 93    Avg  .8    Td 4     Lg 18