Saturday, April 28, 2012

Expanding Jim Taylor's card legacy

Having grown up 60 miles south of Green Bay during the Packers glory years of the 1960s, I worshiped St. Vincent's Holy Trio of Starr, Hornung and Taylor. 

Naturally, as football card collectors we felt gyped when the first two (1958 and 1960) Jim Taylor cards forthcoming from Topps pictured James G. Taylor, a Chicago Cardinals player, rather than Packers fullback James C. Taylor. The "real" Jim Taylor rookie cards didn't arrive until 1961, in both Topps and Fleer (and Fleer screwed up its Packers cards that year by using a weird mirror-image outline of Wisconsin on the team logo). 

Jim Brown aside, Taylor was greatest fullback in an era when that was an integral part of most NFL offenses. 

Taylor was a burr-headed powerhouse, who epitomized Lombardi's "Run to Daylight" philosophy. 

He had been the Packers second-round pick in the 1958 NFL draft; Green Bay had taken Michigan State linebacker. Picked #15  overall, the All-American from LSU was the second running back taken in '58, behind John David Crow, whom the Cardinals had picked #2. 

Taylor led the NFL in rushing touchdowns in both 1961 (15) and 1962 (19). In 1962 he also led in rushing yards and points scored, while averaging 105.3 yards per game on the ground. He was MVP that season. Between 1960-66, Taylor was 1st or 2nd Team All-Pro six times, and a Pro Bowl selection five times.

With a fist full of NFL Championship rings and coming off the Packers' win in the first NFL-AFL Championship game, Taylor became a free agent after the 1966 season.

He signed for 1967 with the expansion New Orleans Saints, returning to Louisiana where he had played high school and college ball at Baton Rouge. 

Taylor had been looking for a four-year $400,000 contract to return to the Packers, but accepted a reported $60,000 from the Saints. The signing of favorite son Taylor was such a big deal on the bayou that it was done in the office of Governor John McKeithen.

In 1967, Topps and Philadelphia Gum split the football card world. Topps had the AFL, Philadelphia had the NFL. The '67P cards were, as usual, lackluster in design, distinguished only by their piss-yellow border. For lack of time, all of the players in Philadelphia's team set of New Orleans Saints were pictured in the uniforms of their former teams. Because he had not signed until July 6, Taylor did not appear in the 1967 Philadelphia set at all. Taylor's former teammate, Paul Hornung, who also signed with the Saints for 1967, does appear in the Philadelphia set (in a Packers uniform), but he never played for New Orleans. Plagued by a neck injury, he retired after the 1966 season. 

When he did appear in the company's 1968 set, he was still pictured in a Green Bay uniform. Taylor, however, did not play with the Saints in 1968. He had led the team in rushing with 390 yards in 1967, but when asked to perform on special teams in the pre-season in 1968, he retired.

I pulled together a pair of Jim Taylor custom cards recently. One supplies the "missing" 1967 Philadelphia card, while the other is an addition to my 1955 Topps All-American style update set.

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