Thursday, January 28, 2016

Customs expand Wahoo McDaniel's card legacy

It's almost as hard to find the nuts and bolts of Ed "Wahoo" McDaniel's football career today as it was to sort fact from fiction during his nearly three decades as a professional wrestler.

The internet has lots of information, of course, but much of it is wrong. I spent most of a day recently trying to verify the details of McDaniel's days in the early American Football League.

It wasn't just idle curiosity. I was researching data to write the backs for a pair of custom cards I created. 

McDaniel, you see, for as popular and colorful of a player as he was, was almost entirely neglected by the bubblegum card companies in the 1960s. His only mainstream football card was in the 1967 Topps set, which has him with the AFL expansion Miami Dolphins, though the photo shows him in a N.Y. Jets jersey.

While the 1967 Topps McDaniel card is easy to find, collectors will have a difficult time acquiring a rare regional. He is included in a 1967 Dolphins team set that was issued two players per week by the south Florida chain of Royal Castle burger joints. And it will be expensive when it is available. 

McDaniel also has a couple of 1980s rasslin' cards for those who are into that.

The back of his '67T football card, #82 in the set, illustrates what I mean about getting the facts straight. Topps says he "played with San Diego, Houston, Denver, New York and now Miami".

While McDaniel was Chargers property twice in his career, I can't find that he ever played with them. He was selected by the Los Angeles Chargers in the 1960 AFL draft, though I can't find a list of draft picks by round. In 1968, at the end of his pro football days he was traded to the San Diego Chargers after a dust-up with Miami police officers. He never played with San Diego, though, going into professional wrestling full-time.

As near as I can determine, McDaniel spurned the L.A. Chargers' draft to go to camp with the NFL's Dallas Cowboys. He played seven games at offensive guard with the eventual 1960 AFL Champion Houston Oilers, but how he got there, I don't know.

Another example: a couple of internet sites say that McDaniel played on Bud Wilkinson's 1955 and 1956 Sooners national championship teams. However, McDaniel was still in high school during the 1955 season, and in 1956 he was a freshman and, under NCAA rules of the time, was ineligible t play on the Oklahoma varsity.

Likewise, I can find no details of how he got from Houston to the Denver Broncos for the 1961 season. I chose the 1962 Fleer format for one of my Wahoo McDaniel custom cards; it is my first in that style.

My other custom is done in the style of the 1965 Topps "tall boy". Fortunately the specifics of McDaniel's acquisition by the Jets are well documented. He was part of a Jan. 1, 1964, nine-player trade which sent McDaniel and three other Denver Broncos to New York for five Jets.

It was in New York that McDaniel became one of the AFL's most popular stars. His aggressive play on the field and tabloid-fodder exploits off the field made him a fan favorite in the style of Joe Namath . . . before there was a Joe Namath in New York.

In the Jets' first game in Shea Stadium on Sept. 12, 1964, before a then-record AFL crowd of 45,409, McDaniel was credited with 23 tackles against his old team as New York beat the Broncos 30-6.

Of all the articles available on the internet about Wahoo McDaniel, you can't do any better than this piece by G. Neri: McDaniel biography

Neri's blog captures the reason that I, as a young fan of the upstart AFL in the early 1960s, was a big fan of Wahoo McDaniel. I'm happy to expand the world of McDaniel's cards.with this pair of customs.

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