Electric Football Top 20 Countdown – No. 13 Gotham NFL Big Bowl

Gotham Big Bowl Electric Football game from the 1966 Sears Christmas

The elaborate Gotham NFL Big Bowl Electric Football game.

Our Electric Football Game Top 20 Countdown continues…at No. 13 it’s the Sears-exclusive Gotham NFL Big Bowl 1503-S.

The Gotham NFL Big Bowl could make our Top 20 Countdown on just a single reason — it was the game that convinced Tudor President and Electric Football inventor Normans Sas to go after the NFL. After seeing the Big Bowl in the 1965 Sears Christmas catalog, Norman knew he had to do whatever it took to convince the NFL that Tudor should have the Electric Football license. (See the free Chapter 1 download of The Unforgettable Buzz for more details).

A rare modern day sighting of a Gotham NFL Big Bowl.

But even without that very important distinction, Gotham’s NFL Big Bowl would be on the list because it had one of the most elaborate commercially produced stadiums in Electric Football history. With a 40+ piece double-decked 3-D grandstand that surrounded the game on three sides, it was such a massive step in Electric Football stadium architecture that few games have come close to equaling the Big Bowl in the last 49 years.  

Pages 214-215 from the book The Unforgettable Buzz

The recently opened Shea Stadium inspired Gotham to build the Big Bowl in 1965. From The Unforgettable Buzz

Gotham mounted their Big Bowl stadium on a basic Gotham NFL G-1500 field and frame, which the company had been selling since 1961.  The new stadium was cardboard instead of metal, superseding Gotham’s Yankee Stadium G-1500 as the company’s “flagship” Electric Football game. And it was only available through Sears. Page 432 of the 1965 Sears Christmas Wish Book made it clear to the toy world that Electric Football was a “must have” boys’ item.

In an attempt to make the game even more “real,” Gotham included 44 players in the Big Bowl (22 red and 22 white). So after wearing out the included paint pallet, a kid could theoretically have 4 different teams to play with. Unfortunately, a different part of the Big Bowl’s “realism” set in long before the last player received a final brush stroke.

Electric Football 1968 Gotham Big Bowl game

Unpunched and unused grandstand pieces from a 1968 Gotham Big Bowl.

Once the fabulous stadium was taken down at the end of Christmas vacation, it was rarely ever reassembled. Because there were SO many pieces, adult or big brother help was mandatory in putting it together.  And the “Santa’s” who spent a profanity-filled Christmas eve coaxing the complicated Big Bowl to life weren’t eager for another shift on the construction crew. 

Another part of Big Bowl reality would set in the following September. It seemed almost inevitable that between Christmas and the next football season some of the stadium pieces would go missing or get broken. (Lost instructions were another kind of disaster.) All it took was a single missing or compromised piece of cardboard for the beautiful Big Bowl to become junk. It was a heartbreaking fate that one of The Unforgettable Buzz authors experienced personally. 

Sears kept the Big Bowl at the top of its Electric Football line for four years. This included two with the NFL (1965-66), and two without (1967-68). So it must have been a popular game. But Big Bowl’s have long been one of the toughest “finds” in all of Electric Football. Between lost pieces and Gotham’s propensity for warped fields and popped frame rivets, perhaps the Big Bowl’s rarity isn’t that much of a surprise.  

Yet the Big Bowl is a true Electric Football landmark, and part of the under appreciated genius of Gotham President Eddie Gluck. It wasn’t quite in the way that Eddie hoped, but the Big Bowl did propel Electric Football into the future. And Tudor into the NFL.

 

Earl, Roddy, and Michael

Hawthorne Village Wooden NFL Stadiums – Fact or Fiction?

A flier for the Hawthorne Village Build For Fun Wooden NFL Stadium

A flier for the Hawthorne Village Build For Fun Wooden NFL Stadium.

Being an Electric Football enthusiast, the contents of the envelope caught my attention. In fact, it stopped me in my tracks. While unfolding the large full-color flier I found inside, my brain spun like a vintage hand-pull Las Vegas slot machine trying to process exactly what I was seeing.

It took a second — and it took my breath away. Huge photos showed off an officially NFL-licensed Philadelphia Eagles Build For Fun Wooden Stadium. The makers were Hawthorne Village, who specialize in upscale collector’s items like train sets and Christmas villages. The stadium looked incredible, at least the finished product did. It was a FULL stadium with three tiers of grandstands, there were lights, concession stands, painted NFL players…it was totally amazing.

But of course the finished product wasn’t available in one swoop. You had to buy the Stadium Starter Set first for $199.95, and it came with perhaps 1/10 of the pieces needed to complete the stadium.  Then every other month Hawthorne Village would deliver an additional Play Piece kit for $59.95.

I quickly figured that to get the stadium configured like the photos – including lights and a scoreboard — would take a couple of years and probably $1000. That was way too much money, no matter how cool it looked. This was really supposed to be for kids?

Electric Football Book The Unforgettable Buzz Eagles NFL stadiumThe deadline for reserving my Starter Set was July 25, 2008, but I never returned the form. I was fascinated enough to keep all the paperwork, coming across it every so often while going through my files. I’d always wondered how I got on the mailing list because I never received any type of commuincation from Hawthorne Village ever again. And of course I always wondered about what I missed by not sending back my Reservation Form.

In checking with Google and eBay recently, its seems the answer is nothing. It would appear that Hawthorne Village received such an underwhelming response to the mailers that they decided not to make the sets. Which brings us to the question of how did Hawthorne Village tell NFL Properties that one of their highly ambitious projects for 2008 was not going into production? How did Hawthorne Village misjudge the marketplace so badly?

Like a lot “lost” toy items from the past, the Hawthorne Wooden Stadium was likely a case of bad timing. There were a lot of not-so positive things going on in the financial world in 2008. The economy was full of, to be kind, “uncertainty.” It wasn’t the optimal time to introduce a super luxury item like a kids’ triple-decked wooden NFL stadium —  that cost $1000.

We’d love to know if anyone else receive this mailer. And if you sent in the reservation form, please let us know what happened. Do any of the Starter Sets actually exist?

Anyway you look at it, these stadiums are still an awe-inspiring item — even if the field only has yard lines every ten yards. If this concept could have somehow merged with Electric Football…all we can do is wonder.

 

Earl

 

 

Electric Football Game Top 20 Countdown – No. 14

At No. 14 on our Top 20 Game Countdown – the Tudor NFL No. 510.

At No. 14 on our Electric Football Top Countdown is the 1967-69 Tudor NFL No. 510 model with the Colts and Packers.

How significant was the NFL No. 510 in Electric Football history? Tudor put the game on the cover of their 1967 sales catalog to introduce the toy world to the NFL. Tudor also gave the No. 510 the responsibility of introducing boys to Tudor’s NFL, as it was the first color photo you came across in Tudor’s 1967-69 rule books

The new NFL No. 510 in the 1967 Tudor sales catalog. The players were numbered after real NFL players.

And that Lee Payne photo of the No. 510 sucked you right into the action. The players were numbered after real players! Even if you had just received a Tudor NFL No. 620 or an NFL No. 613…when you came across the color photo of the No. 510 in Tudor’s catalog you wanted one!! 

The work Lee did with a basic Tudor No. 500 model to make it NFL-worthy was truly genius. There was the diamond end zone pattern with three all-white diamonds containing “N-F-L,” the grandstand “flags” of every NFL team, and the 16 removable NFL nameplates for the scoreboard.

But what he had done with frame made all the difference. On a standard No. 500 the frame was entirely white. On the No. 510, Lee made the outside edge of the frame blue. The only white was in the left hand corner where a Tudor logo and the letters “N-F-L” stood side-by-side. It sounds subtle, and when compared with a No. 620 or a No. 613, the No. 510 frame is quite sparse. Yet the effect is dramatic. The white against the blue works like a magnet to draw your eyes right to the NFL on the frame. The NFL is imprinted into your brain without a conscious thought – you just “know” that your looking at an NFL Electric Football game.  

And on the border of the frame Lee made another subtle yet significant change. While three sides of the border framed the field in white, Lee made the back border that lead to Tudor’s clip-on NFL scoreboard the same green color as the field. This created a seamless transition from the field to the grandstand — it feels like a “stadium.” The game was absolutely beautiful.

And we haven’t even mentioned Tudor’s brand new NFL players. Norman Sas and Lee Payne picked the Colts and the Packers for the No 510. In 1967 these teams were Western Conference rivals, and two the best teams in the NFL. The Packers were the defending Super Bowl champs, having won four NFL Championships since 1961. Bart Starr, Johnny Unitas, Jim Taylor, Tom Matte, Willie Davis, Jim Parker. Ray Nitschke, John Mackey, Paul Horning, Forrest Gregg, Elijah Pitts, Bob Vogel, Bobby Boyd, Raymond Berry, Lenny Moore….there were just so many great players on both teams. 

What we “saw” on the Tudor NFL No. 510. A beautiful Neil Leifer photo.(©Neil Leifer)

The Packers and Colts had played some epic games through the years. One of their legendary battles was 1965 Western Conference playoff game. With Unitas and backup QB Gary Cuozzo both injured, Colts’ running back Tom Matte played valiantly at quarterback that day. And the Colts were leading 10-7 before Green Bay’s Don Chandler kicked a controversial game-tying field goal with 1:58 left regulation. The ball soared high over the H-shaped goal post, and appeared to go wide left — but the kick was ruled good by the single official standing under the crossbar. Chandler then kicked a field goal in overtime to give the Packers a 13-10 victory.

The NFL never acknowledged a blown call on Chandler’s kick, but before the 1966 season started the league mandated that goal post uprights be at least 20 feet high. And on all future field goal attempts there would be an official standing under each upright.

Besides getting teams that generated immediate NFL excitement, if you got a No. 510 during the 1967-68 period, the Packers and Colts were likely to be Tudor’s big/large teams. An extra special bonus on an already special game. 

It’s no accident that we used the No. 510 for cover of The Unforgettable Buzz and also put it on our opening page. Truly one of our all-time favorites at No. 14. 

 

Earl, Roddy, and Michael

50 Years And Counting For Electric Football’s “Fab Five”

Lee Payne’s 1964 Electric Football “Fab Five”

Electric Football history was changed 50 years this fall when Tudor unveiled their redesigned 3-D players in 1964. Tudor Director of Product Development Lee Payne created a new set players to replace Tudor’s two-year-old “Gorilla” 3-D players. The Gorilla players, which were groundbreaking in their own right, needed to be assembled and were prone to breakage, with the breakage often taking place while the players were being assembled.

1964 Tudor Rule Book

Payne’s new 1964 players became known as Tudor’s “Standard” players They were larger than the Gorilla players, more detailed, and were molded from a single piece of flexible polyethylene plastic. This unique design — player and base molded as one — made them virtually unbreakable. It was a trait that Tudor was eager to have after two years of disappointing performance from the Gorilla players.

Electric Football Book the unforgettable buzz

1964 Tudor No. 500 with Payne’s new players.

The single-piece molding, however, is not the reason that these players changed Electric Football history. It’s the poses that Payne came up with for the players. There were five (up one from the Gorilla versions), and they were named tackle, guard, end, offensive back, and defensive back.

The “Fab Five” of Electric Football were born. And what’s amazing is that 50 years later the Fab Five are still going strong with Tudor Games’ brand new NFL.

To learn more about Lee Payne’s influence on Electric Football check out our book The Unforgettable Buzz: The History of Electric Football and Tudor Games.

 

Earl & Roddy

 

Electric Football Tudor 1967 NFL Players

Tudor’s NFL Fab 5 from 1967.

Electric Football Game Top 20 Countdown – No. 15

No. 15 – the 1970 Montgomery Ward 3-team NFL No. 627 model.

At No. 15 on the Electric Football Game Top 20 Countdown is the 1970 Montgomery Ward No. 627 model. 

After watching with envy as the the 1969 Sears Super Bowl game became one of the most popular items in Electric Football history, Montgomery Ward wanted their own exclusive Tudor “deluxe” NFL game in 1970.

A 1970 Ward No. 627 game with it’s unique all-NFL frame, Chiefs and Rams on the field. The original Ward grandstand was missing from this game. A Sears Super Bowl grandstand has been subbed in for background.

What Lee Payne and Norman Sas came up with was the Ward NFL No. 627 model. It was a 620-sized game, with the field being exactly the same as Tudor’s brand new AFC No. 610 model: yellow end zones containing a bold white “N-F-L”; a field pattern alternating light/dark green every 5 yards; yellow yard line numbers outlined in red; and a white safety sideline border surrounding the entire field.   

Close up of the frame. Notice the maroon frame border on the far sideline.

Beyond the field, everything was different from any other Tudor model. The interior border of the frame was maroon in color (it was red on the No. 610), while the exterior of the frame was tan with the names of all 26 NFL teams lithographed on the sides. This was the only game with all the teams on the frame. Tudor’s other new 1970 models were divided by conference and had only NFC or AFC team names on the frame.

The grandstand was a Ward exclusive, having first been used on the Ward versions of Tudor’s NFL No. 620 model in 1968. And finally, what truly separated the No. 627 from any other game that Tudor had ever made – it came with 3 NFL teams. And they were all good teams. The NFC Rams were a playoff team, as were the Browns, who had now moved to the AFC. (Both teams had lost to the NFL Champion Vikings during the previous season’s playoffs.) The final team was the best of all – the Super Bowl champion Chiefs, in their newly available “away” uniforms with red pants.

The only markings on the box.

The only “negative” was it’s plain brown Ward box, but most of these games were going to be mail-order purchases from the 1970 Ward Christmas catalog. There was no point in paying extra for box art if the games were coming directly from a Ward warehouse. 

It was an amazing game that not only helped Ward compete with the Sears’ Super Bowl, it also helped push Electric Football into a “bigger-is-better” mindset that would give rise to games with legs, faux wood grain frames, and even lights. A true “find” for any Electric Football collector.

 

Earl, Roddy, and Michael

When The Unforgettable Buzz Was “Born” – October 1994

Collecting Toys magazine October 1994.

Electric Football has come a long way in the 20 years since Roddy and I first discussed the idea that became The Unforgettable Buzz.

You see, it was in October 1994 that a magazine called Collecting Toys published my article “First And Goal.” Although it was a very basic and bare bones piece, I must have done something right because the editor was pretty happy about the amount of mail that Electric Football generated.

The kind of mail that arrived in the offices of Collecting Toys was mostly handwritten and came in an envelope with a stamp on it (these were the days of dial-up internet through AOL and Compuserve).

One of letters forwarded to me was from someone named Roddy Garcia. I responded to him — cautiously, to be honest — and within a couple of weeks we were talking about a book on Electric Football.

How little we knew about Electric Football at the time is stunning, really. If we actually knew how little we knew, we may have never even bothered to start the project. And if we knew it would take us 18 years to actually publish an Electric Football book – again, we may have never bothered.

But in the fall of 1994, our enthusiasm, thankfully, knew no bounds. Miggle’s NFL Electric Football games were just starting to appear, their “In The Huddle” newsletter was in the mail, and thanks to the Collecting Toys article numerous letters and introductions were circulating throughout a newfound and growing Electric Football community. For many of us, simply finding out that we weren’t “alone” was one of the most amazing things we could ever discover.

In those heady moments 20 years ago Roddy and I decided to embark upon the journey that turned out to be The Unforgettable Buzz. That four unassuming pages would turn into 600+ pages of Electric Football history…there are no words.

And the places that this journey has taken us, and all the amazing friendships we’ve forged along the way — we wouldn’t trade a thing.  Thanks so much for hanging around for all these years!

 

Earl

The Unforgettable Buzz…the NFL’s “Toy Story”

The Unforgettable Buzz Electric Football Book Comic Ad

Artwork by Michael Kronenberg

Do you remember when the Greatest Games were played on your living room floor?

Then you’ll want a copy of The Unforgettable Buzz, the first and only book ever written on the subject of Electric Football. It’s available now for the Holiday season from the following retailers:

Amazon.com

Tudor Games.com

Barnes & Noble.com

Bedrock City Comic Company

The Unforgettable Buzz is the NFL’s “toy story.” It chronicles how the growing popularity of a toy and a sport intertwined through the Baby Boomer years, culminating with Tudor Electric Football being the NFL’s top earning item for almost a decade.

Praise for The Unforgettable Buzz:

“The Unforgettable Buzz is a thoroughly researched and cleverly written study of electric football. Every Baby Boomer who played the game – and that’s all of us – will love this book.”
— Ray Didinger, Pro Football Hall of Fame Sportswriter and NFL Films Emmy® Award Winning Writer and Producer

“The Unforgettable Buzz is a gem of a book, full of riveting stories and interesting facts. Earl Shores and Roddy Garcia have done the fascinating history of electric football and Tudor Games a proud service. Even though it’s 650 pages long (because of its scholarship it needs that), it bears reading in one long go – or, my preference, lots of daily exciting dips to prolong the pleasure.” 
— Eric Clark, author of The Real Toy Story

“Authors Earl Shores and Roddy Garcia have done such a brilliant job of using the game [Electric Football] as a lens for viewing so many aspects of American life – including the rise of merchandising, professional football, and television – that foremost it may be a history lesson cleverly disguised as a book about a toy.”
— Tom Flynn, author of Venable Park and Baseball In Baltimore

A fascinating and absorbing look at the life and history of one of America’s (and my own) best-loved games, all played out against the backdrop of its times, the booming consumer culture and always-competitive toy industry.”
— Christopher Byrne aka The Toy Guy©, author of Toy Time

“This is such a great book. It immediately took me back to those special moments of my childhood. Shores and Garcia have done their homework in opening a sacred portal to the past.” 
— Rick Burton, David B. Falk Professor of Sport Management, Syracuse University

“The Unforgettable Buzz is a must read for anyone who loves football, follows the toy industry, or wants to connect with a classic game and hobby.”
— Doug Strohm, president, Tudor Games

“Earl Shores and Roddy Garcia have written one of the most in depth histories of toy manufacturing and the only resource I’ve seen on electric football. The level of detail they bring is astounding, intermixed with development of the original game, licensing, player design, the NFL and historic games that fed into the popularity of professional football, the skirmishes with other companies that also started selling their own versions of vibrating football, marketing and a good bit of American history thrown in as well.” 
— Glenn “Umpire” Harman, editor,
 Action Figure Times

Electric Football Game Top 20 Countdown – No. 16

1971 Coleco Command Control 5795 – notice this prototype has the player controls on the same side of the game.

Our Electric Football Game Top 20 Countdown continues with the 1971 Coleco Command Control Electric Action Football 5795 at No. 16.

Coleco had a strong Electric Football debut in 1970, despite having boxes with thinly disguised Tudor Electric Football players on the front. The major factor in Coleco’s success was being a large and powerful presence in the toy world. Because of this advantage the company had little problem convincing retailers to make shelf space for their new games.

In 1971 Coleco was determined to ramp up its battle with Tudor and Gotham. Brian Clarke, who was Coleco’s vice president of marketing in 1971, told us in an interview for The Unforgettable Buzz that Coleco’s designers were frustrated with the lack of player control in Electric Football. So these designers — who were headquartered in Montreal and had extensive experience designing rod hockey games — transferred the rod design to Electric Football. Thus Command Control was born. (For more details see Chapter 24 of The Unforgettable Buzz.)

Coleco Command Control debuted in the fall of 1971 complete with a television commercial and a serious media campaign that included ads in NFL , CFL, and NHL programs.

The concept was pretty basic: two rods went under the game, allowing opposing coaches to control a single offensive and defensive player. A magnet on the end of the rod attached to a magnet under the player to make the player move. (The magnetic “wand” technique had been used by Remco on their popular Thimble City playset.) 

A 1971 Coleco ad from an NFL “PRO!” stadium program

The promise of Command Control — Coleco claimed it would “make other Electric Football games obsolete” — never came to full fruition. It did work, you could move the designated players all over the game without much trouble. But…it played like a pro running back was lined up against high school kids.

For most of us who owned a Command Control game, something just didn’t feel “right” about the concept. And there were positions under the game where the rods could lock up without the players on the field touching or tackling each other. Nothing in the rule book helped you deal with this situation.    

But…Command Control was the first major player control innovation in Electric Football history. Coleco gets full credit for trying to add more realism to the game. And even though the concept didn’t revolutionize Electric Football it did make the other companies reevaluate their own player control methods. It was no coincidence that Tudor and Munro both unveiled the first generation of “control” player bases in 1972 (TTC for Tudor; IPP for Munro). 

It’s very easy today to view Command Control as simply a gimmick. But its lasting legacy is the dial base concept that, 43 years on, is a standard part of Electric Football. Ultimately, Command Control did move Electric Football forward —  just not quite in the way that Coleco had planned. A highly influential and worthy No. 16 on our Top 20 Countdown.

 

Earl, Roddy, and Michael

Football Realism In Early Tudor Electric Football Boxes

A 1948 college game between Columbia and Penn. Compare this photo with the early Tudor Tru-Action Electric Football games below. (From The Unforgettable Buzz ©Corbis)

Electric Football is 65 year old in 2014, a landmark we’ve been highlighting this fall. The game has come such a long way in that time, with so many changes along the way to make just “a toy” be as realistic as possible. The very first game that Tudor put out in 1949, the Tru-Action No. 500, looks pretty crude to the modern eye. But at the time it was a realistic marvel.

1949 Tudor box.

And even in those early day Tudor President Norman Sas knew that realism was the key to the game. All you had to do was look at the box. Let’s compare the Tudor’s early boxes with the photo above from a 1948 Columbia-Penn college football game (we do this in Chapter 4 of The Unforgettable Buzz).

An early 1950′s Tudor box.

All pretty similar scenes? This was no accident. From the very start, Tudor thought realism was very important in Electric Football. And they continued to think so throughout the early days of the Tudor No. 500.

Tudor No. 500 box from the early 1960's.

 Eventually technology made it affordable to put an actual photo on a box, which Tudor began doing in 1962 with the Sports Classic No. 600 model. This was the first Tudor box which actually showed an Electric Football game. And the Drummond brothers in the photo do a great job of looking excited about Electric Football. You knew there was hours of fun just waiting under the lid.

1962 Tudor Sports Classic No. 600 model.

A box art classic from Lee Payne. These great boxes, and the thought that went into them, illustrate why Tudor was the dominant company in Electric Football.

 

Earl & Roddy

Electric Football Game Top 20 Countdown – No. 17

No. 17 – The 1977 JC Penney Tudor No. 660 Super Bowl

At No. 17 in The Unforgettable Buzz Electric Football Game Top 20 Countdown is the 1977 J.C. Penney No. 660 Super Bowl game.

The 660 Super Bowl in the 1977 JC Penney’s Christmas Catalog

This game is significant because it’s the last Tudor Super Bowl game made in the traditional Tudor Super Bowl configuration – large No. 620-size 36” x 21” field AND a full-size Tudor grandstand.

The first four Sears Super Bowl games (1969 − 1973) were all No. 620 size games. Sears then requested a mid-sized 31” x 18” Super Bowl for 1974 (see the No. 20 game in our Top 20 Countdown). In 1977 Tudor Games narrowed it’s Electric Football line down to just three games, with its single “large” game being a No. 620-size NFL Tudor Super Bowl model. This new Super Bowl game did not include a grandstand. (Tudor still provided Sears with a mid-size Super Bowl model in 1977.)

But for 1977 J.C. Penney requested a Super Bowl model with a grandstand. It would be the first time Penney’s ever sold a Super Bowl game — and it would be the only Super Bowl they ever sold with a grandstand.

The 1977 No. 660 is a great looking game, with the Raiders and Vikings on the field for Super Bowl XI. In the real game, the Raiders thrashed the Vikings 32-14 to cap off a 16-1 season. It was the Raiders first-ever Super Bowl victory.

The J.C. Penney model came complete Haiti Tudor players, goal posts on the end line, and hash marks in-line with uprights. All wonderful bonuses to the last large Tudor Super Bowl game. Not an easy model to find – certainly worthy of a place in our Top 20.

 

Earl, Roddy, and Michael

60th Anniversary of Gotham’s Entry Into Electric Football

We’ve already talked about Tudor Electric Football turning 65 this year. But that’s not the only Electric Football anniversary that falls in 2014. This fall is also the 60th anniversary of Gotham Pressed Steel’s entry into Electric Football.

The 1954 Gotham G-880 All-Star Electric Football Game.

It was in 1954 that Gotham fired up its toy store aisle competition with Tudor by selling the Gotham All-Star Electric Football game. While Gotham didn’t make a giant dent in Tudor’s sales that year, Gotham’s ambitions led the company to create the Gotham G-940 Electro-Magnetic Football game in 1955. The G-940 was the first Electric Football game with grandstands (it came with two metal end zone grandstands), and the first Electric Football game to make it into the Sears Christmas catalog.

Gotham also was the first Electric Football maker with an NFL license, which it debuted on the first large Electric Football game ever sold in 1961. The NFL G-1500 is a landmark in Electric Football history, leading to an “arms race” in Electric Football features that would go on for the next 15 years.

It was this competition between Tudor and Gotham that produced the first 3-D players, the Big Bowl, a miniature NFL, the first Electric Football Super Bowl game, and a Joe Namath-endorsed game.

1961 Gotham NFL G-1500 model. It was the first NFL-licensed Electric Football game.

The success of Tudor and Gotham eventually enticed two other toy companies into Electric Football, giving the game a total of 4 different manufacturers in the early 1970’s. By the time Gotham was absorbed by Munro Games in 1973 it had left a significant legacy in Electric Football. That legacy started 60 years ago this fall.

The complete Gotham story and much more can be found in our book The Unforgettable Buzz: The History of Electric Football and Tudor Games.

 

Earl & Roddy

Electric Football Game Top 20 Countdown – No. 18

No. 18 – the 2014 Tudor Games Pro Bowl NFL model.

The Unforgettable Buzz Electric Football Game Top 20 Countdown welcomes a newcomer to the list at No 18 — the 2014 Tudor Games NFL Pro Bowl Game.

How does a brand new game make it into the Top 20? Easy – who thought we’d ever be talking about a “new” NFL No. 620 model in 2014?

Besides returning a No. 620-sized playing surface back to Electric Football, Tudor Games has been very forward thinking in its approach to redesigning Electric Football for the 21st century. In addition to an attractive streamlined appearance, the new SpeedTurf fields and the battery operated FieldDrive Motion Generator combine with the new Invisibases to create a totally modern Electric Football experience.

What Tudor Games has done for 2014 is to completely reimagine how Electric Football could be played. They also reimagined where Electric Football could be played, because with batteries as the power source the game can now be a fixture of anyone’s tailgate party.

It would have been easy for Tudor Games to continue with Electric Football locked in its traditional configuration. But they dared to see the game as a contemporary and modern item. They asked: “What should Electric Football look like in the 21st Century?” Their extraoridinary vision gives hope for the future of Electric Football.  And we expect the stature of the 2014 NFL Pro Bowl Football game to only rise over time.

 

Earl, Roddy & Michael

Electric Football Game To 20 Countdown – No. 19

No 19 – the 1966 Montgomery Ward “Accordion” Tudor No. 600

Coming in at No. 19 on The Unforgettable Buzz Electric Football Top 20 countdown is one of the rarest games of all — the 1966 Montgomery Ward “Accordion” No. 600.

In 1966 Tudor didn’t have the NFL, and were actually in the process of trying to convince NFL Properties that they were worthy of the NFL. It was a tall order. Current NFL licensee Gotham was heading into its 5th year of making official NFL Electric Football games, and was in the second year of selling the most elaborate game ever created – the NFL Big Bowl. The monster impact the Big Bowl had on Electric Football went beyond the size of its grandstand. It was the Big Bowl that convinced Tudor President Norman Sas to go after the NFL (download Chapter 1 of The Unforgettable Buzz for more of the story).

1966 Ward Christmas Catalog

When Norman Sas approached NFL Properties about getting the license, the NFL pointed to the Big Bowl and said “We have this — what do you have?” At the same time, Montgomery Ward was not wanting to fall behind in the Electric Football grandstand “arms race” in 1966. So they were looking for a game to compete with the Big Bowl, which made its first appearance in the 1965 Sears Christmas catalog.

Tudor’s answer for both Ward and the NFL was the Accordion No. 600. In many was it was just a basic Tudor No. 600 Sports Classic game…with one exception.  An enormous Lee Payne-designed grandstand that went almost 3/4 of the way around the playing field. And mounted on top of the grandstand was a scoreboard that included the interchangeable names of dozens of college teams, as well as the city names of all the teams in the NFL and AFL.

The grandstand got the “Accordion” nickname from its unique design. Three different pieces were fastened together to create the full wrap-around stadium. And each piece contained a large number of folds that allowed the grandstand to be expanded or shortened like an accordion. It was another amazing Lee Payne innovation.

Unfortunately this “fold” technology proved to be  fragile and challenging to set up. Tudor used it only one more time — on the 1967 Ward NFL 620 — then abandoned it for good. But the game is a testament to the realism that Lee Payne and Norman Sas wanted for Electric Football. It also highlights just how heated the competition was between Tudor and Gotham for Electric Football superiority in the 1960’s.

A truly worthy No. 19 on our countdown. See you next week for No. 18!

 

Earl, Roddy & Michael

Happy 65th Birthday Electric Football!

The 1949 Tudor Tru-Action No. 500.

Happy Birthday Electric Football!

Electric Football turns 65 in 2014. It’s quite the landmark, and it’s been quite a ride for a game that was first marketed with modest ambitions in the fall of 1949. Electric Football inventor and Tudor Metal Products President Norman Sas had little idea what was in store for his new game, or that the toy industry was on the cusp of a true “golden age.”

1949 was a time when college football was more popular than pro football and baseball was the unquestioned king of the sports world. Television was just starting to make inroads on daily life, while America itself was entering an unequaled period of prosperity…for the complete story please check out our book The Unforgettable Buzz: The History of Electric Football and Tudor Games.

1949 Electric Football newspaper advertisement.

Tudor was selling just a single Electric Football game in 1949 — the Tru-Action No. 500 model. It may look crude to the modern eye, but it was the EA Sports Madden of its time. The No. 500 sold for anywhere between $5.95 – $6.95, or the equivalent of $70 in 2014! So it was a luxury item, and a very special toy to receive that fall or on Christmas day.

Despite the cost, Tudor completely sold out of the No. 500 for Christmas and had retailers eagerly awaiting the delivery of Electric Football games in January and February of 1950. It was a flying start for Electric Football, which foreshadowed the ever-ascending popularity of the game for the next three decades. This ascendancy, of course, included an NFL license, which turned Electric Football into perhaps the most dependable “fan creator” in the entire history of the NFL.

With NFL once again part of the Tudor Games’ lineup, Electric Football seems poised to make a sports comeback that even George Foreman would envy. And it all started 65 years ago in the fall of 1949.

 

Earl & Roddy

Electric Football Game Top 20 Countdown – No. 20

No. 20 in the Electric Football Top 20 Countdown – the 1976 Sears Tudor Super Bowl

Coming in at No. 20 on The Unforgettable Buzz Electric Football Game Top 20 Countdown is the 1976 Sears NFL Super Bowl featuring the Steelers and the Cowboys. While a “small” Sears Super Bowl may not seem like an ideal Top 20 candidate this game has some, shall we say, “extenuating” circumstances.

Super Bowl X was by far the most exciting Super Bowl game played up to that point in time. The Steelers’ 21-17 victory over the Cowboys had drama, scoring, hitting, as well as an epic individual performance by Steelers’ WR Lynn Swann. It was everything that football fans had hoped for since the Super Bowl was first played in 1967. And it still ranks as one of the best Super Bowls of all time.

By 1976 Sears had reduced its Super Bowl models down to Tudor’s mid-size game design (31” x 18”). Still the field had the colorful Tudor No. 635 template, with a giant NFL shield at midfield and a red-white-and-blue diamond pattern in each end zone. It also came with Tudor’s standard size single-posted goal posts.

But what really helped push this game into our Top 20 was the teams that came with the game — black shoe Haiti Steelers and Cowboys. The Haiti players are just so well painted (although they were molded in New Jersey). The metallic grey/blue of the Cowboys’ pants is one of our all-time favorite looks. We like this game so much we even used it on the back cover of The Unforgettable Buzz!

So there’s our No. 20 game – the 1976 Tudor Sears’ Super Bowl. See you next week for No. 19!

 

Earl, Roddy & Michael

 

2014 Season Kicks Off With Electric Football Back In The NFL!

The Packers and Seahawks open the 2014 NFL season tonight.

It’s hard to believe the NFL kicks off its season tonight, as it doesn’t seem like that long ago we were at TudorCON 14 in Philadelphia.

But what a momentous year 2014 has been for Electric Football!

Who ever imagined that an NFL season would once again kick off in a year when the NFL was part of Electric Football? It was starting to feel like one of those things that would never happen. But thanks to Doug Strohm and Tudor Games, when the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers take the field tonight, the NFL license is back where it belongs — in Electric Football.

So here’s to an entertaining game, a great NFL season, and a successful fall and Christmas for Tudor Games and Electric Football. We definitely need to order some Seahawks in white…

 

Earl & Roddy

Preview – The Electric Football Game Top 20 Countdown

Our Top 20 Electric Football Countdown starts next week…who will make the cut?

A lot of great Electric Football games have been made through the years, and we’re going to honor them this fall with The Unforgettable Buzz “Top 20 Countdown.”

1996 Miggle Electric Football Convention

What games will make the cut in our Top 20 Countdown?

Beginning next Friday we’re going to feature one of Electric Football’s most amazing games, talking about where it fits into Electric Football history and why we think it’s worthy of a spot in our Top 20.

We’ll start with game No. 20 on Friday September 5th, and then countdown with a new game each week until we reach No. 1. It should be a lot of fun.

Who will be No. 1 when it’s all said and done? What games will make the cut?

Be sure to check in with The Unforgettable Buzz each and every Friday this fall!!

 

Earl, Roddy and Michael

Electric Football TudorCON 14 Flashback – Mike Landsman

This looks like an argument, but it was actually a very amiable conversation. It was just a bit animated at this moment. Earl Shores, Roddy Garcia, and Mike Landsman. Photo by Robin Shores.

One of the biggest Electric Football surprises at TudorCON 14 was the appearance of Mike Landsman. Mike was the owner Superior Toy, who purchased Tudor from Norman Sas in 1988, and also the owner of Miggle Toys, who resurrected Tudor Games and Electric Football in 1993. He plays a prominent part in our “Beyond Brooklyn” chapter in The Unforgettable Buzz (Chapter 37).

Delayne Landsman, Corey Johnson, and Mike Lansdman at TudorCON 14. Photo by Lynn Schmidt.

Mike Landsman’s Electric Football legacy is a significant one. He not only resurrected Electric Football, he held the first Tudor Electric Football Convention in 1996, and then held one each year until 2009. As “Commisioner” he oversaw the second and contemporary phase of Electric Football, starting the Miggle web site and Chat Board, which helped connect all the pieces of the Electric Football community. He then passed the Tudor ball to Doug Strohm in 2012.

Mike has had some serious health issues, but we’re pleased to report that he looked great at TudorCON 14, as did his wife Delayne. It was a pleasure to talk with both of them, about the old days and about the “now.” We were pleased to be able to give Mike and Delayne a signed copy of The Unforgettable Buzz, and Mike seemed grateful that we had taken the time to dig into all the not so pretty details surrounding Superior’s bankruptcy in the early 1990’s.

It was wonderful to talk with Mike and Delayne throughout the weekend. It provided a sense of “closure” to the entire Buzz project that we really didn’t see coming. A totally unexpected “buzz” of its own.

 

Earl & Roddy

Excerpt No. 3 of The Unforgettable Buzz on Sports Collectors Daily

 

Excerpt No. of The Unforgettable Buzz on Sports Collectors Daily covering 1969.

Electric Football had one of its most exciting years in 1969. After the Jets defeated the Colts in Super Bowl III in early January, Electric Football makers Tudor and Gotham both ended up creating, arguably, the most memorable games in the history of the hobby.

Chapter 21 of The Unforgettable Buzz

For Christmas of 1969 there was a true bounty of exciting Electric Football games to choose from. As a result, the chapter of The Unforgettable Buzz that covers 1969 – Chapter 21 – is one of our favorites. 

And we’re pleased that Sports Collectors Daily chose to run an excerpt of Chapter 21 on its web site. Again, SCD has done amazing job in making the Buzz look good, with some great Electric Football images from that memorable year. It really captures what The Unforgettable Buzz: The History of Electric Football and Tudor Games is all about.

Electric Football on the New York Jets Website!

With the NFL now officially back in Electric Football, it’s fitting that Electric Football recently earned its first official appearance on an NFL team web site. All credit goes to the New York Jets and Randy Lange, who ran “What’s The Buzz ? It’s Electric Football” in his Randy’s Radar column.

1961 Tudor ad with Titan QB Al Dorrow.

Randy interviewed The Unforgettable Buzz author Earl Shores about how important the New York Jets were to Electric Football history, going back to the early days of the AFL when the franchise was called the New York Titans. Tudor actually had an endorsement deal with Titans QB Al Dorrow, who appeared in several Tudor ads in 1961.

The story follows through to the Jets appearance on landmark Tudor games like 1968 Tudor AFL game, the first Sears Super Bowl in 1969, and the 1970 AFC No. 610 model which recreates the first-ever ABC Monday Night Football game with the Jets and Browns. The Joe Namath-endorsed Gotham and Munro Electric Football games are also part of the story.

We’re so proud, and grateful to the Jets for giving Electric Football the visibility the game truly deserves. And The Unforgettable Buzz gets a nice shout out too.

Check out the story here on the New York Jets website!

 

Earl, Roddy & Michael

Two Years And Counting At The Unforgettable Buzz Web Site

Here at TheUnforgettableBuzz.com it’s 2 years of Electric Football and counting!

It’s hard to believe that we’ve been writing about Electric Football for over two years now on The Unforgettable Buzz web page. When we started back in July 2012, if someone had told us that we’d still be at it two years later…we would have said that there’s just not that much stuff in Electric Football to keep someone busy for two full years!

The NFL is back at Tudor Games!

But things have grown and evolved in so many ways. We’ve met a whole lot of new people who’ve not only inspired us, they’ve become good friends (over 300 of you have “friended” us on Facebook!) It seems there’s always something going on in the world of Electric Football that’s worthy of writing about. Just look at this past week — Tudor Games got the NFL license back!!

And the things we’ve been lucky enough to be part of during the last 24 months — from the publication of The Unforgettable Buzz, to TudorCON 14, radio interviews, a television interview, the New York Jets website — we’re pretty awestruck.

From what we can see, the future of Electric Football looks very bright, especially with a brand new NFL license to raise the game’s profile. So we’re going to stick around for a while. There’s plenty to write and celebrate about in this endlessly amazing hobby. Not to mention a piece of significant unfinished business — our upcoming book Full Color Electric Football.

Thanks for all of your support over the last 2 years and stay tuned!!

 

 

Earl, Roddy, and Michael