Electric Football Game Top 20 Countdown — No. 1

1967 Tudor NFL Grass Field No. 620 game

No 1 on our Top 20 Countdown – the 1967 Tudor NFL “Grass Field” No. 620.

Our Electric Football Top 20 Countdown concludes with Game No. 1 — the 1967 Tudor NFL No. 620 with the Browns and Giants.

There are more colorful Electric Football games, there are more elaborate Electric Football games, and as we’ve seen in our Top 20 Countdown there are even Electric Football games that recreate some of Pro Football’s greatest moments…but there is only one Tudor “Grass Field” NFL No. 620.

Tudor made the Giants-Browns No. 620 from 1967-69, and we think that any game from the that period IS very special. But for our countdown we’re picking the 1967 No. 620. This initial version came with some unique features that clearly distinguish it from later models.

The reason the No. 620 comes in at No. 1, ahead of Electric Football games that seemingly have much “more” to offer, is simple: Whenever we’ve displayed a No. 620 at an Electric Football event — and this covers a period stretching from the first Miggle Convention in 1996 to TudorCon in 2014 — it’s always the game we spend the most time standing over.

A Tudor NFL No. 620 on display at TudorCON 14

The game that always draws the most conversation at any EF Convention. TudorCON 14.

It generates the most conversations, the most recollections, as well as the most looks of wonder as middle-aged men instantaneously become boys, being magically transported back to the moment when they first saw a Browns-Giants No. 620. It might have been a neighbor’s game, a brother’s game, their own game, on a toy store shelf, or even just the photo in the Tudor Rule Book. No other Electric Football game generates the same reaction. It’s not even close.

The No. 620 is the benchmark of benchmarks in Electric Football. 1967 was Tudor’s first year with the NFL license, and they were determined to make a big impact with their brand new NFL line. Since Gotham had been making and selling NFL-licensed Electric Football games since 1961, an NFL model wasn’t necessarily a new thing. But Norman Sas and Lee Payne had the motivation, talent, and business acumen to design something that seemed totally new. (See Chapter 18 of The Unforgettable Buzz for the full story of how Tudor unseated Gotham as the NFL’s Electric Football licensee).

The No. 620 was really Tudor’s Apollo 11 moon landing. So many of the concepts they had been working on and refining since 1961 all came to full bloom on the No. 620. In continuing the NASA theme, Tudor had already “put a man in orbit” when they created the large Sports Classic model in 1962. They then “walked in space” through their commitment to player painting, and then “performed a docking maneuver” when Lee Payne converted a Gorilla base into a prototype with a clip that allowed a painted player to slide on and off.  Finally, Tudor “orbited the moon” by showing the NFL how innovative the company could be with the 1966 Ward “Accordion” game.

1967 Tudor NFL No. 620 with Browns and Giants

The 1967 No. 620 was Tudor’s “moon landing.”

So most of the pieces for the No. 620 where in already in place when Tudor received official word from the NFL that it had won the NFL license for 1967. But Tudor still had the herculean task of producing and painting mass quantities of miniature NFL and AFL teams, which fell to a creative and very capable business associate in Hong Kong named Albert Sung. Throughout late 1966 and into early 1967, Sung oversaw the entire task of painting 32 NFL teams (16 teams in both dark and light jersey) and 9 different AFL teams (dark jersey only). He also had to make sure there were enough Browns and Giants to go into the new No. 620 models.

Back in Brooklyn, Payne concluded that metal vibrated better than fiberboard, and he had begun working on a metal field that was strong enough for Tudor’s 36” x 21” frame. Payne also had some other tweaks and special innovations that would elevate the No. 620 to “masterpiece” status.

We’ve taken a lot of time to lay out the back story of the No. 620 because it is all part of the game’s “greatness.” So many brand new pieces — metal fields, new players, new Hong Kong production and painting operations, design approvals from the NFL — all had to come together seamlessly. If any one of these new features failed, or a production deadline was missed, it would have jeopardized Tudor’s NFL debut. But, as usual, Tudor pulled it off.

We’ve talked a lot about “firsts” during the Countdown, and the No. 620 has some of the most notable firsts of all time.

1) First painted NFL teams, the Browns and Giants.

2) First large Electric Football game with a metal field.

3) First NFL markings on an Electric Football field with the “NFL” in each end zone (some Gotham games did have an NFL shield on their sidelines, but it was not in the field of play).

4) First single-posted slingshot style goal post, colored in Official NFL gold no less.

5) First fabric goal post pads

6) First clip-on grandstand

7) First grandstand crowd photo of an actual NFL stadium (Atlanta).

Breaking down all these firsts almost diminishes the game because it was the combined impact of all of these features that blew us away. The white markings on the green field just draw you in — you can almost smell the grass. And then there’s the giant letters in the end zones “N-F-L.” Rising majestically from the “F’s” are two modern “NFL gold” slingshot-style goal post… arguably the most realistic Electric Football goal posts ever commercially produced.

The 1967 NFL No. 620 in the Tudor Rule Book

The No. 620 as pictured in the 1967 Tudor Rule Book.

The field is surrounded dramatically by a blue interior frame border, and this same blue fills the front and back of the outer frame, which both display NFL in bold white letters, as well as 15 NFL team names (missing are the expansion Saints). The outer frame ends are red and display 9 NFL team names (including the Saints). Add in the white frame corners and white frame “lip,” and it’s clear that Payne purposely duplicated the red-white-and blue color scheme of the NFL shield.

Tudor also included their largest ever grandstand, which happened to be their first clip-on model. The interchangeable nameplates weren’t new (Tudor had them on their Accordion No. 600), but it was the first time Tudor could use actual NFL team names. Peering out from under a facade of colorful NFL helmets was a highly detailed Atlanta Stadium photo taken by, who else, Lee Payne. There was no question that it was the most realistic “crowd” in Electric Football history.

Browns' players on a 1967 NFL 620

Triple-stripe Browns on the 1967 No. 620. The double-fold in the frame can be viewed in the background.

Finally, onto one of the special features of the 1967 No. 620 — the Browns and Giants were of the Big/Large variety. So not only were the players slightly larger and more physically detailed than the players that would appear on 1968 and 1969 No. 620’s, they had more details in their painting. For the Browns, both their socks and sleeves would have the distinctive and realistic triple-stripe pattern. And the Giants would have two white vertical dashes on their helmet to mimic their distinctive “NY” (later Giants would simply have a white dot).

Next, these players were sitting on Tudor’s aqua color bases, which at various times in Electric Football history have been viewed as “prized” finds, due to the speed and strength they show on the vibrating gridiron.

1967 New York Giants players on a No. 620.

The “double-dash” New York Giants from 1967.

And finally, the feature that truly separates the 1967 version from all others — the field. In this first year of production the metal of the frame and field is noticeably more substantial than No. 620’s from 1968-69. In fact, Tudor used a double-fold in the frame wall which gives both the frame and field added support and strength. (ALL subsequent Tudor 610 and 620 models only have a single frame fold). The field is “tight,” with very little “crown” or flex to it. The result is, a field that Electric Football aficionados consider to be the truest vibrating surface that Tudor ever created.

We think the “power” of the No. 620 is summed up by a story Sean Davis told to us last year at TudorCon 14… while we were all standing over a No. 620. At 3-years-old he desperately wanted to play with his older brother’s No. 620 game. But needless to say, the brother and his friends didn’t think Sean was ready for Electric Football. Eventually, they allowed Sean to be part of their games, letting him switch the game on and off for each play. There was just one catch. The switch had a short in it — Sean got shocked every time he flicked it! But did that stop him from with playing the No. 620? Of course not. “I thought it was part of the game,” Sean said with a laugh. And decades later he was in Philadelphia competing at TudorCON 14.

A story like Sean’s is why we love Electric Football, and why we love the No. 620. We can easily see ourselves continuing to put our miniature NFL’s into action even if we got shocked every time we turned the game on and off. That’s how strongly the No. 620 grabbed us. Like moths to a flame, it hit us on a primal level.

So in concluding our Top 20 Countdown…we hope that everyone has found their “own” No. 620. There are so many great games, over such a range of time, that we know the “No. 620 moment” is different for everybody. And that’s what makes Electric Football so much fun, and such a great hobby. There is truly something for everybody. We’ve had so much fun doing this Countdown, and we’re so grateful to everyone of you who have followed along all these weeks. We hope it’s been fun for you too.

Many, many thanks! We promise to keep you posted on Full Color Electric Football!!

 

Earl, Roddy, & MK

 

Electric Football Game Top 20 Countdown — No. 2

The 1969 Sears Tudor Super Bowl Game with Jets and Colts

At No. 2 on the Countdown – the 1969 Sears Tudor Super Bowl game.

Coming in at No. 2 on our Electric Football Top 20 Countdown, it’s the 1969 Tudor No. 633 Jets-Colts Super Bowl.

As the first Sears-exclusive Super Bowl model, this game was the unquestioned pinnacle of Electric Football in 1969. Nothing else like it had ever been produced before, and all subsequent Electric Football games would be measured against it. A landmark, a milestone, a benchmark…it was all those things. And 46 years later, it still is. That’s why the game was an easy choice for our cover photo when we started The Unforgettable Buzz web site back June 2012.  

Although the No 633 had a number of “firsts,” it surprisingly wasn’t Tudor’s first Super Bowl game (that distinction belongs to an obscure 1968 Otasco Tudor No. 500 model). But it was Tudor’s first large No. 620-sized Super Bowl. It was also the first Tudor game to earn the featured spot on the Sears’ Electric Football page, relegating Gotham’s brand new Super Dome to runner-up status in the 1969 Christmas catalog.

Electric football NFL AFL Super Bowl III 1969 Tudor Norman Sas Unforgettable Buzz

Page 472 of the 1969 Sears Christmas Book. This was the first large Tudor game to feature an AFL team.

What Sears did with the Tudor Super Bowl was magical. As soon as you turned the page your eyes went right to the game. First the glowing “Super Bowl” on the red-white-and-blue frame, then to the two painted Tudor players who faced out from the left edge of the page….Colts in home blue and Jets in away white! Next your eyes moved to the field, where the markings appeared to be identical to the actual Super Bowl field, and finally, your gaze shifted to the text in the upper right hand corner: “Super Bowl Electric Football: Colts and Jets clash head-on for the championship.”

You had to have the game…you just had to. For many of us, it was the most incredible toy we had EVER seen. Christmas morning was already pictured in our minds. Super Bowl III on your living room floor…life couldn’t get any get better than that!

Electric Football book The Unforgettable Buzz

The Unforgettable Buzz web page cover photo.

A couple of important things about the game that our “young eyes” didn’t see, but our parents surely noticed: the $14.99 price tag, and that the game was available only at Sears. Talk about pressure…

It’s not clear whether the Super Bowl model was a Sears idea or a Tudor idea, although our recent Ice Bowl Prototype blog post proves that Tudor had been working on an NFL Championship model by early 1968. And in fact, Lee Payne transferred his Ice Bowl frame design to the new Sears Super Bowl model.

Beyond the frame, the Super Bowl was a totally new Lee Payne design. There was a new and larger grandstand with a triple-decked crowd scene, including a middle level that appeared to have the the first luxury boxes in Electric Football history. And the six banks of faux floodlights on the rooftop facade were another Electric Football first.

But the No. 633 was and always will be about the stunning metal field, which appeared to have the same coloration and marking pattern as the actual Super Bowl field. It was Tudor’s first try at recreating a specific stadium field, and Payne had clearly done the company proud. Yet Payne made several subtle changes that diverged, almost imperceptibly, from the real Orange Bowl turf.

Yes, the Championship Trophy was at midfield, framed in light blue. (It not yet called the Lombardi Trophy.) And the end zones had the identical and familiar light blue coloration. But the end zone with the NFL shield didn’t say “COLTS” in large white block letters, it said “NFL.” And the end zone with the AFL shield — this would be the only Tudor game to ever an AFL shield on the field — didn’t say JETS, it said “AFL.”

The Lee Payne-designed box.

Since the font and the black outline of the letters were identical to the actual Super Bowl field, it really didn’t seem like anything was “missing.” Payne had used the NFL and AFL to cleverly mimmick the team names. So it wasn’t obvious that the end zones were missing the team logos, or that the actual Jets end zone had been a subtle shade of green.

When we saw the game in the catalog, or for those lucky enough to have the game on our floor on Christmas morning, Tudor had given us the Super Bowl in miniature!

And not just any “ordinary” Super Bowl. In another case of Tudor’s amazing timing, this first Sears Super Bowl just happened to recreate one of the most monumental pro football games ever played. The upstart Jets shocked the sporting world with their 16-7 victory over the highly favored Baltimore Colts. Game MVP and Jets QB Joe Namath backed up his famous pre-game “guarantee,” delivering a message to the NFL that the new league, after just a decade in existence, was as good as the old guard. Super Bowl III was a game that changed pro football.

So you had the most amazing Electric Football game ever made…recreating the one of the most amazing pro football games ever played. And the combination of the first AFL Super Bowl victory being matched up with the first-ever Sears Super Bowl Electric Football game — it’s something that could only happen once.

This convergence of real football and Electric Football has never been equaled. That’s why the 1969 Sears Super Bowl game sits proudly at No. 2 in our Top 20 Countdown.

 

Earl. Roddy, & MK

Electric Football Game Top 20 Countdown — No. 3

electric football super bowl IV Tudor NFL AFL Vikings Chiefs

Game No. 3 on the Countdown: the 1970 Sears No. 633 Super Bowl IV with the Chiefs and Vikings.

The Electric Football Game Countdown moves down to game No. 3 – the 1970 Tudor No. 633 Super Bowl.

This game is a landmark in both toy and Electric Football history. In terms of visibility and economics, it may have been the highest heights ever reached by Electric Football.

The No. 633 with the Vikings and Chiefs was sold only at Sears, who at the time, was the largest toy retailer in the world. Sears gave their exclusive Super Bowl an eye-catching full-color layout on page 488 of the Christmas Wish Book. They also gave the game a “Sears Best” designation, which served as an endorsement for hesitant parents. It was Sears saying that the game was worth its hefty $15.99 price tag. The Sears Best label also designated the Super Bowl as one of the “featured toys” in all of the 1970 Wish Book. Sears had clearly designed page 488 to make boys stop, gawk, and scribble down “Sears Super Bowl Electric Football game” on their list for Santa.

This was Tudor’s second Super Bowl, and Lee Payne went all out in designing the field, which is still one of the most colorful ever created. The Vikings’ end zone was purple with yellow lettering, and included a circular Vikings logo. The Chiefs end zone was bright yellow with red letters, and included a matching circular Chiefs logo. Framed in a light blue square at midfield was the Lombardi Trophy, with the square itself having a Vikings helmet and a Chiefs helmet serving as bookends.

electric football super bowl IV Tudor NFL AFL Vikings Chiefs

Page 488 of the 1970 Sears Christmas Wish Book.

All of these markings — including the odd yard lines being outlined in red, the even numbers outlined in blue, and the “50’” outlined in yellow — were like the real Super Bowl field in New Orleans. Only three things were different: the actual Vikings logo was shaped like a shield; there was no NFL logo in the Vikings end zone or, AFL logo in the Chiefs end zone.

But this took nothing away from overall “awe” the game inspired. Tudor’s field actually looked better than the real Super Bowl field, which the late NFL Films’ legend Steve Sabol described as “mud with green paint.”

Besides getting all the actual details right — the field, the teams, the goal posts, etc. — the frame design was perfect. Large white capital letters said it all: SUPER BOWL. That’s all that needed to be said.

Electric football Tudor Super Bowl Chiefs Vikings 1970

The Chiefs “huddle” up during Super Bowl IV.

Sears had no problem selling every single Super Bowl that came off the production line in Brooklyn. Only a Vikings’ fans could find anything negative about it…but even Vikings’ fans wanted to have the game. It was that beautiful — and it gave you a chance to replay the Super Bowl with a different outcome.

And then there’s the history that the game taps into. It recreated Super Bowl IV, a 23-7 Chiefs’ win that marked the last game ever played by an AFL team. This was the second straight victory for the AFL, giving “the other league” unquestioned parity with the NFL, as both leagues would take a 2-2 Super Bowl record into their long-planned 1970 merger.

Box for 1970 Sears Super Bowl

Box of the 1970 Tudor Super Bowl

Another piece of Super Bowl IV served to illustrate Electric Football’s status in American culture. Sitting in the stands watching the Vikings and the Chiefs that day was Tudor President Norman Sas. He was a guest of NFL Properties, his reward for having the top-earning item — Electric Football! — in the entire NFL Properties’ line. 

Tudor’s 1970 Super Bowl was, and still is, a stunning game. A true work of art. Even the box, with Lee Payne’s silhouette motif, is a work of art. So it’s deservedly one of priciest games in Electric Football collecting.

Yet we still view the game as a bargain. That’s because nobody will ever make anything like it again. It’s just too expensive. If a game were made to same the design specs in 2015, it would cost well over $200…and might even cost what the current eBay price is for a 1970 Tudor Super Bowl. And really, how many other toys are still playable 45 years later? We’re very, very lucky that Tudor made their games to last.

At No. 3, one of the greatest Electric Football games EVER made — the Sears-exclusive 1970 Tudor No. 633 Super Bowl!!

 

Earl, Roddy, & MK

P.S. Final fact…this is the only Tudor model with team names lithographed in the end zones.

Tudor’s “Lost” NFL Ice Bowl Electric Football Game

Tudor's 1968 Ice Bowl prototype Electric Football game

The ultimate “Lost” Electric Football game – Tudor’s 1968 NFL Ice Bowl prototype.

Electric Football’s greatness lies in its ability to create reality in miniature. Tudor was the unquestioned champion of this concept, as we have seen over and over in our Top 20 Countdown. And the best of Tudor’s work always links us to a specific event in NFL history.

So with the Cowboys set this weekend to make their first post-season visit to Lambeau Field since the 1967 Ice Bowl, it’s fitting that we talk about a game that didn’t make our Top 20, but if we had a list of “Lost” Electric Football games, it would be on top…by a mile.

That would be Tudor’s 1968 Ice Bowl prototype.

Tudor’s legendary designer Lee Payne created the game in early 1968, just weeks after the Ice Bowl was played in Green Bay. On the field are the Packers and Cowboys…a special No. 620-size field with “frozen” white end zones. Sitting at mid-field, just like on the actual Ice Bowl field, is an NFL shield. This is the first NFL shield ever to be seen on a Tudor field.

The frame of the game makes no mistake about what this model is — “NFL Championship” is lithographed in large white letters. There is also a special grandstand that wraps over the frame and down onto to field. And, of course, the players are of the 1967 Big variety. Each one carefully painted and numbered by Payne to match a Packer or Cowboy who was on Lambeau’s “Frozen Tundra” during the Ice Bowl.

Would this game have been a big seller if put it into production in 1968? Without a doubt. But ultimately Tudor decided that they didn’t need a fourth game in their NFL line — at least not yet. It’s clear to see that the Ice Bowl was used as the template for the 1969 Sears Super Bowl game.

Electric football NFL Packers Cowboys The Unforgettable Buzz Book Tudor

We used the Tudor Ice Bowl to open Chapter 20 of The Unforgettable Buzz.

The Tudor Ice Bowl opens Chapter 20 in The Unforgettable Buzz, and we talk about the game early on in that chapter. But all we can do is talk, because nobody knows what happened to the prototype. Lee Payne shared this photo with us, but he did not have the game. Neither did Norman Sas, who told us that Tudor Games was sold “lock, stock, and barrel” to Superior Toy in 1988.

So did some lucky Tudor employee take it home during the 1970’s, or maybe the final Brooklyn days in the 1980’s? Or did it end up in a dumpster when Superior Toy was liquidated in the early 1990’s? The fate of this game is probably the greatest mystery in all of Electric Football. But the splendor of the Tudor Ice Bowl will live on, and finally get the treatment it long deserves.

The Tudor Ice Bowl Prototype Electric Football game in color.

Sample of the Tudor Ice Bowl photo that will appear in Full Color Electric Football.

That would be full color treatment in our upcoming book Full Color Electric Football.

 

Earl, Roddy, & MK

P.S. Don’t forget that our Top 20 Countdown hits game No. 3 on Friday!!

Electric Football Game Top 20 Countdown – No. 4

1972 Munro Day/Nite Electric Football game and its enormous 40" x 25" field.

The 1972 Munro Day/Nite Electric Football game and its enormous 40″ x 25″ field.

The Electric Football Game Top 20 Countdown continues with one of the “grandest” games ever commercially produced at No. 4 — the 1972 Munro Day/Nite Electric Football game.

The Day/Nite game story really begins in the 1960’s, when Tudor and Gotham were competing for Electric Football dominance. Both companies’ games evolved through the decade, becoming bigger, brighter, and more elaborate with each passing year. The Gotham Big Bowl (1965-1968), the Tudor “Accordion” Game (1966), the Gotham Super Dome (1969), and Tudor No. 633 Super Bowl are all prime examples of this evolution.

A parallel evolution could be found in the swelling profits that Electric Football was providing for toy makers (Tudor at least). It was this profitability that enticed Coleco and Munro Games onto the vibrating gridiron in the early 1970’s. As the number of companies making Electric Football doubled from two in 1969 to four in 1971, the number of different Electric Football models on toy store shelves more than doubled.

1972 Munro Day Nite Electric Football game

Munro was the only company other than Tudor to have hand-painted players.

The “arms race” of Electric Football features continued as Coleco and Munro tried to define themselves. (Tudor was already well-defined and very profitable thanks to its NFL line). Coleco invented Command Control, and even put legs and a faux woodgrain finish on a $30 “Rec Room” model in 1971.

Munro had a rocky Electric Football debut in 1971, and came into 1972 determined to make a “statement.” There’s no argument that they did just that with the elaborate and awe-inspiring Day/Nite Electric Football game.

Munro’s designers took a look what had been done in Electric Football and borrowed the “best” of what they saw: painted 3-D players, painted 3-D quarterbacks, directional bases, and a double-decked 3-D grandstand.

The famous lights on the 1972 Munro Day/Nite game.

They also took stock what hadn’t been done before, and were given the “go ahead” to think big. The result was the biggest Electric Football playing surface ever commercially produced (40” x  25”), which included the innovation of a sideline Wind Sprint track. And of course, they came up with the feature that clearly separated Munro from every other Electric Football maker — and every other Electric Football game made up until that point. A pair of grandstand-mounted battery-operated floodlights. Munro had created the first ever “night” Electric Football maker.

1972 Munro Day Nite Electric Football game wind sprint track.

Munro’s innovative Wind Sprint Track.

While all of these features add up to a pretty special Electric Football game, it needs to be understood that it didn’t automatically have to be a “great” game. All credit for that goes to Munro Games, whose designers had a lot of experience making rod hockey games. They knew how to build sports action games and didn’t cut corners. The result is, nothing about the game feels cheap, and indeed, you can almost sense the pride the designers had in creating it. It’s a truly beautiful game when set up. The fit and finish of the game rival the work Tudor was doing at the time.

In playing the game…the lights weren’t all that bright, being that they were powered by 2 “C” batteries. But you could turn off all the lights in a room and actually play the game solely by floodlight (young eyes can “see” anything). The field had an understated yet classy marking pattern, and was set off by a realistic green grass color. Helping the realism was the roughest surface ever seen in Electric Football (if the players actually tackled each other they would have gotten rug burns). The field was also made from the thickest piece of fiberboard ever seen in Electric Football, resulting in a “buzz” that was the loudest in all of Electric Football.

Tudor Raiders and Broncos on 1972 Munro Day Nite Electric Football Game

An added feature of the Day/Nite Game: Tudor NFL players looked fantastic on it.

But…the problem with making a game this elaborate, and making it as solid as Munro did, was that it was always going to be a very expensive purchase. Most retailers priced the game around the $20 mark, with Sears selling an exclusive model with legs for $24.99. This was significantly more than even Tudor’s large NFL models cost.

Because of its hefty price tag, the game didn’t sell well at all in 1972. It was large and expensive, and took up a lot of shelf space, holding onto that space well past the all-important Christmas selling season. So in 1973, even with Joe Namath’s endorsement now on the Day/Nite model, most retailers weren’t interested in carrying a costly oversized non-seller.

The best illustration of the Day/Nite game’s plight was its appearance in Sears Surplus Stores during the fall of 1973 (see page 467 of The Unforgettable Buzz). After just a year on the market, the game was already a clearance item. And 1973 would prove to be the last year for a Munro Day/Nite model with working floodlights.

There is much, much more about the Day/Nite model and Munro’s rise and fall in The Unforgettable Buzz, including the story of how the game was originally named “Monday Nite Football” (Chapter 26). It was truly ahead of its time, and really the culmination of the game evolution that Gotham started with their G-1500 in 1961.

Sitting proudly at No. 4 on our Countdown, it’s the 1972 Munro Day/Nite Electric Football game.

 

Earl, Roddy, & MK

 

Full Color Electric Football Book Update

The cover of the book Full Color Electric Football

The cover of our upcoming book – Full Color Electric Football.

Electric Football’s first all-color book is getting ever closer to being finished. As we revealed last week, our upcoming Full Color Electric Football project is in the design stage right now. The format is all set, the photos are at the ready, the text is locked in, and the book is being carefully constructed through the artistic eye of our designer Michael Kronenberg.

When complete, Full Color Electric Football will be 120 pages…and every single page will be in color. Our concept for the book is a simple: we all loved studying the full-color NFL insert that came in our Tudor Rule Books. So we set out to make a color Rule Book insert that goes on for 120 pages, and also includes the Electric Football lines from Gotham, Coleco, and Munro Games.

Full Color Electric Football is all about showing off the best Electric Football images we can find. There will be some descriptive text, but most pages of Full Color Electric Football will use an all-photo format. Obviously we will borrow some of the great images from The Unforgettable Buzz, but we also have a playbook full of new and unseen photos that make Full Color Electric Football feel like a completely original work.

From what we have so far…the book has already exceeded our expectations. Michael is a world-class designer who has brought his “A” game to the project. We can’t wait to preview some sample pages, which will be doing in the very near future.

At the moment, Full Color Electric Football is scheduled to be published in time for the NFL preseason. We’ll keep you posted on the exact date.

We’re very excited — 2015 is shaping up as another great year in Electric Football!

 

Earl, Roddy, & MK

Electric Football Game Top 20 Countdown — No. 5

The 1961 Gotham NFL G-1500 game

Game No. 5 — the stunning 1961 Gotham NFL G-1500. Electric Football’s first Big game.

The Electric Football Game Top 20 Countdown moves into the Top 5 today with a very special game — the 1961 Gotham Pressed Steel NFL G-1500 model.

This groundbreaking game has long been one of the most under appreciated games in all of Electric Football. It was a total “game changer” in 1961, and set the stage for all that came after it, including Tudor’s miniature NFL.

1961

Almost as intriguing as the game itself is the story behind the game, and how Gotham beat Tudor to the NFL license. We cover this tale of intrigue in great detail in Chapter 1 (check out our free PDF download), and also Chapters 10 – 12 of The Unforgettable Buzz.

But the short version of Gotham landing the NFL license for 1961 comes down to this: it was one of the few times when Norman Sas’ business judgement let him down. After Tudor passed on the license, Gotham gladly scooped up the fumble and converted this uncharacteristic Tudor “turnover” into the NFL G-1500.

With the NFL license in hand, Gotham President Eddie Gluck — who just happened to be a former Tudor employee — created not only the most elaborate game in Electric Football history, but also one of the most elaborate toys being sold in 1961.

Here are the Electric Football “Firsts” on the Gotham NFL G-1500:

  1. First officially licensed NFL Electric Football game.
  2. First “big” Electric Football game at 36″ long.
  3. First game with a sideline grandstand and “stadium.”
  4. First player uniforms.
  5. First NFL team scoreboard nameplates
  6. First game with an illustrated color Rule Book
  7. First Electric Football game to be shown in full color in the Sears Christmas Book (1962)
electric football gotham NFL G-1500

The majestic Gotham NFL G-1500 with the Yankee Stadium façade.

In addition to all these “firsts,” the G-1500 was simply a beautiful game. From the brilliant white frame with all 14 NFL team logos, to the elaborate metal grandstand that was so obviously modeled after Yankee Stadium…something magic truly happened when all the sideline and end zone pieces were mounted on the oversized Gotham field.

The self-sticking paper jerseys and helmets of the 1961 G-1500.

The self-sticking paper jerseys and helmets that came in the 1961 NFL G-1500.

The game also came with a locker room full of accessories, including color pennants for all 14 NFL teams, 7 different colors/teams of self-sticking paper jerseys, 8 different colors/teams of self-sticking paper helmets, a 1961 NFL schedule, a first down marker with a referee attached to it, scoreboard nameplates for each NFL team, diagrams of official NFL team plays…it was an overwhelming combination of detail and color. Especially compared with Tudor’s modest and now bare looking No. 500 model.

1961 Gotham Martian Players

The large-headed 1961 Gotham “Martian Players.”

Gotham’s only demerit came in the form of the strangely shaped players. To accommodate the paper helmets, Gotham molded the players with oversized heads…which looked strange even in 1961. These are now known as the Gotham “Martian Players.”

Cover of the 1961 Gotham rule book

Colorful cover of the 1961 G-1500 Rule Book.

The G-1500’s impact was huge, with the best measure of its significance coming in Tudor’s 1962 response: a “big” Tudor Electric Football game (Sports Classic No. 600) with paintable 3-D players.

Thanks to the G-1500, Electric Football went from basic in 1960 — the Tudor No. 500 and Gotham G-880 — to super deluxe in just two short years. And in the Christmas catalogs of Sears and Ward during that same period, Electric Football’s toy status went from “ordinary” to “featured,” being awarded the entire top half of a catalog page to entice Christmas shoppers and Santa list-makers.

The G-1500 set the course for all the games that would come in Electric Football. It showed how powerful the NFL could be on an Electric Football game, and challenged Tudor to create its own deluxe model. (This challenge also unleashed Lee Payne’s artistic vision on Electric Football, which would eventually play a large part in Gotham’s demise.) 

1962 Sears Christmas Book page344

The G-1500 pushed Electric Football into the stratosphere of “deluxe” toy. Sears 1962

Another important thing that the G-1500 did was prove to retailers — Sears, Ward, JC Penney, and everybody else — that there was a market for oversized Electric Football games. They weren’t just white elephant toys that would have to be put on clearance the day after Christmas.

If Gotham had ever been able to master the painted player concept…let’s just say that The Unforgettable Buzz would probably be a different book. But without a doubt, the legacy of the NFL G-1500 is immense.

Eddie Gluck was truly visionary with the NFL G-1500 about what Electric Football could be. The game set a standard that Tudor was forced to quickly match.

Norman Sas was fortunate to have a playmaker like Lee Payne in the Tudor huddle, and the Sas-Payne combo would eventually out-innovate and out-market Gotham. But make no mistake, it was Eddie Gluck and the G-1500 who set Electric Football in motion toward a miniature NFL, an NFL No. 620 game, and eventually that first Sears’ Super Bowl model. 

Considering all the G-1500′s that Gotham sold through the 1960′s, it really seems like the game should be an easier find than it is in 2014. Unfortunately, during the 20+ year we’ve spent collecting Electric Football, this game has never been an “easy” find. As we’ve mentioned before, Gotham game construction wasn’t as robust the work Tudor did, so warped fields and popped rivets are common Gotham maladies. It’s likely that many G-1500′s ended up in landfills due to these shortcomings. But it is a game that’s worth tracking down — our G-1500 display model definitely opened some eyes at TudorCON 14.

Although long overlooked, the 1961 Gotham NFL G-1500 sits proudly at No. 5 in our Electric Football game countdown. It defines the phrase “game changer.”

 

Earl, Roddy, & MK

The Unforgettable Buzz Looks Back on 2014 — Part II

The Unforgettable Buzz on the Beyond The Game television show in June 2014.

One of our 2014 highlight of highlights came in June, when we were asked to be on the Beyond The Game television show in White Plains, NY. Host John Voperian did an fantastic job with the interview because he had played the game and knew the game well. It was such an incredible experience to spend a half an hour — a very quick half an hour! — talking about Electric Football and The Unforgettable Buzz(Click here to see the interview.)

The New York Jets web page and The Unforgettable BuzzAlmost exactly a month after being on television we experienced another  first — getting The Unforgettable Buzz featured on an NFL team web site!! Thanks to Randy Lange and the New York Jets, Electric Football got an amazing and colorful feature titled “What’s The Buzz? It’s Electric Football!” on the Jets web site! It was something we’d not even let ourselves dream about when the book was published. It was mind blowing to see Electric Football at the level of the NFL.

A Tudor Games NFL model at Toy Fair 2014.

Then in early August Tudor Games put the NFL officially back in Electric Football! As we mentioned in our previous post, this is a true landmark in Electric Football. Tudor Games’ President Doug Strohm worked long and hard to get the NFL, and it seems to have paid off with a true resurgence of interest in Electric Football.

The cover of the book Full Color Electric Football

The cover of our new book – Full Color Electric Football

Finally, work on our Full Color Electric Football book is underway. The design process is just about half finished, with the publication date set for mid-summer 2015. We’re very, very excited. It looks absolutely amazing! 

So “Thank You” so much for making 2014 another memorable year. The support on all of our social media platforms has truly amazed us, as have the steady sales of The Unforgettable Buzz. We’re now a year and a half out from our June 2013 publication date and December has been a banner month. Seems like quite a few books will be under the tree on Christmas morning!

So to all of our Electric Football friends — we hope that you and your families have a wonderful and safe Holiday Season. And on to 2015, which is shaping up as another great year for Electric Football! 

 

Earl, Roddy & MK

Electric Football Game Top 20 Countdown – No. 6

The 1967 Tudor NFL No. 613 Electric Football game

No. 6 on the Top 20 Countdown — the beautiful 1967 Tudor No. 613 model.

Our Electric Football Game Top 20 Countdown hits No 6 this week…the 1967 Sears’ exclusive Tudor NFL No. 613

Box of the 1967 Tudor No. 613 Electric Football game

Lee Payne’s stunning box for the 1967 Tudor No. 613.

There are so many iconic pieces to this game, it’s hard to know where to start. The easiest place is the box, with the silhouetted NFL player. It was genius on Lee Payne’s part, the design seems so simple. There are only four colors on the box: black, blue, red, and white. And compared to the Drummond box of the 1962 Tudor No. 600, there is no action at all.

But the player, who was actually Cleveland Brown’s defensive lineman Paul Wiggin, looks like he means business. Serious business. That’s amplified by the block lettering “NFL FOOTBALL,” and also the two “accenting” NFL shields. With one look you knew that there was a very serious football game inside the box. One that would be very “real” and true to the NFL.

That was backed up when you slid the game out of the box and checked out the frame. Seeming to jump out from the white enamel sides were the colorful helmets of all 16 NFL teams…in a classic single bar version no less! This is still, arguably, the most attractive frame that Tudor ever created.

And the frame completely reinforces the theme: “this is a serious football game.”

The field and game — which were completely designed by Lee Payne — were configured in a new size for Tudor. This 31” x 18” design was beginning of Tudor’s “mid-size” line, giving the company three different Electric Football game sizes. While lacking any official “NFL” designation, the field was still very attractive with a diamond pattern occupying the end zones. All the markings on the field had a realistic “grass” look — they didn’t have an artificial and opaque “painted on” look.

NFL Cardinals and Bears on the 1967 Tudor NFL 613 game.

Big Cardinals and Bears face off on the No. 613. Notice the metal Support Brackets and backward curling grandstand.

In addition to an all new game, Lee Payne created a brand new grandstand. This one didn’t clip onto the frame, it came with two metal Support Brackets that mounted onto the inside of frame and slanted backward. The grandstand also had a series of creases in it, and when mounted properly, it ended up with a slight curl in addition to the backward slant. This was all done to help give the grandstand a true 3-D appearance.

The Tudor NFL No. 613 in the 1967 Sears Christmas Wish Book

1967 Sears Christmas Catalog

Being a Sears exclusive, and with Sears at the time being headquartered in Chicago, the No. 613 featured the Chicago Bears (in away white). It also featured the St. Louis Cardinals (home red), who up until 1959, had been the Chicago Cardinals. In what may not have been a total coincidence, this Bears-at-Cardinals matchup recreated a nationally televised NFL game from Halloween night of 1966.

Halloween fell on a Monday in 1966, and the game was part of NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle’s calculated campaign to convince the major television networks that Monday night NFL football games could draw viewers and be profitable. (Of course, Rozelle was right — NFL Monday Football is now in its 45th season.)

Sears featured the No. 613 on page 461 of the 1967 Christmas Book for $9.99, and used the game heavily in its newspaper advertising throughout the fall and Christmas shopping season. It was the first Tudor Electric Football game to be sold by Sears, and the giant retailer provided the game with serious visibility despite the fact that the Gotham Big Bowl was still the “featured” game in the Christmas catalog.

A 1967 Sears newspaper advertisement with the game selling for $2 more than the catalog price.

Of course an additional “extra” to the 1967 version of the game would be that both the Bears and Cardinals would have Big/Large players and aqua bases. The game would also have Tudor’s early press-on number sheets.

The legacy of the Sears No. 613 is immense. It’s one of Tudor’s original three NFL models from 1967, and the NFL lineman silhouette is still being used by the modern incarnation of Tudor Games. It’s also part of the Monday Night Football legacy of the NFL. The only things keeping it out of our Top 5 are the old fashioned “H”-shaped goal posts and the lack of “N-F-L” on the field. But it is a game for the ages, with the frame to end all frames.

The 1967 Tudor NFL No. 613 is a MUST have for any Electric Football aficionado.

 

Earl, Roddy, & MK

The Unforgettable Buzz Looks Back on 2014 — Part I

1973 Electric Football Super Bowl Game

Looking back on 2014…

Electric Football had quite a year in 2014. It was a good year for Tudor Games, who held TudorCON 14 in January, then got the NFL back where it belongs in time for the football season. These are two monumental events in Electric Football history.

Electric Football game display at TudorCON 14

Part of our display at TudorCON 14.

And for us at The Unforgettable Buzz it’s been an amazing year too. It started at TudorCON 14, where we had our first Electric Football display up since 2000. We also took a special TudorCON 14 edition of The Unforgettable Buzz to Philadelphia, which we sold out completely!! Between talking over the wondrous games of the past, signing The Buzz, and answering questions, it was an experience we will never forget. One of the highlights of our entire Electric Football careers.

Unforgettable Buzz author Earl Shores in the Tudor Games booth at Toy Fair 2014.

Unforgettable Buzz co-author Earl Shores at the Tudor Games Toy Fair booth. February 2014.

Just weeks later was an invite by Tudor Games’ President Doug Strohm to come to Toy Fair in NYC. Three full days were spent watching toy buyers excited reactions to Electric Football games that had NFL teams and NFL logos on them. It was pretty clear that 2014 would be a good year for Tudor Games.

Electric Football Book Excerpt #2

An excerpt from The Unforgettable Buzz on Sports Collector’s Daily.

While we expected interest in The Unforgettable Buzz to subside as time moved us further from Christmas, we were pleasantly surprised by the opportunities that continued to come our way. In March, the Sports Collector’s Daily ran three excerpts from The Unforgettable Buzz on their web site, finishing the series off with a collecting column that we also penned.

In the meantime, the Minnesota Historical Society asked us to contribute to their book Toys of the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. An exciting “extra” with the book was that it was going to serve as a companion to a toy exhibit the MHS was having in the summer.

Our contribution to the book Toys of the 50′s, 60′s, and 70′s.

The page they produced using our photo of Tudor President Norman Sas and NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle was pretty cool. They even let us “consult” on their Electric Football text to make sure they got things right. It really was pleasure to work with them.

And that only gets us halfway through 2014….stay tuned, there’s more to come!!

 

Earl & Roddy

 

Electric Football Game Top 20 Countdown — No. 7

The 1962 Tudor No. 600 set the standard in Electric Football realism.

The 1962 Lee Payne-designed Tudor No. 600 – our No. 7 ranked Electric Football game.

Our Electric Football Top 20 Countdown moves on to game No. 7… the 1962 Tudor Sports Classic No. 600.

Despite not having any NFL licensing, the No. 600 is one of the most important games in all of Electric Football. The game includes these Electric Football “Firsts:”

— The first game designed entirely by Lee Payne.

— First large game made by Tudor.

— First game with a crowd photo grandstand (Gotham’s crowds were hand drawn).

— First game with a photo illustrated box – a color photo at that.

— Finally, the first game with true 3-D players.

But all of these “firsts” didn’t happen out of the blue. They were a response to the groundbreaking Gotham NFL G-1500 that appeared in 1961. The No. 600 was Tudor’s attempt to maintain its long-held dominance in Electric Football.

1962 Tudor Sports Classic Electric Football game

The 1962 Tudor No. 600 set a new standard in Electric Football realism.

Thanks to Lee Payne’s efforts the No. 600 is a stunning game. From the tasteful maroon accent colors on the frame, to the lithographed yard line markers, to the metal grandstand with an Ivy League Palmer Stadium crowd (Princeton), to the amazing “speckle” grass field…Lee had done something special with the No. 600.

Tudor’s new players, known as the “Gorilla” players (see Chapters 13 and 14 of The Unforgettable Buzz), weren’t quite “all” that Lee and Normans Sas had hoped. But they were a significant improvement over Gotham’s flat “Martian” players. And from a distance they certainly look good on game.

The 1962 Tudor No. 600 Electric Football game.To attach the fiberboard field to the oversized 36” x 20” frame Lee developed “isopads,” which were actually rubber-lined clips. While they did the job in securing the field to the frame, they also had a knack for sucking up the vibrations of the game. This became obvious as game play moved away from the vibrating motor (Lee would finally remedy this in 1967).

The Tudor Sports Classic No. 600 laid the groundwork for all of the success Tudor would have when it got the NFL license in 1967. In fact, many of the concepts developed on the No. 600 — a “big” game; paintable polystyrene players; removable player bases; quarterbacks that could throw, kick, and run — helped convince the NFL that Tudor should have the license.

1962 Tudor Sports Classic No. 600 model.

The box of the No. 600 holds one of the most iconic images in all of Electric Football thanks to the Drummond brothers.

But maybe the biggest thing the No. 600 did was this: it allowed Lee Payne to fully unleash his creative genius on Electric Football.

Norman Sas, in his own words, said the he let Lee “go” in designing Tudor’s new football games for 1962. And by doing that, not only did he change the course of Tudor, he changed the future of Electric Football. He also changed the path of Lee Payne, who would soon leave his position at the prestigious Walter Dorwin Teague Associates to become Tudor’s first Director of Product Development.

If Norman hadn’t recognized Lee’s talents, or hadn’t taken Gotham’s challenge seriously, the No. 600 might not exist. We wouldn’t be talking about Lee Payne, and we might not even be talking about Electric Football. Instead, the 1962 Tudor Sports Classic No. 600 was just the beginning of a glorious period for Electric Football — a period that was influenced immensely by the artistic vision of Lee Payne. In many ways, the legacy of the 1962 Tudor No. 600 is unmatched.

 

Earl, Roddy & MK

Electric Football’s Loneliest Player – The Big Bengal

1968 Tudor AFL Electric Football Bengal

A Large Tudor NY Giant posed next to Lee Payne’s Big Bengal.

Electric Football still has a lot of mysteries. One of them is eternal/infernal question…did Tudor ever make any Large/Big Cincinnati Bengals in the late 1960’s?

New York Jets Electric Football players in away white uniforms

Large/Big 1968 Tudor NY Jets in away white. The Big players are posed on the left.

The Bengals came into existence for the 1968 AFL season, and Tudor painted it’s large NFL and AFL teams in 1967.  At least most of them, as Large/Big New York Jets in white DO exist, and like the Bengals, they weren’t part of Tudor’s team line up until 1968. (See the Tudor AFL No. 520 in on our Top 20 Electric Football Game Countdown.)

So, there’s no question that at least a few Large players were painted for 1968. We say “few” because these Large Jet individuals are usually discovered within teams of regular-sized Jet players.

As for Large/Big Bengals…we know of one.

It was painted by Lee Payne while he was at Tudor. Lee then passed it on to us in the late 1990’s. The player is a guard or blocker figure, which is coincidentally the same pose that Tudor used when the Bengals were introduced in the 1969 Tudor Rule Book. (The 1968 Tudor Rule Book used the same AFL team photo from 1967, which did not included the Bengals). Tudor then used a guard figure for dark jersey Bengals throughout the Rule Books of the early 1970’s.

Electric Football Players from the 1969 Tudor Rule Book

The 1969 Tudor Rule Book – is that Lee Payne’s Bengal in the left hand corner?

The Bengal’s player in the Rule Books has No. 68 on his back — the figure Lee passed on has no number. And when asked, Lee couldn’t remember if this was the player that was used for the Tudor photo session or not.

So is this the Bengal from the Tudor Rule Books? If Lee Payne couldn’t confirm it, we’re willing to let it remain a mystery. As for large Bengals — or at least a Bengal — there is no mystery. One is the loneliest number.

 

Earl & Roddy

Electric Football Top 20 Countdown — No. 8

1968 Tudor AFL No. 520 Electric Football Game

At No. 8 on the Countdown — the 1968 Tudor AFL No. 520

Our Electric Football Game Top 20 Countdown moves further into the single digits with No. 8 — the 1968 Tudor AFL No. 520.

The No. 520 holds the distinction of being the ONLY official AFL Electric Football game ever made. This alone would put it on our Top 20. But it also had a number of intangible features going for it. Yes, it’s only a small game, but for many of us, it’s the most exotic Electric Football game ever.

“Exotic” because lots of us had grown up as NFL fans, and this was the “other league,” the one on NBC, the one with all the passing and vibrant uniforms. And the charismatic quarterback with the big contract and the white shoes Joe Namath. So this “other-ness” made it very desirable to those of us with NFL leanings.

The box of a 1968 Tudor AFL No. 520 Electric Football Game

The box of the Tudor AFL No. 520.

Of course, if you lived in an AFL area, you had to have the game because it validated your league. The AFL logo was on the front of the box and there was a bright orange “A-F-L” in each end zone. Finally, your league had its own Electric Football game!

It was such a brilliant move on Tudor’s part to create an AFL game because they really didn’t have to bother. With the NFL and AFL set to merge in 1970, why put time and energy into a game that would only have a two year lifespan?

Because they could, and because they really wanted to. Tudor Product Design Director Lee Payne was at the height of his creative powers, riding a wave of Electric Football inspiration that would never be equaled. Designing a brand new AFL game was all in a day’s work.

Photo of a 1968 Tudor AFL No. 520 Electric Football Game

AFL dreams came true on Tudor’s 1968 AFL No. 520.

And actually the game board isn’t that much different from Tudor’s NFL No. 510 game — replace the blue on the frame with orange, replace the white “NFL” with “AFL,” then darken the end zones slightly and add “AFL.” But it IS a different game. One of the things that makes the game shout “AFL” is something very subtle. It’s the orange yard line numbers. Somehow that seems very AFL. And it looks really cool, too.

A 1968 Tudor first – “away” New York Jets.

The grandstand is essentially an orange-themed No. 510 grandstand with AFL team pennants, but again, just the subtle color change makes is seem like something totally different. On the field is where Tudor put the game into Electric Football lore. First you had the Kansas City Chiefs, who were just a season removed from a Super Bowl appearance. They were wearing their home dark uniforms. Then you had the New York Jets…in white!! They were the ONLY Tudor AFL team to ever have away uniforms. White Jets uniforms, alone, sold many an AFL game.

The game was a hit from the first day it landed on toy store shelves. By late October Tudor was out of Chiefs and Jets, and other AFL teams were being substituted in (a popular pairing seemed to be the Bills and Dolphins). This led to some disappointments, but didn’t stop the game from being a sellout. And a Bills-Dolphins AFL game in 2014 — make that LARGE Bills and Dolphins — is a pretty cool game to have.

Helping the game sell during the fall of 1968 were the Jets themselves. Namath led the team to the AFL Championship game, where just after Christmas they beat the Raiders 27-23. Namath and the Jets then made history a few weeks later with their victory in Super Bowl III.

It was just another case of Tudor’s knack for incredible timing. Putting the Jets on the first-ever AFL Electric Football game the same season that the team wins the Super Bowl… guess what game the toy buyers couldn’t wait to get their hands on at the 1969 Toy Fair? The one with Super Bowl Champion Jets. 1969 was barely underway and Tudor already knew that the AFL No. 520 was going be in greater demand than in 1968.

And by the time the final AFL No. 520′s rolled off the Brooklyn assembly line in the fall of 1969, Tudor had established itself as the unquestioned “champions” of Electric Football. The AFL No. 520 is a true Electric Football landmark, and a “must have” for any Electric Football collection.

 

Earl, Roddy & MK

 

45th Anniversary For The Gotham Super Dome Game

The 1969 Gotham Super Dome Electric Football game

The Gotham Super Dome model is 45 years old in 2014. From the 1969 Sears Wish Book.

An Electric Football game that didn’t make our Top 20 is celebrating its 45th birthday this year— that would be Gotham’s ambitious Super Dome.

The Super Dome debuted in 1969, a time when Gotham was choking on the dust of Tudor’s miniature NFL. Gotham needed something to compete with Tudor, and the Super Dome was the game they designed and brought to the 1969 Toy Fair for just that purpose (negotiations for the Joe Namath endorsement weren’t finalized by Toy Fair).

For Gotham, the Super Dome was a continuation of their line of impressive stadium architecture, and in fact, the Super Dome was replacing the Big Bowl as Gotham’s flagship model.

The Houston Astrodome was Gotham’s inspiration for a domed game.

As with the Big Bowl, Gotham was very forward thinking with the Super Dome. They were even well ahead of the city of New Orleans, who wouldn’t break ground on the real Super Dome until 1971. So New Orleans wasn’t Gotham’s inspiration for a domed stadium. Instead, it was the AFL Houston Oilers. In 1968 they started playing football in the Astrodome. Gotham was betting that the Oilers and the Astrodome were leading the way in a trend toward indoor football.

Gotham’s Super Dome didn’t offer up as many construction complications as the Big Bowl, but it was a challenge to get right, especially the plastic beams that formed the “dome.” And with the grandstand pieces slanted inward, the game was a challenge to play. But, to Gotham’s credit, the Super Dome was like anything else in Electric Football.

Gotham Super Dome in the 1970 JC Penney Christmas Catalog.

Most boys got their first look at the Super Dome in the 1969 Sears Wish Book, where it had the miserable luck of being positioned right underneath Tudor’s brand new Sears’ Super Bowl game. And in summing up Gotham’s trajectory at the time, the Super Dome would be the last Gotham Electric Football game to appear in any Sears Christmas catalog.

When the real Super Dome and the Pontiac Silver Dome opened in 1975, followed by the Seattle Kingdome in 1976, Gotham was ultimately proved right about betting on a domed Electric Football game. Unfortunately, the Gotham Super Dome model was only made until 1970. And Gotham the company was longer in existence, having been absorbed my Munro Games in 1972. With only two years of production, Gotham Super Dome games are tough find, even on eBay. But they are a great tribute to an Electric Football maker who always thought “big.”

 

Earl & Roddy

 

Our Early Electric Football Articles — Part II

1999 Toy Trader Cover

Electric Football on the cover of Toy Trader, January 1999 .

Electric Football Articles Part II: this a continuation of post we started last week.

We expanded our Electric Football research in the late 1990’s, talking to key players like Norman Sas, Lee Payne, Don Munro Jr., as well as the NFL’s John Carney and Roger Atkin. While putting the game’s history together we continued writing articles for the magazines…at least the ones that were left. Collecting Toys folded in 1998, and the dozens of advertising pages which supported both Toy Shop and Toy Trader were drying up thanks to eBay.

What eBay was doing was taking both buyers and sellers away from the toy mags. If you wanted a vintage toy, all you had to do was search eBay. No longer was it necessary to page through all the ads in a toy magazine, or put your own ad in the “Wanted” Section. As the ads declined, so did the profitability of the magazines. And it reached a critical point in the late 1990’s.

1997 Electric Football article from Toy Shop

Our September 1997 Sports Collector’s Digest Electric Football Article. The sidebar provided the first written account of Tudor’s Large 1967 NFL and AFL players.

Still, we were able to reach both toy collectors and sports collector with our September 1997 article “Electric Packer-phernalia.” This ran in Toy Shop and Sports Collector’s Digest, which was always a nice bonus. This article is significant because it was the first time that Tudor’s Large 1967 NFL-AFL teams were mentioned in print. At the time, the common terminology used in the hobby for the 1967 teams was “large.” This has morphed over time to “big.” Our sidebar is the first written documentation of this very significant piece of Electric Football history.

1997 Toy Trader Electric Football Article

November 1997 issue of Toy Trader

Just a few weeks later our article “The Tudor Sports Class 600” appeared in the November 1997 issued of Toy Trader. We loved the heading “Electric Football’s Forgotten Hall of Famer” but were puzzled as to why they turned “Classic” into “Class.” Nevertheless, it was a great piece, marking the first appearances in print of Lee Payne’s brass master players, as well as the Drummond brothers.

1999 Toy Trader Joe Namath Electric Football Article

January 1999 Toy Trader

Our final piece of toy magazine writing appeared in the January 1999 issue of Toy Trader. The topic was the recent No. 9 game on our Top 20 Electric Football Countdown, the Gotham G-812 Joe Namath game. Editor John Koenig gave us a beautiful layout, and at the time was working behind the scenes to get us a contract for an Electric Football book with his parent company, Antique Trader Publications. He succeeded, and in June of 1999 we had signed a contract with Antique Trader, which we quickly FedEx’ed back to their book division. Within days we received a cryptic email from John warning us that major changes were underway — in secret.

Unfortunately, John was right. Krause Publications, the parent company of Toy Shop, bought out Antique Trader and immediately folded Toy Trader. Krause also absorbed all of Antique Trader’s book projects, including ours. After months of limbo and limited communications, Krause finally informed us that they weren’t interested in doing a book on Electric Football. At that point we vowed to never write another Electric Football article for Toy Shop. And we kept our vow right up until Toy Shop folded in 2008.

But looking back, we’re proud of the work we did, corrections and all. Ultimately, all of our Electric Football writing’s led to The Unforgettable Buzz, which we published in 2013. It’s a totally different book from the one we had assembled in 1999, and looking back, we’re glad that we had the opportunity to “do it right.” And speaking of doing things right, work on Full Color Electric Football is underway — all we can say is that it looks amazing. We promise to keep you posted.

 

Earl & Roddy

Electric Football Game Top 20 Countdown – No. 9

1969 Gotham Joe Namath Electric Football Game

1969 Gotham Joe Namath Electric Football Game

The Electric Football Game Top 20 Countdown moves forward with No. 9 — the 1969 Gotham Joe Namath G-812 Electric Football Game.

In 1969 the New York Jets shocked the football world by defeating the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. The game not only altered the course of pro football — the AFL was now “equal” to the NFL — it altered the course of Electric Football too. From the Jets’ Super Bowl victory came the first-ever player endorsed Electric Football game: the Gotham Joe Namath G-812.

Box for Namath football game

How Gotham landed an endorsement deal with the most famous football figure of the time is still a mystery. Gotham’s financial condition in 1969 was not particularly strong because Tudor’s NFL games and teams were dominating the Electric Football market. But the signing of Joe showed just how determined Gotham was to remain relevant in Electric Football.

Although there would be no official AFL or Jets insignias anywhere on the game, Gotham got the Jets and the AFL in addition to Namath. That’s because in 1969 Namath’s name alone = Jets and AFL. For the first time in a number of years Gotham had a unique Electric Football feature that Tudor did not.

1969 Gotham Joe Namath Electric Football Game

At No. 9 – the 1969 Gotham Joe Namath Electric Football Game.

Gotham worked hard on the Namath model, and it really showed when the games finally began arriving in toy stores in the fall of 1969. The box was colorful with a drawing of Namath, white shoes and all, ready to fire off a pass. The uniform Joe wore was obviously a Jets uniform — minus the Jets logo on his helmet. There was also a black and white picture of a smiling Namath on the box, which served to validate his endorsement. A shopper or young boy would have a tough choice when a Namath game sat next to a Tudor NFL game on a toy store shelf. The Super Bowl MVP and the World Champion AFL Jets…or the NFL?

Page 318 from The Unforgettable Buzz

Page 318 for The Unforgettable Buzz

Inside the box was a new 12”-tall Gotham grandstand that went 2/3 of around the game. Also new was a 30” x 17” game board, which gave Gotham its first “midsize” model. Sitting at midfield were Joe’s image and signature, while a collage of Namath images decorated the frame.

While these new features were nice, THE main selling point of the game was the new magnetic Namath quarterback figure. Made of lithographed metal, it was an action image of Namath taken directly from the Super Bowl, complete with wristbands, white shoes, and grass-stained pants. Even the face mask was the same. It was the best looking quarterback figure in Electric Football history!

The Namath passer might have been MVP worthy, but the unpainted Gotham players included in the game were not. Gotham’s 3-D players were never as well molded or detailed as Tudor’s players, and they now looked like ghosts when compared to the magnificent Namath passer. No amount of paint was going to change that fact. Also not helping the cause of the game were the ancient H-shape goalposts. A Super Bowl MVP wasn’t worthy of modern sling-shot style goalposts?

Despite it’s flaws, the Namath model helped Gotham stay afloat in 1969, although the company would soon be facing major challenges from Coleco and Munro. (Munro absorbed Gotham in 1972.) But 45 years later, the Gotham Joe Namath quarterback is one of most unique and treasured pieces in all of Electric Football. The great image lets you “see” Broadway Joe leading your team to victory.

So despite the fact that many aging Namath G-812’s have warped fields and grandstands that are too fragile to be reassembled, we’ve put the game at No. 9 on Top Countdown. That’s because the metal Namath quarterback figure is one of the coolest Electric Football items ever produced!

 

Earl, Roddy, & MK

 

 

Our Early Electric Football Articles – Part I

Cover of the September 1995 Toy Trader

Electric Football on the cover of the September 1995 issue of Toy Trader.

Our first Electric Football article was published in Collecting Toys magazine 20 years ago this fall. It was a pretty rudimentary piece — a book about Electric Football was yet to be part of the game plan. But it wasn’t long after “First and Goal” hit the newsstands that we began to consider a book on Electric Football. We had SO much to learn. As the process of piecing together Electric Football’s past got underway, we published an Electric Football article in the September 1995 issue of Toy Trader.

1995 Toy Trader Electric Football article

Electric Football in the September 1995 issue of Toy Trader.

The piece “Are You Ready For Some Football! Electric Football” focused on the Tudor No. 500 model. It contained a number of dates that eventually proved to be incorrect, but at the time, it was the best info we had. Just as archeologists find new bones and reset their timelines, we did the same thing while uncovering the many fragments of that make up Electric Football’s history.

1996 Toy Shop Electric Football Article

Electric Football in Toy Shop, 1996.

It was rewarding to find the toy magazines of the time viewing Electric Football as a “fresh” topic — they were eager to get Electric Football pieces onto their editorial calendars. So it wasn’t long before our next article appeared in March of 1996. “Gotham’s Goal Line Stand” recounted Gotham Pressed Steel’s long Electric Football rivalry with Tudor. It was Toy Shop who published the article, which meant that all the major toy collecting magazines had now covered Electric Football. The Gotham article also appeared in Toy Shop’s sister publication, the Sports Collector’s Digest. SCD was a major voice in the collecting world in 1996. It was a very big deal to have them run a piece on Electric Football.

1996 Beckett Football Monthly Electric Football article

Electric Football in the November 1996 Beckett Football Monthly

But not as big a deal as the next Electric Football publisher. This time it was the Beckett Football Monthly. In November of 1996 they published our piece “Good Vibrations.” Future Hall of Famer John Elway was on the cover, and inside the magazine Electric Football was given an incredible full-color spread on pages 12 and 13. There were six pages in total, and even a large color Electric Football photo in the table of contents. Considering Beckett’s newsstand clout and enormous pool of subscription readers, it was Electric Football’s most “visible” moment to date.

Coming next week: Part II our Early Electric Football articles. It was a time when eBay began to change the toy collecting world and decimate all the toy publications.

 

Earl & Roddy

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

50 Christmases – A New Memoir From Tom Poetter

Longtime supporter and friend of The Unforgettable Buzz Tom Poetter has published a memoir of Christmas recollections called 50 Christmases: Stories of Love, Hope, and Reconciliation in Christmastide. A professor at Miami University (OH), Tom is an accomplished and talented writer who is a pleasure to read — the pages turn quickly throughout all of his recollections thanks to his organization and concise writing style.

In his early Christmas recollections Tom channels the spirit of “It’s A Wonderful Life” and “A Christmas Story” without stretching to the outlandishness of a Leg Lamp.  He covers so many boomer touchstones in this period: Rocking horses, black and white television, Schwinn Stingrays, backyard tackle football, Electric Football, playing on your “block.” And in his “Instant Replay” chapter he recalls the thrill of receiving a Tudor Super Bowl in 1969, as well as a Mattel Instant Replay game. These are both things he went back and tracked down on eBay as an adult.

As time moves on in the book more serious themes surface in Tom’s recollections. These are all relatable themes, ones we experience as we move through life. Tom grew up a pastor’s son and is a pastor himself, so there is a strong spiritual component to his remembrances. While that could be off-putting to those who might hold lesser convictions, Tom’s humanity is plain to see. Much of his spirituality taps naturally into the grace and goodwill that we all have (hopefully) experienced, and still yearn to experience during the holiday season.

It’s a book straight from Tom’s heart. It made me reflect and appreciate my own experiences — which is something a good writer does. A great book for the holidays, it’s available in both paperback and Kindle editions. We’re very happy for Tom and wish him all the best!

 

Earl

 

Electric Football Game Top 20 Countdown – No. 10

the Electric Football game that started it all - the 1949 Tudor Tru-Action No. 500.

At No. 10 the Electric Football game that started it all – the 1949 Tru-Action No. 500.

The Electric Football Game Top 20 Countdown continues at No. 10. Over the last couple of weeks the countdown has been filled with some of the most colorful and elaborate models in Electric Football history. This week, as we reach the halfway point, we take a step back to a simpler time. It’s the game that started it all — the 1949 Tudor Tru-Action No. 500.

As we celebrated recently, it was 65 years ago this fall that the Tru-Action No. 500 first hit toy store shelves. And as we’ve said time and time again, the game looks crude to the modern eye. The players are blank pieces of red and yellow plastic, the QB throws only 60-yard passes, and there’s no grandstand. (There also no 5-yard lines, but real football fields of the time were often lacking them too.)

Electric Football 1949 Tudor Tru-Action No. 500

The No. 500 was a toy marvel in 1949.

But…and this is a “but” you have to work with honestly, it was 1949. Most football came to you through the radio or the newspaper (see Chapter 4 of The Unforgettable Buzz). The college game got all the headlines on Sunday morning’s while the pro game previews were buried on page six of the Sports section. And the unquestioned “America’s Game” of the time was baseball.

So the Tru-Action No. 500 with its free-running players was pretty exotic and thrilling for Christmas morning of 1949. It was a sports game unlike anything ever seen before, and it made its mark with retailers having to restock Electric Football multiple times before Christmas. And this was even with the game often selling for the luxury price of $6.95, which equates to $70 in 2014. That put Electric Football in the same price category as a Radio Flyer Wagons.

Our favorite part of the 1949 No. 500 – the jewel box for storing the players and accessories.

Electric Football was popular beyond Norman Sas and Joe Tonole’s wildest dreams, even being in great demand throughout the winter of 1950. And it was just the beginning of a long and amazing journey that would see Electric Football achieve exalted status in toy world while ascending to the top spot on NFL Properties’ ledger sheet. And a much updated version of the game is still being made in 2014. The Tudor Games Red Zone carries on the proud Tudor No. 500 tradition.

Like a long buried fossil relic, the original Tudor Tru-Action No. 500 isn’t particularly pretty. But it’s as significant as any game ever made. Without it…well, who knows what we might be playing with and writing about in 2014. Cadaco Photo-Action Football? Jim Prentice Electric Football? Marx Pro Bowl Live Action Football??

At No 10, it’s the Electric Football game to which we owe EVERYTHING – the 1949 Tru-Action No. 500.

 

Earl, Roddy, & Michael

Electric Football Mystery — Who Are These Guys?

Who are these guys? Our Mystery Electric Football Players.

Electric Football is always full of surprises. That’s part of the beauty of the hobby. We recently came across some early Electric Football players that we’d never seen before. They look very much like early Tudor Tru-Action players, and even have position designations that match up with player ID sticker sheets that came in the early Tudor No. 500 models. Except the positions aren’t stickers – they are lithographed onto the player.

The two different teams – there’s even a white helmet for the blue jersey team.

And instead of being the traditional Tudor monochrome red or yellow, or blue and silver, these players are multi-colored with discernible uniform markings. One team has red jerseys and blue pants, while the other has blue jerseys and red pants. They even have differing helmet colors, with the blue jersey players having a white helmet.

In examining the construction of the players, it is different from anything we’ve seen from Tudor or Gotham. They were created from a single piece of metal that was lithographed with the uniform, then folded over two create a two-sided player. They are not one solid block of plastic or metal like the earliest Tudor players. There is even green under the players “feet” to look like he’s standing on the field. And the leg opening was done with a single punch, or a single drill hole — convenience seeming to be the highest priority.

The bottom of the player bases. Notice the rough and edges on the metal.

The bases are exactly like the early Tudor bases, complete with metal “legs” to vibrate the player forward. But there’s a distinct crudeness to bottom of the bases — the edges are dangerously rough and jagged — that we think gives a clue to what these players might have been.

Because of the rough edges on the bottom and the single punch hole, we’re speculating that these players were prototypes. The players were not found with a game — although they did come with a very Tudor-like first down marker that does fit on a No. 500 frame…but only measures only 7 yards instead of 10. Another hint of a job done hastily.

Since the red and blue coloring seems to be influenced by Gotham’s early red and blue Heisman players, we’re speculating that maybe in 1955 when Tudor got ready to go to Toy Fair, their new 3-D players weren’t ready. So they needed something different from their old players to create excitement with toy buyers before the new players actually appeared.

That’s one theory.

Another theory can be formulated from all the “borrowing” that toy companies did from each other. Perhaps when Gotham went to Toy Fair in 1954 with their new Electric Football game, the Heisman players weren’t ready. So Gotham made a quick and crude copy of Tudor’s players, using the eventual Gotham red and blue uniform theme to give toy buyers a hint of what was coming in the future.

Ultimately, these players are one of the many Electric Football mysteries that will probably never have an answer. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

Earl and Roddy