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

Electric Football Game Top 20 Countdown – No. 11

The 1973 Tudor NFL No. 655 Electric Football Game

At No. 11 on our Top 20 Countdown – the 1973 Tudor NFL No. 655 Championship game.

Our Electric Football Game Top 20 Countdown moves to No. 11 — the 1973 Tudor No. 655 NFL Championship game.

The early 70’s were arguably the heyday of Electric Football. Four different companies were making games that seemed to get bigger and more elaborate each year. It was a time when Tudor was feeling the pressure to keep up with the competition, especially after Munro unveiled their magnificent Day/Nite model in 1972.

The company answered by creating a game with “more” of something that was exclusive to Tudor – the NFL.

The new No. 655 came not with two teams, but four. And not just any four teams, but the Redskins, Cowboys, Steelers, and Dolphins — the teams that played in the NFC and AFC Championship games in 1972. So with just a single Tudor game you could now replay NFL Championship Sunday and the Super Bowl. It was a groundbreaking concept.

1976 Tudor NFL Championship No. 655 Electric Football game

From the 1976 Tudor sales catalog. The team names have changed but the photo is still from 1973.

Adding to the “championship” atmosphere of the game was the most elaborate Lee Payne-designed field outside of a Sears’ Super Bowl. Taking up most of mid-field was a white circle, 20-scale-yards in diameter, containing a large NFL shield. Framing this large circle were two smaller 10-yard diameter circles; the one on the left contained a red AFC logo, while the circle on the right contained a blue NFC logo. This circle theme continued with the yard line numbers, where the odd numbers sat in red circles and the even numbers in blue circles. And there were even more circles on the orange colored frame. Twenty-six in all to be exact, each one containing the helmet of an NFL team.

The final piece of the new game was a triple-decked grandstand, which had been borrowed from the Ward NFL models. Overall, the No. 655 was probably the best looking Tudor game since the Chiefs-Vikings Sears’ Super Bowl in 1970.

Tudor NFL Championship No. 655 in the 1975 JC Penney Christmas catalog.

The No. 655 in the 1975 Penney’s Xmas catalog.

While it was a futuristic Electric Football game for the ages, it did have drawbacks. The first, depending on the result of your own personal playoff games, was that you could end up with a Super Bowl game of white Cowboys playing white Dolphins, or dark Steelers playing dark Redskins. Next, the grandstand, which was the most towering cardboard structure ever offered by Tudor, had a problem with gravity and wanted to lean forward over the game. And over time it would warp, becoming difficult to mount on the frame.

The final drawback was the No. 655’s price tag, which usually sat somewhere between $18 and $20. That was a lot of money in 1973, especially after the Middle East oil crisis started washing over the U.S. economy in October.

Because of its costs, and because the No. 655 was introduced on the cusp of an economic recession that lasted for almost the entire period the game was available (1973-76), the game didn’t sell all that well. (It was a devastating period for Electric Football makers — for more info see Chapters 28-32 in The Unforgettable Buzz.) So it’s always been a puzzlingly difficult game to find. After four years at the head of Tudor Electric Football line, the No 655 should be out there in numbers…but they simply are not.

Which only adds to the mystique of this stunning and unique game. A truly Tudor great at No. 11.

 

Earl, Roddy, and Michael

Electric Football Game Top 20 Countdown – No 12

Electric Football Game 1970 Tudor NFL AFC No. 610

At No. 12 on our countdown – the 1970 Tudor AFC No. 610. The game recreates the first ABC Monday Night Football game ever played.

Our Electric Football Game Top 20 Countdown continues…at No. 12 it’s the 1970 Tudor AFC No. 610. 

Electric Football Browns and Jets as they appeared on the 1970 Tudor AFC No. 610.

The Browns and Jets as they appeared on the 1970 Tudor AFC No. 610.

Part of the No. 610’s appeal comes from it being the first large AFC game. But what really makes this game special is that it recreates the first ABC Monday Night Football Game ever played…even down to the correct uniforms. 

Tudor was fortunate enough to obtain the NFL Electric Football license just as the NFL-AFL merger agreement was being signed in the mid-1960’s. Due to contractual obligations (mostly television), the two leagues couldn’t merge until 1970. And even with that date confirmed and on the calendar, a lot of merger details were still left to the last minute.

Despite a number of unsettled merger issues, Tudor was at ready in 1970 with their brand new all-NFL line. They had divided Electric Football by Conference, producing both an NFC and an AFC line of games. Each Conference would have a large (620-size) and a small (500-size) Tudor game. 

Tudor’s large AFC game was the American Conference No. 610. Without a doubt the most striking feature of the game was the bright yellow end zones. And each end zone contained a glowing white “N-F-L” that was outlined in red. Beyond the end zones, the field alternated a dark green/light green pattern every five yards. In addition, Tudor included a modern white “safety zone” border around the field, and orange yard line numbers, also outlined in red. 

Just hours away from the birth of ABC Monday Night Football. Howard Cosell, Keith Jackson, and Don Meredith.

This same red color was used on the frame. On the interior walls it offered a warm highlight to the green of field. On the exterior of the frame, the red outer edge included the names of all the AFC teams. A brand new Tudor scoreboard — which the No. 610 would share with its twin the NFC No. 620 — came with the name plates for every team in the NFL.

The AFC No. 610 is a beautiful game that was released at a very important time in NFL history. But the event that etched this game into Electric Football lore took place on Monday, September 21, 1970. On that night the Cleveland Browns hosted the New York Jets in Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium. Besides the 85,000 fans in attendance, there were ABC cameras, and an announcing crew of Keith Jackson, Don Meredith, and Howard Cosell. This trio would introduce Prime Time football to millions of television viewers around the country. 

Electric Football Book Joe Namath in action

Namath was picked off 3 times in the Browns’ 31-21 victory.

The Browns picked off Jets star QB Joe Namath three times, winning the game 31-21. In other stats, the game drew 35% of a national Prime Time television audience. Monday Night Football was a hit that quickly changed American culture. And the NFL began an upward trajectory that continues four decades on.

In coming up with teams for No. 610 — the Browns in white and the Jets in green — Tudor was simply lucky. The team pairing was decided in late 1969, and unveiled for toy buyers at Toy Fair in February of 1970. Retailers were already ordering No. 610’s with Browns and Jets long before the NFL schedule was unveiled in May of 1970. But it’s the kind of luck that seemed to be always on Tudor’s side. Whether it was landing the NFL license on the cusp of the NFL-AFL merger, having the first Tudor Super Bowl model be the Jets historic victory in SB III, or creating the first Monday Night Football game, Tudor ended up being in the right place at the right time. 

One of the true treasures of Electric Football – the 1970 American Conference No. 610.

 

Earl, Roddy, & Michael

Electric Football Skunked By The Toy Hall of Fame – AGAIN!!

Tudor NFL Electric Football Game with a big X

The Toy Hall of Fame said “No” to Electric Football for the second consecutive year.

Electric Football has once again been ignored by the Toy Hall of Fame. And when we say ignored, that’s putting it kindly. For the second consecutive year Electric Football didn’t even make the top 12 Finalist.

Last year we let things slide, deciding not to make a fuss. It seemed like the “proper” thing to do, good sportsmanship and all that. But this year…are they kidding us?

Pots and Pans? Bubbles?? Paper Airplane???!!

Electric Football was overlooked for this…

Come on, how many poignant pleas did you get for those items? Surely not as many as you received from the Electric Football community. We know for a fact that you got impassioned nominations for Electric Football, and lots of them.

And it wasn’t like Pots and Pans, Bubbles, and Paper Airplane were Finalist in 2013, and just moved up the nomination ladder. They came in out of the blue over Electric Football, which already had two years of solid lobbying behind it.

Some of the Finalist are totally on the mark. In fact, it’s pretty surprising that Operation, Fischer-Price Little People, Green Army Men, and Rubik’s Cube aren’t already in the Toy Hall of Fame.

But Hess Trucks…we’ll argue that they’re a highly regionalized item because most Hess gas stations were and still are located in the Northeast part of country. And not only were there limited opportunities to get a Hess Truck — you had to buy them at a Hess station — they came with inherently limited play value. That’s because Hess Trucks were often collectible or “heirloom” gifts. Ripping them out of the box and pushing them through the backyard dirt on Christmas morning was frowned upon. So the real “value” in a Hess Truck came from keeping it in the box. Is this really a “Toy Hall of Fame” type qualification?

and this…

Of course the Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles were/are huge — and just by “coincidence” they had a movie out in 2014. The My Little Pony franchise has had ups and downs, but without question the line was enourmous during its early days. As for the Slip and Slide, we’d love to see the Emergency Room numbers related to this toy. How many of you out there still have belly rash — or scars of varying types — from a Slip and Slide? Type “Slip and Slide” into a Google search and the fourth item that comes up is “Slip and Slide Lawyer.”

The American Girl Dolls…they are wildly popular. We’ve peered into the window of their extremely posh store on Fifth Avenue in NYC. It’s an unbelievable sight — lots of money gets spent there. A number of upscale NYC hotels even offer American Girl Doll weekend packages. But doesn’t the American Girl Doll formula seem about as far away from Pots and Pans as you can get? We’re just not sure what the Toy Hall of Fame is looking for.

and this…

If it wants an honest toy, one that came to popularity in a time when a toy’s play value was more important than a well-funded marketing campaign, then it should look no further than Electric Football. The game became a featured toy in the Sears, Montgomery Ward, and JC Penney Christmas catalogs based on demand, not on advertising.

It was also a groundbreaking item that tapped into the sport that became America’s Game — how many other toys have done that? And for a decade, Tudor NFL Electric Football games were the NFL Properties’ top-earning item. No other toy EVER produced can make that claim.

So how can a toy that introduced the NFL to tens of millions of Baby Boomers not be a finalist for the Toy Hall of Fame? How in 2014 can Electric Football not already be in the Toy Hall of Fame?

We’re not expecting answers to these questions. Respect for Electric Football — from the toy world, the sports world, and the media — has always been hard to come by. But we’ll do what those of us who love the game have always done — we’ll flick the switch and keep moving forward. And we’ll also do some extra “tweaking” to make sure the “Buzz” we create for the 2015 Toy Hall of Fame nomination process won’t be ignored.

In fact, we can start right now. The next Toy Hall of Fame nomination cycle has already started. Maybe 2015 can finally be the year of Electric Football!!

 

Earl, Roddy, and Michael

 

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