Monday, December 29, 2008

1977 Topps #393 and 1977 Topps Mexican #393 Mack Mitchell

There is an excellent article in today's Forth Worth Star Telegram about University of Houston defensive end Phillip Hunt. The article mentions that Hunt can break the UH career record for sacks. So let's look at the man who currently owns that record, Mack Mitchell.

Mack Mitchell played at UH from 1972 to 1974 leading the team in sacks all 3 seasons.

In 1972, he had 9 sacks as the Cougars went 6-4-1.

In 1973, Mitchell had 13 sacks which is the UH single season record. He shares this record with Craig Veasey who did the same in 1989. The 1973 team went 11-1, beat Tulane 47-7 in the Bluebonnet Bowl, and ended the season ranked 9th in the AP and 13th in the Coaches poll.

In 1974, he had 11 sacks as the Cougars went 8-3-1, tied North Carolina State 31-31 in the Bluebonnet Bowl, and ended the season ranked 19th in the AP and 11th in the Coaches poll. He was co-captain of the team with Bubba Broussard and Robert Giblin. He was also named 2nd team AP All-American.

Mack was drafted 5th overall in the 1975 NFL draft. He played four seasons for the Cleveland Browns from 1975-1978 and one season with the Cincinnati Bengals in 1979.

Today's card is the 1977 Topps #393 which is Mack Mitchell's rookie card. It is a typical late '70s card, no logos, basic headshot. On the bright side, there are plenty of bright '70s colors and a great afro.

Let's throw in a bonus card, the 1977 Topps Mexican #393. The design is identical, but since it is designed for the Mexican market, it is in Spanish. On the American version, his position is DE, Defensive End. On the Spanish version, his position is L.

The best part of the Mexican card is the team name. Instead of the Browns, Mack plays for the Cafes.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

2007 Tri Star Signa Cuts Andre Ware

Today let's look at cut autographs. For those new to collecting, cut autographs are generally signatures on other documents that are cut to be placed in a card. Cut autographs were traditionally from items like checks, letters, contracts, etc not intended for collectibles, but the definition also includes items like index cards, photos, etc.

One positive of cut autographs is that it allows autographs of the deceased to be presented in a nice to display collectible, especially a card. For me that's the only positive.

Negatives... Sometimes they destroy documents. I would prefer having the original letter or check with the signature instead of a piece cut out of the document. Also if not done correctly, cut autographs can be displayed very poorly. Next, if the person is not deceased, why not get the person to autograph an item instead of getting a cut autograph. In some cases, documents or items are created just so a cut autograph can be created, the perception being that cut autographs can be more valuable.

Today's card is the Tri Star Signa Cuts Andre Ware. First of all, this is not a licensed product, so you won't see pictures or logos on the card itself. That in itself can make for an boring and ugly card.

Next is the cut signature. I've seen two variations of cut signatures for the Andre Ware card. Both are displayed below. First is the plain cut signature. Signed on a white background, there is no visual pizazz for the autograph, especially since there is not a picture on the card. The second variation is a cut up signed picture. To me this is even uglier than the plain autograph. Autographed picture of Andre Ware? Cool. A partial picture of Andre Ware? Not cool.

I just don't like this product at all. I've seen some very cool cards with cut signatures. This isn't one of them.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Being a University of Houston Collector

Most of the traffic on this blog isn't from consistent readers. Most comes from search engine referrals about a specific player. That's fine with me because one of my goals is to promote the University of Houston.

But there is a whole card collecting blog world out there. One of the more popular card blogs and one of my favorites is Sports Cards Uncensored. A new experiment starting there is a card blog round table where several bloggers address the same topic from a slightly different perspective. I love the idea and here's my take on what it's like to collect my favorite team, the Houston Cougars.

Hello. My name is David and I'm a University of Houston collector. Do I sound like someone confessing an unhealthy addiction? It's an addiction, it's not unhealthy, but it's a little outside the norm. It would be much easier to be something like a Dallas Cowboys collector (my favorite NFL team) or Elvin Hayes collector (probably my favorite player and UH athlete), but my passion is for the Houston Cougars.

Why do I collect Houston Cougars cards and blog about it? There are several reasons. One of my favorite is to learn more about the history of Houston athletics and its players. Blogging about these players and their cards lets readers, UH fans or not, become more aware of some of the great athletes in UH history.

There are so many ways to be a UH collector too. You can collect players in their college uniforms or as a pro. You can collect everything from new ultra rare high dollar Kevin Kolb cards to old overproduced with no monetary value Andre Ware cards. You can collect almost any sport from baseball to football to basketball to golf to track. You can collect a few cards of a wide variety of players or focus on a superstar with a huge selection of cards like Hakeem Olajuwon. You can collect vintage cards from the 50s, 60s, and 70s or recent releases. I dabble in a little of everything, but you can't go wrong whatever you choose.

UH collecting is definitely a niche hobby. That has both positive and negative implications. On the positive side, many of the players aren't in high demand so you don't have to pay premium prices. For newer products, wax busters may flip some of the "hits" on eBay rather than keeping them in their collection. That means it may be easier to collect those "hits" by purchasing on the secondary market instead of trying to get lucky busting wax.

On the negative side, it can be tough to bond with the rest of the collecting community. If I collect Cowboys cards and you collect Giants and we both bust wax, we can easily trade. If I collect Cougars and you collect Giants, you may not even know who is a Cougar making obvious trades more difficult. Plus there may not be enough Cougars to bust wax while there will always be enough Cowboys.

On the blogging front, I'll never have a huge following like the greatness of Wax Heaven or Sports Cards Uncensored. My visitor list will always be much smaller and my regular readers may be even fewer even if I was the greatest card blog writer on the web (which I'm not). But I consistently get 20-35 visitors a day which I honestly wasn't sure I'd get in a month when I started this thing.

So why do I collect UH? Why do I blog about UH cards? Not for money or fame because that's not going to happen. Not because it's cool because it's not. It's because I'm a fan.

I want to thank everyone who took the time to read this especially if you're a first timer here because of the round table. Even if you're not a UH fan, you're always welcome here. I'd love for you to come back. I'd love for you to post comments. I'd love for you to send me an e-mail ( If you have a UH collection or collectible, I'd love for you to guest post or be a regular contributor. But even if you don't do any of those things, I'm still very happy that at least once you visited my humble little corner of the blogosphere.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Cougars of Any Color by Katherine Lopez

Jerry Wizig's Eat 'Em Up Cougars: Houston Football is a classic book that should be required reading for all University of Houston students, alumni, and fans. I'm happy to say that Katherine Lopez's Cougars of Any Color just published in 2008 is another must read.

Cougars of Any Color tells the story of the integration of UH athletics with the recruitment of Warren McVea for football and Elvin Hayes and Don Chaney for basketball.

The book begins with the story of integrating the University in general. Like most southern Universities, UH was an all-white institution. Unlike many universities, once integration finally occurred it was basically a non-event. There was no violence, no protests, and no decrease in enrollment.

Next the book provides a brief history of the football program including its attempts to join the Southwest Conference. For those Coogs who think of Rice as a lovable loser sister school, please listen to the story of Rice's actions when UH tried to join the SWC in 1964. Rice had agreed to be UH's sponsor, but they asked that UH not contact any other school for sponsorship. When it came time for consider UH's membership, Rice backed out and said that Houston belonged in a smaller conference with less competent schools. Due to Rice's backstabbing, UH was again left on the outside looking in.

The remainder of the book covers every aspect of integrating the UH basketball and football teams. And when I say the book covers every aspect, I mean EVERY aspect. It starts with the recruitment of the players from the high profile story of McVea to the relatively low profile stories of Hayes and Chaney. It tells of the newspapers' and opponents' reactions to that recruitment.

It covers the housing arrangements for the players and the on and off campus social life. It talks about the reaction of the African American community in Houston as well as some national reaction. It covers the reaction of the opponents's fans from booing, to racial taunts, to death threats. It covers the reaction of UH fans which in some cases also included booing and racial taunts, but also includes the embracing of these great athletes and Cougars.

Finally it covers the careers of the players. The coverage of the careers though is not solely from an athletics perspective. Their careers are considered for their impact on integration.

This book exceeded every expectation I had. I love Wizig's Eat 'Em Up, but it is almost a marketing piece with all positive stories. Written by a UH grad student, Cougars of Any Color could have easily followed that path. Starting off as a graduate thesis, it could also have turned into a very dry recitation of facts, but instead it is very entertaining.

The book prevents a very balanced story including both very positive and very negative aspects. One of the most amazing aspects of the book is the documentation of the facts and stories in the end notes. I guess I should expect that since it started as a thesis, but even the notes are sometimes entertaining. Reading the notes, I had wished this book was online instead of on paper because I wanted to open and read every newspaper or magazine article and listen to or watch every interview. I hope to follow up and read (or collect) many of the articles in the future.

Before I read this book, I really didn't understand UH's role in the integration of college athletics. UH fans are proud of our role, but I was concerned that they were overstated. After all, major programs in the north and west had already integrated. Schools like North Texas had also recruited African American athletes. UTEP won a basketball championship with an all African American starting lineup.

So how did UH contribute to the integration of college athletics in the South? The biggest impact may not have been having the players on the team, but it was who they played against. McVea was the first African American to play at an SEC stadium. That alone is an important footnote. It is also important that UH's African American players weren't just guys on the team. They were leaders and superstars. By having superstars playing in previously forbidden places, Southern teams realized that they could no longer recruit just White athletes if they wanted to remain elite. By seeing UH players on their fields and seeing that the world didn't end, it became a little more acceptable to consider adding players to their own teams.

So my recommendation? READ THIS BOOK!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

1990 Score #649 Alton Montgomery

When people think of the 1989 University of Houston team, they generally think of Andre Ware winning the Heisman trophy and the Run and Shoot offense. There are good reasons to think of those things, especially since the offense averaged 53.5 points per game.

But the UH defense was also very solid giving up only 13.6 points per game. Even with a mediocre offense, by allowing less than two touchdowns per game a team can win plenty of games. The 1989 Cougar defense pitched two shutouts and allowed 20+ points only three times. One was a heartbreaking shootout loss to Arkansas 45-39. That Arkansas team finished at #13 in the polls, one spot above the Coogs. One 20+ point game was to Texas Tech although UH won fairly easily 40-24. That Tech team finished 19th in the polls. The final 20+ point game was 21 points for SMU. Of course UH won that game 95-21, so the defense can be forgiven for the 21 points given up there.

One of the great players on that defense was Alton Montgomery. A strong safety, Alton played for the Cougars from 1988 to 1989. In 1988 he was named Southwest Conference Defensive Newcomer of the Year, Second Team All Southwest Conference, and All American Honorable Mention. In 1989 he was First Team All Southwest Conference and again an All American Honorable Mention.

In 1990, he was selected in the 2nd round of the NFL draft (52nd overall) by the Denver Broncos. He played three seasons for the Broncos and then three seasons for the Atlanta Falcons.

Today's card is the 1990 Score #649. I think this is a great looking card. The border is primarily red with gradient shading on the sides from red to white. Major bonus points as usual for the player being shown in his Cougar uniform. You can barely see the skinny UH logo on the helmet. No airbrush removal of the logo here. I don't know if that's because it's barely recognizable as the UH logo or if it's because they received permission. Hopefully it's the latter. I absolutely hate airbrushed UH helmets. I love the red gloves too.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

2008-09 Press Pass Legends Select Signatures Clyde Drexler

Despite being retired since 1998, you can still pick up brand new Clyde Drexler cards. So far in the 2008-09 basketball card products, Drexler is featured in Hot Prospects, Press Pass Legends, and Upper Deck.

Today's card is the 2008-09 Press Pass Legends Select Signatures. Press Pass isn't considered one of the major brands, but I really like their focus on college.

The card front includes a black and white photo of Drexler going up for a basket in his University of Houston uniform. Is that a layup? Why isn't he dunking?

It also features an autograph. There are several autograph variations. This version is in red ink and includes his number. Most signatures are in blue. There are also Clyde "the Glide" Drexler autographs.

Most controversial to me is the "wet cougar" modern UH logo. Of course this logo was never used when Drexler was at UH. That is a very recent logo. I wonder if they can only use current, university approved logos or if they could possibly use old logos to match the time the player was in school. If you're going to do retro/legends cards, I think you should use the appropriate retro logo.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Custom McFarlane Andre Ware

McFarlane Toys makes some very nice sports action figures including this sweet Clyde Drexler figure. There is a decent selection of huge stars, but what if you want a player that's not officially offered by McFarlane toys?

Enter custom McFarlane figures. People take existing McFarlane figures, disassemble them, and create a custom figure by painting, adding decals, and in some cases doing some additional sculpting. The basic process is described in this article.

It can be a very involved process. The quality of the customization can vary dramatically, but some high quality custom McFarlanes are available in the marketplace. Some even include quality packaging.

Of course these custom figures are generally not licensed by McFarlane or by the school or athletic association. So it's definitely buyer beware. But depending on the level of artistry, the figure can be highly collectible.

Today's item is a custom McFarlane Andre Ware figure that I recently saw on eBay. It features Ware in his 1989 UH uniform. The packaging says it is part of the Heisman Series and looks very professional.

I love this piece. It shows how the talent and passion of individuals can contribute to the collectibles market.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

1965 Topps #132 Dalva Allen

Today's card is the 1965 Topps #132 featuring Dalva Allen. I love the pose on front. In a semi three point stance, Dalva looks very intimidating. The background is solid green which is such a difference from some of today's cards which have such busy backgrounds with crazy effects.

The background contains no statistics, only a short description of his career. The best part of the back of the card is the cartoon. It features a Canadian Mountie look a like tackling a ball carrier since Dalva played a year in the Canadian Football League.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

1992-93 Trail Blazers Dairy Queen Glasses Clyde Drexler

There is a collectible for every taste. Some like cards. Some like books. And if you collect glasses, there are University of Houston collectibles for you too.

Today's collectible is the 1992-93 Trail Blazers Dairy Queen Glasses featuring Clyde Drexler. This is a very odd item.

The front has a caricature of Drexler with a tennis racket spinning a tennis ball on his finger Harlem Globetrotters style while reclining on a net/hammock. Why a tennis racket? I really don't know.

The back has the Dairy Queen and Blazers logos as well has Clyde's position, height, and number. It also has the very odd "Best Score: 34 Fast Break Lobs." I'm sure that's supposed to be a double meaning tennis lob to go with basketball alley oop lob, but it really doesn't make much sense to me.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

1999 Upper Deck Retro Smashmouth #S13 Antowain Smith

Antowain Smith was a running back for the University of Houston in 1995 & 1996 leading the team in rushing yards both years.

1996 was a very good year for both the Cougars and Antowain. Playing their first season in Conference USA, the Coogs achieved a 7-5 record, a shared conference championship, and a Liberty Bowl berth. Smith had 1,239 yards rushing, was a Conference USA first team selection, Conference USA offensive player of the year, and College Football News All American Honorable Mention.

Antowain's name is all over the UH record book. He holds the record for most rushing touchdowns in a game (5), most touchdowns in a game (6), and most points in a game (36). He also holds the record for longest run from scrimmage (96 yards).

He has the 6th most yards in a season (1,239), 2nd most rushing touchdowns(14), 10th in scoring (92), and tied for 3rd in touchdowns (15). For career statistics, he is tied for 10th in rushing TDs (19).

He was the 23rd pick in the first round of the 1997 NFL draft selected by the Buffalo Bills. He played 9 years in the NFL; with Buffalo from 1997-2000, with the New England Patriots from 2001-2003, with the Tennessee Titans in 2004, and the New Orleans Saints in 2005. He finished his career with 6,881 yards rushing, 982 yards receiving, and 2 Super Bowl wins with the Patriots.

Today's card is the 1999 Upper Deck Retro Smashmouth #S13. This is from the Smashmouth insert set. For a retro style card, this doesn't look too old school. It does have a great action photograph with an attempted arm tackle. Nice layout for information on the bottom of the card other than the wasted space for the Upper Deck Retro logo.

The back of the card is pretty boring. The only reference to Smith is his name, number, position, and team logo. The rest of the back includes definitions of the fairly basic football terms stunt, sweep, and takeaway. The back also includes serial numbering of the card up to 100.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

1990 Score #631 Lamar Lathon

Lamar Lathon was an absolute beast of a linebacker for the University of Houston playing from 1987 to 1989.

1988 was his best season. The Cougars went 9-3 and Lathon was an AP All American Honorable Mention and second team All Southwest Conference.

1989 was supposed to be a huge year. Unfortunately he was injured in a car wreck in the offseason. He played one game and then suffered a season ending knee injury.

He was granted a medical hardship, but decided to forego his final year of eligibility (along with Andre Ware) and entered the 1990 NFL draft. The Houston Oilers drafted him with the 15th pick of the first round.

He played for the Oilers from 1990-1994 and for the Carolina Panthers from 1995-1998. In 1996, he was selected for the Pro Bowl.

Today's card is the 1990 Score #631. There are several reasons I love this card. Reason #1 is because he's in his UH uniform. Cougars in their college uniform on cards always are higher on my list. Reason #2 is because of the picture. I don't know if he's in the middle of a play or running to the sidelines, but he looks so intimidating. The back of the card has descriptions of Lathon as a player and of his career at UH.

No, this is not an autographed card from a pack like you can get today. This autograph was obtained in person in 1990. Note to Donnie Avery and Anthony Alridge: This is what an autograph should look like, not just a few squiggles that resemble initials.

Friday, September 26, 2008

1963 Fleer #65 Dalva Allen

Dalva Allen was one of the Cougar greats in the early days of University of Houston football. He played at UH from 1954-1956. In his senior year, he helped lead his team to a 7-2-1 record and UH's second Missouri Valley Conference championship.

His play in the 1956 season also led to individual honors. He was selected All Missouri Valley Conference first team and in 1957 was drafted in the 23rd round of the NFL draft by the Los Angeles Rams.

The Rams were not in his pro career future though. He played for the Toronto Argonauts in the Canadian Football League in 1957. He finally made his American Football League debut for the Houston Oilers in 1960. He played for Houston from 1960-1961 winning two AFL titles. He later played for the Oakland Raiders from 1962-1964.

Today's card is the 1963 Fleer #63. This is Allen's rookie card. The photograph isn't great, but that's not uncommon for cards from the 50s and early 60s. The best part of the card is the colors. It's fate that the border and lettering on the front and back are Cougar red and white. On the back, not only does it mention his All Conference play at UH, but it also says that he ran hurdles. What an amazing athlete.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

1955 Bowman #264 Bill Henry

Today's card is the 1955 Bowman #264. This is Bill Henry's rookie card. It is also the first mainstream trading card featuring a University of Houston player.

This is an interesting card that would fit in with the gimmicky designs of today. The card is designed to look like an old school color television screen complete with screen border and fine wood grain cabinet.

I find it very funny that the card has the words "Color TV" in the border. I guess Bowman didn't think that color TVs were prevalent enough that buyers would recognize the design.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

2007 Leaf Certified Materials Mirror Emerald Materials #220 Kevin Kolb

I'm not one to get excited because a card is the rarest, most expensive card out there. I can get very excited about a base card worth basically nothing especially when it has a great picture of a player in his University of Houston uniform. With that said, I still love to go on eBay and sort by price.

Today's card is the most expensive Kevin Kolb card currently on eBay requesting $360. It is the 2007 Leaf Certified Materials Mirror Emerald Materials #220. This card is very cool. It has a head and shoulders shot of Kolb in his Eagles uniform. It also has Kevin's autograph.

The most interesting thing on the card is the materials. The materials are event used. We've discussed previously the difference between event and game used relics so we don't need to cover that again. The variety of materials on this card exceeds the normal relic card. You have the normal jersey piece, but you also have a piece from a shoe, helmet, and football. The different materials provides a unique texture and look that most cards don't have.

Only 5 of these were made and the price is out of my range so I'm betting I never own one, but it's a nice card to look at.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

1973 Topps #523 Jim Strong

It's football season! So let's go Cougar old school and look at running back Jim Strong.

Strong lettered at the University of Houston in 1968 and 1969. He had an outstanding 1969 season. With two 200+ yard games, he rushed for 1,293 yards, good enough for fourth best season in UH history. It was also good enough to be the fourth leading rusher in the entire NCAA that season.

He topped off the 1969 with an incredible bowl game. At the Bluebonnet Bowl versus Auburn, he rushed for 184 yards which is still a Houston bowl record. That performance was good enough for him to be named bowl MVP as he led the Coogs to a 36-7 victory.

UH finished the season with a 9-2 record and ranked 12th in the AP and 16th in the Coaches poll. Jim Strong was named second team All American.

Strong is tenth in career rushing yards at UH with 1,936 and tied for eighth in career rushing touchdowns with 19.

He was drafted in the seventh round of the 1970 NFL draft by the San Francisco 49ers. He played one season in San Francisco and two years for the New Orleans Saints.

Today's card is the 1973 Topps #523. This is Strong's only mainstream company football card. I don't believe Topps had an NFL contract that year because none of the cards I've seen have a helmet logo or team name in any of the photos, staged or action shots. The front of this card is no exception. Strong is posed in a three point stance, no helmet on and no team name on the jersey.

The back of the card includes 1972 and total career statistics. In a text description of his career, it states that he was the Saints leading ground gainer in 1972 with 404 yards. How bad was the Saints offense if the leading rusher only had 404 yards? The back also has a trivia question and cartoon unrelated to Strong.

I know the football cards from the early '70s look amateurish and cartoonish compared to the cards of today, but there's a charm to these cards that I still love.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

2008 Donruss Threads Rookie Collection Materials #32 and 2008 Press Pass Legends Saturday Swatches Premium #SSWDA Donnie Avery

Today's post is a piece of card collecting advice to my fellow University of Houston fans who are new to collecting or returning to collecting. It is about jersey cards.

When I first returned to collecting, I was very surprised and excited by autograph and jersey cards. I even posted previously about how cool jersey cards are. But now I'm here to let you new collectors know, not all jersey cards are created equally.

First let's look at the 2008 Press Pass Legends Saturday Swatches Premium #SSWDA featuring Donnie Avery.

This is a very sharp looking card. First of all, I love that Avery is pictured in his UH uniform. Second, that is a great looking piece of jersey. Most jersey cards are single color swatches. Multi color pieces usually are considered more collectible and demand a higher price. This is so true that some fraudulent dealers have replaced single color fabric pieces with attractive pieces from store bought jerseys to command higher prices. So keep your eyes open for that. The nicer pieces of jersey are frequently in higher end products or have a serial numbered very limited print run in a specific subset.

But the point of this card for this post is the words "Game Used Jersey." This swatch comes from a jersey that Avery wore in a game. Another warning "Game Used" may mean a pre-season game or All-Star game like the Senior Bowl, but you can be fairly sure that the jersey was worn by the player while playing a game.

Now let's look at the 2008 Donruss Threads Rookie Collection Materials #32 featuring Donnie Avery in his St. Louis Rams jersey.

This jersey was not worn by Donnie Avery in any game. How do you know? First of all, this card came out before even the first pre-season NFL game, so it's impossible that Donnie wore this Rams jersey in a game. But what if a player has been in the NFL previously? The key words to look for are "Event Worn." Sorry about the poor scan of the back of the card since it doesn't show the entire card. I don't own this one. But you'll notice it say that this jersey was worn on 5/17 at some NFL Players event. You'll also note the words "the authentic Event-Worn Jersey."

What does "Event Worn" mean? It means the jersey was worn at some event like a press conference, autograph session, meet & greet, or other "event."

What does that mean to you the collector? Know what you're buying. If you want to dream about your favorite player possibly wearing the jersey while scoring a touchdown or sacking the quarterback, make sure the jersey is game used. If it's enough to you that the jersey was worn by your guy, either event worn or game used will be sufficient for you. You may not even care if the jersey was ever worn. A card may just have a great design with a jersey swatch and autograph that looks great to you.

I'm not going to tell you what to collect because we all have our preferences. I just want you to be informed especially since some of these cards can be very scarce and expensive. Buy what you like, but know what you buy, and you'll be a happy collector.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

1992 World Class Athletes #14 Leroy Burrell

Carl Lewis is the bell cow for the University of Houston track program, but he's not the only legendary Cougar track athlete. Another great is current Houston Track & Field Head Coach Leroy Burrell.

Before getting into coaching, Burrell was a great all around track athlete. He competed for the Cougars in the 100 meters, 200 meters, and long jump. He was an All American and won the Jumbo Elliott Award as the nation's top collegiate track and field athlete.

After completing his college eligibility, Burrell had a very successful, although injury plagued, career. He set the 100 meter world record several times with his final record of 9.85 seconds in 1994.

Burrell competed in the 1992 Olympics winning a gold medal in the 4x100 and a fifth place finish in the 100 meter. He also qualified for the 1996 Olympics, but he had to withdraw due to a Achilles injury.

For more information on Leroy Burrell and his career, click here to view his biography at the UH athletics website.

Today's collectible is the 1992 World Class Athletes #14. We've already seen other cards from this set for Carl Lewis here.

The front features a photo of Burrell with his arms raised celebrating a victory. The back provides a list of career achievements although it features only items prior to the 1992 Olympics. Of special note is the nod to the greatness of the University of Houston track program.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

1996 Fleer USA #15 Hakeem Olajuwon

We covered how Hakeem Olajuwon became eligible for the USA Olympic team in an earlier post. So let's look at the results for 1996 Team USA basketball.

Like the original 1992 Dream Team, the 1996 team went 8-0 with blowouts in every game. The 1992 team won by an average of 43.8 points per game while the 1996 team won by 31.7 points.

The center depth for that team was amazing with David Robinson, Shaquille O'Neal, and Hakeem Olajuwon. Hakeem played in only seven of the games, starting two, and averaging 12 minutes per game. In those 12 minutes, he averaged 5 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.8 steals, & 0.4 blocks.

Today's card is the 1996 Fleer USA #15. This is a By the Numbers card with Olajuwon's Team USA jersey number of 15 providing a background to Hakeem tossing up a hook shot.

Good luck finding this card. According to Beckett, the print run was only 35. There are five other Olajuwon cards in the 1996 Fleer USA set if you want an easier card to find from this set.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

1977-79 Sportscaster #102-12 Flo Hyman

Most Cougar fans can name the first African American athletes to get a scholarship to the University of Houston, but can you name the first woman? It's Flo Hyman. I knew Flo was a great volleyball player, but I didn't know how influential and important she was.

In addition to being the first woman to receive an athletic scholarship to UH, she was a three time All American. In 1977, she was named the top female collegiate volleyball player. She was also the first female Coog to be inducted into UH's Hall of Honor. She left UH after her junior year to pursue the Olympic dream.

Unfortunately for her, the US boycotted the 1980 Olympics in Moscow and Flo would have to wait four more years to play in the LA Olympics. In LA, Flo led the US voleyball team to a silver medal.

Hyman also played professional volleyball in Japan. In 1986 during a professional match, she collapsed. She passed away later that night. It was originally thought that she was killed by a heart attack, but it was later announced that it was due to complications from Marfan syndrome.

She was inducted into the Volleyball Hall of Fame in 1988 and named by USA Volleyball as the MVP for the years 1978-2002. In 1987, the Women’s Sports Foundation established an annual Flo Hyman Award to the female athlete who best exemplified over the course of her career Hyman’s “dignity, spirit, and commitment to excellence.”

Most consider her the greatest American volleyball player of her generation. Some even consider her greatest American volleyball player of all time. All I know is she was a great Cougar and someone we should be very proud to say that she went to UH.

Today's collectible is the 1977-79 Sportscast #102-12. These cards were not your typical standard sized trading card. They measured 4.75 x 6.5 inches and had stats on the back. The stats were later updated so there are multiple variations of the card.

The front contains a border at the top and an indication of the sport. Below the border, there is a picture of Flo in the USA volleyball uniform. Since the card was produced long before the 1984 Olympics, this was probably a picture from one of the many international tournaments that she played in trying to lead USA women's volleyball to respectability.

Monday, August 11, 2008

1991-93 5 Majeur #38 Clyde Drexler

Clyde Drexler was a late addition to the 1992 USA Basketball "Dream Team." He was added along with Christian Laettner after the original ten members were named. Despite not being named with the original team, he excelled in the Olympic games.

He played in all eight of the games and started three. Drexler averaged 10.5 points per game (fifth best on the team), 3.0 rebounds (sixth best), 3.6 assists (fourth), and 2.4 steals (fourth). As he did his entire career, Clyde showed his all around basketball talents.

Of course the team went 8-0 and won by an average of 43.8 points.

Today's collectible is the 1991-93 5 Majeur #38. These cards were inserted in the French magazine 5 Majeur from 1991 to 1993 with no number on the back. The card features Drexler in his Team USA uniform in a posed shot. The back features stats, player information, and player profile in French.

The layout and look is fairly bland, but the rarity of this exotic French collectible makes it an Olympic card worthy of interest.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Sports Illustrated - Carl Lewis

The Olympics have begun so for the next couple of weeks, let's feature University of Houston Olympians.

When you talk about the Olympics, to me one athlete stands out above the rest, Carl Lewis. 10 Olympic medals including 9 gold in 4 Olympic Games from 1984 to 1996.

Sports Illustrated included Carl Lewis on six covers with five rlated to the Olympics of the Olympic trials. Today let's look at each SI issue.

August 23rd, 1983

The only non-Olympic cover, this issue features Lewis at the World Championships in Helsinki where he won the long jump and 100 meter.

June 25th, 1984

Lewis wins at the Olympic trials.

August 20th, 1984

Lewis is pictured with the USA relay team. He wins four gold medals, 100 meter, 200 meter, 4x100 meter relay, and long jump.

No SI cover for the 1988 games despite gold medals in the 100 meter and long jump and silver medal in the 200 meter (behind another Cougar Joe DeLoach). Featured instead was Ben Johnson who had won the 100 meter race, but he was disqualified for steroid use. Other Olympians featured in 1988 were Florence Griffith Joyner and Jackie Joyner Kersee.

August 17th, 1992

Two more Olympic gold medals in Barcelona in the 4x100 meter relay and long jump. Lewis is again pictured with the relay team.

December 28th, 1992

The images of 1992 issue features Lewis enjoying the 4x100 victory.

August 5th, 1996

The cover proclaims Lewis as "The Best Ever" with an amazing photograph of him landing a long jump. He wins the long jump for his ninth gold medal.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

1975 Carvel Discs #4 Don Chaney

I'm currently reading the book Cougars of Any Color about the integration of University of Houston athletics. I'll be posting a review on this blog soon, but today let's look at one of the players discussed in the book, Don Chaney.

Don Chaney, along with Elvin Hayes and Warren McVea, was in the first group of African American athletes recruited to play at UH. While overshadowed by Hayes, Chaney is one of the greatest basketball players in Cougar history. He scored over 1,000 points and was an All-American Honorable Mention in 1967 and Second Team All-American in 1968. He played every minute of the Game of the Century against UCLA and helped the Coogs go to their first two Final Fours in 1967 & 1968.

His outstanding college career led him to being selected 12th overall in the NBA draft by the Boston Celtics. He played 11 seasons in the NBA, winning two championships, and earning All Defensive Second Team honors five times. After his playing career was over, he went on to a long career as an NBA coach, winning Coach of the Year honors in 1992.

Today's collectible is the 1975 Carvel Disc #4. This is an oddball collectible. I don't have concrete information on this item, but it appears that it was a giveaway at Carvel Ice Cream.

The front of the disc has a black and white picture of Chaney with a facsimile autograph. Around the border, there is player information like date of birth, school, and some statistics.

There are multiple variations of this card. I can confirm the existence of green, orange, pink, and yellow bordered discs. I believe there is also a blue variation and possibly even white. I have seen other players in this set with blue and white, but I have not been able confirm that Chaney has these variations.

Monday, July 28, 2008

2008 Allen & Ginter #310 Michael Bourn

The talk of the hobby recently has been the release of the 2008 Allen & Ginter baseball product. The design of this card matches the earliest tobacco cards released in the late 1800s.

Like the original tobacco cards, the set wasn't restricted to just baseball players. Included in the 2008 Allen & Ginter set are world leaders, state flags, ancient icons, historical figures, and world champions. The historical figures includes some unique cards like Abe Lincoln and JFK "DNA Relic" cards which contains a hair from famous figures.

World Champions includes not only mainstream champions like boxing champion Archie Moore, swimming champion Mark Spitz, and Olympic champion Bruce Jenner, but it also includes more obscure champions. Some of those include the World Air Guitar Champion, Rock Paper Scissors champion, and my personal favorite Billy Mitchell, the video game champion who was the first person to complete a perfect game of Pacman. If you don't know who Bill Mitchell is, I highly recommend watching the movie The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters. It's a documentary on setting the world Donkey Kong record. Surprisingly it's a very good movie.

I highly recommend checking out the press release for this product. I don't buy boxes or packs of cards, but if I stumble across these at a store, I might just have to pick up a few packs. I'm not even a huge baseball fan, but this product just looks too fun to ignore.

Included in this product is Michael Bourn on card #310. The picture is an artistically modified photo with a white background that resembles the style of the original Allen & Ginter cards. The font used is almost identical to the old style. Most of the cards have a vertical orientation, but Bourn's card has a more artistic horizontal layout.

Variations on this card include several mini cards which are much smaller than the base version. Mini variations include Allen & Ginter backs, Bazooka backs, black framed, wood, and silk versions. Yes, the last two are really made of wood or silk.

This is just a beautiful card from a fun set.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

2007-08 Upper Deck Premier Franchise Faces Autographs #FFHO Hakeem Olajuwon

Let's look at a high end product today, Upper Deck Premier basketball. Many people collected cards at one point in their life and don't realize the massive changes in the hobby. For those unaware, there are several tiers and price ranges for products. Upper Deck Premier is on the very high end of the hobby.

Check out Upper Deck's press release for this product. First of all, look at the suggested retail price: $300 per seven card pack. That's right. Not $300 per case or even $300 per box. $300 for seven cards. Luckily I don't open boxes or even packs usually because I only collect Houston Cougars, but even if I did, I'd never pay $300 for a pack of cards unless I win the lottery. The good news is that people open these packs, keep what they want, and sell the rest of eBay, frequently at a decent price. That's the only way I'd collect a product like this

So what do you get for $300? One, you get a very limited print run. Second, you are guaranteed to get autographs and relics which is pretty cool. But what if you get a player you don't like or not worth much if you want to sell it?

The seven cards break down like this:
1 - Regular base card or non-autographed rookie card
2 - Rookie card with autograph and relic
3 - Patch card, possibly with autograph
4 - Autographed card
5 - Jersey card
6 - Patch/jersey card or autograph/relic card
7 - Another card from group 4-6

That's really exciting to get very cool cards like that in every pack, but again, what if you don't like the players in the pack?

This week's Olajuwon card is 2007-08 Upper Deck Premier Franchise Faces Autographs #FFHO. This is a gorgeous card with Olajuwon as the face of the Rockets franchise. I don't think there's any question that if you could only pick one player to represent the Rockets' history, it would be Hakeem. The card is very limited with only 34 made.

There is also an autograph directly on the card, not on an attached sticker. There is a problem with the autograph since it is on a very busy background. The autograph should be the highlight of the card so the card could have been designed to make the autograph stand out more.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

1995-96 Collector's Choice #196 Hakeem Olajuwon

Collector's Choice was a brand from Upper Deck that was produced basketball cards from 1994-95 to 1997-98. It was designed to keep kids in the trading card hobby as the business was becoming geared towards premium cards. Collector's Choice was very inexpensive with more cards per pack, and it had cards designed for the kid market. Unfortunately most kids wanted the same things as most adults, to open the pack that would have the expensive, rare insert card or the card with the over the top special effects. Collector's Choice didn't have many special effects and insert cards were limited

Today's card is the 1995-96 Collector's Choice #196 of Hakeem Olajuwon. This is not the regular base card for Olajuwon. It is a Professor Dunk card. I guess the Professor is supposed to teach us how Hakeem plays basketball and dunks.

The front of the card shows Hakeem post-dunk against the Miami Heat. The card has a special treat for UH fans since it also features Coog Carl Herrera in the background. It also has a graphic of Professor Dunk on a very clunky red banner.

The back has the Professor again with a small picture of Olajuwon attempting another dunk. The Professor's analysis of Hakeem's game is included. The funniest thing on the card is a quote from the Professor: "Don't even try blocking the Dream's shot. In da Face!!!" That's quite an analysis... in da face.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

1987-88 Fleer #30 Clyde Drexler

Clyde Drexler's mainstream rookie card is the Fleer 1986-87 #26. Since we've already seen this set's card layout with Hakeem Olajuwon's rookie card, let's look at his second year card, the Fleer 1987-88 #30.

The card's gray and white border is much more subdued than the 1986-87's red, white, and blue border. Looking at this card makes you realize how far the hobby has come. The card stock is not of the highest quality. The in game photograph doesn't exactly show the action of an NBA game.

The back of the card has a nice set of statistics in a pleasing red, white, and blue. Because there are only four years of statistics, almost half of the card back is blank. A photograph on the back of a card was still a couple of years away, but you'd think they'd fill the blank space with a fun fact or some other text filler.

Basketball cards from this era seem to be a product in transition. They don't have the vintage look and feel of much older cards, and they also don't have the modern flash and quality of more recent cards. I'm glad these cards exist because the lack of mainstream cards from 1982 to 1985 leaves a gap for basketball card collectors, but I wish there was some feature about this card that makes me want to include it in my collection.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

1995 JOGO #51 Roman Anderson

Roman Anderson is considered by many to be the greatest kicker in University of Houston history. He holds many school season and career records for scoring and kickers. At one point, he held the NCAA record for most career points scored. That record has since been broken although longer seasons and more bowl games make it much easier to break season and career records. He was an All American Honorable Mention, 2 time All Southwest Conference 2nd team, and 2 time All SWC 1st team.

Roman never made it in the NFL although he did play in the CFL. In 1995 he was the CFL All-Star placekicker and leading scorer.

Today's card is the 1995 JOGO #51. The front of the card has a nice layout with a quality action photo. Those uniforms are horrible though. To me, the colors don't match and those have to be the busiest stripes I've ever seen.

The back of the card doesn't have statistics. Instead it has an overview of his playing career both in the CFL and at UH.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

1992 All World Greats/Rookies SG17 David Klingler

When Andre Ware decided to leave the University of Houston early to join the NFL, there was some concern there would a drop off in quarterback play the next year. Although David Klingler had significant mop up activity behind Ware in 1989 since there were several 50+ point blowouts, you never know how a quarterback will play when given the primary responsibility of running an offense especially following a Heisman trophy winner.

Who could have predicted the season David Klingler would have in 1990. Leading UH to a 10-1 record and a Top 10 ranking, Klingler set several NCAA records some of which will be very difficult to break. Some records include most TD passes in a quarter (6) & TD passes in a game (11). Several of Klingler's single season records were broken by Colt Brennan of Hawaii, but it took 14 games compared to Klingler's 11 games.

I'm a little late for the 4th of July, but it's still the 4th of July weekend so let's celebrate with the 1992 All World Greats/Rookies SG17 featuring David Klingler. The card features Klingler taking a snap in a practice uniform. It also features the American flag at the top with the stars in silver foil. His name is also in silver foil.

The back lamely features the same picture faded behind text. The best part of the card for UH fans is the history of David Klingler at the school. It begins with his initial play in 1988, backing up Ware in 1989, and his record setting year in 1990.