Vintage Football Autographs

from leather helmets to the "golden years"--1920s thru 1960

Chasing the Grim Reaper

I started collecting autographs of those who played during what I think were the golden years of pro football after reading the book Iron Men in the late 1980s.  Soon after I joined the Professional Football Researchers Association.  One thing led to another.  A few years ago I received the Ralph Hay Award for lifetime achievement in pro football historiography (that’s a fancy word for researching pro football history).  I have helped contribute to three pro football encyclopedias.

Early on I sought out the addresses of old players and sold address lists to fellow collectors. This was before the Internet made this kind of sleuthing so easy. It is amazing that I found so many old players by following clues and searching phone books. I have thousands of items in my collection  One of the unique facets of my collection are hundreds of signed vintage sports cartoons.  I became captivated by the artistry of these cartoonists and began sending copies of their cartoons to the athletes to sign. Although this website focuses on football, I have a vast collection of vintage baseball, track and field, golf, basketball, boxing, and Olympics autographs. Go to "Links" to connect to my other sports sites.

I still collect autographs, but not in such a frenzied manner as I did in the late 1980s and 1990s. I am now equally interested in interviewing the great old football players generally living in obscurity.

This website will feature some of the autographs from my collection of players now deceased.  Simply CLICK ON A LETTER OF THE ALPHABET in the directory ON THE TOP OF THIS PAGE to view them.

 

I dedicate this site to Dan "Tiger" Hill,

one of the first football players to send me his autograph through the mail--and who met the grim reaper only months after the last time he wrote me.

 

Dan "Tiger" Hill  (1917-1989)
   
Center—(Duke)  [College Football Hall of Fame 1962]

 He was outstanding at offense and defense.
    Wallace Wade

 

 

I frequently asked players to name the hardest hitting, most bruising players they faced. Tiger Hill named a team and two players. He wrote, "I think the University of Tennessee had the roughest and hardest hitting team I ever played against.  They were all tough. The strongest and hardest hitting player I played with was Willard "Bolo" Perdue, against was Blackjack Harry Smith, University of Southern California."

 

This is the actual Tiger Hill card I bought in a pack of cards (probably at Wolfe's Market) in 1955.  I still have the whole set and it is in excellent condition.  When I began pursuing old players for their autographs, I focused on the still-living players from this Topps All-American set.  I was able to obtain many with the help of the College Football Hall of Fame who forwarded my letters.

 

LAST UPDATED:  February 19, 2012

Watch a Video Clip of:

  • Ed Danowski
  • Bob Devaney
  • Hugh Gallarneau
  • Otto Graham
  • Red Grange
  • Lou Groza
  • Tom Harmon
  • Ken Kavanaugh
  • Sid Luckman
  • Pug Lund
  • Harry Newman
  • Bill Osmanski
  • Kyle Rote

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