Steelers, Dolphins drive record CSA attendance

The Collector’s Showcase of America (CSA) set a single-day record attendance with more than 2,000 paid admissions on the Saturday portion of its recent show held in Chantilly, Va., on March 14-16. There was a whopping 25 football guests on Saturday, all of them either Pro Football Hall of Famers, Super Bowl winners or both. Although this show was light as far as baseball autograph guests, the football formula proved to be a successful, with the Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers heading the list.

There were several members of the famed 1972 Dolphins squad at this show, including Mercury Morris, Garo Yepremian, Bob Kuechenberg, Paul Warfield and Earl Morrall (also a Steeler). There was a particular demand for Paul Warfield, and it was a great opportunity to see future Hall of Famer Kuechenberg. Dolphin Hall of Famer Dwight Stephenson was also in attendance.

Out of the top 14 advance autograph ticket sales leaders, 10 of them were Pittsburgh Steelers.

The top pre-order seller for this show was Super Bowl XIII and XIV MVP, and four-time Super Bowl champion, Terry Bradshaw. He was also the most expensive guest at this show, too, with prices ranging from $159-$199. Inscriptions were an additional $100. Bradshaw was in a good mood, although signing in a public setting is not one of his favorite things to do.
Bradshaw was not the only Steelers Super Bowl MVP at this show, as Super Bowl XL MVP Hines Ward made his first trip to Chantilly. Ward was the second most expensive signer at the show, with prices starting at $99, and inscriptions were $30. Ward was the number two preseller at the show.

Other Steelers appearing Saturday were Joe Greene (HOF 1987), Jack Ham (HOF 1988), Rocky Bleier, Terry Hanratty, Andy Russell and Antwaan Randle El.

In keeping with the Super Bowl theme, the Green Bay Packers were also out in force. Herb Adderley was in heavy demand, as was 1956 Heisman Trophy winner Paul Hornung, who had two different “stat signed” 11-by-14s at his signing table for a reasonable $40. Away from the main stage, there were a group of Packers signing together in the forward autograph area. These signers included Hall of Famer Willie Wood, Tom Brown, Boyd Dowler, Carroll Dale, Dave Robinson, Ron Kramer and Marv Fleming. Fleming was also a member of the 17-0 Dolphins club and was the first player to participate in five Super Bowls as a player.

The forward autograph area also had former wrestler Greg “The Hammer” Valentine and boxers James “Bonecrusher” Smith and Buster Douglas.

Rounding out the show Saturday were NFL Hall of Famers Ted Hendricks, John Hannah and baseball Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner. Capitals star Alexander Ovechkin also appeared Saturday.

Sunday
The Sunday portion of the show had a few different themes. There was a Redskins theme in Joe Theismann, Chris Cooley, Mark May and Monte Coleman. For Cowboys fans, there was Leon Lett and two-time Pro Bowler Demarcus Ware. There were four LSU stars scheduled – Early Doucet, Glenn Dorsey, Jacob Hester and Laron Landry. The first three were all members of the 2008 National Championship team. There was a LSU Super Ticket available but Doucet was a late cancellation. Laron Landry, currently playing with the Redskins, didn’t show up for the second straight CSA event.
The Hockey Hall of Fame was represented with Phil Esposito, Tony Esposito and Brad Park. Basketball Hall of Famer’s Elvin “The Big E” Hayes, Wes Unseld and David Thompson all seemed to have decent lines.

There was a small but interesting boxing theme with Jake “Raging Bull” LaMotta and Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, both of whom have very interesting stories. Lamotta was portrayed by Robert De Niro in the epic movie Raging Bull. Meanwhile, Carter’s boxing career ended in 1966 when he was charged in a triple murder in Paterson, N.J. He spent almost 20 years in prison before the original murder indictment was dismissed on an appeal. This is a polarizing case that has drawn international attention. Carter later became the executive director of the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted (ADWC) from 1993-2005. It was amazing to step back from the show for a moment and look at the varied histories of the guests appearing at the show.

Rounding out the Sunday lineup was 1978 National League MVP Dave “The Cobra” Parker and the first appearance as a Hall of Famer for former Charger and 49er, Fred Dean. Dean is also scheduled to make an appearance at the July CSA show for a probable 2008 Hall of Fame Class theme. The other potential candidates for the next show from this class include Darrell Green, Art Monk, Emmitt Thomas, Andre Tippett and Gary Zimmerman.

Garo Yepremian
One of the kickers who will have some consideration for the Hall of Fame in the future is Garo Yepremian, who took some time to speak with SCD. It was his first time at the CSA show.

“I was scheduled to come last year, but I had back surgery so I could not make it. I am glad I finally made it,” he said. “A lot of people showed up, and it is a great show. You can see the enthusiasm of the people. People want to take pictures with you, many have their kids with them. It is a great affair.

“As far as collecting, the things that I saved and cherish the most are my helmets. I have my Pro Bowl helmet from the 1973 Pro Bowl, in which I was the MVP of the game. I also have my Dolphins, Saints, Lions and Buccaneers helmets from my playing days. I kept a few uniforms. They gave me one when I left the Dolphins, Saints and Buccaneers. Of course, I have the Super Bowl ring. I have given a Championship ring to my one son, and when I pass away, I will give the Super Bowl ring to another son.”

Yepremian also reflected on the Hall of Fame.

“If it were not for the kicking game, many of the teams would not go to the Super Bowl. The 1972 Dolphins may have not had that special season without the kicking game. It is a very exciting part of the game but the Hall of Fame has shunned the kicking game to a certain degree,” he said. “It could be argued that I was a candidate 20 years ago, but that is OK. I am member of a more exclusive club. There are only 45 players who were members of the perfect season Dolphins team in 1972. In the Hall of Fame, there are hundreds of players. Of course, if I get in the Hall of Fame, I will say that is the more exclusive club. I am willing to change my tune very quickly!”

Andy Russell
Another player who has felt the Hall of Fame squeeze is former Steeler linebacker Andy Russell. The University of Missouri alum has been lost in the greatness of fellow Steelers linebackers Jack Ham and Jack Lambert, despite making seven Pro Bowls himself and being a member of the Super Bowl IX and X teams. We picked up our conversation from a previous CSA Show.

Recalling his college days, Russell said, “At Missouri, I played in the Orange Bowl against Navy in the Orange Bowl, and we held Heisman Trophy winner Joe Bellino to minus three yards. Playing in the Big Eight, we got to play against Gale Sayers and John Hadl at Kansas.

“I was very fortunate to have a lot of good coaching through high school right up to the pros. I was fortunate to play for Dan Devine who was a real stickler for details. I was able to polish my techniques very early, and this helped me immensely in the NFL.

“I remember my rookie season in 1963, I was just happy to make the club,” Russell continued. “They issued me No. 36, which I used my first year when I made the All Pro Rookie Team. I then went into the military for two years, and when I came back, No. 36 was taken, so I ended up taking No. 34, which I wore the rest of my career.

“Those two years I spent in the military was as a lieutenant in Germany in 1964-65. In 1968, I was asked by the NFL to go on a USO tour to Vietnam. I went along with Bobby Bell, John David Crow, Bill Brown and Jack Kemp. We arrived the day that Tet Offensive started. They actually issued me a weapon due to my military background. I thought it would be like a Bob Hope tour, but we were actually shot at.”

Russell played for the Steelers in a vital transitional period in the franchises history.
“We played our games at Pitt Stadium early in my career,” he said. “We lost a lot of games there, but I was playing at high level even though we were not reaching team goals. We agonized over every defeat, but things started to change. When Chuck Noll arrived in 1969, there was a pool of 100 guys trying to make the team, and only five of us survived to play in that first Super Bowl in 1974. Noll was a brilliant coach, and he had a series of drafts that consisted of many future Hall of Famers. Having played on those bad teams, it was very rewarding to slowly change the goals and achieve them. It was a pleasure to play for Art Rooney. He would always come into the locker room. He was never critical and a wonderful gentleman. He was at every practice. He would always have his cigar and was always proud of his boys.”

Russell also noted some differences in today’s NFL game.

“So many of the players now are bigger, faster and stronger. Many of these guys are able to work out four-to-five hours a day, often times with private trainers and nutritionists,” he said. “Even in my day, many of us had second jobs in the offseason and had maybe an hour to work out per day in the offseason. From a technical standpoint, the game is still similar but the rules have changed, often times for safety purposes. But the game is still dangerous. The current players behave a bit differently nowadays. We were expected to not draw attention to ourselves, but that is different today.”

Show reaction
With the amount of traffic at this show, dealers appeared to do fairly well. Those willing to negotiate with collectors were rewarded with business.

The autograph lines were well run, especially considering that there were only two staffers controlling the line Saturday. Online COA was authenticating signatures signed at the show, and James Spence Authentication was there, in addition to some nice vintage game-used jerseys on display from American Memorabilia.

There were a lot of spending in Chantilly. Just when you think the economy or autograph prices are going to slow down collectors spending, the most expensive guys at the show were the top two presellers. Go figure.

Promoter Marco Rol summed the weekend midway through Sunday.

“The show was great. Terry Bradshaw sold out before the show even opened. The Steelers really helped drive our record attendance of about 2,000 Saturday,” Rol said. “Our attendance Friday was very high, probably 600-700. It was not just the Steelers; Herb Adderley was very much in demand. We had early cancellations with Bob Griese and Dan Dierdorf. Earnest Byner and Early Doucet cancelled. The basketball guys did well. Alexander Ovechkin did better at this show than he last appearance here, which was odd considering that we only added him to this show eight days before the show. We sold out of our tables, and I heard some good early reports from the dealers.”

What’s on tap for July?

“For our next show, we have Bob Feller, Paul Krause, Fred Dean, Darrell Green and Joe DeLamielleure – those are our confirmed guys to date,” Rol said. “We want to have the 2008 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class here. We have had Art Monk before, and hope to have him at this next show. We would like to have Dick Williams and Rich Gossage. Fanfest is the same weekend as our next show, so we are running into a scheduling issue there. George Brett will be in Chicago that weekend. But we are still trying to make arrangements to get him here for a signing window. We would like to have Joe Montana back. We are probably going to have a strong Redskins theme which is natural if we can add Monk to go along with Darrell Green. The forward autograph area will be focused upon.

“Tom Brown and the Packers told me that this is their most successful show ever this weekend. Buster Douglas did well,” Rol continued.

“We had 56 guests here this weekend. We will try to expand the admission area. We have just never seen that type of traffic at our show, so we will tweak some things. We actually sold some precious metals, which is a bit of a side project that you can see on our website. As for the next show, we will be confirming many more guests soon.”
For more information on the next show, visit
www.csashows.com.

Dave Bailey is a freelance contributor to SCD and can be reached at davebailey68@hotmail.com, or at P.O. Box 597, Greensburg, PA 15601.

Leave a Reply