While acquiring new cards is a key tenet of having a collection, I have found that the connections we make in the hobby are as important and enjoyable, if not more so, than the cards themselves. Back in December 2017, I stumbled across a very rare autographed 1960 Dallas Texans 7-Eleven card of one of my all-time favorite players, former Chiefs safety, Johnny Robinson. I was truly excited about the acquisition, and posted an image of the card in an American Football League fan group on Facebook.
A handful of people commented on the card before a gentleman named Bob Thompson replied, “Dad has the original picture and a full length picture. I’m going to have it framed and put in my office. He said that is a great card there. Rare!” I thought that kind of an odd response, and when I inquired further I learned that the man who made the comment happened to be Johnny Robinson’s stepson.
I had sent autograph requests to Johnny over the years, and was happy to make the online acquaintance of his stepson. We exchanged cell phone numbers and continued our conversation over text, mostly talking about Johnny’s career and sharing images of cards and memorabilia we had collected. At some point the discussion shifted from collectibles to the oversight that had thus far kept Johnny from his rightful induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. A six-time All-Pro, Johnny Robinson’s statistics tell the story of an incredible career and prove him to be one of the greatest players in AFL history.
I have a website called Tales from the American Football League on which I post items about the old AFL. I suggested to Bob that we could put a petition on my site for Johnny and run a Hall of Fame campaign in his honor. To be honest, I didn’t know what a decent campaign would entail, but I thought it would be fun to recognize a man who was not only a great player, but who has also been a longtime friend of the hobby and signed autographs TTM for decades.
I had a petition designed and uploaded it to my website. We began spreading the word via Facebook and Twitter, while also sending information directly via email. Bob and I texted almost daily and kept coming up with new ideas for ways to share the petition and generate a bit of publicity on Johnny’s behalf. It wasn’t long before our grassroots effort began to take hold. Many of Johnny Robinson’s contemporaries supported his induction and contributed testimonials to our cause, and we started receiving some support in the media. The Talk of Fame Network was the first site to really share our efforts with their followers, and by mid-August there had been stories written in The Kansas City Star, The Advocate and Yahoo! Sports, among others.
Before we knew it August 17th was here and the Hall of Fame Senior Committee met to select a single player for the Class of 2019. Their task was to reduce a list that had begun with 100 names down to a single nomination. While Bob, myself and a host of Johnny’s supporters were hopeful, the truth is that with all of the deserving candidates on the list, determining our odds or predicting success was truly impossible. The candidate that was ultimately selected would receive a phone call from David Baker, President of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. All others would receive no direct contact and learn the results in the same fashion as fans across the country, by checking their favorite sources of sports news and information.
The minutes and hours crawled by but the when the telephone rang at Johnny’s Louisiana home early that afternoon, the caller I.D. read, “Canton, OH.” David Baker was on the other end of the line and said that it was his honor to inform Johnny that he had been selected as the Senior Committee Nominee for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2019. It was all that folks could do to keep quiet for the length of the phone call, but once the connection was broken shouts of joy and laughter nearly blew the roof off the old house. While Johnny Robinson is not yet a hall of fame member as his selection has to be approved by at least 80% of the entire hall of fame selectors committee in February 2019, he stands a very good chance of finally wearing the gold jacket and having a bust in Canton.
While no one can say how much our campaign truly led to Johnny Robinson’s selection, it certainly did not hurt. To think that our efforts came about because of the shared image of a trading card makes me truly appreciate the magic of our hobby.
THE AFFECT ON THE HOBBY
For collectors wanting to get an early start on things, Johnny Robinson has a great chance of becoming an addition to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Rookie Players set that is so popular on the PSA Set Registry. A similar autographed set also generates a lot of interest from PSA fans. Johnny Robinson would also become part of the Registry sets for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Kansas City Chiefs and the Pro Football Hall of Fame Vintage Rookie Players (1933-1969).
Who knows what kind of price increases a “HOF” designation will add to Johnny Robinson’s cards? Undoubtedly the market will grow. Will supply be able to meet the demand? I’m just glad that I already have mine.
EDITED TO ADD:
On February 2, 2019, Johnny Robinson earned more than the necessary 80% of the vote, and became a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2019.