When I learned of the passing of Frank Gifford over the weekend, I realized another important part of my youth had left the building. While I was too young to see him play, I vividly remember him doing local sportscasts during the evening news in New York and then moving to the ABC network to become the play by play man/host of Monday Night Football.
I don’t think anyone can understate just how important Monday Night Football was during the 1970s. In that pre-cable era, all of the football world and most of their fans would gather in front of televisions either at home or at a local establishment to see what Frank,Howard and Dandy Don would come up with during the telecast.
Gifford became enough of an announcer that many fans who grew up in the 1970s and later never realized what an important football star he was both at USC as a triple threat back and then a big star for the New York Football Giants. In fact, between Gifford and Kyle Rote, the Giants were blessed with two very versatile offensive weapons which gave them a ton of flexibility in the days of much smaller rosters.
If you were like me, and today love to scour YouTube for those very early Monday Night memories, I found a great clip of a 1971 Giants/Cowboys game with Frank on the call. By the way, this was one of the final games the Cowboys played at the Cotton Bowl before moving to Cowboys Stadium in Irving, Texas, where they enjoyed huge success for about 25 years.
If you collected football cards in the 1970s, it’s kind of a shame there were no cards of the Monday Night football announcers. It became quite a star-studded roster as time went on. I do understand not all of those we saw during the fall were players but I don’t think we as kids or young adults really would have objected to a Gifford, Meredith, Alex Karras or even a Howard Cosell. We probably would have been happy to have those cards, although in Cosell’s case it might have been to create a dart board.
Cards of Gifford’s playing career were not reachable for a lot of kids back then. He first appeared in the 1952 Bowman set which was issued in both large and small size versions.
What else, in retrospect, is interesting to me is that there never seemed to be an overwhelming demand for Gifford cards. He was the subject of books, magazine articles and replayed highlights from his career but I would say for every person who asked a New York area dealer for Gifford in the 1980s, there were probably 30 asking for Dwight Gooden, Don Mattingly or Darryl Strawberry.
It took until 1989 and Pro Set, which was looking to tell a more complete story of the NFL and reach a larger audience, to finally get a mainstream insert set that included announcers. And yes, there is a card of Gifford in the Pro Set Announcers set, one which shows him as a player on the front. He was also part of the Action Packed Monday Night Football sets in 1993 and 1994.
There is a decent amount of autograph and relic cards of Gifford and while there might be a slight, probably temporary, bump in prices while fans look for something to remember him or are just now learning about him, I wouldn’t expect huge price increases. Gifford wasn’t a regular on the autograph circuit and so I suspect we’ll see a few more folks wishing they’d added him to their Hall of Fame collection.