Under The Tree: 1995 Gottlieb Big Hurt – The Pinball Game

Frank Thomas was the cover man for Big Hurt Baseball during the mid-90’s.  Big Hurt Baseball is a video game that was released for various consoles between 1995 and 1996.  The video games aren’t nearly as collectible as the pinball counterpart.

Gottlieb released a pinball version of Big Hurt Baseball in 1995 simply titled Big Hurt – The Pinball Game.  Just under 2,000 machines were produced, which according to pinball collectors isn’t many.  A small portion of them have been registered on the Internet Pinball Serial Number Database and the Pinball Owners Registry.  With Frank Thomas having a huge fan base, this machine is in high-demand.  Finding one that’s in excellent, fully working condition isn’t the easiest thing to do.  If you do find a complete example that functions properly, it’s going to cost into the thousands.  Roughly what a Frank Thomas 1990 Topps “No Name” rookie would set you back.  It would’ve been great if they could have incorporated one of those into this machine’s design.

You have to admit, a piece like this would make a great addition to any Frank Thomas collection.  Just as long as you have the money and space.  Even if you don’t have the money and/or space for one of these, collectors still buy loose parts for their collection.  It really wouldn’t surprise me if one day we see parts from one of these pinball games embedded into cards.

Game highlights include:

  • Roaring crowds
  • Play-by-play announcer
  • Moving baseball glove obstacle
  • (3) flippers
  • (2) pop bumpers
  • (2) slingshots
  • Drop targets
  • Captive ball
  • 4-ball multi-ball capability

If you woke up to one of these pinball machines on Christmas morning, your tree must have been huge.

Under The Tree: NFL SuperPro

In the long history of sports cards and comic books, NFL SuperPro is probably one of the most gimmicky ideas to come along.

Written by comic book writer and editor Fabian Nicieza, NFL SuperPro tells the story of a rising football star named Phil Grayfield.  After sustaining a knee injury while saving a child from falling, Grayfield’s playing days seemed behind him.  Upon finding out that he could no longer play the game he loved, Grayfield became a sports reporter.  One day Grayfield was interviewing a superfan, who also happened to be a scientist.  This scientist had created a new, almost indestructible football uniform that needed to be molded on an “individual basis”, and cost five million dollars to make.

During the interview, thieves broke into the scientist’s home.  They stole a bunch of NFL merchandise (not the uniform), and then set the place on fire.  Grayfield attempted to escape while tied-up.  In the process he knocked over some chemicals, and in combination with that and the rare football memorabilia going up in flames turned Grayfield into a superhero.  Grayfield made it out alive with the scientist’s uniform, and then dedicated his life to fighting crime.

NFL SuperPro ran for twelve issues, plus one special edition.  He’s called one of Marvel’s biggest flops, which in turn makes him a cult object.  They tried to boost sales by teaming him up with Spider-Man and Captain America, but it just didn’t work.  The story is basic, and it had too many football puns.  Almost everything about this comic is football related, which I think is it’s real downfall.  Nicieza has openly admitted that he only wrote the comic for free NFL tickets.

Nobody has heard from NFL SuperPro since the comic ended in 1992.  If you’re reading this Disney, please name a future Marvel film character Phil Grayfield.  He doesn’t have to turn into NFL SuperPro, but it would be an interesting nod to this lost character.

Marvel Comics NFL SuperPro Special Edition #1

1990 Pro Set NFL SuperPro

1991 JusToys Bend-Ems NFL SuperPro action figure

Under The Tree: 1986 HG Toys SPORTFREAKS Series 1

As a kid my #1 toy to play with were action figures.  I had bins full of Batman, X-Men, Star Wars, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Power Rangers.  If only I could go back in time and convince my younger self to keep all of them in their packaging.  Yeah right!  Like that would’ve worked.  I never kept them mint in box.  Those little pieces of plastic were released from their clamshell prisons and immediately thrown into an adventure I had conjured in my head.  I lost a Rambo figure while visiting the beach.  The ocean took it away.  I like to think he’s still hanging out at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean with all of those unopened cases of 1952 Topps Baseball High Numbers.

HG Toys released a line of action figures in 1986 called SPORTFREAKS.  If you’re looking for accurate figures that resemble your favorite sports heroes, these might not be for you.  SPORTFREAKS are the total opposite.  They’re crazy looking, mutant-like creatures that enjoy playing various sports.  They came in three sizes – 2.5″, 7″, and 15″.  Each size has their own set of figures.  In other words, you won’t find the same 15″ figure in 2.5″ or 7″ size.  The 15″ figures have some articulation, but the 2.5″ and 7″ do not.

15″ Pinetar Pete – Other figures in this size include Pigskin and Hoop Dribbles.

7″ Ox – According to Ox’s bio “Ox snorts fire, hoots the ground, gets down on all fours and stampedes through the line.  Ox is a vegetarian who hates the idea of steak and hamburger, can you blame him.”  The 7″ line is the most common.

2.5″ Team Pack – Figures in this size also came packaged individually.  Like the 15″ figures, these aren’t the easiest to find.

I don’t believe this toy line was successful enough to see a Series 2.  If you came across a prototype figure that some HG Toys employee took home with them, that could hold some value.  For the most part, these creatures have been long forgotten.

Under The Tree: 1970 Chemtoy Major League Baseball Player Bouncing Balls

Toy manufacturer Chemtoy decided to combine two popular toys at the time – bouncy balls and baseball cards.  The result is a set of bouncy balls with pictures of baseball players inside them.  On the reverse side of the picture you’ll find a red or blue background, name, position, team, and a 4-digit number.  Each team has around (12) balls.  It can be quite difficult to see the player’s picture since the material Chemtoy used is very foggy.  Its not uncommon for them to yellow with age.  Many of them contain bubbles.

Chemtoy distributed them a few different ways.  Full boxes contain (144) balls.  Boxes can be team-oriented.  They can also be a mix of teams from the National or American League.  Blister packs were another delivery method.  Vending machines too.

About (285) balls make up the entire set.  Although when it comes to a product like this a newly discovered addition could popup one day.  Sometimes the most obscure players can be the hardest to find.  Stars like Pete Rose, Willie Mays, Ernie Banks, Reggie Jackson, Hank Aaron, Tom Seaver, Roberto Clemente, and Ted Williams each have balls.  Roberto Clemente can actually be found with two different colored backgrounds.

Collectors can’t get enough of these.  You rarely see them sell for under $10 per ball.  I’ve seen set/player collectors spend hundreds on a single ball they needed.

In 1969, Chemtoy made a football set of bouncy balls.  You almost never see these.  They’re a lot rarer than the 1970 baseball follow-up.

Even though this product might be presented as a “Super Ball” by a lot of collectors, they’re really considered to be more of a bouncy ball.  Wham-O has the distinct honor of being the creator of the Super Ball, and continues to make use of that name today.  Similar products made by other manufacturers are considered to be bouncy balls.  This is due to the different materials used to make their products.  In short, all “Super Balls” are bouncy balls, but not all bouncy balls are “Super Balls”.

FYI – Kansas City Chiefs owner and American Football League founder Lamar Hunt came up with the name “Super Bowl” after watching his kids play with a “Super Ball”.

Under The Tree: 1997 Best Heroes Of The Gridiron Action Figures

Best was the go-to manufacturer in the 90’s and early 2000’s when it came to MiLB licensed cards.  They were based out of Austell, Georgia, and issued some nice stuff.  In my mind they never rose to the level of importance like some of the other manufacturers.  Today they are no longer around.

Its normal for card companies to try out different ideas.  In 1997, Best took a shot at officially licensed college football action figures.  Each figure measures 6.5″ tall, and comes with a removable helmet.  The checklist for the 1997 set consists of (12) players:

  • Herschel Walker – Georgia
  • Errict Rhett – Florida
  • Reggie White – Tennessee
  • Derrick Thomas – Florida State
  • Brett Favre – Southern Miss
  • Ki Jana Carter – Penn State
  • Dan Marino – Pittsburgh
  • Rod Woodson – Purdue
  • Marshall Faulk – San Diego State
  • Herman Moore – Virginia
  • Desmond Howard – Michigan
  • Deion Sanders – Florida State

At the time of their release, Stating Lineup was still the king of sports figures.  Best’s Heroes Of The Gridiron were a little easier to play with though because of their full articulation.  Best released another set of figures in 1998 under the same name.  That set has (18) figures in it.

The line of figures released by Best never really took off like Starting Lineup did.  All of the figures made by Best can easily be found for $5 to $10.  I’m sure there were some football fans who had these waiting under the Christmas tree for them back in ’97 and ’98.

Under The Tree: 1983 Tonka NFL Players Figures & Vans

Sports toys of the past can be quite interesting to look back on.  Your options are entertaining.  One of these options comes from Tonka.  There aren’t too many kids who didn’t play with a Tonka Truck growing up at one time or another.

In 1983, Tonka released a line of NFL themed toys featuring figures and vans.  These figures are not player specific, although each one does come with a bunch of stickers containing jersey numbers that you can place on the figure and imagine its a certain player.  They are cheaply put together, and the helmets don’t even have the team logos.  Tonka describes them as: “NFL Players are the collectible, fully articulated action figures, from your favorite NFL Teams.  Each player comes with his own display stand, decal sheet for decorating, and a team emblem.  There are figures for all 28 NFL Teams.  Be the first on your block to collect them all.

Painted on helmets make these things look like Hannibal Lecter.

That same year, Tonka made NFL inspired team vans.  Each van came packaged with an according NFL figure and bench.

Prizm In A Pear Tree Contest Winner Announced

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Congrats to Shane K on being the lucky winner of the E’Twaun Moore 12-13 Prizm Auto.  Once Shane K sends me their mailing address, I will ship this card ASAP.  Thanks!