By CHRIS HOBBS
Collecting sports cards – baseball, football and basketball — is a hobby that keeps me young.
A lot of fans who love sports, especially at the pro level, can often associate a particular player with a year/time in their life much like music/songs can also do for others.
Had an interesting chat this week at lunch with Seth Mabry, the head honcho of Newton’s Observer News Enterprise, and the O-N-E’s Sports Editor, Cody Dalton.
Cody loves following Virginia Tech football, and we got to talking about a former Hokies star, wide receiver Carroll Dale.
Dale (see his 1970 Topps football card below) played in the first two Super Bowls with the Green Bay Packers. He actually began his NFL career with my favorite team, the Los Angeles Rams, after they drafted him with the 86th pick of the 1960 draft.
Dale played five years with the Rams until they traded him to the Packers for linebacker Dan Currie. He spent eight years with Green Bay and then a year with the Vikings before retiring after the 1973 season (career: 8,277 yards and 52 touchdowns and four rushes for 30 yards).
Dale, who turns 80 on April 24, is in four Hall of Fames – Virginia Tech (1976), Packers (1979) and College Football (1987) and Cody’s.
The football stadium at Dale’s high school, J.J. Kelly, is named Carroll Dale Stadium.
The other card pictured is my favorite player from my childhood, former N.C. State and L.A. Rams QB Roman Gabriel (1970 Topps as well).
Might be a small thing to some, but one of my favorite memories of being able to work in sports included Gabriel.
When he was part of a team bringing an old World Football League (WFL) game to Charlotte’s Memorial Stadium, the group called me to ask if I would consider working the stat crew for the game for a TV network that, best I remember, was out of Memphis.
It wasn’t a high-paying gig, but it was a good experience.
Within a few days after the game, the organizers (that included Roman) had a reception in Charlotte for those of us who worked the game that Saturday.
Gabriel called me at the newspaper office to issue an invitation to attend (which I did).
I must have been in my late 20s then… but that phone call was a moment I’ve never forgotten.
When I got off the phone, I quickly dialed my mom in Newton and said “You will never guess who just called me and invited me to a reception.”
“Who?” said my mom, who doesn’t know or care a great deal about sports but knew how much I thought of Gabe.
“Roman Gabriel… tell Granny” I said. “Who in the world would have ever thought I’d ever get to meet Roman Gabriel?”
Sports can make magical things happen — and, yes, at nearly age 59 – sometimes I still feel like a kid because of them.