The 1966 Philadelphia Gum Co. Brian Piccolo "Rookie"
In our third installment of Bob Lemke’s Cool Custom Cards, we thought we’d move on to football – the 1966 Philadelphia Gum Co. “rookie card that never was” (as Bob so aptly described it on his blog) of Bears legend Brian Piccolo. As many of you know, Piccolo appeared on only one card – the 1969 Topps “rookie,” which featured Piccolo sans helmet in front of a deep red background. This creation by Bob Lemke captures Piccolo as he should have appeared on his rookie card – cradling a striped pigskin (“The Duke?”) in a pose for photographers with a cool grin on his face, shortly after graduating from Wake Forest and being named the ACC’s Player of the Year in 1964 (his senior campaign). As the card’s back states, Piccolo was never drafted – the Bears signed him as a free agent.
Unfortunately, Piccolo’s story ends sadly; he succumbed to cancer at the age of 26. His friendship with his Bears backfield mate, Gale Sayers, was the subject of the film Brian’s Song, starring Billy Dee Williams as Sayers and James Caan as Piccolo.
Bob Lemke is a collector of bubblegum cards in the 1950s-1960s, Bob Lemke's hobby today is creating cards of current and former “players” in those "golden age" styles. He currently edits the vintage sections of the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards and maintains a hobby blog at boblemke.blogspot.com.