If you happened to turn on a cable news network Tuesday afternoon and see the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, you may have seen a weird discussion with Texas Senator Ted Cruz that had nothing to do with politics.
It had plenty to do with basketball — and the skills of a former associate justice of the Supreme Court, Byron White, who was appointed to the court in 1962 and was there until 1993.
Apparently he was known for his elbows and odd free-throws — and what was mentioned in passing as part of this off-topic discussion? The NFL.
Byron “Whizzer” White played just three seasons in the NFL after he was taken fourth overall in the 1938 NFL Draft but he led the league in rushing twice — 567 yards in 1938 for the Pittsburgh Pirates (now Steelers) and in 1940 for the Detroit Lions. His final stats? A total of 387 carries for 1,321 yards and 11 touchdowns — the numbers from a career that ended when he joined the Navy and he opted to focus on just law school after returning from World War II.
And then he had a decorated and interesting legal career, which you can see outlined here.
As for cardboard, well, there wasn’t much around in his day. His Rookie Card is from the 1955 Topps All-American set (there are two versions — one with an incorrect biography on the back and a correction) that focuses on his stardom at the University of Colorado. Cardboard after that? A handful of cut autographs from several brands have been made — 2007 National Treasures, 2009 and 2010 Donruss Classics, 2010 Limited, 2012 and 2014 National Treasures and 2016 Panini Impeccable.
That’s it — and it’s a bit surprising considering White had a notable career and was retired for some time before his death at age 84 in 2002.
Of course, there’s another “Whizzer” White and he’s got at least one card, too. It’s a 1954 Bowman card, No. 125, and it lists his name as Whizzer White even though his name was Wilford and his nickname was, yes, “Whizzer.”
You’ll never guess which one I bought after an online search was piqued by my simple curiosity.
It was cheap so it’s no big deal, but I should have checked Pro Football Reference first to learn that there were a pair of Whizzers in the record books. I had no idea and 1930s to 1950s football is far from my area of everyday collecting.
Thanks, Ted Cruz … at least I learned something today.
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