This week, on Introduction to Sports Memorabilia, we examine two Kevin Lepage race worn and Signed driver helmets, the first from his rookie campaign in the Busch Grand National Series in 1994, and the second from his time at Roush Racing in 1999.
By David G. Firestone
Like many guys, I love The Benny Hill Show. It was silly, goofy, raunchy, politically incorrect, and profane. Needless to say it is a lot of fun. Benny played many memorable characters, including Fred Scuttle, and Mr. Chow Mein. It offended a lot of people in its time. In fact, many of the episodes that were shown on American television were edited for content.
Though Benny frequently played sports fans and athletes on the show, they always wore generic uniforms with no logos. Even when he played American characters and sports fans, they never wore logos or mentioned teams by name. Interestingly, this for no reason changed in 1986. During a sketch called “The Herd” Benny played a number of different cast members. One scene in paticular caught my eye. Benny is playing a grizzled Texas cattle rancher on a golf course. For reason only known to him, Benny can clearly be seen wearing a Baltimore Orioles cap…One of the more risky logos they used was in a sketch concerning jogging. At one point, Henry McGee goes to a park and gets a cigarette, but can’t find a lighter. As he is looking, a man carrying a torch and wearing the Olympic Rings on his shirt walk jogs up. McGee calls him over, lights his cigarette and then proceeds to blow the torch out.
This next part requires some backstory. Richard Whatling was a cast member on The Benny Hill show. The son of Benny Hill cast member Sue Upton, from 1988-1989 he played many child roles on the show, eventually joining “Hills Little Angels.” Hills Angels were a cast of female cast members who were known for their raunchy dancing routines. Hills Little Angels were a cast of children, namely, Joanna Kirkland-daughter of producer Dennis Kirkland, Jade Westbrook-daughter of cast member Jenny Westbrook, Adam Johnstone-son of a choreographer, and Adam and sister Louise Whatling.
By 1988, when Whatling joined the cast, The Benny Hill Show was in the twilight years. Long time cast member Jackie Wright had left the show due to health reasons. The show was noticeably more conservative, many of the jokes had been run their course. So Hills Little Angels came about. Richard played a character who from here on out, I will refer to as “Baseball Boy” because he always wears something with an MLB logo on it. Baseball Boy’s first appearance was in a sketch called “Hill’s Little Angels: Outdoor Games” It starts with the kids sitting in the dark watching TV. As they pan to each kid, Baseball Boy is wearing a New York Yankees sweatshirt. Benny decides to takes them to the park for a picnic. As they leave the house, Benny puts on a scout master hat, and Baseball Boy has added a Yankee cap. One thing leads to another, and Baseball Boy winds up playing..cricket? In New York Yankees apparel? Makes no sense at all, at least to me. Baseball Boy was a trouble maker. He would flirt at other children from cars, play croquet, and insult women.He would never take his cap off, even to have dinner with the local minister.He would also switch from Yankees gear to Mets gear. One of his more memorable appearances was in the next to last episode. In a series of sketches termed “Misunderstandings II” where he not only wears a Mets cap, but a Doc Gooden jersey. Tragically, Baseball Boy and the rest of the show met their end in 1989, when Thames Television pulled the plug on The Benny Hill Show. Benny Hill is one of the most underrated comedians of all time in my mind, and when he died in 1992 at age 68. Benny, you are missed, and you will be missed.
Last week, I discussed my favorite driver to collect, and this week I will examine his most well-known sponsor. From 1994-1997 Musgrave was sponsored by the Family Channel. The distinctive patriotic red white and blue design with that Family Channel logo was eye catching. The Family Channel logo was classic 1990’s design. It was also an idea whose time had come, and is still a great idea.
It was founded by Pat Robertson in 1977 as the CBN Satellite Service, which focused on Christian Broadcast Network programing. By 1981, it had re-branded as the CBN Cable Network, which began to focus more on family-friendly programing. It was a channel where families could watch together without needless violence, and gratuitous sex, something that should be redone today. The major moment was in 1990 when the channel became too profitable for the non-profit Christian Broadcast Network, and was transferred to International Family Entertainment, Inc. The CBN Cable Network became The Family Channel, and began to air recent dramas and sitcoms, as well as cartoons. In 1994, to gain visibility, The Family Channel joined forces with Roush Racing to create the #16 Family Channel Ford Thunderbird. This partnership lasted for 3 years, and Ted raced in 124 races, with 15 top 5’s and 36 top 10’s.
During the 1997 season, The Family Channel was purchased by Fox Kids Worldwide Inc. which was a joint venture between News Corporation, and Saban which re-branded the channel as Fox Family channel. This was out of necessity, as the average age of the viewer under the Family Channel banner was much older, and Fox Family set about trying to win back the younger viewers. The channel was used for everything from movies to cartoons, to Fox programing to Major League baseball. It became clear when the channel went from 10th in ratings to 17th in Nielsen ratings, that something was not working. Many outside observers felt that the push for younger viewers alienated the previous viewers.
In July 2001, almost 4 years to the date, the channel was sold to ABC and re-branded it ABC Family, which still operates to this day. It has come up with a format that amalgamates the two different styles of network. Though it hasn’t regained its previous glory, it has created a network that is family-friendly and appeals to families, not just young kids.
The #16 race team it spawned has had just as interesting a history. Roush had started in NASCAR in 1988, with Mark Martin as a driver and Stroh’s Light as the sponsor. They had a lot of success as a combo, and a second team was created in 1992. Wally Dallenbach Jr. started driving the Keystone Beer sponsored #16 Ford Thunderbird in 1992. Changes came in 1994, When Ted Musgrave was taken on as a sponsor. Ted was kept on until midway through the 1998 season, when he was let go from the team, and replaced with Kevin Lepage.
In 1999, TV Guide became one of the primary sponsors, and Lepage had a decent start to the season. As 1999 went on, Primestar left, TV Guide stayed and Lepage slipped in the points standings. I own a Kevin Lepage race-worn and signed helmet from 1999. It has the distinctive red and yellow scheme that TV Guide was known for. In 2000, Family Click took over as a sponsor, but Lepage slightly improved finishing 26th . At the end of the season, Family Click left the team, Lepage was released, and the #16 team disappeared for the entire 2001 season.
In 2002, the #16 Roush Racing Ford came back to NASCAR with Greg Biffle. They ran a limited schedule with 7 races started of the 10 races Biffle attempted to qualify for. In 2003, Biffle raced in the #16 Ford full-time, winning the Winston Cup Rookie of the Year award. Biffle continues to race in the #16 Ford full time and has had a lot of success, having won 19 races between 2003 and 2013. This team has a very bright future ahead of it.
Now on to…
PAINT SCHEME REVIEWS
Greg Biffle #16 Megulars Ford Fusion Best scheme Greg Biffle has run all year…and since that this is a C+ scheme, that is really sad. The color scheme is good, but the car design is awful.
Travis Kvpail #32 SK Handtools Ford Fusion Great design, great color scheme A+
David Stremme #33 Mace Chevy SS Great design, great color scheme, and I think that this is the first self-defense spray I have seen sponsor a car, so A+
David Reuitmann #35 MDS Ford Fusion Great color scheme, great design scheme, works very well, A+
Justin Allgaier #51 SEM Chevy SS Great color scheme, great design scheme, works very well, A+
Justin Allgaier #51 AccuDoc Chevy SS Decent color scheme, yellow is a bit too bright, otherwise a great scheme, A-
Dave Blaney #77 Humphrey Racing Ford Fusion Great color scheme, great design scheme, works very well, A+
Josh Wise #98 Trench Shoring Chevy SS Great color scheme, great design scheme, works very well, A+
This week, we examine a Steve Grissom 1998 Kodiak Helmet.
During a conversation over lunch a few weeks ago, I was asked by a co-worker if I have a favorite driver to collect. My response was “Ted Musgrave” but the longer I thought, the deeper it went. I began to think about why he is my favorite driver to collect, as opposed to Dale Earnhardt Sr. who was my favorite driver to watch on track. From there I began to think about sponsors and teams, and for the next 2 weeks, we will examine these three factors, driver, sponsor and team in depth.
We will start with the driver. Theodore “Ted” Musgrave was born in Waukegan Illinois, which is roughly 28 miles from Evanston where I grew up. Having a hometown driver from your area in the Sprint Cup Series is always a plus. He raced for many years in Wisconsin, and began to drive for the ASA in 1987, winning one event before moving to NASCAR in 1989, where he raced a full Busch Series season. In 1990, he raced 4 Winston Cup events, before joining the series full time in 1991. He would lose the Rookie of the Year award to Bobby Hamilton. He raced for the #55 Jasper Engines machine from 1991-1993, for two different owners.
In 1994 he joined Roush Racing driving the #16 Family Channel Ford Thunderbird. Joining Mark Martin boosted his status immediately. The familiar patriotic red white and blue Thunderbird was an attention getter and he had a number of races that he should have won. In a feature for Winston Cup Illustrated, a number of drivers who hadn’t won a race were featured, and each of these drivers had reasons why they haven’t won as part of the article. For Musgrave, this part of the article read “It’s puzzling.” He had a decent career with Roush, but in 1998, Roush let Musgrave go, and replaced him with Kevin Lepage. After leaving Roush, Musgrave joined NASCAR Hall of Fame owner Bud Moore for two races for Rescue Engine Formula, then bounced aground the Sprint Cup until 2003.
In 2001, he had started driving for the Craftsman Truck Series full-time, and here he found his true calling in NASCAR. From 2001-2010 he won 17 races, had 80 top 5’s and 109 top 10’s. He would win the Truck Series title in 2005, while driving the #1 MOPAR Dodge Ram. That season, he had 1 win, 11 top 5’s, 15 top 10’s as well as an average finish of 9.4 in the 25 races held that year. After that, he raced for 3 more years, but only scored one more win. He retired after 2010.
Now I covered this to some extent in January of 2013, but let’s delve further. I have two Ted Musgrave driver suits, this first one is from 1995.
It has the familiar Family Channel motif. It also has a ROUSH RACING and NASCAR WINSTON CUP SERIES logos. No television logos exist on the arms or legs. And that classic name on the chest design that bit the dust shortly thereafter.From 1996, I have this helmet.
I also have this suit from 1998, which was designed after Musgrave was released from Roush Racing. It has TV logos, though not in the “proper” configuration for NASCAR, a NASCAR 50th Anniversary logo,and Ted’s name on the belt.When it comes to die casts, I have 4, two from 1996, as well as a 1996 hauler, and a die cast from 1997. This is a large piece of sheet metal from his days with Germain Racing, which Ted has autographed on the side.My last two pieces of Ted Musgrave memorabilia are two of the oldest and most cherished pieces in my collection. These two autographed hero cars were given to me from a family friend. She had encountered Ted Musgrave at a party and happened to get these from him directly. I love and treasure these two cards and never get tired of looking at them. Next week, we will look at his most well-known sponsor, The Family Channel, but now on to…
Paint Scheme Reviews!
Ryan Newman #31 Kwikset Chevy SS Looks exactly like Kurt Busch’s scheme, and it earns the same A+ grade
Landon Cassill #40 CRC Brakleen Chevy SS I like the color scheme, and the design is good. My only complaint is that it doesn’t clarify that CRC Brakleen is a brake fluid. Still it earns an A
Brian Vickers #55 Treatmyclot.com Toyota Camry A good scheme, and the 55 lettering looks really good here, and the gold is a nice touch. The treatmyclot.com logo works better than the Aarons logo, A+
Every good baseball team need a home for spring training. In 1959, the San Francisco Giants played their final game at Seals Stadium, a small, crowded, outdated facility in the Mission District of San Francisco. Starting in 1960, the Giants would play their home games at the brand new Candlestick Park. Giants owner Horace Stoneham renovated a large chunk of land near Casa Grande Arizona into a spring training resort named Francisco Grade, Francisco for the San Francisco Giants, and Grande for Casa Grande.
Francisco Grande hosted the Giants from 1959-1979, and during the resort’s early years, it became a desert refuge for Hollywood celebrities, like John Wayne, Pat Boone, and Gale Gordon. Willy McCovey, Juan Marichal and Willy Mays honed their skills at the ballpark, with Mays hitting a 375 foot homer in 1959. After the Giants left for Scottsdale in 1980, the facility wasn’t utilized until the California Angels came in 1982 through 1984. The Angels went all the way to the ALCS before losing to the Milwaukee Brewers. For those three seasons, the Angels prepared for the season, with talent like Reggie Jackson and Rod Carew working on the same diamonds that, 20 years before, Juan Marichal, Willy McCovey, Orlando Cepada, Gaylord Perry, Jose Pagan, Don Larsen and Willy Mays had utilized before their 1962 World Series Title.
When the Angels left, the facility was converted to a football field for the Arizona Wranglers and Denver Gold of the ill-fated USFL. Then it was converted into a golf course, which hosted a number of PGA events. Then in 2003, it closed for renovations. Two years and $8.5 million later, it has evolved into a world-class golf resort.
Most of the baseball equipment from the early glory days has been lost to history. Some of the home plates and equipment used is in a display in the resort. I acquired one of, if not the only remaining pitching rubbers from that resort. To think that Juan Marichal, Billy Pierce, Don Larsen, Gaylord Perry, Warren Spahn, Steve Stone, Vida Blue, or Tommy John used this pitching rubber is just mind blowing! It shows its age, but is still in decent condition. These baseballs were also rescued during the renovations. They have lost their leather covering and red stitches, but they clearly were there for a long time, and one can only dream of who used them… In additon there are also some hotel key tags from the days before plastic cards. When checking in, the front desk agent would hand the guest a key with one of these tags to let them know where their room was. These would be returned at the end of the stay. These were also rescued during the renovations, and many show their age as well.
The days of McCovey and Mays may be long gong, but the resort has risen anew. The success of the golf resort as well as the popularity of warm resort during the winter season has taken the resort from a humble ballpark to a world-renowned destination. The future looks as bright as the Arizona sun for Francisco Grande.
For the 11th Season Premier of Introduction to Sports Memorabilia, we examine a Derrike Cope 1998 Gumout Helmet, which he has autographed twice.. From here on out, I will upload new videos on Mondays.