Tag Archives: Bob Windsor’s All-Pro Sports

A Lost Laurel Super Bowl Story

This Sunday’s Super Bowl match-up between the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots has special meaning for me. And despite the conflicting geography, it all points back to Laurel.

I should start by confessing something—I grew up rooting for the Eagles. (Hold your jeers, please). I was only 7 years old when my cousin’s family moved from Laurel to the Philadelphia suburbs; and visiting there, being immersed in Eagles fever (this was 1980, the year the Eagles would go on to their first Super Bowl) I naturally gravitated towards the green and silver. The first NFL game I attended in person was an Eagles/Redskins game at Veterans Stadium—and I was hooked.

I should’ve seen it as a relationship that was doomed from the start. That January, our TV decided to break. It was still in the shop at Belmont TV by the time Super Bowl XV aired, and my dad and I were forced to listen to the game on the radio, like it was the Great Depression or something. And depressing it was—the Eagles, actually favored to win, somehow lost to the Oakland Raiders. And they wouldn’t make another Super Bowl appearance for 24 long years.

My entire childhood—and then some—was spent rooting for a team that was at times great, and at other times awful. And at all times, just never quite good enough to win the big one.

I was about 9 or 10 when my parents took me to Montgomery Ward at Laurel Centre Mall to pick up something I’d been drooling over in their Christmas catalog for weeks: NFL Action Team Mates®. They were 7″ posable figures which came with numbered sticker sheets, letting you create your own players.

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This was decades before McFarlane would introduce their magnificently-crafted NFL figures; and even several years before we’d see the first Starting Lineup® figures, which were pretty revolutionary, themselves.

But getting back to the Action Team Mates®, I had my heart set on the Eagles and Redskins.

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There was one problem. The Wards associate informed us that they didn’t have any Eagles figures in stock. I was crushed. And I had exactly 10 seconds to decide which other team figures I wanted.

I couldn’t stand the Cowboys; I had no interest in the Giants. Instead, my mind went directly to Laurel’s all-time favorite sporting goods store owner, Bob Windsor. Bob had actually played for the New England Patriots, and would always give customers an autographed photo. Mine was taped to my bedroom wall at the time, I’m sure.

So, without hesitation, I asked, “Do you have the New England Patriots?” They did. And after several minutes of waiting in the catalog order pickup department, I went home with a complete set of NFL Action Team Mates®, including the cardboard field, the goal posts, sideline markers and benches, and the Redskins and Patriots—two teams which, ironically, I can’t recall ever having even faced each other. But I digress. It was awesome.

Now let’s flash forward a few decades.

By the late 2000s, I was admittedly growing tired of being an Eagles fan—something I never thought could happen. I still loved the players; but the perennial disappointment of underachieving teams had worn on me. Worse, I didn’t like the way the management seemed to have an air of entitlement, despite having never won a Super Bowl. They’d cut veteran players as soon as they turned 30 years old, and being a 30-something at the time, myself, that was frustrating.

Frankly, I also didn’t like the reputation Eagles fans had—especially here in the DC area. As the team became more successful/popular—going to a string of consecutive NFC Championship Games, especially—displaced fans tended to overcompensate and go out of their way to be obnoxious. Having grown up attending games in Philadelphia, I knew that the majority of the actual hometown fans were not really that bad. For the most part, they’re knowledgeable and passionate about their team, and nowhere near the stereotype you see so often in this area. I certainly was never like that. And I didn’t want to be associated with that reputation.

Between that and the constantly-changing rosters due to free agency, I decided to step away from being a die-hard Philly fan, and actually tried to root for my hometown Washington Redskins in earnest these past few years. However, I quickly realized that this team—particularly its management under Dan Snyder and Bruce Allen—makes cheering for them infinitely harder than anything I ever endured with the Eagles.

But getting back on topic, it was during this period of transition that I parted ways with a lot of my Eagles memorabilia—keeping only a few mementos from the earlier years that I’ll always treasure.

And while weeding through that stuff, I came across a couple of those old NFL Action Team Mates® figures, a couple of which had somehow survived relatively unscathed. (Not this one, unfortunately):

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I found a Patriots figure to which I’d applied the number 12 some 30 years earlier, and decided to list it on eBay—playing to that legion of Tom Brady fans. To my surprise, somebody actually did a Buy It Now for $150.

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I absolutely detest the Patriots—particularly after their 3-point win over Philadelphia in Super Bowl XXXIX—and even moreso in the years that have followed, with the cheating scandals and the general arrogance that they project. But I did get some degree of satisfaction knowing that I fleeced one of their fans for $150—for an action figure that was, to me, just a stand-in for the team I’d really wanted.

The Patriots are once again favored to beat the Eagles tomorrow night in what will be their record 10th Super Bowl appearance. And like the last time they faced off, the Eagles aren’t 100% healthy. But for some strange reason, I’m surprisingly optimistic… I can see Philadelphia actually getting to Brady and pulling off the upset. I’m just trying to visualize how it would feel, seeing the dream of them finally win a Super Bowl realized.

Either way, I’m encouraged with the direction the Eagles are heading. Win or lose, they should be legitimate contenders for the foreseeable future. And I’m happy to have rekindled some of the childhood passion I had for this team. Unlikely as it may seem, cheering for the Philadelphia Eagles brings fond memories of growing up in Laurel, Maryland.

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Meeting Bob Windsor… Again!

A couple of weeks ago, I had the good fortune of learning something new on my own Lost Laurel Facebook page. Reader John Mewshaw posted a link to a sports memorabilia event being held at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly, Virginia. Listed there, at the very bottom of the page (by Cincinnati Bengals running back Ickey Woods—he of the famous “Ickey Shuffle”) was none other than Bob Windsor—the former NFL tight end who owned the wonderful Bob Windsor’s All-Pro Sports at Laurel Plaza Shopping Center throughout the 1970s and 80s. Bob was going to be there signing autographs the very next morning!

CSA Chantilly Show, Bob Windsor

It just so happens that today, I live only a few miles from the Dulles Expo Center; and I hadn’t seen Bob Windsor since I was a kid in his store nearly 30 years ago—when I would look forward to getting an autographed 8″ x 10″ with every purchase.

Bob Windsor 1980s autographed photo

A well-worn memento from the past, circa 1983

I made the short drive to Chantilly on Saturday morning, April 5th, and found the place packed just as it opened. Even though I knew where Bob’s table would be located, he was easy to spot, chatting with an old-timer from the area. I waited patiently behind the older gentleman, and when it was my turn, I said, (with a straight face) “Hi Bob. I’ve had this coupon for like 30 years, and there doesn’t seem to be an expiration date on it…”

I watched the confusion on his face turn to laughter when I revealed the “coupon” to be an enlarged print of one of his 1980s sneaker trade-in ads. “HOLY COW,” he exclaimed. “I haven’t seen one of those since… I don’t know when!”

Bob Windsor & Richard Friend, 4/5/14

I then revealed what I’d really come to do. I introduced myself, explaining that I’d grown up at Steward Manor Apartments just across the street from his store, and that my friends and I used to practically live there. Now a graphic designer, I’d actually created a book about Laurel’s past businesses—Lost Laurel. I leafed through the book to the 1980s section, and watched Bob’s face light up even more when he spotted pages 158–159:

Lost Laurel book: Bob Windsor

I told him that I wanted to give him the book (and some extra copies for his family) and finally say thank you for the countless good memories he and his store provided, and for all he’s done for Laurel, Maryland through the years. I had the chance to chat with him for a few moments, and he explained the history behind that memorable photo of him:

“We were playing the Giants—that was actually in Yankee Stadium. I had just caught that pass, (from quarterback Jim Plunkett) and was only on my feet for about a second and a half… and then got hit and flipped upside down by a linebacker and a defensive back!”

When I asked if he could remember who the linebacker and defensive back were, Bob laughed and said, “Oh, I don’t want to remember!”

We shook hands again, and Bob asked if I was a Redskins fan. Without getting into my long-winded NFL fan history, (which included a brutal 27 years, rooting for the Philadelphia Eagles throughout some of their lowliest seasons) I simply said yes—I’m finally trying to cheer for my own home team these days. With that, Bob reached into a folder and handed me a signed Sonny Jurgensen photo. (!!!) He then pointed to the sneaker trade-in ad I’d brought, and in a moment that transported me straight back to 1983, he asked, “Want me to sign that for you?”

Yes, indeed I did. 🙂

Bob Windsor's ad, 1986

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Bob Windsor, San Francisco 49er

Photo: us44mt (flickr)

This being Super Bowl Sunday, Laurelites will surely recognize this young San Francisco 49er—and later popular Laurel businessman. Eventually a member of the New England Patriots as well, Bob Windsor will undoubtedly be watching today’s game with interest.

With all due respect to Bob, I’ll still be rooting for the Giants. 😉

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Bob Windsor’s All-Pro Sports

It hasn’t been much to look at over the past 20 years or so, but in the early 1980s, this little store on the west corner of Laurel Plaza was something special. Bob Windsor’s All-Pro Sports was ahead of its time.

Bob Windsor was an NFL tight end, and by most accounts, a pretty good one at that. He was the second-round draft choice for the San Francisco 49ers in 1966. In his five years there, he made the All Rookie Team and was an All Pro selection. Traded to the New England Patriots for a number one draft choice in 1971, he played another five years before retiring in 1976. It was that year that he returned to his native Washington, DC area and opened his immensely popular store in Laurel.

Excerpt from The Washington Post, October 21, 1976. Page E10

 

Growing up at Steward Manor Apartments just across Routes 198 and 197, I was fortunate to live within walking distance. And I took advantage of it, visiting early and often during those summer months. The store had everything a sports fan could want: jerseys, pennants, stickers, hats, jackets, lamps, trashcans—all licensed merchandise for seemingly every team in every pro sport. And this was on top of Bob’s outstanding selection of sneakers and other brand name sports apparel and equipment. He actually carried a better selection in this modest corner shop than many of today’s mammoth retailers, and he did it in an era when most of these items were only available through mail order catalogs.

Bob also cornered the market on local youth sports, silkscreening uniforms for Laurel High’s teams as well as those of the Laurel Boys & Girls Club and Maryland City Mustangs. (To this day, I still have my very first Mustangs jersey from 1980, and my Eisenhower Middle School gym t-shirt from 1984—both of which would now barely fit my dogs).

But as a kid growing up in Laurel, the best part really was Bob Windsor himself. At 6’4, he was already larger than life; tack on his genuine personality and good nature, and he was a legitimate role model—and something of a local celebrity to us all. In fact, for many kids from our neighborhood, the autographed 8 x 10 glossies that Bob happily gave out upon request were the first autographs we ever received. And, I’d be willing to bet I’m not the only one who still has mine. 🙂

 

 

 

Postscript: I’ve also tracked down some of Bob Windsor’s early team photos with the ‘Niners—a team that included a young Steve Spurrier at quarterback. Bob is #89, Spurrier is #11.

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