Do Ya-Lo Football Game Cards Depict Red Grange?
Ya-Lo Corporation/Game Background
In 1925, the Ya-Lo Corporation developed a unique football board/card game. The game, as advertised, featured thousands of different play combinations. Its big selling point was that consumers could play it over and over with limitless outcomes, just like a real football game.
The first Ya-Lo game was produced in 1925 – Grange’s rookie year in the NFL. Ya-Lo recreated the game in 1934. Why is that significant? It was the year Grange retired.
Notably, the game included a total of 200 cards to simulate game play – there were 100 offensive cards and 100 defensive cards. One side of the cards included game actions while the other side had a picture of an unnamed player. All 100 offensive cards pictured a ball carrier while the defensive cards showed a player in a defensive stance.
Red Grange’s Involvement
The company, as many do, turned to a celebrity for help. At the time, Red Grange was just finishing his college career and about to become a star with the Chicago Bears, who would sign him late in the year. Grange was more than a spokesperson for the company. According to a 1925 article in The Decatur Daily Review, Grange helped form the Ya-Lo Corporation. To say that he was the public face of the company was probably putting it lightly.
Grange was often cited as merely a spokesperson. But in reality, that wasn’t true. At least not publicly. While Grange’s duties were likely more along the lines of those of a spokesperson, technically, he was regularly cited a vice president of the company, as outlined here.
Since their production nearly 100 years ago, the Ya-Lo Football Game cards have always been believed to not picture any specific player. But there is also some reasonably solid evidence that suggests the cards could depict the Hall of Famer himself.
Now, Grange’s name is not on the cards. But there are also several reasons why the images on the cards could be of Grange.
The Case for Grange
First and foremost, Grange was arguably the biggest star in the game after his extremely successful college career. He was in demand as soon as he graduated and the idea that the company would want to capitalize on his likeness is understandable. And that he was tied to the company, giving them access to him, made that even more likely. And while the corporation could not have used the Illinois or Chicago Bears names without compensation, they certainly were well within their rights to use an image of Grange, who was obviously very involved in the company.
So let’s dig into the design a little bit.
For more evidence, look no further than the colors of the cards – navy blue and orange. Navy and orange have been the University of Illinois’ (Grange’s Alma Mater) athletics colors since the 1800s. Further, they were also to the colors of Grange’s pro team, the Chicago Bears. Heck, Grange was identified by those colors and I’m not sure that using those colors was a coincidence.
Finally, consider that there are both offensive and defensive cards – one design for each side of the ball. Both the offensive and defensive players look like the same person. And, you guessed it – Grange was one of the premier two-way players in the game, suiting up on both offense and defense. If there was one guy to play the part and represent both sides of the ball, it would have been him.
None of this, of course, is the kind of without-a-doubt, slam dunk evidence that fans will crave. What really is needed to definitively call these Grange cards is some kind of documentation from the time of production or, more attainable, original images of Grange in these poses. But even without that evidence, it isn’t unreasonable to connect the dots and suggest that the cards depict the College and Pro Football Hall of Famer.