(This is an excerpt from an article by Ron Jacobs, Hawaii Magazine, December 1996)
...Among collectors in Hawaii, a local boy card features a player who was born in and/or played high school or college ball in Hawaii. There are far more local boy football cards than from the other sports combined. A few sons of Hawaii enjoyed marginal careers in major league baseball. Several University of Hawaii basketball players rode benches in the National Basketball Association. Anyone know of any professional hockey players from Hawaii?
There have been local boy football cards since 1948, the year that the Exhibit Supply Company of Chicago immortalized the first--and possibly the greatest--football star to emerge from the Islands: "Squirmin'" Herman Wedemeyer, "The Flyin' Hawaiian."
A flamboyant runner, Wedemeyer was a sensation from the moment he donned the uniform of the Crusaders of St. Louis. Then the school was called a college but actually it was one of the eight members of the original ILH (the others being Punahou, Kamehameha, Iolani, McKinley, Roosevelt, Kaimuki, and Farrington).
After graduation, Wedemeyer was headed for Notre Dame, but, as he recently told me, his transcript failed to arrive at South Bend, Indiana, in time. "Also," said Wedemeyer, "I knew St. Mary's would be much warmer and closer to home, so I enrolled there."
Playing for the small Northern California school, Wedemeyer was still named a college All-American and was drafted by the Los Angeles Dons, members of a renegade league organized to challenge the NFL. "The next year I was playing for the Baltimore Colts, taking hand-offs from Johnny Unitas," recalls Wedemeyer.
But he tired of football and cold weather, returned home to Hawaii and teamed up with another talented local athlete, Wally Yonamine. The two spent several years playing baseball in Japan. Wedemeyer achieved fame again in the 1960s, when he was cast in the role of Duke, a member of Jack Lord's elite "Hawaii Five-0" squad.
Wedemeyer's pigskin prowess, combined with the scarcity of Exhibit cards in general, makes his one-and-only card one of the rarest (and therefore the most valuable) of the thousands of football cards ever issued. After spotting the Wedemeyer card at a collector's show in Southern California early this year, I gave him a call. It was no surprise that Wedemeyer was cordial on the phone; he's one of the nicest people I've ever met. What was surprising was that Wedemeyer himself had never seen his own card--after 48 years.
Originally, Exhibit cards were sold in vending machines priced at three for a penny. A mint condition 1948 Herman Wedemeyer card is valued in the current Beckett Football Card Price guide at $500. O.J. Simpson's 1970 rookie card, in comparison, is listed at $160.
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