Tag Archives: Bob Windsor’s All-Pro Sports

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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