Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Who's On First?

The Cubs have finally answered that age old question, posited by the eternally hilarious Lou Costello - "who's on first?"

Okay, in the Cubs situation, the question was more like, "who's coaching first?" but that doesn't flow nearly as well.

As part of the surprise cleansing and reshuffling of the coaching staff, former first base coach, Brandon Hyde, was shifted into the bench coach role in replacement of Davey Martinez, who finally got his chance at managing with the Nationals.  In the last few weeks, due to the lack of real hot stove season scoops, Cubs fans' minds have wandered, wondering just who might slot into that newly-opened first base vacancy.

Well, yesterday afternoon, we got our answer:

Former Padre, Ranger, and Dodger, Will Venable, officially hung up his spikes and joined the Chicago Cubs front office, as a special assistant to the GM, this past September.  It was a move that made a ton of sense, seeing as Will was drafted and developed under the Jed Hoyer regime and is thus quite familiar with the current FO.  Furthermore, as a Princeton graduate with a bachelor's degree in Anthropology, Venable added another brilliant mind to the highly analytical executive staff.  All in all, it was a match made in heaven.

Then, the Cubbie coaches started jumping ship.

Therefore, yesterday it was announced that the Cubs would be reshuffling their deck by moving Will out of the front office and back onto the field as Joe Maddon's first base coach.  Furthermore, the 1B coach is also expected to serve as the club's outfielders coach, which likely played into the decision to have the former fly-chaser and his career .988 fielding percentage move back down to the field.

Thankfully, I just so happened to have the above 2006 Bowman Originals single sitting in my trade stacks and I was able to immediately slide it into my Cubs' All-Time Coaches binder - an offshoot of my CATRC.  I must have acquired this card in some sort of repack, as I know I have never opened so much as a single pack of this one-and-done, semi-high end product.

It's not the most exciting card, but it gets the job done; plus, I appreciate the Spring Training/batting practice jersey appearance.  Additionally, courtesy of the back, I learned that Will was quite the all-around athlete - he has more hardwood highlights on the back of his baseball card than diamond credentials.  In fact, upon further research, he was recruited by Princeton as a basketball player exclusively and didn't even play baseball during his freshman year.  Maybe he could try to help out the disorganized mess known as the Chicago Bulls during the off-season?

Will Venable hoopin' with Princeton, image courtesy of Princeton Athletics

Now, the Cubs coaching staff is almost completely set - Venable at first, Brian Butterfield at third, Hyde on the bench, Lester Strode in the bullpen, Jim Hickey leads the pitchers while Chili Davis and Andy Haines handle the hitters.  At this point, the only vacant slot left is the quality control coach, as the aforementioned Martinez poached fan-favorite, Henry Blanco, and brought his to Washington.  I wonder who Joe Maddon and the Cubs might bring in to fill that position?

At any rate, welcome to Chicago, Will, and welcome to my crazy collection  as well!  Here's hoping that we don't hear your name too much during the 2018 campaign, as you seemingly only hear the base coaches names as the result of a bad send.

Fingers crossed that there's nothing but Good Will Sending!


P.S. - today's blog entry is something of a milestone; at least, it's a notable number anyway.  This writing is Wrigley Roster Jenga's 666th post... Zoinks - the number of the beast!  This post needs Jesus!

Good night, everybody!  I'll be here all week; don't forget to tip your waitresses.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

'Tis the Time to Argue

It's that time of year again - the leaves have fallen from the trees, there's a passing chill in the air, football is on the TV, and people everywhere are getting ready to gather around a table and aggressively argue over the family dinner.  I'm not talking about Thanksgiving though - of course, I'm talking about the fact that the BBWA released their annual Hall of Fame ballot yesterday afternoon.  Cooperstown membership credentials are America's second favorite thing to argue about, right behind politics, after all.

The disagreements should be exceptionally passionate this year, seeing as, by my count, there are at least 20 names on the list who deserve a serious discussion about induction.  All these years of gate-keeping are starting to catch up on the writers.

Among the names who will appear on the ballot are several with Cubs ties, with various levels of merit.  Last year, I examined those "Cubbie Connections" via the creation of some custom Conlon cards, using the brand's "Why Not in Hall of Fame?" subset.  Since tradition is also something lingering in the air during this time of year, I figured it would be fun to keep the line going in 2017.  With that, let's start by looking at the new additions to the roll, starting with the most serious:

It's almost hard to believe that the ageless Jamie Moyer has been retired for five years now - it seems like his much publicized comeback with the Rockies was only a few months back.  His astounding 25-year career (filled with many twists and turns) all got started with the Cubs from 1986-88.  Now, the oldest hurler to win a game at the Major League level and his gaudy 269 total wins are, nevertheless, auditioning for the class of 2018.

Sadly, I feel like Moyer plateaus at the "Hall of Very Good," as a classic stat-compiler.  Further working against the lefty is the fact that he never once lead a league in a meaningful stat, never garnered serious consideration for a Cy Young Award, and was only once an All-Star.  Seeing as Jamie is one of my all-time favorites, it pains me to say that he's not going to make it.

 Also appearing on the ballot for the first time are a pair of big names in Chicago from the aughts.  Maybe if things had gone a little differently for the duo, they'd merit some serious discussion.  But, as it stands, Kerry Wood was never able to stay healthy enough to build on the fame brought on by his 20 K game and Carlos Zambrano's hair-trigger temper probably shortened his career, as well.  In the end, while both were valuable, above average Big Leaugers (26.7 and 38.2 WAR, respectively) with some shining moments in the sun, there's little chance they'll earn the 5% of the vote required to stay on the ballot.

Although, if Hall of Fame induction was based solely on a player's final appearance, "Kid K" would make it on the first ballot (a still from which appears on my Conlon custom).  It's still one of the most touching and fitting occurrences that I've ever seen on a baseball diamond:


In addition to the new guys, there are also some holdovers from last year's voting who will once again appear on the ballot this winter.  In fact, this group of sluggers merit far more serious discussion about their potential inclusion than the newbies do:

"Slammin' Sammy" Sosa is, simply put, one of the greatest of great sluggers - his membership to the 600 homer club will attest to that.  Of course, as with his fellow participant in the great home run chase of '98, steroid suspicions have kept him from being a serious candidate.  Plus, he seriously pissed off a lot of sportswriters, with a HOF vote, in his time.  Fred McGriff was another great slugger, who, if he played in any other era, would make the Hall.  The Steroid Era overshadowed his 493 long balls (despite seemingly playing clean) and his lack of a strong team identity (he hopped around a lot) have left him somewhat forgotten.  If only he cracked seven more long balls...

 That does it for men who played with the Cubs; however, there is still one more guy with Windy City connections on the list:

Manny Ramirez was signed by Theo Epstein and crew in 2014 to serve as a player-coach for the AAA Iowa Cubs and he then served as hitting consutlant for the next two years before leaving to attempt another comeback as an active player in Japan.  His work with the young Cubs corps has been cited as pivotal in their development, especially that of Javier Baez.  but, despite getting a ring with the Cubs, it's obviously not here where he earned his fame.

The scandal-ridden slugger smashed 555 home runs, which would make him a sure-fire HOF'er if not for his double suspensions for performance enhancing drug use.  Also, like Sosa, his antics on and off the field ticked off a lot of the people now voting on the matter of his induction.  With that in mind, Manny is probably doomed to many years of purgatory on this ballot.

Despite their strong resumes, with the intense back-up on the current ballot, I highly doubt that any of these three break through this year.   Most importantly, the voters need to figure out how they want to handle the Steroid Era because ignoring it is what has caused this ballot constipation, making induction that much more difficult.

This might help...

That does it for former Cubs on the regular 2018 BBWA Hall of Fame ballot - sadly, it doesn't look as though a Cub from that group will be enshrined in Cooperstown next summer.  That said, the regular ballot isn't the only one being voted on this winter.

Earlier this month, the Eras Committee announced the ballot for the Modern Era voting - thus, players who made their name during the 1970's and 80's will get another chance at baseball immortality.  It is on this list that we can find one more name who spent time at Wrigley Field - it's this one that actually has the strongest chance of modeling for a bronze plaque in the near future:

We have the second coach on this roll-call; Alan Trammel was a lifetime Tiger, as a player, but he served as bench coach under Cubs skipper, Lou Piniella, from 2006-10.

The case of "Tram" (and his double play partner, Lou Whitaker) is one of the most discussed snubs of all time.  Despite winning four Gold Gloves, three-silver sluggers, the 1984 World Serives MVP, and being a six-time All-Star as one of the premier, two-way shortstops of his era, Alan fell off the regular ballot in 2016 to much chagrin.  Again, the glut of suspected steroid abusers clogging the ballot and dividing the votes injured his chances (to be fair, so did the last few seasons as an active player and his managerial career).

Will 2018 be the year that "Tram" finally sees justice?  Well, he makes a pretty good case, as do Marvin Miller, Tommy John, Ted Simmons and a handful of others.  It's going to be interesting to see who makes the cut.

And there you have it -  all of the Cubs that find themselves on the ballot for the Hall of Fame's Class of 2018.  Here's hoping that at least Alan Trammell is able to add his name to the list of baseball immortals found in upstate New York; he's, by far, their best hope.  Good luck, Tram!

Again, the writers really need to figure out how to handle the sluggers and power arms from the 1990's and the 2000's.  The congestion on the ballot is already worse than post-game traffic in Wrigleyville and it's only going to get worse in coming years.  Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Sosa, and crew make for some hefty roadblocks!  Do we induct them or not?  What are your opinions on these issues?

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my Conlon customs.  Also, might I recommend arguing about Cooperstown credentials over Thanksgiving dinner instead of politics this year?  Although, I'm sure your old, racist uncle who has had too much to drink will still find a way to ruin that conversation too.

'Tis the season!

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Hawk Returns to Roost

First things first, Andre Dawson as a Marlin never looked right... teal just wasn't his color.

I remember pulling this final tribute single out of a pack of 1997 Collector's Choice as a kid and being taken aback by it's oddity (of course, I can't find it now though - thanks for the scan, internet).  Sure, the 1987 NL MVP had been moved on from Chicago for a few years and had already finished his not-so-notable, two-year stint in Florida to complete his career, at this point; nevertheless, "Awesome Dawson" as a Marlin was an incongruous sight... and still is.... and forever will be.

Here's Andre in his proper Cubs dressings; this is a much more familiar and comforting sight, courtesy of the 2012 team-issue set that the team put together with Topps.

That being said, Dawson has actually been employed by the Marlins for far longer than he was with the Cubs or the Expos, the teams he is most often associated with.  After his retirement in 1996, the "Hawk" soon returned to the game with that Florida ball club as a special assistant, a position he held for two decades.  It must have been hard to work that position when he was actually trapped in the Wrigley ivy:

Then Derek Jeter happened.

It's a time of transition for the now Miami Marlins - with Jeffrey Loria gone, the new ownership group has begun to shape the organization in their mold.  Of course, one of their first moves seems like it was straight out of the haphazard Loria playbook.   In October, they clumsily fired Dawson and several other longtime front-office assistants, only to rescind those firings shortly after.  You might say that they were playing games with his heart, head, and paycheck.

Accordingly, here's a playing card oddball

Rumor has it, the assistants found out about their being jettisoned through the internet and Jeets and crew were trying to save face.  Despite this feeble attempt, Dawson still elected to move onto greener pastures.

Today, we found out that those greener pastures are the green, ivy-covered walls of the Friendly Confines; word has leaked that Dawson has been welcomed back into the Cubs family as a special ambassador for the team with which he truly belongs.

 The ivy may have trapped him for decades, but it sure looks good framing him.

He joins his former teammate and fellow Cooperstown resident, Ryne Sandberg, in the role.

The responsibilities of the special ambassador are not specifically laid out; however, one can easily assume that he will serve as a sort of mascot for the Chicago Cubs, making special appearances on behalf of the Cubs and generating goodwill in the fan-base.  I guess he's like Clark the Cub for adults, except Andre will be wearing pants when he tours the city... at least, I hope he wears pants.

Are either of these last-place MVPS wearing pants?  The world may never know for sure.

In celebration of the Hawk's return, I've elected to show off a few of my favorite Andre Dawson baseball cards because this is a baseball card blog, isn't it?  Being one of the major stars on the roster during the height of the junk wax period and go-to legends for modern products, Dawson has plenty of Cubs cardboard to choose from.  What you see in this post are my personal highlights.

This McDonald's oddball is the card that represents the Hall-of Famer in my Cubs All-Time Roster Collection binder.  Unfortunately, by 1992 (the year which this card was issued), Baseball's Best no longer truly applied to the aging slugger as he entered into his final year on the Northside of Chicago.

Soon, it would be off to Boston and then to his long-term stay in Miami. 

Welcome back to Chicago, Mr. Dawson. The Windy City is happy to have our Hawk back in the nest.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Changing of the Guard

I know my NASCAR posts don't generate many clicks, but I'm going to bang one out anyway - outside of a select few that I'm aware of, there simply doesn't appear to be many stock car racing fans on the blogosphere.  In fact, that might be a symptom of a larger problem that the league is currently experiencing.

Today, it was announced that another of the sport's stars is stepping out from behind the wheel - Danica Patrick.  Granted, she hasn't exactly lit up the speed charts since she won the pole for the 2013 Daytona 500; however, Danica is still a major name that casual fans recognize and a major draw for lucrative and oft-criminally ignored female sports fan market (that's a rant for another time).  It had already been made known that Patrick wouldn't be back at Stewart-Haas Racing in 2018, with her seat being taken by Aric Almirola, and after today's press release, we know that she'll be done with stocks after next season's Daytona and Indianapolis 500-milers.

As an avowed Indy-fanatic, I am quite thrilled that she has decided to make the annual May festival of speed her swan song.

Patrick adds her name to a growing list of stars who have decided that their time in the limelight has come to end.  Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Matt Kenseth are already putting the finishing touches on farewell tours as the 2017 campaign comes to a close (in an appropriate bit of symmetry - both took the scene by storm as rookies in 2000).  Furthermore, since 2015, the nation's most popular motorsport has seen Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle call it a wrap, as well.  In short, a great number of the most recognizable names are crossing theirs off of the weekly entry lists.

I'm curious, with NASCAR already struggling mightily with ratings, how this will affect the organization.  The current downward trend has been fairly consistent since the latter half of the previous decade, due to a multitude of factors - recession, rapidly rising costs in sponsorship and attendance, the ever-changing joke of a points system, etc., etc.   NASCAR has lost more than 45% of its audience since then, according to Nielsen, and live attendance has been so lackluster that many speedways have actually taken to removing seats.  In short, things aren't pretty.

Will the loss of the previous generation's major attractions only further the trend or will the influx of young blood attract a new wave of fans?

Young guns such as Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, and Kyle Larson have already staked their claims as top contenders, while baby-faced racers such as Bubba Wallace, William Byron, Daniel Suarez, and Erik Jones look to fill the star-power vacuum in 2018.  There's no doubt, whatsoever, that this is a transitional period... the torch is being passed, if you will.  But, is that torch still bright enough that anyone will care to watch?

The sport is at a crossroads.

NASCAR has been around for nearly 70 years, so it has weathered such "changings of the guard" many times in it's rich history; however, faced with so many other perils... in the words of Asia, "only time will tell" what shall happen.

Selfishly, I kind of, sort of hope that open wheel racing can seize this opportunity to win back some of the market share that they lost when they fractured in the mid-90's.  Eyes drifted towards NASCAR and top-level talent shifted their focus towards stock cars as the Indy car leagues made fools of themselves, in one way or another.  In recent years, the two factions have joined back together and the quality of racing has drastically improved... not that Indy Car is treating it's own blemishes, right now.  Perhaps the Indianapolis 500 will experience something of a revival on the national level?  Again, only time will tell.

At any rate, it's going to be an interesting year for American motorsports in 2018.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Scouring the Globe

Yesterday, I showed off the first 1974 Topps single that was kindly sent to me by famed blog reader, Mr. Havercamp.  Now, after thoroughly discussing the story behind Twins coach and short-term Cub, Vern Morgan, let's examine the subject on the second card which was tucked into Mr.'s PWE.  There was simply too much generosity n that envelope to be contained in a single post!  Well, that and I have a tendency to be a little wordy.

Big surprise, right?

Like yesterday's focus, today's card features multiple head-shots on one card; however, only one of these men is actually the target of my search - can you guess which one?

Ken Griffey is easily the star of the show here and went on to have the most noteworthy career of any of these rookie outfielders.  Meanwhile, Dave Augustine was entering the last leg of his two-season Major League cameo when this card was printed up.  Additionally, Steve Ontiveros would eventually make his way to the Chicago Cubs, but he has long been represented in my Cubs All-Time Roster Collection binder.  Thus, while the fact that he is wearing a Cubs cap might have been a dead giveaway, you can deduce the man I was after was Jim Tyrone.

Tyrone had also been repped in my binder for many years; however, the card which did the job featured him in the garb of the wrong club (more on that later).  As longtime readers of this blog might know, I always prefer that my Cubs be shown as Cubs in this collection, when the opportunity exists.  Thankfully, Mr. Havercamp had an extra copy of Tyrone's only Cubs card produced by Topps, facilitating a welcome "Cubgrade."

Now, Tyrone does have a solo card as a member of the Chicago Cubs organization.  However, as you can see in the scan pilfered from COMC above, the 1976 SSPC oddball is not a particularly attractive exhibit (fantastic sideburns excluded, of course).  It should also be noted that hese two cards are the only ones ever printed of the outfielder which commemorate his stint with the "Lovable Losers."  As such, I'm more than happy to let the old bubblegum company do the heavy lifting in this situation, even if Jim does have to share the spotlight with a few other ballplayers.  At least he's sporting the hat in that one!

That said, if the SSPC card ever comes my way, I certainly won't turn it down.

Since we've examined the card(s), let's take this opportunity to learn a little more about the Alice, Texas native they spotlight, shall we?

Wayne Tyrone was drafted out of the University of Texas Pan American in seventh round of the 1971 Amateur Draft, where was teammates with his younger brother, Wayne.  Coincidentally, his kin would also be selected in the draft by the Cubbies, the very next year (making them one of ten sets of brothers to play with the team); however, the two were never actually teammates, at any level, for the franchise.  Jim would receive his first call-up in '72 and spent parts of the next three seasons at the Major League level as an extra fly-chaser.  Unfortunately, he didn't exactly seize this opportunity, as he posted a .180/.227/.297 slash line in 111 at-bats during that time.

He was involved in one quite notable incident during his time in Chicago.  In a contest again the hated Cardinals in September of 1974, umpire Shag Crawford began calling strikes against the Cubs' Bill Madlock without him in the batter's box and chaos soon ensued:

In the scrum, keep an eye out for #27 - that's our hero, Jim.

At this point, the Cubs were in a time of transition, with the Ernie Banks/Ron Santo/Billy Williams/etc. window of contention having slammed shut as their veteran core rapidly aged and were traded away.  Tyrone was soon jettisoned off to Oakland in a minor trade for Gaylen Pitts during spring training in 1977 - Pitts never ended up dressing for the Cubbies. 

This 1978 Topps single from his time in an Athletics uniform had previously represented the elder Tyrone in my Cubs All-Time Roster Collection binder.  However, by the time this bad boy was printed up, with it's inconsistent coloring in the border, Jim had hung up his Athletic's jersey for the last time.  After a year on their bench and another year back in AAA, Tyrone found himself released.

With his MLB career officially at an end, Tyrone signed on with Miami Amigos of the new Inter-American League, where he was reunited with his baby brother.  This was a new league that was given AAA classification by the Commissioner's office, but not given any MLB affiliations.  With teams spread out across Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Panama, etc., there was a vision of strengthening ties between the US and Latin America with baseball.  Jim got to jet around, south of the border, playing the game that he loved as a would-be ambassador.  He went on to lead the circuit in batting, with a .364 average.

Sadly, the noble experiment only made it about half a season before the league folded and Jim was, again, left high and dry.

 Jim during his time with the Seibu Lions, image courtesy of Graveyard Baseball

At this point, Tyrone's world travels took him across the Pacific to join the Seibu Lions of Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball for the rest of 1979.  It was in the land of the rising sun that Jim finally blossomed as a pro ballplayer - during his first full season, 1980, he swatted 35 home runs with an intimidating .276/.314/.505 line.  The sudden slugger would continue to star in the middle of the batting order for Seibu and later the Nankai Hawks, before calling it a career after the 1982 campaign.  Luckily for Jim, he eventually found his niche... but, he had to travel the world to find it!

Information on his life after baseball is scarce, but, it appears he went back to Texas, where he privately served as a batting instructor for kids before his retirement.  Furthermore, he also appeared as a contestant on a 1983 episode of "The Price Is Right" and ended up winning a Mazda GLC Hatchback. 

In case you might be wondering, seeing as he popped up a few times in this post, the younger Tyrone brother, Wayne, does not yet appear in my Cubs All-Time Roster Collection.  Since his Big League time was brief (a handful of games in 1976), according to Beckett, Wayne never appeared on any sort of trading card.  Nevertheless, as part of my continued mission of creating custom cards and mailing them out via TTM, I hope that I will soon be able to slot Wayne into his rightful pocket, alongside this generous gift from Mr. Havercamp.

Hopefully you'll see this custom again, only with a signature next time.

Again, my thanks go out to Mr. Havercamp for going out of his way to send me these two 1974 Topps singles that had been sitting in my want-list for many moons.  I was absolutely thrilled to be able to finally cross them off!

I'd been searching high and low for these cards for quite a long time.  Thankfully, I didn't have to take my search to an international level, like Jim Tyrone did to find his spot on the pro baseball map!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Thanks to Readers Like You

The blogosphere is made up of countless blogs and bloggers with creative minds, strong opinions, and likable personalities.  In many ways, it's a community that's come to replace the old standards of baseball card publications, like Beckett, Baseball Card Magazine, Tuff Stuff, etc., which - if they're even still around - do little more than serve as a price guide in today's market.  The articles and industry thoughts that we used to turn to a magazine for are now coming straight from the collectors' themselves, right here on Blogger, WordPress, Tumblr and other hosts.

But, like any good periodical, the blogosphere is nothing without loyal readers; without them, we'd simply be screaming into the void.  There are a great many people who take in our thoughts, rants, countdowns, and celebrations without a blog of their own; but, that being said, they deserve just as much credit for making our community such a wonderful place.  One of those famous readers goes by the screenname, Mr. Havercamp, and he is the man who provided the material for today's post.

You see, recently, Havercamp reached out to me, via e-mail, to let me know that he had a pair of cards from my "Most Wanted" list and he was willing to send them my way.  I was ecstatic to finally make the acquaintance of the man AND find out he wanted to send me cards that I need in the very same correspondence.  See what I mean about a great community?

So, without out any further ado, I present to you card number one:

While Frank Quilici may be a Chicago native, a quick background search on the former Big League skipper will show no connection between he and the Chicago National League Ballclub.  Both his five-year MLB playing career and his four-year managerial stint were spent entirely with the Minnesota Twins franchise.  So, you might be wondering, why would I, the dedicated Cubs fan diligently pursuing a complete collection of every man to ever suit up for the Wrigley Field natives, be in need of such a card?  Please allow me to explain.

You see, while Frank is the main subject featured on this 1974 single, his coaching staff is given some space in the yellow bar between Quilichi's chin and the bottom border.  Neither Ralph Howe nor Bob Rodgers have anything to due with the Cubs' franchise either; however, The fourth man on this card is the one that I was truly after:

Vern Morgan's playing career in the Major Leagues was spent exclusively with the Chicago Cubs, from 1954-55.  During that time, Morgan appeared in 31 contests, overall, batting .225 in 77 PA's with four walks and just two extra base hits.  In short, he wasn't much with the bat.  On the opposite side of the ball, Vern manned third base four 17 games (16 starts) with six errors in 44 chances; again, not exactly setting the world on fire with his performance.  Needless to say, Vern Morgan was not able to steal much playing time away from incumbent starter, "Handsome Ransom" Jackson, and nor was he a threatening option off of the bench.

With that in mind, Morgan was bused back to the bushes for good, after just seven contests in '55.  the next year, 1956, Vernon was acquired by the Washington Senators organization and he would play for the franchise, up and down their minor league chain, for the next eight campaigns and without another cuppacoffee.  The last three of those seasons were spent as a player/manager.  By the time he finally hung up his spikes for good, the Senators had become the Twins - he continued to skipper clubs in their farm system through 1968.

Morgan during his brief audition with the "Lovable Losers."

It was at this point that Morgan finally made his way back up to the summit once again.  In need of a first base coach, the Twinkies rewarded their loyal baseball soldier with a spot on the Major League coaching staff under manager Billy Martin.  His work must have been respected by the players and the front office, as he would serve the team during three different managerial regimes, including Frank Quilici, with whom he shares that 1974 Topps single.

Sadly, by the time that card was printed, Vern Morgan's time in baseball was limited... as was his time on Earth.  In September of 1975, the first base coach was pushed to the sidelines for good by advanced kidney disease and immediately received a transplant.  Additionally, he had been undergoing treatment for a blood disease for the previous four years.  Tragically, the new kidney did not help his situation and, in early November, Morgan passed away in his adoptive hometown of Minnesota.  He was only 47.

Image courtesy of the Trading Card Database

Since his playing career at the game's highest level was so brief and, forgive my bluntness, unsuccessful, it's not surprising that he never had a card printed up by the bubblegum companies.  Furthermore, seeing as coaches rarely sneak into such sets either, he never got his own Topps card.

Although, Morgan does appear solo on a pair of uncommon, team-issued postcard sets from during his coaching career and on a supremely rare, minor league card set from during his time working up the Cubs chain.  This 1955 release honored the Cubs-affiliated Des Moines Bruins and came in packages of Old Homestead hot dogs.  It shouldn't be a surprise then that these greasy, regional cards don't pop up very often and, when they do, come with a high price tag attached.  Therefore, the 1974 Topps card that I was after is easily his most attainable cardboard option, even if he is only allotted a black & white, floating head-shot on a card that is split four ways.

When you have a goal as far-reaching as mine is, you just have to take what you can get!

Now, I did tell you that Mr. Havercamp sent me cards, as in plural.  That being noted, I think I'm going to go ahead and split them across two posts, as this one is already getting a tad wordy.  I don't to take up too much of your day... there are other blogs to read, after all!

Thank you for the Quilichi... errrr... Morgan card, Mr. Havercamp, for thinking of me when you came across it, and for the extremely kind words that you included on your corresponding note.  I will be sending you a proper "appreciation PWE" in return in the near future.  Here's to many more!

Also, thank you to all of the other mindful readers out there - those with blogs and without.  Our little corner of the internet is a wonderful place because of your interest, attentiveness, and unbridled generosity.  It's truly a community of which I'm honored to be a part of!

Yea... I know... the only way I could get sappier is if I were a maple tree.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Remember the Name

A name can go a long way in bringing recognition.  For instance, Jorge Soler - it's sounds like a strong, powerful, moniker... one that only a beast of a baseball prospect would hold.  It's a name that, even if you weren't a fan of the Cubs (or, now, Royals) you would probably remember, due to it's unique and almost poetic nature.  Similarly, we here on the blogosphere know that the right page name can make a big difference when it comes to page views - it's the first thing that someone sees when they come across your little corner of the internet, after all.  It has to properly convey what your blog is all about in just a handful of words. 

A couple of weeks ago, Paul decided that his blog name just wasn't cutting the mustard; the loyal Detroit Tigers realized that he wanted the use the web-space for more than just TTM's.  So, he did a little crowd-sourcing to re-brand the blog formerly known as Paul's TTM Blog.  Of course, I threw my hat in the ring... because why not?

My entrant did not win the contest; but, I must admit, I think that Scribbled Ink is one heckuva catchy name.  Even though my suggestion wasn't nearly as good, Paul was still generous enough to send a "thanks for participating" flat-rate mailer my way.  I shutter to think about what the actual winner got as a reward because this participation package was an absolute winner!

Leading off the goodies was this All-Star game ballot from 2008, the last year in which the mid-summer classic was held in the Motor City.  This was a year that the Cubs were actually good and ended up sending eight representatives to Detroit as part of the National League squad.  Thus, this will make a nice, unique bit of memorabilia for my baseball stashes.  Plus it was just fun to flip through and see all of these old, familiar names...  Geoff Jenkins, Cesar Izturis, Xavier Nady... it's been a long time.

The rest of the package was made up of cards, mostly Cubs, including the beautifully blue Topps Chrome Future Stars insert which began the post.  Accompanying Mr. Soler, Paul included some big names from the past:

Kong, the man who beat father time, Steve Trout looking as 80's as ever, and old fan-favorite Starlin Castro.  Not a bad set of quadruplets there.  These are all well-remembered names in the city of Chicago.

On the flip-side, pretty much none but the most depraved of Cubs fans recalls Dave Swartzbaugh.  Accordingly, this 1997 Fleer single represents Dave's only Big League baseball card and will slide nicely into my CATRC binder, replacing the Classic minor league single which previously occupied his slot.  I've been trying to track this guy down for a long time.

Meanwhile, Mark Grace is anything but a forgotten name - "Amazing Grace" is still a revered figure by Wrigley faithful.  He looks pretty darn good on this reflective Gold Label card from the prodcut's original run.  Speaking of gold...

Paul threw in a bunch of gold parallels too!   

However. not all that glitters is gold... I'm a fan of shiny medallions, as well:

That's a pretty sweet looking manu-relic of Anthony Rizzo (from 2016 Update), declaring him a possibility to join the 500 Home Run Club before his career ends.  With 166 long balls through his age 27 season, the chance is there - if he averages a little more than 33 homers for the next ten campaigns, this medallion will not be liar.

The medallion wasn't the only hit of the box either; it wouldn't be a package from the proprietor of Scribbled Ink with a little... scribbled ink:


I think we can all agree that one of the best things Panini ever brought to the table was the Hometown Heroes brand; I mean, what other product offers such niche autographic subjects?  This signature is going to look fantastic in my Cubs All-Time Roster Collection binder!

Even with all of that, there were still plenty more gems to be shown off from Paul's mailing:

Here we have a pair of key rookies, a pair of former Chicago sports greats.  I realize that Jake Arrieta isn't officially off of the table for the Cubs, but I'm fairly certain that he's going to want more money and years than Theo and crew are going to be able to offer.  *sigh*

On the bright side, that Joakim Noah rook kicked off a fairly sizable Bulls portion of the package:


There were a few new names added to my Bulls All-Time Roster Collection, a binder that's almost exclusively filled by trading partners.  For that, I am eternally grateful!

Along with those additions, "His Airness" made is presence felt:

And his presence was impossible to ignore.  As a Chicagoan who grew up during the 1990's, MJ is absolutely a personal favorite.  Also as a Windy City resident who grew up during that dynastic period, any Jordan card feels more like a gold doubloon than a pasteboard, especially that Star Attractions, die-cut insert from Upper Deck.

That about did it for the hardwood portion of the package; but, at this point, can you believe that there was STILL more to be had!

This package ended up covering three sports with this Jeff Gordon All-Star "SAMPLE" from the 2003 edition of Press Pass.  If you're only going to throw in one NASCAR card, you might as well make it a unique one!

As a big finale, Paul also threw in a nice stash of unopened packs that I'll likely save for a rainy day:

Topps Attax cello packs - these must have been some sort of stadium giveaway... perhaps at Comerica Park?  Also, the Mantle and the Ruth appear to be some sort of special addendum to the set; anybody know what the story is behind them?

There was also a cello pack of Fleer's Authentix "Hot Tickets" from 2005, with Sammy Sosa on the front, to boot.  Again, these die-cut oddities appear to be some sort of SGA - can anyone confirm or deny my suspicions?

Lastly, we have some "Brain Straining Doodlewonkers," which is something that is completely lost on me but looks incredibly amusing.  The artwork on the front reminds me of something that one might see on a re-run of Monty Python's Flying Circus.  I'll save this pack for when I'm having a bad day at work or when I need some cheering up.

With that, we've finally come to the end of Paul's "participation mailer."  Again, I shudder to think about what the actual winner of his "name the blog" contest came away with!

The only way to top what we saw here, at least in my opinion.

Thank you, Paul, for putting together such a generous mailing... one that kept me entertained and busy sorting and filing for hours.  You're a good egg, sir!  I would also expect a proper thank you gift, if I were you.

Before I go, please allow me to remind you fellow baseball card bloggers and enthusiasts to update your blogroll, favorites, feed, or what have you to include the new name and URL for Paul's blog, Scribbled Ink -  

There's a lot more to like about that place besides the spiffy new name!