Monday, January 18, 2021
Thursday, January 14, 2021
While Wrigley Roster Jenga was on extended holiday, I was grieved to discover that Mr. Carl Aldana had passed away. Apparently, he had ventured on into the next realm early in 2019; however, I did not hear about his death until a year and a half later, in the middle of my blogging hiatus. Thus, quite unfortunately, I have never had the chance to post a proper tribute to the artist, being that I am both slow on the uptake and prone to long disappearances. Now, almost two years later, please allow me to rectify this grave injustice.
For those who are not familiar with the name Carl Aldana, he was born in Guatemala in 1938 and, as a child, immigrated to the United States his family shortly thereafter. Carl eventually picked up a watercolor brush as a freelance designer in the mid-60's and went on to become renowned throughout his adoptive home state of California for his portrait, landscape and cityscape painting. Furthermore, his artistic endeavors were not limited to still frames, as he also worked in the art department for over thirty big-budget Hollywood films, including serving as the art director for Air Force One. Some other movies that you might have seen his work in include Ferris Bueller's Day Off, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, and Pleasantville, among several others choice moving pictures. All in all, I'd say that's not a bad resume for a working artist.
|Image of Aldana's artwork courtesy of SABR's Baseball Cards Research Committee|
But what does any of this have to do with Wrigley Roster Jenga's topic of interest, baseball cards? Well, you see, when Carl wasn't cleaning his brushes or going Hollywood, the avid creator was also designing his own baseball cards.
In fact, it's rather likely that you have read about his vintage, broder-adjacent sets in your Standard Catalog of Vintage Baseball Cards or seen them at a vender booth at a card show. In 1970, he made his pasteboard debut by producing a 12-card checklist paying tribute to the Baltimore Orioles and he followed that up with a 16-card offering featuring a smattering of players from across baseball. Both of these products are listed in the aforementioned Standard Catalog; that said, those guys neglect to mention his 1972 love-letter to the Pacific Coast League's San Francisco Seals of the early 50's, an 18-card set that cast the spotlight on a league and team that he saw plenty of as a Cali kid of the time.
I'm not quite sure how this baseball artiste distributed his handiwork. Perhaps he made use of mail order in early trade publications, a la Renato Galasso? Maybe he sold them at some of the hobby's first card shows? Heck, it could be possible that these were just a passion project that ended up on the second hand market. Does anyone out there know anything information that could help fill in this gap?
Questions about distribution aside, no matter what, we know that Mr. Aldana was a fan of the game and of the PCL, as both showed up in his work on canvas and cardboard. However, after the three outsider art card offerings that we detailed above, Mr. Aldana disappeared from the trading card scene for the next 40+ years, no doubt focused on his much more lucrative film and artwork projects throughout the ensuing decades.
Apparently, the itch never completely went away though, as a few years ago, Mr. Aldana burst back onto the hobby scene. He went back to the well again and came back with a series of sets paying tribute to his beloved Pacific Coast League. These art cards mimicked the style of the old Mother's Cookies sets of the mid-20th century, but featured a wider swath of players and made use of new colorizations performed by the artist in question. It's hard to get a full, documented scope of these releases, as they are quite prodigious in number and were released rather haphazardly (via single listings on the Ebay, I'm pretty sure) throughout the years - just search "Aldana PCL" on the 'Bay and you'll find a couple hundred different listings. Obviously, Carl was back with a vengeance and making up for a lot of lost time!
Back in 2017, I first came across these Aldana revival cards while perusing my saved Ebay searches. With such a diverse checklist of obscure and fringe minor league baseball players, this discovery got my blood pumping. As I had expected, digging into these oddities uncovered a new, fertile source for War Era randos that I still needed for my Cubs All-Time Roster Collection - the most cherished collation of my baseball card collection. So, of course, I added a selection of these beauties to my cart and crossed a few names off of my "needs" list that I was beginning to think would never be acquired.
In posting about the Jim Adair (briefly with the Cubs in 1931) single you see above, I received quite the unexpected thrill when Carl Aldana himself commented on my humble little blog, reaching out to talk turkey about baseball cards. Granted, he was no Cy Berger, but this accomplished artist, film maker, and baseball card creator was putting his digital signature on my web space and wanted to talk to me about his work? As if that wasn't enough of a thrill, after our conversation, he also sent me the Steve Bilko beauty that you see above as a "thanks for your great blog on my cards."
|The man was important enough to receive a tribute from the Oscars and he still took the time to talk to this amateurish writer.|
Saturday, January 9, 2021
As Mystery Science Theater 3000's Joel Hodgson once boldly stated, one should "never trust a man with two first names." Apparently, David Ross has never seen that episode of the cult classic television program because one of his top relievers in 2020 was a man with multiple monikers generally considered as firsts.
Friday, January 8, 2021
|Kilduff during his tenure with the Cubs (Sporting News Collection Hologram/MEARS Photo LOA)|
Thursday, January 7, 2021
So... ummmmmmm.... yeaaaaaa.... baseball cards???
I must admit, I'm pretty well shocked and horrified by the world around us right now. I guess while I always felt that yesterday's actual, bonafide, no two ways about it coup attempt was the logical conclusion for this presidency, it was no less painful and shocking to watch as it played out live. Dear god, hopefully those in Washington finally got a taste of the hatred and misinformation they've been letting stew for the past four years and actually do something to make this a conclusion. Invoking the 25th would be a wise move, as who knows how much more damage this bruised demagogue will try to cause before January 20th. The man is an egomaniacal and the cult that he's built is bound and ready to act out his every self-serving plan.
Sorry for getting political here on Wrigley Roster Jenga... except, no I am not. What's going on around us is not something that we can simply ignore or "stick to sports." This affects every single one of us, whether we want to admit it or not. Yesterday's coup was one of the darkest moments in this country's history and we cannot simply pretend it didn't happen and move on like nothing's different, like we seem to do with every impeachable offense perpetrated by the deluded reality show host in charge. How our country handles this moment could very well define our generation and the future of democracy in the United States.
This rant has gone on a little longer than expected; but, I simply had to speak my piece. With that out of the way I guess I can now throw in some baseball card content, even though such trivialities seem even more insignificant in the grand scheme of things. However, perhaps some normalcy will do me and my mental health some good. With that in mind, let's get to the post that I originally had in mind for today.
Wednesday, January 6, 2021
Colin Rea is packing his bags and heading east... waaaaaaaaayyyyyyy east.
Yesterday morning, it was announced that now former Cubs swingman, Colin Rea, had been released from his contract with the the franchise. This came as a bit of a surprise for a couple of reasons. First, there's the fact that the moundsman had just agreed to a new, pre-arbitration deal to say in Chicago for a second season. Second, the Cubs have made it no secret that they aren't going to be shopping for brand names at the free-agent stop n' shop this offseason and they have a bunch of holes in both the starting rotation and the bullpen. All in all, despite the frustration the front office and ownership have caused the Cubs faithful this winter, the North Side of Chicago seems like the optimal destination for a guy like Rea to try and make a ball club.
As it turns out, like most instances where such a release occurs, Colin will be taking his talents to Asia - specifically, Japan - where such thirty-year old, "tweeners" generally make a significant greater sum of money in the Nippon League than they would riding the shuttle between AAA and the Majors. Not to mention, they're usually going to receive a much larger share of playing time, as well. I mean, we've seen this time and time again, where a guy's career has somewhat stalled out, so they travel eastward to make some coin while they still can ; you can only play professional baseball for so long, after all. Plus, there's the beneficial side effect where the player in question can rebuild their stock for a later, potential stateside return, a la fellow former Cub, Rafael Dolis, Miles Mikolas, Merrill Kelly, etc.
All in all, you can't blame the guy for doing what's best for himself, his family, and his career. However, I'm a little disappointed, as a selfish Cubs fan, to see a perfectly good pitching option - with a modest price tag - fly away to greener pastures.
In my last post detailing roster moves made during the Wrigley Roster Jenga blackout, we talked about the first player added to the 30-man after the regular season began. In a bit of kismet, it just so happens that the second person called up from the alternate training site is in the news. *Pssst, that person was Colin Rea* Yay - I'm accidentally being timely and relevant!
|Mr. Rea truly kicked but in Des Moines - image courtesy of the Iowa Cubs Facebook page.|
|Colin Rea pitching at Wrigley Field in 2020. Image courtesy of the Chicago Tribune.|
|Image courtesy of Go Sports Cards.|
Tuesday, January 5, 2021
Now, you might be asking yourself, what monumental screw ups could this guy have made that were so heinous that he had to temporarily put one of his favorite hobbies on the backburner. Well, I ignored one of life's most important guidelines - "if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is." To make things even worse, I did it twice in a row, meaning I snookered myself and then, knowing what I'd done, willingly dove right back into a shallow pool. What a dunce, right?
|Here's a clearer image of Ed, courtesy of SABR|
|Have you seen this man?|