Saturday, March 15, 2014

Five Below Isn't So Bad...

With the winter we've had here in Chicago, there were indeed points where I did think 5 degrees below zero was actually tolerable.  When compared to -35 degrees and Chicago literally being colder than the surface of Mars, -5 is almost a heat wave.  However, the title of this post is no reference to weather.

Running in Chi-beria is a bad idea

For those unfamiliar with the chain, Five Below is a retailer that stocks cheap novelties, party favors & other knick-knacks and sells everything for $5 and under.  Basically, they're a glorified dollar store (but, more of a dollar store than Dollar General is, but that's a rant for another day).

While perusing the isles of this store looking for some St. Patty's Day party favors, I happened across an end cap made up entirely of trading cards; jackpot!  My girlfriend was less thrilled, but she took the opportunity to gaze at phone cases that looked like cassette tapes and dinosaurs; win-win.

They had your average selection for a chain store card selection, but obviously a little less than, say Target.  Your re-pack boxes, your 2014 Topps, other recent Topps releases and the just released 2014 Donruss.  As a child of the 90's, Donruss was one of my favorite brands and idiosyncratic me likes to have one Cubs card representative of every major release.  So, I grabbed a pack.

But, more on that later because the best part for a Cubs collector like me was this:

A set of nothing but Cubs cards! Granted, most of the guys I am looking for at this point are too old or little-known to end up in something like this, but I figured there had to be some cool stuff in there.  Plus, my Starlin Castro collection is a little low.

As I expected, I found no new additions for my All-Time Roster Collection; however, I did find some cool cardboard (please excuse the photo quality; I'm blogging on the go and I don't have access to my base of operations).  Here are the highlights:

This was probably my favorite.  I never obtained the full 2009 Topps Cubs team set, but this one is a beauty!  It shows fan-favorite Reed doing what he did best: throwing himself all over the diamond.  This acrobatic catch coupled with the background of full, deep green ivy makes the card a true specimen.  Plus, I've always had a soft spot in my heart for Cubs from playoff teams.

Speaking of playoff Cubs, I also pulled this Randall Simon.  Simon's legacy is baseball may be his assault upon one of Milwaukee's racing sausages, but he was better than that.  One of the 3 Pirates the Cubs plundered that summer (yay puns!), Simon hit .282 with 6 homers in 33 games as Eric Karros' partner at 1st base. Not to mention, .333 with 1 homer and 6 RBI in the playoffs that year.  Certainly one of the best trades the Cubs have made in my time as the Pirates weren't nearly as lucky with Ray Sadler. 

The other reason I really like this card is that I bought the "complete" Cubs set of Donruss' Team Heroes when it came out in 2004.  However, this card was absent and I was unaware of it's existence until yesterday.  Oopsy.

Ah, one of the most polarizing players in recent Cubs history.  We need not into the debate about Big Z's attitude problems, just remember all the good times that he brought us.  He pitched the first no-hitter that I ever watched (on TV) in 2008.  Plus, in games that I attended, he pitched the fourth game in a Cubs sweep of the Cardinals in 2006 (felt like the damn playoffs!) and bounced a ball into the stands during a temper tantrum a few years later after a play at the plate call.  So, he'll always loom large in my memories.

I also like that it shows Zambrano at the plate, where he was almost more exciting than on the mound.  He may not have been the most disciplined hitter, but when he connected, he did damage: 6 homers in 2006 alone, 24 total and 3 Silver Sluggers to boot.

Those were just a few of the pulls I made from that Cub-centric pack.  So, all-in-all a worthwhile purchase in my mind.  As for that pack of 2014 Donruss...

Unfortunately, I did not pull any cards of players that were pictured/listed as Cubs.  An important distinction because although I was a little disappointed that I didn't get to inflate my Anthony Rizzo or Travis Wood collection, I did get a couple of recent Cubs stars in other threads:

I'll always remember the day when my mother woke me up to tell me that the Cubs traded for Nomar.  He quickly became my favorite Cub and I was convinced he was going to be the Cubs' savior.  Not quite how it worked out, but I still took Nomar as my nickname in Spanish class the next year.  A new card of backwards Ramon is always welcome to my binders.

Alfonso took some slagging during his days on the North Side, but he can barely be faulted as he was never going to live up to the massive contract he signed going into the 2007 season.  But he was a key cog in the '07-'08 playoff machine and provided excellent team leadership later in the deal.  If only those legs could have stayed healthy though... Oh well, I'm happy to have a card that represents the next phase of his career in my collection.

So, in conclusion, if you ever find yourself in a Five Below, try and find the card selection.  It's not a bad joint at all.  

That said my next purchase better feature some new additions to my all-time roster or I'll... I'lll... sulk in a corner with a quart of ice cream.

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