This piece of cardboard comes from Tristar's Obak series, 2011 edition. It honors ball players of yesteryear and important moments/achievements in baseball history. While this card features a terrible Photoshop crop-job (can someone really lean on the sunset?), there aren't exactly a ton of pictures of our subject: Bob Addy...
Bob "The Magnet" Addy was the original "scrappy" or "gritty" ball player, or at least darn close to it. He got his uniform dirty, played honestly (an important trait in those rough'n'tumble, gambling-influenced days) and threw himself all over the diamond. Mark DeRosa would be proud.
Plus, his uniform may have even been the first to get dirty as he is credited as the first to introduce the slide in organized baseball, an event that this card commemorates.
Yes, he's that old. In fact, we don't know for sure how old the man was; his birth date has been lost to history.
Bob Addy's playing career predates the formation of the National League. The Canadian started off playing amateur ball in Rochelle, IL in the mid-1860's. When future-Cub Al Spalding and his Rockford Forest Citys came to town in 1866, Addy “startled the players of the Forest Citys by a diving slide for second base. None of us had ever witnessed the play before, though it may have been in vogue. Certainly we were quite nonplussed.” Sidenote, "nonplussed" will be my new word-of-the-day tomorrow
Though he may not have been the very first, he certainly was the first to popularize the slide.
He was also the original "Shoeless" baseball player. While Joe Jackson may be famous for ditching his cleats in the bush leagues, it was Addy that originally tried out this strategy due to his recurring foot injuries, many moons before Jackson was around.
Addy bounced around pro-clubs and positions on the diamond until the formation of the NL in 1876, where he joined Spalding, the man he impressed years ago, with the Chicago White Stockings, aka the Cubs. As a Cub, he was already nearing 40 and limited to mostly the outfield. He hit a modest .282, the weak spot in the batting order as every other regular hit over .304. He was eventually benched in favor of Oscar Bielaski.
However, his wit was much stronger than his bat. When a July exhibition game to raise funds for an orphanage was rained out, the Chicago Tribune wrote that the orphans were unlucky. When asked to comment, Addy stated "it was to have been expected that they would be unlucky, for if they hadn’t been unlucky they wouldn’t have been orphans at all.”
Despite his benching, he still came up clutch for the Chicagoans in their eventual Championship run. When the Boston Red Stockings came to town near the very end of the season, Addy made five wonderful catches to save runs in an eventual win. He then played the hero in the clinching game against the Hartford Dark Blues, with 2 more outstanding catches in the ninth inning to preserve a 7-6 win and the NL Pennant.
What I wouldn't give to write that in the present tense!
However, he was fed up with Chicago and bitter than he had been benched mid-season. He left the club after 1876 and moonlighted with the Cincinnati Reds in 1877 as a player-manager, but Addy's career was over after that.
After his career, he tried (unsuccessfully) to jump-start a professional baseball league. The twist? It was to be played on ice! Can you imagine Starlin Castro trying to get off a throw to first while on ice skates? A funny thought, but you might actually see that if Chicago doesn't warm up pretty darn soon. Zing!
Opening Day at Wrigley Field 2014
All in all, Addy is a forgotten hero in Cubs history as the club may very well have lost that inaugural NL Pennant without his heroics. He was also a pretty interesting character who would have been loved as a scrappy, hustling player that we fans seem to attach ourselves to.