Alas, I guess Jody Davis was a pretty good catcher for the Cubs throughout most of the 80's.
Also, I'm entirely aware of the irony of featuring a player who is nicknamed after youthful inhibition in a feature that celebrates how the Cubs franchise is old as dirt. I love me some good irony.
The "Kid" to which I'm referencing is this one:
Don't worry; I haven't gone completely out of my gourd (though I'm probably mighty close thanks to this years hitless wonders), I'm well aware that this card clearly lists some guy name Mal as an umpire.
But, before Mal was an umpire, he was the "Kid" and he hurled fastballs before keeping count of them.
"Kid" Eason could have used some better teammates though. Despite having a career ERA of 3.42 from 1900-06, Eason went 36-73 over the course of his career - eat your hearts out Jeff Samardzija and Matt Garza!
These guys feel your run support-based pain Mal!
(Too bad Spellcheck isn't sporting a throwback as well)
But, it all started out so well for Eason; in his MLB debut with the Cubs, he pitched a complete game W while allowing just one earned run. The Cubs put up four runs for Eason that October day; who knew he'd go on to have less support in his career than a 20-year old desk chair?
On the strength of that late-season win, the Cubs inserted the "Kid" into their rotation for the 1901 season. In 27 appearances (25 starts), he posted a 3.59 ERA over 220.2 innings with a lowly record of 8-17. Granted, his ERA was a touch high for the Deadball Era, but it certainly didn't help that the then Chicago Orphans allowed well-over 100 more runs than they themselves scored (578-699).
"Kid" Eason sporting his youthful exhuberance
Image courtesy of BaseballHistorian.com
Unfortunately for Mal, the Chicago franchise was stuck in an awkward phase between their 18th century dominance led by Pop Anson (who retired in 1899, hence the "Orphans" moniker) and their Tinkers-Evers-Chance heyday. They won 65, 58 and 68 games from 1900-02.
After just one start in 1902, the Cubs gave Mal his walking papers. He went on to bounce around with the Beaneaters (Braves), Tigers and Superbas (Dodgers). Through 1905, he lost as many as 12 games three times, bottoming out with a whopping 21 for the 1905 Brooklyn Superbas.
In 1906, it was really more of the same - despite posting a 3.25 ERA, he lost 17 games for Brooklyn. However, in what must have been a reward from the baseball gods for having played for just one winning team in his career, Eason tossed a no-hitter against St. Louis in what was ultimately his final season.
Though he was through as an active player, "Kid's" love for America's past-time kept him involved in the game. From 1910 through 1917, he called games for the National League - probably because he was used to not having the support of the players around him. Hey-o!
Umpire Mal Eason looks a touch bitter in this photo.
Image courtesy of Wikipedia
When Conlon Collection released their famous, retrospective 1992 card series, they chose to represent Eason in the umpire subset rather than relive his frustrating days as a pitcher.
I have made it rather obvious on this blog that I absolutely love everything about the Conlon Collection. Shining the spotlight on such forgotten names as Eason is just one of the many reasons that I've treasured this set since my Uncle Louie gifted me my first sampling back in 1996.
Eason was not a part of that initial collection. Although, as you can tell from how beaten up this card is, it came into my grubby hands shortly thereafter, thanks to a box I harassed my mother about throughout the aisles of K-Mart. I was only 7, after all.
And, as the late, great radio host Paul Harvey would say, "now you know.... the REST of the story!"