Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Cards Are Like Fine Wine...

...they get better with age!  But I don't have to tell you guys that.  We all have our preferences and opinions when it comes to card collecting.

Some people chase the relics, some chase parallels.  Some are all about the hall-of-famers, while others prefer prospecting.  However, I think we all have a little soft spot in our hearts for some good, old fashioned vintage cardboard.

No matter how beaten and battered a card may be, it's still a little piece of history that captures a different time.  While condition is considered when it comes to my collection, it is certainly low on the priorities list when it comes to vintage cards.

I mean, if I were focused on nothing but the fact that this card is creased, the corners worn and the centering is slightly off then I would not have been able to cross these two long-forgotten prospects off of my Cubs All-Time Roster list.  For just spare change, at that.

Sidebar - Ott appeared for the Cubs in '62 & '64 in brief spurts that saw him bat a cumulative .179 as the immediate successor to right field when the team traded someone by the name of Brock...  Meanwhile, Warner saw minimal action from '62 - '65 out of the bullpen, posting an ERA of 5.10 in 54 innings...  As you can see, they're forgotten for a reason. 

Oh look!  More rookie "stars!"  I'm now reminded that these little pieces of history capture a very dark and pathetic time in Cubs history - the early to mid-60's.

While Fred Norman is already represented in my collection with a standalone card (albeit in Reds garb), Mr. Jaeckel here was completely new to me.

Also known as Jake (likely a play off his last name), he, like Ott, never actually appeared in a Cubs game back in 1965, but he did receive a cuppacoffee the previous season - where he was unscored upon in 4 appearances.  Too talented for that bunch I suppose.

Ah, more young "talent."  Curtis hardly earned that "rookie cup" with his performance in '61 - going 10-14 with a 4.89 ERA.  He was traded away to the Braves after 4 games in '62 and out of baseball by '64.

On the other hand, the fire-balling LeMay didn't fool the batters he faced or Topps.  In his brief 3-year career, he posted an ERA of 4.17 - including a 5.28 mark with the Cubs in '63.

While LeMay and these guys here aren't depicted in blue pinstripes, they did suit up in the home clubhouse at Wrigley at some point in their careers.  Though I prefer cards that feature Cubby colors, I accept any card issued of a player  - after all, many never had a Cubs card produced.

These three men never were major names in the Windy City, though Lee Walls did spend a few good years as the starting rightfielder from 1957-60 - even earning a All-Star appearance in '58.  However, they all three had long, productive careers elsewhere in the MLB.

Jim Schaffer did appear in a Cubs uniform in the 1964 set and he appeared in many other uniforms during his playing days.  The backup catcher was the Koyie Hill of his day, always finding work despite not being able to hit a beach ball with a tennis racket (career .223 BA).

Also, that's three posed, bat-on-the-shoulders shots used by Topps.  See? The repetitive photography in flagship isn't a new phenomenon - "pitching face" is simply the new fad.

I'm sorry if the tone of my post is getting more jaded as we go - the dearth of talent in the franchise during this time period might just be getting to me.

And now for a couple of journeymen outfielders who happened to share the same name and team in 1961.  Del Greco called Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia (twice) and Kansas City home at various points in his career, mostly as a spare long-fly catcher.  He hit an even .200 for the '57 Cubs in 28 games with 0 big flies.

Bobby Gene (one of three Bob Smith's in Cubs history) had a few productive seasons off of the bench for the Phillies in the middle of the decade, but bounced around to several teams and never found a starting opportunity.  He got 32 at-bats for the '62 Cubs, but his .172 avg certainly did not impress.

On the other hand, Jimenez impressed many people in Kansas City after his excellent rookie season in '62.  But after hitting .301 with 11 HR, owner Charlie Finely meddled and told him to focus on hitting homeruns.  His production went into a tailspin from which he never recovered.  The Cubs provided him a swan song with 6 unproductive pinch hitting appearances for the almost-great '69 Cubs.

Ah, that team provided my grandfather with more than a few gray hairs.

Finally, we venture back to an even darker time in history for Cubs fans than the 1960's... cue the ominous music...

... the 1950's!  The club finished at .500 or better only once throughout the entire decade (77-77 record in '52) while losing 90 or more 4 times. Woof.

While not directly contributing to that odorous funk, the trades that brought him to Chicago and sent him packing definitely did.  The Cubs booted long-time star and fan favorite Hank Sauer, the Mayor of Wrigley Field and former MVP, to St. Louis just before the start of the '56 season.

The young outfielder showed some promise, batting .239 with 11 homers in his lone season with Chicago, but the Cubs couldn't have that.  He was immediately shipped off with steady contributor Warren Hacker and future All-Star Don Hoak for Elmer Singleton and Ray Jablonski.  Do over!

Meanwhile, Keough actually had nothing to do with the Cubs in the '50s.  While this card dates from 1959, Keough's Cubs career only dates to 1966.  So, Marty gets a pass.  He wrapped up his 11 year career with 32 at-bats in Chi-Town while batting a weak .231.  His son Matt also pitched for the Cubs exactly 10 years later.

The Cubs - a family tradition.  Marty gazes at his son Matt with pride!

I think that covers all of the vintage pickups I made over the course of my hiatus; excepting oddballs, which will get their own post soon.

I think the lesson that we can take away from this long and meandering post is that vintage cards are awesome because they capture the history of the game and our own nostalgia for days gone by.  However, as a Cubs fan, I'm not entirely sure that's a good thing!

Maybe some of that wine I mentioned in the title will help deal with that...


  1. Well done. Love the team logos on the 50's cards.

    1. Thank you! They sure do seem more artistic than the logos and symbols of today, don't they?