When I was a kid, my uncle from North Carolina mailed me a couple of these beauties in order to foster my appreciation of the game's history. It worked.
As a follow up, the first box of baseball cards that I bought was from the 1992 edition of the series at K-Mart. Well, my mother bought it for me; I was seven or so at the time.
I was fascinated to discover the players of the Dead Ball Era through the War Years. Curious names like Sad Sam Jones and unfamiliar teams like the St. Louis Browns fascinated me. Also, the Braves played in Boston?
Consequently, when the neighborhood kids all fought over who got to be Sammy Sosa and Frank Thomas in our sandlot games, I was quite content being Riggs Stephenson.
I was the weird kid.
I've been keeping my eye out for another box of Conlon (any edition) ever since I returned to collecting.
Not only is Conlon one of my favorites, it's yearly checklists features many players who don't otherwise show up on baseball cards and has been immensely helpful with filling gaps in my CATRC. I've found loose packs here and there, but never anything more.
Of course, that's without cheating and using the internet anyway.
But, this guy here finally filtered through one of my LCS a few days ago:
Detroit Hall of Famer Hughie Jennings obviously shares my enthusiasm!
What better way is there to spend an evening than ripping open 36 packs of a favorite baseball card set?
Thankfully, after all of the build up, the box was no let down either. In addition to the Riggs that you see above (as an upgrade), many cards were added to my collection - including several new faces for my CATRC.
I'll show them off alphabetically, for organization's sake.
Not to be confused with Dick Bertell, who later caught for the Cubs in the early 60's.
Like Riggs above, Dick Bartell comes from the subset "Why Not in the Hall of Fame?" As you might guess, these cards spotlight players who had overall good numbers but fell just short of enshrinement for one reason or another.
"Rowdy Richard" (I love the inclusion of nicknames on the back) was an inaugural All-Star in 1933 and played for 17 seasons with the Pirates, Phillies, Giants, Tigers and, of course, the Cubs.
A .284 average over that lengthy career compared favorably to other HOF shortstops at the time of print (Pee Wee Reese, Phil Rizzuto), but has been far out-shown in today's age. Plus, his defense was average at best and he lacked any power.
His time as a Cub didn't help him either. In his one season on the North Side, Dick batted. 238 in just 105 games in 1939. That meager production cost the Cubs the services of Frank Demaree and Billy Jurges via trade with the Giants.
Les Bell here also hails from a special subset, this one honoring the 100th anniversary of the Cardinals franchise. *shudders* Ugh, Cardinals...
But, Les Bell was once a Cub as well. Excuse me as I get all Dr. Seuss on you.
Bell saw regular action as the starting third baseman with meager power and decent average in St. Louis and Boston (Braves) for several seasons in the 20's.
The Cubs, seeking help at the hot corner, selected Les off of waivers in 1930. He couldn't stay on the field though, losing playing time to Woody English as he dealt with injuries. By 1931, he was done and out of the league.
I guess Les isn't always more.
Also, check out that massive patch on his sleeve honoring the 50th anniversary of the NL - it's Golden Jubilee. Here's what it looked like in color, courtesy of Wrigley Wax
Jumbo looks miffed that he was included as just a base card. Sorry bud.
However, making Jumbo mad was probably a bad idea. Towering at 6'4" and 295 lbs, Brown was easily the largest baseball player of his time. It sure would have been amusing to see him pitch to Eddie Gaedel.
He received a brief two-game audition out of the Cubs bullpen in 1925, giving up 2 ER in 6 IP. They weren't impressed and he went back down to the bush leagues.
It wasn't until the Yankees got a hold of him in 1932 that Jumbo took off (the first Jumbo Jet?), serving as an effective swingman for the next nine years for both New York clubs and Cincy.
Gotta love baseball, what other sport features such people of all shapes and sizes?
And we have another subset. A pretty simple concept here; just a bunch of really cool nicknames.
Roy "Jeep" Hughes earned his nickname as a result of his speed on the infield, easily able to cruise through the dirt at top speed.
Roy served as mostly a utility infielder throughout his 11-year big league career, including his stint with the Cubs from 1944-45. However, for the most recent Cubs Fall Classic, Roy was promoted to starter.
Lennie Merullo (the last living Cub to have played in the World Series) had been the man for the job all through the regular season, but his weak bat and defensive limitations kept him on the bench for all but one game of the series.
For his part, "Jeep" went 5 for 17 with a double, 3 RBI and 4 walks to his credit. Alas, as we well know, it wasn't enough to put the Cubs over the top.
That's going to do it for today. I've got some errands to run and I don't think my lovely girlfriend will take blogging as an acceptable excuse. So, I'll cover the rest of my Conlon finds in tomorrow's post.
I hope that discovering these forgotten men of baseball's past is just as exciting for you as it was for both childhood Tony and adulthood Tony