Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Everybody Plays the Fool

Well, we all know what today is and surely someone you know has or will attempt to pull some sort of silly prank on you or some poor sap nearby.

Now, I'm not necessarily above such behavior myself; however, the prank would have to be unique and played on the right subject.  My favorite piece of trickery was when, in college, the radio station staff and I completely flipped the format from alt/rock to country over night - complete with bogus show promos and fake personalities.

Today, I have no original ideas and the people around me barely know my name.

Thus, I will settle for an April Fool's Day themed post on my blog instead... 'cause I'm cool like that.

Don't worry - I'm not going to try and convince you all that I've suddenly decided to start collecting Cardinals or that Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant have been traded for Bartolo Colon.  Instead, I'm going to showcase some times when my own collection made a fool out of me.

Tough to believe right?..  Don't answer that.

Dimebox Nick has whipped up some excellent features regarding his "Zero Year" collection - cards that depict a player on a team that he has never actually played for.

On several occasions, in my quest to collect a card of every player who has appeared on the diamond for the Cubs, this sort of tom-foolery has tricked me into picking up cards that I didn't need.  It doesn't count if the player never got into a real game with the North Siders.

This 1957 Jablonski was the first card that I remember pulling the wool over my young eyes.  Purchased from my first foray into one of my LCS's, 10th grade me didn't realize that Jabbo here only used Chicago as a stopover in his move from Cincinatti to St. Louis that offseason.

Although, I was never too upset by that due to the excellent on-deck shot with a rarely seen Cubs uniform.  Ray must have been attempting his best Ted Kluszewski impression, however the farmer's tan and ridiculously hairy arms undermine that.

Bobby here was still a clean-cut, young star on the rise when the Cubs acquired him from the Indians after the 1961 season.

Apparently, he was no "Locke" to make the roster, as he was moved along to St. Louis right as the team broke camp.

Again, this is a fact I was unaware of when I saw this card listed for spare change on Ebay and thought to myself, "hey I don't have him yet!"  Turns out there was a reason for that, but impulses suck.

Unlike the previous two subjects, this MLB veteran actually appeared in some official games for the Cubs organization - but, those games came for their AAA affiliate in 1959.

He was purchased from Cleveland in May that year and stuck around as rotation depth until, of all days, April 1st, 1960, when he was sold to Toronto of the International League.  

So, that was 65 years ago today - did you remember that anniversary?

Topps' crystal ball must have been broken going into 1960, as they must have thought he was going to go north.  That said, he did end up going north - wayyyyyy up north.

Believe it or not, "Zero Year" club members aren't the only cards that have gotten the best of me - sometimes guys who didn't even have a Cubs card issued end up in my binder.

My Cubs roster archive source material initially included many players who appeared in spring training or random minor-leaguers in it's compilation, for some reason or another.  I had to go through each entry and confirm whether or not the player warranted inclusion in the project.

With over 2000 players all-time and countless hours of plugging names on BBref, it was inevitable that some names slip through the cracks.

Thus, last year, when my archive told me I needed Allen Battle, I found a Battle.  It wasn't until later that I happened upon his career stats and noticed no mention of Chicago.  He spent some time in Iowa in 1999, but never ascended to the major league Cubs.  Drat, now I'm stuck with a Cards card.

Thankfully, the next time this issue came up, I caught the gaffe before I pulled the trigger.  Just as I was about to place this Classic into my Ebay cart, I ran across this Gajkowski retrospective post on The Greatest 21 Days.  What are the chances of that, huh?

That's not the only way that my archive has fooled me either - it's a cheeky bastard.

My source material listed a "Ray Webster" as having played for the Cubs in 1971 as an infielder.  So, as I was idly flipping through a vintage discount box and I came across this 1960 single, I figured this must be the guy.

It's not hard to believe a guy playing in 1960 could still be playing 11 years later, especially the way the Cubs like to bring in washed-up veterans at the very end of their career.

But, when I got the card home and did some research, I could find only one entry on BBref for a "Ray Webster" in MLB history - and while he played for Cleveland and Boston, he never called Chicago home.

What gives?

This gives.  Apparently, Ray was actually a Ramon who once supplanted Chicago icon Hawk Harrelson at first base on the A's until leg injuries derailed his career and he finished his time in the majors as a pinch hitter with the Cubs.

I guess that, like Bob Clemente, sometimes writers and fans liked to Americanize the Panamanian's name.  Therein lies my confusion.

Luckily, I was able to come across a card of the correct Webster on discount not much later.  I know they don't get a lot of love, but I like the burlap borders of 1968 Topps - it's different and matches the color scheme of the Cubs uniform and team bubble really well.

What I don't like is that my record keeping is a little sloppy.  Ugh.

My database might look well-organized, but that's just what it wants you to think!

In conclusion, though nobody has lived up to the spirit of the holiday and made me look like a total fool yet today (the day is young), my card collection has certainly taken up the mantle over the course of time.

Does anyone else out there have any stories about how their cardboard accumulation has played tricks on them?  I'm certain that I can't be the only one.


Happy April Fools Day everyone; keep your head on a swivel.

Play me out Marvin!


  1. This month is the one year anniversary of my return to full-time collecting, and in that year I have had plenty of chances to get my organization methods wrong.
    I have probably purchased the same cards about a dozen times (thankfully they've been commons) because I:
    A) forgot to bring my list to the card show, or
    B) forgot to update my list before the card show, or
    C) didn't update it during the card show...

    I pull pranks on myself in this way all the time!

    AND I definitely will take everything I read today on the internet with a grain of salt.

    1. oh and another thing - I saw a Cubs card at the last card show featuring current Twin Ricky Nolasco... I don't think he made his ML debut until moving on to the Marlins.. so.. uh, there's another zero year guy.

    2. Yea, I have definitely made all of those mistakes too - but I could only type so much!

      Nolasco was moved in the Juan Pierre trade with Florida, one that definitely worked out better for the Marlins. It's a shame; he'd have looked great in those late 00's Cub rotations.

  2. I think my favorite Cubs zero-year card is Dontrelle Willis's 2002 Topps Traded rookie. I remember being so fascinated by it when I first discovered it, because I never knew he was in the Cubs' organization.

    1. That was one of the cards that I searched out when I first started collecting again, circa 2004; D-Train was hot and I also had no clue until I saw the card online. It's too bad when he came back around in spring training a couple years ago that he got hurt in (I think) his first spring appearance. It would have been nice to move that card from Zero Year to One Year!

      Jon Garland was another one like that I absolutely had to have. His 1997 Bowman Cubs issue was a card I sought as the Sox were making their World Series run.

      Bottom line: Zero year cards are fascinating!