Middle relief is a thankless job - in both the trading card world and the actual baseball world.
First of all, they're performance is based on still-imperfect statistics that make it hard to quantify their true value. As such, they bounce around from team to team like a superball covered in teflon and are stuck in a cycle of near-anonymity.
Go ahead, ask the casual fan about their opinion on the performance of Zac Rosscup - blank stares will likely greet you, just like the ones of readers of this blog who aren't crazy Cubs fans.
Thus, relievers don't get to make a lot of appearances on trading cards; unless they're big money closers or former marquee starters. Topps would rather crank out ten new cards of the stars of yesteryear or the latest uber-prospect; but, who can blame them? Most consumers have no use for a player without any "oooo!" factor.
Therefore, it is often rather difficult for me to locate cards of bullpen dwellers for my CATRC - especially in a Cubs uniform, even more so in today's Topps monopoly. Like I said, they bounce around so quickly and Topps cares so little, that they often get forgotten.
So, thank goodness I discovered the Authentic Signature brand, released by Leaf in 1996:
Coming out at the end of the junk wax boom and the emergence of the certified auto/relics phenomenon led to this beauty of a checklist, which included a deep roster of unexpected subjects, like Bob Patterson here.
Patterson, who had a long and relatively successful career in the bigs spent his last three years in Chicago (1996-98). Despite appearing in 79, 76 & 33 games in each of those seasons, one of which included a playoff run in '98, Bob appeared on only one other Cubs card - 1998 Pacific Online.
So, thanks to Fleer for allowing me to fill this obscure hole in my collection and for it being with a certified auto on top of it!
Also, for the record, Robert Chandler Patterson played for the Padres, Pirates, Rangers, Angels and Cubs in his 13 seasons. Bounce, bounce.
Even less appreciated is the LOOGY, who is not helped by only appearing for one batter at a time.
Mr. Casian spent 2.5 seasons in the Cubby bullpen (1995-97) as their lefty specialist - most of it spent with an ERA under two - and yet his only other Cubs cardboard is also from Fleer ('96 Flagship).
So, Fleer was the only one of the then several companies/brands to throw him a bone; he even looks perturbed here!
At least he lined up his signature better than Bob though.
As you can see, my options were very limited with these two guys when it came to adding them to my CATRC, so I just went ahead and got the best cards available. Granted, they were only about a buck a pop, but I really appreciate the simple, subdued layout, rare in the era of Pacific, and the colorization of the player on a black & white background adds that extra oomph.
Besides, who doesn't love an autograph?
Anyway, while the pickins were slim for these two, for many Cubs relievers they are non-existent. For that reason, I pine for the re-emergence of Topps Total or Upper Deck 40-Man or something in that vein. Let these unsung heroes get the cardboard recognition they deserve.
Though, I'm sure they aren't many others like me wishing for a blue Yoervis Medina rather than another Ryne Sandberg relic.