Saturday, July 25, 2015

Outfielder or Half Back?

Lately I've been monitoring Ebay for cheap vintage cards.  When I say vintage, I'm not talking about 70's Topps here - I mean 50's and earlier vintage.  At 68% percent of the way through the Cubs All-Time Roster, most of the players that I have yet to acquire played in the days before the microwave oven.

Obviously, the prices for even the commons of these sorts of card are a bit steeper than modern cards - antiques and all that.  But, since I'm a low-end collector who gets the card more for the player than for the resale value, I can usually find weathered vintage for the price of a McD's dollar menu lunch.

The latest such find was delivered to my doorstep yesterday afternoon:

It may look like Rocky Balboa after a few rounds with Ivan Drago; but, it's in one piece and you can still tell who it is.  A 1948 Leaf for three bucks shipped?  I'll take it even if it's seen better days.

There are several obvious flaws with this aged piece of cardboard:  paper loss, an unidentifiable stain on the upper right, rounded and sheared corners, etc., but the first one I noticed wasn't a result of time.  Rather, Leaf's colorizing folks seem to have gotten the Cubs color scheme backwards - never in team history has the Cubs symbol had blue lettering with a red circle.

I guess this would be the equivalent of today's photoshopping faux pas.

It's a good thing all of the text on the back is still there and legible because I didn't really know anything about Mr. Aberson other than his name.

It looks like the hometown kid had a notable start to his career as during his initial call-up, he knocked in all of the team's runs with a grand salami in a late-season Cubs win.  In total, he batted .279 in 161 PA's during his 1947 audition.

It was all downhill from there.  Aberson only got into 16 more games across the next two seasons where he batted well under the Mendoza Line, well before the Medoza Line was a thing.  What a hipster.

After a couple seasons in the high minors, he retired to pursue his first love.  What was that, you ask?

Cliff during the 1946 NFL season
Image courtesy of

Why football of course!

Actually, before Cliff had ever even swung a bat in the Major Leagues, he had already played on the national level in pro sports.

While serving for the Army Air Force in the Central Europe Campaign in the waning days of WWII, his skills on the gridiron, he attracted the attention of a pro-scout who immediately recommended him to one of the biggest names in the history of the NFL:  Curly Lambeau.

That's right - this Cub was also a Packer... boo! hiss!

I'm not sure, but I doubt this statue was earned for his discovery of Aberson
Image courtesy of

The halfback got into 10 games with Green Bay in 1946, posting 161 rushing yards on 48 attempts with 184 passing yards, while still playing concurrently in the minor league system of the Cubs (who had signed him after an open tryout just before he entered the service).  Eventually, he had to make the tough decision as to which sport he wanted to stick with.

"I actually prefer to play football," Aberson told The Sporting News late in 1947. "But the future in baseball is much greater, and your playing days should be longer. I didn't hesitate a minute when the opportunity came to give up football for a chance in the majors."

This is the same reasoning we hear today from men such as Jeff Samardzija chose the National Pastime over America's Game.  Some things never change, huh?

That said, as his career on the diamond was dying, he must've regretted that choice somewhat.  So, after he decided to give baseball up for good in 1950, it was in order to try out for the old Chicago Cardinals.  Unfortunately, it wasn't to be and he did not make the squad.

This got me thinking though; had any other Cubs player participated in both the NFL and MLB?  The answer is yes, but just one more:

Paddy Driscoll is the only other such Cub - no Bo Jacksons or Deion Sanders to be found here.  I've profiled Mr. Driscoll on this blog before here, so I won't go into too much detail, but, he is extra notable for having played for the both the Cubs and the full-grown Bears.

Oh and yes this football card reps John in my CATRC binder because he has had just one, count 'em one, baseball card ever produced and I am far from being able to afford or justify buying a 1919 Zeenut card.

On the flipside, Cliff had just that one baseball card and no football cards - since, you know, he was barely there and football cards weren't really a thing yet.  So, I took to the Rookies smart phone and whipped up a quick card to fill in that gap:

Ugly as sin; but, alas, we cannot ignore history.  Paddy had a card for each stage of his sporting career - fairs fair.

Also, this seems to be the only image that has survived from Cliff's time in the NFL.

Most importantly, I learned all of this just from finding a beat up, ancient card on an online auction site that I was able to bring home for the cost of a large Red Bull - like which, this stimulated my mind too and I don't feel like I'm going to have a heart attack at any given second.  Win/win.

This is why I love bargain hunting - or, as my family refers to it, being a cheap ass.

*P.S., sorry if I was overly harsh on ya'll Packer-backers - I'm just a jealous Bears fan!


  1. I had never heard of Cliff Aberson before, and I certainly didn't know he was a Packer. Nice eBay find!