Monday, August 31, 2015

Me and Julio Down by the Ballyard

First off - let's take not of the elephant in the room:  Jake Arrieta is a beast and tossed a no-hitter against the Dodgers last night!  It seemed like a matter of time with him - he took 3 no-hit bids into the 8th inning last year, after all.

Anywho, in today's 24hr news cycle, that's already old news and a few great blogs have already covered the event - including Wrigley Wax and Mint Condition.  So, I'm going to go with my regularly scheduled post today.

...mostly so I can keep my streak of posts with pop music references in the title going (3 strong!).



Conlon Collection continues to be a goldmine for my CATRC.  Every time I think I've chipped out all of the players I need from it's checklists, I find a couple more hidden nuggets - including, this here Julio Bonetti card.

Julio was a pretty interesting, mostly forgotten character in the annals of baseball history.  First off, he is one of only 7 Italian born Major Leaguers and the only one to play for the Cubs.

Initially coming up with the lowly Browns in 1937, he spent two seasons as a swingman for St. Louis with an ERA darn near 6 before the Cubs purchases his contract as minor league depth.  Playing for the old PCL L.A. Angels in '39, he showed off newfound pinpoint control, at one point going 64 consecutive innings without allowing a walk and pitching a shutout with just 66 pitches!  Where the hell did that come from?


Julio as a Cub in 1940


This surprising performance allowed him to break camp with the Cubs in 1940.  But, his first start was the complete antithesis of his Angels performance - allowing three runs and four walks in just 1 1/3 inning for an ERA of 20.25.  He never again appeared in a MLB uniform, getting just that singular game in a Cubs uniform.

Unfortunately for Julio, things only got worse from there.  After another year and a half pitching for the Angels, Bonetti was accused of accepting a rather large amount of money from gamblers for betting on horses.  In an era not that far removed from the Black Sox scandal, he was quickly banned for life, despite never actually being charged with betting baseball or fixing games. He fought the decision until his dying day in 1952, when a heart attack claimed his life at the age of 40.


Julio joined these two as Cubs to be banned from baseball for gambling/game fixing


So, even though his entire Cubs career spanned an inning and some change, this card still slots nicely into my CATRC.  A Cub is a Cub, no matter for how long and I'm always happy to check another name off of the list.

It's a shame that his career and then his life both came to such an abrupt end.  Don't gamble, kiddies!

Instead, grow out an impressive black, bushy beard, build up enough arm strength to muscle 96 mph fastballs in the 9th inning, sport a mustachioed pajama onesie in press conferences and be Jake Arrieta.  Unless you can be Batman, always be Jake Arrieta!

That man is a beast.





Saturday, August 29, 2015

Kiss From a Rose

Besides being the name of an excellent 90's R&B cut by American one-hit wonder Seal that helped distract from how bad of a movie Batman Forever actually is. this post title is also the reason why the man on the card below has any significance in Cubs history:



No - Seal's birth name is not Reggie Patterson, so guess again.

Mr. Patterson was "kissed" by a certain Rose way back in 1985:



Yes, it was Reggie Patterson who was pitching when Pete Rose "kissed" a fastball to tie himself with Ty Cobb for the all-time hit record.  Did you think I meant "kissed" romantically?  That would have been weird, but equally talked about.

In trying to defend their surprising NL East title from the year before, the Cubs starting rotation quickly became decimated with injuries - at one point, all five starters were on the DL at the same time!  Thus, hacks like Reggie were needed to eat innings and give up milestone accomplishments.

That said, a Cub is a Cub, no matter how bad, so Reggie and his 5.20 career ERA need to be represented in my CATRC.  For a long time, his spot was filled by this card:



Now, this card is fine and all; but, it has three things going against it:
  1. It's not a Cubs card
  2. It's a multi-player card and I prefer my CATRC pieces to spotlight just one player
  3. It's a White Sox card
Just kidding on that last one.  I actually quite like that it shows off the Southsiders' "leisure suit" jerseys of the late 70's/early 80's, which they just threw back to a few nights ago.

Anywho, that 1986 Fleer common is his only Major League Cub card and it has eluded me (for no particular reason) for many years, as I documented in this post here.  Then, I find a stack of 20 of them in a 4/$1 box at my LCS.  Life is a funny thing, isn't it?

But, I felt weird buying just a singular card for the price of a gumball; so I decided to add a few more to my stack, on top of the Cubgrade:



The card on the right is the new one here - I've had the one on the left since I purchased the 2004 Daytona Cubs team set (new) as one of my first independent internet purchases.  I was a mature high school sophomore, huh?

Like the Patterson, I consider this to be a "Cubgrade" addition as well.  I love minor league cards; but, while this busted prospect might have been a draft pick at the time, the 2000 Topps card lists him as a CHICAGO Cub, a Cubgrade over DAYTONA Cub.  Into the binder it goes.

However, that single-A card will slot nicely into another collection I've been building - stay tuned!

*Sidenote - It took 8 years and a switch to the outfield for Montanez to finally crack the Bigs and it wasn't even for the Cubs - it was in Baltimore.  He did eventually make his way to Wrigley though as roster filler in the dark days of 2011.  *Shudder*



Scott Downs is a guy I don't have too many cards of and I really liked the image choice on this 2001 UD card - a set I've always appreciated.  So, I picked this up too for a potential swapping into my CATRC binder. 

It wasn't meant to be though.  I didn't notice it at the time; but, it's not technically a Cubs card.  See that shiny Expos logo in the bottom right corner?  Curses - foiled again.

*rimshot*


 
I also picked up these two cards for no other reason then that I liked them.  Oddballs are always fun, especially the oh-so-90's Classic game cards.  I just couldn't say no to this one, even if it was Derrick May.  His rookie cards will still be worth a fortune some day - I know it!!!1!!

*sigh*

Also, the blue borders of 2003 Topps might be hit-and-miss on the blogosphere; but, I've always thought that they look wonderful on the Cubs cards and since I only have one other Paul Bako Cubs card, I decided to make it mine.

Along with a new storage box, that wrapped up my purchases from the LCS that day.  The cards may have been a touch over-priced; but who am I to quabble when my purchase would have been $1.25 without the box?  Gotta keep the LCS in business, after all.

We'll close out today's edition of Wrigley Roster Jenga with this video because I know you've been humming it to yourself since you clicked on the link to begin with:




Friday, August 28, 2015

Can You Hear the Drums, Fernando?

The end of summer has been pretty busy round these parts; so, sadly, I haven't had the time for blogging.  However, that hasn't stopped me from playing with my actual cards.  In fact, I've done some major restructuring with my mass of cardboard and even added a few more collections in the process.

However, that isn't what brought me back to the internet today - it was the Cubs latest trade acquisition that did that:



Fernando Rodney saved me from the blogging doldrums!  Since saves have been pretty hard for this former closer to come by this season, that's not insignificant.

The Cubs bullpen has been a touch shaky lately and a club always needs a few extra arms, so the Cubs sent a little cash to Seattle for the embattled (5.68 ERA,6 blown saves) reliever last night.  It's a low risk/high reward trade, as he'll likely be used for low leverage middle relief.

Hopefully, this at least works out better than the Rafael Soriano experiment - like Raffy, Fernando was an All-Star in Tampa under Joe Maddon.  Since we seem to like bringing in aged Tampa closers lately, does this mean a Troy Percival signing is next? Maybe Grant Balfour?

In order to make room for "he who shoots a bow and arrow into the sky after each save," the Cubs had to flush someone off the roster:



Brian has gone down the Schlitter.  The reliever has been resilient, hanging on in the organization since the 2008 Scott Eyre trade after multiple injury issues, but has been gasoline on a fire more often than not in his big league time.  His number was up.

See?  No big loss there.

The 2013 Archives card from the top of this post will go into my CATRC to represent the Cubs' latest scrap heap find; thankfully, it came in the box featured in this post - a gift that just keeps on giving!  However, it wasn't the only card of Rodney that I had lying around:



I also had this 2007 Topps base card just sitting in my trade stacks.  Now, I much prefer the faux-vintage Archives card as compared to the hard to read text and random colored boxes of this one, so it wasn't going to usurp for CATRC inclusion.  However, it will proves useful for one of those aforementioned new collections from the top of the post.

This accumulation was inspired by Red Cardboard and it involves jerseys.  I'll unveil it at some point next week to great anticipation, I'm sure.

In the meantime, here's hoping the Cubs can get things going on the west coast.  This road trip has led the Cubs up against some top flight pitching and it ain't about to get better with Kerhsaw on the mound tonight.  Anything can happen though, right?




Monday, August 17, 2015

Baseball Cards on the Big Screen

As detailed in yesterday's post, I had the (mis)fortune of attending the final Crosstown Classic baseball game of the season.  While the Cubs took that 3 game set and split the season series with the Sox in total, it was an ugly loss and the dregs of each fan base populated most of the park.  

That said, I had the opportunity to attend a baseball game on a sunny, weekend day, take in a churro and a bucket of popcorn, get a free baseball card and (begrudgingly) appreciate a masterful performance by Chris Sale.  

I really shouldn't complain.

There was one other cool thing that I caught on camera.  All throughout the pre-game build-up, the White Sox paid tribute to the players of yore on both sides of town by creating a little montage of baseball cards on one of the jumbotrons.  Check it out here:




Please excuse the shakiness of the video - my hands are about as steady as Michael J. Fox's during a snowstorm.  I thought this was a neat little touch and something a little bit different than the normal birthday wishes, greetings, subliminal advertising or whatever it is they usually run on those things.

This would be a cool idea for each home series, hint hint White Sox promo people.

I would have included this in yesterday's post; however, apparently Google Drive and/or my wi-fi could not handle this 45 second file in a timely manner.  It took until this morning to finally upload.
I wasn't aware that I was asking my internet connection to handle Titanic, but I digress.

Here's hoping the Cubs can start another winning streak against the Tigers tomorrow, a team that I dislike immensely more than the White Sox.  This is a product of going to college with an abnormally large amount of Michiganders with big mouths; thus, I loathe everything Piston, Tiger, Lion, Red Wing, Wolverine, etc. related.

At any rate, I'm glad that I actually care about baseball in August again!




Sunday, August 16, 2015

Crosstown Coupons

Go to a Cubs vs. Sox game they said, it'll be fun they said...

Even if the Cubs had successfully pulled off the weekend sweep, the experience would have been relatively unpleasant.  Drunk and obnoxious non-fans make things worse for everyone... and they show up in droves to these games.

Add in the fact that Chris Sale took a no-hitter into the 6th (I don't think I could take two of those this season) and the Sox staff struck out 18 Cubs in total in a 3-1 defeat and I walked away pretty hot (97 degrees) and miserable.



On the bright side, I walked away with a couple of these oddball baseball cards that double as coupons for frozen treats.  Of course, I pocketed them and didn't get myself any ice cream; perhaps I should have though.  Did I mention it was hot?

The White Sox, like many teams across baseball, have borrowed the "sausage" race between innings promotion from Milwaukee.  However, instead of using encased meats. the promotional team uses sausagey looking likenesses of White Sox greats of the past.  This year, they've been using members of the 2005 WS Champion team.

In years past, they've done the Winning Ugly-era:



Fisk at his wurst - as in bratwurst.  Even a free gallon of milk doesn't offset his inhuman-looking face of terror.

I got this one from a White Sox game way back in 2013; so, they've been doing this sort of promotion for at least that long.  I certainly don't remember it extending much beyond that.

Anyway - these type of coupon cards make for interesting oddballs, no matter the case. So, I'll happily add them to my miscellaneous cool things collection, since they aren't Cubs.

In the meantime, I'm going to stop going to games because in two that I've attended this year, the Cubs starter didn't last 2 innings in the first game and then today happened as well.  I'm clearly bad luck.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Nacional de Feria

It wasn't that long ago that we card bloggers were basking in the glow of the National Sports Collectors Convention.  I wasn't able to make it, even though it was pretty much in my backyard; however, I was able to live vicariously through several blogs as they showed off their exceptional hauls.

What, with the overwhelming amount of memorabilia, deals to be had and exclusive releases, it was almost impossible not to be jealous.  Unfortunately, adult life has a tendency to get in the way.
But, that doesn't mean that I wasn't able to secure some new cards recently from a national convention - just not THAT national convention.

In fact, not even that nation:



OK - Puerto Rico may be a U.S. territory; but they are a commonwealth and still not a state.

Anyway, I was able to dig up some cards that were issued to promote Nacional de Feria - Toleteros y Juntacosas - which translates, roughly, to National Fair of Sluggers & Things Together (hooray high school spanish!) -  Puerto Rico's own trading card convention.

This is a big deal and has been held annually for 21 years now.  I was able to secure an assortment of promotional cards from both the 2007 and 2009 editions of the Nacional on the cheap for my own amusement.  Apparently, a set of cards is released each year and they are used as admission passes for the event.  How cool is that?

On the back of these standard-size cards, which you see above, is an advertisement for the convention - here's the back of the 2009 edition:


Very little changes year-to-year, it seems.  Meanwhile, the front of these promotional pieces features famous toleteros of the Liga de BĂ©isbol Profesional de Puerto Rico, the top-rung, pro baseball league on the island since 1938.  It's also quite commonly used for U.S. players as a winter league for continued development during the off-season.

Now, you may be asking yourself, why would I, a strict Cubs collector, be interested in a set that would obviously not include any Cub uniforms?  Well, one of the players to found in the lot actually managed to break into the U.S. Major Leagues, with none other than the Northsiders:



Hiram "Hi" Bithorn is a legend in Puerto Rico.  After pitching for the Leones de Ponce in PR from 1936-41, Bithorn became the first player born in Puerto Rico to play in Major League Baseball when he debuted for the Cubs in 1942.

He hit the ground running; after a solid rookie year, Hiram quickly became the ace of the Cubs in 1943, going 18-12 with a 2.60 ERA.  At age 27, he appeared to be part of the franchise's future.

But, Uncle Sam came a-calling and Hiram went off to serve in the Navy during WWII.  When he returned to baseball in 1946 - he had gained weight and was no longer in playing shape.  he stuck around for one last mediocre season in Wrigley before bouncing through Pittsburgh and then to the White Sox through waivers.

Hi's promising career ended with 2 innings pitched for the White Sox in 1947.  After the rigors of war, Hiram was no longer physically capable to continue playing at an elite level.


Hiram beams for the camera.
Image courtesy of Ron Moody

Bithorn wasn't going to go down without a fight though; he attempted a comeback in the Mexican winter league a few years later.  However, tragically, it was here that his life was cut short when he was shot and killed by a police officer who claimed Bithorn had admitted to being part of a communist cell and was being violent; both accusations were easily debunked and the officer recieved 8 years in an actual cell.

Now, if you're like me, you recognize Bithorn's name; but, it's not because of his exploits on the diamond.  Rather, it's because of an actual diamond in Puerto Rico, Hi Bithorn Stadium, which has served as host of WBC games and a temporary home field for the Montreal Expos in 2003.

I had never realized that the namesake of that stadium had been a Cubs ace, until a few years ago.  How about that?


Hi Bithorn Stadium during it's time as the Expos temporary home in 2003
Image courtesy of Paul's Ballparks


I felt compelled to grab this set when I saw it because, to my knowledge, this is the only baseball card to have been produced for Bithorn.  This is a fact that I find strange, seeing as he does in fact hold some significance for the sport in being the first Puerto Rican to play and due to his tragic end.  Can anyone prove me wrong?

Meanwhile, while the Bithorn card was really the only reason I made this purchase, it also came with several others of which I am not familiar with their subjects:



           



These are available for trade, if anyone would like them.  Like I said, I don;t know much about these guys.  Some played in Puerto Rico their whole careers, some spent some time in the Negro Leagues and a couple even had cameos in MLB - however, I don't remember who did what.

Anyway, turns out that not going to the National wasn't such a bad thing.  Instead, I was able to stay home, sleep in, not work and locate some cheap, exotic cards on the internet - one of which was even a player that I'd been seeking.

I'll take that deal every day.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Signed, Sealed, Delivered... But, Who's That?

In yesterday's post, I left you all hanging by saying that I had saved the most interesting pick up from my Savers trip for another day.  Well, my friends, that day is today - I'm not going to leave you waiting with bated breath for long.

What's that?  No one was really waiting?  No matter, I enjoy talking to myself anyway.

Anyway, nestled in amongst the random Cherished Teddies figurines and Precious Moments statuettes in the random housewares section, I came across this little mystery:



Why yes, that is an autographed baseball and it was just sticking out like a sore thumb among the candle holders and porcelain crosses.  Chances are that it's some minor league nobody, some little-leaguer working stroking his own ego, or someone trying to forge and make a quick buck, right?  But, for $3, I was willing to take that risk and research a tiny bit.

After all, the stand itself is at least worth that price.

Thankfully, the mystery  (potential) baseball player had pretty good penmanship and the first name seems like a pretty clear "Craig."  Additionally, it also seems pretty easy to tell that their last name begins with a "G," no?

Here's a closer look, just in case:



Yea, I feel pretty confident in my deductions.  What say you?

So, from here I did what any 21st century investigator would do - I turned to Google.  Using the search engine, I typed in "Craig G baseball" just to see what might pop up.  Here is what my computer screen spat back out at me:




Well, I have a few baseball players to chose from here.  I would be ecstatic to unearth a Craig Kimbrel auto at a thrift shop; but that last name is nowhere close.  In fact, it looks like the last letter in the last name could very easily be a "k."

That being the case, would narrow it down to only one name on that list:



Chicago's own, the "Little Hurt" himself - Craig Grabek.  The 12-year veteran came up with the Southsiders in 1990 and stuck around through 1995 as a backup middle infielder.  The most notable thing about his playing career that he hit his first major league home run off of Nolan Ryan, who then proceeded to plunk Grebeck in his ribs in his very next at-bat, breaking a rib.

Welcome to the Big Leagues kid!

But, seeing as he spent a good chunk of time in Chicago and his career wasn't particularly notable (wrong White Sox #14, dangit), it would make sense that a ball with his autograph on it might end up in a local thrift shop.

So, let's compare a known example of Craig's signature with my mystery ball then, shall we?


                                                              Thanks COMC!

On the right, we have the only certified auto I can find of Grebeck, courtesy of 1996 Leaf Signature Series.  The two autographs sure do look similar to me.  However, the COMC watermark on the card sure does make it difficult to see clearly and the flourish on the "k" appears different.

Let's try another one.  One sample is never enough to go on anyway.


                                                                  Image courtesy of ioffer.com

Here's an in-person auto that, granted, could also be faked; but, I doubt that there is a master Craig Grebeck impersonator running around loose on the internet.  I could be wrong though, I suppose.

Anyway, this signature appears to be almost identical - the only difference being the angle at which each item was signed; even the flourish on the "k" is there too.  I don't know about you guy; but, I think we have a winner!

*Please tell me if I'm wrong here!*

The mystery baseball that I picked up at Savers for less than the cost of the stand it was in is actually that of a bonafide Major Leaguer!  Granted, not a big name or star or whatever; however, a guy with a 12-year career is nothing to sneeze at either.  How about them apples?

Of course, I immediately shuffled through my trade/dupe/junk box to see if I had a card of the guy.  I was not disappointed:


It might be 1992 Donruss (blech), but it sure would look nice alongside that baseball.  I think I might try and locate one of those stands that holds both a baseball and card so that when I show this find off to all of my friends, they can put a face along with the (semi-legible) name.

I'm pretty happy with my $3 purchase.

It really just goes to show you, you never know what you might find at a thrift store!  Has anyone else found a similarly surprising item at a second-hand store?  Perhaps something even better?




Monday, August 10, 2015

Savers in Motion

There are three kinds of places that I love going to more than anything in life: garage sales, flea markets and thrift stores.  I'm probably the most exciting 20-something on the face of this here planet!

However, I've come to terms with my inherent boring nature and learned to embrace it.  So, I have no problems telling all of the internet that the highlight of my weekend was a trip to Savers - which is a national chain of thrift shops.

Now, normally, I can find a couple of cool LPs or 45's, some miscellaneous knick-knacks or a gag gift or two; however, baseball cards are usually nowhere to be found.  This, I figure, is a result of people thinking their junk wax is an untapped goldmine and trying to pawn them off on the LCS. This is a scene that I've seen plenty often enough.

While I did find a couple nice albums (Donnie Iris and Scandal), some clothes and an amusing book that might offend more religious folks, I was very surprised to also happen upon this:



A plastic baggie of baseball cards??  This is my second favorite thing to find in a plastic baggie!!  (The first is a sandwich, what the heck did ya think I meant?)

Not just yellow-bordered Donruss crapola either; I don't have any 1996 Sportflics (I mean Sportflix... because X is cooler to 90's kids) in my collection and rarely do I see it pop up.  This Savers repack contained a nice stack of said set, plus this card was visible on the back:



A fun set of which I have no cards from and a guaranteed Cub too?  I'll take that deal every time.  Mark Parent was only a Cub for two seasons (1994-95) and served as a backup catcher; so, a card in Cubbie blue is a rare sight, indeed!

Unfortunately, that was the only card in the whole pack that had the right uniform on it; that said, that doesn't mean I wasn't able to find a few former/future Cubs to stock my player collections with:



As you can see, you get the player's last name when you tilt it one way and a notable stat from their previous season when you tilt in the opposite way.This was cool technology back then kiddies!

He might have earned his fame in Toronto, but let's not forget that this World Series hero got his start on the North Side of Chicago and landed the Cubs Rick "the Red Baron" Sutcliffe!



Ugh, a Cardinal.  But, at least this guy was able to get out of his deal with the devil and spend the 2006 season in Chicago.

On second though, that wasn't so pleasant.  Brought in to be a pinch-hitter, that .307 avg turned into a whopping .205 and his lasting impression here was getting pummeled by Brian Anderson in the benches-clearing brawl that ensued after the Michael Barrett/A.J. Pierzynski bout.



Michael Tucker didn't really have a notable career at Wrigley Field either.  He served as an extra outfielder for a team that choked down the stretch in 2001 and the Cubs then traded him back to the Royals in the off season.

Still, something new for my collection.




The rookie cards from this set are probably my favorite part about it.  First off all, the transition between the bat to the ball background seems smoother than the normal cards backgrounds.  Plus, they just look cooler to me.

I don't always have to have a rational reason, right?

Shawn Estes might have been a young hurler with a ton of promise back in 1996; but, as a Cubs in 2003 he was the obvious weak link in the rotation.  As the fifth man, he posted an ERA 5.73 and somehow lasted for 28 starts.

The club succeed in spite of his turns and, thus, I'll always remember him fondly for his association with that "almost did it" Cub team.


Here's the rest of the '96 Flix that fell out of the baggie.  Does anyone want to call dibs on them?  I'm not really wed to the ones with Cubs connections either; so, don't be afraid to lay claim to those too, if you're so inclined.

Yes, I know.  Organization is a skill I really need to work on.  My girlfriend reminds me every day.



That was it for Sportflix, but there was a healthy assortment of some more recent product as well.  For instance, this mix of 2008 Upper Deck.  No one that I collect though - anyone need help building the set?

Also nestled in there was a small trove of...




...recent editions of Allen & Ginter.  Now, none of these are guys that I collect and I don't particularly care for these sets.  But, I know that some go ga-ga over Ginter; so, does anyone need some full-size...



...or minis?  Let me know if any of these interest you!



We close things out with a couple of future Cub relievers who had spotty (at best) records with the Chicago National League ball club.

All in all, there wasn't that much "oompf" in this particular repack, but it was worth it for the novelty factor alone.

Plus, that wasn't the only baseball-related trinket that I uncovered during this particular expedition to Savers.  In fact, the other purchase that I made was much more interesting.  However, that one will require a little bit lengthier of a write-up; so, I'll save that one for tomorrow. See ya then!

I know - this is the most intense cliffhanger since "who shot JR?" Right???