Tuesday, September 29, 2015

You Guys Wanna Get High?

No Towlie, we don't want to get high.

Well, how about we open some Topps Heritage High Number instead?  Does that sound better to you guys?

Yes, after seeing so many bloggers opening up packs of the new product, I was starting to feel a little twinge of jealousy.

You see, there is only one card in this entire release that I am actually targeting - David Ross' first licensed Cubs card - and buying packs of product isn't exactly the most efficient way to lock down a single base card.  I promised myself I was going to be responsible and pick it up on the second hand market or in a trade.  I figured it would show up fairly quickly, since one doesn't have to purchase the full, box set for this product anymore.

Well, you see how long that rationale lasted; I just couldn't fight the itch to open up a pack of cards any longer.  So I grabbed a rack pack up from the local Target and hoped against all hope that it would pay off.  Let's see how I did:

This particular card has been the talk of the blogosphere - Dimebox Nick and Night Owl have already discussed this #595 at length.  The reason is that Cahill never actually pitched for the Dodgers - oh, he signed a minor league deal with them after being cut loose by the Braves; but, in the minors he stayed.

Then the Dodgers cut him loose too and the Cubs picked him up as last-minute, September bullpen insurance.  Surprisingly, he has blossomed as a multi-inning, high-leverage reliever and has seemingly earned himself a playoff roster spot.

But, a Dodger he is not.  It's too bad that the set went to press before they could 'shop him into the right shade of blue.

There was also one former Cub to speak of.  Fuld came up with the Cubs during the 2007 season and spent the next couple of seasons on the shuttle back and forth between Iowa and Chicago before being included in the much-maligned Chris Archer/Matt Garza deal.  Blech.

He's managed to make the most of his limited skill-set and become a useful bench piece (known for making spectacular catches), mostly for Oakland (in two separate stints).  Always good to see a former Cub succeed... as long as it isn't against the Northsiders, that is.

What else did I find in my impulse purchase?

The lone insert is demostrative of just how fleeting success in the Major Leagues can be.  One year ago, Williams was the NL Manager of the Year, this year he is uniformly considered a total fool and his non-handling of the Papelbon vs. Harper choking didn't help his cause.

A couple of guys who play on the other side of town.  After yet another season of big expectations and total failure, fans are calling for a Cubs-like rebuild at US Cellular Field.  Micah has a chance to be a part of such a restart; but, he'll have to start making contact on a more regular basis.  On the other hand, Flowers seems to be about your replacement level catcher - he's not bad, but upgrading is probably on the agenda.

Here we have a couple of members of the Reds' all-rookie rotation.

With their season long since done and injuries taking a toll, their starting pitching staff is currently made up of five rookies.  I guess that's one way of finding out exactly what you've got.

Curiously, DeSclafani's card does not bear the rookie shield.  Is that because he already appeared in products last year, when he was with the Marlins?  His rookie eligibility is still intact through the rest of the season, so I'm confused.

Here are some guys in their new digs...

...and here is the expect cavalcade of rookies that one finds in any sort of "update" product.

By the way, do not adjust your computer screens, that is Anthony Ranaudo appearing twice.  However, before anyone starts lambasting collation, that is in fact my error - I only pulled the card once. but I wasn't so careful when sorting.

And here's the rest of the pack, for which I have nothing interesting nor witty to say about.

So, I got one current and one former Cub, but none wearing a Cubs jersey.  I also did not land my Ross card.  So, overall, this wasn't a very successful purchase.  That said, at least I am no longer itchy.

So, if anybody has pulled a dupe of that David Ross card and is willing to part with it, I'd be happy to arrange a more than generous trade.  Also, while the Cahill and Fuld cards do fit into my collection, I am not wed to them and everything you see here is up for grabs.  So, if there's something you want, speak up.

In the meantime, I hoped you enjoyed getting High with me!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Old as Moses Monday - John Clarkson

*I bet you can figure out the concept of this feature; it shines the spotlight on Cubs players from baseball's ancient history that have found their way into my CATRC. We're talking pre-WWI here!*

I'm resurrecting a feature that I haven't used here on Wrigley Roster Jenga that I haven't used in almost a year.   Honestly, inspiration is lacking lately and this sort of thing makes for a nice, easy jumping off point. Plus, I get to show off some cool cards that I needed an excuse to feature.
It's a win all the way around... that is, if you all enjoy reading it anyway.

Without further ado, let's talk about a Hall of Fame pitcher who grew up in the shadow of the Civil War that Jake Arrieta is doing his best to emulate:

John Clarkson may have had a relatively short career peak, but for a time, there was no better pitcher in the 19th century National League.  As a White Stocking from 1884 to 1887, John posted a 137-57 record with a 2.39 ERA while twice pacing the circuit in complete games, strikeouts and appearances.

Now, of course this was way back when the pitching mound was actually a pitching box and much closer to the plate than it is today; but these numbers were still tops for his day.  We can really only compare him to his peers... and Jake Arrieta.

What a beast!

The Massachusetts native first found his way to the Big Leagues in 1882 with the Worcester Ruby Legs (God, I love the old-timey team names), after playing semi-pro for a few years in the northeast.  Unfortunately, he only got into three games before the floundering club folded in the off-season and he found himself back in the minors.

It was here that he was re-discovered by Chicago's Cap Anson and brought to the White Stockings roster for the 1884 season.  Mid-season, he hit his stride, going 10-3 with a 2.14 ERA and earning the designation as the team's number one starter.  He was only just beginning.

In a remarkable feat of durability, Clarkson appeared in 70 games that year, pitched 623 innings and threw 68 complete games. He also posted an ERA of 1.85 as The White Stockings won the 1885 NL pennant with 83 wins, a mind-boggling 53 of which came from Clarkson.  For good measure, he tossed a no-hitter that July against Providence too.

Hmmm, so a sort-of reclamation project who debuted with a promising half-season's worth of performance quickly emerged to sheer and total dominance as the staff ace in the next season with a late-summer no-no... who does that remind you of?

There's that guy again

He followed up that otherworldly campaign with 36 wins in '86 (what a bum) and 38 in '87 with an ERA topping out a 3.08 - pretty damn good numbers, but not nearly as dominant as that first full season.

On top of that, his battery mate, the much-heralded King Kelly was famously sold to the Boston Red Stockings going into 1887, which did not sit well with Clarkson.  Already known for his fragile psyche (he was said to be unable to take any criticism, constructive or not), this major change made him even harder to deal with.  Along with the emergence of Mark Baldwin, it was for this reason that White Stockings sold Clarkson to Boston as well.

Clarkson's price was $10,000 - the same massive (for the time) sum that the Red Stockings had coughed up for Kelly the year before.  Thus, the two became known as the "$20,000 Battery" - a pretty prestigious moniker.

The other half of the "$20K Battery"

Clarkson pitched five great seasons for Boston. He was 33-20 in 1888, starting 54 games and pitching 53 complete games with an ERA of 2.76.  That said, his best moment in Beantown had nothing to do with his prowess on the mound.

During a game that carried late into dusk, John pitched a lemon to the plate in order to convince the umpire it was too dark to play.  The ump initially called the lemon a strike, and when the Boston catcher revealed that the pitch was actually a piece of fruit, he called the game and, likely, felt a great deal of embarrassment.

Jake could make it work
Original image courtesy of MLB.com; hack-job editing by me

Honestly, I think I'd pay $10,000 just to see a pitcher try that move today.

John finished the last few years of his career with the old Cleveland Spiders, as a sort of mentor for a young hurler by the name of Cy Young.  No longer the ace of the staff, his performance regressed accordingly, suffering his first losing season in 1893 (16-17, 4.45 ERA).

Already near the end of his rope, a tragic incident that off-season really sealed his baseball fate.  On their way to hunting retreat with a friend and former teammate by the name of Charlie Bennett, John watched as Bennett slipped off of the rail car they were travelling in and fall under the wheels of the train, severing his legs.

It was Charlie's misfortune that irreversibly scarred Clarkson
Image courtesy of Wikipedia

It was this incident that was said to really mess with Clarkson's mind and he was only able to last another mediocre season in the Majors before he retired.

Unfortunately, his mental state never did improve after he left the game.  Sometime in 1905 or '06 Clarkson suffered a total breakdown and was declared insane. He was then committed to an insane asylum and spent much of the next three years in various mental hospitals. John died of pneumonia in psychiatric clinic a few years later in 1909 at the age of just 47.

An inglorious and unfortunate end for a man who had once been the best pitcher in the National League.

Clarkson in his later days (1905)
Image courtesy of Wikipedia

His dominance went largely ignored until 1963, when he was finally elected to the Hall of Fame by the old-timer's committee. John's run of dominance from 1884-89 produced six 30-win seasons, two 300 strikeout seasons and an NL pitching Triple Crown in '89, all with remarkable durability.

It's this induction that you see was commemorated by the card at the top of the post, which was a part of the Baseball Immortals checklist produced annually by SSPC from 1980-87.  This seems to be an all-time favorite oddball collection for most of the blogosphere and I am certainly no exception.  The not oft-featured subjects, the colorful sketches and two tone borders... what's not to love?

Thanks to SSPC, I was able to cross Clarkson off of my CATRC needs list a few years ago for a reasonable price.  I mean, outside of this gem, John doesn't have a lot of cards that aren't original Goodwins.

Here's hoping that, with the similarities between their emergences, that Jake Arrieta can become half as good as Clarkson was in his prime.  After all, he'll never be quite as good statistically as a 19th century hurler (unless he somehow finds the strength to pitch every single day).  But, then again, his minuscule 1.82 ERA this year looks an awful lot like a Deadball Era mark to me!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Bears Sunday: Scoreless in Seattle

It's time for another edition of "look at my new Bears roster collection!"  I recently gathering up Bears in a similar fashion to my CATRC; so, now that I have enough to really call it a collection, I'm going to show it off page by page.

This is going to be a rough Sunday for the Bears.  The Seahawks are coming home after an 0-2 start and you know they're just itching to prove they're better than that.  Plus, Kam Chancellor has officially ended his holdout and will be on the active roster for the first time this season.  I can't blame him, I'd want to pad my stats against the Bears too.

Oh yeah, thanks to a hamstring injury to Cutler, our starting QB is Jimmy Claussen...

Despite all this negativity, let's take a look at my as-of-yet unorganized Bears All-Time Roster Collection:

We start out with a couple of super vintage HOF'ers on much more recent card releases.  Statistically, Jay Cutler is the best QB the Bears have had since Mr. Luckman up there.... let that sink in for a moment.

Alshon is always hurt lately, we have a kicker whose nickname was "Butthead,"  Greg Olsen should have never been allowed to leave and create this never ending safety vacuum we have, McKinnon was an '85 Bear and Desmond Clark was an '06 Bear.  There are my thoughts for this particular page.

We start this page off with yet another super vintage HOF'er in Musso.  I must say, I love the gold borders on that set.  Plus, old-timey football players always look like pure, unadulterated bad asses.

Edge went with the marble finishing on that Lewis card, which would look great as a countertop.  In the center, we have my favorite Bears player of all-time in Devin Hester.  The man with the NFL record for most TD returns was the most exciting man on the field for the duration of his Bears tenure.  His return on the opening kickoff of the 2007 Superbowl is probably the most emotive and excited I've ever been watching any sport.

I have no memory of Scott Drago; but, I picked him up just because his name immediately makes me think of Ivan Drago of Rocky IV fame.  I must break you...  Good to see some punter love in the bottom row there too; they're like the middle relievers of football cards.

That Danieal Manning oddball comes from a punch-out set found in the Chicago Tribune, honoring the Superbowl team from 2006.  The Trib also did a set for the Cubs and White Sox a couple years later, when each won their division.  I really wish that they would resurrect this idea for this year's playoff bound Cubs squad.

Tom Thayer actually looks kind of cool in that Pro Line Portrait, a rare sight indeed for that set.  We also have the current Michigan football head coach, a troubled former QB who has had some issues with DUI in recent years and a guy who I legitimately thought I watched die on the gridiron in Johnny Knox.

Seriously, I'm amazed Johnny could ever walk again after that.  Here's hoping the Seahawks don't LITERALLY kill the Bears today...

We also have the immortal Gale Sayers, a current broadcast personality in Dan Jiggetts and the soon to be departed Matt Forte.  It's too bad Forte's best years were wasted with the mediocre-to-cinge-worthy Bears teams of recent vintage.

That's a good place to put a bookmark.  We'll pick up again right where we left off next Sunday, that is, if today's game doesn't cause me to completely renounce my fandom.   Here's to a Cubs-inspired rebuild (only football style) at Soldier Field, 'cause most of these guys wearing orange and blue don't even belong in the NFL.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Cubs of a Different Color - The Letter D

Each Saturday, I'll showcase a letter of the alphabet as part of my collection of Cubs in different uniforms.  Today, the letter "D" takes the spotlight.

But first, a refresher:

The rules:

  1. The card must depict them in an MLB uniform that is not the Cubs.  
  2. MiLB cards do not count; they go into their own, separate collection.  
  3. "Zero-year" cards do count, provided they show MLB teams (so Bowman Draft counts).
  4. Have fun (mandatory!)
I chose each card based on availability, which I liked the best and variety in clubs - with extra weight given to teams each player may be most identifiable with.  Plus, I may have been biased to other teams I have a rooting interest in  (White Sox, Red Sox & Phillies).  Sue me.

Here we go:

Page 1:

  • Bill Dahlen - 1982 Renata Galasso Turkey Red Reprints #11 - Dodgers (Brooklyn)
    • His nickname was also Babe, which created a great deal of confusion for me with the guy next on this list.  He was the catalyst of the late 1800's White Stockings and often shows up in lists of players who should be in the HOF.
  • Babe Dahlgren - 1941 Play Ball Reprint #48 - Braves (Boston)
    • Two reprints in a row.  I'm not exactly sure what company was behind this one, but they printed it on really cheap paper.  It feels like digital photo paper.
  • Kal Daniels - 1987 Donruss Opening Day #192 - Reds
    • A really red Reds card - I love it.  Borders that match the color of the team featured are always a beautiful sight.
  • Alvin Dark - 1991 Topps Archives #109 - Giants (New York)
    • A double purchase that has now been rectified.  That sort of thing might be my absolute favorite thing about starting this collection.
  • Doug Dascenzo - 1993 Pinnacle #555 - Rangers
    • A guy known for his glove-work and emergency pitching being depicted at-bat.  I love this set; black borders may chip easy, but you can't tell me this isn't a slick design.
  • Doug Davis - 2010 Topps #12 - Diamondbacks
    • I still get the creeps when I see his name - the darks days of the rebuilding Cubs when he, Rodrigo Lopez and Jason Berken made up up the pitching rotation. *shiver*
  • Jody Davis - 1989 Donruss #650 - Braves
    • He just looks bizarre in a Braves jersey.  Jody, Jo-dee Davis doens't seem to be keen on having his picture taken here.  Also, more matching border/team colors!  That characteristic can make even as ugly a set as this one work.
  • Ron Davis - 1984 Fleer #561 - Twins
    • Gotta love Ron and his stylish glasses.  Nothing more intimidating on the mound than seeing a guy who looks like his lunch money was just stolen.
  • Andre Dawson - 1984 Topps Ralston Purina #6 - Expos
    • Oddball!  Expo!  I love this pairing, but I don't think that Ralston Purina makes Hawk food though.

Page 2:

  • Ivan Dejesus - 1985 Fleer #248 - Phillies
    • The man was a semi-star and hometown favorite of the Cubs; but, the guy they got back for him in his trade to the Phillies was kinda popular with the Wrigley faithful too... some guy name Sandberg, I think?
  • Dizzy Dean - 2001 UD Cooperstown Collection #7 - Cardinals
    • An all-time great Cardinal; but let's not forget his Rick Sutcliffe-like go 'round with the Cubs in 1938 - 7-1, 1.81 in 10 second half appearances, helping to lead the Cubs to the Pennant.  Wowser!
  • Joe Decker - 1976 Topps #636 - Twins
    • A great set - honestly, I don't think there's a Topps set from the 70's that I don't like.  And for some reason, blue and pink work really well together for the Twins cards.
  • David DeJesus - 2005 Topps Chrome #338 - Royals
    • I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm usually a sucker for shiny.  David seemed like all-together good dude; it's too bad he didn't get to stick around in Chicago, post-rebuild.  Also, he was with the Royals at the wrong time too.
  • Frank Demaree - 1941 Play Ball Reprint #58 - Braves (Boston)
    • There's that mystery reprint set again.  Anybody have any idea what company was behind these?  CCC?  TCMA? Renatta Galasso?  Some old dude with a scanner?
  • Ryan Dempster - 2001 Topps #716 - Marlins
    • It's weird to think of Dempster as anything but a Cub.  He did so well to weave himself into the fabric of Chicago baseball that it's easy to forget he spent his first four years there AND was an All-Star.  He's back with the Cubs as an assistant to the GM
  • Chris Denorfia - 2014 Topps Update #US-131 - Mariners
    • Here we have a current Cub.  This is also the same card that represents Norf in my CATRC as well - I pulled it a few times last year.  Here's hoping he gets a Cubs card in Update this fall!
  • Bob Dernier - 1990 Topps #204 - Phillies
    • He was the spark plug for the beloved '84 Cubs; but, he book-ended his Cubs career with Phillies stints.  He actually spent more time in Philly than in Chicago, so this doesn't look weird at all.
  • Mark DeRosa - 2006 Upper Deck #840 - Rangers
    • The starting second baseman for the 2007-08 Cubs, the Northside squad in my lifetime until this season.  He had a career year for the Rangers in '06 and there was a lot of doubt he could sustain that when the Cubs signed him.  I think he worked out all right.

Page 3:

  • Paul Derringer - 1985 Goudey 1934 Reprint #84 - Reds
    • Another reprint set.  I don;t really have anything else to add about this card.  
  • Delino Deshields - 1990 Topps Magazine #TM22 - Expos
    • The second Expos oddball in this post.  This design screams 90's and as a child of the 90's that means I absolutely love it!  Thankfully, the Cubs didn't give up Pedro Martinez to get him, like the Dodgers did.
  • Blake DeWitt - 2009 Upper Deck #280 - Dodgers
    • He was the bounty in our trading away of Ted Lilly (the most successful lefty for the Cubs since WWI) and Ryan Theriot to the Dodgers  He was probably the most useless player I've seen, couldn't field well at any position with as much offensive prowess as Mario Mendoza.
  • Mike Diaz - 1989 Fleer #494 - White Sox
    • The uniforms and logo of the 80's White Sox always catch my eye.  I'm nt entirely sure why, but they do.
  • Miguel Dilone - 1983 Fleer #405 - Indians
    • First Indians card in a little while.I'm not crazy about this set and it's "dirty" borders; but I'm not overflowing with cards of the man.
  • Felix Doubront - 2010 Topps Update #US-311 - Red Sox
    • My second favorite team.  Doubront came to Chicago in a bit of roster jenga (blog title!), when the Cubs were looking for any starters they could get.  He got cut in spring training after a brief audition last season.
  • Larry Doyle - 1991 TSN Conlon Collection #317 - Giants (New York)
    • Conlon is my homie. 
  • Jason Dubois - 2003 Topps Heritage #64 - Blue Jays
    • Zero-Year card!  DuBois was taken by Toronto in the Rule V draft in the winter of '02; but, he was returned in mid-march.  It's a pity he wasn't taken by Montreal - his french-looking name would have looked perfect on their roster.

Page 4:

  • Hugh Duffy - 1992 TSN Conlon Collection #532 - Red Sox
    • This HOF'er began his career in Chicago before jumping for greener pastures in Boston, first in the American Assoc. and then in the NL.  It was there in 1894, he won his Triple Crown.
  • Shawon Dunston - 1996 Fleer Update #204 - Giants
    • Dunston had three separate stints in SanFran (this is from his first0.  Even so, it's weird to see him in any jersey that's not Cubs colors.

Alright. that does it for this week's edition of the Cubs of a Different Color collection. Next week (spoiler alert!), we'll take a look at the letter "E." It will feature a guy known for his potty mouth, a HOF closer who refused to pitch in the pen for the Cubs and a hated rival who switched sides in the midst of a pennant race.

See ya next time!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Ranking the Cubs' Greatest One-Hit Wonders

Surely while flipping through the channels one boring, rainy day, you have happened upon one of VH1's various countdown shows:  Greatest Songs of the (Insert Decade Here), Greatest Hard Rock and Heavy Metal Songs or maybe my personal favorite, Greatest One-Hit Wonders.  These shows are perfect time killers and great for "hey, I remember that song!" sort of flashbacks.

Well, today is apparently National One-Hit Wonder Day (as I learned through the local alternative radio station) - so, in the spirit of the occasion, I have compiled my own ranking of the greatest one-hit wonders.  However, the twist is that they are one-hit wonders in Cubs history, not music history.

Any opportunity to blend to my two biggest passions, Cubs baseball and music, is going to be taken - every time.

Maybe they had one incredible performance, or they had an unsustainable career year, or they just just got lucky and stumbled into the spotlight for a day.  You won't know until you read through the list.

Additionally, just for the fun of it, I've matched each player with an actual one-hit wonder song that, in some way, represents them and their story.  This was not as easy as I thought it would be either.

Without further ado, starting at the bottom and working our way to #1, here we go:

#10 - Neifi Perez:

Save Tonight - Eagle Eye Cherry

Neifi Perez hit one of the most important home runs in Cubs' history and he wasn't even a member of the team when he connected.

In 1998, in the midst of Sammy Sosa's historic home run chase, the Cubs were battling for the NL Wild Card.  It came down to the very last day of the season and the Cubs, having lost their game that day, needed the Giants to lose to the Rockies in order to force a tiebreaker.  With the score knotted up at 6 each in the bottom of the ninth inning, Perez blasted an improbable walk-off homer to Chicago's great elation.

It was a night that we Cubs fans wish we could save and keep forever - Neifi certainly saved it from total despair.

The Cubs won the tie-breaker, but were quickly swept out of the playoffs.  However, nothing can take away that moment, not even Neifi's cringe-worthy Cubs career later on down the road.

#9 - Willie Smith:

Whip It - Devo

Willie Smith had a long, productive career as an outfielder/bench piece in the National League.  However, he is most remembered for his walk-off home run over the Phillies on Opening Day in 1969.  As the launching point for one of the most exciting seasons of Cubs baseball and one of the franchise's most cherished teams, that's not really a surprise.

Sidenote, let's just not talk about how that season ended, deal?

Like Smith, Devo has had a long and greatly respected career, which is far to often distilled down to just one moment:  their 1980 Top 40 single "Whip It."  It's a crying shame that subversive gems such as "Jocko Homo," "Mongoloid" and "Working in the Coal Mine" have largely been forgotten.  But, their brand of de-evolution isn't for everybody.

#8 - Dave Owen:

Lunatic Fringe - Red Rider

Dave Owen's legacy in baseball can be summed up by a singular trivia question:  who drove in the winning run in the legendary "Sandberg Game?"

On a nationally televised game in the midst of the Cubs first playoff push in many moons, Ryne Sandberg twice launched game-tying home runs off of the Cardinal's relief ace Bruce Sutter in the bottom of the 9th and 10th innings.  But, despite all of his heroics, it was not Ryno who punched in the game-winner.

No, it was a little-known utility infielder with a very weak bat (.194 career BA) by the name of Dave Owen that had that honor.  However, his heroic moment was completely overshadowed by his teammate's otherworldly performance.

Similarly, Red Rider's career was completely overshadowed by one of their own bandmates:  Tom Cochrane.  After "Lunatic Fringe" became a hit on AOR radio in 1981, their lead singer struck out on his own and scored a much more culturally pervasive hit with "Life is a Highway."

It wasn't long until Red Rider started being billed as Tom Cochrane & Red Rider and their fate as second banana was sealed.

#7 - Joe Borowski:

Closing Time - Semisonic

Joe Borowski came out of nowhere to be the 2003 "Why Not Us?" Cubs' closer, saving 33 games along the way.

Before that, the 1989 draft pick had taken 9 years to initially reach the big leagues and bounced around on minor league deals with several different clubs.  After a single, disastrous start (1.2 innings, 6 ER) with the 2001 Cubs, Chicago converted him into a reliever and he suddenly blossomed.

Unfortunately, his inability to continue on that flash of success is one of the main reasons the 2004 team failed.  He was ineffective early in the season and was completely lost for the season due to arm injuries by June.  The magic was gone and after a rocky start to the '05 season, Joe was sent packing.  His stock had fallen so far that I was able to pick up this sweet IP auto for a buck at my LCS.

JoBo gained a second wind with Cleveland later in the decade; but as a Cub, he goes down as a one-hit wonder.  I think the one-hit wonder choice that I've paired him up with in this countdown is fairly straight-forward.

#6 - Bryan LaHair:

Knock on Wood - Amii Stewart

LaHair was a "quadruple A" player who was supposed to keep first base warm until Anthony Rizzo was deemed ready for a call-up.  He wasn't supposed to be an All-Star.

Somehow, Bryan burst out of the gate with a torrid first half in 2012, batting .284 with 13 homers by the end of June and earning an All-Star roster spot.  Surely, he was knocking on wood all season, just hoping his luck wouldn't run out.

Unfortunately, it did.  He came back down to earth in the second half, hitting only 3 more homers in the second half and eventually, as expected, losing his starting spot to Mr. Rizzo.  A switch to the outfield didn't help his numbers and he was allowed to leave in the off season.

Now, for the rest of time, Bryan will forever be listed amongst the "worst" all-star selections in baseball history.  The writing was on the wall, no amount of "knocking on wood" was going to save him from regression.

#5 - Sam Jones:

Wild Thing - X

Two cover songs in a row, eh?

Sam Jones was a talented, but wild pitcher for the Cubs in the mid-50's.  He came to Chicago by way of Cleveland and just could not harness his pitches.  In 1955, he lead the league in losses (20), walks (185), hit batters (14) and hits per 9 innings (6.5).  Despite all of this, he was an All-Star selection that year.  Huh?

This nomination came largely on the basis that the Cubs of the 50's were terrible and that he managed to toss a no-hitter on May 12 against Pittsburgh.  Such gems are rare in Cubs history and Jones' was the first for Chicago since 1915.  It wasn't necessarily pretty as he issued 7 walks along the way; but, it sealed his place in franchise history.

The original "Wild Thing" would later have more consistent success with the Cardinals and the Giants; but with the Cubs, he never pitched better than he did that day against the Pirates.

Much like the punk pioneers X never had more mainstream success than they did with their cover of "Wild Thing," found on the soundtrack to the cult-classic Major League.  Of course, they're punks, so they weren't exactly trying for the Top-40 either.

#4 - Ryan O'Malley:

Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes) - Edison Lighthouse

This guy wasn't supposed to be a Major Leaguer; so, it's fitting that the only card I have him depicts his minor league days.

The undrafted free-agent was pure organizational filler until the Cubs' game against the Astros on August 15, 2006 went 18 innings.  In the wee hours of the morning, Chicago was forced to use their scheduled starter for the next day, Rich Hill, to secure an 8-6 victory.

With an afternoon contest set for the next day, the team had to scramble for a body to stick on the mound.  O'Malley, whose slot in Iowa's rotation lined up perfectly, was in the right place and right time and soon found his way to Houston on a hastily scheduled flight.

All the Springfield native (who grew up a die-hard Cubs fan) did was go out and twirl 8 innings of shut out baseball and get the win in a 1-0 victory,  He was the unlikely feel good story of an otherwise dismal season.  Unfortunately, he was injured in his next appearance and never stood on an MLB mound again.

Accordingly, the featured tune was written and recorded as a purely studio creation by three songwriters and a session singer.  When the ditty surprised everyone and ended up in the Top-40 (peaking at 5), they had to scramble for some bodies to stick on the stage to perform it on Top of the Pops.

#3 - Rick Wilkins:

Tubthumping - Chumbawamba

To this day, no one in Chicago can believe that Rick Wilkins batted .303 and swatted 30 homers in 1993.  The third-year catcher had never hit more than 8 long flies previously and only once more would hit more than 10.  His career batting average is .244.  Where the hell did that season come from?

He regressed right back down to 7 home runs and a .227 average the next season and all was right in the world again.  Thenceforth, he spent the rest of his career as a nomad, trying to recapture his fleeting moment of glory.

Wilkins spent the next 7 years with 7 teams, frequently seeing nothing more than late season cameos, refusing to give up his chase.  In short, he got knocked down, he got up again, nothing was going to keep him down.

#2 - Jerome Walton and Dwight Smith:

Keeping the Dream Alive - Freiheit

These two had to be included as a tie because they are forever connected in Cubs lore.

The promising rookies finished first and second in the 1989 ROY voting, helping to lead the way for the Boys of Zimmer in their NL East division title.  From there, they, along with Mark Grace, Greg Maddux and Co., were supposed to lead the young Cubs on to a long run of success.

Unfortunately, neither one could stay healthy to save their careers, fracturing the young core and leading to the demise of the Boys of Zimmer.

Meanwhile, WGN used this single from the German band Freiheit in a musical montage to honor the Boys of Zimmer going into the playoffs.  It was to be their only hit in the English-speaking world.  So, it seems like the perfect way to play out Walton and Smith, who also quickly dropped out of the spotlight (in the English-speaking or not) after 1989.

#1 - Karl "Tuffy" Rhodes:

Song 2 - Blur

Any Cubs fan reading this countdown had to figure that Tuffy was going to be number one - it's just too obvious.

On Opening Day in 1994, the journeyman outfielder had the game of his life, smashing not one, not two, but three home runs off of none other than Doc Gooden.  The Cubs ultimately lost the game, but Karl's historic show of power made him the first player in MLB history to hit 3 long balls on Opening Day.

Unsurprisingly, he was not able to follow up that performance.  From there, he hit only 5 more homers all season and was out of the Majors by the end of 1995.  Still, what a game, huh?

He wasn't done with baseball though.  Tuffy made his way to Japan and rediscovered his power stroke in a major way,  In 2001, all he did was tie Sadaharu Oh's single-season home run record of 55.  All told, he knocked 288 balls out of the park during his time spent in Japan.

Why did I choose this song for Mr. Rhodes?  Well, blur had been around for several years before they finally broke through in the US with their atypically loud and powerful single "Song 2" and quickly faded back into the crowd.  Meanwhile, in a foreign land (their native England), they went on to have a long and storied career, with a long chain of hit albums and singles.

I think you get the picture.

And there you have it - the top ten Cubs one-hit wonders of all-time.  I hope you all enjoyed my attempt at being VH1.

Is their any other ones I missed?  Please speak up in the comments section if you have your own nomination that I slighted.

How about any selections for your own favorite franchise?  Who are some of the most notable one-hit wonders for the rest of baseball?  Joe Charboneau, Travis Ishikawa and Dan Johnson all stick out in my mind.

Meanwhile, I think I'm going to over to my turntable and properly honor National One-Hit Wonder Day by blasting some of my favorite such tunes.  If my neighbors don't want to hear some obnoxiously bad karaoke renditions of "Your Love" or "Black Betty," I hope they have earplugs readily available.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

An Overwhelming Underdog

RIP Yogi, one of baseball's greatest players, personalities and all-time good guys.

I wish I had more and/or better cards to show off of Mr. Berra in remembrance; but, as a laser-focused Cubs collector, the one you see above from 2005 Fleer Showcase is all I've got.  I suppose it will have to suffice.

Now, I certainly don't have to tell you, the educated baseball fan, just how great of a player he was.  But, I will say that if he were a franchise, his 10 World Series rings would rank him third all-time, behind the Yanks and Cards.  How amazing is that stat?

Besides his on-field abilities, Yogi always had a way with words.  Here's a fantastic list of his best catchphrases - if you need a laugh, look no further.

And since this is a Cubs blog, here are some Cubs-related tweets offering their condolences:

His influence on the game obviously extends far beyond team allegiances.  

And finally, I obviously missed out on watching Yogi as a player or even as a manager.  Heck, he actually retired from coaching (with the Astros) the same year that I was born.  So, my introduction to Berra was through my grandfather's stories, slabbed cards at the LCS and this particular commercial:

This still makes me smile - the Aflac duck's bewilderment just seals it for some reason.  We truly lost an American treasure last night.  Banks, Minoso and now Berra... time marches on.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Happy International Day of Peace!

Each year the International Day of Peace is observed around the world on September 21st. The General Assembly of the United Nations has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples and it has been honored every year since 1982.

On this annual day of non-violence and cease-fire, I am celebrating on this here blog the only way I know how:  showing off sports cards.

So, here's a guy who is now officially known as Metta World Peace.  Surely you have heard his story, the formerly troubled player known as Ron Artest was best known for, among other incidents, going into the stands and attacking fans during a brawl.  It wasn't a pretty sight:

See? You remember that ugly incident.

After wearing out his welcome with several teams (including my Bulls), Artest finally realized he was destroying his career and himself.  In September of 2011, he legally changed his name to Metta World Peace, in his own words "...to inspire and bring youth together all around the world" and to help change his image.

Metta is a traditional Buddhist word that means loving kindness and friendliness towards all; I don't think I need to explain World Peace.

Was it over the top?  Was it gimmicky? Yes and yes.  But, in the ensuing years, as his career on the hardwood was winding down, World Peace became a strong advocate for mental health awareness.  he even sold his 2009-10 NBA Championship ring to raise money for various mental health charities.  He's also posed for PETA ad campaigns encouraging people to report animal abuse and to have their pets fixed.

So, if Ron Artest/Metta World Peace can change his violent ways and use his cultural influence in positive ways, that's exactly the spirit of the International Day of Peace.  So, beside his name just happening to tie in, his life since he made the change does as well.

Meanwhile, you might be asking yourself, I thought you collected the Cubs and a little bit of the Bears?  How did you end up with random basketball cards?  

Well, they came with a large lot of baseball cards that I bought from a garage sale about a year ago.  I couldn't bear to throw them away, even though I really have no use for them, because I'm a cheapskate and a minor hoarder.  At least I can own those monikers.

Anyway, even though the day is almost over, I wish you all a happy International Day of Peace!  I'll play you out with a John Lennon classic.  I'd have shown off my original 45rpm single of the track if it wasn't packed away in storage or John Lennon's Pro Set card if I had it.  So, sorry, this Youtube clip will have to do.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Bears Sunday: A Town Chock Full of Cardinals

It's time for another edition of "look at my new Bears roster collection!"  I recently gathering up Bears in a similar fashion to my CATRC; so, now that I have enough to really call it a collection, I'm going to show it off page by page.

Sunday is obviously the best day to do this recurring series, being that it's football related and all.  Also, in a funny coincidence, both the Cubs and the Bears are playing the Cardinals today.  Here's hoping the baseball team can complete an immeasurably significant sweep of the St. Louis brand and the Bears can squeak out an upset home win against the football squad formerly from Chicago.

In the meantime, let's take a look at my as-of-yet unorganized Bears All-Time Roster Collection:

Panini Golden Age is such a beautiful set every year and that "Bulldog" Turner card is a perfect example as to why.  Plus, I was able to land a vintage HOF'er for a reasonable price - win/win.  Otherwise, there's a lot of fairly insignificant grouping of players here.  Revie Sorey had a few good years in the dark days of the late 70's/early 80's.  Too bad he couldn't hang on for a couple more year to be a part of that immortal '85 squad.

The Richie Pettibon might be my favorite here.  This is mostly due to the fact that it was a cheap vintage pick up (you can't really tell here, but it's kinda beat up); but, the fact that he has the 2nd most interceptions in Bears history (38) and the Bears record for the longest interception return (101 yds.) doesn't hurt.

Mark Rodenhauser - I picked up this card solely because his name made me think of this amazing slice of childhood nostalgia:

Back to football:

A lot of "my guys" era on this here page.  Urlacher is probably the greatest player to suit up for the franchise in my lifetime and one that I'll be able to tell my grandkids with pride that I watched play.  Robbie Gould is the greatest kicker in NFL history in my eyes and I don't care what you say about it.  
Kyle Orton had himself a nice, long career as a (mostly) backup QB, having only retired after last season.  Kreutz is another all-time great that the Bears are still trying to replace at center.  Peanut Tillman was another fan-favorite who unfortunately could not stay healthy and moved on to Carolina this year.  Benson had all the potential in the world, but was too much of a headcase to do anything with that ability,  Berrian I moreso remember for his bright orange shoes that he continued to wear despite being fined than his actual football abilities.

Doug Buffone was a major franchise icon who suddenly passed away  a few months ago.  He was still doing the postgame show for the radio broadcasts and his love for the team made him a sort of Ron Santo-like figure.  

Here on this page, we have a couple of a long-line of terrible Bears quarterbacks.  The Bears are to QB as the Cubs were to 3B before Aramis Ramirez showed up.  That is to say, the lineage isn't very impressive since the Great Depression.

We also have a first-round draft bust in Rashaan Salaam, who's Bears career was marred by injuries, fumbles, and marijuana use.  I mean, he ended up in the XFL for cryin' out loud.  Cool photo on that card though.

I was able to land that vintage Kuechenberg because of the printing errors on his nameplate.  I'm not looking for gem mint 10's here; I collect for fun, not profit.... and I'm kind of a penny-pincher.

We do have a certifiable HOF'er here in George Trafton in one my favorite junk wax era football sets, a shiny Finest card of Anthony Blaylock, an Oscar Gamble-like 'fro from Wally Chamber and a an excellent catch by Marty Booker too; so, not too bad of a page overall.

A true Twitter gem

That's a good place to call it for today.  It's really time for me to actually start focusing on the games; watching two is difficult enough without attempting to write on top of it all.  As of now, the Bears are only losing by a touchdown (such low standards I've set for this season) and the Cubs are minutes away from first-pitch.

An all-city sweep of redbirds sounds pretty good to me; let's make it happen guys!*

*(Although, if I have to chose one, I'd really like for a sweep over the St. Louis variety)

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Cubs of a Different Color - The Letter C

Each Saturday, I'll showcase a letter of the alphabet as part of my collection of Cubs in different uniforms.  Today, the letter "C" takes the spotlight.

But first, a refresher:

The rules:

  1. The card must depict them in an MLB uniform that is not the Cubs.  
  2. MiLB cards do not count; they go into their own, separate collection.  
  3. "Zero-year" cards do count, provided they show MLB teams (so Bowman Draft counts).
  4. Have fun (mandatory!)
I chose each card based on availability, which I liked the best and variety in clubs - with extra weight given to teams each player may be most identifiable with.  Plus, I may have been biased to other teams I have a rooting interest in  (White Sox, Red Sox & Phillies).  Sue me.

Here we go:

Page 1:

  • Miguel Cairo - 2010 Topps #417 - Reds
    • A Cubs double-dipper (1997 & 2001) who just seemed to show up on a roster every year.  9 teams in 17 years as a utility infielder makes for a nice career.
  • Nixey Callahan - 1913 Tom Barker National Baseball Game Reprint #?? - White Sox
    • This card has shown up here on this blog before, when I got a package deal on some reprint sets.  I love reprints and so does my wallet.
  • Dolph Camilli - 1985 Goudey 1934 Reprint #91 - Phillies
    • Speaking of reprints, this set was also part of that package deal.  Also, Dolph Camilli is one of my favorite baseball names of all-time.
  • Shawn Camp - 2010 Topps Update #US116 - Blue Jays
    • Shawn Camp was a scrap heap signing in 2012 who somehow became the anchor of the bullpen, leading the league in apps with 80.  Unfortunately, that was his last good season.
  • Bill Campbell - 1979 Topps #375 - Red Sox
    • An early bullpen star, "Soup" helped set the template for the modern closer, along with names like Sutter.  The Red Sox mojo of this particular card earned his spot.
  • Mike Campbell - 1989 Fleer #543 - Mariners
    • 1989 was a damn good year (I may have been born that May), but not for Mike.  He posted a 7.29 ERA in 5 starts and didn't see the Majors again 'til 1992.  Yikes.
  • Jose Cardenal - 1981 Topps #473 - Royals
    • Boy oh boy, does Jose look weird in a KC jersey or what?  The novelty factor of that short-term stop and sunset card made for an easy choice.
  • Don Cardwell - 1958 Topps #372 - Phillies
    • An excellent piece of vintage.  1958 Topps may very well be my favorite set (depending on the day you ask me).  He who threw a no-hitter in his first Cubs start should be honored with such a beauty,
  • Tex Carleton - 1985 Goudey 1934 Reprint #48 - Cardinals
    • The Cubs are playing a key series with the Cards as I type this and are on thier way to winning the first two games of the series.  Hopefully I didn't just jinx anything.  Lou Gehrig says he doesn't believe in such things.

Page 2:

  • Trevor Cahill - 2015 Topps #346 - Diamondbacks
    • Speaking of the Cubs/Cards series, Cahill has been a revelation for a Cub bullpen in desperate need of stability.  The long-reliever has turned an awful beginning of the year into a likely playoff roster spot.
  • Joe Carter - 1991 Donruss Diamond Kings #DK-3 - Blue Jays
    • A Diamond King that isn't nightmare inducing!  1992 just so happens to be my favorite edition of the legendary DKs; so, here it will reside.
  • Larry Casian - 1993 Donruss #343 - Twins
    • This card dates back to my original, childhood collection.  Thus, though I have no attachment to the set, team or even the player, the nostalgia for my youth clinched it.
  • Bill Caudill - 1985 Topps #685 - Athletics
    • This set, along with '58 Topps, is another one that rotates into my favorite set.  I love the bright colors of the nameplate and the A's jersey in particular here.
  • Ronny Cedeno - 2009 Topps Update - #UH144 - Pirates
    • This is a quality double-dip shot of a guy more known for his glove work than his bat; thus, this seemed like an appropriate choice of cards for Mr. Cedeno.
  • Hee Seop Choi - 2004 Topps Total (Silver Parallel) #254 - Marlins
    • One of the best Cubs trades in franchise history, getting Derrek Lee for Choi is something I'd like to remember forever.  So, my Marlins card of Choi will be used as his rep.
  • Dave Clark - 1989 Upper Deck #517 - Indians
    • Another Cubs double-dipper (1990 & 1997) with a long career, this is my favorite early UD offering and a fairly iconic set.  Oh, btw, this isn't the same Dave Clark that fronted the Dave Clark Five in the 60's, just in case you were wondering.
  • Mark Clark - 1996 UD Collector's Choice #529 - Indians
    • Two Upper Decks and two Indians in a row.  Too many Indians and not enough chiefs!  Also, proof that extreme close ups and "pitcher's face" isn't an exclusively modern card phenomenon.
  • Matt Clement - 2001 Fleer Triple Crown #116 - Padres
    • Another card making it's second appearance on the blog, this is actually my only non-Cub Clement.  I was fairly surprised that I didn't have more of Mr. Soul Patch.

Page 3:

  • Gene Clines - 1974 Topps #172 - Pirates
    • I always think of him as the hitting coach under Dusty Baker; but Gene had a nice playing career in the 70's as well.  His most productive years came in Pittsburgh; so, he goes into this collection as a Pirate.
  • Kevin Coffman - 1988 Fleer #536 - Braves
    • Ordinarily, I find this set repulsive.  That said, I thing the random red and blue lines of the borders actually work nice with the Braves colors.  Also, it looks like Kevin could use some glasses - he's squinting like a senior citizen.
  • Phil Coke - 2009 UD Goudey #133 - Yankees
    • This card was only just recently displaced from my CATRC by this acquisition.  Being that it's my only other Coke card, it wins the spot by default.
  • Chris Coghlan - 2011 Topps Gypsy Queen #114 - Marlins
    • Before Gypsy Queen got entirely too repetitive.  This is by far my favorite design in the series that should be discontinued.  
  • Jim Colborn - 1979 Topps #276 - Mariners
    • An early Mariners card is always welcome in any of my collections.  Who doesn't love that trident logo on the hat?
  • Joe Coleman - 1980 Topps #542 - Pirates
    • Another one of my favorite baseball hats ever.  The "We Are Family" era Pirates uniforms were so bad that they were glorious.  We also have our second sunset issue of this series.
  • Ripper Collins - 1992 TSN Conlon Collection #656 - Cardinals
    • I've spouted about my love for Conlon enough, but they just help with my collections so very much.  How else do you get cards of super-vintage guys without breaking the bank?
  • Tyler Colvin - 2013 Topps #265 - Rockies
    • While Lee for Choi might be one of the best trades in Cubs history, the Colvin & LeMahieu for Ian Stewart trade is definitely not.  The Rockies need some more love in this binder though.
  • Ron Coomer - 1999 Pacific Paramount #132 - Twins
    • The current Cubs broadcaster played on the Northside in 2001; but, he's much more identified for his time spent with the Twins.  Here's an uncharacteristically tame Pacific card to honor that stint.

Page 4:

  • Mort Cooper - 1992 TSN Conlon Collection #624 - Cardinals
    • One half of the brotherly battery (see next player), was only a Cub for one day in 1949 and he didn't even record an out, earning an infinite Cubs ERA.  He's much more known for his Cards days.
  • Walker Cooper - 1986 CCC '51 Bowman Reprints #135 - Braves
    • The other half of the brotherly battery.  While they were teammates with the Cards, they never were with the Cubs; his time in Chicago came near the end of his career (1954-55).
  • Henry Cotto - 1991 Fleer Ultra #333 - Mariners
    • This is actually one of my favorite editions of Ultra.  For that reason alone, I chose this card to hold down a spot for the '84 Cub.
  • Wes Covington - 2008 Topps 50th Anniversay Buybacks #290 - Braves
    • I pulled this card from an awesome full box of cards I got for $5 at a garage sale (I mean, the box itself is worth that).  So, the good memories of that purchase heavily outweigh the gimmick vibes given off by buybacks,
  • Doug Creek - 1996 Fleer Update #U203 - Giants
    • This one came from that very same box as well.  Creek was a player I'd had a hard time tracking down for my CATRC for a long time; that box contained two of these cards.  The baseball card gods are a funny bunch.
  • Chuck Crim - 1992 Topps Stadium Club #823 - Angels
    • I'm pretty sure this is the first time an Angel has appeared in this collection.  This team needs some love and Chuck Crim is ready to support them.
  • Hector Cruz - 1981 Fleer #206 - Reds
    • You know those unflattering pictures that your friends take as your trying to say something?  Yea, Fleer is one of those annoying friends, at least to Mr. Cruz.
  • Ray Culp - 1972 Topps #2 - Red Sox
    • I accidentally bought this from an LCS a couple years ago because I forgot that I already had a Culp for my CATRC.  Thank goodness I have a new outlet for this beauty and can now rectify that mistake.
  • Will Cunnane - 1998 UD Collector's Choice #223 - Padres
    • Wrigley Field makes a cameo in the background that commemorates the debut of the future Cub.  However, Will first appeared in the Bigs against the Mets, so....

Here's the final page of C's:

Page 5:

  • Kiki Cuyler - 1992 TSN Conlon Collection #587 - Pirates
    • Poor Kiki is lonely here; hopefully I add a few more cards to this section and get Cuyler some company.  The future HOFer was a good, but troublesome player for the Pirates; it wasn't until they tired of him and traded him to Chicago that he truly blossomed.  Another excellent trade in Cubs history.

Alright. that does it for this weeks edition of the Cubs of a Different Color collection. Next week (spoiler alert!), we'll take a look at the letter "D." It will feature a current Cubs assistant to the GM, three Hall of Famers and a guy once traded for Pedro Martinez.

See ya next time!