Friday, May 20, 2016

A Kindly Curmudgeon

The generosity of "strangers" on the internet never ceases to amaze me.

Before I started this blog, I had a hard time picturing anyone purchasing and then giving items away to someone they hardly knew, with no strings attached, in person, let alone on through the postal service and internet.  That kind of pure generosity seemed reserved for charities and senior citizen's fond remembrances of the 1940's.

One of my greatest qualities is cynicism... I also offer sarcasm and pessimism at no extra charge.

Thus, I'm constantly amazed and tickled pink when I see unsolicited PWE's full of baseball cards tailored to my collecting wants stuffed into my mailbox.  Especially so when a blogger specifically purchases something for me, just because.

Ironically, it was a "curmudgeon" behind this latest random act of kindness - Cardboard Curmudgeon, proprietor of the recently re-christened Baseball Picture Cards.  As it turns out, as our favorite curmudgeon was perusing the isles of his latest card show, he stumbled upon an oddball card that he thought I should have:

What you see here is a Red Lobster-sponsored, SGA card set that was given away in 1982.  Just as the cardboard world was rapidly expanding and escalating into the junk wax era, the Cubs decided to dip their toes in the water with an annual giveaway set.  The cards themselves were the standard 3.5 inches tall, but were slightly narrower than a traditional baseball card, as you may or not be able to tell from the Jerry Morales above.

The simple, border-less design really let the pictures do the talking on these sets (more on that in a minute).  What we get on the front is a facsimile signature jersey number, name and position, but no underlay under any of that information, which sometimes makes it hard to read the text.  Very bare-bones here.

However, on the flip side, we get a highly detailed account of each players professional statistics - both minor and major league.  Heck, we even get a briefing on Jerry's All-Star Game record (yes, the Cubs were so blah at this time that Jerry Morales was their All-Star in 1977).  Not to be forgotten, since they sponsored this particular release, Red Lobster gets their logo on there, as well.

Sidebar - Red Lobster is an acceptable destination for decent seafood, their biscuits are especially addictive.  However, after having spent a week on the east coast, right on the coast (a couple summers ago) my standards for seafood are now impossibly high for a Midwesterner.

Mr. Morales isn't my first card from this seafoodie set, though I don't have very many:

I picked up Al Ripley and Bob Molinaro from a discount box in my Indiana LCS many moons ago because you rarely see them turn up in Cubs uniforms.  After all, Ripley was only a Cub for that single season in 1982 (believe it or not) and Molinaro was only there for half of that season before being purchased by the Phillies.

That's why SGA sets (and a lot of oddball sets in general) are so awesome, you get to see players who otherwise wouldn't likely be deemed worthy of a baseball card by the likes of Topps/Fleer/Donruss etc.  Often times, these sort of roster-fillers and short-termers never get cards with the Cubs, otherwise.

Now, while I now only have three from the 1982 Red Lobster giveaway set (Ryne Sandberg is the key piece of that puzzle, being one of his first cards ever released), I do have a few more cards that look exceptionally similar.

As I hinted at earlier, the Cubs gave away two more successive SGA sets that were almost identical:

As you can see with this lovely shot of a young Joe Carter against the ivy at Wrigley, the card is pretty much a carbon copy, excepting the removal of the facsimile signature, which I thought was hard to see and distracting anyway.

Red Lobster chose not be a part of the successive releases.  For 1983, Thorn Apple Valley decided to step in and lend their name to the SGA set:

Apparently, Thorn Apple Valley was a meat packing company who, around the turn of the last century, suffered some severe financial issues after a tainted meat scandal and was bought out by IBP, Inc.  Silly me - I'd always thought that they had something to do with produce; in actuality, they had nothing to do with apples at all.  Shows what I know.

You know what they say - when you assume, you make an "ass" out of "u" and "me."

Thorn Apple Valley didn't stick around for long either though.  The very next year, with the card format completely identical, things got a little bit more "bubbly":

Here we have Ryno up at the dish from the 1984 Cubs SGA set .  Sandberg makes an appropriate example, seeing as how 1984 was his breakout season where he won the MVP, made his first All-Star game and led the Cubs to break their 39-year postseason appearance drought.

Now, while all that success certainly made the fans a bit more "bubbly" than usual, so too did the drink of choice for this set:

Make 7up yours!  (If you don't get the joke, read that line outloud.)

While the 1984 set wasn't the Cubs last SGA release, it was the last time that this bare-bones design with bizarre dimensions was used.  Come 1985, 7up stuck around; however, the dimensions were slightly widened to standard size:

I don't know about you, but the OCD monster in me loves the change to standard size.  Cards of odd shapes and sizes, while I love them dearly still, screw with my sense of organization.

However, clearly the Cubs didn't take my weirdness into consideration when they moved on to 1986 because after that, for the next ten years or so, their team-issued SGA sets were inflated to an over-sized, almost post-card sized set (with various different sponsors) that really messes up my storage system:

                                     1986                                                                      1994

 After that, the SGA set phenomenon kind of died down and, while there have been various themed sets and giveaways, there haven't been yearly team sets available in Wrigley Field in the traditional sense in a long time.  It's a shame - if the Cubs produced a yearly set, similar to the Phillies, I would totally throw my money at it time and time again.

Anywho, I've gone way off on a tangent and it's time to bring this thing around.  Thank you for thinking of me Mr. Cardboard Curmudgeon - your generosity is truly appreciated.  I'll have to dig up a couple of nice pieces to send back your way, though I know you're rather disillusioned with the Bravos right now.  I can't say I blame you either; it sure was tough to watch the Cubs from 2011 through 2014.

However, as bleak as the baseball landscape might seem, random acts of kindness and generosity always shine through, like a beacon of hope on the murkiest and blackest of nights.  Before I get even more prose-y, I'm going to go ahead and sign off.  Thanks again, Cardboard Curmudgeon!


  1. I've been eyeballing complete Red Lobster sets for a while now (basically for the Sandberg) and just can't pull the trigger. They're easily $50-60+ for the set. I think I have those 7Up sets tucked away somewhere though, still in the original shrink wrap because they're slightly oversize, right? Wouldn't fit in binder sheets.

  2. I will continue keeping my eyes open at the next show. I believe he might have had more. I bought three and sent the others to two other Cub collectors.