Thursday, June 30, 2016

Trading the Cubs' Young Core

*Disclaimer* Don't worry, this isn't going to be some internet hot-take about how the Cubs should trade Kyle Schwarber for a fungible reliever from the Yankees or any of the other silly trade rumors that are currently abound.

Alrighty then - yesterday we saw the goofy portion of the latest P-Town Tom trade package to land on my doorstep.  Furthermore, we also saw how my fiancee chose to deal with that portion. 

Meanwhile, as I mentioned towards the end of that very post, there was more than just cheap laughs and gimmicks to this bubble mailer - much more.  Today, let's take a look at the real meat and potatoes that were served with my latest "Gracing:"

The appetizer was a healthy double-serving of 2015 Diamond Kings, a set which is heavily underrepresented in my collection.  In fact, these two cards may even be the first from that checklist to make their way to the Wrigley Roster Jenga headquarters - I can't quite recall.  Anyway, I'm always happy to find new cards of the Cubs dynamic young core.

Jorge may have a little bit of developing to do yet, but the potential is there; meanwhile, Javy is already a human highlight reel with the glove and, if his 15th inning grand slam a couple nights ago is any indication, his bat is coming along nicely as well!

Of course, the fact that three relievers played left field in this game and Travis Wood kept bouncing back from the mound to the outfield kept Javy's heroics from being the most notable part of the never-ending contest.  God bless Joe Maddon.

What have we got next, eh?

Speaking of the dynamic young core, here's the crown jewel of that crop back when he was a college kid playing for Team USA.  Panini might not have an MLB license; but, they were able to secure the proper & exclusive authorizations to produce NCAA and Team USA cards without having to airbrush out anything that so much as resembled a team identification mark.  Thus, they've carved themselves out a nice niche in the card-collecting market.

Speaking of niches, this card fits perfectly into one of my niche collections:  cards of Major League Cubs that depict their minor league/college/high school days, aka my "Baby Bear" binder.  Bryant cards are like gold around here, so thank you for saving me the excessive hometown markup, Tom!

This one made my jaw drop - a Team USA relic of yet another one of the Northsiders' young core?  On top of that, it's numbered out of 299?  Hot damn!  This instantly becomes the nicest card (by far) in that previously mentioned niche collection.

Almora is another absolute defensive whiz, having already made several highlight reel-worthy catches in his short time in the Bigs, thus far.  His bat has been a tad better than advertised too - in fact, just yesterday he smacked his first career homer by going the opposite way.  He may have to be sent back to AAA when Dexter Fowler returns from the DL; that said, Almora may very well replace Fowler when the latter hits free agency this winter.

Jeeze - he just makes it look so easy and effortless, doesn't he?

Anyway, there was still one more card left in P-Town Tom's envelope of goodies - how can we top what's already been seen?

ROCK SHOULDERS!!  The man whose name sounds more like it belongs in an old western movie or woven into the tall tales of Paul Bunyan and his big blue ox than a baseball diamond.  

Rock was Tom's prospect crush before Dan Vogelbach burst onto the scene and is probably the most preeminent Rock super-collector on the internet.  This certified auto made me audibly gasp when I pulled it out of the trade stack - anytime inked cards make their way into my hands unannounced is a time for celebration!

It's too bad the first baseman is the one prospect in this batch who never made the ultimate ascent to Chicago, though the chances of him doing so were slim to none to begin with (ahem, Anthony Rizzo).  As of now, Shoulders is actually playing with my adoptive hometown's Frontier League nine, the Joliet Slammers.

Image courtesy of

Funny - when I read that he'd been activated off of the league's DL this past Sunday, I began thinking about making my way to a game and seeing if I could get Rock to sign a card for me.  Tom is clearly thinking on the same wavelength as I am.

Well, after all that, I think I'd weather being hit with every single 1989 Fleer Mark Grace ever printed if they were also accompanied with those generous offerings above - that was one heckuva mailer!  Although, I may very well be opening the floodgates with that statement.

Thank you P-Town Tom for your exceptional generosity; I hope to have a comparable return in the mail for you in the near future!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Graced For a Second Time

First, it was Andy of the (unfortunately, now dormant) Ain't Nobody Got Time for Cardboard; this time, it's P-Town Tom of Waiting 'til Next Year... apparently this is the latest trend to hit the blogosphere.  I, of course, am talking about "Gracing" someone with your presence:

What you see above is my lovely fiancee trying to figure out to do with another large stack of 1989 Fleer Mark Grace singles.  I'm assuming Tom drew inspiration from Andy and, as such, I have now received a second brick of the grayest Mark Grace baseball card ever produced.  What in the heck are we supposed to do with all of these?

This is what happens when you casually mention that Gracie was your favorite baseball player growing up.

Last time that I had this problem, my better half made it rain and then distributed them to our ungrateful pets.  Sure - maybe the cat and the turtle both needed food and water a little bit more than 27 year old cardboard, but not even so much as a "thank you."  Rude.

Anyway, I again assigned the future Mrs. Burbs to come up with a solution for this latest "Gracing", a task she was more than willing to take on.  I think part of her enjoys mangling pieces of the hobby that takes up so much of my free time - time that could instead be spent rubbing her feet or learning to cook a respectable meal or whatever.

Here's what she came up with:

Turns out that I am marrying quite the architect - good to know.  When it comes to purchasing our first house, maybe we should just buy some land and have her build it for us... entirely out of the Fleer "Amazing Graces" that I have a feeling will keep showing up on our doorstep in the interim.

Alright - maybe not.  I am not a big fan of being crushed.

Anyway, P-Town Tom got his laughs in; however, there was much more than just guffaws in this latest trade envelope sent my way.  In fact, it ranks near the top in most generous mailers that I've ever received; hint - it involves top prospect relics, autographs and one of the greatest baseball names in minor league history!  So, stay tuned for the full wrap-up on those goodies, which will be posted tomorrow.

In the meantime, does anybody need a Mark Grace card?  Anyone?

Monday, June 27, 2016

Jumping the Gun

It's not been a good week or so for the Cubs - after an epic sweep of the Pirates last weekend, the Cubs got their proverbial butts handed to them by the Cardinals and the Marlins.  Suddenly they've lost six of their last seven and the team looks human.  Now, of course even the best of teams go through their cold spells throughout the season, so panic should not yet be setting in; however, that doesn't mean a little re-tooling can't be done.

The offense has been streaky and had issues with RISP which should even out as part of the eb and flow of a 162 schedule and the starting pitching has still been mostly adequate.  However, the bullpen has been pretty rocky and so Theo and Co. decided to make a change:

40 year old Joel Peralta will be the latest man to suit up in Cubbie Blue.  As a reliever who blossomed under Joe Maddon in Tampa Bay, the Cubs manager convinced him to give it one more go on a minor league deal with Chicago after an awful beginning to the 2016 campaign with Seattle.  He hasn't been in the organization for very long and has only made a few appearances out of the AAA pen; that said, historically, Joel has had strong reverse platoon splits - by that, I mean the righty is much more effective against lefties.

This season alone, while righties teed off on Peralta to the tune of a .306 BA, lefties hit at a much more modest .209 clip.  All of this makes sense when you take into consideration that the man sent back to the minors to make room for the veteran was auditioning LOOGY Gerardo Concepcion, who was hit hard in his brief trial.

All in all, while I'm happy with the move itself, I'm also kind of happy to be adding this sweet Tampa Bay faux-back image to my CATRC binder.  Also, it seems fairly appropriate that Peralta's card would feature such a psych-out, seeing as there was a bit of trickery involved with his call-up.

You see, late last night, Iowa reliever Corey Black posted this cryptic tweet:

Obviously that could mean absolutely anything; but, when it was discovered that the Cubs had optioned fellow reliever Concepcion to the minors his morning without announcing a corresponding move, many a Cubs fan (including this one) jumped to the conclusion that Black, who was acquired from the Yankees in the 2013 Alfonso Soriano trade, was coming up.  I even went so far as to pull out my Black cards for CATRC consideration:

By the way, the reason why I have time for all of this on a Monday morning is because I work for a school district and I'm currently on summer hours - suddenly, I have lots of free time.

Anyway, news on the follow up roster jenga'ing was slow moving, so I decided to go for a six mile run in the interim (because I'm a glutton for pain - it was way too hot for that nonsense).  By the time that I hobbled back through my front door, word had dropped from multiple sources that it would in fact be Joel Peralta, not Corey Black, who would be added to the 25-man roster.

Looks like I jumped the gun, didn't I?  But, what the heck was Corey so excited about then?

Okay - I'm not a fan of the show myself; that said, from what I've heard about it, I can't blame anyone for getting super excited about it.  At least, the real life twist in our story today wasn't a "red wedding" level one - though, I'm sure some more irrational, ledge-jumping portions of the Cubs fan-base wouldn't mind that happening today.

Anyway, here's hoping that Peralta has something left in the tank and the Cubs can finally get someone to lock down that LOOGY spot - both Concepcion and the injured Clayton Richard have been less than stellar so far in 2016.  If not, perhaps a guy like Corey Black will indeed end up getting his chance to play in the Show.

We shall see.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

R.I.P. Gentleman Jim

Time marches on and no man or woman on this earth is safe from the figurative steamroller - everyone has their time.  News has been rolling out since late last night/early this morning that former Cubs outfielder/first baseman Jim Hickman became that steamroller's latest claim.

This single from the Timeless Teams set put out by Upper Deck in 2004 represents Mr. Hickman in my CATRC binder:

The lifetime Tennessee native passed away while in hospice care from unspecified causes - he was 78 years old.

Of course, to Cubs fans of a certain age (or those who fanatically study their history), Hickman's should ring a few bells and stir some emotions, possibly good or bad - you see, "Gentleman Jim" was a key contributor on that 1969 Chicago Cubs squad that very nearly broke the most infamous drought in sports history.  In his first year of regular action on the Northside, Hickman posted a .234 batting average with 21 homers in 134 games.

However, before that, Jim had been a member of the very team that broke so many Chicago baseball fans' hearts that fateful season - the Miracle Mets.  His rookie season was also the first campaign for the Flushing, NY club (1962) and he spent the next four seasons suffering as a rover in the outfield and sometimes a corner infielder for the hapless club.  After one terrible season spent with the Dodgers in 1967 (.163  AVG in 114 PA), the Cubs came a-callin' for his services, looking to buy low on his power potential.

In one of then GM John Holland's most beneficial trades, Hickman's services were secured for the low, low cost of outfielder Ted Savage and pitcher Jim Ellis.  Savage spent the rest of his career as a AAAA-type nomad, while Ellis would never see the Big Leagues in LA.  We can definitely mark that trade down as a win.

I swiped that Ellis scan from Ebay - if anyone happens to have that Fritsch OYW issue, I'd sure love to trade ya!

From there, Hickman went on to earn regular playing time in Leo Durocher's clubhouse.  After his productive line in that poorly-ended, 1969 schedule, Hickman went on to post his breakout season in 1970 at the age of 33.  All he did was go out and hit .315 with 32 home runs and 115 RBI as a sudden middle of the order threat, splitting time in the outfield with becoming the nearly-finished Ernie Bank's successor at first base.  For his troubles, he was awarded with an All-Star selection.

Courtesy of the All-Star honor, "Gentleman Jim" became an interesting footnote and spectator to one of the most infamous moments in the seemingly endless history of America's pastime.  You see, it was Jimmy's RBI single in that All-Star contest that drove in Pete Rose... who then promptly drove into Ray Fosse, permanently upsetting the latter's career.

After a couple more seasons of above-average production bouncing from all three outfield spot and and the first sack, the front-office started to become frustrated with, each season starting out fast from the gate and fading in the dog days of summer.  As such, the sell-off of the 1969 era Cubs spared no one, including Hickman, who found himself dealt to the Cardinals in March of '74 for beleaguered righty Scipio Spinks.

Unlike the trade that brought him to Chicago, this particular transaction was more of wash.  While Scipio never got his million dollar arm to agree with his ten cent head and failed to throw a pitch in a Cubs uniform, Hickman played just 50 games in St. Louis before calling it a career.

Upon the end of his Major League career, Jim went back to his native Tennessee to spend the rest of his life running the family farm.  Additionally, the former All-Star spent 20 years as the Cincinnati Reds' minor league hitting coordinator.  By all accounts, it seems as though "Gentleman Jim" lived himself a long and happy life - from Major League All-Star to peaceful farmer.

R.I.P. Jim Hickman - enjoy that big, ol' ballpark in the sky.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Instant Karma

The pack you see above provided me a couple of good karma rewards, but more on that later.

Today marked one of the rare weekend days where both my fiancee and I are free - working in retail means that she often gets stuck working at inconvenient times.  As such, we both feel like we have to make the most of the time that we have together.  Today, she got to choose how we spent our rarefied co-mingling hours.

We began the morning with the annual Independence Day parade... yes, I realize that it's only June 25th; but, for some strange reason that's how my community has always done it.  I was mostly indifferent on attending, however, she was surprisingly gung-ho on the idea.  From there, we went dress shopping at the local Burlington Coat Factory so that she could find a nice outfit for her friend's bridal shower tomorrow, in lieu of the car show I secretly wanted to attend.

I wasn't complaining though, it was just nice to spend a few casual hours together.  After finally settling on a nice little number, she actually decided that she'd like to go to the LCS in order to pick up some vintage Garbage Pail Kids.

Yup, that's right, she willingly opted to go card-hunting - I knew I picked a winner!

So, we rushed right on over there, before she could change her mind and luckily, they had a nice stash of old school GPK and Wacky Packages to keep her entertained.  Here are a few of the gems that she ended up walking away with:

The Ronald Reagan goofing was a no-brainer, seeing as she is all about political study.  Meanwhile, "Marc Spark" was selected, in her words, "in honor of the fourth of July."

Moving on, the Wacky Packages weren't exactly vintage; that said, she was still able to find a couple which struck her fancy:

My better half is a major Lady Gaga fan and about the most strong-willed feminist I've ever encountered (a label which I also wear proudly).   I always say, if you can't laugh at yourself, you shouldn't be laughing at anyone else; if you can't take the heat, stay out of the kitchen and all that cliched jazz.

Also, that one on the right is obviously a parallel of some sort, but neither her nor I could possibly care any less about that fact.

Anyway, as you can see, it was a pretty fruitful afternoon for her - she got to take in a parade on a beautiful summer day, came away with a cute outfit with minimal struggle and found herself a few new treasured collectibles.  Combine that with the fact that we're finally going to see Finding Dory tonight and she was in a pretty damn good mood.

Of course, there was no way I was leaving that shop without grabbing a little something for myself, so I selected my very first pack of Series 2 from the gravity feeder at the counter and we were on our merry way.  This impulse purchase then promptly rewarded me for letting my fiancee select the day's festivities:

Hey - it's great to see that my favorite insert set from Series 1 has carried over into the second edition.  Bricks, ivy and the iconic Wrigley Field marquee make for an unequivocally beautiful design.  Not to mention, I love the uniqueness of press conference shots on baseball cards - they're infinitely better than crappy Photoshop/airbrushing monstrosities.

Hot damn - it's a Cubs hot-pack!  No base Northsider base cards; however, both of the "special cards" contained within were Boys in Blue flavored.  I'll certainly be marking this down as a win.

It's kind of hard to tell from the picture, but that Cubs team card is some kind of rainbow foil parallel.  Now, I know I said I don't pay too much mind to parallels when discussing the Wacky Packs above, but this sure does look pretty.  The exuberant joy in the walk-off win celebration chosen for the photo sure doesn't hurt either.

So, there you have it - good karma immediately rewarded me for letting my fiancee take the reigns on our Saturday spent together.  That said, I think having a fiancee that willingly wanted to not only step into a card shop, but also wanted to do some shopping of her own is truly enough of a reward!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Too Much Time on My Hands

The band Styx, while much-maligned in their heyday, will always have a special place in this music-lover's heart.  As I recall, my very first conscious decisions on what music I personally liked revolved around Styx music.  In fact, my very first album/CD purchase was a copy of their Greatest Hits album from the local Walgreens.  

Believe me, it was a lonely existence being a junior high kid who's favorite band was Styx.  However, how could I help but latch on to the band that was co-founded by my uncle's junior high music teacher - Dennis DeYoung.  That's right, the Chicago-based band even used to rehearse in the house across the street from my childhood home during their early days.  I mean, my liking of Styx was almost born into me.

Therefore, when I noticed that they were coming to town tonight, in an exceptionally affordable setting, as part of the "Taste of Joliet" festival, I knew I had to go - even if DeYoung has long-since departed the band.  The opportunity to hear some of my earliest favorite tunes played live is something I just can't pass up.  

In honor of this momentous (to me) occasion, much like I did before seeing Cheap Trick earlier this year, here are some of my favorite Styx tunes and the Chicago Cubs baseball cards which best represent them:

Well, the connection here should be pretty obvious - both of these players are sporting undershirts with comically over-sized blue collars beneath their Cubs jerseys.  I mean, Chicago can still be pretty cold during the early parts of the MLB season; however, turtlenecks look a little out of place on the baseball diamond.

As far as actually being blue collar men, in the spirit of the titular song, I cannot confirm or deny that Mickey Owen or Erik Pappas fit such labels.

Another correlation that shouldn't be too difficult to spot - both of the players pictured here are wearing the number eight.  It took a lot more effort for me to find cards where this number was actually visible, since Cubs jerseys, like most around the league, only have the number displayed on the front when they play on the road.  These were the only two I could find in my CATRC binder.

Of course, the song itself is all about money - if I went that route, pretty much every baseball card since the free agent era began could be thematically linked to that concept.  Hey-oh!

A song about youthful rebellion and overwhelming anger seems pretty appropriate for both of these live-armed pitchers.  Both Carlos Zambrano and Julian Tavarez bascially played their way out of the Windy City thanks to their well-documented anger problems.  Big Z infamously walked out on the team in the summer of 2011, which was the final straw in a long line of heated incidents.  Meanwhile, Julian Tavarez was suspended in the middle of the 2001 campaign (his only in Chicago) for his role in a benches-clearing brawl.

"Why must you be such an angry young man / When your future looks quite bright to me?"

While a lot of pop music of the 60's and the 70's was about drugs, that message was often interwoven in symbolic lyricism.  Meanwhile, "Light Up" by Styx doesn't make any attempt to hide what it's about - pot... "Light up everybody / Join us in this celebration."

Rumors abounded in Chicago when the 2008 NL ROY catcher still resided in Chicago, that Geo Soto enjoyed himself a nice toke now and then.  Those thoughts were confirmed in 2014 when he was arrested for possession while with the Texas Rangers.  Luckily for him, he had less than two ounces on him when caught, resulting in a misdemeanor.

Sidenote - this oddball honoring Geo's 2008 award, given out to subscribers of Vineline (the Cubs monthly periodical), is one of my favorite oddities in my collection.

Tommy Shaw and Co., just like the rest of us, sometimes wishes they had themselves a crystal ball.  Aren't we all just a little bit curious about what our future will bring us?

It sure seems like Theo Epstein has himself a crystal ball somewhere, seeing as the organization's success with prospects over the past couple of seasons has been incredible.  Baez, Bryant, Russell, Schwarber, Almora, Contreras... the conveyor belt just keeps on turning out legitimate MLB players.  Time will tell if guys like Carson Sands and Pierce Johnson also join those ranks.

Here are a couple of Cubs who found themselves grabbed by the "long arm of the law," just like the character on the lamb in the Tommy Shaw penned "Renegade."

Manny Seoane, a cuppacoffee arm from the late 70's who got a brief trial with Chicago in 1978, got tangled up in a crazy kidnapping scheme with Mark Lemongello in their post-playing days, an tale which I wrote about in detail here.  Furthermore, Milton Bradley had some crazy anger issues on the field; however, he took that to a new level after his playing days.  In June of 2013, he was convicted by a jury of nine counts of physically attacking and threatening his wife including four counts of spousal battery, two counts of criminal threats, one count of assault with a deadly weapon, one count of vandalism and one count of brandishing a deadly weapon.  Yikes.

"Dear John" was a song recorded live by the newly-reformed Styx and included on their 1997 live album Return to Paradise, which documented that reunion tour.  The song was a touching tribute to their founding drummer, John Pannozo, who had passed away the previous year from gastrointestinal hemorrhaging and cirrhosis of the liver.  As someone with two friends named John who didn't make it out of their teens, this particular number really hits me hard.

Anyway, it's only natural to make a connection to a future Cubs star who also passed away far too young - Ken Hubbs.  The Rookie of the Year with a Gold Glove in his cabinet infamously perished in a plane crash in February of 1964.

Alright - the last two song associations have been kind of heavy.  Let's lighted the mood with a terribly corny and exceptionally goofy song in "Mr. Roboto."  Love it or hate it, it's a damn catchy tune and responsible for the only bit of Japanese that most Americans are truly able to speak:  "Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto."

Therefore, I present to you the last two Japanese baseball cards in my collection that I have not yet showed off on this blog.  Immediately after the Cubs signed Fujikawa out of Japan in 2013, I hopped on Ebay and purchased this BBM single.  After purchasing another Japanese single of Korean import Chang Yong-Lim in the early days of WRJ, the kind vendor also included this Mike Diaz card as a bonus.  Diaz spent some time in Chicago as a backup backstop in 1983.

There you have it, Styx via baseball cards - this internet place has everything doesn't it?  Clearly I have "too much time on my hands."

At any rate, it's time for me to start prepping for the big night.  I hope you enjoyed my musical meanderings as much as I enjoyed writing about them - it definitely made for a nice pre-concert hype session.  

"Domo arigato" for reading!

If only Chris Sale played for the "right" Chicago team...

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A Bullpen Re-Concepcion

Today the Cubs announced a series of moves that came as a mild surprise.  First, struggling lefty specialist Clayton Richard was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a blister issue.  Second, fellow bullpen dweller Adam Warren was optioned to AAA in order to stretch out and be inserted into an eventual six man rotation.  As a result of these moves, Iowa Cubs closer Spencer Patton comes up to give the Bigs another shot and, of most interest to me, Gerardo Concepcion was called up to become the new LOOGY.

Concepcion might be a somewhat familiar name, seeing as he had been considered a major bust of an international signing since he was inked out of Cuba in 2012.  Gerardo was given a 5-year, $6 million, Major League deal on the heels of a 10-3, 3.36 ERA campaign during his rookie year in the Cuban National Series.

It was widely rumored at the time that part of the reason the Cubs had targeted the left-hander was to entice fellow Cuban defector Jorge Soler, who signed with the Cubs a few months later.

Whatever the case, Gerardo had a hard time adjusting to his new surroundings - in 12 A-ball starts for the Peoria Chiefs, the shiny new prospect posted a horrid 7.36 ERA.  This performance got him outrighted off of the Major League roster and, after losing essentially all of 2013 to injury, the bust label was promptly stamped on his forehead.

Concepcion warming up during his disastrous stint in Peoria
Image courtesy of Ivy Envy

However, Concepcion did not simply mail it in after his demotion and kept plugging away from the bullpen despite mediocre, at best, numbers on the mound.  It wasn't until this year that things truly began to click for the former blue-chipper.  In ten AA appearances with Tennessee, he did not give up so much as a single run, striking out 17 while only walking 4.  After another ten games in AAA, the Cubs have decided to see what they have.  Between the two levels, lefties are batting a meek .116.

At any rate, it's hard to do worse than Clayton Richard had been doing so far in 2016 (7.31 ERA in 12.1 innings as a specialist).

Perhaps the Cubs can make something out of Gerardo yet; while he might not be much of a prospect anymore, he is still only 24 and, in case you haven't noticed, the Cubs have had some success when it comes to developing young talent over the past few seasons.  At any rate, it's nice to see a guy overcome and get his career back on track.  Welcome to the show, Gerardo!.... oh, and welcome to my Cubs All-Time Roster Collection, as well.

Monday, June 20, 2016

The United Nations of Cardboard

Baseball may be America's pastime, but I don't think anyone can deny that the game has become an international phenomenon.  Major League players have long been imported from far away lands, with some of the biggest names in the sport today including Masahiro Tanaka, Yoenis Cespedes and Jung Ho Kang. Meanwhile, there are professional baseball leagues that dot the world map - you know about Japan, Korea, Mexico, etc., but did you know that places such as Italy and Germany even have their own upper echelon of baseball?

Therefore, I think the time has some to form the United Nations of Cardboard - featuring trading card representatives from as many foreign hotbeds of baseball activity as we can (by that, I mean as many foreign cards as I have).  Full disclosure, most of them have a Cubs connection.

Therefore, allow me to introduce the founding members of the United Nations of Cardboard, in ABC order:

Stuart was snack company based out of Canada (think Hostess or Little Debbie) that, in 1983, produced their own set of baseball cards depicting the Canadian teams in Major League Baseball. The fact that this card features the cult-like beloved Montreal Expos and honest-to-goodness French on the backside made this an easy call for me.  O-Pee-Chee was just too obvious... or I wasn't able to find a good one, one of the two.

This cardboard confection found it's way into my collection because Wright, before he was an "instructeur," he was a moundsman for the Northsiders from 1960-61.

Now, we travel to the opposite side of the world, a place with a much warmer climate and a more contentious relationship with our homeland:

Cuba may not love America all that much (the relationship does appear to be warming), but they sure do love our sport.  They sure do produce some great ballplayers too - Jose Abreu, Cespedes, Aroldis Chapman and maybe these Gourriel brothers too.

Importing Cuban players was much easier before the Revolution - Jorge Comellas here was employed briefly by the Cubbies, for 7 games in 1945.  Around that same time, he found his mug on the front of thin, paper-like trading card that was packaged with a caramel.

Speaking of countries with testy relationships...

We get two Cubs for the price of one on this card honoring the managers of the Israel Baseball League.

Both all-time lefty Cubs great Ken Holtzman and short-term passer-through Art Shamsky helmed clubs in the ill-fated league meant to showcase Jewish talent in the promised land.  However, the IBL 
only lasted for a single season (2007) before it was shuttered.  Unfortunately, interest was lacking and financial mismanagement was rampant.

This is definitely the only card in my collection which features Hebrew text!

This card right here was my very first card to come from a different country - appropriately, Kosuke Fukudome was the Cubs very first investment in the Japanese baseball market.  We all know how that turned out.

Common knowledge is that BBM and Calbee are the big guns when it comes to the Japanese baseball card market.  However, Upper Deck tried to nose their way in, with the help of Tokyo-based MRM marketing, back around the millennium with this slightly undersized edition of Victory, featuring English on the front and Kanji on the back.  Looks like UD accidentally added an "h" to his Fukudome's while translating.

Kosuke might have been a bit of a dud; that said, "the Land of the Rising Sun" has produced some exceptional ball players (go Ichiro!).   So too has...

Puerto Rico!  OK - look, I know that they are a territory controlled by the United States; but, they aren't yet a state, have their own constitution and this is my blog and I can do what I want.  Finding a card from Puerto Rico is a little different than getting one from New York.

Hiram Bithorn's story has been discussed in detail on this blog before, so I won't retread old ground.  This card was actually an advertisement and admission coupon used for a big-time Puerto Rican card show, Feria Nacional de Toleteros y Juntacosas, that's been held yearly for a couple of decades now.  They love their cards just as much as the rest of the United States!

Our next stop on the globe happens to be another country with a murky history of sovereignty:

Taiwan, without getting too political or detailed here, is basically the government that was kicked out of China as a result of their own communist takeover - hence the segue.

Asia, much like Latin America, seems to be the area outside of our borders where baseball has planted it's firmest roots.  South Korea, the previously discussed Japan, China and Taiwan all have strong, well-respected leagues and a great deal of crossover with MLB.  In Taiwan, there has been at least one professional league since 1989.

This 1997 Pro-Card, chromium single featuring rookie hurler Chang Hao-Hu was actually dug up in a Frankfurt, IL thrift shop, of all places.  Additionally, it's the only card in this United Nations of Cardboard without a Cubs connection.

'ello gov'na - would you like some baseball cards with your tea and crumpets and a Dr. Who marathon?

Back in the late 80's, Topps released a series of sets to be distributed in the U.K.  The mini cards were produced in 1989 and 1990 before the project was abandoned.  Despite our best efforts, baseball just hasn't really caught hold in the land of Big Ben and the river Thames - cricket and football will likely forever reign supreme.

Nevertheless, they will be represented in the UNoC by an Andre Dawson with a cockney accent.

You didn't think the country that more or less invented the game wouldn't be represented did you?  What do you think this is, the League of Nations?

With a gluttony of options to chose from, the vast majority of my cards are American after all, I opted to go with a card to showcase the red, white and blue.  Long before Phil Nevin served as a lackluster injury substitute for D-Lee in '06, he was a star for Team USA, as shown on this Stadium Club single.  Also, look at Topps, finding a way to sneak an add for their company on their own card.

Sticking with the Americas, but migrating a little bit southward, we have...

Every winter, when the World Series is nothing but a memory and Christmas season is thrust upon us, players who desire a little bit extra game action show up in droves for winter league action in the Liga Venezolana de Béisbol Profesional.  Tarrick (not Terrick) Brock was one of the many during the 2000-01 Venezuelan campaign.

The season previous, Brock sipped on a cuppacoffee with the Chicagoans for 13 games - his only Big League action.

With that, we've tasted all of the international flavor that is present in my collection; behold the founding membership of the United Nations of Cardboard!  There are baseball cards featuring the Italian, Mexican, Australian, Korean, et al professional leagues, but I do not currently have any in my collection.  I'd also be willing to admit a KHL hockey card too.  So - if anyone has any extra international cardboard laying around (preferably with a Cubs/Blackhawks tie-in) we should talk trade.

In the meantime, you can rest easy knowing that all international cardboard affairs will now be presided over by this multi-cultural coalition... of inanimate objects.