Two days, two surprise mailings from blogger buddies. That makes for a pretty great weekend, in my humble opinion!
On Thursday, it was well-known reader Marc who bombarded my mailbox with a PWE Blackhawks bomb. Yesterday, it was prominent Pirates fan Matthew of the all-time great blog name Bob Walk the Plank with an unannounced bubble mailer.
What could this manila mystery possibly hold?
Well, now I know where Matt gets his stationary from. Anyway, being that he's a Buccos fan, it's a given that he doesn't care too much for my Northside club - division rivals, Coghlan vs. Kang and all that. Thus, it's no surprise he's acting swiftly to rid himself of Chicago-tinged baseball cards. Also, Matthew is an exceptionally generous swapper and, if this is something he thinks I'd like, it's bound to be pretty cool.
Anyway, that anticipation is getting intolerable, let's get on with it - what did the mailer contain?
Matthew was right - was he ever right!
Here we have a "certified autograph issue" from the 2012 edition of the popular Fan Favorites insert set, which is found annually in Topps Archives. Oh how do I love this card, let me count the ways:
- It makes use of the 1982 Topps design, in all of it's hockey stick glory.
- Billy Buck is sporting the infamous power blue pajama uniforms from the time period. Like the White Sox black collars or the tequila sunrise Astros tops, they're so bad that they're good.
- The photograph captures the first baseman at the end of a gorgeous follow through, admiring what must have been a majestic drive. The money shot is perfectly framed too.
- Most importantly, it's a certified autograph of a bonafide "Hall of Very Good," notable name and cult fan favorite player - a signature that I did not have already.
- Blue ink is the only ink that should be used by Cubs players.
I think you nailed this one, Matt! Although, I thought Pirates were supposed to plunder treasure, not give it away?
For completeness' sake, here's a glimpse off the backside of the pasteboard. Kudos to Topps for using the complete career statistics as they would have appeared on the back of the card design that they were aping.
Of course, Bill's complete stat line includes a .289 batting average with 174 home runs and nearly 3,000 hits... and one miffed ground ball that defined his 22 season career, 7.5 years of which were spent in Chicago. As the story goes, Buckner considered himself a lifetime Dodger when he was traded away from LA to Chicago in 1977 (along with Ivan DeJesus for Mike Garman and Rick Monday) and he was royally pissed about the deal.
Apparently, I don't have a card of Buck as a Dodger
However, as the years passed, he came to love the Windy City and it was the town in which he had his greatest success, garnering MVP votes in four years, earning his only All Star selection in 1980 and capturing the NL batting crown in 1981. Come 1984, the Cubs decided that Leon Durham was best served as their first baseman and in need of pitching, so Buck was sent to the Red Sox for Dennis Eckersley. In his farewell press conference, Buckner actually teared up - Chicago had won him over. In fact, he kept a little piece of Chicago with him when he went on to Boston...
You know how the story goes from there.
As a casual young baseball fan, I was familiar with Billy Buck's woeful tale; however, I cared little about baseball beyond Sammy Sosa's moonshots and Mark Grace's slick play. It wasn't until I first saw this image that my mind was blown:
Image courtesy of Uni Watch
Yup, when Billy booted that famously weak ground ball, he was wearing a Cubs batting glove underneath his leather. Apparently, Buckner had been wearing that Cubs glove, much like Michael Jordan always had his NC shorts underneath his Bulls jersey, since his trade. Doubling down on the curse of the Bambino with the curse of the goat was a ballsy move (btw, I do not actually believe in curses).
Buckner was a Cub? I'd had no idea. Much like when I found out Tony LaRussa, Joe Carter and Dizzy Dean called Wrigley home at one point, my mind was blown. It's moments like that which inspired me to really delve into the history of the Cubs roster and form my Cubs All-Time Roster Collection.
Speaking of which, Matthew's phenomenal gift will certainly be added to that binder. In case you were curious, here's the card which had previously represented the unjustified scapegoat in it's pages:
Buck was certainly a big hitter, especially in the weak Cubs' lineups of the late 70's/early 80's, so it's appropriate that he'd be showcased by the 1981 Drake's Big Hitters set. In fact, this vintage oddball had been Buckner's card in my CATRC since I launched it way back when - something about the powder blue (combine that with love for the jersey he's wearing in Matt's card and I guess it's apparent I have a thing for that color) and the ornate design made it a tough card to unseat, in my mind. Of course, an autograph is an easy way to do that!
Thank you Matthew - this is easily one of the best cards that I've ever received in the mail. It's generous moments like these that keep me going everyday. Also, I'll make sure to send you something for your troubles, so jump up into your Pirate crows-nest and be on the lookout.
In the meantime, I'm just going to admire this card until today's Cubs vs. Rangers game starts.