Thursday, September 29, 2016

One Hundred and One

On Tuesday night, the Cubs passed yet another milestone on their way to a (hopefully) historic season.  In a year where it seems like every day produces a headline in the mold of "the Cubs did ______ for the first time since ______," it's easy to become fatigued with such information.  However, this particular marker was particularly stunning, in my humble opinion.

In that 6-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates, thanks to an explosive performance from utility man Chris Coghlan, the Cubs won their 101st game of the season.  Winning over 100 games is a benchmark for any truly great team and, for frame of reference, it was only three seasons ago that the Cubs had lost as many games.

Furthermore, the last time the Cubs had gone beyond the century mark was over a century ago... 106 years ago, to be specific.  The last time that the Chicago National League Ball Club won their 101st game of the season, the lineup card read as follows:

Leading off and playing left field, the utility man with a name seemingly more appropriate for a silent movie starlet than a ballplayer - Ginger Beaumont

Batting second base and manning right field, the eternally underappreciated and next season's MVP award winner - Frank "Wildfire" Schulte

Batting third and starting in centerfield before moving to first base mid-game, a clown prince of baseball - Solly Hofman

Batting fourth and starting at first before being removed early (injury?), manager and 1/3 of baseball's most famous double play combo - Frank Chance.

Eventually batting fourth (in Chance's place) and subbing in center after Hofman shifted to first, minor league-lifer John Kane (the only one I do not have a card of).

Due up fifth and playing second base, eventual Triple Crown winner and baseball pariah for betting on the game - Heinie Zimmerman

 Batting sixth and manning third base, the answer to every baseball fan's favorite trivia question - Harry Steinfeldt

Batting seventh and starting at shortstop, another part of baseball's most poetic double play partners - Joe Tinker.

Due up eighth and playing behind the dish, backup catcher and person depicted on one of my few period-authentic tobacco cards - Tom Needham.

Finally, batting ninth and taking the mound at the old West Side Grounds, a shooting star and tragic tale with a royal name - "King" Cole.  Coincidentally, "King" is represented here by a Monarch Corona single.

According to the box score, on October 9th, 1910, the Chicago Cubs won their 101st game in style, with a walk-off, 4-3 win over the St. Louis Cardinals... nothing like beating up on the Cards, right?  Ironically, despite the presence of two Hall of Famers, an MVP winner and a Triple Crown title-holder, it was the most obscure name on this roster that drove in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth - John Kane.

That 1910 Cubs team went on to win 104 games on the year and win the National League pennant by a comfortable 13 games over the New York Giants.  Of course, they went on to lose to the Philadelphia Athletics in the World Series, four games to one.

The 2016 edition of the Cubs have four games left in the regular season; so, unlikely though it may be, they still have a chance to out-pace their 106 year old counterparts.  Doing so would give them the third-most winning season in franchise history (116 is the Cubs and MLB record).  That said, I think we Wrigley rooters can all agree that we would trade in those potential wins for 11 more in October.

At any rate, no matter how this season ends up, we've witnesses some things that the North Side of Chicago hasn't seen in a hundred years.  Thanks to yesterday's extensions of Theo Epstein and the whole front office staff, these things could potentially become commonplace now.  This could be a new Cubs Golden Age.

Take it in - savor it all.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Missed Connections

If you ever get super bored, I highly recommend checking out the "Missed Connections" sections of Craigslist.  If you are unfamiliar with the concept behind the forum, it's a place where locals can go and hopefully seek out people that they'd encountered at some point and correct a missed connection.  As noble a concept as it is, there's some extremely bizarre and mildly disturbing entries that will make you wonder why anyone would ever want to meet another human being again:

This past Saturday, I missed some connections of my own - however, they weren't nearly as weird and creepy as those depicted in the video above.  In fact, they were a couple members of our very own blogging community - Dimebox Nick and JediJeff.

The missed connection was definitely my fault as I didn't take the time to check my email or look up a phone number.  I was so laser focused on the deals to be had at the card show we were all attending in the south suburbs of Chicago that I completely spaced and I was quite limited on time.  Sorry guys - I'm a bit of a space case sometimes and, apparently, full of excuses.  Also, I can assure you I won't be posting on Craigslist to assuage these missed connections - let's just try to make next month's collecting affair?

Coincidentally, I had just received a PWE from JediJeff the day before I botched this meet-up; thus, in a way, it still kinda felt like I bumped into the blogosphere's resident White Sox fan and had a chance to swap some cardboard:

This PWE was actually part of a pre-arranged swap (the other half of which is going in the mail today) centered around the recently freed from the smart phone screen Bunt.  In exchange for the last "Unique Unis" insert that Jeff needed for his throwbacks mini-collection, he agreed to send me the Cubs he had pulled from this product.  After all, I didn't have much luck getting them myself.

I have to say this again, I love this set for it's price point, sleek design and focus on base cards with a few fun inserts.  If we could just expand the checklist (Topps Total levels, anyone?), then this might become one of my favorite releases annually.  

Another fairly new product that I had sampled recently was the rebooted Bowman Platinum line.  Like Bunt, I had no luck in pulling Cubs for myself.  Granted, I only purchased a single pack from a K-Mart; but, I did find a card of the South Side ace sitting within this impulse purchase.  When Jeff caught word of this, he was kind enough to fix my lack of North Side representation with a couple of future stars.

This is only my second card of the 2015 first round selection known as Ian Happ.  The second baseman is rising quickly through the system and may start contributing to the Cubs' middle infield glut of talent sooner rather than later.  Meanwhile, Schwar-bomb has already burst onto to the Major League scene, but lost almost all of this season to injury.  Here's hoping that a fresh start next year really pushes the Cubs offense over the top.

 Let's keep the shiny train rolling with a World Series Heroes single of NOMAHH from Upper Deck.  Boy oh boy, did I ever invest my hopes in Garciaparra actually being a World Series Hero for the Cubs... my heart was torn asunder much like Nomar's groin - ouchy.  Still, I love me some shiny objects.

Paired with "backwards Ramon," we have another high-profile, mid-season trade acquisition who was supposed to push the Cubs over the top - "The Crimedog."  McGriff cards using Cubs colors are in short supply at the Wrigley Roster Jenga headquarters, so I will gladly welcome this sharp MVP single into my collection, without hesitation... unlike McGriff himself.

Succeeding McGriff as the Cubs' first baseman was Korean import Hee-Seop Choi, who we see here on Donruss' 2003 version of Champions, a set which was clearly designed for relics and base cards were considered unimportant.  Jeff included a handful of these in his PWE and, despite their unbalanced layout, I love the incorporation of red, white and blue in any Cubs card.  


Enough with the digital cards, shiny, foil-lettering and relics - it's time to go back in time a little bit.  Well, not actually, but how about some retro-themed cards that harken back to an era before apps and hits?  Jeff threw in a healthy sampling of throwback products, including a couple of my favorites above.

Upper Deck CLEARLY didn't borrow that pennant design from ANYONE else, right?  Totally original.

The throwback train continues with these Diamond King examples.  The simulated brush strokes add a certain elegance to the base cards.  If these were fully-licensed with logos, DK would easily be one of the best-looking sets of 2016.  Even so, they might still be able to lay claim to that honor.

Also, major bonus points to Jeff for including my first insert from this set.  Not to mention, a new Ryno is always a plus for any trade package!

We'll wrap up this trade log with one more old school-style card paired with a single more recent product.  The connection?  Like the Platinum cards shown off earlier, both feature young keys to the Cubs future. 

Everybody loves minis, and new cards of the future, perennial Gold Glove-winning shortstop known as Addison Russell are a major draw for me, as well.  Furthermore, Albert Almora might have a Rawlings award in his future too if continues to hit at the Big League level as well as he has in his 2016 trials.  You have to be able to hit to stick in the lineup, after all.

There's some serious leather-flashing ability between these two! 


Thank you JediJeff for your excellent PWE - I'll make sure I get your return in the mail this evening.  For what it's worth, I did have it with me at the Orland Park show this Sunday, all prepped and ready to go for you.  Too bad I suck at communicating.

Hey - it could be worse though.  As we've learned from that shady forum on Craigslist, a "missed connection" could be a lot worse...

...a lot worse!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Extry! Extry! Read All About It!

Newspapers have been struggling to get readers to purchase their actual, physical papers for several years now.  Unfortunately for them, our culture has changed an awful lot over the last couple of decades and a great majority of Americans are now bred to expect their news for free on the internet.  Of course, this leads to dubious sources getting much more credence than they should, your pinhead friend who only believes what they read on Facebook and respected journalists and papers struggling to find an audience.  It's a messy situation.

But, I'll tell ya what - if more newspapers included sheets of baseball cards in their pages, I think the collecting community might single-handedly be able to keep them afloat!

The Sunday edition of the Chicago Tribune did just that this week and, as soon as I found that out (courtesy of P-Town Tom), I instantly hopped up off of my chair as if I'd sat on a nail.  To the CVS around the corner!

Success!  Even though it was just about dinner time, the local drug store still had several copies available for those of us who were not on the ball that morning.

According to that infield dirt-colored jacket wrapped around the front of the paper, this card set is supposed to represent the greatest possible Chicago baseball team of all time, featuring starters from the Cubs and White Sox at all nine positions (no DH), plus a reliever and a manager.  Apparently, these players were voted on by the readers of the Chicago Tribune over the past few weeks.  Personally, I had no idea this promotion was going on and did not vote myself.

So - who did the loyal readers of Chicago's most famous periodical nominate?

Hmmmmmmmm....  I guess the slant of the readership has changed an awful lot since the Trib sold the Cubs several years back.  As you can plainly see, pretty much the entire roster is made up of South Side residents; all except for Ron Santo in the upper left corner are sporting the pale hose - in fact, Ronnie even played for the White Sox to wrap up his career.  

Don't get me wrong, the White Sox have had some great players on their roster over the course of their existence, but where's Sammy Sosa, Billy Williams, Ryne Sandberg?  Tom already covered these slights, so I won't beat a dead horse... but, c'mon.

Let this be a lesson to you folks come November, pay attention and go out and vote!

Oh well, at least I got a nifty new oddball of the greatest third baseman in Cubs history (and personal hero of mine) out of the deal.  The design is pretty simple and lets the sepia-toned pictures from the Tribune archives do the talking, which is just fine in my opinion.  The little pennant is a nice little finishing touch as well, adding just a splash of color to the mix.

The back is just as bare bones, including just a write-up on why Ronnie should have been in the Hall of Fame much sooner than 2012, forgoing the traditional vitals and stat-lines found on baseball cards.  Well, what more can you really expect from a newspaper premium?

While he may be depicted with the White Sox here (and was definitely more effective with them), Hoyt Wilhelm was briefly a Chicago Cub during the 1970 season.  Thus, I'll be keeping this single for my collection as well.   So, I was at least able to get two cards out of this Sox-leaning vote.

In three games, the knuckler posted a ghastly 9.82 ERA in the twilight of his Hall of Fame career.  He was pretty much done as a pitcher, but Hoyt's brief Cubs tenure may be my favorite short-term stop of all-time... it's just so weird.

Anyway, flipping through this newspaper got me thinking about previous card-based promotions that the Tribune has had in my lifetime.  This "Greatest Chicago Baseball Team" set definitely wasn't the first time that the Trib has included cards in their paper as added incentive to purchase a periodical.  In fact, it wasn't even the only promo going on that day.

Since the fall of 2012, the Chicago Tribune has partnered with the Chicago Bears and Dr. Pepper to release a Fathead Tradeable, featuring one of that year's Monsters of the Midway.  They're enclosed in each Sunday edition found at Jewel-Osco, during the beginning of football season.  While, these aren't cards in the traditional sense, they are collectable paper, rectangles featuring professional athletes - so, I'm calling it close enough.

Honestly, while I remember this promotion going on a few years ago, I had no idea it was still ongoing; I'd thought it was a one-off.  If I'd known before typing up this post, I'd have driven to my local Jewel and picked up a Fathead with my Chicago baseball team set and doubled the fun - they make for nifty oddballs.  C'est la vie.

However, as far as your prototypical baseball cards, we have to travel back in time to 2008 to get to the last time a Chicago newspaper included those within it's pages:

The summer of '08 was one of those rare seasons where both Chicago clubs were in the thick of the pennant race - there were two division champions in the Windy City that fall.  To capitalize on the buzz surrounding America's pastime that summer, the Tribune produced it's own set of baseball cards.  Like the set that leads off this post, it was issued in perforated sheets within the Sunday edition, alternating between featured teams each week.

The cards were slightly smaller than standard-size, but they made up for that with their exquisitely detailed backs.  I take back what I said earlier - you can expect a lot more from a newspaper premium!

I do recall these sheets creating quite the stir in the Burbs household at the time, as my brother and I fought over who got dibs on them.  Eventually, cooler heads prevailed and we split them by our team affiliations (he got Sox, I got Cubs).  The set was extra notable at the time, at least to me, as it included the first Cubs cards of center fielders and surprise contributors Reed Johnson and Jim Edmonds.

Similarly, the same paper had published a set of Bears football cards in the lead-up to the team's Superbowl appearance during the 2006-07 season.  In fact, the dimensions were exactly the same and the designs very similar:

There's no doubt that this earlier set was the template for it's baseball brethren a couple of years later.  Again - look at that back!  This one even includes a cartoon, one of the most beloved features of trading cards of previous decades.  How cool is that?

I honestly have no memory of this set existing, but I assume it was distributed in the same way as the following collations.  This solitary single only ended up in my possession after a Bears binging at my LCS a few years back; otherwise, I'd be completely unaware of it's existence.  After all, I was just a high school kid back then - I was too cool to read the newspaper!... says the kid who spent his free time writing for the school paper.

All the cool kids wrote for the paper, right?

As far as any releases older than that Bears set, one has to dig much further into the newspaper archives to find anything.  Although, if you haven't already noticed, all of the cards featured in this post come from the Chicago Tribune.  Apparently, the Chicago Sun Times is just not interested in gimmicks.

The Tribune definitely has deep roots in the baseball card world, but the above is the extent of what I posses in my collection and what I remember from personal experience.  For a more thorough and expansive search into the Tribune archives in search of their cards and "card-like" promotions, I highly encourage you to visit Clyde's Stale Cards.  Jason has done tons of legwork on the subject and has uncovered some exceptionally off-the-wall, cool stuff.

You know what else is cool?  I've been informed that, courtesy of the large amount of coupons found within the Sunday edition, we've saved five bucks on products we already needed to purchase from Target.  As such, the paper and cards contained within were basically free. 

Woot!  Free cards!

Regardless of the White Sox ballot stuffing, it was certainly awesome to find baseball cards in the newspaper again - an all-time great source for oddballs.  Do your local news periodicals also periodically publish baseball cards?  Perhaps, if so, they even do so more often?  Maybe this concept is actually entirely foreign to your fair city?  Please share your experience in the comments section below - I'm a curious fellow.

One things for sure - it's not news - we card collectors love our oddballs.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Altered History

In yesterday's tribute to Jose Fernandez, I mentioned that I had spent that morning getting ready for a card show.  Of course, we collectors know that a lot of preparation goes into such a hallowed event - double-checking our want-lists, getting the proper gear together, eating a nice, hearty breakfast, etc.  Well, after reading that news first thing, I was completely thrown off of my routine and I didn't do any of that.

So, I went into this card show flying blind - although, despite that fact, I still had a pretty productive afternoon.

Coincidentally, this was the same Chicagoland show that Nick from Dime Boxes and Jeff of 2 by 3 Heroes fame were also attending.  Unfortunately, I did not bump into either of them; however, it's probably a good thing I didn't.  From what I saw on Twitter, if I'd bumped into to Nick, he'd likely still be playing 52 card pick-up, times ten.  What an impressive haul!

Anyway, while my findings were much more modest, I was still extremely happy with what I found and I think you'll be able to see why:

First off, I found myself a full box of discount, altered vintage.   Now, by discount, I mean dime box - so, pen-marks be damned, I don't think you can find a better deal than semi-star '65s and '71s for a silver FDR.  This is especially so when you include specimens featuring the hometown team (who's also extremely hot and popular right now).

With that in mind, I picked out a nice selection of Cubs that fit my collection.  According to my (usually) faulty memory, I didn't think I had any "playing days" cards of either Amalfitano or ye of near perfect game, which is my preferred representation for my CATRC binder.  I was correct about Joe, but whiffed on Pappas (much like Larry Stahl should have in 1972; there's where the lack of show-prep shows, but I think I can swallow a ten cent loss.

Next up are a couple of cards that I actually already had in my possession.   However, as you can see, these are both dual-player rookie cards and, to my knowledge, none of the four players featured ever had another card in Cubbie blue.  As such, in order to properly represent these men in my CATRC binder, I needed two copies of each card.

Double-purchasing cards is something I'm not particularly gung-ho about, especially when I'm looking at hometown markup vintage.  However, thanks to some kid's markups, I'm much more enthusiastic about filling these needs for 20 cents total.

The final highlight I have from that vintage dime box  came from the gridiron, rather than the diamond.  With as bad as the Bears have been this season, I wouldn't be surprised if all of their product was dumped in dime boxes by the end of the year.

That said, vintage football is something I have very little of - it doesn't seem to be nearly as plentiful (at sane prices) as baseball.  Thus, this worn but still perfectly acceptable 1960 Topps Doug Atkins was an easy choice to help fill out my purchase.  The defensive end immediately becomes the second oldest football card in my Bears collection and at just the cost of a dime.

I'll take that deal every day and twice on Sunday!  Though, I definitely wouldn't want to watch the current iteration of the Monsters of the Midway twice on Sundays... oof.

Anyway, all of those dime finds were all and well and good; however, it was my "big money" purchases that truly got my motor running on that sunny, fall afternoon.  After spending a good half an hour digging through that discount box, I only made it a few more tables down the aisle-way before I found a vendor with a wide-selection of super vintage pieces.  Spread all across the table were wonderful selections of Play Ball, Goudey, Exhibits and...

1949 Bowman! A set which contains two heretofore elusive names needed for my CATRC.

Luckily, one of these men were found within said vendors stock and it was even the one in the high-numbered portion of the checklist.  I was more than happy to hand over six bucks for the colorful, but slightly pencil-marked Jess Dobernic you see above.

Jess, for those who might be wondering, was a minor league journeyman who had a few trials in the Bigs with both Chicago teams and Cincinnati.  From 1948-49, he called Wrigley home, but, like many a Cubs pitcher at the time, was hit hard.  As such, he found himself farmed back out to AAA, as noted in the upper right-hand corner by a rather organized kid, circa 1950.

 Jess warming up in the Wrigley bullpen, courtesy of

Now, any time that I can knock a "super vintage" need off of my list makes for a good day - if the card show had ended right there, I would have been beaming regardless.  But, it didn't end there... in fact, I wasn't even done with that second table.  After making a full lap of the show space, I found myself back at that vendor's lair.  It was then that I noticed a large amount of altered cards in the corner of his glass display case, cards so old that being altered doesn't even really matter to the average joe:

T-206's!  All priced between eight to twelve bucks!  It's a good thing I only brought so much cash (wedding budget has me severely curtailing my card budget), otherwise it would have be far too easy to give into temptation and break the bank on these iconic bits of baseball history.

Nevertheless, I couldn't walk away from this goldmine without at least one bit of treasure.  As such, this Jimmy Slagle now resides in my CATRC binder, safe from any further damage.  Obviously, Jimmy had spent some portion of his existence tacked inside someone's old-school, photo album; no matter, the cut corners and creases do nothing to diminish my excitement about this purchase.

While he's listed with the old Baltimore Orioles of the Eastern League here, Slagle was a longtime starting outfielder for the Cubs, beginning in 1902 and wrapping up his MLB career with a World Series ring in 1908.  Jimmy was the last starter I needed from that storied club - here's hoping that the 2016 edition soon makes that team a little less notable!

 Slagle poses on the field during that infamous Cubs campaign,
Image courtesy of Getty Images

After handing over the dinero for that Slagle, I was officially spent for the day.  Therefore, it was here that my day at the show came to and end.

All in all, I think I had myself a pretty awesome card show - I didn't pull in the quantity, but I sure did find some quality (at least in my opinion).  Two super vintage needs from a couple of the most iconic baseball card sets of all-time make for a happy Burbs.  Not to mention, I was able to fill some other vintage needs (the newest of which was from 1971) for the price of modern commons - you might say, that made for the perfect cherry on top of card show "Sunday."

Good thing pen/pencil marks and creases don't bother me too much; hooray for "altered history!"