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!
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.
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.