Ugh... last night's super-late, extra-inning marathon was quite the emotional roller-coaster... a roller-coaster which crashed into a wall at the end for us Cubs fans. I'll tell you what, I can't take much more of the "even year magic" and elimination game mumbo jumbo. Here's hoping that the Cubs can finish off those annoying and charmed Californians tonight and keep them from building on this momentum.
Speaking of magical Giants moments - this weekend, I picked up a "sweet" vintage oddball of a guy who, while he played with the Cubs for a few years, also suited up in the orange and black when they called New York home. In fact, he played a rather significant role for the club in one of the most iconic moments in franchise history and, really, sports in general.
Get it? It's "sweet" because it's a both Mother's Cookies single (issued with their sweet treats) and because it's an off-the-beaten-path, super vintage oddball. Aren't I a clever boy?
These cookie-paired, colorful beauties depicted the various players of the Pacific Coast League, were issued in two different sets by the California-based snack company in 1952 and '53 and distributed on the west coast. Hank hails from the earlier edition, but the similarly-designed sets both featured the cropped players against a solid, brightly-colored background. A simple, but attractive look. Furthermore, both sets are standard height (3.5 in), but just a touch more narrow than your standard width (2 in).
My Fred Richards from the '53 set - the only difference being the script
Thanks to their being a rather old, regional issue and the checklist's inclusion of several future/former MLB'ers, these cookie cards are kind of tough to come across and expensive when they do show up. I've seen a few of these go in the range of $20-50, before shipping, based on condition - too much for one card to this cheapskate. That said, as you can see, Hank here has seen some better days, with a good deal of wear along the edges and a few blemishes on the surface.
However, all that means to me is that it now falls into my ideal price range. I was able to snag another short-term, obscure Cubs player (with just a handful of issues to his name) for my CATRC binder and score my second Mother's Cookies issue for just a little more than five bucks off of Ebay. Works for me!
Meanwhile, back the ranch, what does Schenz have to do with the Giants? To the history books!
Hank Schenz with the Cubs, circa 1948
Image courtesy of Just One Bad Century
Hank Schenz served as a backup infielder for the Cubs during the dark ages immediately after WWII, starting in 1946. After winning 98 games and making the World Series in 1945, on the strength of a roster significantly less depleted than the rest of the MLB, the Cubs of the late forties through the fifties were the progenitors of the "Lovable Losers" moniker and never so much as sniffed the pennant race. Of course, one could say that the franchise has never recovered from this lackluster time period.
It wasn't until the '48 season that Hank earned a regular role with the Major League club, splitting time with Emil Verban as the starter at second base and batting a respectable .261 in 96 contests. Perhaps seeking to capitalize on that modest production, the Cubs dealt the Hank to Brooklyn for fellow infielder Bob Ramazzotti early on in the next season.
Ramazzotti stuck with the Cubs until 1953
However, Hank never suited up for "Dem Bums" and was purchased by the Pirates at the end of 1949. After a season and a half of backing up the infield for the Buccos, Schenz was again claimed off of waivers, this time by the New York Giants as depth for the stretch drive in '51.
1951... Giants... Yup, that was a fortuitous transaction for good ol' Hank. He wasn't often used down the stretch by the Gothams; however, that doesn't mean he didn't play a key role for the team. In the famous one-game playoff against the Dodgers, while Bobby Thomson was cracking the famous "Shot Heard 'Round the World," Hank was allegedly stealing signs with a telescope beyond the outfield and communicating them to the dugout. Dastardly.
It might have been an incredible upset; that said, it seems as though Mr. Schenz could see it coming.
The acknowledged hero of the day eventually made his way to the Cubs too.
After making just a single appearance in their World Series loss against the other New York ball club (as a pinch runner), Hank's contract was purchased by the Oakland Oaks of the old Pacific Coast League, with whom he's pictured on this Mother's Cookies oddball. He wrapped up his career with five more seasons in the minors; this time was spent mostly with Oakland and the Sacramento Solons of the same league.
For whatever reason, the back of the 1952 release which provided the jumping off point for this brief bio only makes note of Hank's service with the Pirates in the previous season, ignoring his role on the team with which he "saw" more significant action for.
You'd think that with the events fresh in their mind, that the set's creative team would've included his Giant's statistics. That said, it's not like they had Baseball-Reference.com at their disposal back then.
At any rate, even though the card now reminds me of Giants' heroics, being able to add this obscure oddball to my CATRC binder made for a nice weekend. Now, here's hoping that the Cubs can flip the script on the Giants and send them packing in an elimination game tonight. It's too bad that Hank isn't around anymore to lend his "eye" to the club who originally brought him to the Bigs. Maybe his telescope is still lying around somewhere?
I jest, of course. Mostly.