Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Spoils of the Season

I hope that everyone reading this had themselves a Merry Christmas.  The weather in Chicago might have created a more spring-like atmosphere; however, personally, an entire day spent with family, board games and movies made for a jolly, festive holiday celebration.  That is what the season is all about, correct?

Of course, there are gifts too and those are alright in my book, as well.

Thanks to the 2016 World Series Champion Chicago Cubs (still not tired of hearing/saying/writing that), all of my future in-laws knew exactly what to get me this year - one of the many unexpected benefits of this World Series title run:

So, so much better than socks and dress shirts - although, my fiancee might feel quite differently about that statement.  In fact, in her opinion, the only things with more holes in them than that statement might be my socks.

At any rate, I was exceptionally enthused to see these items under the tree at the fiancee's folks' house.  In fact, I don't know if I've taken that comfy, blue fleece off for longer than five minutes, since the moment I unwrapped it.  I suppose that I should mention that I also got some nice, non-Cubs gifts as well, including a Fitbit, cordless earphones for when I run and some therapeutic bath salts (what? I like to be pampered), among other things.

When people think of me, either Cubs baseball or running pop into their mind.  I'm not complaining, though,

However, that wasn't the last of the baseball-themed gifts.  It wasn't until yesterday that we exchanged presents on my side of the family, thanks to our busy and thoroughly uncoordinated work schedules.  In the end, the wait was certainly worth it, as two gifts, in particular, stole the show. Much has been made about card-based gifts on the blogosphere in the time leading up to the 25th of December and whether or not they end up being worth the effort. With that in mind, I'd say my sister, who did choose to go down that route, not only put in the effort, but crushed it:

First up, here we have Herb Hutson's lone baseball card - a 1973 Venezuelan League sticker.  The super short-term Cub pitched in 20 games during the very next season, mostly out of the bullpen, with a 3.45 ERA.  Despite that decent performance, Huston found himself back at AAA Wichita in '75 and out of baseball by '76.  The only evidence we have of his brief career on the diamond is this
Lara Cardenales sticker from his time in the winter league.

The thing that struck my about these standard-sized "cards" is how thin they are, almost paper-like.  These were produced by Digallo C.A. and were intended to be pasted into an album, just like your average Panini sticker book.  They were then redeemable for various prizes, like bikes and such.  With that in mind, these cards don't show up very often and, when they do, tend to be in poor condition.

Thankfully, my sister was able to get a killer deal from a vendor in Venezuela, who miraculously got it here before Christmas.  Bonus points on his packaging too, which appears to include a facsimile of the original "Album de Barajitas de Beisbol," or "Album of Baseball Cards."  I shan't be pasting my Hutson into one of these albums; but, it will look quite nice in my CATRC binder.

This set and it's various, yearly editions is much sought after for it's inclusion of several Stateside stars (Luis Aparicio, Frank White, etc.), some even before their "official" rookie cards (Jim Rice). Only I would be more excited to find a "Moonlight Graham" like Herb Huston than a Hall of Famer.

Anyway, had this been the only baseball card my sister gifted to me, she'd already be named the "Card Gifting MVP of 2016," at least in my humble opinion.  However, in what I can only assume was a lobby to become my favorite sibling, she also included one more vintage oddball that fit snugly into my Cubs All-Time Roster Collection:

This well-loved, antique is 88 years young and features another "barely there" Cubs player in Gale Staley.  Mr. Staley is depicted during his days with the Los Angeles Angels of the old Pacific Coast League.  We know this because the above artifact is a super vintage Zeenut card, a series that documented the original incarnation of the PCL for over 25 years.

This particular Zeenut hails from the 1928 edition of the long-running series.  The look of this series is evocative of the Chicago Supply Co. Exhibit cards; but, they are considerably smaller than those Exhibits.  In fact, they're a bit tinier than standard size:  1-3/4 x 3-3/8.  After years of only admiring these from afar, in Ebay auctions, I did not realize that fact.

Staley was a late-season call-up as the 1925 season drew to a close.  That September, the second baseman managed to get into seven games, with a whopping .423 batting average in 26 AB's.  Despite that admirable performance for the listless Cubs, Staley found himself playing for the old Angels in 1926 (who, while not officially an affiliate, were owned by the Wrigleys).  After three years there and a one-year excursion in Portland, Staley called it a career without ever climbing back up to the top of the ladder.

A clearer image of Staley with the LA Angels, circa 1926.
Image courtesy of Gordon Brett Echols

Like Hutson, there's very little public information available on the internet for Staley, so that's about all I can tell you about the "cuppacoffee" Cub.  Well, that and the fact that his name always makes me think more of the Bears than the Cubs.  "Why's that?" you might ask.  First of all, his first name is shared with all-time great, Hall of Fame running back, Gale Sayers.  Second of all, his surname was the original nickname of the Chicago NFL franchise  - the Bears as we know them today were first conceived in 1919 by the A. E. Staley food starch company of Decatur, Illinois.  That company team was known as the Decatur Staleys (go figure) and launched the HOF careers of George Trafton and George "Papa Bear" Halas.

...and that's how my brain works.  As far as I can tell, Gale Staley has no connection to A.E. Staley or the early days of the Chicago Bears.

These guys have absolutely nothing to do with Gale Staley

To wrap things up, my little sister gifted me with two, obscure Cubs with very little cardboard presence.  Of the two, one was a rarely seen, foreign release from well-south of the border and the other was an 80+ year old, minor league oddball.  I'd say that she did fairly well here with here Christmas gift.  What say you?

Of course, I may have tipped her off on a few of the things I was hoping might land in my stocking this winter.  Nevertheless, she executed flawlessly.  I hope she enjoys the "Yellow Submarine" decorative lights we bought her as much as I love these cards.

Not gonna lie - I kinda wanted to keep those for myself.

In conclusion,when it comes to trading card Christmas gifts, it seems the returns on the blogosphere are somewhat mixed.  Did you receive any cards for Christmas?  Were these well-intentioned presents up to snuff or did you end up longing for a gift receipt?  Share your experience in the comments section below.

Personally, I couldn't be happier!


  1. No cards for Xmas from my family, but I did receive a $30 gift certificate to my LCS and my sister pre-ordered me David Ross' autobiography. That's a win in my book. Congrats on the odd balls... I'm not sure which one to be more impressed by!

  2. What an ugly fleece..... ;)

    Cool oddball items for sure. Congrats on the new additions.

  3. Nice additions!

    But what exactly is the ornament a "replica" of?

  4. Gotta love those cardboard Christmas presents. Great gifts, especially that Zeenuts card. Always wanted one of those.