Thursday, March 16, 2017

Break Out the (Stubbly) Bubbly

Because anytime I get to add a new name to the Cubs All-Time Roster Collection binder is a cause worth celebrating!

If you've been around the blogosphere for a while, you've almost certainly encountered Stubby, at least once or twice.  The man doesn't operate a blog of his own, but he is a fairly prodigious reader and pops up in the comments section of many a prominent ball card blog, from time to time.  Stubby is a knowledgeable fan, knows his baseball cards and is a certifiably kind soul.

Additionally, Stubby knows his baseball cards so well that he can create some mighty fine ones himself, under the Stubbly Bubbly banner.  On the old forum, Stubby would often showcase his work, including his comprehensive set on the history of the cult-favorite Seattle Pilots; that website might be gone, but you can still view this work at Scott Crawford on Cards.  Furthermore, Stubby has also become known for another, running set that he maintained in tribute to players who went to that big ball-yard in the sky, throughout the years.

Of the latter, I have a couple examples already sitting in my collection, as Stubby graciously forwarded them my way, in the earliest days of Wrigley Roster Jenga... along with a boatload of other vintage Topps and Conlon guys that I needed for my CATRC.  Told ya he's a good egg.  The Bubbly Jophery Brown and Gabe Gabler he created are not only the best cards I've ever seen of those two men, they're the only ones!

Every year, I do a quick run-down and final tribute post to all of the former Cubs who have moved on to the next realm - in 2016, one of which was Gordon Massa, who passed away in July at the age of 80.  Sadly, he has never had a baseball card made in his honor.  At least, I THOUGHT he hadn't - little did I know that Stubby was on the case and he soon thereafter contacted me to offer up his tribute to the short-term catcher.

The design is simple and sharp, evocative of the old, bubble gum cards of the time (hence, Stubbly BUBBLY), with an expertly-colorized, crisp photo of the young man at Wrigley Field in 1957.  This card is going to look swell in my CATRC binder! 

Massa was an all-around athlete who played football, basketball, and baseball for The College of the Holy Cross.  In fact, he was so impressive on the gridiron, he was actually drafted by the New York Giants in 1957; however, baseball was "Moose's" true passion, so he signed on with the Cubs organization in June of that year.  It didn't take long for him to rise to the Majors, as he earned himself a September call-up before the season was out, going 7 for 15 at the plate and starting 4 games behind the dish.

However, despite this impressive debut, "Duke's" playing time quickly evaporated.  He was sent back down to the minors for the start of the '58 campaign and didn't come back up until September, again.  This time, two pinch-hitting appearances were the extent of his action and, unfortunately, put a period on his Big League career.  That said, Gordon did continue to toil in the minors through 1963.

Gordon's excellent debut in 1957 is chronicled in the stat-line of his Stubbly Bubbly single - it's hard to believe that on those talent-challenged Cubs teams of the 1950's that Gordon couldn't get an extended chance to prove his worth. 

Beneath that, we get a detailed anecdote about Gordon Massa, a story which I've never heard told in all of my years as a Cubs fan.  If you can't read that text, I'll transcribe it right here:

"Although Gordon's Major League career was brief, he was involved in one odd event that is forever etched into law.  He was the bullpen catcher warming up Bob Rush when a wild pitch hit a fan in the head.  The pitch was so wild, a leaping 6'3' Massa couldn't reach it.  The fan sued.  Teams had long prevailed in such suits under the principle of "assumed risk" - - attend a ballgame and you assume the risk of being hit by an errant ball.  But, in this case, the judge ruled for the fan, reasoning that a spectator could not be expected to watch both the ball in play and the bullpen action simultaneously.  Since the fan had no reason to expect a threat from the bullpen, he had not assumed the risk."

That's a whoopsy on Mr. Rush!

I've never heard of a similar incident occurring in all the years since then.  Also, I can say for certain that from this point on, it will never, ever happen again, since the bullpens have no officially been moved under the bleachers and are no longer on the field.  Now we know the REAL reason that they wanted to move the bullpens....

Now, this Stubbly Bubbly oddball didn't come alone.  No, no - Stubby's generosity knows no bounds.  The artist also included a few other bonus items that I did not know were coming my way, including one more from his "final tributes" series:

Because, as Stubby puts it, "the curse died too," the Curse of the Billy Goat shows up on his checklist for 2016.  I have to say, I got a nice chuckle out of this and the photo selection is absolutely top notch - I haven't seen this one used too often.  I love that Anthony Rizzo is absolutely losing his mind, on the right of the scrum.

As you can see by looking at the Cubs logos on the front of these two cards, Stubby switches them up based on the era of the subject depicted.    It's a small, but very much effectual change.

Let's take a look at the back:

The backs of these tribute cards are quite reminiscent of Topps cards from the 1950's, a look that I'm sure Stubby was going for.  The bats running up the sides make for a nice frame around the write-up, this one detailing the history of the Cubs curses - Billy Goat, opposition to integration, day games, and Bartman.

Unfortunately, Stubby has informed me that this will be the last year he will be creating this wonderful cards.  Understandably, the costs of printing these out on professional, glossy card stock has just gotten too high to justify the expenditure.  However, if you're interested in either of the above cards, Stubby graciously included doubles, as well.  These may be the last of the Stubbly Bubblys, which saddens me greatly, so let me know if you'd like a copy!

Meanwhile, as if all of that wasn't enough, Stubby also included yet another pair of bonus Lennie's for my enjoyment:

Lennie Merullo was a light-hitting shortstop with a strong arm who played for the Cubs during the War Era; this included the 1945 Cubs, who, until last season, were the last Northside club to reach the World Series.  For a while there, Lennie could lay claim to being the only man on earth to ever play in a World Series with the Cubs, as he was the longest-living of the bunch.  Sadly, he passed away in 2015, just year before the team's grand return.  As such, the blue-bordered beauty you see above was part of Stub's 2015 tribute checklist.

Cubs cards with blue borders are always a-ok in my book!  Also, you gotta love the rare appearance of the zipper on a baseball uniform.

CARTOONS!  A staple of baseball cards of the fifties and sixties make a glorious reappearance on this edition of Stubby's tributes!  All on a back that reminds me of 1954 Topps.

Lennie's cartoon spotlights a chuckle-worthy anecdote.  On the day that his son, Len Jr., was born, owner P.K. Wrigley informed Lennie just before he was set to take the field for that day's contest.  The shortstop was so deeply rattled, that he set a record by committing four errors in just one inning!  Lennie Jr. was promptly nicknamed "Boots."  The "don't drop him!" voice bubble on that cartoon actually made me laugh out loud.

Additionally, from the write up in the blue bubble, I learned that Merullo once knocked out the front teeth of Dixie Walker in a benches-clearing brawl.  His accuracy wasn't hurting that day!

Lennie and his nerve-wracking son, "Boots"

The second Lennie that was nestled within Stubby's envelope wasn't one of his regular tribute cards; rather, he came across an image of the middle infielder which reminded him of those action shots used in 1971 Topps, so he took it upon himself to make it into one.

Clearly he has a keen eye, because, if I didn't know better, I'd have thought this truly was a Topps card from 1971:

You don't see a lot of pictures of 1940's baseball in action, so that already makes this card unique.  From my understanding, the original image was in black and white, so I'd say that Stubby did an excellent job in colorizing the picture for his card.  As an added bonus, it's also a textbook "Tattooine" shot.

Stub's block-bordered 1971 template is spot-on, including the backside:

Stubby - are you sure you didn't just send me an Archives card?  😝

With that, we've finally reached the end of an exceptionally generous and extremely fascinating bubble-mailer.  All in all, I ended up being able to add another name to my CATRC that I never thought I'd get to, got some extra, awesome oddballs for my binders, and acquired some unique trade-bait for future dealings.  Not bad, eh?

Thanks again, Stubby, for thinking of me and taking the time to create these wonderful baseball cards.  It's a shame that you won't be able to print them out anymore, but I hope this is not the last time that I get to see your work!  Hell, your Stubbly Bubbly's are better than most of the stuff that Topps and Panini are cranking out today.  You'll be getting some pocket schedules in the mail, it's the least I can do to return the favor.

Stubbly Bubbly makes me all bubbly inside.


  1. Love me some high-quality customs!

  2. Aw, man, you got me blushing. Yes, expense has put an end to this series, which also included pop culture passings. Everyone from Prince to Pan Pan the panda got a 2016 card (255 cards plus a variation or two and a 9-card "insert" set in '16). I will still do my Mets (and the Pilots) and the occasional card like the colorized '71 Merullo that are just fun to do (although I just noticed I forgot to remove the tiny Seattle Pilots logos above the stats--DOH!). But 255+ custom cards in a year is at least 200 too many. Glad you enjoyed them, though. That makes it worthwhile.