Monday, May 8, 2017

Garage Sale Day Gives Me Wings!

First of all, can I just say, "damn Yankees!"  What an ugly series that was for the Cubs - a blown save  one strike away from victory, a blow out, and a tough-to-swallow 18-inning loss.  It all mounted to a series sweep at the hands of former mate Starlin Castro and the evil empire.  Not to mention, the bullpen has been absolutely shredded by the super-duper long extra-inning affair, Brett Anderson's implosion as the fifth starter, and a plethora of short outings by the rest of the starting rotation.  Needless to say, it certainly wasn't a good weekend for the Cubs.

On the other hand, despite the three-day beating my favorite team endured, I had myself a pretty darn good weekend.  After all, the sun was shining, the rain stayed away, the birds were chirping and my absolute favorite day of the year just so happened to be this past Saturday.

That would be the community wide Garage Sale Day that my hometown holds every year.  As a kid, most of the rest of the neighborhood youths would count down the days until the arrival of Santa Claus and Christmas or eagerly cross off boxes on their calendar in anticipation of their next, upcoming birthday.  However, like usual, I was the odd one in my neighborhood; the day that I could not wait for, year in and year out, was the day when the fee for holding a garage sale was temporarily waived for the morning/afternoon and families across the town would open their garages to sell their used goods and trinkets.

Beanie babies, action figures, Hot Wheels cars... all of my favorite collectibles available for just pennies on the dollar.  Plus, you just never knew what you were going to find, courtesy of these random households.  It was like a day-long treasure hunt!

That enthusiasm has yet to die down, though my focus has shifted from vintage Transformers to cheap furniture, records and, of course, baseball cards and memorabilia.  Thus, after rushing through my morning workout and breakfast, my wife and I jumped in our car and began to peruse the neighborhood for good deals; luckily, she's as big of a fan of secondhand shopping as I am!  Last year, I was astounded to uncover a Keith Magnuson autographed card for three bucks - there was no way I was missing out on a minute of this event.

For what should be obvious reasons, the sign seen in the image above immediately caught my attention.  While I wasn't in the market for any more Cubs t-shirts (lord knows I have enough), where there's smoke there's fire - by that, I mean that if they have some type of sports memorabilia, it's quite likely that they will have other kinds.

And I wasn't wrong!

I should have taken a picture - this house was a vintage sports cards gold mine.  This person clearly sets up at card shows, though I don't recall seeing him at any of the local shows that I have attended - he had a couple of display cases of Cubs/White Sox/Bears/Blackhawks goodies from throughout the last 60 years, boxes full of All-Star laden grab bags, and a bunch of unopened product from the 80's/90's. I could have easily blown my entire GS Day budget at this one stop and spent the entire day gabbing with the seller, but the thrill of the treasure hunt was calling my name... or maybe it was my wife... I don't know.

In the end, after much hemming and hawing, I decided to limit myself to the two, vibrant, crisp-cornered, '59 Topps that you see above, which just so happens to be my favorite vintage set.

The contemplative Bill Henry is his only Cubs card and, thus, serves as a highly desired "Cubgrade" to the '67 Giants single in my Cubs All-Time Roster Collection binder.  The longtime, Major League reliever spent two seasons with the Cubbies (1958-59), near the beginning of his 16-year run, appearing in 109 games with 2.75 ERA as one of the only valuable arms in their woeful 50's bullpens.

In drafting this post, I've discovered that Mr. Henry turns out to be an interesting character.  For instance, he did not play baseball in high school and instead made a name on the sandlots as a softball star. Furthermore, long after his playing days, in 2007, his death was reported by a Florida newspaper.  However, he was still very much alive and, as it turned out, the man who had died had stolen the identity of the former professional athlete decades ago...  the dead man's own wife didn't even know better.  Instead of getting angry, the real Bill Henry phoned the grieving widow and offered his condolences - “I just hoped maybe it helped him in his career,” he said.

The other card I purchased featured Bob Will and I thought that it too would be a coveted Cubgrade.  Unfortunately, my scrambled mind got the names "Bob Will" and "Lee Walls" switched up and it didn't help that both men played the outfield during the same era.  So, if anyone has a stray Lee Walls from '59 available for swapping, I'd love to talk trade.

While the sad trombone music played in my head when I opened my binder and noticed to mix-up, I still can't be too upset about acquiring a 58-year old piece of cardboard in such pristine shape.  It gets extra bonus points for displaying the hats with white piping that the Cubs briefly employed in the preceding season.

Not a bad way to kick of the Garage Sale Day festivities, eh?  Unfortunately, that was the only location where I was fortunate enough to come across trading cards.  That said, there were still plenty of cool treasures to uncover, including one more purchase related to our nation's pastime:

The local storage locker place got in on the resale fun and filled their lot and building to the brim with unclaimed and unpaid for goods - they're loss is my gain.  Among the forgotten items for sale, there were several cardboard boxes that were filled to the brim with books of all sorts, many of which were related to Chicago sports.  Priced at a quarter a pop, I just couldn't help but pick up the above novelty - an account of the Cubs' 1989 season, told through the eyes of NL Rookie of the Year, Jerome Walton.

"The Boys of Zimmer" surprised everyone and won the NL East title that year, partly on the strength of the flashes in the pan that were Walton and Dwight Smith.  The team has long been a fascination of mine, owing to the fact that I was also born during that 1989 season and I absolutely wore out my VHS copy of their season recap that I bought from the local video store as a teen.

As far as this hastily put together (no doubt to capitalize on the surrounding hype) semi-biography goes, it's interesting to go back and read the optimism expressed in this youth movement and the confidence that Walton was just beginning a star-studded career.  Well, it didn't quite work out that way and it would take nine more years before that Cubs even made the postseason again.

As with most sports "biographies," the middle of the book contained a compendium of pictures from the subject's life.  My favorite of these snapshots was the image you see of Mr. Walton asking Santa Claus for a Cubs World Series win.  Mr. Claus did finally deliver on that request, it just took 27 years longer than Jerome wanted.

 That did it for my sports-themed purchases on the 2017 edition of Garage Sale Day; however, there were still a few other odds n' end finds that I couldn't help but pull the trigger on, like records:

That same storage unit sale had a nice stack of 45's to go through and I gladly took a few of them home with me, including the 5th Dimension single that you see here.  I've never seen the musical hair, but "Medley: Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" is a phenomenal track with some tight vocal harmonies that truly make your hairs stand on end.  This was my favorite find from this stack of wax.

Another house had countless boxes strewn about their driveway which contained nothing but LP's - when I saw it, I almost began to salivate, subconsciously.  It appeared as though they had bought out a closing record shop with intent of selling on the second hand market - sadly, what was left about at their garage sale was almost assuredly the rejects.  After half an hour of digging through no-name dance remixes and the nadir of disco music, I was able to salvage one record of note:

"Video Killed the Radio Star" is a song that I will absolutely never skip when in it comes on and a tune that is near and dear to my heart as a former radio disc jockey.  However, I must admit, I've never even heard so much as a snippet of another song by the new wave group, the Buggles.  For a dollar, I was more than happy to rectify that fact.

I haven't put it on the turntable yet, but here's hoping that the rest of the album is at least half as good as it's most iconic single.

With that, it's time for me to reveal my favorite find from my own, personal Christmas.   It has absolutely nothing to do with any of my collecting habits, but it's something that I've irrationally desired for a long, long time:

Yup, for five bucks I purchased myself a full-size, Red Bull cooler - the same kind that you see at gas stations or bars.  I simply could not help myself.  *Please disregard the uncontrollable weeds*

Back when I was in college, while in the middle of a long run through the local neighborhood, I came across a stray one of these in a ditch.  I though to myself, "that would look awfully nice in a college apartment and I sure could use a cooler."  Plus, Red Bull is one of my favorite vices and I've always been attracted to their can design.  However, there was no way I'd be able to run with it and when I came back with my car, an hour or so later, some enterprising young fellow had beaten me to the punch.  I was thoroughly disappointed.

Now, six years later, I've finally righted the wrong.  After a little TLC, this piece is going to be a great conversation starter when the wife and I host parties and will eventually move into my "man cave," when we get the space.  My better half long ago resigned herself to the fact that I'm a giant man-child and has even suggested we turn it into a kegerator.  I knew I choose wisely.

 Here's something I definitely WON'T be doing with my prize.

That man-child can officially decree that Garage Sale Day 2017 was as an absolute success.  I was able to pick up some precious few vintage baseball cards, an intriguing book, some new additions to my vinyl collection and a giant Red Bull cooler.  Yea... I may be older, but Garage Sale Day still definitely brings out the kid in me.  Does anyone else's community put on such town-wide garage sale festivities?  If so, do you partake?  Have you ever found anything super cool?  Please feel free to tell your tale in the comment section below.

In the meantime, I'll just be over here in the corner, polishing my new cooler.


  1. Wow, just a few short years later and "Juice" would not have been an optimal nickname!

    Shortly after the original trilogy was re-released into theaters in the late 90's, I was able to snag one of those coolers shaped like R2-D2 when a store was tossing it. I only had it for about a year before having to get rid of it myself though.

  2. Garage sale day looks awesome. My town had one too, but it usually stinks.

  3. The Buggles Video Killed the Radio Star was the first music video ever played on MTV.

  4. The Cubs really need to meditate on "Try Not to Suck". Even if you didn't listen to the record that Buggles cover is worth the buck. "Diamond Communications is a Fan's Best Friend." Alright sir.

  5. Those '59s are perfect. Bill Henry was the first University of Houston player to make it to the majors. For years he lived about five minutes from me. When his high school started an athletic hall of Fame a few years ago they somehow found my '59 blog and asked if I would contribute his baseball card for the display. By the time I responded they had found another donor.

    This SI story by Rick Reilly is a fun read about how a Florida man with Henry's name 'assumed' the ballplayer's identity.

  6. That Red Bull cooler is sweet! I was addicted to it a few years ago. Eventually traded it in for coffee.

  7. Great stuff!

    I also took a curious look into the other Buggles songs a while back. There's some decent tunes there, especially "Elstree" which should have been a hit.