Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Thirty Days In The Hole

Coming off of the popularity of the 30-Day Music Challenge on the collective freak out known as Twitter, noted music enthusiast, Tony L. - of Off Hiatus Baseball Cards fame - decided to warp the latest challenge sweeping the social media landscape (thankfully, this one didn't involve buckets of cold water) to fit another passion of his:  baseball cards.  For thirty days or so, card bloggers and Twitterers have been posting a baseball card a day to correspond with daily prompts.  While I do have a Twitter account, I'm not as active as I could be with my feed (for whatever reason) and I've been passively sitting aside while all of our collecting brethren have been having fun with Tony's list.  Like a kid stuck inside with the flu on a sunny, Saturday morning, I've been watching others have all of the fun from my lonely little window.

Until now, that is...

Similar to when I discover a television show on Netflix that I've been meaning to watch, it's now time to crazily binge and cram all thirty daily prompts into one, mega post.  Why am I doing this to myself?  I don't know - but, "Stranger Things" have happened.

For the record, Tony's original 30-Day Challenge graphic has been altered a bit here - originally, the background featured a lovely image of his Brewer's home field, Miller Park, at dusk.  However, since this is a Cubs-themed blog and the Brew Crew are our bitter rivals, I've substituted sunny, historic Wrigley Field for my endeavor.  That said, I hear great things about Miller Park and I've love to make my way to a game there this summer.

Anyway, we have a lot of ground to cover here - a full month's worth of content jam-packed into one behemoth of a post.  So, without any further ado, let's dive right into day one of the 30-Day Baseball Card Challenge, shall we?

Day 1 

A card from the current year with a photo you like:

We started off on a bit of a head-scratcher for me - I haven't been enamored with most of the releases so far in 2017.  Flagship and Heritage were okay, Gypsy Queen was nice, but I haven't pulled anything noteworthy... so, we go the oddball route with a card that actually looks back on 2016.

This perforated SI for Kids oddity, from the January issue, features a photo from the Cubs historic playoff run.  How can you not love this exuberant image of Ben Zobrist, after smashing a double in the NLCS?

Day 2

A card with more than one player on it:

Okay - so they're coaches and not players... let's not split hairs here.  This vintage beauty from 1960 is not only notable for featuring coaches (who don't get a lot of love from the card companies), but because it's the only mainstream appearance of former Cubs hurler Reggie Otero, then the Reds' pitching tutor.  I was lucky enough to receive this card of note for Christmas one year and, since then, it's floating heads have represented the super short-term Cubbie well in my CATRC binder.

Day 3

A card from the first set you tried to complete:

The image you see here is the ubiquitous Twitter egg, used to indicate that a user has not uploaded an image to their profile. I've done this because I have honestly never attempted to complete a set, which must seem strange to fellow card collectors. When I was a kid, I just wanted to accumulate as many cards as possible, regardless of set, and, since then, I've just been so laser-focused on my CATRC, that I've never attempted one. Oh well.

Day 4

A rookie card of one of your favorite players:

I don't have an overall favorite player, per se. Ron Santo is definitely the closest, but I definitely do not have his rookie card in my possession. Sammy Sosa, who captured the hearts of many a Chicago kid during his heyday was going to be my original selection, if nothing else than for the sheer shock of seeing him in a Rangers or White Sox jersey. However, as it turns out, I don't have any of those rookies either.

On a related note, Moises Alou as a Pirate evokes the same reaction and he was my favorite player on the "Why Not Us?' Cubs of 2003. Works for me!

Day 5

A certified autograph of one of your favorite players:

This card has appeared on my blog countless times and it feels lazy to simply plug this one in again.  However, seeing as I am a decidedly low-budget collector who doesn't open a lot of product, certified autos don't make their way to me very often.  Therefore, you'll get Mark Grace's 2015 Archives Fan Favorites signature again and you'll like it!

Day 6

 A card you spent more than $10 to get:

Again, sticking with the cheapskate theme, the pickin's here were slim because I can count on one hand how many times I remember spending a full Alexander Hamilton on a single baseball card.  Luckily, this one hasn't been shown in a long time and stands out in my mind.  This trimmed, Piedmont T206 of Cubs backup catcher Tom Needham was the very first super-vintage card I ever pulled the trigger on.

As a high school kid with a job and no real bills, $25 for this authentic tobacco card from an antique mall at the Volo Auto Museum was a dream come true.  Only years later did I realize that, considering the condition, I definitely over-payed.  That said, can one ever feel cheated about making a Deadball Era acquisition?

Day 7

A card you bought in-person and the story behind it:

The day that Nomar Garciaparra was traded to the Cubs in the summer of 2004 was a big deal in my house.  I about did cartwheels down the hallway when I heard that "NOMAHH" was bringing his act to Wrigley Field - after all, it wasn't often that stars of his magnitude made their way to Chicago.

As such, about a week later, I rushed to the old Double Play Sports Cards in Midlothian, IL, in hopes of finding a card of Nomar in a Cubs uniform.  Obviously, at that time, I didn't truly understand baseball card production or distribution.  However, the proprietor generously promised that he'd set aside the first Cubbie blue Garciaparra he turned up.  A few weeks later, this gorgeous, reflective Bowman's Best was waiting for me.  God, I miss that guy and his shop.

Day 8

A card that reminds you of a family member:

One of the local eateries used to have a vending machine which spat out baseball cards for fifty cents a pop.  That amount of money was a steep price for a kid on a strict allowance and the odds weren't exactly in my favor in landing a card which featured my beloved Cubs.  So, I remember being absolutely ecstatic the day that this 1996 Fleer Ultra Jim Bullinger poked out from the metal enclosure.

I rushed back to my grandparents house to show my grandpa, the one who baptized me in Cubs baseball, my super awesome new Cubs card.  In the midst of my childish wonder and enthusiasm, all he could muster from the kitchen table was a forlorn, "I hate Jim Bullinger."  Looking back at Jim's stats from that 1996 season, I can see why.  Then, he made up for his dousing reaction and took me to the card shop because he knew two quarters for a single baseball card was a raw deal.

Day 9

One of your favorite cards from the 1950's:

While the Needham T206 was my first "super vintage" card, which I define as 1940's or older, this Hank Sauer from the 1953 edition of Topps was the first card I obtained which felt more like an antique than an object for child's amusement.

With it's rounded corners and rough surface, the "Mayor of Wrigley Field" was dug up from my card shop's discount bin, many moons ago.  It hasn't left my CATRC binder since.

Day 10

One of your favorite cards from the 1960's:

I bought this 1965 Topps single from a vendor at the Swap-O-Rama flea market in Alsip, IL for no reason other than the fact that I LOVED this man's name.  Seriously - doesn't Sterling Slaughter sound more like a jewelry-themed WWF wrestler or a James Bond super villain than a Cubs pitcher?

Day 11

One of your favorite cards from the 1970's:

Any card with a minimalist design and a clean, crisp shot of Wrigley's ivy-covered walls as a background is absolutely gorgeous, in my book.  This 1972 Jake Aker is no exception, even if it is a posed shot.

Day 12

One of your favorite cards from the 1980's:

"BOBBY BONDS played for the CUBS?!?!" was the thought running through my mind when I first discovered this 1981 Topps Traded single in a random stack of cards.  My mind was completely blown that such a notable player and the father of the most fearsome slugger to ever step up to the plate had spent time on the Northside of Chicago and I hadn't even known it.  Thus, while the card might be an unassuming portrait shot of Bobby in a blue coat, this card will always stick out in my mind.

Day 13

 One of your favorite cards from the 1990's:

Outside of anything Pacific, does it get any more 90's than Topps Laser?  I don't I really have to say anything about this one - it speaks for itself!  I recently uncovered this gem from Baseball Dreams and Memories in Crestwood, IL and I couldn't help but impulsively add it to my pile.  As an added bonus, Alan Benes spent some time in a Cubs uniform, from 2002-03.

Day 14

One of your favorite cards from the 2000's:

I went through a minor league team set phase, circa 2004-05, where I bought a whole bunch of team-issued, minor league, cello packs produced MultiAd Sports.  These often proved helpful as players were called up to the Cubs, allowing me to add new names to my CATRC binder as they came.  Cody Ransom was a non-roster invitee to Spring Training in 2005 and spent the entire year in Iowa, but never got that call-up.  So, this card sat in status for almost a decade, without a purpose.

Then, in 2013, the rebuilding Cubs were basically an open tryout and Cody Ransom was brought in off of the waiver wire.  Lo and behold, I just so happened to have this "Cubs" oddball ready to go, the closest thing to a Cubs card that Ransom will ever have.  It's almost like it was destiny.

Day 15

One of your favorite cards from the 2010's:

Speaking of guys who never got a true Cubs card, I thought that Emilio Bonifacio was going to be one of those guys too.  In 2014, Emilio was an offensive revelation for the Cubs, which of course lead to his being traded at the July deadline for prospects, before his name appeared on a card set checklist.  I thought all hope was lost.  Fortunately, Panini was a little slow on the trigger and left the already-dealt Bonifacio on the checklist for the rebooted Donruss brand as a Cub.  Hot dog!

Although, I suppose you could argue that it's a Chicago Federals card, as the photo features the second baseman sporting the throwback duds of the old Federal League club for which Wrigley was built.  Even cooler!

Day 16

A card of a player whom you appreciate but don't like:

Seeing as I am a die-hard Cubs fan, this one shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone reading this.  The Cardinals receiver always seems to murder the Cubs.  Furthermore, I have an intense dislike of neck tattoos.

Yadier ranks as one of the premier backstops in baseball's last twenty years, both offensively and defensively.  This Molina brother is without a doubt a great player and I can appreciate greatness.  Plus, I'm sure he's an okay dude off of the field.  I only dislike him because he plays for the Cubs biggest rival and is a superb player.

Day 17

A card from the first set you put together hand-collated:

Well, I still haven't attempted to put together a full set of trading cards, whether they were hand-collated or not.  Welcome back, Twitter egg.

Day 18

A card of a player who became manager of your favorite team:

Dusty tenure as Cubs manager ended in a toxic mess, but his arrival and instantaneous success provided a spark and newfound enthusiasm for the old ball club across the Second City.  This enthusiasm helped sweep me back into baseball after a few years away, spent watching NASCAR racing and being a teenager.  For that, I must thank Dusty and the rest of the 2003 Cubs, who remain close to my heart to this day.

Day 19

A favorite card from a country other than the United States:

When the Cubs signed Kyuji Fujikawa away from the Hanshin Tigers in 2013, I went all in on the Japanese import.  Based on his incredible success as a closer on the other side of the ocean, I thought it was only a matter of time before he became the next big thing.  So, I quickly went to Ebay and over-payed to get a BBM card out of Japan and into my clutches.

Well, we all know how Kyuji worked out (injured and ineffective).  No matter, Japanese baseball cards always make for cool acquisitions, anyway.

Day 20

Your favorite parallel card based on the parallel, not the player:

Blue suits Cubs cards, for obvious reasons.  Therefore, any blue parallels, like the Randy Myers UD Collector's Choice Special Edition above, are always going to be my favorite parallels, bar none.

Day 21

A card of a rookie you thought you were "investing" in:

As evidenced by my Fujikawa instincts a couple of prompts ago, my skills as a speculator are severely lacking.  Matt Murton was called up straight from AA in the summer of 2005 and went on an immediate tear, batting .321/.386/.521 across 51 games to wrest the starting left fielder gig from the platoon of Todd Hollandsworth and Jason Dubois.  Surely he was going to be a star, right?

In a fit of enthusiasm, I took to the internet to get myself a Murton card, while he was hot stuff.  What's better than a rookie card?  A pre-rookie card from his time in the minors, of course!  With that, I pulled the trigger on my first (and only, to date) graded card purchase, y'know, to keep my investment safe.  It wasn't long before I realized that the fiery red head lacked the power to stick in the Bigs as a regular corner outfielder and a cracked him free from his plastic prison.

Long story short, this Diamond Jaxx was certainly not a diamond in the rough.

Day 22

A card of a common player that always seemed to elude you:

This is a base card of a flamed out rookie from the middle of the junk wax era - there's simply no way that this should have been a hard card to track down.  Yet, it sat on my want list for year upon year, as I found every other card from the 1986 Donruss team set.  This otherwise unassuming card was Johnny Abrego's only mainstream baseball card, making it a definite need for my CATRC binder.  

Mr. Abrego's expression on this overproduced single seems to indicate that he was also frustrated with his elusiveness.  Finally, I was able to track a copy down at More Fun Sports cards in Merrillville, IN; however, it took the breaking up of a full set of '86 Donruss.  All is fair is love, war, and baseball cards - the ends justify the means!

Day 23

A favorite oddball card from the 1950's:

Despite my love of oddballs, vintage cards, and obscure players of days gone by, it was in trying to fulfill this prompt that I realized that I had almost no oddities from the decade of the 1950's.  Forties? Actually, yes.  Sixties?  Plenty.  Fifties? That's a different story.

The only two 50's oddballs in my clutches both hail from the old Mother's Cookies PCL sets, both of which have already been recently showcased on this blog.  So, sorry to rehash again, but here's Fred Richards playing for the original Los Angeles Angels, a loose affiliate of the Cubs organization.  I must say, I do adore these cards.  Bright colors, obscure players, unfamiliar teams, glossy finish - they're quite easy on the eyes.

Day 24

A favorite oddball card from the 1960's:

Fleer's attempt to weasel into the baseball card market in the early 60's resulted in pair of sets revolving around baseball's golden era stars, since they couldn't feature current players.  One of those stars of the days of yore was second baseman Tony Lazzeri, who made a brief stopover in Chicago in 1938, after his time with the Yankees came to a close.  "Poosh 'Em Up" is best remembered as the keystone for the famed '27 Yanks.

This oddball features a short-term stop of a significant player, a fun shot of Lazzeri sitting on a backwards wooden chair, as is he's spinning a gripping yarn, and even the rare sight of a zipper on an MLB uniform.  It was an easy choice to put this card here.

Day 25

A favorite oddball card from the 1970's:

TCMA, Steve Stone's cheesy smile, the best cardboard Afro this side of Oscar Gamble.... do I really need to explain why this one made the cut?

Day 26

A favorite oddball card from the 1980's:

This Bob Shaw, TCMA produced oddball hails from a larger checklist which honors the "Go-Go White Sox" of 1959, which won the franchise's first pennant in forty years.

In the fall of 1959, my beloved grandparents tied the knot in Chicago, as pennant fever was sweeping the city.  In fact, one of the World Series games was being played as the festivities were ongoing.  My grandfather (the same one who didn't like Jim Bullinger) and nearly the entire wedding party missed most of the wedding reception so that they could go and watch the ballgame.... and my grandparents still lived happily ever after!  The man loved baseball.

Day 27

A favorite oddball card from 1990 or later:

I've had this card in the queue to be posted for a while now and this seems like the perfect opportunity to unleash it.  While much was made of the return of retail-based oddballs with the Marketside and Lids promotions of last year, in 2013, Aunt Millie's bread made their own offering available to the Chicagoland area.  The rounded corners set, available at one a piece in loaves of bread, revolved around significant moments in the long history of the Chicago Cubs.

Darwin Barney's tenure in Cubbie blue seems like ages ago, but for a while there, he sure seemed like he could be part of the future.  Gold Glovers aren't a dime a dozen, after all.  While Barney's bat promptly went on vacation after that award, his record-tying error-less streak at second base and ensuing Rawlings award certainly made for a great moment to be commemorated.

Day 28

A favorite relic/manufactured relic card:

This Bazooka Blasts bat relic very well may have been the very first "hit" that I personally pulled out of a pack.  At the time, having just gotten back into collecting after a lengthy hiatus, I didn't yet realize that the relic market had ballooned during my time away and I thought I'd hit pay dirt.  Naive Tony took it to the card shop, with illusions of grandeur, only to find that they wouldn't even trade anything for it.  I suppose it didn't help that So Taguchi wasn't exactly a star either.

So, for it sat in my "extras" box for several years, without a purpose or direction; that is, until So Taguchi signed with the Cubs going into the 2009 season and eventually earned a September call-up.  Then, not only did I have a card of So ready to go into the CATRC binder, I had a bonafide hit to spice up the collection.  Like the Ransom, it felt like retribution.

Day 29

A favorite card from before 1950, whether you own it or not:

I have a nice little pool to pull from when it comes to pre-50's baseball cards, but I decided to go with the second bread-distributed card of this post.  Remar Baking Co. released a set of cards based around the Oakland Oaks of the old Pacific Coast League in 1947, which was almost as popular as MLB in it's time.  Slugging infielder Gene Lillard made the cut, which is good because Gene got into 20 games with the Cubs in 1939 and doesn't have many cards at all, otherwise.

What makes this card extra special to me is that I didn't spend a dime on it - it was gifted to me by the ever-generous and well-known blog reader, Stubby, in the early days of WRJ.  Can you believe that?  To this day, it continues to be the oldest card I've ever received from another and my absolute favorite, as well.

Speaking of absolute favorites....

Day 30

Your favorite card in your collection:

I simply can't pick just one card out of my sprawling collection as my absolute favorite - that would be like a father being forced to pick a favorite child!  Okay - that statement might be just a touch hyperbolic; nevertheless, I truly don't think I could narrow it down to a single card Since it's my blog and I can do as I choose, I'm going to say...

 ... ALL of the cards which reside in my CATRC binder are my favorite.  Each card brings some defining characteristic to the table and each obscure name, wacky brand, bizarre parallel, bat chip relic, confounding oddball, ancient antique, and perfectly normal base card is a piece to my lifetime collecting puzzle.  For that, every single one of the 1,484 cards which reside in said three-ring binder is my absolute favorite card. 

Sappy, right? I sound like an after school special.

With that, we've reached the end of the 30-Day Baseball Card Challenge, condensed down into one, single monster of a post.  Who needs moderation?  I hope you enjoyed this journey through my baseball card library - we laughed, we cried, we yelled, and we developed carpal tunnel and blisters on our fingers for typing so much... or was that just me?  Thanks to Tony L. for taking the time to craft this challenge and put such mind-probing thought into it's various prompts.  It's creativity like his which keeps the blogosphere fresh and interesting.

Even if I mess with his artistic vision by cramming thirty days into one.


  1. Nice call on Pacific and Topps Laser. You and I could be friends.

  2. Great stories and great post! I, too, bought in on Fujikawa (and Fukudome before him), only to see him become little more than a footnote in Cub history.

  3. Great post! Acouple of things...

    Miller Park? You mean Wrigley North? That Alan Benes is rather Chris Pratt-ish. Good choice with Yadi. Good stuff all around.

  4. Wow. That binder is impressive. Who says that size doesn't matter?