Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Mysteries of the Three Sisters

Sounds like the title of an old mystery novel, doesn't it?

Three Sisters is the name of a popular antique mall in my new locale, one which I just discovered yesterday afternoon, courtesy of a random Google search.  You see, I have Monday's off in the summer months and oftentimes end up with way too much free time on my hands.  Seeing as my second favorite pastime (first is baseball, duh) is secondhand shopping, I decided to see if there were any good spots in the area for me to explore on my day off.  Good thing my whole afternoon was free too because I found myself wandering around the Blue Island, IL storefront for several hours, located on the community's main drag.

Not all who wander are lost (granted, I usually am) - there was enough tchotchkes, Americana, curiosities, and, of course, antiques to keep me entertained and pique my interest for about three hours.  You see, I've come to discover that this joint is quite the local hot-spot, garnering interest from several counties over and earning inclusion in the local antiquities network (which is more lucrative than you'd think) and it's been voted the Best of Chicago's Southland for antiques for twenty years running in the Daily Southtown.

Aisles upon aisle of vendors were filled with glass cases and numerous shelving units and bins filled with all kinds of wonders.  In fact, one floor wasn't even enough to contain everything; there was a second, bonus floor in the basement for all of the overflow.  Simply put, this charming place is a resale junkie's dream come true.

Of course, when I hit the antique shops, thrift stores, garage sales, etc., there's usually only one, main thing on my mind - baseball cards!  While my mind was captivated by the century's worth of accumulated treasures; I was surprised by the lack of trading cards.  Usually there's at least a few shoe boxes filled with 1991 Donruss or 1989 Topps or some other junk wax staples.  However, in this case, the only baseball cards that I bumped into came from one, sole vendor.  That said, this vendor had no lack of stock to chose from.

I wish I thought to snap a picture of his area, as this seller had one big, glass case each for the Bears, Bulls, White Sox, Cubs, and even some wrasslin' and comic book cards and novelties.  It truly was a sight to behold - so much sports memorabilia!

It was almost a certainty that I was going to pick up SOMETHING for my troubles, with that much to choose from.  Among the goodies was a large amount of vintage Topps, reprints, flashy modern product, and oddballs.  Being the lover of the weird that I am, I decided to grab a set of cards from that latter category - a set which I had never seen nor heard of before:

Perhaps I would have seen this set before if I had some Acuvue contact lenses at my disposal!

This shrink-wrapped set of over-sized (4" x 3") trading cards was tough to pick out of the over-crowded case; but, once I saw it, my curious mind absolutely had to have it.  Information on the cards is pretty much non-existent online, excepting a few Ebay listings with no helpful descriptions.  I believe this is either a SGA set or a premium issued with Acuvue contact lenses, a former sponsor of your Chicago Cubs; however, I can't find any info to actually verify either theory.

'Tis a mystery.

The only thing I can say for certain about these bad boys is that they hail from the year 2008 - a year in which Chicago baseball reached a fever pitch, as both Windy City clubs found themselves in the thick of the pennant race and, ultimately, champions in their respective divisions.  This detail is made evident by the copyright line found on the back of each card in the small set; but, the player selection in the plastic-wrapped pack absolutely screams 2008, as well.

It doesn't get much bigger than D-Lee, A-Ram, Big Z, or Demp when it comes to the Chicago Cubs of that time period - it doesn't take contact lenses to be able to see that.

For promos, these oddball cards sure do have an intricate design, at least on the front.  The torso for each Second City star is cut out and placed over what can only be described as a baseball diamond blueprint (perhaps defensive chart?), which is in turn layered on top of a crowd shot.  This whole scene is enclosed by a white border.  As an added bonus, in addition to the listing of the player name, team affiliation, and position played in the top left corner for each athlete, we also get their uniform number on the opposite side.  I think we can all agree that adding the uniform number is always a welcome treat when it comes to baseball cards.

The backside is a little less noisy - we get the player name, team name, and a brief rundown of each Cub's career highlights, all between a Cubs logo and the logo of the Acuvue brand, which encourages us to visit acuvueoffer.com.  Why would we want to do that?

The contest card which was packaged on the bottom explains:

A chance to win SPECTACULAR PRIZES!  All one had to do was open their web browser to acuvueoffer.com, peel the back off of this special card, and hold the green oval up their monitor screen to reveal a special code, which, in this case, is "Good Eye" - I can see it without doing anything else (I guess I don't need their product).  Prizes up for grabs included a MacBook Air, a Best Buy gift card applicable to a Nintendo Wii, or a Flip Video camera.

Unfortunately, I think I'm a little two thousand and late to win these VERY 2008 prizes.  Don't think I didn't try though - that web address now forwards any stragglers straight to the main Acuvue website.  No Wii for Mii.

No prizes for me at all, actually

All in all, finding a set of oddball Cubs cards that were heretofore undiscovered makes for a successful antique dig every time out, in my humble opinion.  However, the fun and mystery weren't quite over with yet.  You see, in the aforementioned basement, I noticed a bin of old photographs from the early 20th century peeking out from the bottom shelf of the last unit in the building.  Something told me I should have a look, with the pie in sky idea that I might uncover a lost cabinet photo card from the Deadball Era (there were several of regular folk).  While those hopes were quickly dashed, I was surprised to find this photograph stuck between the wedding photos and elementary school head shots of an era long gone by:

Ah ha - a Kodak printed photograph of an unidentified Pittsburgh Pirate, cut down to be the size of your standard baseball card; color me intrigued.

In hopes that it might be some roster-hopper from the middle of the previous century who spent time with the Chicago Cubs and thus far eluded my CATRC binder, I added this second oddball find to my purchase pile.  In case your curious, the total cost of this purchase ended up being a scant $1.50 as the shop was having a store-wide 50% off sale!  I'll take that.

Anyway - back to the unidentified Pirate - I immediately took to Twitter for some help in the identification of our mystery ball player.  Luckily, everyone's favorite Durham Bulls fanatic, The Snorting Bull, was up to the task:

Right on the nose - our John Doe turns out to be Nick Strincevich, who played in the Big Leagues from 1940-48 with the Braves (then Bees), Pirates, and Phillies.  We can say for certain that the photograph, the same one used for his Baseball-Reference profile, dates from 1941.  The uniform top that "Jumbo" is wearing here, with the disembodied Pirate head over the heart, was only briefly in use from 1940-41.  Meanwhile, Strincevich was acquired by the Buccos in a mid-season trade with the Bravos for Lloyd Waner in that latter campaign.  With this information, Mr. Bull was thus able to identify our mystery swashbuckler.  Thanks buddy!

For his career, the swingman posted a 46-49 record with an ERA of 4.05 across 889.2 frames.

Here's a fun fact about the pitcher - apparently, he was selected to represent the National League in the 1945 All-Star game. Of course, due to war-time travel restrictions, the game was cancelled and Nick never officially received said honor.  What a bummer.

As random as it might seem, it actually makes sense that a photo print of this Pittsburgh hurler should show up in an antique shop on the south side of Chicago.  Why, you ask?  Well, as it turns out, Nick is a local guy - he was born and raised in Gary, IN (just barely over the border) and returned to the area after hanging up his cleats to work at the Budd Plant in Gary, retiring in 1980 as Safety Supervisor.  He passed away in 2011, at the tough old age of 96, and was buried in nearby Merrillville, IN.  Before his death, he was the third oldest living Major Leaguer.

For fifty cents, it was well-worth the minuscule expenditure to learn about this forgotten local hero.

Back in 2009, "Jumbo" was honored by the White Sox, his hometown club

All in all, a combination of several, carefree hours spent in secondhand shopping bliss and these two mysterious finds made for a swell experience.  I truly couldn't have asked for a better way to while away my Monday afternoon - it sure beat work, that's for sure!  I think I can safely say that I'll be making my way back to Three Sisters again, sometime in the not-so-distant future.

Also, if anyone has any further information on that Acuvue set, please feel free to enlighten me, as I still haven't been able to track down anything helpful.  Furthermore, I can't help but wonder as to what the purpose of the Strincevich photo was - perhaps a family member trying to remember/honor their ancestor?  It's a pretty high quality print, so I don't think it was simply lifted from the internet, and it's intentionally cut down to traditional trading card dimensions.  Hmmmmmmm...

As you can see, some mystery still remains... mysteries of the Three Sisters.


  1. Wow, those Acuvue cards are a great find!

  2. Those Acuvue cards have a rather nice design to them. Very cool find!

  3. Did you run into Nancy Drew while you were investigating the Mysteries Of The Three Sisters?

    Nice pickups all around! Love me some oversized cards, and oversized oddballs are even better!