Monday, April 9, 2018

The Mainstream

At this point in my everlasting quest to collect at least one baseball card of every man to suit up for the Chicago Cubs, I've pretty much permanently deviated from the mainstream.  Now, that's not saying that I've become whatever the cardboard equivalent of a pretentious hipster is... at least not on purpose.  By that, I mean that, in order to fulfill my vast and all-encompassing goal, I've had to mostly turn away from the likes of Topps, Donruss, Fleer, Panini, etc.  Now, that's not because these card companies aren't hip... or whatever the beards are saying these days... it's due to the fact that the obscure players of the past that I have left to search for were not covered by their offerings.

As much as we collectors would like a checklist that covers every ballplayer to don a Major League uniform in a given year, can we really blame the gum companies for ignoring journeymen?  Even back in the day, I highly doubt kids were gathered 'round the playground, hoping to pull a card of a guy who appeared in a total of two MLB games during the entirety of his 12-season professional career...  guys like Tony Jacobs:

Until recently, Mr. Jacobs was the second-to-last player left from the "modern era" (aka, 1951 to present), that still resided on my want-list AND was documented by one of the big bubblegum companies. 

In fact, I'm curious as to why Topps chose to include Mr. Jacobs as one of their horizontal heroes in 1955, although I'm certainly not complaining.  Going into that season, the hurler hadn't sniffed the Major Leagues since 1948, a full seven years previous and ancient history to your average cardboard-hoarding kid. 

Maybe it was because, as is notated on the back, Tony was named the International League's Most Valuable pitcher in '54.  Nevertheless, it was never anticipated that he would serve as anything more than bullpen depth and, in the end, he barely did that.  He snuck into one game, against the Cubs, that April and surrendered four earned runs in just two innings out of the pen; that performance put the final period on his MLB biography.

Interestingly, it was appropriate that his farewell appearance should come against the Cubbies, seeing as it was with the Northsiders that the moundsman made his Big League debut back in '48.

After serving in the Marines during World War II, Jacobs was signed by the Wrigley-helmed club going into 1946 and rocketed through three levels of the minors before ascending to the Windy City.  On September 19, 1948, the young prospect made finished out and 8-1 loss to Brooklyn, tossing two innings and allowing one earned run.  Unimpressed, the club sent him back to the bushes, where he stayed until being claimed off of waivers by the rival Red Birds. 

 This appears to be the original head-shot used for his '55 Topps card.

These were to be the only two MLB appearances of his career.  According to Mr. Jacobs himself, it was politics that limited him to so few opportunities in the major leagues, despite excellent minor league stats.

All in all, not a particularly notable or interesting tale - however, there is one more note about Mr. Jacobs that caught my eye.  According to the back of his card, the ballplayer made his home in Blue Island, IL, which just so happens to be the town next door to me.  Additionally, he was born just down the road in the south suburb of Dixmoor.  It's always cool to find out that a local guy made the Majors, especially with my favorite club!

For years, I had no idea that the hometown hero had a baseball card issued in his honor - I foolishly assumed that a player with such an abbreviated career would not have been deemed worthy of a checklist and never even thought to check the traditional sources for his name.  Thankfully, I stumbled across a cheap copy on Ebay after a few months of searching.  You know what they say about when you assume.... you make an "ass" out of "u" and "me." 

With the addition of Tony Jacobs to my Cubs All-Time Roster Collection binder, I've acquired 1,544 Cubs out of the 2,075 men who have suited up in Cubbie Blue, good for a 74.41% completion percentage.  Slowly but surely, I'm creeping up on that three quarter mark, a milepost that I once thought was completely unobtainable.  These are exciting days for the collection, indeed.

Also with Tony's addition, there are only two cards from Topps and the rest of the big boys that would help me towards that mark - Taylor Davis' multi-player rookie from 2018 Heritage and Norm Gigon's multi-player, high-number rookie from 1965 Topps.  One of these two cards is going to be significantly tougher to track down that the other; I bet you can guess which one that is.

Otherwise, it's off the beaten path and out of the mainstream for me.  I guess it's time to grow a ridiculous beard and dedicate my life to following Arcade Fire on tour.


  1. It's likely Mr. Jacobs got a card--as did several other obscure players--because Topps and Bowman were in fierce competition in those years, signing players to exclusive contracts in the hopes of freezing out the other company. Bowman had the exclusive with Mickey Mantle that year. "Yeah?" says Topps, "but you'll NEVER have Tony Jacobs. HaHaHaHaHa!"

  2. I've recently turned this corner on one of my projects. Still maybe a dozen mainstream cards but the rest are getting increasingly weird. This is certainly a lot more fun than the mainstream part as finding what cards exist let alone the cards themselves is most of the battle.

  3. Just don't start listening to The Decemberists or reading Ayn Rand and you'll be fine.

  4. I feel like I need somebody to explain Arcade Fire to me. I have gravitated toward independent/alternative music since I was a teen in the early '80s, but I cannot find one Arcade Fire song that appeals to me. It feels like I'm missing something, like they're playing on a wave length that I can't hear or something.