Thursday, May 24, 2018

Here's the Story

Graduation is near as the school year inches ever closer to an end.  Kids are restless, staring out windows instead wistfully and wishing they could be outside carousing in the increasingly summer like weather (or playing Fortnite, whatever kids do these days).  Teachers are just trying to keep it together, crawling across the finish line as they try to guide these students to summer break.  In just over a week, the 2017-18 calendar will officially conclude, as children and teachers alike celebrate surviving yet another school year.  The end is nigh!

Accordingly, many teachers in our building have begun to straighten up their classrooms in order to get ahead on the upcoming, yearly clean-out .  While summer break is a joyous occasion for student and teacher alike, the latter definitely does not enjoy having to pack up their entire workspace each and every June.  With that in mind, oftentimes, staff will attempt to cast off anything they don't absolutely need for the sake of sparing space and time; those items usually end up in the teacher's lounge, free to a good home.  This week, the tables of the staff sanctuary have been well-stocked with knick-knacks, books, and old teaching resources... a sort of educational yard sale.

Yesterday, while stuffing my lunch in the lounge refrigerator, I noticed what looked like an old card catalog on the microwave counter, next to a stack of worn workbooks.  As a noted cardboard fiend, anything even remotely resembling cards will always catch my attention and this box was no exception:

The "Story of America," eh?  In card form?  Color me intrigued, Uncle Sam.

The note that was tucked under the box stated that the previous owner had these cards tucked away for several years.  Having not taught history for nearly a decade, she decided to finally cut ties and dispose of her former historical teaching tools.  I suppose these bad boys wouldn't be of much use i Algebra, would they? 

So, with plenty of other important, graduation-centric tasks to be done, I - of course - dropped anchor and immediately flipped open the lid.  Well, after stashing my sandwich in the fridge, anyway.

Wow - that's a lot of colorful cards!  I suppose it takes a lot of paper to cover over 200 years of history.

A little cursory research tells me that these reference cards were produced by Grolier, Inc.  Before the days of instantly attainable information on the internet, these sorts of encyclopedic card catalogs were a popular learning tool.  People of a certain age might remember Sportscaster Cards, Safari Cards and Greenhouse Cards which were all pumped out via subscription service.  Groiler's Story of America cards were no different, produced from 1994-2001, updated in yearly fashion.  This particular box appears to date from 1997, as several specific events from that year are referenced throughout the set.

As a former aspiring history teacher, these 4x6 cards might have come in handy had I continued down that path.  However, as a current trading card collector, these intended educational tools turned out to be of use to me on my current path, as well.  As you can see, our massive history is broken down in to several, more easily digestible categories - America at War, Famous Places, Important Events, etc.  Seeing as we are a nation of sports fiends and athletics have often played a key role in the development of our country, it should come as no surprise that they show up fairly often in these cards of America, mostly as part of the "Life in America" subset:

I mean, how can you tell the story of America without discussing, America's national pastime... am I right?

As for the cards themselves, each subsection is color-coded, with "Life in America" being assigned green.  On the left, we have a timeline which dates the event or person spotlighted on the card.  In the middle we have a photograph or artist's depiction; in this particular case, we have a lovely 1887 Aquarelle print titled “Base Ball" - by L. Prang & Co. - representing the gestation of baseball.  Lastly, on the right ,we have the "who, what, when, where" and a visual indicating where in the country this event/person achieved notoriety.

On the backside, we have a detailed account of what's shown on the front, along with some bonus trivia.  As you might be able to read, Grolier opted for the origin story involving Alexander Cartwright (rather than the myth of Abner Doubleday), distilling the complicated and oft-argued story down to a basic paragraph, easy enough for a kid to get the basics.

All in all, I can see how these would make for a great source of quick information in the days before every man, woman, and child had a tiny computer in their pocket at all times.

Baseball shows up a few times in Grolier's box.  Not only is the game covered in the broad sense, but it's also showcased through some of the larger figures in the sport's history... names so notable that they crossed over from the world of sports into the larger cultural zeitgeist.  For instance, like the Hank Aaron which rests at the top of this post.

Or, Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson - two names that even someone with the most minimal knowledge of baseball would most likely recognize.  The Jackie Robinson card, in particular, would have  come in handy back in February, as several classrooms in our building did group projects centered on the Hall of Famer in honor of  Black History Month.  Colloquially, Jackie appears to be one of the most popular subjects, year in and year out, at least as far as I've noticed.

As important as the game is to the USA, baseball wasn't the only sport covered by Grolier in this box:

Of course, hockey is a distinctly Canadian invention, but I suppose America has played a strong hand in it's modern development.  The team depicted is the 1917 Seattle Metropolitans, who became the first American team to win Lord Stanley's Cup.   Speaking of the Stanley Cup, how about those Golden Knights?  Will they pull off the historically improbable feat of winning a major sports championship as an expansion club?

Speaking of topical sports, the month of May is traditionally associated with a certain, specific one-day event:

And I was just blogging about how little cardboard representation the Indy 500 and open wheel racing gets too.  The 102nd running of the most famous event in auto racing will be taking place this Sunday and I cannot wait!

On that note...

NASCAR and Jeff Gordon are both repped by this card describing what occurred during the 1997 running of the Daytona 500, another one of motorsports' crown jewels.  That February, "Wonderboy" became the race's youngest victor, at the tender age of 25 (a record since eclipsed by 20-yr old Trevor Bayne in 2011).  This May, Gordon was elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame, at the age of 48.  Time flies, doesn't it?

Sidenote - Billy (from Cardboard History), would this count as a NASCAR card for the purposes of your collection?

So far, we've seen Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, Jeff Gordon, etc., some of the most recognized names in the history of North American sports.  All in all, this box does a pretty good job of covering the "who's who" in our sporting lineage.  With that said, there's no way that Grolier was going to exclude what may be the BIGGEST name in our sporting history;

After all, in 1997, "Air Jordan" and his Bulls were coming off their fifth of six NBA Championships, with five NBA Finals MVP awards for MJ.  In short, the legend was in the prime of his notoriety when these cards were printed and distributed.  This oddball will make a fine addition to my small, but growing Chicago Bulls collection.

Now, there were many other cards with sporting connections to be found in the "Story of America," but I've chosen to only showcase the ones that appealed to me and my collecting interests.  You better believe, after flipping through the massive deck and finding these awesome oddballs, that I took them home to add to me collection.  After all, they were on the house and my official duty as the school IT person is to do anything I can to help our educating staff.  Sometimes, that goes beyond computers and includes getting rid of stuff for the teachers...well, at least it did yesterday.  Gotta clear that counter-space!

Before I go, I'm left wondering, does anyone else have a stash of these oddities in the collections?  Do you consider educational sets like these to be collectible trading cards?  Have ever used a set of these (or similar products) in your classroom, either as a professional or as a student?  Please feel free to weigh-in on these matters in the comment section below.

In the meantime, here's hoping that more cool stuff shows up in the teacher's lounge as summer break dawns!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The New Team in Town

As a lifelong lover of America's pastime, I'm pretty fortunate that I live where I do.  Not only do I have two Major League Baseball clubs stationed in the metro area, but there's a bevy of minor league options scattered throughout the near suburban area.  The Kane County Cougars, Schaumburg Boomers, Joliet Slammers, Gary Railcats etc. are all stationed in communities within easy driving distance of my home base in Alsip.  Heck, the Windy City Thunderbolts home stadium is directly next door to my place of employment.  Plus, if that wasn't enough, there are a handful of semi-pro and collegiate summer league teams that play their home games in nearby parks - i.e., the Windy City Stars, Crestwood Panthers, Northwest Indiana Oilmen, et al.  As you can see, there's no shortage of options for this Chicagoland baseball fan to take in a game.

If that's not lucky enough, this summer, the roster of local teams has expanded by one:  the Chicago Dogs have begun play in 2018 as a new entry in the independent American Association.  With a moniker that bears tribute to the Windy City's culinary heritage (not a sandwich), the Dogs will christen the newly constructed Impact Field, near O'Hare Airport and next door to the Rosemont outlet malls, in just three days.

Being an unofficial airport shuttle for my friends and family, I've driven past this state-of-the-art new complex many times during it's construction, which has built my anticipation for this new team.  I may already have a ridiculous amount of options for sports entertainment, but I'm greedy and will always want more!  When the new club officially announced their inaugural roster a couple of weeks ago, my interest was only further stoked:

First of all, the roster on their website is depicted exactly as you see above, complete with a full, digital baseball card (taking direct inspiration from 1987 Donruss) for each and every Chicago Dog player.  I don't know about you, but I think every professional baseball team should have to list their roster in this manner!

Furthermore, these two names immediately stuck out to me:  Shawon Dunston, Jr. and Kyle Gaedele.  Of course, Shawon Dunston, Sr. spent roughly a decade as the live-armed, starting shortstop for my beloved Chicago Cubs and his son was eventually drafted by the franchise.  The younger Dunston plied his trade in the North Siders' system from 2012-16, only climbing as high as A+ ball, before being traded to the Giants.  Now, the fan-favorite returns to the Chicagoland area, patrolling the outfield for the Dogs.

Meanwhile, Kyle Gaedele has no outright connection to my favorite baseball team.  The local product was a Windy City prep star, eventually being drafted by the San Diego Padres in 2011.  Peaking in AA, Kyle stepped away from the game after the 2016 season before being coaxed out of retirement to return to his hometown.  Besides his local connection, you might be asking yourself, why did this former Padre farmhand immediately jump out to me?  Like Dunston, it has to due with familial lineage.

You see, Kyle Gaedele is related to someone who's picture hangs in Cooperstown... perhaps one of the most famous images in baseball history.  Though his family has an added an extra "e' to the spelling of their surname, Kyle's great uncle is someone any fan of America's pastime should be familiar with:

That's right, Eddie Gaedel, the shortest player to ever appear on a pro diamond, isn't the only one in the family with a baseball legacy.  Although, somewhat ironically, Eddie's grandnephew is slightly taller, measuring in at a lengthy 6'3".

With all of that in mind, it should probably come as no surprise to anyone reading this blog that these two multi-generational ballplayers immediately became my favorite Chicago Dogs.  Also, knowing that I'd be going to at least a couple of games at Impact Field this summer and having access to fairly adept printing equipment, shortly after making this discovery, I did a thing:

Yea, in a rush of excitement, I took those digital cards on the team's official website and turned them into physical ones.  Along with the Bowman single of Dunston, Jr. seen a few paragraphs above, I'll be attempting to get both of these cards signed this season.  Fingers crossed!

Sidenote - how cool is the Chicago Dogs' hat?  I'll also be getting one of those while I'm at the ballpark this year.

Anyway, I made sure to print these "custom" cards on card stock and with a legitimate photo printer.  They may not be Topps quality, but they're better than the average bear.   That said, if the team were to decide that they'd like to professionally print out these cards and hawk them as souvenirs, I wouldn't be upset.  Furthermore, each card has a full and complete backside:

These backs also come from the official team website, something that I neglected to share with you earlier.  Oopsy Daisy.  Speaking of "oopsy daisies," c'mon Dunston... you should know better than to put ketchup on your hot dog!

At any rate, here's hoping that the Dunston, Gaedele, and the rest of the Chicago Dogs are able to carve their way into the Chicagoland baseball market.  They should benefit from being located so near to a major transportation hub and across the street from an always extremely crowded shopping center; but, as we've already established, the baseball market in the area is already a little bit crowded.  Out of curiosity, what is the baseball landscape like in your locale?  Do you have a healthy selection of options like we Chicagoans or are you lucky to even have a single club operating within driving distance?  Maybe we should share some of our Second City baseball saturation?  Please feel free to share in the comment section below.

In the meantime, I've got a few more diamond excursions to plan this summer!

Monday, May 21, 2018

Indy Cars and Indy Cards

The month of May has always been my favorite 30-day slice of the calendar.  This was especially so as a child/teen because my birthday and the end of the school year both occurred in the fifth month of the year.  Furthermore, the blossoming spring weather transitioning into summer conditions has also contributed to my love of this time of year.  However, above all, my favorite thing about the month of May is that it's Indianapolis 500 time.

Since 2003, my family and I have made the 184-mile trek from Chicago to Indianapolis to visit the most famous raceway in North America to attend the annual festival of speed surrounding the hallowed Indianapolis 500.  In a tradition that originally started with my parents in the late 70's, the qualifications for the 500 mile sweepstakes has been circled on the family calendar for a long time.  Though not as exciting as the race itself, Pole Day qualifications provide a proper taste of the drama, pomp, and circumstance surrounding the event on a much friendlier budget and with less of a chaotic crowd.

Yesterday marked my 14th pilgrimage to the Brickyard to see who would be starting first on race weekend:

Being an avid trading card collector and a fan of several forms of auto racing, it's only natural that I've often sought cardboard commemorating Indianapolis and the most well-known race in the United States.  I've mentioned on this blog before how my foray into the world of NASCAR reinvigorated my interest in the cardboard hobby and eventually led me back to the world of baseball cards.  Even today, I maintain a hefty binder full of "NASCards," though my focus has largely "shifted" to the Cubs and other Chicago sporting teams.

However, NASCAR ain't Indy Car; this is quite apparent in how the two series market themselves. When it comes to trading cards, the premiere stock car circuit has had at least one Flagship release since the late 80's, be it from Maxx, Upper Deck, Press Pass,Panini etc. On the other hand, "Indy Card" releases have been spotty at best and they haven't had a single set since 2007.  Speaking as someone who is informally working on a collection of obtaining one card of every driver who I've ever seen make a qualifying run, this makes things quite difficult.

Sure, NASCAR and Indy Car have had a fair amount of overlap with drivers and those spotty sets from the past have helped me fill in some gaps.  Furthermore, while there is no full set or licensing deal for mainstream, pack-based sets, there is one oddball source of current Indy Car trading cards:

Roughly, diecasts are to racing fans as traditional baseball cards are to baseball fans. Thankfully, when it comes to packaging 1:64 scale models of racing cars, there is a long tradition of including a trading card in the blister pack.  For the past few years, Indy Car has had an exclusive license with Greenlight Collectibles to produce models for their current roster of drivers and, luckily, GL has not broken with that tradition.

The Takuma Sato card that kicked off this post (and who's back side you see above), came from one of those 1:64 diecast card pairings.  Fortuitously, my brother collects these diecasts with the passion and drive that I do Cubs baseball cards and also has absolutely no interest in the corresponding trading cards.  Therefore, when my he makes his annual splurge at the Speedway gift shops, I end up with handful of "Indy Cards" for my collection.  It's a win/win relationship.

Of course, as thankful as I am for my brother's kindness, this source is far from perfect, as illustrated by the packaging you see below:

While Takuma Sato, the defending Indianapolis 500 champion, gets a picture of his victory lane celebration on the front of his card, series veteran and fan favorite, Marco Andretti, gets a generic display card with a stock photo and his car number.  That is far less desirable - what gives?

You see, Greenlight only goes the extra mile for the previous year's Indy 500 winner and for the series champion (Josef Newgarden also gets a legit card).  Meanwhile, the rest of the circuit is left with the generic placeholders that you see below:

How lame is that?  I don't know if this is some sort of stimulation in their licensing agreement with Indy Car, but it just comes off as lazy to this collector.  As a result, even my absolute favorite driver, Graham Rahal, has never had his face on his own trading card, as he has never won the 500 or the series championship.  Although,m his card is a little different from the rest because his comes from the 2017 set, while the rest hail from this year's edition.  Still stock photography though.

On the bright side, while the fronts are uninspired, the backs do still contain a brief biographical write-up for each racer:

As a further bonus, the backs also make use of each racing teams' logos and combination marks.  If only Greenlight put as much work into the front of the cards as they did the back.  This seems awfully ironic to me - wouldn't you expect this problem to be the exact opposite, with a lazy back and adequate front?  How peculiar.

At any rate, this year's trip to Indy 500 qualifying was just as fun as ever.  Indy native, Ed Carpenter won the pole for the third time in his career, on the strength of a qualifying run that was almost a full mile an hour faster than second place.  Is there anyone else out there on the blogosphere who enjoys Indy Car racing and would be interest in an Indy set?

In the end, I guess I shouldn't complain too much, as one imperfect source for "Indy Cards" is better than none, especially since I get this oddballs on the house.  Nevertheless, I wish that Greenlight would spread their effort out evenly.  Well, actually, I just wish that Indy Car would go ahead and "greenlight" a standalone trading card product for the first time since George W. Bush occupied the White House.  

Get on it, Panini!

Friday, May 18, 2018

North Side by Northwestern

One of the over-arching themes that's connected most of my recent posts on Wrigley Roster Jenga is my having difficulty keeping up with the constant flurry of roster moves that the Cubs have made since mid-April.  Bouts with sickness, injury, and overwork have caused the North Siders to cycle through more minor leaguers than they normally would have to by this point in the season; as a result, many of the waiver claims and minor league signings that were made during the winter months have ended up donning blue pinstripes.  For this, I have been wholly unprepared, as a lot of these sorts of players never even sniff the MLB roster.

Continuing this theme, last night, Theo and crew called upon lefty reliever, Randy Rosario.  After a series of short starts left the Chicago bullpen in tatters, some literal relief was needed from AAA Iowa.  The LOOGY prospect was claimed from the Twins last November and impressed the brass in Spring Training.  Of course, his only giving up one earned run in 17.1 innings so far in 2018 is probably much more impressive than any Cactus League performance.

But, this post isn't about the alliterative Randy Rosario... like I said, I'm way far behind.  Today's spotlight is focused on Luke Farrell:

Farrell was one of the first reinforcements brought up from the bushes in 2018 and I'm only just now getting around to tracking down a card for my CATRC.  Called up in mid-April, Farrell was another off-season waiver claim who's services ended up being needed in the Show.  The son of John bounced from the Kansas City chain to the Cincinatti org to the Cubs bullpen, before earning a ticket back to Des Moines for allowing back-to-back walk-off homers to the hated Red Birds.  That certainly won't endear you to those that bleed blue.

Never a major prospect, Farrell doesn't have much of a cardboard presence, making it difficult to track him down for my tome. Complicating the search was the fact that his few mainstream checklist appearances have come in unlicensed, pre-rookie Panini products, like the Prizm Perennial Draft Picks single that you see above.  These overly-shiny, failed Bowman Chrome competitors are generally not recalled in the best of lights. 

However, though I would much prefer a card with logos, at least Farrell is wearing his purple Northwestern Wildcats uniform on this one.  Northwestern University is "Chicago's Big Ten team," after all.

Farrell's baseball career has taken him from Northwestern to the North Side.

My wife is away on a business trip for the next couple of days; so, rather than sit alone at home, I decided to take a trip to one of my LCS options.  With no other obligations yesterday evening, I took my sweet time perusing the shelves of quarter boxes that sit, unwanted and rarely touched, in the corner of the store.  I had a feeling that I remembered seeing some Prizm stuff in there the last time that I browsed through these 3200-count boxes, but I wasn't so sure about that.  However, it's not like I had anything better to do.

Lo and behold, I found half a row of the most reflective card set of all-time.  Thankfully, Luke Farrell was hiding somewhere in that foil brick.  I don't anyone has ever been as happy to burn their retinas as I was at that moment!

Of course, I couldn't find any of my other modern commons needs (2012 Heritage #169 or 2017 Update #US208, anyone?) in the mass of boxes, so I sheepishly approached the counter with a single card and a quarter ready to go.  Is it just me, or does anyone else feel slightly embarrassed when making such a small purchase?  The shop-keep must have felt that way before too, as he waved me away and told me it was on the house.  Either he's a really nice dude, didn't want to bother ringing up a single (relatively worthless) card, or he just believes that no self-respecting human being should ever lay down their hard-earned money on Panini Prizm.  At any rate, that gesture made me one happy camper!

 I think these are the only other cards from Panini's Prizm Perennial Draft Picks in my collection.

I can now officially welcome Luke Farrell to my Cubs All-Time Roster Collection as I continue to make a little headway in keeping up with the roster moves of 2018.  First, I was able to track down Cory Mazzoni, now Farrell, and hopefully soon I'll be able to locate an Efren Navarro, David Bote, Justin Hancock, and a Randy Rosario.  If you have a lead on any of these guys, I'd be more than happy to talk trade.

Meanwhile, if the Cubbies could call upon a prospect of which I have a baseball card next time they need a supplement, I would selfishly be okay with that - maybe Adbert Alzolay, Oscar de la Cruz, Stephen Bruno, Duane Underwood, Corey Black, etc.  I just need a little bit more time to finish catching up!

(But, seriously, I hope they do what's best for the club; I'm not that self-centered and/or crazy!)

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Daly Double

Vintage TCMA singles can be a pain in the butt to find.

Of course, the granddaddies of all oddballs were produced on a far lower scale than contemporaneous Topps, Fleer, Donruss, etc. products and catered to a much more niche market of collectors.  Advertised and sold exclusively through mail-order catalogs and other assorted hobby publications, it should come as no surprise that these oddities are much tougher to come by than their pack distributed, mass produced peers some forty years on down the road.  For me, personally, this is quite frustrating, seeing as these specialty sets are of great interest to me and my collecting needs.

Tom Collier and Mike Aronstein used their often team-centric and decade-specific sets to fill in considerable gaps in the cardboard history books.  These cards were usually very basic, with just a photograph and some type-written identifying information on the front and/or back.  Focusing on players of the distant past rather than design, TCMA sets often produced the only cards of long-forgotten baseball players of  yore... players such as:

Tom Daly, seen here as a coach for the Boston Red Sox.  While the signal-caller served the longest uninterrupted coaching tenure in franchise history, this is not why I sought out this card from TCMA's 1975 tribute to the '46 Sawx.  Long before then, Daly spent the vast majority of his playing career in the Windy City, split almost equally between the South Side and North Side of town.

Originally coming up with the Chicago White Sox, the prospect was a hot commodity.  While playing for Lowell of the New England League, Daly accepted an offer from Charlie Comsikey to don the palehose.  At the same time, the Red Sox contested this transaction, citing that they had rights over the catcher's services.  The National Board of Arbitration would eventually rule in the White Sox's favor, but the other Sox would eventually land their man.... it would just take a loooooooong time!

Daly went on to serve as as a backup catcher with the Sox of White from 1913-15 before being sold to the Cleveland Indians.  After just one season with the Naps and a demotion to the minors, the Cubbies came-a-callin', purchasing his contract from Buffalo of the old International League.  After a one-game cameo in 1918 with the eventual NL pennant winners, Daly closed out his days as an active Big League player with three seasons as the Cubs' second-string backstop.  In February of 1922, Daly's contract was again sold, this time to the Los Angeles Angels of the PCL, officially marking the end of his MLB career.  That said, Tom continued to ply his trade with various bush league clubs through the 1932 campaign.

The very next year (the card-back erroneously states 1934), Daly began his career on the other side of the clipboard with the Boston American League club, who finally landed their man twenty years later.  They must have liked him around there, as his 14 consecutive years stint as a coach (mostly posted at third base) in Beantown is still a franchise record.  It sounds like he was an interesting fellow and took a particular interest in keeping his charges humble.  According to Amazing Tales from the Boston Red Sox Dugout, Daly once caught Bobo Newsom barehanded to prove that his velocity was nothing special and crammed on checkers just so that he could take down the boastful Wes Ferrell in a game where the latter claimed to be unbeatable.

Tragically, his coaching career came to an abrupt end... not with a managerial change or roster move, but due to a bout with colon cancer.  In the November of 1946, Daly lost his battle with the deadly disease and passed away at the far too young age of 54 years old.

Daly warming up prior to an unknown game in 1918.

Despite his notoriety in Boston, courtesy of that stint as a reserve with the Cubs in the shadow of World War I, Tom Daly required representation in my Cubs All-Time Roster Collection.  Seeing as his playing career took place entirely in the gap between the original tobacco premiums and Goudey gum cards, it is not surprising that the back-up's contemporaneous trading card checklist is quite limited.  During these dark days of no regular Major League Baseball card sets, Zeenut minor league issues are the only checklists that he appeared on.  Seeing as my cardboard budget is quite limited, this TCMA single was my only other realistic option.  Cheap though it may be, these specialty sets are a bear to find today and singles from these compilations are even tougher to find.

Luckily, after years of prowling dime boxes at card shows and saved searches on Ebay, I came across a copy on the latter service with PWE shipping and a "best offer" option.  Sure, Beckett will say that three bucks (plus a dollar for shipping) is an overpay, but considering how rarely I stumble upon these bad boys in the wild, I'm calling that a win.

Further complicating my search for a Tom Daly baseball card was a sort of "Daly Double"; by that, I mean that this Tom Daly wasn't the only Tom Daly to don a Major League uniform.  Plus, this Tom Daly wasn't even the only Tom Daly to put on a Cubs uniform.  Double plus, this second Tom Daly was also a catcher. This "Daly Double" definitely had the potential to be a stumper.

Turning back the clock even further, to the 19th century, this "other" Tom Daly originally debuted in the Bigs as part of the short-lived Union Association with the Philadelphia Keystones in 1884.   After that two-game cameo and two more years in the minors, the original Daly was promoted to the National League and served two seasons as Chicago's regular catcher and fill-in elsewhere.  Released prior to the '89 campaign as Anson sought to rid his club of rowdy influences, Daly went on to spend more than a decade with the eventual Brooklyn Dodgers as their regular second baseman, in a career that would last through 1903.

While the second Tom Daly originally came up with the White Sox and then closed out his career with the Cubs, the first originally came up with the Cubs and then closed out his career with the White Sox (and Cincy), during that 1903 season.  Funny how that works out, isn't it?

Embed from Getty Images
The first Tom Daly, near the end of his career with the Chicago White Sox, circa 1903.

Despite the fact that their playing careers weren't particularly close to overlapping, the fact that both of these men (of no relation, by the way) had the same name, often played the same position, and both played for the Cubs franchise threw a bonus monkey wrench into the machinations of my search for the latter Daly.  As if chasing an obscure oddball from 45 years ago wasn't difficult enough, my saved searches were almost always populated exclusively with Target Dodger singles of the OG Daly, as well as reprints of his 1895 Mayo's Cut plug tobacco issue, and other bits of miscellaneous ephemera - the original definitely had a larger cardboard footprint.  All in all, this just made for another layer of junk to patiently sift through.

On the bright side, the other Tom Daly had already been acquired for my CATRC, thanks to an LCS purchase made about half a decade ago.  Maybe a year or two before I established Wrigley Roster Jenga, a trip to More Fun Sports Cards and Coins in Dyer, IN uncovered a complete, cello-wrapped 1986 reprint collation of the Mayo's cards.  Reprint sets are often massive boons to my super vintage, roster collecting needs, so I bought it without consulting the checklist.  It worked out well though - among the dapper 19th century players needed for my CATRC were Bill Dahlen, Jimmy Ryan, Fred Pfeffer, and T.P. Daly... better known as Tom Daly.

Now, after all this time, I'm thrilled to finally have the complete "Daly Double" safely nestled in my CATRC tome.

It's always a thrill to add a new name to my Cubs All-Time Roster Collection, especially so when it's a card I had so much difficulty in tracking down.  I guess it should come as no surprise that vintage oddities of obscure and forgotten men who share names and positions with fellow ballplayers of the same franchise are not particularly easy to track down.  However, that quest has finally been completed and Tom Daly (mach two) is now properly represented in my binder, courtesy of that 1975 TCMA 1946 Red Sox artifact.

Name game aside, has anyone else had the same difficulty in tracking down old school TCMA cards from the 70's and 80's or is that just me?  I find it especially difficult for certain sets too - their collaborations with Renatta Galasso, for example, seem to rear their heads far more often than their team-centric sets or decade-specific checklists.  Please feel free to weigh-in in the comment section below.

In the meantime, I'm just glad that I didn't blow the "Daly Double."

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Struggling to Keep Up

It's May and there are flurries... flurries that quickly appear to be developing into a full-on storm.  This is unusual.

While snowfall of any amount at this point in the year would be abnormal, I'm not referring to fluffy flakes of powder.  Rather, in this case, what is storming the city of Chicago is a flurry of roster moves.  In Tuesday's post, I detailed how the Cubs have had to call upon the services of several minor league call-ups to fill in for injured regulars.  Meanwhile, this has added an assortment of new names to chase for my Cubs All-Time Roster Collection because, of course, none of these fresh faces have much of a cardboard footprint.  I must admit, it's been somewhat frustrating.

Speaking of Tuesday, in that post I detailed the circumstances surrounding the call-up of Cory Mazzoni and showed off the Topps Now-inspired custom card that I whipped up to commemorate the occasion.  Still needing an actual card to fill his newly created gap in my collection, I used my lunch break yesterday to stop by my LCS, which is conveniently (and dangerously) located near my place of employment.

While there, I was irrationally overjoyed to come across this dual-rookie card from 2015 Update in the shop's random Padres box.  This LCS has a small, plastic box for every team in the league, crammed with an assortment of cards from the last decade and a half - to say they've come in handy with my roster jenga collection would be an understatement!

Of course, while I still have yet to acquire cards of Efren Navarro, David Bote, or Luke Farrell, checking Mazzoni off of my rapidly-swelling "needs" list alleviated some frustration.  That said, since I clicked publish on Tuesday, Mazzoni has already been demoted to AAA, after just one appearance.  Rob Zastryzny came up, along with Jen-Ho Tseng to replace a concussed Jason Heyward and a sick Yu Darvish.  Thankfully, these names already appear in my CATRC binder, having debuted in years previous.  I felt as though I had re-gained a little bit of lost ground in picking up Mazzoni.

The powers that be must have sensed my placation and, proving that I just can't keep up in the rat race, another series of roster moves was announced shortly before my lunch break trip.

Swapping Z's, outfielder Mark Zagunis took Zastryzny's spot on the 25-man, while yesterday's sport-starter Tseng gave way to another fresh armed relief prospect, Justin Hancock.  I've had Zags in my CATRC binder since last summer, after he made his MLB debut in June; however, this will be Hancock's first cuppacoffee.  Owing to the fact that he's never appeared in a mainstream set, I do not have a card in queue for the latter.  Womp, womp.

Like I said, I don't have any cards of the prospect because his options are extremely limited, as the borrowed scan above attests.  Never a blue-chipper, Hancock has never appeared in a Bowman, Contenders, Pro Debut, Onyx, Leaf or any other prospect-laden product.  For me, the only options are his minor league, team-issued singles, which are usually annoyingly over-priced on the secondhand market... harumph.

I should mention that the former Padres moundsman was acquired from San Diego in the Matt Szczur swap, which was consummated just barely over a year ago.  After a conversion to the bullpen, the fringe prospect's stock rapidly rose, as did his readings on the radar gun.  Topping out around 98 mph, Justin has struck out 58 in 52 innings of work since joining the Cubs organization, though his secondary pitches may still need some refining and his control is suspect.  It's easy to dream on his arm, but we'll see if his stuff translates to the Big League level.

Back on the card front, after a quick Ebay scan, it looks like I'll only be losing more ground for the time being.  I'm not paying twice the value of the card on shipping alone.

Speaking of falling behind, I'm not only lagging in terms of roster additions, I'm also struggling to keep up with new products hitting the market.  I usually like to sample at least one pack per product as the baseball season progresses; however, so far in 2018, the only newfangled card stuff that I've ripped is a single pack of Series One.  All I can say is that life has been busy and I've had much more important things to deal with than checking the card release calendar.

So, with that in mind, I decided to grab a pack of the much-ballyhooed Bowman as I completed my lunch-time LCS trip.  Well, it was mostly because I needed something to get my purchase up over five dollars, seeing as I didn't have any cash in my wallet and the shop keep has a minimum requirement for debit card use.  But, who knows, maybe there's one of those Ohtani's in there just waiting to make me flush with greenbacks!

That Shohei guy is exciting and all, but that autograph that I'm really chasing in this product is aforementioned Cubs prospect, David Bote - one of the previous call-ups that I've fallen behind on.  The late-bloomer, like Hancock, has never been deemed worthy of a Bowman card... that is until this season.  Of course, he vaulted over for the base set and was placed solely into the autograph section.  A "hit" in an already scarce and over-priced/valued product...why must you do this to me, Topps?

Anyway, ranting aside, let's see how I did with my flesh-out addition.  First, the Major League base cards:

Not too much to write home about here, although no one buys Bowman for the Big Leaguers.  The sight of Evan Longoria in Giants orange is still surprisingly jarring.  Is that because orange is naturally distracting color or due to the fact that Evan is the only Tampa Bay Ray anyone could name before this season.  You decide.

Next up, the paper minor leaguers:

Oh hey, Hunter Harvey - I recognize that name.  The embattled former first-rounder was called up to the Bigs early this season for the first time... and then promptly optioned back to AA before making even a single appearance.  Will the Oriole farmhand make it back up to the Majors again, or will he be relegated to haunting the footnotes of Major League history as a "ghost?"  Only time will tell.

As for the other guys, Andres Gimenez is considered one of the best international rookies to come out of the 2015-16 free agent class and is a 19 year old in High A.  Of course, he's a Mets prospect, so they'll probably break him.  Meanwhile, Merandy Gonzalez is yet another Marlins card that I'll have until the day that I die.

Now, the shiny stuff:

Chrome prospects.  Cal Quantrill is a name that's familiar to me, both because I'm vaguely aware of his high standing in the Padres chain and because his father, Paul, played in the Bigs not too long ago... at least, that's what I thought, anyway.  I suddenly feel very old, as Baseball Reference just informed me that Paul Quantrill last donned an MLB jersey 13 years ago... egad.  How is 2005 almost a decade and a half ago?

Meanwhile, I know A.J. Puk's name too; unfortunately for him, that's only because he's about to have Tommy John surgery.  Oh pitching prospects...

And, finally, the insert.  Was it a super mega valuable Shohei Ohtani?  A David "Bote McBoatface" signature?

Not quite, but it was an insert featuring a guy who recently tossed a no-hitter in the Majors.  Granted - it was of the combined variety, but impressive nevertheless.  Lord knows there's no shortage of Dodger collectors on the interwebs either, so I shouldn't have much trouble re-homing this Bowman Scouts Top 100 insert featuring Walker Buehler... Buehler... Buehler...

So, there you have it, my dalliance with 2018 Bowman.  It's hard to be disappointed with a purchase made only to get me to a five dollar minimum, but it wasn't particularly notable.  Honestly, I kinda wish that I'd had some spare change in my pocket to save myself the waste.

On the bright side, I did finally get around to trying some new product and, most importantly, did track down a needed new name for my CATRC binder.  While I may be having a truly difficult time keeping up on both fronts and feel like I'm trying to catch The Freeze, these were both certainly positive developments that I should focus on.  Of course, I'm sure the Cubs will announce another flurry of roster moves ahead of the upcoming Crosstown Classic, just to screw with me.

So goes the roster jenga life!