Coming in out of the bullpen twice in the early stages of that season, today's hero was tagged for four earned runs in just 1.1 combined innings of work, including a home run and a walk. The thirty year old, journeyman lefty was released before the month of April was completed and his Major League career came to a close after seven years as a swingman for the Indians, Rangers, and Cubbies. Although Mr. Paul posted a couple of decent seasons and had a career WAR in the green (4.2), I think we can all agree that the hurler did not go out on a high note.
Fittingly enough, the pasteboard that Topps pumped out for Mike that year was almost as atrocious as his eye-popping 27.00 ERA:
First of all, you can see that this picture hails from Mike Paul's days with the Texas Rangers, as evidenced by the collar left behind by the artist whiting out the Rangers script on Paul's chest. That's not all too horrendous - after all, the blue and red meshes well with a Cubs uniform, even if the North Siders never brandished such collars nor anything similar. However, when combined with that glowing, neon blue "Cubs" hat... egad, that is extremely distracting. Not to mention the fact that the "C" is so large that it's almost escaping from the poor man's head - clearly, it doesn't want to be associated with this monstrosity. Even the shading looks more like wannabe comic book art than a professional photograph.
What really makes this card a true affront to collectors is the fact that Mike Paul wasn't even new to the roster. In fact, the reliever had been in the Windy City since the previous summer! Paul had been acquired in a trade on August 31st, 1973, in a swap for Larry Gura. There was plenty of time to secure a proper photo of the player in his true, non-neon Cubs uniform. Instead, we're left with what looks like something a middle school student might create with Microsoft Paint and janky clip art.
Add everything up and you have what might be the ugliest card in my Cubs All-Time Roster Collection and, despite it's aesthetic-offending appearance, it shan't be going anywhere. His overall time in Chicago was relatively brief, therefore, this uggo is Mike's only Cubs baseball card, hence it's permanent stay in my most holy of binders.
Well, it's better than nothing, right? Beggars can't be choosers and all that jazz.
Here's what the pitcher with two first names actually looked like in Cubs uniform. Much less jarring, right?
Anyway, why am I bringing this up right now? Why am I ranting and raving about a random 1974 baseball card in 2018 when there are infinitely bigger problems to worry about in the world today? The answer lies with everyone's favorite Darryl Strawberry super collector, Peter, the mind behind the always entertaining blog, Baseball Every Night. You see, the holiday season is now upon us and the eccentric collector has found himself in the giving spirit. Thus, a contest with a holiday theme was quickly born - in a month filled with hideous Christmas sweaters, each blogger has been challenged to show off their favorite ugly baseball card. After reading this, it didn't take me long to come up with my nomination.
You see, Christmas sweaters, while usually atrocious, still have some sort of inherent charm attached to them, as exemplified by the recent trend of ugly sweater themed Christmas parties. I guess this feeling falls under the "so bad that they're good" label. Meanwhile, although I've spent most of this post in a diatribe about how yucky Mike Paul's 1974 Topps single is, it has definitely grown on me over the years. It's certainly unique!
Oh and speaking of ugly Christmas sweaters....
I think that such clothing could only improve Paul's lone Cubs card, don't you? As long as it's a Cubs-themed sweater, of course, seeing as it covers up the obvious Rangers jersey found on the original. If only I had time to do something about that DayGlo hat...
Oh well, I enthusiastically encourage everyone reading this to take up Peter on his challenge and nominate your favorite ugly baseball card - it's a fun little exercise that will get you thinking about your collection in a different light. Perhaps you can find a worse (better/) example of bad airbrushing in your binders or boxes? Or, as Peter put it, "It can be the person depicted on the card, it can be the design or any other aesthetic thing about the card itself, or even the condition if it's fugly enough! There several different angles you can take with this writing prompt.
Thank you for coming up with such a unique contest, Peter. Do ya'll think you have an uglier card than this patchwork of garish grime? Let's see it!