I mean, besides the fact that we are now living in an entirely different world than when I last updated Wrigley Roster Jenga way, way, WAAAAYYYY back in February. Honestly, while that was just a little less than three months ago, it feels as though it's been more like two years. My blogging and collecting sabbatical started as a result of being discontent with the state of baseball and it's sign-stealing, minor league contracting, labor dispute looming drama (as well as the Cubs satisfaction with the status quo) and now I hardly remember any of that noise. In fact, I'm now quite desperate for America's pastime to come back, going so far as to wake up at 5:30 in the morning so I can watch Twitter broadcasts of the recently rebooted Chinese Professional Baseball League. When my alarm went off for that, I think my wife was ready to have me committed.
In my defense, I think life under quarantine has us going all a little nutty.
Needing a healthy outlet, my desire to delve back into the hobby has started to return, as well. Thankfully, I have been able to mostly work from home, which has afforded me time to peruse Ebay during the afternoon lulls. In fact, just last week, I made my first baseball card purchase since before Valentines Day. It wasn't until I received the envelope in yesterday's mail and ripped it open that I realized what I had done... I accidentally contracted Corona...
...Monarch Corona that is!
Monarch Corona was a collector-issued and moderately popular, oddball brand that put out a few different series of cards in the late 2000's/early 2010's. They, in fact, had nothing to do with the highly contagious and clandestinely dangerous virus that currently has the entire world on it's head. I don't mean to make light of what is a deathly serious matter, but I couldn't help but laugh at the realization. I honestly did not intend to make my hobby return in the Corona Virus era with a Corona card, despite my affinity for black humor and puns.
At any rate, this is not the first Monarch Corona card to enter into my collection. These cards often focused on niche subjects within the rich tapestry that is the history of our national game. Without Monarch Corona, I would likely have to plunder a museum for a 150+ year old cabinet card of Bob Ferguson, who only played one season for the franchise in what was their second year of existence (1878).
However, "Death to Flying Things" here (is that not the most bad-ass nickname in the history of the sport?) comes from Corona's "flagship" equivalent. Meanwhile, the pasteboard that I most recently acquired hails from MC's 104-count Centennial Series checklist:
This set comes complete in a plastic protector and only 200 copies are known to exist. These two factors make finding singles from broken up sets quite difficult to come by. Additionally, the dimensions on this 2011 product were shrunk from standard size to tobacco size, owing to their focus on ballplayers who were active during the 1911 season (hence the centennial branding).
As wonderful as this faux-back set looks, there is only one card that truly captivates me, thus making it the longtime object of a saved search on Ebay. That card features "Long Tom" Hughes as seen in the beginning of this post and again below:
Although Mr. Hughes spent the 1910 season with the minor league Minneapolis Millers, he began the 20th century as the ace of the Chicago Orphans, better known as today's Chicago Cubs. Unless you're new here, you had to have known there was some kind of Cubs connection to be made here, right?
"Long Tom" was exceptionally tall for his era (6'1"), thus earning him his over-sized nickname. A Chicago native, Hughes began his Major League career with a three-game audition for his hometown squad in 1900 and then found himself leading the staff by 1901. That season, he started 35 games for the would-be Cubs and completed all but three, posting a solid 3.24 ERA along the way. Unfortunately, Tom's debut came during the beginning of the Deadball Era AND he pitched for a sixth-place club, which contributed to his abysmal 10-23 record. Perhaps seeking greener pastures, our hero made the jump to the newly-christened American League for 1902.
Tom went on to win 20 games for the Boston Americans in 1903, who would go on to win the first modern World Series. That's pretty nice feather to stick in the ol' cap, ain't it? The inaugural World Champ would then spend most of the rest of his thirteen year career with the Washington Senators before hanging up his spikes in 1913.
|"Long Tom" taking some cuts during his time as a Senator.|
This card has sat in my watch-list for what seems like eons. The price was good - one measly buck - but, I just never pulled the trigger. Perhaps, I subconsciously felt like I needed a specific reason. Perhaps this Corona pun was rattling around in the back of my head and the connection isn't so accidental... Either way, this glorious little oddball is finally all mine.
As far as I can tell, despite having a lengthy career in the Majors during a time which tobacco cards proliferated, this Monarch Corona card is one of but a small handful of baseball cards to have been printed with his likeness. It's also by far the most affordable, as it's the only one that isn't 100 years old. Complicating matters is that there have been two other hurlers of the same name, one of which was active during the same era and both also have a few cards to their name. Thus, sorting through the wheat and the chaff has required extra attention, lest I add the wrong Tom Hughes to my Cubs All-Time Roster Collection. Such snafus have occurred before.
All these factors considered, it was imperative that I finally pull the trigger on that watched listing before someone else took advantage. MC singles don't pop up often, especially for this set, owing to the fact that it was sold as a complete package. Luckily for me, despite my lengthy dawdling, no one beat me to the chase.
Same name, same occupation, same position played, but neither are the Tom Hughes I'm looking for.
And there you have it - the card that brought me back to blogging. Who knew it would take me "getting Corona" to come back while sheltered in place? In all seriousness though, I hope everybody out there reading this is doing well, as well as being smart and safe. If we all do out part to flatten the curve and curb the spread, maybe we'll actually get to watch some Major League Baseball by July.
Being quarantined right now sucks - there's little debate about that - however, if we do what we're supposed to, it'll be relaxed sooner rather than later.
In the meantime, here's hoping that the only Corona you're exposed to is the kind that's actually baseball cards!