Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Where Have You Gone, Gene Krug? An Update!

In case you haven't been following Wrigley Roster Jenga since the early days, please allow me to explain what I am rambling on about.  A little more than a month into my blogging career, I explored the topic of a relatively obscure Major Leaguer, who had briefly suited up with the Cubs in 1981, by the name of Gene Krug.  Early that spring, the prospect saw action in seven contests, exclusively as a pinch-hitter, getting two hits and walk in six trips to the plate.   Despite that .500 OBP, Krug was soon demoted back to the minors, permanently icing his proverbial cuppacoffee.  It's a tale as old as the game itself.

What I found odd about this whole situation was the lack of information about this player and, more in step with this blog, the lack of a cardboard footprint.  You see, by 1981, baseball cards were becoming a big business.  There were three companies producing Major League Baseball trading cards, while TCMA and friends were spitting sets out for minor league clubs up and down the ladder.  In short, there were plenty of cards being pumped into the market

Despite this foreshadowing of the junk wax era to come, Mr. Krug never appeared on a baseball card during his five-year professional career.  Not a single one.  Not a regional issue, not an obscure oddball, not a competitor trying to get a leg up on Topps... nothing whatsoever.  Heck, even his Baseball Reference profile features this image:

As a collector who has set out to try and acquire one card of every, single man to suit up for a franchise who's history dates back to the Reconstruction Era, this situation is a common occurrence in my pursuit.  However, I would expect this of a guy who had played in the silent movie era or during the World War II resource shortage, or during the time where Topps was literally the only game in town... not a guy who took the field in the 1980's.  Granted his Major League career was tragically short, but he is the only former Cub to lack ANY such representation since the decade of Reagan, the Brat Pack, and hair metal began.  What gives?

As you may have seen with my dogged determination to learn more about the mysterious Tom Walsh, I have a certain fascination with the unknown.  In a desperate plea, I took to the blogosphere, shouting out into the void, "where have you gone, Gene Krug?"  My long-shot hope was that I would either be able to find someone to politely correct and inform me that Krug did in fact appear on a card, or that they could forward me some information so that I might get his John Hancock on a signature card via TTM. After all, while not as appealing, the latter option would still be better than nothing.

But, seeing the blog was still in it's infancy, the post didn't generate many clicks and nothing came of it. Later that fall, I discovered that the Rookies App was a thing and, utilizing the only baseball image to appear when searching "Gene Krug" on Google, I whipped up a custom card of our hero on one of the application's pre-made templates.  Unfortunately, that image was black and white and showed Krug in his AAA Wichita Aeros threads instead of blue pinstripes.

Again, though not ideal, it was better than nothing.  And here is where the story or ended... or at least I thought it did.

Fast forward to last week, that long-forgotten post finally did what I hoped it would.  I received an out of the blue message from a young man who had the answer to my four-year old question!  The answer is, like America in the mid-19th century, Gene Krug headed west - Colorado, to be specific.

As it turns out, the person who contacted me, Brandon, is a high school baseball player in the Rocky Mountain State and his JV coach just so happens to be - you guessed it - Gene Krug!  I guess Brandon just happened to come across my ramblings while Googling his coach's name and took it upon himself to enlighten me.  Better still, he offered to put me in touch with his skipper and even ask him to sign a card for me.  It's a damn good thing that the guy who eventually found my post happened to be so generous!

However, there was one problem - I never purchased those signature cards and I only had one copy of that Rookies App custom.  Luckily, in the years since my initial foray into blogging, I've gained access to quality photo-editing and design software and my studies in college included graphic design.  Thus, I took it upon myself to whip up a card that never was, but should have been.

What you see here is Gene Krug via 1981 Topps, the year that he made the Show.  First, I re-created the fairly basic design and borrowed the cartoon hat and baseball logo from a high-res scan of an original.  Then, I set about the much more difficult task of colorizing that original Aeros photograph and converting those duds to the proper uniform... I mean, nothing against Wichita (Jack White seems pretty excited by going there), but a Major League card deserves Major League threads.  I ended up choosing the gloriously odd "pajama" uniforms because they just scream early 80's and I came across a usable sample.  After several hours, I ended up with the above custom and I'm pretty satisfied with the outcome.  It at least looks just as passable as any of your average airbrushing jobs of that time period!

Of course, with such an important task at hand, I did not half-ass this work; if a Major Leaguer is going to see my work, he's going to see my best work.  I made sure to whip up a proper back for the cards I would be sending Mr. Krug, as well:

However, when it came time to print this out, I had to ditch the faux-cardboard background.  While it fits the aesthetic, it's going to make printing and trimming an absolute nightmare.  Ideally, I would use a paper of similar coloring and tone, but my budget is quite limited.  Still, I'd day it apes the original quite effectively!

This truly was a joy to put together - how do you think it turned out?  Please feel free to make your opinion known in the comment section below.


As of this morning, my hot off the "presses" custom cards are in the mail, on their way to the land of the Stanley Hotel and legal weed, along with a letter introducing myself and explaining my project.  Fingers crossed that they cross the Rocky Mountains quickly and safely on their way to to my new pen pal.  Also, here's hoping that Mr. Krug gets a kick out of them and is willing to scribble his name on one of them for me and my Cubs All-Time Roster Collection.

If this exchange proves to be successful, this will be the fourth successful TTM in my history of collecting.  In the past, I'd never felt motivated to do the leg work required for TTM's; however, as my CATRC journey gets to the nitty gritty, I'm willing to do whatever it takes to fill that gap.  Krug is not the first person whom I took up the mantle of creating their "rookie" baseball card.  Although, the others all played in the majors many years before Krug, but I digress. 

These cameo Cubs from decades previous also lacked any presence on collectible cardboard, but were noted for their willingness to sign through the mail.  So, like with Gene, I took up the mantle and filled the vacuum with my creations* and sent them off.  The way I look at it, a custom card is one thing, but a custom card with a genuine signature adds some authenticity to the item.  Will Gene Krug be the next successful chapter in this slowly burgeoning project?  Only time will tell, but I feel quite confident with having Brandon on my side.

Like I said, the cards are in the mail and the gears are turning.  Be sure to stay tuned to Wrigley Roster Jenga for updates; I'm sure that you readers are sitting on the edge of your seat.

Well, the anticipation is killing me, anyway!


* In the case of Tony Balsamo, I took the lazy route and borrowed an already existing, card-like rendering off of the internet   ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Monday, April 23, 2018

Cub Debuts Come in Pairs

The Cubs have been dinged up quite a bit this year - we're not reaching disaster levels, but let's just say that the trainer's room has been quite busy in the season's early going.  So far, Anthony Rizzo's back, has already landed him on the disabled list once, further hampering an already inconsistent club and necessitating the call-up of journeyman, Efren Navarro.  Furthermore, over the weekend, a couple of additional injuries resulted in another pair of roster moves - Ben Zobrist's back has been barking and apparently Eddie Butler's hamstring has been tight.  Going into a series in Colorado with a short pitching staff or bench is never a good idea, so both were immediately transferred to the DL, although all signs point to minor issues.

Although I have a large stockpile of cards featuring Cubs prospects and recent minor league signings - set aside and ready to move into the CATRC -  the roster moves of 2018 have thwarted my best efforts at being prepared.  As with the Navarro move, both names called up to the Major League Cubs this weekend are entirely unrepresented in my collection - womp, womp

However, as shown off in my post about Navarro, I recently created a fully customizable Topps Now template, which I fully intend to use to create "cards" of these players in order to temporarily fill these newly opened gaps.

Utilityman, David Bote, went from organizational filler (18th rd, 2012 draft) to bonafide Major League prospect in the span of two years.  When Zobrist went on the disabled list, the only infielder on the 40-man available was Bote, who came up and promptly doubled in his maiden MLB plate appearance.  If that wasn't storybook enough for you, the young man just so happens to hail from the Rocky Mountain state and much of his family was in attendance for his bang-up debut.  Unfortunately, that was about the only highlight in what was the Cubs' only loss in that series, but those good vibes were hard to shake.

Not only is Bote completely absent from my collection, outside of minor league team issues, he is entirely unrepresented in the baseball card world.  As I alluded to, much of his professional career has been spent as an org guy - it wasn't until a breakout 2016 and a outstanding Fall League last year that Bote caught the attention of prospectors.  Coincidentally, his mainstream cardboard debut will occur in the upcoming Bowman checklist - how timely!

Now, Bote wasn't the only player to make his Cubs debut over the weekend; in fact, he wasn't even the first to be called-up.  That honor goes to the son of former Red Sox manager, John Farrell:

Luke Farrell rode the waiver-wire roller coaster over the winter before eventually clearing and being assigned to the AAA Iowa Cubs to start 2018.  Seen as intriguing starting pitching depth by Theo and crew, Luke's presence was needed far earlier than anticipated when the heavily-used Eddie Butler's hammy started barking.  Going into a series at Coor's Field without a long reliever would be a fool's errand, so the Cubs called upon their farm club's freshest starter, who just so happened to be Farrell.

The pitcher also made his debut in the same tilt as Bote, twirling a perfect inning with two strikeouts in the loss.  Despite his excellent showing, Getty Images apparently turned off their cameras by the time Farrell made his way onto the field; so, I was forced to pilfer an image from Spring Training for this custom Now single.

Unlike Bote, Farrell had some hype after his drafting and came with a marketable and familiar family tree.  As such, the moundsman has snuck into a couple of mainstream products - 2013 Panini Prizm Perennial Draft Picks and 2013 Panini Elite Extra Edition (auto).  They're not particularly attractive cards, but they'll get the job done for now.

So, if anyone has one of these super-duper shiny Farrell cards sitting in their trade stacks, I'd love to take them off of your hands!  Furthermore, if anyone pulls a Bote when they bust their Bowman orders on Wednesday, again, I'd be happy to swap.  In the interim, I am glad that I have these Now customs on hand.  I suppose I will continue to pump these out as other players make their North Side debuts throughout 2018 - there's bound to be more, after all.

Welcome to Chicago, David Bote and Luke Farrell!

Sunday, April 22, 2018


Today, another top prospect is graduating to the major leagues - Gleyber Torres is set to make his debut today and take over the second base position.  Accordingly, Yankee fans everywhere are rejoicing.  However, out in some alternative universe, it is Cubs fans that are celebrating this long anticipated roster move.  After all, the twenty-one year old middle infielder initially signed with the Cubs as an international free agent in 2013, for a $1.7 million signing bonus out of Venezuela and spent the next two and half years as the club's top prospect.

Then, in the lead up to their historic World Series run in 2016, it became apparent that the curse-busting club was one closer short of a complete roster.  A deal with the Evil Empire and the devil himself was consummated, swapping the long-term piece for a short-term,     in Aroldis Chapman.  You know the rest of the story - the Cubs rode Chapman's arm hard throughout the playoffs and (despite his hiccup with Rajai Davis in Game 7) if not for his presence, we might be talking about a 111-year drought for the Lovable Losers.

Setting all of those extenuating factors aside, would I rather have Torres than Chapman?  Absolutely, 100x yes!  Setting aside the fact that Torres has never repeatedly fired a gun into his garage and  scarred his loved one for life, Gleyber will be an all-around talent for years to come, while Aroldis was a Cub for a scant three months.  However, life does not occur in a vacuum (for that, my cats are quite thankful).  I have to keep reminding myself that the 2016 World Series Championship was absolutely worth it and I wouldn't dare to meddle with anything that might affect it's happening.

Coincidentally, another Yankee prospect with Cubs ties recently made his Major League debut, as well.  In fact, he was another prospect that was sacrificed at the altar of Brian Cashman in the name of winning October baseball games - Billy McKinney also swapped unis in the Torres/Chapman trade that summer.  At least Billy got to play at Wrigley Field as part of the Under Armor All-American Game before he was sent off to the Big Apple.

Shortly after the season began, the outfielder was called up to replace the injured Aaron Hicks, then promptly hurt himself while crashing into a wall just two games into his MLB career. Currently, he resides on the disabled list.

Anyway, the reason that I bring all of this up is that I'm just a tad bit jealous that these former Cubs prospects are making the ultimate ascent for a different club.  I truly wish I could be adding these cards to my Cubs All-Time Roster Collection, as we Cubs fans dreamed on their future for years.  Instead, they'll be sliding into my Coulda Been a Cub binder, which is made up of players whose rights were owned by Chicago, by never played in an MLB game for the team.

Also, also joining this Yankee pair is Christian Villanueva, whose turning the city of San Diego upside down in the early going of 2018.

Acquired as the second half of the Kyle Hendricks/Ryan Dempster trade, Villanueva eventually came to be blocked by a guy named Kris Bryant.  A broken leg suffered in the spring of 2016 further hindered his chances and Christian was allowed to walk as a free agent at the end of the year.  Signed by the Padres, he found a much clearer path to the Bigs and has not looked back since debuting at the tail end of last year.  In just 30 games, the 27-year old has posted an eye-popping .344/.410/.733 slash line with 10 home runs for the Friars.  Wowzer!

Again, I'm a little bummed that Christian is doing this for the Cubs and doesn't qualify for my CATRC; however, this is a first world problem if I've ever seen one.  Good for Christian for seizing his long awaited opportunity.

The moral of this story, which is illustrated by these three recent ascensions, is that I just wish that every Cubs prospect could make the majors in a Cubs uniform and then be considered a Cub forever.  I am self-aware enough to realize that this is a completely irrational and impossible wish, but nevertheless, that latent desire is there.  I am far too attached to prospects for my own good.

With that being acknowledged, I wish nothing but the best for Torres, McKinney, Villanueva, etc.  I truly do hope that they play for twenty years and make a case for Cooperstown.  And, hey, if they want to return to Chicago at some point during their long careers, that would be okay with me too...

Happy Gleyber Day, Yankee fans!

Friday, April 20, 2018

Blog Bat Around: My All-Autograph Team

This morning I was straining my brain, trying to come up with something to write about on the blog.  It's been a couple of days since I've banged out a post because the creative juices just have not been flowing lately.  Inspiration is a fickle mistress.  Then, Zippy Zappy, of Torren' Up Cards fame, zipped into my reading list with his very first Blog Bat Around topic and - boy oh boy - was it a good one.  This prompt obviously could not have come at a better time for me and as soon as I finished reading his kick-off post, I immediately started drafting my take on the topic.

That topic, by the way, is creating a personal "all-autograph team."

For those that are familiar with Zippy Zappy's writings (and if you're not, you should be), this point of inspiration shouldn't come as much of a surprise.  After all, the Internet's preeminent Luis Torrens collector may very well be the TTM king of the blogosphere.  With that in mind, the starting lineup that Zip created from his immense stash of autographed baseball cards was deep and talented; but, I did my best to create one of my own that could compete.  Full disclosure - my take is entirely based around the Cubs because, y'know...

The parameters include starting eight position players and the starting pitcher, plus two relievers, a DH/PH and a closer.  Furthermore, this roster can be constructed only with players of whom the collector possesses a John Hancock, be it on a trading card or any other piece of memorabilia.  With the guidelines set, I'd like to introduce you to my personal "All-Autograph Team:"

C - Randy Hundley

Honorable Mention(s) - Joe Girardi, Jeff Reed, Josh Paul, Robert Machado, Danny Breeden

I still don't know much about this Northwest Herald/Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce oddball that I found at a collector's convention in Kankakee a couple of years back; however, I do know that I could never pass up a five-dollar auto from "Iron Man" Randy Hundley.  The Cubs' signal caller caught 149 games or more for four straight years in the late-60's and was an All-Star with the infamous 1969 Cubs squad.

1B - Mark Grace

Honorable Mention(s) - None

"Amazing Grace," the hit-king of the 1990's was also a whiz with the glove, earning him three Gold Glove and All-Star selections.  That's a pretty tough resume to beat by itself, adding in the fact that "Gracie" happened to have been my favorite player growing up.  Therefore, this 2016 Archives pull was making this lineup no matter what.

2B - Todd Walker

Honorable Mention(s) - Cy Block, Eric Patterson, Bret Barberie, Zeke DeVoss

Okay - second base was obviously a weak link.  Of the four second basemen to have signatures in my binders, Todd Walker was the clear standout, with only Bret Barberie having had a drink stronger than a cuppacoffee.  Walker served as an above average, offensive keystone-minder for a few seasons with the disappointing, Dusty Baker-led teams of the mid-00's.  Plus, the red and blue design of this repack-pull reminds me of the iconic Wrigley Marquee.  That'll do, even if his penmanship is lacking.

SS - Billy Jurges

Honorable Mention(s) - Cody Ransom, Darryl Robertson

Full disclaimer - I can't be 100% sure that this signature is authentic.  I found it stashed in a discount box at one of my LCS for that very reason, though I was more than willing to take the risk.  Billy Jurges was still alive when this set came out and the handwriting looks similar to other known copies of his mark, but it's not authenticated.  Anyway, the Cubs shortstop might be most famous for providing some of the inspiration for Roy Hobbs, after being shot by a jilted lover; but, he was also a key contributor to three pennant-winners for the Northsiders in the 1930's.

3B - Ron Santo

Honorable Mention(s) - Kevin Orie, Brendan Harris

The first Hall of Famer on this lineup card and my absolute favorite professional athlete of all-time.  I don't think that the most underrated third baseman of all-time really needs an introduction at this point, but Ronnie was the bleeding heart and soul of the franchise, on the field and in the booth, for decades.  My most treasured piece of baseball ephemera was a generous gift from my health teacher in high school, who had a connection in Arizona and knew I was a huge Cubs fan.  Favorite teacher forever!

OF - Rafael Palmerio
OF - Jason Heyward
OF - Bill Buckner

Honorable Mention(s) - Austin Jackson, Felix Pie, Brett Jackson, Paul Schramka

As you can see, I had to get a little creative with the outfield.  Mark Grace nudged out Bill Buckner at first, but there was no way I was leaving this surprise gift from Bob Walk the Plank on the bench.  Buck's days chasing fly balls might have been mostly over by the time he blew into the Windy City, but he did play 12 games in right field for the 1980 Cubs.  Good enough for me!

Meanwhile, Raffy Palmeiro might have spent the great majority of his career at first base and DH; but, when he was coming up in the Cubs chain, Grace's presence shunted him into left field.  Again, I'll take any excuse to get his 500 homer/3,000 hit bat into the starting nine.  Thanks again, Dennis!

Last, but not least, Jason Heyward might not have lived up to expectations in Chicago, but he's still a World Champion and, apparently, a phenomenal motivational speaker.  Not to mention, with Raffy and Buck manning the corners, J-Hey's vacuum of a glove will be desperately needed in center.  Would you believe this ink came as a consolation prize from Collecting Cutch?

DH/PH - Rock Shoulders

Honorable Mention(s) - None

I suppose I could have bumped one of my slow-footed outfielders to the DH spot, but the drop-off after those three was drastic.  Plus, I'll take any excuse to get one of the best names in minor league baseball history into the fold!  With a name like Rock Shoulders, it should come as no surprise that this former Cubs prospect thrice posted double-digit home run totals in the bushes  He may not have made the ultimate ascent; however, he did make it into my lineup and collection, courtesy of P-Town Tom.

And now, with the offense set, let's take a look at the pitching staff.  It's a good one, if I do say so myself:

SP - Fergie Jenkins

Honorable Mention(s) - Mark Prior, Guy Bush, Steve Trout, Rich Hill, Angel Guzman, Jerome Williams, Dave Swartzbaugh

I could patch together a quality starting rotation out of my autograph collection and Ferguson Jenkins would unquestionably be my ace.  The 300 game winner is the second Hall of Famer on my roster and is the first autograph on this list to have been obtained in person.  I had the incredible luck of running into the man himself at the local shopping mall, making an appearance (with a partner) to promote Cubs charities.

LHP - Mitch Williams
RHP - Carl Edwards, Jr.

Honorable Mention(s) - Bob Howry, Mike Remlinger, Paul Assenmacher, Matt Karchner, Larry Casian, Bob Patterson, Neil Ramirez, Corey Black, Newt Kimball, Tony Balsamo, Footer Johnson, John Pyecha, Dick Burwell, Seth Frankoff, Lendy Castillo, Kennie Steenstra,

As you can see, I basically have an entire side-collection relievers to choose from.  In the end, I decided to go with one lefty and one righty - Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams and the man formerly known as CJ Edwards.  Things could get a little dicey at the end of games due to their noted control problems; however, their power arms are just too tempting to pass over.  Also, in case you were wondering, Mitch was a Listia find while that Carls Jr. beauty was another five-buck purchase from the same convention as my Randy Hundley oddity.

Finally, closing out wins for my all-autograph team will be:

CL - Lee Smith

Honorable Mention(s) - Mike Montgomery

Lee Smith SHOULD BE the third Hall of Famer on my roster.  For many years, Lee was the premier closer in the National League and, for many years, held the all-time saves record.  How he continues to be passed up by Hall of Fame voters while Sutter, Fingers, Hoffman, etc. get the call is beyond me.  Anyway, this dominating closer was Fergie's partner at the Orland Park mall function I alluded to earlier.  For a generous donation to both charities, I received autographs from both legendary Cubs hurlers.  I'll take that opportunity every time!

As far as honorable mentions go, how could I not give a shout out to the man who closed out the Cubs' first World Series title in 108 years?  MiMo might not really be a closer, but he'll always be remembered as one in Chicago!

So, there you have it - my all-autograph team.  I feel pretty confident that my squad would make for some stiff competition, courtesy of it's offensive potential and pitching staff.  Of course, that outfield defense might be a bit problematic.  At any rate, I think I did surprisingly well for a decidedly low-budget collector who rarely seeks out autographs! 

What say you?  I cannot wait to see what lineups the rest of you can generate.  I highly encourage you all to participate in Zippy Zappy's excellent Blog Bat Around debut.  It made for quite the fun little creative exercise. 

In conclusion, I think it's time for me to "sign" off.  I mean obviously my brain is tired... I just made that stupid pun.  Play me out, aptly-named, 80's hair metal band...

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Sundays at Goodwill

Have you ever been to a Goodwill on the weekend?  If so, you know that you were extremely fortunate to live through the ordeal and to tell the tale.

This past Sunday, my wife and I spent the morning thinning out our closets, cabinets, and junk drawers.  We considered it a cursory round of spring cleaning, despite the fact that the weather here in the Midwest is decidedly more Christmas-like.  Since we try not to be wasteful, we boxed up all of these lightly used articles of clothing, dishware, mugs, and odds & ends, loaded up our automobile, and hauled all of these donations to the local Goodwill.  Not only did this save us considerable clutter and keep this stuff out of the local landfill, but these donations are tax deductible AND it gives me the perfect excuse to go thrift shopping!

Okay, so maybe immediately going into a secondhand shop to buy more junk after de-cluttering the apartment slightly defeats the purpose.  I never claimed to be a logical creature.  Although, after fighting my way into and out of that Goodwill, I'm just happy to be a still living creature.

Weekends are generally a busy time for any sort of retail establishment - naturally, a great many people have those two days off, after all.  However, Saturdays and Sundays at Goodwill are an entirely different, apocalyptic, lawless wasteland.  Within minutes of opening, store displays are rifled through and torn beyond all recognition, children are running everywhere, checkout lines wind into the aisle-ways, and people are urinating in the changing room.  I'm not even kidding with that last bit, my wife worked for GW for two years and this happens more than any civilized human being should expect.

This Sunday afternoon was no exception, although to my knowledge, the only thing pissy was the mood of my fellow, close-quartered patrons.  For instance, above you can see what was left of the toy racks, which had become some unsupervised kid's unofficial playroom.  No matter, I still pressed on, as I pull of undiscovered treasures was too great to resist.

What a minute - enhance that image!  I spy trading cards among that mess of Fisher Price, Hot Wheels, and carnage:

Not only were they trading cards, they were Sports Illustrated for Kids oddballs from the 1990's.  I'd hit paydirt!  Just underneath them was a full, unopened pack of cards, as well; but, that foil envelope was for Orange County Choppers or some other such nonsense that holds no appeal to me.  Sporting-based oddballs, however, that's much more my speed!

Speaking of speed, that pile (headed by NFL Hall of Famer, Tony Dorsett) even included a new runner for my burgeoning collection of track & field/cross country/marathon runners; the multi-sport SI for Kids panels are a constant source for these rarely shown on cardboard athletes.

Edwin Moses took home gold medals in the 400 meter hurdles at the 1976 and 1984 Olympics and set the world record in the event four times throughout his career.  Speaking as someone who still thanks the heavens for cancelling the one meet I was scheduled to hurdle, that's incredibly impressive!  Along with Mr. Moses, we have Mike Schmidt, a man who I'm sure requires no introduction on this (mostly) baseball blog.

According to my research, before they ended up in the Orland Park Goodwill disaster zone, these cards were included in perforated panels in a 1997 edition of SI for Kids.  Unlike their normal in-magazine premiums, these "Legends" cards are over-sized with dimensions similar to that of you average police set.  That is about all I could dig up on these bad boys; I do not know what specific issue they were included with, who else was part of this set, or what dictated their choice of sporting legends.

Throwing me for another curve was this extremely similar, collation of  "Leader" cards included in the stack.   Featuring a green border instead of the muted grey found on their brethren, these pasteboards are otherwise identical in design and dimension and highlight athletes who hold the all-time lead in significant statistical categories.  For instance, Rickey Henderson makes the checklist for his all-time stolen base title, while "Hammerin' Hank" was still history's home run king at the time of publication in 1997.

Sidenote - nice touch by SI to actually use an image from Aaron's record-breaking blast.

Also found in the stack was my favorite card of the bunch, which kicked off this post.  Here's another look at the then all-time saves king, Lee Smith.  Even though he's shown with the Cardinals here (and was an Expo when this went to press), he's shown at beautiful Wrigley Field and the emerald borders of the card mesh perfectly with the lush, ivy-covered walls of the Friendly Confines.  Plus, any new card I can add of the former Cubs closer and should-be Hall of Famer is a win in my book.

As you can see in the scans, much like the state of the Goodwill store space itself, these cards were a little bit worse for ware.  There's significant paper loss, probably from the initial separation of the panel(s) by an eager child of the 90's.  Furthermore, since they were found loose and unprotected on the chaotic store shelves, the edges and the corners are anything but crisp.  Even still, having never even seen these oddities before, there was no way that I would be leaving them behind.  So, despite the goal of the day being to rid ourselves of as much junk as possible, I couldn't help but bring a little bit more into our home.  I'm sure my wife was thrilled.

Does anyone have any further information about these "Legends" and "Leaders?"  Were they part of the same issue of SI for Kids or separate?  Why are they bigger than your standard issue SI4K card?  Was there a special reason that this issue or issues included cards of leaders and legends rather than their typical smattering of current athletes across sports?  If you know the answers to any of these questions, please feel free to enlighten me in the comment section below!

Also, is anyone else's local Goodwill anarchistic on the weekend, or is that just out here?  I feel lucky to have gotten out of there in one piece!

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Great Garage Sale Discovery

For the first time in weeks - perhaps since the beginning of 2018 - the wife and I had ourselves a free weekend.  No family get-togethers, no friendly shindigs, no extra work commitments, no surprise apartment fumigation (yes, that's happened this year)... nothing, glorious nothing.  With such a wide open itinerary, naturally, we took advantage of this unfamiliar situation and enjoyed doing absolutely nothing.  I must say, it was quite nice not trying to hurriedly pack up our Kia or frantically shop for a last minute birthday gift, for once.

During this downtime, I was able to sit down at the coffee table, grab a cool beverage, and flip through my Cubs All-Time Roster Collection binder for the first time in months.  It's my favorite cardboard endeavor, the linchpin of this entire blog; however, the behemoth requires a significant amount of free time to page through.  Thus, I was kind of excited to dust off the cover of my marquee, six-inch three-ring.

While idly flipping through these Ultra-Pro pages, I noticed something about this collection that hadn't registered with me in a long time and had gone pretty much entirely undiscussed here on Wrigley Roster Jenga.  This story involves one of my greatest garage sale finds of all-time, an oddball set of trading cards, and flashback to more than a decade ago:

Sometime in the middle part of the previous decade, I was a broke teenager, sans job, who was just launching his CATRC project - the 2003 "Why Not Us?" Cubs had recently re-ignited my passion for our nation's pastime and it's trading cards.  While I did pop into my LCS on occasion, it was during these cash-strapped days that I began mining thrift shops, flea markets, and garage sales for good deals on previously discarded cardboard.

Unsurprisingly, with my previous collecting period having occurred during the tail end of the overproduction era, my pasteboard holdings focused heavily on the 80's and 90's, while new acquisitions began to fill in gaps with the current club.  Vintage cards from the 60's and 70's were well out of my minuscule price range and were never seen outside of the sliding-glass display cabinets of the card shop and players from before that might as well have been ancient relics from Mesopotamia.  In short, nearly three-quarters of the history of my favorite franchise was almost non-existent in my then much smaller binder.

That is, until one glorious Saturday morning.

As I've mentioned on this blog before, my favorite local tradition is our village's annual Garage Sale Day, where residents are invited to lay their wares out for sale in their driveway or lawn without need of a permit.  Since the days of my chasing Beanie Babies in the 90's, I've never missed this Saturday morning festivity and, honestly, it's one of my favorite days of the entire year.  You just never know what you're going to find... maybe there'll be a giant Red Bull cooler, or a super cheap Keith Magnuson autograph,  or a long sought after LP... it's a community-wide treasure hunt!  During one such quest, circa 2005, I happened upon the box you see above.

I might not remember the exact year, but it was at a house on Lawndale Avenue that, hidden among the strewn about junk, I happened upon a complete, reprinted box set of the 1951 Bowman checklist.  I couldn't grab that sucker off of the folding table fast enough.

Back in the late-80's, a company known as Card Collectors Company jumped into the burgeoning baseball card market by reproducing iconic sets of decades previous.  Colloquially referred to as CCC for short, the group recreated highly-priced and treasured tobacco/bubblegum cards for collectors on a budget, including '51 Bowman in 1988.  Fast forward a little bit to 2005-ish and I was a collector on an extremely tight budget, whose blossoming collection of all-time Cubs contained a massive vintage blackhole.  In short, this set was basically meant for me!

If I recall correctly, this bad boy only set me back about five dollars, as well; the seller appeared to have once been a big investor in the trading card boom and was looking to rid himself of the clutter.  Although created as a cheap alternative to real, super vintage, these reprint sets still often change hands for upwards of thirty bucks and are rarely broken up into affordable singles.  Thus, this was an absolute steal of a deal on product already designed for those with light wallets.

Thankfully, this discovery came near the end of the garage sale tour because I recall fighting the urge to immediately dig into the contents of the box.  Surely it was going to be a significant boon to my burgeoning Cubs All-Time Roster Collection.

Not only were my lofty expectations met, they were far exceeded!  From just one transaction that cost me nothing more than a meager Abraham Lincoln banknote, I added what had to be nearly fifty new names to my All-Time Roster tome.  In just one purchase, the decade of Elvis Presley and Sputnik went from nearly completely absent to more than halfway complete.  I don't have any recorded statistics to back this claim up; but, this has to have been the greatest one-time addition to my CATRC throughout it's existence.

This massive boost was aided by not only the Cubs team set - as showcased by Bill Serena, Wayne Terwilliger, and all those shown previously - but also by Cubs of a different color.  By that, I mean future/former Cubs shown in other uniforms.

After all, since day one of this project, I've accepted such cards as placeholders until a properly-attired card can be acquired.  Furthermore, in many cases, several such players never received a genuine Cubs card or only super duper rare regional issues; so, in the interest of completion, I welcome the colors of other clubs to this very day.

During the ensuing decade and a half, many of these cards have since been upgraded in my collection by actual vintage or by cards printed in the more traditional, standard size.  I must admit, though I would never have turned down this find, I do have an inherent bias against mini cards, be it modern Allen & Ginter or authentic Bowman dimensions.  Even still, a hefty amount of these CCC reprints still rest comfortably in my CATRC accumulation, including all of the cards featured in this post.


All of these years later, a total of 18 Card Collectors Company recreations are still included in my marquee collection.  Even if that total represented my initial acquisition, that would still divide out to just over 25-cents per card, an investment which I would easily pull the trigger on right now.

Sadly, this isn't an entirely happy story.  While I have no qualms about breaking up the set, I no longer have the fancy-pantsy box that originally stored the brick of cardboard (I lifted that image from Ebay, in all honesty).  As a matter of fact, I no longer have ANY of the cards which lacked a connection to the North Side franchise.  After initially sorting through my Garage Sale Day bounty, in a short-sighted move  I re-packaged all of the non-Cubs into that box and immediately tossed them in the trash.  Hell, I didn't even use the damn recycling bin.  All of that glorious cardboard, wasted to the great landfill of time.

What a nitwit!  At the very least, they would have been fun to include in various trade packages; of course, this was well before I had any communication whatsoever with other collectors. 

Oh well, how typical of your average American teenager.  At least I was able to hang onto to all of the rest of these oddballs!

All in all, I think I can say, unequivocally, that this box of 1988 CCC '51 Bowman reprints was my greatest Garage Sale Day find of all-time.  This five-dollar purchase from 2005 (or thereabouts) continues to provide a significant contribution to my Cubs All-Time Roster Collection here in 2018.  With that in mind, I know I can't be the only cardboard collector on the blogosphere who has an unbridled love for garage sales.  So, I have to ask, what is the best secondhand discovery that you've ever come across at such an event?  Please feel free to share in the comment section below.

In the meantime, my lazy weekend has officially run out - it's now Monday morning and it's time for work.  And if that wasn't joyous enough, we have a coating of snow to go with the beginning of the work week dread.  Thank goodness I was able to unwind with my big ol' binder this weekend!