Tuesday, January 9, 2018

California Dreamin'

As I look outside my window, all I can see is that the entire courtyard of my apartment complex is blanketed with several inches of snow.  To make matters worse, the foreboding gray skies threaten to coat another thick layer of the white stuff on the already harsh winter landscape.  As the thermostat plunges to temperatures under zero, I'm reminded that if I run my errands today, I'll have to start my 1997 Chevy Trailblazer at least ten minutes before I leave and blast the heat, lest my hands freeze to the cold, vinyl steering wheel.  Of course, that's if the antique automobile even starts at all, struggling to turn over in the Chiberian weather.

If you can't tell, I'm pretty much over winter.  Once the whimsy and magic of the holidays is over, the countdown to the days of being able to take my trash out without having to wrap up my face like a mummy, aka spring.  Like most of my mid-western brethren, I am longing for warmer days... days full of sunshine and baseball.

With that in mind, perhaps it was because of these subconscious desires that I pulled the trigger on my first addition to the Cubs All-Time Roster Collection binder in 2018:

California baseball, baby!  Doesn't that sound fantastic right about now?

This brightly-colored, vintage oddball hails from the 1952 edition of Mother's Cookies set revolving around the original iteration of the Pacific Coast League.  The west coast-based bakery distributed this regional premium with packages of their famous cookies; you might recognize their name from their SGA promos in the late 90's, but their ties with pro baseball go way, way back.  Speaking of going "back"...

Here's a look at the reverse of the '52 cards.  As you can see, the layout is very "bare bones," with just the previous years most basic stats and an advertisement for a grab bag of postage stamps.  But, we're not interested in stamps right now; so, let's get back to the cards.

In 1952-53, Mother's documented the players of the popular, west coast-based league.  In those days, the PCL was a classified as a AAA league, but it's standard of play was thought to nearly rival that of the Major Leagues, luring many players with Big League credentials to sunny California.  Many of these players made their only cardboard appearance on the 2-3/16" x 3-1/2" pasteboards, making the twice-issued set an important source for obscure future/former Cubs.  Richie Myers makes the fourth MC to make it into my marquee binder, with at least one more target left to acquire.

Next on the list - Bill Moisan!

These cards remain popular with collector's today, due to their fun colors and lasting nostalgia for the league which had Major League aspirations.  Combined with their age and relative scarcity, this can make singles from the checklists somewhat pricey.  Thus, when I came across this bad boy with a $& shipped price tag, I jumped at the chance to add Richie to my collection.  Some significant creases are what brought it down into my price range; that said, those "imperfections" don't bother me.  After all, I think I'll have a few more creases when I reach 66 years of age!

Anyway, that's the basic story behind the card itself; now, let's shift gears and focus on the player depicted on my newest CATRC inductee - Richie Myers.

Richie and his teammates with the 1954 Sacramento Solons.  Image courtesy of William B. Shubb

Richie Myers was born in Sacramento, California in 1930.  The boy dreamed of suiting up for his hometown club, as he starred on the sandlots, in school and recreation leagues, and playing American Legion ball.  Remember, this is well before the Dodgers and the Giants began Major League Baseball's much-ballyhooed westward expansion in the mid-1950's. The Cali kid grew up emulating his heroes from the local Sacramento Solons, of the original Pacific Coast League. Clubs like the Solons, Hollywood Stars, Los Angeles Angels, and the San Francisco Seals drew massive crowds and cultivated loyal fan-bases - in fact, part of the reason that the MLB eventually went all manifest destiny was due to the popularity of it's west coast rivals.

Thus, barely a month after graduating from nearby Elk Grove High School, located in the Sacramento Valley, young Richie jumped at the chance to sign with his hometown heroes when they offered him a lucrative $1,000 signing bonus in the spring of 1948.

 Somewhere nearby, Myers watched as Edmonds Field burned to the ground in 1948.  Image courtesy of Rebecca Winter.

Although, his career did get off to an inauspicious start.  Just hours after playing in his third game, he stood with fans, dumbfounded, and watched as a huge fire leveled the wooden grandstands of his home park.  Nevertheless, after watching his career nearly go up in flames (literally) before it began, Myers would spend seven of the next nine seasons at shortstop with the Solons, living his childhood dream with great success.

Richie was, at best, average at the dish, as his career .261 batting average and .368 slugging percentage in the minors will attest.  However, it was his glove that kept him in the everyday lineup.  According to Solons historian, Alan O'Connor, his speed and a strong throwing arm made him "one of the top glovemen in the league."  It was the former of these two tools that facilitated Myers' ultimate ascent; while playing for Sacramento was a dream come true, I think it's safe to assume that all ballplayers endeavor to eventually reach the Majors

 The other two major pieces involved in this trade are already repped within my CATRC.

In September of 1955, the Cubs came-a-calling.  In making a trade with the Solons, their main target was live-armed pitching prospect, Johnny Briggs - to sweeten the pot, Sacramento also included their longtime shortstop, in exchange for Bubba Church and Joe Stanka.  Unfortunately for Richie, the Cubbies already had a young shortstop who had been tearing up the National League for two years, a guy by the name of Ernie Banks.  With his position on the diamond already comfortably filled going into 1956, it was going to be tough to crack the Opening Day roster in Chicago.

That said, the roster rules of the day were considerably different than they are today.  Prior to 1957, MLB clubs could carry as many as forty men during the first few weeks and last few weeks of the season, with the roster being pared down to 25 during the meat of the schedule.  It was these expanded regulations which allowed Richie Myers to make his Major League debut with the Lovable Losers in 1956, not as a shortstop, but as a pinch-runner.  In the end, Myers never donned a glove during his cuppacoffee, but he did make three appearances on the basepaths (one run scored) and took one at-bat (groundout to shortstop, appropriately enough) before the roster was trimmed down to it's normal length.

 The only photo I could find of Myers in Cubs garb.  Image courtesy of Kevin Baskin.

At just 26 years of age, that marked the beginning and end of Richie's Major League career.  Upon being cut, he returned to his roots - the Cubs sent him to their own PCL affiliate, the LA Angels, to man the middle of the infield.  The 1956 Angels were a legendary and popular squad, which would go on to win 107 games and the penultimate pennant of the original PCL.  Unfortunately, either injury or ineffectiveness limited Myers' AAA season to just 15 games with an anemic .111 batting average, which led to the hanging up of his spikes at the conclusion of the campaign.  At least he was able to to go out as a champion and as a bonafide Big Leaguer!

Following his retirement, Myers went back home and worked for the city of Sacramento as a street maintenance supervisor, never missing an opportunity to attend a ballgame.  "I still get goose bumps when I attend a professional game. And I still get an itch to play around spring training time," said Myers in one of his final interviews.  Always a generous and affable fellow,  Richie made sure to keep in touch with his old teammates and made many public appearances to sign autographs for fans, right up until his death, after complications suffered from a fall, in 2011.  He was 81 years old.

Thus concludes the tale of Richie Myers:  boyhood dream-liver, Sacramento star, cameo Cub, and PCL champion.

Richie's path to the Bigs was blocked by a "fairly decent" player.

After essentially crawling to work through a freezing rain-induced fog and very nearly ringing my bell due to a bout with black ice upon arrival, typing this California-centric blog post has me dreaming about warmer days.  A lengthy escape to the 31st state is sounding positively phenomenal right about now.  That said, I suppose that Richie Myers' Sacramento Solons baseball card, made by way of Oakland's Mother's Cookies, is as close as I can get to the sunshine and heat found in the Golden State.  Although, rumor has it that Illinois temps are going to be in the fifties by the end of the week, so that should help improve my Grinchy mood.

With that in mind, I'll accept this consolation prize... for now.  Welcome to the CATRC, Richie Myers!

Also - buzz off, Jack Frost!

Friday, January 5, 2018

What Coulda Been on Catalina

More than three years ago, during the earliest days of Wrigley Roster Jenga, I purchased a heavily discounted box of Conlon Collection from one of my local card shops.  For somewhere around ten bucks, I was able to gleefully tear through 36 packs of the 1992 edition of the black and white set and add several new-to-me, short-term Chicago players to Cubs All-Time Roster Collection.  All in all, it was easily one of my favorite pack ripping experiences in my collecting life; in fact, it was only one of two occasions, that I can recall, where I did not immediately regret spending my hard earned money on a full box of cardboard.

Of course, it doesn't hurt that Conlon might be my favorite baseball card set ever to come off of the presses.  As a wide-eyed student of our national pastime's history and accumulator of the obscure, it doesn't really get much better than the early-90's checklists based around the photography of Charles Conlon.

Anyway, a few nights ago, I spent a few minutes of downtime flipping through the remnants of that long-since rifled through box that still sits on the shelving unit underneath my computer desk.  It was during that idle reminiscing that I re-discovered a card which would prove to be a fine addition to one of my side-collections.  Hell, if history had played out a little differently, it would have been a fine addition to my MAIN collection.

Lefty O'Doul - one of the greatest stars in baseball history who is not in the Hall of Fame.

The live-armed southpaw came up to the Bigs in the early 20's and showed some promise on the mound with the Yankees and the Red Sox before blowing out his arm.  In those pre-TJ surgery days, Lefty did the only thing he could do to extend his career in the game - convert to the outfield.  After several years of proving himself to be a capable hitter in the bushes, O'Doul made his grand return to the Show in 1928, winning the National League batting title with an astounding .398 mark in his second year back.  For the next seven years, he starred for the Giants, Phillies, Dodgers, and the Giants again, posting the highest career batting average for someone without a plaque in Cooperstown .349).

Since he was already 31 by the time he re-emerged from the minors, the brevity of his second wind has kept him from enshrinement.  Even still, there's no doubt that this original Rick Ankiel was one of the greatest hitters of his generation.... and, had things shaken out a tad bit differently, he could have done it all with the Cubs.

That's right, the pre-Lovable Loser Era Cubs had every chance in the world to re-launch the career of the great Lefty O'Doul.  I had been previously unaware of this massive oversight and if it wasn't for the page-turning book, The Cubs on Catalina, by Jim Vitti, I may have never learned about it.  Actually, maybe that wouldn't be such a bad thing...

The Cubs and Catalina Island have a long and storied history together.  For about 30 years, the Chicago National League ballclub would pack up their bags, hop a train, grab a trolley, and float on a boat all the way to the tiny, rocky island off of the southwest coast of California, which just so happened to be owned by the Wrigley family.  While it might be better remembered today for it's infamous wine mixer, it's legacy comes as the Spring Training home of the Chicago Cubs, from the 1920's through the early 50's.  It was here that hope first sprung eternal.

In 2003, Sporting News and SABR Award-winning author, Jim Vitti, published the book you see above which to preserve this unique portion of baseball history by interviewing the local islanders and the surviving players who trained at the tiny island habitat, as well as compiling photographs.  Fourteen years later, I was gifted this same tome of knowledge by my father-in-law for Christmas and I've hardly been able to put it down since.

The capers recorded in these pages are certainly worthy of preservation - i.e., the time Ronald Reagan got into a bar fight with a bunch of Chicago sportswriters, the story behind "Snipe" Hansen earning his mocking nickname, or how rookies would lose hours of their life trying to find the bowling alley on a steamship... there's certainly no lack of material.  It was while reading one of these tales that I was surprised to see the name of Lefty O'Doul come up.  What in the world did this near-HOF'er have to do with my Cubs?

Before politics, before acting, he was a Cubs broadcaster.

As I mentioned, after lefty's arm had flamed out in 1923, the ballplayer returned to the minor leagues to convert himself into a full-time position player.  After two seasons of thrilling Pacific Coast League fans in Salt Lake City with batting averages approaching the hallowed .400 mark, William Wrigley was sufficiently impressed with O'Doul's rejuvenation to buy his contract from the Bees, at the hefty cost of $50,000.  Going into the 1926 season, the reclamation project was brought to camp on Wrigley's island with Wrigley's ballclub and given every opportunity to work his way onto the Opening Day roster.  Sadly, it wasn't meant to be.

No records exist of his performance in camp that spring, although we know the end result.  The new skipper, Joe McCarthy, was looking to put his stamp on the organization and was uninterested in the has-been.  As first baseman, Charlie Grimm, recounted years later, "Marse Joe, sad to relate, made a monumental mistake that spring" in cutting O'Doul.  Well, "Jolly Cholly" wasn't wrong.

Four Hall of Famers?  That's a pretty decent middle of the order...

After two more years of paying his dues in the PCL, Lefty came back up in 1928 and hit the ground running.  In 1929, the Cubs made their way to the World Series against the Athletics with a lineup that included Gabby Hartnett, Hack Wilson, Rogers Hornsby, Kiki Cuyler, and more. Simultaneously, O'Doul was a Phillie with a .398/.465/.622 slash, winning a batting title and bashing 32 home runs along the way.  Can you imagine how much scarier that Cubs lineup would have looked with prime O'Doul in the outfield?  Forget "Murderer's Row!"  Maybe the North Siders wouldn't have choked away the World Series win that October had they hung onto the batting champion...

From there, all Lefty did was hit .300 for five straight years, win a second batting title in 1932 (.368), and  go to an All-Star game before age caught up to him.  Then, he returned to the PCL to win 2,000 games in the as a manager, and also served as an early ambassador for the game in Japan.  What a career!

According to Cubs historian, Warren Brown," Later on, when O'Doul broke back into the National League and either led it in hitting or caused damage to some Cubs pitching hopes, Wrigley would sigh:  'Oh, that O'Doul... my O'Doul!'"  The chewing gum magnate must have uttered that phrase a lot, as his "one that got away" smacked Cubs pitching around, to the tune of a .324 career batting average against.

Mr. Wrigley looks happier here than when Lefty would come to bat.

And so, that's the story of how one of the greatest hitters yet to be enshrined in Cooperstown almost became a Chicago Cub.  The sprawling history of the franchise once tagged as "Lovable Losers" is littered with such oversights and/or regrettable decisions - Lou Brock, Greg Maddux, Josh Donaldson, etc. come to mind.  Though, to be fair, any club as old as the Cubbies is going to make a lot of mistakes.  At least Brock and Maddux had the opportunity to showcase some of their talent in Chicago; meanwhile, the latter of which, like Lefty, never suited up in a Major League Cubs uniform.  It is around such situations that I've been building a small side-collection - my "Coulda Been a Cub" binder.

The "Coulda Been a Cub" collection is based around players who's rights were once owned by the Chicago Cubs and who eventually saw time in the Major Leagues.  The caveat is that none of their MLB service time was actually accrued with the club in question.  These men were simply a phone call away from the Wrigley roster - training camp cuts, minor league free-agents, trade flips, Rule 5 selections, etc. - but things just didn't work out.  It is in this three-ring holder that I'll be storing my re-discovered Lefty O'Doul Conlon card - he'll keep Donaldson, Scipio Spinks, Josh Hamilton, Ray Jablonski, Jon Garland, Jim Dwyer, and friends (like the ones below) company.

 Hideo Nomo started 3 games for the Iowa Cubs in '99 and Shingo Takatsu was invited to Spring Training in '08, long after the team left Catalina for Arizona.

Meanwhile, somewhere out there in the vast multiverse, is an alternate reality in which Joe McCarthy did not pre-judge the hero of this post and recognized the potential in the former moundsman.  In this dimension, Lefty broke camp with the Cubs in 1926 and led the squad to a World Series victory in 1929.  In this plane, this 1992 Conlon Collection baseball card doesn't look like this:

It looks like this:

And I bet that Lefty would have totally nailed the Catalina f*cking Wine Mixer too!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Reed Receipt

Does anyone else hate the "read receipt" feature on their respective smartphone?  As a terrible texter, it's truly not in my best interest that people know when I originally see their text messages.  I'm guilty as sin for quickly opening a received message - often times, simply to clear the notification - and then setting my phone back down while I contemplate a response.  Then, because I'm as easily distracted as a toddler by the jangling of car keys, I'll start to do the dishes or clean the bathroom or vacuum the carpet or knit a sweater or any number of things and completely forget about the communication.  It's not until several hours later that I suddenly have that panicked realization and hastily bang out a heavily auto-corrected response, all the while my erstwhile friend or family member thinks incessantly about how rude I am for giving them the runaround.  At least, that's what this insecure blogger fears.

Therefore, I tend to leave that tattling feature toggled off - it's just better that everybody doesn't think I'm willfully ignoring them all the time.  I'd rather that they think that I just don't have my device with me,  or I'm unable to come to the phone, or that I've been devoured by wildebeests.  It's for the best.

However, as much as I dislike "read receipts," I'm about to incriminate myself with one right now.  Well, in this instance, it's actually a "Reed receipt:"

That's right, this was all an elaborate (yet truthful) set-up for a downright awful, eye-roll inducing pun.  Soak it in - that's the kind of content that Wrigley Roster Jenga has come to be known for.

This post is being drafted to simultaneously thank Jason, of Hoarding Cardboard (one of the best new blogs of 2017, btw), and let him know that I received the autographed 1998 Topps Jeff Reed single that he recently sent my direction - hence, "Reed receipt."  In a rare stroke of luck, I happened to win my choice from a group of John Hancock-graced pasteboards in one of the rookie writer's generous "A Season of Giving" giveaways, held throughout the month of December.  It arrived in my mailbox on Tuesday, was documented in my collection on Wednesday, and I'm letting him know on Thursday.  All in all, that's a pretty quick turnaround... by my standards.

Hang on, Tony - why would you, a noted Cubs fanatic, choose an signed copy of a unassuming Rockies card from one of the most-disliked Topps sets of all-time?  Well, hypothetical reader, please allow me to explain.

Embed from Getty Images
Reed makes the play at the plate, tagging out San Diego's Adam Eaton (the OG one) on 8/6/00.

You see, Jeff Reed was one of your stereotypical, nomadic back-up catchers.  During his lengthy 17-year career in the Bigs, only four times did he get on the turf for more than 100 games, suiting up for five teams along the way.  Those teams whose jerseys Reed donned from 1984-00 were the Twins, Expos, Reds, Rockies, and... you guessed it... the Chicago Cubs, the latter of which he closed out his Major League tenure with.  In 1999 and 2000, the gruff veteran served as defensively-minded support to starters Benito Santiago and Joe Girardi (who he also played second fiddle to in Denver).

That said, most of the glory in Jeff's playing days was had with the Cincy squad - catching Tom Browning's perfect game in 1988 and winning a World Series ring in 1990, for instance.  Nevertheless, a Cub is a Cub and anytime I can add an autographed card of a Cub, even if they're sporting the colors of a National League rival rather than that perfect shade of blue, I'm going to jump at that chance.  This time, I just so happened to land the jump!

The guys that Jeff Reed played behind in Chicago.

But, wait!  There's more!

As an added bonus, Jeff Reed is a pretty big name in the Chicagoland area for another reason... in all actuality, probably more so than his relatively forgettable stint playing for the North Siders (.236/.329/.322 slash).  Notably, the Joliet, IL native was a local product, one who eventually got to play for one of his hometown, MLB clubs.  Born and raised in the prison town, Reed honed his skills on the diamond of Joliet West High School (on who's track I closed out my High School track & cross country career) before being selected as a first round draft pick of the Twins - 12th overall - in 1980.

As someone who lived in that South Side haven, off and on, for many years, as well as attending and graduating college from one of the local universities, I have a strong attachment to Joliet.  It's a second hometown to me and, thus, any of the 20 bonafide Big Leaguers who hail from that locale are extra special, in my book.  Plus, my actual hometown has never produced such a notable athlete.

Oh - and one more thing, I'm pretty sure that, having officially swapped this piece of penmanship into my Cubs All-Time Roster Collection (replacing the 1992 Fleer Ultra you see above), it's the only card from the 1998 Topps Flagship checklist to make it into that exclusive binder.  Variety is the spice of life - gotta change it up a little bit!

So, there you have the reasons why I elected to toss my hat in the ring for that particular slip of cardboard.  In summation, Jeff Reed is a former Cub, a literal hometown hero, and appearing in a set which is severely under-repped in my most cherished collection.  It all makes sense now, doesn't it?

Sure, Reed has a few Cubbie cards on the market which could potentially displace my trophy sometime down the road; as the old saying goes, that's a bridge that I'll cross when I arrive there.

Either his '00 MLB Showdown or '00 Team Issue could complicate matters.  But, that would be a good problem.

Jason, it may have taken me three days to finally get around to acknowledging your kind correspondence (not too dissimilar from the snail's pace of an average Tony Burbs text exchange), but your envelope arrived safely and soundly and has been happily absorbed into my card collection.  Thank you for holding these wonderful Yuletide giveaways, your abundant generosity, and your attention to detail which comes through in every post found on Hoarding Cardboard.

Speaking of attentiveness, come to think of it, I'm not sure I ever responded to that text that come through from my friend as I sat down to blog...  I should probably log off and get to that before something shiny draws me away again.  Good thing I have read receipts disabled or I'd certainly have one less amigo.

It happens though, right?  I should really stop "Reed-ing" so much into it.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Man of Mystery No More

On New Years Day, I kicked off 2018 by musing about one of the most mysterious men to ever don the Chicago Cubs uniform... maybe even the uniform of any Major League club.  To recap, a man by the name of Tom Walsh appeared in two games during the late summer months of 1906, while the Cubbies were on their way to a still-standing, single-season record 116 victories.  The strange thing about the cameo Cub was that, before or after his cuppacoffee, Mr. Walsh never appeared in another professional contest... not in the majors, not in the minors, not in the independents.  Nothing.  Where did he come from, where did he go?  Where did he come from, Thomas Walsh?

During my winter break research, the internet wasn't too helpful.  The various online databases didn't have any info on the mysterious ballplayer, other than his vitals, nor did they have contemporary box scores from the early 20th century.  Further complicating matters was that the archives of the Chicago Tribune are behind a paywall and, obsessive as I am, I wasn't willing to drop the dinero.  I was hoping to be able to clarify the circumstances behind Walsh's odd career, but no dice.

However, there was a guardian angel perched on my shoulder and I didn't even know it.  As the picture which leads off the post might indicate, I was able to eventually get my eyes on newspapers from that historic 1906 season.  No, I didn't open my wallet (that's still quite light thanks to holiday shopping) - Peter (from Baseball Every Night) did some digging on my behalf and without prompt.  What a guy!

Using a web service that I had previously been unaware of, Newspapers.com, Peter was able to find several contemporary articles, from the Chicago Daily News, that shed some light on the man of mystery known as Tom Walsh.  For instance, the paper ran profiles of all the World Series bound Cubs on October 7th (seen, in full, above) in the lead up to the big Crosstown Clash.  Despite only playing in two official games, none of which were WS tilts, Walsh got a brief write-up:

They sure were fascinated by the marital status of baseballers in those days, huh?  At any rate, the St. Mary's College alumni never appeared in a pro game before his Cubs career because he signed almost straight out of school.  You don't see this sort of thing very often in the modern days; but, back when the minor leagues were their own entities and not just a farm system for the Bigs, it wasn't such a rarity.  

So, Walsh went pro that July and rode the bench as an understudy to main catchers, Johnny Kling and Pat Moran.  Although, he did appear in a handful of exhibition games along the way, while he developed his skills, as this recap of a contest against Providence indicates.  Heck, his appearance actually made the subtitle:

After that pro debut, Tommy would see action in at least two more exhibitions against minor league clubs.  Eventually, the rube would get his chance to perform in bonafide, National League action.  In both instances, as I originally posited, he came in during blowouts to relieve the starter behind the dish.  His maiden voyage occurred on August 15th:

Although, that first laugher almost became a disaster and it looks as though at least one writer thought that the green Walsh might have had a role in that near-collapse.  Attempting to close out the win over the Dodgers, Carl Lundgren experienced a sudden bout of wildness and proceeded to give up seven runs in the ninth inning, after being paired with the rookie signal caller.  All things considered, I highly doubt that it's a coincidence that Tom then stayed planted firmly on the pine for almost the entire remaining schedule.  Chance finally let Walsh attempt redemption on September 26th, long after the Cubs had clinched the pennant:

Although no one knew it at the time, this September 26th appearance would be the last time Tom Walsh would ever again take the field.

*Sidenote*  Though it was quite common across the baseball landscape for the periodicals of the time to bestow their own monikers upon local nines, why the Chicago Daily News chose the nickname of "Spuds" for the Chicago National League Ballclub, I have no idea.  "Cubs" had entered the lexicon, in an article of their own publication, back in 1902; but, apparently it was not yet standardized.  Since 1869, the team has also been known as the White Stockings, Remnants, Orphans, Zephyrs, Microbes, and Colts.  Anyway, I would love to know the origin of their starchy sobriquet.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, despite the lack of on-field results, Tom Walsh's  manager - Frank Chance - was bullish on the rookie's  raw talent and the outlook of his baseball career:

However, Mr. Walsh must not have shared his "Peerless Leader's" prescription for rose-colored glasses.  During the off-season, Walsh informed his skip that he would not be donning a Cubs uniform in 1907.  In fact, the college-educated man traded in the wool collars of a baseball uniform for the white collars of a business man's shirt:

Again, Walsh makes the sub-heading - apparently, his grooming was of some interest during the time.  Also, remember, this was the pre-Wrigley Field era, when the Cubs played on the West Side of the city.

Thanks to this December 30th write-up, we now understand why Tom Walsh disappeared from the baseball landscape so suddenly, he decided to go into the railroad business with his father.  How successful he was in that endeavor remains a mystery; but, at least we now know what became of the would-be backstop.

With that, we've filled in most of the gaps from the mysterious tale of Tom Walsh - he was signed straight out college, rode the pine for months and played mostly in exhibitions as he studied the game, made his two, lone MLB appearances during garbage time, and then promptly and permanently retired from the national pastime in order to make it in the lucrative railroad industry.  In those pre-air travel days, when the automobile was still in it's infancy, railroad tycoons loomed large in our country and were the kings of commerce. There's little doubt that making it in that business would be much more lucrative for a young, educated man than playing for peanuts in baseball.  Seeing as he already had an "in" with trains, I can't say I blame him for making that decision.

And, again, we now know all of this thanks to Peter and his tireless research on Newspapers.com, with which he has an account.  Thank you, Pete!

Since no baseball card blog post is complete without the inclusion of at least one baseball card, here's the post card that pulled both Pete and I down the rabbit hole.  I thought it was strange that a two-game wonder should make the team photograph; but, as we learned, Walsh was actually with the team throughout the summer and fall, despite his sporadic appearances.  It all makes so much more sense now.

After putting in much more thought on the matter than any grown man should and listening to everyone weigh in on the original post, I've decided to include this reprinted postcard in my marquee Cubs All-Time Roster Collection as representation for the man of the hour.  Most agreed with me that it's the best pictorial rep that can be acquired (obviously, his blink and you missed it career did not earn him solo pasteboard recognition) and so it is therefore an appropriate selection, in this particular case.

With that, it's been a long time coming - more than two years and hours of research by two different baseball card bloggers - but, welcome to the CATRC collection, Tom Walsh!  

I can say, with authority, mystery solved and case closed... finally.  It's a good think Peter stepped in when he did because I was getting ready to call in someone else for backup in solving this mystery:

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Goodwill and Goodwin

I've been sitting on this package for more than a week and I'm just now, finally, getting around to posting about - as the great Bruce Springsteen once mused, "time slips away."  However, it didn't leave me with "nothing mister," as this mailer included a healthy amount of excellent cardboard.  I hope that Kin, from I Feel Like a Collector Again and Bean's Ballcard Blog, can forgive me for taking so long to show off the goods; the holidays really screwed with my posting timeline this year.

Of course, in my defense, I had no idea that this package was coming my way.  Kin, in the spirit of the season, dropped this grouping in the mail as a gift, a surprise gift.  I'm never going to complain about free baseball cards; there are few things in the world that are guaranteed to bring a smile to my face quite like finding cards in my mailbox, especially when they're unexpected.  That sort of goodwill is always makes it feel like Christmas, even if it occurs in the middle of July.

The ever-go-generous Kin apparently noticed that I commented about how cool the following card was and still is.  I can honestly say I never expected such a gesture, but just a little while later, Kin made sure that said card ended up on my sorting table:

You might say that the gifting of this 1998 Topps Stars Kerry Wood was out of this world!  How cool is this space age design?

As an added bonus (something I didn't know when I first pined over it), it turns out that this card is numbered 5,374/9,799.  So, it's not exactly an exclusive piece, but I bet this rookie card printed in the wake of Woody's famed 20-K game booked for a stupid amount of money at that time.  I wasn't actively collecting at that time; but, had I been, I'm sure I would have drooled over this card and it's attainability.  Now, it's just a far-out looking card and it's all mine!

That selfless donation to my collection would have been phenomenal on it's own, but Kin wasn't about to stop there either.  Accompanying what is now one of my favorite Kid K cards, Mr. Kinsley also tossed a few other gifts in this magnanimous mailing.

Hmmmmm.... a White Sox card, eh? I mean, I'm not going to complain about free cards and I love cards which spotlight baseball in the first half of the 20th century and earlier, but I was still left scratching my head about Ed Walsh's inclusion

...until I flipped that Fleer Baseball's Famous Feets over to the other side, that is.  I must admit, the incongruity of a big, ol' Cubs sticker slapped on the back of a White Sox card brings a big smile to my face. It adds a certain je ne sais quoi to an already fun, 80's oddball.

Sticking with the horizontal orientation, let's flip to the next card:

Fast forwarding nearly 30 years, we have a wonderful fielding shot of short-term, rebuild Cub, Nate Schierholtz.  In another 30 years, this guy will be filed under the "he played for the Cubs category?" but this photo will make Nate the Great look like a Gold Glover!

Besides just the excellent photography, this parallel to the 2014 Flagship base set also features beautiful, blue borders.  I'm sure that Kin has read here on Wrigley Roster Jenga and comments sections across the blogosphere that, when it comes to parallels, blue is my all-time favorite color.  When you consider that I'm a rabid, blue-blooded Cubs fan who's entire collection is based on those who sport Cubbie Blue, that fact really should not come as a surprise.  All in all, Nate has never looked greater than he does here.

Finally, we have the card that actually stole the spotlight.  As great as everything else in this mailer was, it was this bad boy that immediately caught my eye... and not just because it's super-duper shiny:

This 2012 Upper Deck Goodwin Champions mini foil parallel (whew, that's a mouthful) doesn't photograph well because it's almost as reflective as a mirror; that said, it's quite nice, in hand.  Also, it's almost poetic that Matt Szczur ascended from a Goodwin Champion in 2012 to a World Series Champion in 2016.  Though he's now a Padre, "Scrabble" will be a "forever Cub," courtesy of being an extra outfielder for that curse busting squad.

All that being noted, it was still yet another quality that truly drew my attention.  Upper Deck obviously does not have an MLB license and, in order to get around that fact, they pictured Matt in his Villanova Football t-shirt.  For those that didn't know, the fly-chaser was a highly touted NFL prospect during his time as a two-sport athlete for the Wildcats.  The would-be wide receiver drew a hefty signing bonus when he was drafted by the previous front office to keep him from continuing his gridiron career.

I got this 2011 Upper Deck 20th Anniversary single from Bob Walk the Plank

In the recent past, I've started a small side-collection of cards which feature multi-sport Cubs players competing in their secondary athletic endeavor.  In fact, just a few days ago, I showcased a pair of "Ken Lofton" basketball cards that were given to me by Angus from Dawg Day Cards.  I'm considering this card to be close enough to a Szczur football card to be included in this particular binder. 

Given the relative limited possibilities for this collection, I'm thrilled to be able to add another dual-sported card to it's pages!

 Some of Matt's company in this multi-sport side-collection.  The Stoddard was a gift from the Snorting Bull

With that, we've covered all of the pasteboard goodies which Kin altruistically gifted to me during the Christmas season.  As you can plainly see, this package pretty much blew me out of the water.  Again, I'm sorry it took so long for me to acknowledge your generosity on the blog, Mr. Kinsley!

This post serves as further evidence that there is no more generous kind of people on this planet than baseball card bloggers.  Thank you Kin and thank you everyone who took the time to gift me with trading cards in 2018.  I've been a little slow on returning the favor (getting married and moving has messed with organization); however, I assure you that I will be paying you all back in the very near future.

Thanks again, Kin!