Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Other 26s Update

I'm still looking for a picture of Fritz Connally wearing #26 in 1983.

But I at least tried to find asking Fritz himself.

He didn't have one.

No, I'm not a personal acquaintance of his. But during my search for a picture I found his work email address. Figuring that I had nothing to lose, I wrote to him on Tuesday night:

I'm a big Cub fan and was wondering if you have a picture that shows you wearing #26 with the Cubs. You were the last active player to wear that number before it was retired in honor of Billy Williams in 1987. I've searched the internet and Chicago Tribune archives for a picture but came up empty. Billy Williams was my favorite player and I'm trying to put together a photo montage of all the players that wore #26.
Thanks for any help.

I got a reply the next morning, which impressed me. He could have just as easily trashed my email. Here's his reply:

I’m sorry but I do not have anything showing me wearing #26. In fact, your email to me is new news, I thought I wore something in the 40’s. Maybe the Cubs have a resource for you to follow up on?
Best of luck.

Interesting that he forgot what number he wore. I guess no one told him that he was given the number of one of the greatest Cubs of all time. That doesn't surprise me because Dallas Green was doing his best to purge the organization of any memory of the '69 Cubs.

My quest for a picture of Fritz Connally wearing #26 continues.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Other 26's

Billy Williams was traded from the Cubs after the 1974 season. His familiar #26 was moving on to Oakland.  It was not a Cubs tradition to retire numbers, so I knew that his number would eventually end up on the back of another player.

But it was still an odd sight when it finally happened.

Larry Biittner was the first player to wear it after Billy was traded.  Biittner came to the Cubs in May of 1976 and was given #26.  During that era Cubs outfielders typically wore numbers in the 20s, so it made sense.  But I still didn't like it.

These are the only two cards of Biitter that show him with #26.  The cards are from 1981 but Biittner was signed as a free agent  by the Reds before the season began.  Also, these are older pictures because in 1980, Biittner switched to #33.  Billy Williams was a Cubs coach from 1980 - 1982 and he reclaimed his old number.

Billy kept the number through the 1982 season when he was fired after the final game.  His number went back in circulation.

It was used again by just one very nondescript player, Fritz Connally.   Connally was a September call-up in 1983.  He played in just eight games and had one hit in ten at bats.  He was traded to the Padres in the off-season so there would be no further desecration of #26.

With such a short time with the Cubs, pictures of him are not easy to come by.  I went through the Trib archives and found nothing.  In fact there was barely a mention of him in any article.  The White Sox were coasting to their first ever division title and the Cubs were barely a blip on the radar.

This is a spring training shot but we can't see a number.

Getty Images has this from his time in AAA Iowa.

This is a 1981 card from his time with the Class A Quad City Cubs.

I wonder if a picture exists that shows Connally wearing #26?

Billy returned to the Cubs as a coach in 1986 and hit number was retired in 1987, so Connally was the last active player to don #26.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Looking At All the Ginter Designs Over the Year

I meant to do this a couple of weeks ago...and forgot.

With Year 11 of Allen & Ginter in the books, lets take a look at the design of the cards over the entire run of the brand, from 2006 - 2016.

When you look at the complete one, there is definitely one outlier, 2011.  Its the only design with a full border, the only one with team logos.

Other design elements over the years:
  • Players first and last name: just the first three years; after that it is last name only
  • Watercolor background: All years
  • Year listed on card front:  2007 - 2010, 2016
  • "Brooklyn, New York": 2006 - 2012, 2014, 2016
  • "Topps": 2008-2016
Many of the cards use posed shots.  Action shots are pretty rare.  Because they use posed shots from the spring training picture day shoot, most Ginter cards show the players in their home uniform.  That is a bonus for me.

My predictions for the 2017 Ginter design:
It will list the players last name, there will be a watercolor cloud behind the posed shot of the players, the cards will say "Topps Allen & Ginter, Brooklyn New York, 2017, and I will buy the entire set.

Monday, August 22, 2016

1973 Jewel Ron Santo

I put my Jewel Cubs set together months ago, but ended up with two holes.

Make that one hole.

For some unknown reason, the 1973 Ron Santo and Jim Hickman have been impossible to find.  I settled for the above Santo because it has some tape on both the top and bottom.  It didn't show up in the scan, but it is there.

If a better one shows up I may try to get it. For now, I'm happy to just have a hole filled.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Five Random Cubs Cards

I've got 14,406 Cubs cards from 108 different brands listed on a spreadsheet. A random number generator picked five cards, one each from the past several decades.

1900s - 1970s: 1968 Topps #258 Rookie Jose Arcia  Bill Schlesinger A couple of busts here.  Arcia played in 59 games for the Cubs in 1968 and hit .190.  He was left unprotected and the Padres took him in the expansion draft.  The Cubs got Schlesinger from the Red Sox for pitcher Ray Culp.  Culp was 16-6 for Boston while Schlesinger spent the year in the minors.  

1980s: 1984 Topps Stickers #43 Jody Davis  WW Fun Fact...I have a son who was born in 1985.  If son would have been a daughter, she was going to be named Jodi.  Not necessarily named for Jody Davis, but the name was very familiar to us at the time.

1990s: 1992 Team Issued Ryne Sandberg The Cubs gave these cards out on July 10 to every fan in the house.  John Smoltz and the Braves shut out the Cubs 4-0 as the Cubs manages just four hits.  Ryno didn't have any of the four, going 0-3 with a walk.

2000s: 2008 Factory Team Set #CHC12 Mark DeRosa  He had a really nice season for the '08 Cubs, hitting .285 with 21 HRs and 87 RBIs.

2010s: 2012 Sega Card Gen #229 David DeJesus  DeJesus was one of the placeholder players on the Cubs during the teardown and rebuild.  He was serviceable at best.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

All I've Got of Him: Kris Bryant

Saw some interesting Kris Bryant facts yesterday:

  • First player with multiple 5 hit games that included 2 homer runs
  • First player under age of 25 with 4 hit/2 home run games three times in a season
  • In the past calendar year (160 games) his average is .306 and he's hit 40 home runs

He's really good and yet he's really humble.  He was raised in the same area as Bryce Harper, and has as much talent as Harper, but his personality is 180° a good way.

My Bryant card total is already up to 66 cards.  That's a big number for a guy in his second season.  I'm sure the number will grow significantly over the next several years.  I'm figuring that he'll be in every set that Topps issues and in several inserts too.

Here's what I've got so far:

Friday, August 19, 2016

Debunking Banks Boulevard

Back in 2008 idiot Joe Morgan was doing a Cubs game on ESPN.  He spouted off about the basket at the top of the bleacher wall.  He went on about how it was put there in the late 60s to give Ernie Banks a chance at more home runs.  Morgan even had a name for it, Banks Boulevard.

There isn't even the slightest sliver of truth to what he said.  There was a lot of outrage among Cubs fans back then.  No Cub fan, including me, had ever heard of the phrase "Banks Boulevard."

Yet last week as I was perusing a Cardinals fan forum (I like to see what the other side says about the Cubs), there was some discussion about Banks Boulevard.  Eight years later, Morgan's BS is still alive and kicking.

With the help of the Tribune archives, allow me to kill the BS and set the record straight.

This picture from April 17, 1970 lays out the Cubs original plan.  The bleacher bums were getting too rowdy and so the screen would be installed to keep them and the trash they tossed off of the field.  The plan was for the screen to be installed at the top of the bleacher wall which meant that fans in the first couple rows would have to watch the game through the screen.  

The May 7 edition of the Trib shows the completed screen.  The article mentions that the screen was not put at the top of the wall as originally planned, but two feet below the top of the wall.  It is in the same location today.

Now on to Ernie Banks.  

The Cubs first game at Wrigley with the basket was on May 7, 1970.  At that point in his career Ernie had 498 home runs.  He would go on to hit eight more home runs at Wrigley Field.  And how many of those ended up in the basket, or Banks Boulevard as the idiot called it?

Most likely, none.

He hit #499 on May 9 and it was no landed on Waveland.

This picture come from the WGN clip of #500 on May 12.  The ball landed about three rows up in the bleachers and then bounced back onto the field.

Ernie's 501st career homer was hit on May 30th and the Trib article states that the ball landed high in the left-center seats.  No basket shot there.

On June 24th he hit #505 as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning. The article makes no mention of where the ball landed.  Could it have been a basket shot?  Maybe, but I'd think if it landed in the basket the article would have mentioned that fact.

This picture shows where #508 landed on September 5.  It hit high up on the left field catwalk.  There wasn't even a basket along the catwalk back then.  The initial 1970 installation placed the basket only in places where fans sat.  There was no basket in front of the catwalks and in center field.

There was no Tribune sports page in the archives for his next Wrigley homer on September 10.  I had to resort to other newspaper accounts of that game.  His homer in the fourth inning is mentioned in each article but no location of the ball is given.  Again, no mention of a basket to me means that it didn't land there.  This was his last Wrigley homer in 1970.

Here's a look at his first 1971 Wrigley blast.  The article and picture show it just making the bleachers.

And this is the swing for his 512th and final home run.  The caption says the drive went into the left field bleachers.

So what I've found is definitive proof that six of his eight Wrigley homer after the basket installation did not land in the basket.  The other two most likely didn't land in the basket either, though it is possible they did.

Even the two were basket shots, that means 2 out of 290 career Wrigley blasts were in the basket.

Banks Boulevard?

Not a chance, Joe Morgan.