Saturday, January 31, 2009

I'm Slowly Catching Up With the Rest of the World

As I start acquiring more recent cards, I feel like I am finally catching up with the rest of you. I've recently added all the Cubs team sets from Allen and Ginter, Score, Pinnacle, and Upper Deck. Add to that my sets from Topps, Fleer, Donruss, and Topps Heritage, and now I have completed the Cubs from 8 different brands.

Next up, Bowman, Topps Stadium Club, Pacific, and Ultra.

That would make an even dozen when finished. It sounds very strange to someone who grew up with one brand, to think that there would be twelve different types out there. I think I will work on a few more after that, trying to limit it to brands that issued sets of at least 250 cards.

I've also added my first game used jersey cards to my collection. I'm still not sure exactly what to make of these. I like the concept; it seems cool to have an actual uniform part from an actual player. But I'm not sure I need a bunch of these.

I showed the cards to my nine year old son, and he wasn't too impressed. "Its a pretty tiny piece, what did they do with the rest of the uniform?" was what he came up with.

Well, here's what I got:

2007 Allen and Ginter Aramis Ramirez - from a white home jersey.

2008 Carlos Zambrano - from a blue alternate jersey, which is appropriate since that is the jersey Big Z likes to wear, at home or on the road. The jersey has to be from 2006 or earlier because in 2007 they did not wear the blue alternates (something I agreed with 100% - ditch the blues, they look like a 16" softball team in them). The blue jersey returned (sadly) in 2008

2008 Topps Heritage Derrek Lee: This would be my favorite because it is a home white with a pinstripe. Classic Chicago Cubs!

Friday, January 30, 2009

A Classy Move

In recognition of a very classy move on his part, today I will not refer to him as Jeff Spellcheck, but I will carefully type out his name correctly.

Cubs pitcher Jeff
Samardzija today announced that he will endow a scholarship at Notre Dame in his mother's name. Jeff's mom Debora died when he was a senior in high school and he is establishing this scholarship for a student who has suffered the loss of a loved one. Read all about it here.

What a great thing to do! I also find it impressive that he just turned 24 years old about a week ago. A very mature act on his part.

This Frog Got Boiled

Do you know the story about a frog in boiling water? It's said that because a frog is cold-blooded, if it is placed in a pot of cold water and then the water is gradually heated, the frog will boil to death without even moving. It never notices the change in the water temperature

Well, this team-
collecting frog has been boiled in an individual player-collecting pot. Let me explain:

I have always been a set builder, both Cubs team sets and Topps complete sets. This is due to the fact that when I started collecting, Topps was the only game in town. There weren't really any individual player collectors because each season it was one or two cards at most for a star.

When I got back into the hobby, I was surprised (shocked) at how many cards were available for players, especially the stars. I looked at the possibility of collecting a player or two, but decided it was going to be too much of an effort.

So I would stick to team sets. I decided to add to my collection of Topps, Donruss, and Fleer Cubs sets by putting together sets from Upper Deck, Score, and Pinnacle, companies that didn't exist when I took a break from collecting. Over the past two weeks I have been receiving most of these team sets and adding then to my Cubs team master spreadsheet. When all is said and done, I should have over 3,900 individual Cubs cards from these six brands.

I was playing around with the spreadsheet and I did a sort by player's name. I was floored when I tallied up the totals of some players:

I have 102 Sammy Sosa cards! I know it isn't anywhere close to the total that is available, but the fact that I have over 100 of any player just blew me away. In contrast, I have 25 Ernie Banks cards, and he was with the Cubs several years longer than Sammy.

Here are just some of the Sosa Cards

And here are ALL of the Ernie Banks cards

Other totals of recent Cubs stars:

Kerry Wood - 49
Mark Grace - 78

Ryne Sandberg - 95

Compare the above numbers to totals for some star players from my earlier collecting days, numbers that I was more used to:

Fergie Jenkins - 15
Billy Williams - 17
Ron Santo - 19

Apparently, without knowing it , I have become an individual player collector too.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

E-6 For A Case of Old Style

Yesterday the Cubs made another trade. Infielder Ronny Cedeno and recently acquired lefty Garrett Olson were traded to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for relief pitcher Aaron Heilman.

This is the type of trade that makes me go "whatever."

Cedeno never panned out as much of a shortstop. He made plenty of dumb plays in the field and on the bases. His glove was erratic. He known among some Cubs fans as "E6" because that often followed his name in the box score.

Garrett Olson was a Cub for all of ten days. Garrett, we hardly knew ya.

Aaron Heilman has an umimpressive 22-33 record over the last six year with the Mets. But who cares about his record, let's drink his beer!

When any Chicago male over the age of 30 hears "Heilman" this is what they think of:

Heileman's Old Style has been a Cubs sponsor for years. "Pure brewed, double brewed, Krausened the old fashioned way -- Old Style." And then the soft line at the end, "G Heileman Brewing Company, LaCrosse, Wisconsin."

Old Style - mother's milk to many a young man in Chicago.

The trade, who cares? I'm thirsty, let's drink!!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

F-Bomb Wars - Lee Elia vs. Tommy Lasorda

Topps 1978 Tommy Lasorda

Topps 1978 Dave Kingman. This card has one of the ugliest airbrush jobs ever. The head shot looks like a mug shot, the background was completely airbrushed away, the hat is way too small for his head, the fake blue pinstripes; it all adds up to a really terrible looking card.

Last week I had a post about Lee Elia and his famous rant on Cubs fans. One of the comments brought up a Tommy Lasorda rant after Dave Kingman hit three home runs against the Dodgers. I figured I would check out Lasorda's rant since it does have a Cubs connection with Dave Kingman.

It turns out there is some disagreement as to when the rant actually happened. Many sources cite a June 4, 1976 game when Kingman hit three dingers for the Mets. However, there are two problems with this date. One, the final score of the game was 11-0, so it doesn't make sense that Lasorda be so ticked off. The second problem is a bigger one. Lasorda was only a Dodger coach in 1976, Walter Alston was still the manager.

More likely, the rant took place on Mothers Day, 1978, when Kingman was with the Cubs. He hit three homers including one in the 9th inning to tie the game and another in the 15th inning that gave the Cubs the victory. That kind of loss would be the type that would set a manager off.

I do remember listening to that game on the radio. 1978 was Kingman's first year with the Cubs. He was their first big free agent signing and it was exciting to have such a slugger in the Cubs lineup. What I actually remember about the radio broadcast was play-by-play announcer Vince Lloyd swearing after the third home run because he was so excited. He shouted something like, "God damn!" and then there was silence.

But that was nothing compared to how Lasorda responded after being asked what he thought of Kingman's performance:

"What's my opinion of Kingman's performance?! What the f*** do you think is my opinion of it? I think it was F***ING HORSES***. Put that in, I don't f***ing care. Opinion of his performance!!? Jesus Christ, he beat us with three f***ing home runs! What the f*** do you mean, 'What is my opinion of his performance?' How could you ask me a question like that, 'What is my opinion of his performance?' S***, he hit three home runs! F***. I'm f***ing pissed off to lose the f***ing game. And you ask me my opinion of his performance! S***. That's a tough question to ask me, isn't it? 'What is my opinion of his performance?'"

It is a nice enough rant as rants go, but in sheer number of F-bombs, Tommy didn't even come close to matching Lee Elia. He only gets in 8, nowhere near matching the 37 that Lee Elia dropped.

This biased Cubs fan gives the win to Elia by far. It was a nice try Tommy, but come back and see me when you quadruple your F-bomb output.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Another Bowl of Kellloggs Super Cool, Awesome 3-D

A couple weeks ago I showed off some of my Super Cool, Awesome 3-D cards from Kelloggs.

Here is a second helping....

1971 Don Kessinger - It looks like Don is telling the photographer, "Back away from me!"

1972 Fergie Jenkins - after winning 20 games or more for five consecutive seasons, Fergie is finally deemed card-worthy by Kelloggs

1973 Billy Williams - 1973 is the only year in the Kelloggs run that the cards are not 3-D. They were printed on plain card stock.

1974 Ron Santo - 3D has returned. This looks like any other Cubs card, but if you look on the back in the upper right hand corner you see that Ron is now on the White Sox. Apparently Kelloggs wasn't into the airbrush thing (and good for them!).

Ron is a diabetic and it looks like his blood-sugar is a little low. Wake up Ronny, have a candy bar.

1975 Jose Cardenal, with his 3-D Afro.

1981 Bruce Sutter - Another Cubs front, other team back. Sutter had been traded to the Cardinals over the winter.

1982 Bill Buckner - Billy Buck - one of my all-time favorite Cubs. I'll have an entire post on Buckner sometime in the next week.

1983 Leon Durham - This was Kelloggs last year, and notice how the cards have shrunk. In 1984 they disappeared completely.

Kelloggs made a one-year comeback in 1991. But they issued cards of baseball greats from the past instead of current players. Two Cubs were featured, Ernie Banks and Billy Williams.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Topps Heritage Side by Side: 2008 / 1959

When I returned to collecting baseball cards, the first "modern" set that I started collecting was Topps Heritage. I guess "modern" might not be appropriate since the cards are based on 50 year old cards. But after the brands that I was familiar with-Topps, Fleer, and Donruss, this was the first new card to catch my eye.

From time to time I will present the Heritage Cubs cards side by side with the originals. I'll start with the 2008 Heritage and their model, the 1959 Topps.

One big difference I noticed between the originals and the Heritage cards is the uniforms the players are wearing. The Heritage cards show the Cubs in their home pinstripes. The 1959 cards have the players in their road unis. It wasn't until the early 1960's that a Cubs player was shown in a home uniform. Otherwise, you will notice a remarkable similarity between the originals and the Heritage cards.

The Team Cards: These cards are nearly identical, although the 2007 team picture must have been taken in spring training since there are many more than 25 players in the picture. The two teams shown had very different results. The 1958 Cubs finished in 5th place while the 2007 Cubs were division champs.

Team Stars: Alfonso Soriano and Ernie Banks. I chose these to compare since they are both team superstars and they had the same green background. Ernie Banks won the NL MVP in 1958 and would go on to repeat in 1959, the first NL player to win back-to-back MVP's. He was the only bright spot in a fairly dismal Cub lineup. Soriano is the Cubs $140 million dollar man. I wonder how much Ernie Banks would have earned in 2008?

All Stars: Derrek Lee and Ernie Banks. The Banks card has the Sporting News at the top, while the Lee card has "Topps News." Apparently the Sporting News wouldn't pony up the cash to get their name on the Heritage card. Notice that the '59 Banks card says "'59 All Star Selection'. The card is number 559, which means it was from one of the later series put out by Topps. That also make the Banks card more valuable.

Rookies: Kosuke Fukudome and Lou Jackson . Lou Jackson is one in a long line of hyped Cubs rookies that don't pan out (see Corey Patterson of Felix Pie). He hit .140 in 30 games for the Cubs in 1958 and 1959. The jury is still out on Kosuke Fukudome. He had a great start, made the 2008 All Star team (thank you Japanese voters) but slumped badly in the second half of the season and saw his playing time reduced.

Cubs Clubbers:
Lee-Ramirez-Soriano and Long-Banks-Moryn. Well, on the 1959 card it was one out of three that scared NL pitchers. I would have to say all three of the 2008 Clubbers cause some concern to pitchers.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sunday Cub Fact: Oldest Players in Team History

Topps 1971 Hoyt Wilhelm. This picture was taken between September 28 and October 1 when the Cubs were in New York. In the era of hatless pictures and airbrushed hats, it seem unusual that Topps had a photographer grab a picture of Wilhelm this late in the season.

The oldest player in Cubs history is Hall of Famer Hoyt Wilhelm, who pitched in three games in 1970 at the age of 47. The Cubs acquired the knuckleballer off waivers from the Atlanta Braves on September 21. It seems strange to pick up a player with only ten games left in the season. But the Cubs were in second place only two games behind the Pirates, so I guess they figured Wilhelm might help in the bullpen.

He didn't make much of a difference, making three appearances and getting tagged with one loss. The team went 4-6 and ended up five games behind Pittsburgh.

And that was it for Wilhelm's Cubs career. He was traded back to the Braves in November. He went on to pitch for the Braves and Dodgers in 1971 and ended his career in LA in 1972. His final appearance was on July 10, 1972, just 16 days short of his 50th birthday.

In the past 100 years, the Cubs have had only two players over the age of 40 make their opening day roster: Dutch Leonard in 1950 and Gary Gaetti in 1999.

Topps 1953 Dutch Leonard

Like Wilhelm, Dutch Leonard was a knuckleballer and this allowed him to extend his pitching career. He joined the Cubs as a 40 year old in 1950 and stayed with the team through 1953. He ended up with 191 career wins.

Upper Deck 1999 Gary Gaetti

Gaetti played an important role in the Cubs push toward the Wildcard in 1998 and was brought back for a full season in 1999. Unfortunately he couldn't recreate the 1998 magic, hitting only .204 in 119 games. He was released at the end of the season. The Red Sox picked him up in the spring of 2000, but he was 0 for 10 with them before he called in a career.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Baseball Card Stand Is Still Hanging On...

An update of this post

Shea Stadium is barely there anymore,

but the baseball card stand, though tattered a bit, lives on!!

Beckett Marketplace Prices

Topps 1983 Leon Durham. I bought this card from the Beckett Marketplace on February 19, 2008 for 10¢. I could get 10 common singles for $1.00. Today, the same card has a price of 25¢. That is a 150% increase in almost a year.

Last winter I got back into collecting and I had no idea where to go to get singles to finish my team sets and complete sets. I quickly found that star players were easy to find and buy on ebay. But I didn't know where to go for the commons. There aren't any card shops anywhere near me, so I knew online was the way to go.

Some surfing around led me to the Beckett Marketplace and I was happy with what I found. I could get cards for common players from the mid 80's in ex condition for 10¢ or 13
¢. That seemed like a pretty good deal for 20-25 year old cards.

I recently went back to the Marketplace to buy some of the Upper Deck, Score, and Pinnacle cards I needed to complete Cubs sets for these brands. Just about every single common card I wanted could be found for 25
¢. It didn't matter what company, or what year, if the card was 20 years old or two years old, commons from most dealers were 25¢.

That just seemed odd to me. Why were newer cards more expensive than the 80's cards I bought last year. So I went back to the Beckett store for the dealer I bought most of my cards from and looked up some of the older cards I bought. You want to guess how much those singles cost now? Yup, 25

Well, the lightbulb finally went on. Beckett must have set a minimum price for cards. Free market, supply and demand by damned, if you want singles, they are going to cost you at least a quarter a piece.

I emailed the dealer and asked him what was going on with his prices, did Beckett set a minimum price? I got a response the next day and he confirmed my suspicion. There is indeed a minimum price of 25
¢ on each card.

What a major disappointment that was! I know that many of you were outraged with Beckett over the loaded boxes they were busting. With the collecting I do, that didn't really affect me.

But now I have my own beef with Beckett. Don't mess with the prices of singles!! You can't tell me that cards that are 25 years old are worth a quarter and cards that are two years old are worth the same amount. Let the dealers charge what they feel the cards are worth, whatever the price. Don't nickel and dime me! Let me pay the market price, not the Marketplace price!!

My question now is where do I go to get common singles online at a fair price? What online dealers can you suggest to me? I anxiously await answers from you wise and experienced collectors.

Friday, January 23, 2009

kiss my f***in' a** right downtown and PRINT IT.

Words immortalized by Cubs manager Lee Elia in 1983.

Lee Elia was one of a handful of former Cubs players who went on later to manage the team. His Cub playing career was barely noticeable. He played in 15 games in 1968 and had 17 at bats with an average of .176. Yet somehow he managed to get featured by Topps in both 1968 and 1969.

But his tenure as Cubs manager, well, it was very memorable!

He was hired on October 22, 1981, by new general manager Dallas Green, coming over from the Phillies organization as Green did. 1982 would be the first complete season under Tribune Company ownership and the new G.M. coined the phrase "Building a New Tradition." Green wanted to shed the "loser" tag that surrounded the Cubs organization. Many long-time employees were let go and new people, many with Philadelphia ties, were brought in.

A happy looking Lee Elia, Donruss 1983

The 1982 season didn't exactly build a new tradition. The team finished in 5th place, 16 games under .500. 1983 didn't start any better. On April 29th the Cubs lost a home game to the Dodgers 4-3 when closer Lee Smith let in the winning run on a wild pitch in the 8th inning. Their record dropped to 5-14 and they were in last place. At this time the Cubs Wrigley Field clubhouse entrance was in the left field corner. After the game the team had to walk from the dugout and follow the left field line to the clubhouse. The 9,000 fans let the team have it on their way down the line.

This really ticked Elia off. When he got to his office, he let the fans have it. Boy did he let them have it! Here is a transcript of what Lee had to say about Chicago Cubs fans (and it's not for the prudish):

F*ck those f*ckin' fans who come out here and say they're Cub fans that are supposed to be behind you, rippin' every f*ckin' thing you do. I'll tell you one f*ckin' thing, I hope we get f*ckin' hotter than sh*t, just to stuff it up them 3,000 f*ckin' people that show up every f*ckin' day, because if they're the real Chicago f*ckin' fans, they can kiss my f*ckin' ass right downtown and PRINT IT.

They're really, really behind you around f*ckin' ass. What the f*ck am I supposed to do, go out there and let my f*ckin' players get destroyed every day and be quiet about it? For the f*ckin' nickel-dime people who turn up? The motherf*ckers don't even work. That's why they're out at the f*ckin' game. They oughta go out and get a f*ckin' job and find out what it's like to go out and earn a f*ckin' living. Eighty-five percent of the f*ckin' world is working. The other fifteen percent come out here. A f*ckin' playground for the cocks*ckers. Rip them motherf*ckers. Rip them f*ckin' cocks*ckers like the f*ckin' players. We got guys bustin' their f*ckin' ass, and them f*ckin' people boo. And that's the Cubs? My f*ckin' ass. They talk about the great f*ckin' support the players get around here. I haven't see it this f*ckin' year. Everybody associated with this organization have been winners their whole f*ckin' life. Everybody. And the credit is not given in that respect.

Alright, they don't show because we're 5 and 14...and unfortunately, that's the criteria of them dumb fifteen motherf*ckin' percent that come out to day baseball. The other eighty-five percent are earning a living. I tell you, it'll take more than a 5 and 12 or 5 and 14 to destroy the makeup of this club. I guarantee you that. There's some f*ckin' pros out there that wanna win. But you're stuck in a f*ckin' stigma of the f*ckin' Dodgers and the Phillies and the Cardinals an all that cheap sh*t. It's unbelievable. It really is. It's a disheartening f*ckin' situation that we're in right now. Anybody who was associated with the Cub organization four or five years ago that came back and sees the multitude of progress that's been made will understand that if they're baseball people, that 5 and 14 doesn't negate all that work. We got 143 f*ckin' games left.

What I'm tryin' to say is don't rip them f*ckin' guys out there. Rip me. If you wanna rip somebody, rip my f*ckin' ass. But don't rip them f*ckin' guys 'cause they're givin' everything they can give. And right now they're tryin' to do more than God gave 'em, and that's why we make the simple mistakes. That's exactly why.

Classic!! And that was the beginning of the end for Lee Elia as Cubs manager. He managed to make it to mid-August before his mouth got him into trouble again. The Atlanta Braves came to Chicago and a just-recalled rookie name Gerald Perry (who is now the Cubs hitting coach) went 2 for 3. After the game Elia admitted he had never heard of the guy, that the Cubs don't scout the International League. Two days after that game he was fired. His two year, Building A New Tradition record was an old tradition-like 127-158. It's been over 25 years, but if you mention Lee Elia to any Cub fan, you'll probably get a wry smile from them, and then a string of expletives!

Building A New Tradition, hah! My F***in' A**!!

Topps 1983, Elia seem to have a "ah, F*** Y**" look on his face.

If you want to hear Elia's uncut tirade,
email me and I can send you an MP3 of it (but don't play it in from of the kiddies).

Elia is also cashing in on the 25th anniversary of his rant and raising some money for Chicago Baseball Cancer Charities. Click here to see what you can get for $89.95.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

How Much Would You Pay

Many of you are probably starting to figure your card budget as the release date for Topps 2009 Series 1 approaches. Well, I was digging around the archives of the Sporting News to see what a complete set of Topps would have cost you over the years.

Let's start by going back 50 years to 1959. This ad for The Card Collectors Company is from the July 8 edition of the Sporting News. Each series is $2.25 or you can get all seven for $12.00. You want to pick up some singles? They will set you back 3¢ each. And you don't have to pay any overpriced shipping charges!

Ten years later the Card Collectors Company is still around. Here is their ad from March 29, 1969. The price of a complete set went up to $13.95, an increase of only $1.95. But now you also have to include 95¢ for postage. Singles are up to 4¢ each. But they will throw in a baseball card checklist for the past 40 years for free. Who needs Beckett??!! But you could pay in installments if the $13.95 was too much for your budget.

We fast forward another ten years to March 24, 1979 and this ad from G.S. Gallery. I bought my first complete set from them in 1978. I had gotten braces and the ortho said no gum. I figured I might as well buy the complete set since I couldn't use the gum from the wax packs. The G.S. Gallery price for a complete set was $13.99 plus $1.50 for shipping. That was hardly any increase at all over the 1969 price. Who says inflation was out of control in the '70's! And plastic sheets were now available, for 20¢ each. That is one item that you can for less today.

By 1989, the hobby started getting crowded. Topps is no longer the only player in the game. This ad from July 10 for Champion Sports lists prices for Topps, Fleer, Donruss, Score, and a brand new entry, Upper Deck. And prices were going up too! It would set you back $22.95 for the Topps set. That's a pretty big jump from 1979.

By 1999, things were looking more familiar. This November 15 ad for The Strictly Mint Card Company lists a price of $59 for a Topps factory set, more than double the price ten year earlier. Notice too that the ad lists a web site and email address. The internet takeover has begun!

I paid less than $59 for my 2008 complete set, so its good to see that the factory set prices have gone down over the last ten years and there are more cards in the 2008 set than in 1999.

What will the 2009 set cost me this year? Actually, it doesn't matter because I'm going to buy it no matter what the price!