Sunday, February 28, 2010

Five Random Cubs Cards

I've got 6,607 Cubs cards from 23 different brands listed on a spreadsheet. A random number generator picked five cards, one each from the past several decades.

1950's / 1960's Topps 1967 #296 Glenn Beckert The Cubs second baseman had another solid season in 1967. He hit .280 and was the toughest player in the NL to strike out. He also sparkled in the field, leading all NL second baseman in putouts and was second in assists and double plays.

1970's Topps 1972 #556 Ron Santo In Action
So is this card Ron Santo In Action or Dick Dietz In Action? Topps was still early in the action photo game, and they still needed a lot of work. In 1972 Santo played in only 133 games, his lowest total since his rookie season of 1960. A fractured right wrist in mid May was the problem. Still, he hit .302 and had 17 HRs and 74 RBIs.

1980's Team Issued 1986 Ryne Sandberg
Ryno won his fourth straight Gold Glove and set an NL record for fewest errors in a season (5) and highest fielding average (.9938). He was the starting second baseman in the All-Star game.

1990's Upper Deck 1990 #345 Jerome Walton
The 1989 NL Rookie of the Year was hit hard by the Sophomore Jinx in 1990. A broken right hand and an injured wrist cut his game total to only 101. His offense suffered as his average dropped 30 points from the previous season.

2000's Topps 2008 #37 Jason Marquis
The righty was in the second year of a three year free agent deal he signed with the Cubs for over $20 million. It was a pretty hefty price for a #3/4 starter. Marquis was 11-9, though his ERA was 4.53. After the season the Cubs dumped his salary on the Rockies, though he had a decent season for Colorado.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

1981 Coke Cubs

1981 was a watershed year for baseball cards as Donruss and Fleer issued their first sets, ending Topps' monopoly. So it seems like a strange time for Coke to enter the baseball card market, but enter it they did.

Coke created 12-card team sets for 11 teams, the Cubs being one of them. The other teams were the Red Sox, White Sox, Reds, Tigers, Astros, Royals, Mets, Phillies, Pirates, and Cardinals. There was also supposed to be a Yankees set, but it never got released, though cards of three Yankees have been found.

Coke turned to Topps to create the cards, and the design was the exact same as the 1981 Topps base set with a Coke logo added to the upper corner. Both the right and left corners were used, depending on how the photo fit the card.

The first card was a header card, and then there were 11 players, with the cards numbered 1-11 in alphabetical order.
Most of the time the same picture was used on the Coke card as on the Topps base set card. The Cubs set has only one exception to that.

The biggest difference between the Coke cards and Topps would be with the players who were traded during the winter. The Coke set features several and they were all airbrushed cards. Topps included these players in the traded set, but had spring training pictures. That would lead me to believe that the Coke sets were issued in the early summer, ahead of the traded cards. Three of the Cubs were airbrushed in the Coke set.

This is the header card for the Cubs set.

These cards were all identical to the Topps base set.

This is the lone base set exception, Dick Tidrow. Coke used a head shot of Dirt (that has to be one of baseball's best nicknames!), giving us a great look at his Fu Manchu.

It looks like Topps used a different picture from the same photo shoot.

These are the three airbrushed cards sided by side with the traded set card.

This was Coke's one and only venture into the mass marketing of baseball cards. Over the years they have sponsored a few teams' baseball card days, but they've stayed away from major issues like they did in 1981.

Cards seem to be easily available. I got mine from Sportlots for 18 cents each, all from the same seller, so the whole set was under $4 delivered.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Reviewing From Decades Past: 1990 - Pitchers

If you want to know why the 1990 Cubs won only 77 games despite have the National League's second highest team batting average, the answer is they had the league's second highest ERA, too. The staff posted a combined 4.34 ERA, almost a full run worst than league leader Montreal's 3.37.


Greg Maddux
was now the ace of the staff, winning 15 games, but he also lost 15. That was the most losses in a season in his career, a mark he tied with the Cubs in 2005.

Mike Bielecki had a great 1989, coming out of nowhere to go 18-7. He returned to earth in 1990 with an 8-11 record and a 4.83 ERA.

Mike Harkey was the Sporting News' Rookie Pitcher of the Year in 1990, going 12-6 with a 3.26 ERA. He was the lone bright spot on the staff. A shoulder injury cost him the month of September and perhaps his career. He missed most of 1991 and 1992.

Shawn Boskie made his major league debut on May 20 and picked up a complete game win against the Astros. He ended up making 15 starts and was 5-6. Like Harkey, he failed to finish the season. A bone chip in his elbow did him in.

Rick Sutcliffe spent most of the season on the DL with shoulder problems. He started five games near the end of the season and was 0-2 with a 5.91 ERA. Noticing a theme among the starters yet? Injuries and high ERAs do not lead to victories!


Mitch Williams
was the closer, but fans were getting tired of the whole "Wild Thing" routine. It was OK in '89 as long as he got the save, but that wasn't happening any more in 1990. He had a 1-8 record and only 16 saves. A knee injury kept him from blowing more saves as he missed time in June and July. Wild Thing, you make the other team's bats sing.

Paul Assenmacher led the team in appearances with 74. He did a nice job as closer when Williams was hurt, ending up with 10 saves. His record was 7-2 with a nice 2.80 ERA.

Paul Kilgus was traded to the Blue Jays for Jose Nunez

Les Lancaster made 55 appearances including five starts. He was 9-5 but had a very high 4.62 ERA.

Pat Perry was released in December, 1989.

Jeff Pico pitched in 31 games, and his ERA, like almost everyone else on the staff, was over 4, at 4.79.

Scott Sanderson was 11-9 in 1989, but the Cubs choose to let him go in free agency. With the lousy starting pitching, in hindsight that looked like a big mistake. Sanderson hooked up with the A's and was 17-11.

Steve Wilson was 4-9 with an ERA of 4.79.

Bill Long was picked up from the White Sox on April 30 and was 6-1. But his ERA, want to guess how high it was? If you said over four, you were right! It was 4.37

Dean Wilkins pitched in 7 games in two early season stints and was really bad, like 9.82 ERA bad.

A boatload of players pitched but had no Topps card, many making their MLB debuts in 1990 and impressing no one. Are any of these names you recognize?

Jose Nunez, 4-7, 6.53
Dave Pavlas, 2-0, 2.11 (which seems good, how did he get mixed up in here??)
Randy Kramer, 0-2, 3.98
Kevin Coffman, 0-2. 11.29 - and that ERA is not a typo
Lance Dickson, 0-3, 7.24
Kevin Blankenship, 0-2, 5.84

And finally, the team ERA leader, with a perfect 0.00 in his one inning...

....Doug Dascenzo

Maybe they should have thought about using him on the mound more often!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Reviewing From Decades Past: 1990 - The Bench

This is the first decade I've looked at that was a part of the Topps Traded era. That means that there will be lots of bench players' cards to look at and only one where I've got to show a players' card from another team.

Damon Berryhill was injured in September, 1989 and spent most of 1990 rehabbing. He played in only 17 games at the end of the season and hit .189

Doug Dascenco got plenty of play time with Jerome Walton getting hurt and Dwight Smith slumping. But the highlight was a pitching appearance he made on June 12, a scoreless one inning stint. I've got more about that here.

Vance Law was played on waivers in January, 1990, so he could go play in Japan.

Lloyd McClendon played in 49 games and hit a paltry .149. On September 7 he was traded to the Pirates, beginning his association with the Bucs that would eventually lead to his becoming the team's manager in 2001.

Domingo Ramos was one of three who played third base. In 98 games he hit .265 but drove in only 17 runs.

Mitch Webster was traded to the Indians on November 20, 1989 for outfielder Dave Clark

Curt WIlkerson was the third player to try to become the regular third baseman. Hitting only .220 kept him irregular. He was left go as a free agent after the season.

Rick Wrona saw action in 16 games behind the plate in the early part of the season, but was sent back to AAA in May with a .172 average.

Marvell Wynne was a Chicago native who joined the team at the tail end of 1989. He played in 89 games in 1990 but hit a low .204. After the season, he was given his release so he could play in Japan. Old Cubs don't fade away, they go to Japan!

Earl Cunningham #1 pick was a #1 flop, never making it to the majors. In fact, he never even made it to AA.

Hector Villanueva was another catcher trying to fill in for Damon Berryhill. The one thing I remember most about him was hearing Harry Caray butcher his last name.

Greg Smith, another infielder who stunk.

Dave Clark came to the Cubs over the winter, but wasn't included in the Traded set. He hit .275 in 84 games.

Two others played for the team but had no Topps card:
Derrek May, played in 17 games
Gary Varsho, played in 46 games