Thursday, June 30, 2011

Timeless Teams: 1969 Cubs

This set came from Upper Deck and featured seven Cubs from the 1969 team. But of course, I've got a problem here. The cards commemorate the 1969 season, but three of the pictures on the cards are from other years. Dumb!

Ernie Banks, in a picture that is from the latest, 1956, which was the last season the Cubs wore a wishbone C on their hat.

Billy Williams, from 1972 -1974, since he is wearing a pullover jersey.

Fergie Jenkins, this was taken from Fergie's second go-around with the Cubs, 1982-1983. But at least its a color photo!

Ron Santo, this could be from 1969, but it could also be 1970 or 1971. I'll give Upper Deck the benefit of the doubt.

Jim Hickman, like Santo, could be 1969

The last two cards are the only two that are identifiable as 1969, with baseball centennial patches on their sleeve. And one of the two is in color.

Randy Hundley

Ken Holtzman, in the best looking card of the bunch, although the picture is from Shea.

I guess Upper Deck really wanted to pay tribute to the 1969 Cubs, because they, like the '69 Cubs, choked!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Before There Was Topps

Topps has another history lesson for us in Series 2. It was the History of Topps in Series 1. This time around, Topps takes a look at baseball cards BT. It took 10 cards to tell the history of Topps, but only seven to tell the entire story of baseball cards before Topps. OK, if you say so, Topps.

The first cards looks at the iconic T206 cards.

The second card features the T205 set. The card mentions how there were a dozen minor leaguer in the set and how this foreshadowed the emphasis on prospects years later.

Card #3 describes the T201 set from 1911, cards which features stats on the back, an unheard of thing back them. Also mentioned is how the set included doubleheader cards, something Topps mimicked with their '55 Doubleheader set.

Have you noticed something about the sets that Topps has featured with these cards so far? With every one, Topps has managed to connect the set to themselves. That's an interesting way to give a history lesson.

We jump to 1921 and the Exhibit Supply Company set with the fourth card. The Topps connection....the company issued cards for nearly 50 years, a mark that Topps has surpassed.

The fifth card features the Goudey set from 1933. Funny, but Topps didn't mention that Upper Deck issued Goudey sets from 2007 - 2009.

On card six we learn about the Play Ball set, put out by Gum, Inc.

The final card in the set covers the Bowman cards. The card mentions that the '53 Bowman was the first "high-end" card. Too bad they showed an ugly black and white card from 1948. The card fails to mention how Topps battled with Bowman before buying the company in 1956.

So there you have the history of baseball cards in seven short, one-sided lessons.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Guess Where I Was On Sunday

Yup, I was at Wrigley Field on Sunday.

Now those of you who know the Cubs schedule might be thinking, "Weren't the Cubs in Kansas City on Sunday?" And you're right, the team was out of town.

But the ballpark was still open, and Mrs. WW, WW Jr., and I all took the Wrigley Field Tour. Two of the three tickets were a Christmas present from my parents. We were already heading to Chicago for my niece's graduation open house, so we thought this would be a perfect time to take the tour.

There were about 50 people in our group, with our leader at the front and a security-type person in the back, making sure no one wandered off. The tour lasted about 90 minutes and we got to see several areas of the ballpark that are normally off-limits to use regular folk.

Before the tour began, we were encouraged to use the restrooms because once we got going, the rest of the bathrooms we would see were probably locked. I took the opportunity to snap a picture of the famous Wrigley Field troughs....

....which were stocked with nice, fresh urinal cakes. And for the shy types, there are...

....regular urinals, too!

With that out of the way, the tour began. Our first stop was the lower deck grandstands. We sat is some seats that I can't afford and heard the history of the ballpark. Here are a few shots from the seats....

From there, we moved on to....

....the press box. This is actually the second press box at Wrigley. The original was in the area behind home plate where the luxury suites are located today. When those were added in 1989, the press box was moved to the upper deck.

When you enter, the first booth is where....

....the organist and public address announcer sit. This was a very tiny booth. Moving down the hallway you come to the road team's TV and radio booths and then the Cubs. This is....

....the Cubs TV booth, home to Len and Bob, It's the one with the Harry Caray picture on the top, since it was also Harry's booth. Beyond the booths was another door which led to the....

....print media section. There were 4-5 rows for the reporters. Each area had a reserved spot for the different writers. In the very top row of the press area, was a desk....

with this old, green metal box on it. That box has been around since 1937. It's the control box for the balls, strikes, and outs on the scoreboard. If you wondered what the view looked like from the booth, you know! When we were finished in the press box, it was off to the bleachers. Along the way we passed by the open fence gate in the right field wall. This is....

....the view of the field you get. On the way up into the bleachers, we passed by the batters eye suite in center field. From there, the field looks.... this. We all had a seat in the bleachers and heard about their history. One interesting fact is that the top of the wall is no longer flat, but instead in shaped like an inverted V. The reason for that was that fans were walking along the top and falling onto the field or in someone's lap. The guide also told about a race the bleacher bums used to have. A beer was placed on the wall in center field and then two racers lined up in the left and right field corners. They would then race to the beer, winner take all.

Here's a shot from the bleachers, along with a close up of the scoreboard.

After the bleachers, it was on to the Cubs clubhouse. We started towards the third base concourse.

By modern standards, tit is very narrow. After all, the park was built in an era when fans go into their seats and stayed there the whole game, all two hours of it.

The entrance to the clubhouse is through a door that is right along the concourse. Of course, it's not marked at all. If you saw it, you might assume it just went to some storage area.

You go through the door....

....down some stairs, and then you are.... the Cubs clubhouse. It is a very basic looking room. There's nothing fancy, and its not big at all. I'm sure that it would be the smallest home clubhouse in the National League. But it is bigger than the visitors locker room at Wrigley. The Cubs are in their third clubhouse, but the visitors are in the locker room that is original to the park. You can imagine just how tiny it must be.

After seeing the clubhouse, it was on to our last stop, the Cubs dugout and the field itself. We walked down a narrow hallway, but just before we got to the dugout, on the left side of the hallway, was a small room, with no door, just...

...a place for the players to take care of some quick business during the game. From there, it was just a few feet to...

...the Cubs dugout. It seemed small, and the view wasn't the greatest, but it was the Cubs dugout!

We also got to walk on the warning track between the two dugouts and take a few more pictures It was a real thrill to be standing in a spot that I have seen thousands of times.

Wrigley Field was in the news a little while back because ESPN's Peter Gammons referred to the park as a dump.

Maybe to a spoiled writer, used to being pampered in the newer ballparks, it is a dump.
Maybe to the millionaire ballplayers who are used to having more room in the clubhouse for their entourage, it is a dump.
Maybe to the "fan" who sits in the luxury skyboxes and is used to big, wide concourses, it is a dump.

But to this fan, who goes to the park to watch a ballgame,

this place is heaven!

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Rest of Series 2

I've got a few more cards left from Series Two.

This is the 60 Years of Topps card, from 1968, of Ernie Banks. This is the second time this year that Topps has highlighted the 1968 Cubs (the manufactured patch was the first). It still makes no sense. And 1968 was a pretty non-descript season for Mr. Cub. He hit only .246 but I guess his 32 homers was somewhat noteworthy.

For comparison sake, here is the original 1968 card on the left, and the 60YOT card on the right.

The most notable different is the word "Cubs." The words are longer and stretched out on the 1968 card, shorter and bolder on the 2011 version.

Up next are the base cards from the Topps60 insert set. The lame stat that is featured on the card is the same one that is on the relic card version for each player, so there is no need to re-hash it. Three Cubs made the checklist, up from only one in the first series.

And finally, there was one Cubs player....

.... in the ToppsTown set.

And that, my friends, it all she wrote for Series 2!