Friday, January 16, 2009

Adios, Hank White (with no love from Topps)

Cub's general manager Jim Hendry recently announced that the Cubs would not be re-signing backup catcher Henry Blanco, aka Hank White. Blanco has been with the Cubs since 2005 and has done a decent job. His defense has always been very good (he threw out 43% of would be stealers in 2008) and his hitting has been what you would expect from a backup catcher. But he was also expensive, making $4.8 million over the past two seasons, and so the Cubs are letting him go.

I planned on scanning in one of my Henry Blanco cards from my Topps team sets, but over the past four season, Topps has not deemed Hank card-worthy. There are no Topps Henry Blanco Cubs cards. 660 in the base, 330 more with the updates and highlights; 990 cards, and not one Hank White!

So my question would be, how does Topps decide if a player is card worthy? It seemed much easier to get a card 30-40 years ago, when there were only 20 and then 24 teams.

Arnold Earley pitched in 13 games for the Cubs in 1966 and he makes the 1967 set.

Lee Elia played in all of 15 games in 1968, but he gets a card in both '68 and '69. Of course Elia makes much more of a name for himself in 1983 as Cubs manager with a profanity laced tirade about Cubs fans, but I will save that story for another day.

Jimmie Hall got into 11 games with the Cubs in 1969 and he is included in the 1970 set.

I would suspect that none of the above would have gotten a card today. And I think that is a shame. To me, the cards are also a chronicle of the season and of the teams. I enjoy looking through the sets and remembering some of the lesser contributors (which is the politically correct way of saying "the scrubs").

Arnold Earley is forever in my mind a Cub because of one card. Poor Hank White will one day be forgotten, but long live Jimmie Hall!


  1. I don't know Blanco's story, but the reason he hasn't appeared on cards could be a contract issue with Topps, like Nomar Garciaparra or Kevin Millar or Barry Bonds (or going way back Rusty Staub and Maury Wills).

  2. I totally agree. Part of the symbolic honor of being on a bubble gum card was that you were in the major leagues. Maybe for just one game but you were there. I miss those days.

  3. I'm going to guess that Blanco got left out of the card sets because he's a back-up catcher who's well away from his rookie season.

    With 30 teams each using somewhere around 40 players a year, it's really not feasible for every player to get a card to themselves... but you'd think he could have gotten one in three years.

    A great way of making those pre-packaged Topps team sets more relevant would be to include exclusive cards. That way, you could make cards of somebody like Henry Blanco for the Cubs fans.

  4. I can't wait to here the Elia story. I got his autograph last year, so I am all ears (or eyes in this case).

  5. a jimmie hall sighting! too bad it was all downhill from his rookie season with the twins. he chose not to show up for the 65 twins reunion a few years ago, which was too bad.

  6. With the Lee Elia story, you would be all ears, as he got pretty profane

  7. Gotta say Blanco was probably worth the extremely high price tag in 2008. As well as solid defense, Blanco hit in the .290s, so there no major dropoff from Soto in offensive production.

  8. I know this is a very old post but I just had to comment. The odd thing about the Earley card is that he was a regular part of the bullpen for the Red Sox for 5+ seasons and never appeared on any cards, though he's pictured in a Sox uniform on that '67 card. Because of this (which must have been a contract issue) he's a relatively unknown ex-player - at least to me.
    The Lee Elia cards bring to mind the lack of new photos that Topps photographers took around 1968-69. A glance through the '69 set, especially, would show that. Hawk Harrelson appeared as a Red Sox in both the 1968 and 1969 sets (on a number of cards - regular, All-star, League leaders, inserts) and it ALWAYS bothered me that he appears in a Red Sox uniform on Zero of them!