Sunday, January 31, 2010

Five Random Cubs Cards

I've got 6,099 Cubs cards from 22 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 1961 George Altman I hope you like this card's design because you'll be seing it with 2010 Heritage. Altman had the year of his career in 1961. He belted 27 homers, knocked in 96 runs, and batted .303. Ernie Banks finally had someone protecting him in the lineup! Altman was also an All-Star in 1961.

1970's - Kelloggs 1970 Ernie Banks This is the first Kelloggs card that has been selected! And it's of Mr. Cub himself, Ernie Banks. Sadly, Ernie's career was just about done in 1970. He played only 72 games. But in one of the games, on May 12, he hit career #500. Here's a nice video of Ernie's milestone home run. Today, 500 seems like a cheapened number. But Ernie was only the ninth player to hit that milestone, and it was a huge deal.

1980's - Donruss 1987 Rafael Palmeiro, or Raffie Light, the pre-steroids version. This would be one of the several rookie cards of his that came out in 1987. Palmeiro spent the first couple months of the season in AAA, but came to the Cubs in June and was the regular left fielder for the remainder of the season. He hit 14 home runs, but had only 30 RBIs. He would later become on the the players that cheapened the 500 home run mark.

1990s - Stadium Club 1991 Danny Jackson
This is the second 1991 Danny Jackson card the generator has picked. Jackson had a strange follow-through and there are a lot of cards like this one that show him on the ground or nearly falling over. The Cubs signed him as a free agent in the off season to a three year contract. He was a real bust with the Cubs, going 1-5 with a 6.75 ERA. All that for $2,625,000. Thank you random number generator for reminding me of this disaster, again!!

2000's - Allen and Ginter 2008 Ramirez The Cubs' third baseman put up his usual good number in 2008, being one of the main reasons the Cubs were 2008 NL Central champs. He hit 27 HRs and had 111 RBIs and was named to the All-Star team. It was only the second time he made the team, yet since 2003 he has averaged 30 home runs and 100 RBIs. I know there are some Cubs players that get more media attention than they really deserve because they play for the Cubs (Zambrano, Soriano, Fukudome), but for some reason it seems like Aramis doesn't get the attention he truly has earned by his performance on the field.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Kind-of Cubs Hall of Famer: Bruce Sutter

This is the fourth Kind-of-Cub Hall of Famer I've looked at. The first three, Hoyt Wilhelm, Dennis Eckersley, and Richie Ashburn, clearly have no business having a Cubs cap on their plaque.

But Bruce Sutter's situation isn't the same. I think Cubs fans can make a decent argument that Sutter should have a Cubs hat on his Cooperstown plaque.

Bruce Sutter was signed by the Cubs in 1972. An arm injury almost ended his career until roving instructor Fred Martin taught him the split-fingered fastball. That pitch saved his career.

Sutter was promoted to the Cubs on May 8, 1976. By the end of the season he had established himself as the team's closer. He was 6-3 in 52 games and added 10 saves. I remember watching him pitch on WGN and them showing replays of the split-finger just dropping off the table. It was an amazing thing.

Sutter's first card, from 1977

In 1977, the Cubs got off to a torrid start and Sutter was one of the reasons why. By late June they had a 8 1/2 game lead and were still holding on with a 2 game lead at the All-Star break. But Sutter got hurt in mid-July and by the time he returned from the DL in late August, the Cubs were 8 games out of first. Still, he saved 31 games.

Topps 1978 - It must have been a chilly day at Candlestick, that Sutter is wearing his jacket. And I got one of those jackets, a Starter jacket, in 1980. I thought I was very cool!

A healthy Sutter in 1978 saved 27 games and picked up the win in the All-Star game.

Topps 1979 - I thought this card would look even better if he had his fingers in the split-fingered grip.

His time with the Cubs peaked in 1979, when his 37 saves (which tied the NL record) and 2.23 ERA helped him win the Cy Young Award. He also picked up the win in the All-Star game for the second straight season.

Topps 1980 - Wearing the ugly pinstriped pajama uniforms.

But, he also became arbitration-elegible and won. His salary for 1980 would be a staggering (for the era) $700,000. The Cubs cheap owner William Wrigley had no choice but to pay that in 1980, but after the season, Sutter and his contract was traded to the Cardinals. In 1980, he saved only 28 games, but that was still enough to lead the league.

His last Topps card with the Cubs was in 1981, though he was traded before the season started. He is shown with the Cardinals in the 1981 traded set.

Here is Donruss, 1981, which has Sutter in a Cubs uniform, though he is listed as a Cardinal. Donruss didn't believe in the airbrush.

Fleer had an 1981 card of Sutter, though the best reliever in the NL is shown holding a bat!

In his five years with the Cubs, Sutter won the All-Star game twice, was a Cy Young Award winner, and twice led the league in saves. He pitched in 300 games and saved 131. He spent one less year with the Cardinals, pitched in 51 fewer games, and saved four fewer. But, he was in the World Series with the Cardinals and maybe that recognition got him the STL on his plaque instead of a C.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Interesting Cartoons from the '50's

I was thumbing through my Cubs binder from the 1950's and found a few interesting things from the backs of the cards to share:

This is from the 1955 card of Cubs pitcher Howie Pollet.

And here is a better look at the trivia question. The answer on the card is true, though by the end of the 1955 season the Dodgers would be world champs. I'm hoping that a trivia question on the back of a 2010 card says "When did the Cubs last win the World Series?" With the same luck as the 1955 Dodgers, the Cubs will win the 2010 series!

Here is the back of the 1956 Cubs team card. Wrigley and Fenway would be the only two ballparks still in use from the 16 team cards in the set.

And at the bottom of the card, the sad facts about the Cubs last pennant and world championship. A card from 2010 would say the exact same thing :(

These are the backs from Lee Walls' 1958 and 1959 cards.

A closer look at the cartoons shows that Topps really had a thing about his "Captain Midnight" nickname, talking about it two years in a row.

Here is the real Captain Midnight

And this is what Walls looks like....not exactly a superhero type.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

1986 Cubs Team Issued Cards

Baseball card day in 1986 at Wrigley Field was held on July 17. A crowd of 30,598 saw the Cubs lose to the Giants 6-4. The 28 card set was given to every fan at the game, so you would figure about 31,000 of these would have been available.

There were several changes from previous team issued sets. First, there was a new sponsor, Gatorade. But a bigger change was.....a bigger card. The cards measured 4 1/4 by 2 7/8, much bigger that the standard baseball card size of 3 1/2 by 2 1/2.

This is what they look like compared to a regular card. That also presented a problem for storage. The oversized cards wouldn't fit in the standard nine-pocket sheet. I had to settle for four pocket pages. The pockets are a lot bigger than the cards, but that was the closest sized page they would fit into.

Among the firsts in the set is a card for manager Gene Michaels, who took over the team in June. The first card of a rookie pitcher is also included, some kid named Jamie Moyer. I wonder if he will last in the majors? And there is a card of a player who had a very brief career with the Cubs, but in about 11 months I can guarantee that I will be showing his card again. Want to guess who that will be??

Again in alphabetical order, here are the 28 cards in the set.