Wednesday, March 31, 2010

#23 - Ryne Sandberg

Sandberg was the last Cub player to wear #23. The team officially retired it on August 28, 2005. I'm sure it was unofficially retired after Ryno's last season, 1997, since no one wore it after that.

As I wrote yesterday, before Sandberg, the number had been passed along to a host of scrubs. When he came to the Cubs for the 1982 season, I'd suspect that the team wasn't really sure what they had. He came to spring training as a player looking for a position. He was seen as either a center fielder or third baseman. It was third base he ended up at.

I vividly remember the very slow start he got off to at the beginning of his rookie season. It took him seven games and 21 at bats before he finally got his first hit of the season. When April ended, he was hitting .203. But the team didn't give up on him, and by the end of the season he raised his average to a respectable .271. The Cubs also wanted to see him at second base and that is where he spent the last month of the season....and the rest of his career.

From there, his career took off...
...1984 MVP
...9 Gold Gloves
...10 All Star Appearances
...league leading 40 home runs in 1990
...most career home runs of all second basemen (at the time he retired)

And he was a classy player. He played the game it was supposed to be played. I've always liked him and I was lucky enough to be in the upper deck on the first base side for his final game at Wrigley Field on September 21, 1997. In the bottom of the fifth, he got a single off of Curt Schilling. He was replaced by a pinch runner and as he made his way to the dugout, everyone in the park got on their feet and gave him a long, loud standing ovation. It was a goose bump moment and something I will always remember.

I've got 206 Ryne Sandberg cards. The ones here give you a good look at #23

Fleer 1983, shown at spring training 1982, the last time the Cubs wore their pajama uniforms. When the season started in April, they had their blue softball uniforms instead.

Leaf 1994

Bowman 1994

Score 1997

Select 1997

Upper Deck 1998

This is the card given out at Wrigley Field the day his #23 was retired

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


What do each of the following players have in common?

Leroy Herrmann (1932)
Lynn Nelson (1933-34)
Roy Joiner (1935)
Clyde Shoun (1935-36)
Phil Cavarretta (1937-38)
Vern Olsen (1939-42)
Roy Hughes (1944-45)
Vern Olsen (1946)
Doyle Lade (1947-50)
Andy Varga (1951)
Dave Cole (1954)
Bubba Church (1954-55)
Jerry Kindall (1956-58)
Jim Brosnan (1958)
John Buzhardt (1958)
Moe Thacker (1958)
Art Schult (1960)
Nelson Matthews (1961-63)
Bobby Gene Smith (1962)
Don Young (1965)
Carl Warwick (1966)
Ron Campbell (1966)
Jimmie Hall (1969-70)
Manny Jimenez (1969)
Adrian Garrett (1970)
Ramon Webster (1971)
Carmen Fanzone (1971-74)
Pete LaCock (1975-76)
Mike Gordon (1977-78)
Jim Tracy (1980-81)
Ryne Sandberg (1982-94,1996-97)

Well, with only two exceptions (Sandberg and Cavarretta), they were all, at best, were very mediocre.

But that's not what I was looking for. After all, if you are putting together a list of mediocre Cubs, its going to be a lot longer than this one!

This list is all of the Cubs players that.....

wore uniform number 23.

The Cubs first put numbers on the backs of their uniforms in 1932. As far as I can tell, the font they use today is the same one first used in 1932. It is a unique, rounded font not seen on any other MLB team (though the Bears use a nearly identical font). That has always made it very easy for me to identify a Cubs player from the back. You see that font, you know its a Cub.

As you look through the list, you'll notice that most of the players who wore #23 didn't have it very long. Phil Cavarretta was with the Cubs for two decades, but #44 is what he wore the longest, not #23. Vern Olsen and Carmen Fanzone had it for 4-5 seasons, but otherwise, most of these guys weren't with the Cubs too long.

If clubhouse manager Yosh Kawano gave you #23, you should be worried about what the Cubs thought of your future. I wonder what Yosh thought about Ryne Sandberg when he was issued #23. After all, Ryno was just a throw-in in the Larry Bowa trade. Did Yosh think he would be another in the long line of just-passing-through players to wear that number?

Over the next several days, I'll be featuring the cards of any of the Cubs I've got that wore #23. By my count, there are fifteen of them with cards in my collection. The ones that are missing are from before the Topps era, or were with the team for such a short time they didn't get a card.

I'll kick things off tomorrow with the most recent #23 Ryne Sandberg, and then work my way backwards through the list.

I'd like to acknowledge the source of the list of players and the #23 jersey picture: It came from site Cubsbythenumbers Kasey does a great job of keeping the list current. He's also got a gallery of Cubs scorecards that is worth a look.

Monday, March 29, 2010


500 is a special number is baseball.

The 500 Home Run Club is a pretty select group (though the steroid era has diminished it somewhat).

And for Cubs fan, if the team plays .500 ball your happy.

Is there any significance to 500 in the blogging world? Because you are reading Wrigley Wax post #500.

The biggest worry I had when I started the blog was having enough ideas to write about. It scared me to think that I would need 365 different ideas for a year. Well, in the first year I had a little over four hundred posts. I guess coming up with ideas wasn't as hard as I thought!

And now I'm at the nice round number of 500. I can't say that coming up with different ideas is super easy, but things just seem to come to me. Either I got some new cards, or there's a Cubs news event or trade, or I just noticed something new on a card. I've also settled into some features that I can use if nothing else comes to mind.

So here's to the first 500, with many more to come.

And I'll leave you with some cards from the 500 home run club:

The two players who hit #500 while with the Cubs:

Ernie Banks, who hit all 512 with the Cubs

Sammy Sosa, 545 of his 609 career homers were with the Cubs.

And Willie Mays, who hit 92 against the Cubs, the most of anyone in the 500 Club.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Five Random Cubs Cards

I've added several smaller oddball sets, so now I've got 6,781 Cubs cards from 30 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 1953 #157 Bob Addis OK class, raise your hand if you have ever heard of Bob Addis. Hmmm, no one is raising their hand. I wouldn't be raising mine either. After part-time duty with the Braves in 1950 and 1951, Addis came to the Cubs and had an acceptable season, hitting .295 in 93 games. But he played in only 10 game in 1953 before he was part of a whopper of a trade.

Check this out: On June 4, the Cubs sent Bob Addis, Toby Atwell, George Freese, Gene Hermanski, Bob Schultz, Preston Ward and $150,000 to the Pirates for Joe Garagiola, Ralph Kiner, George Metkovich and Howie Pollet. That's six players and a ton of cash for four players. And how did Addis do with the Pirates? Not too well. He was released only nine days after the trade and never played in the majors again.

1970's Topps 1978 #585 Woodie Fryman
This card has one of Topps' lousy airbrush jobs. The Cubs picked up the 38-year-old Fryman from the Reds after the 1977 season, hence the airbrushed card. He spent only two months in Chicago, going 2-4 in 13 games, nine of which he started. His ERA was 5.17. It looked like he was done, and he was traded to the Expos on June 9th. How did Woodie do with Montreal? Well, he pitched until he was 43, mostly out of the bullpen, and his ERA was usually below 3.00. Apparently Woodie was not done!

1980's Fleer 1986 #383 Rick Sutcliffe
Why is Sutcliffe hatless? Did the photographer think he was going to be traded? In 1986, Sutcliffe was still recovering from shoulder problems and he was bad, really bad. How does 5-14 with a 4.64 ERA sound. It sounds bad to me! But I'm glad the Cubs didn't trade him because in 1987 he won a league-high 18 games.

1990's Score 1993 #73 Mike Morgan
He joined the Cubs as a free agent for the 1992 season and was 16-8. A nice pick up, right? Wrong! He tanked in both '93 and '94, with records of 10-15 and 2-10.

2000's Bowman 2009 #31 Rich Harden
The picture on this card had to be taken during Harden's one and only spring training with the Cubs, in 2009. The glass-armed Harden was 9-9 for the Cubs in 2009 and the team decided to not bother re-signing him.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Dirt, The Pitcher

I can't let any discussion of dirt go without mentioning Dick Tidrow, aka "Dirt."

I've said it before, but that has to be one of the best nicknames in all of baseball. Tidrow was a grind-em out kind of pitcher, and that nickname fit him to a tee. He had bushy eyebrows, that big mustache and long floppy hair. He looked like Dirt.

DIrt came to the Cubs from the Yankees in May of 1979. While with the Yankees, Tidrow had been used in the bullpen for three seasons. But in 1978 they put him back in the starting rotation. That didn't work out to well, as he had a Slurpee season, going 7-11.

The Cubs sent him back to the bullpen and there he flourished. He went 11-5 in 1979 and pitched a league high 84 games in 1980. He was used primarily as a set-up man for Bruce Sutter and that worked quite well.

When Sutter was traded after the 1980 season, Tidrow took over as the closer. That didn't work well at all, as he slipped to 3-10 and his ERA skyrocketed over 5. His last season with the Cubs was 1982 and he returned to the setup role, and again had success, going 8-3 with a 3.39 ERA.

Here's a few more cards of Dirt

1982 Team Issue

1981 Fleer, it looks like he's fraternizing with the enemy by the batting cage.

This is his final Topps card, from 1983. He looks a little too clean shaven for me, starting to lose that "Dirt" look. He didn't pitch for the Cubs in 1983, as he was sent across town to the White Sox in exchange for, among others, Steve Trout.

That would make it Dirt for Rainbow.

Friday, March 26, 2010

More Dirt

I've got one more dirt card for you. This is from 1994 Stadium Club and it is WIllie Wilson's card. Willie was a long time fixture in the outfield of the Kansas City Royals. But he, like many other past-their prime veterans, finished his career with the Cubs.

He was signed by the Cubs as a free agent after the 1992 season and played in 105 games. But he hit only .258 and for the first time as a full time big leaguer, he had less than 10 stolen bases.

Willie played in 17 games for the Cubs in 1994 and was released, ending his career.

As you can see from the card, Wilson was an intense player. He's got the scream face going, and his leg is covered in dirt.

But what I like the most is the hole in his right knee

I don't think I have any other card that show a rip in the uniform like that.

Any else got any dirty, hole-y cards?

Thursday, March 25, 2010


This is one of my favorite childhood memories: My dad played on a softball team. As soon as the game was over, but before the bases were put away, all the players' kids would run the bases. And of course, when you would get to home plate, you would slide, raising a cloud of dirt.

Then you would get up, brush yourself off, and take another spin around the base path. By the time we got home, we were filthy. We'd have to take a bath, but it was worth it!

Baseball and dirt go together. Yet, in the big leagues today, that doesn't seem to be the case anymore. Today's diamonds no are no longer dirt. Instead, they are a mixture of clay, sand, and silt. By checking the cards over the years, it looks like the clay came into prominence during the 1990's. By the end of that decade, it was hard to find a dirty player on a card.

If you watch replays on MLB Network of older games, you see dirt flying. I remember games being held up as wind blew across the field and stirred up a dirt cloud. Players would slide and come up full of dirt. They would brush themselves off and more dirt would fly.

Today, they have red/orange clay stains instead.

I'm sure the drainage on the modern fields is much better, which means fewer postponed games (and fewer dollars lost). The bounces are probably truer, too.

But how can you play baseball and not get dirty?

Here is my tribute to dirt....getting dirty.....playing dirty.

Ultra 1990, Joe GIrardi in a cloud of dirt.

Ultra 1990, Gary Scott with a dirty shin

Ultra 1993, Tommy Shields covered in dirt from head to toe

Ultra 1997, even Sammy Sosa got dirty; look at the dirty flying off his back side.

Stadium Club 1991, turning two, with a cloud of dirt,

Pacific 1997, breaking up a double play, making a mess.

Score 1988, Moreland looks like I did after my post-softball game running of the bases!

Upper Deck 1990, looks like Webster made a head first dive.

Upper Deck 1990, that's what a catcher should look like, covered in dirt.

That's the dirt....on dirt.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Scan-tastic! Finished!


It took about two months, but my entire Cubs card collection, 6781 cards in all, is now scanned in!


now fits in


this, a jump drive in beautiful Cub blue. It is pretty awesome to have my entire Cubs collection with me at all times in my pocket. It will make blogging much easier too.

Once I got going, things seemed to move pretty quickly. In fact, in the past two weeks I scanned over 2,000 cards. It was getting easier, but my left hand is paying the price.

I had the scanner hooked up to my laptop, and instead of a mouse, I was using the touch pad, with my left hand was doing all the work. That poor left hand had to crop each of the cards. I bought a mouse a few weeks ago, thinking I could use it to give my hand a break. But it wasn't as sensitive to work with as my hand, so I ditched it. I'm a little sore, but now I can take a break.

What I liked most about the project is that I got to look at each of the cards again. Many have been purchased in the past 18 months and I'm not nearly as familiar with them as I am with my older Topps cards. I saw some things on the newer cards that I never noticed before. You'll be reading about some of these in the near future.

I also learned that there were way too many cards produced in the 1990's. I've got 33 cards of Brooks Kieschnick, a typical Cubs over-hyped prospect that never panned out. In contrast, I've got 33 cards of Hall of Fame pitcher Fergie Jenkins. That is just wrong!

Scanning was a good way to pass some cold, boring winter evenings and though my hand feels the pain, I glad I did it.

But, now I've got this bug gnawing at the back of my head saying. "What about your Topps sets?" I'm doing my best to ignore it.....for now.... And my left hand is saying, "I don't think I can handle 28,828 more cards!!!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Jack Brickhouse Cubs Card: Spades

Today we take a look at the last of the 13 cards in the 1985 Jack Brickhouse Cubs playing cards. The spades start with 1972 and go through the division winning team of 1984.

Milt Pappas, who lost a perfect game by walking the 27 batter, Padres pinch hitter Larry Stahl. He retired the next hitter and "settled" for a no-hitter, and has been whinning about it ever since.

The Reuschel brothers, Rick and Paul, combined for a shut out on August 21, 1975; it was the first time brothers accomplished this.

Bill Madlock went 4 for 4 on October 3, 1976 to win his second consecutive batting crown. His reward....a few months later he was traded to the Giants.

Dallas Green was hired by the Tribune Company in 1981 to rebuild the the franchise. Within three seasons, the Cubs were division champs.

In 1983, Jody Davis hit 24 home runs, the first time a Cub catcher topped 20 home runs in 50 years.

It cost the Cubs a future slugger, Joe Carter. But a June, 1984 trade with the Indians brought Sutcliffe to the Cubs and all he did was go 16-1.

In his first year as manager of the Royals in 1980, Frey led them to the AL crown. In his first season with the Cubs, he led them to the division title, but fell one game short of the pennant.

Ryne Sandberg had a breakout season in 1984, winning the NL MVP and putting himself in the national spotlight.

The division winning team of 1984, who brought great thrills in the summer and great disappointment in the fall.

Bob Dernier came to the team from the Phillies just prior to the start of the 1984 season and did a great job as the leadoff hitter. He and Ryne Sandberg were at the top of the order and referred to as "The Daily Double" by Harry Caray.

Sarge also came to the team in the same deal that brought Dernier and had a great season, finishing 5th in MVP voting.

Another ex-Phillie, Moreland got regular time in right field when Bill Buckner was traded and Leon Durham moved to first base.

Leon Durham took over at first when Bill Buckner was traded in June. In October, he acted like the 1986 post-season Bill Buckner, letting a grounder going between his legs and costing the Cubs a game. And this was in the fifth and final game of the series. Buckner's error was in game six, and the Red Sox still had a chance in game 7.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Jack Brickhouse Cubs Cards: Diamonds

This suit takes us through the 1950's and 1960's and into the early 1970's. The weird thing is in the first two suits, the photos got newer as the cards got higher. With the Diamonds and Spades, its the opposite. The higher cards feature the older photos.

I have earlier posts about many of these players or events, so you will see several links today.

Hank Sauer was the NL MVP in 1952. He smashed 37 homers and knocked in 121 runs.

Mr. Cub broke in with the Cubs at the tail end of 1953.

On May 12, 1955, Sam Jones became the first black pitcher in MLB history to throw a no-hitter, as he blanked the Pirates 4-0.

Dale Long's claim to fame was being one of the few lefty catchers in MLB history, catching in two games for the 1958 Cubs.

Lou Boudreau made the move from the radio booth to the dugout on May 4, 1960. He replaced Charlie Grimm as manager, and Grimm took Boudreau's place on WGN radio.

Cardwell pitched a no-hitter in his first appearance with the Cubs after coming over in a trade with the Phillies.

Ken Hubbs was the NL Rookie of the Year in 1962 and he was also the first rookie to win a Gold Glove. He set fielding records in 1962, going 78 games and 418 chances without an error. Both streaks ended on September 5 with a fourth inning throwing error.

June 29, 1969 was Billy Williams Day at Wrigley Field. In a double header against the Cardinals, Williams tied and the set the NL record for consecutive games played.

I spent seven months writing about the 1969 season and the Cubs players. I've got nothing more to add today!

Holtzman threw the second of his two career no-hitters on June 3, 1971 against the Reds at Riverfront Stadium.

Santo hit career homer #300 on September 21, 1971. He ended his Cubs career with 337 (plus 5 more during his one season with the White Sox).

In 1971, Fergie became the first Cub pitcher to win the Cy Young Award. He was 24-13 with a 2.77 ERA.

Burt Hooton pitched a no-hitter in his fourth big league start, on April 16, 1972. He struck out seven and walked seven as the Cubs beat the Phillies 4-0. It wasn't the prettiest no-hitter, but it was still a no-hitter.

Tomorrow, I'll finish up this set as we look at the Spades.