Friday, April 30, 2010

Does Size Matter?

Well, to Topps in 2005, it did.

I wasn't collecting in 2005, so I missed these when they came out, Topps XXL. But I found this Cubs set on ebay and it set me back a whopping 99 cents.

The 2008 Standard Catalog doesn't list them, so I don't know how many different teams these were made for. I have found only the Cubs, Yankees, and Red Sox on ebay. Anyone know if there were any other team sets made?

The cards are on regular card stock, but are 8" x 10" in size; hence the name XXL.

This is what the regular card looks like on top of the XXL card. These things are huge. You can also see that the XXL cards used the same design as the originals. The backs are identical to the original, also.

The team set consisted of four cards. For the Cubs, it was Derrek Lee, Mark Prior, Nomar Garciaparra, and Greg Maddux. In 2005, that was a pretty impressive collection of talent. Its interesting that in only five seasons, only Derrek Lee is still active. No one expected Maddux to still be pitching in 2010. but who would have thought in 2005 that Prior and Nomar would be done by now?

Here's a look at all four of the Cubs XXL cards

Thursday, April 29, 2010

#23 - Nelson Matthews

Outfielder Nelson Matthews played in bits of four seasons with the Cubs, from 1960 - 1963. He wore #23 during the last three seasons. His only Topps card with the Cubs was this rookie card from 1963. None of the four featured did much, though one of the guys had a pretty decent NBA career.

It looks like Matthews was another of the many players the Cubs rushed to the majors, only to see them flop. He made his MLB debut in September, 1960, at the age of 18. The next two seasons saw him have September call ups also, and with these, he was wearing #23. His only full season with the Cubs was 1963. He started 35 games in the first half of the season, but hit only .156. His playing time was limited the second half, probably the result of that .156 average. He ended the year with a .155 average, 4 home runs, and 10 RBI's.

After the 1963 season, he was traded to the A's, where he would spend the last year and a half of his big league career. His final game was July 18, 1965, and he went out with a bang, going 2-4 with a home run.

Bobby Gene Smith also wore #23 in 1962. He was with the team for only 1 1/2 months, played in 13 games, and hit .172. The Cubs were the second of three teams he played for in 1962, and no Cubs card of him was made.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

2006 Cubs Factory Team Sets

Today I'll give you a look at Topps' first factory team sets, from 2006. As a kid, I would have loved to have this available. It seemed like I could never pull any good Cubs from wax packs. I would have triples of Paul Popovich, but no Billy Williams cards. Factory team sets would have solved that problem for me and given me all of the good guys.

Topps' first release had 14 cards per team. Of the 14 Cubs, six were from series one, seven from series two, and one player was in the updates set.

Two of the players, Jacque Jones and Juan Pierre, were picked up by the Cubs during the off-season.
The good news is that the factory set was more updated than series one of the base set. The bad news was that in order to be more current, they had to photoshop. So we get two photoshopped cards, while the cards in series two used spring training photos.

Jones' card looks like they used a shot of him in his Twins road uniform.

Here is the other photoshopped card, Juan Pierre, with his high stirrups and baggy pants.

Ronny Cedeno is the player who was featured in the factory set and the updates set. The card in the factory set used a posed shot, taken during his time with the team in 2005. It looks like a card from the '60's or 70's.

The rest of the cards look identical to the ones in the base set. Take a look:

This shot of Michael Barrett was taken when the Cubs played at Yankee Stadium, June 17-19, 2005.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Cards Per Hour

I'm not a mathematician, statistician, or economist, so I don't know how valid or accurate this is. But I've always wondered what year was the most economical to buy cards. So I did some digging around.

Here's my premise: I will compare the cost of a single card (pack price divided by cards per pack) with the federal minimum wage for that particular year. I can then determine how many baseball cards you could buy with an hours worth of work at the minimum wage.

We can then look year by year and find the year that would give you the most cards per hour.

From 1952 all the way until 1972, cards were a penny each. The amount of gum you got went down as the pack sizes increased, but it was a penny per card. In 1973, the price per pack jumped to 15 cents for 10 cards, and the penny a card price was gone forever. From that point on, the price and/or the cards per pack changed pretty regularly.

As I was hunting around for retail pack prices, I hit a wall. I couldn't find any retail pack prices for the years 1995 - 2006. If any of you have a source for that information, I'd love to see it. I don't like having my chart full of ??????.

According to what I found, the best year to buy cards would have been.....

....1979! You could get a whopping 174 cards with one hour's work at $2.90 per hour. That's right. Work an hour and you've earned enough to buy 174 beauties like these.

And the 1979 Topps Cubs didn't have a single card that was airbrushed!

In 1979 the minimum wage had just gone up, but Topps was still charging 20 cents for a pack of 12 cards. And this was at a time when Topps was still the only game in town. Fleer and Donruss were still two years away. I was a senior in high school in 1979, and I was working part time in a minimum wage job, but I wasn't buying wax anymore. Too bad for me!

Now compare the 1979 number with today's, in which you can get 44 cards for an hours work. That's only a fourth of what you could get in 1979. And in 1979 you still got gum! Of course, in 1979 you didn't have any of the inserts or the glossy cards, you just had base cards on cardboard. But the question has to be asked: Is the chance of getting that autograph on a sticker or swatch of jersey worth paying four times as much for the pack?

Want to guess what my answer is?

Here's the complete chart, from 1952 to 2010. If you see that I've got something wrong, or if you have any of the retail prices that I'm missing, leave a comment and I'll edit the chart.

YearMinimum wageCost Per CardCards Per Hour

Monday, April 26, 2010

#23 - Don Young

Next up in our look at all the Cubs that wore #23 is Don Young, who wore the number in an 11 game stint with the Cubs in 1965.

Don Young was signed by the Cardinals as a 17-year-old free agent in June of 1963. The next spring the Cubs grabbed him in the first year waiver draft. By 1965 he was in AA and hit .273 with 16 home runs. That was good enough to earn him a September call-up and a shot at the majors. He played in 11 games and had 36 at bats, but only two hits, which is a .057 average. The curse of #23 lived on!

Its interesting that an .057 average in 11 games was good enough to get him a rookies star card in the 1966 set.

In May of 1967 the Cubs sold him back to the Cardinals, but in two months the Cubs bought him back. I wonder what the story there was?

It would be four years before Young returned to the majors, as a member of the 1969 Cubs. This time around he was given #29. He played in 101 games and was involved in one of the most controversial events of the season. His baseball career ended after two season back in the minors.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Five Random Cubs Cards

I've got 6,894 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 - 1952 Bowman #88 Bruce Edwards Edwards came to the Cubs on June 15, 1951 in a trade with the Dodgers. Each team sent four players to the other team. That is something you don't ever see any more. Somehow, he made the NL 1951 All-Star team, though he hit only .237 in 68 games for the entire season. In 1952 he played in only 52 games. He went back to the minors in 1953.

1970's - 1971 Topps #203 Larry Gura
This card gives us one of the standard pitchers' poses, taken at Shea. Gura was a second round pick in the 1969 draft and the Cubs rushed his development. He made his big league debut barely a year later, in April, 1970. He spent most of 1971 in AAA, making only six September appearances.

1980's - 1989 Donruss #223 Rick Sutcliffe
1989 would be Sutcliffe's last hurrah with the Cubs. By this time he was no longer the ace of the staff. Greg Maddux and Mike Bielecki had surpassed him. But in 1989, he went 16-11 as the Cubs won the NL East crown. He started game 3 of the NLCS against the Giants and left after 6 innings with the Cubs leading 4-3, but the bullpen couldn't hold the lead and the Cubs lost 5-4.

1990's - 1991 Fleer #709 Ryne Sandberg Home Run Kings
That would be Ryno and Prince's dad, a much skinnier man than his son. This picture would have been taken at the 1990 All-Star Game, which was held at Wrigley Field. Fielder led the AL in homers in 1990 with 51, while Sandberg was the NL leader with 40.

2000's - 2005 Upper Deck #293 Mark Prior
2005 was his last full season in the majors, though he spent most of June on the disabled list. A line drive to the elbow landed him there. For the season he was 11-7 with a 3.64 ERA.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Cubs 2010 Topps Factory Team Set

Jay Bee has written several times about his collection of Topps Factory Team sets. The few stores around here that carry baseball cards have never had any of the team sets, so they were never really on my radar.

But after his latest post on the sets, I thought I'd look into them a little further. I found I could get all of the sets from 2006 to 2010 pretty easily. So I decided to buy them.

Today I'll take a closer look at this year's set. There are 17 cards in the set, which is more than these usually have. Typically there have been 14 cards per team.

Of the 17 in the Cubs set, nine players were not featured in the base set's series one. So that makes those cards new to me. I'm assuming I'll see all of these again when series two comes out. And then there was one card, Derrek Lee's, that used a different picture that the one in series one. I wonder why Topps switched the picture, and why only one player? Seems a little odd to me.

First up are the nine missing from series one. There are some pretty big names here, too.

Marlon Byrd

Mike Fontenot

Kosuke Fukudome

Carlos Marmol

Aramis Ramirez

Alfonso Soriano

Geovany Soto

Randy Wells, plus a free commercial for Gatorade

And our most recent addition to the bullpen, Carlos Zambrano

And now, here are the two Derrek Lee cards side by side. The one on the left is from the base set, the one on the right from the factory set. Again, I wonder why the switch?

It's interesting how similar the pictures look, even though they were taken at two different stadiums. I guess Lee's swing is pretty consistent.

I've got the 2006, 2007, and 2008 sets in hand, and I'll get to those within the next week.

Friday, April 23, 2010

#23 - Ron Campbell

#23 was worn by two utlility infielders in 1966. The first, Carl Warwick, was picked up in a trade at the end of spring training and was with the Cubs through June. He was then released, ending his six year career. His late arrival with the team and his early departure meant no card for Carl in a Cubs uniform.

After Warwick and his .227 batting average were cut, Ron Campbell was called up from AAA to take Warwick's roster spot and wear his number #23. This was actually Campbell's third trip to the majors. In his previous two stints, he wore two different numbers (#7 and #15). He stayed with the team the rest of the season and played in 24 games, though he hit only .217.

Those 24 games were enough to earn himself a card in the 1967 set. But those 24 games were his final ones in the major leagues. He spent all of 1967 and 1968 with the Cubs AAA team and the next two seasons with the Pirates top farm team before retiring after the 1970 season.

I would have to say that the curse of #23 continued on with the two guys who wore in in 1966.

In 1967 and 1968, #23 was assigned to Garry Jestadt, a top Cubs prospect. However, Jestadt was never called to the majors, so #23 just sat in a closet for two seasons. In December, 1968, Jestadt was taken by the Expos in the expansion draft, so that made #23 available.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

I Didn't Really Want This Card...

....but I'm a team collector and I try to complete the sets.

Among the 2010 Topps inserts is the Peak Performance set.

There was one Cub, Alfonso Soriano, among the regular cards.

Four Cubs had jersey cards and I picked those up pretty easily, too.

But then I saw the checklist for autographs, and included on the list was Milton Bradley. Why in the world was he included in a set called "Peak Performance." Bradley never got going last season and his stats were not very good. I think most Cubs fans feel he peaked when GM Jim Hendry suspended him for the last two weeks of the season.

When Bradley was traded in the off-season, it was good riddance. But, as I said at the beginning, I'm a team collector, and this was a Cubs card. I felt a collectors obligation to get the card, even though I don't like the player.

My first look at ebay saw the card going for $6 - $10 dollars. That was way more than I was willing to pay. So I was going to be patient with this one. It took about two weeks to find an auction that flew under the radar. So for the price of only $2.25, I got Milton Bradley's autograph.

I feel a little dirty, but I got the card.