Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Fleer Ultra 1991: The Logo That Wouldn't Move

Almost every card made today has a brand logo in the upper corner of the card. And the logo moves to the left or right side, depending on the picture.

Derrek Lee, right side

Aramis Ramirez, left side

They do a such a good job of this that we hardly even notice the logo anymore. But when Fleer issued their first set of Ultra in 1991, the logo didn't move. It was on the left side of the card come hell or high water. And it made for a few interesting looking Cubs cards.

Look how close the ball in the logo and the ball in the picture are to each other. Move the logo over just a little bit and you could have had this...

....Mike Bielecki throwing the Ultra logo.

On this card we assume that Joe Girardi is holding the ball to show the ump. But because of the logo we'll never know.

And here we assume that Mike Harkey is throwing a baseball, but again, we can be 100% sure. And look at all that blank space on the right side of the card.

1991 was the only season of the immovable logo.

The next year, Fleer wised up and moved it according to the photo (and ruined my fun!).

Monday, August 30, 2010

From Big to Micro

Over the past couple week I’ve been featuring cards from Topps’ Big sets released in 1988-1990. The concept was interesting, making cards that had the look and size of cards from the Mid Fifties. You could say that it was a precursor to the successful Heritage line.

But Big only lasted three years. Sales must have been dropping, so imagine the following scene at Topps headquarters:

The brass is all seated around a conference room table, with the boss at the head. “All right, guys, Big seems to have lost its appeal. We need to come up with something else for 1991. Anyone have any ideas?”

Everyone stares down at the table, refusing to make eye contact with the boss because they had no ideas at all. After all, at Topps, you’re only expected to come up with one fresh idea per decade.

The boss starts to get agitated. “Come on guys, think! Someone has got to have something!” But still, no one looked up.

Then the shy secretary taking notes at the meeting meekly raised her hand. “Sir, can I say something?”

The frustrated boss says, “Sure, why not.”

“Well, if for the past three years you made bigger cards, why not do the opposite and make smaller cards. You know, like mini-cards?”

Suddenly everyone around the table pick their heads up. “Brilliant! Fanstatic!”

Thus was born Topps Micro. And for the next three years, we get miniature versions of the base cards.

What a stupid idea! What is the point of having cards 1” x 1 3/8” in size. They’re easy to lose, easy to ding up, too small to appreciate the fronts, and way too small to read the backs. Again, what’s the point??

Well, I guess I’m stupid too because I’ve been picking up the three Micro sets. The 1991 and 1992 were pretty easy to get at super low prices, less that $5 each. The 1993 sets are a bit tougher because of a Jeter card and I'm still working on getting one.

My guess would be that these didn’t do very well and there are cases upon cases of Micro lying around in basements across America….more Junk Wax era kindling.

The first thing I usually do when I buy a factory set is put the cards in numerical order. It organizes the set for me and I also know if any cards are missing. I’ve had two Micro sets for over a month and haven’t put them in order yet. Why? Because they are too darn small to read or handle! The numbers on the cards are so tiny I know I’ll have a headache ten minutes after I start. So I haven’t even made an attempt to do anything with them.

I didn’t even separate out the Cubs for a binder, either. Why bother? I’ve already got the real cards in a binder. If I want to see a smaller version, I’ll just open the binder and back up twenty feet…then the cards will look smaller and the backs will be unreadable.

Topps Micro Baseball is Topps Micro Creativity.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Bob Brenly....26 Years Ago Today Did What??

Today's post might be a first....no pictures of any Cubs cards.

Instead, I've got a card that while not a Cub, is still Cubs-related.

This is Cubs TV color man Bob Brenly's Topps Big card from 1988. I picked up the whole set recently and this card stood out.

Bob doesn't look too much different today than the picture on the card. But here is what caught my eye. Look on the back.

There are three different cartoons. The one that really grabbed my attention was this one.

Bob Brenly, a catcher with catcher-like "speed," hit an inside the park home run!! It was 26 years ago today that he accomplished the feat. I've enjoyed the many stories Bob has told during Cubs telecasts about his playing career. His tale about his four errors in one inning game (which he later won with a walk-off home run) is classic. But I don't recall him talking about an inside the park home run. So I did some digging around the web to see what I could find.

The game was in Montreal on August 29, 1984. Brenly hit a line to center field that went off of Tim Raines' glove. I'm guessing it rolled to the wall and Bob sprinted (?) around the bases. The way the card describes it, you would think it was a walk off. But since the game was Montreal, the Expos got one more crack at bat to tie the game but failed.

I've sent an email to Len and Bob about this momentous event. I sure hope that Bob adds some details. I'd love to hear his version of the story.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Five Random Cubs Cards

I've got 8,002 Cubs cards (57 new Bazooka cards put me over the 8,000 mark!) from 42 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 #364 Moe Drabowsky Moe didn't even pitch for the Cubs in 1961; he was traded to the Braves at the end of March.

1970's: Topps 1979 #663 Mike Vail
Though he played in only 78 games, Vail hit well, posting a .335 average.

1980's: Team Issued 1989 #44 Steve Wilson
This is what the cards looked like from Baseball Card day in 1989. It's an oversized card with an undersized photo on it. Wilson came to the Cubs in 1989 as a part of the trade that sent Rafael Palmeiro to the Rangers. He made 53 appearances and was 6-4 with a 4.20 ERA.

1990's: Conlon 1994 #1274 Bill Killefer
This card was released in 1994, but the picture was taken in 1918. The photo is a rare action shot from that era. It shows Cub Bill Killefer being tagged out at home. 1918 was the veteran Killefer's first season with the Cubs. He would later spend five years as the Cub's manager.

2000's: Topps 2009 #265 Carlos Zambrano
Big Z is taking a swing, something he is pretty good at (at least for a pitcher). Last year was the first time since 2002 that Zambrano didn't reach double figures in wins, going 9-7.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Fifties Friday: 1951 Bowman

Topps was just entering the baseball card market in 1951 while Bowman had several year's worth of experience under their belt. Bowman had been adding cards to their sets and it grew again in 1951, up to 324 cards. They also stretched the cards' vertical height, from 2 1/2" to 3 1/8". The cards again featured color pictures painted from photographs. A black box with the player's name was added to the front of the cards, which I like.

There were 19 Cubs in the set. Bowman gets a big thumbs down for reusing six of the Cubs pictures from the 1950 set in the 1951 set.

Here are the six reruns next to the cards from 1950. This will also give you an idea of how much taller the 1951's were.

This is actually the third time the Lade picture was used; it first showed up on this 1949 card.

.....back to the reruns.....

The rest of the cards feature original pictures. Bowman continued to feature a majority of the Cubs in their home uniform.

The card says "Forrest" by most knew him as "Smoky."

Looks like this one was taken during spring training.

Another spring training shot?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

How To Bunt, By Fleer Ultra

For all you Little Leaguers out there, we have a tutorial on the correct way to bunt, with help from Fleer Ultra.

Cubs TV color announcer Bob Brenly mentions this all the time. To lay down a good bunt you've got to get the head of the bat above the ball.

Brenly has to constantly mention this because there are a lot of major leaguers that don't know the correct way to bunt.

Scott Bullett and Chico Walker, I'm looking at you!

Stay tuned next week as Fleer Ultra brings us another baseball lesson: lHow to fly through the air like Superman (and Shawon Dunston)!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Topps third and final edition of Big came out in 1990. Like 1989, there were 330 cards in the set. The Cubs ended up with 12 players, probably because the won the NL East in 1989 and had become more well known.

We've got the top three starters

The bullpen ace

The starting infield

and the three outfielders (including 1989 ROY Jerome Walton).

and one left-over bench player.

This time, I've truly got a TEAM set!