Monday, January 31, 2011

Happy 80th Mr. Cub!!

Boy, it was weird to type out that title. It's hard for me to believe, but Ernie Banks turns 80 years old today. But it's a young 80....I'm sure Ernie would still like to play two.

This is Ernie at Wrigley Field last week, as the state of Illinois introduced specialized Cubs license plates. He's looking pretty good for an eighty-year-old.

Here is a 22 year old Ernie. I wonder if he had any idea how the next 58 years would turn out...with him becoming the most popular player in Cubs history?

In honor of this special day, today I present "The Ernie Banks Story." This booklet was an insert from the 1970 set. There were 24 booklets, with one story for a player from each of the 24 teams. Ernie's is #14, which was also his uniform number. It was just by coincidence, since the books were numbered in alphabetical order, 12 American League teams first, then the National League teams. Chicago follows Atlanta, which was number 13 (Orlando Cepeda). It also worked out for Willie Mays, with San Francisco, the last team alphabetically, giving him book number 24, his uniform number too.

Click on the pictures to get a larger, more readable view.

Happy Birthday Ernie!!!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Two More Roster Books

In addition to my Cubs baseball card collection, I've also got a collection of Cubs media guides. Until 1981 they were called "Roster Books" and were available for purchase at Wrigley Field. When the Tribune bought the team they started putting out more traditional media guides.

My collection begins with the 1960 book and runs through 2010. That makes 51 years worth of guides. Not too long ago an ebay seller had several older guides up for sale. Besides several that I already had, he also had roster books from 1958 and 1959. I haven't seen too many of these available and the ones that I've seen were BINs with crazy prices on them, so I never bothered. But these two were auctions, so I set my sniper and watched.

There wasn't much action on them, and I had my sniper set high enough to win them both. The price I paid was barely half of the BINs, so I was pleased. Even better, they arrived quickly are in in fantastic condition, especially for books that are over 50 years old.

This is the front cover from the 1958 guide.

And this is the inside cover. That action picture is unique; it's the only action shot in any of the roster books I've got, up through the last one in 1981. Too bad they didn't do that again.

Here are a few fun facts I gleaned from the book:
++The 1958 Cubs had 17 scheduled doubleheaders
++The longest winning streak for the 1957 Cubs was six games
++Lee Walls hit for the cycle on July 2, 1957
++The 1958 team had two new hotels on it's itinerary: the Biltmore in Los Angeles and the St. Francis in San Francisco
++Box seats cost $2.50 for adults and $1.60 for children


The 1959 roster book looked like this:

The style of the cover was varied from year to year, yet you could see some design consistency.

The guide included this picture of Hall of Famer and Cubs coach Rogers Hornsby instructing some member of the Des Moines team. The strange thing about it is that Des Moines was not listed as a Cubs farm team. In 1958 Des Moines was a Dodger affiliate and the next year the club was part of the Phillies' chain. So I'm at a loss as to why Hornsby is working with Des Moines.

Other interesting tidbits from the 1959 book:
++the Cubs moved the starting time for weekday home games to 2:00 p.m., half an hour later than in 1958.
++Only three players, Ernie Banks, Don Elston, and Lee Walls lived in the Chicago area year-round.
++Joel Schaffernoth (21) was the youngest player on the team; Elmer Singleton (39), the oldest.
++the 1958 Cubs led the major leagues in home runs, yet finished in 5th place, 72-82.
++the team was touting modernization of Wrigley Field during the off-season, including the addition of new concrete slab facing installed on much of the park. (This ugliness was partially removed in 2010).

I'm not totally positive, but I believe that 1958 was the first year the Cubs put out the roster book. I've found team yearbooks available for earlier seasons, but I haven't seen a 1957 or earlier roster book. So maybe, I've got the back end of the collection finished and just need to add a new book each season.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Stone Pony

Here is another recent addition to my autograph collection, the Stone Pony, pitcher Steve Stone.

It's from Donruss' 2005 Signature Series and features a nice, sharp, legible autograph.

Stone came to the Cubs after the 1974 season from the White Sox as part of the Ron Santo trade. The Cubs had traded Fergie Jenkins and got third baseman Bill Madlock. So when moving Santo, they went for pitching in return. Somehow, I don't think that Steve Stone was going to fill Fergie's shoes.

He was with the Cubs for only three seasons, and then the Cubs let him go as a free agent. Bill Veeck signed him for the Sox as one of his scrap-heap signings (Stone had been hurt for part of 1976)

Stone would return to the Cubs after his playing days, partnering with Harry Caray on WGN-TV in 1983. I liked Stone and Caray together; Harry was the fan, Stone the smart guy. But when Harry died and was replaced by Chip Caray, well, to me it seemed like Stone got a bit full of himself. And Chip was no chip off the block. They both left WGN after the 2004 season (though Stone took a couples years off for health reasons in 2001-2002).

This has to be my favorite Steve Stone card, from SSPC's 1976 set. Look at the fro....he would make Oscar Gamble proud!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Flick Friday: Rookie of the Year

Last week's movie, Bull Durham, was for the grownups. This week I've got one for the kiddies, Rookie of the Year.

(It's interesting that the studio used a picture of Oakland Coliseum in the background instead of Wrigley Field)

And what's not to love about a movie that features the Cubs?

The story is pretty simple: Twelve year old Henry Rowengartner loves baseball but is the worst player on his team. He breaks his arm and when the cast is removed four months later, the tendons have healed too tightly. He discovers he can throw a ball 100 miles an hour. The sad-sack Cubs discover this too, and sign him to boost attendance.

The rest of the movie tells of Henry's adventures on the field as he helps lead the Cubs to the brink of a division championship. When he looses his ability to throw smoke, he comes up with a plan to get the last three outs, and with his baseball-playing mom's help, he gets the Cubs the division title.

Of course, the movie is fantasy. So I can't harp on how they play loose with the facts (like ignoring the major league age minimum of 16). It's just a fun movie to watch on a cold winter night.

One of the stars of the film is Wrigley Field. Much of the game action was filmed there. I remember when they were making the movie and the producers put out a call for extras to fill the park for game scenes. Most of those were shot in October, 1992, after the season. It was cold by then, and in a few scenes you can see the breath of the actors. Also, because of the fall shoot, fake green ivy was placed on the walls.

You can see the fake ivy in the background here. Notice that they hung it in front of the baskets, which are gone!

Another part of the film follows Henry on his first road trip, to Los Angeles. Those scenes were filled on the south side, at the then new Comiskey Park.

In this picture, you can see the blue, metal hitter's background that Comiskey had when it opened in 1991. The pitcher for the Dodgers in these scenes was the only former big leaguer in the movie.

This is Tim Stoddard, who spent some time with the Cubs, among other teams.

A few other current big leaguers had cameos in the movie, getting blown away by Henry's 100 MPH heat. They were

Pedro Guerrero (who's final big league season was 1992)

Bobby Bonilla

and the future home run king himself, Barry Bonds.

But the highlight of the movie for me was the very last scene, when Henry shows off a little jewelry he won...

...a World Series ring. I know, the movie is a fantasy; but I can dream, can't I??

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Nate Oliver's Number

Monday's post on the 1970 Cubs cards at Shea turned out to be more interesting than I thought.

A comment left by ecloy said that he thought the picture of Nate Oliver was not taken at Shea because Oliver was wearing #42 instead of the #15 that he wore during the 1969 season. His guess was that the picture was from spring training. I checked my 1969 scorecard,, and Kasey's excellent Cubsbythenumbers site and all three listed Oliver as wearing #15. So was the picture taken in spring training? Why is Oliver wearing #42?

Well, in 1969, Oliver wasn't with the Cubs during spring training; he was a Yankee. If the picture was taken in the spring of 1970, Oliver should have been wearing #15. Plus, this card is from the second series, way too early for Topps to have pictures from that spring. The picture was definitely taken in 1969. So why the different number?

Here is my theory: The Cubs picked up Oliver from the Yankees (they sent Lee Elia to the Yankees) on April 19. At the time the Cubs were on a pretty long road swing that saw them in St. Louis, Montreal, and then Pittsburgh between April 16-22. After that, there was just a two day home stand before they went back on the road for seven more games.

At the same time, a roster spot needed to be cleared for Oliver. Jim Qualls was away from the team on army reserve duty, so he was optioned to the minors and Oliver would take his spot.

With the team in Montreal at the time of the trade, they probably didn't carry too many extra uniforms. But they had to give Oliver something to use. Do you want to guess what number the recently demoted Jim Qualls wore? Yup, he was #42.

My guess is that Oliver was given Quall's jersey and would make due with it until the team was home for a long enough stretch to get a new jersey with a different number made up. Since the Cubs were home for only two games before heading back onto the road, Oliver would still have to wait a while for a new number.

After the brief home stand, would you like to guess where the Cubs made their first stop? If you guessed New York, then give yourself a pat on the back. They were in NY from April 25 - 27. And that is when, according to my theory, this picture was taken.

There is other evidence that the picture is in Shea. The blue tarp behind Oliver also shows up in this card...

...and Jim Hickman is definitely at Shea. Also, over Oliver's shoulder are the twin light towers that are a strong Shea identifier. The black batters background behind him also screams Shea.

I'm going to guess that when the Cubs finally got back to Wrigley on May 2, Oliver was given #15 and would wear it the rest of the season. Qualls returned to the team in June and got his #42 back, too.

Qualls' picture was probably taken when the Cubs were at Shea in July, since he doesn't have a sweatshirt under his jersey like Oliver and Hickman did in April. The Oliver card and Qualls card show two players from the same team wearing the same number. I wonder how often that has ever happened?

So if all of that makes sense, then we know why Nate Oliver is wearing #42 instead of #15. But I've got one more question.

Look at the flag behind Oliver. It's at half mast. Why? Any other detectives out there want to take a crack at that one?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Couple More '52s

I continue to make slow, steady progress in my quest to add the 1952 Cubs to my collection. Last week three more arrived, bringing my total to 17 of the 28 in the set.

Dutch Leonard Both the card and the autograph have his nickname instead of his given name, Emil. Leonard was the older pitcher in the majors in 1952. He's got black hair and brown eyes.

Walt Dubiel The card has his name, but his autograph is his nickname, Monk. Brown hair and brown eyes.

Bob Addis Brown hair and green eyes.

I'm going to keep plodding along with these until I've got all 28.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

T206 Cubs: Johnny Evers

Up next is the second baseman from the famous double play combo, Johnny Evers. Like the other future hall of famers Brown and Chance, Evers was featured in three cards;

The Chicago version

The Cubs version. These first two cards are based on the same photograph, with the artist just changing the uniform.

and the portrait card.

Evers was the scrappy hot head of the team. He had the key role in the "Merkel's Boner" game; his play would eventually give the Cubs the 1908 pennant over the Giants.

Being a part of the double play trio is probably what got Evers into the Hall of Fame. Statistically he was pretty mediocre, having never lead the league in any offensive category. He did lead the league in putouts and assists a couple times, but he was also a two-time leader in errors. So how does a veterans committee see Evers as worthy, but keeps Ron Santo out?

This card is from the team issued Old Style set, given away at Wrigley Field during the 1992 season.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Cubs and Shea in 1969

There were not a lot of good things that happened to the Cubs at Shea Stadium in 1969.

There was the black cat....

...a missed call at home plate (he sure looks out to me, Bob Davidson!!)

...and a near-perfect game by Tom Seaver.

The season did not leave Cubs fans with any good feelings about Shea (or the Mets, for that matter!). So what did Topps do? They rubbed it! There were 24 Cubs in the 1970 set and of those, a whopping 20 have pictures taken at Shea, with 16 of them taken in 1969.

These four cards had older pictures.

The photographer who took the 1969 pictures at Shea was pretty predicable.

This first pose is of position players that he told to swing and hold the follow through.

With a few others, he had them do the traditional batting stance pose.

He had these guys do the warm-up thing.

This is the only unique one, with Nate Oliver bunting.

Catcher Bill Heath is the only position player shown without a bat.

With the pitchers it was the same predicable boringness.

We have the follow through pose.

These guys are in the stretch

And only one unique pose, the hands on the knees shot.

That was 20 cards, all shot at Shea, rubbing salt into an 8-year-olds wounds....and 41 years later it still stings!