Monday, February 28, 2011

The Lesser Known 1972 Cubs Variation

The Topps 1972 set is well known as the most flamboyant of all Topps set. As a kid, I really didn't like it all that much. To me, it didn't look like what baseball cards were supposed to look like. The cards looks more like the Jackson 5 or Osmond Brothers cartoon shows on Saturday morning (check them out on Youtube and see what I mean). I was used to the gray of 1970 and the black of 1971. What was all of this color in 1972?

But over time, I've come to really dig (how's that for '72 lingo!!) the '72 design and putting my 1972 set together was probably the most fun I had as a collector.

The funky colors played a unique part on four Cubs cards from the first series of the set.

The standard design for the Cubs cards looked like this.

The color of the word "CUBS" was yellow with a little green along the sides of each letter. But there were four cards in the first series that added some green to the bottom of the C and S. This error was corrected, so cards are available in both versions. The Standard Catalog has both versions listed in its 1972 checklist. Here are the four cards side by side.

The error is pretty well know among collectors. Thorzul made mention of it recently, and even had a couple more of the cards a few days later.

But there is another card is the set that had a similar problem with the green, and it's not as well know. The card with the variation is #534, Jim Hickman.

This is what the card was supposed to look like....

....and this is the variation card. Notice that there is no green at all on the variation card. None in the lettering of CUBS and none in the center of the stars either. And oddly, this variation is not listed in the Standard Catalog.

Curious about the catalog omission, I sent an email to the editor, Bob Lemke (and if you don't read his blog, you should!). He was kind enough to answer right away.

Here is his response: The Hickman card has been brought to my attention in the past, but it is not a variation in the sense as the Pizzaro, Beckert, etc.. That is, the lack of dark green shading in the letters on some Hickman cards is the result of less blue ink than is typically seen. On the "real" Cubs variations, the errant green ink appears at the very bottom of the letters C and S, and is a true dark green. Most collectors feel this under-inked version of the Hickman card is merely a printing defect, rather than a design variation.

Because its a printing error and not a design error, it's not in the catalog. What I don't understand, though, is that if there was less blue ink, why does the blue on the photo appear to be just fine? And if there was less blue ink on the Hickman card, wouldn't there be others on the sheet with the same lack of green. Are there other cards like the Hickman?

I'm not a printer, so I really don't know how all of this works. If anyone out there can explain it to me, fire away!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

I'm Starting to Cave

Before Topps 2011 came out, I made the decision to focus only on the base cards and not bother with the other inserts. Last year I was overwhelmed by the number of inserts. so this year I wanted to focus on the base set cards.

But now that the cards have been out for a while, well, as you can see by the title of the post, I'm starting to cave. It's a good thing I'm not a smoker or a drinker, because apparently I don't have much will power!

So far I've got two Cubs inserts.

This one I've got a good excuse for. The 2011 packs have finally arrived at my Walmart and I picked up a few. This Diamond Duo card was in one of the packs. But really Topps, matching up a future Hall of Famer with a guy who has four career wins, really? The supposed connection is that Hellickson watched a lot of Cubs games on TV while he was growing up, especially when Maddux was pitching. What makes that lame is that Hellickson was born in 1987, so he wouldn't have really seen Maddux during his first stint with the Cubs (1986 - 1992). If he saw Maddux with the Cubs, it would have been from 2004 - 2006, not exactly vintage Maddux.

I picked up this Kimballs Champions insert after I saw another of these in the packs I bought (I got Hanley Ramirez). Since Castro was the only Cub in the set, I figured it would be no big deal to get just one card. One won't hurt anything, will it?? Again, you can see my lack of will power!

So the big question now is, can I lay off of the Topps 60 cards? There aren't any Cubs among the regular cards, but there are four autograph cards and eight jersey cards.

Can I lay off....don't bet on it!!

My name is Wrigley Wax and I'm a card-aholic....
....Hi Wrigley Wax!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

T206 Cubs: Two More

Here is a look at two more Cubs from the T206 set.

Carl Lundgren pitched for the Cubs from 1902-1909. He had an unusual nickname, The Human Icicle, because he was especially good in cold weather. His best season was 1907, when he was 18-7. But after that, he fell to 6-9 the next season, and pitched in only two games in 1909. He later coached at two Big Ten schools, Michigan and Illinois.

Pat Moran was with the Cubs from 1906 - 1909, mostly as a backup catcher. He would go on to manage the Phillies and Reds for 9 seasons. His best was in Cincinnati in 1919, when his Reds beat the White Sox in the World Series. That may need an asterisk, since that was the Black Sox series.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Flick Friday: The Bad News Bears

Today I've got another baseball classic, the original (I didn't see the remake and I don't want to!) The Bad News Bears from 1976. I loved this movie when I saw it as a kid at the Coral Theater on 95th Street in 1976, and I still love it today. It's a wonderful underdog story; yet even though the underdogs don't win the game, they do become winners.

The movie is full of great quotes including....

Tanner: All we got on this team are a buncha Jews, spics, niggers, pansies, and a booger-eatin' moron!

Buttermaker: Listen, Lupus, you didn't come into this life just to sit around on a dugout bench, did ya? Now get your ass out there and do the best you can.

Buttermaker: No! Don't jump in Engleberg, you'll flood the valley.

And my favorite:
Tanner: Hey Yankees... you can take your apology and your trophy and shove it straight up your ass!


There wasn't much here, although the title team shares their name with the Cubs' former fall tenants.

Ogilvie's baseball patch jacket includes a Cubs patch. I remember seeing patches like this as a kid and wondering why they made the Cubs C look like the Reds' C. It wasn't until years later that I saw the Cubs used to wear a wishbone C. They last wore it in 1956, but the patch people didn't seem to care. (And how about that cool Barrel Man Brewers logo)

One of the teams in the seven team North Valley League was the Cubs. But they and the Indians never got any screen time; the Yankees, Athletics, Mets, White Sox, and Bears did. And no wisecracks about how the Cubs were near the bottom of that league, too!

And finally, a few cards of the Bears.

It was great fun to watch this again; you should too!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Problem Solved!

Last year Topps put out fake plastic bat barrel cards and after some debate, I decided to get the Cubs, all five of them.

But when they came, I got to see just how thick the cards were. That led to a storage problem. I like to keep all of my cards in nine pocket sheets but they were too fat to fit. So I ended up keeping them in those clear hinged boxes. They were well protected, but I didn't know where to keep the boxes. They ended up stacked on my desk, but that wouldn't be a permanent solution. I was still looking for something else.

As you may know, I've been adding 1952 Cubs to my collection. The '52 - '56 cards are larger than today's, and they are kept in 8 pocket sheets. Well, a few days ago I was looking at all of my new '52s. New cards in 8 pocket sheets, pockets that are a bit larger than the ones for today's cards. Larger pockets that hold larger cards.

Duh!! Larger pockets that hold larger cards might be large enough to hold the bat cards!

A couple minutes later, my problem was solved! The cards are a bit loose (that's why I didn't use the top row), but unless you swing the album around like a mad man, the cards are not going anywhere. Another bonus, the horizontal design of the bat cards looks perfect in the horizontal pockets. So now all is well in the Wrigley Wax Storage World. All of my Cubs cards from 2010 are now safely in the same album.

Now I'm even thinking about going after the glove cards from this year. There's only one Cubs player....OK...I talked myself into it. Up next on the shopping list is the Starlin Castro glove!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Let There Be Light

On Monday, Night Owl announced the winner of his Awesomest Night Card Tournament.

This card of Wrigley Field made it to the semifinals, but of course, couldn't win the big prize. The Cubs can't even win a championship in the blogosphere!

But the night time Wrigley card leads me to a recent purchase...

...this program from the first night game at Wrigley Field on 8-8-88. As if God were saying, "No night games at Wrigley!" the first game only lasted 3 1/2 innings before a downpour washed the game out. It's hard for me to believe that the lights were installed almost 23 years ago. A person would have to be nearly 30 years old to really remember all day baseball at Wrigley. Yet in my mind, the Cubs still are a day baseball team.

The first night game really was a circus. There was a ton of media at the game, a 91 year old Cubs fan, Harry Grossman, pushed a ceremonial button to turn on the lights, Morganna the Kissing Bandit came out on the field and kissed Ryne Sandberg, and then the rain came. The Chicago area had been going through a drought in 1988 (my front lawn was a brown patch), but rain came in buckets on August 8. There was even an incident during the rain delay. A few Cubs, including a very young Greg Maddux, decided to do belly flops on the tarp to entertain the fans. Manager Don Zimmer was not entertained and the players were all fined.

I scanned a few of the pictures from the program that show the installation of the lights. During 1988 I would always try to watch the first home game after a long road trip to see what progress was made on the lights. I have always been impressed with how well the light towers fit into the design of the ballpark. Wrigley didn't get gigantic towers like most of the old ballparks did when their lights were installed in the '30s and '40s. I guess that was the advantage of waiting 40 years to put them in!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I Cracked the Topps Picture Code...But...

...this guy went waaaay beyond that.

This would be the reference to end all references!

And if you're into football, there's this:

Starlin Castro Sparkle

In the past I haven't bothered with Topps' shortprint gimmicks. The pie in the face cards, Abe Lincoln; I didn't care.

But this year, I like what they've done. The 60 different sparkle cards are a nice twist. So I looked over the checklist to see if there were any Cubs. With 60 cards and 30 teams, you would think that would be two per team. But no. There is only one Cubs player on the list, Starlin Castro. I guess I should be happy with that, because that would make it easier on the wallet. But that also means, that as far as Topps is concerned, there is only one player on the Cubs that has any value to collectors. And that usually means a poor team.

There were at least three Castro cards that were up for auction on Ebay, and I am proud to say that I got mine at the lowest price of all. In fact, I got the best deal of all the Castro sparkle cards sold in the past two weeks!

So here is the card

and here is a close-up of the sparkle in his pocket.

Monday, February 21, 2011

I Cracked the Topps Picture Code

Topps was kind enough to scan all of their base cards from 1952 - 2010 for the million card give away last year and they are using the same pictures for the Diamond giveaway this year.

I was playing around at their web site and I think I've got the URL code figured out so you can get a look at the front or back of each and every card:

This url....

...will bring up this card, Ernie Banks,1959.

You can see there are several pieces to the URL, and they are fairly easy to decode.

Every card starts the same

Next, the season is added:

Next, comes the series marker, either TS1 for series one, or TS2 for series two. BUT, this applies only to cards from 1993 and beyond. Everything prior to 1993 is TS1.

The next piece is the cards number:

Now you add F for the front of the card or B for the back

And they all end with the same jpeg dimension:

If I want the back of Ron Santo's card from 1963, #252, the url would be

It only gets tricky for 1993 and beyond, when you need to know where series one ends and series two starts. This handy little chart of the series two numbers should help:

1993 397-825
1994 397-792
1995 397-660
1996 221-440
1997 276-496
1998 283-504
1999 243-496
2000 239-478
2001 406-790
2002 366-718
2003 368-720
2004 368-732
2005 368-732
2006 331-660
2007 331-660
2008 331-660
2009 331-660
2010 331-660

If you know a cards year, number, and for 1993 and beyond, series, you can find a nice clean picture of any Topps card quickly and easily. Then you can save it to your computer and load it into blogger.

To make it even easier, just cut and paste this template into your browser and make the appropriate changes to find your card.

I bookmarked the template, and so I just make the changes and I'm there!

Congratulations, you know have all of Topps baseball cards at your fingertips!

EDIT: As mentioned by Night Owl in the comments, here is a different way I came up with last year, though it is a bit more complicated.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Five Random Cubs Cards

I've got 8,519 Cubs cards from 49 different brands listed on a spreadsheet. A random number generator picked five cards, one each from the past several decades.

Pre-1970s: Turkey Red (reprint) 1911 #32 Orval Overall Overall was a twenty game winner for the 1909 Cubs, but must have been hurt in 1910, starting only 23 games. He was out of baseball in 1911 and 1912. He tried coming back in 1913, but wasn't very effective and his big league career was over.

1970s: SSPC 1978 #261 Ray Burris
This card is from the SSPC All Star Gallery team album (I have previous posts on the album here and here). An innings eater, Burris was 44-39 from 1975-1977. He slumped badly in 1978 falling to 7-13 and was banished to the bullpen.

1980s: Topps 1982 #403 Jim Tracy
Though featured as a Cub, Tracy was traded to the Astros during the winter of 1981. The #23 he wore was taken over by a newly acquired rookie, Ryne Sandberg. Tracy would never make it back to the major leagues.

1990s: Fleer Ultra 1991 Update #75 Rick Wilkins
This is the fourth time a Rick Wilkins card has been selected by the random number generator. That's probably three too many! This card is from his rookie season of 1991. He didn't make the team in the spring, but an injury to Joe Girardi and ineffectiveness by back-up Erik Pappas led the Cubs to turn to Wilkins. After being called to the Cubs on June 4 (which also happened to be his birthday!), he played in a total of 86 games. He hit only .222 but did throw out 40% of those trying to steal.

2000s: Upper Deck 2001 #264 Sammy Sosa Season Highlights
If the highlight of the season happens on April 20, then you didn't have a very good season. The 2000 Cubs didn't. They finished at the bottom of the NL Central with a record of 65-97. Sammy led the team with 50 homers, while the next closest on the team was Henry Rodriguez with 18.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

T206 Cubs: Two More

Here are the next two Cubs from the T206 set.

Rube Kroh was listed in the Bad Boys of Baseball chapter of the T206 book. He earned that distinction because in 1909, despite a 9-4 record, the Cubs benched him for insubordination, mainly due to curfew violations. Later in the season he pitched in an illegal game for a New Jersey team, which violated his contract; the Cubs released him. This bad boy would later become an umpire in the minor leagues.

Johnny Kling was the catcher for the Cubs during their 4 pennant run and he was arguably the best defensive catcher in the National League. The oddity of his career is that he took the 1909 season off; instead of playing baseball he opened a billiards parlor in Kansas City. He would later become owner of the Kansas City Monarchs of the American Association.

And my 2009 Topps card for Johnny Kling. Check out the catchers mitt he's got.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Flick Friday: Bang the Drum Slowly

This week's flick may not be one of the most popular baseball movies, but in my opinion, it is one of the best. Bang the Drum Slowly was released in 1973 and is based on the novel of the same name. The screenplay was written by Mark Harris, the author of the novel. That is always a plus for me, when the book and movie are written by the same person.

The movie tells the story of the friendship between New York Mammoth's ace pitcher Henry "Author" Wiggen (Michael Moriarity) and third string catcher Bruce Pearson (Robert De Niro). The movie starts with the pair leaving Mayo Clinic in February, as Pearson has just been told that has an incurable disease. The movie then shows us how Wiggen tries to protect his friend and make his final season a good one.

In some respects, the movie is a baseball version of Brian's Song. It has the star rooming with a dying bench warmer; though the racial overtones are missing from Drum. Instead, we've got a sophisticated, insurance-selling pitcher and a southern bumpkin catcher.

As the movie progresses, it becomes harder for Author to protect his friend's secret. As others on the team find out, they begin treating Pearson nicer, and Pearson becomes a better player. In fact, he is having a career year. Eventually this causes the team to bond and in the process, become a better team. The Mammoths go on to win the World Series, though, Pearson misses it as his disease made him unable to continue playing.

We don't have any "I love Brian Piccolo" moments in Drum; Author keeps his emotions to himself. But we do see the genuine love a teammate has for another, and that can still bring a tear or two to your eyes.

Both Moriarity and De Niro do an adequate job of portraying ballplayers. They both look like they played some ball when they were younger. The Mammoths uniforms are based on the Yankees, with a slightly different NY logo. They played teams from both the American and National League, which was strange. Another oddity is that while the opposing teams seem to use authentic MLB uniforms, they were old uniforms. The baseball scenes were shot at Shea and Old-pre-renovated Yankee Stadium in 1972, though the Pirates were wearing uniforms from 1970, the Indians from 1969, and the A's from 1971.

Finally, here is something eerie. The doomed catcher Bruce Pearson is wearing #15...

to match the action shots that the real Yankee catcher wore (this action scene was in the movie)....

....the doomed Thurmon Munson

Last weeks movie, the Natural, had a bunch. This movie....none! Though several MLB teams were shown in the movie, the Cubs were not.

This is a baseball card blog and I feel an obligation to show a couple baseball cards. Since there are no Cubs to show, instead I've got a couple of custom Mammoth cards from the 1973 season, the year the movie was released.

If you haven't ever seen Bang the Drum Slowly, or if its been a while since you last saw it. I recommend you do something about it, Redbox it, Netflix it, buy it, download it illegally...but see it!