Sunday, July 31, 2011

Another Ernie Banks Post

...Actually, this is two Posts....two cards from Post Cereal from the early 1960s.

This is from 1961, and it is card #191 out of 200 in the set. These were found on the back of Post Cereal boxes and had to be cut out, making it harder to find these in decent shape. The original owner had to be able to cut a straight line and then take care of the card. Mine has a crease that runs vertically across the right side of the card. You can also see some ink stamp markings near the "S" in Banks. To me, that adds character to the card, which is as old as I am.

Here is the 1963 version of the Post card. For the third consecutive year, Post put out a 200 player set on the cereal box backs. I really like the picture that Post used, showing a smiling Ernie at Wrigley Field. It was also nice to have a little variety since Post used the same picture of Ernie on the '61 and '62 cards.

The next Post card I'm hunting is the only one the issued of Billy Williams. It was in 1963 but unfortunately for me, the card was short-printed. Right now there are two on ebay, both BINs, one at $120 and the other at $100. I'm going to have to wait a while to add Billy to the collection!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Nu Ernie Banks Card

No, that't not a typo in the title. Here is my nu card:

It's from set released in 1961 by a company called Nu-Card. There were 80 cards is "Baseball Highlights" set. As you can see, the front looks like a newspaper.

The back of the card has an "article" describing the news event. Ernie's card is dated September 29, 1958 and the article describes how he set the shortstop single season home run record with 47, which also led the National League.

There are 80 different cards in the set, that are oddly numbered from 401 - 480. I'm not sure what happened to #1-400!

Of all the extra Ernie Banks cards I have in my player collection, this is now the oldest and moves to the front of the box.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Adios, Kosuke

because everyone else is saying Sayanora....

So the Cubs traded Kosuke to the Indians for a couple of mediocre prospects. I guess now we can close the books on Jim Hendry's $48 million flopke. A story in the Tribune said that with 13 RBIs this year, each RBI cost $1 million. Those are some expensive runs!

When the Cubs signed Fukudome, it was a definite gamble. He had put up some decent numbers in Japan, and teams were hoping he was the second Ichiro. Overbid Jim got him, but he was no Ichiro.

This card, from 2009, is a good summary of Fukudome's time with the Cubs. The picture is from Opening Day, 2008. He is acknowledging the crowd after hitting a 3 run homer in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game. But the Cubs lost the game in the tenth, so in the long run, the homer didn't really accomplish anything. It got everyone excited for nothing.

That was Kosuke Fukudome, getting everyone excited for nothing. He leaves Chicago with a career .262 average. He never really showed much power, with just 37 HRs over 3 1/2 years. Add in only 169 RBIs and you've got nothing to get excited over.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ernie and Billy Together Again

A little while back the random number generator for Five Random Cubs Cards came up with this one....

....Billy Williams card from Starting Lineup's 1989 Baseball Greats.

Billy and Ernie were paired up as a set of two figures and cards. I mentioned that I didn't have the figures. Well.... I do. After I wrote the post I checked ebay, just for the heck of it. This was up, and it was an auction. The starting bid was the price that the set sold for back in 1989, $7.95. I set my sniper and waited for the bidding to drive the price up. That never happened, and I got the figures for the starting price. Not a bad deal when you pay the original purchase price for a collectible, 22 years later.

Here is a close-up of each player...

....Ernie in a road uniform, and....

....Billy in the home. Kenner losses some points because they didn't put pinstripes on the home uni.

What I haven't been able to do yet, it to take them out of the package.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Topps 1999 Kerry Wood

Sammy Sosa wasn't the only Cubs to get special treatment by Topps in the 1999 set. Kerry Wood did too. Like Sosa, Kerry Wood also came to national prominence in 1998. For Wood, it was his 20 strikeout game against the Astros on May 6th that brought him the spotlight.

This is the card that celebrates that game. If you've ever watched the game (MLB network had run in during the offseason several times), you got to see one of the most dominant pitching performances, ever. Keep in mind that he was pitching against a very strong Astros team, Killer B's and all. They managed only one infield scratch hit all day, and were just completely overmatched.

But Wood was in three more cards in the 1999 set...

...his base card, complete with Rookie Cup...

....the All-Topps Pitchers card (not bad company to be in, Clemens and Maddux)...and

...a part of the Strikeout King subset.

It wasn't a bad year for a kid who turned 21 during the season!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Topps 1999 Sammy Sosa HR Parade

In 1999, Sammy Sosa was white-hot. (In 2010 he was just plain white!). A year earlier Sammy and Mark McGwire had captivated the baseball world, and much of the public in general, with their chase of the single season home run record. Topps was going to capitalize of this.

In the 1999 set, for both McGwire and Sosa, they had special cards made. For McGwire, it was card #220, and there were 70 different versions made, one for each home run.

Sammy got similar treatment, on card #461, with 66 different cards made. This is one of two I had. #18 was the card in my Cubs team binder,

while #47 was in the binder with the complete set. Neither of the homers had much significance. While I don't plan to put a set together with all 66 Sosa cards, I did have one particular number in mind to purchase....

....this one, #57. Until 1998, the NL record and Cubs record for homers in a season, was 56, set by

Hack Wilson in 1930. McGwire had already hit his 57th three days earlier, but on September 4th, Sammy blasted his 57th against the Pirates at Three Rivers Stadium. That made him the Cubs single season home run king. And that made this card something worth adding to my collection.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Rocky Bullett

Scott Bullett is a guy you may not have heard of before. He spent bits of two seasons with the Pirates ('91 and '93) before spending all of 1995 and 1996 with the Cubs. He was a reserve outfielder that couldn't hit much and had limited power.

He hit only .212 for the Cubs in 1996 and in December the team released him. But Upper Deck didn't, and Bullett was on their Collectors Choice 1997 checklist.

As far as I know, Bullett had no baseball nickname. He was just "Scott." Well, that's kind of boring. Allow me to give him a tag, "Rocky." Why, you say?

That's why!

So what is he celebrating? Time to play detective and figure that out. The card gives two big clues: the game was played at Wrigley in April or May (the ivy hasn't come in yet) and they are playing a blue team (Mets or Expos--see the second baseman in the background).

A check of the 1996 schedule shows that the Mets were at Wrigley May 3-5. The next step is to scan the box scores to see what Bullet did in any of those games that would give him a reason to celebrate. It was easy.

On Friday, May 3, the Cubs were trailing the Mets 2-1 going into the bottom of the ninth. Bullett led off the inning pinch-hitting for the pitcher and got a bunt single.

He stole second as the next two batters struck out. My guess is that the picture on the back of the card is when he stole second. The ivy is missing, and it makes sense that the pictures would be from the same game.

The next batter was lefty Mark Grace and Mets manager Dallas Green decide to walk Grace and take his chances with the next hitter, Sammy Sosa.

Remember that this was 1996 and Sammy wasn't SAMMY! yet. And Grace was hitting .370 while Sammy was at .220. So it seemed like the right thing to do.

It wasn't! Sammy smacked a homer to left and the Cubs won 4-2. The card shows Rocky Bullett celebrating the walk off homer as he heads to third on his way to score the tying run.

Cubs Win!! Cubs Win!!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Five Random Cubs Cards

I've got 9,080 Cubs cards from 54 different brands listed on a spreadsheet. A random number generator picked five cards, one each from the past several decades.

1950s / 1960s: 1964 Topps Giant #17 Dick Ellsworth If you want to learn more about the 1964 Topps Giant see, you can look here. As the 1964 season began, Ellsworth was the ace of the Cubs staff, coming off of an impressive 22 win season. But he couldn't repeat that success in 1964 and reverted more to his ways of 1962, when he lost 20 games. In '64 he was 14-18. He was hampered by a sore arm throughout the season, probably a result of the 291 innings he pitched in 1963.

1970s: 1971 Topps #647 Juan Pizarro
How weird is this? It was just a few weeks ago that I had a North Side/South Side post featuring Juan Pizarro. Pizarro split the 1971 season between the AAA team in Tacoma and the Cubs. His record among the two was very similar...Tacoma/Cubs...Innings 127/101...Wins 9/7...Losses 6/6...ERA 3.61/3.48. The highlight of his '71 season was a one-hitter against the Padres on August 5.

1980s: 1981 Topps #381 Cubs Rookies
I've written about Steve Macko in the past, so today I'll just focus on Lezcano and Martz. Carlos Lezano was the less-successful cousin of Sixto Lezcano. I'm not sure why Topps put him on a rookie card, since he did play in 42 games for the Cubs in 1980. In '81 he spent only a few weeks on the roster replacing an injured Steve Henderson. In seven games he batted 14 times with only one hit. He never made it back to the majors.....Randy Martz pitched in 33 games for the '81 Cubs, splitting time between the rotation and the bullpen. For the season he was 5-7 with a 3.68 ERA. It was nothing spectacular, but not exactly rotten either. His season high point was a complete game win over the Reds on May 21.

1990s: 1992 Conlon #958 Lefty Weinert
I think this is the first time the random number generator has picked a card from the Conlon Collection. Though the card is from 1992, the player certainly isn't. Lefty Weinert's Cubs career spanned from 1927-1928. This is his first card, but it did come 19 years after the guy died. The season on the card is 1928, Lefty's second and final with the Cubs. He pitched in only 10 games and had an ERA of 5.29, but he was 1-0. I wonder if that is why it took until 1992 for Lefty to get a card?

2000s: 2007 Topps Opening Day #61 Alfonso Soriano
This card is from the time when Topps gave the Opening Day set a different color than the base set. I wish they would go back to doing that. The 2007 season was Soriano's first with the Cubs. He cost the team a bundle of money for a too-long contract, but in 2007 it was worth it. He was the NL player of the month in June. He was even bigger in September, as the Cubs were driving for the division title. He blasted 14 HR during the month and hit .320, carrying the Cubs almost single-handed to the top. But then he tanked in the NLDS, hitting only .143.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Guess Who Got Two Upper Deck Cards in 1999

Go ahead, try to figure out the Cubs players that got at least two different cards in the 1999 UD set. There were three. The first two are too easy. The third? I'd be shocked that you even remembered that the guy played for the Cubs, let alone know that he was given two cards.

First, I'm going to eliminate the obvious. Were talking about 1999, the year after the Sosa/McGwire home run chase. So of course, Sammy got multiple cards. He ended up on five different cards, the base, two season highlight cards, a Foreign Focus card, and an Arms Race card.

The other obvious multi-card player was......Kerry Wood. He too was in the spotlight, with his 20 K game and the ROY award. He got a base card and a season highlight card.

But who was the third player to get an extra card??

Mark Grace?? Logical guess, but wrong
Henry Rodriguez?? He had a nice season in '98, with 31HRs, but....wrong again
Rod Beck?? He was the closer and had 51 saves....but it wasn't him either.

I'll give you a was the Cubs shortstop.

Ah...Shawon Dunston. Nope, he was hadn't been with the Cubs since 1997.

So who was the shortstop in 1998, that was sooo good that he got an extra card in 1999?

Think Atlanta Braves...





Jeff Blauser!

It's OK, you can admit it; you had no idea that Blauser played for the Cubs. So what did he do in '98 that would merit a second card?

Nothing! He hit a crummy .219 (after hitting .308 with the Braves in '97), had 4 HRs and 26 RBIs. But it was good enough for Upper Deck to double up on him.


Friday, July 22, 2011

Allen and Ginter Complete Set!

Since the Cubs are my primary focus, I don't get too many complete sets. The Topps flagship set is one. Allen and Ginter is the other.

When I got back into collecting in 2008, Ginter and Heritage were the two "new" sets that really caught my attention. GInter was only in it's third year, so that made it easy to go back and get the missing sets, and then each year I've added the newest.

My 2011 Ginter set came yesterday. We're getting ready to go on vacation, so I had to scramble to get the cards in the binder before we hit the road. I wasn't going to let them sit in a box at home while I was away.

I already critiqued the design when I showed the Cubs cards, so no need to rehash that. I do want to second what Night Owl said about the cards with a horizontal more, please! I couldn't agree with him more. They look even worse in a binder when you've got these nice portrait cards, and then a horizontal action card shows up. It looks really out of place.

I put my checklists together, one by name and the other by team. According to my count, the winning team is the Red Sox, with 14 players. The loser: the Mariners, with only five.

There are 44 champion cards in the set this year. One change is that all of the champions are people; no inanimate objects like Area 15, the electron, or the Golden Gate Bridge.

The champion I picked to show is....

....Guy Fieri. Mrs. WW really likes watching Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. We have been to one of the featured diners in Goshen, Indiana, which was about a 45 minute drive from our house. The food was pretty good! We may try to hit a few more while we are on vacation.

I've also got posted scheduled while we're on the road, so you don't have to worry about missing your daily fix.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

So That's Why Starlin Castro Got Bumped

A couple days ago I was bemoaning the fact that Starlin Castro got bumped from Allen & Ginter's Hometown Heroes set, and that there wasn't a single Cubs among the 100 cards. Now I know why he got bumped and why the Cubs got left out.

I got my set in the mail yesterday and was looking the cards over as I put them into the binder. I noticed something about all of the hometowns: they are all cities in the United States. No foreigners allowed!

Castro is from the Dominican Republic, so he got tossed out of the set. The preliminary checklist that was released in February included a bunch of foreign players. But somewhere along the way, Topps decided to make the set US-only. So guys like Albert Pujols, Ichiro, and Robinson Cano all got the boot.

That would also help explain the lack of Cubs. Most of their big names are all from other countries. Ryan Dempster, Kosuke Fukudome, Aramis Ramirez, Carlos Zambrano, Alfonso Soriano, Geovany Soto, and Carlos Marmol are all out.

I did want to highlight one of the cards....

....the newest member of the 3000 hit club, Derek Jeter. His hometown is Kalamzaoo, Michigan. Of all the players and towns in the set, Kalamazoo is probably the closest to my home here in beautiful Sturgis, Michigan. Kalamazoo is about 50 minutes north of me. If I want to go to a mall or a card shop, I would head to Kalamazoo. The card mentions that Jeter was a star baseball and basketball player at Kalamazoo Central High School. K-Central is in the same conference as Sturgis HS. So if another Jeter comes along, I'll get to see him play.

If you're wondering if your hometown (or any town near yours) is in the set, I've got the checklist below, with the hometowns listed. The states are listed in alphabetical order.

MobileALJake Peavy31
Phenix CityALColby Rasmus2
BentonARCliff Lee80
Pine BluffARTorii Hunter26
PhoenixAZAndre Ethier38
ScottsdaleAZIke Davis45
TucsonAZIan Kinsler52
CamarilloCADelmon Young44
Chula VistaCAAdrian Gonzalez65
CovinaCAMichael Young85
DowneyCAEvan Longoria48
Long BeachCAChase Utley5
Mission HillsCARyan Braun10
Newport BeachCAC.J. Wilson94
OaklandCAJimmy Rollins58
PalmdaleCAJason Kubel4
Rohnert ParkCABrandon Morrow97
Santa AnaCAPhil Hughes47
SunnyvaleCATroy Tulowitzki70
VallejoCACC Sabathia7
West CovinaCADan Haren6
WoodlandCADustin Pedroia23
ArvadaCORoy Halladay32
New BritainCTCarl Pavano14
Boca RatonFLDanny Valencia49
Fort MeadeFLAndrew McCutchen12
JacksonvilleFLBilly Butler72
JacksonvilleFLChipper Jones34
MelborneFLPrince Fielder40
MiamiFLJon Jay67
MiamiFLAlex Rodriguez60
OrlandoFLJohnny Damon68
OrlandoFLZack Greinke18
Pembroke PinesFLMike Napoli92
AlpharettaGADexter Fowler30
AtlantaGAGordon Beckham36
BrunswickGAAdam Wainwright9
DuluthGABrian McCann96
HahiraGAStephen Drew8
LeesburgGABuster Posey1
McDonoughGAJason Heyward11
Stone MountainGABrandon Phillips27
WailukuHIShane Victorino13
Des MoinesIAJeremy Hellickson87
BartonvilleILJim Thome82
SpringfieldILJayson Werth74
AndersonINAdam Lind76
JasperINScott Rolen17
Bowling GreenKYCorey Hart61
Severna ParkMDMark Teixeira73
DearbornMIDerek Lowe66
KalamazooMIDerek Jeter79
St. PaulMNJoe Mauer54
St. CharlesMOMark Buehrle77
St. LouisMORyan Howard90
WeirMSRoy Oswalt88
HudsonNCMadison Bumgarner91
RaleighNCJosh Hamilton50
SykestonNDTravis Hafner83
LincolnNEJoba Chamberlain43
LincolnNEAlex Gordon35
ExeterNHChris Carpenter71
LondonderryNHBrian Wilson3
EnglishtownNJDavid DeJesus41
Haddon HeightsNJAndrew Bailey99
West OrangeNJRick Porcello29
CardsbadNMCody Ross63
Washington HeightsNYPedro Alvarez62
Washington HeightsNYManny Ramirez78
CincinnatiOHKevin Youkilis86
Midwest CityOKMatt Kemp84
StillwaterOKBrett Anderson56
StillwaterOKMatt Holliday15
MadrasORJacoby Ellsbury46
GibsoniaPANeil Walker81
Holly HillsSCBrett Gardner59
ColumbiaTNDan Uggla16
GermantownTNMatt Cain64
KnoxvilleTNTodd Helton89
MurfreesboroTNDavid Price20
DallasTXClayton Kershaw37
DentonTXAustin Jackson33
Fort WorthTXYovani Gallardo69
HoustonTXCarl Crawford75
LumbertonTXClay Buchholz98
New BraunfelsTXLance Berkman93
New CaneyTXAdam Dunn25
Round RockTXJohn Danks22
SpringTXJosh Beckett51
The WoodlandsTXKyle Drabek95
ChesapeakeVAJustin Upton55
ChesapeakeVADavid Wright42
Manakin SabotVAJustin Verlander53
Virginia BeachVARyan Zimmerman24
EverttWAGrady Sizemore28
Mill CreekWATravis Snider100
RentonWATim Lincecum39
TacomaWAJon Lester21
AuburndaleWIJordan Zimmermann57
ParkersburgWVNick Swisher19

So who is from the town closest to you??

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Cornerstone of My Collection

We all have parts of our collection that we deem to be untouchable; cornerstones of our collection. My Topps Cubs team sets would certainly be one, if not the most important. Today, I've got #2.

Yesterday I featured the Cubs from 2006 Greats of the Game. In addition to the base cards, there were also gold and pewter parallels.

But there was one more parallel--autographs. I really wanted them, but I also knew that it wasn't going to be easy...or cheap. Just the fact that there were six Hall of Famers on the checklist meant that these weren't going to bargain cards. Add in the recently departed fan favorite Ron Santo, and you've got a daunting task ahead.

But ahead I went. Before I committed to getting all ten, I already had a head start, as I had bought a lot of ten autograph cards and three of the GOTG autos were included. But the only HOFer of that group was Bruce Sutter. Still, it was a start.

After that, it was just a matter of checking ebay daily and waiting for deals. There were many auctions lost when the price got crazy. But I was patient, and eventually I had nine of the ten. Ron Santo was the last piece of the puzzle. There weren't many of his available, and when they were, the price was way too high. But eventually one made its way onto ebay, and it was a Buy it Now at a price lower than most auctions were going for. I pounced on it, and all ten were mine!

They're stickers instead of on-card autos, but other than that, I am very happy with what I've got. Among two binder pages I've got the autograph of five of my favorite '69 Cubs, one of my favorites from the '70s, two stars of the '84 team, and the star of the '90s. Put all that together, and you've got a cornerstone!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Fleer Greats of the Game, 2006

Over the next two days I'm going to take a look at one of my very favorite teams sets, from Fleer's Greats of the Game, 2006.

Fleer first introduced this brand in 2000 and then issued the set four more times through 2006. The first release included only one Cub, Fergie Jenkins. The next few saw between three and six Cubs. But when the 2006 set was released, it included a whopping ten Cubs. There were only 100 cards in the set, so for one team to have 10% of the players seems pretty high. Usually it's a New York team that would dominate a set.

Even better than the fact that there were ten Cubs, was that they are all players that I have seen play personally. No Rogers Hornsby or Hack Wilson here. Instead the list included Ernie Banks, Andre Dawson, Mark Grace, Randy Hundley, Fergie Jenkins, Gary Matthews, Ryne Sandberg, Ron Santo, Bruce Sutter, and Billy Williams.

That's a great list; six Hall of Famers, one near HOF, and the other three are among my favorite players. I've already blogged about the Cubs Greats subset and relics. Today, I'd like to look at the base cards and parallels. Along with the base set there are two parallels, gold (which are numbered to 299) and pewter. Because I liked the set so much, I decided to get all three variations. They look very nice side by side on a binder page.

So here they are. The top row contains the year cards that I make for many of my sets, and then the players follow in alphabetical order.

The only disappointment for me are the black and white cards for Banks and Sutter. For Banks I can somewhat understand it, since he played in an era of mostly B&W pictures. But Sutter? Surely there were some color pictures of him in his Cubs uniform available!

Make sure you check back tomorrow, for one of the cornerstones of my collection, compliments of 2006 Fleer Greats of the Game.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Cubs 2011 Allen & Ginter

These got here very quickly!

First, a little about the design.....There are a couple big changes this year. This is the first time that Ginter has a team logo on the card. In fact, its the first time that Ginter even mentions the player's team on the front of the card. The second big change is the placement of the player's name. It has always been at the bottom, center of the card, directly underneath the player's picture. This year, it is in the upper left hand corner of the card. I don't have a problem with either of the changes. The cards still have the "Ginter" look to them. As long as that is always the case, Topps should make occasional changes.

As far as the Cubs go, there are eleven in the base set and none among the SPs. The only disappointment for me is that Darwin Barney didn't get included in the set. I'm guessing that Ginter has a longer lead time than the base set. Topps did have enough time to include the Santo patch on a couple of the players, so that tells me that some of the cards weren't designed until at least spring training.

Before I get to the base cards, I'll start with the insert. That's singular, insert. Only one! Starlin Castro was included in the Baseball Highlight Sketches set.

The card talks about his MLB debut on May 7, 2010. In that game he hit a 3 run homer in his first MLB at bat, and later hit a bases-clearing triple. That made 6 RBIs in his first game, a MLB record.

Castro was in the pre-sell checklist for the Hometown Heroes inserts, but he got bumped. That means that out of the 100 cards in the set, not a single Cubs player was included (this is the second time the Cubs got shut out of a Ginter insert set...the 2008 States set was also Cub-free). With 30 teams, there should be at least three Cubs. Then again, there are ten Cubs that got relic cards, which is way more than there should have been. I would gladly trade in 3-4 relics for a few Hometown Heroes.

That's enough about the inserts. Here are the eleven base cards.....Enjoy!