Monday, September 30, 2013

2013 Heritage Minor League Cubs

For the third straight year, Topps has released a minor league version of the Heritage set.

For the third straight year, I ask why?

I love Heritage.  But as it seems to do with any successful product, Topps feels the need to push more and more of it out there.

I thought Bowman and Pro Debut were the prospect sets.  Why do we need a third?

But being the complete team set collector that I am, I went ahead and got the Cubs cards from Heritage Minor League.

The Cubs actually have a decent representation in the set.  There are six Cubs prospects in the base set and two more in the dreaded high number short prints.  Eight players in a 225 card set is a good number.  But since we've been tanking and trading players for prospects, the Cubs system should be loaded.

Today I've got the six base cards (the SPs were bought from a different seller and are still on the way).  The players are shown with three teams, low-A Kane County, high-A Daytona, and AA Tennessee.  I'll show the cards by team.


Here are the three Kane County Cougars.  I enjoyed going to Cougar games when we lived in the Chicago area, and if we were still in the area I'm sure I would have gone to see them a couple times.  None of these three are among the touted future saviors of the Cubs, but Rock Shoulders has one of the coolest names in organized baseball.

A slight beef with the cards....three Cougar cards and they all have a different color scheme.  That is not the way the '64 set worked...each team had a consistent color scheme.  The Cubs pattern was black team name lettering with a red box for the players.  Why did Topps feel the need to mix up the pattern among a team.

Moving up a step, we head to high A and...


....the Daytona Cubs.  These two are players that Theo is counting on.  Baez had a great season, tearing up in A and AA.  He was named the organization's minor league position player of the year.  Personally, I'd like to see him at Wrigley next April.  Soler is a Cuban defector that the Cubs signed for huge dollars.  He missed a chunck of the season with a stress fracture in his shin.  He's also shown some anger issues.

Finally, we move on to AA Tennessee...

....and the Tennessee Smokies.  Arismendy Alcantara is a second-tier prospect, but he's been attracting more attention. He had a solid season for the Smokies, hitting .271 with 15 HRs and 69 RBIs.  His biggest problem will be finding a postions...with Castro and Baez, shortstop is a bit crowded.  When Baez was promoted to Tennessee, Alcantara moved to second base.

Maybe this card is the first in my new player collection for Arismendy Alcantara (Darwin who??).

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Five Random Cubs Cards

I've got 11,835 Cubs cards from 84 different brands listed on a spreadsheet. A random number generator picked five cards, one each from the past several decades. 

1950s / 1960s: 1958 Topps #209 Bob Anderson  The righty pitched in only 8 games for the Cubs in 1957, but that was enough for Topps to include him in the 1958 set, and in an early series, too.  Anderson spent the first four months of the season at AA Fort Worth.  He was recalled to the Cubs in early August and split his time between the bullpen and the starting rotation.  He posted a 3-3 record for the Cubs.  The highlight of the season for him was a complete game win over the Phillies on August 27, his first big league win.

1970s: 1973 Topps #552 J.C. Martin Martin is on the list of players who played for both the Cubs and the Sox. He was with the Sox at the start of his career, from 1959-1967. By the time he got to the Cubs in 1970, he was a broken-down back-up catcher. The Cubs got him just before the season, and when Randy Hundley went down with a season ending knee injury, he became one of several catchers who tried to fill Hundley's position. By 1972, Martin saw limited action, appearing in only 25 games. He was released by the Cubs at the end of spring training in 1973. He spent about half the season in AAA, but hung them up for good after playing in only 53 games.

1980s: 1983 Fleer #493 Bill Campbell  Fleer gives us a shot of Campbell at the Vet in Philadelphia.  Soup led the National League with 81 appearances.  He logged 122 innings of work, which come to an average of an inning and a half per outing.  Most relievers don't do that any more.

1990s: 1993 Fleer # 25 Ryne Sandberg  The 1993 season was an up and down one for Ryno.  He broke his hand in spring training and didn't return to the Cubs lineup until early May.  In mid-September he dislocated a finger and missed the rest of the season.  In between, he hit .309 in 117 games.  I'm guessing the broken hand affected his power as he had only 9 homers.  He also had a career first in 1993--on May 26 he was ejected by first base umpire Charlie Williams.

2000s: 2013 Topps 1972 Mini #12 Anthony Rizzo The RNG grabbed a card from this season, which hasn't happened very often.  Rizzo's numbers this year were disappointing, as his average has really taken a beating.  Hopefully he'll figure things out for next year.  Otherwise we may have Adam Dunn II on our hands.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

1982 Drakes

Today I've got a look at the second Topps/Drakes set which was issued in 1982.  Like the first set, this one has 33 cards in it. The cards were available in boxes of Drakes Bakery products.  

All of the cards feature a yellow border. The American League players have red trim, while the NL cards were trimmed in green.  The AL outnumbered the NL 19 -14.

One Cub was on the checklist, the  same as the '81 set, and it was the same player, too...

...first baseman Bill Buckner.  In 1982 the Cubs were under new ownership and in a serious rebuild (sound familiar??).  Buckner was the only real name player left on the team.

The most interesting thing for me with the 1982 Drake set is the backs...

...which were the same as the base Topps set.  None of the retail sets borrowed anything from the Topps base set.  But Drakes, while having a different front, cloned the back.

Here are the Buckner Drakes and Buckner base

The number is different and a Drakes copyright was added to the bottom left corner.  Otherwise we've got carbon copies of one another.  Drakes and Topps would do the same thing with the rest of their sets.

I'm not aware of a boxed set version of the cards, so again I had to create my own version of the box front and back.


Friday, September 27, 2013

Post Ron Santo

The Hall of Fame third baseman was one of three Cubs to be included in all three sets.  It's surprising to me that he was in the 1961 set, since he played in just 95 games as a rookie in 1960.  But good for Post for including him.

The 1961 card has a picture of him at Wrigley Field.  The write up mentions his call up to the majors on June 26, 1960.  You can see the numbers he put up were solid numbers for a rookie.

In 1962, as they did with several players, Post used the same photo.  This time, though, it has a sort of painted look to it.  Was this to make us think it wasn't the same picture?  It didn't work.

The 1963 card gives us a new picture of Santo in the home pinstripes.  I love cards that give a nice clear look at the sleeve patch.  Maybe its because I grew up with that patch, but I sure wish the Cubs would go back to wearing it.

When I first looked at the '63 card, I thought I got another marked up one.  Look just to the left of his ear...

....and it looks like there's some sort of schmutz on his face.  But on further review, the schmutz is printed on the card and its on all the '63 Santo cards.  Printing defect, maybe?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Post 1963 Ken Hubbs

One of my very first posts was on the brief career of Ken Hubbs, cut short by his tragic death.  I figured that his only Post card, from 1963, might be pricier because of his sad story.  I was right, it was more expensive, but it is also a SP.  Most of the available cards on ebay were at least $15 and up.  That was a bit more than I was interested in paying.

I didn't find any bargains at Checkoutmycards, either, so I went to the Beckett Marketplace.  There I found the card for only $5.00.  The condition was listed as Good, but I thought it was worth the gamble since most of the Post cards are in less than mint condition anyway.

Here's what I got....

....almost.  This is my card, and it looks pretty nice.  There aren't any creases and the card was cut off the box is a fairly square way.  BUT...

...I did have to use a little Photoshop magic to fix one part of the card.  You see, the original owner decided to do a little editing to the text of the card.

Here is what it actually looks like...

...with the end of the Hubbs story added.  At first I was kinda ticked with the writing.  I expected the card to be a bit rough, but I never thought the low grade was due to writing.  I wish that would have been noted by the seller.

But the more I thought about it, the more I started to be OK with it.  Except for the writing the card is in really nice shape.  And the writing adds a little character.

There's just one problem......the writing is wrong!  Hubbs did die in 1964 at the age of only 22.  But it wasn't in a car accident; it was a plane crash.

Maybe the author did this on purpose---the card seems more real if there is a mistake on it!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Post Richie Ashburn

The bulk of his career was spent with the Phillies, but Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn was also a Cub for two seasons near the end of his playing time.  Traded from the Phillies in January, 1960, he played outfield for the Cubs in 1960 and 1961.

Post issued cards of Asburn as a Cub in the 1961 and 1962 sets, though he was sold to the Mets in December, 1961.

The cards feature two different pictures, both taken at Wrigley Field.  One thing I've noticed about the Post cards is that most of the Cubs pictures were taken at Wrigley Field.  I'm not familiar with too many of these cards of non-Cubs.  Do they feature pictures of the players taken in their home ballparks, or were the photographers used by Post based in Chicago?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Theo With Numbers

I was able to finish up my Aunt Millies Cubs set because a school mom that works for the bakery got me my final card---#2 Theo Epstein.  But the card was a bit different that the cards that were given out in bread.  It had square corners and it was unnumbered.

While I had the complete set, in a sense I didn't because of the one unnumbered card among ten other cards with numbers.  Luckily for me, I can now say that the set is completely complete!

Jon over at Community Gum read my Theo post and sent me an email, telling me that he had an extra numbered Theo.  Even better, he was willing to send it my way!  I gratefully accepted his kind offer.

Not only did he send me the card, but he sent it in a toploader with... tape.  Yea blue tape!!

Here's a look at the card removed from the holder...

...and here is the card's number...

...good old  number 086162.  Given the scarcity of these on ebay, its hard to believe that there are over 86,000 of these out there.

 I'm just happy to have one.  Thanks for your generosity, Jon.  I'm working on getting something to send your way.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Ernie in the Outfield

Yesterday's post on Jerry Kindall took an interesting turn to a discussion of Ernie Banks as an outfielder.  It was news to me and Hackenbush, too.  He also left me a comment, challenging me to find a picture of Mr. Cub in the outfield.

Well, I love a challenge!

The first step for any image hunt is to head to Google images.  That's exactly what I did, searching for "Ernie Banks outfield."  Lots of pictures of Mr. Cub turned up, but none of him playing the outfield.

I sorta expected that.  After all, what are the odds of finding a picture from over 50 years ago from one of only 23 games that season.  I did another search, this time "Ernie Banks 1961."  It brought up lots of images of his baseball cards from 1961, but no shots of outfielder Ernie.

Next, it was on to Getty Images.  I searched "Ernie Banks" and set a date range of May and June, 1961.  Nothing turned up.  It was then that I headed to the Sports Illustrated Vault.  I did find an article that talked about a possible move of Ernie to first base, but no pictures.

Finally, I surfed to the Chicago Tribune archives, and there I struck paydirt!

Ernie's first game as a left fielder was May 23, 1961.  The next day, the Trib had an entire article that discussed the move...

...and this grainy picture accompanied the article. So there you have it, photographic proof of Mr. Cub the left fielder.

According to the article, the move was Ernie's idea.  A bum knee was affecting his play at short and he felt he could do the team more good in the outfield.  I've got the entire article below.

His time in the outfield lasted only three weeks.  He moved to first base on June 16 and two reasons were, that Ernie needed more action to stay involved in the was too boring out there.  The Cubs also wanted a young left fielder to get back in the lineup, a kid named Billy Williams.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Post Jerry Kindall

More of my Post cards have arrived.  My plan is to show a couple a day rather than doing one massive Post post.

The two cards I've got today are of infielder Jerry Kindall.

These are the 1961 and 1962 cards.  One thing you may notice right away is that the same picture was used on both cards.  Post did the repeat picture thing with several players--boo!!

Both cards make mention of the fact that Kendall was signed as a bonus baby out of the University of Minnesota.  The 1962 card adds another very interesting line...."He took over as the Cubs' shortstop when Banks moved to the outfield last spring."

..."when Banks moved to the outfield last spring."

I had never heard anything about Ernie playing the outfield.  When I started following the Cubs, Ernie was at the end of his career and was the first baseman.  That's all I ever knew him as, though I was aware that he used to play shortstop.

I went to Baseballrefernce to see how much action in the outfield Ernie saw.  Turns out he played 23 games as a left-fielder in late May and early June, 1961.  He then spent a week at first base before returning to shortstop for the rest of the season.

In 1962 he took over as the Cubs first baseman and stayed there for the rest of his career.  Those 23 games in left field in 1961 were the only games he ever played as an outfielder.  He never really moved to the outfield.

So the Post cards have repeat pictures and errors in the write-ups.

That doesn't sound like any other card company we know and love, does it??

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Drakes 1981 Set

Over the summer I completed the various retail brand sets that Topps put out in the 1980s.  In addition to collaborating with several retail chains, they also put out a sets with a few food companies---Drakes, Purina, and Quaker Oats.

I've been able to pick up all of the sets and I'll be showing them from time to time over the next couple weeks.  Today I'll start with the first of these food sets, the 1981 Drakes set.

Drakes is an east coast based bakery and other than a few Seinfeld references, this midwest boy never heard of them.  Looking over their product line, they seem Hostess-like.  In fact, the Hostess parent Interstate Bakeries bought Drakes in 1998.  Operations were consolidated and some Hostess products were made in Drake bakeries.

When Hostess went belly-up earlier this year, Drakes died with it.  And just as Hostess has been brought back, so too Drakes.

Topps and Drakes brought out their first set in 1981.  When Topps worked with Hostess, the cards were printed on the bottom of the product boxes.  With Drakes, they went a different direction and made actual cards that were inserted into boxes.  The 33-card set featured 19 American League stars (with red borders on the cards), while the NL saw only 14 stars (with blue borders) included.

Some later Drakes set were also available in boxed sets via the mail, but I've never seen a 1981  box.  Does anyone know if it exists?  Without a box, I used some of the design features of later boxes to create my own version.


The set included just a single Cub, Bill Buckner.  Billy Buck was the defending NL hitting champ, hitting .324 in 1980, so including him in the set was kind of a no-brainer.

Take a look at the front...

...with Buckner taking a swing at a spring game in Mesa.

The backs used a...

...horizontal format and looked similar to the backs on Topps cards.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Posts Are Arriving!

This was quick!

On Monday I decided I would go after the Post Cubs cards and I placed a couple orders with Sportlots and one with Checkoutmycards.  On Thursday the first Post card arrived.  Some of the Sportlots sellers drag their feet, but not this one.

Here's the card...

...the 1961 Don Elston.  The card is #200 in the set, the final card on a 200 card checklist.  I suppose that would make him the Post 1961 version of Mr. Irrelevant.  He doesn't look irrelevant on the picture, he looks mad.

So was Don's 1961 season irrelevant?

He led the team in appearances (58) and had a record of 6-7 with an ERA of 5.61.  It seems like an awfully high ERA for a guy that pitches in 1/3 of your games. He wasn't irrelevant, he was just not very good.

He looks much happier in the '61 Topps card.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

All the Relics That Follow My Rule

By my current count, there are 60 different Cub player that had a relic card of them shown as a Cub during a season that they played for the Cubs.

Of course, just a couple weeks ago there were 56 on my checklist, meaning the list is fluid.  If you know of a player that I missed, let me know.

The list could be at 61 2008 Upper Deck put out some relic cards of Sean Marshall.  However, they were special limited run cards that had buttons, laundry tags or MLB logo tags and they were numbered to only 4 or 5.  I doubt I'll ever see any of those and I'm keeping them off the checklist.

As requested, here is a tile of all 60 players.  They're in alphabetical order, and after the tile I've got a list of all the players.

Moises Alou
Darwin Barney
Francis Beltran
Damon Buford
Marlon Byrd
Andrew Cashner
Starlin Castro
Hee Seop Choi
Tyler Colvin
Juan Cruz
Ryan Dempster
Blake DeWitt
Jason Dubois
Jim Edmonds
Mike Fontenot
Kosuke Fukudome
Nomar Garciaparra
Matt Garza
Mark Grace
Mark Grudzielanek
Rich Harden
Brendan Harris
Kevin Hart
Bobby Hill
Rich Hill
Todd Hundley
Brett Jackson
Jacque Jones
Eric Karros
David Kelton
Bryan LaHair
Derrek Lee
Ted Lilly
Kenny Lofton
Greg Maddux
Carlos Marmol
Gary Matthews, Jr.
Fred McGriff
Bill Mueller
Jose Nieves
Corey Patterson
Carlos Pena
Felix Pie
Juan Pierre
Mark Prior
Aramis Ramirez
Anthony Rizzo
Jeff Samardzija
Alfonso Soriano
Sammy Sosa
Geovany Soto
Ryan Theriot
Darryle Ward
Todd Wellemeyer
Randy Wells
Rondell White
Jerome Williams
Kerry Wood
Carlos Zambrano
Julio Zuleta

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


We got a little rain here is SW Michigan on Sunday, but otherwise it has been very dry for the past month.  Its been weeks since I've had to cut the grass.  But that's not the only drought in the area.

It's been over two weeks since I bought the four relic cards  I've been featuring, and since that purchase, I haven't bought a single card.  That's probably the longest card drought for me since I started the blog.

A couple reasons for the drought...
...first, were in between Topps products right now.  Ginter was over a month ago, and Chrome should be coming out soon, followed by the update set.  But for the past couple weeks, nothing.

...I'm also finding fewer and fewer sets from the past to chase.  At this point, after more than five years back in the hobby, I've got most of what I want to get.  And what I've got left are the big  ticket items, like T206 or 1952 high number cards. My economic awareness (also known as being cheap) has kept me away from both sets.

I needed to seed the clouds to end my drought and here's what I came up with....

...the Post Cereal cards, which were issued on boxes of various Post cereal between 1961 and 1963.

I've got the Ernie Banks and Billy Williams cards from Post in my player collections. I've also got a couple of the Ron Santo cards and one of Ed Bouchee.  That accounts for seven and leaves 21 more cards.  The '61s and '62s are fairly easy to find.  The real hunt will be for the '63s.  There are a few from that year that were short-printed.  

I'll keep you updated on my progress.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Four New Relics Part 4

This is my fourth and final new relic.

I'll bet most of you didn't even know that he spent some time with the Cubs.  His dad, yes; but the son--his time in Chicago was brief. just a season and a half in the early 2000s.  His .207 Cubs career average made him forgettable.  But Topps felt he was relic-worthy, so I present....

....Gary Matthews, Jr. and his 2001 Game Gear bat card.

Little Sarge had an interesting career.  Early on he bounced around from organization to organization, spending time with the Padres, Cubs, Pirates, Orioles, and Braves.  He ended up with the Rangers in 2004 and had a career year in Texas in 2006 at age 31.  After the season, for some unknown and illogical reason, the Angels signed him to a five year, $50 million contract.  Predictably, the aging Matthews saw his numbers decline and the Angels traded him to the Mets in 2009, though the paid most of the remaining $23 million left on the contract.

This card has one interesting feature for me, as it gives me my one and only....

..father and son Cubs relic combo.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Four New Relics Part 3

Hackenbush almost nailed this one!

He left the following comment on Saturday:
"Are you sure this isn't one of your fantasy mock up cards? Next you're going to show us the 2003 Mark Bellhorn bat card, right?"

The Cubs had alot of those types of guys passing through the infield throughout the 2000s....Bill Mueller, Mark Bellhorn, Jeff Baker, Mark DeRosa. Todd Walker, and today's guy...

....Mark Grudzielanek.  The card is from 2004 Topps Pristine Fantasy Favorites and its a bat card.    And yes, Hackenbush, this is the real deal.....Mark Grudzielanek is not involved in any of my fantasies nor was he a favorite of mine!

The back of the card makes note of the fact that Grudzielanek was 10th in the NL in hitting in 2003 with a .314 average.  In fact, other than Kenny Lofton's .327 average in 56 games, Grudzielanek was the Cubs top hitter.  I never would have guessed that.  He tanked in the post-season, though, hitting only .181.

Here's a fun fact from the media guide: when Grudzielanek joined the Cubs for the 2003 season, he was the first player with 12 letters in his last name on the team since 1983 (Alan Hargesheimer).

That's three relics down and one to a guess??

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Five Random Cubs Cards

The random cards come every other Sunday....I'll get back to my new relics tomorrow.

I've got 11,829 Cubs cards from 84 different brands listed on a spreadsheet. A random number generator picked five cards, one each from the past several decades. 

1950s / 1960s: 1962 Topps #47 Bob Will How weird is this...just a month ago the RNG came up with Will's 1963 card and today it pulls his '62.  In 1962 Will was used almost exclusively as a pinch hitter.  He appeared in 87 games but only played in the field in nine of those.  Most of the time it was one at bat and then back to the bench.  And he wasn't too successful in the pinch either, hitting only .239.

1970s: 1979 Galasso Glossy Greats #72 Kiki Cuyler  His real first name is Hazen and his middle name is being called Kiki wasn't so bad.  And by the way it's pronounced Kai-kai...I just learned that a few years ago.  I always thought it was Key-Key.  The Hall of Fame outfielder spent eight of his 18 year career with the Cubs, the longest tenure of the four teams he played for.

1980s: 1987 TCMA 1907 Cubs #4 Johnny Kling  The RNG picks another player from the past, this time a Cub who can claim to be a world champ!  Kling caught 98 games for the '07 Cubs and hit .284

1990s: 1997 Fleer #288 Pedro Valdes....Definitely not  a world champ this time!  Valdes made his big league debut with the Cubs in 1996, spending two weeks with the team in May.  Fleer considered him enough of a prospect to include him in the 1997 set.  The Cubs didn't agree, and Valdes spent the entire 1997 season in AAA.  

2000s: 2006 Heritage Then and Now #8 Derrek Lee  This is one of the few times that a Heritage card has been picked.  This Then and Now card compares the NL Hits leaders, Schoendienst in 1957 and DLee in 2005.  Red has 200 hits, one more than Lee did.  The impressive thing about Lee's 199 hits is that almost half (99) were for extra bases.