Saturday, April 30, 2016

Ernie's One Game Return

I learned something new while I was doing some research for the Leo Durocher post:

Ernie Banks played in one game for the 1972 Cubs.

He retired after the 1971 season and became the Cubs first base coach for the 1972 season. He was 41 years old and his playing days were behind him.

But for one night, he took to the field as a player.

It was on August 14, 1972.

The opponent?

The White Sox.

Yes, the cross-town White Sox.  Keep in mind that this was years before inter-league play.

But each season, the two Chicago teams got together for the Cubs-Sox Boys Benefit Game.  A crowd of 38,000 fans were at Comiskey Park for the exhibition.  Ernie entered the game defensively as the Cubs first baseman in the bottom of the seventh inning and received a one-minute standing ovation.

He came to the plate in the ninth inning to another loud ovation.

Then he struck out.

The fans rose and cheered him one last time.

The irony is that Ernie's final at-bat in Chicago took place on the south side.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Backing Up the Truck: Leo Durocher

It's ironic that the man who talked about backing up the truck was one of the first to go.

Leo Durocher came to the Cubs in 1966 and was a lightening rod for controversy from the moment he came to Chicago.  As the team improved and got very popular, Durocher was seen as the savior.

But when the team went through some bumpy times, Leo looked more like a jerk.

A few examples...
During the midst of the pennant drive in 1969, he took a couple days off the visit his wife's son at a camp in Wisconsin.  He also lied about it.

He and Ron Santo nearly came to blows in the clubhouse when Durocher accused Santo of demanding a Ron Santo Day.

By 1971 the negative rumbles coming from the players regarding Leo were getting louder and louder.  And the response of Cubs management?

This ad that ran in early September, 1971 in all four Chicago papers.  Wrigley was backing Leo and slamming the players.  The team went 10-14 after the ad came out.  It didn't exactly inspire them.  It probably had the opposite effect.

As the 1972 season began, the team was aging and it wouldn't have too many pennant runs left.  At the All-Star break they were 46-44.  Management finally had had enough of Leo and he was fired.

His dismissal was front page news.

Leo's record as Cubs manager was 535-526, a .504 percentage.  He managed four teams over his career and his Cubs percentage was the lowest of the four.  It turned out to be a pretty disappointing run.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Backing Up the Truck.... Ernie Banks

Even before Ken Holtzman, the first '69 Cub to go was Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks.

If Leo Durocher had his way, Ernie would have been gone much sooner than 1971.  From the time he arrive in 1966, Leo didn't have much good to say about the aging slugger.  Each spring he would tout some rookie as the first baseman of the future.

Each spring Ernie proved Leo wrong.

It was Leo that led to Ernie's end.  It was time.  Age and injuries caught up with him in 1970 and finished him in 1971.  That last season saw the 40-yeare-old play in just 39 games, hitting only three homers and batting .193.  

He never announced his retirement during the season.  He just faded away.

Leo was finally rid of him.

But he wasn't.

Ernie became a full-time coach on Leo's staff.  I'm sure Leo was thrilled.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Backing Up the Truck...Ken Holtzman

Yesterday's post on Rick Monday got me thinking about how he came to the Cubs. It was in a trade for Ken Holtzman. That led me to the idea to look at how the Cubs of '69 were all eventually moved elsewhere.

After two straight collapses in 1969 and 1970, Manager Leo Durocher started talking about "backing up the truck," dumping the current players.

Pitcher Ken Holtzman was the first to go. During the 1971 season he made some less than flattering comments about Durocher. He more or less demanded a trade.

The Cubs obliged.

On November 29, 1971, he was trade to the A's for Rick Monday.


The trade led to two of the ugliest cards in the 1972 set....Topps airbrushing at its worst.

The swap worked out for both teams. Monday gave the Cubs the center fielder that they sorely lacked. He also gave them some power at the top of the lineup. The five years he spent in Chicago were the best years of his career.

Holtzman had the best years of his career in Oakland. He averaged 19 wins and pitched in three World Series.

This was a trade that was good for both teams...just not good for Topps.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

40 Years and a Day Ago

I should have had this yesterday, but I didn't.  So were celebrating 40 years and one day later.

40 years and one day ago Rick Monday made one of the two greatest plays of his career.  His #1 would have to be the home run he hit against the Expos in the NLDS in 1981.

#2 took place on April 25, 1976.  It didn't happen in the post-season because because the Cubs of that era didn't ever even catch a sniff of the post season.  

In fact it didn't even happened as part of the game.

Rick Monday saved the American flag.  Two knucklehead Dodger fans went out on the field with a flag and lighter fluid, intent on burning the flag.  The wind on the field made it hard to start a fire, and while they were fiddling around, Monday swooped in and saved the flag.

I remember this pretty clearly.  I watched the game on WGN.  Their policy was to never show any fan that gets onto the field so I didn't see his actually get the flag.  But I do remember them showing the message board at Dodger Stadium after he got the flag.  It read "Rick Monday...You Made A Great Play."  I thought that was a pretty classy thing for the Dodgers to do.

The play gave Monday some national exposure.  I remember him being on the Phil Donahue Show a little while later (the show was shot at the WGN studios at that time).  He was also the grand marshal at some Flag Day parades.

With 1976 being the year of the Bicentennial celebration, national pride higher than usual.  Rick Monday's play raised it even more.,

Monday, April 25, 2016

The GQ Cubs Variations

I waited a couple weeks and the prices have dropped to a more reasonable level.  So I went ahead and picked up the five Cubs photo variations in this year's Gypsy Queen.

I thought five variations was a bit much. But I suppose Topps is making up for lost time.  Photo variations have been around in the base set since 2012 and the Cubs have had only one variation in the four years combined.  All the money I saved in those years I'm spending now.


Arrieta, Bryant, Rizzo, Russell, and Schwarber...the big names.

My only issue...some of the variations are minimal variations.  If you're going to change pictures, make it a big change.


They did that with Arrieta.

But look at the Bryant and Schwarber...



...too similar for me.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Five Random Cubs Cards

I've got 14,194 Cubs cards from 108 different brands listed on a spreadsheet. A random number generator picked five cards, one each from the past several decades.

1900s - 1970s: 1967 Topps #458 Lee Thomas  Thomas was a part-time outfielder for the 1967 Cubs. He played in just 77 games and hit .220, so he wasn't an important part of the team.  Its interesting that his autograph on the card is "Leroy" but he was known mostly as "Lee."

1980s: 1984 Team-Issued #10 Leon Durham The Cubs gave away these cards on August 8, 1984.  It was a good day as the Cubs finished a four-game sweep of the Mets, topping them 7-6.  They had moved into first place on August 1 and by the 8th their lead was 4½ games.  

1990s: 1994 Topps #602 Ryne Sandberg This is from a nice looking subset called Measures of Greatness.  Others in the set were Frank Thomas, Wade Boggs, Cal Ripken, Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey, Kirby Puckett, Darren Daulton, and Paul Molitor.  All but Bonds and Daulton ended up in Cooperstown.

2000s: 2007 Donruss Elite #9 Darwin Barney This one comes from the Barney collection and shows Darwin with the Oregon State Beavers.

2010s: 2010 Allen and Ginter #KF Kosuke Fukudome Relic Ginter has usually had some interesting looking relic holders.  The 2010 set was no exception.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Milt Pappas

Former Cub (and Oriole, Red, and Brave) Milt Pappas passed away on Tuesday at the age of 76.

Milt came to the Cubs in 1970, having been purchased from the Braves.  His career was in the dumps and it was either make it or break it with the Cubs.

He made it, going 51-41 during his 3½ years in Chicago.  

The highlight of his time as a Cub was his near-perfect game against the Padres in 1972.  I have very clear memories of watching that game in our basement.  I was disappointed that he didn't get the perfect game, but not as much as Milt.  I think he went to his grave bitter about the walk to Larry Stahl.

In addition to the card above, I have ten others of Milt as a Cub.


Topps has four cards of his as a Cub.  He was included in the 1974 set although he was out of baseball in 1974, being released by the Cubs in spring training.  He was bitter about that too.  He had 99 wins in the NL to go along with his 110 AL wins.  He missed by one win of becoming one of just a hand full of pitchers with 100 wins in each league.  The Tribune article on his release is here.

This card is Milt as a Cub as a Brave.  It's from the 1971 Dell Today set. He's in the Cub book, but obviously is not in a Cubs uniform.  


These were in the Season Ticket holders and Giveaway sets from 2013.

This is from the 1973 Jewel set.

The last two are a bit more special.

This is also a 2002 Wrigley Field giveaway and it's been signed.

This Cubs convention card from 1998 was also signed.  I've got no idea if the signature is legit or not.  Milt was a regular at Cubs Conventions.  He settled in the Chicago suburbs after his career ended and was at Wrigley Field often too.  He really embraced his Cub-ness even though he was with the Orioles for the longest part of his career.

RIP, Milt.

Friday, April 22, 2016



We're running out of adjectives to describe the incredible roll that Jake Arrieta is on.

He didn't look too sharp early on last night. It took him over 60 pitches to get through the first four innings. He was able to right the ship and needed 60 more for the final five innings.

The Reds didn't have anything close to a hit.

With just nine starts in between, he has no hitter #2.

If the Cubs go deep into the post-season this year, it will be because of Jake Arrieta

Thursday, April 21, 2016

One More Autograph, Anticipating

I've added another autograph to my certified autograph collection, even though it doesn't meet my rule....yet.

The certified autograph for any Cub player that had one issued during a year they played for the Cubs and the card shows the player as a Cub.

Here's what I picked up...

...a certified auto of Carl Edwards from this year's Gypsy Queen.

It doesn't meet my rule because Edwards hasn't played for the Cubs this year.  However, it is very likely that he will so I went ahead and bought the card.

The past couple years have been a hit on the wallet adding autos and relics of guys like Bryant, Schwarber, Soler, Russell, and Baez.

I got a break with Edwards.  Brent charged me a whole three bucks for the card.  So even if Edwards isn't called up this year, I would only be out $3.  

I'll take the chance.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Nothing Surprises Me Any More...Knuckleheads

After lambasting Topps for errors in the Wrigley Field insert set and Then and Now in Heritage, well, nothing surprises me any more.  Clearly, Topps has no interest in being accurate.

Typos I can live with, but there is absolutely no place for factual errors.  They come about because of incompetent writing and editing, and a general lack of caring to get it right.  And right now it seems that Topps is just that, incompetent and uncaring.

How else can you explain this, from Andre Dawson's Power Alley card in 2016 Gypsy Queen...

Yes, Cub fans, Topps has moved your team to the South Side.

This is not some obscure fact.  This is not a typo.  Its pretty basic baseball knowledge.

How  does someone that is hired to write information on baseball cards not know which side of town the two Chicago teams are on?

How does someone that is hired to edit information on baseball cards not know which side of town the two Chicago teams are on?

Will there ever be a stop to the incompetence??

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Gypsy Queen Inserts

Yesterday the base set, today the inserts.

GQ is not an insert heavy brand.  This year there are just three insert sets, and between them a total of fifty cards.

Power Alley has 30 cards and... Cub, Andre Dawson.

Walk-off Winners has ten card, including...

...Kris Bryant.  This is from July 27 when he hit a walk-off homer against the Rockies.  it's nice that he was included, but I wish Topps has used his walk-off on August 24.

That was the homer that included Pedro Strop running along side of him.  It was one of the best moments of the season.

The third insert set in 2016 GQ is Glove Stories.  The Cubs were shut out of this one.

Monday, April 18, 2016

2016 Gypsy Queen Cubs

As usual, I bought my set from Brentandbecca.  As usual, Brent was speedy with his delivery.

Gypsy Queen is the one major brand that Topps brought out after I returned to collecting.  I've been on it from the start.  I wasn't a big fan early on, but I've come to at least be ok with it.

The design of the cards for 2016 is the the most plain of the six years.  There are very few of the typical Gypsy Queen dippsy-dos in the corners.  The Gypsy Queen letters lack the flourish of previous designs.    The red lettering also seems out of place for this brand.

This year's Cubs set has grown from eight players last year to fourteen this year.  And thirteen of the fourteen are active players.  The Cubs, they are improving!

In addition to the regular cards, there are several photo variations.  In the past I've picked them up, since there were just one or two Cubs.  This year I'm skipping them because five of the fourteen Cubs have a variation. If the prices come down, especially for the Bryant variation, I may go back and get them.  But right now, pass.

Fergie is the only retired Cub.  No Ernie or Santo (I don't believe Topps has the rights to either); no Billy or Ryno either.


And we've seen this picture a few time before.

As far as the current players, there's only one curious addition...

...Carl Edwards.  He'll probably end up the the big club some time this season, but right now he is in AAA.

The selection of players left out the catchers and the bullpen, but the other regulars you would expect are there.