Friday, June 29, 2012

ATCRCS: First Pitch Friday - Devin Hester

Although I am a Cubs fan, I'm not necessarily a fan of Chicago's other sports. Baseball was king when I was growing up in the '80s and the fact that I could watch the Cubs on WGN anywhere I lived didn't really translate to the other sports.

While the '90s made way for a rise in basketball fans, my focus was high school, girls, college and girls. As an undersized white kid, I couldn't care less about that other joker that showed up in Chicago to usurp Ryno as the resident #23. Basketball was never my sport and never will be. Didn't care to play it, didn't care to watch it.

Surprisingly, even though I was a bandwagon Cubs fan in 1984 at the age of 6, I wasn't a Bears fan when they won the Super Bowl in 1985. Nothing against them, just didn't care. I've gotten more into football in recent years and followed the Patriots when I lived in Maine for a few years but don't really think I have a favorite team. None I'm as passionate about as with the Cubs anyway.

I still wouldn't say I'm a Bears fan but I do really enjoy watching Devin Hester play. For his Super Bowl appearance against the Colts, I wasn't feeling well that day so I couldn't bring myself to go to any Super Bowl parties. I was at home watching the game with my wife and two young sons who were 6 and 4 at the time. None of them really watched football so as I was explaining that Hester was known for these ridiculous run backs, he of course starts the game with one for a touchdown.

I was so excited (didn't care about the outcome, just wanted a good game...and some funny commercials) and my family looked at me like I was crazy. When I asked why, my wife assumed this was common since I just explained that was what he did.

I don't know enough about football to know whether Hester can make the Hall of Fame just on his touchdown returns, but it would kind of neat to have three different #23's from the same city in their respective Halls. And potentially jerseys retired? Can any other city lay claim to that? Next young stud for the Blackhawks should wear it too.

Anyway, without further adieu, here is this week's First Pitch Friday card:

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Player collection updates...

I mentioned last week or so that I am a fan of the 2012 Cubs. Yes, their record is horrible. And they just got blown out 17-1. But I see some potential in a core group of guys that I hope survives the dismantling and rebuilding process. Aside from Ryne Sandberg, I decided this past off season I would start player collections of Tony Campana and Darwin Barney.

Campana hasn't had much to work with yet in terms of cards but so I'm trying a little harder with him. Just one more parallel from this year to go that is already on its way and some from last year. As I showed earlier in the week, I picked up a 2012 Campana printing plate to go along with my one from last year's update card. I don't know a Cubs fan that doesn't like him or appreciate what he does for the team, but his limited edition cards don't seem to cost very much. I'm ok with that.

I'm a little more lackadaisical with the Barney collection and am just going for base cards and parallels right now. I have added a couple of relics and autographs when I see one at a fantastic price and its ending in the middle of the night or something. That's how I picked up this dual relic autograph card:

Unless the seller dropped the card in a mud puddle and managed to clean off everything but the jersey swatches, this is the filthiest relic card I've ever seen. I didn't notice it in the auction photo, only when it arrived. Check out this nearly glowing Andrew Cashner by comparison I picked up from the same seller for less than a buck.

And actually, a few recent bulk trades and the following ebay pickup, led me to start looking into a player collection of Jeff Samardzija. He has a lot more card than I realized once I started looking outside of Topps. I found one seller who had all three of these guys for a reasonable price: 

Jeff Samardzija Black #/61

Darwin Barney Black #/61

Tony Campana Black #61
Before I picked these up, I thought the black border would be grittier for some reason. But they are just as smooth as the base card. Maybe because they're glittery? Each is numered out of 61 so with 23 Cubs in the team set, I won't be going after all of them. But I am very happy with these three.

I'm debating on starting an Anthony Rizzo collection but right now the answer is no (even though he's Riz-zonkulous) I think he's got more Padres cards right now than Cubs cards so maybe when that tips more in the Cubs favor, I'll change my  mind. Hopefully I'm refraining from buying high and not missing out on what will be considered cheap n the future...

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Apparently, its a lot more fun when the hyped prospect plays for your team and, at least for a day, lives up to said hype. I didn't leave myself a whole lot of time to recap the situation so I'll just leave this custom card I made to do the talking for me. Is a picture still worth a thousand words?

And yes, I just coined this new term! Feel free to use it in every day conversations until it catches on.

I may end up changing the photo when I can find one that shows his face, but this is always a fun moment. Maybe this is like the Topps SP cards that show the celebrations?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A couple of Anthonys...

Within the last week or, I picked up this Tony Campana Black Printing Plate on ebay. It arrived on Saturday.

Tony Campana, 2012 Topps Black Printing Plate
It went for about $5-10 more than what I wanted to pay for it but I picked up a few other things from the same seller with combined shipping to make it a little more palatable. I also own the yellow printing plate from his 2011 Topps Update card. Yesterday I wrote about Jeff Baker's 2012 Topps Series 2 card after I tracked down the source photo through Getty Images. I decided to try to track down this photo too.

Source Photo courtesy of Getty Images
According to the Getty caption, this is an Andrew McCutchen fly ball in the 3rd inning of a 6-3 victory over the Pirates on September 4, 2011. I double checked the boxscore and Campana went 2-5 with a run scored, and not shockingly, a stolen base.

And in honor of Anthony Rizzo making his debut later today, this will be the last few hours as a Zero Year Card for his 2012 Topps Series 2 card.

Anthony Rizzo, 2012 Topps Series 2
And because he hasn't played a game with the Cubs yet, we know this is Photoshopped. Wrigley Wax has already found a few things wrong with the uniform here. I thought they did a decent job with the pinstripes considering his former team the Padres didn't utilize them as part of their uniform. At least I thought they didn't.

Source Photo courtesy of Getty Images

This appears to be some kind of throwback uniform but I don't remember them ever wearing these back in the day. The Getty caption says this is Rizzo watching his first Major League home run on June 11, 2011 in a 2-1 loss against the Nationals. The boxscore shows he went 2-4 with this home run and a double.

Monday, June 25, 2012

2012 Topps Jeff Baker

I don’t know why this card intrigues me but it does.

2012 Topps Jeff Baker Bearded Guy

My first thought when I saw the iconic Wrigley Field marquee on the card was one of my favorite blogs, Wrigley Wax, which uses a personalized version of it as the header. As he does with all his new team sets, a few days later Paul posted his write up about the 2012 Series 2 Cubs team set. Knowing of his periodical use of Photoshop to correct Topps mistakes, I left a comment suggesting he make a few alterations to include replacing the marquee with the one from his header photo. You can see his modified version here.

Normally, with a guy like Jeff Baker, this card probably would have been scanned, logged, put in the binder and forgotten about. I took my kids to a Nationals-Cubs game in 2010 and Baker turned down my kids’ autograph requests in a very similar situation to the one in the picture. Suffice to say, I'm not his biggest fan. It’s his prerogative not to sign, but it’s my prerogative to not care if he's one of the casualties of the impending dismantling and rebuild of the team.

But Jeff Baker isn't what I focused on with this card. As I mentioned yesterday, in my Sandberg Sunday post, I've been giving cards a deeper look and trying to learn more about them. Unfortunately, this card asks more questions than it answers.

Who is the bearded guy? Does he know he's on a card?

Did he sign a standard $75 contract with Topps for the use of his likeness that thetoppsvault sells on ebay like the players?

What is he getting autographed? Surely he's not getting signatures on the back of a marquee sign??

A little more research turned up this photo through Getty Images:

Unless he is just using the sign for support, it does appear he’s getting the back of the marquee signed. While the caption given by Getty does not give the name of this bearded fellow, it does mention it was Opening Day against the Pirates on April 1, 2011.

Ah, such optimism for the fan with his sign. As we all know, last year was not the year. And it doesn't look too promising this year either.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sandberg Sunday - My Non-Sandberg Sandbergs

Confused by the title? Let me explain.

Recently, inspired by a few other bloggers, I've started appreciating and giving a second look to a lot of my cards as I'm organizing. Ever notice that when you learn or see something new, it seems to pop up all over the place?

That was the case as I was going through a box of hodgepodge cards. It was like every 25 cards or so, I spotted this same characteristic. Like I had created my own insert set. In the background of these cards was my favorite player Ryne Sandberg, playing his own game of Where's Waldo. Some are easily identifiable while others are speculation, but can reasonably assume its him. One of the perks of the overproduction era is that there plenty of opportunities such as these.

I remember noticing Sandberg on Reggie Smith's 1983 Topps card a few years after its release, when I first started collecting cards. I'm pretty sure I had this card before I had Ryno's own rookie card from that same year. I recently picked up the O-Pee-Chee version when I saw it.

Here are a couple of plays at the plate. I'm going to call him safe on the Greg Olson card but probably out on Gary Carter's. Not sure if it is a play at the plate or some kind of pickle but Carter looks like he means business. Also making a cameo on that card is Keith Hernandez.

I would guess these photos were taken at maybe All-Star game festivities or something because of the different teams featured. Also, Keith Hernandez makes another appearance on the Glenn Davis card.

A few stolen base attempts? My guess would be safe in the top two veritical cards. I never understood why card companies featured bad plays for the main player featured on the card. Sure they're up in the air but the plays were obviously miscues. The Walt Weiss could go either way. But the tag looks high so I'm going to call him safe. Ryno looks mad in the Treadway card and the umpire is about a half second away from pumping his right fist  to make the out call.

Obviously, Sandberg needed some better hitting behind him as here are seven cards where he was the force out at second base in what appear to be potential double plays. Jose seems to be a popular middle infielder name. Hopefully, he was able to break a few of those up.

These last set cards are the ones where I'm making an assumption. Had I not already had Sandberg on the brain, I may not have noticed. But based on my knowledge of my favorite player's posture and position of the player in the photograph, I'm comfortable with my guess.

Anybody else have any "cameo" cards in their player collections?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Signature Saturday - Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams

I've mentioned several times already that I'm a big fan of the Boys of Zimmer. I was around Little League age at the time and remember racing home from school in April and May to catch those afternoon games on WGN. And of course, during the summer, coming in from playing outside and taking a couple hour break to watch the games.

I remember hearing about the trade that brought Mitch Williams to the Cubs before the 1989 season and being very disappointed. I don't recall all of the players involved but it was a multi-player trade and we definitely traded away Jamie Moyer (for some reason, back then, I always mixed him up with Greg Maddux) and Rafael Palmeiro. Gasp! He was a 1987 Topps Future Star for goodness sake!

Mitch Williams ended up being a big part of that team that season and I remember two games very distinctly. The first was opening day and obviously his first appearance with the team. I looked up the boxscore to verify my account and the only thing I mis-remembered was that he had come in during the 8th inning not just the 9th. With the Cubs leading the Phillies 5-4, he relieved Calvin Schiraldi in the 8th with one out. He proceeded to get a pop fly out, walk the second batter, balk him to second and walk the next batter before getting former Cub Steve Lake to end the inning with another pop fly.

Mitch Williams 1989 Topps Traded

Williams came back out to pitch the 9th with the Cubs still leading 5-4. He quickly loaded the bases with three straight singles with no outs. The game ended after he struck out the next three batters, including future Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt.

Mitch Williams 1990 Topps

Later that season, in a close game with the Mets, Williams came on in relief in the top of the 8th inning. The Cubs rallied for four runs in the bottom of the 8th including a 3-run homer from none other than Mitch Williams. It was his first Major League hit (keep in mind he was a closer, who came from the American League). With the score now 10-4, he came out to pitch the top of the 9th. He got two quick outs before the wheels started to fall off. A bloop double started a rally that was followed by a pinch-hit walk, back-to-back RBI singles and a hit batter. The score was now 10-6, bases loaded, 2 outs with tying run at the plate. Who is up? Clean up hitter, 1988 MVP runner-up and reigning National League home run champion Darryl Strawberry. In true "Wild Thing" fashion, he struck him out swinging.

I remembered the gist of this game too, mostly the home run, the crazyness ninth inning (although not the exact sequence) and Strawberry striking out to end the game. That Williams home run ended up being his only hit with the Cubs in 10 at-bats.

Mitch Williams 1991 Topps

I sent the three cards above to a private signing before I started my 1991 Topps Desert Shield project. The ATCRCS cards weren't even a thought in my mind yet. Next time I see him doing one, I'll be sending those in too. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

ATCRCS: First Pitch Friday - Jennie Finch

Because of the recent box breaks and trades, its been a while since I featured one of my ATCRCS cards. And its been three weeks since I did a First Pitch Friday write up. With most of my packages from those out in the mail and no big card releases on the horizon (not interested in A&G beyond the Cubs cards) and a need to save money for the National, I'm glad to be back on track. I've also temporarily disabled my Trade List page because I threw in some extras into my packages to make up for my tardiness. As I continue the organization process, I'll continue to add more items. On to First Pitch Friday.

I'll admit I don't know much about softball. I think, for the most part, the rules are similar to baseball. I've seen a few games, usually during the Olympics or College World Series, though nothing in person. When I was looking for photos to use for my First Pitch cards, I was a little surprised when I found the one of Jennie Finch. She was wearing a Chicago jersey but it was orange. I had no idea there was a professional softball league.

I assumed most baseball stats would translate over to softball. Wins, ERA, etc. Either I'm wrong or Jennie Finch is some kind of softball goddess! A record of 119-16 in college with a 1.07 ERA? What? As a member of the US National Team, she was 36-2 with a 0.42 ERA. Crazy! No wonder it's not an Olympic sport anymore, they had to stop her somehow.

In 2005, Jennie Finch was fresh off a gold medal from the 2004 Olympics in Athens as a member of the USA National Women's Softball team and a pitcher for the brand new Chicago Bandits. What better way to promote the new local team than to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before an interleague cross-town rivalry game between the Cubs and White Sox? Good demographic to target. I couldn't find any video of the first pitch but I'm glad I found a photo.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

I'm crazy...

I have no statistical evidence to back up anything I'm about to say.

I know how bad the Cubs are. But for some reason I like this team. Not just the Cubs. The 2012 Cubs. I know, I know. I'm crazy.

I understand the need for free agency but I have always been partial to homegrown talent. Granted, my favorite player, Ryne Sandberg, wasn't homegrown but he was with the team for a long time. I recently started following Minor League baseball a lot more closely and I want these guys to succeed.

The Starlin Castros. The Darwin Barneys. The Tony Campanas. The Jeff Samardzijas. I think they can have a core group of perennial All-Stars in the very near future and maybe even be a powerhouse as these guys mature. If they don't sell off the team for pieces in the meantime. There's a great group of guys waiting in the wings too. I really think so. I know, I know. I'm crazy. Blinded. 

And this may be even crazier still, but I want to see Castro and Barney become the next Sandberg and Dunston. 

Kessinger and Beckert.

 Maybe even the next Trammell and Whitaker. 

And Tony Campana is just exciting to watch. 

Beats out ground balls to 2nd base? Really? Awesome.