Saturday, August 31, 2013

One Game Wonders - Clay Rapada

After featuring the most well known of the One Game Wonders, Tony La Russa, last week, today I bring to you the most recent, Clay Rapada. (Yes, technically, Alex Burnett from earlier this year is the most recent but there's still time for him to get called back up and get off this list).

Clay Rapada signed with the Cubs as an amateur free agent during the 2002 season. He followed a nice progression, advancing each year, from low A to A to high A to Double-A to Triple-A. In 2007, Rapada got the call and made his MLB/Cubs debut on June 14 in an interleague matchup against the Seattle Mariners.

With the Cubs down 4-3, Rapada was called in to replace Carlos Marmol with runners on first and second and one out in the 8th inning. He faced Raul Ibanez, who lined out to right field and was promptly replaced by Bob Howry, who ended the threat by getting Richie Sexson to fly out to centerfield. The Cubs would go to score two runs in the bottom of the 8th inning, netting Howry the win. If Rapada had faced Sexson (and gotten the out), he would have gotten the win. So close.

And Rapada wouldn't get another chance. A few days later, he was sent back down to Triple-A Iowa without getting into another game. Fast forward two months, with Rapada still in Triple-A, he is named as the player to be named later in a deal with the Detroit Tigers that brought Craig Monroe to Chicago. He started his Tigers career in Triple-A as well with their affiliate, the Toledo Mudhens.

In a funny twist of fate, Rapada was called up and the visiting team was again the Seattle Mariners. Up to bat? Raul Ibanez. This time, however, Ibanez won the matchup hitting an 0-2 pitch for a three-run homerun. Rapada was pulled and replaced by Virgil Vasquez.

What are the odds of that? Two games. Two batters faced. Same batter.

Anyway, Rapada finished the 2007 season, with 2 2/3 innings over 5 appearances without getting a decision. And the only reason I'm going to keep going (and it doesn't involve the Cubs) is because it gets a little more intriguing.

So 2008 rolls around, where Rapada splits time between Toldeo and Detroit. By the end of the season, Rapada has pitched in 25 games for the Tigers, earning a 3-0 record as a middle reliever.

In 2009, Rapada didn't have much luck making it with the big club, pitching in only three games, all Detroit losses. 0-0 record.

In the offseason, the Tigers traded Rapada to the Texas Rangers. A change in scenery didn't add much to his resume as he only managed 9 innings over 13 appearances in 2010. No record change to show for it and he was released after the season.

But good news for Rapada! The Baltimore Orioles signed him for the 2011 season and he pitched 16 1/3 innings in a personal best 32 games, winning two of them and didn't suffer a loss.

I guess the Orioles didn't like what they saw and released him following the season. But the Yankees were interested and signed him for 2012! He even made the Opening Day roster. He had more career bests with 38 1/3 innings in 70 appearances and a 2.82 ERA. He also picked up another 3 wins without picking up a loss.

Unfortunately, after Spring Training this year, Rapada was DFA'd and ultimately released in early April. The Yankees did re-sign him to a minor league contract but released him again in June. The latest I've seen of him shows Rapada pitching for the Cleveland Indians Triple-A affiliate, the Columbus Clippers. He has made 26 appearances for them and sports a miniscule 1.17 ERA there.

So if you've been following closely, you'll see that Rapada has a Major League record of 8-0 over 6 seasons. Granted, his career ERA is a little high at 4.15 and he's generally brought into games his team is already losing, thus being eligible more often for wins than losses. But still. I'll be curious to see if he gets a September call up as he isn't on the 40 man roster.

Oh the trials and tribulations of a Minor/Major League ballplayer. Not only is he a OneGame Wonder for the Cubs but Rapada is at least tied for the shortest Cubs tenure of all time. Further investigation is required to determine whether he holds the record by himself.

Friday, August 30, 2013

10 More for 2013

Once of the perks of using a template is saving a lot of time. Being able to keep borders and logos the same lets me spit out the customs at a much quicker pace. It just so happens that when I went to make these next ten customs for my 2013 team set, I was able to save one more step on eight of them (although one of those required one more step so it balanced out).

The reason being, is high turnover among the Cubs roster this year. Again. On the previously mentioned eight cards, the jersey number had already been used by another player earlier in the season so I just had to switch out the name and photo for each of these cards. Here they are by number:

Starting off we have #8, Donnie Murphy. Although this will always be Andre Dawson's number to me, Murphy is actually the 3rd incumbent to #8 this year. Bench coach Jamie Quirk wore it last year and started with it this year before passing it on to former Cubs infielder, Alberto Gonzalez who started the season wearing #6. Confused yet? Well, Gonzalez was traded to the Yankees in May so when Murphy
made his Cubs debut earlier this month, he was given #8.

Many fans, Cubs or not, will probably associate #21 with Sammy Sosa. Starting my Cubs fandom in the 80's and not paying quite as close attention during the Sosa era, I more associate it with former pitcher Scott Sanderson. And more recently, Tyler Colvin. But I get the Sosa thing. Junior Lake on the other hand took over #21 from Scott Hairston who the Cubs had signed in the offseason as a free agent was traded to the Washington Nationals in early July.

Again, showing my age here, I think of Bill Buckner and/or Mike Harkey when I hear #22 for the Cubs. But after being named the Cubs minor league player of the year in 2012, Logan Watkins potentially has a long career ahead of him to make the number his own. He took over the number from former Cubs pitcher Matt Garza.

One, two, skip a few, all the way down to #49. It didn't take long for the Cubs to reissue this number after trading Carlos Marmol to the Dodgers, but as someone who can be a little superstitious when it comes to sports, if I were Jake Arrieta, I might have put up a little more fight to get a different number. Just saying.

Kameron Loe was actually the first player to wear #50 this year but his tenure was so short, it took a while to find a usable photo for the card. After Loe, super short timer (1 game so far) Alex Burnett "borrowed" the number before it went back to its 2012 and current owner, pitcher Blake Parker.

The #54 has seen its fair share of usage this year as well. Carrying it over from last year was former reliever Shawn Camp who was released in early July. The Cubs selected Thomas Neal off waivers in early August. He injured his throwing arm in his second game with the team and is currently on the 60 day DL. Meanwhile...

...Darnell McDonald, who the Cubs signed as a free agent in the offseason was called up from Triple-A Iowa and made his Cubs debut and is the current #54. That concludes the easiest portion of the additions.

Bridging the gap is the Cubs lone All-Star, Travis Wood. I didn't have to change his jersey number, but I did change the Cubs logo into the official 2013 All-Star Game logo. I was going to stick it in the upper left hand corner and keep the Cubs logo as is, but it looked a little cluttered. I'm not a huge fan of this photo but since Wood did not get into the actual game (as the Cubs only representative), it is the best I could find. He was presented with the jersey before a game after his selection had been made official.

Finally, we have two players who are making their own unique mark on the 2013 Cubs by being the first to wear their particular jersey numbers this season.

Cole Gillespie takes over #2 from last year's owner, Ian Stewart. You may recall earlier this season the hullabaloo Stewart created by claiming the Cubs were leaving him to rot in Triple-A. So the Cubs released him and he is currently...rotting away in Triple-A for the Dodgers now? More on him later next week though. As for Gillespie, the Cubs picked him up off waivers from the San Fransisco Giants back in mid-July.

Wrapping up this last update before the September roster call ups is pitcher Eduardo Sanchez, currently in the minors. History has not been kind to this number, as the last few owners have spent just one season with the team. But then again, that just gives him a chance to make it his own. The Cubs selected Sanchez off of waivers from the St. Louis Cardinals, where he also wore #52.

As I said, this will be the last update on this set before the rosters expand next week. This brings the set up to 50 cards, with 49 different players and 1 All-Star card. The Cubs have, to date, used 50 players so the only player I am missing is Brooks Raley who has only pitched in one game so far this season. I anticipate a September call up for him so hopefully I'll find a picture to use. The only ones I've seen so far are from last year and Spring Training.

I have not done any of the coaches this year, like I did last year and am currently undecided as to whether I will make them or not.

Hope you enjoyed that Cubs jersey history lesson/rousing game of musical jerseys!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Kerry Wood...Oddball?

This isn't much of a post today but I recently looked through my Kerry Wood collection and this card caught my eye.

The 1999 Topps Picture Perfect Kerry Wood card is an insert, not a parallel or a variation. And as far as I know, it came in packs of Topps Series 2 back in 1999. I don't think I can get away with calling a Topps insert card an oddball very often (if at all) but I'm not sure what else to call it. It's just...odd. Anything stick out?

What about now?

I know the Cubs play a lot of day games but when was the last time you saw a pitcher wearing eye black? I guess "mini collection" would be a name for it, if I was going to collect something like that. I've seen lots of mini collections across the blogosphere but I'm not sure I've seen an eye black one. Or any other pitchers with eye black. Anyone? Bueller? Like I said, not much of a post, just something I found interesting on a card.

What about the back, you say? Sure, here you go. 

Ooooh, a quiz! With the answers on Topps card #20. Factoids! Synergy! I don't remember much else about the movie In Good Company except for this scene:

Ok, guys. Open book quiz time. Here's the answer sheet! You should be able to click on it and zoom if you can't read it.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

eBay Tips and Tricks for Buyers

ebay? EBay? eBay? EBAY? However you spell it, chances are if you collect cards, you've used it.

I've been a buyer and/or seller for almost 15 years now, even had a store at one point. It has changed a lot over the years, some good and some bad. I don't use it for all my purchases but I can't ignore the impact it has had on my collection.

I've seen dozens of books offering tips for sellers but there is hardly anything from the buyer's perspective. I've left a few of my tips around the blogosphere when commenting on posts and even shared a few here when boasting about some of my steals. I thought I would put them all in one place and hopefully fish for a few more from my readers. Some of them may seem like common sense but you'd be amazed at how they work.

1. Chek 4 mispelings and/or typos. Seems simple enough, right? Back when eBay used to allow "*" in their searches, I found quite a few steals just by typing "ryne san*" into the search box. That would pull up Sanberg, Sandburg, Sanburg, etc. I would also try "ryan sandberg" in my searches. Sure, some lots featuring Ryne Sandberg and Nolan Ryan cards would come up but you'd be surprised at how many are just spelling "Ryne" wrong. Using "Snadberg" is another favorite although it doesn't offer many options. If you're favorite player has has a unique name, give it a try. Without the "*" eBay has made it a little tougher to find, as I do the searches manually now when I'm bored, but it might be worth the effort. Try Ripkin for Ripken. Over 600 listings right now and that doesn't even include the savvy sellers that put both Ripkin and Ripken in their heading. How do I know that?

2. Use the "-" (minus) sign to eliminate stuff you don't want. If I type "Ripkin -ripken" into the search engine, it will pull up all the listings with "Ripkin" but nothing with "Ripken" in the title. I've used this in my Sandberg searches as well to find misspellings. When I type in "ryne -sandberg -duren" it pulls up all the misspellings while not including the correct listings and anything regarding Ryne Duren, Sandberg's namesake. Unfortunately, in case you haven't noticed there has been a boom of minor league players sporting the name Ryne in the past few years whose parents were probably big Cubs fans in the 1980's. That makes it a little more difficult but I just keep adding minus signs when I spot a new last name attached to the name Ryne.

3. Make an offer (even if there is no Make an Offer button). I watch a lot of items. Some I like, but are way out of my price range. If I see it in my watch list, it reminds me to do another search for it sometime later. I have unsold items in my watch list that keep getting relisted month after month without a price reduction. Sometimes I send a quick note to the seller to see if they'll budge. Can't hurt, might help. I'll say something like, "I'm interested in X, Y, and Z from your store/listings. Would you take $?? for the three of them together?" Sometimes I hear back with a yes or no or even a counteroffer, sometimes I don't hear back at all. If I have evidence to back up why a discount is warranted, I'll sometimes include that. Which leads me to...

4. Check finished (and sold) auctions. Do some research. You might see a dozen listings for the same card at $5 or $10 so the seller justifies that as a price. But if those listings are unsold and the last one to actually sell went for just a buck, there might be some wiggle room. Especially combining it with other stuff. You might get lucky with a couple of things for $10 rather than trying to nickel and dime some one. Which leads to...

5. Be a good buyer. There's a saying that goes "You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar." Sure nobody wants flies, but you get the point. Part of my job (and anybody's job really if you think about it) has always been customer service. I'm always more willing to help those that are nice and friendly than those who come at me less than calm. Don't demand. Haggle, but don't lowball (without justification). That'll probably just piss the seller off if you even get a response. As I'm sure we all know, not every seller on eBay is a professional. Not every purchase is going to be the steal of the century. Sometimes, if you really want something, you're going to have to pay market value (or maybe even slightly above). And don't get upset if they don't want to strike a deal. If they don't want your money, why are you trying to give it to them? Find somebody who will! The great thing about eBay is that unless it truly is a 1/1 item, another one is likely to pop up eventually.

6. Finding out Best Offer Prices. You used to be able to see the final sales price of items purchased with a Best Offer option. Now eBay for some reason blocks it. But thanks to a thread on the message board at, I've discovered a trick to seeing those best offer prices. Thanks to user stabilio for posting this.
Click on the ended listing. Then click on "See original listing" (usually in the top left) to take you to the full original listing. Then scroll down to the top of the item description and look to the far right of the screen for a link that says "Print". Click on it and the price it sold for will magically appear.
Apparently, it still shows up on the mobile app (I can't confirm, I don't use it) and if you view eBay through another country's site (.ca was posted in the thread mentuioned above, but again I can't confirm).

7. Back to making offers and finished listings. Sometimes an item is priced too high and doesn't sell. In fact, I wonder what the ratio of sold to unsold listings on eBay actually is. Or sometimes I'll be watching something but either miss the end of the auction or flat out forget about it. When I'm doing my price comparisons, I routinely check the unsold listings. If something catches my eye, I'll check the seller's other current or ended listings and try to make a deal that way. I just did that for a trio of items I'll be showing off later this week or maybe next that saved me about 40% if I had bid on them when they were active. Like I said above, can't hurt, might help.

8. Timing isn't necessarily everything, but it can save you a lot. When I was selling more, I would try to end my auctions on a Sunday evening. I found, for my products, that was the best time of day or week for my buyers to be around their computers. As a buyer, I look at stuff that ends after midnight, or otherwise awkward times during the day. Whether a seller is on the west coast listing stuff after 9PM local time or an east coaster is just a night owl, many auctions are won and lost in the closing seconds. If nobody else is up/around to bid on the auctions (and they haven't set their automatic snipers), you can get a great deal.

9. Use unround numbers. When I was bidding early on, I liked round numbers. If something was $2 for shipping, I might bid $3 to make it an even $5. Lots of people do this. So I started adding in a few extra cents. This would allow me to win a few more auctions and would sometimes save me from bidding the full next increment. Say somebody has something started at $0.99 with a bid on it already. I bid $3.03 (adding the few extra pennies). Well, if the original bidder had the same idea as I used to have and just bid $3, I win the auction by $0.03 rather than a quarter or fifty cents, whatever the next required bid would have been. Honestly, if you're willing to spend $5 on something, are you really dead set against $5.03? If you bought it in person, there'd be tax anyway right?

This got a lot longer than I anticipated it would be so I'm going to wrap it up here. You may not agree with everything I said here and some of this may be old hat to a lot of you experienced collectors, but hopefully some of it was useful. I would be more than happy to hear any other tips you all have to snag the great deals. I promise to try not to steal anything out from under you should be cross paths in a bidding war. Try.

Good luck!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Buying Low - Brett Jackson

After blowing out my budget last year, I vowed earlier this year to not go so crazy. OK, so maybe my wife helped a little with that vow, but it was a little easier to do seeing as I bought a ton of collection filler stuff last year so I didn't need as much this year. But you could color me green with envy as I watched pack after pack, box after box of Heritage, Gypsy Queen, Archives, Bowman and even A&G being broken here on the blogs and showing up on eBay.

I did partake a little in some of the 2013 offerings, although mainly just a few team sets and maybe a random insert here or there. And as noted last week, a couple of Tony Campana pickups. Aside from my Repack Sundays I did earlier this year and the blasters I picked up for my Fantasy League prizes, I don't think I've even bought a blaster for myself since an Opening Day blaster war I did.

When I recently picked up my 2013 Cubs Pro Debut team set, I decided to look to see if I had a complete run of the cards. This being only the fourth year, I thought it would be cool to actually have a complete run of Cubs cards from one brand, something I'll probably never do with the likes of Topps, Donruss, Fleer, etc.

With that said, I do have a complete run of the base cards for Pro Debut. But I wanted to go further and that means inserts and hits. Parallels not so much, but I'm open to acquiring them.

The first results from this search came in the mail courtesy of one eBay lot for a grand total of $3.50 shipped.

You can't really tell from the scan but these are two different cards. The card on the left is your normal run of the mill autograph card. It is a bit odd in the sense that is a sticker auto, but also a "cut" auto. The sticker is not on the top layer but rather between two different layers. Weird.

The card on the right, with the smaller signature, is a blue parallel numbered #24/199 on the back. The only difference I can spot is that the names "Brett Jackson" and "Daytona Cubs" are in blue foil lettering instead of silver foil like the first one.

Cool, I guess. To be honest, when I bought the lot, I thought they were the same and was going to throw one in the trade pile. 

But wait, there's more!

Also in the lot was this Futures Game jersey card. I'm not sure if this is technically a Cubs (or affiliate) card, because Jackson represented Team USA at the 2010 Futures Game, going 0-1 with a walk. But I'll keep it. Like the blue parallel autograph card, this one is also numbered /199. At least the swatch is huge.

Not bad for $3.50.

I believe the Starlin Castro version of this jersey card, representing the World team, would wrap up 2010 Pro Debut for me but the few I've seen on eBay are ridiculous. I have a feeling his stock may be sinking as quickly as Jackson's though.

With that card in a saved search, I'm off to figure out the 2011 Pro Debut needs...

Monday, August 26, 2013

Nate Schierholtz

I had another post ready to go today but because of yesterday's game, I decided to bump Nate Schierholtz up in the rotation. Yesterday (Sunday) held a mostly meaningless rubber match between the lowly Padres and the even lowlier Cubs.

I don't know if all of the Cubs Sunday games have been televised on WGN this year but it is something I look forward to every week and I've seen most of them. I get up early, try to get my day's chores out of the way so I can relax and just watch the game. Yesterday was no different, except for the length. And when it came time to pick up my son from baseball practice, my wife graciously volunteered to do it since it was going in to extra innings. Nice!

It started with a not-so-veiled-threat before the game from Padres starter and former Cubs pitcher Andrew Cashner that he was going to "shove it up the Cubs' @sses" for trading him (for Anthony Rizzo if you don't recall). And I'm not against that at all. Stick it to your former team. A good underdog story if you can back it up. And for what it is worth, Cashner pitched 7 innings of shutout, 2-hit, 1-walk baseball, effectively following through on his threat.

But on the other side, Chris Rusin pitched an equally effective 6.1 innings of shutout, 3-hit, 4-walk baseball. In fact, neither team scored until the 13th inning which is when the game got really weird and Nate Schierholtz comes into play.

With the bases loaded and no outs in the top of the 13th, Schierholtz hits a ground ball to the first baseman. It looks to be a pretty sure 3-2-3 double play. But Schierholtz stumbled out of the batter's box (later saying he tweaked his back on the swing). After he got up and took off for first, probably lost in thought, frustrated about the turn of events, Schierholtz took the throw from first basemen Jesus Guzman off the bill off his helmet  and his shoulder, sending the ball off towards third base. The runner from third scores and Schierholtz is safe at first.

Everybody was safe.

Something that usually happens to the Cubs was suddenly happening for the Cubs. The Cubs only manage one more run before the third out, but hey, a two run lead in an otherwise scoreless game and your closer coming in will probably hold up, right? A 96% win expectancy at this point according to the boxscore on baseball-reference.

Well, it's the Cubs so I'm sure you know the answer to that. So the Padres scored two in the bottom of the inning to tie it and sure enough, go on to win in 15.

But the whole point of this story is Nate Schierholtz. I wasn't sold on him when the Cubs first picked him up but he has grown on me. And the ability to take a thrown baseball to the face has nothing to do with it. I believe he is tops among Cubs starters in batting average and only behind Anthony Rizzo in RBIs (if you new school Sabermetric fans can trust those outdated stats).

The ATCRCS card above was signed during the Seattle series and I'm glad to have another off the list. For those of you who might remember, I also got my 2013 custom team set card signed msyelf when the Cubs came to DC in May.

Schierholtz stood in the rain signing for the few people there that day, definitely earning my respect then. Hopefully he's just shaken up and nothing is broken or strained or pulled.

Its not much of a siganture, but with a name like Schierholtz, I'd probably scribble the last part too.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Where Are They Now? 2010 Pro Debut Part 2

Last week I debuted a new mini-series of posts featuring a look back at the "future Cubs" that were in 2010 Topps Pro Debut and seeing where they are now. Today I'm back with part 2, featuring D.J. LeMahieu and Brooks Raley.

D.J. LeMahieu was originally drafted in the 41st round of the 2007 draft by the Detroit Tigers out of high school. Passing on that to go to Louisiana State University seems to have worked out for him as two years later in 2009, LeMahieu was selected in the second round by the Cubs. Drafted ahead of him by the Cubs in first round? One of last week's subjects, Brett Jackson.

LeMahieu is shown on the card with the AZL Cubs, where he spent a grand total of 3 games in 2009. In those three games, he went 5-12 with 4 RBIs and was bumped up to Single A Peoria Chiefs where he finished the season. He continued to progress, spending 2010 with the Daytona Cubs before making big jumps in 2011. LeMahieu played for Double A Tennessee, Triple A Iowa and had two stints with the big league Cubs.

Over 37 games, he gave Darwin Barney rests at second and Aramis Ramirez at third. He batted a respectable .250 but after the season ended, he was packaged up with Tyler Colvin and shipped to the Colorado Rockies for Casey Weathers and Ian Stewart.

In 2012 and 2013, LeMahieu has split time between the Rockies and their Triple A affiliate, Colorado Springs Sky Sox. He has played first, second, third and shortstop but is currently the Rockies everyday second baseman. The Rockies definitely got the better end of this deal.

The card was signed back when he was still with the Iowa Cubs.

A few rounds after Jackson and LeMahieu were drafted in 2009, in the 6th to be exact, the Cubs selected Brooks Raley out of Texas A&M University. He too made his way up the ranks, AZL Cubs and and Boise Hawks in 2009, Daytona Cubs in 2010 and the Tennessee Smokies in 2011. In 2012, Raley played in Tennessee, moved up to Iowa and also made his Major League debut with the Cubs on August 7.

That didn't go as planned as he gave up 7 runs in four innings to the San Diego Padres. He took the loss in his second start as well, but lowered his ERA from 15.75 to 9.00 by only giving up a more respectable 3 runs in 6 innings. He finished the 2012 season with 5 starts, a 1-2 record and a 8.14 ERA. It didn't look good for 2013.

He's currently leading the Iowa Cubs in games started and innings pitched but has an 8-9 record and a 4.15 ERA. He did get a brief call up in July and finished a 13-2 blowout loss at the hands of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. He only gave up two of those runs over the final 4.1 innings of the game, so that's an improvement.

He's scheduled to start this afternoon's game in Iowa against the Memphis Redbirds. Good luck, Brooks!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

One Game Wonder - Tony La Russa

This post, and a few others as this might be a recurring theme, is partly inspired by the bizarre week David DeJesus had. In a nutshell, for those who don't know, DeJesus played for three different teams this week. He was traded from the Cubs to the Washington Nationals, made a pinch hit appearance and was then placed on waivers by the Nats. Now when I thought of this idea for a post, I thought DeJesus would be a "One Game Wonder" for the Nats, but he ultimately played in 3 games while the Tampa Bay Rays waiver claim was worked out.

According to the Cubs all-time roster on, there have been exactly 100 players in Cubs history to be one and done for the team. Not one season, but just one game. I'm not sure how accurate the record keeping is from waaaay back because most on the list are from the end of the 19th century and start of the 20th. In fact, the Cubs have only had 10 players since the late 1960's appear in just one game. Apparently these more recent Cubs teams are big on second chances...

I'll probably have trouble finding images to use for my ATCRCS set, especially the older guys. But I was lucky with this one so we'll start off with the most famous name in the group:

I don't remember La Russa the player because his one game for the Cubs, which also happened to be the last of his career, came five years before I was born.

Following the 1972 season, La Russa was traded from the Braves to the Cubs for pitcher Tom Phoebus. On April 6, 1973, La Russa made his only Cubs appearance as a pinch runner against the Montreal Expos. With the Cubs down 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth, Joe Pepitone led off the inning with a single. Cleo James came in to pinch run. Ron Santo followed with a ball hit to second baseman Ron Hunt that was booted for an error. La Russa pinch ran for Santo. With runners now on 1st and 2nd, Glenn Beckert drew a walk to load the bases.

At this point, with the bases loaded and no outs, the Expos do a double switch bringing in Cy Young runner up from the previous season, eventual Cy Young runner up for that season and future Cy Young winner the next season, Mike Marshall at pitcher and Coco LaBoy at third base.

Marshall proceeded to walk Randy Hundley, allowing the tying run to score and moving La Russa up to third. The next batter, Don Kessinger hit a foul pop out down the left field line. With the pitcher now due up, Cubs manager Whitey Lockman replaced pitcher Bob Locker with Jim Hickman as a pinch hitter, who struck out.

According to the box score, the Expos did some more defensive repositioning before Rick Monday stepped up to the plate. Monday would draw a walk-off walk, scoring La Russa from third for the game winning game. If you only get to play one game with a team, that's probably one of the better ways to do it.

La Russa spent the rest of the season with Triple A Wichita before his contract was sold to the Pittsburgh Pirates. He bounced around a bit in the minors between the Pirates, White Sox and Cardinals but never made it back to the Major League level as a player.

And as I'm sure we all know, he went on to become a probable Hall of Fame manager, with 3 World Series championships and 4 Manager of the Year awards.

I doubt future One Game Wonder write-ups will have the kind of "success" that La Russa had but it will be interesting looking into each of these games.

Friday, August 23, 2013

First Pitch Friday - Colin Cowherd

I'll be honest, I don't watch a lot of TV and/or sport news. Most of my information, including sports highlights, is gleaned from the interwebs. My older son on the other hand, can sit through back to back episodes of the same Sportscenter and often leaves ESPN on in the background while he goes about his routine.

So while I had to find a name to go along with the picture, he walked by while I was doing the photo editing on this card and asked me what Colin Cowherd was doing in a Cub jersey.

Once I had the name though, it all came together. I knew of Sports Nation on ESPN. It was on in the background of my house quite often, and I occasionally sat through some epsiodes if the highlights kept my attention. And while it seemed a bit on the silly side, I don't think it actually bills itself as a news program so more power to it.

Cowherd also has an ESPN Radio show, The Herd. I can't say that I've ever listened to it but I'm not much of a radio guy either.

Anyway, Cowherd threw out the first pitch before a Cubs-Reds game on August 13, 2013. I'm not sure what, if anything, he was promoting with his appearance or if the Cubs just needed somebody to do it. I couldn't find any video evidence of said pitch but he seems to be rocking out so I'm guessing it was reasonably close.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Tony Campana Prizm Cracked Ice /5

The other day, I showed off my not-numbered-but-limited-to-25 Cracked Ice Prizm Tony Campana card. I don't remember if it was right before or right after, but another version popped up on eBay. This one was limited to 5 copies, was serial numbered on the back and had a "2013 National VIP" foil stamp on the front.

I haven't quite figured out how these were given out (or the other ones for that matter), but I'm guessing it had something to do with the National...

This one had a starting bid of $9.99 with a Buy It Now of $19.99. Like the other one, I almost pulled the trigger on the Buy It Now. I figured with being limited to 5 copies, Campana being a former Cub (and fan favorite) and the National being in Chicago, the other ones might be kept in other people's collections and not show up. But I waited.

Funnily enough, a day or two before the auction ended, with no bids at all, the seller lowered the Buy It Now price to $14.99. None of the others had shown up yet either so now I was really tempted. I checked the end date/time of the auction and realized I would be available to make a last second bid as long as nobody else used the BIN option. So again I waited.

With about a minute left, I put in the minimum bid to take away the Buy It Now. And getting nervous, with a just a few seconds left, I put in a higher bid in case I got sniped like that first Cracked Ice /25 card. But all the stress was pointless as I ended up being the only one who bid.

So I ended up getting this one for less than I would have been willing to spend on the more "common" /25 version. And for less than what that other guy did pay that /25 version. I have no idea why. Maybe the timing of the auction ending? Maybe people didn't realize it was a different version?

After my story about the second mouse getting the cheese, I guess I was the early bird on this one. And since this auction ended, another one (#4/5, I think) has been posted with a straight Buy It Now for $29.99. Hmmm.

This is my 6th variation of this card. I now have the base, refractor, gold /10, green, Cracked Ice /25 & Cracked Ice National /5. I'm still looking for the Wal-Mart blue and Target red.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Carlos Villanueva

Today's post is brought to you by what was baseball's greatest mustache earlier this season. From what I recall, Carlos Villanueva has usually been sporting some kind of facial hair, but earlier this year, he kicked it up a notch and gave his mustache the ol' Rollie Fingers treatment by curling up the ends.

I think he could have started some kind of movement as he had a 1.53 ERA through his first four starts of the season. Keeping that momentum could have inspired some copycats through the league and I'm sure many fans would/could have adopted some kind of tribute. But Matt Garza came off the disbaled list in mid-May and Villanueva was demoted to the bullpen and away went the 'stache. After Garza was traded, Villanueva moved back to the starting rotation and hasn't quite reclaimed that early season glory.

Maybe it's because I'm in my mid-30's and my facial hair still grows in patchy in a few places, but there's something kind of cool about looking like an old cartoon villain that is going to tie your girlfriend to some railroad tracks...

This card was courtesy of vinniemiller on SCN again from the Seattle series back in July.

Some of you may remember that I had some success with Villanueva when the Cubs came to Washington back in May. My son got this 2013 custom team card signed back then so with no other "real" cards of him in a Cubs uniform, all I wanted was an ATCRCS card.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Tony Campana Prizm Cracked Ice /25 & Bonuses

The early bird may get the worm but one of my favorite expressions is a followup that states "but the second mouse gets the cheese."

Shortly after the National Sports Collectors Convention (actually, probably during), these "Cracked Ice" parallels of the Panini Prizm cards started popping up on eBay. Allegedly, they are limited to 25 copies but they have no serial numbering on them at all. I have a saved search for any and all things Tony Campana so when the first one that popped up had a $.99 starting bid, I took notice. Not too shabby. There was only the initial bid when I placed what I thought was a fairly high bid with about 10 seconds left. I was the high bidder for about 4 seconds before being outsniped in the closing seconds and the card went for $11.61.

Two more popped up in the $15-20 Buy It Now range that I came close to pulling the trigger on but I'm glad I waited. Another one showed up for a $.99 starting bid and I was able to snag this card for just $2.47 plus shipping.

Not only did I get what I think is an incredible deal on a card I wanted (still lowest price on all that have sold since) but the seller had a couple of other Cubs cards I picked up as well. 

This certified Bowman Platinum autograph from Barret Loux card set me back $1.04, plus another quarter for shipping. 

And this Shawon Dunston Jr. initials autograph was $1.99. plus a quarter. There is a lot of wasted space on both of these cards as far as autographs go but to each their own. I'm not even sure what that last thing is on the Dunston card. Capital cursive L? Cursive y? Not much of a "j" if it is for Junior.

But for being able to pick up three cards for less than half the price of what I was willing to spend on just the Campana card, I would say this second mouse got his cheese.

Monday, August 19, 2013

David Aardsma

If I was going to sort my ATCRCS cards alphabetically, David Aardsma would be in the very first pocket of the very first page of the binder. Having a last name that starts with two A's will get you that kind notoriety. In fact, if you were trying to collect a card of every player to have ever played in the Major Leagues, Aardsma would be in that same slot. Filling out that top row of the binder page would be brothers Hank and Tommie Aaron, but I digress.

Aardsma has played 8 seasons in the Majors with 7 different teams, only double dipping on a stop in Seattle. The Cubs acquired him in a trade with the Giants during the 2005 season but Aardsma didn't make his Cub debut until the following year. He went 3-0 as a middle reliever over the course of 45 games, although the team went 12-33 when Aardsma pitched. I've always thought it would suck to be the guy they call on when you're losing and need to stop the bleeding.

After the season ended, the Cubs traded him across town to the White Sox for Neal Cotts.

Aardsma is currently with the New York Mets and before that spent time with the Yankees as well. Does anybody know of anybone else who has spent time with both Chicago teams and both New York teams?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Where Are They Now? 2010 Pro Debut Part 1

I was filing away my newly acquired 2013 Pro Debut Cubs team set and took a minute to browse through the entire run. With about three full seasons since Topps debuted this set in 2010, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the 2010 edition with a "Where Are They Now" feature. I thought about breaking it down into who made it, who hasn't, who's still with the team, who's not, etc. But I'll just do it by the card number.

The first two Cubs in the set, and the focus of this post are Ryan Flaherty and Brett Jackson.

#23 Ryan Flaherty, Peoria Chiefs
Ryan Flaherty was the Cubs second first round draft pick in 2008 out of Vanderbuilt University. They selected Andrew Cashner with their regular allotted pick and then Flaherty with a supplemental pick (41st overall) after losing Jason Kendall to free agency. He played in Boise in 2008 and Peoria in 2009 (the team shown on the card). By the time 2010 rolled around and this card was issued, Flaherty had moved up to the A+ affiliate, Daytona Cubs and later in the season, Double-A Tennessee Smokies. He continued on the right path in 2011, playing mostly in Tennessee but moved up to Triple-A Iowa for 49 games.

The next offseason, the Baltimore Orioles selected Flaherty in the Rule V draft. He has spent the past two seasons ('12 & '13) between their Triple-A affiliate, Norfolk Tides and the big league club.

This card was autographed during Spring Training last year, after he was already with Baltimore. Since he never made an appearance with the Cubs, he won't be in the ATCRCS set, making this likely the only Flaherty card I'll get autographed. Unless he was in some minor league team sets I have yet to acquire.

#76 Brett Jackson
Brett Jackson was also a Cubs first round pick, this time #31 overall in 2009 out of UC, Berkeley. Also like Flaherty, Jackson has been climbing the ladder, spending time at each level along the way. He's been a pre-season Top 100 prospect for each of the past three years according to Baseball America.

In his MLB debut last August, Jackson went 2-4 with a walk and a run. Unfortunately, it was downhill after that. He finished the season having played in 44 games, batting .175 with 4 home runs and  RBIs.

This season hasn't been much better. He was batting .223 at Iowa before a stint on the disabled list. I don't know if he's officially rehabbing or not but he is currently playing for the Double-A Tennessee Smokies. He is listed on the Cubs 40-man roster so I wouldn't be surprised if he's given another chance come September. The Cubs are chasing a roster size record after all!

I'm about 90% sure I have a signed version of this card too but I couldn't find the scan.

EDIT: Found it! Now 100% sure...

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Signature Saturday - Darwin Barney x4

When I noticed that the Cubs would be heading out to Seattle this season, I was very excited. One of my longtime autograph helpers from SCN, vinniemiller, has the Mariners as his home team and often gets me some former Cubs autographs. It was great to know I'd now have some help in getting some current Cubs knocked off my lists as well!

I ended up sending 50+ cards for various current Cubs that included mostly customs but a few "real" ones too. One of the tougher decisions I had to make was which cards to send for Darwin Barney. In the few chances I've personally had to get Cubs autographs over the past 2-3 years, I've yet to get him, though someone sent me a 2011 Heritage card signed at Spring Training last year. That means in addition to any and all "real" Barney cards, I also had an ATCRCS card, a 2012 custom team set card, a 2012 Gold Glove custom card and a 2013 custom team set card. I ended up sending 7 cards, hoped for 1-2, but expected 0. If you read the title, you can probably guess that vinniemiller was quite successful and sent me four cards signed by Barney.

His signature isn't what I would call legible, but it is fairly consistent.

Having two of my customs taken care of is a big relief. This one (the 2013 custom team set card) isn't nearly as dark as it scanned. I probably should have adjusted it before I posted it, but ain't nobody got time for that.

The two customs I sent that did not get signed were from the 2012 custom team set, the base card and the special edition Gold Glove one I made. I'll see if anybody is offering help in September and if not, I'll try again in Spring Training.

Of the three "real" cards I sent, two were Heritage cards. As I mentioned, someone sent me his 2011 rookie card signed last year so I thought, why not try to knock off 2012 and 2013 as well? It seems to be a theme, but the 2012 got skipped (just like my 2012 customs). I'm really not complaining, just pointing it out because I just noticed that while I was writing this up.

And the final card I sent in for Barney was the newest to my collection at the time.

This Archives card is from the first set of cards given away earlier this season at Wrigley Field. With a good range of fan favorites in the set, it might be something I consider chasing.

With my certified signed Barney cards, I think this brings my total up to 7-8. More from this batch of current Cubs will show up here soon!

Friday, August 16, 2013

First Pitch Friday - Aimee Garcia

Chicago native Aimee Garcia threw out the first pitch at the Cubs-Reds game on Monday, August 12, 2013. Of course, the Cubs would go on to lose 2-0, but that didn't stop her from being excited about it. I'm not on Twitter much but when I Googled Garcia to find out more, her Twitter account popped up as one of the first couple of results. She tweeted a video replay of her pitch and also a pre-pitch photo with Logan Watkins.

I also learned she participated in Kerry Wood's Wiffle Ball Classic. These are the kind of events that made me wish I lived near enough to attend. They're calling it the first annual, so maybe next year?!?

Garcia currently stars in Dexter. I watched most of the first season before losing access to Showtime and never bothered to get back into it. Maybe I'll see if Netflix has it. But I know her mostly from George Lopez reruns that my kids have been watching on Nick at Nite. Man, when I was a kid, Nick at Nite showed The Monkees. Now its Friends and The Nanny and George Lopez, shows that were on when I was in high school. Getting old...

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Jake Fox

This Jake Fox signed ATCRCS card, like Mitch Atkins from the other day, came courtesy of some help from someone on SCN who regularly gets autographs from the independent Atlantic League teams. Also like Atkins, Fox started the season with the Somerset Patriots but was able to sign a contract with an affiliated club. He just recently signed on as a free agent with the Arizona Diamondbacks Triple A affiliate, Reno Aces.

Fox was originally selected by the Cubs in the third round of the 2003 draft. He worked his way up the system before finally making his debut in a midseason callup in 2007. He made 7 appearances with the club before being sent back to Iowa. He spent 2008 between Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A but was called up again in 2009 for a significant portion of the season.

Following that year, the Cubs traded him to Oakland, who turned around a few months later and traded him to Baltimore.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Fred McGriff

This Fred McGriff ATCRCS card comes courtesy of the same Lake Tahoe Golf Tournament as the Joe Carter from the other day. This is the first in this collection that has been signed in black instead of blue. When you're in a big group of people hustling to get an autograph, sometimes a players sticks with one pen/marker on everything. While it doesn't "match" the rest of my collection, I am happy to add the Crime Dog!

McGriff played for those powerhouse Braves teams in the early to mid 1990's and was a perennial MVP candidate even before that. I have no idea if he's ever been linked to steroids or PEDs and I don't recall the circumstances of his retirement, but he left the game just 7 home runs shy of 500. That probably would have given him a little more clout on the Hall of Fame ballot as he has hovered around 20% in his first four years of eligibility. When your Similarity Score on Baseball-Reference compares you to guys like Willie McCovey, Willie Stargell, Billy Williams and Eddie Mathews, you might deserve a seat at the table...

He came to the Cubs in the middle of the 2001 season and was one of several stopgap first basemen between the departure of Mark Grace and the arrival of Derrek Lee. Although that's probably not fair to him. How many stopgaps have given a team 30 home runs and 100+ RBIs like McGriff did for the Cubs in 2002? As a kid, that was All-Star material and even MVP consideration, neither of which McGriff earned that season.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

2012 Revisited - Coaches

In addition to a bunch of ATCRCS cards returned recently, I've also been trying to add more signed cards to my 2012 Cubs team set. It is not as easy as it sounds when you have a team record 53 players that have more or less scattered in the wind here in 2013.

Something that did carry over, surprisingly to some after a dismal 2012, was the coaching staff. I made 8 cards of coaches in last year's set and until recently, only had Dave McKay's autographed. Thanks to SCN user vinniemiller, I have added four more to the collection. He is also the one that got me many of the forthcoming ATCRCS cards.

Some eagle-eyed readers may notice I changed out the Dale Sveum card. I really liked the previous card (which can still be seen on the set page here) but when printed, the background was too dark for a signature. He would have had to sign across his face. 

I can't remember if I relayed this story about my 'graphing attempt in DC earlier this year but as the players were walking back to the dugout after warmouts, I called out to pitching coach Chris Bosio. There wasn't anybody else around and as he started walking towards me, I got my card and Sharpie ready. When he got close, I asked him if he would please sign my card. He reached out...put his hand on my shoulder and said, "Sorry son, I have to go. Games about to start."

I respect the answer much more so than being ignored which is usually what happens, but with the amount of time it took to deviate from his path to the dugout to come tell me that, he could have just signed it...

I didn't have any opportunities with James Rowson or Lester Strode when they were in town so I'm happy to have these taken care of as well.

That just leaves Jamie Quirk, Rudy Jaramillo and Pat Listach from the coaches subset and I think puts me just under over the halfway mark in terms of completing the entire set.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Mitch Atkins


I've gotten so many of these ATCRCS cards back in the past few weeks, it is hard to decide who to write about next. Alphabetical sounds good for now so I'll go with Mitch Atkins. The Cubs drafted him in the 7th round of the 2004 draft. He hit all the stops along the way, Boise, Peoria, Daytona, Tennessee and Iowa before making his MLB (and Cubs) debut on July 29, 2009. He pitched a perfect inning in a 12-0 blowout of the Houston Astros to finish the game. The next day, he gave up one hit but still pitched a scoreless inning in another Astros blowout, this time 12-3. And that was his season...

I don't remember the details behind a roster move but he spent the rest of the season in Triple A Iowa. The following season, he pitched ten innings over a span of five midseason games. He gave up at least a run in four of the five appearances, so not as well as his debut.

He was granted free agency at the end of the season and signed with the Baltimore Orioles. He didn't really catch on there either, pitching 10.2 innings over three games in 2011. Again a free agent, he spent all of the 2012 season with the Washington Nationals Triple A affiliate, the Syracuse Chiefs.

Atkins started the 2013 season with the Somerset Patriots, a team in the independent Atlantic League. This card was signed with a little help from a member on SCN who regularly 'graphs that league. Atkins has since signed with the Atlanta Braves and is currently with their Double A team, the Mississippi Braves. He is 4-1 in 10 starts since signing in June.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

A Quartet of Pitchers

I'm trying to keep up with the amount of players the Cubs are using this season. These four pitchers have been around a couple of weeks now so it was about time I got to showing them off. 

This Blake Parker photo is from a game back in June against the Seattle Mariners. The Cubs won 5-3 in extra innings with Parker pitching the bottom of the 11th to get his first (and so far only) Save for the season. The throwback uniform makes it a little cooler, if I do say so myself.

Henry Rodriguez wore #63 with both of his previous teams, the A's and Nationals. But coming to Chicago he had to settle for#62, as closer Kevin Gregg wears#63. The photo comes from the June 23rd, 14-6 whooping of the Houston Astros. Rodriguez is currently on the disabled list with the Iowa Cubs after being DFAd in mid-July.

Chris Rusin started and got the win in the Cubs first shutout in St. Louis since 1997 this past Friday night. There was also something about him being the first lefty to throw 6+ shutout innings in St. Louis for the Cubs since sometime in the late 70's. As in, probably just the second in my lifetime. Crazy. I can't remember the year but the last one to do it was Ken Holtzman.

And although he didn't end up with the win, he also blanked the Giants over 7 innings in a 1-0 victory. Not too shabby when you do that to the defending World Series champs (Giants) and your #1 rival (Cardinals). That said, this photo is from his season debut in which the Cubs lost 8-7 to the A's. To be fair though, Rusin only gave up 3 of the runs and thus, did not get the loss.

Pedro Strop came over to the Cubs with Jake Arrieta in the deal that sent Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman to the Orioles. This photo is from his Cubs debut, a scoreless 8th inning on July 4th in a 1-0 loss to the A's. Note the special hat.

Strop has made 18 appearances so far for the Cubs, 17 of them scoreless. Unfortunately for him, his ERA rose significantly because of a 5-run third of an inning against the Brewers. 

These are cards 37-40 in the 2013 team set. Still have 9 more to go!