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Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Perfect Cubs Card

I knows a Card of the Week when I see one.

That package of '54 cards I got from Crinkly Wrappers included a few cards of coaches. You don't see a lot of coaches in Topps sets, but Topps was in the middle of a player war with Bowman at the time and I guess they needed to fill out the set. Most of the coaches they used were former MLB players including a few who were stars in their time so it was a decent way to pad a set. One of the cards is of Cubs' coach Ray Blades. Ray was an outfielder on many of the St. Louis Cardinals' Pennant winning teams of the late '20s and early '30s. His best season was in 1925 when he hit .342 over 122 games. After his playing days were over, he managed the Cardinals for a couple of seasons, was a minor league manager and coached for several different teams. In 1953 he was brought on as a coach for the Cubs resulting in this fantastic card:

Look at that man's face. That poor man's face. That is the face of a man who just watched a runaway train wipe out his brand new truck which was being driven by his wife who just ran off with his life's savings because she was having a torrid love affair with his best friend's dog. He then went to the ballpark and watched the Cubs lose to Milwaukee in the 14th. That's what I see when I look at that face.

This is absolutely perfect for a franchise as horribly forlorn as the Cubs. They are one of the two remaining teams that were a part of the original National League Charter, but they lose out on being the oldest MLB franchise because they lost two years to the Great Chicago Fire. The last time they won a World Series, they had to go beat Ty Cobb to do it. The last time they won a pennant, Harry Truman was President. They've won exactly one playoff series since 1908 and followed that up with one of the most infamous collapses in playoff history. This is not a happy franchise.

So how perfect is this card? On one of the most colorful sets in history, it has a blank white background. Ray's black & white 'action' photo is cropped in such a way that it appears as if he is pulling an errant javelin out of his chest. The Cubs logo has a completely vacant stare, as if the poor animal is trying to go into its happy place. And that sad sack photo of poor Ray... why did Topps choose that photo? Maybe the designer of that card was a fan of Norman Rockwell.

Absolutely perfect.


Jeremy said...

Wow. That's a nice painting by Norman Rockwell. He's one of my fav's. Really sad looking expression on Mr. Blades.

Pumpsie Sez said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
PepeFreeUs said...

I remember an article from Sports Collectors Digest in early '82 about the one off cards in this set.

The guy who wrote it talked about this and several other cards (like Mike Blyzka, whose only other card appearance was on an Esskay card that same year) and remarked that as a kid collecting the set, he was amazed to see a guy as old as Ray on a baseball card.

Nathan said...

If your wife cheated on you and then ran off with your best friend you actually might not be too upset if she got hit by a train

Slangon said...

What exactly is he doing in that smaller black and white picture on that card? Throwing a javelin? Testing the guylines on the circus tent he just set up?

moremonkeys138 said...

Yeah, he looked really downtrodden in that picture. A very sad looking picture indeed.

1967ers said...

That's a fantastic card and I'd make a comment about the Cubs, but my hockey team hasn't won in about 1000 years (and it just feels that way with the baseball team) and it would be poor form.