Monday, December 29, 2008

The 1969 Cubs Project

In 1969 I lived just outside of Chicago, Illinois and like any good seven year old I adored the Chicago Cubs.

I watched them every day on our black and white TV between episodes of the Bozo Show and Ray Rayner. When they broke my heart, along with the hearts of the entire city I quickly drifted away from the Cubs, but never the 1969 Cubs.

As an adult I still held fond memories of that team and decided to undertake what could be an impossible effort...collect 8x10 signed photos of every single player on that team.

To make my goal harder I tried to set standards for the quest:

- It had to be a color 8x10 photo in a Chicago Cubs uniform

- It should be signed in blue sharpie (a preference, not a requirement)

- If possible, I wanted the photo from the spring training period. You can tell from many of the photos I collected what I'm talking about here.

- Every player should be represented. Whether they started or just played in two games at the end of the year.

That meant I needed 41 different signed 8x10 photos. The links on the right show the progress to date. Any leads or help in finding any of the missing items would be greatly appreciated. Feel free to leave any comments on your favorite players or 1969 Cubs autograph memories.

Missing - Randy Bobb

Every quest must have a Holy Grail. That one item that is almost totally out of reach.

For collectors of 1969 Cubs autographs that Holy Grail is Randy Bobb.

Bobb played just two short years of major league ball, both with the Cubs. He was in seven games in 1968 and three in 1969. He was hardly a high demand subject for autograph seekers either at the time he played or even after. The sad part for Randy is there wasn't much "after". He died in 1982. Needless to say autographs of any kind from Randy are scarce at best and those that are available fetch pretty high dollar. Add to the fact that my collection requires a signed 8x10 photo and I've set the bar quite high.

I have actually met a guy who had a signed photo of Randy Bobb. It was a candid photo but a signed photo nonetheless.

I guess I can hold out hope. My guess is, when I finally find that Randy Bobb autographed 8x10 photo my quest will be complete. Until that time....

Missing - Dick Selma

Dick Selma is probably my most frustrating of my missing photos. Dick was the number four starter on the Cubs that year. He was a fan favorite leading the Bleacher Bums in cheers. He had a decent career and did plenty of signings.

Why then can I not find an autographed 8x10 of his as a Cub, yet I can find all the Gary Ross photos I can eat?

There simply HAS to be a Dick Selma out there for my collection. Has to be.

I do have an autographed picture of Dick Selma. However, it's in black and white - strike one, and he's in a Phillies uniform - Strike four.

Missing - Hank Aguirre

Hank Aguirre joined the Cubs after spring training in 1969 and was released from the team midway through 1970. There are probably limited pictures of him as a Cub but I do have one for my needed place-marking. It is joined by an autograph album page.

Aguirre signed a good bit of stuff. He wrote a book (The Tall Mexican) and did book signings. I'm still on the lookout for a signed Chicago Cubs 8x10 of the Tall Mexican.

Archie Reynolds (updated)

It took over a year and a half but I have finally added Archie Reynolds to the project. Archie was the last remaining living member I needed to add. I was able to locate him and was even able to speak with him on the phone to make sure I could send a photo for him to sign.

Long story short, it took two more phone calls and nearly two years but Archie finally sent the signed picture back. It was actually really nice to be able to talk to him. He's a nice guy who seems genuinely pleased that people still remember him and ask for autographs. But he's also very busy and it takes him a while to respond.

Archie says he may start doing some card shows. If he does I recommend visiting him. Nice guys are so hard to find in this sport.

Missing - Joe Decker

Joe Decker is another player whose placed is marked in my collection with a temporary unsigned photo and a signed index card.

Decker started off as a Cubs draft pick in 1965 and began his major league stint in 1969. He played there for four years before moving on to Minnesota and Seattle. With that in mind he is sure to have a signed Cubs photo, possibly even a spring training shot I love, floating around somewhere. I'm still looking.

Missing - Charley Smith

Of my six remaining signed photos left, I would rank Charley Smith as the fifth most difficult more me to find.

Several factors lead to this. First, he played in only two games with the Cubs at the very end of the 1969 season and then he retired. There weren't many opportunities for him to even be photographed as a Cubs. Luckily photographer George Brace ensured that every player who came to Wrigley Field got a shot of them saved for posterity. That's where this great shot came from. Charley also died in 1994 adding to the difficulty.

The only hope I hold out is that Charley was a popular player for the Yankees and signed often because of it. My only hope is that somewhere along the line someone tossed a Cubs picture in front of him alongside all of the other six teams he played for. In the meantime his place is marked in my collection with the unsigned 8x10 and a signed index card. I do have a signed black and white photo of Charley as a Yankee. But to paraphrase Charlie from Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer's Land Of Misfit Toys "Nobody wants a Charley in a Bronx"