This season, Chicago Cubs fans are finally getting a chance to see the fruits of all of the work that’s been put in to build a top-notch minor league pipeline. Kris Bryant and Addison Russell are starting and playing just about every day. Heck, even Kyle Schwarber has made his major league debut this year and will probably have official rookie cards fairly soon. Cards of all three players continue to be hot sellers.
Both Chicago teams have been blessed in recent years with a cornucopia of young players who seemingly have all had their moments. One may wonder if this is the best run for people buying cards of young players since the Oakland A’s had their Canseco/McGwire/Walt Weiss run in the late 1980’s when after Weiss was the AL Rookie of the Year, it seemed like Oakland’s pipeline would never end. Of course, the Cubs’ long championship dry spell makes it all the more intriguing.
There is little doubt players such as Bryant, Russell, Schwarber, Jorge Soler, and possibly even pitchers such as Jake Arrieta or Jon Lester will be actively featured as one walks around the 2015 National. There will be plenty of Cubs fans at the NSCC who hope their team’s future is even better than the present. And if any of these players truly become superstars, then the seemingly high prices for today’s cards may actually be bargains as the years go on. And if the Cubs somehow won a World Series in the next few years, those players will join the Red Sox stars of 2004 as beloved baseball figures.
But what is more interestingly is this is at least the third time of a major pairing or more of key Chicago rookies. In the 1961 Topps baseball set, which had a really nice rookie card crop, there were two Cubs rookies who would end up enshrined in Cooperstown. Both Ron Santo and Billy Williams were in that set and both were in the lower series so although popular, they are relatively easy to find at reasonable prices. The following year, although thanks to an ill-fated trade, he spent the vast majority of his career in St Louis, came Lou Brock’s rookie card and later in that same set was the rookie card of talented Ken Hubbs, who would perish in a plane crash early in 1964 and be honored with an “In-Memoriam” card in the last series that season.
While there might be other examples of teams having such a grouping of future Hall of Famers and popular players in just a two-year stretch it’s hard to beat those early 1960s Cubs…unless you’re talking football. I’d say the 1966 Philadelphia Gum set, which has rookie cards of Chicago icons Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers, is even better. Dealers who sell vintage football know to bring as many cards of those two guys as possible when they come to Chicago.
Butkus is still considered the gold standard for middle linebackers and no one was quite like Sayers with his cuts in the open field. While both careers were cut short by injuries, they were each in the news during and after their football careers. Butkus analyzed games and acted on TV. Sayers became a college athletics administrator who will always be remembered as the teammate and friend of Brian Piccolo, a story that lives on forever thanks to Brian’s Song, the 1971 TV movie with an absolutely terrific cast including Billy Dee Williams and James Caan among others.
If you are fortunate enough to be able to go to the National, either by geographical proximity or by spending the money to travel, you’ll have competition chasing these local Chicago heroes, but you can expect to find them as smart dealers will always come prepared with stock that appeals to the many locals who will attend.
Whether you’re collecting the current crop of Cubs and Sox, greats from the past or something completely different, we’d love to hear the stories of the sales you witness, the cards you’ve always wanted and finally found at the show and other tales from the floor.