Sunday, January 1, 2017

Complete Set Sunday: 1919 Chicago Black Sox Team Reprint Set.

       One of the many things I missed posting about during my long hiatus was the Chicago Cubs finally getting over the hump and winning the World Series after 108 years. Personally, I could not care less about the Cubs or so-called curses but I do have a good friend from college who is a big Cubs fan, so I was ecstatic for him when they won (I also mocked him as best I could from a hospital bed in 2015 when the Mets swept the Cubs in the LCS, but I digress). All you heard from the media during that 2016 run was how much Cubs fans were tortured and how Chicago hadn't seen a championship since 1908.  This always made me irrationally angry. Chicago has two teams last time I checked.  The White Sox once went 88 years without winning a championship and broke that schneid only a few years ago in 2005.  I have always felt a strong kinship to White Sox fans because it must suck to live in a vacuum like that where you are barely an afterthought in your own city, much less on the national stage. Being surrounded by the Evil Empire on all sides, I think Mets fans can sympathize.
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This year marks the 100th anniversary of one of the greatest teams every assembled, the 1917 White Sox.  That team steamrolled the American League, winning 100 games and then taking the World Series from the Giants in six games.  Alas, no one remembers that team at all because of what happened two years after that. I present to you the 1919 Chicago Black Sox, in "reprint" form.

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This 25-card set (with one bonus Shoeless Joe card in color) is not so much a reprint as a retrospective set, done in faux-vintage form by a company called TNTL in Toms River NJ.  I have never heard of them before and they haven't done anything since, so I imagine this was a vanity or personal set specifically done by a Black Sox nut.  I think they were going for the look of the old E121 Caramel cards and they came pretty close.  The cards aren't standard size but closer to the size of those old ones.  This is a true oddball set and right in my wheelhouse. I think I picked this set up on Listia a few years ago and I scanned it right away and now comes its time to shine.

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The backs have a little write up rather than a candy advertisement, and while not poetry, they certainly capture the feeling of the team and the scandal.  As you also may have noticed, since the cards aren't numbered, I put the infamous Eight Men Out together on the same page.  The stats they quote certainly paint the picture of a great team having a bad week.  The book (and I recommend both the book and the movie if you haven't indulged yourself) isn't quite a perfect history as much as it is a JFK-esque what-if group of scenarios.  I personally believe in the grey area story that the team threw the first couple games but never got paid past the first game, but by then it was too late for them to mount a comeback.  We'll probably never know the whole story since everyone involved in the scandal is long dead and the incident makes for a great and sad piece of baseball lore.

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The Black Sox are one of those issues that brings out many passions in people.  Did Joe Jackson really understand what was going on?  Did Buck Weaver deserve the treatment he got since he didn't take any money?  Was the tight-fisted ways of Charles Comiskey as much to blame for the scandal as the players themselves?  I see wonderful parallels right now in the whole Steroid Era kerfuffle that has been going on for the last decade or so.  The hall of fame just elected Bud Selig, who pretty much stood by as the owners profited from the players at the time and then decided to "get tough" when the winds of opinion changed.  Those players made the owners countless millions and made fans happy but then got vilified after the fact, a post hoc nightmare if ever there was one.  So now that Selig has been enshrined, I would like to see the Bondses and Clemenses and McGwires get their chance to go in too.  And with that said, you can then deduce that I also think that if Charles Comiskey is in the Hall of Fame as an owner, then Shoeless Joe Jackson should finally be allowed in as a player, warts and all.

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