Monday, March 12, 2012

1969 chicago cubs

this post covers the 1969 chicago cubs and cards number 50 to 56 in the set. here are the fronts:
and backs:
for the first time, the set includes a team that didn't qualify for the postseason.  this presents a problem for me as i have been labeling these posts with the level to which each team has risen, such as 'american league champions' or 'world series champions'.  what do i call the 1969 cubbies?  i should note that wrigley wax has already covered a lot of the info i expound upon, and here's his dissertation.  i'll borrow from it a bit as well.

what team is this?:  the 1969 chicago cubs

why this team?:  the cubs famously 'collapsed' and allowed the mets to win the national league east in the first year of divisional play.  this is the only cubs team included in the set, and i would argue that the 1984 team may have been a better choice.  but what do i know...

which players are featured?:  billy williams, randy hundley, ernie banks, fergie jenkins, jim hickman, ken holtzman, and ron santo who gets a memorable moment card for clicking his heels.  weird.

why these players?: this is a pretty good representation of the 1969 cubs - four of the eight regulars plus two of the three top starters with a total of four hall-of-famers.  let's take a closer look.

billy williams had a pretty good season in 1969 as the cubs' left fielder.  the first hof'er to be featured led the league (again) in games played with 163.  the extra game was due to a game the cubs played against the reds which was deemed a tie for some reason.  not sure how that works - maybe someone out there can shed some light?  williams posted a line of 21/95/.293 with 103 runs scored.  one of those homers was the second to last home run that don drysdale gave up in his career.

randy hundley caught in 151 of the cubs' 163 games in 1969, including 136 complete games.  he had his last solid full season that year, hitting .255 with 18 homers and 64 rbi.  he also made the all-star team for the only time in his career.  perhaps the highlight of his season, however, was the birth of his son and future dodger double dipper todd in may.

ernie banks enjoyed what was really his last hurrah in 1969.  hof'er number two played 155 games at first, and hit 23 homers while driving in 106.  mr. cub finished 12th in the league mvp vote and made the all-star team for the last time in his career.  in the game, both he and willie mays pinch hit in the fifth inning and made outs.

fergie jenkins won 20 games or more for the third year in a row, posting 21 victories while leading the league in starts (42) and strikeouts (273).  still, he got no love from the mvp or cy young voters, nor was he named to the all-star squad.  the third hall-of-famer on this team would go on to win 20 or greater in each of the next three seasons. 

jim hickman was the cubs' right fielder in 1969, and he put up some fairly pedestrian numbers that year.  he did manage to hit 21 homers, but he only drove in 54 and hit just .237.  he did much better in 1970, when he slugged 32 long balls and drove in 115 for the cubs while batting .315.  hickman, of course, was an original met and played for them from 1962 through 1966, and i can't imagine how he felt to be passed in the standing by his old team.

ken holtzman was the third starter on the 1969 cubs behind jenkins and bill hand who won 20 games.  holtzman wound up with 17 wins in 39 starts.  holtzman threw three straight shutouts in may, and then threw a no-hitter against the braves in august.  strangely, he walked three in that game and struck out none.  it was his only game of the season in which he failed to strike anyone out.

ron santo is the fourth hall-of-famer featured in this team set.  not sure if he was clicking his heels like charlie chaplin or judy garland, but his 1969 season was pretty solid - 29 homers and a career high 123 rbi along with a .289 batting average.  he walked 96 times just as he had the previous two seasons, however in 1969 that wasn't quite enough to lead the league as he had in 1967 and 1968.  santo made the all-star team and ultimately placed 5th in the league mvp voting. 

the stadium on the back is...?:  wrigley field.  the cubs have played there since 1916, so that's good.  however, i don't think the rooftop seats showed up until the 1990's.

did upper deck get it right?:  well, this team was the one that got all the cubbie faithful excited about a possible return to the world series for the first time since 1945.  it is iconic, if not timeless.  the players all make sense, so no complaints there, althoughi suppose bill hands and phil regan (their closer) would have been good players to feature as well.  it's the photos where they really missed the mark. 

as wrigley wax demonstrates, the banks photo is from the 1950's, the williams is from the 1970's, and the jenkins is from the 1980's.  the santo and the hickman are potentially from 1969, and the hundley and holtzman photos are indeed from 1969, thanks to the centennial patches each player is wearing.

is this team timeless?:  perhaps.  up by 9 games in early august and 5 on september 3rd, the cubs lost 8 in a row and 11 of their last 13 games while the mets were surging.  cubs fans had their hopes dashed, so this team resonates with a lot of people.  it's the only cubs team in the set, and only a couple of the players (ken holtzman and billy williams) appear on other cards in the set.  i still don't get is why they didn't feature the 1984 team in the set.  to me, that team was just as timeless as this one, and they actually made the postseason.  plus, we could have had some additional bill buckner, ron cey and davey lopes cards.  what do you think?


  1. I've been waiting for this one since you started the blog. Nicely done!
    For my generation, this is THE Cubs team. Flawed as they were, we lived and died with this bunch. I don't think the '84 team connected with the fans like this team because the '69 Cubs stayed together for so long. The '84 team came out of nowhere to win the division, with many of the key members playing their first or second year in Chicago. Plus the '84 team collapsed too, in the NLDS. The '69 Cubs are probably the best team to never win anything. My opinion: If Upper Deck wanted to include a Cubs team (hard to do in a set with winning teams!) the '69 team is the best choice.

  2. I agree with everything my cohort WW said.

  3. If you're looking for a Jim Hickman certified auto (and face it, who isn't) this is the set.

  4. Nicely written by WW. This was one of the first teams that I learned about after the fact. I was a bit too young in 1969 (probably a good thing), but I quickly learned about these Cubs when I first started getting into baseball.