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1973 Wichita Aeros Team Issue – A Chicago Cubs Tony LaRussa Exclusive

The 1973 Wichita Aeros team set is my favorite Cubs team set in my collection. It was sponsored by The Action Bank, and certainly has its flaws. I decided to dig out this set because January 30 was Matt Alexander’s birthday and he has a card in this set. To my knowledge, it’s the only Alexander card in a Cubs (Aeros) uniform.

According to The Trading Card Database, this set features 21 cards. There are 21 total cards in my collection, and at first I was led to believe my set was missing two cards as I own two each of Jim Hibbs and Ron Tompkins. Alas, the database shows Hibbs and Tompkins have two cards in the set. The only difference in my cards are the placement of each player’s position.

Cubs minor league items fascinate me, and since I began bidding on eBay and Yahoo! Auctions (remember that?) in 1998, finding obscure minor league memorabilia has been a fun adventure. This particular Aeros team set was found on eBay in 2016, and honestly couldn’t tell you how I did stumble upon it.

The biggest treasure in finding the set was it contains a Tony LaRussa card in a Cubs (Aeros) uniform. Also, these sets and cards are not easy to find. LaRussa appeared in one game for the Chicago Cubs in 1973 and scored a run in his only appearance as a pinch runner. LaRussa did play in 106 games that same season with Wichita, and was purchased by the Pittsburgh Pirates prior to the 1974 season.

Another big pull for me was the Paul Reuschel. Unfortunately, the Reuschel name was butchered on this card. Paul went 7-2 on the mound for Wichita in 1973 and repeated the level (AAA) in 1974 before getting called up in 1975.

Matt Alexander had a cup of coffee with the big league club in 1973 (12 games), and played another 45 games with the Cubs in 1974. He was traded by the Cubs to the Oakland Athletics for Buddy Copeland. Alexander went on to play seven more seasons in Major League Baseball and Copeland…didn’t. He played for the Wichita Aeros in 1975 and was out of baseball by season’s end.

Pete LaCock was a big name here that had plenty of big league experience. LaCock had made his MLB debut in 1972 and played five games for Chicago, and would appear in 11 games in 1973. LaCock was with the Cubs through the 1976 before finishing up with the Kansas City Royals for the final four seasons of his career.

Dave Rosello was another one that debuted in 1972 and played in five games. He spent most of the 1973 season with Wichita. All but 16 games. Rosello played in Chicago through 1977 before finishing his career with the Cleveland Indians.

Managing the 1973 Wichita Aeros is a familiar name: Jim Marshall. He guided the Aeros to a 67-68 record in 1973, which was second in the West Division of the American Association. Marshall went on to manage the Chicago Cubs for three seasons, 1974 to 1976.

One great part of flipping through old minor league cards is discovering players that are largely forgotten, or never known. Al Montreuil was a never known for me, but 1973 was also nine years before my birth. Unfortunately, Montreuil passed away in 2008. He did appear with the big league Cubs in 1972 playing five games. His minor league career spanned 13 seasons and logged 1,266 games.

Chris Ward appeared in one game for the Cubs in 1972, and spent the entire 1973 season with Wichita before heading back to Chicago in 1974. The outfielder also appeared in the 1975 Topps set, but he never appeared in the Major Leagues after 1974.

Another name I didn’t recognize was Clint Compton. Compton was a one-game wonder for the Chicago Cubs pitching two innings on October 3rd, 1972, against the Philadelphia Phillies. He allowed two earned runs on two hits and two walks and never saw the big leagues again.

Floyd Weaver grew up in Pecan Gap, Texas and had a long professional baseball career. His four-year big league career spanned four seasons over nine years with three teams. None of them the Chicago Cubs. Weaver played for the Indians, Chicago White Sox, and Milwaukee Brewers. Ironically, 1973 was his last season in pro baseball and he appeared in just one game for the Aeros.

His name was more memorable than his baseball career. Here’s to “Griggy” Porter. His given name is Horace Grigston Porter. Porter was a 23rd round draft pick by the Cubs in 1969 out of Pfeiffer University in North Carolina. He spent six seasons in the Cubs organization, topping out in AAA with Wichita in 1972, 1973, and 1974.

J.C. Martin spent 14 seasons in MLB, with all but two of those seasons with a Chicago team. Martin played nine years with the White Sox, then spent two seasons with the New York Mets, before ending his career on the north side from 1970 to 1972. By the time he was pictured here with the Wichita Aeros, Martin was in the twilight of his career. He played 53 games for the Cubs’ AAA club, his final pro baseball season.

There are two cards of Jim Hibbs in this set. They are identical with one minor exception. One card has his position on the same line as his name, while the other card has “Catcher” below “Jim Hibbs.” Hibbs came to the Cubs organization in 1970 after spending time with the California Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Cincinnati Reds. His 1973 season with the Aeros was his last in pro baseball. The catcher hit .270 with nine home runs in 71 games.

Jim Todd played one season with the Cubs, 1974. He went 4-2, 3.89, 42 strikeouts to 41 walks in 88 innings pitched. He was traded to the Oakland Athletics in 1975 for Champ Summers.

Jose Ortiz is another member of the 1973 Wichita Aeros that played with both the Chicago Cubs and White Sox. He played 67 games between the two squads and was traded from the south side to the north side on November 30, 1970, in a rather insignificant swap. Ortiz and Ossie Blanco were traded from the White Sox to the Cubs for Pat Jacquez, Dave Lemonds, and Roe Skidmore.

Throughout the years, the Chicago Cubs have had some less than stellar first round draft choices. Instead of dissecting that somewhat ugly history, we’ll just highlight the 1968 first rounder, Ralph Rickey. An outfielder and pitcher out of the the University of Oklahoma, Rickey was selected 15th overall by the Cubs and never made a big league roster. Rickey spent six seasons in the Cubs organization topping out with Wichita. His final season was 1973 when he went 6-12, 5.12, 94 strikeouts to 57 walks in 153 innings. Rickey split his six years of pro baseball evenly between the field and the mound.

Ron Tompkins appeared in 35 games for the 1971 Chicago Cubs. He spent the next two seasons with the Wichita Aeros. He went 7-7, 4.58, 49 strikeouts to 61 walks for the 1973 Aeros.

Tom Badcock was a fifth round pick by the Cubs in the 1970 Major League Baseball draft out of Springfield (MA) College. By 1973, Tompkins had reached the AAA Aeros and went 1-4, 4.63, 23 strikeouts to 25 walks. He was out of the Cubs organization by 1975 and spent the final three seasons of his pro career with the Dodgers, Indians, and Royals.

Finally, Tom Lundstedt had a three-year big league career with the Cubs in the early 1970’s. Lundstedt’s decision to go to college paid off. The standout at Prospect High School in Mt. Prospect, Illinois was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 65th round of the 1967 Major League Baseball draft. After playing at both Arizona State and the University of Michigan, Lundstedt upped his draft stock to the first round of the 1970 draft, selected 17th overall by the Cubs. He improved his draft stock by 934 spots. While he did play three seasons in Chicago, Lundstedt only appeared in 44 games from 1973 to 1975. Lundstedt was with the Minnesota Twins for his 1975 season after the Cubs dealt the catcher for Mike Adams.

Nearly three years later and I finally discovered I have the complete set of the 1973 Wichita Aeros. Not a bad purchase for approximately $15.

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