Hello and welcome (back) to MAC Gems!
After a two-and-a-half year hiatus, we’re back and at it, exploring the depths of the internet to bring you hidden gems from around the Mid-American Conference world.
Even as the terrestrial economy is changing—the Kmarts and Toys R Us’ of the world are quickly folding amidst the dot com boom—there’s still a quintessential thrill in finding that item which exudes character and a sense of pride.
Having grown up in the rural Midwest, I’ve always been a fan of discovering things you can find only between the wooden shelves of your local church’s or charity’s thrift shop, or perhaps at a garage sale. Sometimes, I’ve even stopped on the side of the road to pick up something that caught my eye.
Whether it be an article of clothing, or an accessory... Perhaps a paper program or a poster. Some product of a bygone era which has a story to tell of blood, sweat and tears shed. A physical embodiment of past glories and successes, forever sitting in our living plane amongst us as background noise.
That’s the thrill we intend to replicate here at MAC Gems. We hope you’ll join us for the ride!
This week, our theme is A Pleasant Peninsula! I’m bringing you two items each related to the three directional Michigan schools, so if you’re a Central Michigan Chippewas fan, an Eastern Michigan Eagles fan or a Western Michigan Broncos fan, you’ll want to get your credit cards out.
We’ll start with Central, my alma mater, since it’s first in the alphabet (and also first in my heart.)
I am extremely fond of old gameday programs, and this one is about as old-fashioned as it gets. The idea of commissioning artists to paint individual covers fell out of practice as the sporting world grew more modern (and especially after the advent of the computer) so finding a program like this puts a great smile on my face.
The artwork itself is classic Americana: a strapping lad and his lady, walking arm-in-arm after a big game. The style is retro even for this particular year; you’ll notice an early 20’s era style on both subjects. Fittingly, this is for Western Illinois’ 42nd Homecoming, which could help explain that particular choice. A discerning eye would also notice the lady in WIU colors and the gentleman in CMU colors.
Central would win this matchup on the road by a narrow 9-7 margin, securing what would be their second-straight win of a four-game streak to end the season. The 1965 Chippewas would go on to finish 5-5 on the year, including 3-1 in the Interstate Intercollegiate Athletic Conference under the direction of legendary CMU head coach Bill Kelly. These Chips were road warriors, finishing 4-1 on the road in 1965. Eight CMU players would go on to finish with first-team honors.
It’s summertime, and that means BASEBALL!
Ray Soff was a former CMU reliever who was picked up by the Chicago Cubs in the 11th round of the 1979 MLB Amateur Draft after three years as a relief pitcher at CMU.
It took Soff about eight years of biding his time between two different minor league systems before he finally made The Show with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1986, coming on in a hold situation to give the Cards a victory in his first appearance as a Major Leaguer. Over the next year, Soff would compile a 5-2 record with a 4.19 ERA in 53.2 innings pitched.
He wouldn’t see the major leagues again, but Soff had a nice minor league career for himself, retiring after 14 seasons between Chicago, St. Louis, Minnesota and the New York Mets’ farm systems. Over his MLB/MiLB career, Soff had a 85-68 record with a 3.73 ERA in 1,248.2 innings pitched.
These two cards are from two of Soff’s best minor league seasons, as a member of the Midland (TX) Cubs (1984), where he sported a 1.53 ERA in 10 games (eight starts) with one complete game, finishing 2-1; and the Louisville Redbirds (1986), where he sported a 1.55 ERA in 39 games with 28 completed games and 9 saves, finishing 6-4.
This is a perfect collector’s item for the hardocre CMU baseball fan who wants an extremely unique item to put in the office.
Who doesn’t love game-worn merchandise?
I’ve got several game-worn jerseys in my collection awaiting a decent frame to hang in the recreation room, and no reasonable self-described Super Fan should go without at least one (1) game-worn jersey in their possession.
This game-worn grey EMU jersey is a unique one; this was EMU’s first attempt at a grey jersey as part of its constant rotation, a color the program came to embrace with the arrival of current head coach Chris Creighton. It was only worn in 2013-14, as EMU would have a brand re-design in Creighton’s second season.
Some cursory searching of photo collections and archival rosters narrows this particular jersey down to defensive lineman Derrick Dunlap, who was a reserve redshirt freshman in 2013 and 2014.
The price is really high on this particular jersey, going for $89.10 + 9.90 delivery. However, there is a Make Offer button, and I imagine you could probably get your mits on this puppy for somewhere in the $50-60 mark if you play your cards right, as most other jerseys similar in nature to this one can be found at much lower price points.
The 1970’s were a wild time, and this pocket schedule does a fairly good job in showing that. The rule of thirds is employed really well here, and the trippy coloration really make this schedule pop out at you.
Besides that, there is a fascinating glimpse at the schedule which shows that such a thing as the Motor City Tournament once existed, featuring Wayne State, Western Michigan and University of Michigan in a round-robin tournament.
The 1979-80 EMU women’s basketball team was the fourth iteration of the team, and finished 14-10 as an independent program under the guidance of head coach Kathy Hart, who helped oversee the transition into the Mid-American Conference before departing in the 1986-87 season.
It’s a fascinating piece of history perfect for a tiny frame to show in the house, and it comes at a fairly decent cost, totaling $7.45 after shipping.
WMU has one of the premier hockey teams in the country, and has a historical cconnection with the rest of the Kalamazoo community. So it would make total sense that WMU hockey would team up with a local business to give away some pucks.
Bilbo’s Pizza in a Pan opened in Kalamazoo in 1976, which is coincidentally when WMU adopted the “braying horse” logo displayed on the front of the puck, and the Bilbo’s logo design features some distinctly 1970’s-inspired logo design, so I feel like I can date it with a fair amount of confidence as being made between 1976 and perhaps the early 1980’s.
At only $20 with fast-and-free shipping, any townie or WMU fan would love having this on display in a public place as a nod to the own they called home for four years (or more.)
Now this baseball picture is, perhaps, the best gem of the six we’ve uncovered today. It’s not only a quintessentially baseball picture, it is a archival picture of a time before WMU existed as we know it today. A time before formal baseball conferences and all the ballyhoo around regional collegiate sports becoming national. Hell, it comes from a time before the Broncos were the Broncos.
Yes, indeed, the 1935 Western State College Hilltoppers were one of the better teams by wins in Bronco baseball history in the pre-modern era, going 12-3 in 15 games, with 85 runs scored for and 53 runs allowed.
This listing comes complete with names on the roster, so you can have a good old time looking up if these players made it to the majors or minors. The picture itself is removed directly from a baseball publication of the time and has been kept in outstanding condition, considering its advanced age.
It’s current going price is $18.50 after shipping, but that is a bargain for a piece that could certainly serve to be a wonderful conversation starter.
We’ll return with more #MACGems next Monday!
If you have any suggestions for themes, found a gem of your own online, or want to share a MAC Gem you have at your own home, be sure to let us know on Twitter @HustleBelt, @AVKingJames or using the tag #MACGems!