Wednesday, May 27, 2015

On the Chopping Block

This week at Miller Park, a new feature will be debuting.  The feature is comprised of 1500 square feet of artifacts and gear to honor retired Commissioner Emeritus and former Brewers Owner Allan H. "Bud" Selig.  It's called "The Selig Experience at Miller Park."

The highlight, or perhaps the climax, of the show is "a surprising encounter with the Commissioner himself inside an authentic reproduction of Selig's County Stadium office, using a technology found in only a handful of exhibits around the world.  After the show, Milwaukee fans will be delighted to take a sneak peek into Selig's office for themselves."

Speaking for myself, that is not a tour I would want to take.  Now, don't get me wrong -- I appreciate all of Selig's hard work in tirelessly crusading for the return of baseball to Milwaukee in the time between the Braves left until Selig and his team of financiers took the Pilots from Seattle and bankruptcy.  I appreciate his willingness to spend money in the late 1970s and early 1980s -- before we heard Selig complaint about how competitive balance would be destroyed by free agency -- to build a team that could and did win and made it to the World Series.  

But I have to admit that the Selig Experience leaves me cold.  Again, don't misunderstand -- he made sure as the commissioner that revenue sharing was put into place, that the smaller markets might have a chance to succeed.  The biggest problem I have with Selig is that he spent his time worrying about being Commissioner for far too long as his own team rotted. Selig became acting commissioner in September of 1992.  The Brewers finished 1992 with a 92-70 record, 4 games out of first.

In my opinion, it is not a coincidence that the Brewers did not have another non-losing season -- even a .500 season -- until 2005.  Guess what happened in January of 2005? Yup, the Selig family sold the Brewers to current owner Mark Attanasio.  The problem is clear when you hear what he told his former fraternity brother at the University of Wisconsin, Lew Wolff, who owns the Oakland Athletics:  "When you join this, try to put baseball first and your team a very close second."

From 1992 to 2005, the Brewers were a very distant second.  Or maybe third, behind carrying the torch that small-market teams could not compete with larger market teams and making sure that the team was so bad to prove his own point.  

Perhaps it's fitting that the team has sucked this year.  It is, after all, the Selig Experience.



I had to get that off my chest.  

Now, to a far more positive experience -- the Chopping Block.

Specifically, I am talking about getting cards from the Chop Keeper himself, Steve from the Card Chop.  I know there are a lot of Dodgers bloggers out there, but I seem to trade with more Braves bloggers than anyone else.  That might have something to do with my location in Atlanta, I suppose.

A few weeks ago, Steve ripped through some Gypsy Queen packs and pulled one of those white framed parallels of one of my PC guys, Ryan Braun.  I had to claim it, of course, and it showed up shortly after.


Being the awesome guy that he is, that was not the only card to make its way to the ATL from the Card Chop.  Indeed, that is probably the lesser of the two top cards:


This Team Tandems from the Absolute Memorabilia set -- one of those Donruss sets with 200 cards and 2000 parallels from the mid-2000s -- features one-and-a-half year wonder Danny Kolb, who racked up 60 saves between July 19, 2003 and the end of 2004 -- and none other than one of my PCs, Ben Sheets. 

Sheets will be representing the Brewers at the 2015 MLB Draft on June 8.  Others appearing include Hall of Famers Reggie Jackson (for the Yankees), Andre Dawson and Tony Perez (for the Marlins), and Mike Schmidt for the Phillies.  Lesser lights appearing include Bob Boone for the Nationals, Lee Smith for the Giants, and B.J. Surhoff...for the Orioles.

For the Braves? Ralph Garr and Greg McMichael.  

I bet that will still be more uplifting to me than The Selig Experience!

Steve, thank you very much for these and the other cards you sent to me -- they are greatly appreciated!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Quickly Delivered, Strong and Vigorous Blow

As a lawyer, I often end up writing words that mean the same thing as someone else has used but changing them either to make more sense, be more descriptive, or otherwise avoiding plagiarism.  So, in my effort not to repeat what others have said, my title is actually a strange way to say that I was Zippy Zapped.  

Yeah, this effort is weak, but I was distracted.  It's time for one of my theme posts -- it's been a little while -- and ZZ provided me with the perfect foil for a theme post: Japanese Idols. Now, I don't begin to understand all the strange sounding write-ups and issues on Wikipedia for a lot of these groups -- I think it's due to Wiki-translations and due simply to my own inability to understand the whole idol culture.  

But Zippy Zappy understands it.  So, hopefully, I won't butcher it too badly.

I figured, heck, let's compare some cards to some of the idol groups.  I did some research (and ask Jaybarkerfan about my research) to come up with a list of idols and gravure idols to highlight and talk about the cards that Zippy Zappy sent me.

1. Morning Musume

Let's start with the basics of both idols and this package.  If you have read Ryan's excellent Blog "This Card is Cool" in which Ryan writes about all of his card collecting, chances are that you have heard of Morning Musume.  They were one of the first "cyber idols" in Japan, or at least that is what Wikipedia told me.  Because of Ryan's blog, Morning Musume is one of the few idol groups I've have heard of -- they are the basic idols to me as a result. 

Here's a photo of what is I think their current iteration.


The basics of this Zapping were 1979 Topps...lots of them too:










Sixto Lezcano looks a little bit seedy with that very light mustache and goatee he has going on there...it's kind of how I feel sometimes looking at some of these idols!

2.  AKB48

According to my sources (Tsunagujapan.com here), AKB48 is the all-time leader on the singles chart for all-time sales for any female group.  Apparently, though, AKB48 could be banned from performing at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics because the organizing committee thinks they are "Embarrasing" and "the shame of Japan."  Perhaps the best way to describe them comes from the Washington Post, which said:
It is as if Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift and the entire cast of Twilight were placed in to a saucepan and simmered on a low boil until nothing remained but the sweet, cloying essence of fame, and if that fame were then poured into pleated tartan skirts and given pigtails.
Really?


Really.

I tend to view Bowman's efforts as similar to this in many respects.  Both Bowman and AKB48 put out new efforts every year. Every year, Bowman and AKB48 try to find the brightest, newest stars -- AKB48 through tryouts, Bowman through the draft. Both mostly feature new stars in their late teens and early 20s.  In the end, though, I don't collect anything from AKB48, but I do collect Bowman:











No matter whether you're talking about teenaged girls or boys, it still strikes me as a little creepy...well, at least if you're talking about kids under 18.  

3. Kyary Pamyu Pamyu

In 2013, the Wall Street Journal published a blog post about Kiriko Takemura -- the real name of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu.  Apparently, KPP (because I don't want to type that name over and over) grew up with a very strict mother who scolded her constantly for leaving the house dressed as if she was "insane" thanks to her odd sense of fashion.  KPP, though, has more substance than many of the idol groups, and isn't just a singer by being "cute" or "kawaii."  The readers of Muripo voted her the second top idol that Japan would love for the rest of the world to appreciate.  Her breakthrough song was PonPonPon..the very weird video is below. 


Perhaps she is a closet Green Bay Packers fan, or at least a closet Wisconsinite for wearing a Cheesehead in the video.  Please ignore the floating donuts and the flying sharks.

Something similarly sweet and yet more substantive are Kellogg's cards, one of which I was zippily zapped with.  You have to love Larry Hisle.


Okay, let's move on to the "older" women in Japan...the "gravure" idols. Why?  Because ZZ said so:





These four photos of Yumi Sugimoto are the fronts and backs of two cards that led off this package when I opened it.  Yumi is 26 years old, so I don't feel too bad for ogling her just a bit (of course, she's probably like 19 in these photos and I'm still going to hell). I am curious about the "City of Hartsville Public Safety" half shirt she is wearing.  Just strange..

On to the last three categories....represented by the Top 3 Gravure idols of 2014 as selected by Axiommagazine.jp.

3.  Mikie Hara

Mikie Hara is 27 years old.  Her Wikipedia page lists 9 different "Photobooks" that feature her, the most recent of which is called BLUSH Accident which can be purchased on CD Japan for $24.64 plus $8.21 shipping (for the cheapest available shipping). Here she is reading the book to a group of Japanese school children.


Okay, I lied about that last part.

So, at number three in the remaining card countdown, I have a tie between a blue 2014 Museum Collection Ryan Braun parallel (SN99) and a2014 Monte Harrison autograph:



2.  Ai Shinozaki

She's 23 years old and started modeling at the age of 14.  The issue there was that she was a very, ahem, curvy 14-year-old and caused quite a bit of consternation among Westerners who found out about her. She has been able to have a career as an actress, a singer, and even as a wrestler with "Pro Wrestling Wave"...at least, again, that's what Wikipedia says. She is an attractive women, of course:


What is is really attractive?  Well, there are a few items that fall into this category...Sega Card-Gen, of course! Tons of them...and please ignore the small margins my scanner put on some of these:











What could possibly top Sega Card-Gen? It has to be something truly special. Just like it has to be a very special gravure idol to top Ai Shinozaki. 

1.  Risa Yoshiki

I have to say that any time you get a model who holds a university degree, was born in China, produced two music albums, and wanted to be a manga artist, you're talking about someone pretty special. It doesn't hurt that she is a stunning woman as well:

What was the most stunning card that Zippy Zappy sent to me?

That's far easier than picking out a top gravure model.  This one is a no-brainer:


Meet Joe Lake of the St. Louis Browns on a T-206 with a Piedmont cigarette back. How absolutely cool is this?  I mean, this card was issued first when my grandparents were 2 years old! The St. Louis Browns actually represented the first team to move from its original city after the formation of the American League in 1901.  

The Browns became the Browns in 1902 after leaving Milwaukee.  The old AL Brewers were managed by eventual Hall of Famer Hugh Duffy as a player/manager for just one year.  In 1954, the Browns became the Baltimore Orioles -- the year after major league baseball returned to Milwaukee in the form of the Braves.

Zippy Zappings never hurt. They always put a smile on my face.  But this time, it's in the form of a card that I can always show off to anyone and say, "Yup, that's definitely my oldest card!"

Thanks, ZZ!

Monday, May 25, 2015

A PWE from All Trade Bait, All the Time

One of my earlier blog trades was with Dodgers fan Stealing Home from All Trade Bait, All The Time. SH is a genuinely nice guy to trade with and talk to by e-mail.  He recently went on a PWE-sending spree, and I was one of the lucky folks to get one.  Here are the cards he sent to me:

This Kyle Lohse card is just an opportunity for me to point out that once again the current "throwback" uniforms have a design error.  Everyone who is a Brewers fan from the 1980s knows that the hat with the yellow panel on the front was the away hat -- the team wore a solid blue cap at home.

Just as this 1986 Topps Ben Oglivie -- about to take batting practice on the road in his baby-blue road uniform -- proves.

I miss having a leadoff hitter who actually got on base.  Actually, I miss having a team that didn't hit like it was a Triple-A team.  This year to date, the team has scored 170 runs in 45 games -- 3.78 runs per game -- while allowing 221 (4.91 runs per game, so yes, pitching is a problem too).  But, the Brewers have scored 10 or more runs in 4 games this year (and lost one of them...again, pitching is a problem).  Remove those four games in which the Brewers scored 43 runs, and the team over the other 41 games are averaging barely 3 runs per game -- 3.098 per game, to be super exact.  The team has a slash line of .227/.285/.378 (taking out pitchers, it's .234/.293/.392).

Now I'm depressed...


That's better.  The Clash always bring a smile to my face.  Okay, back to the cards!


Khris Davis is not known for his defense, but his card from both last year and this year show him making defensive plays.


Finally, the piece de resistance for this PWE.  I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that my grandfather probably was convinced that Johnny Logan was the best player on the Milwaukee Braves in the 1950s.  Perhaps the 1950s baseball fans were as enamored with great shortstop play as a lot of us bloggers seem to like catchers -- or perhaps that reflects more about bloggers tending to be more cerebral than the average fan and appreciating all the thought, hard work, and intelligence that goes into being a catcher.

At any rate, Stealing Home sent me this card with the note that it clearly belongs with me due to the fact that Logan was such a bad ass in my grandpa's eyes.

I have to say that this reason for getting a card is perhaps the best reason I have ever heard.  My memories of being a kid growing up pretty poor in Wisconsin (my mom, my brothers, and I lived with my grandparents as I grew up) were filled with stories of past sportsmen to come through Milwaukee.  My grandpa and I bonded in the mornings by reading the game stories in the Milwaukee Sentinel of the previous day's Brewer game, or Packers game, or Milwaukee Bucks game, or even the Milwaukee Admirals games. I'd then get ready for school and head off, not realizing that those days would be ones I'd look back on now with a fondness for how innocent those days were -- and how lucky I was to have a grandfather who indulged my sports fanaticism.

Thank you, Stealing Home, for that reminder.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

"It was the game . . . the sounds, the smells."

Sometimes copyright lawyers are too good at their jobs.  Or, rather, some copyright holders are extremely sensitive to even the fair use of clips from their movies or songs.  I mean, that's the only way I can explain why I was not able to find a way to embed the "In Love with Baseball" scene from Field of Dreams.  

I wanted to embed that scene for the great back and forth between Ray Kinsella and Shoeless Joe Jackson:

  • Character
    Quote
  • Ray Kinsella
    Right, you're a low-ball hitter.
  • Shoeless Joe Jackson
    Man, I did love this game.
    I'd have played for food money.
    It was the game, the sounds, the smells.
    Did you ever hold a ball or a glove to your face?
  • Ray Kinsella
    Yeah.
  • Shoeless Joe Jackson
    I used to love traveling on the trains from town to town.
    The hotels, brass spittoons in the lobbies brass beds in the rooms.
    It was the crowd rising to their feet when the ball was hit deep.
    I'd play for nothing.
  • Ray Kinsella
    It's my family.
  • Shoeless Joe Jackson
    What's with the lights?
  • Ray Kinsella
    All the stadiums have them now.
    Even Wrigley Field.
  • Shoeless Joe Jackson
    It's harder to see the ball.
  • Ray Kinsella
    The owners found that more people can attend night games.
  • Shoeless Joe Jackson
    Owners.























Why did I want to embed that scene?  Because that scene was what I thought about when I first heard the name of the excellent and still pretty new (barely six months old) blog "I Love the Smell of Cardboard in the Morning."  A few weeks back, after finally running into one another's blogs, Tim and I agreed to send cards to each other.  

I actually received this package from Tim about two weeks ago, but I haven't been able to get around to posting it due to the monsters invading from the west and due to some other time commitments this past week.  But, with the Memorial Day weekend, it's time to post the fruits of this excellent trade.

The cards Tim sent to me were heavy on parallels and inserts that I needed for my various collections, but they also included a couple of base cards that have eluded me to this point. Let's start with the Oddball that came to me from Tim, and it is a "card" for my Ben Sheets collection:


This is a Cracker Jack "card" from 2003 from a set that, probably unsurprisingly, I had never heard of or seen before.  The thing about oddballs is that very few card dealers want to keep stuff like this around on the off chance that someone might come looking for it.  Only at the super large shows would something like this pop up.  But, thankfully, I didn't have to go looking at a show for it.

One other Sheets got folded into this envelope (not literally folded...anyway):

A 2002 Topps Stadium Club of Sheets went into the Sheets PC which, as of this writing, stands at 99 cards -- though I am pretty sure that that number will change when I get caught up on my sorting.

Tim also stepped up to the plate and added to my Robin Yount collection which, to be fair, is either really easy since new cards are coming out all the time, or is really difficult because that collection stands at 695 items right now.  #695 was this Polar Bear back 2002 Topps T-206 mini:


Another collection that Tim added to is another one that is more difficult to which to send new cards, but the reason for that difficulty is the fact that there just are not that many new Cecil Cooper cards being made these days.  This one is just a junk wax card that I did not have:


I mentioned in a previous post that I had not bought or even received any Bowman from this year except for the Jonathan Lucroy retail parallel serial numbered to 5 that I got very inexpensively off eBay.  That has led to a torrent of 2015 Bowman coming my way -- so many that, once again, I'm still trying to catch up on cataloging them.  Tim sent me this Carlos Gomez from Bowman:


Usually, I'd really like this card for being a good photo. The problem is that Topps seems to use only photos in which Gomez is running the bases for every base card except Heritage. I won't bore you with all of them, but we got similar photos in 2013 Topps, 2014 Topps, and both photo variations in Gypsy Queen from this year as just an example...

Okay, I'll hop off my soap box now and show you the Prince Fielder cards I got from Tim:



Sure, I know and you know that the Triple Play sticker from 2013 is Fielder after he left for Detroit.  But come on -- with that drawing of Fielder, could you really swear that the sticker isn't him on the Brewers? Blue is blue is blue, and Heck with it -- it's going in the Fielder collection as a Prince with no Team.

Now, Ryan Braun.




The Brewers have been basically a .500 team since the horrendous start to the season.  If you'd asked me at the start of the year how I thought the Brewers would finish, I'd have said .500.  What's keyed them coming back to respectability has been Ryan Braun starting to hit like he should hit.  After the teams first 20 games, Braun was hitting .226/.273/.274.  Since then? The team is .500 and Braun is .306/.396/.718 with 10 HR and 30 RBI.  If Jonathan Lucroy were not out injured, maybe the team would be a game or two better yet.

Right, Luc?  Even if you weren't hitting .133/.216/.178 before you got injured (yeah, 6 for 45).


Jean Segura -- also injured -- has had something of a bounceback season to date. He may be the future second baseman in Milwaukee if Orlando Arcia keep up his development. Segura is still young -- just 25 -- so he has time himself to develop.  I hope he does.


Finally, here are the guys who aren't with the Brewers any more who made it my way from Tim:

 





Hart is playing less than expected in Pittsburgh -- mainly because the Pirates haven't faced many lefties this year and Hart is the right-handed side of the ostensible first base platoon with former Vanderbilt Commodore Pedro Alvarez.

Gallardo is doing about what you would expect in Texas.  His strikeouts are down, his ERA is up, and his hits allowed are up as well -- a lot of which can be chalked up to the difference between facing 8 hitters and a pitcher versus facing 9 hitters in every lineup.  He's currently tied for the AL lead in losses with 6.

Weeks is playing sparingly and badly in Seattle right now -- .176/.282/.279 in 78 plate appearances as an outfield reserve and DH.  Yes, Rickie, if you had agreed to play other positions in Milwaukee, you might have been able to finish your career with one team.  Now, you might just be finished.

Many thanks again go out to Tim and the wonderful smell of baseball -- and baseball cards.