Thursday, May 16, 2019

PWEs and a Little Music

Thank you to all of you who read my post trying to honor the memory of Ray Peters. Your comments meant a lot to me. Ray was truly a special man who will be dearly missed.

In the meantime since my last post, I have been the honored recipient of two single-card plain white envelopes. The first arrived a couple of days ago from New Jersey and my Twitter friend Nick Vossbrink who also blogs at NJWV and, in addition, is one of the two new co-chairs of the SABR Baseball Cards Committee and Blog Editor. Nick is one of those people with whom I feel I could converse about any subject and learn something new. I like people like that.

Nick sent me an awesome thank you note featuring an Auguste Renoir painting of a ballerina that totally pump-faked me into thinking it was an Edgar Degas because whenever I see Impressionists and ballerinas that is a Pavlovian response.

See what I mean? But even now, thirty years later, I still hear the teacher I had in high school for training for the Academic Decathlon competition -- which is where my Impressionist knowledge comes from -- saying, "yeah, but look at the eyes. Those are Renoir eyes."

Anyway, Nick sent me a very cool 1980s oddball to add to my collection of a Giant turned Brewer, Rob Deer:

I'm pretty sure Deer is either about to swing and miss or crush the ball. That was what he did. For many Brewers fans, Deer's approach at the plate reminded them of an earlier Brewer hero, Gorman Thomas -- lots of homers, lots of strikeouts, a pretty good number of walks too, and low batting averages that didn't kill the team thanks to the OBP and the SLG.

To thank Nick further, here's a Baroque composition featuring attractive women looking cold on a beach with Tomaso Albinoni's Adagio in G Minor accompanying them.

Thanks Nick!

Next up, a PWE showed up yesterday from Mark Hoyle. Mark has either been buying a lot of potato chips from Utz lately, or else he ran into a deep, cheap vein of these cards at his local card shows. 

Whichever one of these it is, Mark was kind enough to share an Utz card with me:

If I were inclined to add any more player collections -- and trust me, I'm more likely to get rid of some than add some -- Lorenzo Cain would be in the running definitely. LoCain is such an upbeat guy, and he's also an incredible center fielder as well. It is unbelievable to me that Cain has yet to win a Gold Glove -- he deserved one last year, in my opinion, so I hope that issue gets addressed this year.

To thank Mark for the card, I think I'll give him faster horses, younger women, older whiskey, and more money -- from Tom T. Hall.

I grew up on country music in the 1970s, and I do recall this song. I probably would not have remembered this song, however, except for Twitter stalking Mark's timeline and seeing that he had interacted with the Great Wes Moore talking about the lyrics to this song specifically. 

Now that's what you call a friend -- someone to remind you of a Tom T. Hall song from 1976 that you haven't thought about in probably 40 years. 

Thanks, guys, for the great cards!

Monday, May 13, 2019

Rest in Peace, Ray

I had a feeling something was wrong with my friend Ray Peters all week last week. When I made my first post back blogging about Pete Koegel on May 4, the first thing I did after finishing it was send a link to it to Ray by email. I kept checking my email all week expecting to see a response from him. It wasn't like Ray to let an email go unanswered for that long -- he should have responded by Wednesday or Thursday at the latest in my mind.  I hoped that he was alright.

My first autograph from Ray
Unfortunately, things were not all right. When the email came in yesterday from his account as sent by his wife, it surprised me how much loss I felt in many respects. I had never met Ray in person, but he had quickly become a friend to me through his many emails and through the multiple calls that we had. 

As you can see above, we bonded over our love of history. Ray received a degree in Spanish and Latin American studies from Harvard, and I have a degree from Vanderbilt in political science but focused on Latin American politics and history, so we had that in common along with our love for baseball. 

The thing that defined Ray to me was how much he wanted to make sure that his teammates were never forgotten -- especially their contributions to his success. For example, the card above was a photo of Ray having hit a grand slam homerun for the Portland Beavers after being sent down to the minors in 1970. He was quick to point out to me that he used Floyd Wicker's bat to hit the home run and gave Floyd credit for that. 

Ray helped spearhead the Topps Heritage subsets of the Pilots in 2018. He told me a lot of things about how that whole process worked that he asked me not to share, and I will respect that. 

I will say this, however: he loved his card in the subset for the 2019 Heritage set. As he said to me in an email in February, "I am ecstatic to say the least. Truly after 50 years I finally have a Topps baseball card from the team I played with in The Show! How fortunate am I ???!!!"

Funny thing was that the Brew Crew Autographs subset in 2019 Heritage was identified as being on the checklist long before Ray was asked to be a part of it. When he did find out, as you can see, it made him incredibly happy.

Ray was kind enough to send me both of the Heritage autographs that he signed. And whisper it, but I think I have a 1/1 from the 2018 Heritage: I believe I have the only one that Ray signed with a red sharpie instead of a blue one. 

Ray was always generous with his time for me as well. Even when he should have been impatient with me, or when I went days or even weeks without corresponding, he never said a cross word to me. Not even when I delayed and delayed on writing the "Meet The Brewers" for guys that were his friends. Not even once.

I knew he was having some health issues. He mentioned them in passing in his emails and minimized their severity. But, you can tell just looking at his autograph on the 2019 Heritage card above -- as compared to its 2018 compatriot right next to it -- that he was starting to struggle a bit. His signature was shaky, and when I saw it, I actually started to worry about him. Even in my last email to him, I said that I hoped he was well and that I would get to talk to him soon. 

I wish I had had that opportunity.

Ray was much too young to pass away. He was only 72 years old. I know -- that sounds like a long life, but it's not. Not these days. 

All the things they say about telling people that you care for them before it's too late apply here to me. I wish I had gotten the opportunity to tell him how much I appreciated his thoughtful deep dives into Brewer history. I wish I had taken the time to tell him how much I enjoyed his emails and his calls. And, I wish I had another ten or fifteen years to get to know Ray better, to hear more stories, to learn more about him.

Yet, I know I'm lucky. Thanks to Ray, I spent an hour on the phone talking to one of his roommates from the minor leagues -- Jim Slaton -- just hearing about Jim's career. I hope someday to hear more. Thanks to Ray, I got to talk with Fred Stanley a bit about his career and to buy this incredible print:

Thanks to Ray, the 1970 Milwaukee Brewers went from being names on a piece of paper or on the internet to being wonderful, humorous, and even sometimes flawed human beings. 

According to the email that I (and others) received from his wife Janis, Ray died on May 4, 2019. His younger son set up a website called Big Train Ray ( to honor his dad. It's a great website, and it has numerous links to stories about Ray's career and life. 

Though I never met you in person, I'll miss you, Ray.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Recent Brewers from Matt Prigge

Across the country, the changing seasons often have milestones peculiar to the area. For example, here in the South, spring does not begin in March, or February, or April, or when you might otherwise thing it does. Nope, it only lasts about 30 to 45 minutes after the pollen dies down from yellow hellfury to mere annoyance, as this video explains.

One of the most certain ways that Wisconsinites can tell it is summer is when all the Catholic churches bring in two or three beer trucks, attach taps to the outside, put up a stage, and have a festival in their parking lot. This happens literally only during the months of July and August, but it keeps tons of cover bands, polka bands, and random polka-rock fusion bands busy every weekend. 

Yes, polka-rock fusion. You'd be surprised how many of these exist. And, it seems, Matt Prigge of the Summer of '74 blog and, recently, a man who picked up his second master's degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, is apparently an aficionado of Wisconsin-famous band Happy Schnapps Combo. 

Matt sent me a bunch of Brewers cards mostly from 2018 and some from 2019. Rather than write all about those, I'll show some (with a little commentary) but focus here on the Happy Schnapps Combo. While you do, remember that people in Wisconsin follow bands like this around. No lie. 

Here's the stack I won't get to:

Like I said, he sent a bunch. To cover this bunch appropriately, let's go to the first Happy Schnapps Combo song I came across on YouTube. It's called "Fleet Farm (A Love Song)." 

Appropriately, this video appears to have been shot in a parking lot during a summer festival sponsored at least in part by the Port Washington Lions Club. Lions Clubs, in case you're not aware, are service organizations found in chapters around the world who apparently try to help with everything from childhood blindness to disaster relief.

Fleet Farm (not to be confused with Farm and Fleet, by the way) is store that would result if Walmart and Home Depot had a bastard child and, for good measure, they had a mutation that incorporated a Pet Smart. No kidding. Look at the website for it -- everything from guns and tree stands to lawn mowers to tires to Cookie Monster toys to dog beds. 

Of course, making things confusing is the fact that Farm and Fleet does basically the same thing on a slightly smaller scale. I never could tell those places apart. Guess that's why I had to leave Wisconsin.

Why am I highlighting a Neil Walker card? Because I'd completely forgotten that he spent 38 games with the team in 2017. He was a Yankee last year, and he's a Marlin this year. Which all makes sense, I think.

I can't imagine a more Wisconsin YouTube clip than this song. First, it's a polka. Second, you've got the random drunk guy in front of the band (is that you, Matt) in gas station sunglasses and a cut-off t-shirt and jeans dancing and singing the whole song along with the band. Third, it's a polka about Blatz beer and sauerkraut. Fourth, the guy says you can get your "Boone's Farm" by the "bubbler."

Y'all know what a bubbler is? It's a drinking fountain or a water fountain in pretty much the rest of the country, but not in southeastern Wisconsin.

Last year just after spring training ended, I noted that Yovani Gallardo was trying to make the Brewers, failed, and ended up as cannon fodder for the Rangers for a little while. I was hoping he'd make the team so I'd get more Brewers cards of him. Then I stopped paying attention and didn't realize that he did not need to make the team to get a Topps card in Series 2.

This Happy Schnapps song might be the official state song. Wisconsin is well known for its drinking, after all, and there have been a number of times when I'm there that I have wanted to yell this at someone.

It's also what Topps's set production people yell at Wisconsin fans when we complain about the questionable player selection for Brewers players -- like, for example, putting a guy who didn't even make the team in Series 2 instead of people who actually played. 

This may be one of the worst looking cards of 2018. Is Domingo Santana Thor? Look at the size of his hand next to the very small bat that appears over his shoulder. I mean, I get and understand perspective, but that bat is all wrong. It's terrible looking. And his head looks like it's the size of its own solar system.

I gotta stop looking at these new cards. They're getting me pissed off all over again!

An appropriately shitty song for a shitty card.

Okay, it's time for the MVP portion of the package. First off, we have a 2019 version of the 1984 Topps for Robin Yount. It's been said before but I'll say it again -- it's cool to see these old designs being reused, but I'd much prefer having the designs used for players who did not appear on the cards the first time around.

Of course, since Yount is about the only former Brewer that Topps has an agreement with at this point (he and Molitor, thanks to the Cooperstown agreements), I'll take what I can get.

You might be noticing a theme here from the Happy Schnapps Combo. I had never heard of them before Matt tweeted about them in passing a couple of days ago. Their whole catalog is either about the Packers or about smelling bad and toilets, it seems. 

Granted, with all the beer and brandy old-fashioneds and bratwurst and sauerkraut that get consumed in Wisconsin, it makes sense to sing about "what you know."

Another Brewer MVP in Ryan Braun. I guess this was an insert last year. 

I'm still trying to figure out where I go with my collecting at this point. I've decided once again to start over on Trading Card Database and catalog all my Brewers cards. I cleaned out what was there previously, though, so it appears right now that I have nothing. That's probably as good a place to start as any. I'm not sure what I'll try to collect going forward -- but Braun, Yount, and the next guy will be part of it.

Wisconsin football fans have long hated the Dallas Cowboys in a full-on, irrational way. There are good reasons for that, dating all the way back to the Ice Bowl in the 1960s, to Dallas's claims to be "America's Team" in the 1970s and 1980s, to the playoff battles between the teams in the 1990s, and then to the present with again meeting in the playoffs and the whining that came about with the Dez Bryant catch/no-catch controversy. 

It's a different hate than that reserved for the traditional NFC North rivals, but it's a hatred nonetheless. So, of course a truly emblematic Wisconsin band like the Happy Schnapps Combo had to write a song making fun of all the criminals on the Cowboys.

The final MVP to feature in the envelope Matt sent to me is, of course, Christian Yelich. I had a feeling he would take well to Miller Park last year, and it turned out beyond my wildest expectations. 

This year has been an odd start to the year for him, though. He hits at Miller Park at a home-field-advantage level not seen since the days of Dante Bichette at Coors Field pre-humidor. On the road, he looks like 2017 Christian Yelich -- a bit of pop, good average, decent slugging, but just a solid player. At home, though, he looks like peak steroid Barry Bonds or peak hotdog eating Babe Ruth -- crushing homer after homer. 

Like I said above, the vitriol reserved for the NFC North rivals -- the Vikings and the Bears -- is on a special and different level than that held for other teams. These two songs prove that some. Of course, that Vikings song needs to be updated since it still refers to the Metrodome as the Vikings home field, but I'm sure they can come up with something.

Matt, thanks greatly for the cards, and I hope you have enjoyed the musical stylings of what must be one of your favorite bands of all time.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Autographs and No Hitters

I had to drive about two total hours today to take a deposition for work. It gave me time to think about whether I wanted to post today. I decided I did because depositions often suck. Today's pretty much did.

Depositions are sometimes fun, sometimes painful, and oftentimes frustrating. I sit in a conference room with a court reporter, another lawyer, and a witness -- in the simplest cases, that more complicated cases, there may be 5 or 6 other lawyers in attendance in person or by phone and there may be a videographer present as well -- and I literally ask questions to the witness about events that took place one, two, or more years ago and expect the witness to have perfect recollection about seemingly inconsequential events that now have consequence. 

In the most frustrating cases, you end up with a witness who is long on generalities, short on specifics, but swears constantly that their generalities covered everything in the case perfectly. Then you ask them, "did you send an email about this" and their answer is "oh no, we did everything verbally."

No one does everything verbally anymore except witnesses who really didn't do what they said they did and are trying to claim they were perfect and your guys were the cheats, liars, scammers, and phonies.

It's a great system, let me tell you.

That said, last night about 12:45, the power flipped off in my house randomly for about 15 minutes. It woke me up, of course -- we have fans going in our room for white noise and to cool us off, and it gets deathly quiet without them. My nature is that I do not snooze or hit the snooze bar -- ever. Once I'm up, I'm up. That's a problem when I've only slept 3 hours, like last night. 

But, that inability to fall back asleep meant that I was awake at about 2:15 AM Eastern when Mike Fiers was trying to close out his second no-hitter of his career. I actually got to see the final out thanks to some guy on Twitter live streaming the TV feed using his camera on his phone, which was cool. 

It got me thinking today -- how many guys who have thrown no-hitters do I have autographs from? The answer was, "More than I thought."

There's the guy that started the discussion. Mike Fiers is one of only 35 pitchers to throw multiple no-hitters in his career, and he is one of only seven pitchers to throw no-hitters on more than one team -- Jim Bunning, Ted Breitenstein (1890s pitcher who threw a no-no in his first major league start), Randy Johnson, Hideo Nomo, Cy Young, and Nolan Ryan are the others.

Speaking of Nolan Ryan:

I'm pretty sure this is authentic. It was the result of an autograph request through the mail in the mid-1980s. While Nolan Ryan never threw a no-hitter against Milwaukee, he did win his 300th game against Milwaukee at Milwaukee County Stadium.

Speaking of the Brewers:

The one, the only is still Juan Nieves. Nieves threw his no-hitter in the middle of the 1987 Brewers 13-game season-opening win streak on April 15, 1987. He blanked the Baltimore Orioles 7-0 thanks to two great plays in the outfield -- one by Robin Yount and the other by the immortal Jim Paciorek -- and thanks to scattering 7 walks...

Two more Brewers ties. The first one is pretty weak, but hey -- I've got an autograph from the guy:

Carlos Villanueva never threw a no-hitter in the majors, but he was a part of a minor-league no-hitter as a Nashville Sound in 2006 in the Brewers system. I know -- kinda weak.

The next one is not weak, but he didn't throw his no-hitter as part of the Brewers:

Len Barker threw the first perfect game in the American League against a team using a designated hitter. He threw his perfecto on May 15, 1981 against the Toronto Blue Jays. Barker was never known for having good control, so his no-no may have been one of the most unlikely perfect games in baseball history.

Speaking of the Toronto Blue Jays:

Stieb returned the favor to the Cleveland Indians on September 2, 1990, throwing the first no-hitter in Toronto Blue Jays history. Stieb famously lost three other no-hitters previously by giving up hits with two outs in the ninth inning.

Many of us thought Dave Stieb had a chance for the Hall of Fame while he was pitching. He was good for a long time -- but not long enough.

Unlike the next no-hit hurler:

Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven threw a no-hitter on September 22, 1977 as a member of the Texas Rangers. He threw the no-hitter against the California Angels in his final start as a member of the Rangers. He was traded in the off-season to the Pirates in a four-team trade.

Blyleven was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a Minnesota Twin. This next guy never threw a no-hitter as a Twin, but he did combine on a no-hitter in spring training.

I got Viola's autograph in-person at a Brewers/Twins game in 1986 or 1987. Viola, Hrbek, Brunansky, Kirby -- all of them were incredibly nice guys even to Brewers fans.

Three more left, and all of these guys threw their no-hitters in the National League.

Fernando Valenzuela threw a no-hitter on June 29, 1990. Earlier that same day, his former Dodgers teammate Dave Stewart had thrown a no-hitter against the Toronto Blue Jays. Having watched that, he turned to his teammates and supposedly said, "That's great, now maybe we'll see another no-hitter." And Fernando went out and blanked the St. Louis Cardinals, scattering three walks and an error.

Perhaps the autograph most dear to me in recent vintage is this Charlie Lea card. I got this from Charlie about a year before he died. More importantly, I got the card because I was working at the time with his son Brian, who himself pitched some but who is an academic and legal stud who clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas on the U.S. Supreme Court. Brian passed along that his dad loved that I remembered him for this very card -- the huge wad of chewing tobacco in his mouth featuring, of course -- so Charlie sent me an autographed one and one of his 1981 Fleer cards.

And finally, a story about no-hitters and autographs would not be complete without this ball. It's a late-in-life autograph of the great Warren Spahn that my good friend Wes f/k/a Jaybarkerfan sent me a couple of years ago as part of our monster trading war. Those were fun days, what with seven priority mail boxes packed full of Brewers and Milwaukee Braves showing up in the space of less than a month.

So, what about you -- do you have any autographs from guys who threw no-hitters?

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

A Welcome PWE from Bru

We all have times in our lives where we just don't have time for ourselves. That's where I've been the past year. Many nights after work, it was all I could do just to stay awake long enough so I wouldn't wake up at 3 AM. 

Yet, I also could have made time for cards from time to time. I just didn't have it in me. I didn't feel like spending time and money on every new card to come around the corner from Topps or Panini or anyone else. 

The same thing happened with blogging. I was having more fun -- and it took less energy -- to spout out a one-liner on Twitter or get into a deep discussion with the guys doing season sets like Matt Prigge and Marc Brubaker and Nick Vossbrink about how they went about selecting photos, making the cards, getting them printed (or not), etc. It was a lot of fun checking out Mark Hoyle's daily 4:30 AM post of some crazy rare and extremely cool Boston Red Sox item.

The great thing is that it still is fun to do all those things. 

But I guess I missed blogging a bit. I missed finding random songs on YouTube to put into posts. I missed Meeting the Brewers. 

So I came back now. As I told some folks on Twitter, I'm back to write when I feel like it about what I feel like writing about. 

Sometimes, though, it will be just a good old-fashioned "Look what I got in the Mail today" post -- like today.

Today, I got mail from Bru at Remember the Astrodome -- who himself has gotten busy with other things in life now. He'd built up a few cards that he said he wanted to send me, so let's roll them out!

Let's start with the flying hair of Josh Hader. Hader went from being the prospect lefty who came over with Domingo Santana, Adrian Hauser, and Brett Phillips from the Astros in exchange for Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers (I think the Brewers won that trade -- that's a gut instinct though) to being *THE* guy out of the bullpen who teams have to plan for on a regular basis. I like how the Brewers use him in many respects, though I'd rather have Knebel in the 9th and move Hader around some.

P.S. Josh Hader's entrance music, according to this 2019 Bowman card, is "Renegade" by Styx. Yes, I must post this classic rock saw.

I think that songs been on classic rock radio since I was in middle school. 

Next up is Jacob Barnes from the 2018 Heritage High Numbers. Due to the fact that Barnes has been scuffling some during this first month of the year and due to him having one minor league option year left, I have a feeling that Barnes will be on the San Antonio Shuttle pretty regularly once the Brewers get Jimmy Nelson back to as good as he'll get sometime late this month or in June. He's been walking too many guys so far this year, but he's a solid bullpen arm.

Speaking of the San Antonio Shuttle and also from the 2018 Heritage High Numbers, here's Jacob Nottingham. He was the return for Khris Davis. The thinking at the time was that a catching prospect is worth much more than a ragarm outfielder with suboptimal on-base skills. 

It was probably the right move in many respects because if Davis is still in Milwaukee, does the team still go after Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich?

We're still waiting for Nottingham to emerge, though. He is still 24, but he has to hit more than he has in Triple-A to prove he belongs in the majors. Here's hoping he develops this year with Yasmani Grandal and Manny Piña in front of him and can be a big leaguer next year.

A throwback here. It feels like so long ago that Jonathan Villar was with the Brewers. It feels like so long ago that Honus Bonus thought people would buy cards of guys in black and white and without logos and try to play fantasy baseball online with them.

At least Villar had one big year for Milwaukee. Of course, Jonathan Schoop was a massive bust last year down the stretch, but it was worth a try to see if he could be the answer at second for a year as we wait patiently for Keston Hiura.

Bru sent me two 2019 Orlando Arcia cards. 2018 was a year to forget for Arcia, whose batting was such a black hole that his defensive contributions were cancelled out in the whole WAR equation on Baseball Reference. He's doing a little better this year in two respects. First, he's already hit more homeruns this year in a month (129 PA) than he did last year over 119 games (366 PA) -- 4 to 3. He's also walking at a better clip -- 9 walks in those 129 PA versus just 15 all year last year. 

He's still not great at the plate, but at least he's not an embarrassing negative.

I was hoping that Chase Anderson can help stabilize the rotation, but then he went out and had his callouses on his middle pitching finger -- you know, the one you use to throw a curveball -- bust open. Anderson is a serviceable 4th/5th/6th starter so long as he can keep the ball in the park or limit how many people are on base when he gives up his standard HR every 6-7 innings. 

Brent Suter is quickly becoming one of my favorite players on the Brewers. It's too bad he had to have Tommy John surgery last year. He's becoming a favorite for a couple of reasons. First, he's smart -- a Harvard grad who actually played baseball there I'm told and did not use that as an excuse to get in the backdoor through parental bribes. Second, the guy is a glue guy. He keeps guys loose, brings guys together, makes people laugh -- the team is better with him around.

Plus, he follows me on Twitter. 

When Christian Yelich was traded to Milwaukee last year, I knew he would have a good year. His swing seemed tailor made for Miller Park's cozier dimensions than the Miami Mausoleum, and all indications were that he was a good "makeup" guy -- someone who would fit in with teammates. That was a big part of why I said I was going to collect his cards. 

I had no idea he would become the MVP and turn into the monster he has become. I'm excited to see how good he can become in Milwaukee. He's still only 27 years old this year, after all, which might be his peak but it could be a peak that is sustainable for three or four more years easily. He's signed through 2021 at a reasonable salary ($9.75 million this year, $12.5MM in 2020, $14MM in 2021) with a team option in 2022 at $15 million. 

Many thanks go out to Bru for the cards. Bru, just stick with us on Twitter. We'll be around when you get time again. 

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Meet the Brewers #42: Pete Koegel

When rosters expanded in September of 1970, the Brewers were quick to make some moves. 

One of the moves made no difference on the field but made every difference in the world to a long-time Milwaukeean: the Brewers signed Harvey Kuenn to a free agent contract and placed him on the active roster to allow him to accrue additional service time to max out his MLB pension. The 39-year-old Kuenn did not get an at bat -- unsurprising since he had been serving as a coach all year and had not played in the majors since 1966. But, it was the thought that counted to Harvey; he became a fierce supporter of Bud Selig from that point forward.

Another more run-of-the-mill transaction also occurred on September 1: minor leaguers getting called up to get a cup of coffee in the majors. Such was the case for Brewers prospect Pete Koegel. Koegel came in to pinch hit in the bottom of the sixth inning for starting pitcher Lew Krausse against Twins ace Jim Perry, who won his 20th game that day and went on to win 24. Alas, Pete tapped out to Perry in his first ever major league at bat. Koegel went on to bat just 9 times total that September, but he did hit his first and only major league homer on September 25 against a guy who should be in the Hall of Fame -- Tommy John.

1971 Topps/O-Pee-Chee
Peter John Koegel was born and raised in Seaford, New York, which is on Long Island about three or four towns west of Amityville and south of the famous suburb Levittown. Koegel was drafted straight out of high school by the Kansas City Athletics in the fourth round of the first-ever draft

Koegel was known for his prodigious power even in high school. He was voted the most valuable player in the Hearst Sandlot Classic, played August 21, 1965 in Yankee Stadium, after slamming a 420-foot triple just shy of the auxiliary scoreboard in deep left field in old Yankee Stadium. He received the MVP trophy from Lou Gehrig's widow, Eleanor, days before signing for a $45,000 bonus with the A's. 

Thanks to that bonus and his hitting skills, Koegel was immediately assigned to the Midwest League for his first minor league experience. As an 18-year-old who was about 3 years younger than the average player, he slashed .233/.319/.450 and smacked 21 HR and even stole 10 bases. His team paced the league with 117 HR that season, so he may have been the beneficiary of a favorable home park -- the next highest was 93, and the worst was the San Francisco affiliate, which hit 23 as a team! Still, Koegel hit homers throughout his minor league career everywhere he went, finishing his career with 175 HRs in 1238 minor league games (4722 plate appearances, .248/.335/.429 slash line).

Koegel joined the A's at the time that they were putting together quite a good farm system. During spring training in 1967, he was vying for playing time against such notables as Joe Rudi and Reggie Jackson in the outfield and Dave Duncan at catcher. 

Even in the Arizona rookie league in 1966, he had to contend with future big leaguer Ted Ford, and the A's also had future Brewer Sal Bando playing the position a step higher in the organization.That rookie league team was stacked. It included Rick Monday, Dave Nelson, Cito Gaston, Reggie Jackson, Duffy Dyer, and Rollie FIngers. Later in his career, he shared minor league fields with Vida Blue, Gene Tenace, and Skip Lockwood. The A's did some great player identification work in that 1965 draft.

1994 Miller Commemorative Set
As Koegel worked his way up in the A's system, the biggest problem he had was finding a position. He played third in Arizona, outfield in his first pro season, first base and outfield in his second season, and mostly outfield after that. But when you're behind and play the same position as Joe Rudi, Rick Monday, and Reggie Jackson, you become expendable quickly. 

As a result, Koegel joined the Pilots organization in August of 1969 when the now-Oakland A's decided they wanted Jim Bouton's archenemy Fred Talbot and sent Koegel and Bob Meyer (Brewer #14) to Seattle. It was in the Milwaukee system that an attempt to put Koegel behind the plate as a catcher was tried -- just to get him on the field. 

Koegel went on to play in just nine total games for the Brewers -- 7 in 1970 and 2 in 1971. He was then shipped out by Frank "Trader" Lane along with friend of the blog Ray Peters to the Philadelphia Phillies for John Briggs on April 22, 1971.

Nothing personal, Ray or Pete, but I think Lane got the better of that deal. Maybe it was due to Ray messing up his shoulder in 1971, but Briggs spent parts of 5 seasons with Milwaukee and hit 80 HRs with the club and sported an OPS+ of 131 (31% above league average) over that time.

2018 Topps Heritage Pilots Autograph
After that trade to the Phillies, Koegel appeared in a total of 20 games in the major leagues, with 12 of those appearances being at catcher. Thanks to those 12 games, however, Pete is still the owner of a major league record: at 6-feet-6-inches tall, Pete is tied with Don Gile and Grayson Greiner as the tallest players ever to play catcher in the major leagues. Greiner is the most recent of the three to play, making his debut last year in May.

Because Ray Peters is still in contact with Pete, I asked Ray to ask Pete if the measurement of 6'6" tall was legitimate or if it was like college football measurements -- you know, a little bit of "extra" getting added in to improve appearances. Pete passed along that this is a legitimate measurement -- and in fact shorts him by 1/2"! He was measured at 6'6-1/2" by the United States Government for his military draft physical -- and that half inch meant that he was too tall for military service!

For what it's worth, the 1970 Milwaukee Brewers in spring training had the beginning of a good pickup basketball team. With Pete at 6'6-1/2" tall and with Ray Peters measuring nearly exactly the same, the team also had Gene Brabender at 6'5" tall, Wayne Twitchell at 6'6" tall, and 1971 debutante Bill Parsons also standing 6'6". Add in Don Bryant, who was a Rule V draftee (who was returned to the Astros) and stood about 6'5" tall as well, and you can go 6 players deep!

Ray also passed along a great story that Pete told about height. Pete was watching the MLB game of the week, and Tim McCarver was interviewing Dave Winfield. Winfield also stands a legitimate 6'6" tall, and he made two innings of appearances at third base. Winfield then claimed to be the tallest ever third baseman, and McCarver quickly corrected him to say that no, Pete Koegel is taller than you and he played 4 games at third in 1972.

Finally, Pete was a prodigious hitter in the winter leagues. While I am not sure what records he set with Leones, this Pinterest page says he has some. Plus, it gave us this great shot of Pete after the 1970s caught up to his facial hair:

My thanks to Ray Peters for giving me some great stories from Pete and about Pete, and thank you for reading. Koegel's three Brewers/Pilots cards are shown above, and I am missing the autographed 2018 Pilots Heritage card from last year.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

On Hiatus....Maybe Back Soon?

I have no idea what the song above is, but it came up when I Googled "Hurricane" and didn't want to use that country song by Luke Combs.

In any event, this is just a quick post -- posted when I should be working. I'm hoping to be back soon -- next month, hopefully. I want to write about baseball history again somehow. I want to write about Brewers baseball again. I may even write about baseball cards again.

But, I'm super busy until then. During the week of April 22, I am one of the Program Chairs for an American Bar Association Forum on Construction Law seminar taking place in Hollywood, Florida, called "Dealing with Natural Disasters: Here Comes The Flood (Of Legal Issues)." We are expecting between 450 and 550 people to attend this meeting, and I've been working for the past year-plus to put my portion of the meeting together.

Once that is done, I will finally have a little room to breathe on weekends (at a minimum) so I will hopefully get back to writing about things I really enjoy -- baseball, bourbon, music, the Brewers, history, baseball history, and Brewers history, among other things.

Until then, just find me on Twitter.