Monday, August 7, 2017

The Amen Break Featuring Cards from Angus

Over the course of about three weeks, I got several packages from my Canadian friend Angus of Dawg Day Cards. Angus first introduced himself to me about two years ago and immediately waded in on my card war with the legendary Jaybarkerfan. This summer, it seems that Angus found himself on a driving tour of the United States with stops in Ohio, Arizona, and parts in between. In the process, he stopped at card stores and bought things -- hopefully plenty for himself to get his blog reignited -- and a few things for other collectors.

I thought about this post as I was driving home today -- that I needed to get off my lazy butt and post some samples of the cards that Angus sent my way. I had no idea, however, what I was going to say about them or whether I would have music to go along with the cards.

Then, NPR's All Things Considered had a fascinating five-minute story about one of the most famous -- and most frequently sampled -- drum breaks in the history of rock: the "Amen Break." The break was played by the late Gregory Sylvester Coleman of a DC funk band called The Winstons, and it was in a B-side called "Amen, Brother." The song itself is a simple enough piece -- only 2-1/2 minutes of funky jazzy sounding beats. The break is located at about 1:25 in the song:

If you are a music fan, you'll recognize that break soon after you hear it. According to NPR, it's been sampled more than 2000 times. According to the exhaustive "Who Sampled" website, that total is actually in excess of 2500 (2661 and counting). 

That ought to give me enough options for songs to select to accompany the cards from Angus. So, let's get to it.

N.W.A., "Straight Outta Compton"

Needless to say, that song is NSFW. It's the most popular song according to "Who Sampled" to have sampled the Amen Break. It is pretty obvious in the song too -- literally the whole drumline on this song is the Amen Break on loop. And this is almost always the way that the break is used -- as the foundation for the entire song.


Speaking of foundations, the foundation of my baseball card collecting truly came from chasing police card sets. I know I have said it on many occasions, but these police cards created my love for oddballs and comprise a large portion of each player collection I have for players before about the year 1996. The police sets continued after 1996, but they just are not as easily available. 

As an aside, the Jerry Augustine above was the first new addition to his player collection since June of 2016 -- when I added another police card to my PC for him. 

Snow, "Informer"

Canadian rapper Snow used the Amen Break as the base for his famous song "Informer." Once again, as with N.W.A., the drum break -- here, slowed down a bit -- is basically the entire base for the song. I had to use Snow, after all, since he is Canadian -- having grown up in the North York district of Toronto.  

I have always liked this song for its fast, mostly incomprehensible lyrics and the reggae sound incorporated in it. That sound comes honestly -- Snow's neighborhood in Toronto was a heavily Jamaican area, and he is well respected in Jamaican-Canadian music circles for his music. It's also incredibly catchy -- thanks in part to the Amen Break.


I think this is perhaps my second Topps Pristine card and the first one that I have that is encapsulated by itself. I'm very tempted to take Richie out of the hermetically sealed package for ease of storage more than anything. Still, it's tough to disturb the Topps hologram seal on it. My little kid voice in my head keeps screaming, "You'll ruin it if you take it out of that case! Don't do it!"

I listen to that kid, usually. I mean, I still collect cards thanks to that kid, so why wouldn't I?

Yaz(oo), "Situation (The Aggressive Attitude Mix)"

This one takes a little bit more listening. Slowly but surely, however, that drum fill becomes clearer as the underneath drumline again. I've always been a big fan of Yaz (Yazoo in the UK). As I have mentioned before, Vince Clarke of Yazoo came out of Depeche Mode and formed Yazoo with Alison Moyet. After Yazoo, he teamed up with Eric Radcliffe as a band called "The Assembly." Later in his career, he joined up with Andy Bell to form Erasure. 

If you want to hear something truly cool, do a YouTube search for "Foreigner vs. Yazoo Urgent Situation". It is what it says it is -- a mashup of "Situation" and "Urgent" and it is fantastic.

I'm not sure that Warren Spahn would have ever heard of Yazoo, though he certainly heard of Yaz from the Red Sox. I have my doubts that Spahnie would have even cared about Foreigner either.

Before the advent of at-bat music and music for guys coming in from the bullpen and, well, the wall-to-wall music that now assaults our senses at every sporting event because God forbid fans be allowed to cheer organically for their team, how did fans know what music that baseball players liked? I find myself assuming that Spahn would have been a fan of Frank Sinatra or Guy Lombardo or something similarly big-band and tuxedo-clad. But does anyone know?

And what makes me contemplate this stuff, anyway?

Jay-Z featuring Mary J. Blige, "Can't Knock the Hustle (Desired State Remix)"

This song is a remix of Jay-Z's third single from his debut album, Reasonable Doubt. Mary J. Blige appeared on the track as a favor to Damon Dash. But, by the time that Jay-Z's album was about to drop, Blige had already blown up and her label did not want her associated with some unknown punk from New Jersey. So, Combat Jack a/k/a Reggie Ossé (a lawyer for Def Jam/Island) tells the story that he basically had to beg for her to remain in the song. The whole story is intriguing to me, and you can read it on the song's Wikipedia page because why should I type the whole thing again!

Hostess cards rule. These were all condition upgrades to the ones I had in my collection already from my little kid days. Those days saw me as a 6-year-old learning how to cut along lines to get the cards off the box. I wasn't always successful. Actually, I was downright terrible at it and have a bunch of Hostess cards that are miscut, cut crookedly, or have weird scissor cuts from a jagged-edge fabric scissors getting used.

Pete Broberg is an interesting guy. He went to Dartmouth from Palm Beach County and is the son of a one-time Palm Beach municipal court judge. He grew up surfing off Palm Beach island. He loves sci-fi books and movies, and spent much of his time at the theater on Clematis Street in West Palm Beach watching Saturday sci-fi matinees. 

He excelled in baseball in high school, and the Oakland A's made him their first round pick -- second overall -- in 1968. He was selected one spot behind Tim Foli, two spots ahead of Thurman Munson, and 126 picks and 5 rounds ahead of future Brewers star Cecil Cooper. He didn't sign, so the Washington Senators made him the first overall pick in the 1971 June Secondary Draft out of Dartmouth.

His career was not what one would have hoped for -- 41-71, 4.56 ERA in just under 1000 innings pitched. But, Pete was a smart man and attended Nova Southeastern Law School. He made Law Review and was published in the Nova Law Journal. Even more wisely, all he does is draft and administer wills and estates and handle residential real estate closings in the law firm that still bears the name of his dad's law partner and his dad. So, maybe some day in the future, he and I will run into each other at a Florida Bar Association meeting. After all, Construction Law falls under the Real Property and Probate section of the Florida Bar.

The Theme from Futurama

Perhaps I should have put Pete Broberg's card with this song.

You can hear the Amen Break for the first time around the 12-second mark of the song, and it appears on and off throughout the song. 

I've watched a few episodes of Futurama. I never started watching it regularly, probably because I never watch much of anything all that regularly unless my wife wants to watch something with me. I really have never been a big TV watcher -- I was always wanting to be outside or reading or listening to music or organizing my baseball cards. I also like silence a lot too.

To close things out, Angus sent me these Leaf Certified autographs from 1996. I believe that this is my first David Nilsson autograph, so that's really cool.

Mike Potts jumped out at me as being interesting in this group. Potts was born in Langdale/Valley, Alabama -- just across the Chattahoochee River from Georgia and south of I-85. He went to high school in Lithonia, Georgia -- a town just outside the I-285 "Perimeter" and just north of I-20 in Eastern DeKalb County. The Indians drafted him from Lithonia High School in 1989, but he did not sign. The Braves then drafted him in 1990 from Gordon College in Barnesville, Georgia and signed him. The Brewers signed him off waivers before the 1996 season, and Potts pitched in 24 games for the Brewers that year.

Potts was done with baseball after the 1996 season. He decided at that time to follow in his father's footsteps and became a police officer. He worked for a couple of years for the Durham Sheriff's Office before he joined the North Carolina Highway Patrol in 2001. Potts was injured in the line of duty in February of 2013 when, on what seemed to be a routine traffic stop, he was shot in both of his hands, in his shoulder, and in his face. 

Mikel Edward Brady II was sentenced to 20 years in prison as part of a plea deal for the shooting. Thankfully, Potts was able to return to his position within a year and by February 2014. Potts saw his bravery and resolve to get back to work as nothing more than just doing his job. In May of 2014, he received the North Carolina Purple Heart for injuries received in the line of duty. 

Here's a photo of him receiving that award:

Angus, thanks for the great cards -- and especially for the excuse to find out about Patrolman Potts and Pete Broberg!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Two More Crackin' Wax Breaks

Greetings from sunny and humid Ponte Vedra, Florida. I'm attending a trade organization meeting this weekend, which will leave me with a fair amount of downtime -- it will almost be like a vacation of sorts in some respects.

Of course, I still need to dodge the local fauna.

So, as I have written about a few times here on Off Hiatus, I subscribed to the "Topps Package" with Crackin' Wax as part of the charity case break series. The last two products in the package were Topps Series 2 and Museum Collection. 

I tend to forget about Series 2 being separate from Series 1. I'm still stuck in the 1980s, when all the cards were issued at once and had 792 cards in the set and had checklists without front photos and had prospect cards and team checklists. You know -- the good old days of wild overproduction! So, getting the guaranteed team set from Series 2 from Chris was a good thing. 

As for Museum Collection, I splurged on a box of it for myself back in 2014 when I got back into collecting. I like the product in many respects, but there are problems with it too. I like the base cards -- the high quality, thicker stock with a classier looking design appeals to me. I wish it could be a standalone product with just the base cards and two or three parallels sold in packs of 6 cards for $5 or something. The problem with it is the problem with all of Topps's non-flagship sets (other than 2017 Stadium Club for some reason): the Brewers generally get ignored. 

The Brewers really got shafted by both Series 2 and Museum Collection in terms of hits this year. It was so bad that I got money back from Chris on both breaks because of the lack of chances at a Brewers hit. So what did I get?

Let's hit up some music and introduce the cards!

How about a cover of a Loverboy song that sounds like it is being played in a drainage pipe? Sure, everybody is working for the weekend. No question about it. And there's nothing like a cover artist from Saskatchewan playing it to make it awesome!

These are the rest of the base cards from Series 2 that I didn't show in the break that Peter did. It's a mixed bag. Taylor Jungmann has spent most of the year in Triple-A. Kirk Nieuwenhuis has been added to the 40-man roster twice and designated for assignment twice so far this year. Matt Garza has been as good as you'd expect a mid-30s starter in a contract year who can't stay healthy to be. 

Chase Anderson was developing into a guy who could be an ace earlier this year before straining his oblique and being put on the DL on July 1. His injury arguably was as big a turning point in the NL Central race as the Cubs getting Jose Quintana was -- he was pitching that well. Don't believe me? Check this out: in his last 7 starts before the injury, he pitched 41-2/3 innings, giving up 21 hits and 8 walks, striking out 44 and allowing 6 earned runs (1.30 ERA, 4-1 record for him, 4-3 for the team with two losses blown by the bullpen). Those are ace numbers.

Finally, we have Eric Thames, who has cooled down (as you would expect) since April. He has been okay, but his April stats have obscured a slash line of .221/.338/.450 since May 1 (14 HR, 27 RBi in 293 plate appearances). That's acceptable based on the OPS, but that is a factor in why Jesus Aguilar is getting more playing time as the season goes on.

I'm not sure if this counts as "trip hop." It's pretty relaxing, even if the guy in the video wears too much eye makeup and yells at us all the time and even if the song is called "Dummy." 

Wait, I'm not a dummy, and neither is Chris. What is going on here?

Okay, now I get it. Parallels are for dummies. Well, if there are too many parallels its makes us all feel like dummies, I guess. This one is out of 65, if I recall correctly. You'll have to forgive me for being dumb and not noting that on my scan file even though I knew I would be doing this remotely.

Maybe I am a dummy?

This song was originally written by Puerto Rican composer Rafael Hernandez Marin, who was given the name "Mr. Cumbanchero" by President John F. Kennedy. Hernandez is a hero in the Puerto Rican community. There are schools in the Bronx, Boston, and Newark named for him, as is the airport in Aguadilla, PR. 

Always good to have a little bit of upbeat music on a Thursday to get you heading in the right direction for Friday and the weekend, right?

I'm pretty sure that Topps has been stamping "buybacks" just to get rid of its inventory of 1990 Topps cards from its warehouses. Perhaps I should try to put together a 1990 Franken-team-set of Brewers from these buybacks, but I really just don't like the idea of chasing the cards. I'll take them if people want to send them, but dang...actively seeking out the 1990s? No thanks.

Also, Robert Flores is a native Houstonian and a huge wrestling fan who apparently owns a Louisville Slugger autographed by Ric Flair. 

This song strikes me as a bit uninteresting. Alexa Goldie is a Canadian artist whom some were thinking might be the next Avril Lavigne, except that these songs just weren't all that great. 

I'm not sure if anyone has picked up yet on the theme uniting the songs I've used here today. Perhaps it would help if I told you that Topher Stott is the drummer on this song for Alexa Goldie? 

Right, Chris?

In reality, I've saved the best for last. For the first time in a long time, I beat the odds in a break and got legitimately great cards for my collection:

The "Meaningful Materials" serial numbered to 50 beat the odds for me. Getting a gold parallel for Braun was nice too, but Brewers hits have been sparse this year. In fact, they have been fairly nonexistent this year in the breaks in which I've been involved. So, when I finally had the opportunity to check in on the break and see what happened with it, I was incredibly excited to find out that I got a nice serial numbered patch. 

Still, I'd rather that there be a separate product for the base cards away from all the hits -- I mean, these designs are excellent and look sharper in hand -- even if the photo cropping makes the card look miscut. 

Chris...Topher...whichever....thanks for running these breaks and enjoy the Topher music!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

A Series 2 Break with Sylvia Plath

I really enjoy the diverse group of people that I encounter through the baseball card blogs and baseball card twitter and baseball cards generally. As with any group as diverse as ours, we all tend to find people that we are most like -- or at least with whom we get along best based on similar backgrounds, similar current lives, or even just similar dislikes. 

One of the people whom I feel like I truly get along with well is Peter from Baseball Every Night. I think we really bonded first over the dislike for the Ortiz-gasm that Topps had last year. Then I found out Peter is a serious, real-life scholar who focuses his scholarly life on the life and times and work of Sylvia Plath. 

I've never asked how or why that happened, but it's pretty cool to me to say that I actually know a real life world renowned expert in literally anything.

Peter broke a box of Topps Series 2 recently and was kind enough to send out the cards from the break on a per-team basis to whomever would pay the $3 shipping to get them. That sounded like a good deal to me, so I joined up immediately. Even though I had already joined Crackin' Wax's break (that will be my next post hopefully over the weekend), I told Peter I'd take the Brewers. After all, you never know when that single Brewers hit might come.

To honor Peter's generosity, let's go to music...inspired by Sylvia Plath. Now, I'm not 100% sure that these songs are all inspired by her or reference her. I'm just taking a Tumblr post's word for it.

1. Belle & Sebastian, "Enter Sylvia Plath"

I figured I'd go with a song that clearly is about her or references her -- Belle & Sebastian's "Enter Sylvia Plath" is pretty obvious about it. I chose a version that had the lyrics imposed on the video in case those help. 

This is a very long song -- over 6 minutes long -- and I have to admit that it got a bit repetitive to me. While the ballet dancing used in the video is cool, the vocals on this song start to meld together -- especially around the 4:15 point where the lyrics simply say, "From my faith [x36]." 

Let's start this Brewers post with two guys who have both had really top-notch seasons who might not get the publicity that other guys get. First, Travis Shaw, whom people know thanks to his having been with the Red Sox for two years. I don't know if it is just that he developed further since he is in his age-27 season or if it is that the Brewers had enough guts to just let him play third. 

One thing I will say that I don't like about his card is the attention to detail. Apparently, Topps Photoshop team couldn't be arsed to think about the fact that Milwaukee doesn't have red in its color scheme and, as a result, Shaw might just wear anything but red batting gloves. I have found photos from this year of him with pink, white, gray, blue, and black batting gloves...but not red.

The other big surprise story might just be "Sunday." Domingo Santana (for you non-Spanish speakers, Domingo in Spanish is Sunday) came over to Milwaukee from Houston in 2015 in the Carlos Gomez & Mike Fiers trade. Last year, he had some injuries that plagued him all year and limited his time on the field to just 77 games. This year, he is hitting .285/.374/.494 with 18 HRs and 9 SBs (in 12 attempts) while playing at a league-average level in right field. 

By the way, he doesn't turn 25 years old until Friday, has played 236 major league games, and yet he does not reach arbitration eligibility until 2019. 

2. The Bangles, "Bell Jar"

I'll admit it. I had no idea that this Bangles song existed. The Bell Jar, of course, is Plath's only novel and was published under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas. The book is said to be semi-autobiographical and shows parallels between Plath's own experiences with what might have been clinical depression and the protagonist's mental illness.

But I'm not a Plath scholar, and I have not read the book. Thus, I defer to Peter's wisdom and statements about it.

I will note that I'm not sure how a movie based on the book directed by Kirsten Dunst and starring Dakota Fanning will do. Hopefully, it will be a better movie than the 1979 version starring Marilyn Hassett and directed by Larry Peerce. No, I've never heard of them either.

Corey Knebel started the year as the setup man to Neftali Feliz. Neftali Feliz was a complete disaster in Milwaukee (27 innings, 23 hits, 8 HRs, 15 BB, 21 K, 5 losses), so Knebel took over as the closer in May. He's done fairly well, but the bullpen for Milwaukee has lost a lot of games for the team. I keep reminding myself that this is a growth year. 

Zach Davies has had a Pete Vuckovich in 1982-style year this year to date. His ERA is slightly worse than league average, his strikeouts are down by over 1 per nine innings, and his walks are up 0.7 walks per nine, and yet he has gotten such crazy run support that he has a 12-5 record. Pitcher wins are such a bullshit stat.

Again, I have to remind myself that Zach Davies only turned 24 before the beginning of this season. He needs to keep developing and improving, certainly, and we Brewers fans have to hope that he stays away from the injury bug.

3. Tears for Fears, "Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams"

This song was a B-side for Tears for Fears initially before being released as a single in 1991. Apparently the song was conceived of as taking a verse from the song "Sowing The Seeds of Love" sung as a rap, combined with a Talking Heads-style chorus, and put over the chord structure from one of Tears for Fears biggest hits, "Shout." 

The song title was pulled from a collection of short stories that Plath wrote that was published posthumously in 1977. The second print edition was split into four parts and included a number of new stories not available in the first edition.

Hernan Perez is like a Swiss Army knife. He's got tons of different uses -- even having pitched an inning this year -- but he is never the exactly correct tool for any particular situation. You need that knife's corkscrew in case you need to open a bottle of wine, but it's not an ideal corkscrew and there are far better ones available. You need that little scissors every once in awhile, but it's better to have a real, full-sized one. You get the picture. Perez is useful to have around to give guys around the diamond a break, a day off. If he starts every day, though, he's playing too much.

Jesus Aguilar was a surprise waiver claim from Cleveland before the season started. He played well in spring training to force his way onto the 25-man roster and has split time with Eric Thames at first base. He's a player that is nice to have around -- he's a good hitter who gets on base -- but he should be seen as expendable to improve the roster in the offseason.

Finally, those throwback uniforms on the team card are sweet, aren't they?

4. Breathe Owl Breathe, "Sylvia Plath"

Breathe Owl Breathe is a folk-rock band with a pretty unique sound. I mean, not many rock bands have a cellist playing pizzicato cello. Well, not many rock bands have a cellist. This show is from a series called "Sleepover Shows." The song is actually pretty cool, to be fair. Just very laid back. And, this video is 100% hippy. The band has an album called Passage of Pegasus that was produced by Eric Johnson of The Shins, for what it's worth.

The final cards I'm highlighting from Peter are these two. First, we have a Blue Jays-era Eric Thames photo in foil. It's odd -- I don't think I got any foil parallels in the Crackin' Wax case break, but I got one in this single box break.

The other card is, of course, the Legend Eddie Mathews. I think that's Mathews photo 3 that Topps always uses. Of course, Peter did not have to send me this card, but he knows I collect Mathews and was kind enough to make an exception.

Peter, many thanks to you for hosting the break. One more song for you: "Crackle And Drag" by Paul Westerberg.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A Big Fun Game Leaves Me With Questions

Today in my office, we discovered that one of my law partners' Sonos system is accessible by anyone with a Sonos app on their phone so long as their phone is connected to the office Wifi. This led to a discussion about the proper way to prank him with terrible music. I offered up a couple of suggestions before doing a Google search and finding what might be the worst song ever.

Try this one on for size:

English bands have put out some of the best music ever. Unfortunately, England also produces some of the worst shlock in the history of music. This song is called "Fast Food Song" and it's by the unimaginatively named Fast Food Rockers. This band was a novelty act in 2003 and 2004. It's catchy, right? But is it catchy enough that it should have reached #2 on the UK Singles chart? It did, and it failed to reach #1 only because of the band Evanescence.

Moving to songs an American audience would recognize, there is one song that even the band that sang it has disowned -- or at least one of the singers has. In the 1980s, Jefferson Airplane had morphed into the pathetic excuse for a band called Starship and released this dreck:

It is such a bad song that GQ put together an oral history of the song discussing how it came to be. Basically, about everything in the song came together in stages and was written by an assembly line of songwriters. As Grace Slick said in "Vanity Fair" in June of 2012, 
I was such an asshole for a while, I was trying to make up for it by being sober, which I was all during the '80s, which is a bizarre decade to be sober in. So I was trying to make it up to the band by being a good girl. Here, we're going to sing this song "We Built This City on Rock & Roll." Oh, you're shitting me, that the worst song ever.
Yes, Grace, it's pretty damn awful.

So, why all this about the worst songs ever? 

I struck out badly in the "Big Fun Game" that ran on All Trade Bait, All the Time. I had two different lots stolen from me -- the 1960s lot and the 1950s lot. Rather than getting those -- both of which would have been excellent -- I ended up instead with a bunch of random stuff that I really could not use.

Such as?

Red Sox.

Lots of Red Sox.

Even Gypsy Queen Red Sox. With the luck I had in that game, of course, I got Rookie Star Andrew Benintendi at just the point when Benintendi disappeared from consciousness and Aaron Judge became the star outshining everyone on the planet and the only player in Major League Baseball, according to the MLB Network and Topps Now.

Complicating matters -- making them better or worse, depending on your position on weird oddballs -- was the main item on which the lot was focused:

For the Rangers fan who always thought Nolan Ryan should hang on their Christmas tree, I have just the item for you! A Nolan Ryan ornament!

It's not Oscar's fault, of course, that I happened to have the luck of picking two good lots only to see them stolen away from me. It's the luck of the draw. And I just had Bad Bad Luck.

Right, boys?

My thanks go out to Oscar for running the game, and my curses go out to my bad luck. At least Social Distortion doesn't suck like Starship or the Fast Food Rockers.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

A Card Show in June

About a month ago, my pal Joey a/k/a Dub Mentality tagged me and Dayf a/k/a Card Junk on Twitter with an announcement about a small card show at a local antique mall here in Atlanta. It gave me an excuse to get up and active on a Saturday morning when I otherwise might have just sat at home, so I marked the tweet and made sure to go.

I'm glad I did.

It had been a while since I had attended a local card show. In fact, it had been probably four or five months. As a result, the folks whose dime boxes I tend to clean out had restocked their supplies of Brewer cards. This led to a great show for me. I even found a non-Brewer I needed:

I know I have posted a lot of Pearl Jam songs here, but they are my favorite band. So, guess what? Y'all have to deal with them again.

While I know that "Last Kiss" -- a cover of a 60s song that PJ issued as a Christmas bonus vinyl to its fan club in 1998 before it was included on a charity album for Kosovar refugees in 1999 -- was PJ's highest ever charting song when it number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, "Even Flow" is to me one of the band's biggest hits. The band absolutely did not like the take that ended up on its album Ten, with guitarist Mike McCready saying that they redid the track 50 or 70 times and played it "over and over until we hated each other."

For what it's worth, Rolling Stone put this song at #77 on a list of the "100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time" and VH1 listed it at number 30 of the "100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs." After 26 years of hearing the song, I still like it. There's nothing new about it, but sometimes having those classic hits to go back to is a good thing.

Speaking of classics, here are some new cards of classic players from the Milwaukee Braves. I teased the Hank Aaron bat relic card on Twitter right after the show, and it got rave reviews. It's an early relic in terms of baseball card history, so perhaps it is a bat that Hank actually used in a game at some point as opposed to a bat he picked up in Upper Deck's offices, swung it once, and then it got called "event used."

The Spahn Cy Young award card is a super-thick manu-relic from about five years ago. Topps has gone to thinner manu-relics these days. I'm guessing that is a cost measure to save a few bucks on not buying real metal for the relic and saving a few pennies on card stock. 

The Hank Aaron Hall of Fame card just made me realize that there is an error in the Cramer Baseball Legends set that I wrote up for the 1980s Oddball blog yesterday. On the back of Aaron's card, it lists him as being inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1981, but he was inducted in 1982. Perhaps that was meant to mean that he was voted into the Hall in 1981. Of course, the real issue I'm having is that his card was included in the 1980 Series 1 set. While he was certainly guaranteed of induction, did Cramer's first issuance of that 1980 card really say he would be inducted in 1981? I'm all confused now.

Finally, those chrome Bowman cards are all nice and shiny. I appreciate the effort at times from Topps/Bowman to keep baseball's past greats in our consciousness by including them in new card sets. It's fun to get new Spahn cards, even if it is the same photo from the 2015 Archives set. I do wish that Topps expanded its pre-World War II player list to go beyond just Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, and Lou Gehrig to add some of the other greats of the 1920s and 1930s. Maybe an Al Simmons card? Or some of the guys in that Cramer Baseball Legends set that you never see in card sets these days like Rabbit Maranville. 

There's always room for improvement. As one law school professor I had once said, "There's nothing so impeccable that it can't be pecked at."

In 2009, Pearl Jam released its album Backspacer. The breakout hit from that album was this introspective ballad called "Just Breathe." Backspacer was a much more upbeat and optimistic and less political album than the band's previous efforts -- a fact that the band attributed to Barack Obama's election. 

The album was also the first time since 1998's Yield that the band worked with Atlanta-based producer Brendan O'Brien on a full album. Indeed, the album was finished at Southern Tracks studio here at Atlanta in April of 2009.

The show provided me an opportunity to stock up on some Ryan Braun cards. Braun is the longest-serving current Brewers player, having passed the ten-year mark with the team earlier this year. He's the team's all-time leader in home runs and, recently, became the team's all-time leader in grand slams. 

As far as other categories, he's third in career WAR (45.0), tied for second with Paul Molitor in batting average (.303), tied for sixth with Richie Sexson in OBP (.366), first in SLG (.544), second in OPS at .911 behind Prince Fielder's .929, fifth in games played with 1401, third in runs scored at 913, fifth in hits with 1642 (54 behind Jim Gantner), third in total bases, fourth in doubles, third in triples, second in RBI, fifth in walks, third in stolen bases, and second in extra base hits (having passed Paul Molitor earlier this year). 

He's creeping up on career totals that give him a potential Hall of Fame argument, or would had it not been for the Biogenesis stuff. Maybe that's what's preventing me from saying that I'd still collect his cards in another uniform, but he's not to that point yet. He's close.

This past Friday at work, four of us got into a very heated discussion about the fact that one of our co-workers did not see much difference between Pearl Jam and Journey. Needless to say, I lost a lot of respect for that misguided opinion coming from someone who otherwise is an educated man. 

I think the reason that he has such an incredibly wrong opinion is contained within another statement he made: that he's not a "live music guy." To me, that's the very essence of Pearl Jam. Their concert versions of songs simply are better than what gets laid down in the studio. The sound is warmer, less antiseptic. Vedder's vocals in concert are just better than what gets put down as a remixed studio track. 

Also, if you're not a "live music" guy or gal, your life priorities are wrong.

I found a vein of the Panini Diamond Kings as well. I think these were in a quarter box, which is slightly annoying for new issues but not as annoying as having a card called "originals" featuring Paul Molitor as a Minnesota DH. 

Still, if ever I were inclined to collect any particular Panini set, it would be the Diamond Kings set. I like the card stock with its canvas feel. The artwork and touch-ups taking these from being photos to make them into what look like paintings is of excellent quality -- much better than the garbage retouching that happens with the Donruss brand. 

On the other hand, that Aurora card of Jonathan Villar may be the most godawful insert of 2017. It's ugly as hell with all that orange coloration. Also, I am guessing that the Aurora insert is meant to signify some sort of sunrise or draw a parallel to a sunrise. If my sunrise has those colors appearing in that way, I'm thinking a nuclear bomb has been dropped.

This song is one that came off PJ's second album, Vs.. The song is a reaction to all the media coverage the band got in its early days, in part from "Spin", "Rolling Stone" and "Circus"; this led to the lyric, "SPIN me round, ROLL me over, f**kin' CIRCUS" in the song. The basic idea behind it is that the media used the band and bled them to "fill their pages."

I can understand how that would be a pain in the ass. No doubt. It's a rage song of guys tired of getting used to sell magazines. When PJ was at its height in the 1990s, people wanted that blood. They wanted that drama. Now that the band is more mature and its fans tend to be more mature, I think the band and its fans appreciate not the drama but the journey in getting there. 

But not the band Journey. 

The rich vein of Brewers cards I found also yielded some decent parallels, inserts, and autographs. Sure, the Carlos Lee card says he is on the Astros, and when the card was released he was. But he's shown on the Brewers so it's a Brewers card. For $1, I'll take that.
While I don't chase Wily Peralta cards and, therefore, have no real reason to pick up a silk card from 2013 serial numbered to 50, I think it was $0.50. For that, I'll take literally any serial numbered Brewers card that I don't have in my collection. Even a Gary Sheffield card.

The rest of these were all $0.50 or $1 or somewhere in that range. I got them all thrown in on a package deal with all the other dime and quarter cards, so I don't quite recall how much each was individually.  

Finally, "Light Years" was released in 2000 from the album Binaural. Recording this song was a chore from all indications. When it started out, it was too close to "Given to Fly" as a song. According to interviews the band has given, the song had its tempo changed, its keys changed, its drum part changed, and its arrangement changed dozens of times before it came together in its current form. 

The song itself is actually about the death of a friend. If you can find a copy of the lyrics, it is worth it to read them. At various times, the band has dedicated the song to Diane Muus of Sony Music (a friend of the band who died at age 33 in 1997) and to Gord Downie, whose band The Tragically Hip was playing their last show on the same night that Pearl Jam played Wrigley. Downie has been diagnosed with glioblastoma, a terminal brain cancer.

While the song is a bit of a downer, these cards are all really uppers. All of these are player collection cards for me. I think the Fielder manu-patch may have run me about $2, but the rest were all very affordable. 

As always, I recognize I am really lucky with how many card shows there are around Atlanta on a regular basis. With the recent Judge-mania gripping the hobby, there's some hope that this moment could be a real turning point for our hobby in bringing in new collectors -- particularly kids -- who are big fans of the young superstars of the day like Judge, Kris Bryant, and Mike Trout. 

Let's hope that Topps doesn't view this rise like the media viewed the rise of grunge -- in it only to suck all the blood and fun out of everything.