Thursday, February 22, 2018

2018 Eric Thames Inserts from Baseball Every Night

I have met a couple of bloggers in person. For example, I have met up with Dayf/Dave who may still post occasionally at Cardboard Junkie but who really can be found on Twitter as @cardjunk

This past fall, I was in Boston for an ABA seminar/meeting for work. I got in a day early to go to meetings, so I had some available time one morning. It allowed me to meet up with a guy who I really respect -- P K a/k/a Peter of Baseball Every Night. We were able to grab coffee at Starbucks and sit like two old men on a park bench across the street from the Boston Public Library for as long as Peter could afford to be missing in action from work and just hang out and talk about everything but cards.

I really enjoyed getting that opportunity. It ended up being a baseball day -- my wife and I walked to Fenway too:

What's even cooler is that Peter still speaks to me even after we met in person. I can be a little much sometimes, and I can drop off the face of the planet for a while too, so that's not always a given.

At any rate, Peter has been opening up some 2018 Topps. He was lucky enough (from my perspective) to pull two inserts that are Brewers. Well, two Eric Thames Inserts to be specific:

On the left, we have an Eric Thames "Opening Day 2018" insert, and on the right we have a "Memorial Day" insert of Thames. The brick thing coming off Thames's chin on the left makes it look like he's smoking a big fat stogie of sorts. The green on the right looks like Panini took over the Topps printing facility for a day to come up with weird, incorrect color combinations.

In all seriousness, I'm glad I got these. I've stopped chasing inserts and parallels for anyone other than my player collections effective starting with the 2018 season in part because it takes forever to catalog them and in part because it's simply not fun trying to find 12 versions of the same card with different color effects for literally everyone on the team. 

But, I will still take the inserts if people are willing to send them my way. 

Now, to thank Peter, let's hear from one of his player collections. Peter collects two guys who seem like they may not enjoy hanging out together. The first is Los Angeles native Darryl Strawberry, and the other is Charleston, West Virginia, native John Kruk. Maybe that's why he likes them. 

Let's focus on Kruk. I enjoyed watching him as a player, and I turn the TV off on him as an analyst. He's a self-professed redneck too, which isn't that big of a deal to me because that's how I grew up. That said, he got together with a group of unknown-to-me country singers and came up with a country-music theme for "Baseball Tonight." Since I don't watch the show, I have no idea how well know this song is, but here goes:

Peter, thank you as always for the cards and for being a cool guy to interact with -- I greatly appreciate your thoughtfulness and watching your beer consumption.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Cards from JT at The Writer's Journey

See, guys and gals? I'm really trying now. I am. I know I need to get better about posting if I want to call myself a blogger, so here I am. 

As a lot of you know, I got lucky in winning a box of 2018 Topps from Steel City Collectibles on Twitter. So, I made it my goal to send as much of that out the door as quickly as possible. One of the beneficiaries was JT at The Writer's Journey. JT sent me cards about two years ago, at which time I confessed that his blog was one of the first ones I'd really ever read. 

Since then, I've been lucky to interact with him on Twitter on a regular basis and have really gotten to like his understated nature. He's a great guy to follow there.

Perhaps thanks to me sending cards to him or him just having too many Brewers lying around his house, I got a package from him. And since his blog just covered that his favor song about memory is Skid Row's "I Remember You" (which I've posted twice here and I won't do it again), I'm going with other great hair bands/songs from that same era.

Let's start off mostly in the late aughts, but with a Donruss thrown in. First off, it's Bill Hall, whose random 35-HR season in 2006 in the context of his career looks more and more suspicious every day...positively Brady Andersonesque. 

In the midst of that 2006 season, a random blogger -- whose blog still exists has not been deleted -- made one of those "Bill Hall is superman" posts. That blogpost included such statements as, "There are no steroids in baseball, only players Bill Hall breathed on."

Um, okay. Even funnier to me, though, is that the post has 20 comments. No kidding -- three legit anonymous posts, one from someone named Jamie (Easterly?), and then 16 spam comments. 

First song out of the box is Alice Cooper's "Poison." I remember hearing this song in my high school band room and thinking it was pretty cool. Like, cool enough that I asked the girl who owned the tape if she would dub it for me (which she was nice enough to do). I later found out that this song was really Alice Cooper trying to take the rough edges off his persona so he could become a member of the celebrity golf tour. Sort of.

Incidentally, the actress who appears in this video is a woman named Rana Kennedy, who is now a masseuse and pilates trainer to the stars in Carlsbad, California. 

I do love me some oddballs. JT's actually been interspersing these Baseball Champion packages around the blogosphere over the past month. For me, though, these two stay packaged. After all, a clear plastic card package with a player collection member on the top is another item to add to my player collections for Ben Oglivie and Cecil Cooper.

Then there is that wannabe 1959 Topps Paul Molitor. Baseball Cards Magazine almost got their font right for it. They messed up the font spacing on the name. Close, though. 

If you were a teenager alive in 1989 and you weren't really into garbage songs by Debbie Gibson and New Kids on the Block, you probably thought that Living Colour was one of the most awesome bands on the face of the planet thanks to their album Vivid. Now, Corey Glover's choice of a bright yellow Body Glove surfing outfit as stage wear is a bit dated, but this song is just as awesome today as it was then. 

For what it's worth, Living Colour just released a new album last year called Shade. I haven't checked it out yet...I will be soon.

While I hate to do scan dumps, I also am trying to focus more on posts that don't go on for 18 pages. So, sometimes, that will mean a scan dump will result. Lots of Bowman, some old school Upper Deck (please let them make cards again, MLB. Please. Limit them to 5 sets and 2 parallels if you're worried about market saturation. Seriously.), and even some Topps too.

One last song:

Please recall that I was 17 and turned 18 in late 1989, so you'll understand when I say that this song, too, reminds me of a girl I knew then. Actually, it was a girl I went out with a few times who was from a different school from me. She was from a good Irish-Catholic family and was a very good student. I was from a non-Catholic family and enjoyed having fun, but I was totally a goody goody too and was a good student. So, we got along well and had fun with each other and our mutual friends. 

She was almost 6' tall, had long, curly black hair, and really long legs too. And I had troubles sometimes describing her eye color because it varied greatly depending on the sunlight. So, this song totally reminds me of her. She is now the CEO of a company based in the Midwest, so she did quite well for herself. 

Me? I'm a baseball card blogger. Again. Finally.

JT, thank you very much for the cards.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Orioles Rise and I'm Falling Behind

I spent most of this weekend cataloging my oddballs on Trading Card Database. My card count of just Brewers that I have is up to 21,773...and I haven't really gone through my binders to catalog those properly. This is not to mention the fact that I probably should have been doing some work this weekend.

Oh well.

Of course, that means that I've been a bit of a quiet hermit today, even though all that cataloging has been a really good time.

Yeah, something good. 

Someone who always seems to be into something good is my pal Cliff a/k/a @oriolesrise on Twitter. Cliff is always going to auctions and sales and seems to always come away with tons of great, eclectic stuff. He says he collects everything, and when you follow him on Twitter, you know he is not exaggerating to say that. 

I was lucky enough to receive a package of random items from him around the beginning of the year, so let's see what showed up.

These "Baseball Rub Offs" are ones that seems like they should be easier to find than they are. In my four years back in collecting, I've gotten two Robin Younts and ... these two. For some reason, these two dredged up some hair metal from its last death throes in late 1990/early 1991:

The song: "Screwed Blued & Tattooed". The band: Sleeze Beez.

Embarrassingly, I actually owned that tape for a while. It had a song that seemed appropriate for one's freshman year of college: "When the Brains Go to The Balls."

Soon thereafter, I first heard Nirvana and life was much, much better musically.

Believe it or not, I did not have these two Mollys in my team collection. You'd think that major-brand cards from 1989 literally would be tumbling out of my closet (and they are) but these two were only in my Molly collection.

Thanks for Molly, Cliff. These two songs are not, however, 16 candles down the drain.

After these cards and tattoos, things got a little weirder. Much cooler too. Because oddities are the best.

Cliff took the matches out of these old matchbooks from the early 1980s. You have to love these things. So, the back stories? 

Merle Harmon was the first lead announcer for the Milwaukee Brewers when they first moved to town in 1970. He started up "Fan Fair" in Milwaukee around that time, and built it into a 140-store chain before selling the business. Harmon left the Brewers in 1980 to go to work for NBC. He ended up working with the Rangers after that. He passed away in April of 2009 at the age of 83.

Parker Pens are awesome pens, in case you're not familiar with them. They are high-end pens -- Wikipedia calls them a "luxury" pen -- which is now owned by Newell Brands/Newell Rubbermaid. The plant in Janesville closed in 2009 thanks to corporate downsizing.

Music to go with matches?

Of course, my head went to the very end of this song with the lighting of a very loud match starting a fire and burning this damn place down...ooh hoo...down to the grounds. Heh heh heh heh heh heh....

I love schedules. Back in the 1980s, I think I read an article in Baseball Cards Magazine that talked about collecting schedules, so I wrote to a number of teams and got schedules from them. I also grabbed as many schedules as I could find at local retailers. And yet, I don't think I had any of these. 

I was looking at the 1976 schedule and noticed that there was a Scout Day that year. I have a very faint memory of being at that game because my older brother (who would have been 8) was in Cub Scouts at that point. It's a faint memory because, well, I was only 4 years old.

If you're going to go to the game, you'd better know what time it is. I recently watched a documentary on Netflix about the band Chicago f/k/a Chicago Transit Authority that was fascinating. I have been watching a bunch of music documentaries lately there -- it's a fun way to hear the backstories of the bands that otherwise would have made a VH1 "Behind the Music" except that show doesn't exist anymore as far as I know. 

But I ramble.

In any event, if you like music and documentaries, check that one out.

The final item in the package from Cliff was this awesome 8x10 autographed by Don Money. Money is a PC, and I have a couple of his autographs from later in his career. Money is a guy whom a lot of fans today don't know but who had a really good career. He was with the Phillies from 1968 through 1972, when the Brewers traded Ken Brett, Jim Lonborg, Ken Sanders, and Earl Stephenson to Philadelphia and, in return, got Money, Bill Champion, and John Vukovich. 

He arrived in Milwaukee at the age of 25 and got plugged in at third base for the most part. He was a four-time All-Star for the Brewers, and while he was never going to be a Hall of Famer, he was an excellent player through 1978 for the team. From 1979 to 1983, he was a platoon DH with Roy Howell and occasionally played some third base, second base, and first base. He got the short end of the stick when the Brewers got Sal Bando and Cecil Cooper in 1977 and, then, lost his spot at second base thanks to Paul Molitor's emergence in 1978.

Don't mind if I take the Money and run at all.

Thanks, Cliff, for the great package and for the patience in my not even writing it up for 6 weeks! 

Monday, February 12, 2018

Christian Yelich, Card #1

As I mentioned in my last post, I decided to start collecting Christian Yelich cards showing him on the Brewers. Yelich is 26 years old, having turned that age last December 5. Yelich is the kind of player that the Brewers should be building around -- young but experienced with a good batting eye.

On his trade, Topps issued a Topps Now card for him. The Yelich card only had a print run of 177 cards, so hopefully the guys from whom I bought the card for $5.50 bought 20 of the cards at $3.99 a card to maximize their profits. Let's take a look:

After two years of complaining about ToppsNow ignoring the Brewers, I've come to the conclusion that I'd prefer that Topps continue ignoring the Brewers. If over 2,800 people/Yankees fans want to get a Giancarlo Stanton card about a press conference, I mean, let Topps play P.T. Barnum with those people and take them for their $4 to $10 a card accordingly.

So, now that I have a Christian Yelich card for my Yelich collection, let's learn a little bit about the newest Brewer.

1.  Christian Yelich was NOT always considered a top prospect

When Yelich was first evaluated by Perfect Game, he was rated during his junior year of high school as a 7.5 -- somewhere between being a "College prospect, possible future draft pick with development" and "Potential draft pick and/or excellent college prospect." At his national showcase in mid-2008, however, he was bumped up to being a 9.5. That put him just shy of being a potential very high draft pick and/or elite level college prospect" and above being a potential top 10 round pick. He eventually signed a letter of intent to attend the University of Miami over UCLA despite having given his verbal commitment to UCLA.

2.  Yelich probably likes rap music.

I know -- going out on a limb saying that a suburban-born-and-raised white kid likes rap, right? But, going by the MLB Plate Music website, Yelich used Drake's "Cameras/Good Ones Go" in 2015:

In 2016, he changed (or perhaps added) a song by Future called "Fly Shit Only" as another walkup song:

Apparently, in 2017, he went back to "Cameras" for his music -- at least according to, that is.

Now, to throw you a curve, a Reddit post from 2016 had a poster saying that Yelich had "Take It Outside" by Brantley Gilbert. 

I don't know if that is true. Based on the video, it could very well be true because Yelich has a brother in the Marines. If it is, it gives me a Georgia tie since Gilbert is from Jefferson, Georgia, which is just north of Athens.

3. Many people think Yelich looks like SNL's Pete Davidson.

Maybe so. See the AP photo below. What do you think?

The Marlins took it so far in 2015 as to have Davidson come in to Miami and take batting practice and fly balls with Yelich's jersey on. 

Maybe that is the reason that Yelich wanted out of Miami as much as he did?

4.  Yelich's Grandfather is Japanese. Maybe?

The rather poor Google translation of this link says that he is "Japanese-affiliated." That got put on Wikipedia as his grandfather being Japanese. Kenny, you read Japanese: What does this all say:

5. Yelich hangs out with Baker Mayfield sometimes.

Twitter is a great look into the real lives of baseball players from time to time. If we had had Twitter in the days of Gorman Thomas and Pete Vuckovich carousing around Milwaukee and engaging in unsavory behavior, might we have a different view of them today than we do?

Okay, probably bad examples to use.

Anyway, last week, these two photos got tweeted into my timeline somehow. On the left in both photos is Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield -- last seen in Pasadena being informed wisely by Davin Bellamy to "Humble himself"...well, I have to put that video up...

Anyway, getting back to Baker...he tweeted out that his "dude Christian Yelich made an upgrade to the Brewers so naturally [he] had to get some custom gear ordered." The photos he tweeted out are below.

Weirdly, some Brewers fans on Reddit did not appreciate me saying that Mayfield's other sweatshirt says, "Property of Roquan Smith."

So, that's a little bit about Christian Yelich, along with my first Yelich Brewers card. I'm thinking that my next Yelich card probably will end up being another Topps Now card -- it will take Topps at least until midyear to catch up with this move because it always does.

No problem though -- I look forward to the first Yelich walk-off win.

Thanks for stopping by and, if you know Japanese, if one of you could confirm the whole Japanese lineage thing that Yelich has going on, that would be cool too.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Moving Forward Part II: A New Player Collection

There's a lot of buzz and excitement amongst Milwaukee Brewers fans thanks to what I'll call Tremendous Transaction Thursday. It's almost like it's January of 1979 again in Milwaukee, where the team was coming off its first ever winning season. Or, maybe it's like December 1980, when the Brewers went to the winter meetings and pulled off what remains the biggest trade in team history to get Ted Simmons, Pete Vuckovich, and Rollie Fingers from the St. Louis Cardinals.

As you probably know by now, in the space of about an hour, the Brewers made two massive moves -- first trading away #1 prospect Lewis Brinson, #6 prospect Monte Harrison, #14 prospect Isan Diaz, and pitcher Jordan Yamamoto to the Miami Marlins in return for Christian Yelich, and then signing former Brewer Lorenzo Cain to a 5-year, $80 million contract.

The Marlins made the move to trade Yelich for obvious reasons: after the team traded away Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna, Yelich had made it clear that he did not want to be the only major league player in Miami. And, the Brewers had depth in prospect talent that few teams could match, and their depth made for a good match for the Marlins needs.

Further to that point, the Marlins simply did not have much in the way of positional prospect talent in their system. Indeed, prior to this offseason's trades, basically all of the Marlins top prospects were pitchers. Prior to the trade with the Brewers, the only position players in the Marlins' Top 10 prospects according to MLB Pipeline were Magneuris Sierra (obtained in the Marcell Ozuna trade with St. Louis) and 24-year-old 3B Brian Anderson, a third-round pick in 2014 who made it to the majors for a short look last year. Now, their top ten features Brinson at #1, Harrison at #2, and Diaz at #9.

I was so ready for Brinson to be the next big Brewers star. Good luck to him in Miami.
Why would Milwaukee make these moves? First and foremost, the Brewers still have a ton of prospect talent remaining, including new #1 prospect Corey Ray (whom I don't buy as the #1 prospect right now, to be fair) and last year's competitive balance #1 pick, Tristen Lutz. Plus, the club still has tons of depth in the outfield from which to trade, if they choose. Starting pitching would be an obvious place to improve, and having Domingo Santana, Keon Broxton, and/or Brett Phillips as a trade chit could help bring in some help near the top of the rotation. Maybe the Rays would take Broxton for Jake Odorizzi so that the Brewers could get another of the guys from the Zack Greinke trade with Kansas City back (since they have both Jeffress and Cain back!).

The team could also choose to be creative and set up a plan to get all of their top 5 OF (Braun, Yelich, Cain, Santana, and Phillips) plenty of games and plenty of rest at the same time. The team struggled to score runs last year when Braun was out injured, and his advancing age (he's now 34 years old) means that finding him games to rest and working him into a platoon at first with Eric Thames. Thames crushed righties to the tune of .265/.382/.551 last season with 25 HRs in 440 plate appearances, but he hit just .182/.270/.394 against lefties. While Jesus Aguilar did a nice job in that platoon/pinch-hitting role last year, Braun would be a step up at that position hitting-wise (assuming Braun can learn the footwork at yet another new position).

At any rate, both Cain and Yelich now have contracts that, assuming no extensions, are scheduled to keep them with the team for five years each. That level of commitment and the potential to keep contending for at least that five-year period has me excited.

So excited, in fact, that I'm breaking my own internal rules that a player has to do something for the Brewers before I make them a player collection.

Yes, I am going to add Christian Yelich as a player collection. For right now, I'm just going to collect his Brewers cards. If things go really well, perhaps that will change.

Who knows? If things go well, perhaps Lorenzo Cain will be a PC by the end of 2018. 

Thanks for stopping by. 

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Taking Stock for 2018

Men of philosophy often contemplate important questions of life: What is the optimum governmental system for humans to organize themselves? If God is omnipotent, omniscient, and benevolent, why does he allow human suffering? What is the natural state for human economics? 

Some of us are nearly equally philosophical about questions that to outside observers seem less important: should there be more than one official MLB licensee for baseball cards? Is Topps evil or simply horribly incompetent? What card sets should be issued every year? Or even this one:

Noted philosopher W. Axl Rose's oft-repeated question is what is on my mind at this point: where do I go now with my collection? 

My answer to that question is not as easy as it was in the past. When I first got back into collecting about four years ago, I was incredibly naive and thought I would try to build a Brewers collection that would be as complete as possible. 

In those early days, much of my time was spent tracking down checklists, figuring out want lists, chasing stuff on eBay, and ripping open pack after pack. Even then, frustration was beginning to seep in as I catalogued stupid parallel after stupid parallel in dozens of Topps-issued products. 

In the past two years, my time for collecting fell as I became much more involved with work-related efforts with the American Bar Association and, particularly during 2017, as Georgia football took more of my in-person time going to games and my mental time seeking out information about upcoming opponents and the like. This is why I have blogged much less in the past two years than I did in my first two years blogging too.

At the same time, my frustration with Topps grew and grew. Topps Now became an excuse to issue as many cards for the "major market" teams at the expense of teams like the Twins, the Brewers, and the Blue Jays. Even in 2017 as Milwaukee was the final team eliminated from playoff contention in the final week of the season, Topps Now nearly ignored Milwaukee. 

The Brewers had thirteen Topps Now cards issued last season. In contrast, including multiple relic and autograph cards, Aaron Judge by himself had 65 Topps Now cards. Add in the 43 postseason and offseason cards and autographs and relics for him, and Judge had 108 Topps Now cards of the 220 Yankees Topps Now cards this past season. Heck, including autographs and relics, Team Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic had 22 cards issued. 

I'm not going to turn this into a "Topps sucks" rant, though, because whether I like Topps or not is irrelevant. If I am going to collect baseball cards, my only choice is Topps for licensed, current cards of major league baseball players. One can agitate for change, but when the agitator is ignored by the powers that be, continuing to rage into the ether is a fruitless exercise -- particularly when one is talking about a hobby and not something very important in life like things going on with one's national government.

So, I'm done with beating my head into a wall where it comes to complaining about too many parallels, or too many Yankees, or too many high-end releases, or simply ugly cards. It's just not worth my limited time. Instead, I'm ignoring that stuff. Going forward, I'm collecting player collections -- which, yes, will include parallels -- and I'm collecting team sets of the base cards for the products that I choose to collect. 

For example, I got this card from Dennis from Too Many Verlanders/Manninghams just before the end of 2017:

I will still try to collect these cards because Ryan Braun is a player collection. Another card I'll seek out:

Again, any Younts that I can add to my collection will be added when I can find them.

But, it means that I will change other things. It means no more tracking and chasing every damn parallel for every card release. It means no more buying Topps Now cards unless it is a player collection for me. It means no more involvement with case breaks, because I don't need 11 copies of Topps Flagship's Will Middlebrooks.

Instead, I'm going to spend more time going into the archives, so to speak, and I don't mean Topps Archives. I mean finding cool oddballs, interesting schedules, magazines, programs, autographed photos, and other memorabilia that I like. Two more examples from Dennis of things I really like and will chase:

I will always collect magazines that have Brewers on the cover. 

I will still try to blog this coming year as well. I still enjoy the Meet the Brewers posts, and I should be doing more of them. I will probably try to mix in more posts about what is in my collection already. And, I will thank people for their kindness when they send me cards. 

Also, I will still try to keep putting music into my blogs. I love music. 

In other words, I will stop trying to do everything and collect everything. I'll stop being my own worst collecting enemy.

Thanks go out to Dennis for the cards and magazines in this post. And thanks go out to all of you who read this.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Meet the Brewers #39: Bernie Smith

It's about time that I get back to writing about one of my favorite interests: the history of the Brewers. Today, we get to Brewer #39, Bernie Smith. Bernie debuted with the Brewers by playing in both halves of a July 31 doubleheader in which the Brewers were swept by the New York Yankees. 

1971 Topps
Calvin Bernard Smith has an incredible story for a man who who only played in 59 games and got 127 plate appearances between 1970 and 1971 as his entire big-league career. Smith was 28 years old -- almost 29 -- when he made his debut in Milwaukee. He got his first hit in the nightcap of the doubleheader: an infield single off Fritz Peterson. How Smith arrived at that point in time, though, is the intriguing part.

He was listed at 5'9" tall and allegedly weighed 164 pounds. In the two long articles about him that I have read, however, Bernie immediately laughed those numbers off and admitted that he might reach 5'7" tall in spikes and played at 152 pounds. Being so slight of stature hampered his opportunities. While he attended Southern University in Baton Rouge -- a school which 30 years later produced Brewers first round pick Rickie Weeks -- Bernie Smith did not play baseball at Southern. He was too busy trying to get signed to play pro baseball.

His efforts to get signed led him to simply show up in Columbus, Georgia, in 1962 in the spring at Mets minor-league training camp. By "simply show up," I don't mean that Mr. Smith hopped in his car and drove from his hometown of Lutcher, Louisiana, to Columbus. Oh no. Despite being a black man in the Jim Crow South travelling over 400 miles on the hopes of getting a shot to play minor league baseball and despite that timeframe being in the wake of the Freedom Rider movement, Bernie Smith hitchhiked the 400+ mile trip to ask for a tryout.

That took serious guts and serious self-belief.

1971 O-Pee-Chee

He played well enough to get signed to play at Class D Auburn in the New York-Penn League. Not long after, he became a regular outfielder. As the year progressed, Bernie proved to be the best player on the team and was named the Auburn Mets MVP for the year. 

The Baby Mets ended up winning the playoffs of the NY-Penn League that year. Despite his starring role on the team, however, Bernie was not going to be able to afford coming from Lutcher all the way to upstate New York for the annual Mets baseball dinner. As the February 23, 1963, The Sporting News article noted, Bernie was the lowest paid player on that team, so not being able to afford getting to the dinner is perhaps unsurprising. But he made the dinner anyway -- because the guards and prisoners at the state penitentiary in Auburn chipped in to thank him for the excitement of the previous season to pay for Smith to come to Auburn by bus. The article noted that they raised enough money so that "Bernie could eat steaks during the trip."

Despite the auspicious debut in Class D, Smith hardly became a top prospect in the Mets system. He hit nearly everywhere -- over parts of 11 total seasons in the minors, he hit .287/.367/.408 with 87 HRs and 177 SB (though with 84 CS) in 5311 plate appearances. Yet, despite being named the MVP of the Eastern League in 1967 (451 PA, 4 HR, 50 RBI, 22 SB, 37 BB, 47 K, .306/.376/.405; that .306 made him the only qualifier to hit over .300), he barely got a chance with the Mets system as players like Ron Swoboda and Ed Kranepool passed him by in the Mets' eyes. In 1968, he was optioned into the Pittsburgh system for a year at Triple A, but that didn't help either to be behind Clemente and Stargell. 

1994 Miller 25th Anniversary
Smith's break came when the Mets traded him to the Seattle Pilots for minor leaguer Gary Upton. His debut season of 1970 was dreamlike -- first major league hit, of course, and his first major league homer came in the top of the tenth inning on August 25, 1970 to win a game for the Brewers. His break was short-lived, though, as Smith got passed just as quickly in Milwaukee as he did in New York -- especially after the change in general managers after the 1970 season led to the acquisition of journeyman Andy Kosco. 

But that is not where the story ends in baseball for Bernie Smith. He had one last hurrah: he became the first black manager in the Midwest League, named as the manager of the Brewers affiliate Danville Warriors just a few days before Deacon Jones was named manager of the White Sox affiliate Appleton Foxes -- both for the 1973 season. And Bernie was much more successful than Jones. Jones's team suffered through a 15-game losing streak to start the season and finished the year 44-76. On the other hand, Danville finished 66-57 and won the Southern Division.

Yet, that was Bernie's end in baseball. It appears that he went back to Lutcher and opened a store there. That led to some legal and financial issues in the 1980s. To be clear, one of his legal issues sounds fishy in how police targeted his store in 1980, but it appeared that Bernie got in trouble for receiving and trying to sell stolen typewriters in his store. The warrant the police got was bogus, in my non-criminal-lawyer opinion. He received an excessive five-year sentence for the crime, and it happened shortly after his wife Creola had died suddenly after four sons had been born to them. His conviction was just ridiculous, in my book -- I feel assured that a white man in a similar circumstance (especially in the South in the early 1980s, but probably anywhere) would have gotten a lighter sentence.

At any rate, I know Bernie is still alive in Louisiana. I have been meaning to get in touch with him, and my failing to do so is what led me to hold off on writing this. But, now that I have written this up, there are so many questions.

Such as: what was it like to hitchhike to Georgia across the backroads of Mississippi and Alabama?

To close, you see the three baseball cards of Bernie Smith that appear in the Trading Card Database. I do not own the 1971 O-Pee-Chee of Bernie with George Kopacz, but I do own the Topps version and the Miller card.