Tuesday, September 2, 2014

When The Mail Runs Out...

I was incredibly lucky during August in terms of blogging material. I started the month with the Gint-A-Cuffs contest. I probably could have drawn that out for 25 posts, but I was impatient and blew through all 24 packs and the boxloader in 8 posts. But, it was blogging material for the dog days of Summer.

Then, in the time that GAC was going on, envelopes started showing up in my mailbox. Some were a part of trades, others contained contest winnings, and some were just bloggers being really nice and sending me stuff. That all came to an end after Sunday's post. 

Since then, I've been thinking about that eternal question that many of us face: what in the world am I going to write about? I kept hoping that another envelope would appear -- nothing so far -- so I decided to write about my player collections.  I have a ton of them -- 41 to be exact. I've written a lot about Molitor, Yount, and Carter.  But, why do I have a PC for, say, Bob McClure?

I wonder that to myself sometimes. So, now, I'm going to try to explain some of these collections.

I'm a Brewers fan for obvious reasons -- growing up 30 miles from Milwaukee County Stadium in the 1970s and 1980s in an area too rural for cable companies to care about until literally the mid-1990s meant that my baseball was entirely local until I got to college. Even then, my mindset -- my fandom -- had been determined already.  

By the time I started caring about the team and consciously remember things, it was 1978 and I was 6 years old.  I guess I repressed that 1977 season. But a quick glance at the 1978 Brewers roster provides some key insight already into my PCs:

Most Appearances at Catcher: Charlie Moore

Charlie was always a favorite -- even early on. His willingness to play wherever the team needed him, his genuine humility, and the joy with which he played the game made him easy to root for. He stands fifth all-time in games played with the Brewers with 1283. He was never a star, never a power hitter, never a speedster, and hit over .300 just twice -- in 1979 and in 1981 (in just 48 games and 156 at-bats).  

But Charlie was an easy addition to my collection for all of those reasons. He was patient with fans and with kids especially, finding time to sign autographs before and after games. He played with a smile on his face and a desire to do anything to win. Not to say that those particular attributes make a player a successful player -- they don't. Yet being that kind of player makes it easy for the hometown fans to cheer for you.

Opening Day Starter: Jerry Augustine

As I mentioned about Augie on the 1982 Topps blog, he was never really among my favorite players as a kid. So why am I collecting him now -- especially since he was a mop-up man of the highest order?

When I got back into collecting, I thought for a long time about how I would go about determining which players I would collect and why. To be honest, I've always been a fan of hitters and not pitchers. So, when I looked at the list of Brewers pitchers all time, I was struck by the fact that only five pitchers in Brewers' history lasted 10 or more seasons with the team -- Jim Slaton, Bill Wegman, Moose Haas, Bob McClure, and Jerry Augustine.

I thought about this further. Augustine was one of two "local boys" whose entire careers were spent in Milwaukee (with Jim Gantner being the other). There's something to be said for carving out a career with your hometown team as a lefty mop-up junkballer who grew up north of the Mason-Dixon Line.  So, into the player collections went the Augustine cards.  

Besides -- what's wrong with a little love for a complete scrub whose saving grace was a gargantuan contract handed to him in an overreaction by the owner afraid that the Wisconsin boy would leave home?

One more from 1978 for tonight:

All-Star Game Starter: Don Money

Don Money was elected to the All-Star game as a starter. Seriously. In fact, he was an All-Star four times for the Brewers in the 1970s.  In 1978, he was a Tony Phillips-type long before Tony Phillips was. He played 61 games at first, 36 games as second, 25 games at third, 2 games at shortstop, 15 games at DH, and pinch hit 6 times.  According to WAR, he was only the sixth-best player on the surprising third-place team that season -- 4.8 WAR for Money put him behind Mike Caldwell (8.1), Sal Bando (5.6), Larry Hisle (5.3), Lary Sorensen (5.0), and Robin Yount (5.0).

Money's play at those various positions allowed the Brewers to account for injuries, days off, and platoons around the diamond. In fact, the only player to play more than 150 games that season for Milwaukee was Sal Bando. With staying reasonably fresh that season, Money got minor MVP consideration for his .293/.361/.440 season.  It was his last season that he played over 100 games for Milwaukee, but he stayed with the Brewers for 11 total years and 1196 games. That number put him 7th all time in appearances for Milwaukee -- fitting for the guy who wore number 7.

Money was an underrated minor star of the 1970s who was okay with being a role player on those great Milwaukee teams of the early 1980s. He was an early favorite for his veteran leadership and for being an All-Star.

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That's three guys I collect and some of the reasons why I collect them. I collect them because they were childhood heroes or friendly, nice guys, or just were the local boy who hung around for a while. 

And I'll gladly take your Don Moneys, Charlie Moores, and Jerry Augustines if you don't want them.

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