Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Dimebox Man in Black

Yesterday, I had my fantasy baseball auction for the one league I am in this year.  As the commissioner on a day-to-day basis, websites have made my life much easier.  But, I think my card collecting affected my strategy -- I ended up putting together the Brewers starting infield on my team. It wasn't my strategy coming in to do that, but as the flow of the auction went on and as it became apparent that the Brewers were going to go at auction at reasonable prices, I just went with where the current took me.

I'm doing the same today in writing up a trade post.  Nick -- from the always entertaining "Dime Boxes -- The Low-End Baseball Card Collector's Journey" blog -- and I have swapped envelopes fairly regularly over the past year.  I send him random oddballs I have unearthed along with other cards I hope he'll like, and in return he sends me cards for my collection that he has picked up in his various and sundry travels around the dime boxes of Chicagoland.  

His most recent envelope of cards appeared recently, and the theme for the post was apparent even before I opened it.

I can think of no more appropriate music legend than Johnny Cash to appear on a "Forever" stamp.  And when the opportunity to put up a bunch of Johnny Cash music is given to me, I will seize that opportunity.  

I grew up on Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and Willie Nelson. Their music is classic country music to me.  When Barbara Mandrell, Kenny Rogers, and Dolly Parton (among others) kept moving toward pop sounds -- as Nashville continues to do today -- those guys were going the other direction.  

Some random facts about Cash before getting into the cards and music:
  • He was born J.R. Cash. Neither initial stood for anything. He came up with John when the Air Force made him have a first name other than "J".  
  • Like many of us in the baseball-card-collecting hobby, Johnny Cash and his second wife, June Carter Cash, were major packrats -- to the point of where their only child together (John Carter Cash) unearthed a lost album in their house after the two of them passed away in 2003.
  • Cash was fined about $125,000 in the mid-1960s for having his car cause a massive forest fire in California by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  The fire scared away 44 endangered California condors from their sanctuary, to which Cash replied, "I don't give a damn about your yellow buzzards."
Now, to the cards.

1.  "Doin' My Time"

From the album "Johnny Cash with His Hot and Blue Guitar" came this song about being in prison -- a common theme for Cash despite his famously never serving more than an overnight stint in a county jail.

Someone that knows something about doin' time for his transgressions is my favorite steroid user, Ryan Braun.  Nick noticed that I did not have the Gypsy Queen mini of Braun's from last year, and, he also pulled one of the retail chrome Heritage cards to send my way:

2.  "Cocaine Blues"

Johnny Cash struggled with addiction his whole life. He made several trips to rehab, spent time overnight in jail from time to time for possession of controlled substances, and generally abused both amphetamines and barbiturates during much of his adult life. This was an old folk song that a number of artists, including a personal favorite, Uncle Tupelo, performed.  Here's Cash's version, live from Folsom Prison:

He's an easy mark for the cocaine songs, and thankfully he didn't have to go through rehab for drugs on multiple occasions, but Paul Molitor famously struggled with cocaine addiction in the late 1970s and early 1980s as well.  Somewhere, Nick found a 1988 Molitor O-Pee-Chee and the sparkly 2014 Bowman Is Back Insert of Molitor and was kind enough to ship them to me:

3.  "Blue Train"

This song was from one of Cash's sessions at Sun Records, but it was not released until after Cash had left Sun to sign with Columbia.

This song title fits for the Topps base set and Opening Day efforts for this year for Milwaukee. I like the design -- it's good to see Topps hearing a lot of the comments on blogs that matching cards' borders with the team colors is a good thing.  Nick sent me two cards that fall into this category -- one of which is a foil parallel and one of which is an Opening Day card:

4.  "Chicken In Black"

For the first time in, well, forever, I was hoping for a Gary Sheffield card.  You see, this song was written by Cash as a self-parodying protest to try to get Columbia to drop him from the label.  It worked -- he was gone two years later -- but the song itself tells the sort-of funny story about a three-way brain transplant gone bad.

You could probably figure out why I'd say Sheffield would work there.  I'll use the song instead for the men who preceded and succeeded Sheffield as the Brewers starting shortstop, a Sportsflics card of Ernest Riles and a Toys R Us boxed set card of Bill Spiers:

5. "One Piece at a Time"

As a kid, I always enjoyed Cash's song about a scavenging auto worker who built a Frankenstein Cadillac by taking one piece of it at a time from his job in Detroit.  The song lyrics even refer to the car as the "Psycho-Billy Cadillac."

In my mind, the perfect Psycho-Billy player was Brooks Kieschnick.  As a pitcher, he was an outstanding hitter whose presence on the team as a potential extra bat was never used enough.

6.  "Wabash Cannonball"

Johnny Cash was neither the first nor the last to sing this old folk tune, and his version is not the most famous either -- Roy Acuff's probably is.

To be fair, the Wabash River does not go through Muncie, Indiana -- the White River, one of the main tributaries to the Wabash, does. Having little tie to this player other than "he just got to Milwaukee and now he's on my fantasy baseball team", I don't have much to go on yet for Muncie native Adam Lind.

7.  "The Wanderer"

I have liked this song that Johnny Cash did with U2 since it was released in 1993 on U2's "Zooropa" album. 

My use here is a stretch.  It's not like Travis Ishikawa has played on a ton of teams -- he started with San Francisco, came to Milwaukee in 2012, went to the Yankees and Baltimore in 2013, then returned to the Bay in 2014.  But, this 2013 mini of him is my excuse to get this into the post.
8.  "I've Been Everywhere"

This song got licensed to a motel chain to use for its advertisements.  Since Cash covered the song, I'm not complaining too loudly, I suppose.

This Mike Ferraro card from 1972 might have been everywhere too.  Ferraro himself was a long-time coach for the Yankees over a number of different stints and also managed the Indians and the Royals.

9.  "Guess Things Happen That Way"

A song that hit number 1 on the Country chart and number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1958, "Guess Things Happen That Way" was a mix of doo-wop and gospel and sounds very much like it came from 1958.

I am using this song for two guys whose last year in Milwaukee might have been 2014. Rickie Weeks and Yovani Gallardo both find themselves in new uniforms this year.  I guess things happen that way.

The Weeks is a Fleer mini die-cut...which you can't see from this scan because the die-cutting was to round off one corner.  The Gallardo is, of course, from Topps Heritage.

10.  "Folsom Prison Blues"

This song traditionally started off nearly every one of Cash's live shows and, of course, is a classic.

The Brewers this year apparently are talking about having Carlos Gomez leading off.  So, here's his chrome Heritage card that Nick sent to finish off this fantastic PWE:

Nick, thank you for the great cards and for the excuse to put up a 10-song Johnny Cash playlist on my blog. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did in writing it!


  1. This was a really creative post.

    1. I love writing posts like this. I don't want to overdo themes, of course, and it takes more time to write these than other posts. But they are a heck of a lot more fun for me too!

  2. Very cool post and a great job tying the cards to the songs.

  3. Cool post Tony. Big Cash fan myself. My wife took me to Nashville two years ago for my fiftieth. Had a great time hopping from one honky Tonk bar to another

    1. Nashville is a great city. It's changed a lot since I first went there for college almost 25 years ago now, but those changes have been for the better.

      Where did y'all go?

  4. You've done it again! Gotta love Johnny Cash. And cool cards. I just got a PWE emblazoned with one of those stamps from Nick as well.

    1. Thanks, Gavin -- I appreciate the compliment!

  5. Great write up Tony. I'm sure Nick will love it.

  6. Great post! I wish my brain would allow me to be this creative.