Friday, December 30, 2016

Brewers Cards Every Night

I try to find new blogs every so often. I used to try harder -- when I was the new guy, I followed links for hours to try to find trade partners, kindred spirits, or just good people. I've gotten lazier about that this past year, and one of my goals for next year is to get back to being a better trade partner.

One blogger whom I feel like I've gotten to know a bit this past year, though, is Peter from Baseball Every Night. He and I interact/converse on Twitter regularly about cards and beer and being in our mid-40s and all that kind of stuff. It's always a pleasure to hear from Peter, so getting cards from him is just an added bonus.

If there is one thing that Peter and I have bonded about, it is our mutual love and respect for David Ortiz. Peter recognizes the living legend that Ortiz is -- you can read about his almost fawning affection for Ortiz here. For me, of course, I truly think that Topps Now should have featured Ortiz's retirement year more than it did; I mean, Ortiz did more than enough in 2016. He should have had far more than just the 14 cards on which Topps featured him. Seriously -- did we need 13 cards for the Twins, or should we have had 27 Ortiz cards? I think you know the answer to that question.

In all seriousness, Peter sent me some cards in two different doses recently, so let's feature them here with some video highlights of our mutual friend, David Ortiz.

Yeah, the lines about our respect for Ortiz were complete bull. Y'all knew that about me, I'm sure. Not sure if you knew that about Peter though.

To celebrate Big Papi being a Big Jerk here -- and let's be clear, he got plenty of leeway to still be in the game to take strike three there, and with the close check-swing call, there's at least an argument that he got four strikes in that at-bat -- let's go gold. Peter sent me literally all the Topps Gold parallel cards from 2016 that I needed to complete my team set:

It almost seems weird to see K-Rod and Adam Lind as Brewers. It feels like almost years ago that they were traded away. 

If only I could say the same thing about Matt Garza.

A second "Great Moment in Ortiz History" is the literal David versus Goliath story, but instead of Goliath it was a plastic telephone on the wall in the Orioles dugout in 2013. In an apparently successful effort to steal the telephone's soul and use that power for his own purposes, Ortiz was ejected from a game after a strikeout. The next game he played in, he went 4-for-4 with a homer. 

I guess we wouldn't like Ortiz when he is angry.

In the late 1980s, rumor had it that the same could be said for Jeffrey "Hac-Man" Leonard -- that you would not like him when he was angry. As this Seattle Times article from 1990 notes, though, Leonard was actually a very private man who kept most people at arm's length. Leonard had fights with Giants teammates Dan Gladden in 1985 (supposedly about Gladden taking extra cuts in BP) and with Will Clark in 1987 after Clark allegedly refused to sign an autograph for Leonard's nephew and then followed it with a racial epithet (New Orleans native Clark said it was because Leonard picked on him constantly).

Leonard also hated the press, whereas Ortiz loves to use the press to push his own agenda. As that Times article quotes Leonard in response to the question of whether he trusts anyone, "Trust? Yeah I trust you . . . to get it wrong. It's not really a matter of trust. It's patience. I don't like to speak with the press because I get tired of the stupid or funky questions."

Ortiz? He went to the media in 2011 to blame them for him getting hit by a pitch -- but he always went to the media. In the last months of his playing career, he spoke regularly -- with SI (about steroids and retirement), at length with the assembled media after his last game, with USA Today (about Donald Trump and immigration and his legacy), with Esquire (about his post-career plans), on Late Night with Seth Meyers about his last trip to Yankee Stadium, even about his beauty secrets with Good Housekeeping.

You clicked that link, right? 

Ortiz hopefully will stay retired. Then again, maybe he won't, and when he comes back, he'll say, "Maybe it's my ego. Maybe I crave someone who will never be my rival."

What do you think, Peter?

Thanks for the great cards!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Secret Santa: En Fuego

I wanted to get to this post before Christmas. After all, it was my Secret Santa post. When I was younger, I was told that a Secret Santa deal was to include the person receiving the gift trying to guess who gave it to them. Of course, those deals always included an in-person gift giving session, so maybe that's why some folks did not go that route in the BWTP-organized giveaway this year.

For what it's worth, I kept mine secret for this reason. I don't know if my recipient quite figured out it was me. Still don't.

I was lucky enough, though, to get cards from Ketchupman36 from "Rekindling the Cardboard Flame." It's time for a music post, because that blog name puts the same song in my head every time I hear it. 

Cheap Trick sold out. Yup, they did. But they deserved it -- they worked hard and came back from the dead. It hit number one in July of 1988. The same song writers apparently also wrote Chicago's "Look Away" -- which was another catchy ballad from the time period. 

This song was absolutely huge during the summer before my junior year of high school, and I remember well when this song got played at the music camp I attended that summer. For the first time I could recall, I was one of the cooler people around -- which, I suppose, shows how lame band kids could be -- but it also showed me that I could be myself, trying to be funny and crack jokes and such, and people would actually like me if they didn't come in with a predisposed notion of me as the "smart" kid.

Appropriately for that memory, K-Man sent me a number of late 1980s/early 1990s cards. Let's start with the Sportflics!

Thanks to this mailer, my want list for 1989 Sportflics was obliterated. Ah, the joy of youth matched with the joy of a complete team set. I love it!

Let's keep the music appropriate for the time. 

The next summer, I went to three camps for four weeks total. Music camp was even more fun, because I had a base of friends already from the previous year and I wasn't the "new" kid. I had a blast. I met tons of girls and guys whom I still keep in touch with through the wonders of modern social media a/k/a Facebook. 

One person I have never found again after a few letter exchanged back in 1989 was this fellow saxophone player named Andi. She was obsessed with Skid Row. Like, unhealthily obsessed. I thought she was really cool though, because she wasn't a "good girl" -- and I don't mean that in a sexual way. I mean that in a "doesn't give a crap" sort of way that really appealed to me. Plus she was cute too, of course, with long, curly brown hair and blue eyes. That didn't hurt either.

I think I liked her for that second thing, but that "don't care" thing was pretty big too. I cared too much back then.

Okay, weird remembering Andi after over 27 years of not really having thought about her. Music does that to me.

Some great early 1990s oddballs go with that odd recollection about a very different girl. The Mootown Snackers card shows how good unlicensed cards looked back then, before MLB started getting super picky about its teams' uniforms and probably started filing Lanham Act complaints to protect the teams' "trade dress" as exemplified through their team uniform schemes and designs.  

The 8 of hearts is from a U.S. Playing Card company deck from 1991. I have looked in vain for this; K-Man sent me two. 

The Yount is actually a Cracker Jack card from that same year -- 1991. The front looks the same, but the back is different. 

Finally, we have a Pat Moustache card from the Milwaukee Boozers. I'm pretty sure that MLB was not a fan of this set. Parody is protected under the U.S. Constitution as free speech -- just ask Jerry Falwell. See Hustler Magazine, Inc. v. Falwell, 485 U.S. 46 (1988) (expanding First Amendment protection to an ad parody insinuating Falwell's "first time" was with his mother in an outhouse).

I love parentheticals in legal writing.

Okay, last song for the modern cards:

Yup, I cannot help another Bastille song here. I'm an Anglophile, they are extremely British, and their attempts to make their videos into something straight out of the minds of Salvador Dali and Rene Magritte all appeal to me. Just try figuring out this song's video. I mean, I can figure out the song itself, but the video? Strange.

I'm not saying that these cards are strange. No, they are pretty much your typical Topps cards from 2014 and 2016. It is strange that this is my first Junior Guerra card. Guerra was a waiver wire claim from the Chicago White Sox. In fact, Guerra was the first move that David Stearns made as General Manager. It turned out well -- Guerra pitched 121-1/3 innings and finished 9-3 with 100 strikeouts in 20 starts. With his age being 32 coming into this season, I'd be in favor of flipping him if it's possible. We'll see. I don't think Stearns's moves are done for this year.

It's also strange that Kirk Nieuwenhuis appears to be playing centerfield in the midst of a forest fire. But that problem with design has been addressed in many, many places. 

Many thanks go out here to Ketchupman for the great cards and to Matt from BWTP for organizing the Secret Santa program this year. 

Monday, December 26, 2016

Tardiness, Thy Name Is Off Hiatus

In some respects, Shakespeare presaged the internet. By that, I mean that Shakespeare was really incredible at coming up with pithy yet memorable lines that completely foretold the coming love 500 years later for memes. 

One that has persisted for centuries derived from Hamlet -- "Frailty, thy name is woman." To paraphrase Wikipedia, the "____, thy name is ____" phrasing is used to indicate the completeness with which something or somebody embodies a particular (usually negative) quality. 

That applies completely to me this month. I keep complaining about how work keeps getting in the way of blogging, but it does. I guess I need to start writing things up on weekends and scheduling and releasing them during the week or something. But then, I get tired of writing or I start writing in the same vein constantly and I fear that folks will get bored.

At any rate, today I am going to combine a couple of things that came in to the OHHQ from random directions. One is an obvious source and the other sounds just strange.

Happy Holidays from Topps

While I was never a fan of Wham! or of George Michael, there is no denying that the man could sing and write catchy songs. 

The Wham Christmas song goes well with Topps's Topps Now Holiday card. Lord knows I am critical of Topps on many levels. Topps deserves much of the criticism I send its way too. Take this holiday card, for instance. On the back, it features Ichiro (for his 3000th hit, I'd assume) and David Ortiz for his retirement. And while I have made multiple jokes about the multiplicity of David Ortiz Topps Now cards, the fact is that Ortiz had an excellent career. 

Then you see this side of the card. You get Kris Bryant -- the NL MVP who led the Cubs to the team's first World Series victory in 108 years. 

But Gary S├ínchez? 

Gary Sanchez, thy name is shoe.

Yes, he had a good debut this year for his two months in the majors -- 20 homers in 53 games is nothing to sneeze at. But come on! He wasn't the AL Rookie of the Year -- Michael Fullmer was, and deservedly so. Sanchez was not the AL MVP -- Mike Trout was and deservedly so as well (only Mookie Betts was within a win by WAR of anyone in the majors of Trout's shocking 10.6 WAR) and, in fact, did not even get a single vote. 

So what the hell is he doing on a 2016 Highlights card, other than the fact that Topps had its own little Sanchez-gasm, spewing Gary Sanchez Topps Now cards around like Ron Jeremy at the AVN awards? I guess Topps felt like it needed to send its own employees a Christmas card with their favorite team on it.

Cards from Christmas for Kids

My wife does a lot of volunteering around Dunwoody. One of the coolest ones is Christmas for Kids. The Dunwoody Police Department collects up toys through donations. They then work with local social workers and local child services organizations to identify children in need and give those children invitations to a special outing the weekend before Christmas. 

At the event, the children are ordered by their relative level of need. The neediest go in first and get to select multiple gifts for themselves. The kids get to meet Santa, and they get to eat free food from local food trucks which volunteer and donate the food for the day. 

At the end of the event this year, there were tons and tons of toys left over. There were so many toys left over, in fact, that the DPD drove around Dunwoody on Christmas with toys in the back of a patrol truck and handed them out at local apartment complexes. My wife saw some cards laying around unclaimed and asked the police about them. Turns out that the cards had been left for a couple of years, so they said that my wife should take them.

It's a bit sad, therefore, that I have these cards. After all, it means that dozens of kids decided they would rather have some GI Joe toy -- or whatever else was available -- instead of grabbing baseball cards. I'll take them, but I feel bad about it.

On the bright side, I got some good stuff:

Such as a complete factory set of the 2009 Upper Deck First Edition set complete with relic and five 20th Anniversary cards. What did I get from those?

Josh Barfield didn't make it past 2009 as a major leaguer. He started his career pretty well with the Padres in 2006. He was passed by Asdrubal Cabrera in the organization by the end of 2007. He kicked around the minors thereafter, and played last in 2013 in the Atlantic League. Most recently, he has been a part of the Arizona Diamondbacks organization as the Assistant Director of Pro Scouting.

Otherwise, my 20th Anniversary cards were decent. Granted, I'm not a hockey guy, so I had to Google him to find out that Eric Staal is a "Triple Gold Club" member, being a winner of the Stanley Cup (2006), the World Championships (2007), and the Winter Olympics (2010). 

I've heard of the other four people/things, though the whole idea of putting "The Universe" on a card is a bit ridiculous. Maybe we can get a "stars of the stars" card set to highlight all the great stars in the sky soon.

As for the set itself, well, it's a set. I needed nearly all the Brewers in the set, so no complaints there. It was fun to see CC Sabathia in a Brewers' uniform and to see Mat Gamel listed with uniform number 98 though.

And, this set was a great reminder of how good a card design can be when you don't have the creeping death fog at the corners of the card.

I hope everyone had a good Christmas, and I'll try to write again this week -- but I do have to go to work some too!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Rip It Up

By now, you have probably seen the Holiday rip cards from Gavin over at Baseball Card Breakdown

It's the first time since I got back into collecting a few years ago that I was legitimately happy to see a 1989 Fleer card show up. Of course, like nearly everyone, I did the right thing when I got this card. I had to Rip It Up.

While Little Richard didn't write the song, his version was released first. So, I'm giving him credit for that -- meaning everyone after that was a cover. A quick YouTube search shows, well, it's absolutely crazy how many covers there are of this song. It's so crazy that I'm going to treat you to a few of them. 

But I'm going to make you wait on what is inside until the end.

1.  Bill Haley & His Comets

Bill Haley released his version shortly after Little Richard did, so it's a close question as to whether this counts as a cover. 

To start this off, I am going to highlight the protection that Gavin sent for these cards. He always sends interesting things, and this one was no different:

It's been over two years now since I had a dog around. With the two cats we have getting along famously and fabulously, we just don't want to introduce a third party into the situation to throw all that off. But I miss my Cinnie girl.

We subscribed to the BarkBox for a few years for her. She loved some of the treats, turned up her nose at other treats, and generally was a good sport about the whole deal. Even if that meant having a Christmas bow on her head.

Okay, let's get back to happier things -- baseball cards, of course.

2. Paul McCartney

The Beatles covered this song as part of a medley with "Shake, Rattle and Roll" and "Blue Suede Shoes," a track that was released on their Anthology 3 album. This version is Sir Paul covering the song live in concert.

Yeah, this card is pretty interesting. Is there a "Groveling Gavin" version of it somewhere? Perhaps this one is it:

I tried chewing tobacco when I was about 7 or 8 years old -- maybe younger. I think that is the perfect age to try it because you have no idea what to do and you think it's like gum or something and swallow it and become violently ill. And it takes like crap at that age too.

Or maybe that's just me.

3.  Buddy Holly

Perhaps this song was one of those songs that artists in the 1950s just had to play. You know -- like how every cover band has to play "Twist and Shout"? Because Buddy Holly isn't the only singer from this era to cover it. There will be more. 

Hey, I have a great analogy now! Every band and artist in the 1950s had to play "Rip It Up" just like Topps/Bowman must have at least 10 different parallels for every one of its sets! That's it! 

Don't get me wrong here -- as a player collector, I do enjoy getting these parallels for those collections. But as the numbers of parallels stack up in each set, I start thinking, "Maybe I shouldn't try to put together full sets for my Brewers collection of these."

Then I laugh, have a drink, and forget I ever said that to myself. I'm easily amused, especially when I'm in a pure Faulknerian stream-of-consciousness mode.

4.  Elvis Presley

See, I told you there were more from that era who played it. I mean, Elvis never met a song he didn't try to take and make his own. Or, rather, Elvis never wrote any of his own songs -- even the fawning "Elvis History Blog" says that he was not a singer-songwriter. So, it should come as no surprise that he or Colonel Tom Parker would hear a song with a good beat and say, "Elvis, you gotta sing this song." And he would.

Apropos of a southerner of whom a lot was asked, here's Ben Sheets. A serial numbered to 899 Ben Sheets from 2006 SP Authentic at that. That's pretty good in my book.

5.  Stray Cats

Considering the band's sensibilities -- and Brian Setzer's later dabbling in Big Band/Swing music when it got popular again in the 1990s -- it should hardly be surprising that the Stray Cats would cover this song. I don't know when or where this cover came from -- I'd guess the early 1980s somewhere. But the Cats do shred on it.

Astin was the Brewers third round pick in 2013 out of the University of Arkansas (Woo Pig Sooie and all that). The Brewers sent Astin along with Kevin Shackelford to the Cincinnati Reds in late 2014 in exchange for the large human being that is Jonathan Broxton. Broxton chipped in 47 innings at a 5.55 ERA clip (though with a FIP of 3.47) before the Brewers sent him to St. Louis in exchange for Malik Collymore (an Ontario native who "hit" .167/.227/.208 in 208 plate appearances in the Florida State League in 2016 at the age of 21). 

Astin and especially Shackelford have a chance to make the Reds this year, what with the Reds still being in flux and all. Astin will start in Triple-A this season, and Shackelford pitched creditably in Louisville in 2016 out of the bullpen.

6. The Chipmunks

If the Chipmunks did a song, you know it was probably overplayed. Funny thing, though -- at this point in my life and despite growing up with The Chipmunks being on TV regularly, I think the only song I really remember by them is The Christmas Song.

Gavin was responsible for putting the first Donruss Optic card in my hands this year. At least I think he was. I have probably about 2500 cards stacked up on my desk now waiting to get sorted out and cataloged thanks to the crazy generosity from the blogosphere this year, so I may have gotten other Optic cards from other places first but just haven't featured them yet.

I look at this card and think, "Damn it MLB, give Panini rights to use your logos just on the Donruss sets. Limit their parallels. Limit their inserts. Give them a trial run, and see if they do a decent job and not screw it up -- just please give us a little bit of competition for Topps."

Then I remember that MLB really doesn't care about collectors except for getting their licensing fee blood out of Topps. Oh yeah. Forgot that.

7. David Thibault

Wait. This guy is just a French-Canadian Elvis impersonator. No, really. The guy nails Elvis's voice on some French-Canadian morning show at this link. I'm waiting for the brunette with the really straight hair and bangs to start screaming like it's the Ed Sullivan Show.

But really, I can't end with this guy. Him covering this song is like a double cover, since his whole life is covering Elvis. 

8. Los Lobos

This cover was done as a part of Los Lobos providing the soundtrack for the movie La Bamba in 1987. Lou Diamond Phillips "sings" the song in the movie, but the Los Lobos version did not come out until their career retrospective El Cancionero Mas y Mas in 2000 was released.

Here's the carnage after the ripping of the rip card took place. Sorry if anyone wanted that special collector's 15/25 version of the double Gwynn for their collection -- maybe you can talk someone else into being nicer to their card than I was to this one.

9.  Hanson

No shit. The little girls shrieking in the crowd probably thought that Hanson were the first to sing this song even though they say they are covering Little Richard at the very beginning of the song. 

See, once something like this happens to a song, it's a sign that the song really should be discarded. If the phrase "jump the shark" hadn't become so trite, it would describe what happened to this song to a T. Except that even then, it wouldn't really capture it. 

Not to be too harsh, but listening to this version would make Little Richard roll over in James Brown's grave. Little Richard is still alive, by the way.

Thankfully, the contents of the rip card were far better than this crapola:

I tried to fix my poor scanning job on this. Here's the straighter version:


I love the unique Robin Yount collectibles that Gavin has added to my collection in the past, and this artistic magnet is just awesome.

Thank you so much, Gavin, for letting me Rip It Up.