Sunday, May 29, 2016

Meet the Brewers #26: Mike Hershberger

On April 22, 1970, the Brewers debuted a new starting rightfielder. Mike Hershberger was finally healthy again, and he found himself batting third against the California Angels and its starter, Clyde Wright, in front of only 5,120 fans in Anaheim. Hershberger went 1-for-4 -- a single in the midst of three straight hits in the sixth inning against Wright that plated the only run Milwaukee scored in the game.

During Spring Training in 1970, Hershberger was impressing the Brewers' staff and front office with his hitting. He was set to be the Brewers starting rightfielder. Then, Hershberger pulled his right groin muscle and found himself watching the first two weeks of the season from the bench.

1970 McDonald's Milwaukee Brewers
Norman Michael Hershberger was born in Massillon, Ohio, on October 9, 1939. He was a great athlete in high school, as one would expect, and he starred in both baseball and football. Indeed, he logged one year of college at the University of Cincinnati after high school on a football scholarship. After his freshman year, however, and despite being slated to be the starting tailback for the Bearcats the next season, he signed to play professional baseball with the Chicago White Sox.

Hershberger got married to his high school sweetheart Judy in the fall of 1959. Those two stories are odd in that Judy Hershberger seems to have gotten more press coverage than most anyone else's wife that I have seen so far. The first link is from a Sarasota newspaper in 1959 and is titled, "Think You'd Like To Be A Baseball Player's Wife?" (subtitled, "Reporter Interviews Five 'Unusual' Visitors"). The second is from the Milwaukee Sentinel in 1970 and highlighted the fact that five Brewers' wives lived within two blocks of one another in Waukesha, Wisconsin. The weird thing about that second story is that it comes across about 150% more sexist than the first article -- providing first names for only two of the women (they are otherwise known as "Mrs. [fill in ballplayer's name]") and calling Ted Kubiak's wife, "a long legged Canadian beauty" -- again, without providing her first name!

1971 O-Pee-Chee [Back]
By the time he turned 22 years old, Hershberger had already made his major league debut for the White Sox in 1961. He spent four years on Chicago's South Side and, like the remainder of his baseball career, he showed very good contact skills -- striking out in less than 10% of his plate appearances (Hershberger regularly featured in the top 10 most at-bats per strikeout between 1963 and 1967) -- but not much power. Add in the fact that he was not a very successful base stealer (74 of 110 for his career), and you have someone who best fit the role of a fourth outfielder. Still, he had a strong arm and led the AL in assists in 1965, 1966, and 1967.

1971 Topps/O-Pee-Chee
His career with the White Sox ended before the 1965 season when he was a part of a big three-team trade. He went to the Kansas City Athletics with Jim Landis and, eventually, Fred Talbot from Chicago. The A's sent Rocky Colavito to Cleveland in the deal. The White Sox sent Cam Carreon to the Indians as well. Cleveland sent Tommie Agee, Tommy John, and John Romano to the White Sox.

His career with Kansas City and, then, Oakland, went well until 1968. In 1968, the A's started forming the base of the team that would become the back-to-back-to-back World Series Champions from 1972 to 1974. The base of the team to which I'm referring is their outfield, comprised of 21-year-old Joe Rudi, 22-year-old Rick Monday, and 22-year-old Reggie Jackson. Of course, that 1968 A's team has a bunch of guys who would later play with Milwaukee/Seattle in the next two-to-three years, so that tells you that they weren't quite ready for primetime yet (that list includes Hershberger, Jim Pagliaroni, Ted Kubiak, Phil Roof, Jim Gosger, Lew Krausse, Jack Aker, Ed Sprague, Diego Segui, Ken Sanders, and George Lauzerique at least).

1970 Flavor-est Milk Set (1986 Reprint)
Hershberger's time in Milwaukee did not last past 1970. Hershberger pulled another groin muscle -- this time on his left side -- near the end of July, causing his season to end after a 1-for-3 performance on July 26. How he pulled the muscle underlines what an unlucky season it was for him: According to the July 29, 1970, Milwaukee Journal, Herschberger was attending a family picnic on an off day after the July 26 game against Boston. The skies opened up, and the family ran for the car. As Hershberger ran for his car, he slipped and pulled the muscle.  In the end, he started just 28 games in 1970, and the team released him after the season. He caught on for one more season in Chicago before retiring.

1994 Miller Commemorative Set
After his baseball career ended, Hershberger ended up in sales in the toy industry. He worked for Hasbro Industries -- the company that gave us the excellent game that killed many folks, "Javelin Darts" or "Jarts" or, simply, lawn darts. Accompanying that nightmare game was another game called The Hypo-Squirt -- described on Wikipedia as "a hypodermic needle shaped water gun tagged by the press as a "junior junkie" kit.

Any of you guys who collect toys own a "Hypo-Squirt"?

Anyway, Hershberger left Hasbro in 1975 and went to work for The Ohio Art Company -- which produced and owned the "Etch A Sketch" toy for over five decades until it sold the product to Spin Master Corp. in January of 2016. 

From there, he moved on to working in sporting good sales for the rest of his life. He spent his spare time working with charities such as the St. Joseph's Orphanage, the Special Olympics, and The Massillon Boys Club, among others. Hershberger passed away at the age of 72 on July 1, 2012. 

Hershberger appears on 8 cards/items as a Brewer (counting the original and the reprint Flavor-Est Milk sets as two separate items). I have the ones I have shown here, and I am missing the 1970 Mike Andersen Postcard (which features the same photo as the Flavor-Est set again...) and the 1970 Milwaukee Brewers Picture Pack of Hershberger.

Have a great day, and thanks for reading.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

A Bowman Blaster Buy

Last week Friday, my wife and I decided on what qualifies as the spur of the moment for us -- just 6 hours advance notice -- that we would treat ourselves to a really good dinner. My wife loves steak. I mean, she could eat it every day of the week and twice on Sunday if her appetite and money would allow. So, it was off to the nearby Capital Grille for an excellent meal. Pricy, but excellent.

Not the actual Ribeye my wife got, but a reasonable facsimile thereof
The nearby Capital Grille is located near a lot of malls/shopping center areas. So, we finished off our dinner with a trip to Target because, why not? It was close by, after all. My wife had some around-the-house clothes she needed, so I wandered over to the card aisle. Nothing really grabbed me, so I grabbed a blaster of the latest and greatest -- Bowman.

In each $19.99 blaster, Bowman promises a total of 80 cards -- 8 packs of 10 cards -- with the possibility of a retail exclusive autograph. As with all retail purchases, I kept my expectations low and, frankly, didn't expect too much.

And, that's about what I got. Not too much.

In terms of major-league-base cards, the Brewers have only 2 cards in the 150-card set: Ryan Braun and Jorge Lopez. Lopez is still young (turned 23 in February) and was the Brewers' second round pick in 2011 out of Puerto Rico. He made two starts at the end of last season for the big club (1-1, 5.40 ERA, 10 innings, 5 BB, 10 K, 14 H) and he has been pretty atrocious this season in the worst Triple-A location to develop pitching, Colorado Springs (6.25 ERA, 40-1/3 innings, 49 hits, 31 BB, 32 K in 9 starts).

In the prospects set, Milwaukee has just four players. The fact that the team has just four players from what is a consensus Top 10 organization is pretty irritating, to be honest. I've expressed my irritation on Twitter -- as I tend to do with nearly all things Topps-related. 

The four players that the Brewers have in the set are Orlando Arcia, Trent Clark, Brett Phillips, and David Denson. Here's another irritation. 

There is no denying that David Denson is a good story as the first openly gay professional baseball player. Setting aside the story, however, and looking at it only based on prospect status and ability, Denson should not be anywhere near the Prospects set. Denson was not among Milwaukee's Top 30 prospects according to coming into this season. The top 5 were Lopez, Arcia, Phillips, Clark, and Double-A lefty sensation Josh Hader, who did not get a card. 

Don't get me wrong -- the Brewers need a first-base prospect to emerge, and hopefully Denson can be that guy (though he has been DH'ing more than anything this year so far). If he can keep up his early season successes -- so far at Single-A Wisconsin, he's slashing at .301/.391/.449 -- he could still turn into a very useful player. On the other hand, it is his third time in the Midwest, in what is now 146 games (576 plate appearances) there, he's slashing at .255/.358/.380. 

Based solely on merit, however, Denson should not be in the set. And as we all know, merit does not matter to Topps/Bowman. Only the bottom line does.

Yes, that is enough complaining.

I did pull two Brewer cards in my box of 80 -- which is probably about as many as I could expect. 

Happily, the two guys I pulled were the two I most wanted. Orlando Arcia and Brett Maverick Phillips. Phillips became known among Brewers fans this spring training for his absolutely fantastic -- or as Sports Illustrated called it, spooky -- laugh that got him plenty of attention.

Reliever Will Smith then took advantage of this and tried getting Phillips to laugh with "Mom Joke Monday":

The fact that Phillips doesn't take himself so seriously and looks like he actually has fun being a ballplayer makes me like him even more. This appreciation for him is pushing him closer and closer to being a player collection for me. I'm waiting, though, at least until he makes it to Triple-A and starts hitting a little bit better than a .250/.350/.425 slash line. Then again, he's still very young, and he's had some problems staying healthy, so maybe I'll restrain my enthusiasm for another couple of years.

The rest of my Bowman blaster wasn't bad -- it just wasn't Brewers.  Here are the highlights, provided without comment:

The one card I'm considering keeping from this is the Hayes card. I've always liked the "father-son" cards -- an idea that Topps is resurrecting for the first time in a long time in its Archives set this year with a "1985 Father-Son Recreate Set" insert and an autographs insert as well (including more Griffey!). In fact, maybe I'll start a mini collection of "relative" cards like the 1976 Topps father-son cards and the 1977 Brothers cards being included, among others. 

Perhaps that way, I'll have something to collect when Topps eventually phases out including the Brewers in all of its sets and completes its transition to "All Cubs, Yankees, and Red Sox all the time."

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Boy Bands, Part II?

Sort of.

Weird Al's parody of the Backstreet Boys' "I Want It That Way" is far too accurate, even down to the reference of sniping the auction with 2 seconds left on the auction. Yeah, we've all done it to some extent or another, I think. 

That's my way, though, to bring up more eBay wins I've racked up. For some reason, I'm finding myself going down a Weird Al vortex this post.

But first, here's a bizarro eBay win!

I'm showing the back and not the front because it justified me spending $1.25 on the card. It's my first 1990 Fleer Canadian card, so it justified the cost. 

"Y-Yo Yo Yoda!"

Much like the use of Force can make people do things and think things that they may not otherwise do....

I find myself bidding almost indiscriminately at times on Milwaukee Brewers Police cards. This time around, I purchased two different sets from the Milwaukee Police Department that I did not have -- the 1998 and 1999 sets. The cooler thing is that, as I found out when the cards arrived, I had purchased them from an industry legend -- Bob Lemke.

Those are the 1998 cards, and, as you can see behind Jenkins & Nilsson, the cards celebrate the fact that Bud Selig ramrodded through the change from the American League to the National League to satisfy his own childhood fantasies.

The 1999 cards have backgrounds that celebrate the closing of Milwaukee County Stadium, which was supposed to happen in 1999 but had to be delayed.

So, speaking of strange/weird/odd, let's talk a bit about Steve Falteisek. Falteisek is almost exactly one month younger than I am. Falteisek was born in New York, but was a good enough baseball player to get a scholarship to attend the University of South Alabama. He was drafted by the Montreal Expos in the 10th round in 1992 and signed almost immediately. 

As is clear from his minor league record, he was never a strikeout pitcher -- and therein was his downfall. He made 10 appearances for the 1999 Brewers at the age of 27, allowing 18 hits, 3 HR, 3 BB, and 10 earned runs in 12 innings. The Brewers released him at the beginning of September in 1999, and from there he bounced in and out of major league organizations until 2003, when he called it a career. I think I found his Facebook page; it says he works for American Airlines, and it looks like he has a lovely wife and two adorable children.

There is so much right about this song. I swear that there are so many people in this world that should listen over, and over, and over, and over to that song...or hire the cunning linguist (ha!) that Weird Al mentions.

It's tough being a grammar fascist -- as I tend to be -- and then I reread my own posts and see stupid typos and errors. Ugh. How embarrassing.

It's not as embarrassing, though, as spelling Hall of Famer Warren Spahn's name as "Spaun" -- meaning that none of Spahn's fans doing a search for "Spahn" will not find your auction -- and then putting down that Spahn played for the Milwaukee Brewers...meaning none of the Milwaukee Braves collectors find your auction either. 

I'm thankful for people who don't spell check or realize their mistake, though, because I benefited. Neither of these printing plates from the 2014 Panini Cooperstown set cost me more than $12.

I cannot think of anything more appropriate for a blog about Milwaukee baseball cards than a polka song. And this one, well, it's just plain awesome!

So what awesome win do I have to go with that?

Everyone's favorite Brewer, Ryan Braun, had this Meaningful Material card in the 2016 Museum Collection Set. This nice three color patch part is serial numbered 4 of 35, and it cost me exactly $10 with shipping. That might be about $5 more than I should have paid for it, but I put my bid at exactly $6.01 to match the $3.99 shipping and, lo and behold, I have another Braun.

Finally, it's a song about everyone's favorite celebrity gossip website TMZ. I hate TMZ for its part in the A.J. Green Jerseygate suspension. TMZ reported that A.J. attended an agent's party at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami over Memorial Day in 2010. It was a complete fabrication. A.J. was never in Miami, but it led the NCAA to ask him about the trip. He said, basically, I wasn't there -- just look at my bank records. No one at UGA (*cough* Mark Richt) counseled A.J. about why this was a bad defense. What happens then? The NCAA finds a $1000 payment for a jersey that A.J. sold. 

F**k the NCAA. F**king hypocrites.

Anyway, I need something to get me in a far better mood, and that song just brings up bad memories. 

Let's try this parody:

Much better!

Just like this final eBay win. 

So, now I have three of the four printing plates for Jonathan Lucroy's 2016 Topps card. I bought the yellow and the black plates back in February when the Flagship first came out. All I need to find now is the cyan plate.

Three out of four printing plates is a pretty cool thing to have. But, four out of four would be even better. Hopefully, I'll find it on eBay...soon.

Thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

An Ode to Justin Bieber

In the baseball card blogging world, getting a Justin Bieber card can only mean one thing: that you have received a card from the fabulous Frenchman, The Card Papoy.

In the past, I've never indulged Mr. Papoy's idolatry of the Biebs. In large part, that's really because I have honestly never listened to a single bit of Bieber's music. Not. A. Note. That's largely because I have never had much use for any of the teenie bopper teen idols -- dating back at least to New Kids on the Block and probably earlier. 

But, let's be honest: I'm not the target market for Bieber, or NKOTB, or 98 Degrees, or the Backstreet Boys, or One Direction, or any of those other teen heartthrobs. Middle-aged men are supposed to hate that music -- it's for the kids of middle-aged men.

I'm done fighting Papoy on this though. He wants to keep sending Bieber cards, well, the least I can do is give him an all-Bieber music selection to slog through listen to while reading my thanks for the cards he's sent to me.

Since I have no idea what songs of his are any good to anyone, I Googled "Justin Bieber's best songs." Here's what we get from that:

1. "Where are Ü Now" -- Skrillex and Diplo with Justin Bieber

Skrillex is actually someone I've featured before thanks to Matt F. of Heartbreaking Cards of Staggering Genius being a fan. This song isn't completely awful, but it sure is incredibly repetitive. 

Then again, I shouldn't be so hard on repetitive songs, since repetition is the creator of earworms. Like this song. All I have in my head now is "Where are you now that I need you?"

Like any good earworm, the very simple parallels from the 1990s are tough to get out of your head. They are fairly numerous such that they can be found with a little looking, but, for the most part, you don't see them every day. I actually kind of like the Stadium Club Golden Rainbow parallel, even if that name is ridiculous and the nameplates on the front are just...terrible.

2.  "One Time"

This was apparently Bieber's first ever song. The video looks like the Sesame Street version of Snoop Dogg's "Gin and Juice." The fact that Usher is calling up Biebs to invite him to a party is just a little creepy too. I mean, it's actually a lot creepy.

*involuntary shudder*

I'm not a fan of this song. Sorry, kids.

Speaking of kids, here's Victor Roache. Roache was one of the Brewers three picks in the first and compensation round in 2012. They selected Clint Coulter, Roache, and Mitch Haniger. Being four years after that draft, we can see some hits and misses there already. Coulter was #27, Roache was #28 and Haniger was #38. Selection #35 was Mets catcher Kevin Plawecki. #36 was Cardinals OF Stephen Piscotty. #39 was Rangers uberprospect Joey Gallo. #41 was Astros P Lance McCullers.

Roache turns 25 in September. He has not progressed past Double-A Biloxi as of yet. In 367 plate appearances there, he's slashed at .246/.322/.435, and he has been passed by a number of players. He needs to hurry if he wants to get to the majors.

3. "As Long As You Love Me" featuring Big Sean

Michael Marsden starts out this video lecturing the Biebs about how Biebs should treat his hypothetical daughter. So the video goes from there to a church interspersed with Biebs in bed with some chick, then to a parking garage dance party. Real video from Bieber's arrest in Miami for dangerous driving is spliced in as well.

I'm trying to like this. To give it a chance. It's just not working. This is just overproduced crap. Big Sean's cut in the middle isn't bad, but why do I find myself waiting for Michael Marsden to give Bieber those fake bruises showing up in his face? Why do I start yelling "smack that little punk!"? 

I'm too old for this music, aren't I?

Apropos of nothing, here's a "silver starquest common" from 2009 Upper Deck of Prince Fielder and an Upper Deck Denny's Grand Slam hologram from 1992 of Greg Vaughn. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that Silver and Upper Deck go together like a horse and carriage.  

Similar to the Bieber song, though, I have yet to figure out the starquest common thing. I haven't tried too hard, but all my efforts have failed.

4. "Maria I'm Drunk" by Travis Scott f/Justin Bieber & Young Thug

Reading about this track, it seems that this was an odd pairing to a lot of folks. Bieber apparently reached out to Scott to see if they could work together. This song, to Scott, was perfect to have Bieber come on the cut. Originally, Atlanta's own Young Thug was the only "feature." Then, the song leaked out on to the internet, so Scott wanted to mix it back up. Scott sent Bieber the song, and, as Billboard has Scott tell the story, Bieber recorded his own rap verse overnight. 

So, my take on this song: it's disjointed and overdoes the autotune. I've never listened to Travis Scott before, and after this, I probably won't listen to any more of his music. It's a dirge. Billboard calls it a "hypnotic masterpiece"; I call it "music to listen to while stoned if you're thinking of jumping off a building because it's so boring it will destroy your will to stay awake and you'll fall asleep before you jump."

To follow that little rant, let's get paralleled. The card on the left is the 2012 Topps Museum Collection Green Parallel serial numbered 159 of 199. On the right is Yovani Gallardo's 2013 Topps Archives Gold Parallel serial numbered 80 of 199.

Many thanks go out to the Card Papoy for the great cards he sent my way. There were a bunch more, but I'm not sure I can listen to any more of Justin Bieber's best songs. But, to meet the title of this post, I give you Gilly W's Hon Eng 10 Site (I'm guessing that means Honors English...). Gilly wrote an ode to the Biebs that I thought Papoy would enjoy:

Come on everyone. Let's all get Bieber fever.

Thanks for getting through that with me. And, on another note, thank you to all of you for the now well-over 100,000 hits here on Off Hiatus! I am humbled that you would take the time to read this.

Thanks everyone.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Meet the Brewers #25: Phil Roof

When the Brewers began the 1970 season, manager Dave Bristol seemingly had decided that veteran catcher Jerry McNertney would be his regular catcher. McNertney had been the starter in Seattle the year before, so perhaps there was a bit of incumbency bias going on there. As a result, it took Phil Roof until the sixth game of the season to get into a game -- and then only because the Brewers and White Sox played a doubleheader, with Roof starting game 2 of the doubleheader.

1970 McDonald's Milwaukee Brewers
By the end of the season, however, Roof had played parts of 107 games behind the plate and McNertney had played in 95 as the backstop. It wasn't a platoon -- both bat right-handed. The two men were the only players to appear at catcher that year for the Brewers, making catcher a strange island of stability (along with shortstop) when compared to rightfield (12 different players appeared), leftfield (11), and first base (10, including both catchers).

The back of Roof's 1971 O-Pee-Chee Card
Phillip Anthony Roof was born in Paducah, Kentucky in a baseball-playing family. His cousin Eddie Haas appeared in 55 total games in the big leagues in the late 1950s and in 1960, and his brother Gene Roof made 48 total appearances in the 1980s (mostly for the Cardinals but also 8 games with the Expos in 1983). Additionally, Roof brothers Adrian, Paul, and David all played minor league ball as did Gene's sons Shawn, Eric, and Jonathan.

By far the most prolific of the family, Phil played in 15 total major league seasons. Roof has a number of strange distinctions. He is one of just three players to appear for both the Milwaukee Braves and Milwaukee Brewers (2 games for the Braves, 1 in 1961 and one in 1964). The other two are Felipe Alou (who hit three times for the Brewers in 1974) and Hank Aaron. A fourth player, George Brunet, appeared for the Milwaukee Braves and the Seattle Pilots, but he never made it to Milwaukee.

1971 Topps (or 1971 O-Pee-Chee, your choice)
Roof also appeared for the first iteration of the California Angels in 1965 after their name change from being the LA Angels. He was a member of the first Oakland A's team after their move from Kansas City. He stayed two seasons in Oakland before he was traded. Phil joined the Brewers organization while it was nominally still the Pilots, coming to the Brewers with Mike Hershberger, Lew Krausse, and Ken Sanders from Oakland in exchange for Ron Clark and Jaybarkerfan idol Don Mincher in a January 1970 trade.

Finally, he also made 5 plate appearances in his final season as a member of the inaugural Toronto Blue Jays. Amidst all those interesting places, he spent the most time with the Minnesota Twins -- parts of 6 seasons, starting in 1971 and ending 1976. Through it all, however, Roof was definitely more of a member of the backup catchers' and defensive specialists' union than any kind of star.

1970 Flavor-Est Milk (Reprint)

After his retirement as an active player, he spent eight seasons as a major league coach with the San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners, and Chicago Cubs. Then, the Twins came calling and asked him to serve as a minor-league manager. He did that for 16 years before retiring in 2005. Finally, he pinch-hit as the bullpen coach for the Twins in 2011 while regular bullpen coach Rick Stelmaszek recovered from eye surgery.

1994 Miller Brewing Set
As recently as 2013 (that's as recent as I can find), the then-72-year-old Roof still was coming to Twins spring training and throwing batting practice. In various interviews with Roof -- whether in 2000 when he managed the Triple-A Salt Lake Buzz, in 2011 when talking about his pal Bert Blyleven's induction into the Hall of Fame, or later that same year when Roof himself was inducted into the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame -- he comes across as someone who understands how lucky he has been to be able to spend his entire life in and around a game he's loved since he was a kid.

Counting the "milk" set, Roof appears on a total of 9 cards as a Milwaukee Brewer (10 if you count the original Milk set and the reprint separately). Of those, I have the five I've shown here. I'm missing the 1970 Mike Andersen Postcard, the 1970 and 1971 Brewers Picture Packs, the original Milk set card, and the 1971 Dell Today's Team Stamp.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

A Blog Post 32 Years in the Making

The year is 1984. 12-year-old Tony L. is, at that time, pretty hardcore when it comes to trying to collect as many baseball cards as he can. Well, in between listening over and over and over to the tape version of Van Halen's 1984 that he found one day on the side of the road walking home from his Saturday morning bowling league.

The coolest people in the world to that 12-year-old kid were David Lee Roth and Paul Molitor. Of course, Molitor sat out most of 1984 -- his age 27 season -- after having Tommy John surgery. 

The 1984 Brewers pretty much sucked without Molitor. Two years after making the World Series, the team finished a pathetic 67-94 in Rene Lachemann's first season as Brewers manager. Staff ace Don Sutton -- at the age of 39 -- compiled a 14-12 record with a 3.77 ERA in 212-2/3 innings, striking out 143. Relief ace Rollie Fingers -- at the age of 37 -- saved 23 games in his first season back from a muscle tear in his right forearm suffered in September of 1982. When Jaime Cocanower is your third starter, you know you have some problems.

The great thing for me with all of that happening was that Brewers tickets were plentiful and easy to come by. Adding to that was that my mom was willing to spring for the $10 total for me and my younger brother (who turned 1 that year) to join the Brewers-Pepsi Fan Club. That $10 came with a subscription to What's Brewing? magazine -- the Pravda of the Brewers media outlets -- and general admission tickets to six different games throughout the year.

1984 was also a food-issue and oddball collector's paradise. For the Brewers, in addition to the usual dozens of different police department cards, there were Gardner's Bakery cards (printed by Topps and inserted in packages of hot dog and hamburger buns and loaves of bread). 

In addition, chocolatier Nestle had teamed with Topps to issue a complete 792-card parallel set to the Topps flagship. Supposedly, only about 4,000 sets were produced and, as industry maven Rich Klein noted on Net 54 Baseball a few years ago, two dealers bought up much of the stock of the sheets and had them professionally cut up to sell single cards.

If you have seen a photo of me lately, you know that I like to eat -- more than is probably good for me, to be honest. As a 12-year-old, I could get away with that a bit more, and I ate enough chocolate to be able to get one of the sheets that Nestle gave away through the mail-in offer.

I always wanted to frame it and hang it on the wall -- at least I did when I was a kid. Doing so at that time, though, was prohibitively expensive. Frankly, in those pre-internet days, I really didn't have the foggiest idea where to find a picture framer.

Last Thanksgiving, when my mom and younger brother came to visit, they brought my one sheet of Nestle cards -- still in its rolled up tube. And finally, now, after just 32 years, I could finally frame that sheet.

The flash made those cards in the middle not easy to see.  Here's another photo, this time without the flash but a little blurry.

Part of me now wants to find the other five sheets -- each sheet is 12 rows of 11 cards, meaning 132 cards a sheet, which is why Topps's sets were 660 cards for a long time and why there were double-prints when the sets were 726 cards. 

The other part of me notes that this thing is pretty damn big -- about 2-1/2 feet by a little more than 4 feet -- and I don't have the wall space for any more.

Still, the 12-year-old inside me is pretty excited to finally have that up on the wall.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Magnetic Personalities

When I was in college, I was worried that being a lawyer would be boring. Not for the obvious reason that, in reality, it is boring with regularity just like almost every other job in the world. 

No, I was concerned it would be boring because it seemed like all the important stuff had been litigated already, everything had been decided, and all that was left was to pick around the scraps. 

Now, I know that picking around the scraps is both fairly lucrative and a lot more interesting that I would have thought otherwise. The fun is in the areas of difference. As a lawyer focusing on construction matters, nearly every fact pattern is different. Each prior case gives context to the advice I give to clients going forward. Sometimes you have to trust your gut instincts, and other times you have to ignore those same gut instincts.

Weirdly enough, I think this love of variety fits my collecting well. My instincts tell me that I'll never be able to collect every Brewers oddball or even every Brewers card. It just isn't possible. But, I can't stop trying.

That is what drew me to a very different eBay listing -- one for the 2009 Milwaukee Brewers Micro Magnet set sponsored by Time Warner Cable.

That's Yovani Gallardo behind plastic there. I bought a complete 2009 set of these magnetic Brewers for a total of $20 -- $15 for the set and $5 for shipping (and shipping actually cost $7.75 for postage alone...). 

The Venerable Thorzul mentioned how these worked back in 2009. Basically, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper had coupons in them for people to take to their local Pick 'N' Save food store and hand over $3 with the coupon to get the little magnet. The cost of these was partially underwritten by Time Warner Cable. You can see the official sticker of Major League Baseball next to Yo's head there -- it's a fully licensed product.

Before tonight, I'd never heard of The Magnetic Fields. My loss.

Anyway, here are a few of the other magnets from the set:

In that group, we have Corey Hart, Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, current manager Craig Counsell, then-manager/car crash Ken Macha, and Mark DiFelice.

As a side note, this may be the only time I ever get to mention Mark DiFelice. Other than this magnet, the only evidence that Mark DiFelice ever played in the major leagues is his 2009 Milwaukee Brewers Police card (which I may own already, oddly enough). DiFelice -- who does not appear to be related to former catcher Mike DiFelice as best I can tell -- was drafted out of Western Carolina in 1998 by the Colorado Rockies. He went to the Orioles system next for the 2004 season. 

The Orioles didn't kept him, so he signed with the Washington Nationals. In 14 appearances in New Orleans in 2005, he got annihilated -- 30 innings of 8.40 ERA (10 HR allowed in 30 innings!) -- and washed up in the Atlantic League. In 2006, it was the Mexican league and the Atlantic League. His work there led the Brewers to take a flyer on him in 2007. 

He pitched incredibly well in Double-A and Triple-A, and, in 2008, he made his major league debut in Milwaukee at the age of 31 on May 18. He stayed with the club for a month, got sent down, and then was recalled for September in the middle of a pennant race. He pitched well in 2009 -- making 59 appearances for the team and striking out 48 in 51-2/3 innings. 

Then, at the age of 33, he underwent shoulder surgery and missed the entire 2010 season. That would have stopped most pitchers, but he came back to make three forgettable appearances with Milwaukee in 2011.

These days, our pal Matt at Bob Walk the Plank should go hang out with him. Mark is the Pitching Coach for the West Virginia Black Bears. And, anyone who is a fan of baseball should read the little blurb Mark has written on his LinkedIn page -- he gets it.

So, that's more information on Mark DiFelice than I have ever heard or written before. Since it will be approximately 20 years before I get to him in the "Meet the Brewers" series, perhaps that will be all I ever write. But man, just reading that ride through the can feel the guy's determination coming through.

And that's why having oddballs and card sets that get all the players are really my favorite things to collect. It's the stories.