Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Meet the Brewers #32: Ken Sanders

With the placement of two pitchers on the DL and Marvin Milkes's incessant chopping and changing of the roster, additional bodies were needed in Milwaukee at the end of May in 1970. Thus, a reliever with a checkered history in major league baseball received the call up to the major leagues -- Ken Sanders. Sanders's first game in Milwaukee came on May 30, 1970

The Brewers had raced out to a five-run lead in the first-inning of the game -- thanks in large part to a hit by Brewer #30, Roberto inside-the-park grand slam home run (a play on which Al Kaline almost choked on his own tongue and died on the field) -- but starter Lew Krausse faltered and gave up 6 runs and the lead. Thus, in the fifth inning, the call to the bullpen for Sanders came. He pitched okay -- giving up one run in 2-2/3 innings -- and the Brewers came back to win the game after that.

1971 Topps/O-Pee-Chee
Kenneth George Sanders was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on July 8, 1941. He grew up there but signed with the Kansas City Athletics pretty much right after high school in 1960. The A's sent him to the Florida State League and, as an 18-year-old, the A's had him pitch 240-2/3 innings. That year, he lead the FSL in wins (19), innings pitched (by only 9 2/3 innings), and complete games with an incredible 22. Imagine if those numbers got put up now by an 18-year-old kid at any level.

Sanders was not a big man -- standing 5'11" tall and weighing 180 pounds in his heyday with Milwaukee -- and, as a result, he was not a fireballer or ever threatened to lead the league in strikeouts. Indeed, the 22 complete games he threw in the Florida State League represented 44% of all of his career complete games -- all in the minor leagues. He never again threw more than 166 innings in a single season after that, and he never completed more than 8 games in any particular season.
1971 O-Pee-Chee back
Still, Sanders fought his way to the major leagues by 1964. Oddly, between 1960 and his making the major leagues in 1964, he spent only 7 games in Triple-A...and that was in 1962. He didn't stick in the majors in '64, though. In 1964, he spent most of the season in Double-A in Birmingham, Alabama. That team was noteworthy as well -- as being the first integrated sports team in state history thanks to the inclusion of pitcher John "Blue Moon" Odom and outfielder Tommie Reynolds on the team. A book called Southern League was written about the team; oddly enough, Sanders appears to have missed the team photo (probably by being in the majors at the time).

He went back to the minors -- this time to Triple-A -- before being drafted away from the A's by the Red Sox in the Rule 5 draft before the 1966 season. He pitched okay in 24 games in Boston -- 3.61 FIP/3.80 ERA (about league average) in 47-1/3 innings -- before the A's apparently thought, "you know what, we need Sanders back." So, they traded future Seattle Pilot Jim Gosger, pitcher Guido Grilli, and Sanders to the A's for Rollie Sheldon, John Wyatt, and Jose Tartabull. While this was pretty much a trade of spare parts, Tartabull did play 115 games for the Miracle Sox of '67. On the other hand, Sanders pitched the rest of 1966 in Kansas City -- finishing 6th in appearances with 62 -- before spending '67 in the minors.

Dell Today's 1971 Milwaukee Brewers Stamp
Sanders pitched a little bit in 1968 for the A's -- now in Oakland -- but he spent most of 1968 and 1969 at Triple-A. He finally got the break he needed when the still-Seattle Pilots traded for him with Mike Hershberger, Lew Krausse, and Phil Roof in exchange for Ron Clark and Jaybarkerfan favorite Don Mincher. His pitching earned him the nickname in Milwaukee -- perhaps from Bob Uecker -- of "Bulldog" and rightfully so. Brewers manager Dave Bristol stuck Sanders in the bullpen and kept letting him pitch. 

And boy, did Sanders pitch well in 1970. He finished 30 of the 50 games he pitched, throwing 92-1/3 innings. He became the Brewers closer before teams seemed to care about that title. Relying more on pitch movement and location, he still managed to strikeout 6.2 batters per 9 innings while walking only 2.4 and giving up just 1 homer all season.

1972 Topps
By 1971, though, Sanders had become a bona fide stud. He led the American League by appearing in 83 games that season. He threw 136-1/3 innings in relief -- probably burning him out, but what did Milwaukee care, right? -- and had a sparking 1.91 ERA (thought that was a bit of a mirage, since his FIP was 2.97). He also paced the American League in Jerome Holtzman's pet statistic, saves, totaling 31 of them.

Of those 83 games in which he pitched, he finished an incredible 77 of them. That total was, at the time, a major league record by a ways -- by 10 games over the previous record held by Dick Radatz in 1964. It is still good enough for fourth best all-time behind two seasons by Mike Marshall and the 2002 season from Oakland's Billy Koch. To compare, though, Koch's season destroyed him. Koch performed his feat at the age of 27. After that, he pitched in a total of 102 games and was never the same pitcher -- with his walk-rate spiking upward terribly. On the other hand, Sanders -- who was 29 in 1971 -- pitched another five seasons with a 3.50 ERA. It took its toll -- his K-rate dropped propitiously from 6.2/9 in 1970 to 5.3 in 1971 to just 3.8/9 over the rest of its career -- but he still was a lot better than Koch.

1994 Miller Brewing Commemorative
1971 was a tough act to follow, and Sanders struggled some. His ERA went up to where it probably should have been in 1971 -- to 3.12. He appeared in 62 games and threw 92-1/3 innings. After the 1972 season, the Brewers decided to cash in and threw him in a trade to Philadelphia with Ken Brett, Jim Lonborg, and Earl Stephenson in order to get John Vukovich, Bill Champion, and eventual franchise stalwart Don Money.

Sanders never played in Philly, though, as the team flipped him a month later to the Minnesota Twins in a trade. From there, Sanders played just a couple of months in 1973 with the Twins before they waived him and the Indians claimed him. He stuck around in Cleveland for basically a season before being released in June of 1974. 

The California Angels picked him up, and Sanders spent time there and in Triple-A in 1974. In 1975, the Angels traded him to the New York Mets, where he enjoyed something of a late career revival of a 90-inning stretch with a 2.60 ERA (despite 2.4 K/9!). His contract was sold in late 1976 to the Kansas City Royals, who pitched him 3 innings and then released him. He tried to hook on with the Brewers for the 1977 season, but he did not make the team out of spring training. Instead, he spent 30 games in Triple-A Spokane for Milwaukee before finally calling time on his career.

2000 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 1970s All Decades Team
Sanders really was the only real relief ace that the Brewers had before Rollie Fingers joined the team by trade after the 1980 season. He was an easy selection as the relief pitcher on the 1970s Brewers All-Decades Team on the team's 30th anniversary.

Thanks to his Midwestern upbringing, Sanders and his wife Mary Ann felt very comfortable in the Milwaukee area and settled in Hales Corners, Wisconsin, permanently. After his big league career ended, Sanders became a real estate agent. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article from 2013 notes that his claim to fame as a real estate agent was to list and sell the "Field of Dreams" in Dyersville, Iowa.

Again, at least as of 2013, Sanders still golfed every day he could in Wisconsin, which means from late April to early October. He still has the little book he kept on hitters as a pitcher, and, as he correctly notes, his first ever major league strikeout was of Mickey Mantle. When Sanders told Mantle about that fact, Mantle said, "big f**king deal -- you and 1,000 others kid!"

According to the Trading Card Database, Sanders appears on 8 total cards as a Brewer. I have the 6 you see here. I am missing the 1971 Milwaukee Brewers Picture Pack and his 1972 O-Pee-Chee card.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

My Card Room

We are a country of self-improvers. A search on Amazon books for "Self-Improvement" tells me that there are 64,077 results in the category, including 48,660 "self-help" books, 10,971 "Motivational Management & Leadership" Books, and 6,557 "Personal Transformation Self-Help" books. 

Practically every facet of our lives is subject to this self-improvement industry. Websites have proliferated as well. Nearly every business website must have an article about good work environments. On Google, a staggering 269 million results for "good work environment" (without the quotes) are returned. The first one gives 5 characteristics of a positive work environment, the next gives 7 keys to creating the best work environment, and then the third result provides 23 ways to create a better work environment.

It's positively astounding to me. But it doesn't stop there. When I search for "good work room," Google provides me with over 1 billion results in under a half a second and gives me "30 ideas for [my] crafts room, home office, or workroom."

I wonder if any of those ideas include Starting Lineup Figures?

Judson over at My Cardboard Habit recently ran a contest that I completely spaced out on and missed in the midst of my red mist over ToppsNow ignoring the Brewers and cutting up bases and selling them for $1,000 inside a card. P-Town Tom was the deserving winner of the contest, though I was disappointed that his man/card room did not include his mole trap.

But, since I have been in a bit of a dry spell in terms of getting new cards, I thought I'd give a look at my card room/home office. I'm very lucky in that I have a large, well-lit room with a decent amount of outside light that comes in as well as having its own full bathroom and closet. 

But, rather than try to describe it, let's go to the photos:

Here's the view as you walk in. I have two computers because I had to buy a Mac for work when I went out on my own as an attorney, and then I didn't need it for work because I joined a firm. So, it's two computers for me. The couch used to be in my wife's house that she rented before we met, and I got it because it's comfortable, has recliner sides, and frankly I like it.

It's also two monitors for me. Ever since I got two at work, I feel lost without a second one. Call me spoiled. #FirstWorldProblems

You will get a better look at these book shelves in a bit.

Here's the view from behind the desk. Those of you with cats will recognize the cat tree on the right side of the room. My buddy Gus sleeps in the upper level when I am home on the weekends. My old Sony plasma TV is still my TV of choice -- 12 years old and still works like a charm.

Here's a better view of the TV, with Gus on the floor hanging out. You can see the bathroom entry at the left and the closet at the right. Yes, I have a lot of books too. 

Inside the closet, you can see my monster boxes set aside for each team. Sadly, they are mostly filled with junk wax/early 1980s cards and a bunch of 2013 series 2 cards (since I bought and broke a case of that back in 2014). Seriously, if you need anything from the 1980s, let me know.

The bookshelf in the corner next to the closet houses most of my soccer books, my pro football and college football books, and a fair number of my baseball books as well. The metal "Play Ball" sign was a $10 purchase at Hobby Lobby, if I recall correctly. That middle row of glassware came mostly from my local Taco Mac restaurant back about 7-8 years ago. They would have glassware giveaways of their featured beer every Thursday night, so I picked up a few.

This photo: The bathroom door, the TV, the Vince Lombardi Successories wall-hanging that I got as a groomsman's gift, the three four boxes of junk wax from my Christmas Haul that I have yet to sort, another Hobby Lobby special in the ESPN College Gameday metal wall hanging, a couple of Georgia football wall items (one of which is a print from the first Blackout against Auburn in 2007, when Verne Lundquist danced to Soulja Boy on national TV) and my three programs from attending three English Premier League games back in 2006 around London (Tottenham, Chelsea, and Charlton, in case you're interested).

The two main book shelves. The one on the top has my team collections in binders sorted by card issuer along with my Robin Yount and Ryan Braun collection. The one on the bottom has my other player collections. Next to this bottom one you can see the stacks of sheets that I still have remaining after my Christmas haul. It's the gift that keeps on giving!

The little bookshelf peaking out next to that bottom one holds my bobbleheads, my Starting Lineup Figures, and other odd stuff that couldn't be stored anywhere else. The signed football features Georgia Football legends David Greene and David Pollack. The black thing on the shelf is my Sonos speaker, which I use almost all the time that I'm in my office to listen to music.

Above my couch. The Brewers pennant was signed by Don Sutton just before he pitched in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series in 1982 against the California Angels. My mom let me skip school that day and took me and my older brother to watch that game because, well, the Brewers had lost the first two games and we had no idea whether we'd get to see any more playoff baseball in Milwaukee that year.

The one in the middle is Brett Favre, of course. It's a certified autograph displayed with two facsimile tickets from the two Super Bowls that he went to with the Packers.

The Milwaukee Braves pennant was my mom's when she was under the age of 10 in the mid-1950s. I used to have it in my work office, but I decided I'd rather have it at home.

And finally, the other corner. There's the Nestle uncut sheet from 1984, and it's next to two Topps-issued items from 2014 that I bought and really like. I guess this is why I complain when Topps leaves the Brewers out -- I mean, I've tried to buy the stuff up when I can!

I hope that you have at least endured the quick tour through my card room/home office. I suppose I should really try to put more stuff on my walls since I have those posters now, but I kind of like the clean, minimalist look I've got going on. 

Thanks, Judson, for the post idea. Too bad I didn't remember to join the contest!

And because this post needs a little music, here's a song I think I've heard every day in the morning for the past week and a half:

Monday, August 29, 2016

A Little More Now

I've strongly criticized ToppsNow on Twitter for the team distribution that we have seen employed by Topps and, more to the point, the double standards that exist for players that get cards versus those who don't. It's crazy, I know, but I actually want to spend my $10 to get a Brewer on a card. 

That said, I also understand well the facts here. The Brewers are a team in transition that are not winning many games. They have only had one walk-off win this year -- and it coincided with Topps's All-Star Topps Now blitz. 

As you may know if you follow me on Twitter, I am tracking the cards issued by team. Up until recently, I've left out those horribly overpriced relics and autographs that have invaded the product. My plan is to let the regular season play out and see where the numbers are. You know Topps will issue a ton of cards during the post-season, but I want to see only the regular season numbers to see how they shake out.

And, at the end of the year, I'll probably do something more global in terms of data crunching. With all the data crunching I do for cards, you would think that I'm not a lawyer but rather an engineer or a scientist of some sort. The numbers in baseball fascinate me, and these are no different.

I'm also going to try to find the top moments that Topps ignored. If you have a nominee, comment below or send me an email or DM on Twitter.

I write all of this to tease the future, but also to celebrate the present. Topps issued two more of the ToppsNow cards that I felt needed to be added to my collection.

With music, maestro?

Of course, ya'll need to come with me NOW. I really have found that this song gets me going in the morning when I need a kickstart. Back in July, I went to my doctor and found that I had hit stratospheric levels of weight that scared me -- I was up at 254 pounds, and I felt worse than that. I finally got serious about getting off my ever-expanding ass and working out and eating right. 

Thanks to a modified Mediterranean diet -- mixed with a very liberal dose of "stop eating every f**king thing you see and want" -- along with doing a walk of at least 30 minutes every morning except Saturdays, I've kicked myself into better shape. I went back today and, fully dressed except for shoes, I weighed in at 233 there. I'm not done by any stretch of the imagination, but losing 21 pounds in 6 weeks is pretty good progress. 

If only Prince Fielder could have found a way to get himself into better shape and avoid all the pounding and beating that his ample body took, perhaps he'd still be playing major league baseball. To be fair, I have no idea what caused the neck problems that ended his career and caused him to have two surgeries to fuse vertebrae. Nor do I know whether he could have done anything to prevent the issue. 

Still, he tried to lose weight through any number of things -- vegetarianism, for instance. I guess he didn't realize that a vegetarian pizza is still a pizza.

For those of you who live in Milwaukee, this song may at least sound a little bit familiar. It's the at-bat song for the #11 prospect in all of baseball -- a guy most of you have heard of. He's made his major league debut, he's gotten his first major league hit, he's stolen his first major league base, and he has even hit his first major league homerun at the young age of 21. He's scuffling a bit right now as he adjusts to the level of his competition -- he is, after all, over 7 years younger than the average National Leaguer.

And ToppsNow? It's pretty much ignored Orlando Arcia.

It irked me a bit, suffice it to say. 

Topps being Topps, though, they found a way to shoehorn him into the Topps Now collection without actually issuing a card for him.

Arcia is #3, greeting the man-giant Chris Carter. This card was issued for the Brewers scoring a run in every single inning in a game against the Braves. That's happened less frequently than a perfect game has been pitched. And yet, I honestly believe it was a close call for Topps as to whether or not to issue this card.

Nonetheless, I'm glad to get to put this one into my collection. At least Arcia has a good chance to be around past 2016 as a Brewer -- unlike the previous three Topps Now Brewer cards of Fielder retiring, Lucroy getting traded, and Aaron Hill hitting three homers before getting shipped to Boston.

Thanks for stopping by, and have a good week.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Depressed Twins Fans and Brewers Fans Have to Stick Together

For people who have never spent any significant time in the Midwest, there are several truths about the good people in our nation's upper midsection -- particularly people from Minnesota and Wisconsin -- that most people do not know. 

First, people from Wisconsin are super nice people -- nicer even than Southerners. Thing is, they are also incredibly blunt and have a little less tact than most folks do, so they'll tell you to your face what a moron you are for doing something stupid, but then they'll laugh about it with you and buy you a beer, a shot of Jager, and a brandy old-fashioned sweet. 

Similarly, Minnesota people are incredibly nice people. They are so preternaturally nice that they even mock themselves for it -- calling it "Minnesota Nice." Minnesota Nice means something close to this: let's say it's 10 below zero outside in Minnesota -- you know, October. If they see your freezing butt walking around without gloves, they'll hand you their gloves, tell you it's no big deal, and continue to tell you that they are good even as you watch their hands turn purple and fall off from frostbite. It's Minnesota Nice -- niceness to the point of craziness.

The other thing, though, is that there is truly a major divide at the Mississippi River, the St. Croix River, and that straight line north to Lake Superior when it comes to sports. Sure, there are a fair number of Packers/Brewers fans that live west of that line and there are a few Vikings/Twins fans that live east of that line, but it is a lot fewer than you would expect. Within that divide is a major, hateful rivalry that makes the Red Sox/Yankees rivalry appear tame. It is certainly more on the NFL side and many folks will tell you that the Vikings fans hate the Packers fans much, much more than the other way around (like this ESPN article that claims that Packers fans pay more attention and save more bile for the Bears than for the Vikings).

That's partially because Chicago is closer to the major metropolitan areas in Wisconsin (Milwaukee) and partially because the Vikings haven't won a Super Bowl. Ever. Despite 4 tries.

I will add that the Twin Cities have plenty of gorgeous, tall blond women like these two. It's all that Nordic ancestry. In fact, Travel + Leisure magazine ranked the Twin Cities in the Top 10 for attractive, athletic, likable people -- at number 6, ahead of #7 Nashville, #8 Atlanta, #9 Honolulu, and #10 Tampa. By the way, Detroit had the least attractive people in the country. So, the two women above should not be seen as outliers.

It's to the point that there are plenty of Minnesota Twins fans -- many from the upper Midwest outside of Minnesota in particular -- who eschew cheering for the Vikings and choose, instead, to cheer for other NFL teams. My Twitter pal @Brud4merica -- a/k/a Depressed Twins Fan -- is one of those. Even though he got sucked into being a Twins fan by Kirby Puckett, Brad Radke, and Jacque Jones, among others, he declares himself to be a Patriots fan. Of course, he's an Iowan (there's no other reason on God's green earth to be an Iowa Hawkeyes fan other than being from Iowa, so that's my logical deduction there).

He's also served our country as a soldier and now finds himself stuck outside of Augusta, Georgia. As good looking as Atlanta people are, that's how ugly Augusta is. I dislike Augusta with a fire of a 1000 suns. The best week of the year in Augusta is Masters week, and that's because all the people who normally populate Augusta leave town and allow outsiders to take over. 

That's a long introduction to get to the fact that Brud sent me a nice little PWE of some great cards for my Brewers collection. 

With the focus in Milwaukee on the future, I've been spending a lot of time getting my Bowman cards organized. I'm starting to put all the parallels and inserts into binders -- anything serial numbered to 100 or more goes into the binders, with anything else that I have being a bonus. I'm into 2007, so it's been slow going, but I'm getting there. Hopefully soon I'll have caught up entirely so I'll know how many of these Monte Harrison cards I have. I think it's more than one, but I don't know for sure.

A little unlogoed love here. I needed the Lucroy for my Donruss-Lite collection from this year. I'm not sure about the Yount yet -- getting the Panini parallels and inserts into binders is low on the priority list; finishing off the oddballs is after Bowman, followed by all the Topps parallels and inserts. So, when I finish that sometime in the middle of 2018, I'll get around to the Panini parallels.

These Panini cards helped protect the card that was the focus of the PWE:

I miss Upper Deck. Sure, they did all the crazy parallels that Topps now feels obligated to try to recreate. But Upper Deck cards just were (shhhhh....don't say it too loudly) BETTER than Topps's efforts for the same years. Seriously. Upper Deck Masterpieces did the whole "artsy card" that Topps started with Gallery a lot better, frankly, than Gallery did it. This 2008 UD Masterpieces "Captured on Canvas" is excellent -- the texture of the card, in particular, feels like it is actual canvas that artists use for oil painting. I know it's probably not, but it feels like it.

My thanks go out to Brud both for the service to our country and for the cards. I'm putting together a responsive envelope for you soon. 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

What Did I REALLY Have on My Walls as a Kid?

Earlier this week, I highlighted some posters I bought recently. I also mentioned the almost ridiculously sized "growth charts" that I almost certainly will never measure up to unless I have a sudden growth spurt at the age of 44. 

You might be surprised to learn, though, that I still have some of the posters that festooned my walls as a youth. They are not in the best of shape, unfortunately -- I suppose 30+ years of being folded up, put up and down on the walls, and otherwise moved around will do that to a piece of paper. 

Still, a couple of them are cool so I thought I'd share them.

To put you in the mood, let's go with some good music from the 1980s to add to the ambiance for these posters.

There we go. I started getting into Britpop in the 1980s. Well, musically, I started getting into everything in the 1980s -- heavy metal, Britpop, pop, dance, rap, classical, punk, jazz...literally everything. I had a debate partner who was way ahead of me in terms of being into all kinds of music. I hate to admit this, but I was always envious of how cool he was and how much he really didn't give a shit about what anyone thought about him. On top of everything else, he was very smart and very well-read. 

I found out later that he actually was a bit envious of me as well -- that I had such drive and ambition and focus about everything whereas he was always sort of floating and dabbling in practically everything. Human emotions and envy are strange, especially in our teens, in that we seem to pine for everything we don't have and focus on that instead of being grateful for all the things we do have.

As with many things in life, age and the passage of time have softened that envy. Sure, I can slip into envy when talking about baseball cards and how Topps issues 85 Yankees/Red Sox cards for every 1 Brewer card. It happens.

I don't remember when I got this poster. I think it actually was something that got handed out at an appearance at a Foot Locker or some other shoe store that Robin did. As you can see in this poster, Yount had a sponsorship deal with adidas for a while. It appears that this photo might have been taken during Game 4 of the 1982 World Series since that was a day game.

Game 5 was a day game as well, but it wasn't sunny that day. The lights may have made it appear brighter, but it was not sunny at all. I was there. Here's a video of that whole game. 

I love the intro mentioning the fact that the windchill for the game was 37 degrees. Of course, I don't remember that part at all.

Another band that 1980s Tony listened to a lot was Oingo Boingo. Danny Elfman fronted the band, but he became much more well-known for his writing scores for television and movies such as Chicago, Red Dragon, Good Will Hunting, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Men in Black. Also, he married to Bridget Fonda and his nephew Bodhi's wife Jenna Elfman is pretty well known too.

With hollywood royalty like that, we need baseball royalty. This poster was part of the Brewers-Pepsi Fan Club package in 1986 (I checked the schedule on the poster to make sure of that).

In looking back at that season, I'm actually amazed at how poor the Brewers' attendance was. Opening Day wasn't a sell-out -- about 3,000 short. The next game -- after a Wednesday cancellation -- drew just 5,823 people. Even a Saturday afternoon game on April 19 against the Yankees drew just 13,922. For the season, the team drew just 1,265,041 -- and that was better than both Minnesota and Seattle.

And finally:

I guess I have always appreciated music that was a little different than the usual pop music. Sure, this song hit the top 10 on the US Hot 100, peaking at #9, but it was definitely a weird song to hit the top of the charts. 1983 really was a simpler time in that respect, I suppose.

But if your house were burning, you'd want the firemen to show up, right?

Like the Yount poster sponsored by adidas, this poster of Rollie Fingers and Bruce Sutter was a Nike creation. I found a nice, new, perfect version of this on eBay this morning for the low, low price of just $139.95 and a mini version of it for $40. So, I really do wish I'd taken better care of this one.

This is especially true thanks to the scribble you might see next to Rollie:

Yup, the reason I have this is yet another of those "in-store" appearances at a shoe store by Rollie Fingers. This poster stayed on my wall as a kid for most of the 1980s before getting put away at some point. It stayed in storage, folded rather than rolled, for the better part of 25 years before I got it back when I got all the random stuff I saved as a kid shipped to me by my mom.

I'm thinking of framing this one and putting it back on the wall, but with so many other options, I'm thinking that I'll keep this one rolled up for now.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

"Daddy, How Big Will I Be When I Grow Up?"

I don't have kids. So, I don't hear the question that is the title of my post. Sometimes I think I'd like to have a child, but then I talk to my friends with teenagers, or tweens, or toddlers, and I am very glad that I don't have kids.

My wife and I have two nieces and two nephews, though. Whenever we see them, they always want to show us how much they've grown up since we last saw them. Sometimes it is obvious, and other times you really have to squint to see even an eighth of an inch of growth.

Back in the 1980s, the Milwaukee Brewers thought of this issue. For at least four years in the mid-to-late 1980s, the team partnered with various sponsors and had "Brewers Growth Chart Day." Kids aged 15 and under would get a rolled up poster as they entered the stadium of one or more of the Brewers with a growth chart in inches on it. 

Here's the catch: these growth charts are life-sized photos of the player shown.

As part of my poster purchase from my new buddy from North Carolina, I picked up four of these gargantuan posters.

Let's start with the man: Robin Yount.

I don't know if you can see it,  but along the right side of the poster is the growth chart -- from 1 inch at the bottom all the way up to 6'3" tall at the top. Humorously, Robin was listed as being only 6' tall exactly, so even he wouldn't measure up to...himself. 

Here's a better look at that:

For what it's worth, this chart has a 1984 copyright date on it.

By the way, Sentry is a still-in-operation grocery store in Wisconsin. WBCS was a country music station which changed call letters to WLZR and became a hard rock station called Lazer 103 in 1987. These days, it's still playing pretty much the same music as it did in the 1980s and calls itself 102.9 FM The Hog.

Not that you care that much about Milwaukee radio history...

The next big man, of course, would be Paul Molitor:

Molitor's growth chart moved up the sponsorship levels to a national brand of Wonder Bread. Paul always did seem so white bread to me as a kid -- before I knew he had a serious cocaine problem in the early 1980s (him and 3/4 of baseball) and before he changed wives as part of a post-playing life change and married a woman named Destini, with whom he had cheated on his wife Linda and had a child. Destini was at least the second woman with whom Molitor had a child outside of his marriage to Linda, as he was also paying child support to a Canadian woman named Joanna Andreou.

I guess Paul could keep using these growth charts for quite a while.

Molitor also is just 6' tall and, as was the case with Yount, he didn't measure up on his own chart either -- even if the good folks with the Brewers and Wonder Bread gave Mollie an extra couple of inches:

Another of the growth charts I got came from one of the years where the giveaway was sponsored by the The Dairy Council of Wisconsin. 

I believe this one would be either from 1988 or 1989, depending on whether the team used a current photo or one from the archives. The H/K Patch on the left sleeve to honor Harvey Kuenn was used during the 1988 season to honor Harvey in the year after he passed away.

A few snide remarks: Baseball Reference's height for Robin Yount at 6' tall either came from 1974 and Robin grew a couple of inches during his career -- which is certainly possible -- or Paul Molitor is more like 5'10" tall than 6' tall. It's pretty obvious that Yount is taller here. Now, that could be because they put two photos together too, but it looks like the shadows are right for them to be in the same room.

Next snide remark: Molitor holding cheese with the cheesy grin is the most appropriately Midwestern photo I've ever seen.

Final snide remark: that little logo for the "square" meal/diet looks like it includes steak, beer, a tomato, and bread. This would be a 100% accurate Wisconsin diet so long as that tomato is the sauce on a Tombstone Pizza.

Okay, last one:

Here's Rob Deer -- a guy legitimately listed at 6'3" tall and who appears to be shortened by this growth chart. Dude was a very large man. Being a late 80s power hitter, it's always open to question whether he was playing with "help". Of course, when you look at his strikeout totals, you know for certain that the only help he really needed was to go to the optometrist to check his eyesight.

So, all four of these growth charts are really cool items. But, you might be able to see my dilemma with these already: am I really going to put a life-sized, full-body photo of three different baseball players up? If so, do you know how much the frames for that will cost?

The real answer is that those questions don't matter. The real answer is, "My wife said absolutely not."

I'm having a difficult time arguing with her on that. The most important point about displaying them is that, well, I don't have the wall space to do so. These things are massive! 

So, I'll keep them in my closet for now, biding my time until a later day when I might have the wall space. 

Or, maybe I'll just put them up on the backsides of the doors that my wife never sees. 

Hiding is always an option.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016


Remember when you were a kid? I know, for many of us that is a long, long time ago. I mean, I was old enough to vote by the end of 1989, after all, so being a kid really was over 30 years ago for me.

As a kid, though, the stuff that you put on your walls -- how you decorated your bedroom, in particular -- was incredibly important. Did you go with a sports motif?

Be honest -- when you first saw the upper left hand corner, you didn't see "Flea Flicker."
Or were you more of a rock band/music guy or gal?

No, this is not my room. Never.
I definitely fell on the side of putting up sports heroes, though -- sort of the area that Fathead angles for. Or, maybe girls in swimsuits if I could get away with it.

I wouldn't have done that sports look above -- first, I wouldn't want the same four posters repeated three times. More to the point, every time I saw "Hook and Ladder" my brain would want to correct that because damn it it's Hook and Lateral, not hook and ladder. The stupid WR runs a button-hook pattern and the running back comes out and gets the lateral from him and runs toward the end zone. Therefore, it's hook and lateral and not a freaking ladder.

I also wouldn't go for the rock music look because, well, I always thought that it looked weird. And, I didn't have much money as a kid, so I didn't have the money to be buying posters of bands. I barely had enough to buy their cassette tapes.

Recently, though, I bought a few posters for my walls. I bought them from the same guy off eBay that I bought that huge early Brewers lot from, and he gave me a decent deal on them. I haven't gotten around to getting them framed yet -- but I'll do that soon. In the meantime, let's take a look at the three smallest posters and see what I have:

So, obviously, this came from September of 1992 -- Wednesday, September 9, to be exact. The local morning paper at that time was called The Milwaukee Sentinel, and it issued this poster to commemorate Robin Yount's 3000th hit...obviously. 

Oddly enough, I probably like this one the least of the three posters that I got. It's pretty cool and all, and it commemorates the individual career highlight in Brewers' history. 

But, well, I was back at college by this point at the start of my junior year at Vanderbilt. While I saw the SportsCenter replays and all that, I really didn't feel a part of this day in Brewer history. Instead, I was just back on campus after having gone to Tuscaloosa, Alabama the previous weekend, having seen eventual national champions Alabama -- quarterbacked by Alabama legend Jay Barker -- beat Vandy 25-8. College football and college girls were front and center for me at that point, and, sadly, I really missed out on Yount's history in many respects.

Now, this one I did not miss. In 1987, the Brewers captivated baseball in many ways, not the least of which was Paul Molitor's 39-game hitting streak. No one has hit in as many straight games consecutively since that time. Jimmy Rollins came close in 2005 and 2006 when he hit in a total of 38 straight games -- 36 in 2005 and 2 in 2006. 

Molitor's hitting streak started inauspiciously enough. He went on the disabled list at the end of June after coming out of a game on June 26 against Toronto in the seventh inning after going 0-for-3 there. He returned against the California Angels on July 16 with a double off Kirk McCaskill. 

The streak came to an end on August 26, 1987. That game pitted Brewers' ace Ted Higuera against a kid in just his second-ever start -- current Red Sox manager John Farrell. Farrell had made his major league debut against the Brewers 8 days earlier, picking up the win in a 12-inning, 9-8 game. The first batter he ever faced as a major leaguer was Molitor, who promptly got a single. Robin Yount followed with a single, but Glenn Braggs grounded into a double play. After walking Mike "Tiny" Felder, Farrell induced a B.J. Surhoff groundout to end the threat. In the bottom of the inning, Pat Tabler won the game for the Tribe with one of his patented bases-loaded hits -- this one coming off Ray Burris.

In that August 26 game, Farrell matched Higuera zero for zero. Indeed, Higuera ended up throwing a complete game, 10-inning 3 hitter, giving up only two walks and striking out 10. Farrell went 9 innings and also gave up only 3 hits while walking 2 and striking out 7. Molitor's last at bat came in the bottom of the 8th inning -- he reached on an error on first baseman Pat Tabler. 

In the bottom of the 10th inning, Molitor was still hitless, obviously. The Indians brought in their closer -- former Brewer Doug Jones -- to face hitters 6, 7, and 8. Rob Deer was the first to the plate, and he was drilled by an errant Jones pitch. Tiny Felder -- a speedster -- pinch ran for Deer. Ernest Riles was not credited with a sacrifice, but he grounded out to Jones for the first out. 

With first base open, Jones intentionally walked switch hitter and current Royals hitting coach Dale Sveum. Manager Tom Trebelhorn sent former Indian (and current Indian Broadcaster) Rick Manning (who, in 1978, apparently stole Dennis Eckersley's wife, leading to Eck's trade to Boston) to the plate to bat for light-hitting second baseman Juan Castillo. Now, Manning is batting for hitter number 9 in the lineup. This puts the still-hitless Molitor on deck.

In true Rick Manning fashion -- at least in Milwaukee -- Manning did something right that still was wrong. He singled, driving in the speedy Felder from third base and winning the game for the team. The Washington Post article on the game mentioned that the sparse crowd of 11,246 -- it had rained all day and many thought the game would be postponed -- actually booed Manning for winning the game.

In other words, Rick Manning stole another man's love.

I kid, though. I liked Rick Manning. He was a super guy to fans and always had time for signing autographs. But, that one night, part of me and everyone else in Milwaukee kind of wished that he had struck out.


And finally, no discussion of 1987 would be complete without something from that magical April streak. The Brewers, of course, started off the year with 13 straight wins. That team really was "Team Streak" because, shortly after, the club reeled off 12 straight losses. Throw in Molitor's streak and the smaller streak -- Ted Higuera set a team record with 32 straight scoreless innings -- and you can see why I call it that.

The fun part of this poster is the George Webb Restaurants logo. George Webb is a local hamburger joint in Milwaukee. From the days of the Braves being in town, they ran a promotion: if the home baseball team (Braves or Brewers) won a certain number of games in a row, then the chain would give out free hamburgers all day at every location (it was franchised locally in the late 1940s). 

From the excellent history website called Borchert Field, here is a photo of the promo in 1953, the Braves' first year in town:

Eventually, the magic number of wins in a row was 12. This was tied to giving out free hamburgers -- 10,000 of them -- in 1956. That season, the Braves racked up 11 straight wins -- but they could not get to 12.

Until 1987. Then, George Webb paid off -- in a big way:

These three posters were a great way to drag me back to being a teenager again in Milwaukee -- when all that really mattered to me was that the Brewers were winning, I was doing well in my sports and in school, and that I was doing well in my other extracurricular activities (debate, jazz ensemble, marching band, forensics, mock trial, Spanish club, etc.).

Maybe I will hang these on my wall -- like the old days.