Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The 30-Day Baseball Card Challenge

As I mentioned in my post about the cards from Night Owl, a lot of us on Twitter have been engaging in the 30-Day music challenge. It's a list of categories that you're supposed to run through on a fairly daily basis to identify various songs that come to mind. Day 1, for example is "A song you like with a color in the title." Others get more personal, like, "A song that breaks your heart."

Since I threw the idea out at the end of that post, I thought I'd take a first cut at putting together a similar list for baseball cards. I personally am going to use this list as blog fodder when I am lacking in trade posts -- which will come soon, based on my own lack of time lately to put packages together -- and when I'm not feeling up to a full research post for "Meet the Brewers." The Meet the Brewers posts will begin again soon, but it may be a month or so before I start them up again, so I need a little bit of other stuff to post about.

So, here goes -- here's the list.

For what it's worth, I gave it a background of a photo found through a Google Image Search of the old Milwaukee County Stadium -- the stadium against which all others are measured in my book.

Feel free to share it on Twitter, use it in your blog posts (with or without attribution -- I don't care), tweak it further to improve it, change categories to fit your sport -- whatever makes you happy. If you do decide to use it on your blog, would you be so kind as to leave a message below, though? I'm thinking that there are, again, a whole host of new blogs that I'm missing out on so any new ones I can add to my list will be appreciated.

In some respects, I hope that this encourages more interaction via the blogs than at least I have had in recent months. Much of that is my own fault -- being too busy does that. But I have seen folks lament the old days of the "blog bat arounds" and thought this might be an idea to that end as well.

Day 1

Day 1 on the list is "A card from the current year with a photo you like."

Because I have only really seen a very limited number of cards -- the Brewers cards from Series 1 Flagship and from Heritage in particular -- I have a limited number to choose from at this point. As I said on Twitter, I went with the future.

This is the 2017 Topps Gold Orlando Arcia card, serial numbered and all. I'm itching to start another player collection soon, and Arcia is in the mix for that "honor." As he continues to develop this year, we will see if he starts to solidify a position in that mix or if, instead, he needs to start looking over his shoulder for Mauricio Dubon and Isan Diaz.

For what it's worth, the guys I view as possible new player collections for me are:

1. Brett Phillips
2. Orlando Arcia
3. Jonathan Villar
4. Lewis Brinson
5. Isan Diaz
6. Josh Hader
7. Wily Peralta (he's still hanging around, after all)
8. Zach Davies
9. Lucas Erceg

Erceg, in particular, is a guy who I think could move up quickly through the Brewers system and make an impact in the major leagues sooner than might otherwise be expected. Not that I'm a prospect guru, mind you, but as long as he can avoid trouble and adjust as needed, he just looks the part.

At any rate, I hope y'all will take part at your leisure in the 30-Day baseball challenge. Thanks for stopping by.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Night Owl Sent Me Cards

During my recent work-imposed blogging break, I've still been able to sneak on Twitter for a few minutes here and there. About the only thing I have had time for doing other than liking and retweeting some posts here and there has been to try to remember to post a song for the 30 Day Music Challenge, which came to my attention thanks to erstwhile baseball card blogger Marcus:

As you can see, these categories provide a way for us musicophiles to dig into the recesses of our brains for songs that we may have forgotten, or which may be in the front of our minds or, even for songs on Google that we have no idea came out during the year of our birth. As an aside, that last category provided a strange confluence for me in that I had no idea that The Doors "Riders on the Storm" came out the same year as Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven". The Doors seem so very 1960s, and Zeppelin is the epitome of 70s metal to me...for them to overlap in 1971 is interesting.

Every so often, Night Owl will reply to my post with a song of his own. Since I could use some good music today, let's look at the cards that Night Owl sent me around the beginning of February highlighted by his musical responses.

1.  A Song that is a cover by another artist
"Take Me to the River" by the Talking Heads

I have to admit that I did not realize that this was a cover song. In fact, until now, I did not have the opportunity to look for the original song that the Talking Heads were covering. Then, thanks to YouTube, I found it:

Thing is, both versions are just excellent in their own ways. Al Green's version is a horn-driven funk tune that I almost certainly would have enjoyed playing in jazz ensemble back in high school. 

The Talking Heads version is slower and is driven more by the bass line and keyboards. It is the same and yet entirely different. Add in David Byrne's completely different vocal interpretation, and you get a classic of an entirely different breed.

Speaking of classics of an entirely different breed, Night Owl sent me some great cards from the early and mid-1970s. Those days in Brewers history were pivotal in that the drafts from those years helped build the teams of the late 1970s and early 1980s, and some of the players on those teams started showing up in the big leagues -- such as the 21-year-old Jim Slaton on that high-number 1972 Topps card that is impossible to find at a reasonable price anywhere...unless, of course, Night Owl happens to have an extra and sends it to you.

All of these were cards that were significant upgrades on condition to the ones I had in my collection already. More importantly, these cards are an excellent reminder that porkchop sideburns rocked in the 1970s.

2. A song to play at one's wedding
"Groove is in the Heart" by Deee-Lite

This probably gives us more insight as to the date that Night Owl was married more than it tells us what music he'd prefer to hear. At least that is what I am guessing. This song was literally ubiquitous in 1990. You could not go to a dance club or turn on Top 40 radio without hearing this song and having every woman/girl in earshot digging in and dancing their hearts out.

For my song, I selected "Chasing Cars" by Snow Patrol because that was my wife and my first dance song at our wedding. We cut it off at the part where it got more upbeat than would otherwise support a slower dance, but it still is "our" song.

That Ben Sheets card took me a bit by surprise. Again, since I was not collecting at the time when it was issued, I did not realize that Topps's folks apparently decided to trade Sheets to the Padres without the Brewers or the Padres having any knowledge of such a trade taking place. As best I can tell, this also was not one of those situations where Topps was echoing an error that actually occurred in the original set being mimicked (here the 1958 Topps, which has tons of variations). Nope, just a straight up "small markets don't care" as best I can tell.

Boy, if I had been collecting in 2007, I'd have been as upset about that as I get about the Brewers having three cards in the Opening Day set.

3. Name a Favorite 70s song
"Signed, Sealed, Delivered" by Stevie Wonder

Night Owl is a few years older than me. Not many, mind you, but when it comes to memories of pop culture, those years get to be important. I'm a child of the 1980s for sure -- I turned 9 years old in 1980 and graduated high school in 1990. Night Owl is a child of the 1970s. No doubt about it. 

I say that because my favorite 1970s songs tend to be songs that I did not hear until much later after they were released. I don't have a ton of contemporary knowledge. Night Owl, on the other hand, replied to my choice of "Clash City Rockers" by saying he could pick a different 70s song for literally every day of the year but settled on this one. 

I hate to admit it, but this is the first time I have listed to this song. It's a solid, straight ahead Stevie Wonder song. My memories of Stevie revolve around the soft-rock pablum of "I Just Called To Say I Love You." That song got overplayed so badly that I just can't listen to it anymore. 

On the other hand, this melange of 2016 Archives Gary Carter (wrong logo, Topps...it was just the team name in 1991...), 1989 O-Pee-Chee of Dale Sveum (whose career was inexorably altered in 1989 by a collision on a popup which broke his leg), a 2008 Topps Update Salomon Torres (who finished his career in MIlwaukee with 80 decent innings in 2008), and two 2008 Topps Chrome cards. 

As was the case with the Warren Spahn card yesterday, I always appreciate it when someone sends me a Gary Carter card. Carter was my first real player collection in the 1980s, and I still enjoy getting his cards for my collection.

4. A Song from Night Owl's Preteen Years
"Afternoon Delight" by Starland Vocal Band

I selected "Blue Bayou" by Linda Ronstadt, but this one was right up there for me too. The song was released in April 1976, and it was still getting airplay well into 1977 in Wisconsin. That, or its catchy chorus got stuck in my head as a 4-year-old. That's possible too.

It took many years after that for me to realize what this song is really about. One commenter on YouTube wrapped it up well, though: as Melo Fran said, "At the time we thought this song was soooo racy lol!!!!! Now it looks like a bunch of nerds ..."

These cards are kind of nerdy too. But I like them anyway. 

Someday soon, after I get done putting my Topps parallels, inserts, and oddballs binders together (I've made it to 2004...only 13 more years to go!), I'll get started with the cataloguing and bindering of the Brewers minor league sets. 

Before that, though, I can tell you that Mike Grayson, unfortunately, passed away in May of 2016 in Tampa at the age of just 48 years old. His obituary said his passions were baseball and music -- playing in 1988 and 1989 in the Brewers system and being a wedding DJ. He died from a brain aneurysm, so that allowed his organs to be removed to help others get a second chance at life. The outpouring of love on his Legacy.com page really touched me too. Guys like him are common throughout the minor leagues, yet each has a life that goes beyond baseball.

Maybe we should crowd source a "30-day baseball card challenge"...

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Where Did the Time Go?

It's been a very long month for me. Today is the first day in 3 weeks that I haven't worked (at least I hope I won't work), so I finally get to sit down at my computer in my home office and relax for a day. Perhaps it is appropriate, then, that today I am writing about a package that I received in the mail almost two months ago now from someone whose 2016 buried them: Julie from A Cracked Bat.

Julie and I traded a few times back in 2015, when both of us had much more time on our hands to spend with our hobbies and our cards. Those halcyon days. Oh how I miss them.

I'm not complaining, though. I'm very happy with my job, and even though I have been exhausted lately it's much better than sitting around twiddling my thumbs and wondering how long I'd have a job (as was the case in 2014, to be fair).

Anyway, it's time to show off the cards. Let's get to them, powered by some music of course. I'm going to go a bit basic on the music though; since Julie's living in the great state of Michigan, I'll go with music from Michigander musicians.


While I have not listened to much Eminem in the last several years -- I mean, I know he has released new stuff but I just haven't listened to it -- I have always liked a lot of his early stuff. "My Name Is" is a really good song that makes me think of my younger days ... holy crap, that song is from 1999. Geez I'm old.

Perhaps surprisingly, these cards are now eleven years old.  The word "Fleer" hasn't appeared on a baseball card since for a decade. Let that sink in for a moment. I will not bemoan the fact that baseball card collecting is more fun with multiple companies having licenses because the companies abused those licenses and collectors with their multitudinous parallels and inserts and parallels of inserts for most of the decade of the aughts.

For what it's worth, I am not a fan of the Fielder or the Weeks cards. The white on orange name plate reminds me too much of the vomit-inducing colors of the Tennessee Volunteers. Orange is evil, people.

Orange is evil.

Kid Rock

I'll admit it. This song -- again from 1999...this song graduates high school this year, y'all -- was something of a guilty pleasure for me 18 years ago. At least when it first came out. 1999 was the year of the rap-rockers like Kid Rock, Limp Bizkit, and, at a more principled level, Korn. Kid Rock wasn't really a rap-rocker, though. As we have seen his career develop, he doesn't care about any particular genre of music -- he will besmirch them all given enough time.

If you're missing those days of 1999, though, feel free to sign up for the Kid Rock Cruise, featuring Kid Rock, Doug E. Fresh, and a bunch of artists I've never heard of.

I picked Kid Rock for these Gypsy Queen Minis because, back in the day, Kid Rock palled around with a dwarf named Joseph Calleja a/k/a Joe C. Joe C. had coeliac disease which stunted his growth at 3'9" tall and ultimately led to his untimely death at the age of 26. 

Joe C.'s contribution to American music did not end with his collaboration with Kid Rock. He also contributed an instant classic song to an important soundtrack. I'm speaking, of course, of his song "Kyle's Mom is a Big Fat Bitch" on the South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut Soundtrack. May he rest in peace.

The Von Bondies

When I first heard the Von Bondies back in 2005 or 2006, I liked this song ("C'mon C'mon") but I can't actually remember hearing any other song by them at all. In fact, the only other thing that I remember about this band is that the lead singer Jason Stollsteimer got his ass kicked by Jack White at a Detroit club in 2003. Stollsteimer and White had been feuding in the press, apparently, and that led to the scuffle.

Ah, the craziness of youth.

As I was sorting through a bunch of Bowman after that Nashville card show I attended, I actually wondered aloud to myself where I had gotten the Bowman Platinum Orlando Arcia card. Now I know that I need to thank Julie for it!  That Trent Clark card seems to pop up in multiple iterations and parallels at nearly every show I attend as well -- but I don't think I had the purple one...just as I didn't have a purple Heritage High Number of the YMCA's favorite pitcher, Jungmann.

Sorry. Had to do it.

The Romantics

I could have gone for the two big hits that The Romantics had -- "What I Like About You" or "Talking in Your Sleep." But I wanted to go with this one because, well, look at how adored these guys with their poofed up pompadours are at this soda shop in 1983! Plus, all that vinyl clothing...it's too shiny to be leather, right, unless they legitimately are wearing patent leather jackets. 

I suppose that's possible, of course.

Just don't read the comments here, where people start saying how much they loved 80s girls because their body parts were real and their rear ends weren't the size of "airplane hangars." 


This random jumble of cards was intriguing. The Sheets card was a "Fleer" insert (after Fleer's name was bought by Upper Deck). The O'Leary card is one of those Cyberstats parallels, I think. Then you get the Topps reprint of Coooooooooooooooooooooooop! in the early 2000s -- you know, before the Brewers were reduced to getting cards of only Robin Yount with occasionally Paul Molitor thrown in. 

Then, there is the encapsulated "Just Minors" card of Gaby Hernandez and Yuniesky Betancourt. It's hard to comprehend how former GM Doug Melvin allowed himself to be put in a position where he forced his manager, Ron Roenicke, to play Yuni for 68 games at FIRST BASE in 2013 -- a season in which Betancourt's slash line was .212/.240/.355. It made Juan Francisco look like Paul Goldschmidt.

The real question, though, is whether Julie was just trolling me with that card. After all, Betancourt came up in the Seattle system, and that card shows him with San Antonio in 2005. The other guy on the card, Gaby Hernandez, was a Mets farmhand in the Gulf Coast league in 2004 when his photo was taken.


The White Stripes

I could use Michigan music for literally dozens more posts -- there are so many great options available from there. But after mentioning Jack White above, I felt compelled to go this direction. However, there's no way I would subject you to the now ubiquitous "Seven Nation Army." I remember in 2006 that that song got adopted by the European Championships as the song for the crowd to chant aloud. It was cool then.

Now, 11 years later, it's a tired cliche. It's been beaten into the ground by nearly every sports team on every continent. If Antarctica had a sports team, the penguins supporting the team would chant that damn song. 

Come on, folks -- come up with something new. Y'all finally got past having Blur's "Song 2" blasted every three seconds during NBA games -- let "Seven Nation Army" drop now too.

The final card I'm highlighting is this beautiful SP Legendary Cuts of Warren Spahn. Julie's one of the bloggers who remembers that I also have several Milwaukee Brave collections that I chase. It's always a pleasure to get a new one, too.

Julie, thanks for the great cards and sorry for how long it took me to post them!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Quick Check In

Yeah, it's been over a week since I have had the time to write anything here. I really don't have the time to write now, but I feel like I've been neglecting my hobbies thanks to that real world work crap.

Assuming that the case on which I am working doesn't settle soon, I'll be in an arbitration all next week to top off a very busy March. I've billed about 120 hours already this month not counting the past two days.

So as not to lose touch with my blog, here's a recent eBay purchase that I got for a few bucks.

It's one of those spring training commemorative "patches," which is completely a misnomer since it's a piece of plastic or metal inside that card, not a patch. It's serial numbered 17 of 50, so it's got that going for it. Now to chase down the other parallels of this card and I'll be good.

As for a little music, for some unknown reason this song jumped into my head early this morning when trying to come up with a song that I recall from my preteen years. Watch the video. It's almost humorous how little movement there is on this stage. Also, I don't think I realized how much Linda Ronstadt looked like Pat Benatar in this video.

Finally, Steel guitar solo!

Just don't think about Tim McCarver when you see it...

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Big Stick

Some surprises are bad -- you know, like the surprise that the person you thought you were dating just got engaged to someone else (not that that has happened to me, mind you). Others are good -- like finding a $20 bill in the pocket of a pair of pants you haven't worn in a while.

Others, though, are so good that the only thing you can say about them is "WOW."

I had a WOW moment today. It might make you say the same.

For context:  I've been working a lot lately. Yesterday, for example, I got to the office at 6:45 AM and I didn't leave the office until 10:30 PM. I was in depositions all day (and night). Then, this morning, I got up and into the office by 6:40 and didn't leave until 6:45 PM.

My wife had made the decision a couple of weeks ago to get a present for me. Today, she decided that I had been working so hard that I needed the pick-me-up of the present that she got for me.

Yes, it's a bat. A Rawlings Adirondack Pro bat -- never used, I'm quite sure. Can you read the name on it?

Yes. Yes it is.

It's a PSA/DNA certified autographed bat from Robin Yount.


Here's the backstory:

My wife does a lot of volunteer work for a couple of local charities, including the local art center called the Spruill Art Center. Spruill is a nonprofit center which helps provide art classes to thousands of students in the northern Atlanta area each year. Spruill enjoys the benefits of its association with the women who are members of the Spruill Guild.

Each year, the Guild has a big fundraiser bash called Artistic Affair. It's a "black-tie" (these days, it's "wear a suit") event that features a live auction and a silent auction. Every year, the Guild works to get local businesses and people to donate items of value to be auctioned off in those two auctions to raise money for the Art Center. One issue they have had in the past is that most of the items for auction while have a lean toward a particular gender lean toward feminine items -- women's jewelry, for example.

In trying to find more "masculine" items for men to bid on, this year the Guild was put into contact with a company that focuses on supplying signed sports items for consignment for charity auctions. The company is guaranteed a far lower amount of money on the sale than it might otherwise get, and the Guild will keep the rest. Some of the items up for auction this year will include a Peyton Manning-signed helmet, a Herschel Walker-signed helmet, Chipper Jones and Bobby Cox autographed baseballs, and Master's Tournament flags signed by Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.

Some pretty awesome stuff.

The women with the Guild, for the most part, do not have sports fanatics for husbands. Except my wife, of course. The ladies involved know I am a baseball card collector, so my wife was nominated to work with the guy on identifying the items to put up for sale. In those discussions, the guy brought up this bat.

And now, it's mine.

Like I said during Card Chat when I mentioned that my wife often encourages me to spend more money on cards, I'm a very lucky man.

And I now carry a Big Stick.

Monday, March 6, 2017

PWEs from Two Great Friends

I feel like I need to write tonight. I'm behind on posts, behind on trades, behind on returns... it's very discouraging sometimes. Yesterday, I spent nearly 7 hours in the office preparing for depositions for tomorrow. Today, I was in meetings all day doing the same. 

When I had free time, I watched two utterly disappointing soccer games -- Manchester United's typically wasteful performance against Bournemouth (where Zlatan Ibrahimovic was shockingly bad) and Atlanta United's tough but entirely foreseeable collapse against the New York Energy Drinks -- where ATLUTD's conceding two goals in the final 15 minutes was completely expected thanks to the dead legs that the defenders had to have. As the ATL game reached the 65th minute, I was thinking, "man, why haven't we put in some fresh legs into the game?" Then I saw Kenwyne Jones stagger onto the field, and I realized that fresh legs might not help.

Anyway, my desire to write over the weekend was outweighed also by the desire to work on getting inserts/parallels into binders. I'm working on my Topps inserts and parallels and oddballs right now -- up to 1995 already! -- so I'm doing a lot of placeholder making and not a lot of cataloging. But, it means I'm getting closer to having "true" want lists. 

Today, though, to break my non-writing streak, I have two PWEs I got in the past month.

First one came from Peoria. Tom sent me a Rangers player and a Yankee.

In fairness to Tom, he couldn't have known that the Yankees would sign Chris Carter. I'm thinking that Chris Carter is what Aaron Judge might turn into -- a strikeout-prone slugger whose minor league stats make him look like a potential OBP machine but, in reality, his value is tied entirely to his homers. 

Now, in fairness, Judge being an outfielder makes him have more value than Carter. But keep in mind: Aaron Judge is 2 months older than Manny Machado and 7 months older than Bryce Harper. He's also 6 months older than Mookie Betts and 5-1/2 months older than Xander Bogaerts. Judge is almost 25 years old. The likelihood that Judge becomes a star is significantly depressed by that fact alone. Don't buy his cards thinking he's a Hall of Famer in the making though -- that is just not likely.

As a cautionary tale, let's look at Will Middlebrooks. By the time Middlebrooks was the same age as Judge, He'd already completed two (partial) seasons adding up to 169 games and 660 plate appearances in the major leagues. Stat line? 32 HR, 103 RBI, 7 SB...33 BB, 168 Ks, and a slash of .254/.294/.462. Now, Middlebrooks never has had the walks that either Judge or Carter had, so it's not a straight comparison. But still -- Middlebrooks is an NRI in Texas and Carter had to wait for the scraps to fall from the Yankees' table. Should we really expect all that much from Aaron Judge?

Okay, time to jump off my soapbox about Aaron Judge, Yankee prospect, and thank Tom for the 2017 Topps.

The second PWE came from 1995 Fleer hater, Peter Steinberg.

Peter sent me some 2017 Topps as well. Chris Capuano and Scooter Gennett were basically inserted to protect the Robin Younts, I think.  

Peter was busy at spring training drinking beer this past weekend. 

You can't blame him for that, but come on -- give some love to Victory Beer's complete logo, Peter.

Apropos of this, here are three random beers I enjoy:

1. Ommegang Brewery's Three Philosophers Ale: Ommegang is a brewery that should be close to baseball fans' hearts. It's located in the Cooperstown area, and the beer is Belgian and beautiful. Three Philosophers is a 9.8% ABV beer, but, as the link points out, it is much less bitter and less hoppy than most dark strong Belgian-style ales. This beer is just wonderful -- and with its alcohol content, it will make you the fourth philosopher quickly.

2. Delirium Tremens by Brouwerij Huyghe in Belgium. Yes, another Belgian strong ale. What can I say -- I like Belgian Ales. This one, too, drinks smoothly and with a reasonably high ABV (8.5%).

So, why do I like Belgian ales? Because while I appreciate hoppy beers, I tend to prefer beers that do not leave my palate cringing and begging for mercy. 

I also say that from talking to a man with experience. My wife's uncle was brewmaster at Miller for many, many years. While we won't get into whether that should qualify him to speak as to what good beer should taste like, he make a very good point with respect to hoppy beers. You see, the reason that many brewers like to make super hoppy beers is simple: if you make mistakes in how you brew the beer, the hop flavor will cover up the mistakes. It's much more difficult to make a good ale that tastes great, isn't so bitter that it makes you cringe, and isn't so hoppy that the consumer feels like they have fell into a vat of hops.

I realize that many folks love hoppy beers. I have my moments when I like them too. But the bitterness is occasionally overwhelming.

3. Funky Buddha Beers. If any of y'all are heading to Florida for spring training, you owe it to yourself to look for Funky Buddha beers. It's a brewery with a brewpub near Boca Raton, and its beers are excellent. I went there two years ago, and I still think about the "Morning Wood" beer -- a maple bacon coffee porter aged in bourbon barrels.  Crazy good, if a little sweet, but so damn tasty it's crazy. Their hoppy beers are also quite good too. 

Thanks for stopping by for random thoughts from me and great cards from Peter and Tom!