Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Walking on a Thin Line

Most everyone knows Matt from Bob Walk the Plank. He and I started blogging within about 10 days of one another back in 2014. That means that I forgot to celebrate my four-year anniversary of blogging earlier this month. Hey, I remembered my wedding anniversary for the 7th straight year -- cut me some slack. There's only room for one anniversary in my brain, I guess.

At any rate, Matt sent me a couple of cards as maybe a blog birthday gift or just because or since I decided to post more than once a month after college football season finally ended for UGA. And while the envelope Matt sent was small, the cards he sent packed a punch.

Let's start with the card that wasn't serial numbered first:

The man Haderade. Josh Hader is an interesting pitcher for the Brewers this year. He came up through the Orioles, Astros, and Brewers systems mostly as a starter. Sure, both the Orioles and Astros had times where they controlled his innings-pitched by having him work out of the bullpen, such as his first season as a pro back in 2012 and his two seasons in the Astros organization (2014 and 2015). But with Milwaukee, he has been groomed as a starter -- all 44 of his Brewers MiLB appearances have been as a starter.

Then, he makes it to the majors throwing gas out of the bullpen in an Andrew Miller-type role last year. It would be nice to see him get a shot at the rotation this year, but that does not appear to be something that the team is considering right now. Is he more valuable in the pen, or in the rotation? It's a fine line.

Or a Thin Line, even. Huey Lewis and the News were totally among my favorite bands in the mid-1980s. Sports is a great album, and every boy I knew wanted that basement that is pictured on the cover. You can tell this because all the yahoos with "Man Caves" have almost exactly that set up as their "man cave."

Next up is Ben Sheets Fleer Box Score parallel from 2002 serial numbered to 100. Where do you find these cards, Matt? Just trolling on eBay for cheap serial numbered stuff? Picking up an extra card to save on shipping? I guess I don't spend enough time on eBay (despite my recent spree of random items bought there). 

Anyway, this one is a great addition to the Ben Sheets collection. I'm still thinking about where my collecting goes from where it is now and going into the future in large part because Topps these days really isn't about anything but maximizing profits for themselves and for their favored breakers. I mean, they threw their own industry convention last week. Is that normal?

I guess it is and has been for years. I know that baseball cards is not what Kanye is rapping about here, but it really is true that "most of all we at war with ourselves." The divisions are weird and growing. I used to talk by email and on Twitter with Matt all the time, and my falling away from the hobby has made it feel like a division built up there.

There isn't one, mind you, but sometimes it feels like there is. That's what's weird about it.

To prove there isn't a division, how about a clear parallel from 2015 of Adam Lind serial numbered to 10. Lind only spent the 2015 season with Milwaukee, and he put up a pretty good season for the crew. 

Even better is the fact that the Brewers then flipped him to Seattle and got pitcher Freddy Peralta for him. Peralta is a small Dominican -- 5'11", 175 pounds -- who has some issues with control but who strikes out seemingly everyone he faces. Last year in a season split between high-A Carolina and AA Biloxi, he walked 4.7 guys per nine innings but struck out 12.7 guys per nine while giving up just 5.8 hits per nine. That's electric stuff. Peralta struck out 33.4% of the batters he faces last year, trailing only A.J. Puk. And Peralta is a year younger than Puk. Peralta is high risk, high reward -- either a number 2 starter, or bullpen fodder.

I do hope that Lou Reed does not become Peralta's theme song and that Peralta can get his wild side under control. Also, I hope that we're not talking about Peralta coming from Florida and shaving his legs to become a she. 

Matt, thanks for the great cards and the excuse to dive into some Walk songs. 

Monday, February 26, 2018

Throwback Thursdays

Last week, I started the week with a post about cards that I got from JT at The Writer's Journey

This week, I'm starting the week with a post about a card that I got from JT at the Writer's Journey.

I'll admit it: I had never heard of Bert Kaempfert before this song. Of course, Kaempfert wrote such standards as "Strangers in the Night" and Wayne Newton's signature song "Danke Schoen." Perhaps I should have heard of him before this song.

Anyway, back to baseball cards. Last year, Topps had a bunch of online exclusives that they sold in sets of anywhere from 5 to 8 cards and which were available only for a week. They were called the "Throwback Thursday" collection. While I promised not to rant as much this year, this one's worth a rant. Topps issued a total of 185 "Throwback" cards last year, with designs ranging from the 1988 Topps Glossy All-Stars Design to 1957-58 Basketball (showing guys like Lou Brock and Satchel Paige but annoyingly talking about the card design instead of the player on the back). 

So, these cards look great, in my opinion. It's fun to see old football card designs used for baseball. In fact, that might be a better use for Topps Archives.

Amongst the 185 Throwback cards, there were SIXTEEN cards that had Aaron Judge on it (and 21 cards with the Yankees). There were, though, three teams that only got featured on 1 card. I'm pretty sure the "most disdained" team has to be the Detroit Tigers. The only representation they got was having Michael Fulmer on a 1997-98 Bowman's Best Basketball "Mirror Image" design with Aaron Judge (they shared being rookies of the year, you see, so that makes them mirror images).

Otherwise, the other two team to get the "one-card" shrift both got their single card in the same "set." 475 people purchased the TBT set featuring the 1968 Topps Baseball Design -- a true cop out set in light of the fact that it was the Heritage design already last year -- and those 475 people got the only cards featuring a Cincinnati Red (Johnny Bench) and the only card featuring a Milwaukee Brewer -- Paul Molitor.

The backs of these cards each note that this set -- "Throwback Thursday Set 5" -- all featured players that did not have their own rookie cards by themselves. All of them (Bench, Molitor, Andre Dawson, Nolan Ryan, Carlton Fisk, and Willie Stargell) had to share.

This kind of money grab is where I'm fine with Topps being completely oblivious to the fact that baseball exists outside of New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Even though this is a really cool looking card -- which I am very thankful to JT for sending to me -- I'm 100% okay with Topps soaking all the Judgeaholics and taking their $20 a pop every single week. 

That's right Topps -- just give them The Judge.

My thanks again to JT for the excellent addition to my Paul Molitor collection!

Thursday, February 22, 2018

2018 Eric Thames Inserts from Baseball Every Night

I have met a couple of bloggers in person. For example, I have met up with Dayf/Dave who may still post occasionally at Cardboard Junkie but who really can be found on Twitter as @cardjunk

This past fall, I was in Boston for an ABA seminar/meeting for work. I got in a day early to go to meetings, so I had some available time one morning. It allowed me to meet up with a guy who I really respect -- P K a/k/a Peter of Baseball Every Night. We were able to grab coffee at Starbucks and sit like two old men on a park bench across the street from the Boston Public Library for as long as Peter could afford to be missing in action from work and just hang out and talk about everything but cards.

I really enjoyed getting that opportunity. It ended up being a baseball day -- my wife and I walked to Fenway too:

What's even cooler is that Peter still speaks to me even after we met in person. I can be a little much sometimes, and I can drop off the face of the planet for a while too, so that's not always a given.

At any rate, Peter has been opening up some 2018 Topps. He was lucky enough (from my perspective) to pull two inserts that are Brewers. Well, two Eric Thames Inserts to be specific:

On the left, we have an Eric Thames "Opening Day 2018" insert, and on the right we have a "Memorial Day" insert of Thames. The brick thing coming off Thames's chin on the left makes it look like he's smoking a big fat stogie of sorts. The green on the right looks like Panini took over the Topps printing facility for a day to come up with weird, incorrect color combinations.

In all seriousness, I'm glad I got these. I've stopped chasing inserts and parallels for anyone other than my player collections effective starting with the 2018 season in part because it takes forever to catalog them and in part because it's simply not fun trying to find 12 versions of the same card with different color effects for literally everyone on the team. 

But, I will still take the inserts if people are willing to send them my way. 

Now, to thank Peter, let's hear from one of his player collections. Peter collects two guys who seem like they may not enjoy hanging out together. The first is Los Angeles native Darryl Strawberry, and the other is Charleston, West Virginia, native John Kruk. Maybe that's why he likes them. 

Let's focus on Kruk. I enjoyed watching him as a player, and I turn the TV off on him as an analyst. He's a self-professed redneck too, which isn't that big of a deal to me because that's how I grew up. That said, he got together with a group of unknown-to-me country singers and came up with a country-music theme for "Baseball Tonight." Since I don't watch the show, I have no idea how well know this song is, but here goes:

Peter, thank you as always for the cards and for being a cool guy to interact with -- I greatly appreciate your thoughtfulness and watching your beer consumption.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Cards from JT at The Writer's Journey

See, guys and gals? I'm really trying now. I am. I know I need to get better about posting if I want to call myself a blogger, so here I am. 

As a lot of you know, I got lucky in winning a box of 2018 Topps from Steel City Collectibles on Twitter. So, I made it my goal to send as much of that out the door as quickly as possible. One of the beneficiaries was JT at The Writer's Journey. JT sent me cards about two years ago, at which time I confessed that his blog was one of the first ones I'd really ever read. 

Since then, I've been lucky to interact with him on Twitter on a regular basis and have really gotten to like his understated nature. He's a great guy to follow there.

Perhaps thanks to me sending cards to him or him just having too many Brewers lying around his house, I got a package from him. And since his blog just covered that his favor song about memory is Skid Row's "I Remember You" (which I've posted twice here and I won't do it again), I'm going with other great hair bands/songs from that same era.

Let's start off mostly in the late aughts, but with a Donruss thrown in. First off, it's Bill Hall, whose random 35-HR season in 2006 in the context of his career looks more and more suspicious every day...positively Brady Andersonesque. 

In the midst of that 2006 season, a random blogger -- whose blog still exists has not been deleted -- made one of those "Bill Hall is superman" posts. That blogpost included such statements as, "There are no steroids in baseball, only players Bill Hall breathed on."

Um, okay. Even funnier to me, though, is that the post has 20 comments. No kidding -- three legit anonymous posts, one from someone named Jamie (Easterly?), and then 16 spam comments. 

First song out of the box is Alice Cooper's "Poison." I remember hearing this song in my high school band room and thinking it was pretty cool. Like, cool enough that I asked the girl who owned the tape if she would dub it for me (which she was nice enough to do). I later found out that this song was really Alice Cooper trying to take the rough edges off his persona so he could become a member of the celebrity golf tour. Sort of.

Incidentally, the actress who appears in this video is a woman named Rana Kennedy, who is now a masseuse and pilates trainer to the stars in Carlsbad, California. 

I do love me some oddballs. JT's actually been interspersing these Baseball Champion packages around the blogosphere over the past month. For me, though, these two stay packaged. After all, a clear plastic card package with a player collection member on the top is another item to add to my player collections for Ben Oglivie and Cecil Cooper.

Then there is that wannabe 1959 Topps Paul Molitor. Baseball Cards Magazine almost got their font right for it. They messed up the font spacing on the name. Close, though. 

If you were a teenager alive in 1989 and you weren't really into garbage songs by Debbie Gibson and New Kids on the Block, you probably thought that Living Colour was one of the most awesome bands on the face of the planet thanks to their album Vivid. Now, Corey Glover's choice of a bright yellow Body Glove surfing outfit as stage wear is a bit dated, but this song is just as awesome today as it was then. 

For what it's worth, Living Colour just released a new album last year called Shade. I haven't checked it out yet...I will be soon.

While I hate to do scan dumps, I also am trying to focus more on posts that don't go on for 18 pages. So, sometimes, that will mean a scan dump will result. Lots of Bowman, some old school Upper Deck (please let them make cards again, MLB. Please. Limit them to 5 sets and 2 parallels if you're worried about market saturation. Seriously.), and even some Topps too.

One last song:

Please recall that I was 17 and turned 18 in late 1989, so you'll understand when I say that this song, too, reminds me of a girl I knew then. Actually, it was a girl I went out with a few times who was from a different school from me. She was from a good Irish-Catholic family and was a very good student. I was from a non-Catholic family and enjoyed having fun, but I was totally a goody goody too and was a good student. So, we got along well and had fun with each other and our mutual friends. 

She was almost 6' tall, had long, curly black hair, and really long legs too. And I had troubles sometimes describing her eye color because it varied greatly depending on the sunlight. So, this song totally reminds me of her. She is now the CEO of a company based in the Midwest, so she did quite well for herself. 

Me? I'm a baseball card blogger. Again. Finally.

JT, thank you very much for the cards.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Orioles Rise and I'm Falling Behind

I spent most of this weekend cataloging my oddballs on Trading Card Database. My card count of just Brewers that I have is up to 21,773...and I haven't really gone through my binders to catalog those properly. This is not to mention the fact that I probably should have been doing some work this weekend.

Oh well.

Of course, that means that I've been a bit of a quiet hermit today, even though all that cataloging has been a really good time.

Yeah, something good. 

Someone who always seems to be into something good is my pal Cliff a/k/a @oriolesrise on Twitter. Cliff is always going to auctions and sales and seems to always come away with tons of great, eclectic stuff. He says he collects everything, and when you follow him on Twitter, you know he is not exaggerating to say that. 

I was lucky enough to receive a package of random items from him around the beginning of the year, so let's see what showed up.

These "Baseball Rub Offs" are ones that seems like they should be easier to find than they are. In my four years back in collecting, I've gotten two Robin Younts and ... these two. For some reason, these two dredged up some hair metal from its last death throes in late 1990/early 1991:

The song: "Screwed Blued & Tattooed". The band: Sleeze Beez.

Embarrassingly, I actually owned that tape for a while. It had a song that seemed appropriate for one's freshman year of college: "When the Brains Go to The Balls."

Soon thereafter, I first heard Nirvana and life was much, much better musically.

Believe it or not, I did not have these two Mollys in my team collection. You'd think that major-brand cards from 1989 literally would be tumbling out of my closet (and they are) but these two were only in my Molly collection.

Thanks for Molly, Cliff. These two songs are not, however, 16 candles down the drain.

After these cards and tattoos, things got a little weirder. Much cooler too. Because oddities are the best.

Cliff took the matches out of these old matchbooks from the early 1980s. You have to love these things. So, the back stories? 

Merle Harmon was the first lead announcer for the Milwaukee Brewers when they first moved to town in 1970. He started up "Fan Fair" in Milwaukee around that time, and built it into a 140-store chain before selling the business. Harmon left the Brewers in 1980 to go to work for NBC. He ended up working with the Rangers after that. He passed away in April of 2009 at the age of 83.

Parker Pens are awesome pens, in case you're not familiar with them. They are high-end pens -- Wikipedia calls them a "luxury" pen -- which is now owned by Newell Brands/Newell Rubbermaid. The plant in Janesville closed in 2009 thanks to corporate downsizing.

Music to go with matches?

Of course, my head went to the very end of this song with the lighting of a very loud match starting a fire and burning this damn place down...ooh hoo...down to the grounds. Heh heh heh heh heh heh....

I love schedules. Back in the 1980s, I think I read an article in Baseball Cards Magazine that talked about collecting schedules, so I wrote to a number of teams and got schedules from them. I also grabbed as many schedules as I could find at local retailers. And yet, I don't think I had any of these. 

I was looking at the 1976 schedule and noticed that there was a Scout Day that year. I have a very faint memory of being at that game because my older brother (who would have been 8) was in Cub Scouts at that point. It's a faint memory because, well, I was only 4 years old.

If you're going to go to the game, you'd better know what time it is. I recently watched a documentary on Netflix about the band Chicago f/k/a Chicago Transit Authority that was fascinating. I have been watching a bunch of music documentaries lately there -- it's a fun way to hear the backstories of the bands that otherwise would have made a VH1 "Behind the Music" except that show doesn't exist anymore as far as I know. 

But I ramble.

In any event, if you like music and documentaries, check that one out.

The final item in the package from Cliff was this awesome 8x10 autographed by Don Money. Money is a PC, and I have a couple of his autographs from later in his career. Money is a guy whom a lot of fans today don't know but who had a really good career. He was with the Phillies from 1968 through 1972, when the Brewers traded Ken Brett, Jim Lonborg, Ken Sanders, and Earl Stephenson to Philadelphia and, in return, got Money, Bill Champion, and John Vukovich. 

He arrived in Milwaukee at the age of 25 and got plugged in at third base for the most part. He was a four-time All-Star for the Brewers, and while he was never going to be a Hall of Famer, he was an excellent player through 1978 for the team. From 1979 to 1983, he was a platoon DH with Roy Howell and occasionally played some third base, second base, and first base. He got the short end of the stick when the Brewers got Sal Bando and Cecil Cooper in 1977 and, then, lost his spot at second base thanks to Paul Molitor's emergence in 1978.

Don't mind if I take the Money and run at all.

Thanks, Cliff, for the great package and for the patience in my not even writing it up for 6 weeks! 

Monday, February 12, 2018

Christian Yelich, Card #1

As I mentioned in my last post, I decided to start collecting Christian Yelich cards showing him on the Brewers. Yelich is 26 years old, having turned that age last December 5. Yelich is the kind of player that the Brewers should be building around -- young but experienced with a good batting eye.

On his trade, Topps issued a Topps Now card for him. The Yelich card only had a print run of 177 cards, so hopefully the guys from whom I bought the card for $5.50 bought 20 of the cards at $3.99 a card to maximize their profits. Let's take a look:

After two years of complaining about ToppsNow ignoring the Brewers, I've come to the conclusion that I'd prefer that Topps continue ignoring the Brewers. If over 2,800 people/Yankees fans want to get a Giancarlo Stanton card about a press conference, I mean, let Topps play P.T. Barnum with those people and take them for their $4 to $10 a card accordingly.

So, now that I have a Christian Yelich card for my Yelich collection, let's learn a little bit about the newest Brewer.

1.  Christian Yelich was NOT always considered a top prospect

When Yelich was first evaluated by Perfect Game, he was rated during his junior year of high school as a 7.5 -- somewhere between being a "College prospect, possible future draft pick with development" and "Potential draft pick and/or excellent college prospect." At his national showcase in mid-2008, however, he was bumped up to being a 9.5. That put him just shy of being a potential very high draft pick and/or elite level college prospect" and above being a potential top 10 round pick. He eventually signed a letter of intent to attend the University of Miami over UCLA despite having given his verbal commitment to UCLA.

2.  Yelich probably likes rap music.

I know -- going out on a limb saying that a suburban-born-and-raised white kid likes rap, right? But, going by the MLB Plate Music website, Yelich used Drake's "Cameras/Good Ones Go" in 2015:

In 2016, he changed (or perhaps added) a song by Future called "Fly Shit Only" as another walkup song:

Apparently, in 2017, he went back to "Cameras" for his music -- at least according to MusicBoxPete.com, that is.

Now, to throw you a curve, a Reddit post from 2016 had a poster saying that Yelich had "Take It Outside" by Brantley Gilbert. 

I don't know if that is true. Based on the video, it could very well be true because Yelich has a brother in the Marines. If it is, it gives me a Georgia tie since Gilbert is from Jefferson, Georgia, which is just north of Athens.

3. Many people think Yelich looks like SNL's Pete Davidson.

Maybe so. See the AP photo below. What do you think?

The Marlins took it so far in 2015 as to have Davidson come in to Miami and take batting practice and fly balls with Yelich's jersey on. 

Maybe that is the reason that Yelich wanted out of Miami as much as he did?

4.  Yelich's Grandfather is Japanese. Maybe?

The rather poor Google translation of this link says that he is "Japanese-affiliated." That got put on Wikipedia as his grandfather being Japanese. Kenny, you read Japanese: What does this all say:

5. Yelich hangs out with Baker Mayfield sometimes.

Twitter is a great look into the real lives of baseball players from time to time. If we had had Twitter in the days of Gorman Thomas and Pete Vuckovich carousing around Milwaukee and engaging in unsavory behavior, might we have a different view of them today than we do?

Okay, probably bad examples to use.

Anyway, last week, these two photos got tweeted into my timeline somehow. On the left in both photos is Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield -- last seen in Pasadena being informed wisely by Davin Bellamy to "Humble himself"...well, I have to put that video up...

Anyway, getting back to Baker...he tweeted out that his "dude Christian Yelich made an upgrade to the Brewers so naturally [he] had to get some custom gear ordered." The photos he tweeted out are below.

Weirdly, some Brewers fans on Reddit did not appreciate me saying that Mayfield's other sweatshirt says, "Property of Roquan Smith."

So, that's a little bit about Christian Yelich, along with my first Yelich Brewers card. I'm thinking that my next Yelich card probably will end up being another Topps Now card -- it will take Topps at least until midyear to catch up with this move because it always does.

No problem though -- I look forward to the first Yelich walk-off win.

Thanks for stopping by and, if you know Japanese, if one of you could confirm the whole Japanese lineage thing that Yelich has going on, that would be cool too.