Monday, June 24, 2019

What's Kenny Listening To, Part II

Here's part two of the Kenny/Zippy Zappy appreciation post.

Supertramp, "Goodbye Stranger"

Supertramp was a staple of 1980s classic rock stations -- at least the ones that I heard in Milwaukee in the 1980s. I don't know if they still get radio play any more or not. In fairness, I'd pretty much forgotten this song existed, but once the first notes started playing, my memory was quickly jogged.

Of course, in typical 1970s classic rock fashion, this song lasts about 2 minutes longer than it really needs to last.

Similarly, I'd pretty much forgotten that Michael Reed played with the Brewers before getting this card from Kenny. Of course, that forgetting is much less forgivable than forgetting about a 40-year-old classic rock song, since Reed played for Milwaukee as recently as 2016 and was still in the Brewers system through 2017.

of Montreal, "Paranoiac Intervals/Body Dysmorphia"

I've heard all kinds of buzz for of Montreal for a few years now. I'm very disappointed in myself for not having done any looking into them before this.

of Montreal originated in the best city in the whole wide world -- Athens, Georgia, of course. The band is fronted by Kevin Barnes, who added Derek Almstead and Bryan Poole upon his arrival in Athens in 1996. Almstead and Poole both were/are members of noted Athens band Elf Power, whom I know I saw at least once in the mid-1990s during law school.

For a while, of Montreal was on the legendary Athens record label called Kindercore alongside bands like Japancakes, Kitty Craft, and The Mendoza Line. I feel like I can recall that the label's formation was pretty big news in town back then. But, I might be projecting memories of being cooler than I actually was when I start having memories like that.

On the other hand, Yasmani Grandal -- even though he is shown playing for the Bakersfield Blaze -- is far cooler than my memories. Here's hoping that he'll stick around in Milwaukee for one or two more seasons.

Soccer Mommy, "Cool"

Soccer Mommy is Sophie Allison, a Nashville native by way of being born in Switzerland and after attending two years of college at NYU and dropping out. Wikipedia says that she cites Mitski, Taylor Swift, and Avril Lavigne as influences, but my ear on this song picks up an influence that may have come from touring with the man -- Stephen Malkmus and Pavement. 

It's a good song. It's one of those songs that will get stuck in my head if I listen a few more times -- lots of hooks and very catchy.

Joe Alexander was the Milwaukee Bucks first round pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, and boy did the Bucks screw up this pick. Alexander was the eighth pick overall in the 2008 draft out of West Virginia. Every single other first round pick other than the very last pick of the first round (J.R. Giddens out of New Mexico) played more games and more seasons in the NBA than Alexander did. Alexander appeared in 67 games over two seasons in Milwaukee. Players selected after Alexander included Brook Lopez, Roy Hibbert, and, in the second round, DeAndre Jordan. Alexander was last seen playing in Turkey for Besiktas. 

Denzel Curry, "ZUU"

Curry is a Miami rapper whom I've never heard of before. Curry just released his new album, also called ZUU, on May 31, 2019. This song is short -- barely 2 minutes long. I like it, though. There's not a ton here lyrically, but the beats are good.

Plus, I give the guy props for wearing a throwback Marlins jersey. 

Jones emerged last year as the best running back the Packers had on the roster. After the Eddie Lacy pick went from golden to Golden Corral with Lacy successfully eating his way out of the NFL, the Packers went from converted WR (Ty Montgomery) to 4th round pick Jamaal Williams to 5th round pick Jones over the past three years. 

It might also help if Aaron Rodgers would stop checking out of running plays because he thinks he's the best offensive coordinator in the stadium.

Twin Shadow, "Slow"

Kenny says that this song sounds like She Wants Revenge or Joy Division to him. Yup, definitely that 80s New Wave/00s Renew Wave sound going on. Twin Shadow a/k/a George Lewis Jr. sounds to me is even more influenced vocally by Morrissey. Again, that fits into that genre quite well, since New Order and The Smiths were contemporaries in Manchester in the 1980s.

It's not the sound I was expecting, to be fair, but I'm a fan. Definitely.

I am surprised at how nostalgic I feel toward the Heritage set this year, what with it being 1970 and all. As a kid, I used to love the 1970 set for having the Seattle Pilots in it even though the team became the Milwaukee Brewers that season. I don't know why that is -- perhaps it was a reflection of my enjoyment of Ball Four or perhaps it was because the 1970s were the decade I was born and felt much closer in time to me than anything from the 1960s. 

This is why this card is such a good analog for the Twin Shadow song. I wasn't expecting to like this year's Heritage as much as I have, but I'm a fan.

Eladio Carrion, Khea, Cazzu, and Ecko, "Mi Cubana (Remix)"

As Kenny's blog said, this is a trap song entirely in Spanish. Interestingly, Eladio Carrion is actually from Kansas City. No kidding. That kind of deflates the song for me. Sure, the other three are all Argentine, but finding out that Eladio Carrion is from Kansas City is just disappointing. Maybe that's just me, though.

Kenny Clark is going into his fourth season as a defensive tackle for the Packers. Clark is a good player, no question -- getting 6 sacks in 13 games from defensive tackle is no mean feat -- but the next time Kenny Clark starts 16 games will be the first time. Yes, he played 16 games in 2016, but he only started 2 and only racked up 21 tackles -- he was a special teamer for much of the year.

I have not been impressed with the Packers most recent drafts. I feel like they don't take enough SEC players. Sure, I'm biased toward the SEC in that regard, but I thought taking the best players in the draft was the idea. Maybe that's just me, though.

Joywave, "True Grit"

I have heard of this band before thanks to their collaboration with Big Data on the song called "Dangerous" from about five or six years ago. This song is only okay to me. It just doesn't grab me. Maybe it's the mood I'm in today or what have you, but it just isn't something I want to hear again.

Similarly, while Keon Broxton is an excellent defensive outfield to my eyes, advanced metrics for him are all over the place. Add in his terrible inability to make contact on anything approaching a regular basis, and you can see why he's on his third team this year already. Granted, the Brewers got him for basically nothing from the Pirates a few years ago, so we are already ahead on that equation.

Well, folks, that's it for the Kenny Appreciation post for 2019.

Now that we know what Kenny is listening to these days, I would be interested to hear what everyone else has filling their ears. Are you a country music fan? Do you dig disco? Is New Wave your jam? Tell me what you're listening to!

And Kenny -- as always, thank you very much. You're a good man.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

What Kenny's Listening To with Cards from Torren' Up Cards, Part I

When it comes to music or information in general, I tend to be very omnivorous. I read a ton, whether that includes reading for work or for pleasure. I watch tons of documentaries on Netflix, YouTube, and Amazon Prime on my Roku as well as trying to find ones being shown on PBS or elsewhere that sound interesting. I also listen to about any music under the sun that comes my way at least once to see if I like it.

Of course, this love of knowledge tends to get in the way of my blogging, because I'm more likely to say, "that documentary about Oasis on Netflix sounds interesting" and start watching that instead of sitting down and blogging.

So, it's been a couple of weeks since the ever awesome Kenny a/k/a Zippy Zappy sent me a zippy zapping accompanied by his massive "What I've Been Listening To" post. Kenny is a 20-something whose tastes in music are all over the place, and I think he likes trying to find stuff for me to consider that might either offend or otherwise fall outside the realm of my tastes as a Gen-X'er.

Because Kenny posted 14 songs, I'm going to break this into two posts. It's just a lot to type and listen to all at once!

As always, to highlight the great cards Kenny sent and the (we'll see what an appropriate adjective is) music Kenny is listening to, here's my response post. Music first, followed by the card.

Now, Now: "SGL"

Kenny's post said this song is his favorite of the 14 songs that he posted, and after listening to this song twice *and* looking up the lyrics, I can see why. As Kenny noted, the band Now, Now is a two-person indie band from Minneapolis comprised of Cacie (or KC) Dalager and Bradley Hale. They met in high school in marching band -- something I can relate to, having been a marching band geek myself all the way through college.

This song is a really catchy poppy indie rock song. NPR featured it in November 2017 as one of the "Songs We Love." "SGL" stands for "shotgun lover," which in this context seems to be simply that she is a quick hookup for her lover. The rest of the lyrics of the song seem to provide feelings of unhappiness about that arrangement. 

But I'll leave all the interpretation to you. YMMV.

Since we're going with favorites up front, I will go with a card of Christian Yelich from Series 1 Topps. There's nothing more I can say about Yelich that hasn't already been said, really. 

Okay, one thing. If Yelich gets one homer between now and the All-Star break, he will set a Brewers record for most homers before the All-Star break. Yelich currently has 29 Homers in 70 games; Prince Fielder set the record in 2007 when he had 29 Homers in 87 games. Fielder finished 2007 with 50 homers. 

Lit, "My Own Worst Enemy"

I didn't need to listen to this song specifically for this post because this has been a personal favorite song since its release in 1999. It was kind of a joke between me and one of my friends that this song was sort of my theme song because I enjoyed going out, smoked cigarettes like a chimney when I drank, and generally I had a tendency to undermine myself at that point in my career. 

So that's why it was kind of a joke and kind of just sad, really. 

Even sadder is the fact that this song is now 20 years old. Which means Kenny was like 4 when it was released. 

1989 Bowman pairs well with a 1999 song. Indeed, Dale Sveum pairs well with a song about being one's own worst enemy too. 

Sveum's baseball career was essentially derailed in 1988 when, while playing shortstop, he went back into left field to chase a blooper. Left fielder Darryl Hamilton was charging in hard for the ball. A terrible collision resulted, and Sveum's left tibia and fibula were snapped. It was ugly. Even worse, the bone did not heal properly and a second surgery to re-break the bones to allow them to heal correctly resulted in 1989. 

He missed the entire 1989 season, and the promise that he showed during his 25-homer season in 1987 was gone. His missing 1989 led the Brewers to calling up a petulant youngster named Gary Sheffield even earlier than Sheffield's abilities and maturity should have allowed.

Sveum also made the mistake of going hunting with Robin Yount, leading to Sveum getting bird shot going through his right ear. 

Drowning the Light, "The Spear of Longinus"

You can read Kenny's intro and discussion on how he was introduced to this song by the Metal Attorney, the Red Sox Fan in Nebraska.

I am not terribly impressed by this song, in large part because it is really repetitive and to my ears, quite boring. I used to use black metal/death metal/speed metal to fall asleep on international flights because it was like active white noise. More than once, I would set up a playlist of nothing but the song "Master of Puppets" played 4 times in a row to help me fall asleep. And it worked too.

One of the things that Kenny sent me was this Clay Matthews sticker from Panini. My Packers fandom has been waning over the past eight years -- since the Super Bowl win, really. This entirely coincides with my no longer playing fantasy football. 

I will admit that I don't miss the NFL at all. My football watching is all on Saturdays these days -- watching Georgia play along with paying attention to the other SEC games is usually enough for me. 

Gypsy and the Cat, "Sorry"

A generally innocuous indie rock song. It's something that I would listen to again if it came on, but I'm not sure I'd actively seek it out. 

Interestingly, the band seemed to fall apart due to its own former record label, Sony, screwing them over in some respects. According to this article from April 2016, when SoundCloud became a monetized streaming service in 2016, Sony Australia locked down their artists' songs to make sure that the songs were not freely streamable -- that people had to be paying for the right to stream the songs. 

Before that time, music bloggers often embedded SoundCloud files for songs in their blogs. Blog embeds are tracked by a service called Hype Machine, and it has its own charts. Prior to the Sony lockdown, Gypsy & The Cat had a song called "Inside Your Mind" that reached number 2 on Hype Machine. The next week, after the lockdown, the song was no longer on the chart.

Frustratingly for the band, Gypsy & The Cat had not been a Sony artist for over five years at that point. Yet, Sony's actions effectively derailed their efforts on the 2016 album. One can't help but think that bullshit must have played a role in their breakup.

As a side note, band member Xavier Bacash has a new EP out under the name "Sonny". I haven't listened to it yet.

I feel like this "Top Shelf" chrome of Ryan Braun fits well here. I sometimes forget that Braun is still with the Brewers -- he's almost like a name of a bygone era at this point. He's a solid player at this point in his career. He's never been a great on-base guy -- his value is tied heavily into his batting average, which happens when you walk only 17 times in 266 plate appearances as Braun has this year through June 23 -- so he's basically a replacement-level player even with his 12 HRs and 40 RBI this year. At least that is what bWAR says -- 0.1 WAR and a 94 OPS+ is pretty much replacement level, right?

I Set My Friends On Fire, "Life Hertz"

A catchy song. I've never heard of this band before, apparently because they come from the genre of "screamo" -- where they scream everything they sing. It's a decent song, but based on what Kenny's post said, I'm not seeking out anything else by them.

A relatively interesting card visually, though the colors behind Rogers look like some sort of rainbow fingerprint. I'll take this opportunity to note that these all-white uniforms look terrible to me. In fact, pretty much all of the color rush uniforms look awful to me. 

This card is decent, but I'm not seeking out anything else from Panini here.

DECO*27 - 妄想感傷代償連盟 (Feat. 初音ミク)

That "featuring" portion reads "Hatsune Miku" in Japanese. Kenny points out that Hatsune Miku is a "vocaloid icon," which means that she is a completely fictional CGI anime girl. People go to concerts to seek Hatsune Miku sing these songs, so it's sort of like gathering to watch a TV show.

The song is pretty catchy, as you'd expect from computer-generated vocals. I wonder what the words are.

Appropriately, in the cards that Kenny sent, there is a computer-generated Taylor Jungmann to go with Hatsune Miku. Also appropriately, Jungmann has been pitching in Japan for Yomiuri Giants for the past two years.

Gucci Mane f/Migos, "I Get the Bag"

Thank you, Kenny, for giving me some music from Georgia to talk about. Gucci Mane was born in Birmingham, Alabama, and moved to Atlanta in 1989. Gucci's Wikipedia article notes that he was actually a good student in high school (he's a DeKalb County kid, having attended McNair High School), but that he also got started with dealing drugs in school too. He's been in and out of prison for gun charges and drugs. Hopefully he's gotten cleaned up. 

Migos is comprised of three guys -- Takeoff, Offset, and Quavo -- and are managed by Coach K, who used to manage Gucci Mane. The three all grew up in Gwinnett County, the county due east of DeKalb County. Parts of Gwinnett are quite urban, while other parts are very country. I like these guys because Quavo in particular is a huge Georgia Bulldogs fan.

The song is pretty good too, by the way.

Kenny sent me several of these 2011 Minor League Heritage cards, including one of Jimmy Nelson. Nelson attended high school in Florida and then went to college at the University of Alabama. 

His overcoming injury to come back and pitch this year has been a great story at the same time as it has been sad. Before his injury, he was verging on being a true #1 starter, finishing 9th in the Cy Young voting. Since his return, he has been terrible -- 3 games started, 12 innings pitched, 10 walks, an ERA of 9.75 and a WHIP of 2.167 pretty much says it all. He is being moved to the bullpen.

That's the end of Part I. Any comments from y'all as to which one of these songs is your favorite? How about the cards -- anyone like any of these cards more than the others? Why?

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Meet the Brewers #43: Floyd Wicker

On September 4, 1970, two dead-end teams were playing out the string in front of a disinterested collection of less than 12,000 people in an almost entirely pointless one-game series on the Friday before Labor Day in Milwaukee. The 49-90 Chicago White Sox limped into Milwaukee in the middle of what would become the Sox's longest losing streak of the season -- 8 games. For their part, the Brewers were not any great shakes either, as the second year team was carrying a 52-85 record.

Brewer #43, outfielder Floyd Wicker, joined the festivities as a pinch hitter for Bernie Smith in the bottom of the eighth inning; Wicker promptly tapped out to the pitcher for the final out of the inning, stranding Tommy Harper at second and then replaced Smith in RF. Yet, Wicker would eventually be the hero of the game. The slog between the two worst teams in the American League went into extra innings tied at 2, and Wicker broke the tie with a single in the bottom of the 10th to drive in Harper for the walk-off victory.

1971 Dell Today's Team Stamps. Wicker's airbrushed Expos hat is in the Brewers' book.
Floyd Euliss Wicker was born in Burlington, North Carolina in 1943. He went to East Carolina University for one season as a 16-year-old, turning 17 in the fall of that freshman year. As a freshman, his team won the NAIA national championship. According to the ECU yearbook for that year, Wicker was the third baseman for that team. 

The major league rules being what they were at the time, his ability drew attention from scouts and he signed after just one year of college with the St. Louis Cardinals. Wicker did an interview in 2012 on a blog called The Baseball Historian where he stated that he had had the chance to sign as a professional right out of high school, but he chose a year of college near home instead.

He played in the Cardinals system in Classes C and D at the ages of 17 and 18 for his first two years in the minors, and he then moved up to A ball in 1963. At that point, his career was interrupted by two years of military service. He still played three to five games a week in the service, but it is hard to say that he faced the same level of competition there as he would have in the majors. 

1971 Topps/O-Pee-Chee
Wicker came back to the Cardinals organization in 1965. He was pushed to Double-A in 1966 and responded with a big season -- .303/.392/.417. He followed that up with a creditable year in 1967 at Triple-A Tulsa and a good spring in 1968 such that he put himself on the Cardinals radar for when their other outfielders had to serve their military service. As such, in 1968, Wicker made his big-league debut on June 23 as a pinch hitter. He appeared in 5 games for St. Louis in total, all as a pinch hitter or pinch runner.

Apparently, that was not enough for the Cardinals to make sure that Wicker was on their 40-man roster, however, and the Montreal Expos swiped him from the Cardinals in the Rule 5 draft after the 1968 season. The Expos gave him 41 plate appearances -- all but one against right-handed pitching for the lefty-hitting Wicker -- and he struggled mightily with an anemic slash line of .103/.146/.103. In fairness, it's tough enough to hit in the major leagues, but it's even tougher when you only get 24 plate appearances between May 16 and September. On the other hand, you don't help yourself when you fail to get a hit in any of those 24 plate appearances.

That Rule 5 season turned into a lost year for Wicker -- one he never got back developmentally. As soon as the season ended, Wicker was named as the player-to-be-named later in a trade in which the Expos received Marv Staehle from the Seattle Pilots. 

Wicker spent most of 1970 in Portland and had an excellent year in AAA -- .329/.441/.521 with 14 HR and 78 BB in 471 plate appearances. He also featured in a Ray Peters story, in that Ray used Floyd's bat to hit the one and only professional home run that Ray ever hit -- a grand slam for the Beavers the week before Ray got married. 

Thus, Wicker got a call up to the Brewers in September. Wicker then played in 11 games in 1971 starting April 30 and ending May 30 for Milwaukee. Again, he struggled for playing time -- getting only 10 plate appearances and never getting a start for the Brewers. He was then traded on June 1, 1971 to the San Francisco Giants in exchange for utility infielder Bob Heise. 

1994 Miller 25th Anniversary commemorative set
Wicker's professional baseball career ended in 1971. As he detailed in an interview in The Times News (Burlington, NC) in 2012, even though he stopped being a pro, he still loved the game. After he left baseball, he went to work for the United States Postal Service for 33 years, retiring in 2005. During that time, he helped out the Southern Alamance High School and Middle School baseball teams and even coached American Legion ball in the 1980s. 

Wicker still shows up in newspapers in the area of North Carolina where he lives. The 2012 article above was done in conjunction with his receipt of the Distinguished Service in Sports Award that he received from the Alamance County Sports Development Counsel. The article notes his heavy involvement with the North Carolina Baseball Museum and his role in getting two teams from the 1910s from his old high school recognized there as champions. Many of the articles with him involved are for golf tournaments for fundraising for that Museum. 

Floyd Wicker has 4 total cards as a Milwaukee Brewer as shown above. I actually own all of them.