Thursday, July 11, 2019

PWEs, Accompanied by Song

I decided to write a post tonight comprised of recent PWEs that I've received in the mail lately accompanied by songs that have been randomly going around in my head.

First, a word of explanation as to how some of these songs got in my head. My wife and I have a game that we play on Fridays and Saturdays. I put together playlists of songs for her to guess the artist name and song title. We mute the TV and usually put baseball on (or some other sport if it's not baseball season) and have a couple of drinks and unwind and catch up on the week. 

It almost always goes the way that she has to guess the songs and titles. I don't want to sound too cocky here, but she gets really frustrated with me because I get way too many songs correct way too quickly for her tastes. Then she plays music to "challenge" me -- read as literally stuff I have never heard before in my life -- and it stops being fun because she doesn't like the music she's playing either. I've gotten to the point where I'll act like I can't remember a song or artist just to listen to the song!

In any event, the songs to accompany the cards are ones that came up in some of the playlists that I put together for my wife and which now I can't get out of my head. 

Let's start with the PWE that my good pal Kenny a/k/a Zippy Zappy sent my way -- a couple of cards that missed his initial package of Brewers and Bucks and Packers:

Kenny sent me a two Brice Turang cards -- one of him as a Brewer and one as a 15U USA team member. Turang, of course, was the Brewers first round draft pick in 2018 out of Santiago High School in Corona, CA. The Brewers paid him the money not to go to LSU to play baseball. pointed out a couple of interesting facts about Turang when this selection occurred last year. First, Brice's dad Brian was selected by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 20th round of the 1987 draft out of Long Beach City College. He didn't sign, and then ended up and total afterthought selection of the Mariners in 1989 -- the 51st round from the University of Hartford. Despite that less than stellar draft record, the elder Turang worked his way up to the majors and got 283 plate appearances over two years in 1993 and 1994. 

The second interesting fact about Brice Turang is that he is the first shortstop that the Brewers have selected in the first round of the draft since 1987, when the team led off the draft with Billy Spiers. Before that, the Brewers had a bunch of notable shortstop selections, including Gorman Thomas (1969 by the Pilots), Robin Yount (1973), Paul Molitor (1977), Gary Sheffield (1986), and Spiers. But then it took 31 years for the next one.

He also sent me an Adrian Houser card with Houser on the Astros. Since I got this card, Houser has been godawful, so I may just start the card on fire as a sacrifice to the baseball gods to get Houser back on track.

One of my wife's favorite songs to chop vegetables by in the kitchen is "Starships" by Nicki Minaj. Its chorus is incredibly catchy and gets stuck in my head with regularity...and having found it on YouTube and let it play for a bit, I'll probably wake up with it in my head too.

In a related idea, does anyone listen to a lot of podcasts? I got turned on to a podcast from the Vox Network called "Switched on Pop." It features a musicologist (Nate Sloan) and a songwriter (Charlie Harding) who try to figure out what makes songs or artists hits. The episodes stand alone well, and the first one I listened to featured the lead singer from indie-pop band Joywave -- which featured in Kenny's "What I'm Listening To" post -- wondering why so many alternative hits seem to have very similar sounding choruses. I won't spoil the ending for you if you do listen, but I will say that this was the first time in 30 years I'd heard the term pentatonic scale. It's quite an enjoyable podcast if you enjoy thinking about what you're hearing as music and what makes it good.

The next PWE I received came from the potato chip largesse being enjoyed by Mark Hoyle in Massachusetts, as he scoops up all the Utz chips in sight and keeps the cards he needs while sending away ones he does not. Thanks to Mark, I now have two Utz cards -- Jonathan Schoop and Lorenzo Cain. I'm still looking for Jesus Aguilar and Christian Yelich, so if anyone sees these floating around, I'm up for them.

My wife loves country music. Her favorite artists are Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan, and Sugarland, but she likes a lot of country music generally. One guy whose music kept being recommended to be played was Luke Combs. His song, "When It Rains, It Pours" is one that gets stuck in my head all the time -- again for its chorus. 

The things I like about Combs is that, well, he doesn't look like a male model, he doesn't try to be a country rapper, and he sings well without much help from the autotune. He just seems like a good old boy who is relatable. Others agree with me; the Associated Press, of all outlets, had a story last year that was headlined, "Country singer Luke Combs' unassuming appeal makes him a hit." The guy built up a fan base not because he's got good looks, but instead he just played over 200 shows in 2016 alone all over the Southeast. 

Maybe all that is why I like him, I guess. 

The final PWE I got during the last week of June came from Matt Prigge. Matt puts together custom cards for the Brewers season to fill in gaps for Topps Now or, more to the point, to put cards together that he likes. He had made up four of these Keston Hiura "Rated Rookie" cards and gave three away through a Twitter giveaway. I was lucky enough to catch the last one of them.

"Yeah!" by Usher f/Lil Jon and Ludacris is pretty old school at this point. Having not been a big dance club guy or pop music guy at all in the mid-2000s, I missed this one when it came out in 2004. It was pretty ubiquitous -- it was, after all, the top ranked song of the year in 2004 and it was the second overall song for the entire decade of the 2000s according to Billboard -- so you can tell I was totally in my own little world in 2004...probably just playing FIFA 05 over and over. 

Anyway, this song gets stuck in my head pretty regularly in the day after my wife and I play our game. It's not a bad thing with this one though -- it's upbeat and a pretty fun song.

Thanks go out to Kenny, Mark, and Matt -- I greatly appreciate y'all being so kind as to send me cards.  

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Meet the Brewers #44: Wayne Twitchell

As is usual in September for teams going nowhere, the 1970 Brewers called up a few guys from the minors to give them an opportunity to be around the big club and dip their toes into the big league waters. Such was the case on September 7, 1970, when another tall righty pitcher from the Brewers system made his debut in the first game of a doubleheader.

Six-foot, six-inch tall Wayne Twitchell was summoned from the bullpen for the bottom of the fifth inning with the Brewers having rebounded in the top of the inning from 7-1 down to pull within 7-4 against the Minnesota Twins. Twitchell was tossed into the deep end -- he was asked to face the heart of the Twins order...the 4-5-6 hitters. The first guy Twitchell ever faced in the big leagues was Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew, and Twitchell struck him out. In fact, Twitchell struck out all three guys he got for outs in his first inning of work -- sandwiching an error by Roberto Pena and a walk in between each out.

1971 Topps/O-Pee-Chee
Wayne Lee Twitchell was born on March 10, 1948 in Portland, Oregon. As is often the case for players in this era, Twitchell was a multisport star in high school and was named to the Oregon All-State team in both football and baseball. According to the excellent SABR biography for Twitchell, he had the chance to play college football at Arizona State. If he had done that, he would have been following in his father's footsteps, as his dad was a standout running back for Oregon State in the 1930s. 

When decision time came, however, a new option had arisen. Twitchell was selected third overall in the 1966 MLB Draft by the Houston Astros -- behind complete washout Steve Chilcott and Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson. Twitchell's dad had warned Wayne that his family had a history of knee problems, and those problems would have only been exacerbated by trying to play football. 

So, baseball it was. Twitchell was known for being a hard thrower with questionable command, and he toiled for four up-and-down seasons in the Astros organization. As he put it himself, "I always seem[ed] to have the knack of always bringing the teacher out in people. I was taught close to 20 different deliveries, which complicated things." 

The Astros gave up on Twitchell in November of 1969 and sold his contract to the Seattle Pilots. Twitchell was ecstatic to be pitching back in the Pacific Northwest. That ecstasy was dashed when the team was sold and moved to Milwaukee, but Twitchell spent 1970 at home in Portland in Triple-A -- and met his future wife that year as well. 

Twitchell only appeared in 2 games for the Brewers in September of 1970. His second outing was much worse than the first, as he gave up three hits and two earned runs in 2/3 of an inning. Interestingly, Twitchell recorded those two outs by way of a strikeout as well. So, for his Brewers "career," Twitchell has a K/9 of 27. Only the immortal Ray Krawcyzk of the 1989 Brewers finished with more Ks and a K/9 of 27, striking out 6 in 2 innings of work on April 28, 1989 in his only Brewers appearance.

Still, things between Twitchell and Milwaukee were not good. Twitchell's SABR bio quotes him as saying that he "just didn't fit in with Milwaukee. They had their ideas about pitching and it wasn't about my style. I was a fastball pitcher and they were trying to make me into a spot pitcher." This quote makes me wonder if, perhaps, the organizational ethos over the years held back the team from developing pitchers. Obviously things changed a lot in the early years, and that couldn't have helped either.

1994 Miller 25th Anniversary Set
Despite being a 22-year-old pitcher with a history of being a first round pick and for whatever reason, the Brewers gave up on Twitchell quickly as well. At the end of spring training in 1971, Twitchell was traded to Philadelphia for minor league outfielder Patrick Srkable. Skrable played one year of 70 games in Triple-A for Milwaukee and was done. Twitchell himself said that he almost quit baseball after he was traded. 

Thankfully for him, he was sent first to Triple-A Eugene in Oregon. Surrounded by family and his new wife and having a manager in Andy Seminick who left him alone, Twitchell pitched for the last time in the minor leagues -- because he spent the next 9 seasons in the major leagues. Called up to the majors in 1971, Twitchell blossomed in Philadelphia and made the All-Star team in 1973.

Unfortunately, just as Wayne was getting on a roll, those knee problems from the Twitchell family history kicked up. Billy Williams of the Chicago Cubs was trying to beat out an infield single on September 18, 1973 at Wrigley Field and slid head first into Twitchell's knee. That was the end of his season and led to a four-hour surgery and eight weeks in a full leg cast. The rehab was brutal and necessary; his doctor told him that if he didn't follow his rehab to the tee "you'll never walk normal again."

From that 1973 season, it was downhill. Twitchell stayed in Philadelphia into 1977, with his only real success being in 1976 -- a 1.75 ERA and a 3.72 K/BB ratio working mainly as a reliever. Stats like that make me wonder if he wasn't misplaced in the starting rotation. He was traded in 1977 to the Expos on June 15, and stayed there through the 1978 season. In 1979, he pitched in 33 games for the Mets before his contract was purchased in August of 1979 by Seattle. Finally getting to pitch for his "hometown" team had to be a pleasure for him, but he was released after the season and was done with baseball.

After his baseball career, he moved back to Oregon and became a commercial real-estate broker. He fought cancer for quite some time, but lost that battle on September 16, 2010, aged just 62 years old.

The three cards that picture Twitchell as a Brewer are shown above. I don't have any of the 1971 cards, as that card is from the difficult-to-find high number set. Weirdly, by the time that the card came out, Twitchell had long since been traded to Philly, but I guess that card had been designed long before. It's also weird to me that the Brewers/Miller used a New York Mets photo for his 1994 Miller card -- I guess it's all they could find.