Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Kindness of Strangers

P-Town Tom, moderator of the 'Til Next Year and host of the great Chipmunk Challenge, surprised me with a packet of cards recently. Cards of the Darryl Strawberry variety. To pervert one of the greatest 1980s songs (and videos), he "Blinded Me With Kindness". Tom included a handwritten note on the back of a thematically relevant page-a-day calendar:

Hope you don't mind my scanning it! This kind of effort is above and beyond, especially because I can't remember sending him anything out of the ordinary and felt his first packet was more than enough in trade. I need to find a baseball card shop nearby that might have player boxes such as Tom describes. Not only for my greedy Strawberry collection but because it might help me both find cards that others need/want/desire and also broaden my interests.

As I think I mentioned before, that pout-y Giants card is spectacular and the sparkly one is particularly cool. It's the "Platinum Team Sets" one and it completes the three issues of this card (Base, Gold Rush, Platinum). This Platinum one looks totally different in person, but whatever they did to it to give it its effects reflects the lights of the scanner strangely.

Thanks P-Tom Tom!

And thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Not Another Darryl Strawberry Baseball Cards Blog Post

Mike from Not Another Baseball Card Blog received from me a slew of 1987 Topps cards and in return I received some Darryl Strawberry cards to add to my collection. I've never been there, but Canada feels like it's beyond the Wall (à la Game of Thrones). I'm not saying Mike is a Wildling, although he may be... Mike...are you a Wildling?


The six cards I got all date from the 1990s, and represent Strawberry in his Mets, Dodgers, and Yankees uniforms. I particularly like that the 1992 cards can't seem to agree on his weight. Some say 195 and some say 200. That's splitting hairs. And the double hat image on the back of that Donruss 1922 McDonald's MVP is great. Remember when ball players wore their hat under their batting helmet! Could you imagine Bryce Harper or Hanley Ramirez doing that? And I wonder, since I'm on a tangent now, what Johnny Cueto's actual head size is versus his HCDs+ (that's an advance metric for Head Circumference plus Dreadlocks factored in).

Here is the obligatory list of cards Mike sent me followed by images.

1991 Score, Card #640
1992 Donruss McDonald's MVP, Card #7
1992 Leaf, Series 1 Gold Edition. Card #29
1992 Score, Card #9
1992 Upper Deck Home Run Heroes, Card #HR16
1996 Score, Card #353

Is it me, or does the card back for the 1996 Score look as though he's doing the "Same as it ever was" hand gesture from the Talking Head's "Once in a Lifetime" 1980 video?


I can't express how cool it is to trade with people Georgia to Oregon to Canada to Illinois to Ohio to West Virginia. It's really neat and I'm stoked that these cards I've had for up to 30 or so years are wanted somewhere else while at the same time I'm receiving in exchange cards that are very welcome to my current interests. It's a very nice community, so far. But... Are there dicks though? I'm just used to running into them wherever I go and so sometimes it feels a little unsettling. It's like the last time I was in Florida (during Spring Training this year) many nice people saying Hello and Good Morning. My initial reaction was always "I don't have any money!" or to avert eye contact altogether. Well, if there are some jerks out there I hope not to run into them.

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Some Thoughts on Sunday Night Baseball

I love watching baseball. In person is best, obviously. But on the television isn't too bad. But...I'm almost bored with ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball. The current schedule is set only through 14 August, but I did a little look through the schedule up to that point during Sunday Night's Baseball Tonight because, frankly, there's only so much Dallas Braden one can take. (I would listen, rapt, to Tim Kurkjian read the telephone book because he do it so enthusiastically and I love - always have - John Kruk.)

It's something I've noticed over the last few years: that the predominant schedule includes just a few teams: Red Sox, Yankees, Cardinals, Dodgers and Giants. This year is no different. Through August 14, here is a break down of the teams and the number of times they've appeared Sunday Night Baseball in 2016 (please note one game between the Tigers and the Yankees was postponed because of rain but they have been included):

Los Angeles Dodgers - 7
Boston Red Sox - 5
San Francisco Giants - 5
Chicago Cubs - 4
New York Yankees - 4
St. Louis Cardinals - 4
New York Mets - 2
Pittsburgh Pirates - 2
Arizona Diamondbacks - 1
Atlanta Braves - 1
Detroit Tigers - 1
Houston Astros - 1
Kansas City Royals - 1
Miami Marlins - 1
Seattle Mariners - 1

The general suckitude of the Braves (vs. Marlins) and Diamondbacks (vs. Giants) are the anomaly here.

That's 15 teams features in the first four months of baseball this season, leaving 15 teams with zero, national prime time exposure. I think a genuine rivalry exists between some of these teams: like the Giants and Dodgers and to an extant the rise of the Cubs versus the Pirates and Cardinals. But the Red Sox vs. Yankees (who were featured in back-to-back Sunday's earlier in the season and at least one other time? That "rivalry"? That's ovah).

Here are the 15 teams not yet represented.
AL East: Baltimore Orioles, Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto Blue Jays
AL Central: Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, Minnesota Twins
AL West: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Oakland Athletics, Texas Rangers

NL East: Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Nationals
NL Central: Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers
NL West: Colorado Rockies and San Diego Padres

At the present time, none of the AL division leaders and one of the National League (Washington Nationals) have appeared on Sunday Night Baseball!  And under the remaining 7 Sunday's beyond August 14...

I don't know about you, but I'm absolutely bored senseless with the Red Sox, Cardinals, Dodgers, and Giants. And to a degree with the Cubs, too, who are far less dynamic than they were in the first two or so months of the year. Maybe some of these ignored teams don't have much to play for this year; and maybe they don't even have really dynamic players. But each of these teams does have at least one player who could or should be highlighted in the national, prime time broadcast. Mike Trout! Nelson Cruz! Felix Hernandez! Bryce Harper! Paul Goldschmidt! Ryan Braun! Mark Trumbo! And when he's not melting down, Chris Sale! None of these guys have appeared on Sunday Night Baseball this year. We know that something unique or amazing can happen in any given game. The White Sox, for example, have turned three triple plays this year alone! (The Brewers accomplished the other one.) I like watching other, out of market teams and seeing their players and ball parks as well as what the cities themselves have to offer. I'm sure I'm not alone.

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Kentucky Strawberry's and a Tangent

The cards listed here were received in a trade of some 2016 Cincinnati Reds cards with Jason over at his fascinating The Writer's Journey. As is usual, I am grateful for Jason's willingness to take the cards off my hands and feel rather overwhelmed at his generosity in sending back some Darryl Strawberry cards for my collection.

Here's a list:

1991 gold-bordered card, says it is licensed but no other information
1991 Classic, Card #177
1991 Donruss, Card #696
1991 Fleer Ultra, Card #171

1992 Triple Play, Card #187

1997 Donruss, Card #261
1997 Pacific, Card #161
1997 Pinnacle Inside, Card #74
1997 Score, Card #79
1997 Upper Deck Collectors Choice, Card #399

1999 Topps, Card #18
1999 Topps Stadium Club, Card #7
1999 Upper Deck Victory, Card #327

I cannot seem to scan cards in chronological order though that is how they are stored. Which is embarrassing considering that I know very well how to use a scanner.

Oh, the baseball card Gods are a curious lot. I would love to see cards that never were. Sometimes we do get a glimpse as the photographs they choose are wanting in the flattery department. Such as the 1999 Stadium Club card (below, second row, middle picture). Straw looks quite fatigued. I shouldn't make fun - and really I'm not - because this was likely taken around the time where he was playing with diagnosed colon cancer.

I wonder if players have any approval rights of images of themselves that will be put on cards and posters, billboards and guides? But I guess my point is, is that photos just shouldn't be that bad. That being said, they kind of still are. Maybe you all remember a few years ago there was a YouTube video highlighting the prominence of "Bitchy Resting Face"?

Well, I think that baseball cards feature "Ugly Pitching Face". The epitome of Ugly Pitching Face is Madison Bumgarner, who I firmly believe will come and kick my ass some day for this.

Bumgarner has a rich history of ugly pitching face cards. In many cases it all looks like the same face, but I believe there are subtle variations, like the flavors in wine. Luis Severino of the Yankees also qualifies, as does Kenta Maeda. Ugly Pitching Face reminds me of something Tony L of Off Hiatus Baseball Cards pointed out about the seeming requirement of all Ryan Braun cards to feature his eyes practically popping out their sockets.

Well, that was a digression. Thank you again Jason, sincerely, for these cards. I truly appreciate your generosity.

Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Strawberry Patch, Part the Third

This is the third and final part of the posts thanking Tony of Off Hiatus Baseball Cards for his kindness is sending me so much for so little. We've left, temporarily, the 1980s and 1990s behind in the first two posts (here and here)... Enter the 2010s...

2013 Topps - Chasing History #CH-89
2013 Topps Allen & Ginter - Mini A and G Back #98

The "Chasing History" card is really sweet and made me think of Coldplay's song "Strawberry Swing":

2014 Topps Allen & Ginter #325
2014 Topps Manufactured Commemorative All-Star Rookie Team Patch RCMP-DS

The above patch from 2014 is what inspired the title for this series of posts. It's pretty cool. And I have to admit that in my trolling around looking at images of cards, I wasn't immediately taken with the design of the Allen & Ginter ones. However, in person, in my hands, seen with my four eyes, they give quite a different impression and I find them very attractive.

There weren't any good songs in 2014, so I'll turn back the clock to 1985. I gave in and turned away from baseball cards a few summers after this song was released and I realize now that that was a mistake because of the joy and happiness collecting gives me. So, never surrender.

Now for the obligatory Biggy-Smalls part of the series. Tony included a monstrous 1986 Donruss All-Stars card along with many stickers and a mini. I don't know any good songs by B.I.G. and became nauseous looking up songs by Mr. Big, so will instead go with a pop culture movie reference:

1984 Topps Stickers #385
1985 Topps Stickers #179
1986 Donruss All-Stars #5
1986 Donruss All-Stars, Pop-Ups #5
1986 Fleer Mini #21

1988 Panini Stickers #342
1988 Topps Stickers #21 (#99 Howard Johnson/#218 Bruce Fields)
1988 Topps Stickers #96 Darryl Strawberry (#62 Bruce Hurst back)
1988 Topps Stickers #151 Darryl Strawberry (#17 Jeffrey Leonard back)
1988 Topps Stickers #151 Darryl Strawberry (#63 Mark Langston back)

1989 Panini Stickers #140
1989 Panini Stickers #223


All in all this was a wonderful boon (and I do not mean Aaron) to my collection. Thanks Tony!

I'll end with two videos for two of my favorite songs of all time: Oasis' "Wonderwall" and Radiohead's "Street Spirit (Fade Out)":

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Strawberry Patch, Part the Second

This is the second post pimping the Darryl Strawberry cards that Tony of Off Hiatus Baseball Cards sent my way in early July and will look at the 1990s and 2000's during Strawberry's somewhat nomadic tour in and out of baseball as with different clubs, concluding with his after-baseball cards. the first post can be read here. And in working on this post I decided to break out the rest into a third, so look for that shortly! Here's the first post!

To start it off, let's have a song from the summer of 1990:

It's tragic to post that... This was actually embarrassing to find and embed. My wife was like, "What are you doing?" and inched away from me on the sofa.

1990 Baseball Card Magazine #19
1990 Donruss #235
1990 Fleer #217
1990 Topps #600
1990 Topps All-Star Set Collector's Edition #7
1990 Upper Deck #182

1991 was a better summer for music (maybe) but by this time I was too busy for baseball cards because of working a summer job, eating pints of Ben & Jerry's ice cream, girls, and training for my senior year of cross country (we won the State championship) which was unbelievably awesome.

1991 Fleer #161
1991 Jimmy Dean # 5
1991 Score #640
1991 Score  #691 (Master Blaster)
1991 Topps #200
1991 Topps All-Star #402
1992 Donruss #559
1992 Jimmy Dean # 9
1992 Studio #50

Well, one time we all might have been unbelievable. By 1991 and 1992, Strawberry was less so because of various injuries and lifestyle choices which is a shame. He had been in the big leagues for nearly a decade and should've been at his prime.

For music, 1992 was prime with excellent choices. It doesn't get any better or more 1992 than this:

Speaking of 1992 and sexy... The 1992 Studio card lists that Bo Derek was the person Strawberry wanted to meet most. She wasn't in anything worthwhile that year, but in 1990 she was in Ghosts Can't Do It for which she won a Golden Raspberry, which is a fruit-ish cousin of the strawberry. Donald Trump was also in that movie. I quit!

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Strawberry Patch, Part the First

Tony, the Musical Baseball Card Blogger of the vast Off Hiatus Baseball Cards sent me a cache of Darryl Strawberry baseball cards in trade for some Brewers cards. My first thought when I opened the package was

My thoughts after looking at them all and cataloging them and scanning them remains thus.

Given T-MasterFlash's impressive penchant for posts with songs I felt I needed to reciprocate in kind. Given the focus of my collection, I would be remiss if I didn't start with "Strawberry Fields Forever" by the Beatles.

Tony sent me so many cards I've decided to break this up into a few posts. This first one focuses on those cards from the 1980s, from Straw's best partial decade in baseball. Here are the cards followed by a list of them.

While Darryl Strawberry was the rookie of the year in 1983, his first full year in the big leagues was 1984, which proved to be also a great year for him. At the time there was so much promise that we have to turn it over to Limahl of Kajagoogoo...

Kind of wish Strawberry grew his hair out like that, don't you?

But before we get to the list, here's a song that mentions a contemporary of Strawberry's, Bo Jackson, and was a favorite back in High School.

1986 Topps KayBee Young Superstars of Baseball #31
1987 Fleer League Leaders #41
1987 Topps KayBee Superstars of Baseball #31
1988 Donruss All-Stars #34
1988 Fleer Baseball '88 All Stars #40
1988 Sportflics #155
1988 Starting Lineup Talking Baseball #22
1988 Topps KMart Memorable Moments #29
1989 Bowman #387
1989 Fleer Baseball All Stars #39
1989 Topps All-Star Set Collector's Edition #8
1989 Topps KMart Dream Team #28

If you're done with baseball cards, Thanks for stopping by. If you want a little more music, please continue...

One of the things collecting baseball cards has done for me is had be back in the 1980s thinking about its music, movies, the baseball players and a life & history generally and willfully forgotten about. But maybe they weren't all that bad. Baseball cards is in some way a remedy to that amnesiac nostalgia.

I'll close with just one more song/video that will take us all back to the past. Might have been better for a post about Roger Clemens but man does this one revolutionary video seem dated...

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Strawberry's on Cards

Recently I sent a few cards to Kerry of the Cards on Cards blog. And as a result, I received back in trade some Darryl Strawberry's (on cards). These were an eclectic mix of eleven cards ranging from 1986 to 1993. All the cards from 1990 to 1993 were all very new to me.

I know Strawberry was on the Dodgers, Giants, and Yankees after he was a Mets player but it still is somewhat weird for me to see him in that Dodgers uniform. I need to get over it. I suppose there are pills I can take for that?

Anyway, the cards I received are all wonderfully welcome into my newly started collection and consist of:

1986 Fleer Mini #21
1987 Sportflics #20
1990 Topps #200
1990 Upper Deck #245
1992 Fleer #471
1992 Leaf #29, Series 1
1992 Studio #50
1992 Topps #550
1993 Donruss #112, Series 1
1993 Pinnacle #64
1993 Topps #450

These cards are a manifestation of the bridge that I needed to understand the changes that took place between 1989/1990 when I stopped collecting and this year when I made a 2016 Topps base set. Had I stayed in the hobby I wouldn't still be so surprised at the difference in quality and the move away from cardboard (I don't even know what kind of paper or material these things are printed on now!)

The 1993 Pinnacle card back is an example of "If you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything at all". It reads: "Even Darryl can't carry a team on his back when he has a herniated disc. The painful injury limited the outspoken, streaky slugger to just 43 games and his least productive  season in 1992. It put him on the disabled list three times before he finally gave in and underwent surgery Sept. 15. He was expected to recover and rehabilitate in time for Opening Day."

The 1992 Studio card made me laugh out loud when I read the "Up Close" portion: "... Bo Derek is the person he'd most like to meet." 1992, golly I miss you.

I really like the 1992 Topps card with him running mid-stride at third base. It's an excellent action shot.

An excellent cache of cards this trade was. Thanks Kerry!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Baseball Cards for a Birthday

The title of this blog post riffs off of Sylvia Plath's poem "Poem for a Birthday" (and Dylan Thomas, too, who shared her birthday though he was born 18 years earlier and wrote his own birthday poem, "Poem on His Birthday". Plath also wrote "A Birthday Present" which is among my favorites by her.). Anyway... One of the best things about the baseball card collecting that I recently picked back up is that it gives me something to ask for for holidays and other special occasions, like birthdays, in lieu of shirts for work, slacks, socks, and some of the other dreaded detritus of adulthood.

Fortunately, my birthday has always fallen at a good time as the baseball season is in full swing. I was astonished to get an absolute haul of ye old sets. The below join complete Topps base sets from 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, and 1987 and Topps traded sets of 1984, 1985, 1988, and 1989.

1983 Topps Traded (though lacking the Darryl Strawberry of course...Hmmmm)
1986 Topps Traded (fortunately this included Barry Bonds, HipHip Jose Canseco, Will Clark, Bo Jackson, John Kruk, and, well, all 132 cards)
1987 Topps Traded (complete)
1988 Topps base set
1989 Topps base set

I haven't gone through the base sets yet to verify that they are in fact complete. In my experience they are not, but generally it's the common scrubs that are missing.

Growing up and sharing a birthday with a twin was overall a good thing. There was always someone to play with (when we weren't fighting, which wasn't really an issue until High School) be it baseball, hockey, basketball, or football in our neighbors yards, which she hated (we didn't want to tear up our own yard). Someone to collect and maybe trade baseball cards with, too. I think our favorite game was Running Bases in the backyard with whomever we could get to be a third and/or a fourth player.  Did anyone else out there play that? I'd suggest we meet up and try it but suspect we'd need an EMT on call... 

A bad Photoshop crop job to remove someone in the image;
notice  we were so skinny we had to fold the pants over!
These box sets above were from my brother who, last weekend, played catch me with in the street in front of our childhood home for about a half an hour or so just like we used to do more than half our lives ago. I had brought my Dale Murphy Rawlings baseball glove home for this purpose, and also to bring it to the Nationals game. But getting to play catch was awesome. For my birthday this year I am getting a new glove. My first in about thirty freaking years! I'll retire the Murphy glove, therefore, and start breaking in the new glove this weekend. 

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, July 4, 2016

The Reds vs Nationals, 3 July 2016

When I can, I travel home to see the Washington Nationals. It works out nicely each year to see them on the weekend of the Fourth of July. This is my fifth time seeing them in a July game:

vs Mets 3 July 2010 (box score)
vs Padres on 6 July 2013 (box score)
vs Cubs on 4 July 2014 (box score)
vs Giants on 4 July 2015 (box score)
vs Reds on 3 July 2016 (box score)

I really like the games on the 4th as they start at 11 am when there isn't a rain delay like last year. And it's always really neat to beat in a ball park when the gates open around 9 am. It's always so quiet and a little disorienting to be there right after breakfast...And to have a beer at that time, too. As a matter of practice, we always get seats in a different part of the ballpark.

The 2014 game was really memorable as the Cubs traded their starting pitcher Jason Hammel during that game  to the Oakland A's along with Jeff Samardzija for Addison Russell and two other players. This game was also special as my wife had mine and my twin brother's name on the scoreboard when they run a list of birthdays. Very cool!

2015 should've been a marquis match-up between Bumgarner and Strasburg but neither pitcher pitched particularly well or lasted for too long. Michael A Taylor led off the game with a home run and then two batters later Bryce Harper hit a two run shot and the Nationals never looked back.

This year we opted for the Sunday game against the Reds though I would have preferred still to see the July 4th game against the Brewers, a team I am not sure I've ever seen, unless it was back in the 1980s against the Orioles. As of now I'm glad we did as the forecast for the 4th isn't very baseball friendly.

Today's game saw John Lamb go against Stephen "The Orchid" Strasburg in his first game back from another DL stint. Before the game, there was a promotional giveaway of a (like OMG!) Herbert Hoover bobblehead! Why would you want a Bryce Harper bobblehead, or a Jayson Werth Chia pet, when you could walk away with a thing like a presidential bobblehead? Food at Nationals Park is always good. My wife had a curly-W pretzel and I had tater tots. Because why not. If you eat meat, there are plenty of things to satisfy you there. Beer was consumed: Flying Dog Brewery's Ranging Bitch, a Belgian style IPA. Normally I'm anti-Belgium (because I found Hercule Poirot really annoying when I read the Agatha Christie books...yes I can be that fickle) but this was a really nice beer. The ballpark is a wonderful place, beautiful, with great team stores and plenty of other things to keep kids and adults occupied.

This year we sat in Section 135, Row S, which is down the first base line in right field. Strasburg was more robust, like a hasta, than an orchid today throwing a no-hitter through 6.2 innings. Treinen finished it up before Belisle blew the combined no-hitter attempt and the shut out. The highlight of the game though were the six home runs, including a grand slam by Danny Espinosa from the right side of the plate and a solo shot later from the left side of the plate. For the second year in a row, Harper went deep, launching a 441 foot shot to right, his longest of the year a graph showed.

Idiot that I am instead of uploading my images I hit delete. So I have nothing of the game to show for today's attendance other than the very sloppy scorecard that I kept and some pictures of me with family members. Dummy.  So here are some shots from years in the past.

2013: I don't have friends, so I drink beer.
2014: Section 133

2014: Making the Jumbotron
2015: Bumgarner to Harper
2016: Scorecard