Friday, April 30, 2010

Don't ever send me this card again


If  you are a team or player collector, have a blog, and trade with others through your blog, then chances are you have experienced this:

You receive one particular card much more often than any other card.

For whatever reason, it keeps showing up at your place of residence over and over. You pull it out of the package, smile at it pleasantly, and throw it on the pile.

But it's not a bipping. Oh, no, these people are well-meaning. Perhaps if you receive the card over months and months, you could call it a sustained-release bipping. Of the unintentional sort.

For me, the card that keeps making unwanted house calls is card No. 10 out of the 22-card Bazooka starter set from 1989. Kirk Harold Gibson (yes, his middle name is Harold). I don't know exactly how many of this card I have received in the last year-and-half. But I do know that I didn't have one of these cards prior to October 2008. I now have 14 of them.

I'm also pretty certain that I have distributed a small amount of Gibson doubles to the very few Dodger collectors that I know. Let's say less than 5. So, estimating conservatively, I'd say about 18 different folks have sent me this card.

Why the Gibson card shows up more often than the Hershiser card or the Belcher card from this set, I don't know. But I do know this: Kirk was selected MVP of the NL for the 1988 season. He's 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, bats left, throws left, was drafted by the Tigers #1 in June 1978, was acquired by the Dodgers as a free agent, Feb. 1, 1988, he was born May 28, 1957 in Pontiac, Mich., and his home at the time was Lapeer, Mich.

I've read the card back a few times.

So, what's it all mean?

Well, first of all, I think just about everyone on the planet has the Gibson Bazooka card from 1989. Apparently there was a worldwide party during that year -- probably to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall -- and every single person received a Gibson Bazooka card. ... And I wasn't invited. Which would explain the not having part.

Secondly, is there any particular card that you seem to get more than any other? There must be. I can't be the only one.

Finally, you may be asking yourself about the post title. Am I being serious?

No, no, no, absolutely not. I'm not saying anything of the sort. Why would you think that?

It's a joke. A joke! I'm kidding. Kidding! Why, if I was being serious, that'd be a prelude to a Gibson Bazooka bipping -- a real style bipping -- and I definitely don't want that. And I don't want to unload my 50-plus 1990 Bryn Smith Diamond Kings in response. So it's all in fun. Get happy, people.

Besides, I'm in too good of a mood to issue ultimatums. Yes, a good mood, sleep-deprived self aside. (And Dodgers-sucking agony aside).

I'm off today, I'm buying cards later, and I experienced the joy of a completed page 10 TIMES while filling my 1971 Topps binder today. No, that is not a euphemism for anything. I said get happy. That's TOO happy.

Here is one of the completing-page cards that I forgot to show the other day:


Awesome. Three Hall of Fame fire-balling bad-asses.

Not a Gibby in sight. At least not the Kirk Harold kind.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Brush with greatness: John DeSilva


One still common misconception about the life of sportswriters is that their job is glamorous.

Rubbing elbows with the professional sports elite, munching on free food, watching ball games for nothing, what's not to like? My personal favorite is when people assume we watch games on TV at home and then write about what transpired. If that happened, then my job WOULD be fantastic.

That doesn't mean I don't think that there are pleasant parts to my job. If I didn't, I wouldn't be doing this Brush With Greatness series. It's just that this is not a job in which every moment is a "Dear Diary, the most wonderful thing happened to me today" moment.

For instance, the interview with a professional ballplayer.

To many, this would be the highlight. Isn't that what autograph hunters aspire to -- a chance to communicate, up-close, with a professional player? But as a sports reporter, things are somewhat different.

First of all, players don't see us as "fans." And that's good, because I'm not a fan when I'm writing up a game. They're going to act a little different than when Joe Spectator hands them a ball to sign and that's OK with me.

Secondly, unless it's a really special player from my childhood or an extremely famous athlete (I have had one-on-one interviews with people like John Elway and David Robinson), there is way too much going on in your brain besides "Hey! Look who I'm talking to!"

You're trying to stay professional and you're so in the moment of asking the right questions, and making sure you find the other people you need to talk to, and getting the story out before deadline, that there is very little time to enjoy the moment.

That's sad. But that's the life of a sports reporter.

The truth is that when I come across a story that I wrote many years ago, many times I don't even remember talking to the person. Sometimes, the name of the player doesn't ring a bell.

For instance, former pitcher John DeSilva.

Fortunately for Mr. DeSilva, I do remember who he was. Not that he cares. But I don't remember talking to him at all. Perhaps it was because he didn't say much after an appearance for Class A Niagara Falls. He was the obvious story after striking out nine and allowing one run in a 3-1 victory. All I got out of him was a single three-sentence quote.

But the quote is there in the story. I'm staring at it 20 years later. There's no doubt I talked to him. But there was no warm, fuzzy moment. No, "Hey Mr. DeSilva, I saw you pitch the other day. You were great. You're my favorite player. Will you sign this?"

Four days later, no doubt based on that pitching performance, he was called up to the full-season Class A team with the Tigers and I never talked to him again. He eventually made it to the major leagues with the Tigers in 1993, pitching in one game. Later that year, he pitched for the Dodgers. I remember that because he was the player-to-be-named in the deal that sent Eric Davis from the Dodgers to the Tigers.

DeSilva pitched in three games for the Dodgers. He stayed in the organization until he was traded to the Orioles in December of 1994. DeSilva started two games for the Orioles in 1995. He won one of them. It was his only decision in the major leagues.

DeSilva finished his major league career 1-0 with a 7.20 ERA in six games. As far as I can tell, he has just two cards issued by a major card company -- a 1991 and 1992 Bowman when he was with the Tigers. I would love it if there's one out there with DeSilva in a Dodger uniform.

Because even if the stature of the person doesn't register when I'm working, it certainly does after all these years. That's why when players say -- "It doesn't mean that much to me now. Maybe when I'm looking back on my career, it'll mean something" -- I know exactly what they're talking about.

It means something now.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Speaking of players I talked to who didn't have a lot of time in the majors. I mentioned Tom Bruno way back and how at one time I didn't think he had a card.

I discovered a card of his, although he shared it with two other players. But it was enough for me, after he was kind enough to have a long conversation during a fishing tournament.

Well, a few weeks ago, I saw a card of Bruno in which he was the only one on the card! It was on GCRL's O-Pee-Chee blog. I immediately inquired whether Jim had a double of dear Mr. Bruno.

He did.

It showed up at my home a few days ago. It's a 1977 O-Pee-Chee card. You can't find Bruno in the regular Topps set from that year.

I am very pleased.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Another milestone bites the dust


Little time today, so I'm getting right to it.

Right here we have The Hammer. In all his 1971 glory. Forty-seven homers, 1.019 OPS that year. He was the man in 1971. He's still the man.

This card is all mine. It is one of the cards that I thought I'd have the toughest time obtaining in my quest to finish off the '71 set. But after receiving the '71 Munson card, I've learned that just about anything is possible in the collecting game (Steve, the code cards are accumulating).

Originally, I thought finishing the '71 set would be a lifetime project. I don't think that anymore. Granted, I still need the Clemente, the Mays and the Rose. Realistically, it could still take years. But also, I expect those cards to drop out of the sky in the next few months. Seriously, I expect to be walking down the street and they will float down from a cloud into my hands. That's how optimistic I am about this set now.

I have reader Eggrocket to thank for the Aaron card. He's been a frequent commentor on both this blog and the '75 Topps blog. He mentioned the condition of the Aaron card. I don't care about the condition. I'm certainly not spending the cash that it takes to get a near mint '71 Aaron, so this fits my needs perfectly.

Eggrocket also sent 14 other 1971 cards off my want list. That brings me to 691 of 752 cards in the set. That's 91.9 percent complete. That is also amazing.

Here is a brief tour through the cards I received:


Tom Grieve's rookie card. The former Rangers player and GM is now a Rangers broadcaster.

He's possibly better known today as Ben Grieve's dad, although I have no idea why people are still talking about Ben Grieve.


Another card microcosm of the Cubs' difficulty in the 1970s.


Here is someone who made a little more impact on the major leagues. Metzger was a solid fielder and good triples hitter for the Astros in the '70s. He also lost the tips of some fingers in a table saw accident.


Oooh, nice card. Three noted sluggers from the '60s. However, the facial expression on Howard is a bit concerning. Alarming even, for a big man.


The 1970 White Sox in one of their many '70s uniform incarnations.



Future Dodger Pete Richert amid the palm trees and a couple of towers. Radio, perhaps?


The fiery manager amid more palm trees and another tower. Great card.


The last checklist that I needed. It's in shockingly great shape. I'm always surprised to receive a vintage checklist that hasn't been marked.


The guy who stole Mike Scioscia away from the Dodgers to manage the Angels. Very little has gone right since for the Dodgers. And I like the Angels a lot less than I once did.


Former platoon-hitter extraordinnaire Terry Crowley. The card's off-center, but I doubt I will upgrade it.


I'll end it with a card of Bert Campaneris, who I refuse to call "Campy," because that is Campanella's nickname.

The card's drastically miscut. Isn't it great?

Eggrocket also sent a '71 Don Sutton that is in very nice shape.

I should say I'm looking feverishly for cards to send to Eggrocket in return. But I don't have the time to do that right now. So, I'll just say, "thanks," and wait for the weekend. That will be card-hunting time.

The problem with the '90s

I am here to alert you to a fine weekly baseball card feature on the most excellent Baseball-Reference.com Blog. I'll let the astute Andy do the rest of the talking about it:

---------------------------------------------------------------------

From Andy at Baseball-Reference.com:

The Baseball-Reference.com Blog has a new weekly feature covering
baseball cards:

http://www.baseball-reference.com/blog/archives/category/card-of-the-week


Click on that link to call up the relevant posts.

We would like to feature some of the excellent card blogs out there.
If you would like to participate, please email me at 88topps at gmail
dot com to direct me to one or two posts on your blog that you would
like to have highlighted. It doesn't matter if they are recent or old,
but they must contain scans of the front and back of a card that can
be used on our blog (minimum size 400 pixels by 285 pixels.) If I
choose to use your scans as the basis of a post, I will credit your
blog by name and also include a writeup about (plus link to) your
original source post. In return, I ask that on your blog you include
either a link or a post for the Baseball-Reference.com blog located at
baseball-reference.com/blog (not a link for just the main
Baseball-Reference.com site.)

We currently get about 40,000 pageviews per week and would love to
send some traffic your way. Please pick out a couple of your favorite
posts and send them my way!

Thanks,

Andy

---------------------------------------------------------------------

I took a peek at the site and there are lots of cool cards there. Lonnie Smith, Diamond Kings, a 1967 George Brunet. But not only are there cool cards and cool discussion of the cards, but also insightful statistical analysis of the players or teams or something related to the card.
 
For example, I bet they could go to town with this card:
 
A couple of sweethearts, eh? I'm sure Baseball-Reference.com might discuss the similarities/differences of each player's enormous abilities in a statistical format that will cause you to see Bonds and Belle as you never have before.

It's far more than what I could do.

I would probably just focus on the emotional aspect of the two guys. You know, my gut-reaction to what I know about them. For example, what if I were to invite these two jerkwad ... er, fine upstanding gentlemen to dinner and my folks said to Bonds and Belle, "tell me about yourselves," what would they say?

Would they mention that one of them once hit trick-or-treaters with his car in a violent rage? Would they mention the spousal cheating and abuse? The stalking? The endless drug allegations? The bat-corking and then sending a player through the ceiling panels to try to remove the offending bat? The repeated blaming of the media? The refusal to deal with the media?

Probably not.

To me, this card pretty much sums up the '90s. I've mentioned before that I'm not a big fan of 1990s baseball. When I stumble across card sets from the '90s that were often unknown to me because I didn't collect for large chunks of the decade, I wince as I read the names: Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens, Rafael Palmeiro, Jose Canseco and many, many others.

Especially with cards from the late 1990s, a lot of the players look like inflated freaks. I remember finding a few Pacific cards at the dollar store. I think they were from around 1998. Every player looked like they just spent 36 hours in the gym. It didn't look like baseball to me. It looked like weightlifters playing baseball.

Unfortunately, that's what I think of with most of the cards from the 1990s. I don't get a warm, fuzzy feeling looking at those cards like I do with cards from the '70s or '80s. The game really changed for the worse in the '90s (and I'm not saying that just because the Yankees won everything for a lot of the decade).

We all thought that it was great back then. But now we're trying to get it back to the way it was before the 1990s. I don't think we'll ever get it back to the way it was: we'll probably never see people who look like Bake McBride playing ever again. But hopefully, there is more of an emphasis on everything that makes baseball great. Not just the home run, but the well-pitched game, the double steal, the over-the-back catch and the squeeze play.

The Belle-Bonds card was sent to me by Rod of Padrographs. Thanks for the bad flashback, Rod.

But he also sent a few '90s cards (or '90s-ish cards) that were all right with me:


OK, so Brown was another one of those unpleasant '90s characters. But at least he wore the right colors for a few years.

Thanks, Rod. I think.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Cardboard appreciation: 1956 Topps Vic Power

(In keeping with my study of various "appreciation" days/weeks/months, this week is National Playground Safety Week. It's snowing here today, so I don't think we have to worry about little Aiden or Amelia cracking their head open on the Tilt-a-Whirl. Time for Cardboard Appreciation. This is No. 62 in a series):


I have decided to start another little series on the blog, and I'm debuting it today on Cardboard Appreciation.

I'm calling it '56 of the Month. Each month I will feature a different 1956 Topps card that I have. In the process, I have set a goal to have the entire set completed by the time I finish this series.

That is why it is called '56 of the Month, rather than '56 of the Week or '56 of the Day. I am going to need lots and lots of time and lots and LOTS of money to complete this task. Who knows if I'll actually finish it? But I want to take a crack at it. I think I would be more proud of owning this completed set than any other one that I currently have.

Anyway, I selected Vic Power to start the series, because from the very moment I saw this card as a teenager, I thought it was awesome. When my brothers and I were splitting up the '56 cards that we received from my dad's co-worker, after all of the "known" players were selected, I went right for the Power card.

First, Power has a terrific grin on his face. Secondly, that's a cool play-at-the-plate image. Did you know Power once stole home twice in one game? He did. It was on Aug. 14, 1958 when he played for the Indians. Cleveland was playing Detroit and Power stole home the first time in the eighth inning. Then, in the 10th, with the bases loaded, Power stole home for the winning run of a 10-9 victory.

Power is known for his speed and his flashy and proficient glove play at first base -- he was a seven-time Gold Glove winner. But probably the thing about him that most people bring up is his famous quote, which illustrated grace under pressure in a repressive age. Power, like all African-American players in the '50s, endured unending racism. He could have been the first African-American to play for the Yankees. But accounts say Power was traded to the Athletics after he dated a white girl.

Anyway, Power entered a "whites-only" restaurant. A waitress told him the restaurant didn't "serve Negroes." Power, also known for his wit, said there was no need to worry. He didn't eat "Negroes." He just wanted some rice and beans.

The site of the restaurant is in dispute. Some accounts say Power said the restaurant was in Little Rock, Ark. Others say it was in Syracuse, where Power was a Yankees prospect. Syracuse is about as far from the south as you can get. So that might give you an idea how entrenched segregation was 60 years ago.


Once I obtained the card, I was quite pleased when I looked at the back. I knew nothing about Power at the time, but when I saw those 190 hits and .319 batting average, I knew the guy could play.

What I didn't know was Power wasn't his real name.

You'll note that the name at the top of the card says, "Victor Pellot Power." His birth name was Victor Felipe Pellot Pove. He was born in Puerto Rico and is considered one of the best players ever to come from the country (he finished with 126 HRs and a .284 average in 12 years in the majors).

Pellot was Power's father's surname and Pove was his mother's surname. As is common in Hispanic culture, Power went by his father's name and was known as Victor Pellot. But while playing professional baseball in Quebec, fans started snickering when his name was announced. It turns out his last name sounded similar to a slang word for "vagina" in French-Canadian. Preferring not to be known as "Victor Vagina," Pellot took his mother's name.

But his mother's name had been altered when she was young. According to a well-maintained wiki page, a grade-school teacher changed her name from "Pove" to "Power."

And, so, Vic Power was born.

I admit, part of my fascination with the card was the name. The guy's name was "Vic Power"! He had to be good!

So, yeah, if I knew his real name was Pellot, part of me would have been disappointed.

Sadly, when you are born after a player ends his career, names and stats and stories are all you have.

Power later went on to establish a baseball academy in his native country and also managed an amateur team. He still holds several major league fielding records, was a four-time all-Star, and was named one of the Indians' 100 all-time players. He will forever be known as the first Latin American to play for the Athletics.

He was a friendly guy, got along with everyone, and joked on the field until it was time to play. Then he got serious. Once, after a particularly distressing day in the field, he came back into the clubhouse and cut his glove into bits.

Power died at age 78 in 2005.

I never saw him play. But it's one of my favorite baseball cards. And it's a great way to kick off the '56 of the Month.

The mission has begun.

Monday, April 26, 2010

That's what the boxes are for


Once, long ago, part of your responsibility as a card collector was checking off boxes. It was your duty to put pen to cardboard.

Each card set featured set checklists almost every year. But then, in the 1970s, team checklists began to appear. I don't know whether team collecting suddenly became the thing to do in the '70s, but Topps finally recognized it for the first time that decade with its team-specific checklists.

From 1975 to 1981, Topps issued team photo cards that also displayed a checklist on the back:


Look how neat I was in 1977. But this is the exception rather than the rule.

I particularly like the '77 team checklists, because they listed the players' uniform number for the first time -- or at least the first time since I started collecting.

The first team checklists that I marked up were from the first set with team checklists, the 1975 Topps set. I don't have very many of those left in their original state. I'm not sure what happened to them all.

The following year, 1976, I was a good little collector and scribbled in the boxes again. I think I have a few of those still around. But I'm upgrading and trying to complete the set, so they're stashed in an unknown box right now.

The 1977 set is a good one to show my young handiwork. I have barely updated this set and almost every card that I have in the binder are the same cards I first collected as an 11-year-old. I'm not going to repeat that wonderful year in my collecting life. But for a detailed description, go here.


I really beat the crap out of my '77 cards. Most of my team cards from that set are just as worn as the player cards, but the team cards show their wear on the back, too:


That is more typical of what my checklists looked like in the late 1970s. Scribbling in the squares, different colors of ink, erasure marks, lines and other scribblings on the side.


But there was somewhat of a method to my scribblings. A child's team-checklist code. I will attempt to explain it with the Rangers checklist:


First, the different color inks don't mean anything. I probably happened to have a red pen one time and a blue pen another time, that's all.

You can see I attempted to erase boxes that I had previously marked with players like Roy Howell and Dave Moates. That means I no longer had the card. I either traded it away, or as in the case of Moates -- who was on one of those four-player rookie cards -- I cut up his card to create mini cards of Moates and the three other guys on the card.

Pen doesn't erase too well, so there is also a line next to the boxes of those players. The line told me that I didn't have that card anymore.

Sometimes I lost the card and then regained it again. So I would scribble out the line, as with the Steve Foucault card, to signify that I had the card.

Sometimes, as with the Gene Clines card, I would gain the card, lose the card, gain the card back, and then lose the card again, creating the notation that you see on the checklist, which is "box checked," "line marked," "line scribbled," "second line marked," "second line scribbled." Good thing I didn't acquire and lose the card again. I would have run out of room.

Why I was doing so much transacting with a Gene Clines card, I have no idea.

As you can see this was a very unscientific process. In fact, no two checklists were alike.

For example, with the Twins team checklist:


I went with red pen all the way.


Then there was the Expos checklist. I'm not sure if you can make it out on the scan, but there are spots on the front of the card that stick out, just above the team name. Let's call them "out-dentations."


That's because the IN-dentations are on the back of the card. I pressed so hard filling in the checklist and erased so hard, trying to get rid of the mark, that it permanently scarred the card.

As in 1975, collectors could send away for the entire series of team cards, although the advertisement wasn't on the back of each team card, like in 1975. Perhaps the advertising was on the wrapper.

The team cards would come to you in a folded sheet. You would have to cut each card out separately. I did a terrible job of cutting. You probably can't tell too well with the white background here, but the edges go every which way.


The back is lighter in color, but still features the familiar inventory system of scribbles and lines.

By the way, I don't know why I filled in the boxes instead of merely checking the box, or using an "X," which I do now. Too many standardized tests in school, I suppose.


Yankees and Mets didn't last long where I lived. I was surrounded by kids who rooted for those teams for some ungodly reason. So I was fortunate to keep this Mets team card.


But, as you can see, I wasn't too successful filling out the checklist. The Mets were traded away almost as soon as I pulled them. I can't even show you a Yankees checklist because I don't have it. I have a grand total of three Yankees from that year.


This White Sox team card, besides displaying those gloriously unfortunate shorts that Chicago wore for one misguided season, also is a harbinger of things to come for cards with checklists on the back.


If you can tell, I filled this card out in pencil. And then I erased all the markings in an attempt to return it to its original pristine state.

Apparently, somewhere in 1977, I became aware that marking a card was "bad," and an untouched card was "good."

Still, I continued marking my team checklists through the end of the 1970s, although many more of them are in pencil or erased. By the 1980 set, only a few were marked on the back.

Topps stopped putting out team cards after the 1981 set, but the team checklists remained, on either team leaders cards or manager cards. That practice continued through the 1980s.

By the 1990s, cards were too much of an "investment" to put a checklist on the back of a card. They would show up here and there, but a lot less often. When Topps brought back team cards in the early 2000s, the backs featured team statistics and write-ups, not checklists. Upper Deck has had team checklists on the back of some of its cards, but most of the ones I've seen don't have any boxes next to the names.

It has been generally understood that you don't mark up the back of your cards.

I've been the same way, too. I never marked up the back of my 1980s cards. I was older, wiser, less prone to childish habits.

My 1981 set, the last year in which Topps put checklists on the back of its team cards, is free of markings on the back. Each checklist is in untouched form. I was 15 by then. No time for children's games.

Or so I thought.


I just pulled out my Dodgers team card in my 1981 binder. I was filing some of the '81 cards that Mariner1 sent me. I turned over the card to the back:


Well, what do you know. It's marked, it's erased, and then it's marked again. In pen.

Hey, that's what the boxes are for.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

It's a bip ... wait, no it isn't ... wait, yes it is ... wait, no it isn't


I received a very nice package in the mail about a week ago from Mariner1 of Emerald City Diamond Gems. He helped with a few Dodger/set needs, which you'll see later.

But also in the package was this:


That's nine 1981 Topps Terry Forster cards. Actually, I think I missed one. There were 10 in the package.

As a veteran bippee, I looked around for the confirmation note. The "ha, ha, you got bipped, sucker" note. I didn't find one.

So, I'm confused. Was this a bipping or not? Don't leaving me hanging. I have received packages in the past in which there were more than 6 or 7 of the same card without an accompanying note, but that was before the whole bipping epidemic. Now that bipping his officially passe, I'm wondering if Mariner1 executed a stealth bipping. Maybe he didn't leave a note so he could bip with impunity.

Very clever. If that was the intent.

I suspect not. Or maybe I do.

I'm still a little skittish you know.

But a number of cards sent with the Forsters helped take my mind off of my confusion. In fact, some of them were 1981 Topps that I actually needed:


These fine cards officially bring me down to needing five more cards to complete the set. The next thing I should do after writing this post is nab the final five online.


This is the last card to complete the 1987 Traded Dodgers set. The fact that it's Matt Young is laughable. My dad used to rip this guy endlessly when he was with the Red Sox. Young was not exactly effective.

Very cool. This will go toward my distant goal of completing the 1972 set. There are a few other sets in the way right now.


Orel Hershiser rookie Leaf! This card makes me happy. Now that's an effective card.

Somehow, Mariner1 slipped in a 1959 card in the package. That was totally unexpected. But given my recent kick of grabbing some Dodger '59s, it goes right along with my thinking. Very timely and very generous.

So, I may be puzzled by the Forster cards, but I'm grateful for the rest.

Puzzled, yet grateful. That's not a terrible combination.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Awesome night card, pt. 81


Around this time every season, I will come across a player in a boxscore and think out loud, "when did he end up here?"

That player this year was Kris Benson. He was the winning pitcher for the Diamondbacks against the Phillies last night. As far as I knew, he was still a Ranger. And even knowing that was quite a feat, because my brain keeps saying that Benson is still a Met, and Anna is still bouncing around in her Mrs. Claus get-up.

This is what happens when you get older. The job, the family, the house, the car, the school activities, the relatives all conspire to remove baseball from the center of your universe. No matter how hard you try to push baseball back to the center, something will come along and displace it. Baseball is merely a revolving planet, even if this blog makes it appear that it's my sole focus.

Once, I knew every player on every team. Of course, it was easier then. There were only 24 or 26 teams. And if I hadn't given up fantasy baseball, I'd still know just about every player out there.

The blogs help. There are fans of just about every team -- excluding the dastardly Rockies -- and that helps me figure out which players are on which club.

But I've come to grips with the fact that many, many people have a better idea of who the sixth guy in the bullpen for the Brewers is than I do. So after going through the rosters today, here are a few players who I had not accounted for:

Fred Lewis, Blue Jays (team I thought he was on: Giants)
Gabe Gross, A's (TITHWO: Rays)
Scott Podsednik, Royals (TITHWO: White Sox? Rockies?)
Mark Grudzielanek, Indians (TITHWO: He's still playing????)
J.J. Putz, White Sox (TITHWO: Mets)
Will Ohman, Orioles (TITHWO: No team)
Kelly Johnson, Diamondbacks (TITHWO: Braves)
LaTroy Hawkins, Brewers (TITHWO: Astros)
Chad Tracy, Cubs (TITHWO: Diamondbacks)
Nelson Figueroa, Phillies (TITHWO: Mets)
Eric Hinske, Braves (TITHWO: Lost track)

Feel free to laugh, but I'll bet a few of you non-fantasy types didn't know Garret Anderson and Jamey Carroll were Dodgers (unless you read a certain blog, of course).

Friday, April 23, 2010

Coming to terms with Chan Ho Park


Chan Ho Park is a Yankee now, so he's practically dead to me. But also, his Yankee-ness is another episode in what has been a series events involving Park that have made me uncomfortable.

Park embarrasses me. At least he did when he was a Dodger.

To start, when he was a rookie, he didn't react well to the customary hazing ritual. Dodger veterans took his clothes, cut up his new suit and tried to get him to wear a crazy outfit. Park, from South Korea and unfamiliar with Americans' weird customs, flipped out, throwing stuff, screaming, not going along with the ritual at all.

"Oh boy," I thought. "Who is THIS guy?"

Then, on the mound three years later, Park did the unthinkable. He gave up two grand slams in one inning to the same player. Now, why Park was still on the mound for the second time that Fernando Tatis came up during the inning I'll never know. But the fact is that Park gave up two grand slams in the same inning to Tatis.

Do you know how many people, knowing that I was a Dodger fan, brought up Park's "accomplishment"? I practically had to go into seclusion.

And both guys are still playing -- in New York -- so I'm reminded of it every time I see them.

Embarrassing.

Two months later, Park gets in a brawl with pitcher and ex-Dodger Tim Belcher. Instead of using traditional methods of fisticuffs, Park attempts to karate kick Belcher with his cleats. If that wasn't odd enough, Belcher, who was probably about 15 years older than Park at the time, beats his ass.

Shameful.

Park's pitching was going downhill by this time and he was beginning to embarrass me on a weekly basis. I  couldn't wait for him to leave. Fortunately, he did, and the following seasons weren't pretty. He got lit up with the Rangers and endured a scary medical issue with the Padres. Then he came back to the Dodgers and did OK. Although I seem to remember more bad than good.

Now he's with the Yankees (ugh), scrounging for a World Series ring near the end of his career, and captivating audiences with his tales of diarrhea. Even though he wasn't with the Dodgers during his Too Much Information session, it still made me cringe on the inside.

But I have realized that because Park often makes me uncomfortable, because I was not proud to have him on my team, I am doing him an injustice.

I receive a lot of Park cards in trades. I'll scan a bunch of cards from a trade ahead of time, and then later when I'm writing the post, I'll select which cards to feature. But I figured out that I was avoiding uploading the Park cards -- almost subconsciously -- because I don't want to rehash the stories that bothered me the first time. Some of the incidents aren't even Park's fault. And I wonder if they bothered me because maybe I was putting myself in his shoes. Could I do even half as good a job if I was forced to make a high-profile living in a foreign country?

So, here are some Park cards that I have received in trades that I have never shown. These are only a smattering because I don't have the time today to dig up a bunch of them.

No words. Just enjoy Chan Ho Park. Before he was a Yankee:


All right, Chan Ho, that's as nice as I'm going to get. You're with the enemy now. Once you get off the DL, it's time to start losing games.