Friday, May 31, 2013

No waiting


As a small-town consumer who frequents big-box establishments, there is no more welcome statement than this:

"Register X is open. No waiting."

Prepare for the inevitable stampede. As a former checkout clerk, I would say only, "Register X is open." I'd leave out the "no waiting" because I knew what it did to people. I didn't want to be responsible for trampled beings.

But this is evidence that one of the major annoyances of childhood never ever goes away. We hate waiting.

Two of the most frustrating obstacles for me as a kid were things that cost money (I had no money) and things that required waiting (I had no patience). So you can imagine what baseball cards on cereal boxes did to me.

Frosted Flakes -- this box shows the very first Kellogg's 3-D cards I ever obtained from 1977 -- would promise you a single card inside, which would touch off a battle for ownership among my brothers. The rest of the cards you could get IF you cut out the order form on the side of the box, filled it out and waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiittttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttteeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeedddddddddddddddddddddddd 6-to-8 weeks for delivery.

It still makes me want to lie down thinking about it.

Yes, when the cards finally arrived in the mail, what a glorious day that was. We practically had beards and grandchildren by that time, but, yes, there were fantastic 3-D cards to enjoy at our advanced age.

During those agonizing 6-to-8 weeks of waiting and with the CARD INSIDE! long forgotten, I'd turn that cereal box around and around every morning searching for a possible card on the side of the box that I could cut out and own RIGHT NOW. Each morning. Maybe I missed it somehow the first 27 times. I would even look inside the box, thinking that maybe the card was on the inner part of the box, like some sort of secret card.

A couple of time, after all the cereal was gone, I'd cut out a picture of the card on the box -- like the one of Fergie Jenkins you see up there -- to see if that would suffice for my free, no waiting card. It didn't, and I'd throw it out.

It just seemed like you should be able to cut a card off the box if the box was advertising cards.

This is why Hostess cards were popular in the '70s. Your cards -- that's right, plural -- came with your fake cakes. Hostess cards weren't better than Kellogg's cards -- Kellogg's cards were 3-D for crying out loud -- but you didn't have to wait until we had flying space cars to get your cards.

Later, after my sugar cereal-eating days were almost over, you could find Drake's Cakes cards to cut off boxes, and then other card sets, too.

And before my sugar cereal-eating days had even arrived, there were Post cereal cards that you cut off boxes.

Post cards like this:


1961 Johnny Podres


1962 Johnny Podres


1962 Charlie Neal



1963 John Roseboro


Aren't they cool? The card register is open. No waiting.

These four cards came to me from Cardboard Catastrophes. Jeffrey said he paid only a buck for them, which is just about the best deal I have ever heard of in my entire life.

And I didn't have to wait 6-to-8 weeks for them. They just showed up.

If I think about it, I think Jeffrey alerted me a little while ago that they were coming, but there is so much going on and so much gets forgotten in my very adult world that it's all just a blur. In adulthood, everyone is in a perpetual state of waiting anyway so let's call this a nice surprise, like it was when I opened the mail that day.

Finally, cards off a box! With no waiting!

Kellogg's, was that so hard?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

I need a beer


I do not drink as much beer as I once did. I would never call myself a beer connoisseur -- talk of making your own beer, the breweries you've discovered, or other esoteric ruminations about hops and barley bore me completely -- but I enjoy a good brew.

Today, though, I can mostly confine beer-imbibing to one of two categories.

1) It's summertime and I'm off.
2) I'm exhausted and the world has decided "night owl is the enemy."

Today it's in the high 70s, rather humid, and I've got a busy workload tonight. None of this really falls into category 1) or 2), but for some reason -- perhaps the nine zillion beer commercials that I've watched during all of my baseball viewing has finally gotten to me -- I can't stop thinking about a beverage.

In short, I need a beer.

Here's the problem. There's no beer in the house. And with the budget cutbacks continuing for another week, I can't be buying any without there being ... um ... repercussions.

So, I've decided on the next best thing.

No, not whiskey.

The All-Beer Team!

Now, there are several ways you could go with this and I like the idea of a few of them, especially the one where you could pick out the most notorious drunks in major league baseball history and field a team with them (if you don't steal this idea, I am so totally doing this). But I am going solely by the name connection.

There are a bazillion kinds of beer, many of which are named after actual people. So it shouldn't be any problem coming up with a team of players whose name (or team) matches a kind of beer. I took some liberties, but that was more in the spirit of fun rather than desperation.

I've also limited the team to eight position players, a DH, a starting staff and a modest bullpen. I'm not going any further or I'll need a beer just compiling the team and that would be an ugly turn.

So here you are: the first All-Beer Team. Completely produced with no alcohol, with apologies to Lefty O'Doul:


FIRST BASE



KEITH HERNANDEZ

You've got to have a smooth-fielding first baseman on your All-Beer Team, the infielders can get a little wild when they're half in the bag. Unfortunately, Keith Hernandez's middle name isn't "Alexander" (he has no middle name). As you can see, Alexander Keith's is a Canadian beer, which has only been available in the States for a couple of years. And no, I don't know if Hernandez drinks in the broadcast booth. But I wouldn't be surprised.


SECOND BASE



JOE MORGAN

The infield positions were the most difficult to fill, but fortunately there used to be a team named after a beer (OK, so that's not true). And I'm not opposed to expanding my All-Beer Team parameters to include team names, too. We're talking about beer here! Joe Morgan, despite what you may think of the man, was one of the finest second baseman to ever play the game. But he will never be as smooth as this man:




SHORTSTOP



EDDIE LEON

I can't tell you much about Eddie Leon or Leon beer, which is the proud owner of the title of "first brewery in Cyprus." I would have felt better selecting a Mexican beer since Leon is of Mexican descent, but that would not be in the spirit of this particular All-Beer Team (but would work very well for another All-Beer Team ... and that's now idea No. 3 for All-Beer Teams).


THIRD BASE


RON CEY

I am a little displeased associating my all-time favorite player with such an inferior beer product. In fact, I'm getting bitter beer face about the whole thing. But I would not be a Cey fan if I couldn't squeeze him into as many blog posts as I could. Keystone beer? Played the keystone? It's a match.


CATCHER



BRIAN SCHNEIDER

Brian Schneider receives a place of honor as I sure do love German beer (don't worry, I'm not going to start expounding). Look, you can see Schneider staring longingly into the stands. He's just heard the call of the beer vendor.


LEFT FIELD



GEORGE FOSTER

Foster's may be "Australian for Beer," but Foster is "Slugger for Outfield" ... or something like that. At any rate, we found it endlessly amusing when we discovered two George Foster cards in 1981 Fleer and one had "outfield" for the position designation and the other had "slugger." Why this card isn't valued 100 times more than the other one, I'll never know.


CENTER FIELD



WALLY MOON

Baseball's ultimate "unibrow," meet "Unibroue." Unibroue is a French-Canadian Belgian beer and you've got to admire a brewery which offers a beer called "La Fin Du Monde," translated literally as "the end of the world." I hear it's quite good, too.


RIGHT FIELD


KEVIN BASS

Formerly the top-selling beer in the United Kingdom, I admit I was totally unaware of this beer until I started this exercise. Then, in the supermarket checkout line, I glanced over to a shelf and there it was. As for Kevin Bass, I'm still pissed that he struck out in the 16th inning to let the Mets into the World Series in 1986. I'm sure Astros fans needed a beer after that.


DESIGNATED HITTER


PAUL KONERKO

In homage to Ken Harrelson, I'm going with Konerko's "Hawk" nickname "Paulie." Besides, I need a gratuitous "attractive female in little clothing" photo with this post. It's practically a requirement of any beer advertisement. So, as the saying at the bottom right goes, "enjoy responsibly."


STARTING STAFF


STEVE CARLTON

Carlton #1 is known for his 1972 season, a Hall of Fame career and not talkin' to nobody. Carlton #2 is an Australian beer known for its comical commercials, like this one.



MIKE MUSSINA

To me, Mussina is the most unlikely "Moose" in nickname history. He is not/was not a "moose." This is what happens when you determine nicknames by sounds instead of characteristics. But whatever, it gives me an excuse to feature another well-loved Canadian beer.



STEVE STONE

I love that Steve Stone card. Goodness knows what he's saying. Probably something bad about Hawk. I can't say I've ever experienced Stone beer. It's way out there in California, and those gargoyles that are all over its bottles are rather intimidating. But they've won awards so that's promising.





DICK BOSMAN

Bosman's wikipedia page says he redesigns old cars into hot rods down in Florida. The only thing that would make that cooler is if Bowman did this while sucking down some Bosman beer, which by the way is from Poland.



SHELBY MILLER

Shelby is here because I don't want to be accused of not giving the young, present-day players their due. (And I'm completely ignoring the fact that his first name is "Shelby," too). Miller Lite is here because I liked their '70s commercials. Unfortunately, I can't say the same about their beer. The few times I've had it, it's made me sad ... and I think that's supposed to be opposite effect of drinking.


RELIEVERS


MIKE KILKENNY

One of these days I'm going to be old enough to have a basement room with a bar and an illuminated bar sign.


WILLIE HERNANDEZ

Tiger Beer is from Malaysia or Singapore, I believe. Guillermo "Don't Call Me Willie" Hernandez is from Puerto Rico. Evidence that islands are good at producing both beer and closers.



ROD BECK

Probably the first connection I made when I started this project a long, long time ago (this has been a post in the making for probably a year). Beck's, as you probably know, is the best-selling German beer of all-time. My guess is that Shooter had a few during his too-short lifetime.


MANAGER


BILLY MARTIN

I think Martin would fit on the All-Beer Team no matter which way you determined the team. And, not to bring everything down, but he should be the poster child for what alcohol can do to you if you don't control yourself. By the way, I can't get over the design of the Billy Beer can. It looks like something that would contain canned food. Really bad canned food.


So, here is the All-Beer Team without all the illustrations. I even arranged a batting order:

2B - Joe Morgan
CF - Wally Moon
1B - Keith Hernandez
LF - George Foster
3B - Ron Cey
DH - Paul Konerko
RF - Kevin Bass
C - Brian Schneider
SS - Eddie Leon

SP - Steve Carlton
SP - Mike Mussina
SP - Steve Stone
SP - Dick Bosman
SP - Shelby Miller

RP - Mike Kilkenny
RP - Willie Hernandez
RP - Rod Beck

MGR - Billy Martin

If there are two things that we are not in any shortage of in this world it is beer and ballplayers. So there are lots and lots and lots of other options in both columns. You could form a completely different team with totally different beers and it might beat this one.

But that's as much as I can write about this for today.

I've got to get cracking on my "All-Time Drunks Team."

And I'm getting thirsty.

C.A.: 1976 SSPC Mickey Vernon

(Welcome to the last Cardboard Appreciation before the great vote-off to determine the third card that will enter the Cardboard Appreciation Hall of Fame. Beginning next week, I will be asking for your votes and propping up polls on the sidebar. I might have to change the template a little bit to accommodate the polls, but it's the small price to pay for blog votage! (voteage?) And now, one more Cardboard Appreciation. This is the 185th in a series):


I am pretty pleased to be working on the 1979 Topps set. It signals my final step in acquiring all of the Topps sets from my childhood (1974-79). What a proud moment that will be when I obtain that last '79 card, whatever it may be.

But it will also be a sad moment. The real reason that I am collecting -- the most satisfaction I get out of collecting -- is to unearth those first memories of baseball, captured on cardboard, from the mid-1970s. Sure, my quest will continue with the '82 Topps set and probably '81 and/or '82 Fleer, when I was a little older and slightly wiser. And I could always chase the Kellogg's sets, small in number as they are.

But there won't be any more opportunities to find cardboard pictures of those players I held at such a height during my first awakenings to the game, around 1975, 1976.

Or so I thought.

I was doing a little research on the "99" uniform post from the other day and, for whatever reason, I stumbled across an online picture of a 1976 SSPC card (yes, it's 1976, not 1975). It was Jack Pierce of the Tigers, someone almost no one remembers.

The Pierce card is a night card, and I noted how many night cards seem to be in that set. Outside of the Dodgers, I have only a handful, but three of them already are night cards.

"I should collect that set," I said to myself.

And then ...

"OF COURSE, I should collect it! It's filled with photos of players from my childhood! Photos that I've never seen before!"

And so it's done.

I am officially collecting the '76 SSPC set, which is great for its night cards, its interesting pictures (George Brett-Al Cowens anyone?), its Keith Olbermann-penned card backs, and its seemingly random inclusion of photos of people like Mickey Vernon, a Hall of Famer hired by the Dodgers as a batting instructor.

It even says "batting instructor" as his "position" on the back of his card!

Not only is the set direct from my childhood, but it's quirky as hell.

I feel obligated to collect it.

I'd put up a want list, but a need just about every card. And with how backlogged I am sending out packages (just another week more, I promise), I feel totally stupid announcing a new collection.

But you can just ignore this post and go back to it when I start sending out packages again.

What? You already read it?

Too late, huh?

Yeah, it's too late for me, too. '76 SSPC here I come.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Things that keep me up all morning


The schedule that I keep is one I have known for years. It suits me. Through all the jobs I have worked, not one has been 9-to-5. I sometimes think of what it would be like to work a 9-to-5 job, but more often I am grateful that I don't.

Because I am not operating 9-to-5/Monday-through-Friday, commonly held truths/sayings/ideas lose their meaning on me. A couple of them are downright annoying.

One of them just recently passed. Here it is:

"While you are barbecuing/picnicking/at the beach/etc., take a few moments to remember why you have the day off."

I understand the sentiments of this Memorial Day "lecture," and I think it's important to reflect on those who have lost their lives for our country, but here's the thing, and again, thanks for reminding me about what the day is for although I already know why it's here and have been aware of it for some 40-plus years now, but ... I DON'T HAVE THE DAY OFF!!!!!

Thank you for reminding me again that I have to work while apparently everyone else is barbecuing/picknicking/at the beach, etc. I had just put it out of my mind and was attempting to enjoy my few shreds of free time when THERE IT IS.

Fortunately, that's the only one that gets me ugly.

The others just simply don't apply:

"It's getting late."

Often, when someone says this, I'll look at my phone or watch and think, "no it's not." To me, midnight means "we're just getting started," both in my job and outside of it. For me to say, "it's getting late," it would have to be around, oh, 5 a.m.

You: The sun is rising.

Me: It's getting late.

Which brings me to another common phrase that does not apply:

"That kept me up all night."

Nothing "keeps me up" at night because that's when I function. I'm already up. The sun goes down, I start moving. No, the more applicable way to say this is: "that kept me up all morning."

This just happened today as a matter of fact. I've been dealing with allergies, which besides making me feel crappy, is playing havoc with my sleep. I went to bed early yesterday (early for me is 1:30 a.m.), and slept fitfully until 9 or so. I was going to go back to bed to try to see if I could sleep everything off for good, but I just had to go and glance at the card desk.

I looked at a couple of 1960 Topps manager cards that Commish Bob from The Five-Tool Collector/'59 Topps blog sent me. He speculated whether they could be night cards.

I quickly ruled out the Fred Hutchinson one as a night card, but the other one caused me to ponder:


Well, now, I don't know. That looks nightish.

The lighting on Sawyer's face is what got me. That's a typical night-card tip-off. But I have no idea what they were doing for night photography at the time. I look at the night photographs from the '70s and they don't look half as good as this does, so I'm guessing this isn't anything that took place at night.

But I can't say for sure.

And this is everything that went through my head when I was supposed to be going back to bed.

"I've got to go back to bed," I said to myself.

It was keeping me up. At 9 in the morning.

By then, it was hopeless. I was awake. Finally, after a couple of hours, I was able to return to snoozeland, and now, except for an ever-present headache, I'm feeling much better. All six hours that I've been up so far today.

This is the life of night owls.

Especially night owls that spend way too much time examining baseball cards.

But Commish Bob knows that about me.

He sent this, too:


Great. Am I supposed to collect these now?

This is going to keep me up all morning.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

99


The arrival of Hyun-Jin Ryu as a member of the Dodgers signaled another threshold moment in L.A. uniform numerology.

His choice of No. 99 marked the second time that a Dodger has worn that number while on a major league roster. No longer an uproarious one-and-done 2008 Mannywood dream, Ryu has taken 99 from Manny Ramirez and fashioned it with his own Far East style.


So far, Ryu, tonight's starter, and Ramirez are the only Dodgers to wear the final number before venturing into triple digits (They have 99 problems but their number ain't one).

But that started me thinking about the progression of the uniform number through Dodger history.


Wearing a number in the 90s is a phenomenon of the last 15 years for L.A. Aside from Ryu and Ramirez, reliever Joe Beimel wore No. 97, and Pirates/Jays cast-off Jacob Brumfield wore No. 94 in 1999.

The 80s numerals are a virtual wasteland with only Rick Wilkins, who played catcher for the Dodgers for all of three games, wearing No. 89 in 1999.

But seeing players with a number in the 70s is increasingly common. Two current bullpen residents, Kenley Jansen (No. 74) and Paco Rodriguez (No. 75) have hit the 70s. And even more players are wearing the previously unheard of jersey number in the 60s.

Remember when Chan Ho Park selected No. 61 as his number and how freaky it seemed?


But let's go back to the beginning.

During the 1930s and 40s, the vast majority of Dodgers uniform numbers went no higher than No. 39. There was one notable exception, which would fit in very nicely with today's uniform mind-set.


Joe "Ducky" Medwick wore No. 77 for a period in 1940 and 1941 after coming over to the Dodgers in a trade with the Cardinals.

Uniform numbers in the 40s grew increasingly common through the decades that followed, but a uniform number in the 50s was very rare.


Back-up catcher Joe Pignatano wore No. 58 during the late 1950s. Pitcher Larry Sherry wore No. 51.


But the first standout player to wear a number in the 50s for the Dodgers was Don Drysdale. He made No. 53 so famous that it was retired, the highest retired number in franchise history.

Even after Drysdale's retirement after the 1969 season, seeing a uniform number in the 50s was an exception, and a cause for pause.


I remember when Steve Howe hit the major leagues and started wearing No. 57. It looked so strange. I can still visualize staring at Howe's 1983 Topps card with a "does not compute" look on my face.

During this time, numbers in the 50s became the domain of relievers. Orel Hershiser, intially a reliever with the Dodgers, wore No. 55. Ray Searage, who pitched for the Dodgers at the end of his career, was constantly bumping the 60 ceiling with his uniform choice.


Up until this point, the only players to wear a number greater than 59 were Medwick, Mike Sharperson in his prospect days (No. 60) and a seldom-remembered backup catcher from the '70s, Paul Powell (No. 71).

But after Chan Ho Park, more players wore numbers in the 60s, mostly prospect types like catcher Angel Pena's No. 63.

In fact, wearing a number in the 60s, 70s or even 90s is more commonplace for the Dodgers these days than anyone wearing No. 11 or No. 34. Eleven is apparently still the domain of longtime coach Manny Mota, who is now a scout. And nobody has worn No. 34 since Fernando Valenzuela.

The Nos. 1, 2, 4, 19, 20, 24, 32, 39, 42 and 53 are also off-limits as retired numbers.

So, which 0-99 numbers have never been worn by a Dodger player on a 40-man roster?

Here they are:

68, 69, 72, 73, 76, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 90, 91, 92, 93, 95, 96, 98.

I suppose there's some time left before anyone starts wearing No. 100.