Saturday, October 31, 2015

Welcome to my nightmare

Tonight, when tiny costumed villains and princesses are just beginning to fill the streets of my neighborhood, I will leave the house -- and a few bowls of candy treats -- to go to work.

When I arrive home again, long after the little kiddies are sound asleep, I will search out those bowls of sugar joy and arrive upon ...

One single remaining piece of Laffy Taffy ...












I'll open the refrigerator, pull out the crisper, grab a handful of baby carrots, and head to bed, munching and sobbing.

Welcome to my nightmare.

Happy Halloween.

Friday, October 30, 2015

I met the Mets

(Did you know I'm holding a contest? Click on the previous post to enter. You only have until 3 p.m. Saturday).

Every person has a childhood. If you're lucky, you look back on it fondly, even if you didn't think it was so fun at the time. I remember every difficult part of childhood, not getting what I wanted, bullies, being punished, yet I prefer to focus on the more pleasant moments because they are what made me.

There were four teams central to my development as a baseball fan when I was growing up: the Dodgers, Red Sox, Yankees and Mets. There were a few others floating around there more often than the others -- Phillies, Royals, Reds, Pirates, Orioles, Brewers -- but the basic four molded me.

The Dodgers taught me who to root for and why. The Yankees taught me who to root against and why. The Red Sox taught me about family and how baseball is a bond that strengthens family. And the Mets taught me, possibly more than any of those other three, how to be a fan.

I've explained before how the Mets were my grandfather's favorite team and the bond and memories created while watching the team on a weekly basis in his living room. And I've probably mentioned how the Mets were actually my favorite team -- for one day -- after I received a Tom Seaver glove for my 10th birthday. (I was sorting some things out then).

The Mets, unlike the Dodgers and the Red Sox, were around. I could see them every week. This was when network baseball broadcast one game, maybe two at the most, per week. And cable aired whatever local team was nearby. For me, that was the Mets and the Yankees.

I couldn't follow the Yankees. Not when I was a fan of the Dodgers and the Red Sox. The players didn't seem all that likable and although we'd watch weekend Yankees games, too, at my grandfather's house, I didn't feel any connection to the team.

The Mets were different. There was no animosity with the Mets. And there was no real rooting interest either. It was the first time I had a neutral opinion about a baseball team. I saw them once a week and I didn't really care whether they won or lost. I could just watch them as a team and get to know who they were.

That was probably the right approach because the Mets weren't very good then. When I started watching them, they were finishing in third every year. But that was a lot better than finishing in last every year, which was what they did immediately after finishing in third.

But without the stress of who was hitting well and which player the manager was sending in to pinch-hit, I watched and absorbed. I got to know forgotten players like Ron Hodges and Roy Staiger and Bruce Boisclair.

When I come across those players now -- in a very infrequent reference somewhere online -- I know them instantly. Yes, that is the player I watched when I was little. I remember Bob Murphy or Ralph Kiner discussing his fielding.

As a young fan, I gravitated to the younger players and I was as excited as anyone following new call-up Mike Vail, who promptly hit in 23 straight games. I had never heard of anyone hitting in that many games in a row and so Vail introduced me to the concept of the hitting streak.

I truly believe that I learned more about baseball from those teams because I didn't live and die with them.

If you read accounts of  the mid-to-late '70s era, it's often referred to as the dark ages. It's a time when the "Ya Gotta Believe" team crumbled into a gutted squad that depended on failed prospects.

But those are Mets fans talking. For me, these are the players who taught me the ebb and flow of a major league baseball team. Players sent down. Players called up. Players getting hot. Players getting benched. Players signed. Players traded. I experienced it all watching the Mets from 1975-79 on WOR-TV.

This was my graduation from baseball cards to the reality of the baseball world. As a fan of cards, I just knew the player's name, his stats and what he looked like. On TV, I learned mannerisms, attitude, style and more history about the player than I could ever absorb.

And that's how it was for five years. Every Saturday, NBC would show a different team on the Game of the Week. The Cardinals, the Angels, the Tigers. You would watch the broadcast and wait for when they announced what next week's game would be. I hoped every time it would be the Dodgers, and it seldom was (and when it was, it was almost always against the Reds). And you'd get mad at the Game of the Week for not showing the teams you thought should be shown, or for showing teams too much, much like people do today with ESPN.

But then I could return to the Mets and lose all of my irritation in the hard-nosed play of John Stearns, who was much loved by the Mets broadcasters. I'd study why they liked him and I learned a little about positive and negative attributes in baseball.

It's a miracle I didn't transform into a Mets fan. Many people associate with the team they see the most and begin to identify with them. I could never do that with my allegiance to the Dodgers, but I can see how it can happen.

Today you can immerse yourself in whatever team you choose and know more about them than you do your own family.

But back then, we just had a TV. And weekend baseball broadcasts.

That is where I met the Mets. And if you want to know how I can sit in front of a television and watch a baseball game from start to finish, I'll blame those Mets teams from the late '70s.

Sure they were lousy. But they were great theater.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Out of necessity arrives a contest

I found one of those pink slips in my mailbox earlier this week that said there was a package waiting for me. It took me a day to get down there, but this giant thing finally made it into the doorway.

The box is from Rob, known as steelehere on this blog and on his old one that stopped operating some time ago. I've shown you some of the things he sent me in the last two posts. He said he needed to downsize and thought I might be able to use some of the items inside either for my own collection or trade material.

Well, here's the thing. I just got back from another trip to the post office to send off a few card packages. It took me weeks to get those packages assembled, packaged and shipped. And there are stacks of trades behind that. I have a list of 20-25 people long. I really don't have the time for any more trades at this particular point.

So I decided a contest might be the way to go. I took some things out of the box that will be good for some trades in process. And I saved some items for myself. And the rest will be sent out to the winner of the contest.

But before I get to the contest, let's see what I'm keeping.

A couuple of Dodger items, of course. The drawing of Carlton resting his arm on Koufax is a little too weird for me. But Koufax is Koufax.

A bunch of inserts from 2010 and 2011 Topps. I need all of these. And by "need," I mean it fills a hole that I had forgotten about four years ago. But it's so hard to let go.

This is from the Topps reprint set from 2001, I believe. I was never fully aware of the set until somebody just last week showed these on their blog (I'm sorry, I forgot who). And then they fall out of the box. Funny how that happens.

Reading material from back in the day. These should be entertaining. Ron Luciano, who I've mentioned grew up in my hometown, would have completely overshadowed Joe West if they umped at the same time. Twitter wouldn't even know who Joe West was.

This is the famed Jason Varitek rookie card. It's also the card that caused Varitek to decline to sign a deal with Topps, leading to no Varitek cards in Topps sets until 2007. I'm not sure what the story is behind this card, but the intrigue is good enough for me to want it in my collection.

 Tim Wallach rookie card from 1982 Fleer. As you know, I don't care about rookies. But I will always take a 1982 Fleer card I don't already have. Sorry Tim Wallach Collector.

Penny sleeves! There's no way I will ever run out of these, but just to be sure, let's throw another 100 on the pile.

A Sandy Koufax bobblehead! These were given out this season, so it's pretty cool I have one in my hot little hands already. I love the scoreboard in the background. It commemorates Koufax's perfect game in 1965.

I will add this bobblehead to the one of "The Infield" that steelehere sent earlier. And now there is officially no more room for bobbleheads in my abode.

OK, so that's about all I'm keeping, except for a few items that I'll mention when we get to the contest portion of the post.

And speaking of that, this is the contest portion of the post!

Let's see what you're playing for:

Some shiny Bryces. Remember when he was all clean-cut and non-smudgy? Yeah, me neither. But these can be yours.

A bunch more inserts from 2010-11. I think I might need some of those Turkey Reds. But too late. I've already earmarked them for the contest.

Wooo! Look at all the minis! These are the Kimball minis that I don't collect because I'm an A&G snob. So these are available, along with five more I couldn't fit on the scanner.

This is yet another insert set from the mid-1990s, this one from 1995 Fleer. I'm not keeping this one, not because it's only two cards away from being complete, but because I detest the 1990s phenomenon of featuring one player on the front and one on the back, as this set does. It should be one card per player, unless you're going to split them up in tiny boxes like the prospect cards back in the day.

Oooh, inserts. Canseco in a Yankee uniform. They can all be yours.

Superstars of the NBA. I saved a couple of Kareem cards for myself because he appears on the only NBA set I ever collected, from the late '70s. But I have no more need for basketball cards in my life.

Fancy basketball and numbered hockey. I almost kept the Modano card for meself. But that would be selfish.

Some notable rookies. The Greenwell card is the tiffany version. You're just lucky there were two Gubiczas, because I needed one.

A few more notable cards.

These are pretty cool. They're placards from past major card shows that I guess they gave to VIPs or exhibitors or something (I'm not cool enough to go to major card shows). In any event the placards feature a card embedded into it. These are two hockey ones.

Here are a couple football.

And here are two from each Chicago baseball team.

I saved one or two of these for myself and some others are going out in trade packages. But all six above will go in the contest package.

Golf cards. I don't know anyone who collects golf, but all of these guys are the best of the best. That's some guy named Tiger in the top left corner.

This dude is all over the World Series and he's a red parallel. I should put this on ebay right now. But it's going in the contest.

Last item. It's a relic card of Mariano Rivera.

I think there's a few other things that I'll throw in there that I didn't show, too.

To enter here is what you must do:

You need to leave a comment on this post with your guess of the combined batting average for the Royals and Mets in Game 4 of the World Series. Game 4 is scheduled for Saturday. Therefore, I will leave the window open for entering the contest until 3 p.m. eastern time on Saturday. Nothing filed after that time will be considered an entry.

Whoever gets closest to the combined batting average without going over, is the winner.

And I'll package up those items and send them off, hopefully before Christmas.

But if it doesn't get there until Christmas, what a Christmas present.

Thanks, steelehere, for thinking of me in your downsizing mission.

We all do what we must, don't we?