Monday, April 30, 2018

Playing with the enemy

It's been difficult for me to get into this year's baseball season. I haven't watched all that many games and when I do, I am easily distracted.

There are a few reasons for this. The weather's been awful this April. How can I think of spring things? Also, the Dodgers, the team that motivates me to follow baseball each night, have started very slowly.

You can blame that slow start on a variety of factors, but I'm going to blame it on something nobody in their right mind would blame it on: the Dodgers have played the Giants 147 times already this season.

OK, they've played the Giants only 10 times. But considering that the Dodgers have played just 27 games and play the Giants only nine more times the rest of the season, that's way too much viewing of that electric pumpkin color way too soon.

I know I should be fired up when the Dodgers play their rival, but it's too much overload too early. It doesn't help that the Dodgers haven't played well in San Francisco for years. I just want them to play someone else (and not the Diamondbacks either, too much of them, too).

But the Dodgers have just bid goodbye to the Giants for a couple of months and that deserves a nice send-off. I have long been fascinated with players who have competed for both the Dodgers and Giants. It's been a potential blog topic for as long as I've run this blog.

So why not compile the best lineup of guys who played for both the Dodgers and Giants?

Baseball-reference says 279 players have played for both teams (just 17 have played for only the Dodgers and the Giants). I went through and found the most notable players who've played for each. Then I focused on the guys who played a lot of games for both teams. I wanted players who are associated with playing for both. So, even though Dusty Baker is associated quite a bit with the Giants because of his managing gig for them, the imbalance in the number of games played for each team (1,117 for the Dodgers, 100 for the Giants) disqualifies him.

I also needed to own cards of the players featured in each uniform. (Sorry, Freddie Fitzsimmons).

So here is the All-Time Played For Dodgers And Giants lineup.

If you're a Dodger or Giant fan, get ready to be weirded out:

Batting first, CF, Brett Butler

Speaking as a Dodger fan, the most shocking thing is when a player jumps immediately from the Giants to the Dodgers. It takes your brain awhile to adjust. Someone so evil, wearing naturally evil colors is now part of the good guys???? I remember feeling that way with Brett Butler. But it didn't take long to welcome him. Butler played very well for L.A., and he was in the lineup like every day.

Batting second, SS, Derrel Thomas

Don't let the little 1976 second base guy fool you, Thomas played everywhere and that included shortstop. When he arrived in L.A. for the 1980 season, manager Tom Lasorda really utilized his versatility, so I could've put him anywhere on the field.

Batting third, 3B, Bill Madlock

Madlock isn't exactly known as a Giant or a Dodger. His best work came with the Pirates and the Cubs (and if you think of him as a Tiger, go take a nap and get back to me). His stints with the Giants and Dodgers came on either side of his days with the champion Pirates. Also, my apologies to Juan Uribe at this position, but I have to go with the better player.

Batting fourth, RF, Reggie Smith

Smith played just one season for the Giants and played mostly first base for them (the famed 1983 card with the Ryne Sandberg cameo). But Smith ain't no first baseman. He is the Dodger right fielder of my youth and he would've mashed a lot more if it wasn't for injuries.

Batting fifth, 2B, Jeff Kent

Unlike the Brett Butler adjustment, I never warmed up to Jeff Kent. He always seemed more like a Giant than a Dodger and I associate Kent with the friction-filled Dodger days that included Luis Gonzalez and Derek Lowe.

Batting sixth, C, Tom Haller

Who needs two cards when Tom Haller is posing in a Giants uniform while listed as a Dodger? Good thing this card was issued long before I started collecting. It would have blown my mind.

Batting seventh, LF, Von Joshua

Von Joshua is the first Dodger player that I remember crossing over to enemy territory. I was as infuriated as my 9-year-old self could be when Joshua blossomed from a poor-hitting bench player with the Dodgers to a .318 full-time hitter with the Giants in 1975. Fortunately, he didn't stay with San Francisco very long.

Batting eighth, 1B Todd Benzinger

Oof, you want a little more pop from your first baseman than Benzinger. His slugging days were long over by the time he got to the Dodgers and Giants. There just wasn't a lot to choose from at this position.

Batting ninth, P, Rube Marquard

Marquard's best days were behind him by the time he joined the Dodgers in 1915. But he produced some fair seasons, although nothing like his numbers for the Giants' powerhouse years between 1910-12.

That's the lineup. I left out a fair amount of notables, including Uribe, Candy Maldanado, Bill North, Gary Thomasson, Terry Whitfield, Hoyt Wilhelm, Darryl Strawberry, Al Oliver, Enos Cabell, Dave Anderson, Ed Goodson, Stan Javier, Jim Gott, Len Gabrielson, Marquis Grissom, Casey Stengel, Cory Snyder, Eddie Stanky and Ron Hunt.

But now for the bizarre list -- the players who you CAN'T BELIEVE played for the opposite side.

I'm showing only one card because I don't have the time to dig out more and, really, if you're a Dodger or Giant fan, you don't want to see more of these.

The "What the Hell" List:

-- Brian Wilson, hated Giant for 310 games, played (I use that term lightly) in 76 games for the Dodgers.

-- Jeff Leonard, hated Giant for 789 games, actually came up with the Dodgers and played 11 games for them.

-- Juan Marichal, hated Giant for 462 games and bashed a Dodger catcher over the head, ended his career with 2 games pitched for the Dodgers.

-- Manny Mota, longtime Dodger pinch-hitting legend, actually played 47 games for the Giants in the early 1960s.

-- Duke Snider, legendary '50s slugger for the Dodgers, slummed it during the final stages of his career for 91 games with the Giants.

-- Sal Maglie, hated Giants hurler for 222 games, switched to the Dodgers for 47 games and pitched a no-hitter for them.

-- Sergio Romo, hated Giants reliever for 496 games, was somehow picked up by the Dodgers for 30 games and was less than impressive (they have to stop doing this!)

-- Orel Hershiser, famed pitching architect of the 1988 Dodgers championship season and hurler in 364 L.A. games, somehow wound up with the Giants at the end of the 1990s for 34 games.

That sure is a bit of nastiness there.

It makes me glad that I don't have to see the Dodgers play the Giants again until mid-June.

I definitely could use the break.

And maybe I can get myself back into the baseball season again.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

This year's poster boy

A couple of weeks ago I was observing the nonstop Shohei Ohtani babble on everyone's favorite/most-hated social media platform and it made me wonder when I would land my first Ohtani card.

I guessed it would be sometime around October. I don't pursue the newest rookie sensation each and every year. I don't rush out to find packs of Bowman. I haven't been in a card aisle for weeks and it could be several more weeks before I visit again. So, October sounded about right. There will probably be a dozen Ohtani cards in Topps Update, I'll pull one of those then.

Well, the funny thing about saying things out loud -- or typing them out loud -- is there is always someone listening.

So, when I arrived from out of town a few days ago, there was a package waiting for me from Marc at Remember The Astrodome. Amid all of the Dodgers goodness that fell out of the envelope was the above Opening Day card of 2018's poster boy, Shohei Ohtani.

Mark it on your calendars. April 25, 2018. The day I acquired my first Shohei Ohtani card.

I can now retire as a collector.

Obtaining a card of Ohtani hasn't been a goal, I was being facetious when I mentioned it on Twitter (big shock, I know). He doesn't play for a team I like. (He does play for the favorite team of the most annoying fan I know, so I do get to see the "Amazing Life of Shohei Ohtani" on a daily basis on another favorite social media platform). I get that he's something different but I don't melt for everything -- I've been through Strasburg, Harper, Puig and Judge all within the last eight years. And I don't jump when Bowman says it's released its uninspired cards.

I appreciate the gesture more than the card. Take a look at COMC. The cheapest Ohtani card is selling for 8 bucks and it's the Opening Day card. It's awesome that someone thought enough to send me that card.

I do appreciate having the card in the way that I like having a card of anyone who made an impact on the game during a given year. That's the most distressing part of a hyped player -- it may be months before I get even one card of Mr. Buzzworthy. I don't want the card because he's a sensation, I want it because he played in a game this year.

So let's check out the back. Nobody shows the backs.

It's interesting that Topps selected only Ohtani's hitting stats for display. But I suppose that's why everybody's giddy about the guy.

Also please note his birth date. He was born in 1994 (in the middle of the MLB strike actually). The day is coming very soon when players will be younger than my daughter. That will be the day when I absolutely refuse to get goopy over any rookie.

Case in point.

Walker Buehler was born a matter of days after Ohtani. He's performed pretty well in his first couple of starts for the Dodgers.

But I'm not trying to buy up Walker Buehler cards. I think I have around 20. I didn't try to obtain a single one.

I do appreciate receiving them in the mail because he's a Dodger, of course. I even appreciate getting the goofy "oops we forgot the black plate" parallel (card on the right), which is one of the many dumb things Gypsy Queen does with its variations. (I would like a completely finished card, please, not an imagining on "what would happen if we gave consumers mistake-riddled cards").

These are my first 2018 Gypsy Queen cards, since I don't like buying the product. The GQ designs have been better the last couple of years, although it's still definitely not my style.

I'd say the Kenley Jansen card is appropriate because L.A.'s bullpen is a disaster and could use other-worldly help.

These are my first 2018 Topps stickers, too. I told you I haven't been to the card aisle in a long time.

Same as above. Marc really took advantage of my lack of new card purchases. I really appreciate getting the '84-style Kershaw.

A few more Dodger needs from the package. The medallion thing is from 2016 Topps. That photo of Kershaw has been used on at least a couple of other cards, but LOOK AT THE SHINY!!!!

This was a very useful package. I got started on a few current sets that I've been neglecting and received a card of this year's Judge ... er, Bellinger ... er, Cespedes ... er, Darvish ... er, Wieters ... er, Chamberlain ... er, Matsuzaka ... uh, you get the idea.

Don't pay 10 bucks for an Ohtani card.

Wait till October. You can do it. Really you can.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Joy of a team set, chapter 13

I mentioned once before that 2018 marks the 25th anniversary of the 1993 Upper Deck set, what I consider UD's crowning achievement.

I think there should be several online tributes to this set this year but so far I seem to be the only one. Sometimes the hobby doesn't do a great job of recognizing the past even when it's all about the past. It probably doesn't help that Upper Deck can't do anything about its baseball anniversaries because it screwed itself out of a license a decade or so ago.

But that doesn't diminish what UD did in 1993, which was issue a mammoth 840-card set filled with captivating photography and fun-filled inserts, most of which were contained within one of the best designs UD ever produced.

I thought it would be appropriate to recognize that set again (it probably won't be the last tribute to '93 UD I do this year) with a Joy of a Team Set post.

And what better way to remember the set than to display all of the Blue Jays cards from that set?

As you no doubt remember, the Blue Jays won the World Series in 1993 to claim back-to-back championships. The guys north of the border were well-known to all baseball fans at the time. It was kind of an unusual scenario as Toronto is often an afterthought to U.S. fans most years.

Let see what the Jays were all about in '93:

Favorite card runners-up: 5. Randy Knorr; 4. Roberto Alomar (base); 3: Kelly Gruber; 2: Dave Stewart

Favorite element on the back:

Well, if it's Upper Deck, it's gotta be about the picture. Roberto Alomar was rather odd, and nothing underlined that quite like his obsession with socks doubling as headbands.

Famous error card: Upper Deck wasn't Fleer. It managed to breeze through the 1993 set with very few mistakes.

Team's claim to fame: The Blue Jays of 1992-93 were the first back-to-back World Series champions since the 1977-78 Yankees. The '93 Jays were also the last World Series champions until October of 1995.

Players I've talked to: zip.

Most interesting card:

I could choose several because that's what Upper Deck did -- made photos interesting -- but this Kelly Gruber card has always fascinated me. What is Gruber doing there between Borders and Morris? Is he signifying the outs? Is he telling the ump "one more minute?" Is he about to kick someone's ass? Whatever is happening, his teammates are quite interested.

Former or future Dodgers: Dick Schofield, Dave Stewart and Devon White. Juan Guzman started in the Dodgers organization but was traded while in Class A ball back in 1987 for Mike Sharperson.

A card that isn't really a Blue Jays card that is a Blue Jays card:

This checklist card for the Teammates subset weirdly features two players on different teams. But one of them is a Blue Jay so I'm assuming most Blue Jays team collectors would add this to their collection.

Favorite card in the set:

#346 - Devon White

My gosh, I love this card. How often do you know when a photo was taken down to the exact minute?

Plus I'm thrilled that decal day is July 1st while also being repelled by the idea of being given Yankees decals. I also enjoy the player strolling the outfield in the distance, the old-school MSG logo, the days when Maxell cassettes were relevant and the hidden Marlboro ad.

Thanks for joining me in Joy of a Team Set!

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Match the song title: Candy-O

I was never in a hurry to grow up when I was young.

Even though I was assigned a number of odd jobs around the house by my parents, I didn't have any desire to go out and find "a real job" when I was a teenager. I made several half-hearted efforts but was actually hoping that I'd be turned down every time.

My first job in which I was paid by someone other than my folks was as a newspaper carrier, i.e., paper boy. Except I was 15 at the time of landing that job.

It was the morning paper (we had "morning" and "afternoon" papers back then). And the first week on the job, I "trained" with the other teenager who was giving up the route. I'll always remember his name, Charlie Sweet.

He lived in a big house in a nice neighborhood (I would go on to land extra-large tips from the customers. It was indeed a "sweet" route). I would show up in front of his house at 5:30 in the morning and wait for him to come out so I could follow him around.

From the outside, the house seemed alluring and dangerous all at the same time. I trained for about a week and I think most of those days, there were blue, pink and red lights flashing behind the curtains in the main bay window. I heard music thumping and one time, two girls walked out of the door and down the street before Charlie came out with his newspaper bag of papers.

One of the days I stood out there was garbage day. The garbage outside Charlie's house smelled like pot. I spotted a few nudie magazines that I was tempted to take home but didn't. I also spied a couple of music cassettes, including one from The Cars, "Candy-O".

It was January 1981. I knew The Cars. I hadn't developed beyond what I heard on pop radio at the time, but I knew "Good Times Roll" (I heard it on a friend's K-Tel record) and I certainly knew the "Candy-O" album cover, featuring a painting of a woman (actress Candy Moore) draped across the hood of a car, by famed pin-up model artist Alberto Vargas. What 15-year-old boy didn't know that album cover?

But the cassette tape in the garbage lacked the case and the cassette cover. All that was left was the white plastic cassette. This was disappointing.

It didn't stop me from literally plucking it off the trash heap, stuffing it in my pocket, and beginning a long and meaningful relationship with The Cars.

A year-and-a-half later, I was still working the paper route, collecting cash one evening, when a car drove past with "Shake It Up" blaring from its speakers. The song was new at the time and it's the first thing I think of when I hear the song today.

In 1984, I was working at a department store. The Cars' Heartbeat City was all over MTV. I was infatuated with the woman who worked in the home entertainment section. I was 18, she was probably 23. She wore her long blond hair in braids, slathered her eyes in mascara, wore elf boots with everything and was as skinny as a 10-year-old boy.

She walked in a slinky, I don't give an F way. She loved rock and new wave. She really loved The Cars and that album. The Cars were never bigger than they were in '84 and I was never more of a devotee. Thanks to department store Teresa, I listened to Heartbeat City, Shake It Up, Panorama, Candy-O and their debut album constantly at that time.

The Cars were sleek, cool, almost icy, and their lyrics were simple, yet quirky and the group spoke to me in a way that few bands have. They were synthetic but guitar-driven. They were nerdy but got all the girls. To this day, The Cars are one of the 10 artistic groups who have most influenced me and shaped my musical tastes.

I nearly missed it when The Cars were inducted into the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame a couple of weekends ago. But I made sure to go back and watch the video of the induction and relive all of those feelings that began with Candy-O one winter morning before sun-up in 1981.

The Rock n Roll Hall of Fame honor was long overdue and so is this Match the Song Title segment.

So Let's Go.

Here's the track list.

Match the Song Title: "Candy-O" - The Cars

Track 1: Let's Go: Possibly my all-time favorite Cars song, and sung by Orr, not Ocasek. ("She's so beautiful now, she doesn't wear her shoes"). On the baseball front, you can't think of "Let's Go" without adding "Mets" on the end of it, I don't care what your rooting interest is. The "Let's Go Mets" chant can be equated with a variety of eras. I tend to think it belongs with the early '70s, particularly the "You Gotta Believe" Mets of 1973. They beat the Reds in a rollicking series before falling to the Oakland A's dynasty.

Track 2: Since I Held You: This makes me think of cards you can't touch -- graded cards. Oh, it's been so long since I've held you. Although in this case, I've never had the guts to bust out this card so I've never actually held it. It's one of less than 5 graded cards that I own.

Track 3: It's All I Can Do: The chorus for this song continues: "It's All I Can Do, To Keep Waiting For You". This should be the theme song for my COMC cart. It's loaded up with cards right now but I don't have the money to order them. One of the most anticipated cards of this current cart group is the Gerry Hart card you see here from 1975-76 Topps. This was the first year I bought any hockey cards. I had maybe a pack's worth of the set. It's a terrific design and I was entranced by the Gerry Hart card in my possession. I had forgotten all about it until someone showed a group of 75-76 Topps hockey cards on Twitter recently and Gerry was in the mix. "Holy heck, I need that card," I said to myself instantly.

Track 4: Double Life: Fantastic song. "You take your backseat rumble, take your front seat wife" -- all I think of is two-timing. Steve Garvey wasn't the first or last ballplayer to cheat on his wife, but they made the most noise in his case. Garvey's various dalliances came out a number of years after he and wife, Cyndy, had divorced in 1981 but that didn't stop the media.

There is Steve and Cyndy in younger, happier times.

Track 5: Shoo Be Doo: This is barely a song at 1:36 and a toughie for card association. But I do know saying "Shoo Be Doo Shin-Soo Choo" is a lot of fun.

Track 6: Candy-O: The title track is as hard-driving a traditional rock song that you'll find from The Cars, but they ain't no Foreigner. I thought I'd steer away from the expected -- ex-Dodger Candy Maldonado -- and go with one of those cards I pulled 47 times in 1989, Candy Sierra.

Track 7: Night Spots: This song addressed the silliness of the disco night life at the time. Here, Ryon Healy is about to be surprised in the middle of his night spot.

Track 8: You Can't Hold On Too Long: No doubt the song that plays on repeat in manager Dave Roberts' head all game long as he prepares to remove another starting pitcher, probably too damn soon.

Track 9: Lust For Kicks: I had planned to use a Juan Marichal card for this, but Marichal's kick seemed to have a purpose. I don't really know why Bronson Arroyo did that monster kick thing. Just a lust for kicks, maybe.

Track 10: Got A Lot On My Head: I keep trading away cards of players with gloves on their heads. Gene Clines. Aaron Rowand. This one. I've got to stop doing that.

Track 11: Dangerous Type: Another killer thrill ride. I immediately thought of the 1967 Topps combo cards, which often featured double-trouble slugger types. They do seem like the Dangerous Type.

And that's where the needle comes off the record.

I have to admit that after I brought that tape home the first couple of playings of Candy-O took some getting used to way back then. I had been raised on FM-pop and at that time it was Styx, Xanadu and Funkytown. But, now, there's nothing I'd rather do than pop in a cassette -- or flip on the digital device -- and think about Charlie Sweet, Teresa and the odd-looking boys from Boston.

Candy-O, I need you so.

Welcome to the Hall.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Patience is a virtue

I went out of town for a couple of days and while I was there received a bit of bad news with regard to family.

I'm not comfortable discussing it here, in small part because I don't entirely know what the news means, whether it's a little bad, a lot bad or some sort of false alarm. But the key thing I'm taking from this news is how important patience is.

In general, I'm a patient person, probably much more patient than most people, going as far as it being a detriment in that I can be too patient.

But there are times when I don't exercise enough patience. Surprise, surprise, often those times involve cards.

Recently, I received a bunch of 2018 Topps Opening Day Dodgers from Matt at Once a Cub. He has busted an entire case of Opening Day, started an OD blog, and had promised to distribute lots of extras to fellow collectors.

I wasn't exactly thinking about that though when I was at a card show a couple of weeks ago and started pulling as many Dodgers cards that I could find from the 2018 Opening Day binder.

I pulled this many cards:

Then a week or so later, Matt sent these cards:

Go ahead and double-check, those are the exact same cards that I picked out at the card show (it's kind of neat how every player is in a different spot without me planning it out).

If I was a little more patient and less dazzled by a dealer's card wares, I could have saved myself a couple of dollars.

But dealers, being the way that dealers can be, tend to charge a premium for rookie cards. Fortunately, bloggers don't do the same.

Matt sent the two Dodgers OD base cards that I wasn't able to obtain when I went to the card show. The team set is now complete.

Also, Matt sent a few more Opening Day Dodgers needs to help diminish my regret over the impatient purchase.

I can't say I've been following 2018 cards all that closely, so excuse me if some of the "Before Opening Day" and "Opening Day" insert cards are above average. But these three certainly aren't doing the job. Neither Bellinger nor Puig looks like they're at a spring training game and the poor crop job on the bottom card eliminates any sign that this ceremony happened at Dodger Stadium.

Matt also sent a bunch of parallels and inserts of the Dodger persuasion. I needed all of the above.

And here's a base card need plus a shout-out to starting pitchers who can complete what they began so that the bullpen doesn't turn a victory into a loss.

I realize that those starting pitchers kind of died out in the '80s but it's too bad because I'm starting to feel sorry for fans who invest themselves in games like last night's Dodgers-Marlins game and see a team unravel after the starting pitcher had done so well. It makes me wonder why I stick games out to the end.

If only today's managers had a bit more patience. Or maybe I should be more patient with the bullpen. Or the team in general.

Patience is a virtue.

I will be repeating this to myself over and over again.