Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Wedding and Honeymoon

My recent lapse in writing has been for a very good reason: this past Saturday I married the love of my life, Constance Ann, in Charleston SC. We are in Asheville, NC this week enjoying married life during our honeymoon up in the Blue Ridge Mountains. We've rented an absolutely enormous cabin in the mountains, and thanks to the recent gas shortage in the Asheville area, are making the most of it.

More news, updates, opinions, and of course Wisconsin sports news to come when I return to Seattle next week.

Okay, a little sports...I can't help it. The NL playoff race is in full swing, and extremely hot. With 5 games to play, the Brewers trail the Mets by 1 game for the Wild Card, while the Mets trail the Phils by 1.5 games for the NL, let's all pray for some Mets and Phils losses this week. I'm not saying I want the Cubs to BEAT the Mets, I just want the Mets to lose. But after last night's game, it looks as if the Cubs are doing all they can to keep the Brewers from making their first post season since 1982. Damn Cubs!

Adding to all of this, I promised the wife I'd not watch ANY baseball during the honeymoon...dammit. The Brewers/Cubs series is this weekend to wrap up the season...

Friday, September 12, 2008

Album Review: Death Magnetic

In the five years, three months, and one week since the release of Metallica's last studio album St. Anger in 2003, fans of the longtime metal band have had a sour taste in their mouth and an angry pit in their stomach after hearing what the band had to offer. A new sound, a new bass player, a sober lead singer, and band members with families all have contributed to the Metallica we see today. The metal scene isn't what it once was, but Death Magnetic takes true American heavy metal fans to a place they remember from their youth.

As I stood outside my local record shop this morning waiting for the doors to open and the neon sign to be lit, I found myself surrounded by quite a strange crowd. There were the usual, teenage angst-filled kids with their long hair, piercings, and black jeans. There were the college burnouts, still hungover from last night's "Thursday starts the weekend" party at school. There were guys like me, late twenty-somethings with crew cuts and cargo shorts and polo shirts. There were also the guys who were there from the very beginning: though more advanced it years, you could tell these guys had banged there heads for the tours during the '80's...they looked wrinkled, leather-faced, and the grey had found its way into their once proud manes.

Something about music brings folks together, and that was the only reason the group of us found ourselves in the same location.

I got home, shut the blinds, turned off my phone, and put in the hopes for some semblance of the band I fell in love with during the 90's had peaked, and it was time to dig in...

I can't say enough about the packaging...I'm sure much time was spent in designing the layout, and the truly unique approach they took this time. Along with the cover, each page in the booklet has the shape of a coffin missing from the middle...and it's tapered, adding depth. Along the edges of the hole is a high definition image of dirt, suggesting we are looking down into a grave. Each page then uses this coffin "hole" in its it the mouth of an old man, a large section of what could be interpreted as the Twin Towers, a section of a mother's womb, or the iris of an eye. As the listener pages through and makes his way to the end of the booklet, he realizes now that he is no longer looking down into a grave, but has turned around and is looking out of a a bright white light, on the page with aptly-placed lyrics for the song "The Judas Kiss".

Now, on to the music....

It's all back. The double kick drum. The shredding solos. The dual harmonic guitars. The speed metal.

And that's just the first song.

Death Magnetic smacks of music from time gone by. Lead guitarist Kirk Hammett brings back elements of his solos from albums like Justice and Ride the Lightning, combining knowledge of complex classical arpeggios with the speed of early 80's thrash metal. On tracks "The Day That Never Comes" and "Unforgiven III", Hammett shows us what he is known for: knock-down, in your face solos with the speed of a '68 Shelby GT500. His agility on the fretboard once again shows itself during the well written, albeit abbreviated solos on the album. Unfortunately, gone are the days of 45-75 seconds solos on studio albums, when Hammett claims to have written solos to "show off". The downside to Hammett's genius on the guitar is that it is short-lived. With the exception of a select few tracks on the album, his solos have devolved into a short 10 or 15 second excursion that merely follows the established structure of a rock song...verse, chorus, verse, chorus, solo, chorus. As shown in the band's 1992 video documentary "A Year and a Half in the Life of Metallica", writing solos is a difficult task for Hammett and it shows loud and clear in this offering. Most of his work seems as a thrown together hodge-podge of lost triplets, confusing guitar effects, and over used sustained peak notes. With little grammy-worthy material to work with as far as songs go, Hammett does his best. Don't expect a Guitar World "Solo of the Year" Award this time around, however.

On his first studio album with Metallica since replacing Jason Newsted in early 2003, bassist Robert Trujillo shows his experience with the instrument. Well-guided riffs and deep, driving bass lines add to Death Magnetic's forceful approach. Given free reign on "Cyanide", the rarely-seen Metallica feature of a solo bass line adds to the song's appeal, giving it a more robust sound and an added element that carries it as the second single from the album. Not since "For Whom the Bell Tolls" has the band featured the bass in such a prominent role.

Drummer Lars Ulrich gives us nothing special on this album. His signature clever fills that graced the Metallica albums of the 80's have long since left his catalog of writing material. Rather, he decides to return to the element that gave the band it's speed metal label in its early days: the double kick drum. From the outset, Ulrich compliments the power-chord, palm-muted guitar lines with a double kick that gives the an impression of a machine gun, as I saw during their January 2000 concert in Minneapolis for the opening of their song "One"...breif 2-second blasts of double kick drum accompanied by flashing strobe lights...leading into the song about the terrible effects of war. Once a staple of his repertoire, Ulrich again adds this element in an attempt by the band to urge the listener to see past it's segmented, choppy presentation for the majority of the album's material and perhaps speed up the pace for an album that lacks continuity, filled with songs exceeding 7 or 8 minutes in length.

Lead singer James Hetfield ties it all together, and in the end, grabs this album a decent review. Though we shouldn't expect anything like Metallica's golden days, Hetfield can still sing like a champ, and hasn't gone the road of "drop-an-octave" singing due to his age. He can still sing the full range, and he shows it on Death Magnetic. Although the band attempts to force a few too many syllables into some lines, the lyrical composition is solid. A consistent, underlieing theme of death certainly keeps the album tied together, although it is done by lyrics only and not by the music. Hetfield plays with actual singing too, and not just metal singing. To top it all off, on numerous occasions we get the signature James Hetfield "enter-a-word-here followed by a strong ah!".

Don't go into this album expecting too much, and you won't be disappointed. Don't go into this album expecting Master of Puppets, and you won't be disappointed. As a stand-alone effort, I give the album a solid 7/10. As a Metallica album, however, it recieves a low 5/10. Track of the album has to be "The Day That Never Comes". Not only for it's building power, the anticipation, and the best lyrics of any song on the album, but because all parts run together smoothly, forming a great song. Easily the best solo on the album as well. Give the music video a quick watch on youtube as well, you won't be disappointed.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Are you ready for some...horrible commentary?

What I originally thought to be a brilliant move by the fine folks at ESPN's Monday Night Football has officially turned into one of the worst failures in color commentary history.

We have witnessed a huge shift in sports coverage, thanks in large part to the American viewing public. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a good looking sideline reporter as much as the next guy (see: Jillian Barberie). My personal favorite is FSN-Wisconsin's Trenni Kusnierek.

And let's not forget Tony Siragusa (who someone was kind enough to compare to his likeness).

But I digress. Okay, so we've established that the days of Keith Jackson and other Ted Koppel-esque broadcasters are coming to a close. Nowadays, the viewing public wants action, controversy, and of course, a little T & A doesn't hurt.

When Al Michaels and John Madden said goodbye to MNF, I knew we were in for a tough time ahead. I mean, who can replace a football genius like Madden, who was always johnny on-the-spot with such insight as "The team that scores the most points tonight, will ultimately win this game" and "Ok, so the quarterback does his job and throws the ball, and the running back does his job by running. It's that simple."

Hmm...who could replace about a has-been comedian that nobody likes, and who knows very little about sports in general, to add some color to the booth.

(Stage left: enter Dennis Miller with matching sportcoat and post-90's quasi mullet)

We don't really need to discuss his lack of humor, football knowledge, or ability to carry on a sports-themed conversation. Okay, so the Dennis Miller experiment didn't work. Now we have to find someone else to fill this role in the booth...

(Stage left: enter Tony Kornheiser)

Alright. Finally! Someone I enjoy. I love Pardon The Interruption, and whenever Tony is absent from the show I get bummed out, because he and Wilbon have a great on screen dynamic, and play off eachother's particular passions, favorite teams, and favorite sports. He couldn't possibly screw up Monday Night Football...

Wrong. Besides the countless times he mentioned Brett Favre (by the way, let me just say something. He personally said numerous times on PTI that Aaron Rodgers needs to have a great season to remove the whole "comparison thing" with Brett Favre...essentially putting the ball in Rodgers' court, saying he'd lay off as a commentator and give Rodgers his chance. Well, how can he do this if you CONTINUE TO COMPARE HIM TO FAVRE???), he failed to find a way to comment on Rodgers' play without comparing him to the great Brett Favre.

I wanted to share a few gems, a few "nuggets" of wisdom that couldn't possibly do anything BUT add to the net worth of this broadcast.

As you know, the NFL is honoring the late Gene Upshaw, former player and long-time president of the NFL Player's Association, but having the "GU" painted logo on the field this season, as well as having all players wear a "GU" patch on their jersey during all week 1 games. As I said, he worked with the NFLPA and helped players' rights w/ regard to contracts and collective baragaining agreements. On Upshaw, Kornheiser noted...

"A lot of people out there are making a lot of money because of this man..."

Really? That's great insight, Tony. Jew, is it? The man didn't contribute anything to the game of football besides garnering larger contracts for players? You're an idiot.

"I was an English major"

We know. That's why you're a well-known journalist. Nothing about being an award-winning journalist automatically means you make a great broadcaster. Or a good broadcaster. Or a mediocre...ok, I think you see where this is going. Stick to the papers and PTI, stay off my football games.

"If they [Packers] go any further back they'll be in Michigan"

Okay, almost funny. Lambeau field runs North-South, and the Packers were defending the North endzone at the time, so yes, geographically speaking they could have gone north to the Upper Penninsula of Michigan...okay, I'm nuking this one out. It wasn't funny, and Kornheiser is a moron.

"I call this the great gamble of the 2008 season. It's like John McCain picking Sarah Palin."

Hmm...somebody please tell me what football has to do with politics? And what percentage of the viewing public (including the entire state of Wisconsin, by the way, who were far more concentrated on ushering in a new era of Packers football and could care less about political satire right now) really cares what Tony Kornheiser thinks about John McCain and his choice for a running mate? We watch football to watch football, not to hear who the announcers are voting for in the upcoming general election.

Green Bay did not take a gamble in sticking with Aaron Rodgers and sending Favre packing. Brett Favre took a gamble by expecting the Packers to take him back after RETIRING. If your New York skull is too thick to understand this, get off the air.

Finally, someone told him to shut up, and I'll leave you with this last comparison of Aaron Rodgers to Brett Favre.

"That's Exactly the kind of pass Favre would have thrown. Does it remind you of him at all?" - Tony Kornheiser

"Yes, but you've got to let it go, Tony." - Ron Jaworski

Thanks Jaws.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Life Before The Strike #12

I found myself in "the stacks" of my local card shop again today, and wanted to share with you two of my finds. I had a few goals today:

1. Complete the '82 Topps Brewers team set
2. ATTEMPT to complete the '76 Topps 'Big Red Machine' team set
3. Find a Bob Uecker card. Not cheating (aka from the internet) but in an actual card shop

I was *mostly* successful with goal #1. I found the Rollie Fingers and Ned Yost cards I needed, but still haven't come across the '82 Topps Traded #89 Rob Picciolo. It's on eBay right now for a whopping $1.16, maybe I should just buy it...we'll see. That's the final card I need.

I found a few more of the '76 Reds players, including the two traded cards I needed, #208T Mike Lum, and #338T Bob Bailey. Now, another decision to be out the $ for the Johnny Bench card, #300. We'll see about that as well.

So, here is the find of the day...a 1967 Topps Bob Uecker. Not in excellent condition to say the least, 3 of 4 rounded corners, a weird white line on his face, and a cool little stain on the back...I'm telling myself it's a drop of '67 Schlitz, but I doubt it. was the only Uecker card in the entire shop, and a great addition to the collection. After all, Uecker himself claims that he led the league in "Go Get 'Em".
And the other find of the day...actually, it was an impulse buy that literally doubled the grand total price of my purchase from the day, but seeing as how it's a neat find, I had to buy it...

1979 O-P-Chee #8 Paul Molitor
I have the 1979 Topps Molitor, but when I saw the mirror O-P-Chee card I had to have it. I love these cards because they help with the education...I learned some more French today. On the back, it told me that Paulie is an "Arret-court"...which is french canuck for shortstop. COOL!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The NBA fails its fans...again.

Because I have to study for my Navy E-6 advancement exam I'll be taking early tomorrow morning, I am forcing myself to stay away from baseball cards tonight. Instead, I'll speak about the new NBA franchise...well, the old Seattle franchise/new Oklahoma City franchise.

For weeks we basketball fans have been anxiously awaiting the unveiling of the "mascot" name for the franchise that has recently moved to OK City. Speculators have figured out that it would most likely have something to do with the geographic area/history of the Oklahoma people, and the "heartland" region. The Oklahoma University "Sooners" have quite possibly a monopoly on regional history having anything to do with a mascot name...but other names, such as "Bison", "Wind", "Energy" have surfaced as front runners. Nobody had any idea how horribly the NBA would screw this one up, however.

Let's revisit the most recently named NBA franchise. When the Hornets moved to New Orleans, Charlotte was told they'd have a new franchise in a few years. The aptly-named "Bobcats" took over for the fine people of North Carolina. After all, there are a ton of bobcats in North Carolina. They walk the city streets much like the moose from "Northern Exposure". They are everywhere.

Now, return to today and the franchise that the NBA moved to Oklahoma City...which is a basketball hotbed, by the way. I don't know how I can possibly build this up anymore for disappointment, so I'll just say it. The new NBA team is the Oklahoma City...Thunder.

The Thunder?

Sure, we're all fans of "weather" nicknames. The WNBA team "Seattle Storm" has a rabid fanbase - well, not really. Their average home game attendance this past season was 8,099 fans (47% capacity). Before Shaq arrived in Miami, the Heat saw attendance below 75% capacity. I'll give you reference point: the smallest media market in Major League Baseball, Milwaukee, boasts a home attendance average of 38,006...91% capacity. 91%!! And the Brewers have never won a World Series in franchise history...nor have they even made the playoffs since 1982.

Good for the NBA to choose a nickname that will entice fans, gather them in huge numbers, and allow them to cheer on their team to victory. After all, I'm deathly afraid of Thunder! I mean, the entire significance of a team's nickname is to intimidate the other team. That is why we chose many Indian-themed names to be team mascots. Ferocity. Animals are a very popular theme to instill fear...Badgers. Wolverines. The Banana Slugs of UC-Santa Cruz.


Not only is it a weak name for professional sports team, but it follows in the vein the popular team trivia question for "Name all of the professional sports teams whose nickname does not end in the letter 'S'". I myself am a hockey fan, and my team is the Minnesota Wild. Have you seen our logo? What is that? It's an animal, I'm sure, but what kind of animal? This also opens the door for gramarical issues. How do we speak about the Wild? Is "Wild" singular or plural? "It's the royal 'we', man..." Know what I mean? DOES the Wild win, or DO the Wild win?


Let's talk about the logo for a second...ooooh, I'm afraid! So intimidating!What is it? I see a basketball, clearly...well, about 30% of one side of a basketball. I also see "OKC", which clearly stands for Oklahoma City. And it's got two lines going behind the "logo", clearly indicating the visible "Thunder" that one witnesses when caught in a THUNDERstorm.

Wait a second...we can't see thunder! We see the lightning, though! But that name was already taken (Thanks, Tampa Bay).

Why choose a nickname for a team that cannot be represented in visual form? Clearly, the NBA wants this franchise to fail much like they plan on the Charlotte Bobcats (oooh, scary) failing so they can move these franchises to the next trendy sports market that pops up in the future...or China! After all, NBA commissioner David Stern was over in Beijing for the olympic games, and he said that China is part of the "future of the NBA". In fact, 2 games are going to be played there early October between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Golden State Warriors...two teams who now have absolutely ZERO players hailing from China. I can see the appeal. At least make the LA Lakers one of the teams (Kobe Byrant is the most popular NBA player in China) or Yao Ming (China's most famous basketball player).

So, what's the mascot going to look like? I admit, the "Philly Phanatic" clearly looks like absolutely nothing. What is a Philly, anyways? A female race horse, I thought. Must be wrong. A Philly is clearly a green monster with a huge nose and huge belly dressed in a baseball jersey.

May I recommend a few things, Mr. Stern? How about a big raincloud! Thunder comes from clouds! Or perhaps a lightning bold (shoot, already taken by Tampa Bay of the NHL). about, rain! A bucket of rain water would do! It could walk around posing for photos with little kids, and it could dunk basketballs during the halftime show.

Give me a break.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Hippie Coast is el Stinko.

This morning I had every intention of sleeping in on my day off, waking up with enough time to run to the store for my first 6-pack of some local micro-brew's attempt at an Octoberfest beer (after all, it's been 60 degrees or lower for the past 5 days and officially too cold for summer ales). I say attempt because hard as I may try, I've been unable to find a fall seasonal that tops Leinenkugel's Oktoberfest. Editor's side note: Editor's excitement is building as he anticipates his upcoming wedding and honeymoon in 3 weeks, during which he will be able to enjoy all the Leinie's he desires...

Having been stationed on either the East Coast ('03-'07) or the West Coast ('07-present), I've been unable to enjoy my favorite hand-crafted beers. It was only until after I left Charleston last year that Leinie's made it's way down in the form of 6-packs at the grocery store. I will admit though, there is one source of Leinie's here in Seattle, but it's at a Minnesotan-owned pizza pub north of the city, quite out of the way...and they only carry it seasonally, i.e. if it's june or july, they have Honey Weiss. That's it. Way to go, guys. I will say this though, they will never run out of Schlitz or PBR.

My main complaint about the West Coast (or as I like to call it, the Hippie Coast) is the television schedule. I never appreciated how perfectly-timed all programming is when you live in Wisconsin, or the Central Time Zone. Monday Night Football starts at 8pm, over by 11. Sunday football games start at noon and 3. Baseball games start at 1pm for day games, or 7pm for night games. How perfect is that!

Perhaps it's my desire to follow my Brewers, Packers, and Badgers while living away from Wisconsin that creates this discontent and frustration. Today's Brewers game starts at 11am...who watches baseball at 11am?? My lone comfort is found in the fact that it's noon in Wisconsin, which means I can open a beer. Night games are worse, I have to rush home from work to catch opening pitch at 4pm. I suppose I could shell out the extra $10/month for DVR, but when I am forced to pay $150 every summer to have the ability to watch all my Brewers games, $10 more is seemingly too much.

The worst part is when it comes to football. I've had to modify my entire relationship with God and worship schedule around the Packers schedule. If the Packers play the early game, I have to go to Mass saturday night, because the early game on Sunday starts at 10am. If they play the afternoon game, I can go to Mass sunday morning before the game starts at 1pm. Now, to be fair, God is a Packers fan and he understands my frustration. He's got NFL Sunday Ticket AND Tevo, though, so He never misses a snap.
To be fair though, living out West affords me two fine opportunities...I am able to watch the ENTIRE Monday Night Football game every single week, and I can watch the entire Football Night in America show on Sunday nights as well. I will miss that. Before moving out to Seattle, I don't remember the last time I was able to finish an entire MNF game.

There, that killed an hour. It's 10am now, and almost game time for the Brewers. Woo Hoo!!!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Hear 'N Aid

Having grown up without cable tv, I was forced to surf between 10 or 11 channels. I was denied the pleasures of MTV and VH1...until now. I have fallen in love with VH1 Classic, probably my 3rd favorite channel, following ESPN and FSN-Wisconsin.
All weekend, they've been showing "80 Hours of the '80s" for the Labor Day holiday weekend, everything from Lita Ford to Metallica, David Bowie to Michael Jackson. My favorite video so far has been this video from the early summer of blows "We Are The World" out of the water.
Ronnie James Dio is my hero...all 5'4'' of him!

Best part of the video? The fact that Michael McKean and Harry Shearer joined the group - better known to most as David St. Hubbins and Derek Smalls of "Spinal Tap" - makes this the best metal video ever...well, maybe not as good as Killswitch's video for Dio's "Holy Diver".

Life Before The Strike #11

Today we're going to have a look at a few more interesting cards I found during my rummaging today...

1992 Pinnacle #617 Ryne Sandberg TECH
I'd never seen these cards before, pretty interesting. This one breaks down the proper position for an infield player to field a ground ball.
1. Head up - clearly, the player has to see the ball.
2. Two Hands - something we were taught during our first year of tee ball.
3. Arms relaxed - many times a ground ball may take a funny hop, the arms need to be relaxed to compensate for unexpected ball movement.
4. Knees bent - allows for quicker lateral movement, and conveniently places the glove closer to the ground.
1994 UD Collector's Choice #40 Jack Armstrong
This card is badass for two reasons - A) It incorporates the classic, original teal color the team clearly needs to bring back, and 2) I appreciate any baseball card that illustrates the player's name. For example, any Dennis Cook card should have shown him in his kitchen...or at least pouring some Gatorade for someone in the dugout, or serving up some seeds in the bullpen. The perfect photo was chosen for this card.
1992 Bicycle Major League Baseball Rookies Pat Listach
Former A.L. Rookie of the Year in his most distinguished card of his career...why the Joker, though? I would have made Listach and Karros the Hearts and Diamonds Aces...perhaps that's why I don't design playing cards.
1992 Pinnacle #602 Eric Davis
When I was collecting cards in my younger years, not once did I open a pack of '92 Pinnacle and find a cool as hell Shades card in it. 16 years later, my wish has finally been granted. I hope that box of '92 Pinnacle has some more packs full of Idols or Shades cards left in it...
1995 Topps Stadium Club #343 Jaime Navarro
Not An '82 photo of Yount riding around on a Harley, but this will do for now. If I am correct, there aren't any "Yount-on-a-Harley" or "Yount-on-a-Honda Xr500" cards out there, but there is his Sidelines card from the '92 Pinnacle set of him on a dirt bike. If anyone knows of any card showing Yount on the Harley in '82, please let me know...
On the back of this card they introduce the "Topps Skills Rating System", in which they rate a player's abilities on a scale of 1-10. In Navarro's case, he has a 7.5 Velocity, 7.9 Control, 5.3 in "holding runners", and 7.1 Stamina...even though his ERA coming out of the bullpen was nearly 3 points lower than his ERA as a starter. Perhaps they hadn't perfected their rating system yet.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Life Before The Strike #10

Once again, I am thankful for the information age that we live in. Namely, Al Gore's "Internet". Craigslist is an amazing site. Less beaurocracy than eBay, it's like an up-to-the-minute classified ad for anything and everything. Sometimes when it's slow at work, we'll all jump on craigslist and read aloud really stupid things people are offering for sale, or in the "free" section. On Adam Carolla's morning radio show, they have a weekly segment called "Who the 'F' Sells this 'S" in which they find an ad on craigslist for something really obscure (a collection of 4 blank VHS tapes for $7, for example) and then they call the person. They take this opportunity to perform a "Dr. Phil" session on them, pretty much implying that there are some underlying problems in the person's life, that they would be intent on selling such crap on the site. It usually is pretty funny, and most of the time they do indeed offer to purchase the items from the person.

I have been using he site to find folks interested in getting rid of baseball cards in bulk, for a relatively low price. This morning's research landed me on the doorstep of a uniform/shoe/used clothing/card shop across town...some nice old ladies who recognize the inherent sentimental value of every single baseball card. I had to call them to verify the correctness of their ad...2,400 assorted cards from various years and manufacturers for $20. The kind woman verified that yes, the ad was written correctly.

I won't judge the small gathering of overweight, twenty-something bearded guys in japanese trading card t-shirts that were at the store, sharing cards on the table and involving themselves in card games that involved mythical creatures or hybrid cartoon characters from Japan who have special abilities and odd names, for I am sure there are those who would judge this author for continuing to collect baseball cards into his late twenties.

At any rate, I went through some of the cards this afternoon and picked a few I'd like to share.

1995 Upper Deck Minor League #92 Deshawn Warren
Warren was at one time the top prospect in the Angels organization, eventually finding himself playing in the Brewers farm system his last of 5 seasons in the minors. I was sure this was the lone baseball card of Dwayne Wayne, but in '95 he was already teaching in Tokyo.
1989 Topps #167 Steve Searcy
He was the International League pitcher of the year in the minors, but his major league career didn't amount to much, carrying a 5-year career ERA of 5.38. Having never seen him pitch, I'm sure the scout that found him had to really talk the Detroit brass into his abilities, and...personality.1993 Upper Deck #204 Mike Perez
The wizards at Upper Deck have once again confused the sh*t out of me.
Notice the card in his hand...
...and then zoom out again and look at the whole card...then at the small card again. HOW DID THEY DO THIS?!?!?!?!?!

1989 Topps Big #74 Mike Maddux
Currently the Brewers' pitching coach, I have found myself collecting his cards as of the Topps Big cards were cool.Let's take a look at the back. Not only is he the world's happiest pitcher...

...but he and his brother Greg were rivals...GRRRR...

...aww, he's talking to a baseball. I'm still trying to find the bird, by the way.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Life Before The Strike #9

Today I opened up the wax box of '90 Fleer is the best pack of the box. Had I opened this pack in 1990, I wouldn't have been as enthusiastic about its results. We all know the saying about hindsight, though...
#518 Randy Johnson
Only his fourth year in the majors, he is shown sporting a rather modest we all know, it would later get out of control.
#420 Ken Griffey
I had to check the back of this card because he looks so much like Jr. in this photo...sort of a mixup of past/present, senior/junior teams-played-for moment...#358 Pascual Perez
#531 Scott Fletcher
#370 Randy Bush
#60 Craig Lefferts
#178 Kevin Hickey

#6 Dennis Eckersley
How do you follow up a season in which you had a 1.56 ERA? By growing a rather respectable mullet, that's how!
#461 Barry Bonds*
Already 3 soon to be "Hall of Famers" in the pack, I smiled when I saw this card...hence the asterisk. Man, he looks so small in this photo. I think the '87 Topps Bonds* card is the most telling, though.
#271 Roger Clemens
Alright, the irony is getting unbearable. How fitting that Bonds* and Clemens would be in the same pack of cards. Thank you Fleer for your wit-filled foresight.
#561 Ken Howell
#444 Mel Hall
#549 Bobby Thigpen
#237 Mike Scott
#400 Jay Howell
#601 Brian Dubois

And of course, the highlight of the '90 Fleer series, the stickers!
...Complete with rather thoughtful instructions, obviously aimed at either the younger, or mentally-challenged market share...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Life Before The Strike #8

The only positive thing to come out of the drop-off in baseball card collecting and subsequent closing of every street-corner card shop we grew up with, is that old cards are now affordable and the same people we once purchased our cards from at flea markets and card shows are now looking to unload their boxes of unopened cards. Be it the fact they have little room in the garage or basement, or perhaps "the wife" has insisted they get rid of them, guys like you and me can now purchase cards from our childhood at an excellent price.

Enter today's acquisition of nearly 3,500 cards from unopened wax packs. For a small amount of cash, and a quality '75 rookie card that shall not be named, I was able to make a trade w/ a retired Boeing exec. from east Seattle who is looking to sell off his shares in a card-selling partnership that has since ended, and the proverbial "wife" has insisted he get back some of that initial investment.

Tonight I dove in to the box of 1988 Topps cards...a favorite childhood set of mine, for one reason...(enter the Wayne's World flashback squiggly screen). It's the summer of '88, and it's a hot day in western Wisconsin. My younger brother decides that it'd be a great idea to place all of his brother's baseball cards in a large bucket, and fill that bucket with water.
Needless to say, every single pre-'89 card that I owned at the time was destroyed. Today's acquisition of the '88 wax box helped my brother redeem himself, in that I was able to replace a number of cards I remember having back then.

At any rate, let's get going w/ today's cards. I will share with you the first pack of that box of '88 Topps...which showed us the remnants of the Reagan administration on their packaging.

#717 Jay Baller
Loving the spring training photos that used to grace nearly all of the baseball cards back then. This photo shows us the "personal" side of Jay, complete with Guido chest hair and gold chains...I had to check the back of the card to make sure he wasn't from Jersey.
#70 Roger Clemens
The folks at Topps used to tell us who signed a recent major leaguer...Roger was signed in 1983 by scout Danny Doyle...good to know, Topps.
#522 Bob Patterson
#512 Alex Trevino
#263 Glenn Braggs...ya, Brewers!

#639 Brewers Leaders
I love how these cards used to grace the packs we'd collect. At the time, we hated getting them because they were worth nothing, but looking back, it's something that needs to return. #423 John Smiley
Clearly trying to make up for his name by proving to fans he is to be taken seriously...seriously.
#281 Jerry Hairston
After time, it becomes apparent to a card collector that either A) They are getting old, or B) Their cards are getting old...and sometimes both. Especially true when you get a card of the father of a current major leaguer...
#349 Bob Walk...great name for a pitcher.
#431 Casey Candaele
#145 Bill Madlock
#78 Dan Petry
#397 Jack Clark All Star
#6 Nolan Ryan '87 Record Breakers

#608 Charlie Kerfeld
Not only does he look like a coach in this photo, but he is sporting two wonderful '80s baseball cliches (this with "Wild Thing" Rick Vaughn in mind)...a mullet, and an earing. Lovely.
And of course, the 20-year old piece of bubble gum. Note to readers: do not attempt to chew said gum, said gum will fall apart in reader's mouth and result in a really dry mouth.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Life Before The Strike #7

My trade with Capewood arrived today, so let's dig in to some of the highlights...

2008 Topps Chrome Xfractor #11 Yovani Gallardo
This is the cornerstone of the trade, going card-for-card for a Hunter Pence card that he was interested in. Regardless of price-guide value, I still love how cards can mean nothing to one person but a great deal to someone else. I once traded a '93 Triple Play Nicknames #1 Frank Thomas for the inaugural season team set of the Florida the time, my 6th grade Math teacher thought he was ripping me off...but now my cards are worth more than his "Big Hurt".
...And here's the Refractor card of the same set...
2001 Topps Stadium Club #180 Ben Sheets RC
This is my favorite card of the trade - my first Ben Sheets rookie. He led Team USA to a Gold Medal finish at the olympic games in Sydney, pitching a 3-hit, complete game shutout in the gold medal game.
2001 Topps #767 Milwaukee Brewers Team
Pictured is the '00 team, the final team to play at beloved County Stadium. Not a single player in this photo is still with the team, but my favorite is Jamie Navarro. Never of Cy Young material, interesting fact about Navarro: his first career win was lost by 11th inning reliever Mark Knudson, who gave up 6 runs in the inning...Navarro is credited with the first win at the Ballpark in Arlington.
2001 Fleer E-X #77 Geoff Jenkings
Quite an interesting series of far, the thickest card in the trade. This card is constructed in layers, with the Brewers logo printed on the glitter background, and all other pictures printed on the very top layer...pretty neat.
2001 Topps Heritage #272 Jeff D'amico
In 2000, he was contending for the NL ERA title...but needed only a few more innings. However, by gaining the few innings he needed, he gave up enough earned runs to lose the ERA title...he finished 3rd in the standings behind Kevin Brown and Randy Johnson.
Thanks, Capewood, for the trade. If anyone else is interested, just let me know!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Life Before The Strike #6

I recently made a trade with Rick from Oregon. I helped him with his collection, and he helped me with my Brewers collection - past and present players. I'm anxiously awaiting my cards to arrive from my trade with Capewood, so until those arrive...

2004 Topps Cracker Jack #93 Jason Kendall
Love the series, and in my opinion, the single greatest decision the Milwaukee Brewers have made in the past 2 years was signing Jason to a 1-year deal last off-season. Thankfully, a clause in his contract states that should he play 110 games this season (120 so far, and counting) he will automatically be signed for the '09 campaign. Well done, management.
1999 Fleer Ultra #76 Marquis Grissom
I have three baseballs from MLB games in my collection. The first is from a 1987 game in Minneapolis between the Twins and Brewers. During warmups, my father yelled "Hey, Paulie!" to the one and only Paul Molitor, and he threw us a ball. The second is from 1999, again at the Dome in Mpls, and during the Brewers batting practice Grissom hit a homer to the stands in left, just where I was sitting. The third, of course, is an autographed Robin Yount ball.

1999 Just Memorabilia #102 Gabe Kapler
Not his rookie, but pretty close. Love this card with him in a Toledo Mud Hens uniform. Jamie Farr would be quite proud of Gabe in this photo. Another great move by the Brewers to grab him while he was managing in the Red Sox farm system.
1991 Score #248 Rob Deer
A well-known memory from my childhood, Rob Deer was a Brewers staple for me. This card is from his "career" season of '91...not only did he lead the league in strikeouts that year (175, still a record if I think) but he batted below the Mendoza Line, with a season batting average of .179 . What a season, Rob.
1995 Fleer Ultra #65 John Jaha
Tied for #448 on the all-time HR list, Jaha enjoyed a number of seasons with the Brewers, but was often on the DL. By far the ugliest and least popular uniforms in team history, they still conjur up memories of losing seasons, year after year.
1980 Topps #24 Jim Slaton
Jim got the win for game 4 of the '82 World Series...perhaps it was the power of the stache.
1992 Upper Deck #775 Pat Listach RC
I had this card as a kid, and I'm sure it's still buried in stacks of boxes in my parent's basement in Wisconsin. I remember treasuring it, because my folks were so cheap all they bought us was Topps or Donruss, never the expensive Upper Deck cards. Well done, Rick. Great card.