Saturday, February 28, 2009

TTM Brewers!

Yesterday I officially broke into the world of current player TTM auto requests! That's right, a letter postmarked from Phoenix, AZ (ahem, that would be home of Brewers camp) was waiting for me. And inside, a lovely new auto.

2007 Topps '52 #185 Manny Parra RC

At the time I sent this, it was the only card of Manny that I had - but looking back on it, a few cards later, I am so glad that I send him this one! It came out really well, and knowing his own signature, was good enough to NOT use a sharpie, but rather use a felt pen to show the intricacies of his awesome, awesome signature.

Hopefully Manny comes into his own this year as a vital part of the Brewers rotation. He only had 10 wins last year, but he has so much more in him than that. Yesterday in preseason action, he was the starting pitcher in a Brewers 8-5 win over Oakland, allowing 1 hit and striking out 1 batter over 2.0 innings. A great sign for him to do well in his spring debut. 

You may recall the dugout altercation between Prince Fielder and Manny Parra last summer. Long story short, Fielder attacked Parra when he was taken out of the game after giving up 6 runs in 6 innings to the Reds. I felt really bad for Manny that day, he looked hurt - not physically, but emotionally, after being attacked by his own teammate for giving up runs and merely turning to go to the clubhouse for a quick second. Bad fatty, bad.

I'm sure Manny doesn't receive a whole bunch of auto requests, but he's my favorite Brewers pitcher and I'm stoked that he took the time to return my card.

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Boys of Summer Check In

Well, the opening of Spring Training has come and gone, and our favorite players have shown us once again why they make the money they do, playing a child's game. I figured I'd chime in with my two cents on Brewers camp, but more than anything I'm just posting on spring camp because I have finally found photos of the Brewers down in Phoenix. Thanks for nothing, Spring Training has been going on for two weeks now, and you still haven't posted a photo from Brewers facilities? Really? Maybe if Milwaukee changed their name to the "Devil Brewers", and then changed the name back to just "Brewers", people will all of a sudden care about us again and the league will show us enough attention to throw up a few pictures on their damn website. Freakin Selig and his jagoffs.

So this guy named CC has come and gone, like a phantom in the night, leaving only the faint smell of October Baseball in Milwaukee and a larger-than-life void in the pitching rotation. In his place as the ace? Yovani "you haven't seen nothin yet" Gallardo.

Well, maybe it's Yovanni with two "n's", I have baseball cards with both spellings so who knows. What, never heard of him? Just stand by. Stand the f by. He's very photogenic, by the way. Ah, photo day.
Prince Fielder showed up to camp a little "lighter in his cleats", admittedly smaller in weight but not by a specific number. I guess what's important is the number of home runs he hits this year. I'm thinking of a number bigger than 34, which would be the number he hit last year after his 50-homer season in 2007. Let's shoot for the stars, fatty.

Milwaukee fans will once again witness in 2009 that the chicken does indeed run at midnight. Craig "chicken lips" Counsell is back for another dose of hometown baseball. He figures if he's going to live in Milwaukee from now on, he may as well get paid some money to spend his evenings at Miller Park.

At the helm this year is lifelong baseball student Ken Macha, most recently spending his days occupying various dugouts throughout the American League West in an A's uniform. He seems to be "all business" thus far, but takes some time to tell campfire stories to the boys.

Baseball can be fun, as well as educational. Here Mike Cameron is showing J.J. Hardy how to properly operate a press pass. Point and click, baby. Thanks Cammie for taking the Crew up on that offer of a second season, we're gonna love having you in centerfield again. Tough luck for Tony Gwynn Jr, however, who was hoping Cameron would pack his bags following the '08 campaign so he could perhaps slide into CF this season. Well, that shoulder injury is back for more and Gwynn is benching it up some more. He'll spend most of the year riding busses to games.
Recently "contract upgraded" Corey Hart shows off his skills for the fans whose wives DIDN'T mind they spend some savings and fly down to Arizona to take pictures, watch games, and perhaps meet some of his favorite baseball players. I'm not mentioning any names here, but let's just say I know of one woman (her name rhymes with "My Wife") who thought a plane ticket, rental car, and lodging in Phoenix for a week was "not in our budget this spring". Whatever. Corey has some new ink, and that makes me happy. More ink and more Jesus will hopefully add up to more hits later in the season. Hint Hint.

Speaking of great photographs, this one ranks up there with the Goose Joak card of Alex Rios. Seriously, some men just have a gift. A gift for glowing in the dark. Or projecting a sort of "Emperor sitting in the throneroom waiting for Skywalker" look. I heart J.J. Hardy. Show me a better defensive shortstop in the National League, and I'll call you a liar. Then I'll say I don't care, I like Hardy better. Suck it, Ramirez and Reyes.

Also back for more in '09 is left fielder Ryan Braun, who shows that no matter how many athletes bear the nickname "Hebrew Hammer", there's always room for one more. After all, there are six points to the star of David, and only four corners to a baseball diamond. Write that down.
Longtime Brewers bullpen coach Bill Castro finally makes his way into the dugout and can truly watch a baseball game for once as the new Pitching Coach. Previous pitching coach Mike Maddux has left for greener pastures in Texas, so the Crew promoted from in-house. After all, any guy who can convince the entire bullpen that "Don't worry, Sabathia is starting tonight - why don't you guys just go ahead and head to the bar, I'll meet you there in a few innings" is good in my book.

Quite possibly Milwaukee's best free agent signing in the past 10 years, Jason Kendall. No catcher in the league can call a better game than this guy, and he gives Mike Rivera another excuse to put "backup catcher" on his resume for another season. Let's not forget the 149 starts he made as the Brewers backstop last year. That's some durability.
Nobody thought it was possible, but the Milwaukee Brewers have convinced Major League Baseball's all-time saves leader to go back to being a starting pitcher in hopes of shoring up a less-than-stellar starting rotation. Just kidding. He's going to be our closer, which hurt the feelings of Seth "Big Country" McClung a little bit, until he found out that he's going to fulfill even more roles out of the bullpen than he did last season, including opening the outfield wall to make way for the relievers. And restocking the seed buckets.

Somebody might want to tell Yovani that here in the Chew Ess Ayy we use a small, spherical ball with a winding thread pattern to play baseball. Those crazy ballplayers, those crazy boys of summer.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Cards from Grandma #1

It was recently mentioned by my wife, in speaking with her grandparents, that I collect baseball cards and write a little blog about them and other ramblings regarding the Brewers and baseball. Well, it just so happens that her grandmother came across a whole mess of cards...a "gaggle", if I may quote her directly. So, she sent some of them my way (over 3,000 miles across the country) and I wanted to share some with you.

Folks that aren't very familiar with baseball cards can't really tell you a lot about the ones they have - teams, brands, even years are tough to get out of them. But free cards are free cards, and so even though they aren't as "vintage" as I had hoped (why she had a bunch of early 90's cards I'll never know) they will make for some good trade material and add to the collection.

1994 Fleer Pro-Visions #6 Juan Gonzalez

I was watching the Nolan Ryan No-Hitter #7 game on MLB Network a few days ago, and a young 21-year old slugger named Juan Gonzalez was blowing the Rangers fans away with his active bat and feel for the game. What Juan Gonzalez and the "Yellow Brick Road" have in common, I'll never know. Maybe I'm missing something here. I get the cattle brand, I get the guys on horses crossing the small fir-covered plains, but the Wizard of Oz reference is over my head.

1984 Ralston Purina #1 Eddie Murray

Now, the 1860's Conan O'Brian mustache I can appreciate. I love it, and just told my brother to shave his "greater chin area" so as to leave the "Casey Jones", as I like to call it.  This photo shoot was a bit impromtu, I'm sure.

Eddie Murray: Shoot, brotha. That practice was rough, doesn't he know this is spring training? This Miami heat is getting to me.

Floyd "Honey Bear" Rayford: Dig this - I know this hot spot on the beach we can suck down some cold ones and watch the ladies.

Murray: I can dig that. Let's go - hold up. We'll take my DeVille. 

Honey Bear: You got a DeVille? Dang, that just came out! How'd you get one?

Murray: Shoot, I'm Eddie muthaf****** Murray. They just SENT me one.

(enter photographer)

Photographer: Excuse me, um, Mr. Murray? Do you have time for a photo? It's for a baseball card.

Murray: What company?  Topps? Man, so many damn companies. I thought I already done the Topps and Donruss shoot.

Photographer: Well, it's for the new Ralston Purina cards.

Honey Bear:  Like the dog food? Shoot, since when dogs start collecting cards? My damn dog just sit there licking his self. He don't know sh*t bout cards.

Murray: I can dig that. But you late - I already showered myself, we bout to jet downtown and watch some beautiful ladies on the beach. Sorry brotha.

Photographer: Well, I have this jersey here, and here, take this cap. Just throw it on real quick and we'll be done. 

Murray: On top of my shirt? Man, that ain't cool brotha.

Honey Bear: Come on man, let's do this sh*t, I'm gettin thirsty. Damn.

Murray: Alright, give me the damn jersey.  Hold up, take it from the right. Get my good side. Sh*t.

1993 Score #324 Brewers Checklist

Good 'ol County Stadium. Or is it Cleveland Municipal Stadium. I get confused sometimes.  Let's focus on the important thing though: the wholesome, family-oriented midwest folks that filled the seats here at County Stadium wanted their advertising to be wholesome, just like them. Marlboro and Miller Lite. It doesn't get much more classic than that.

1993 Leaf Studio #110 Bo Jackson

Bo knows baseball. Bo knows football. And according to the back of the card, he also knows fishing, hunting, and flying. He would have been an F-15 pilot had he not been an athlete. And his pet peeve? Racism.

1986 Topps Glossy Send-In #11 Darryl Strawberry

He played semi-pro ball in St. Paul, MN for the "St Paul Saints". We played our high school football games at the same stadium the Saints called home.  Good story, Dubbs. Thanks for sharing. Oh ya? Well, at least I didn't make a cocaine joke. That's just not called for. 

1994 Topps #80 Jose Canseco

I can go a number of different ways with this one. Maybe it's the fact that he looks moody and angry. Maybe it's the fact that he's sitting alone. Maybe he was able to see what the '94 Topps cards were going to look like before they were released. Absolutely ridiculous. I hate this set, even more than the '91 Topps.  Or, maybe he's wishing even slightly resembled this piece of lumber. Ah, the joys of steroids.  

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I've Entered the Realm of TTM

A couple weeks ago I sent off roughly 25 or so TTM autograph requests to various players who either currently or previously called Milwaukee or one of its affiliate cities home.  The previous Brewers went out first - now they range from retired civilian to minor league manager, major league manager, or even a farmer. Today, I recieved a self-addressed (and stamped) envelope back from said farmer. He currently calls upstate South Carolina home, and operates a well-sized farm. In his free time, he coaches a bit of baseabll. His name is Billy Spiers.

1991 Upper Deck #268
1993 Upper Deck #325

1994 Score #105

Gosh, I love that 1993 Upper Deck set. This is one of my all-time favorite cards, it's such a great action shot. Thanks Billy for sending these cards back to me.  I received these cards only 11 days after I mailed them. I know he's not involved in spring training like most of the other TTM requests I sent out, but pretty cool he took the time to get these right back into the mail to some Brewers fan marooned somewhere in Washington State.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Justice At Last!

I came home today to find an envelope from Duryea, PA, and I immediately knew it was from the "fine" folks at Topps.

Inside I found a letter, and two small manilla envelopes. This had to be the response to my recent 2009 Topps Series 1 debacle. I must admit, I was very suprised to hear from them this quickly. They told me it'd be between 2-4 business weeks, which translates roughly to "around the all-star break".  Thankfully, it was sooner than that. 

Here's the letter...

Immediately I was filled with confusion. Why have you gone through the trouble of sending me a package with delivery confirmation, and what I'm assuming are my relic card and my WBC redemption card (in the small manilla envelopes) if the letter opens up with "...we are unable to comply with your request due to insufficient proof of purchase". Really? I guess at some point, the decision was made to not comply with my request. However, the little attached piece of paper that reads "Replaced as a one time courtesy" which was obviously not part of the original letter, suggests someone at that horrible company had a change of heart, and decided that hosing over someone who contributes quite nicely to their annual profit margin would indeed not be the prudent or just course of action. Instead, they sent me my two cards, and once again all is right in the world of Cheese & Beer.

Before I reveal the relic card they sent me, I'll share a thought that crossed my mind between sending off my letter and now. If they are merely responding to someone that just didn't happen to the cards they should have (after all, it's 1 per box "on average") wouldn't they just send me the crappiest one, or if nothing else, the first one they picked on the stack and threw into an envelope? And if this is the case, how can I possibly get an unbiased and random selection in the process? I came to the conclusion that I was going to get screwed over, regardless the card they sent me in return. 

And so I give to you the "1 per box (on average) relic or autograph card" that should have been sent to me in the first place...

2009 Topps #CBR-RB Ryan Braun Career Best game-worn jersey

Are my eyes playing tricks on me? Immediately, I had my wife verify what my eyes were certainly telling me was a blatant lie. Turns out, what I saw in front of me was indeed a Ryan Braun jersey card, the exact card that I had hoped to pull from my hobby box in the first place! How could this be? I then checked the letter that I wrote to the folks at Topps and nothing on the envelope or in the letter would tell them that I was a Brewers fan, let alone a huge Ryan Braun fan and collector. This indeed, was the Divine Hand in action. I have no other explanation, and I refuse to label this as "just a random coincidence". 

I'm the guy who never wins a contest, be it a radio call-in contest, or a drawing for the new car at the mall.  I always get picked last for random lottery selections (i.e. when we went to see Metallica back in 2000,  they handed out tickets and then called a random number, and that would be the starting place for the line. My number was the one before the one they called). Regardless, I am now the proud owner of a Ryan Braun game-worn jersey card.

In addition,  I also recieved my World Baseball Classic redemption card...


Around roughly the time my third child will be born (we still haven't met child #1, by the way) my WBC redemption card should arrive. I am the proud future-owner of Redemption Card whenever they announce who that one is, I can start using that as a bartering chip in trading.

Indeed, justice has been served. Thank you Topps, for "redeeming" yourselves. 

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Nothing "Topps" Raceday

...except for baseball. And since there isn't any baseball until Wednesday, I once again find myself watching the prerace coverage on Speed channel.  While I do this, I'll share with you the two packs of 2007 Topps that I was given yesterday by the card shop owner "just for stopping by". No Brewers, but I already have those so no worries.

#488 Fernando Rodney, #649 Brian Barden

#572 Alex Escobar, #345 Joe Borowski
Apparently the folks at Topps could care less about Mr. Borowski. Of all 22 cards in these two packs, his is the ONLY one without a writeup complementing the stats. Nothing at all to say about him. So, I'll do their job for them. "Joe Borowski grew up in Bayonne, New Jersey and attended Rutgers University. Bayonne, New Jersey is also the hometown of Jeff Sciscilo, college friend of Dubbs, author of the blog Cheese & Beer."  See, how hard was that?? I guess he had a worse 2008 than Eric Gagne, and was DFA by the Tribe on July 4th, and released six days later. Any more info on his whereabouts, Motherscratcher?

#653 Classic Combos Sean Casey & Placido Polanco, #502 Brian Roberts

After 10 seasons with the O's, Roberts just signed a 4-year, $40 Million extension to ensure he keeps playing his home games at Camden Yards. I have been in my current position for almost 6 years now, and should I re-enlist for an additional 4 years, my gross pay cannot top about .4% of that amount...geez, I'm in the wrong line of work.

#MHR386 Mickey Mantle HR 386

I know the guy was a great ballplayer, but at what point did we canonize him as a saint? Many other ballplayers are more deserving than Mantle of the years and years of subsets and inserts devoted to a single person, so let's put a little money into the R&D departments at Topps and Upper Deck and find out who else was playing baseball in this country prior to the 1970's.

#413 Coco Crisp, #474 Michael Young

The worst name in baseball, followed by one of the most underrated players in baseball. But back to Crisp. What were his parents smoking when they named him? I'm not even talking about his nickname that has replaced his "christian" name. His birth name is Covelli Loyce Crisp. Really? Covelli Loyce? Last I checked, neither of those words are actually names. I wish I could just make shit up and call it a name. Maybe I'll name my kids Shipoopi and Homosayswhat. Ya, I like those names. 

#604 San Diego Padres 

Petco Park. If you ever have the opportunity to visit southern California and make it to San Diego, there are three spots you HAVE to visit:
  1. Fumari Hookah Bar (330 G. Street, San Diego). By far, the coolest thing you can do with a hookah legally. They have many homemade tobacco blends, any of them will make you pleased with your selection. I recommend the White Peach. Mmm...
  2. The Yard House (1023 4th Avenue, San Diego). With over 160 beers on tap, this place will make any visit worth it. Make sure you enjoy yourself a "yard of beer". Beware, though, if you should wander downstairs to the restroom. You are forced to pass their full-view keg room, a view of which has sent many to the emergency room.
  3. Petco Park (100 Park Blvd, San Diego). One of the greatest ballparks in the country. The San Diego weather surely aids to it, but the downtown setting, beautiful architecture, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale on tap, and outfield lawn that allows for dog owners to watch the game for FREE make it one of the league's best. 
#GN245 Ryan Zimmerman Generation Now

He sure started off hot last year, showing that he's a guy who will likely be the face of the Nationals franchise for a while. They look to sign him to a multi-year deal before the season opener, so we'll see.  

Pack 2 - I'm running out of time before the race starts (go #48!) so I'm just going to throw this 2nd pack at you, no offense to you fans of any of these players and/or teams.

#354 Chris Ianetta, #MMS21 Mickey Mantle Story 21

#519 Alex Rios, #619 Bud Black

# 534 Terrmel Sledge, #492 Michael Barrett

#498 Jarrod Washburn, Series 2 Checklist 3 of 3

#TS14 Lance Berkman, #443 Mike Cameron

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Random Prince Sighting

After hours of shopping and walking through antique mall after antique mall (only 1 having any baseball cards whatsoever, all high-end 1950's cards) with the wife on a beautiful saturday afternoon, we stopped by a small card shop that put an ad on craigslist trying to get some foot traffic. I went through their top loader bin, and came up with these two beauties. I offered him $8.00 for the pair, and took them home (with 2 free packs of '07 Topps Series 2 cards just for stopping by). 

2002 Upper Deck Draft Day Gems #237  Prince Fielder

2002 Upper Deck Minor League Baseball #41 Prince Fielder

Here, the card shows the Beloit Snappers (former class-A affiliate of the Brewers) logo, but the wording and picture show him with the Ogden Raptors (rookie ball). That's how quickly he progressed through the system. 

Nice cards here, bought them for $8.00 together, and on ebay right now I can buy them for $30.00 together. Graded, I can get $90.00 for the pair. Nice! Glad I came across them, and proud of the random find today.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Trade with I Heart Halos

What started out as a simple "my guys for your guys" trade turned into quite a score. Not only did Ryan send me a nice lot of Brewers cards, he also was kind enough to send me a stack of cards from my '87 Topps wantlist, and he did so unannounced and unsolicited. Thanks, Ryan.

Here are some of the Brewers cards he sent me. I must say, also, that of all the cards he sent me, only 3 were already in my collection. Sweet!

2007 Topps Finest #144 Vinny Rottino RC (#'d 189/399)

Some guys catch all the breaks (Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder) showing nothing but potential and producing results in a farm system, immediately catching the attention of the front office, and are able to fill spots in the big league club's lineup right away.  Other guys, like Vinny Rottino, unfortunately find themselves in a tough spot: all the skill, talent, and ability in the world, but his position is quite amply filled on the big league roster. He and Tony Gwynn Jr. are in the same boat. Only CF will open up AFTER this season is over, because Ryan Braun and Corey Hart are here for a while, and are doing quite well. After the Brewers signed Trevor Hoffman in the offseason, Vinny was DFA and accepted a AAA assignment in Nashville.  I just sent Vinny a couple cards at Spring Training, I just wish this had been one of them!

2007 SP Authentic Speed #AS-41 Rickie Weeks

I always love me some Rickie Weeks cards. Of all the current Brewers, for whatever reason, I have the most of his cards. I like him, just wish he performed better. Hopefully this year he will.

Milwaukee has been a franchise lost in mediocrity (and more often than not, just bad baseball) amid the sea of huge media markets and even larger team payrolls. Over the years, though, the Brewers have always had a way of milking their farm system for all its worth. And, as a result, have enjoyed those 1 or 2 "marquee" players who have helped the franchise weather the storm. Enter Greg Vaughn, who played through the club's minor league system, broke through into The Show, blasted a bunch of home runs, and just this past couple months found himself for the first time on the Hall of Fame ballot. Next, we have Jeff Cirillo, who found his MLB legs in a Brewers uniform, played for a couple other clubs, came back to Milwaukee, played for a couple more clubs, and was last seen as a broadcaster on FSN-Wisconsin's coverage of the Brewers games. Nothing spectacular, but better than Harold Reynolds. Oh, don't get me started....ok.  Finally, we have Geoff Jenkins. During the most recent dark ages of Brewers baseball, Jenkins carried the franchise. He always put up good numbers, became the face of Milwaukee baseball, and found his way to #2 on the Brewers all-time HR list, behind the one and only Robin Yount. I'm glad for him that he finally got to the World Series, and has a ring with the Phillies. You're welcome, Cliff.

2006 Upper Deck #1106 Laynce Nix

Nix is a great ballplayer, who didn't do enough with the opportunity in The Show that was given to him. Injuries don't help either, and unfortunatly for him he's been the victim of a few in his career. He signed a AAA contract w/ the Reds this offseason. He and Gabe Kapler were guys last year that were the serious physical specimens in the dugout. The guy is jacked.

2005 Topps Rookie Cup #68 Gary Sheffield

The nephew of former big-league pitcher Doc Gooden, Sheffield is a true product of the farm system, playing for all the minor league levels in the Milwaukee organization prior to hitting the big league. At one time, he accused the Milwaukee brass of racism because although he was always a formidable hitter, his defensive placement was always a challenge for the Brewers who had lots of talent on the field. Sadly, I won't be surprised when his name is listed in the annals of baseball lore as a juicer. It's a shame though, because the guy had some killer raw talent back in the day.

Last, but certainly not least, I'll finish up with a trio of Prince Fielder cards he sent me. Thanks again, Ryan.

By the way, if you're the one who keeps outbidding me EVERY SINGLE TIME I try to buy the Ryan Braun Lucky 13 card on eBay, please STOP!!!!  Thank you.

One tree at a time...

Just want to send a little shoutout and thanks to Ryan at I Heart Halos, as well as steveisjewish. Together they've helped me take a 57-card chunk out of my expansive '87 Topps wantlist. And, according to Steve, after he's settled in and unpacked from his recent move, he'll be taking me within 50 or so cards of completing the set. The man is a monster, and he's moving to a town in New York where several of my friends from college are originally from. I know this story is interesting, but not as interesting as the kids at his new local SUNY campus!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Card Show Results

Found my way down to the card show at the South Tacoma Antique Mall. I guess my only experiences of card shows were from when I was about 9 or 10 years old, Beckett used to print the card show schedule listed by states in the back of the baseball price guide, so my father would take my brother and me to those every once in a while. We would go to the one at the "Hudson House Inn" in Hudson, WI. A big banquet hall sort of room with probably 50 or so tables.
Well, this one had 12 tables, and although the prices of these cards has gone up a bit, it was still fun, and I only exceeded my budget by $4.00, so I was happy with that. Here's what I found...

2002 Flair Greats Bat Rack Classics Mathews/Molitor/Yount #'d (186/300)
2008 Upper Deck #99-JH J.J. Hardy jersey

2004 Leaf Century Collection #119 Robin Yount (#'d 246/250)
2005 UD Legendary Cuts #LE-PM Paul Molitor

2005 UD Classic Materials #MA-RY Robin Yount

And the pride and joy of this trip, the one that made the 1 hour drive, $4 Tacoma Narrows Bridge toll, and dangerous yet exciting excursion to the "South Side" of Tacoma well worth it...

2001 Donruss Elite Back 2 Back Jacks #BB-36 Yount/Molitor dual-bat (#'d 25/50)