The name of this blog is dedicated to my mother. Back in little league, my mother used to stand back behind home plate and give me that one, simple batting instruction: "get the bat off of your shoulder!"

Thursday, July 5, 2012

May need to re-dedicate this blog...

When I grew up in Orange County, California, we watched many, many Angels' games. We held season tickets from '73 to '76 - back when they cost about $500 for 4 field level seats for all 81 games.
We suffered through many a lousy season, but always enjoyed ourselves.

Tanana and Ryan and three days of cryin',,,

I really can't say that there was much of a rivalry between the Angels and anyone else - I mean, they really weren't that good in the early seventies. The one rivalry that we always enjoyed though was against the Rangers. A lot of my family is from Texas, and I live here now. But even with all that, I could not and would not ever cheer the Rangers. I don't hate them the way Red Sox and Yankees fans hate each other, or say Dodgers and Giants fans do. No, I don't hate Rangers at all. I root against them every game they're playing, but more in a friendly competitive way.

But I fear this is about to change.

And we have my mother to blame. My mother has always been my fellow Angels rooter. Heck, I even dedicated the site to her for the love of baseball she instilled in me as a kid. But a few months ago, my parents moved out to Texas so they could be near family seeing as how hardly any of our family is left in California. For the 4th of July, they had the first party in their new house.

She mentioned that she had some new keys made for the house, and wanted to show them to me.
Then she tossed them down on the table in front of me.

I didn't have any words for it. I looked up at her, my jaw dropped and she screamed Go Rangers! I think she thought it was funny.

My own mother.

She is definitely not going with us next trip to Arlington when Angels are in town.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

1969 Deckle Edge inserts, now and then

Topps cards have had inserts for as long as I can remember collecting.

As a kid, I don't recall coming across too many, but I had enough to make them special. There's the story booklets and posters from the '70 set, the scratch offs and metal coins from the '71 set. I have a few of each of these, but the oldest insert cards I have that I actually pulled myself from packs, are a pair of what is called "deckle edge" cards from the '69 set.

I have had them forever. For many years I didn't even keep them with my regular baseball card collection. They got to go in the special wooden chest full of odd trinkets such as a huge Bolivian coin that I was convinced was pirate treasure and a bright red plastic apple I stole from the Snow White ride at Disneyland on a dare. 

For many years, I really thought that the autographs were real. No one could convince me otherwise. I used to take the card out and stare at it and wonder where was Jim Fregosi sitting when he signed my card?
Did Don Kessinger know that it was *me* that had this one and only card that he signed?
Probably because of the blue ink, I was convinced they were real.
There have been many baseball card sets over the years that have had printed signature on them, but I am pretty sure they were all black and, to me at least, pretty obviously pre-printed.

Recently I bought a handful of 2012 Topps Archive. I pulled this Ichiro Suzuki deckle edged card from a pack and nearly dropped my shorts! A signed Ichiro Suzuki card! Wow! Look at that! It's right there in the blue ink! How did I get so lucky!.

It was a fun 10 minutes as I rushed over to look at eBay to see if this was really a signature, and how much these were going for. It didn't take long to realize that the printed ones had the blue ink signature too.
I cracked open the binder I have with all the odd-ball cards in it, and sure enough there were Jim Fregosi and Don Kessinger, signed names with blue ink, smiling at me, almost laughing, "You're still just a big kid, aren't you?"

Friday, June 8, 2012

Why can't cereal boxes be like this now?

This last weekend was a big "sports collectibles" show here in Houston. It's about as big a card show as we get here. More aimed toward football than baseball, only one of the dozen athletes doing signatures was a baseball player; Billy Williams. Interestingly, his autograph, and picture with him if you wanted, was only $55 - lowest of all the people at the show.

But what was great about attending this show was that I was with my dad! I have not been to a card show with my dad since... boy, maybe mid-80's, so this was a treat. 

There were some great framed photos, one in particular was Koufax winding up and delivering at Dodger Stadium. I think it was from his September 1965 no hitter. I was mesmerized by the photo. It was big, maybe foot-and-a-half by two feet, and Koufax took up whole picture, batter, ump and catcher just a blur in the foreground. Behind Koufax, in the distance, you could make out the scoreboard. It was framed, autographed and over $300. Which is not a lot of money considering, but I passed on it.

I only really brought lists for a couple sets I'm trying to finish, primarily the 1970 Topps. After looking around for an hour, I had sort of given up hope when the best price I could find for the 7th series no-name high-number guys was like $7.
Not gonna happen.
Rick Reichardt? $7?
$6.75 for Duffy Dyer?
I'll pass.
I bought Hank Aaron and Roberto Clemente in this set for $7 and $4.50, respectively. No way am I paying $7 for a common, I don't care how rare someone thinks it's "high" number is.
Unfortunately for the guys selling this stuff - I've seen Sportslots. 

I'm just about to leave empty handed when the last table on the way out has a dollar box and the tab dividers are all 60's and 50's. Jackpot!
I found a handful of these 1962 Post cards. They were so worn and loved and beautiful that I knew I had to have them. Of the 10 Angels in the Post set, here were 4 of them at a buck each. One great thing about collecting the Angels is that other than Nolan Ryan, (and apparently 1970 Topps Rick Reichardt!), there aren't too many high dollar cards.


I like these, and the poorly cut edges only make them more fun for me. I am reminded of a time when getting a treat from the morning cereal box was a huge part of a kid's life!

My dad even bought me a card! How about that? He ponied up the dollar for Steve Bilko! Thanks pop!
Steve Bilko was a big part of my dad's childhood baseball. He grew up in Los Angeles, which back in the 1700's when he was a kid, had no Major League teams.
But they did have the Pacific Coast League, which meant Los Angeles Angels and Hollywood Stars.
Dad's favorite player with the Angels was Bilko, because the guy used to rip the cover off the ball and send many a kid home with a souvenir. Here's a pic of Bilko that I "borrowed" from the LA Times archives.

Thanks dad!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

I lost out on Dock Ellis over a nickel?!?

I lost out on this beautiful card over a mere five cents. 

To be fair, I was distracted. I was watching Jered Weaver's no-hitter in progress and seriously regretting that second helping of garlic mashed potatoes.

But still... When I came across this card of Dock Ellis, I just knew I needed it. Not wanted it. Needed it.

And it was $0.99 with $0.99 shipping and no bids on it and due to end in an hour! I put my $0.99 bid down and I was sure it was mine because, well, I don't know, but I was just sure it was mine and that no one else would show up and bid on it. I went back to loosening my belt and watching Weaver and the Angels beat up on one of only other teams in the league, playing worse than they are. 

I know better! Down inside I knew better, but beer, veal and mashed potatoes were piled up on top of my inner voice and I couldn't hear it! I know that if I want a card, I need to put in the highest amount I'm willing to pay, not just the next amount up! But no... too distracted by the potential of seeing Weaver throw a no-hitter.

So an hour or so later, after the Angels get the last out and the stadium erupts in to excitement and everyone is hugging and I'm still trying to loosen my belt enough to be comfortable - I remember Dock Ellis, and that I need to go and pay for my card. His card is not up there on the main screen, so I look for the " you have to pay for 1 auction" link, but not seeing it... I go to the Didn't Win page and there's Dock. He's very disappointed in me. I look at that mesmerizing psychedelic design, and right next to it, it says $1.04 in red letters. I cried a little. 

The guy selling this card is just down the road from me. (Note: in Texas, 97 miles is just down the road). I know this because I've bought some other cards from him. I briefly consider driving down there tonight, offer him a $1.05 and see if he'd go for it. Hell, I was ready to offer $1.10.

But enough of my whining, I at least have a picture of the card to admire. I do not know why but I have always been fascinated with the idea that Dock Ellis could pitch a game, much less throw a no-hitter on acid. I am also mesmerized by that design.

Oh well, probably another one will come up eventually. Let's hope. 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Trade with Jeff @ Cardboard Catastrophe

Jeff at Cardboard Catastrophe sent me a big pile of 2011 Update, some Heritage and some Lineage. A trio of the Heritage Chrome. I did not even realize these were numbered #/1962.

The stack of 2011 Lineage included some current Hall of Famers members, some definite future Hall members and some guys, who like me, will only ever get to Cooperstown on a tour bus.

Thanks a ton Jeff, I do hope you are eventually able to use the database I sent you.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Trade with Michael @ Nomo's Sushi Platter

Michael sent me a big pile of cards off my lists, just out of the blue! He sent along some Lineage, some 2012 '87 minis, some 2011 update even a sticker!

Very cool, I appreciate it very much. I was looking through his want lists and I don't have too much from his lists, so I had to really dig through the boxes to find some goodies to send him. Hope you enjoy them, and thanks very much for the trade!

Trade with Matt @ 26 Cent Summer

After a short business trip, I arrive back home to find a fat envelope from Matt over at 26 Cent Summer - I am back home and catching up on mail!

Matt sent a ton of 2011 Heritage, Series 1, Series 2 and Update.

Also in there are the last 4 pieces to the 1992 Topps puzzle. Set is wrapped up now! Thanks very much Matt! I look forward to trading again!

Friday, March 2, 2012

How do you organize your cards?

A few years ago, Hurricane Ike dropped a tree on my garage roof, letting water down all over my prized possessions. In reality, though, very little of importance was ruined, a bunch of paperbacks we'd already read, a lot of shoes that no one even wore, toys and dollhouses that no one had played with in years... crap mostly.

Except the baseball cards. 

I keep my baseball cards in Rubbermaid containers, originally to prevent bugs, coons, possums and other vermin from nesting in there. None of them had water damage except one... Only one container was damaged, and some water leaked in. A few football and hockey, and part of a '76 Topps baseball set were ruined, but in reality, I was pretty lucky.

At the time, I realized how really sad I would have been if all those baseball cards I'd been collecting over the course of my life had been destroyed. It was not the money value of these cards, it was my emotional connection with them. I decided I'd try to insure them, and was happy to find out that my homeowner's policy would cover them, though I needed to be able to provide precise list of all the cards.

I searched and searched for any software that could do what I wanted to do, and could not find anything useful. I knew I would have to write my own. I decided I'd use Microsoft Access as it is very easy to use, has forms for the UI and a capable report writer, if I wanted one. While I was a programmer at one point in my career, I really didn't want the project to be "work".

The top left is where you select a set to work with, after selecting the set, the lower left fills with each card in the set. If you click a card in the, the image of it loads as does the inventory for that card. If I wanted to add a card to inventory, I double-click the card list in lower left. Pretty straightforward.

It isn't pretty, but it does everything I need it to do, and I don't really have anyone to please but myself! Before you ask, no, I didn't type every single card in by myself. Some wonderful person behind Trading Card Database has done the work for me. I just copy his lists, paste to text file, import the text in to Excel, manipulate the rows as I need adding set ID numbers, sub set ID numbers, display order, etc, then I copy all those rows right in to the database table. I'm mostly finished adding in the set definitions, but a long long way from entering my inventory of cards in to the tables. But it's a labor of love, and it can be very relaxing. So, really, I do not mind.

I gave each card record a link to an image file, should I be crazy enough to want to actually scan every card I own some day. Very doubtful... Also, the database is linked with Sean Lahman's database, so should I get free time some day, I can link each card's represented player to his stats, personal data and so on. If you're not familiar with Lahman's, it's essentially the backend to the baseball-reference website. For now, though, it's a work in process, a pasttime that combines my love of cards with my love of programming.

I was curious how do all of you keep track of your collections?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

1992 Baseball Cards Magazine - White Sox

I was looking for some 1970 Topps and I came across these cards on eBay, which showed up because they're in the "style" of 1970 Topps. I knew nothing about them, but apparently they came out of some  baseball card magazine, aptly named, "Baseball Cards".  I'm a sucker for a Tim Raines card, and for $1.19 for 7 cards, all of players I'd heard of, I pulled the trigger. There's a current Hall of Famer and another who will no doubt be in the Hall when his name comes up on the ballot.

Frank Thomas looks so baby-faced young here. Fisk looks old. Thigpen is just happy to be here, isn't he? Remember when that 50+ save season seemed so amazing? 40+ saves now is so common, even last place teams have closers with that many saves. But back then, it was so completely amazing. It was like Denny McClain winning 30 games.

Rock n Robin. Get it? That was pretty clever of me. Plus Jorge Bell. I can remember when he was Jorge. Aparentamente los gueros no podian pronunciar "Jorge"... Que barbaridad!

I prefer this picture of Robin, though. Old man has him in a headlock. Old man that made his big league debut before Robin was even born!

The card backs are interesting, though they have no stats. That's unAmerican. But it does have a cartoon, which is cool, and something today's no-nonsense cards seem to be missing. We even get some investment advice! You can tell this card is from 1992, giving such advice as buying Jack McDowell cards as some kind of sound investment. Be honest, how many of you stuck those Tiffany boxes of '89 Topps away, secure that in 20 years you'd sell them and buy a yacht?

Donruss Action All-Stars

I received a surprise trade package in the mail. Surprise because I hadn't sent this person anything, but the sender's return address was very familiar. Wait... a trade package from my mom! Yeah, that's right. Even old men have mommas who still send them goodies!

Inside were about 15 packs of '83, '84 and '85 Donruss Action All-Stars postcard-sized cards.

I was out visiting my parents a few weeks back, and took my nephew to the card store there. The store had a bucket full of packs of cards from the Period of Excessive Printing, as I like to call the 80's. I was there to get my nephew a birthday gift, and forgot to pick up anything for myself. So, I mentioned to my mom that they had those cards for $0.50 a pack and if she wouldn't mind grabbing me all they had next time she went by there. Which she did! I forgot to get them myself because I was too busy trying to talk my nephew in to picking something for a birthday gift. He was too shy to say what he wanted, so I just mailed him a big stack of Yankees when I got back home.

There's half of me that wants to set this young lad of 9 off the path of Yankee fandom and on the correct path of Angel fandom, but it just isn't going to happen. He does have an excuse though, and it's one I can forgive him for. His great-great-grandfather, Ernie Johnson played for the Yankees back in the 20's. He even played with Babe Ruth. Ernie's son Don Johnson also played pro ball, for the Cubs during the 40's. I try to get him to like the Cubs, but he will just not be dissuaded from his love of the Yankees, so I won't stand in the way. As long as Topps sets overload me with Yankee inserts, I have someone who would love to have them. 

I only vaguely remember these Donruss postcard sized cards at the time they were released. 1981 to about 1985, when I was in college, are dry years in my card collection. I have few cards that I personally bought in packs at that time.

The photos on these cards are great, especially when you compare them to the initial '81 and '82 Donruss sets. Of the three different varieties she sent, I am not sure which I like best. I like bits of all of them. The photography on the '85 set is best, but I would prefer the head closeup was not there. The '84 back design is pretty cool, but, at least of the 10 I have, the pictures are not very exciting, as you can see from the Garvey above. He looks like he's playing for the company soft ball team. The '83 set has some of the best action shots of all, but they made it secondary to the huge face picture and the tons of grey background.
One of the best things though, are the backs. First off, I can read them without squinting, or holding the card away from my face. And there are fielding stats on there, like PO, Assists and Errors.

The best part though was the note that came in the package, probably some loving affectionate letter from my mother, right? No. It was a note telling me I owed her $7. Plus shipping... Oh well. Thanks mom!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Trade with Kevin @ St. Louis Cardinals Cards

Kevin and I made a small trade, he needed some 2012 Topps Cardinals and I needed a few 2012 Topps as I inch closer to a complete set!

At first I thought that Hagadone's uniform was a throwback, but apparently I missed the memo where the Indians changed their road uniform last year.

That Chacin card reminds me of photo composition from the '73 set. Well, to be fair, if it were a '73 card, the pitcher would be 2/3 blocked out by the batter.

Kevin, thanks for the trade! 18 more cards to finish 2012 Series 1. Anyone want to trade?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Trade with Matt @ Card Anathema

I received a big pile of 2011 Topps from Matt at Card Anathema today. I was sitting there talking with my youngest daughter, and talking her through building the solar system with styrofoam balls. I've done this at least 6 or 7 times, but I was enjoying this one because it may be the last one. And it made me a little sad, in thinking on that. With the last of the four oldest kids finishing high school this year and the oldest off to medical school, that just leaves the two little girls at home. It really gets you to thinking of your own mortality. And doing this project reminds me *again* about how Pluto has been demoted to dwarf. I told her to just add that 9th styrofoam ball. She rolled her eyes, "Dad, it isn't a planet! Ms. so-and-so says it isn't a planet anymore!"

Anyhow, I was so distracted thinking on this, that while checking off the 2011 cards Matt sent in my database, I preceded to put them in the binder and I am embarrassed to say I didn't scan any of them! But Matt made a big dent in that set, and I am appreciative. I made myself a challenge to complete 2011 set, all 990 of them, completely in trades. We'll see if I can do it!

The Updates and Highlights cards he sent along, I did get to scan those. 

 Love this action shot with Ankiel diving, and the throwback uniform on Haren.

Some great pitching shots, I hope the one of Thompson is a warm up toss, because he's not going to intimidate any batter with that cheery countenance!

Always a fan of cards with dirty uniforms. Great shot of Napoli and with an Angel batting! I think that's Callaspo, but truthfully I am not positive. I don't recall Callaspo being that tall and stocky. I'll have to figure it out.

Big thank you to Matt, appreciate the trade!


Monday, February 20, 2012

First, and probably last Check Out My Cards purchase

For some reason, I was looking through my 1970 Topps and realizing I had only a single Angel from that year. Just one! I went online and started looking through Check Out My Cards and realized there were tons of that set in the $0.20 to $0.25 range. Granted, these are all low numbers, but still, '83 Donruss commons seem to go for that much.

  I picked up a few Dodgers, a few Angels and I even grabbed a few Astros. Nobody hugely famous, but plenty of guys I know and remember fondly from my childhood.

  The back of Foster's card says that he signed for a reported $100,000 in 1965. Seems like a pittance compared to what guys sign for nowadays, hell Bryce Harper probably made that much last week just from Topps alone. But to put 100,000 1965 dollars in perspective for you, consider that my parents bought a new house in 1965 for just under 10,000. Disgusting, isn't it? I think I bought a '94 Honda for that much.

The 1970 set is, I think, the last set to not feature a single action shot, not counting the World Series subset. Nothing but foul zone, batting cage and dugout posing here. In a way it's comforting.

Here's a trio of hurlers, Rooker, Torrez and enjoy the awesomeness that is Gene Brabender here. All time leader in Wins for the Seattle Pilots. Gene looks like someone's uncle here, or put some Dickies on him and he could be the guy who fixed your brakes last week.

Bob Moose has a big old wad of chew there. You just don't see guys chewing tobacco anymore. I tried it once. I saw some guy wrap bubble gum around wad of leaves once, and stick it in his cheek. One day in little league, I figured I would try the same thing. I had that sucker in my cheek for all of about 3 pitches and my whole world started spinning. The coach came out and I told him I was about to toss up that Big Del Burrito I had for lunch right there on the mound, and that if it was OK by him, could I please go do it over behind the backstop, away from everyone else. That was my last time trying tobacco. Momma definitely did not raise no fool.

Speaking of my last time, I don't figure I'll buy more cards from Check Out My Cards either. The initial thrill of finding cards for 0.20 went away when I ended up paying more than that per card for "packing". Forget that. $25.00 in cards was $3.65 to ship, and another $24.75 in penny sleeves. Give me a break. I'll probably stick to eBay and SportLots from here on out.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Trade with Robert @ $30 a week habit

I received a package from Robert at $30 a week habit! This is my second trade with Robert, he was a big help whittling down 2011 Heritage last fall.

Robert sent me a handful of 2012 Topps, including many inserts. Pictured here, Kemp and Braun - the Alpha and the Omega of the 2012 Topps Series 1 set, cards 1 and 330. Also this lovely Dee Gordon. The quality of the photos in 2012 is outstanding. In this one, could just be the angle, but Chipper is sure taking a wide slide!

Also in the pack are some 2011 Lineage, which I'm getting closer to finishing off that set. I know I could just go buy the rest, but I'm enjoying trading to get them. If you're in the same position and want to trade, check out my 2011 Topps Lineage wants/have list.

Among the many awesome 2012 inserts Robert sent is this great shot of Andre Dawson in a Sox uniform. Something that would make these Gold Standard inserts better is toss the gold embossed coin, move the achievement text up and put the player's signature.
Also received a Lineage Kyle Drabek.
I have high hopes for him. I have this thing about tracking the minor league nobodies that get traded for a big name. First time I heard of Kyle Drabek with the Blue Jays, there was something about him that sounded so familiar, but of course I just figured it was because of that last name, and that he was son of former Pirate Doug Drabek.  But after looking at his biography and seeing that he went to Woodlands High (The Woodlands is a city just north of Houston and a hop and a jump from me) I realized I'd actually seen him pitch in a high school game vs. (I think) Spring High.
Drabek seems he was roughed up a bit last year throwing for Toronto, but hopefully he gets his cup on straight this year and shows 'em what a Texan can do.

Thanks for the trade, Robert, looking forward to the next one!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Thank You, Gary

I always enjoyed watching Gary Carter play baseball. He clearly loved every minute of it.

In 1986, when not only did the Angels win the AL West, but Houston took the NL West, I could not be happier. And when Game 5 was on TV, ex-Angel Nolan Ryan on the mound, I felt on top of the world and confident it would be an Angels-Astros World Series. 

Nolan Ryan was almost perfect that afternoon,but so was Doc Gooden. When they pulled Ryan in the top of the 10th for a pinch hitter, I couldn't really blame Lanier. Even with 2 outs and bases empty, I still thought, if this works, I'll forgive it. Terry Puhl did get a hit, heck he even stole second off you! But nothing came of it and that was the last hit the Astros managed.

A couple more 1-2-3 innings, and bottom of the 12th sees Wally Backman reach base, a failed pickoff and he's down at second... oh the shame. Then you come up, you slap that single out there, clean beautiful stroke of a single, scoring Backman, winning the game and basically putting the nail in the Houston balloon.
I know everyone loves a walk-off home run, but that single that afternoon was so perfect I could only admire you for it.

I will miss you Gary, thanks for the great memories! 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

I finally did it...

I finally pulled the plastic cover off of a Topps Finest! Boy, it felt good!

I have a handful of these Topps Finest. I can't say I have any memory of buying them, but I have them. Back in the good old days when card shops were plentiful, I used to buy a lot of cards of sets I never intended to complete. Twelve years later, I find them in a box, a pack of Topps Finest, still in the their clear protective wrappers.
I looked carefully at it, at that plastic skin on it that reads "Peel and Remove Coating".
And I did. I peeled it and I removed it! Damn, now this $0.50 card is worth $0.45. Oh well. 

Thinking back, the short period of time Mo spent with the Angels is a blur. It was a quick couple years, he hit really well, beat the crap out of the ball. But I think I most remember him for hurting himself. In fact, it's because of him, that every time we get some new player for the Angels, I have this little voice in the back of my head saying, "he's gonna fall, he's gonna fall." If you don't know, on Mo's first game as an Angel, he tripped down dugout stairs and sprained his ankle. Eventually that injury forced him to sit out the entire 2001 season, with the Angels eventually dumping him to the Mets for Kevin Appier.

I remember after the trade, and Mo was no longer an Angel, that was when the trash talk started up. Troy Percival made some statement about "Mo's bat will be missed, but not his leadership. Erstad is our leader now". To which Mo replied, "[Expletive Deleted] Angels haven't done [Expletive Deleted] in this game! They ain't got no flags hanging at [Expletive Deleted] Edison Field, so the [Expletive Deleted] with them."

That fall, the Angels indeed added their first and only flag to hang at [Expletive Deleted] Edison Field! And where was I? In the Philippines, a 16 hour flight, a 12 hour boat ride and a 4 hour bus ride away from Anaheim Stadium... I missed every single game of the playoffs that year. Oh well. Maybe this year.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Opening Day - 1997

Looking for some Diamondback cards for a trade, I started looking through a box of cards labeled "Misc." The "Misc" boxes are for cards like Pacific, Sportflics, Denny's Holograms, or Burger King cards. I guess any cards that don't have enough of them to warrant their own 800-count box. I pulled a inch-thick group of them from the middle and the first card I see is this one.

Todd Greene.

I had not thought about Greene in years, but as soon as I saw this card, memories of  Spring Training 1997 came rolling in like the first wave of patrons at Golden Corral. 1997 marked the end of the California Angels and the first season as the Anaheim Angels. I hated the name change, and especially the new uniform. There's nothing wrong with pinstripes, per se, but if you're not used to seeing your team in them, it's just really disconcerting. And the winged "A" and the periwinkle blue! That's a color you see at a paint store, or on a box of lady's shoes, or even on some pikey's caravan, but not on a baseball team! 

But in '97 I was focused not on the uniform but on who was to be the next big thing. Todd Greene was him, he was going to be the next big thing! Everything I'd read about him in the LA Times sounded like he was going to sock the cover off the ball and nail anyone trying to even think of stealing second. Even though during the off-season, the Angels picked up Jim Leyeritz from the Yankees, I could not be dissuaded from my belief that the stocky power-punching catcher from Georgia would be wearing the glove and set up behind the plate come opening day.

I wanted to be there to see this, so I got my tickets, which for first time in years were actually tough to get... oooh, because we were playing Boston! Lineup cards are handed to the umps, and shortly they're displayed on the scoreboard.

Let's see, Greene isn't batting 3rd, not 4th, not 5th, 6th... I don't see him on there at all. The "C" is next to Jim Leyeritz's name. Huh? This can't be. Where's my catcher of the future? Oh, he's over on the bench.

Mark Langston pitches well, and the Angels take a 5-2 lead in to the top of the 9th inning. Out to the mound comes psycho closer Troy Percival. To most people, the game is wrapped up. As Anaheim Stadium has never been a hotbed of diehard fandom, the stands start to empty... The exodus had quietly begin with the 3rd out of the bottom of the 8th, but now it's really in full swing and things are starting to clear out.

Percival starts off the 9th by dropping Darren Bragg with a weak "oops" swing for strike three.
More fans start to get up, gather their stuff.
Nomar Garciaparra goes down swinging.
Now even actual long-time fans are standing up and getting their stuff together.
John Valentin comes up and slaps a double somewhere, seriously, I wasn't even looking at that point, I was picking up and getting ready to leave.
No problem, Mo Vaughn comes up, Percival very intelligently walks him.
Reggie Jefferson comes up, I'm watching out the corner of my eye, waiting to see that strikeout or weak ground ball so I can start heading out.
Jefferson hits a grounder and DiSarcina just can't do anything with it, so Jefferson is safe at first.
Bases loaded.
But 2 outs and a 3 run lead... Just get a ground ball and throw it anywhere!

Next batter... walk! in comes a run.
Next batter... another walk! another run comes in!

I'm being brief with the descriptions, but my stomach is in knots at this point.
Next batter... Percival plunks him and forces in the tying run!

I scream so loudly that I wake up sleeping babies as far away as Brea and Yorba Linda.

Finally Percival gets the hook and manager Terry Collins bring in... hell, I don't remember because I was leaving!
Yes, me, the one who throws empty paper cups at "fans" who bail from the game before the last out, I'm leaving.
I could not watch another minute of it.
I'm almost down the ramp to the main floor, when I can hear the moaning and groaning coming from the field.
Some guy near me with his radio says, "they got a hit! They just took the lead!", like it was exciting news. I wanted to punch him.
It was a quiet drive home.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Tommy Lasorda - 1978 Topps #189

Bob Lemke created a custom card of Tommy Lasorda in the style of 1956 Topps. It's a terrific looking card and it got me to thinking back on Lasorda's 1978 Topps card. The manager cards in the '78 set are unique in that they devote half of the horizontal design to a present photo as manager, and the other half to a black and white photo as a player. Nothing quite like it has been done before or since.

In those days, Spring Training meant gather around the TV to watch KTLA and see Dodger Blue bash the Giants around Vero Beach. That was why we tuned it. Sure, beating the Reds is fun, or maybe the Cardinals, but when it comes down to it, if you're a Dodger fan, you want to see the Giants go down. I've loved the Angels since I was old enough to walk, but seriously, if they televised 5 Angel games a year in the 60's or early 70's, it would have been a miracle. If you wanted to watch baseball on TV, it was Dodgers or annoying Garagiola on NBC Saturday morning baseball. McCarver was still actually playing, so we didn't have to endure him just yet.

I still remember Vin Scully telling us about Farmer John sausages, I bet to this day he mutters "corn fed, Eastern bred" in his sleep. This Saturday morning, Mr. Scully finishes telling us about sausage and passes things over to Jerry Doggett down on the field in Vero. I'm waiting to see Garvey or Cey we instead get some chubby guy with a big grin and he's awfully touchy. I mean, he just hugged Jerry Doggett! You don't just hug Jerry Doggett, that's not cool.

Who knows what I thought at that time. Is he a rookie? Is he a coach? Who is this guy? He's so fat!
Then Doggett calls him "manager" and I'm thinking... um, no, Walter Alston is manager. Alston has been manager my whole life. Alston has been manager most of my dad's life. Walter Alston will be the Dodger manager long after I've passed on.

But then he says it again. "Tommy Lasorda, Dodger's manager".

This Lasorda guy keeps talking and talking and Doggett is probably loving it because, let's face it, Jerry does not talk much. Scully was the color man, Scully always handled play-by-play for at least 8 of the 9 innings. At some point Scully had to go pee, probably, and that's the only time you heard Doggett do play-by-play.

Tommy Lasorda. Dodger's Manager. That's going to take some getting used to.

As weird as it was, I got over it. The '77 Dodgers were one of the greatest teams to ever take the field. They went to the World Series then ended up losing to the stinking Yankees. But I'd seen the Yankees whip the Angels many times, I was used to it.

Nolan Ryan - 1993 Mother's Cookies #9.

I've had this card for a long time, I never really paid much attention to it. I got it at a game, I think, though I don't even remember if it was Angel Stadium or Arlington.

I've always thought Mr. Ryan had such a goofy look on his face. And that goofy look countered all the bad-ass-ness that he'd attained in his life. He doesn't look like a guy who struckout over 5,000 people. He looks like some kid who pumps gas. "Want me to check the oil, mister?"

Here's to Nolan Ryan, the king of strikeouts and no-hitters.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Texas League

Waiting patiently for baseball to start, I look back at some of the high points of last summer's Texas League season. Watched a lot of great baseball and looking forward to driving up to Little Rock again to catch a Travelers game. Unfortunately (for me, not them) it's unlikely that Mike Trout or Garrett Richards will be at AA level again this year, but that's OK. I'm looking forward to the next batch of young players coming up through the AA system.

Shelby Miller threw for the Springfield Cardinals, St. Louis' AA affiliate, late last summer. He is probably close to being major league ready, and if a spot opens up in the Cardinal rotation, he'll likely be given a chance to take it. I plan to keep my eye out for him. I thought he had great poise pitching out jams when we watched him pitch. The MiLB sites aren't quite as up to the minute in off-season as MLB sites are, and I can't tell what roster he's on. If he's still on the Springfield team, hopefully I can get another look at him this upcoming summer. I may have better luck catching him pitch against the Astros in Minute Maid!

Ethan Hollingsworth was playing for Midland last summer, well at least the early half. I watched him throw against the Hooks in May and he looked great for the first few innings and then the world just kind of caved in on him. The Oakland A's moved him up to the AAA club at some point, and I lost track of him. I did a little research and learned that he was traded by the A's to the Kansas City Royals for Kila Ka'aihue. I wouldn't be surprised to see him throwing for the Royals when rosters expand to 40 in September, maybe earlier if needed.

Watching Mike Trout play last spring and summer for the Travs was one of the highlights of the year. Twice I watched him pound out triples to the gap that looked like he planned exactly where it would go. On the Travelers he was hitting lead off both times I saw him. At a pro level, I can see him as a #2, with his bat control and speed. I hope for his sake that 2012 sees him starting at AAA getting every day playing. The Angels are backed up right now, and unless Scioscia has plans to put Trout at 3rd, I don't see him getting every day playing time. Will be exciting to see how he develops.

Garrett Richards, like Miller, could use another full season in the minors. Fortunately for the Angels, they have a very strong starting rotation, which means no need to rush Richards. When Richards came up to the big club in September last year, it was a good test for him to get a feel for the bigs.