brewers baseball and things


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baseball cards i have to have part 17 – Fielders

My dad is still pretty good at tennis and he turned 80 a few months ago. He plays two or three times a week. He was on the Ripon College Tennis team, in Ripon, Wisconsin, home of Rippin Good Cookies.

When I was a kid I played tennis a lot and was even in some competitions. I wasn’t that bad. I could keep the volley going, but I quit because I wanted to play baseball and haven’t really played tennis since, except when I visit my dad in Milwaukee. But for many years I didn’t play with him because we were in competition with each other or I was in competition with him. I wanted to be better than him at something. I wasn’t sure in what, but knew it would never be tennis.

Prince Fielder had a father. His name was Cecil. As a kid, he went with his dad to the Detroit Tiger’s dugout and played on the field too, took batting practice, and apparently hit one over the Tiger Stadium fence when he was 12 years young!

Scouts said he was too fat, but the Brewers didn’t think so. They drafted him in the first round, seventh overall pick of the 2002 draft. His parents got divorced at some point and Cecil owed a lot of money so he apparently dipped into his son Prince’s signing bonus and snatched up $200,000 bucks. I don’t know how he got the money, but Prince was pretty vocal about not liking his father, about not wanting anything to do with him….”My father is dead to me,” he said in 2004.

According to Prince, in some article I read back when he was playing for the Brewers, he directed a lot of his rage against his father into hitting a baseball. It worked too. He hit a lot of homers, 319 to be exact and get this – his dad also hit 319 homers!! They both finished with the exact SAME number of homers!! Insane! What are the odds! Gives credence to the cliche – like father, like son. They both hit 50 home runs in a season too or Cecil the father hit 51….Prince only hit 50, but for his career, Prince stole 18 bases. His dad only stole two. Prince and Cecil have made up and now are friends and at some point, I finally realized that my dad and I probably have similarly shaped finger nails and other facial features the same and we both tend to worry a lot. We’re now friends too.

This 2019 Topps Update card of Cecil is a pretty damn good representation of what Cecil did a lot of as a player – watch balls soar into upper decks and out of stadiums and he was before steroids.

The card on the right is a 2007 Bowman Chrome card of Prince. As you can see, he batted left-handed, his dad right-handed….Prince had a better eye at the plate than his dad. I don’t know who struck out more; they were probably about the same, but Prince walked more, hit more too. He had a higher BA and OB% than his dad, but numbers aside, he also hit the hell out of the ball…..like his dad.

 


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baseball cards i have to have part 16 – Grimsley

I often smuggle a book into work, stash it in my front pant pocket and during the day visit a good bathroom stall and read. It has to be a paper back and kind of small, to fit into my pants. One of these books is THE YEAR THE MONTREAL EXPOS ALMOST WON THE PENNANT by Brodie Snyder. It’s about the 1979 season. The Expos finished 95-65, two games behind the eventual World Series winners – the Pittsburgh Pirates.

I crease the pages of corners when I read books, to be revisited at dull moments in the future like page 43 in the Expos book. Ross Grimsley says,

“The Reds wanted to have full control over your lifestyle. They sent me to the barbershop three times in one day during spring training. If they said gargle with peanut butter and stand on your head, you did it. I had been reading about witchcraft and they jumped on me for that. They told me I was crazy. They also told me I didn’t run right, I wore my socks too high. And they didn’t care for the people I associated with. They continually degrade the individual and I guess I was a rebel. I told them to go stuff it a few times. I told them to leave me alone and I would pitch for them. That worked in Baltimore and it worked here. (in Montreal) They leave me alone and what I do off the field is my own business.”

Grimsley’s dad Ross ll played 16 seasons in the minor leagues and then appeared in seven games for the White Sox in 1951, his only seven appearances of his short big league career. 16 years in the minors! Sixteen !!!!! All at the same job!!!!! Pitching. Both he and his son were left-handed. I’d like to get this 1979 Kellog’s Grimsley, a 3-D reminder of what lefties bring to the democratic table…..pizzazz!!!


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baseball cards i have to have part 15 – Burdette and Shantz

Everything’s a bit complicated. I mean if you wander out to the corner of 4th and Chestnut and ask the twenty or so citizens milling about what’s going on, you will no doubt get 20 different answers. Try and delve into the past and things get even more 42nd and Grand Central Station complicated. No one really knows for sure what happened.

Take 1957 as an example. Was it a Yankee’s player or manager Casey Stengel who referred to Milwaukee as “bushville?” Or no one at all? Or was it in reference to Sturtevant, a small town south of Milwaukee? (Bushville in baseball speak is a derogatory term that implies something as “second rate” or not “Big League.”) I guess it doesn’t matter if or who, but what followed does. It rallied the Milwaukee fan base. They took it to heart, embraced the moniker and the Series rolled onto a game 7 and the Milwaukee “bushville” Braves won!

The MVP of the Series was Lew Burdette and could it have been anybody else? He threw three compete games, two of them shutouts including the 7th game clincher.

There are theories speculating that the “bushville” moniker lingered in Milwaukee, that fans remained hateful towards the Yankees and when the Brewers were born in 1970, a new rivalry was born which was actually an old one.

I imagine there were problems with rival cave man gangs way back in the stone age. Even the Pawnees played war against their First Nation enemies….the Sioux, Cheyenne, and Osage and that was before the white man arrived.

Maybe peace and love, “why can’t we be friends?” is built on fake smiles and lion laying down with the lamb biblical propaganda, ya know the nice talk, “how ya doing?” we have to commit at work, marriages, and funerals. But there’s no denying the camaraderie in this 1958 Topps card of the Yanks Bobby Shantz and Burdette or probably it was staged or maybe not, maybe there’s always room for peace? In any case, I’d like to get this card as as reminder that Milwaukee once won a World Series.

In related news, I think it was George St. Pierre, the mixed martial artist, that said he owes a lot of his success to his enemies because they motivated him.


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baseball cards i have to have part 14 – Ott and Baines

I’ll be walking along when BAM a smell bumps into me, maybe air freshener or yeast from a brewery and I’m taken back to another time. I wish we could bottle these smells or maybe that’s what perfume is? Anyway, one of these smells, maybe dirt, maybe fresh cut grass gives me a glimpse of standing at the plate, semi crouched, back elbow up, feet flat, staring at a pitcher and remembering it now, I wonder why I didn’t impersonate my favorite player more…….Harold Baines and his front leg lift? I woulda pulled the ball and generated some power, maybe even hit a home run and all I would have needed was one long bomb to put a little cowboy hat in my step.

I wonder who was the first player to use the front leg lift? Glen previously mentioned Mel Ott so I took my shovel and went to google in search of Ott and found a photo, the one on the left. What a shot! Not only the leg lift, but the low hands – 511 career home runs!

I also came across this card or “sort of” a card from 1937. I say “sort of” because it’s not your traditional card, it’s a 1937 Goudey Thum Movie on the right, yes thum spelled without the b. You turned the pages of a little booklet and could see Ott in action, presumably his front leg lift.

Goudey was an American gum company founded in 1919 by a guy named Enos Gordon Goudey. He was from Barrington Passage, Nova Scotia, Canada. Goudey began producing baseball cards in 1933. They were the first company to include bubble gum in cards. In 1937, Goudey introduced these thum movies for 2 cents a pack. They did it again the following year.

I’d love to see a Baines thum book, to see his leg lift. Of course, there are tons of videos of the Baines leg lift, but I’d be in control of the thum movie, could slow it down or speed it up. Baines was scouted at 12 years young by Bill Veeck and at some point in his White Sox career became a disciple of the Charley Lau’s hitting philosophy, one of Lau’s advices being “…..making the stride a positive, aggressive motion toward the pitcher.” I think that equates to a high leg lift. Tragic that Lau passed away at 50 years young from that freaking cancer, but he’s immortalized in the movie MAX DOUGAN RETURNS, appearing as himself. Anyway, the card on the right is a 1989 Fleer, one of my favorite Baines cards, glad to have it in my collection, got that leg lift, ready for contact, makes me want to go outside right now and play some ball in the local yard, me the batter, lifting my front leg, hitting one over a fence or slapping a single to the opposite field, either way…..anyone want to pitch?


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baseball cards i have to have part 13 – niekro and ryan

Some say alien beings previously inhabited Mars and that when a catastrophic event ended their long stay there, the dust from the disaster spread to Earth and humans evolved from that dust. If so, then we all share the same ancestors – MARTIANS.

If this is the secret of creation, then somewhere in there must live the secret of the knuckleball because in baseball’s history, there haven’t been too many full-time knuckleball pitchers. The most victorious was Phil Niekro with 318. In fact, he’s the only one to win over 300 games. Even his family name seems destined for the pitch with the N, K, E, and R. This would explain why his brother Joe was also a knuckler too. Phil and Joe Niekro!

Prior to the Covid outbreak, bus cabins were interesting to look at, not so much the cabin despite it reminding me of a dugout, but the people gathering inside, from a bag lady to a kid with a cartoon lunch box and all in between, a real democratic welcome scene.

This diversity reminds me of the all- time leaders in innings pitched. Number four on the list is you guessed it – Phil Niekro with 5,404 and right behind him is Nolan Ryan with 5,386, a mere 18 innings apart and the two couldn’t be more different in terms of style, Niekro the Knuckler flinging the spheroid into the wind and Ryan throwing missile after missile. I’m lucky to have this 1978 Topps card, both with hats that have the letter a, but both from totally different solar systems.


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baseball cards i have to have part 12 – Jeter

I’m not a Yankees fan, never have been, probably never will be but I don’t hate them. I don’t put pictures of Bill Skowron and Bucky Dent on my bedroom dartboard. I don’t even have a dartboard and anyway, there’s always Babe Ruth and Oscar Gamble to appreciate and the movie BANG THE DRUM SLOWLY.

I have to be honest. I love how in the top of the first as the Yankees take the field, fans chant each fielder’s name in a sing song sort of way and continue to do so until each player acknowledges the effort. I don’t know if this ritual was performed only in the old Yankee Stadium or if they still do it now? In any case, the enthusiasm reminds me of the little I know about Japanese baseball. Apparently, fans there try out to be in cheering sections and they play instruments.

I’m not too much into advanced baseball statistics and not because I’m not interested, but because I suffer from lack of math. But I do like the backs of baseball cards and baseballreference.com and there, I discovered that former Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter played in 158 post season games which interestingly winds up being like a regular season – 162 games. He banged out 200 hits in the post season and in the regular season he averaged 204 hits. That’s about as consistent as it gets.

I’d like to have this Jeter card. It’s a 1999 Bowman Early Risers. The yellow beams of light look a little like the Mohawk Nation Flag or at least the yellow beams do, less pointy, but still, both of them, emptying into a sun. It’s Jeter in that perfect follow through or maybe not perfect but one I became so familiar with from the highlight reel and watching him perform in the post-season. And the back of his card has more of those yellow beams of light angling towards a sun.


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baseball cards i have to have – part 10, PROJECT 2020

Topps is currently running PROJECT 2020 – a year-long event that includes 20 artists or painters or whatever and 20 iconic baseball cards. I don’t know how they decided on the 20 cards, but they did. It must have been a committee that took a vote or each member made a suggestion of a card and then they all voted on them. In any case each of the artists or painters will provide their own interpretation or “reimagine” the 20 cards.

According to the Topps website, the artists are “famed streetwear designers, tattoo and graffiti artists, and one of the premier jewelry designers on the planet.” As far as jewelry goes – I don’t wear or have any, but if I did, I’d make them out of aluminum cans and well, I don’t know what I’d do with them, maybe give them away to random people.

You can find some of the cards that have already been completed here.

My favorite so far is the Tony Gwynn card by Efdot (on the left). It’s his version of the 1983 Topps Gwynn card (on the right). I know it’s kind of busy but I love the black surrounding the circle, the waving Palm Trees trees, ocean blue, hinting of the heat the heat the heat, when the body loosens up which  reminds me of Gwynn at the plate so relaxed, slapping hits all over the field seemingly with ease, and running the bases, as he is in the card, in the midst of chugging somewhere, probably towards first base since there’s a crowd in the background which is eliminated in Efdot’s version suggesting that he’s simply running which Gwynn wasn’t too bad at. He had 390 steals over a 20 year career which struck me as amazing since he always seemed a tad overweight. But then again, Greg Luzinski stole 37 bases over a 15-year career. The other interesting thing about Gwynn was how good of a basketball player he was. As I understand it, hoops was his first and favorite sport.

One of the other artists is life-long A’s fan Blake Jamieson. I’ve been watching his you tube posts and feel like I got a new friend. He’s so damn humble and sincere, funny too. In one of the you tube’s, he reads a blog post or a letter from his dad about their family’s interactions with Mark McGwire. It brings Blake to tears. He also reads from the book The Alchemist. I’ve never heard of it, but it sounds good so if the libraries open up again, I think I’ll check it out and give it a read. That you tube post is below.

As Blake explains, he used McGwire’s 1985 Olympic card (on the left) as inspiration to recreate one of the 20 iconic cards – the 1987 McGwire card (on the right) That would explain the transformation of the green and yellow A’s uniform color to the red, white, and blue.

It’s a bit rah rah rah American flag waving, but I guess that’s the point. Blake based it on the Olympics which is every country being rah rah rah about its home. I’m not a big fan of McGwire, but I’m not about to judge him either. I drop Pepto-Bismol pills (yes they come in pill form now) from time to time and those little pinkies are definite performance enhancers.


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baseball cards i have to have – part 9, Topps Throwback Thursday

One of the weekly features on the Topps website is Throwback Thursday, so named because the cards are issued with an older Topps design. Sometimes they use baseball cards, other times hockey or basketball. Last week’s Throwback Thursday featured a non-sports card. It was a Brady Bunch design.

Brady Bunch!?

Yep, in 1970, Topps issued a series dedicated to the TV sitcom. It was released as a test set and featured 55 cards. The following year, Topps issued a second Brady Bunch set with 88 cards so I assume the test set produced good results. The cards are designed with a TV border much like the 1955 Bowman baseball set. I once had a card from that set, a Mickey Mantle (seen on the left). It was Mickey freaking Mantle. I don’t know why, but I traded it for….well, I can’t remember for what,  but if I would have held onto it, it would be my oldest card. As you can see the border resembles a TV; the border is a TV!; the entire card is a TV!! which makes a hell of a lot of sense since the first televised game happened on August 26, 1939, a double header between the Brooklyn Dodgers and Cincinnati Reds, but as I understand it, TV and baseball didn’t really flourish until the 1950’s making the 1955 Bowman TV border a wonderful historic artifact.

As far as the Brady Bunch cards go, they captured the variety of personalities on the show – three boys, three girls, a homemaker mother, an architect father, and an entertaining maid name Alice. In this particular card, we see Bobby and Peter, two future Hall of Famers – Sandlot Stars!

Topps issued six cards using the Brady Bunch card borders. The card I’m most interested in features three current Toronto Blue Jays payers – Cavan Biggio, Vladimer Guerrero Jr., and Bo Bichette. All three have fathers who played in the major leagues, two of them Hall of Famers – Craig Biggio and Vladimir Guerrero!! I like the TV wood border and the three of them in a coffee clutch pose discussing where to eat after the game. I can’t remember they’re ever being three sons of former major league players on the same team, and all in the same starting line up!! These aren’t utility players either. The Blue Jays have high hopes for all of them, especially Guerrero Jr. But my favorite is Cavan Biggio. He has an incredible eye at the plate. Last year, he hit .234 with a strange .364 OB%, strange because his batting average was so low. That’s what 71 walks will do for ya! The photo is taken at Toronto’s Rogers Center, the giveaway being the Tim Horton’s sign in the background. Tim Horton’s is Canada’s most popular doughnut and coffee shop.

Currently, the six Brady Bunch throwback cards are being sold for 30 bucks or one for 19.99. Way too expensive for one card when you consider the old days of 25 cent packs. But here’s the dumpster diver deal in my mind. You walk to the local print shop, print out the card in color for 50 cents, cut it to specs, mount the print on some cardboard and then create whatever back your baseball card loving heart desires….total cost $1.50…..50 cents for the print out and $1.00 for use of the computer. Done.


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baseball cards i have to have part 8 – Chico Salmon and Larry Haney

I don’t know who gives generations a name, but they do…..Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, Baby Boomers and so on. I was born the first year the Brewers played in Milwaukee – 1970 so I guess I’m a Brewers baby.

The Brewers are 50 years old, 51 if we include the franchise’s birth city -Seattle, the one year wonder Pilots of 1969. Fifty one years may seem like a long time, but when compared to say the Braves, that number shrinks.

The Braves were born in Boston, as the Red Stockings way back in 1876 and then changed their name in 1883 to the Beaneaters, in 1907 to the Doves, in 1911 to the Rustlers, in 1912 to the Braves, in 1936 to the Bees, and then in 1941 back to the Braves. They’ve been the Braves ever since, but they moved two times, first to Milwaukee in 1953 and then Atlanta in 1966 where they still reside today.

I mention the Braves as a comparison to the Brewers. It would be quite the project to try and collect all Braves cards. That’s over 130 years of existence and who knows how many cards! The Brewers/Pilots are half the Braves age making a collecting cards project for them far more doable. I started doing this a few years ago with Topps cards and I’ve made some progress, but still no Pilots. It got me wondering why a league would allow a team to fold after one year. I didn’t feel liking investigating the matter, but I did look into one year and done teams.

In the 20th century, I counted four – The 1901 Milwaukee Brewers of the American League moved to St. Louis after one season and became the Browns, the 1914 Indianapolis Hoosiers of the Federal League moved to Newark and became the Peppers. The Peppers played only one season as well because the league became extinct. The 4th and final team was, you guessed it – The 1969 Seattle Pilots.

What’s interesting about Seattle Pilots cards is that despite them playing only one year in Seattle, Topps issued cards in both the 1969 and 1970 sets. The 1969 cards were released in spring, of players Topps thought would be on the big league roster. That wasn’t always the case. Chico Salmon is a perfect example.

The light hitting, Panama born, utility player was the 11th pick in the 1968 expansion draft, high enough that Topps assumed he would crack the Pilots roster. He didn’t. He was traded on March 31, 1969 to the Baltimore Orioles where he had the good fortune of appearing in two World Series, 1969 and 1971. He played in two games, two at bats, one in each year, one hit. Despite never putting on a Pilots uniform, Topps issued him a Pilots card. But as you can see he’s wearing a reddish undershirt or uniform, probably of the Cleveland Indians, his previous team.

One of the funnier cards from the 1969 set is Larry Haney’s. The photo on the front is in reverse so Haney appears to be left-handed (catching with his right hand), a rarity for catchers and obviously a mistake unless Haney found a left-handed (catching with his right hand) glove in the dugout and said what the hell! Why not give it a try! I find the card kind of symbolic of the Pilots season which was far from ordinary as chronicled by Jim Bouton in his book BALL FOUR. Interesting tidbit about the Pilots. They might have been bad, but they managed to not lose 100 games. As you can see, like the Salmon card, there is no indication that Haney was on the Pilots, no blue and yellow uniform, no hat with a yellow S for Seattle.

The back of Haney’s card seems to suggest that he would get ample playing time in 1969. “Larry will see lots of duty with Seattle in 1969.” Well, he didn’t; he played in only 22 games before being traded.

I’ve looked over the 1969 and 1970 Topps cards and they are not the most pleasing to the eye, but this pursuit is less about aesthetics and more about completing the chase for all Pilots and Brewers cards. Onward.


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baseball cards i have to have part 7 – Barfield and Moore

He’s not that good. Stash him out of sight, in right field……these are the words of Little League managers across the land, spoken quietly to a fellow coach so as to not insult the young player under discussion. But these words never last too long, four, maybe five years. Then kids get older and players with the best arms are assigned to play right field, to make that long throw to third base.

The 1991 Score set featured the most cards in the 20th century – 893 including 11 subsets, one of which is RIFLEMAN. It includes Bo Jackson, Shawon Dunston, and my personal favorite, card #414, right fielder, Jesse Barfield. The laser like green lines create an outer space feel hinting that Barfield is preparing to launch a shooting star. The back of the card tells the tale of an outfielder who won two golden glove awards and in 1990, led the league in outfield assists for the fourth time in five years. I love this Rifleman subset. It’s a nice stray away from the typical power hitters and strikeout pitchers. It pays tribute to an often overlooked, yet fundamental aspect of the game – throwing.

The throw from right field I remember most came in the 1982 ALCS by Brewers catcher/right fielder Charlie Moore. The series was tied two games a piece in a best of five so the winner would be on their way to the World Series, to face the Cardinals. It was the top of the fifth and the Brewers were trailing 2-3. The Angels were at the plate. Pete Vuckovich walked Reggie Jackson. Fred Lynn then singled to right field. Jackson kept chugging, around second, heading for third. Moore came up with the ball and….and…..and…….well, before we get to the outcome, let’s take a look at Moore’s baseball card. I had a hard time finding one that depicted him as a right fielder. All of his cards and this includes Topps, Fleer, Donruss and various Police sets all had him either batting or in the field as a catcher.

The Milwaukee Police department, surrounding suburbs, and other Wisconsin cities distributed Police cards to kids and anyone who asked. I remember doing just that a number of times and always being rewarded. The police did this for many years. This particular card comes from 1984 and I’d like to get it. It not only hints of Moore’s successful transition from catcher to right field, but on the back is a small moral, stating, “Outfielders work together helping each other. Sometimes a ball is lost in the sun and a teammate covers for you……..”

Or he saves the pitcher stuck in a jam……Jackson racing around second and heading to third and….and…… and, well first, the back story of this race for third base. Jackson was enemy number one in Milwaukee, not because of his personality and antics, more because of how good he was against Milwaukee. He hit more home runs against the Brewers – 62 than any other team and to make matters worse for Brewers fans, he hit 31 of them at County Stadium Milwaukee more than any other stadium other than his home parks in Oakland, New York, and Anaheim.

And so the outcome of this this play had a special sweetness for Brewers fans as they came from behind to win 4-3 and earn a ticket to the World Series.