brewers baseball and things


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… his dad.




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!!!


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.


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 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.


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.


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.




baseball cards i have to have part 6 – Cobb

Last week, I was wondering about the origins of in-action cards. My search took me back to the late 19th century. Back then, cards were issued by Tobacco companies as a marketing gimmick, to lure young kids into begging their old man to buy a certain type of cigarette. The cards were included in packs of smokes and apparently, helped keep the cigs sturdy.

One such company, Goodwin and Co Tobacco, issued, in the mid to late 1880’s, what some collectors consider the most spectacular set ever issued and the largest ever to date. The Old Judge set included 2300 cards including over 500 players from the rosters of 40 major and minor league teams.

The main photographer of these cards, Joseph Hall was, in addition to being a baseball card photographer, a “chronicler of life in Brooklyn” including an extensive collection of photos of Brooklyn’s famed Greenwood Cemetery, famed in part, because it’s home to over 200 baseball pioneers, including England born Henry Chadwick, creator of the baseball boxscore.

Dave Jamieson, explained in his book MINT CONDITION, that “Hall enjoyed plenty of artistic latitude in shooting the Old Judges. The cards were not mass-produced prints; they were sepia toned photographs pasted onto heavy-stock cardboard.”

I took a quick peak at wikipedia and discovered that sepia refers to “a reddish brown color, named after the rich brown pigment derived from the ink sac of the common cuttlefish Sepia.”

It’s nice to know that baseball cards have some indirection relation to fish. I love fish especially sardines. What strikes me as so spectacular and takes us back to the beginning of this post is that Hall took more than mug shots of players in his studio. He had them assume action poses. This Goodwin and Co. Old Judge card of Old Hoss Redbourne comes from the Library of Congress website. It’s from 1887 and clearly depicts the way Hall had players assume in-action poses, in this case a slide and tag at one of the bases. You can see the newspaper or some likeness of one used as the base and the floor of the photo studio.  I assume this is the first ever in-action card, despite it being a staged shot.

Tobacco cards enjoyed two different waves, the first in the 1880’s, the second roughly 30 years later highlighted by the famed 1912 T206 Honus Wagner card. That same year, Hassan Cigarettes issued “triple folder” cards. They are absolutely stunning and perhaps the first ever action photos. The one shown here is from Jamieson’s MINT CONDITION. I like the contrast of players – batter Cobb and pitcher Mathewson. The two could not be more different in temperament. Mathewson, nicknamed “The Christian Gentleman” refused to pitch on Sundays because of his Christian beliefs. Cobb, on the other hand….. well….. his legend as being a mean, tough SOB has been maybe exaggerated and maybe even untrue to some extent, but the rumors and anecdotes have been cemented and live on as  myth. I couldn’t find an image of the back of this card, but the middle shot on the front definitely depicts action. According to Jamieson, “It’s Cobb sliding into third baseman Jimmy Austin and is based on the famous shot by lensman Charles Conlin.”

I’m not sure why Mathewson is included on the card since he’s not involved in the play. In any case, any card with Cobb on it is golden as far as I’m concerned.

The only Cobb card I have in my collection comes from the 1973 Topps set, a mug shot. I’m not sure how I obtained the card, but I was 11-years old and convinced I had struck gold, that I had a card older than my Grandpa Leonard. The black and white mug shot added to my excitement. That number 4,191 is forever chiseled in my mind, most career hits all-time despite his baseball reference page listing his hit total as 4,189 and despite Rose eclipsing Cobb a decade or so later.

My brother played along with my delusion of thinking I had a card older than creation. I eventually found out it was from 1973, a sober feeling, a Santa Klaus is not real feeling, but still, it’s a card I have to have for it hints of the legend and mystery of one of baseball’s most cherished/despised and perhaps misunderstood players.

By the time Cobb was 40 years old, he was already a multimillionaire based in part due to investments in General Motors and a then small soft drink company called Coca-Cola, According to an article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution,  Cobb was “able to donate $100,000 to build Cobb Memorial Hospital in Royston, now part of the Ty Cobb Healthcare System. He also established the Ty Cobb Educational Foundation, which to date has awarded more than $15 million in scholarships to Georgia’s youth.”


baseball cards i have to have part 4 – Vuckovich

Baseball cards are typically one year ahead of the stats on the back so 1983 Topps lists the 1982 stats. Sometimes cards have only one year of stats, others have the entire career of a player. This sometimes requires the use of a magnifying glass like with Carl Yastrzemski’s 1979 Topps card.

I sometimes have to have a card based on the player or pitcher’s previous year’s performance. Enter the 1982 Milwaukee Brewers and Pete Vuckovich. His 1983 Topps card is some kind of “almost” Juan Marichal high leg kick to behold! I’m happy to have this card in my collection. You get the leg kick and a close up view in the bottom right corner circle of his handlebar Fu Manchu moustache and long hair. Vuckovich came to Milwaukee in the biggest trade in franchise history and that’s saying something because the Brewers are 50 years old, 51 if you include the origin of the organization – Seattle, the 1969 Pilots. Vuckovich came in a trade from St. Louis along with Ted Simmons and Rollie Fingers and all three played a critical role in the Brewers reaching the World Series in 1982.

A season ticket holding Brewers fan once told me that Vuckovich often times slept off a drunk in the Brewers bullpen, on days that he was schedule to pitch too! He woke up with the sound of his name over the PA system. I don’t know if that’s true, but one thing is – Vuckovich could wiggle out of any jam. He walked 102 batters and allowed 234 hits in 223.2 innings for a whopping WHIP (walks plus hits divided by innings pitched) of 1.502 and yet he won 18 games and took home the Cy Young trophy in that memorable 1982 season.

You might think he struck out a lot of batters, but he didn’t, only 105 or 4.2 per nine innings. I took a look at his run support on baseball reference and that, plus working his way out of jams, helps explain his 18 wins. The Brewers scored 6 or more runs in 15 of Vuckovich’s starts. He won 11 of those.

My lasting memory of him is walking around the mound, fixing his hat, untying and retying his shoelaces and in the most desperate of times requesting a popsicle stick to remove imaginary dirt from his cleats, an effective psyche out on the batter. He was the pitcher’s equivalent of Mike “human rain delay” Hargrove.


baseball cards i have to have part 3 – Goose

The dark, faceless, small images on the bottom corner of 1973 Topps cards don’t match the photograph. They stand alone. Take this Tommy Harper card as an example. He stands there, bat on his shoulder, a relaxed spring training pose, or maybe he’s stressed over some rookie batting practice pitcher that throws what appears to be 101 MPH with little, if any control, a Steve Dalkowski sort. The dark image sticks out with its green circle background, but his outstretched glove has nothing to do with the photograph on the card. Maybe it’s to show the batter’s multiplicity – he can field too. I looked through the set and was glad to find a card where the little, dark image and the photograph match or almost match.

It’s Rich Gossage and I want this card!

The photograph and the image are almost exactly the same. Only the mitt and slightly bent knee in the photo and throwing arm resting on his knee in the dark image are different, but otherwise the two are virtually identical. I don’t know why that makes such an impression on me, but it does. Maybe it’s the red background behind the image. Come to think of it, there is so much red in this card – the lettering on the uniform, hat, stirrups, belt, red baseball undershirt. It contrasts well with the green grass and blue sky plus there’s the leaves of a tree atop Gossage’s head, a tree of life.

The White Sox have a nice history of uniforms, the highlight maybe being that they were the first team in sports to put a player’s last name on the back of the uniform. That happened in 1960. This red incarnation lasted from I think 1971 to 1975. I like the look. I also like the bleachers off to Mr. Gossage’s left. I love that there is no one sitting in them, a reminder of where Gossage was at in his career, not yet on the mound at Yankee stadium with 40,000 fans screaming.

And on the back side of the card, there’s the O-Pee-Cheep difference. They were a Canadian confectionery company and so like all products made in Canada, the cards are bi-lingual, in French and English so if kids wanted to brush up on their French, here was their chance.

I like the black and gold color too and the cartoon at the top, the bio, and the cherry on the sundae of these cards is the thoroughness of the statistics, not the specific numbers which aren’t too many, but that they include MINOR LEAGUE stats, all the way back to rookie and A ball, not high school and little league….no card company has provided that……yet.

Back to the dark image in the bottom corner. I wonder if Topps got the 2004 idea from the 73 set? I say it because the 2004 set has an even more accurate mini-image. In fact, it’s a perfect match. I have the Yadier Molina card and though it’s a white border which I don’t like, it does have an exact replica of the photograph in the lower left corner. Unfortunately, that’s white too. They should have made it black. Anyway, it is Yadier Molina with his signature follow through, bat still in hand with him watching his future, waiting to see what will be. Looks like an opposite field fly ball. I’m not a big fan of the Cardinals, mostly or only because they play in the same division as the Brewers, but hats off to Yadier Molina for catching the seventh most games of all-time and all of them for the same Cardinals team.


baseball cards i have to have part 2 – Bickford

I was wondering if there’s ever been a history of baseball cards book? Or maybe a movie? A documentary? There is MINT CONDITION: HOW BASEBALL CARDS BECAME AN AMERICAN OBSESSION by Dave Jamieson and that gem of a book just about covers the history of cards and like any good non-fiction book, it triggers the research gene, had me hungry for more so I took an online cliff note shortcut and went the wikipedia way, looked up baseball card, and much to my surprise, on the right side adjacent to the first paragraph was a Vern Bickford card. Vern Bickford? Who the hell is that?

I took the next online shortcut… baseball reference and yeh, Mr. Bickford was an all star in 1949 as a member of the Boston Braves and the next year, tossed a no-hitter, and garnered a few MVP votes. But still, Vern Bickford? On the same wikipedia page as a 1910 T206 Honus Wagner and a 1933 Goudey Jimmy Foxx! The guy only pitched seven years!

Maybe Bickford’s cousin wrote the wikipedia page or maybe the writer had a peacock’s plumage in mind. Yeh, there’s something beautiful about Bickford being there, about a not so well known player being followed by two very well known players, something awesome to know that many baseball card sets feature lots of cards and that leaves room for lots of little guys, ones we barley hear about on the nightly news or online or whatever, the Rafael Landestoy-Lenn Sakata-Vern Bickford ilk.

Plus the Bickford card is not a Topps card. In fact, there are no Topps cards in the article, no images anyway and Topps as the name implies strived to be the best in the baseball card world, but they got snubbed here, not even a 1952 Mantle. 

I’m grateful for discovering Vern Bickford because now I want his card for three reasons. 1) I have no pre-1960 cards. 2) I have no Milwaukee Braves cards and 3) I have no Bowman cards. I’m serious about getting this card too, serious like Bickford’s jaw.

Yes, it’s a 1954 Bowman
that you might think lacks
action, bored by the pose? But there is that M for Milwaukee on his hat, an autograph, and on the back, a nice bio, career stats that have LIFE as a heading, and a trivia question.