Thursday, October 27, 2011

Knucksie Nameplate

Today's mail included a Knucksie Nameplate:

2011 Topps Leather Nameplate MGL-PN

Known primarily for the knuckleball that would help prolong his career and contribute to his 318 career victories, Niekro actually had a really good glove. Whether this is the reason Topps included him in this insert set, I know not-but the man did win 5 gold gloves over the course of his career and ranks fourth in putouts by a pitcher.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Sweet Shots- Ryan Roberts

2011 Topps Update #US237 Ryan Roberts
One of the advantages collectors have had during the past thirty years has been the use of action shots (with regularity) by the card manufacturers. No longer does our collection consist of just portraits and posed shots. Sure, there were some actions photos prior to that-but they were few and far between; for the most part the cardboard back then was pretty plain (which, in my opinion, isn't necessarily a bad thing). Looking back at those vintage cards, you won't find anything like this card, and I certainly can't recall many action shots on more recent cards that are better than this one of Ryan Roberts. In it, the D-Backs third sacker looks as if he is about ready to plant his face into the railing, which makes the viewer want to brace himself for the whiplash Roberts would have to endure. A look at Ryan's glove reveals what appears to be the ball seen through the webbing-there's no doubt that he grabbed this one! The picture also captures the awesome facial expression and body language of the fan who probably wet himself during this play-how would you like to be captured on this one? A quick search on Google, and I found that this play took place during the April 26th game in Phoenix against the Phillies. With the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the third, Daniel Hudson got Raul Ibanez to foul out to Roberts as the Diamondbacks righty escaped the inning with only one run being scored. And like so often happens after a great defensive play, Roberts came to bat in the bottom of that inning and plated a run, giving the D-Backs a 5-2 lead.

Monday, October 24, 2011

2011 Topps Update Silk Collection- Joe Mather

Why Topps decided to include a Silk card of Joe Mather in the Update set is beyond me. The Braves claimed Mather off waivers from the Cardinals last fall, hoping he would provide depth in the outfield (as well as possibly the infield), and a power right-handed bat they so desperately needed. I heard some comparisons to Jason Werth (would that be the Philadelphia JW, or the guy who played in Tor, LA, and Wa?) Well, that experiment lasted about three months, as he was gone by late June. The Braves might have done better by going after Jerry Mathers (aka The Beaver), since Joe hit 2 points under his weight (.213) with 1 home run and 9 RBI. The sad thing is, most of his "damage" was done in a three-game series at Anaheim, were he went 7-12 with a homer and 5 RBI. I attribute his success that weekend to it being an A.L. team facing him for the first time. Take away those three games and he hit .143 during his time in the ATL. Not exactly the kind of performance that warrants being included in such a limited numbered insert set (no-he's not even included in the base update set). And since I normally don't mess with the Silk Cards, I had no intentions of trying to pick up a card of this short-timer. And yet, the guy did provide a little bit of magic this season while on the team, so when the card came up on an auction, I took a flyer on it and grabbed it for $3.25. He certainly wasn't the first player to be included in my team set despite his lack of production, and Lord knows there will be others after him.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

1977 Topps #3 RBI Leaders

1977 Topps #3 1976 RBI Leaders Lee May/George Foster
In my mind, George Foster and Lee May (the league leaders in 1976 for RBI's) stand out more for their side burns than for their bats. That being said, Foster did win the 1977 N.L. MVP award after hitting 52 home runs and driving in 149 runs, and in doing so became the only man to hit over 50 home runs in a season since 1965 (when Willie Mays 52). No one else would reach that feat until 1990-when Cecil Fielder clubbed 51. Foster would go on to hit 348 homers during his career while driving in 1239 runs and hitting .274, but the first thing that still comes to mind are those "L"-shaped sideburns. The style was a good one for Foster's facial features: long face, high cheekbones, and pointed chin. May, on the other hand, sported the "Lamb Chops"-which seemed to compliment his round (very round!) face. While his side burns were distinct from Foster's, Big Lee's career numbers almost mirrored George's: 354 home runs, 1244 RBI's, and a .267 avg.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The New McKenzie Brothers: Boston Brew

It's been almost thirty years since one of my all-time favorite movies (Strange Brew) was released, and I believe a whole new generation needs to be introduced to the McKenzie Brothers. Let's hope there's not a remake featuring these two hosers, ah.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Jon Lester Highlights

That Red Sox starting pitcher Jon Lester reportedly admitted to drinking beer in the clubhouse with teammates Josh Beckett and John Lackey neither surprised nor shocked me; I was shocked to find out that they were drinking Bud Light while playing in a town known to have better alternatives with it's many local breweries. Bottoms up, boys!

Maddux Milestones Win #1

1993 Topps Traded #54T Greg Maddux

At one time I had far more cards of Greg Maddux in my collection than I currently have. When I got out of collecting around 2002 or so, the only items I kept were my Braves base Topps cards, with everything else being dumped as a lot. Thus, I wasn't left with very many cards of the Professor. I'm hoping to change that, though, as I am going to start picking up some (hopefully as large lots for cheap on the 'Bay). My goal is to get one for each of the 355 wins that Maddux picked up over the course of his illustrious career. Might do the same for each of Chipper's home runs; would choose Eddie Mathews, but I don't think he has that many cards.

Anyways, back to the Professor. Maddux made his major league debut on September 2, 1986 as a twenty-year old. He pitched one inning of relief and took the loss that day against the Astros-the first of only four games in which the future hall of famer would pitch out of the bullpen. Entering the tied game in the top of the 18th inning, Greg got Craig Reynolds to ground out to second base to start off the inning. The second hitter, Billy Hatcher, took Maddux deep for the go-ahead (and game-winning) home run. Five days later, he picked up a win in his next appearance-which also happened to be his first start. Pitching in Cincinnati on September 7th, Greg went the distance, allowing 3 earned runs on 11 hits, while picking up the first of 355 wins. I don't have the cash to pick up one of Mad Dog's minor league cards from 1986, and couldn't find a good color photo to create one. So, that left me with using my favorite Maddux card for his first career win. Why a base Topps? Well, it was the first card from the base Topps (my fave cards to collect) featuring Maddux in a Braves uniform.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Non-Sports Custom Card: Sweet Johnny

I've recently got hooked on the Netflix reruns of My Name is Earl, and one of the funnier episodes I've seen is the one entitled "Sweet Johnny". Guest star David Arquette (the former Mr. Courtney Cox) plays the character of Sweet Johnny, a local stuntsman who at one time had quite the following in Camden. Johnny's 'sweet' stunts often left him laid up in bed with injuries, but little did he know that Earl was behind it all- encouraging ridiculously dangerous stunts so that he might have relations with Johnny's girlfriend. And so we know which bad deed 'karma' wants Earl to make up for. Problem is, when Earl goes to confess, he finds out (the hard way) that Johnny has suffered too many head injuries and has a hard time with short term memory. This leads to scenes similar to Groundhog Day-where the character seems to be encountering the same scene day after day. I guess I ought to built upon this and make a relic card, featuring a piece of Johnny's SWEET rat-tail.

Monday, October 10, 2011

2011 Chopps Update #17 Jose Constanza

We have seen many protests against the war and against Wall Street in recent weeks, but I am going to address another protest here today- a protest against bouncers who prevented dancers from pogoing in clubs in the early 80's. Written as a protest against the aforementioned bouncers, as well as a call for freedom of expression, "The Safety Dance" by Canadian band Men Without Hats peaked at #3 in Billboards Hot 100 chart. The video, featuring a disturbing midget (who has his own Facebook page, apparently), a maypole, and Punch and Judy puppet show (among other things) is pure 80's, and checked in at #17 on VH1's 100 Greatest One Hit
Wonders of the 80s. While I had not heard of "Boom Boom Boom, Let's Go Back to My Room" or the guy who sang it, I am familiar with this song. So familiar with it was I, that my wife and I spoofed it when my daughter was just a toddler. Our version, The Baby Dance, was much better. Believe me.

The only protest that surrounded 2011 Braves one-hit wonder (?) Jose Constanza had to do with the fact that he came up from AAA in July, caught lightning in a bottle, and caused phenom
Jason Heyward to ride the bench for a few weeks. Certain fans didn't like it, and voiced their opinion loudly. Who knows, perhaps time will show that Heyward was a one-hit wonder in 2010. Anyway, like the previous one-hit wonder, Bob "Hurricane" Hazle, Georgie (Jose's nickname, after George Constanza on Seinfeld) toiled in the minor leagues for years before getting his shot at the major league level. Making his Braves debut on July 29th (which was the same date Hazle made his Braves debut), and wearing #17, Constanza made the most of his opportunity while providing a much-needed boost to the team. Utilizing his ability to put the ball into play, Georgie used his greatest asset (his speed) to put pressure on opposing pitchers and defenders- and that success at getting on base translated into Braves wins. Until an ankle injury on August 22nd forced him to the bench, Constanza had hit .372 and stole seven bases. After the injury, Jose hit only .129 in 31 at-bats (over 19 games), and was 0-2 in stolen base attempts. I won't say that the team's collapse was due to its hottest hitter getting injured, but it is interesting to see the success of the team when Constanza was healthy and starting (16-7) compared to after his injury (11-21). I was very disappointed that Topps didn't include a card of the speedy Constanza in its recent Update set-perhaps a card that featured him licking his bat would have been a popular one.
Since they overlooked him, I've decided to give him his own card; unfortunately, I had a heck of a time trying to match the font used for the players' names.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

One Hit Wonder- Bob Hazle

A couple of years ago, my wife and I were watching VH1's "100 Greatest One Hit Wonders of the '80s." Having spent our teenage years during that forgettable time period, we had a good laugh reconnecting to some of the awful music from our adolescence. While my primary musical interests lie in classic rock, I am fairly eclectic in music tastes-so, I am familiar with much of the cheesy stuff from those teenage years (thank you, MTV). One artist I was not familiar with is Paul Lekakis, whose one hit wonder "Boom Boom Boom, Let's Go Back to My Room" came in at #83. The song peaked at #43 on the Billboard Top 100 in 1987, which led Lekakis to a record deal with Sire Records ("Boom Boom Boom" had been released on a German label). Subsequent releases by Lekakis also fell into the dance music genre. No wonder I had never heard of him! And-surprise- a visit to his official website reveals that he is, indeed, trying to live off of the past fame of his only US hit. Lekakis in later years revealed that he was at one time a male prostitute who had tested positive for HIV. I guess his music wasn't all that blows.

1958 Topps #83 Bob Hazle
Thirty years earlier, there was another 'one-hit wonder' who blew into town- not on the streets, but on the diamond. In the midst of the tight 1957 pennant race, Milwaukee lost outfielder Bill Bruton for the rest of the season when he suffered a torn right knee ligament. Two days later, his replacement Andy Pafko was injured while making a sliding catch. Desperate for help, the Braves were about to call up Earl Hersh from AAA as insurance, but instead brought up Bob "Hurricane" Hazle per the recommendation of AAA manager Ben Geragty. Hazle, a South Carolina native, was primarily a career minor leaguer who had a handful of appearances for the Reds in '55. Bob had been given the nickname "Hurricane" in 1954 while playing winter ball in Venezuela. (The coast between North Carolina and Hazle's South Carolina had been hit by a category 4 hurricane- Hurricane Hazel- that October). Despite a career best in average, homers, and RBI during the 1955 season, Cincinnati traded the hurricane to Milwaukee during spring training, 1956.

During that '57 season, there was no stopping Hazle once he got into the Braves lineup. From July 31st through August 24, Hazle was torching NL pitchers for a .526 average, and the Braves had gained a 6 game lead in the Senior Circuit. Bob went on to record eight games that summer in which he recorded at least three-hits (three of those being 4-hit games), including a 3-3, 2-HR, 6-RBI performance vs. Philadelphia, and a 4-7 game with 3 doubles and 2 RBI against the Cubs. At the end of the regular season, Hazle finished hitting .403/.477/.649 with 7 HR, 27 RBI, and 18 walks compared to only 15 Ks. All of this led Hall of Fame third baseman Eddie Mathews to say, "I don't know what happens to suddenly make a minor league ballplayer into Babe Ruth, but Hazle was right out of the 'Twilight Zone.' We were hangin in there pretty well before he arrived, but he just picked us up." Another Hall of Famer, Red Shoendienst commented, "He was hotter than a firecracker. Every time he swung the bat, it seemed like he got a base hit." Despite his torrid August and September (well, for half of it, anyways), Hazle cooled off once the Braves reached the World Series. The Yankees held Bob to a .154 average in 13 at-bats. His only two hits came in game 7, albeit they were crucial ones, as the Braves went on to win their only title while in Milwaukee. After that magical year, Hurricane Hazle would record only 114 more major league at bats (in '58, split between Milwaukee and Detroit), and then spent the following two seasons in the minors before calling it a career.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Squirrel Card Variation

Chopps cards wouldn't be legit without producing variations-so, I present to you...the @BuschSquirrel's (aka rally squirrel) rookie card variation!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Down Goes Schafer! Down Goes Schafer! Down Goes Schafer!

Is that a jailhouse jumper suit-or have the Astros gone to an all-orange jersey top?
Well, I hate to admit it, but I was one who thought that former Braves outfielder Jordan Schafer had turned a corner in his career by overcoming a wrist injury that plagued him for a year and a half, as well as by maturing in character. Well, apparently he's still got a lot of growing up to do. The latest "Red Foreman Dumbass of the Month" was pulled over last night due to expired tags on his Range Rover, only to be busted with a joint in his left hand, three marijuana-laced peanut butter cups, and 25.9 grams of Mary Jane in the rig (of which he took ownership of). Forget injuries and struggles at the plate, Jordan's got worse problems now- he's being charged with felony drug possession.
Kind of makes one question his claim of innocence after testing positive on a drug test (HGH) in 2008, in which he served a 50 game suspension.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Who Said Derek Lowe is a Bum?

Derek Lowe- in happier times

Perhaps the least popular member of the Atlanta Braves today is Derek Lowe. Well, manager Fredi Gonzalez is a very close second, but he's the manager-and is apparently not to blame (still being employed, and all). After the colossal collapse that occurred over the course of the final month of the season, Lowe seems to have become the whipping boy for many Braves fans. He is, after all, the $15 million dollar man. Problem is, while he did eat almost two-hundred innings, he only turned in thirteen quality starts (many of which came in the first three months of the season) and completely tanked during the final stretch run. To add insult to injury, the dude is still owed $15 million next year-which should make him the highest paid relief pitcher in the majors, save Mariano Rivera (no pun intended). GM Frank Wren has pretty much all but guaranteed a change concerning Lowe. Let's hope that they can find someone to take him off of their hands.

I guess Lowe should be thankful that Fredi ran him out there to make his final start of the season-it may have sealed the Braves fate, but least Lowe became the first pitcher in baseball history to at one point in his career lead the league in Wins, Losses, and Saves. That's gotta be worth something-right?