Thursday, January 25, 2018

USS Mariner Project #2: Participation Trophies

Shortly before the beginning of my first year in 'midget major' baseball (10 years-old, I believe), my dad was faced with a dilemma: the sponsor for the team I was playing on pulled out and we were left with no team name and no jerseys. Back then, each team was named after the business that sponsored it. There was no Indians; no Dodgers; no Reds. There was just- McDonalds (for example), who was sponsored by, you guessed it... McDonalds. With not much time to try and find another sponsor, my dad, who was the league president, decided to sponsor the team himself. But instead of using his business name, which included his name, he went with something that sounded like one of those travel teams that would become popular a couple decades later. We would be known as Team Machine, with simple green jersey tops and white lettering.

We had a good team that year and towards the end of the season my dad surprised everyone on the team by presenting each us with a trophy that he had made out in his shop. It was cut in the shape of a baseball, with "Team Machine- For a Job Well Done" or something like that, painted on each one. This was probably 1979, so we weren't a part of that entitled, or coddled, generation where "everybody gets a trophy." No, this was simply a case of my dad wanting to show his appreciation for the efforts we put had put forth on the diamond. He certainly wasn't obligated to make each of us a trophy and we were not expecting them. Rather, it was a gracious act on his part.






With the 2018 card season about to begin, perhaps those of us in the hobby could learn something from my former teammates. Most of them returned to the team the next year and didn't get a trophy. Were they upset? No. In fact, they didn't even expect one.


Topps isn't obligated to produce a card of any particular player, but that doesn't prevent us from venting our frustration time and time again. Voicing our disappointment is one thing, but we have become those entitled brats who have come to expect a participation trophy.

"We're not happy with the cards you give us... give us the bloated Topps Total brand were everybody gets a card."

"I can't believe they left Guillermo Heredia out of the base set.. he had a good season and deserved a card."

"Fifty Yankees?! Four Aaron Judges! Why aren't there more Mariners?!!"


******


Putting something together like my USS Mariner Project means that there will be players who appeared in a game or two for Seattle but will have no cards to represent their time spent in the Pacific Northwest. Should I expect there to be just as many cards of my team, of which there is little collector interest, as that of a team such as the Yankees, whose collector base is huge?





If I don't like it, I guess I can always create my own cards. Or I can just give up and find a new hobby.



Wednesday, January 24, 2018

A Collective Effort

One of the many controversies surrounding Hillary Rodham-Clinton's 1996 book It Takes a Village was the then-First Lady's failure to acknowledge ghostwriter Barbara Feinman not only within its pages, but in media as well. That "oversight" seems quite tame (or shall I say, is far less talked about) compared to the moral outrage conservatives voiced at the thought of something-or someone- other than a family raising a child. Even the proverb behind the title wasn't without some dispute. Academics cannot agree on its exact origin, and I find there to be a bit of irony in that it seems to be a conglomeration of a number of different African proverbs. Whatever the case may be, it does seem to reflect the spirit of many African cultures.

I have not read the book and probably never will, so I'm not going to comment anymore on it. Nor am I here to talk about the merits of or faults of collectivism (or even individualism, for that matter). I will say, however, that as a parent who has raised three kids, I am thankful for some of the assistance we received from other family members, clergy and church members in raising our children. The resources these people offered (time, money and wisdom) proved to be invaluable as we sought to grow our family.

Just many people were involved in helping us as parents, so too have many people been involved in me growing my card collection. While most of the time we reach out to others, there are times that others reach out to us, offering their resources. One such member of the collecting family is Greg from The Collective Mind.





Greg commented on one of my posts recently and said he thought he might be able to help me out with some of the needs on my USS Mariner Project. This project amounts to what is a family tree. One major league card of each player to have suited up for the Mariners. Doing this project adds some redundancy to my collection. Some cards- like the two '78 Topps above (and subsequent '78s) are already in my Topps team sets. I might also have them in the complete set from that year.





Every family has its share of liars and cheaters, and this project is no different. You might remember Al Martin and his claims of having played football at USC? Wasn't true. In the same article, it was revealed that Al also claimed to have been exonerated of a domestic violence conviction he had against a woman whom he had allegedly married while still married to another woman. Liars, cheaters, wife beaters and polygamists. And that's just one guy.






Sometimes you will find royal blood running through a family tree and my card-family tree is no different. Whether it's King Felix or Donruss Diamond Kings, aristocrats are just as easy to find in my binder as the scoundrels.










How many of you can claim to have an Olympian in your family? I can't claim that I do, but there is one in the USSM family binder, former Mariner pitcher Clint Zavaras. Clint only pitched in ten major league games for the M's but was an Olympian. Zavaras, who is of Greek descent, made the Greece national team during the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece.







There won't be any lack of acknowledgement here... thanks again, Greg, for helping a brother out with his collection.




Thursday, January 18, 2018

Base(ball) Oddity #47: Mullet and a Mustache

As a middle-schooler who was a fan of rock music, I would often combat boredom in the classroom (once my warok was done) by drawing logos of bands such as KISS and Van Halen. A few years later, as a budding rock star (in my mind, anyway), I would come up with different ideas for what my first band would be named, what style of music we would play (blues-based and melodic rock), and creating an accompanying band logo. Those days are long gone, but a card I received recently caused an imaginary band name to pop up in my head: Mullet and a Mustache. Perhaps this is a sign that I start up an 80's tribute band. If that doesn't happen (it won't), at least it inspired me to write a blog entry.

About the time I started playing guitar (and those visions of stardom began), a pitcher from the University of Southern California was drafted by the Montreal Expos in the 2nd round of the 1985 amateur draft. Tall (6-10") and gangly, the lefty was talented, but raw: he possessed a major-league fastball but struggled badly with his command. It was during this time, and through his first few major league seasons, where Randy Johnson was building his brand and establishing himself as one of the most dominant pitchers of his time.


For Johnson, his 'brand' included not only that blazing fastball and his wildness (walks, wild pitches, hit batsman), but the intimidation that resulted from his famous scowl (on and off the field); his shouts from the mound; the moodiness with fans, teammates and reporters, alike. And of course, there was the mullet and the mustache.

Today's superstar athletes don't make enough money in their contracts, so the poor saps are left to build a brand. Part of that involves- at least for some of the athletes- a logo. Tom Brady has the TB12; Russell Wilson has his Nike R3; Kobe has his jock strap/cup 'Sheath'. If the Big Unit was active today, his brand might (or at least, should) include a logo that looks something like the shirt that Nike once produced:




Brands can have both positive and negative connotations. One card manufacturer whose brand I view in a primarily negative light is Fleer. Thanks to crappy photos and bad cropping in their earlier sets, ugly-ass design and color schemes (think '89 Fleer), and the LSD-inspired 1995 set, Fleer's brand left an indelible mark on this collector. Perhaps their worst decision was in that damn flagship set of 1991.




Yellow- that hideous yellow- and lines galore. So many lines, in fact, that it caused me to miss the mark while trimming out this Wax Box Bottom I acquired in a trade on TCDB. The box bottom was an uncut one & I had no desire to keep it intact, so I got out the handy-dandy trimmer. In my haste- and thanks to a number of lines that seem to run together- I cut the card a little short, both on top and bottom. As you can see, I had to tape (back side, of course) the top part of the Johnson card. The bottom... well, there was no way it was going to be taped together, leaving the card conspicuously short.


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Kingdome Come

Regardless of what you think of religion or religious institutions, there's no denying the beauty of many of the cathedrals (particularly European ones) that have been built. And if you've spent much time on social media, then you've probably seen someone who is either indifferent to or
antagonistic towards religion, post photos in front of one of these marvels. One doesn't have to be a person of faith to appreciate the beauty found in the architecture of masterpieces such as St. Paul's Cathedral in London, Italy's Milan Cathedral or Notre-Dame de Paris.

North America certainly has beautiful houses of worship, but nothing that compares to those medieval ones found in Europe. And during the twentieth and now twenty-first century, houses of worship in America have been replaced by a different house of worship: the stadium.







When speaking about what one experiences as they leave the concourse and enter the seating area of a stadium, I have maintained that it is the closest thing a person can have to a spiritual experience. Sex, and the excitement as the lights go down and the concert begins, are the only other things even remotely close, for me. Good thing the sex doesn't last as long as the ballgame, or else I'd already be in the intermediate state- dead from a heart attack- awaiting the resurrection.

Okay- back to earthly things...

Having spent very little time in the church during my youth (perhaps a year, year-and-a-half of Sunday School at the age of about 8, and I don't really remember any of it), I guess you could say that my first 'spiritual experience' came around that same time when, in 1978, I attended my first professional sporting event. The Place: the Seattle Kingdome. The Event: an NFL exhibition game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Los Angeles Rams.

Before entering the sanctuary, we congregated outside the Dome, watching the demigods as they departed the earthly realm (their bus) and entered into the heavenly realm. There, coming off of the bus was Lawrence McCutcheon, and Pat Haden, and John Cappelletti. Unfortunately, there would be no David defeating Goliath this evening.






Once seated inside (in both that Rams/Seahawks game -as well as the next night, when I'd experience my first professional baseball game as the Yankees faced the Mariners), this spiritual experience continued in the liturgy of the event. The public address announcer asking us to please rise (the call to worship), followed by the singing of the opening hymn (National Anthem). There was the declaration, or affirmation of faith (cheering as the players came out on to the field), prayer (Please, God, let my team win!!) and confession (my team sucks!), the offering (pennants and hats purchased) and communion (although I now prefer bread and wine to the hot dog and soda back then). And although I do not remember the benediction, surely the public address announcer closed the service by reminding the congregants to "please drive safely."




One of the great things about this hobby is the ability to relive those moments of our youth- of a time that we thought had been lost, forever; the ability to recapture- however brief- the joy experienced the first time we ripped open a pack of cards, the first time we held in our hands a ticket to a sporting event, the first time we read a game program cover to cover.




In recent weeks, I have been able to find tickets to two of the three NFL games have attended- including my first ever game (Seahawks vs. Rams, above), and my third game (Seattle vs. St. Louis). These are not the actual tickets I owned as a child (those are long gone) but were purchased off of eBay. Would I prefer to still have my original tickets? Absolutely! But in purchasing these things I still have a sense of redemption- of regaining that which was lost. The only football ticket left to seek after is from the Seahawks vs. Dolphins game I attended on August 18, 1980.










 I received the program in the mail yesterday. It too was from an eBay purchase, and was something I had in my childhood, coming from the same game as the Cardinals ticket above. As I was looking through it last night, I commented to my wife how surreal it is that, even though I had not seen the pictures and articles in over 30 years, they were exactly as I remembered them. They looked fresh. I guess the only analogy I can use is seeing that picture of a deceased love one and immediately hearing their voice, or remembering their touch, or recalling the distinctive smell of a perfume or of their house. And upon remembering, you immediately break out in doxology.


Friday, January 12, 2018

Ripped

I will never understand the fascination that some men (and some of the ladies, too) have with becoming completely ripped-as-shit. And for the record, I'm talking human anatomy, not getting stoned. Now, don't get me wrong, there's certainly nothing wrong with wanting to maintain one's mental and physical health through proper diet and exercise. But this twisted obsession that some have with the human body is, well, twisted. Men, in particular, are now beginning to feel the unrealistic expectations of having that perfect body that have been plaguing women for decades. Blame Hollywood; blame professional athletes on the gridiron and the court; blame the douche on social media who posts those never-ending selfies from the gym as he tracks his transformation into a lean, mean, love machine.

With the new year we just rang in, I decided to become more concerned with the overall health of my...collection. That's right, I won't be consuming as much junk (wax) that is full of empty calories and contains little nutritional value. While I'm not necessarily swearing off stuff from the junk wax era, I would like to try and make the collection a little leaner by cutting out the fats. Or, to use collector's parlance, I'm breaking up unwanted sets, trading commons, dropping certain player collections while tightening up others by collecting only certain cards of said players. Hate spending $15 on a modern card? Good for you; I think I might rather spend fifteen bucks on a fresh, healthy meal than buy fifteen stale candy bars at a dollar each. But let's be clear, I don't want my collection to get that ripped-as-shit look I spoke of earlier. I'll leave that to the supercollectors and their 1-of-1 hits. 



The most recent addition to the King Collection, numbered 38/60. While not a huge Ginter fan, I fell in love with this card upon first sight and decided it was much more desirable than adding a lot of cards that did nothing for me. The colors really pop on this one and the card is unlike anything else in my collection.





I can't promise that I won't be posting pictures on the blog (or Instagram and Twitter) during this journey. After all, what's the use of a deep tan, trendy tat, and six-pack abs if one can't show them off? But please forgive me if at times I show off the receding hairline. 





Tuesday, January 9, 2018

USS Mariner Project #1: Aardsma to Zych

A few months ago I mentioned a new project I'm working on, which I call 'Project U.S.S Mariner.' If you didn't read the post, or if you forgot about it, what this is is a collection of cards of players who have played at the major league level for the Seattle Mariners. My goal is to get one card of every player that has appeared in a major league set (whether it be mainstream set or an oddball release). This means no minor league cards. Three other restrictions: the card must show them in a Mariners uniform (other teams uniform's are permitted only if the player doesn't appear in any cards as a Mariner & the Mariners are the team listed on the card); card cannot be a flagship Topps card unless they don't appear on any other cards, and I'll try to limit the number of times a particular card (year/mfg/brand) is represented. My goal is to have as many different sets represented as possible.


Anyway, I have finally finished putting the roster together, which you can access here. I'll be putting up a link of the wantlist/checklist at the top of the blog under "What I Collect", so if you are ever needing to reference the list, it will be easily accessible. This list contains the name of the player, the year, Manufacturer/Brand and card number; the spreadsheet also has an area where I type 'x' for cards I have, as well as a 'special notes' column, where I mention (primarily) 'Only M's Card' or 'Only Card' for my own personal reference.




The first entry into the spread sheet was David Aardsma, whose surname is listed first, alphabetically, of all those who have played in the majors. The man he replaced?  Hank Aaaron, of course!. The journeyman right hander played for 8 different teams during his 9 seasons in the majors and a total of 23 teams during his professional career.

Aardsma once told Bill Plaschke, of the LA Times, that he'd like to be remembered for something other than his last name. Okay, well how about this: the former first-round pick recorded 69 saves in two seasons ('09, '10) with the Mariners, good for fourth all-time on the team's saves list. He might have eventually passed Mike Schooler for third all-time, had he not lost the 2011 season due to (first) a torn labrum and then ligament problems that led to Tommy John surgery.






Not only did the Mariners employ the player at the top of the alphabetical list of MLB players, they also currently employ the player who ranks last on the alphabetical chain. Zych's story is an interesting one- or, should I say, how the Mariners acquired the reliever is an interesting story. Having spent five seasons in the Cubs' system, Zych was facing a third consecutive season at Double-A Tennessee. Rather than keep the struggling pitcher, the Cubs tried to flip him for a low-level prospect. Chicago agreed to a deal with the Mariners for either a PTBNL or cash considerations that would equal $1. No other player was ever involved in the deal, and the Mariners picked up a future big league reliever for a buck.

As I wrote in June of last year, this particular card is Tony's lone major league card. He's appeared in minor league sets, as well as Team USA sets, but nothing else- not even the base Topps Chrome set. If it weren't for shipping costs, I would have paid only 1 penny less for this than the M's paid for the man who signed the card.

_________________________________________________________________________


Whenever staring a new project like this, it's always easy to get the alpha and the omega- the first and the last; it's getting all the others that's difficult. If my count is right, there are 612 players on my list, 303 of whom I'm still looking to add a card to the binder. The fun has just begun.




Friday, January 5, 2018

The One Panini Got Right

"Fires. Hurricanes. Earthquakes. Floods. Mass Murders. Politics by tweet, diplomacy by bluster and on and on. But there were just enough bright moments and heartening signs to keep us barreling into the future with hope intact." The Mercury News editorial, January 3, 2018



I started this post with something that I have since scrapped, opting instead for the much more concise review of 2017 from the Mercury News. It encapsulated perfectly what I wanted to say, so why not use it?

While I will always remember 2017 as one of the strangest years of my lifetime, there were other things that will stand out, as well. It was a year that saw many once-in-a-generation events take place here in southwest Idaho- things like Snowmageddon and the Total Solar Eclipse this past August. On a national scale, we saw Panini getting a card design right.

I usually try to keep my card complaints to a minimum, and would prefer they be as rare as that total solar eclipse. Don't get me wrong, there is certainly a time and a place for criticism; I'm just not going to be doing that today. Instead, I'm going to praise a company for doing something right.





If you're a regular reader you are probably aware that I have not been a fan of the Panini card backs. But I've got to say, whoever designed the back (and the fronts!) of the Hall of Fame cards for the Class of 2017 did a hell of a job. There's continuity, elegance and informative. Are there too many logos (HOF, NFL shield, NFLPA- not to mention the Seahawks)? Yes. But three of the four are relatively small and, in my opinion, do not detract from the focal point. Seeing Panini pull off something like this gives me hope that they will one day get their card-backs right.




Oh, about those once-in-a-generation events... one other thing I never thought I would live to see: Kenny Easley's induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Easley, whose career was cut short by health problems, had been overlooked for the Hall since he became eligible 25 years earlier. What made it even more memorable- at least for this Seahawks fan- was that Kenny's induction took place on my birthday. Memorable, indeed.