Results tagged ‘ baseball cards ’

R.I.P. Joe Morgan

I have an old cigar box where I stash my autographs, baseball cards, and other assorted bric-a-brac. Today I was looking through it for the first time in eons when I stumbled upon this Joe Morgan pin. I didn’t really get to watch Joe play, as he had retired before baseball was part of my stratosphere, but I know he was a fine second baseman and a damn good leader on some star-studded Cincinnati Reds teams in the 70’s. He was also a Hall of Famer, a label that hasn’t been treated kindly in this demoralizing year of 2020.

I suppose when people die an individual always reminisces and then takes the inevitable look at their own mortality and wonders: When is my time? Where do we go? Is it just nothingness? So here I am raising a glass for you, Joe. Let us all acknowledge the fact that no matter race, economic status, or popularity that we will all end up in the same place. And that enough should be reason alone for us to try to figure out how to end oppression and bigotry so we can all live a better life, and hopefully achieve a more peaceful existence on this spinning rock that we call home.

Sometimes life is the Pitts

Card courtesy of whentoppshadballs.blogspot.com

Is hitting zero home runs in the big leagues like being a writer who was never published? Or is it about the experience? The tactile thrill of putting pen to paper and seeing jumbled thoughts form on the page in a cohesive unit without fan-fair, without a record of speech.

Done with love unrequited.

There is a collective, who? from the crowd and a lot of head-scratching. The pitcher sneers, why are you here? this refugee from the bush leagues. The player goes through automated motions before digging in, slicing dirt and skipping pebbles; stepping into the box without adulation. No one scurries from the beer line to watch your at-bat. Persona Non-Grata. No one writes about and examines your life and travels, quoting you endlessly. You are no Joe DiMaggio or Ernest Hemingway or any other black and white face on a postcard. 11 career base-hits. I’ve had more lovers than that. Every one categorized and resonated in my mind’s eye with a dying quail, a check-swing squib, a flare here and there, or a hotshot that juuuuust went foul. Our struggles happen concurrently with everyone else’s — and sometimes done with love unrequited.

How did Bob Welch invade my stream of conciousness?

The most ubiquitous Welch baseball card of my childhood. I must have owned dozens of them.

If you do an impromptu internet search on Bob Welch Death, the information wave catches your surfboard and guides you to the former guitarist for Fleetwood Mac and his shocking suicide from a self-inflicted gunshot in 2012. Remember that song, Ebony Eyes? Neither do I, but apparently Bob scored a top 20 hit with it in 1978. The song is painfully repetitive, is derivative of Fleetwood Mac’s worst songs, (and that’s being generous) and could possibly cause one to scratch their eyes out…I hope I never have to hear it again. In the zeitgeist of “good” late 70’s music, this turd should stay safely sound on a piece of old vinyl relegated to grandma’s attic or the local town dump. Believe me, I’m sighing on the inside as I write this.

The death of Bob Welch, the baseball player was just as tragic, and even more so, as poor Bobby slipped on what I’m assuming to be a tile layered with condensation in his bathroom and broke his neck. The University of York Department of Physics recently hosted a presentation titled, “5 Ways the Universe Is Trying to Kill You,” and I felt that this applied to the unfortunate and freakish situation. There are typhoons, hurricanes, asteroids, cancers, plagues, nuclear meltdowns, the sun and its inevitable enveloping of the earth, and, of course…a slippery tile. They all want your existence as nil. And this is just the tip of the iceberg of proposed cataclysmic events, although I suppose everything isn’t all that terrible on this planet considering 99 percent of the places in the universe would snuff out any life instantly if it had a chance to exist at all.

I’m not even sure why Bob Welch invaded my cranium this morning as I sipped my coffee and flipped through an old Playboy from 1969 with an extended pause at the Brigitte Bardot layout. Sometimes feelings are hard to pin down, with so many subclauses and digressions. Maybe it was because I was thinking about an ex-girlfriend and how she had dropped me off at Dodger Stadium on a a perfectly lazy, brilliantly blue Los Angeles summer afternoon. Larry King pulled to the side of her car in his Mercedes and asked her if he could cut in line. (I learned later that he was in a hurry because he was throwing out the first pitch, which was just as horrible as you would expect.)

There was an “Old Timers Game” before the real contest, with the Dodgers facing the Yankees, and Bob Welch was on the mound for perhaps his final outing on a big league field with his marvelously exaggerated wind-up and leg-kick. All these memories coalesce and swirl and there is little attention to any small fragment of detail as I pull them from the blanket of obscurity: except for my questioning and confusion of Billy Crystal playing Short Stop for the Yankees that day which now seems as if it happened a lifetime ago.

An exhausting review of a single piece of cardboard

huh?

Recently, Topps released a set of baseball cards reproduced by various artists with their creative interpretations of iconic pieces of cardboard that were cherished throughout the years. I was given the Mark McGwire “1987 rookie card” by a friend and it gave me pause and seemed to be a head-scratcher. My opinion was that it was in the tradition of outsider art, or underground contemporary, which usually has the look as if an 8 year old or someone with a mental deficiency had created it: which is sometimes the case. It can be seen as aesthetically “bad” to most people, but to be fair, in some cases has multiple and sometimes disturbing meanings below the surface. The current appreciation and fervor around “outsider art” seemingly stems from an exhaustion with slick commercialism of much of the mainstream contemporary art world: a sort of anti-capitalism rebelliousness that found an audience and became what it rebelled against in the first place. Read: these guys and gals found a niche and are cashing in on the artistic equivalent of a skateboard or an energy drink. It simply exists to reaffirm commerce.

***

The creator in question, Keith Shore, an artist with formal and academic training, gained a modicum of buzz in the art world for creating the labels on a Danish beer bottle. That is a fine medium and I’m sure it was appreciated by many college kids with nothing to do on a Saturday night with a head full of ganja and the attention span of a gnat, but I wasn’t sure if the baseball card was the right medium for Shore’s “amateurish” style as this attempt at re-creating the most iconic piece of cardboard of my childhood failed miserably. Mind you, all of the above can be endlessly discussed, debated, dissected and put through the wringer to the point of jumping off a bridge to end the conversation. Besides,the point of this essay wasn’t to undermine the validity or definition of the “outsider” term itself, (I don’t have the time or interest) it was to confirm just how uninteresting and uninspired I found the ersatz art work to be. Ironically enough, the baseball card itself, once a worthless object created to entice children to buy bubble gum, could be seen through certain eyes as a form of pop art with a dash of unapologetic crass commercialism sprinkled in.

What a hypocrite.

Canseco and Cap’n Crunch

I was standing in the queue at the local health food store with my basket full of over-priced, organic, local, vegan, cage-free crap when suddenly I was struck by a haze of fog known as boredom reminiscing. This phenomenon, where synapses are sparked by everyday mundane activities, usually takes me back to the 80’s and a much more simpler time before parents were “enlightened helicopters” and kids started bringing guns to school to solve their commonplace problems.

While in this haze I’m begging my mother to buy me Cap’n Crunch, if only because of the 2 free baseball cards inside. She obviously isn’t very modern, (alas, this is the 80’s, stick with me here) so she doesn’t know what the hell organic means, and her idea of a “healthy snack” would be a syrupy granola bar with chocolate chips or a fruit cup. The only reason she’s debating this is because she can buy the very same, generic version at a much, much cheaper price by the hideously uninspired name of Crispy Crunch. Well, this was a complication of epic proportions for a 12 year old. There was no chance of getting a fucking Jose Canseco or Mark McGwire card in a box of Crispy Crunch. What to do?

I’m startled out of this mini psychedelic trip by the impatient, too-cool-for-school checker with dreadlocks and a Nirvana t-shirt. She had been calling out to me, and like an idiot I was standing there, in a daze, thinking about the time I wanted to eat a box of sugar- laden crap in order to obtain pieces of cardboard with the likeness of guys who injected steroids in their ass so they could look like Greek gods, break a bunch of records and hit the ball out of the goddamn stratosphere.

Wasn’t it great?

 

Baseball withdrawal.

The All Star Break is a long and punitive horror show to someone like me. The All Star game itself was a snooze fest (I was bored by the 5th) and the home run derby was was like watching paint dry; but with people sitting on couches, giving inane, contrived interviews and then slapping each other on the ass at different intervals. (Sponsored by T-Mobile)

I loved the All Star game as a kid but let’s face it– baseball players just aren’t all that interesting as humans. I love your athletic prowess dude, but don’t really give a shit about or have time for a Crash Davis inspired buddy-buddy interview with Jack Buck and John Smoltz leaving everyone uninspired with their deadpan deliveries. It’s like talking to your dad about safe sex while mowing the lawn.

Evidently I wasn’t the only one that was uninspired/would rather do anything else, as the ratings were at an all time low. Are you telling me that skits of baseball players pretending like they can play musical instruments and acting like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is cool and edgy didn’t stoke the imagination of the “youth of today!?” Thanks, Cleveland, but I think the answer was a resounding “no.”

After all the sickening schmaltz and corporate fuck-fest was over the reality of a pennant race kicked in.

I usually listen/watch games while typing and straightening my tie at work. I’ve got withdrawals that give me flu-like symptoms, anxiety, depression and restlessness. I need to drink a lot of water because there seems to be a thirst I can’t quench. I have to feign interest in Netflix shows or dating sites in order to chat with my co-workers around the water cooler. This seems to be an ample time-killer. Staring at a lap-top screen gives you headaches after awhile. My boss saw me dragging the other day and told me this: “the calm lake is a mirror.”

Did I mention staring at a lap-top all day gives you headaches?

All Star breaks, home runs and anti-social disorder.

Hates egoists and wants to be alone.

It’s the All Star Break and I’m not really sure if I will watch the HR derby tonight even though A’s favorite/clandestine in the baseball world Matt Chapman is competing. I have unadulterated “pachyderm pride,” I just don’t care too much about one of my guys winning a home run contest. That being said, I did enjoy watching the old black and white 1960 episodes of Home Run Derby as a kid with Mickey Mantle, Duke Snyder and Willie Mays so perhaps I will tune in tonight just out of curiosity. These kind of things can be tricky, of course, because by my estimation if I’m not entertained within the first 5 minutes than I will give up all together and move on to another activity. There was just something cool about guys from the 60’s hitting dingers in an empty, creepy stadium rather than into a mosh pit of “ooohing” and “ahhhing” fans biting and clawing at each other for something they unrealistically think they can sell on ebay to put their kids through college. Plus, you know, Cleveland. Yuck.

I was reading random blogs when I was thrust into a magical internet wormhole, stumbling upon whentoppshadballs.blogspot.com and a write-up on the anomaly known as Mark Williams. I have always been intrigued by the more eccentric side of baseball and it’s players, and here is what I found: Mark Westley Williams is a former professional baseball outfielder. He played in three games for the Oakland Athletics of Major League Baseball in 1977, going 0-for-2 with 1 RBI. Born in Elmira, NY the last of three children for Virgina and David Williams. Retired in 1977 after losing interest in baseball after finding out that he suffered from anti-social disorder and allergic to egoistic inflation. Later attended West Point Military Academy, and Elmira College receiving a masters degree. Now can be found hiking numerous trials in upstate New York under trail name “Let Me Be!”

An old friend has returned.

1976 Topps

Reading is one of the few things that calms my mind for any given length of time as concentrating on any one thing for long moments poses some serious problems. Losing yourself in a book is a fantastic escape from everyday trials, and I also find myself being lost in the wordplay and turn of phrase by any writer with significant skills.  I was recently going through some boxes when I found a dusty copy of Slaughterhouse Five with a baseball card tucked inside and I had to take pause.

I’ve dragged this “bookmark” around from mezcal soaked Tijuana watering holes where the prostitutes would whisper “primo” at me in an attempt to extract a few American dollars for an escort, extravagant Palm Springs hotels where I once kissed a model with a zit on her chin, and a hash-smoke laden Barcelona beach where a Muslim kid tried to steal my passport while I was sleeping. It has ceased to be a simple piece of cardboard to be merely used, thrown away or disregarded; now it is a dear friend full of memories with hilarious anecdotes to share.

I know very little about the player on the card and have certainly never seen him play. Tommy Harper was born in Oak Grove, Louisiana, was a central figure in the troubled racial history of the Red Sox, and had a long but rather unremarkable career with 8 teams. (although he did hit 31 home runs for Milwaukee in 1970, making his only All Star game.)

“Bip” the player meets “Bip” the cat.

Around Fall 2001 I was moving in to a new place with my girlfriend at the time; she was 21, petite, had short red hair, a great sense of humor, loved to eat cheese and watch the X Files. We moved to a studio in a dodgy urban area, but it was ours and we loved it–we were young and still trying to understand the internal world of our hearts and minds among punk rock music, modern art, drugs and used furniture.

One night we were behind our apartment building taking out the trash when we saw a small gray and white cat running around. After chasing the little rascal around for a while, we caught it and decided to adopt him, but we couldn’t decide on a name.

“How about Bip?” I said.

Leon Joseph “Bip” Roberts hadn’t been in the league for a couple of seasons, but at the time was announcing for the local AAA Sacramento River Cats and this predicated the name. Besides, the player Bip was sort of smallish and an underdog who only hit 30 homers in his career. (One for the Oakland A’s!) The cat “Bip” was smallish and an underdog as well. The name stuck. Bip is probably gone now and the relationship is long over, as things tend to do, but the memories will always last.

No word yet as if Bip (the cat) has hit any homers in the Big Leagues.

2 boys trading baseball cards, Summer 1974.

Looks like he’s, well, you know.

Steve Miller Band’s “The Joker” poured out of the Mustang in the driveway as Pete and Nick sat on the front porch. They had just torn open a few packs of baseball cards and decided to make a few swaps before the cards were relegated to a rubber band and the back pocket of faded dungarees.

“Ok, you like the A’s right? I’ll give you a Dave Hamilton for George Brett.”
“Are you kidding me! You must think I’m a fucking idiot. That’s not a fair trade; and besides, it looks like he’s taking a shit!”
Pete’s older brother, Craig, stopped washing his black treasure and walked over with kinked hose in hand.

“You turds need to shut the hell up before I hose you down. Besides, I got Amy coming over and you two dumbasses aren’t gonna ruin my chance at getting some trim.”

“You haven’t got a chance in hell,” Pete spat, shoving a brick-hard powdered slab of gum in his mouth.

“Keep talking big mouth and I’ll give both you and your stupid friend knuckle sandwiches. You’ll be spittin’ out teeth for a week”

Craig continued washing his car, alone with the hose, the suds, the black beauty and the privacy of his own young and perverted mind.

“He thinks he’s such a big shot.”

“Yeah, I can’t wait until I get older so I can kick his ass…so Dave Hamilton for George Brett?”