Thursday, September 21, 2017

A Cruel Game, a Good Season, and a Good Career

Baseball is a cruel game. They call it “a game of inches,” but it’s the same thing, really. My Brewers, in a playoff race that no one expected them to be in, have lost two heartbreaking games in a row. A few inches one way instead of the other and they’d be a game and a half behind the Cubs in the Central and in possession of the second Wild Card spot. But they didn’t get those breaks and now I’ve experienced the misery of a entire season in a little more than 24 hours. The Crew have three more against the Cubs this weekend and, if they want a real chance at the postseason, they need to win all three. I will probably miss all three games. I missed almost every inning of the Brewers’ epic sweep at Wrigley a few weeks ago and, this weekend, I’ll be California at a wedding, way out in the desert away from cable and reliable phone service. And to be honest, I’m almost glad. Having a team in the race is tiring and emotionally taxing. The Brewers will probably win all three, leaving me on pins and needles for the rest of the season as the Brewers scrap all the way to the end. Like I said, baseball is a cruel game.

Cal Eldred knew it. This is a card I got in my recent trade with Brewers792. Eldred came up in the middle of the 1992 season and was a God for 14 starts, winning 11 and posting a 1.79 ERA over 100 innings. He looked every bit an ace, but the Brewers pitched him to death over the next two years – running him over 140 pitches about once a month – and his elbow blew up in 1995. He remained a serviceable pitcher when he came back, but never neared the brilliance of his rookie season.

But Cal probably wouldn’t complain. He had a better career than most, he even got to pitch in a World Series And I can’t complain. I live and die with the Brewers because they’re my team, because they’re my city. It’s a lopsided relationship, but I have come to know what to expect and I stick around anyway. If anyone told me at the beginning of this season that I would crushed by the outcome of two late-September games, I’d have been thrilled to know that things would still be exciting enough to end up crushed. So, I’mma head out west and forget about things for a few days… Monday morning, I’ll pick up a newspaper and find out how much handwringing I’ll be doing next week. I’m nervous, but mostly glad for it all.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

A Swap with Infield Fly Adam

A few weeks back, I completed a swap with Adam from InfieldFly Rule… well, I kinda completed it – I mixed up stacks and sent him some Indians cards, while his Rockies made their way to Ohio (everyone is home safe and sound now, though). I was only mildly familiar with his blog before the trade, but it’s a very good read and has introduced me to cards I had no idea existed.

Adam had recently acquired a big ol’ box-o-Topps base and had some want list stuff for me, as well as some of my hometown nine. Let’s take a look…

The bundle started with a nice stack of Brewers from my youth.

Here is one that I didn’t have…

These conflicting logo-photo cards have always been a bit confounding to me. To me, this is a Rockies card. But, Dante is shown in his Brewers blue. Does this make it a bit of a hybrid? Would it be enough for an obsessive team collector to include in their binders? And what if it still had a Brewers logo, but just a notice about the trade? There are a number of cards like this in 1993 Fleer… Brewers by photo and in-design graphics, but with a plain text notice of a team change. And then there are those cards (1981 Donruss, for example), that note team changes in the biography on the back. There need to be some hard and fast rules for these, I think.

And here’s a Robin Yount from the Bunt series. Always good to get a new Robin.

A big part of the box was 1996 Topps. At 440 cards, it’s the smallest base set since 1953. The choice card of those Adam mailed me was this Todd Helton RC (a very generous throw-in from a Rockies fan).

There is a bit of a muff on the foil in his name… hard to tell in the image, but it looks like they stamped foil that had already been stamped (looks like ‘Davis’ or something). I guess this makes it an eBay 1 of 1. I’ll sell it for $800 firm, otherwise it’s going into the binder.

I actually kinda dig the 1996 set. It’s dated, sure, but the photography is crisp and the look is clean.

And you get entirely un-ironic write-ups like this one about Brewers could-have-been ace Cal Eldred.

Or this odd story about Reggie Sanders. “The only bad thing about his season was when he almost suffocated himself!”

There was also a decent stack of 2004 Topps.

I had always considered this to be an underwhelming set. I love the little figure and uniform number in the corner… but I hate the silver foil, the big team name at the top and the thick border on the photo. This could have been a set defined by that awesome corner graphic, but they tried to do too much and cluttered the very nice photography with all that extra garbage.

But MY GOD, they had unique designs for the subset cards. This is constantly my biggest complaint about new Topps sets. They dream up a million designs for insert sets that no one wants, but make EVERY card in the base look the same. Just look at what could be….

What a great-looking leaders card!

Sporting News All-Stars! With a cameo from Brewer Scott Podsednik!


And more than just a line score and two sentences on the back! This is what happens when you don’t phone it in, Topps.

I also got some 2007s, a design I always thought was underrated.

And some ‘09s, which look like crap and waste a lot of cool photography with awful framing. Like this one of the most annoying person in baseball, Nick Swisher. How cool would this look as a horizontal card?

Anyway, thanks to Adam for the swap. I hope you enjoy the Rockies I sent you… it’ll give you something to sort through as you sweat out the end of the season with my Brewers nipping at the Rox’s heels:) 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

More Brewers You've Forgotten: Ticking a Few Names Off my All-Time Brewers List

As of my last count, I have cards of 813 of the 841 men who appeared in a game for Pilots/Brewers up through the 2016 season. I started this project earlier in the year and I’m really glad I did. It’s gotten me more familiar with the all-time roster and has proved to be more of a challenge than I thought. While a 25th Anniversary All-Time card set that was given away in four installments during the 1994 season provided a large number of “lesser” Brewers, tracking down cardboard of fringe players from the 23 years since has sent me searching deep into the bowels of off-brand product and minor league sets. I picked up another lot on Sportlots recently and will now share these long-forgotten Beermen with the blogosphere…

Bob Hamelin, 1998.
Most impressive Brewers stat: 4 Pinch-hit homers (led league)

On account of his 1994 AL ROY win, the Hammer got a few Brewers cards for his short time with the team. This Ultra card is easily the nicest. Hamelin played his last 109 games as a part-time first basemen with the Brewers. Fun fact about Bob Hamelin: he once cited Milwaukee as his least-favorite place to play on the road, saying, “The weather always seems bad, the stadium is run-down, and the downtown is dreary. All I can think of is Jeffery Dahmer.” Less than two years later, Hamelin became a Brewer.

Allan Simpson, 2006.
Most impressive Brewers stat: 152 ERA+ over 2.2 innings

A Brewer without a Brewer card, Simpson made two appearances in June before being sent back to minors. His photo on baseball-reference looks like a character from Tom Goes to the Mayor.

Chris Spurling, 2007.
Most impressive Brewers stat: 21 games finished, 0 saves

An average bullpen arm for the 2007 team – a surprising contender that finished just two games out of first place – Spurling, like Simpson and Ham, ended his career as a Brewer. I remember this guy being around a lot longer for some reason.

Joe Hudson, 1998.
Most impressive Brewers stat: 162.00 ERA (6 earned runs, .1 innings)

Despite three full seasons with the Red Sox 1995-1997, Joe Hudson never got a major league card. His only Brewers appearance came in Cincinnati on August 7, 1998. He came on for Brad Woodall in the sixth inning and, after getting Pat Watkins to line out, walked Willie Greene, allowed a double to Reggie Sanders, walked Barry Larkin, allowed a three-run double to Sean Casey, and walked Dmitri Young and Brett Boone. Mike Myers came on and allowed a base-clearing double, tagging Hudson with the highest career ERA in Brewers history.

Garry Roggenburk, 1969.
Most impressive Pilots stat: CG win v. California, July 8. Allowed 5 hits and 1 ER.

Although that give-away set covered the Brewers back til 1970, it did not include the Pilots, leaving a few holes in the first pages of my collection. Roggenburk was one of them, picked up mid-season from the Red Sox. He started a few games before going to the bullpen. On July 27, he was the last Pilots pitcher in a six-hour, 20 inning marathon against his old team. The Sox won, 5-3 and Roggenburk never pitched in the majors again.

Ron Rightnowar, 1995.
Most impressive Brewers stat: His birthday is Sept. 5, the same day I wrote this post.

Righnowar was a career minor leaguer when he took a chance and crossed the picket lines to play as a replacement player during Spring Training in 1995. After the strike ended, he became the first replacement player to make the big league team, getting the call in mid-May. Rightnowar got a frosty reception from his teammates at first. “It really stunk, to be honest with you,” Rightnowar said. “From the time I was 8 or 9 years old, I had dreamed of what the day would be like if, and when, I ever made it to the big leagues. I figured it would be a real special day in my life, just like the day I got married. But I felt awful. They were all giving me the cold shoulder.” Rightnowar was demoted in August and never made it back to the majors.

Michael Kirkman, 2016.
Most impressive Brewers stat: He struck out Giancarlo Stanton

Kirkman pitched an inning for last year’s Brewers club. I must have been in the bathroom or something, because it’s news to me that this ever happened.

Billy “Not that Billy Williams” Williams, 1969
Most impressive Pilots stat: Made MLB Debut at age 37

Billy Williams appeared in just four games for the Pilots in 1969, but spent 18 years overall playing pro baseball. He is the only Pilot to never appear on a card as a player, but appeared on two minor league cards during his lengthy coaching career. Billy passed away in 2013.

Danny Perez, 1996
Most impressive Brewers stat: Never stuck out or made an error

Perez appeared in four games, batted four times, and didn’t do much of anything else in the Majors. He started on July 4 against the Yankees in the Bronx… so that must have been a thrill.

Blake Lalli, 2013
Most impressive Brewers stat: Walk-off pinch hit against the Giants, April 17

Lalli was a utility player who made the club out of Spring Training, but had major troubles at the plate (a very tidy slash line of .125/.125/.125) and was send down in mid-May. He resurfaced for a handful of games with the Braves last year. In 51 career plate appearances, he drew just one walk.

Dick Simpson, 1969
Most impressive Pilots stat: 3 stolen bases in 4 attempts

Simpson was only 25 when he joined the Pilots, but already in his seventh (and last) big league season. He had been traded six times by the time he landed in Seattle, including as a key piece in the deal that sent Frank Robinson to the Orioles. He appeared in 26 games with the Pilots and was traded in the off-season to the Giants, although he never played in the majors again. According to Wikipedia, he is the father of Colton Simpson, an OG member of the Crips who is currently serving a 126-year sentence in California after being convicted of robbery, grand theft, and attempted murder and later wrote a book about this time in the gang.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Life Advice from the 1999 Brewers

Recently, I posted a trade with Robb of Brewers792 involving a set of 1999 Brewers police cards. As a civic service, I am going to share some of the VERY IMPORTANT advice featured on the backsides of the cards. 

Mark Loretta sez "Be careful when peddling"

I guess it was 1999, so maybe kids still did that. I remember selling candy bars for Cub Scouts door-to-door as a kid. I'm pretty sure my parents did not come with. 

Fernando Vina sez "Don't trespass without a buddy!"

After hours indicates these places are all closed, right? And "arcade game stores"? Is that a place that sells arcade machines? And this was 1999, the arcade was pretty much dead by then. C'mon, 'Nando, get with the times. 

Jeromy Burnitz sez "Memorize your name"

It is important to know your own full name. Especially if you need someone to explain to you what a full name is (first, middle, and last).

Bobby Hugues sez "I want to give more than one piece of advice"

OK, those are two totally different ideas. It's like a Trump line of thought. "Never ride with a stranger. Remember, exercise is important."

Valerio De Los Santos sez "Wash yerself, you smelly bastard"

I mean, that's solid advice, but there are more reasons than self-esteem to take a shower and brush your teeth. 

So there you have it! Advice for better living! Now, if you'll please excuse me, I'm going to get high and break into an arcade machine warehouse... just after I shower... ah, forget it. I'll go as-is. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Trading with Robb of Brewers792

The Brewers just finished up a sweep of the Cubs at Wrigley and I feel like celebrating.(And since writing this, they got totally humiliated by some Pirates pitcher I had never heard of... such as life, I suppose)

I made a trade with a new partner this past week, a fellow Brewers fan named Robb who had a blog up and running at First off, excellent title, Robb. I surely wish that Topps would go back to the 792-card set size. It's just so comforting and iconic. Anyway, Robb has a trade post for this swap up and has a Brewers wantlist up as well, so I encourage you to give it a look. Lots of Topps base needs, etc. I sent him a stack of dupes I had laying around and he send me a small stack of '93 Topps base, a few cards of players I collect, and something I've been dreaming about since I started the ATB project back in the Spring. He also sent a signed card of a Brewer who was straight LEGEND for a summer back when I was a kid, but I will save that for another post.

Are you ready?


Ok, we all call it the Police set, even thought it really isn't. It was a stadium give-away set sponsored by Midwest Sports Channel (now FS Wisconsin) that used the old police set format - full team set, dopey messages on the back - but I don't think this was ever actually given away by the MPD. The cards don't mention the police department, anyway.  

The cards are designed to honor Milwaukee County Stadium, as 1999 was supposed to be the final year the Brewers played in the old ball park. It's a nice look, overall, but in the summer of '99, a crane collapse at the Miller Park site killed three workers and delayed the opening of the new stadium by a year. That was just how things went for the Brewers in the '90s. 

So why am so excited for a set of a 74-win team that reminds me of a terrible industrial accident? Because this set contains the ONLY Brewers cardboard of FOUR different players. Let's have a look-see...

Eric Plunk is easily the most accomplished of this group and actually spent parts of two seasons with the Brewers at the end of his 14-year career. We all known that bullpen guy got ZERO love from card companies when set sizes shrank after the strike, so the only evidence of Plunk as a Brewer is this single card.

Sweet Lou Collier was always a guy I liked, for some reason. The Brewers got him off waivers from the Pirates before the 1999 season. He saw a lot of action with the Brewers that year, and showed good plate patience, if not much else. He also saw action with the Brewers in '00 and '01 (I had entirely forgotten about that), but had no major release cards between his time with the Bucs and his 2002 appearance in Montreal.

Rich Becker and Steve Falteisek both debuted with the Brewers in '99. Neither finished the season there. Falty threw 12 innings before being demoted and Becker was a part-timer before being traded to Oakland for a PTBNL. 

This card actually caused a bit of a reshuffle in my binder, as I was unaware that this was a dual card. This is one of two examples of a double-up in my ATB binders, the other also being a team-issue card of Bronswell Patrick and Brad Woodall. I thought about getting dupes of these cards so that the spaces in my binders would match the actual number of players on the ATB roster... but screw that. It was hard enough finding one of these cards.

These cards put me at 819 of the 841 all-time Brewers. Of all the Brewers who have ever appeared on a card AS a Brewer, I am only missing three - Tim Van Egmund,
1997 Pacific Prisms Gems of the Diamond #GD 59; Pete Zoccolillo, 2003 UD Finite #292 or 03 UD Ultimate #145; and Gregg Zaun, 2010 Brewers Team Set #MIL3.Please help if you can...