Sunday, November 30, 2008

Song of the Week - Requiem (the Fifth) by Trans-Siberian Orchestra

I have 5,838 songs in iTunes. This is one of them.

The Trans-Siberian Orchestra was founded in 1996. You may know them from their Christmas music. They've released 4 Christmas albums. In 2000, they release their only non-Christmas album, called Beethoven's Last Night, a concept piece about, you guessed it, Beethoven's last night on earth. The songs tell a story but it's difficult to tell exactly what the story is about. A young female orphan is involved somehow but the Wikipedia article on Beethoven mentions nothing about such a person. My classical education is sadly lacking so I don't really know much about his life. He did apparently die during a thunderstorm as this video says.

The album is pretty bombastic with a very deep voiced male vocal. I bought it on a whim and I'm not sure I really like it. But iTunes threw this up as a possibility and the video is a hoot.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The quest for 1987 Topps

When I started writing the blog, some 200 posts ago, I had no idea what I was getting into. There were a handful of other blogs about baseball cards I'd found and was reading, but I had no sense of where it might lead. For one thing, I had no idea that I'd be trading baseball cards through the mail.

Today I received 18 1987 Topps Card from Ben at 88 Score. In addition to 1988 Score he also collects 1987 Topps. He sent me some of his doubles. I'll be sending him some of my doubles and a handful of 1988 Score cards.

One thing I like about '87 Topps is the subset cards. The first 7 cards is the "'86 Record Breaker" subset. In 1986, Todd Worrell set a major league record for saves in a rookie season with 56. 36 saves was also good enough to lead the NL and win him the NL Rookie of the Year Award. I think Todd's record may still stand.
Here's another subset card I got from Ben, the 1986 All-Stars. On the back of these cards Topps featured league leaders in some stat. Hernandez was 6th in runs scored in 1986 with 94. Tony Gwynn and Von Hayes lead the league with 107.
It's also fun to look at old cards (this set is over 20 years old now) for the uniforms. Back in 1987, when interleague play was thought to be impossible, I didn't get to see the White Sox play very often. Is that really Fisk's uniform number on his pants? The other reason I'm showing this card is to contrast it with the next card. Topps varied the color behind the player's name to roughly match something in the team's colors. But the colors choices were limited to light blue, dark blue, red, orange, mustard, yellow, and green, so sometimes the colors didn't blend that well with the uni colors, like in this Fisk card.
But sometimes the color was perfect. The name box green, the uniform green and the green in the logo match perfectly in this card below, featuring Mark McGwire. This is not McGwire's Topps rookie card, that was in 1985. It is his second Topps card. Compared to his later self he looks like a runt on this card.
And a glorious checklist card in all its wood-grained goodness. This also happens to be the last card in the set.

Friday, November 28, 2008

2008 Baseball Cards in Review - Topps (Part 1)

This just happens to be my 200th post.

When I first saw the design for 2008 Topps, I didn't like it much. But its grown on me and now I like it quite a lot. In fact I think its the best design since 2003. This year's Topps features 660 cards, issued in 2 series. I bought 5-6 blaster boxes and managed to get 84% of the set. There are a number of subsets as usual. I'm only going to feature a few of the subsets, this post is already going to be long. And I'm going to feature the inserts separately, probably in several other posts, just because there are a lot of them. The design is simpler than last year's and white vs black. The Topps logo and player name are in silver foil. The backs are pretty typical for the Topps set with complete career stats and, if room, some biographical info about the player.
As they have for several years, there is a gold bordered parallel set, numbered to the set year. The only difference from the base card is the gold border and the words "57 Years of Collecting" in silver foil at the top of the photo. Beckett gives the gold bordered cards a 8x premium over the base cards.

In 2007, Topps introduced another parallel, called Gold Foil. Instead of silver foil, the cards have gold foil. In my opinion, it is very difficult to distinguish a gold foil card from a regular card. They are not serial numbered. This Kevin Gregg card is the only one I have.
Beckett gives the gold foil a 2.5x premium over the base but these seem to be a much harder pull. Out of 847 cards I pulled 9 gold bordered cards but only 1 gold foil. I didn't see any last year. There is also a black bordered parallel numbered to 57 and a platinum parallel numbered to 1. Good luck with pulling one of those.
When Mickey Mantle died in 1995, Topps 'retired' the number 7 card. But in the past few years, they've included a #7 card, featuring the Mick himself.
A long running subset is the League Leaders. Between them, Kazmir, Santana and Bedard struck out 695 batters in 2007.Another long-running subset is the Awards cards. Braun hit .324 and 34 home runs in his rookie season. His average was down a bit this year, but he hit 37 home runs, was an All-Star and led the Brewers to the playoffs.

This card is from the Topps Opening Day set. This is a separately issued set which Topps has had since 1999. The Opening Day set features the same design as the regular set but with a different border color and the Opening Day logo. There are also fewer cards in the set, this year had 220. There are no subset cards. I managed to acquire about half the set in one 20-pack blaster. These caused a stir in the blogging community when they came out due to the startling red border. I kind of like them myself.
And finally we come to this years so-called error card. Most collector's call this a gimmick. Yea, I agree, its a gimmick but I'm glad I got one. As you can see, that's Rudy Giuliani photoshopped into Red Sox celebrating their 2007 World Series win. Of course, the 'joke' here is that Giuliani is the quintessential New Yorker who said he was a Red Sox fan after the series. My question is, how many people will remember this in another year? How many people even understand this now? Wasn't he a presidential candidate sometime in the early years of the 2008 presidential campaign which seemed to have lasted for the past 4 years? Oh, and don't forget he was America's Mayor.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Frosty Friends 1980 - 1982

Sometimes you fall into a collection of something by accident. My wife and I got married in May 1980. In December we started to purchase Christmas ornaments. I had several boxes of stuff from my parents but we wanted our own stuff as well. We found this little ornament from Hallmark.
It was perfect. 1980 was our first Christmas and this was a dated ornament. What we didn't realize was that this was going to be the first of a series called Frosty Friends, a series which continues to today. The new Hallmark ornaments start showing up in the Hallmark stores in August and we always make sure we get the new Frosty Friends then. Some years these have been hard to find and we'd hate to have a gap in the series. A few years ago we bought a small artificial tree just for these. The 1980 ornament has become a collector's item. There are a number on eBay right now, some as high as $300. The key to this particular ornament is the little songbooks. Ours still has the originals, which makes it more valuable. You can get replacement song books for about $20 on eBay. The ornament is about 4 inches high.
In 1981, we were surprised to see another Frosty Friends. The Eskimo has a new friend, a husky dog. No polar bear this year. The ornament is about the same size as before. The little figures are always the same size every year. These are going on eBay for maybe $75 to $100. This one is not as condition sensitive as the 1980 as everything on it is plastic. By the way, we still have all the original boxes and packing material. We weren't thinking about long term value, it just made sense to us to repack them in the original boxes. But apparently this is important to the value of them.
1982 again features Eskimo and Husky. One thing we like about the series is the wide variation in design from year to year. This ornament is a bit longer then the first two. It is also balanced well so it hangs perfectly. I'll feature the rest of these as the season progresses.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

2008 Baseball Cards in Review - Stadium Club

Hearing that these cards might be hard to find, I wasn't expecting much at the local Target. I found one pack, sitting in an open box of Upper Deck MVP basketball. But at WalMart, I found a blaster box. The set consists of 185 cards. The first 100 cards are a mix of current and retired players. I pulled the Nolan Ryan below from the single pack at Target. It's the best regular card I got. From the box I also pulled a Roberto Clemente card.

The cards are nice. Glossy on the front with a minimum of silver foil. I really don't see much to recommend them over, say, Upper Deck, another full bleed set. The photography is mostly good, but some of the photos are not so great. All of the insert autos and relics are at pretty long odds (1 in hundreds of packs). That's a lot of blasters.

There are about 30 short-print cards, numbered to 999 in the 100 first cards. Cards numbered 101 to 149 are rookie cards. Each card has a short print (numbered to 999) variation. I got one of these. This is the non-variation of the Joey Votto card. There were 8 packs in the box. All of the cards in the first 4 packs I opened were vertically oriented while all the cards in the 2nd 4 packs were horizontally oriented. Seems a weird way to pack the cards. The box says one rookie card per pack which is what I got, except that the short print card (of Mitch Boggs) was an extra rookie. Cards 150-185 are autographed rookie cards. The pack says the odds of getting one of these is 1 in 60 packs.
The set also includes "First Day Issue Cards", which is a Stadium Club parallel set which first appeared in 1993. I thought I was pretty lucky when I got one of these in the single pack, and a rookie card no less. But then I got one of them in each pack in the blaster and all were rookies. According to the checklist on, there are also variations on the First Day Issue rookies. Beckett has a description of each of the variation cards. As near as I can tell, all of the cards I got are the variations. Certainly, the Votto First Day Issue card below is different from the card above. And the description matches. These variations are not numbered.
In the past, the First Day Issue cards were short printed, and in later years they were numbered. But Beckett does not indicate that these are short printed and I suspect they are not or there wouldn't be one in every pack.

The set also contains the following inserts (which I didn't get): Beam Team Autographs (in 4 flavors), Ceremonial Cuts (these may be cut autos), Sketch Cards, Stadium Slices (in several flavors) and Trimvirate Memorabilia Autographs (also in black). The regular cards come in several flavors of Photographer's Proof Cards. Printing plates are also available.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Feedjit Live

There are all kinds of gadgets you can put on your blog like hit counters, maps, and clocks. A few months ago I saw this feature called Feedjit Live. It takes information that Google collects about who's hitting on your blog and keeps a list of locations from where you were visited. If I were getting hundreds of hits a day I wouldn't be able to keep up with this but at 30-40, I can. You can see the gadget on the lower right side of the blog. In the past 24 hours I've been visited from:

Skokie, Illinois
Pasadena, CA
Mentor, Ohio (by someone using a Lunix system, I don't see this often)
State College, PA (the home of Penn State Univ.)
Muskegon, Michigan
Pasadena, CA (again, you can't tell if this is a different person)
Topeka, Kansas
Charlottesville, VA
Bluemont, VA
London, England (possibly John, the UK baseball card collector)
Bayonne, NJ
Durham, Nc
Rio de Janerio, Brazil
Santa Fe, NM (possibly Dinged Corners, hi Patricia and Lucy!)
Calcium, NY
Cathedral City, CA
East Orange, NJ
Rough River, OR
Bryan, Texas
United States (somebody living large, I guess)
Malvern, PA (possibly Phungo)
Farmington, Michigan
Fort Wayne, IN
Topeka, Kansas (again)
Pasadena, CA (yet again)
St. Paul, MN (Thorzul?)
Midlothian, VA
St. Paul, MN (again)
Pittsburgh, PA
Middletown, NY
College Station, TX (home of Texas A&M)

32 hits in the past 24 hours.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

2008 Baseball Cards in Review - SP Authentic

This set was treated with yawns around the blogs but I bought a blaster box anyway. The set consists of 100 base cards (like the Ichiro below). The base cards are what I call semi-glossy. The player photograph is glossy while the background is not. I suspect this set was designed by ex-Fleer designers as this type of effect was used often by Fleer. The color strip across the middle roughly matches the player's team colors. There is a head shot of the player on the back, a short write-up about the player and 6 years of stats. The front has silver foil. There is a gold version available which I assume has gold foil instead of silver.
Beckett says there are 191 cards in this set. The other 91 cards are short-print rookie cards with either a jersey, patch or auto, or some combination of two. Needless to say, one of these did not show up in the blaster.
This C. C. Sabathia card is from a 30-card insert set called SP Authentic Authentic Achievements. The Achievement listed is a 11-strikeout shutout he pitched on May 14, 2008 as a Brewer. It might be a cool card if the photo was from the actual game mentioned, but obviously this was not. I got one of these in the box.
Lots of gold foil on this 50-card insert. On the back it describes how Jeter fanned all four times in his first match-up against Schilling. I got two of these in the box.
The card above is called Rookie Exclusives, I'm not sure what that means as I'm pretty sure I have other cards featuring Ian Kennedy. No stats on the back, just some player highlights. I got 4 of these. There is an autograph version as well. There were no autos or relics in the box at all.

Also featured in the set are SP Authentic Chirography Signatures Dual (15 cards) , Triple (10 cards) and Quad (5 cards) cards. Chirography, by the way, means, handwriting.

Another autographed set is SP Authentic Sign of the Times Dual (15 cards) and SP Authentic Sign of the Times Triple (10 cards).

Then there are SP Authentic USA Junior National Team Jersey Autographs (18 cards), SP Authentic USA Junior National Team Patch Autographs (18 cards) and SP Authentic USA Junior National Team Patch Autographs (19 cards).

Song of the Week - Falling by Julie Cruise

I have 5,710 songs in iTunes. This is one of them.

This song is from the television show Twin Peaks. The show was set in a small fiction town in Washington state called Twin Peaks. The story involved the death of local girl Laura Palmer and the FBI agent (played by Kyle MacLachlan) sent to investigate her murder. It was produced and directed by David Lynch. The pilot aired on April 8, 1990. 7 more episodes were shown starting in June. A second season of 22 episodes aired starting in fall of 1990. The show was a critical and popular success. It was also strange. Twin Peaks had a lot of odd people (like the lady who walked around carrying a log, which she spoke to). There was also a lot of bad stuff going on under the placid exterior of a small town. Laura Palmer seemed to be the perfect high school student but was involved in drugs and other things.

The show was quite a phonomenon in 1990. But it couldn't sustain the pace. By the end of the second season, viewership had fallen off and eventually who killed Laura Palmer had to be reveled. The end of the second season was disappointing and, really, once the killer was revealed, there was no point to the series. There was a movie prequel in 1992 but, by then, who cared?

I was a big fan of the show. It is available on DVD. The first season was excellent.

Don't let yourself be hurt this time.
Don't let yourself be hurt this time.

Then I saw your face
Then I saw your smile

The sky is still blue
The clouds come and go
Yet something is different
Are we falling in love?

Don't let yourself be hurt this time.
Don't let yourself be hurt this time.

Then your kiss so soft
Then your touch so warm

The stars still shine bright
The mountains still high
Yet something is different
Are we falling in love?

Are we falling in love?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thursday Night at the Movies - Quantum of Solice

We've always been James Bond fans and have been looking forward to this movie since we first saw the trailers months ago. My daughter, who watched the previous movie recently, really liked the movie. My wife and I, who haven't seen the last Bond flick since it was in the theaters, were disappointed. Would we have liked it better if we'd re-watched the last movie first? Who knows. Our main problem is that we had no idea what was going on. Perhaps I shouldn't expect too much plot in a big bang action movie, but at least I expect to be able to figure out at least some rational for what the characters are doing. There's a lot of action. A top-notch car chase, a top-notch foot chase, a top-notch boat chase and even a top-notch plane chase. Bond takes unbelievable punishment but doesn't slow down. Some reviews I read suggested this is a revenge movie, that Bond goes on a senseless killing spree to avenge his girlfriend who dies at the end of the last movie. I didn't think the body count was any higher than usual. And Bond doesn't seem to kill with more than his usual callousness. If you're a big Bond fan, go and see the movie. But you might want to rent the last movie first.

For me, the most enjoyable thing I saw was a trailer for the new Star Trek movie. Yes, I admit it, I'm a big Star Trek nerd, have been since 1965. Not exactly a Trekker (I don't have a costume or a pair of Spock ears) but a big fan. The worst thing about the trailer - we have to wait until May 2009 to see the movie.

Package from Scott - more 1987 Topps cards!

Scott from Hand Collated sent me 24 1987 Topps cards. If I've got my count right, I only need 33 more cards to complete the set. I thought I was nearly done about a month ago before I did a recount and found another 50 plus cards I was missing. The best card of the bunch was this Ozzie Smith card.
I'm not quite sure what Ozzie is doing here. Watching a ball fly over his head? Must have been pretty high. Among the rest of the cards he sent, I probably like this card second best. Topps had these Team Leader cards in a number of sets in the late 1980s. The players featured were not usually identified but they were usually one of the players listed on the back. So who is this old geezer featured on the Astros Team Leader card?Although I'm an Astros fan now, I wasn't in 1987. I was pretty sure that it isn't Mike Scott or Glenn Davis (two Astros I actually collected then but whose cards have since melted back into the commons boxes) on the card. He sure looked familiar however. The it hit me, it's Yogi Berra! I had no idea that he was a coach for the Astros from 1986 to 1989. As near as I can tell, this is the only major issue baseball card with Yogi in an Astros uniform. And, I also believe, it's Yogi's last major issue baseball card of his baseball career.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

2008 Baseball Cards in Review - Finest

This will be a pretty short post as I only have one card representing this product. I never saw it for sale in the big box stores. The one I have I received in trade from someone.

It's hard to believe this is the 15th anniversary of the first Topps Finest cards issued in 1993. I only own 12 cards from that 1993 set. I remember packs going for $25 at the local card shop. I bought one pack for a friend as a birthday gift and it had the Ken Griffey card in it. The card hasn't held its value but I remember it booking at about $100. at the time.

This year's set has refractor and xfractor versions. The refractors come in black, blue, red, gold, and green versions. What I've got here is the garden variety refractor.

The xfractors come in gold and white framed versions. There are two basic insert sets, Finest Finest Moments and Finest Topps Team Favorites. These all come in most of the color/refractor/frames versions.

There are several different autograph series: the base set, the Finest Moments and the Topps Team Favorites all have autographed versions. There is also an insert called Topps TV Autographs (with black or red ink). Looking on eBay, it appears that the autos are on-card rather than on stickers.

Having only this one sample to look at limits what I can say, but I like the design. It's different than many years in that the background is part of the player photograph rather than an abstract background.

It looks like you get only one year of stats on the back, but I don't think you're buying Finest because you want stats. On this particular card, I really like the Finest 2007 Moment (being a Phillies fan and all).

Monday, November 17, 2008

All Booked Up in Archer City Texas

Because my family loves to take road trips, loves books, is a little crazy and the price of gas is comfortably back below $2 a gallon, we took a two-day road trip to Archer City Texas, the home of Larry McMurty's used book store, Booked Up. McMurty is the author of Lonesome Dove and The Last Picture Show among many other books. He's also been in the used book business for over 30 years.

Along the way we stopped in the Texas Ranger Museum in Waco Texas. If you're wondering why the Texas Ranger Museum is in Waco and not Arlington, its because it's this kind of Texas Ranger.
Archer City has a population of about 1,800 and is the very definition of a small Texas town. But its a viable town, as it is also the county seat for Archer County. There are 3 banks in town plus a Sonic (the only place to get dinner unless you drive 25 miles to Witchita Falls), 3 gas stations, and several other businesses. Here is what downtown looks like. I didn't include a photo but just to the left is the county courthouse.
The movie The Last Picture Show was filmed here, which is also McMurty's home town. The movie theatre which was featured in the film is still standing. They don't show movies there any longer but have live shows throughout the year.
Booked Up is one of the largest used book stores in the country. It used to be located in Georgetown VA but moved here some years ago. I estimate that they have about a half a million books scattered through 5 buildings. Here is my daughter standing between rows of shelves in Building 4. There is row after row like this throughout this building and the other 4.
We spent about $100 in the 2-3 hours we were actually in the store. With several stops, it took us 12 hours to get there but only 8 hours to get home.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Song of the Week - Time Won't Let Me by The Outsiders

I have 5,690 songs on my iTunes. This is one of them.

In my alphabetical quest through my iPod library, I listened to "Time" songs this week:

Time - The Alan Parsons Group
Time - David Bowie
Time - Pink Floyd
Time and A Word - Yes
Time for Livin' - Association
Time Has Come Today - Chambers Brothers
Time is a Lion - Joe Henry
Time is Time - Yes
The Time it is Today - Association
Time Out of Mind - Steely Dan
Time Stands Still - Rush
Time to Heal - Midnight Oil
Time Won't Let Me - The Outsiders
Timebomb - Old 97's
The Times They are a Changin' - Bob Dylan
Until It's Time For You To Go - Buffy Sainte-Marie
Until the End of Time - Sarah Brightman
The Very Last Time - Todd Rundgren
Who Knows Where The Time Goes? - Judy Collins/Fairport Convention

I picked this song because I was surprised to find a video of it. The Outsiders had a big hit with this song in 1966. There is a long article in Wikipedia about them if you care to read it. Especially long for a band that only had one hit. The video is from a mid-sixties television show apparently from Boston. The video quality is poor, it looks like it was filmed with a Brownie camera. But it sounds good. Enjoy.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Package From John

John, from over across the pond, sent me a nice package of Phillies and Astros. He sent me about 40 cards of which I had about half. But the ones I didn't have are great. John and I pulled off a trade earlier. I have no idea how easy it is to collect baseball cards in England or how he even got into the habit, but I'm happy to trade with him. You can see his site here. I think I'll be able to send him some 1980 Topps cards. Here's a couple of the cards he sent.

I always appreciate Mike Schmidt cards. In this case, even more so. This was one of the very few 1980s Phillies cards I didn't own. I didn't even have it on my radar. Thanks, John.
This card gave me a start. I really like the 1984 Topps cards. It's something about the combination of an action shot and a head shot of the player on the front that I like. So when I first saw this, I thought, hey a 1984 card. What gave me the start was that Lance Berkman is on the card. This isn't a 1984 card at all, but a 2008 Topps Trading Card History card. John sent me two of these. The other features Chase Utley on a 1952 Topps card. Does anyone else but me think that Topps has really overused the 1952 design in retro cards? It's a great design but Topps needs to give it a rest.

Thanks John. I owe cards to two of three people lnow. I probably won't be able to get anything out until Thanksgiving week. I've got the week off and it will be a good time to catch up.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Book Club - The Crowd Sounds Happy

This book is subtitled "A story of love, madness, and baseball". Which is why I picked it up.

I had never heard of the author, Nicholas Dawidoff before and I wasn't sure when reading the dust jacket if it was fiction or not. But it was in the non-fiction section of the library so I decided it was not a work of fiction. He has written several other books and is the editor of The Library of America's Baseball: A Literary Anthology. He is the Anschutz Distinguished Fellow at Princeton University. I don't know what that means but it sounds impressive.

Dawidoff tells of growing up poor in 1970s New Haven with his divorced Mom and little sister. Early in life he discovers baseball and it becomes the missing father in his life. His actual father isn't completely missing but living in New York. Nicky and his sister visit him one weekend a month. But his father is slowly succumbing to mental illness and the visits become more and more difficult.

His early love of baseball started with him reading old baseball books and Ted Williams' biography. It grew through baseball cards and then by listening to first the Mets, and later the Red Sox on the radio. He grew up without television so all he knew about the Sox was what the radio announcer told him. He also played in Little League, high school and some at Harvard. He was always small for his size but made up for it through sheer determination.

The level of writing here is high. I really liked this book. It is ultimately a sad story but a triumphant one as well. Dawdioff writes that he never understood his father or himself and his desire/fear to be/not be like his father while he was growing up. But in the process of writing this book he learned about both. I want to quote a passage which may be the best paragraph in the book:

"And then it was early spring, and from my bedroom window I could hear the four-bar clatter of a wooden bat falling to hard pavement, and out of the house I soared to play in the shadow of bricks on days so hot the blacktop became pillowy underfoot, on days still so cold enough that grape soda froze solid in the can - sometimes bursting the metal to reveal a purple chunk that tasted so good a couple of kids tried it at home in the freezer, treating whoever next opened the door to a blaze of icy heliotropes. We named captains, chose up sides, made bases with our shirts, and then time lost its interstices, hour after hour, nothing more on my mind in my elation than the thought of being there, hitting and throwing until well past the time when daylight failed".

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Package from Dan

Dan, over at the Saints of the Cheap Seats blog, emailed me to say he wanted to send me some cards from my 1987 Topps want list. He said he'd throw in some Phillies and Astros cards as well. His 'throw-in" amounted to 109 cards covering from about 1994 to 2000. Of these, I didn't have 60 of them. Wow. This just reminds me of how many baseball cards were produced in the mid to late 1990s. I had about 1900 Phillies and Astros cards from 1994 to 2000. Dan managed to find 60 I didn't have. Thanks Dan. I'm working on stuff from your want list but it'll be a week or so until I can mail them.

These are probably my two favorite cards in the bunch.

Craig Biggio 2000 E-X. Fleer produced these E-X cards from about 1997 to 2003. They changed the name some years (for example, 1999's cards were called E-X Century). For most of the print run, the cards were made of clear plastic. 2000's cards were on heavy cardboard but were nice and shiny with a rainbow refractive coating. I only had 2 of this set in my collection and neither were a Phillie or Astro.
This is Jeff Bagwell from the 1995 Fleer Pro-Visions insert set. What's not to like about this card? Bagwell was coming off a monster year in 1994 when he hit for a .368 average with 39 home runs. He lead the National League in runs scored (104), slugging percentage, total bases and rbis (116). He was on the All-Star team, won a Gold Glove Award and was National League MVP. Could Jeff Bagwell launch a space shuttle with his bat? In 1994, there didn't seem to be too much he couldn't do.

Monday, November 10, 2008

2008 Texas Renaissance Festival

The Texas Renaissance Festival is held every year in a small town northwest of Houston. These sort of festivals are held in just about every state. In Texas, they do it in the fall when it is cooler. If you've never been to one of these, they can be a lot of fun. The TexRenFest has a permanent location. There are several hundred little shops, an arena, a large garden, and stages. Entertainment runs to medieval folk music, Shakespearean productions, puppet shows, and in the big arena, a jousting event. There is lots of food available, some going for a medieval effect, but regular Texas festival food (like turkey legs and sausage-on-a-stick) is available. The shops tend to sell jewelery, leather goods, pottery and lots of stuff (clothing, hats, swords) for people who want to dress up for the Festival.
Most people are only too happy to pose if you ask them, like these wenches above.
Costumes run from realistic attempts to recreate period clothing, to more fantasy middle-ages stuff, like the fairy with the big wings above. We've gone to this 5-6 times in the past 13 years. Some years ago I thought about a costume for me and went so far as to buy a pattern for a Scottish kilt outfit. This past summer, my daughter found the pattern and offered to make the costume for me. Some $60 in material later, here's what I looked like.
Too bad about the lens flare. That's my daughter with me. She made the shirt, the kilt, the leggings, the pouch around my waist and the hat. I fit into the crowd nicely. Maybe next year I'll dress up like this guy below, but not likely. He was striking a pose for anyone who wanted to take his picture. Notice there are dollar bills stuck under the bands around his biceps. I wonder what this guy does when he's not wearing chain mail?
There is a log of chain mail at the Festival. Some women walk around in chain mail briefs and bras and little else. Something makes me think they couldn't get away with that in the real middle ages. These two people seem to be gypsies.
This guy below was actually working. He had a rickshaw and would give rides around the grounds for $3.
As we were entering, we noticed a few people in togas. Each weekend, the Festival has a different theme. This past weekend was Roman week, which explained the togas It also explained these guys.
There were about 10 guys dressed as Roman Legionnaires. The costumes were quite elaborate.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Song of the Week - I Ain't Marching Any More by Phil Ochs

Those of you out there who are much younger than 50 wouldn't remember and maybe wouldn't even know, but there was a short time when folk music was king in the US. In between 1950's rock 'n' roll and the British Invasion in 1964, folk music ruled the radio air waves. This is when people like Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Tom Paxton and Phil Ochs became popular. Some of these artists (Bob Dylan comes immediately to mind), rode out the early 1060s rock years and gained wider popularity. Others, like Tom Paxton, remained folkies, appealing to smaller audiences but still performing for many years. Others, to be sure, dropped into obscurity. Also during this time rose the concept of the protest singer. All of the people I mentioned above, at one time or another, were protest singers. What were they protesting you ask? Injustice, racial inequality, the Vietnam War were all topics. Phil Ochs probably embraced the protest singer ethos the most. But by the end of the 1960s folk music and protest singing were way out of fashion. Phil Ochs apparently could not change with the times. Plus, growing mental illness (depression) and alcoholism took its toll. This story does not have a happy ending. Phil Ochs took his own life in 1976.

I only had the privilege of seeing him perform once at the legendary folk club near Philadelphia called the Main Point. This was in the early 1970s when his career was essentially over. He was attempting to reinvent himself as a 1950s rockabilly type, complete with a gold lame' suit. It was not an enjoyable show. I knew how great he had been and it was beyond sad to see what he'd become.

I don't actually own this song but it is one of his best. The song is timeless.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

A package from another Steve

Steve, from a fairly new blog The Easy Life, out of a clear blue sky sent me some 1987 Topps cards that I needed. Among them was this gem, Barry Bonds rookie card and easily the best card in the set. Steve hasn't given me a hint of what he'd like in return so I'll be hanging out at his blog to get some clues as to what he collects.

Speaking of 1987 Topps cards, after getting 3 cards from Steve, it was looking like I only needed 2 more for the complete set. WRONG. I don't know where my head was at when I originally compiled my list but it was wrong. I like to think I real organized when it comes to my collecting. I've got every card I own in a database. I had generated the list from the database. Looking at it now it looks like there are still another 50 or so cards I need. I'll be update the list soon.
In addition to the 1987 cards, Steve sent me the gem above. Its a 1993 Upper Deck All-Time Heroes card. The card is 5 1/4 inches long and 2 1/4 inches high. It is patterned on the T202 Hassan Triple Folders (according to the catalog I used for reference). Certainly, you've seen reproductions of the right side of the card. The player is Del Ennis who played for the Phillies from 1946 to 1956. Only two other Phillies (Johnny Callison and Robin Roberts) are included in the 165 card set. The cards were distributed in 12-card packs. Production was limited to 5,140 numbered cases. If there were 20 packs in a box, and 10 boxes in a case that would be about a million sets.
This card above I already had but deserves some discussion. It is from the 2007 Topps Update set. I've written about these Classic Combo cards before. Like many of them I don't see how Chase Utley and Ichiro make a Combo, much less a Classic Combo. And what seems to be happening in this photograph? I'd guess that Ichiro was coasting into 2nd base after being out on an easy force play. But when? The Mariners played three games in Philadelphia in June of 2003. Chase Utley was on the team then but in a limited role and did not play in any of these games. The Phillies next played the Mariners in 2005, but these games were in Seattle. The Phillies and Mariners haven't played since. Its possible that this is at the 2006 All-Star game. It was in an NL park. Ichiro had 3 at-bats. He struck out, flied out to RF and ground out SS to 1B. The game was played in PNC Park. Does anyone recognize the background?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Package from Steve

Way back in February when I first discovered baseball cards, The White Sox Cards Bog run by Steve was one of the first blogs I read regularly. I also made my first internet trade with Steve. Nowadays I help him edit the Things Done To Cards Blog. Steve and I were hoping for a White Sox-Phillies World Series but it wasn't to be. But being the great guy he is, Steve sent me some Phillies cards to help me celebrate the Phillies winning me the World Series.

Steve managed to find some 1991 Phillies cards that I don't own. These were from several sets produced by Classic Games. On the back of the cards is a trivia contest game. These were produced from about 1987 to 1992. I remember buying the 1990 version as a complete set which came in a blister pack along with a game board and spinner. I've lost the board and spinner and don't remember at all how the game was played. In 1991, they produced two updates. I had several cards from the first update set, but only one Phillie. Now I have 4 Phillies. And this Pat Combs card is from the second update set of which I had no cards at all. So this lowly Pat Combs card gets a special place in my binders as the representative card of this set.
The back is a lurid pink color. One of the trivia questions is "In what inning do the fans traditionally stretch their legs?" Personally, I think this question would be better if it read "What do fans traditionally stretch in the 7th inning?"
One of the other cards he sent was this 2007 Topps Co-Signers. This is a set which doesn't get sold in blaster boxes so I don't get many of them. In fact, I only have one card (Lance Berkman) from the 2007 set. Now I also have a Phillie from the set. And since its a Rookie Card, it too is a representative card.

Thanks, Steve. Next year, Phillies-White Sox in the World Series. Maybe the Phillies can get revenge for the White Sox beating the Astros in 2005.