Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Blue Jays - Cardinals game Friday 6/25/10

On our vacation last week to Niagara Falls, we took a drive to Toronto on Thursday. We had purchased tickets to see the Blue Jays play the Phillies on Friday night, but because of the G20 Summit, the series was moved to Philadelphia. We got our money back plus vouchers to another Blue Jays home game. So we saw the Jays beat the Cards 5-0 on Thursday night. Our (free) seats were just 15 rows behind the visitor dugout.It was a beautiful night for a ball game and the roof of Rogers Stadium (formerly the Skydome) was open.
There were a lot of empty seats. Attendance was just over 12,000. The fans made up for their lack of numbers by being about the loudest fans I've ever heard.
Outside the stadium, the police made their preparations for the G20 Summit. We heard on CNN that there were 20,000 cops from around Canada in town. We saw one troop of police from Edmonton! The whole CN Tower, Rogers Stadium and Convention Center was surrounded by 10 foot high steel mesh fences.
But let's get back to the game. With 2 outs in the first, Jose Bautista got a single. Adam Lind followed that with a home run. Vernon Wells followed that with another home run so it was 3-0 after the first. Adam Wainwright, pitching for the Cards did not have a good game.
We saw a few people in Phillies jerseys and tee shirts including this guy. It makes me wonder how many other people were there for free on vouchers from the weekend. There were a lot of Cardinal fans there. We saw a guy in a Tommy Herr Cardinals tee shirt. Herr last played for the Cardinals in 1987!
In the third, Vernon Wells hit his second home run and this is the actual swing. I got lucky.
Here's Albert Pujols popping up foul.
And here's Jarrett Hoffpauir catching Pujol's pop-up. Albert finished the night 0-4 and looked pretty frustrated in the 9th.
My friend Brian got a foul ball off the bat of the Jay's Alex Gonzalez.

The guy in the red shirt in front of the blond was causing some sort of disturbance. He's wearing a Pujol's tee shirt. At first stadium security tried to deal with him but eventually they brought in uniformed police who dragged him away in handcuffs.
While that was going on, the home plate umpire caught a foul tip off his upper body. He was down for several minutes but here he's up and he stayed in the game.
Here's the CN Tower, which is right next to the ball park at night. It cycles through a rainbow of colors.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Baseball Hall of Fame visit

My wife and I and another couple (who now live in the Atlanta area) went to Niagara Falls to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversaries. We took a detour through Philadelphia to visit another couple who are also celebrating their 30th. Then we drove to Niagara Falls, taking a slight detour through Cooperstown NY to visit the HOF. Here are some highlights of the visit.My friend Brian (left) and I in front of the Hall of Fame. Our wives were very indulgent.
My wife and I sitting on seats from the old Connie Mack stadium from Philadelphia. There were only two sets of stadium seats in the Hall, these and some seats from Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium.
There was a nice display about women in baseball.
The 1950 Phillies display, Robin Roberts, Jim Konstanty and Richie Ashburn.
There were a lot of team displays like this one for the Orioles.
Tom Seaver jersey.
Dodgers display.
The bat and ball involved in Willie May's 3,000 hit.
Mike Schmidt jersey.
The 1980 Phillies World Series display. The Phillies were well represented at the Hall. Behind us, in addition to the Schmidt jersey are Pete Rose and Steve Carlton jerseys. Also in the case are other artifacts from the 1980 season, including Steve Carlton's 1980 Cy Young Award. Carlton has 4 of them so I guess he can spare one for the Hall.
The Astros were not well represented. There was a room with mock-up lockers. The Astros locker has Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell jerseys. This is pretty much the bulk of the Astros material.
The Card. The actual Gretzey version of this Honus Wagner card. I don't think I knew it was being displayed here. In this area there were a number of old cards. There was another section with a large display of cards from each decade from the 1950s to present.
Nolan Ryan caps commemorating his 7 no hitters.
Me with the Mike Schmidt plaque. It was fun walking through this area and seeing over a century of baseball history.
We stayed for about 3 hours. It was not really long enough but we had a 5 hour drive to the Falls and it was getting late.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Song of the Week - Engine Driver by The Decemberists

Through the miracle of being able to make blog posts in the future, I'll able to bring you this Sone of the Week post even while my wife and I are flying back from Niagara Falls, where we were celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary. With all confidence from when I'm actually writing this (on June 13th) I'm sure we had a great time.

The Decembrists are one of my favorite bands and I've been looking for a good video by them for some time. Luckily, not only is this a good video, it's one of my favorite songs by them. It's from their 2005 album Picaresque. This performance seems to be from 2008.

I'm an engine driver
On a long run, on a long run
Would I work beside her
She's a long one, such a long one

And if you don't love me, let me go
And if you don't love me, let me go

I'm a county lineman
On the high line, on the high line
So will be my grandson
There are power lines in our bloodlines

And if you don't love me, let me go
And if you don't love me, let me go

And I am a writer
A writer of fictions
I am the heart that you call home
I've written pages upon pages
Trying to rid you from my bones
My bones, my bones

I'm a moneylender
I have fortunes upon fortunes
Take my hand for tender
I am tortured, ever tortured

And if you don't love me, let me go
And if you don't love me, let me go

And I am a writer
Writer of fictions
I am the heart that you call home
I've written pages upon pages
Trying to rid you from my bones

I am a writer
I am all that you have known
And I've written pages upon pages
Trying to rid you from my bones
My bones, my bones

(And if you don't love me, let me go)
And if you don't love me, let me go
(And if you don't love me, let me go)
And if you don't love me, let me go

Friday, June 18, 2010

Vacation Time - Niagara Falls

Blogging will be sparse to non-existent next week. My wife and I will be celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary at Niagara Falls. We will be there with some old friends of ours, also celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary. I may try to post some photos mid-week but I'm not promising anything.

We're flying out of Texas tonight to Philadelphia. Our friends, who now live near Atlanta will be arriving tomorrow. We'll spend tomorrow with yet another pair of old friends who got married in 1980. On Sunday we will drive to Niagara Falls with a stop at Cooperstown to visit, what else, the Baseball Hall of Fame.

We're looking forward to a great week.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Thursday Night at the Movies - The A-Team

The TV series The A-Team ran for 5 seasons in the early 1980s. My wife was a big fan of the show. I watched the show on occasion but was never what you would call a fan. I didn't hate it but generally found better things to do with my time when it was on.When we first saw the trailers for the film my wife said "We're going to see that". And so we did. She loved it. I didn't. The movie was as advertised, a big action film with lots of stunts and things blowing up. I like this sort of movie as much as the next guy but I didn't find too much fun in this. For one thing, the movie is not like the TV show. The movie is more like an origins story. Since I couldn't remember the back story of the TV show I had to look it up on Wikipedia. The movie changes things up a bit, for example the 'crime they didn't commit' took place in Iraq instead of Vietnam, but all the elements are there. And of course, the movie had a lot bigger budget so the story is much more complicated.

I think I was doing OK until it came time to bust Murdock out of a military mental hospital in Germany. They drive through the wall in a Hummer, drive it to the airport, conveniently located next door, steal a C-130 cargo plane and take off. I'm thinking, there had to have been a more subtle escape plan then this. Then, the military sends unmanned drones after the plane and they start shooting at it. Over Germany! And they shoot it down! Over Germany! Can you say collateral damage? They survive because there is a tank in the back of the plane. The drones shoot up the tanks parachute and the team manage to steer the falling tank by firing shells from the turret. Did I mention they were over Germany? They land in a lake, firing shells downward to brake their fall. And then...

OK, that's enough. Go see it if you want but I'd advise against it.

I said we're not seeing The Expendables (which looks like the A-Team on steroids) unless it gets 4 stars.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

2010 Bowman

I haven't really cared for Bowman for many years. I always buy some (gotta have some) but it has not been a product a look forward to. I was quite prepared for another year of (yawn) Bowman, especially after reading some blog comments. I bought 6 20-card rack packs. I was pleased to not get a single duplicate card. And no, I didn't get a Stephen Strasborg card.But I was surprised when I actually bought some, that I rather like the 2010 Bowman. It's got the same basic red on black design it has had since 1997, but there have been a few design changes which, for me, elevate this year's set above any set since 1998. For one thing, the frosted area with the facsimile signature is gone.
This signature area seems to have gotted larger every year. Last year it covered about a third of the photo. For another, the borders are a lot less complicated. And one really big change, the front of the card features a team logo for the first time in 10 years.
Notice also that the photo fades into white just before the black border. I really like that look. I've been featuring the cards here is reverse numerical order. It looks like they have all the horizontal cards clustered. The lowest horizontal card I have is #162.
The set has the same ordering it has had for many years. The black and red cards are veterans and the black and green cards are rookies. As they have done for a few years, the prospect cards are a separate insert with an entirely different design.
Here's a bit of product placement, a box of tasty Frito Lay products in the dugout.
Gordon Beckham running the bases with abandon. The only foil on the cards are the player name. Silver foil on a black background looks good in person but it just doesn't scan well.
Posada going after a pop-up.
Some more product placement. Of the 48 veteran cards I have, 10 of them feature recognizable advertising. Is this a function of their just being more advertisements in ball parks or some conscience effort by Topps to garner revenue from sponsors?
This is my favorite action shot.

The rack packs also had Bowman Chrome Prospect cards. The Chrome cards seem to come in the normal flavors, blue, gold, orange, red and purple, with superfractors. According to the card listings on, there doesn't seem to be Xfractors this year.

I may buy some more.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Book Club - Final Crisis

When I was a kid in the 1960's most of my allowance went to comic books. I was mostly a DC Comics fan. Superman, Batman, The Flash, Green Lantern, those guys. I can't say for sure when I stopped reading comic books, probably in high school, so around 1965. Over the years I'd look at an issue or two in a store, but, the stories kept getting more complicated and I couldn't figure out what was going on any more.

I learned just how complicated things had gotten in the DC world when I read the compilation of Crisis on Infinite Earths, which came out in 1985. I'm not sure when I read this but it was some time after it was issued, probably in the past 5 years or so. I just finished the follow-up series called Final Crisis.Crisis on Infinite Earths was pretty hard to follow, especially since I'd been out of touch with the DC Universe for so long. Apparently DC felt this series was necessary because so many of the characters had such confused and complicated back stories. A lot of this confusion was apparently explained by the multiverse. There were multiple Earths in multiple universes. Each had it's own collection of superheros, some of which had similarities to others in other universes. For example, there was Superman, there was a Superman in another universe who had white hair on his temples, there was Ultraman, who came from some goofy universe where everything was the reverse of our universe (so he was an evil Superman). It was enough to set your head spinning. The purpose of Crisis on Infinite Earths was to collapse all these universes into one and then simplify everything.

Well, apparently, this simplification wasn't very successful, so now you have 2008's Final Crisis. The multiverse is back along with multiple incarnations of superheros. There are 3 guys called the Flash for example. There is no sense in my trying to explain this as I don't really understand it my self. Final Crisis is even harder to follow than Crisis on Infinite Earths. After I finished it, I read the Wikipedia article on it. Well, I guess I had some idea of the story but there were apparently things going on that I missed entirely.

As a visual spectacle, Final Crisis is fabulous. The artwork fairly jumps off the page, even as it fails to tell the story in any sort of a satisfactory manner. And the end? Superman builds a Miracle Machine and wishes for a happy ending.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

This weekend, the Astros will be in New York, playing the Yankees in a 3-game series. The last time the Astros were in Yankees Stadium, in 2003, 6 Astros pitchers combined to pitch a no-hitter, the first time the Yankees had been no-hit in 45 years. The Houston Chronicle had a nice "where are they now" piece this morning which I thought I'd show in baseball cards.

2003 Diamond Kings Diamond Cut Collection Roy OswaltRoy only throws 2 pitches in the second inning when he has to leave due to a strained right groin. He is the only one of the 6 pitchers still with the Astros. He's won 98 games for the Astros since then against 61 losses. He's 4-8 this year with a 3.16 ERA. Of his 13 starts, 12 of them would be considered quality starts. The Astros have not been scoring runs for him (or for any of their pitchers for that matter).

2005 Topps Pete Munro
Munro came in and walked 3 in 2 2/3 innings. Although primarily a reliever in 2003, he became a starter for the Astros in 2004, going 4-7. That was his last year in MLB. I have no cards featuring Munro as an Astro and had to swipe this image from According to the Chronicle the last baseball he played was in 2007 with the Chinese Professional Baseball League in 2007. Really, there is a Chinese Professional Baseball League. They play in Taiwan. According to Wikipedia, in 2008 there were 4 teams in the CPBL with an average attendance of 3,000 per game.

2003 Donruss Kirk Saarloos
Saarloos pitched 1 1/3 innings featuring a tumbling catch by Lance Berkman in short left of a ball hit by Alfonso Soriano. He has been with the A's and the Reds since then and has been in the minors since 2008, now with the Indians.

2003 Fleer Tradition Brad Lidge
This was Lidge's rookie year with the Astros. He pitched the 6th and 7th innings and got the win. He would go on to be a great closer for the Astros and the Phillies. This is another card I don't own. There are very few 2003 Brad Lidge cards.

2003 Leaf Octavio Dotel
Dotel pitched the 8th inning and became the 44th pitcher in major league history to strike out four in an inning. He left the Astros in 2004 and has pitched for the A's, Yankees, Royals, Braves, White Sox and is currently with the Pirates.

2003 Topps Billy Wagner
Wags pitched the 9th and kept the game ball. It was the first Astros no-hitter since Darryl Kile's against the Mets on 9/8/93. I'm pretty sure they haven't one since. Wagner had 44 saves for the Astros in 2003, then the Astros traded him to the Phillies. He's had 170 saves since then with the Phillies and Mets and now the Braves, but he's also had a lot of injuries.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Insert Madness - Part 2

More of the insert cards I acquired from the card shop last week. I was searching mainly the Rangers, White Sox and Dodgers.

1995 Zenith All-Star Salute #17 Frank ThomasI mentioned in the last post that I have a pretty good memory for the insert cards I have and that of the 15 cards I bought, I only already had one of them. This is that one. I already had 4 cards from this set. The 18-card set was inserted at 1:6. Although I like Frank I really don't need this card. Steve G., if you're interested let me know and it's yours.

1998 Donruss Elite Aspirations #2 Frank Thomas
This set is parallel to Donruss Elite. The card features a foil background (that doesn't look too good in the scan) and die-cut sides and front. The cards were limited to 750 sets but they are not serial numbered.

2000 Fleer Tradition Hall's Well #6 Frank Thomas
These cards have rounded corners and are foil printed on clear acetate. The card didn't scan well and isn't really very attractive. Someday I may do an entire post on clear plastic cards. In addition to being unattractive, this set has a difficult name. Hall's Well? The 15-card set was inserted at a rate of 1:30.

2000 SP Authentic Midsummer Classics #10 Frank Thomas
What can I say? I like Frank Thomas and there were a lot of his cards in the box. This was a 10-card set, inserted at a rate of 1:12. The card features gold foil printing and a low-gloss refractive finish. The back features a sepia-toned photo of the player along with notes on the player's All-Star Game appearances.

2000 Ultra Swing Kings #3 Frank Thomas
Another clear plastic card. This was a 10-card set inserted in Ultra at a rate of 1:24. On the back it says, "What can a pitcher do with you, Frank? If it's an inch outside, you're disciplined enough not to swing. And we've all seen how you treat pitches in the strike zone. Ouch!"

2001 Donruss Stat Line Season #106 Eric Karros
These were a parallel to the regular Donruss cards but with a heavy refractive gloss, similar to a Topps Chrome Refractor card. On the back, some stat by the player from the previous year is featured and the card is serial numbered to that stat. Karros had 146 hits in 1999, so this card is serial numbered to 146.