Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Virtual Bike Tour of Baseball Sites - Spring Texas

I passed through Spring Texas on my Virtual Bike trip. I'm managing about 6 miles a day on the stationary bike so far. I hope to increase my stamina as I go along. There are going to be some long lonely stretches (say between Dallas and Phoenix). Not surprising, I've actually been to Spring. A part of town is called Old Town Spring and has lots of little shops. I even found an antique store there which sold baseball stuff. Their cards were over priced but I bought a couple of things there that I hadn't seen before.

Spring Texas is the birthplace of Josh Beckett. I've always liked him and collect his cards. Beckett was the Number 1 Draft Pick of the Marlins in 1999. He helped the Marlins win the World Series over the Yankees in 2003. In fact, he was the World Series MVP. Here is one of several relic cards I have, a 2004 Fleer Tradition Diamond Tributes Game Jersey.

in 2005, the Marlins traded him along with Mike Lowell and Guillermo Mota to the Red Sox for Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez, Harvey Garcia, and Jesus Delgado. He was 20-7 with the Red Sox as the Sox went on to win the 2007 World Series. Beckett was the MVP of the ALCS. This is his 2008 Topps Allen & Ginter card.
The next leg of the trip is Spring Texas to Tomball Texas, a distance of about 15 miles. Tomball is the birthplace of Clay Hensley, pitcher for the Padres. Hey, not every little town can be the home to a big baseball star.

Days riding: 4. Total miles: 25.4. Total time: 1 hr 42 min.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Book Club - The Love of Baseball

I picked this up a few months ago at Half Priced Books. It's a small format hardback with baseball anecdotes and lots of photos. It was published in 2007 so is reasonably up to date. The contributing writers were Paul Adomites, Robert Cassidy, Bruce Herman, Dan Schlossberg, and Saul Wisnia. None of these people ring any bells with me, but a quick search through Amazone indicates they've all written or have helped write other books on baseball. The book has 2-page (some text and a photo) on numerous baseball themes. It features individual players, ball parks, World Series games, Memorable Moments, some lists (like the Greatest Teams ever), and one baseball card - Mike Schmidt's rookie card. How can you go wrong? If you're the sort of person who likes to read in the bathroom, this would be a good choice.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Song of the week - Time by Pink Floyd

I have 5,514 songs on my iTunes. This is one of them.

As others have noted, Richard Wright, keyboard player for Pink Floyd, died this month. Pink Floyd was an incredibly successful and influential band. You can read all about them on Wikipedia. The Dark Side of the Moon, in my opinion, is one of the best rock albums of all time. Great music and timeless themes in an innovative package. I picked this song, Time, because it was written by Wright and the video features him singing. I've been listening to this song since it first came out in 1973. Yikes, that's 35 years ago. It resonated with me then and still does.

Back in those fabled non-digital days, I used to pile 5 or 6 LPs on my stereo record changer when I went to bed. I'd often leave the same records on the changer for days, each night picking them up and starting the play. For awhile, I had The Dark Side of the Moon on the changer. When Time would start to play with that clanging alarm clock, it would jolt me upright in bed and then I'd fall right back to sleep. It took me days to realize what it was.

Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
You fritter and waste the hours in an off hand way
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way

Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun

And you run and you run to catch up with the sun, but its sinking
And racing around to come up behind you again
The sun is the same in the relative way, but youre older
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death

Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the english way
The time is gone, the song is over, thought Id something more to say

Home, home again
I like to be here when I can
And when I come home cold and tired
Its good to warm my bones beside the fire
Far away across the field
The tolling of the iron bell
Calls the faithful to their knees
To hear the softly spoken magic spells.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Virtual Bike Tour of Baseball Sites

As a result of my recent heart problems (three stents placed), I've got to exercise more. I used to spend a lot of time on a stationary bike but chest pain (that's why I needed stents) curtailed that activity. Well today its back on the bike. Riding a stationary bike has to be about the most boring thing one can do in the privacy of his own home. I need some stimulus. So to that end, I've decided to take a virtual tour of Major League (and some minor league) baseball parks. Google Maps has a new feature which gives you walking directions. I'm going to be using those to guide my trip. As I travel between parks, I'll highlight the players who were born in any of the towns I pass through. Since I live in the Houston area, I figure I'll start out at Minute Maid Park where the Astros play. Since I've actually been there, I've got some photos I've taken. And the first player I'm going to highlight is Michael Bourn who plays for the Astros and was actually born in Houston. At the end I'll put a map which shows my travel plans.

Originally called Enron Field, Minute Maid park opened in 2000 and replaced the famous Astrodome. The Astrodome had been a fixed roof park, the first of its kind. Minute Maid has a retractable roof for the 2-3 days a year when the weather allows outdoor baseball to be played (actually spring and fall games are usually quite pleasant with the roof open). The park was the site of the 2005 All-Star game which I got to go to. I took these following pictures at that time. After Enron collapsed (the less said about that the better), Minute Maid bought the naming rights. It turns out that Minute Maid orange juice has it's headquarters in Houston. Who knew?Michael Bourn had originally been drafted by the Astros in 2000, but did not sign. The Phillies drafted him (their #4 pick) in 2003. In 2007, he was traded by the Phillies to the Astros for Brad Lidge. Lidge is having a fabulous year for the Phillies. He is 40 for 40 in save attempts. Bourn is not having a great year for the Astros. He is generally their lead-off man but with a .244 batting average and a .285 on-base percentage, he isn't really getting the job done. He's stolen 44 bases (he's been caught 10 times), but has committed too many base running errors.

Here is the first leg of the trip. My next Major League Park will be the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington Texas. My next stop will be Spring, Texas, the birthplace of Josh Beckett. From their I'm going to detour to Round Rock, Texas to visit the minor league home of Nolan Ryan's team, the Round Rock Express. After Arlington, I'm not sure of my direction but it will probably be west. The trip to Spring is 22.9 miles. It was a good first day doing 6.05 miles and no chest pain and no shortness of breath. I could have gone further but decided not to push my creaky knees too much too soon.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Thursday Night at the Movies - Burn After Reading

We'd seen the trailer for this several times this summer and all I needed to see was a good review to want to see it. The reviews have been good. If you like the Coen Brothers' work you will like this. It's funny, pretty dark, and very intricate. but you don't ever lose the trail of the plot, even though none of the characters in the movie really know what's going on.

The movie has a well deserved R rating, mainly for language. I would not recommend taking a child to see this. For one thing, I don't think anyone under the age of maybe 15 would really understand what's going on. For another thing, the F-word and all its variations is used quite liberally. If hearing that word bothers you then stay away. The music over the closing credits is by, of all bands, The Fugs. I remember The Fugs from the '60's but had never actually heard anything by them before. I'd always heard that their lyrics were too obscene for radio. You're never gonna hear this song on the radio either but it was a pretty good song.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Trade with John in UK

What with a cardiac catheterization, a hurricane and no internet until yesterday (because of the storm), I've not been able to post much in the past two weeks or so. But all that is behind me now.

A few weeks ago I saw these cards called "Phil Rizzuto's The National Pastime" posted someplace (probably A Pack A Day). I commented that I really like the cards so, John, the poster, sent me some packs plus some Phillies cards. These cards are even better looking in person then in a blog.

They are a collection of baseball images from the late 1800's and early 1900's. Some are of old baseball cards, but there are also games, magazine images and old photos. You might think that the chrome finish wouldn't go well with the old time images, but the cards are very attractive. The readers of the Dinged Corners blog will recognize this image which came from a vegetable crate in the 1930s.
This next one is from satirical set produced in 1885. They were used by businesses as advertisements for products or services, as well as premiums for regular customers. Did I mention that the back of each card has a description of the image? Many of them have a piece of baseball trivia as well.
Dave also saw that I was a Phillies fan so sent me a random collection of Phillies cards. This next card is from the 1987 Donruss All-Star set. The card is 3 1/2 by 5 inches. These came packaged with Donruss Pop-up Cards. I had some of the Pop-ups but hadn't seen the All-Star cards.Also included was this 1983 O-Pee-Chee Tug McGraw card. I only had three cards from this set and no Phillies.
Thanks to John for the great cards. Now I have to find some Red Sox cards I think he'll like.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Song of the Week - Walking Wounded - Everything But The Girl

I had 5,515 songs in my iTunes library. This is one of them.

Everything But The Girl (aka EBTG) are a British duo which formed in 1982. It consists of Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt. Wikipedia notes that they are also a couple and are now married and have 3 children. Although they have been recording since 1982 and have had a number of successes, they have managed to keep their private life private.

The video is from their 1996 release Walking Wounded. In the video, the first woman and man that are seen clearly are Thron and Watt. I'm only familiar with their early 1990's material which is a mix of acoustic and electronic music, much like this song.

Out amongst the walking wounded, every face on every bus
Is you and me and him and her and nothing can replace the us I knew
Nothing can replace the us I knew

And no, I'm never gonna let you go
And no, I'm never gonna let you go
And now I know I had a choice though you never made it clear to me
I thought you never felt it deeply
Now I'm never gonna let you go
Now I'm never gonna let you go
'Cause I could have loved you forever
I could have loved you forever

What do you want from me?, Are you trying to punish me?
Punish me for loving you, punish me for giving to you
Punish me for nothing I do, punish me for nothing
You punish me for nothing, for nothing

Out amongst the walking wounded, every face on every bus
Is you and me and him and her and nothing can replace the us I knew
Nothing can replace the us I knew

Now I'm never gonna let you go
Now I'm never gonna let you go
And now I know I had a choice though you never made it clear to me
I thought you never felt it deeply
Now I'm never gonna let you go
Now I'm never gonna let you go
'Cause I could have loved you forever
Oh I could have loved you forever
Or I could have left you forever
I could have left you forever

What do you want from me? , Are you trying to punish me?
Punish me for loving you, punish me for giving to you
Punish me for nothing I do, punish me for nothing
You punish me for nothing, for nothing

Out amongst the walking wounded, every face on every bus
Is you and me and him and her and nothing can replace the us I knew
Nothing can replace the us I knew
Out amongst the walking wounded, every face on every train
Is you and me and him and her, some days I think I could go insane
Some days I think I could go insane

Friday, September 19, 2008

Photoshop fun

My Internet connection at home has not been restored after Hurricane Ike, so I thought I'd try to make a post from work.

In the old days (pre-computer days), if Topps didn't have a photo of a player with his new team, they would often air brush the photo to alter the uniform. Wikipedia has an enormous article here on air brushing, in case you don't know what that is. In this day of digital photography and Photoshop, air brushing is probably a lost art.

I came upon this example while cataloging baseball cards last night (yes, things are pretty much back to normal at my house). Thursday has been movie night for the past few months but, considering conditions in the area, we decided to put it off. Troy Glaus played for the Blue Jays the last two seasons but is with the Cardinals this year. I don't know how he got there, but I'm thinking free agent signing. Topps managed to find a photo of him in a Cardinals uni for their regular set. Or did they? The Topps Opening Day set comes out after the Series 1 Topps. You would think that with a name like "Opening Day" that perhaps the cards represent opening day rosters. I don't remember from past years of this set, but the 2008 set has several players with their 2007 teams. For example, this Troy Glaus card. Look familiar?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

We're safe

Sitting through a strong Cat 2 hurricane is pretty scary. We're far enough inland that we didn't have to worry about storm surge, but the wind pretty bad. I guess we had 90 mph gusts at our house. I'm happy to report that my house came through without a scratch. I had an old crappy tree in the back yard go down but it managed to miss my house and not take down a fence with it. My neighbors all came through ok. Damage seems to be limited to lost shingles, downed fences, broken tree limbs, downed trees. We lost power early on but our service was restored on Monday morning. Fortunately a cool front came through on Sunday. Saturday was hot, muggy and miserable but its been very pleasent since then. We still do not have internet service restored. I'm at the League City Civic Center where the city is providing free internet, wireless even.

I'm not back to work yet because of the storm. I work for one of the big chemical plants around here and they only wnat hourly folks and those necessary to get the plant restarted. I'm not one of those.

We were very fortunate. Just 26 miles down the road is Galveston City where a real disaster is unfolding. My biggest problem is I don't have internet. Thier problems start with no food, no water, no power, no home and get worse from there. Please keep these folks in your prayers and consider donating to the Red Cross, Salvation Army, or some other organization helping out.

It is hard for us here to really understand what is going on. All the news we can get comes from either the local ABC or CBS affiliate. In this internet age I'm used to being able to find out what;s going on anywhere at any time. Now all I really know is what is going on in my own back yard and what Channel 11 chooses to tell me.

I have no idea when I'll be able to post again. Hopefully I've still got some readers left. If internet is not restored by Friday, I'll be back to the Civic Center and I'll make a brief post.

Friday, September 12, 2008

1999 SP Signature Autograph - Mike Schmidt

I thank all of you for your comments and prayers (except perhaps any comments favoring the Mets and Brewers). I got home this morning (Friday) after my cardiac catheterization. It went very well. I was, apparently, lucky I hadn't had a heart attack. They found blockages in 2 arteries and placed three stents. My doctor said I have to get my cholesterol lower, keep my blood pressure down, get thinner, and obey posted speed limits. Good advice for all of us, I think.

Of immediate concern is Hurricane Ike. League City, where we live, is not under a mandatory evacuation. This means they do not expect our area to flood. Ike is forecasted to make landfall on Galveston Island between 1 and 2 AM as a Category 2 storm (winds up to 110 mph). It is expected to weaken rapidly once it makes landfall and then to move rapidly north and out of the area. We've got the house as well prepared as we can manage. It looks like a lot of neighbors have stayed. This is being handled much differently than Rita which is why you've haven't seen days of traffic jams on the TV. I expect to be without power for maybe a few days so you may not hear back from me until Monday. I've got a Song of the Week cued up for Sunday. If I've got power I'll add a note. I prepared this post on Thursday morning before I went to meet the guy with the big needle.

I bought this card on eBay in November 1999 for $46. It's the most I've paid for a single card. It is the only Mike Schmidt autograph I have. Long time readers will know that Michael Jack is my favorite player of all time.

Schmidt retired in 1989 and was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1995. Between 1991 and 1998, there were 42 Schmidt baseball cards issued, that's approximately 5 per year. In 1999 there were 15 cards issued. In 2000, there were 17. In 2001 there were 129 Mike Schmidt cards and the flow has, if anything increased. Some of this has to due with the increasing numbers of parallel cards. But I also think it attests to Schmidt's continued popularity in the hobby. I myself own 103 post 1990 Schmidt cards. Prior to 1991 I own 72, which is pretty much every mainstream card issued.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Something else to worry about...

As if having Hurricane Ike in the Gulf aimed at Texas wasn't enough to worry about I've got something else that's going to keep me away from blogging for at least a few days. At least it looks like Ike isn't coming my way. I know I don't have a large readership for this blog but I also know that most of the readers come back time and again. For that I thank you (you know who you are).

Sometimes real life intervenes in the exciting world of baseball and baseball card collecting. I had a stress test yesterday and they found a blockage in my heart. This is about as real life as you can get. They don't know how bad so I'm going in tomorrow for a cardiac catheterazation. In the best case they can fix the problem with a stent and I go home on Friday. In the worst case I'll need surgery. In the best case I hoe to make a post on Friday with one of my favorite baseball cards. Otherwise, I might be away for a while. I appreciate my readers checking back once in awhile to see if I'm back. In the meanwhile, Go Phillies.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Hurricane Ike

In the Houston paper this morning the headline said people were getting storm warning fatigue. Early this morning they had Hurricane Ike heading right for Houston, making landfall sometime on Saturday. As of 5 PM today, they have it making landfall at Corpus Christi Texas which is about 100 miles from here. We'll probably still get a good blow here but I wouldn't expect to evacuate. But we're going to be on pins and needles until probably Wednesday. By then the storm will be 3 days out and predictions from that point on a pretty good.

As a consequence of all this, my blog will probably be dark for a few days. I'll try to make a quick post if we have to bug out. Please keep everyone on the Texas coast in your prayers. It my not hit my town, it's going to hit somebody's. And of course don't forget about the folks in Cuba and Haiti who are and already have been hit pretty bad.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Song of the Week - Stars and Boulevards by Augustana

I have 5,517 songs on my iTunes. This is one of them.

Apple's iTunes Music Store gives away a free song every week. The songs are usually new and upcoming artists. For me, its a great way to get introduced to new bands since I don't listen to the radio. You get to listen to a 30 second clip of the song before you download it. Sometimes I download songs that I hate after I hear the whole thing, but usually if I I like the 30 second clip, I like the whole song. This is one I like. It's from an EP called "You'll Disappear". I never heard of the band. Wikipedia is sparce on information. Wikipedia describes them as a California piano rock band'. The song was originally released in 2005, but was released on this EP when another song of there's called Boston was played on a TV show called "One Tree Hill" in 2006. They have a recent EP called "Can't Love Can't Hurt" which has been featured on iTunes.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Phillies 3 Mets 0

If ever there was a high pressure late season series, this is it. The Phillies, going into tonight's game were 3 games back. They've got to win at least two. Every game is important now. The Phillies scored a run in the first, but then Greg Dobbs hits a 2-run homer in the 7th.
Meanwhile, Myers is pitching an excellent game. Never in trouble, he pitches 8 innings giving up 3 hits, 2 balls and strikes out 10 to win the game.
"Lights out" Lidge comes in for the save. He gets into some 1 out trouble giving up a ground-rule double to Wright and a single to Delgado, with Wright only moving to third. Beltran hits a fly ball but not deep enough to score Wright. Then Church flies out to end the game. Lidge gets his 34th save in 34 chances.

The game was not available on TV down here in Texas and I'm not willing to pay the fee to listen to the game on the Internet. So I have to resort to Yahoo Stattracker to follow the game. Here is a screen shot I took during the game. I love baseball but will freely admit that there can be boring stretches in a game. Following a game on Yahoo can be really dull. They give you a pitch-by-pitch account but sometimes there are long stretches where nothing seems to be happening. And sometimes the service freezes and you have to reload the page. That happened during Howard's at bat in the 9th. After watching a count of 0-2 for about 10 minutes, I reloaded the page to find the Mets up with 2 on and 1 out. Yikes.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Movie of the Week - Babylon AD

We saw the trailers for this movie a couple of times. It looked like a sci-fi thriller and we're just suckers for science fiction. I did not recognize anything in the trailer that indicated that this movie was based on a book I'd read 2 years ago called Babylon Babies. Before we went to the movies I looked the movie up on imdb.com and read the synopsis. It immediately rang a bell. The book was a hard read. It concerned a war-weary mercenary named Toorop (played by Diesel in the film) in a future war-weary world. Toorop is hired to bring a young woman from Central Aisa to Montreal (New York in the movie). The girl is harboring some secret A killer virus is suspected through most of the book but in fact she's carrying genetically modified twins (that's the babies part of the title, I never did figure out the Babylon part). Along the way, Toorop perhaps gets some sort of salvation while protecting the girl, loosing the girl and finding her again. And there is lots of psuedo religion mixed in for good measure. The movie is more a straight forward action movie with basically the same plot but minus most of the deeper and confusing aspects of the book (and I still don't understand the Babylon part of the title, and the AD makes no sense either). The movie was not pre-screened for critics which is usually a bad sign. I looked up reviews on rottentomatoes.com and most were bad. We actually thought it was entertaining but I won't recommend it. It's not bad like I thought Hellboy II was bad or like I thought the new Mummy was bad. Those movies I actually didn't enjoy much. I won't recommend Babylon AD because the movie was completely pointless. Lots of entertaining (by which I mean action scenes, things blowing up, fights, etc) but you're never quite clear why. And the movie has one of the worst endings I've ever seen.

And one more thing. When I'm putting together these little movie reviews, I like to go to the official movie web site to get a picture. Usually these sites have wallpaper for download. This movie's web site was about the worst I've seen. All I could figure out to do on it was to watch one of three trailers.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Nice Card File - Nomar Garciaparra

This is a 2003 E-X Emerald Essentials Jersey card numbered to 250.

It's got everything going for it:

Silver foil lettering on the front
Die cut
Game-worn jersey patch
Serial numbered
Heavy glossy finish
It's a parallel card (there are similar cards numbered to 345, 175, 60 and 15)
It features a probably future Hall of Famer

And I only paid $3.99, including $2 shipping for it on eBay. That's nuts. Beckett lists the card at $18.

It's outer dimensions are the same as a regular card, but a lot of its been cut away.

The dark spots on the jersey piece are loose threads. My sewing expert daughter thinks it looks like something had been sewed on and thread hadn't been fully removed.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Coincidence or what?

Does this ever happen to you?

I've been collecting baseball cards since 1985. I've got a lot of cards and I spend a lot of time organizing them. I've had them in some sort of computer database since, well, almost since I started collecting. In the past few years, I've started scanning cards and putting the scans in the database. For my readers who don't collect cards, thanks for reading, but I'm a bit crazy. My card collecting readers will understand.

Card collecting time always increases during baseball season and I like to listen to a ball game (Astros now, Phillies before I moved) while I'm working with my collection.

The other day, while I was scanning this Ty Wigginton card and listening to the Astros on the radio, Wiggy (as the announcers like to call him), hits into a fielder's choice and is safe at 1st in a close play.

I've lost track of how many times this has happened. I'll be working on a card (scanning it, putting it into the database, putting it into a binder, whatever), and the player on the card is involved in a play on the radio. And it's not always Astros (or Phillies). It happens with players on the other team. This happened a few days before with the Hunter Pence card I got in trade. Afterward, I thought that I could make a post out of the experience the next time it happened. I didn't have to wait for long.