Wednesday, November 30, 2016

November 2016 Books Read

November was a busy month. Not as much time for reading as I would have liked.

I'm not an enormous Neil Gaiman fan but have liked the stuff by him that I've read. This book is a collection of non-fiction work, mainly talks he's given at conferences, book reviews he's written and magazine and newspaper articles he's written. I thought it was going to be more about how he writes then it was but still mostly enjoyable. He talks about his childhood, how he discovered books and was saved by them and how he decided to be a writer.  There are several chapters about other writers he's known. Some of this was interesting but I wasn't familiar with many of them so that was less enjoyable. I'd say if you're a Gaiman fan, read this.

This was a very unlike Stephen King book. For one thing, it was short. For another, it didn't have much plot. I liked listening to it because the reader was great. The cover makes this look like some 1940's noir fiction but the cover has absolutely nothing to do with the story. The book is about a female college journalism major who takes a summer intern job at a small newspaper on a small island off the (where else?) Maine coast. The old timers (one is 90) at the paper take to telling her about the greatest local mystery they knew. The mystery was about an unidentified dead man found on the beach. Eventually he was traced to Colorado (hence the title) but they couldn't figure out exactly how he could have made it from the last sight of him in Colorado to his first sighting at the town. Or why he choked on a piece of steak on the beach. Then the story ended.

A much more Stephen King like book. Long and exciting. The story takes place in a little town in western Pennsylvania in 1978. Christine was a beat up old 1958 Plymouth Fury which a local high school student buys for $250, much against his best friends advice, from the old man who owned her. Turns out the car is possessed. And, once given a little care, can self-repair. And go after the kid's enemies in the town. You may remember the cult classic move made by John Carpenter from around 1983. I liked the book so much I bought the DVD, which was surprisingly good.

Ex-Washington DC police detective, Frank Marr, just became a hero by rescuing a teen-aged girl from the drug gang that kidnapped her. But Frank doesn't want to be a hero. He was in a position to rescue the girl because he was stealing cocaine from the gang and accidentally found her. He was retired from the police force because of his cocaine habit. His superiors gave him a early retirement package to get rid of him. He'd been a good cop and they were afraid that every past conviction he'd been involved in might be overturned because his habit would make him an unreliable witness. Marr now works as a private detective, managing most of the time to keep his habit under control. This looks like the beginning of a series. I hope the second book is as good as the first.

This was more like a novella than a full novel. In this near future story, Marmeg Guinto is a girl who wants to be an engineer but, due to her social status, can't afford to get into college. In this time, bodily implants to increase muscle action and cognition are within the price range of almost anybody. She's cobbled together enough equipment to enter a competition, a race across the Mohave Desert, survivable only due to implants. She's written her own software and believes she has a chance. In addition to the excitement of the race, there is a lot of social commentary extrapolating from current events. A good read.

Are you familiar with Shakespeare's "The Tempest"? Well neither was I. Felix was the art director of a small Canadian town's annual Theater Festival. Every year he would put on a Shakespeare play. One year it was going to be "The Tempest", but he got fired due to the underhanded actions of his assistant. 12 years later, he's now running a theater class at a local prison. Once again he's going to put on "The Tempest", but this time, he's going to get revenge on those responsible for his long ago disgrace.  The story of the story parallels the story of "The Tempest". I know this because, as he works with the prisoners, he teaches them (and the reader) what "The Tempest" is all about. I almost gave up on this a few chapters in but I'm glad I didn't. Very enjoyable book.

Monday, November 28, 2016

What do baseball players like?

"What do baseball player's like? is often a question that can often be found on the backs of baseball cards. Not such a useless hobby after all. Let's try to answer this question using a pack of 2015 Bowman I recently acquired in a repack box.

Anthony Rendon is a huge fan of Double Decker Tacos. He eschews social media (he apparently does not have a Twitter handle) and enjoys watching the History Channel. Just a regular guy.

Madison Bumgarner enjoys fishing. And roping cattle. Well, who doesn't?

Francisco Mejia's favorite movie is "Scary Movie 4" and his favorite dance song is "El Prendedar", which as near as I can tell means "the pin".

 Taylor Williams, the Brewers #4 draft pick in 2013, enjoys camping.

The 6'3" Austin Meadows likes the movie "The Interview" (the 2014 Seth Rogan and James Franco movie where they play journalists who conspire to kill North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un), basketball and steak.

James Dykstra (no apparent relationship to Lenny) is a Justin Timberlake fan.

Well, here's something I hadn't seen in awhile:

Topps used to do this quite a lot, Photoshop a player into a different uniform. Well, no matter what uniform he's painted into, Nick Tropeano is a fan of professional hockey, likes the movie "Rocky" (released 14 years before he was born) and actor Vince Vaughn.

And finally, Christian Yelich enjoyed the movie "American Sniper".

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Movie Review - Arrival

What is your purpose in coming here?

On a day, much like any other day, 12 huge (they're 1,500 feet tall) spaceships arrive at seemingly random points around the Earth. They hover just off the ground. Every 18 hours or so, a door opens in the bottom of each ship allowing humans to enter, if they wish.

Amy Adams plays world-famous translation expert, Dr. Louise Banks. Several days after arrival, the army comes knocking. Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) plays for her a 20 second tape of weird noises. Translate that, Weber says. Dr. Banks explains that it's impossible. A few days later she's taken to Montana, where the only ship to land in the US is hovering. By the way, she's great in this.

The aliens are very large octopus looking creatures but since they only have seven limbs we call them heptapods. We can only attempt to communicate with them through a transparent window. The creatures are embraced in fog. Although recordings have been made of the alien's noises at all 12 sites, no one has had a breakthrough. Dr. Banks, has a different idea, trying to use written language. She gets a written response instantly, which looks like this.

 Not very obvious but a start.

I love science fiction, written and filmed. Most movie science fiction is of the spaceship shoot 'em style which I'll watch ("Star Wars: Rogue One" is out in a few weeks) but this is different. No human-alien fight scenes. This is not "Independence Day".

"What is your purpose in coming here?" is the question everybody wants Dr. Banks to ask. She eventually does but it takes most of the movie. The movie is largely her trying to understand the aliens language with a lot of background tension going on. The Chinese and Russians are also 'talking' to the aliens but when they understand the aliens to say "we are out of time", they jump to conclusions which heighten tension and cause the various teams to cut communication with each other.

Jeremy Renner plays physicist Ian Donnelly. He's solid but doesn't have much to do other than support Amy Adams. Forrest Whitaker as Colonel Weber does a good job as the straight-forward Army man trying to follow orders while trying to understand Dr. Bank's work. He does a good job not sinking into a cliche. 

It is a pretty good movie. I might not take my young children to see it. Not because it's scary (although it is in parts, but more like international tension scary, which I'm guessing your average 8-year-old wouldn't understand) but because kids will find this boring. You might as well, there's not a lot of action. Amy Adams drawing alien symbols on graph paper may not be your definition of excitement. All though the movie Dr. Banks has flashes of memories of her dead daughter. The ending brings that story line and the aliens together through the use of great twist (which would be a major spoiler so you won't hear it here) making for a very satisfactory ending.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

My 400th Mike Schmidt Card

My regular readers (you know who you are) should know that Mike Schmidt is my favorite player. I reached a minor threshold with my 400th Schmidt card. I don't have nearly that many cards of any other player. I've actually had this card since May but am only getting around now to scanning it.

The bad news is that the number of Mike Schmidt cards dropped dramatically in 2016. According to, there were 204 Mike Schmidt cards last year, if you count base cards, inserts and parallel cards. This year there are only 19. And all but one of them are various Panini releases and parallels. The only non-Panini card this year is a Topps Tier One relic, serial numbered to 1. Fat chance I'll ever see that.

Anyway, here's my 400th Mike Schmidt card.

Panini Diamond Kings Heritage Collection

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

1979 TCMA 50's Cards - Phillies

My good friend B always finds some nice baseball cards for me for my birthday. This year was no exception.

In 1979, TCMA seemed to primarily release minor league sets, but also produced this 291-card TCMA 50's set, noted on the back as being from the "Baseball History Set". It's a nicely designed set with a large color photo with no markings on the front. Career stats and player bio information fill out the simple back. B managed to find 4 of the 13 Phillies cards in the set.

One of the Whiz Kids from the 1950 Phillies who went to the World Series. He played 12 years with the Phillies. I've never read or heard why he was called Puddin' Head.

 Another Whiz Kid, 1950 was his year. He was an All-Star, the National League MVP and the National League Pitcher of the Year. He was 16-7 in 1950, with 22 saves. He appeared in 74 games (152 innings), finishing 66. Nobody works that hard today.

 Roberts is one of my favorite Phillies of all time even though I can't remember ever having seen him play. He was the dominant pitcher of the early-1950s. From 1950-1955 he won 138 games against 78 loses, with 958 strike outs while pitching 1,936 innings. He was a 7-time All-Star and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1976. He was never quite that good after 1955 although he played another 14 years. This is a great photo in the classic 1950's Phillies uniform.

Not quite a Whiz Kid (he was on the down end of his career in 1950), he gave a veteran performance, playing every game at first place, to help the Phillies into the 1950 World Series. He was also the model for the  book and movie "The Natural". In 1949, an overzealous female fan came to his hotel room and shot him with a .22 rifle, nearly killing him. He was named "Comeback Player of the Year" in 1950.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Some 1988 MInor League Cards

I'm still working my way through the backlog of repacks I bought this year. I always like the ones that have loose cards because you're liable to get anything in there.

This particular repack, in addition to having 4 packs of cards, also had 50 random loose cards. Among them were some minor league cards from 1988.

1988 ProCards
These ProCard sets from the late '80s and early '90s were huge. This set has 2,175 cards in it, including this card of the Indianapolis Indians broadcast team. At this time the team was the Triple A affiliate of the Expos. Players such as Delino DeShields, Andres Galarraga, Marquis Grissom, Randy Johnson and Larry Walker played there. I'd have loved to have gotten one of those guys from this set. As it is I got Kellman and Akins. Nothing in Wikipedia about them. I'd have to say that this may perhaps the dullest card in my collection. But since it's the only card I have from 1988 ProCards, into the reference book it goes.

1988 CMC Triple A All-Stars

This is a colorful 45-card set of Triple A All-Stars, which I've never seen before. I know that the copyright on the back is 1989 but recognizes this as an 1988 set.  I got two of them.

While it's always nice to get these types of cards which feature future MLB stars, usually you get players you never heard of. I can't say I'm familiar with either of them but at least they made it to the majors.

According to Wikipedia, Medina is one of only a few position players who batted right handed but threw left handed. In his 3-year career he managed to hit 10 home runs with 16 rbis. This gives him the distinction of having the fewest home runs of any MLB player to get exactly 10 home runs. Who thinks up these stats?

Rolando Roomes spent 8 years in the minors before making it to the Reds in 1988. You'd think they could have at least spelled his name properly. He too only lasted 3 years. His biggest problem was strikeouts. In 406 AB he struck out 130 times (over 30% of his plate appearances). He only managed 14 walks in that time.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Players I Collect - 2016 continued

In the last post I got through Willie Mays, so we're about halfway through the alphabet. Let's get going with Mark McGwire.

Mark McGwire

Topps MLB Debut Medallion Series 2

These cards came as a bonus in Topps blasters from Target or Walmart. The 'medallion' is pretty hefty making the card too thick to put into an album sleeve. I've got a couple of these and I'm not sure what to do with them. Until 2013, McGwire post-season cards were pretty scarce, following his admission to using PEDs during his career. But the number has picked up since 2013. I guess he's suffered enough.  I have 232 McGwire cards but this is the only 2016 card I have.

Joe Morgan

Topps Archives

I think when most people think of Joe Morgan they remember him with the Reds. But he spent 9 years with the Astros prior to the Reds and another year after the Reds. 10 years altogether of his 22-year career. He also played for the Phillies in 1983, the team called the "Wheeze Kids" who made it to the World Series in 1983. I have 36 Joe Morgan cards, including his 1966 rookie card and all his Phillies cards.

Eddie Murray

Stadium Club

Murray was elected into the Hall of Fame in 2003 but I've been collecting his cards since I started collecting in 1985. The new Stadium Club includes a number of former players into the sets. I have 124 Eddie Murray cards, including a number from the 1980s.

Stan Musial

Topps Bunt

Topps Bunt again to the rescue, the only Musial card I got this year. I have 106 Stan the Man cards, the bulk of which are the entire 60-card Leaf Heroes of Baseball Musial Milestones set from 2015.

Rafael Palmeiro

Topps 100 Years at Wrigley

Topps Archives
 Palmeiro retired in 2005, and except for a few 2006 cards, I didn't see a post-career card of his until 2013. Another guy with PEDs issues during his career. I have 186 of his cards, Including many from during his career.

Mike Piazza

Topps Bunt
Piazza played from 1992-2007. I have 238 of his cards, the bulk from during his career. Elected into the Hall of Fame just this year and well deserved.

Yasiel Puig



Topps Archives

Topps Allen & Ginter Mini

Topps Bunt

Topps Opening Day
As many people did in 2013, I bought into the Puig hype. Untamed erratic talent with unlimited potential.  Cuban defector with a 7-year, $42 million contract. He's spent much of the last two seasons hobbled by hamstring issues. It's also not clear that he's ever going to reach that projected potential. I hope that with injuries behind him, he'll have a monster season next year. I have 35 of his cards.