More to do with love

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The Pete Rose story has died down by now, and I’m grateful for that. Life has moved on, as I knew it would, and it’s strange to think that it’s not even been a week since the story first appeared anywhere. Our culture and the 24-hour news cycle it has created–or that we have all been thrust into–is on full display with this story.

One story I have to tell about the whole affair unfolded last Saturday. Some baseball card collectors were especially unhappy with me that the story was ever written in the first place. Whether they hated me or not I can’t say, but it was clear they hated the negative publicity this story had created. There were accusations that I was trying to get fame and notoriety (I was not), and that I left out important exculpatory evidence for why Pete Rose’s name was not mentioned on this year’s Topps baseball cards. So I decided to engage these people on Saturday, since I had some downtime while at an ice skating competition.

Later on that evening, I went to see Romeo and Juliet onstage, and one of my favorite lines from the play occurs in Act I, scene 1, in the aftermath of the initial street brawl in Verona. Romeo, coming upon the scene of the fighting after it has finished, states that “Here’s much to do with hate, but more to do with love.” And I feel like, in some way, that summarizes my Twitter exchange with the angry card collectors.

As I say, I’m willing to leave open the question of whether any personal hatred was shown to me. But I’m quite clear that the result of the piece I wrote was hatred of what the story revealed. Card collecting is a serious thing for some people, and anything that puts the primary card producer in a negative light won’t be greeted favorably by them. The old idea that the enemy of my friend must also be my enemy seems to apply here.

But I’m not anybody’s enemy. I don’t have any ill-will towards Topps, either now or when I wrote the piece. As someone said to me, Topps and baseball cards have brought too much joy to too many people over too many decades to be thought of in a bad light. I love baseball, in large part, because I was able to buy these things and have them at a time in my life where I didn’t own very much else. That counts for something, all by itself.

What I love, secondary only to the love I have for my family, is the game of baseball. And that’s where Romeo’s “more to do with love” part enters into this for me. Is it silly to cling to a love of this game, when it has done so much to alienate fans like me? Mega-million dollar player salaries, labor unrest, restrictive licensing deals, and a perpetual pattern of squeezing fans for more and more money all seem to make baseball less and less appealing than it once was. But the game also has a poetry that football and basketball and soccer and hockey and golf and on and on could never match. I write about it all the time on this blog. I’d sooner gouge my eyes out than give up on baseball, and if that’s not love, please tell me what is.

I seem to have come to a truce with the card collectors, at least in the sense that accusations aren’t being hurled my way on Twitter anymore. And I appreciate this very much. A large part of Twitter, as I see it, is the ability to say something to the world, with the expectation that at least some people will read it. And when that something is about a topic you care deeply about, it’s far better to let those things out than to keep them bottled up inside.

One of the card collectors told me that “baseball card collectors are a passionate bunch.” I appreciate his comment, as it reminds me of the tagline for this blog, which states that “the world needs all the passion it can get.” I write this blog to show the world what I’m passionate about, and baseball is clearly one of those things.

The card collectors who took me to task on Twitter have their passions, too, and while they may not overlap with mine exactly, they’re no less valid than my passions or anyone else’s. I thank them for their passion, and their willingness to share it with me. It wasn’t necessarily fun to mix it up with them online, but I’m glad to have engaged with them, and I’m also happy that Shakespeare provided me with a line to put this into some perspective.

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The ivy’s the thing

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I recently got a 2013 baseball card for David DeJesus in a trade through the mail with Brian at 30-Year-Cardboard. I saw the card (not shown here) and realized that Wrigley Field’s ivy is probably Exhibit A of what makes the park unique. It’s been the backdrop of hundreds of baseball cards over the years, and I’m sure that it will be on hundreds more. But it’s never been part of the action before, before this card appeared. Check it out if you have a chance.

Mets from A to Z

One of the things that keeps me connected to baseball is collecting baseball cards. It started for me in the mid 1970s, went into hiatus in the early to mid 1980s, and laid dormant until the summer of 2001. A distribution of Topps cards reprints at a couple of games I went to at Wrigley Field that summer brought back old memories, and I began picking up a few cards here and there on Ebay and at flea markets over the next decade or so.

My team has always been the Chicago Cubs, but as a byproduct of acquiring Cubs cards over the years, I have stacks of cards from all of the other teams in the majors, as well. The tallest stack has usually been the New York Mets, and in my limited attempts at online trading, I haven’t found a Mets fan who wants to send me a pile of Cubs cards, in return for the Mets cards I have. So I wanted to sort through them and see what turned up.

I found that I was nearly able to find one player for each letter of the alphabet (the only exceptions being the letters I, Q, and X). I wanted to have some fun with this, and offer something for any Mets fans and/or card collectors who might read this, so here’s my plan:

For each letter of the alphabet (except for the three above), I selected ONE card for a Mets player with a last name beginning with that letter. If you want to send me a list of who those 23 players might be, and you get more letters right than anyone else who sends me a guess, I’ll send you the whole stack (that is, after I scan one or two and tell a story about them). Send your guesses  to me at bluebattinghelmet@gmail.com before the end of the year, and I’ll announce the winner early in 2012. If you send me multiples from the same email address, I’m only going to look at the first one. So make it count the first time.

A couple of things to add here:

The oldest of the cards dates from 1981, and the most recent one dates from 2011. So it’s a span of three decades we’re talking about.

Just a last name is fine for each letter, but for the letter “H” I will need to get a first initial, too.

Some of the cards are for star players, but by no means is every one a star player.

In the extremely unlikely event of a tie, whoever gets the nearest letter to the front of the alphabet correct will win. In the event of a tie after that, the winner with the longest email address will win.

And if you’re a Mets fan who wants to send some Cubs cards my way, I’ll be happy to send the non-contest cards your way in a trade. Or if there’s another team you want instead, let me know what it is and we can work something out. But please know that the “book value” for these things is meaningless to me. These are little rectangles with pictures and words on them, and nothing more.

Thanks, and happy Mets-guessing!

Advantage, Cardinals

Since St. Louis won Game one of the World Series tonight, they have a historical edge over the Rangers from here on out. After the players’ strike wiped out the 1994 postseason, there have been 15 World Series played, and 12 times out of 15 the winner of Game one has gone on to win the Series.

It’s not impossible for Texas to come back, but the record of the Game one loser in Game two is just 6-9 over the past 15 World Series. In other words, if you lose Game one, chances are that you’ll lose Game two as well.

The just-completed NLCS was a rematch of the 1982 World Series, and I came across an interesting card for the Cardinals’ starter in Game one of that Series. Bob Forsch was a good pitcher for the Cardinals for over a decade. He threw the only no-hitters that the Cardinals had in the old Busch Stadium. He won 20 games one year. And twenty-nine years ago this month, he started and won the World Series opener. Seems like a good career to me.

Score was a baseball card company that printed cards from 1988 to 1998. This would have been the second set that they released, and the design is a very colorful one. Cardinals’ red is always easy to see, and the splash of it at the bottom and around the border of the card’s front is the no different. The word “Cardinals” also spreads out very nicely across the diamond at the bottom of the card. But the back of this card is where the intrigue lies.

The stats on the back of the card are impressive, especially so with major leaguers whose careers don’t have to include their minor league stats as well. But the last line of the text at the bottom tells the tale. If it’s hard to read on the scan, here’s what it says: “He proved valuable as both a starter and a long reliever for both the Cards and the Astros, to whom he was traded August 31. (emphasis added)

So let me see if I understand this. Forsch was with the Cardinals for a long time, and was traded to the Astros at the trading deadline, and in the following year he’s still a Cardinal? Was something going on here? I had to look into this one some more.

It turns out that Forsch became a free agent after his short time with the Astros in 1988, but he also signed a contract in November of that year to return to Houston for the 1989 season. Apparently nobody informed the Score people of this, since they knew all about the Forsch trade and still considered him a Cardinal for the 1989 season.

The closest contemporary example I can think of for this would be Colby Rasmus. He was traded away from the Cardinals to the Blue Jays a few months ago, and nobody expects him back with the Cardinals next year. If the Topps company–the only big card producer anymore–decided to make Colby Rasmus a Cardinal again for next year, and even went so far as to report his trade  to the Blue Jays on the back of his card, a few people might have a good laugh, and Topps would come off looking pretty silly.  And who knows, somebody might even point it out a few decades later. Dumber things have happened, right?

An innocuous ending

The final Topps baseball card for Keith Comstock is shown above. Comstock made it to the major leagues in 1984, in his ninth season as a professional. Having never spent nine minutes as a professional, I could not knock him or his career for a moment. His is a tribute to the line in Bull Durham were the Durham Bulls’ manager tells Crash Davis “You can keep coming to the ballpark, and keep getting paid to do it.” That, all by itself, sums up a life that I can only imagine.

Comstock’s first stint in the majors lasted four games, and when no clubs wanted to sign him after that first season, he spent two years pitching in Japan. He came back to the states and pitched for the Giants, Padres, and finally the Seattle Mariners. By the time his 35th year rolled around in 1991, he was the true epitome of a journeyman player.

The card is unusual in that it incorrectly identifies him as a member of the Chicago Cubs. The card was later corrected to read the Seattle Mariners, and as a long-time editor and writer, I can tell you that the person who was responsible for checking the accuracy of these things at the Topps company wishes they had this one back.

Mistakes, once they’re out there, can live forever as a testament to the fallibility of all people. Batters strike out, fielders miss ground balls, umpires blow calls at home plate, and Topps calls Keith Comstock a Cub instead of a Mariner. Unfortunate, but life still goes on, anyway.

But there’s more to Comstock than this. He did spend most of 1991 in Triple A, but he was called up to the major league club in August of that year. He had made it back to the majors, and had another chance to show what he could do. The best things in life don’t last, though, and his final outing shows just how tenuous a pitcher’s career can be.

It was August 5, 1991. The Mariners were playing in Oakland against the three-time defending AL champion Oakland A’s. The Mariners trailed the A’s 1-0, when Comstock was sent to the mound for his first appearance of the season. The first batter he faced, Harold Baines, led off the eighth with a double. Willie Wilson, in his first year with Oakland after a long career in Kansas City, went in to pinch run for Baines.

The next batter, Brook Jacoby, singled home Wilson, and the A’s had pushed their lead to 2-0. But all was not yet lost. The next batter, Mark McGwire, flied out to right field, and with a runner on first and two outs, the Mariners could think about turning a double play to end the inning.

The next batter, second baseman Mike Gallego, drew a walk from Comstock. The following season, Gallego played three seasons with the Yankees. His subsequent departure cleared the way for the Yankees to give his number 2 to a young prospect named Derek Jeter.

With that walk to Gallego, Comstock was  removed from the game. The next Seattle pitcher, Michael Jackson (no, not that Michael Jackson) allowed Jacoby to score, and the inning ended with the Mariners trailing 3-0. Since he had put Jacoby on base, Comstock was responsible for both of the runs scored by the A’s. Dennis Eckersley came on to pitch the ninth, and as he did so many times, he retired all three Mariners hitters in order and secured the victory for Oakland.

Comstock had faced four hitters and thrown 15 pitches, but he did not take the loss that day. His ERA was an unsightly 54.00 for the season, but another couple of innings would bring that down considerably. Unfortunately for Comstock, there would never be another opportunity to lower his ERA.

Comstock was a spectator the last month and a half of the season, and he became a free agent after the season ended. When no teams showed an interest in signing him, his big league career ended. No warnings, no fanfare, nothing. After pitching 144 innings in his 153 appearances, across parts of  six major league seasons, Keith Comstock was a major leaguer no more.

What’s the lesson from this? I would have to say treat every outing like it could be your last, because someday it will be. And worst of all, you may not even know it at the time.

Reminds me of when I played the game

I have made my way slowly back into collecting baseball cards over the past decade or so. I don’t do it because I think they’re worth any money, but because it helps me to think about things that are unrelated to work, or the day-to-day issues that come up in life. Those things are important, certainly, but there are old baseball players and games that I’d rather discuss instead.

In addition to collecting Cubs cards from the 1970s onward, I also look for players that either came from Springfield, Illinois, or once played ball there in the minor leagues. One of the players in the former category is Jeff Fassero, who had a long career in the majors and is still a pitching coach in the Cubs’ minor league system.

I usually use the front of a player’s card when I write this type of a post, but in this case something on the back of his card caught my attention. In fact, I gasped for breath when I saw it, and I knew I had to share it in this space.

Beneath Fassero’s big league statistics, there is a blurb indicating that he played Khoury League baseball (along with other leagues) as he was growing up. I had forgotten all about my own playing days in the Khoury League but now, thanks to a card company’s need to fill some space on the back of a player’s card, I can recall some of my own memories well enough to put them out there for the rest of the world to consider.

I went to Google and discovered that the Khoury League (it’s pronounced CORE-ee, or at least that’s how I always said it) is still in existence. I half expected it to be defunct, given baseball’s seeming decline among young kids. It was very encouraging to know that the league I played in, and all of my friends played in, and Jeff Fassero played in, still exists today.

I played in Khoury League baseball for five seasons. I began in what was called Atom II, since my parents wanted me to play tee-ball when all of my friends were in Atom I. The way it was set up, you always played teams that were your age or one year above (if you were in Atom I) or one year below (if you were in Atom II).  Those age differences can be huge, especially when it came to the playoffs at the end of the year. An Atom I team rarely, if ever, beat an Atom II team. The Atom I team just ended their season, and then came back the next year to beat up on the Atom I teams.

After Atom II, I graduated to Bantam I and Bantam II, and then on to Midget I and Midget II. There were other levels beyond that, but no one I knew continued on past Midget II. So by the time I left Khoury League ball, I had played for five seasons, from the time I was eight until I was 13. It was a lot of fun, as I recall.

The highlight of my time in Khoury League was hitting a home run in the Midget II playoffs, near the end of my career (if that’s actually what it was). My team, sponsored by First National Bank of Springfield, was playing against another team, sponsored by Fishman’s Sporting Goods, in the playoffs. Fishman’s players were a year younger than us–in Midget I–and so tradition held that it was our time to win. And we did win, but not before I blasted a home run and made it all the way around the bases without so much as a play at the plate.

We had no outfield fences in the league, so after I smashed the ball I took off running. I was the kid who usually struck out, and who the coach played as little as possible, typically in the outfield where I wouldn’t do very much damage. For that kid to run around the bases, at top speed with his head down all the way, was a great feeling for me.

Making matters even better was the fact that my friend and neighbor from across the street was on the Fishman’s team. We never really talked about it after the game, but we didn’t have to, either. The next year they probably got to beat up on a group of younger kids, as well.

I thank the Topps card company for putting the Khoury League into print, and thus dredging up the kind of memories that had long been buried in the corners of my mind. I did play a little bit of baseball after that, but the bulk of my playing days were as a Khoury Leaguer, and I’m certainly grateful for that.

Solving an old mystery

A friend of my wife’s has a young son who just began collecting baseball cards.  I brought a big box of cards, mostly doubles of Cubs cards I already had, along on a weekend outing last fall, and told him could take whatever he wanted to add to his collection. But he insisted on trading cards with me, which is how I would have done it when I was a kid. Most of his cards were from the 2011 Topps base set, and I paged through his binder full of cards, looking for something that caught my eye.

The binder was a tipoff to how card collecting has changed since I was a kid in the late 1970s. My cards were kept in a blue plastic box, with a flap that folded down to close it up. I’m not sure how I got it, but it somehow became the home of my baseball card collection.

These things didn’t have any monetary value back then, they were just fun to have. The All-Star cards were the ones I wanted most, like every kid did, because we all wanted to be Mike Schmidt or Jim Palmer or Reggie Jackson. There were lots of role players, and they all had cards too, but getting one of those cards was never any big deal. Superstars and utility infielders all shared space inside my blue box, though.

Keeping my cards inside of a binder, with plastic sheets specifically designed to protect their condition, is something I wouldn’t have ever considered. Likewise, the idea of keeping cards all jumbled together, willy-nilly, inside of a plastic box wouldn’t occur to him, either. One storage system isn’t any better than the other, of course, but they do reflect differing views about these cards.

The card I found, which is shown above, isn’t an original 1977 card, but a reprint of that card for an “insert”  for the Topps base set. There were special cards (Father and Son Big Leaguers, Record Breakers from the previous season, etc.) when I was a kid, but these were all integrated into the larger set of cards. Somewhere along the way, some special cards were pulled out from the larger set, numbered differently from the base set, and are now thought to be more desireable than a base card of a player. Another new wrinkle since I was a kid.

The insert card I found was of Don Sutton, who was a pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers back in the 1970s. I saw Sutton pitch in a game in Busch Stadium when I was ten years old, but I never really knew what happened in that game. I remember that he left the game in the middle of an inning, without any explanation being offered to the fans, and that was it. The game just carried on, with another Dodger pitcher in his place. It just felt very weird at the time.

I wanted the Sutton card, though, and the trade was made. Trading baseball cards with a nine-year old felt a little strange, but many kids his age don’t seem to have an interest in baseball today, unless they’re playing a video game version of it.  So maybe I was just perpetuating the real thing, on some level.

I took the Sutton card home with me, and took to the internet for some research. It turns out that Sutton was ejected from the game for scuffing a baseball, and was suspended for ten games as a result. When Sutton threatened litigation against the League (this was back when the National and American Leagues were separate entities, unlike today), they backed off and Sutton was reinstated. The nickname “Black and Decker” followed him around throughout his career, as players assumed he had his toolbelt on whenever he took the mound.

I realized that this had happened in the pre-ESPN era, when the only way to get information like this was through reading a newspaper or perhaps Sports Illustrated. Sutton’s transgression was thus easier to bury than it would be today, and he was then able to have a Hall of Fame career without any real damage to his reputation, as least as far as I knew about.

In doing this research, I learned something else on the internet about Don Sutton that I didn’t know before. Sutton was apparently bothered by Steve Garvey’s All-American image, and made some comments to a newspaper along these lines. Garvey then confronted Sutton about it, and the two began wrestling around in the clubhouse. From a Cubs fan who hates what Steve Garvey did to us in the 1984 playoffs, I offer you a hearty bravo, Don Sutton.

Jose, can you see?

On the heels of last night’s scintillating baseball action, I received word that something I had written a few weeks ago for the website sportscardfun.com was chosen for their “Sportscard of the Week” award. It’s always an honor to win anything like this, but when it ties together baseball, the Cubs, writing, and some fond memories of the past, I just can’t think of anything better that doesn’t involve my family.

I’ll write more about Jose at a later date. He was a Cuban player who had a long career in the major leagues. But if something I heard once is right, there’s something really special about him when it comes to baseball. I’ll confirm it as I can.

Is he a ballplayer or a candy striper?

I got the card you see above in a trade with Josh Wilker of cardboardgods.net. It’s really a great blog, and on some level he inspired me to start writing this blog. I enjoy baseball cards, because they connect me to both the game I love and to my long-gone youth, but I wouldn’t have considered them to be a source of inspiration until I read Josh’s blog. If you haven’t read it before, please check it out. You’ll end up in 1970s baseball card heaven, if that’s a destination you’re trying to find.

We completed a trade of sorts recently, where I gave him a few cards I had pulled out of a large box I bought at a flea market, followed up by a few more from a large set of Cubs cards I had received in the mail, and topped off (no pun intended) by a Dave Roberts card from the end of his playing career. Josh indicated that he needed Roberts’ steely resolve to help him through the tenuous final days of the Red Sox’ season. My earlier post about Dave Roberts is here, if you’re interested.

A couple of days ago, Josh brought me a few of the doubles he had in his collection. They were vintage Topps cards from the 1970s, when Fleer, Donruss, Upper Deck and the other brands that came along later were hardly a thought in anybody’s mind. The only alternatives to Topps cards back then were Hostess boxes, Kellogg’s cereal, and any other sort of regional promo sets you could find. But I was glad to get them, and we spent a few minutes looking them over and pointing out some things. I didn’t know it right away, but one of the cards he gave me was hugely important, and my thoughts about that card are here. But the visuals of this card were also interesting to me.

By posting a scan of an old baseball card and then ruminating about it a bit, I feel like I’m setting myself up to be the Scott Stapp to Josh’s Eddie Vedder. But at the same time, a rhyme from the latest Beastie Boys release has motivated many of the posts that have already appeared here: “If you’ve got something on your mind, let it out.” So here we go, and Josh, if you were ever thinking about writing about Terry Forster, go right ahead. There’s probably much more to say about him after I’m finished.

I recently completed a baseball cards trade with Jeff at My Sports Obsession. I found his blog, and noticed he was a White Sox fan. I sent him an email, told him I appreciated his blog, and asked if he wanted to trade his Cubs cards for my Sox cards. He was fine with that, so before I packed up my Sox cards to send out to him, I sorted through the stack one last time. None of the players meant anything to me personally, but it was still fun to do.

What struck me were some of the crazy White Sox uniforms over the years. My favorite ones were the early 80s Greg Luzinski/Ron Kittle look, with the word “SOX” in rounded, space age-type lettering. I thought nothing could top that for being a distinctively bad look for a baseball team to wear for nine innings at a time. But then I found a look that was even more inexplicable on the Terry Forster card above.

The red hats were the first thing I noticed. The Sox logo itself is the one that they’ve since rebranded against a black background. But why the red? There is already another team called the Sox, and they even have “Red” in their team name. You can forgive me for finding it strange that a team named the White Sox would choose to wear red uniforms. Did they ever play against the Red Sox wearing those hats? It might have been a bit awkward if they did.

But to add to this confusion, the white uniform with red pinstripes just looks ridiculous. And the red sleeves underneath the jersey are the icing on this peppermint morass. I hope that this look was confined to baseball card poses, and never made it onto the actual field of play.

“Candy stripers” are volunteers–usually girls, but not always–who spend time in hospitals, in the hope of gaining some exposure to the medical industry. The practice began in the 1940s, and was once more common than it is today. Candy stripers got their name because of the distinctive red-and-white striped vests they wore while on duty. It looked like–you guessed it–a big candy cane.

Someone in the White Sox organization must have been in the hospital at some point, where a candy striper helped him out by reading the mail or delivering a telegram or whatever else it was that they did. That’s the only explanation I can think of for for why professional baseball players once suited up in the togs that Terry Forster is sporting here.

Thanks for coming along on this sweetly sentimental look at a baseball uniform we’ll hopefully never see again.

UPDATE: The White Sox did pull the candy-striping look out today, on a Sunday Throwback day on August 12, 2012. Robin Ventura and his team looked about the same as Terry Forster did. I’ll leave it at that.

Tarzan’s rookie card

I have already written about Jim Hendry’s ouster here, and I am excited that a new course for the Cubs will be charted soon. There’s no way that Mike Quade can survive, since the new GM will want to put “his people” in place. Does Quade finish out the season? Probably, but I think he better enjoy the last few weeks of this season.

The crowd at Wrigley Field today was the biggest one since Opening Day of 1978. Part of it was the Cardinals being in town, part of it was the perfect weather we had in Chicago, but part of it also had to be a catharsis for fans who had gone away in disgust. Now that Hendry’s out, let’s celebrate by–what else?–going to Wrigley to see a game. Makes sense to me. This weekend will see more huge crowds if the weather holds up.

So what happens to the #DoubleTriple countdown? I was enjoying it, and learning about baseball history in the process, but I can’t continue to root against my team. The only reason I was doing so was to force the hand of the Ricketts family in sending Hendry out the door. Now that it’s been done, and the team has improved to the point of only needing seven more wins to avoid 100 losses, I’m going to end the countdown at this time. It’s time to focus on more uplifting topics, anyway.

I also found out today that I will be getting a 1976 rookie card for “Tarzan” Joe Wallis, thanks to the Diamond Topps giveaway. I first heard about Joe Wallis when I watched a short video of him on WGN back in 1976 or 1977. There was some sort of drum music playing as Wallis went back to catch a flyball at Wrigley Field. He then ran through the outfield door and out onto Sheffield Avenue, where he made the catch. It was staged, of course, but I remembered the name Tarzan Joe Wallis forevermore.

I have two of his other cards already, but the rookie card is something I didn’t even know existed before today. Now that card collecting is a business–it definitely wasn’t when I was a kid–players don’t share their rookie cards with other players. And rookie cards are clearly labeled with an “RC” so that all collectors know that it’s valuable. I’m not a fan of the practice, since these things aren’t valuable to me in a monetary sense, but then again I don’t get to make decisions like this.

In the great scheme of things, none of the four players shown on this card amounted to very much in the majors. But at least they all made it to the majors, which is more than most people can say. And they will always be immortalized on little pieces of cardboard, for people like me to collect and write about for whoever else might be interested.

I’m reminded of the Peanuts special where Lucy declares that “Beethoven wasn’t so great.” When Schroeder challenges her on this, Lucy replies “He never got his picture on bubble gum cards, did he?” Tarzan Joe Wallis must have been great, since he did get his picture on bubble gum cards, and I will soon have at least three of them. That’s something worth writing (or reading) about, isn’t it?

Garza deserved better than this

This is not a baseball card blog. Josh Wilker writes a baseball card blog, and a very fine one at that. So I’m not intentionally treading into his end of the swimming pool. I just think this is interesting, and this space only exists for that reason, anyway. So here goes:

The Topps trading card company is, for all intents and purposes, the only game in town for baseball cards. They know this, and are very good at putting out multiple variations of the same product. The two cards above are an example of this. On the left, Matt Garza of the Chicago Cubs in the 2011 Cubs team set (I’m calling this the Fauxgarza because I like how it sounds). On the right, Matt Garza of the Tampa Bay Rays, from the 2011 Opening Day set (I’m calling this the Realgarza from here on). Matt Garza was actually on the Cubs’ roster on opening day, but never mind about that.

The runner leading off of first base was the giveaway that the same picture was used for both cards. The umpire was too, but I had to cover him up on the Realgarza card to make them both fit side by side. But you can see him on the left of the Fauxgarza card.

What Topps did–with the help of a computer program, I’m sure–is turn the Realgarza’s light blue jersey and cap (on the right) into the Fauxgarza’s dark blue jersey and cap (on the left), add a Cubs “C” on both places, and then (you can’t see this in the picture unless you look really close) add some blue stripes to the Fauxgarza’s pants (because the Realgarza’s pants are solid white). And nobody will ever know the difference, right?

This is the equivalent of green screen technology in the movies. Yes, I know dinosaurs weren’t really in Jurassic Park, and that Forrest Gump didn’t really meet JFK. They play visual tricks on the viewer all the time, and I have no problem with that. But the last Indiana Jones movie was just ridiculous, because I knew it was all greenscreened. I guess you just have to draw the line somewhere, even if it is on Matt Garza’s pants.