Author Archives: JT

Fun Cards: 2019 TWJ Fergie Jenkins

Jenkins

The Cubs retired uniform number 31 in honor of both Fergie Jenkins and Greg Maddux in 2009; they were the first pitchers so honored by the club. The other Cubs players whose numbers are retired are Ron Santo (10), Ernie Banks (14), Ryne Sandberg (23), and Billy Williams (26).

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Fun Cards: 2019 TWJ Andre Dawson

The Hawk

Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are still without contracts*. Andre Dawson didn’t sign with the Cubs until March 9 in 1987. Of course, that was due in part to collusion, a self-imposed, under-the-table salary cap orchestrated by Bud Selig and his cohorts to keep contracts down. Is that happening this year? Honestly, I don’t care. I don’t care if Harper and Machado end up playing in Japan or Mexico or Timbuktu. If this leads to another strike, as Adam Wainwright thinks it will, that’s fine.

I love baseball, but I don’t need baseball. There are plenty of other things to keep me busy. A bunch of whining millionaires (I’m talking about both owners and players) doesn’t sit well with me.

* I wrote this last night, and might be asleep when it actually posts. I probably won’t come back and update it even if a deal with the Phillies or Padres or Yankees or Chunichi Dragons is announced.

Is DC Universe worth the price?

Doom Patrol DC Universe

Marvel rules the world folks, but that doesn’t mean others don’t want a piece of the comic book world pie. DC, the home of Superman, Batman, and the rest of the Justice League, recently launched their own streaming service ahead of Disney/Marvel called DC Universe. $7.99 a month doesn’t seem like a terrible deal, but what is actually available currently at that price?

Exclusive programming: Two brand new series are being produced for DC Universe. Titans has aired 11 episodes so far, while Doom Patrol just premiered over the weekend. The trailer for Titans looked amateurish, but Doom Patrol‘s trailer looked good and has some talent in the cast with Brendan Fraser and Timothy Dalton.

Live-action television: Wonder Woman (starring Lynda Carter), The Flash (with John Wesley Shipp, not Grant Gustin), the old Superman series (with George Reeves), and Lois and Clark are probably the most well-known programs being offered. DC Universe also offers Superman Serials, The Adventures of Superboy, Birds of Prey, Constantine, and Human Target. What’s missing? Adam West’s Batman, Smallville (which is currently on Hulu), and the various CW programs (most of which can be seen on Netflix).

Movies: There are quite a few animated Batman and Superman animated movies, as well as some Justice League cartoon titles. As for live-action, you can see Michael Keaton, George Clooney, and Val Kilmer all dressed up as the Bat, and the first Superman film starring Christopher Reeve is there, as well as the 1974 pre-Lynda Carter Wonder Woman. What’s missing? The rest of the Reeve films, Superman Returns, The Dark Knight trilogy, Green Lantern, Supergirl and the current Justice League-related films.

Animated Series: Eighteen different titles here, new and old. The one I am most interested in is the nine seasons of Super Friends. I couldn’t begin to tell you what’s missing here.

So, is it worth $7.99 a month? I’m going to say no at this point. Marvel will have the advantage of partnering with Disney, and will likely have many more titles to choose from. I can only hope the price is not astronomical.

Fun Cards: 2019 TWJ Dave Winfield

Winfield

A lot of athletes are hyped up while in college, but perhaps none as much as Dave Winfield in the early 1970s. Winfield was the best hitter and pitcher for the University of Minnesota Gophers’ baseball team, and was a star power forward for the basketball team. He was drafted fourth overall by the Padres and never spent a single day in the minor leagues.

The Atlanta Hawks tried to persuade him to try his hand at professional basketball, drafting him in the 5th round of the 1973 NBA draft. Add to that the ABA’s Utah Stars selection of Winfield in the 6th round of the 1973 ABA draft.

Winfield never played a single football game in college, but the Minnesota Vikings were impressed with his athleticism so much that they used their 17th round draft pick on him.

I’m glad Winfield chose baseball.

Fun Cards: 2019 TWJ Rod Carew

Carew

Rod Carew was on his way out of baseball just as I started following more closely. My parents gave me the 1986 Topps factory set for Christmas, and that was Carew’s last card, career-capper that included all of his statistics. It was simple to see how great he was just by flipping over the card. 3053 hits and a lifetime .328 batting average. His dedication to the craft of hitting was evident in the numbers.

Carew played nineteen seasons. He failed to make the All-Star team once. Once. He was on the All-Star roster every year from 1967 to 1984. But wait, there’s more. He started fifteen of those eighteen games, and was selected by fans to start the other three but could not due to injury. He was the top vote-getter in the majors in 1975, 1977, 1978, and 1979.

The dude was an absolute beast on the field. I wish I had seen him play in his prime.

Fun Cards: 2019 TWJ Frank Robinson

Robinson

Frank Robinson was one of the greatest players to ever wear the Cincinnati Reds uniform. And the Baltimore Orioles uniform. And the Dodgers, Angels, and Indians uniforms. Though he never played for them, Robinson was one of the greatest to pull the Giants, Expos, and Nationals jerseys over his head. Ok, so the Expos and Nationals were button-ups, not pullovers, but you get the point. The guy was a legend.

One of his nicknames was “Pencils” due to his unusually scrawny knees. He was the Rookie of the Year in 1956, NL MVP in 1961, and AL MVP in 1966. He also took home the World Series MVP in 1966 when his Orioles swept the Dodgers. He was selected to the All-Star team in twelve seasons. In 1975, the Indians named Robby the first black manager in big league history. He managed all or part of 16 seasons for four franchises (five teams, if you want to separate the Expos from the Nationals). He was named the AL Manager of the Year in 1989 on the strength of the Orioles’ second-place finish.

Robinson was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1982 along with Hank Aaron, Happy Chandler, and Travis Jackson.

Former Pirates pitching great (and his baseball card) appears on “This Is Us”

I love it when the hobby and pop culture collide. On last night’s episode of This Is Us, the mega-popular tear-jerker of a TV show, former Pirates pitching great John Smiley and his 1987 Topps Traded card made an appearance.

Sort of.

I know John Smiley is hardly considered a “great” today, but in 1992, coming off a 20-win season, an All-Star appearance, and a third-place finish in Cy Young Award voting, “great” is not a stretch. And it wasn’t actually Smiley on the show, but actor Troy Doherty portraying Smiley at a baseball card signing.

Not Smiley

Young Kevin Pearson wanted to get Smiley’s rookie card signed so it would double in value. In the screengrab below, we see that the card in question is from the 1987 Topps Traded set with the iconic wooden border and white cardstock.

Mandy Moore holding a baseball card

Zoom in…

Smiley reverse

And flip it over…

Smiley front

Compare it to the real thing…

Real Smiley

It seems that the actor’s face was Photoshopped over Smiley’s face, but the rest of the card is legit. Look at the logo placement on the jersey, the treeline in the background…there is no way they recreated the whole scene for a fake card but that is clearly not John Smiley’s face on the card in the show.

There is no doubt, though, that the writers were familiar with the original card. During the scene, the pitcher said Kevin wanted to tell him about the best pool places in Minneapolis. Smiley was the subject of many trade rumors prior to the ’92 season and was eventually traded to the Twins. It seems that young Kevin spent a lot of time reading the backs of baseball cards; his 1987 Topps Traded card talks about some of Smiley’s hobbies, including “shooting pool.” This led the thoughtful 11-year old to research the pitcher’s likely new home and offer some suggestions tailored to his interests.

Smiley reverse

I confess I’m a huge This Is Us fan so seeing a baseball card connection made my day.

Writing resources: “Write a Novel” course by Crawford Kilian, and the “Writing Excuses” podcast

I have saved on my jump drive several short stories and a few drafts of a few chapters of a novel that I’ve been playing around with for 25 years. 25 years. I’m probably never going to get it done, but I can’t bring myself to delete these drafts. I’m not very good at following through with these things, even though I claim to love writing. Last year, I started off strong in a short story challenge. Write 12 short stories in 12 months, and for the first five months I nailed it. I’m not sure what happened in June. Or July. I’m sure I forgot about it by August. I think a couple of those stories are pretty good, and a couple of them are pretty bad. The bottom line, though, is I didn’t stick with it all year.

I buy books about writing, and for a while I put some of their guidance to work. I used to listen to the Writing Excuses podcast in my car, and get pumped up…until I sit down at the computer. Then I get distracted by Facebook or baseball cards or Twitter or my “real” job. I eventually gave up on listening to the podcast, as I never actually put any of the advice into practice.

Bottom line: I have a problem with motivation.

I want to write, but I just don’t do it. I need to change this. I need to set aside some time to write, to really focus on my novel idea, because until I get this two-and-a-half decade idea down on paper, I’ll never move on from it. It will always be a weight around my neck, a burden that prevents me from getting on with other ideas.

I don’t know if it will help, but I discovered a new resource by Crawford Kilian tonight. Kilian used to blog at “Writing Fiction” frequently, but like most blogs, the new posts started to tail off. A new post appears every once in a while, but it’s just not the same. However, early last year, he did offer a free resource: “Write a Novel,” an 18-lesson course for aspiring writers. While I don’t have the time to sit down and start it right away, I plan to go through the course in the coming months.

I also plan to start listening to the Writing Excuses podcast again. They have some great ideas. Who knows, maybe 2019 will finally be the year my characters come to life on the page they way they live in my mind.

Off-season reading material

Baseball greats get book deals, right? With the Hall of Fame class now set for 2019, I thought I would take a look at books that focus on those players’ careers. I was surprised to find that only on of the six has an autobiography already in print, and only one other has an announced release date for later this year.
Edgar

I’m not sure there would be much demand for a Lee Smith tell-all, or even a Harold Baines bio (although I would be interested in that one). Mike Mussina‘s humble disposition will probably prevent an autobiography from him. I heard an interesting story, and I don’t remember if it was on MLB Network’s coverage or elsewhere. Mussina tanked a grade in school so he wouldn’t be valedictorian. He didn’t want the spotlight.

There are a handful of Roy Halladay books geared toward younger readers:

Time will tell if a fuller examination of Halladay’s life will be offered, or if biographies of Smith, Baines, or Mussina will pop up.

Still discovering junk wax treasures…27 years later

The above Tweet from Tanner, noted Jose Canseco superfan, started a frenzy among a small group of baseball card collectors. What in the world are those cards? Customs? Nope. Real deal. But where are the name plates?

As it turns out, a few Topps Gold cards from 1992 got out the door without the gold foil…and they ended up on eBay a few weeks ago. I snagged a handful, as did a few other Twitter users that were following the thread. I have never seen these before, and never knew they existed until Tanner’s Tweet. I am, however, happy to add them to my collection.

I am now the proud owner of six 1992 Topps Gold “missing foil” Reds cards…

Larkin

Oneill

Charlton

Duncan

Morris

Sabo

That’s Barry Larkin, Paul O’Neill, Norm Charlton, Mariano Duncan, Hal Morris, and Chris Sabo.

Turning the cards over plainly shows that they are from the Gold parallel series, albeit without the gold on front…

Sabo

I also picked up a Shawon Dunston card, who was another favorite player growing up.

Dunston

It’s amazing (in a great way) that we can still discover things from the junk wax era today, and that we have ways to easily add them to our collections. Thank you Tanner for the heads-up!

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