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Random Awesomeness (part 2019.6)

Random Awesomeness

What I’m Reading Right Now: Injustice vs. Masters of the Universe written by Tim Seeley and illustrated by Freddie Williams III.

Purchase American Rock ‘n’ Roll by Don Felder!

Funko rules the world, y’all

The Office Funko Pop

I have been following Funko‘s various social media accounts as they reveal upcoming releases at Comic Cons and Toy Fairs. A lot of great stuff on deck, including characters from The Office, Office Space, The Lion King, *NSync, and more.

Shazam Funko Pop

I think the one I am anticipating more than any other is Shazam. I’m a huge Zachary Levi fan, and the trailer for the movie looks hilarious, so this one is definitely going to be added to my collection at some point this year.

But if you’re not into comic book movies or sitcoms or Disney or boybands, never fear…Funko will continue to produce sports-themed Funko Pops in 2019. MLB, NFL, and NASCAR are all among the upcoming releases. Even Muhammad Ali and Babe Ruth are a part of the 2019 roster.

It really doesn’t matter what you’re into. Funko has you covered. Wheel of Fortune? Check. Dawson’s Creek? You bet. Sanford & Son? Yep. Funko has it all.

Unless you want figures from The Greatest American Hero or Edgar Allan Poe. Still waiting for those…

Greatest American Hero

Edgar Allan Poe

Becoming Babe Ruth written and illustrated by Matt Tavares (2013)

Becoming Babe Ruth

Becoming Babe Ruth
written and illustrated by Matt Tavares
Candlewick Press, 2013
40 pages

The very talented Matt Tavares has written and illustrated several children’s books about baseball players, including Ted Williams, Hank Aaron, and Pedro Martinez. His book about the most famous baseball player of all, Babe Ruth, was originally released in 2013, and is now available in paperback. Becoming Babe Ruth tells of the ballplayer’s roots at Saint Mary’s Industrial School for Boys in Baltimore and his ascension to greatness in Boston and New York.

More than that though, Becoming Babe Ruth shows the Sultan of Swat’s generosity and heart toward those who helped him along the way. Tavares does a wonderful job of painting a picture—both figuratively and literally—of this positive aspect of Ruth’s personality. As in his other baseball books, Tavares’ artwork is second-to-none.

For those who have young children, Tavares’ books are a wonderful introduction to both the sport and the personalities that play it. Becoming Babe Ruth is recommended for readers 5-8 years old.

Learn more about Candlewick Press.

Purchase Becoming Babe Ruth by Matt Tavares in hardback or paperback.

Huge baseball memorabilia auction happening online tomorrow

The Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory Auction Event, is on November 14 at 11am EST online with and in person at the museum and factory in Louisville, Kentucky. The auction features memorabilia like signed or used pieces by some of the biggest names in baseball. There are pieces from legendary players like Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Ken Griffey Jr., Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, and more. Here are a few of the noteworthy auction items available:

Lot 289: Fine Lou Gehrig professional model baseball bat c. 1930-31 (PSA/DNA graded “GU 8”)
Estimated Price:
$75,000 – $100,000
The bat originates from a primary source descendant of a former Washington area bat boy whom is believed to have spent time with several teams inclusive of the Washington Senators. According to family history, the young bat boy had the occasion to meet several notable individuals during yankees copythis period and one particularly special encounter was with Lou Gehrig. The 1930-31 time period was particularly productive for Gehrig who turned in numbers that would have been career years for nearly any other player conceivable. A fresh to market Gehrig game bat is always noteworthy and an example with strong provenance and usage characteristics is an exceedingly rare find.

Lot 376: Jackie Robinson professional model baseball bat with uniform #42 on knob c. 1952
Estimated Price:
$50,000 – $100,000
This particular bat was obtained in the 1950s by a Brooklyn area youth, Edward Guidi, whose father was well acquainted with a Brooklyn Dodgers clubhouse employee. On one of the occasions which the boy and his father attended a Dodgers game the team employee brought the offered bat to the man and gave it to his son indicating that, He’d like him to have the bat since he did not have any kids and to enjoy it. The bat has since resided in the collection of the original recipient until its current offering. This particular Jackie Robinson bat ranks among the very finest of its type to have been offered with direct primary source provenance and extremely rare #42 player indicator on knob end.

Lot 293: Fine 1931 New York Yankees team signed baseball
Estimated Price:
$10,000 – $15,000
Red and blue stitched Reach W.Harridge Official American League baseball has been signed by (25) incl. Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri, Lefty Gomez, Red Ruffing, Earle Combs, Bill Dickey, George Pipgras, Cy Perkins, Herb Pennock, Sam Byrd, and others. Joe Sewell and Dusty Cooke are clubhouse signed. All are done in period fountain pen rating 7-8 out of 10. Ball displays some mild toning and light evident usage wear with faded but well defined stampings. A choice example dating to this highly desirable period.

Dave Kingman belongs in the Hall of Fame, obviously!

Dave Kingman belongs in the Hall of Fame obviously

Since the exposure of the inflated statistics of the steroid era, it is high time to re-examine the case of Dave Kingman for the Hall of Fame. The first 400-home run hitter to be denied entry into Cooperstown, Kingman shared his talents on the baseball diamond with fans in seven cities. Instead of writing several lengthy chapters to convince you of Kingman’s obvious worthiness, I’m going to go with simple bullet points. All of these could easily be expounded upon. Feel free to disagree. It’s your choice if you want to be wrong.

  • 442 home runs, 40th on the all-time list. But if you remove all the ‘roiders, he moves up to 31st, and if you remove all the guys that passed him after he retired, that puts him around 22nd at the time of his retirement. The 22nd-best clean home run hitter of all-time at the time of his retirement definitely deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.
  • He made the All-Star team in three different seasons. That’s more than Babe Ruth, and Babe Ruth is in the Hall of Fame. If you’ve done something more than Babe Ruth, you’ve really done something there.
  • He received MVP votes in five seasons, four times in the NL and once in the AL. If you will recall, Frank Robinson was the first player to ever win the MVP in both leagues. Frank Robinson is in the Hall of Fame. Do I need to go on? OK, I will.
  • Hit thirty or more home runs seven times in a sixteen-year career; five other times he topped twenty. In the pre-steroid era, that’s spectacular.
  • Some try to put a negative spin on Kingman’s status as a legend by pointing to his strikeouts. You know who had more strikeouts than Kingman? Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson.
  • He had a 1.167 OPS for the Yankees. 1.167!
  • He was a Diamond King in 1982. So were nine Hall of Famers, including Gary Carter, Rod Carew, Phil Niekro, Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, and Ivan De Jesus. Wait, forget that last one.
  • He was a Super Veteran in 1983. Not just a Regular Veteran, a Super Veteran.

Some solid bullet points, right? I thought so too. Let’s get Kingman in the Hall! Download the badge, resize it to your heart’s content, and display it proudly on your blog!

Too big for a binder: oddballs and customs

In the December 1986 issue of Baseball Cards Magazine, six repli-cards were printed for collectors. There were 1981 Donruss “proof” cards of Reggie Jackson and George Brett, 1951 Topps cards of Wally Joyner and Don Mattingly, and 1951 Topps All-Star cards of Wade Boggs and Dwight Gooden. The problem is with the 1951 Topps All-Star cards. They are roughly the same size as those Donruss “pop-up” All-Star cards of the mid-1980s.

Boggs All-Star

Next is an advertisement for a Babe Ruth portrait painted by Dick Perez. There is no date on the ad, and no website, so I’m guessing that this is early to mid-1990s. I’m a huge fan of Perez and his work on the Diamond Kings subset from 1982-1991 (I don’t recall if he also painted 1992; I didn’t buy many cards that year). However, this is probably my least favorite work from Perez.

Bambino painting

Finally, at some point in the late 1990s/early 2000s, I was started to get back into baseball and collecting autographs through the mail. I didn’t have a lot of current cards at my disposal yet, so I made some on my own. I wanted Todd Hundley‘s autograph, so I sent him the below “card” and a blank index card. He returned the index card with his autograph, but the homemade card was unsigned. Sure, I only have myself to blame for the odd size of this “card,” and it frustrates me that I didn’t have the foresight to make it the standard 2.5 x 3.5.

Hundley Wrigley Field

Banzai Babe Ruth by Robert K. Fitts (2013)


Banzai Babe Ruth:
Baseball, Espionage & Assassination During the 1934 Tour of Japan

by Robert K. Fitts
University of Nebraska Press, 2013
366 pages

A beautiful blending of baseball and history, Banzai Babe Ruth engages the reader in the attempt to forge a friendship using America’s pastime. Author Robert K. Fitts presents the events from both sides of the Pacific—the Japanese businessmen who are intent on bringing the Americans to their country for an All-Star tour in 1934, and the hesitations of the baseball luminaries in America.

The book reads almost like a novel, recounting the interactions between Babe Ruth and his Japanese fans, Moe Berg’s purported spy operations, and Lefty O’Doul’s tutoring young Japanese ballplayers. Highlights of the games are also presented, along with statistics and line scores in the appendices. Some chapters barely mention baseball, focusing instead on the political climate of the time and the war.

Banzai Babe Ruth is great for fans of baseball history, shedding light on a little-known subject in these modern times.

Learn more about University of Nebraska Press.

Purchase Banzai Babe Ruth by Robert K. Fitts.

Retired Numbers: #3

Uniform #3 is retired by six teams for four Hall of Fame players and two players who have not (yet) been inducted into Cooperstown.

Dale Murphy, Atlanta Braves

Murphy is one of the most popular players not named Hank Aaron to ever wear the Braves uniform. In the early 1980s it seemed that the mild-mannered Murph was a surefire future Hall of Famer. Back-to-back MVP seasons, two other top-ten finishes in MVP voting, seven-time All-Star, five Gold Gloves, and 398 lifetime home runs. He is similar to Duke Snider and new Hall of Famer Ron Santo, and from age 28-35 he was most similar to Reggie Jackson. The question is, will he garner support from the Veterans Committee to finally get his due when his name is added to their ballots?

Babe Ruth, New York Yankees

Bill Terry, New York Giants

Earl Averill, Cleveland Indians

Harmon Killebrew, Minnesota Twins

Harold Baines, Chicago White Sox

How magical are “magic numbers”? (part 2)

In June, I examinded 300 wins and 3000 strikeouts. I intended to jump right into 500 home runs and 3000 hits after that, within a week maybe, but wouldn’t you know…I never did. So let’s knock that out and put this question to rest.

Twenty-five guys have hit 500 or more career home runs…a lot more than I thought.

1. Barry Bonds (762)
2. Hank Aaron (755)
3. Babe Ruth (714)
4. Willie Mays (660)
5. Ken Griffey (630)
6. Alex Rodriguez (626)
7. Sammy Sosa (609)
8. Jim Thome (596)
9. Frank Robinson (586)
10. Mark McGwire (583)
11. Harmon Killebrew (573)
12. Rafael Palmeiro (569)
13. Reggie Jackson (563)
14. Manny Ramirez (555)
15. Mike Schmidt (548)
16. Mickey Mantle (536)
17. Jimmie Foxx (534)
18. Willie McCovey (521)
Frank Thomas (521)
Ted Williams (521)
21. Ernie Banks (512)
Eddie Mathews (512)
23. Mel Ott (511)
24. Gary Sheffield (509)
25. Eddie Murray (504)

Of those, eight are not yet eligible for the Hall of Fame. Eleven were first-year inductees. That leaves us with six names to look at: Killebrew, Foxx, Mathews, Ott, McGwire, and Palmeiro. The problem with McGwire and Palmeiro is steroids, no doubt. Both would be ushered into Cooperstown on the red carpet had they come by their numbers clean. The way they have been handled by the voters will make future elections very interesting, with Bonds, A-Rod, Sosa and Sheffield on the horizon.

But what about the four old-timers, who never stuck a needle in their buttocks?

Foxx and Ott were on the ballot under a different set of rules than what are currently in place. Voters were not required to wait for a player to be retired five years, or to even wait until they were finished playing. Both Foxx and Ott received good support running up to their eventual induction, and would have been first-ballot inductees had the five-year waiting period been in effect.

Then you have Killebrew and Mathews. Mathews waited five years for the call, receiving only 32.3% of the vote in his first year on the ballot. He eventually climbed the list and was enshrined in 1978. Killebrew was on the ballot four years before getting his plaque. What makes this so crazy is that Killer led the league in home runs six times, and was at the time in the top 5 on the all-time list (he now sits at 11).

While it is somewhat insane that Mathews and Killebrew did not get first-ballot treatment, there are no pre-steroid players with 500 home runs outside the Hall of Fame.

Now on to 3000 hits…

1. Pete Rose (4256)
2. Ty Cobb (4189)
3. Hank Aaron (3771)
4. Stan Musial (3630)
5. Tris Speaker (3514)
6. Cap Anson (3435)
7. Honus Wagner (3420)
8. Carl Yastrzemski (3419)
9. Paul Molitor (3319)
10. Eddie Collins (3315)
11. Willie Mays (3283)
12. Eddie Murray (3255)
13. Nap Lajoie (3242)
14. Cal Ripken (3184)
15. George Brett (3154)
16. Paul Waner (3152)
17. Robin Yount (3142)
18. Tony Gwynn (3141)
19. Dave Winfield (3110)
20. Craig Biggio (3060)
21. Rickey Henderson (3055)
22. Rod Carew (3053)
23. Lou Brock (3023)
24. Derek Jeter (3020)
Rafael Palmeiro (3020)
26. Wade Boggs (3010)
27. Al Kaline (3007)
28. Roberto Clemente (3000)

Four of these guys (Speaker, Anson, Collins, Lajoie) were elected within the first few years of the Hall’s opening, and since there was such a backlog at the time, we’ll overlook the indiscretion of making them wait. The only two eligible on the outside are Charlie Hustle (who didn’t know when to fold ’em) and Raffy (Mr. Positive). Biggio should make it in next year, and Jeter in his first year of eligibility (whenever that may be).

That leaves only Paul Waner, who was on the ballot for seven years before being inducted. However, similar to Ott and Foxx, Waner had just retired when he began receiving votes. He climbed from 42.1% in 1948 to 83.3% in 1951, only seven years after announcing his departure from the playing field.

So back to the original question, how magical are the milestones of 500 home runs and 3000 hits? The only eligible players not inducted are gamblers and ‘roiders, and 3000 hits seems to be a first-ballot ticket so long as there is no controversy.

Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum (Baltimore, MD)

This past summer, my family and I took a vacation to Washington DC and Baltimore, MD. There is a lot of cool stuff to do in DC, but not much baseball-related. My (at the time) 10-year old son and I took in a Nationals game, while all four of us went to an Orioles game. Before the Orioles game, we visited the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum.

I should have posted these photos months ago…and actually thought I had. Here they are…better late than never, right?

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