Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween Greetings from Willie McGee!

Happy Halloween to all of my loyal readers! Personally, I'm just about Halloweened out, with most of the activities that affect my balance, diction, and delicate digestive system already having taken place this past weekend. But that doesn't mean I can't make room for a little bit more celebration.

Passing out candy this past Sunday afternoon (yes, afternoon, because my metropolitan area of the city of Milwaukee becomes unsafe in select areas after dark), got me to thinking, "If I could be any baseball player for Halloween, who would I be? More specifically, if I wanted to scare the crap out of the trick-or-treaters, whose likeness would I try to rcreate?"

Ahh, yes, Willie McGee, possibly the ugliest baseball player of all time. If this guy had answered the door following his batting title seasons of 1985 and 1990, I might have run the othe way, even if he had a basket full of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

Oh, and I saw this driving down the street not too long ago. I was in a car on the way to a wedding reception when this motorcycle crossed our path. Luckily, he hit a red light and one of my fellow passengers had a camera, which has by now become a ubiquitous device.

Appropriately enough, it's a Harley.


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Fantastic Comic of the Day #2

I know I haven't posted about comics in a long time here, but today is a special crossover occasion.

Above is the cover to The New Teen Titans #8, published in June of 1981. This superhero team is sort of like a Junior Justice League. The character we're going to take a look at today is Cyborg. I'm not going to go into his whole backstory here, but if you'd like, here's a link that will give you the scoop on this guy.

Basically, towards the beginning of this issue he's coming to terms with his physical situation over a cup of coffee.

Later, he visits an ex-girlfriend and gets a little rough with her.

Finally, he decides to go for a walk to clear his head. This is where the baseball crossover come in. Looks like Alan H. "Bud" Selig won't allow Cyborg to play for the Gotham Goliaths or the Gotham City Eagles because of performance enhancement suspicions.

Watch out, Cyborg!

Whew! Lucky for you it hit that side of your face! Is it time for revenge?

Hmmm, looks like he might chuck the ball a half-mile away and tell the kid to go get it. That, or deliver an ass-wupping the boy'll never forget.

Surprise, you're not so scary after all! And here's the reason why...

Awwww, bonding over a mutual necessity of prostheses. And who's this lovely Farrah Fawcett-looking lass?

Miss Simms, based on the first panel here, you get a D-Cup Rating. Congratulations!

Now let's play some ball! I hope Cyborg's Star Wars reference helps him get a look at those D-cuppers in a future issue.

And for the grand finale, here's the back cover of this issue:

I have to admit, the new kid on the card block put together some nice copy for their crappy set. Among their seen bulleted facts, however, I can spot a couple things not worth bragging about (Collector's Checklists, Distinctive Design) as well as one outright lie (Top Quality Photos). Still, who wouldn't love to have a 24"x36" poster of this ad hanging in their rec room?

Friday, October 26, 2007

A Card Dream...or Nightmare

This morning I awoke having remembered all of the pertinent elements of a particularly lucid dream I'd been having shortly before waking up. I'm including it here because of the strong connection it has with my collecting hobby.

Let's set the stage. I'm in a car with my fiancee. We're driving to what I know is a card show. (This is not at all uncommon, as she is often gracious enough to accompany me to such events. I, in turn, go to Michael's craft supply runs with her.) Anyways, the card show I usually go to is held in a Catholic school cafeteria known as Gonzaga Hall. The place we are approaching in my dream definitely ain't this place. The parking lot is constructed all wrong, but that's not the big tip-off. There are two people with orange construction vests holding cardboard signs that read "Parking $3.00". This doesn't happen at the real life shows. My brain must have compensated for this, because in the car we wait until the parking lot attendants are distracted and we drive past them without paying.

The next thing I know, we are entering the hall and paying the admission fee. For some reason, all of the lights are off and everyone is quiet. The auction that usually goes on at certain show intervals was taking place in my dream, but for some reason all showgoers were extremely attentive.

Upon entering the hall, I'm noticing that something is not right. The tables are in the wrong places, and there are way more cavernous twists and turns than usual.

The first place I come to has rack packs hanging up for sale. Now get ready for the best part of the dream right here. The rack packs are of the football variety, and only two of the three sections have cards in them; the third space is empty. And here's the kicker: One of the visible cards is John Elway, but he's wearing...get this...a Patriots uniform! And to top it all off, the card design is identical to 1988 Fleer baseball.



I don't know about you, but I'm sure I could manage to live very comfortably off the sale of a long-lost mistake of a 1/1 John Elway Patriots card.

My journey through the rest of the show was rather disappointing. Table after table was stocked with everything but cards. There were tables with kids painstakingly painting pewter Yu-Gi-Oh! figurines. Some tables had old books and others were just full of unidentifiable junk. The only thing I remember being of some degree of interest to me was a 1980s Marvel G.I. Joe comic, which I do collect, but, like the Elway card, I neglected to buy.

The final part of my dream was the most harrowing. After some more unsuccessful browsing, I found a small room off of the main hall that looked more promising. After walking into this room I saw a bunch of Italian tough guys. Although a little unsure, I walked around the main display case in the room. I must have crossed some invisible line because I was told by this mafioso group, "Don't come back here!" and, "Get out!" It was as if I had entered the back room of Satriale's by mistake when looking for the bathroom.

After leaving that room quickly, I found my fiancee and decided it would be best to leave the show empty-handed. By this time, the show hall had turned into a Menards (a Wisconsin-based hardware superstore, pretty much like a Home Depot, for those of you who are unfamiliar). And that ended my dream.

Anyone have any clue as to what this means?

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Al Hrabosky, you have won over the hearts and minds of a nation. With a sweeping 7-1 victory in the final over Ellis Valentine, you showed astonishing killer instinct . With a tough road to the finals, you easily dispatched Mike Ramsey, the forward-cap-wearing, backwards-batting-helmet-wearing SS-2B from the St. Louis Cardinals in the opening round. From there, you soundly defeated Lonnie Smith, whose chest-hair-to-facial-hair transplant just about made everyone sick. In the semifinals you encountered a different kind of hair, the unibrow of Jack Clark, and you sent him packing with a bottle of Nair and a pair of tweezers. And in the end, not even Ellis Valentine's Kafka-esque batting helmet could withstand the fury of that great moustache. Congratulations!

No tournament would be worth its salt without a little hardware, so without further delay, I'd like to present you with the 1981 Topps Tournament Medal, on this Friday, the 25th of October, in the year two thousand seven.

Although you may be known to others as the Mad Hungarian, this year's medal has been specially adorned with a moustachioed visage of more Scandinavian descent. Wear this Swedish Chef medal with pride, Mr. earned it.

I hope I will see you all here later, when I begin the 1981 Fleer Mini-Tournament, which will be limited only to one pack. The scope may not be as large, but the competition will be fierce. See you soon!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

1981 Topps Tournament -- CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL Results (ppd.)

Here in the Midwest I have trouble staying up late for those west coast night games. I don't feel too bad about it, though, since my local newspaper has the same trouble, too. The results of the 1981 Topps Showdown were actually tallied in Phoenix at 7:00 local time. Therefore, I won't be up late enough to dispatch the results to all of you. (This is the same reason that I have not seen the end of a Bucks road game against the Sonics, Kings, Trailblazers, Clippers, or Suns since around 1988.)

Actually, it's my birthday today, and all of the related festivities will prevent me from doing the grand finale its due justice. Thursday and Friday off (Teachers' Convention, WOO HOO!) will help accomplish this task. Thank you for bearing with me.

Monday, October 22, 2007

1981 Topps Tournament -- CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL Halftime Show

Since I couldn't schedule U2 or the Stones for the halftime show, I dug deep into my oddball box for a few snickilicious surprises. These relics come from the place where cards belong, a shoebox. Were it a simpler time, when money was not a part of the equation, all cards would eschew Pocket-Pro and the term "semi-rigid" might not exist. These cards will never be sent off to be graded, like a child to a third-rate summer camp, but they are loved just as dearly, perhaps more.

Let's get started, Up With People is booked as the second act, and the smoke from this show will take a lot of time to clear.

First off, we have Koko B. Ware, the fabulous Bird-Man. While not Main Event material, Koko was an early-card staple in the late 1980s. His hilarious antics delighted young and old alike. From this card, it seems he was particularly popular with the ladies aw well, indicated by the woman in what is most likely an Ocean Pacific sweatshirt reaching out to get her hands on a few square inches of Koko B. Ware's sexy chest.

Up next we have a card chronicling one of the greatest matches of all time, the Wrestlemania III showdown between Randy "Macho Man" Savage and Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat. The feud between the two was months in the making, and if I recall correctly, in one of the matches leading up to this one Macho Man actually performed his patented "Flying Elbow" while holding the bell, with Steamboat as his target. I won't even get into the hijinx between George "The Animal" Steele and Miss Elizabeth here, but this was truly one for the ages, with Steamboat coming out on top and earning the Intercontinental Championship (Thorzul does title belt signifying action here). (Actually, all wrestling after this point, with the exception of select parts of Wrestlemania IV and a few SummerSlam matches, is rendered pointless, as the "sport" reached its zenith the moment Andre the Giant hit the canvas at the hands of Hulk Hogan.)

Last, and most likely least, is a little treat that for some reason I felt necessary to save. This "card" of the Megaloceros was a souvenir from what was apparently a 1986 trip to the Milwaukee Public Museum. How this never got thrown away, I'll never know, but I'm sure that if I was alive 250,000 years ago and I found myself alone in a bog surrounded by wolves, I'd definitely try to hoist myself up on this guy's back.

Come back Wednesday for the crowning of the champion of the 1981 Topps Showdown.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

1981 Topps Tournament -- CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL

Ellis Valentine emerged victorious from his semifinal matchup against Dennis Eckersley, 4-2. Slightly earlier, Al Hrabosky manhandled his Final Four competition, soundly defeating Jack Clark 5-1.

Seed #3 Ellis Valentine (#445) VS. Seed #12 Al Hrabosky (#636)

Here are your victors. Like Indy was told by that old knight watching over all those chalices in Indiand Jones and the Last Crusade said, "Choose wisely."

I'm afraid no words could do this battle justice. I will leave the voting open for one week, and I'll revisit the carnage on October 24 (my birthday, by the way) to give a blow-by-blow account of the action.

Right now, it feels a little liberating to nearly reach the end of this. I wasn't sure I'd be able to see it all the way through, but we're almost there. I'm looking forward to posting more of my Yount collection, along with a few other nice things. Some may stray away a little from cards, but everything is guaranteed to be entertaining.

Decision '07...The Choice is Yours!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

1981 Topps Tournament Pre-Game Show

Man, have I been bad at updating this thing! I guess I can tell that the 1981 Topps Showdown is winding down, so I have a little treat for everyone. This sweet little item is tangentially related to cards, so I have no guilt about posting it here.

Here it is, a vintage Pac-Man candy game. Many of the pieces have been ravaged by time, but the method of removal remains as fun as the day this was produced. How many little kids were too hasty to partake in the extraction part of this item, and just ripped off the whole thing and poured all of the Pac-Men directly down their throats? I'm guessing the figure was actually pretty low, taking into account my observations of children's tendencies to play with just about any and every piece of food related material. Me? I would have rocked the shit out of this. The over-under on the total minutes taken to eat all of the candy would have hovered around 650. My mom would have gladly paid the 35 cents to keep me occupied for an entire afternoon and evening.

So, why is this on a card blog?

It was made by Fleer, of course! Too bad a soulless corporation has taken the reins from this company, otherwise I could still hold out hope that similar products would still be produced.

Will I eat any of this candy? Doubtful, but the piece that intrigues me the most is the one about halfway down on the left side. This one:

Part of me wants to know how many types of bacteria I can sneak into my body without dying. Another part of me believes that I should send this to a lab at the University of Wisconsin because the black spots are actually anti-cancer agents.

I love the amount of detail that went into this item. It reminds me of the '80s Fleer cards (1987, I think) that sometimes had great stats like strike zone tendencies and stuff like that.

Were anyone's lips ever on this part? Not knowing the answer to that, I can assure you mine won't be.

Expect the 1981 Topps Tournament Final to arrive early this week!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

1981 Topps Tournament -- Semifinal, Match 2

Seed #3 Ellis Valentine (#445) VS. Seed #2 Dennis Eckersley (#620)

The classic philosophical struggles are embodied in this matchup. Nature versus technology; man versus machine; hairspray versus gel.

In the green corner you have Ellis Valentine (who scored an easy victory in the quarterfinal round, 5-2), a soldier sent from the future to put things right that once went wrong, like Scott Bakula. Equipped with a laser-tipped, digitally enhanced, liquid-metal face shield, he battles strong monsters on behalf of his NationCorp, ELB.

In the red corner you have Dennis Eckersley (who tied with his last opponent 3-3, yet advanced because of his higher seed), sent from the past, unselfishly abandoning his brethren of the round table, cloaking himself in the red of St. George's cross. His dragon-slaying lance is replaced with the mythical Comb of Walgreen's.

The battle is fierce, my friends. Valentine has several batting doughnuts at his disposal, yet Eckersley has been able to woo the young, mostly female crowd, issues of Tiger Beat clutched firmly in hand.

Who will it be? Who is worthy? Vote your conscience.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

1981 Topps Tournament -- Semifinal, Match 1

Seed #1 Jack Clark (#30) VS. Seed #12 Al Hrabosky (#636)

On paper, this might look like the end of the road for The Mad Hungarian, who swept into the semis with a decisive 7-1 victory over Lonnie Smith. Like a UW-Milwaukee Panthers basketball team, 12 seeds commonly upset their way into the Sweet 16, but rarely go futrher. But based on the strength of victory in the quarters, this one is too close to call.

Clark, on the other hand, advanced after fighting his way to a 3-3 tie and reaping the benefits of Tournament Rule 3.02:
"No player shall intentionally discolor or damage the ball by rubbing it with soil, rosin, paraffin, licorice, sand-paper, emery-paper or other foreign substance.
PENALTY: The umpire shall demand the ball and remove the offender from the game. In addition, the offender shall be suspended automatically for 10 games. For rules in regard to a pitcher defacing the ball, see Rules 8.02(a)(2) through (6)."

As it turns out, Steve Trout was caught with a package of Twizzlers in his back pocket, mandating that Clark advanced.

Flip a coin if you must. Submit those votes now!

Monday, October 1, 2007

My First 800-Count Box

Before moving on to the semis of the 1981 Topps Card Tournament, I've decided to sneak in a personal collecting treasure. Pictured above is my first 800-count storage box. This baby was purchased, I believe, at the now-defunct Old Mill Coin Shop. This place was nestled in among the shops of a northwest side of Milwaukee strip mall. And when I say "nestled," I mean that you could not see the Old Mill from the street. Still, there were a couple of uncut sheets of 1975 Topps baseball (!) hanging in the windows that were nearly faded beyond recognition. Even as a young boy, I knew sacrilege when I saw it.

Now, this box houses my complete, hand-collated set of 1987 Topps. Sure, there are plenty of bent corners in this set, as well as marked manager checklists, but I prefer to stick with the originals rather than upgrade. The box itself, though, has gone through several different tenants through its life. I estimate I was 10 or 11 years old when it was purchased, and the team name ornamentation reflects my then-state of mind. Let's review.

Top: The representatives of the top of this box must have been a product of obscene amounts of deliberation. First, there's the title, "Baseball Cards." The word "Baseball" has since faded. What was I thinking...? When you designate an 800-count box of cards, you spare no expense. Use a Sharpie.
Then there's the teams. I believe that the representative colors for each team reflect the color schemes chosen for the 1990 Fleer set. How sad.
Phillies: Red, simple, neat.
Giants: Brown all the way.
Pirates: These guys made the top because of the monster team Pittsburgh had around this time. Yellow...fierce yellow.
Tigers: Black, slanting upward, primed for success.
Padres: See Giants.
Astros: How I resisted adorning this orange name with a Kevin Bass-style moustache, I'll never know.
Mariners: Here's where I really start getting creative. I ping-ponged yellow and blue back and forth in my head, probably while watching "The Disney Afternoon." Then, genius hit me: Why not both!?!? It's like a twist soft serve cone. All parties are satisfied beyond belief.
Royals: I really outdid myself on this one. A blue name punctuated with a yellow crown. Buttons were surely popping once ink hit cardboard on this one.
A's: I hated the A's at this point in my life, evinced by the Ghostbusters-esque red circle and slash through the green name. Here's why: In 4th grade, I played in a softball league comprised of five grades' worth of Catholic school boys, as well as a sizable group of neighborhood kids. There were five teams in this league: Brewers, White Sox (my team), Red Sox, Pirates, and A's. The most successful team was the A's, mostly because of an abundance of older kids. Still, in the most amazing upset I have ever been a part of, we beat the A's in our second meeting, 16-9. For a few seconds, I knew what Jim Valvano must have felt like.
Brewers: I felt the need to make it clear which team was boss, with an emphatic blue Brewers Rule! (Although records show little evidence of the Brewers ruling anything since 1982.)

Front: A+ for effort here. I'm really starting to hit my stride.
Orioles, White Sox, Red Sox: Plain, solid, reliable, like a base set without inserts.
Expos: Taking a cue from Seattle, alternating red and blue letters. Will genius never cease?
Braves: Uh-oh, I may have been bordering on copyright infringement here. Please don't sue me Ted Turner! My tomahawk has no color, or binding twine!
Angels: Jesus Christ Almighty on a Bike! I'm getting my markers' worth here! Tri-color lettering with a golden halo. This is the box-buster, serial-numbered, game-used, triple signature pull of this 800-count box. Can I keep up the blistering pace?

I'm trying a little less hard here. Let's see who we've got.
Yankees: Black, classic. I showed remarkable restraint in not trying to create some sort of interlocking N and Y logo. Good choice.
Cubs: A big red C was all the effort I could muster for the team that I now view as the great, uninformed, inattentive, boorish, sloppy, suburban Satan of baseball (although at the time of markering, the Cubs posed little threat to me, personally, as the Brewers were not yet members of the National League). Cubs suck. Let's move on.
Reds: All CAPS. There had to be a reason for this, but I can't for the life of me identify it.
Rangers: Orange, boring.
Twins: Red, shaky, clearly showing fatigue. When will this end?

Dodgers: Blue motions lines and my best cursive. I clearly wasn't ready to give up yet.
Indians: Not too bad, either. Red, solid. To me this looks like a World Series matchup that will never happen, even on an infinite timeline.

Left: It's apparent that my 11-year-old self failed to give a shit any more.
Cardinals, Blue Jays, Mets: Did I write this with my right (non-dominant) hand? Does that say "Lardinals"? Is that a "d" or a zero, or even something from the Cyrillic alphabet? Did an infant write "Mets"? Are we done? Yes.

The 1981 Topps Showdown recommences soon!