Sunday, January 1, 2017

Complete Set Sunday: 1919 Chicago Black Sox Team Reprint Set.

       One of the many things I missed posting about during my long hiatus was the Chicago Cubs finally getting over the hump and winning the World Series after 108 years. Personally, I could not care less about the Cubs or so-called curses but I do have a good friend from college who is a big Cubs fan, so I was ecstatic for him when they won (I also mocked him as best I could from a hospital bed in 2015 when the Mets swept the Cubs in the LCS, but I digress). All you heard from the media during that 2016 run was how much Cubs fans were tortured and how Chicago hadn't seen a championship since 1908.  This always made me irrationally angry. Chicago has two teams last time I checked.  The White Sox once went 88 years without winning a championship and broke that schneid only a few years ago in 2005.  I have always felt a strong kinship to White Sox fans because it must suck to live in a vacuum like that where you are barely an afterthought in your own city, much less on the national stage. Being surrounded by the Evil Empire on all sides, I think Mets fans can sympathize.
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This year marks the 100th anniversary of one of the greatest teams every assembled, the 1917 White Sox.  That team steamrolled the American League, winning 100 games and then taking the World Series from the Giants in six games.  Alas, no one remembers that team at all because of what happened two years after that. I present to you the 1919 Chicago Black Sox, in "reprint" form.

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This 25-card set (with one bonus Shoeless Joe card in color) is not so much a reprint as a retrospective set, done in faux-vintage form by a company called TNTL in Toms River NJ.  I have never heard of them before and they haven't done anything since, so I imagine this was a vanity or personal set specifically done by a Black Sox nut.  I think they were going for the look of the old E121 Caramel cards and they came pretty close.  The cards aren't standard size but closer to the size of those old ones.  This is a true oddball set and right in my wheelhouse. I think I picked this set up on Listia a few years ago and I scanned it right away and now comes its time to shine.

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The backs have a little write up rather than a candy advertisement, and while not poetry, they certainly capture the feeling of the team and the scandal.  As you also may have noticed, since the cards aren't numbered, I put the infamous Eight Men Out together on the same page.  The stats they quote certainly paint the picture of a great team having a bad week.  The book (and I recommend both the book and the movie if you haven't indulged yourself) isn't quite a perfect history as much as it is a JFK-esque what-if group of scenarios.  I personally believe in the grey area story that the team threw the first couple games but never got paid past the first game, but by then it was too late for them to mount a comeback.  We'll probably never know the whole story since everyone involved in the scandal is long dead and the incident makes for a great and sad piece of baseball lore.

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The Black Sox are one of those issues that brings out many passions in people.  Did Joe Jackson really understand what was going on?  Did Buck Weaver deserve the treatment he got since he didn't take any money.  Was the tight-fisted ways of Charles Comiskey as much to blame for the scandal as the players themselves?  I see wonderful parallels right now in the whole Steroid Era kerfuffle that has been going on for the last decade or so.  The hall of fame just elected Bud Selig, who pretty much stood by as the owners profited from the players at the time and then decided to "get tough" when the winds of opinion changed.  Those players made the owners countless millions and made fans happy but then got vilified after the fact, a post hoc nightmare if ever there was one.  So now that Selig has been enshrined, I would like to see the Bondses and Clemenses and McGwires get their chance to go in too.  And with that said, you can then deduce that I also think that if Charles Comiskey is in the Hall of Fame as an owner, then Shoeless Joe Jackson should finally be allowed in as a player, warts and all.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

You Can't Get Rid of Me That Easy.

       It seems for most people 2016 has been a rough year. As usual, I was ahead of the curve and my nightmares started in 2015.  I was in a car accident on Super Bowl Sunday that left me shaken but unscathed but that was to be the least of my issues.  I posted on and off all through 2015 right up until what would seem a very exciting time for me, the Mets going deep into the playoffs.  I posted on the day of that first postseason game in nine years, and then aside from an auto-post on Christmas and a couple of Hall of Fame induction posts that I already pretty much had written out, nothing.  This blog has been silent. Why, you ask?  It is on that aforementioned October night that our story begins...
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These are the Mets holiday parallel cards from that big box store I don't shop in.






































I will not bore you too much with the details of this story as I have told it a few too many times and I have grown weary of it.  Plus it is kind of horrifying and gross but I will hit the important parts, though. I watched that first playoff game with a great deal of anticipation, obviously.  I sat in my big comfy chair and did not get out of it the whole night.  The Mets won a tight and tidy 3-1 victory and as the final out was made, I got up to do the business we all have to do.  That is when things turn ugly.  The last thing I remember was fainting on the toilet. I hit my head and passed out.  I woke up in a pool of blood, feces, and throw up and I could barely move.  This was not a pretty picture and I was in trouble.  911 was called and an ambulance came and some very well trained EMTs scooped me up and took me to the hospital.  I was cleaned up and put on fluids as they tried to figure out what was going on with me.  I was there one day, then two, and so on.  No food could go in me, nothing but blood and pain was coming out of me.  Two of the finest doctors on the eastern seaboard were looking over me and on day three, I asked them point blank what was wrong with me.  They looked at each other and shrugged - they actually shrugged.  I was in real trouble.  Test after test was done to me, pint after pint of blood was going into me.  I didn't eat anything solid for nine days.  As a last resort, they gave me a little camera pill, like something out of the Jetsons, to go through my gastrointestinal tract and if that didn't find anything, they were going to have to cut me open.  I swear this is the short version of this story and to tighten it up even further, yes, they found out what was wrong with me without having to cut me open.  I had a hidden hole in a hard to reach part of my intestines (the jejunum for those who like hard to pronounce medical words).  Rest and no food eventually healed it up.  I was in the hospital for a couple weeks.  I was an absolute wreck physically and emotionally for months.  The physical part eventually healed and my strength and stamina returned.  My emotional state, usually pretty precarious to begin with, was not so easily dealt with. 

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Since all I have done is vent in this post, let me say a belated Happy Holidays and to everyone reading.





































Near death experiences are supposed to energize you, instead with old contrarian me, it has put me in a deep funk.  Every time I think it is getting better, I realize it isn't.  Old things that used to make me happy simply don't.  New things bore me.  I have never been so down or inconsolable and that is saying something.  Every day is a struggle and every moment I am left alone with my thoughts makes me more depressed. I have tried everything I could think of to help myself to very little success.  I wish I could tell you I have figured it all out but I haven't.  Right now emotional survival is the key.  I haven't much wanted to blog because I really haven't been collecting much and what I have hasn't brought me much joy.  I am a red hot mess.

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They didn't scan too well, but these are the shiny metallic foil ones.






































Not to sound like some kind of inspirational trinket bought at the mall, but happiness is a choice.  It has been about 14 months that I have been Greco-Roman Wrestling these demons on a daily, practically hourly basis, and this New Year's seems like as good a day to just turn my back on them.  Oh, I am going to be very aware of my mental health but I am going to make a concerted effort to streamline this process that has just been exhausting.  I am not sure if it will work or not, but one thing I do desperately miss is the happiness that card collecting brought me and the fun and feedback I got from writing my blog.  So that is what I am going to do.  I am going to drag myself kicking and screaming back to my old self.  I have tried every other damn thing and maybe now is the time for the the direct approach, which I know seems obvious to some but for me it is novel because my head is a wacky place and I tend to outsmart myself when I keep things simple.  At this point it seems I have nothing left to lose.  I have been slowly reacclimating myself to old friends and my family and while it hasn't snapped me out of things quite yet, it wasn't nearly as hard as my brain has been making it out to be.  So this week, I am going to start this blog up again and I trust that the 12 of you who used to read it will do so again.  Wish me luck.  And a very Happy New Year to you all.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Fork In The Road To Immortality.

       Last night, it was announced that two men had been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame: Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza.  I am going to get my favorite quirky statistic about this out of the way first:  Junior is the first number one draft pick to be chosen, and as a 62nd round pick, 1390th overall, Piazza is (by far) the lowest draft pick ever granted membership to Cooperstown.
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Ken Griffey Jr.
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Ken Griffey Jr. set a record with 99.3% of the vote, getting named on 437 out of 440 of the ballots. Whoever the three dudes are who decided not to vote for him should be publicly shamed, stripped of their vote, and kept in the stocks on Main Street in Cooperstown during induction weekend.

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I have shown my pages of Griffey before so I dove into the boxes for his inserts for this occasion.  Above you see two of my favorite food issue oddballs of all time.  Not that getting cards out of Oreos or Ritz Crackers is all that bizarre and they certainly are as plain looking as possible.  No, I am tickled every time I look at the back of the cards and see the height and weight measurements.  Every. Damn. Time. I am a simple man.

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Griffey is one of the saddest "What Might Have Been" baseball stories of all time.  Yet, he is also one of the most complete and beloved figures the game has ever known.  The only people who didn't like Junior are really old curmudgeonly writers back in 1991 that hated that he smiled and wore his hat backward.  How dare a man have fun playing a child's game!  Luckily, all those men are either retired or dead now. 

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It is hard to imagine that had Griffey stayed healthy in the second part of his career, we wouldn't be celebrating him as the all-time home run king.  With the Reds over 8-plus years, he missed 480+ games with various injuries and given the conservative average of a homer every 4 games, that adds about 120 homers to his total.  As it is, he hit 630 dingers which is good for 6th on the all-time list.

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I have collected and cherished Griffey's cards since he hit the scene in 1989.  I am not saying I was ever a supercollector or anything, but I do seem to have a lot of his cards laying around and I seem to find more every time I look.  Given his status and statistics, Ken Griffey Jr.'s election to the hall of fame is the very definition of a no-brainer.

***

Mike Piazza.
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Mike Piazza was also a no-brainer choice for the Hall of Fame, alas it took the BBWAA four freaking years to find their brains.  He was elected with 83.0% of the vote, named on 365 of 440 ballots. 

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I wish I could claim some kind of nonpartisan point of view when it comes to Mike Piazza, but alas I cannot. He has been my favorite player since May 22, 1998 when he was traded to the Mets.  He had been someone I admired before then but the moment I found out he was a Met, it was head-over-heels, love-at-first-sight, you-and-me-forever.  There had never really ever been a player like this in team history and unfortunately, there hasn't been one since.   

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Unlike Junior, I have been a crazed Piazza Supercollector since that day.  What you are seeing right now is just the game-used and fancy encapsulated cards I own of him.  I have done huge player collection posts before, but doing ALL of my Piazza cards at once will require 102 pages and another 1800+ inserts in top loaders to be sorted and scanned - not to mention random assorted memorabilia like lunch boxes, figures, 8x10s, bobbleheads, etc.  Yeah, I should have anticipated this day and had it ready but that just didn't happen after a few years of crushing January disappointment.  You will have to wait until July and his actual enshrinement for me to tackle this massive project.  For now, you'll have to make do with the 15 scans here of some high end goodies. Like that Leather Bound card above, which is one of my whales; not only is it a rare type of relic, but it has a lace hole right in the middle of it.  Just a wonderfully neat card.

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I never got into the eTopps craze much but I did snag in hand versions of Piazza's cards, some of the very few encapsulated cards I own that have stayed in capsule.

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Here you see some later bat cards of him as not-a-Met.  Everyone seems to be arguing if he should go into the Hall as a Dodger or a Met - and joking that he should go in as a Marlin - yet no one has referenced his last couple years on the west coast as a Padre and Athletic.  My view is simple: he made his legend as a Dodger and cemented that legacy as a Met so it is an absolute toss up as to which is appropriate as either one could be (see Jimmie Foxx).  In a case like this, it should then come down to the player's preference and Mike has made it clear he is far more fond of his time as a Mets player and of the Mets fans and organization.  That should end the discussion right there. (Note: as I was writing this post, it was announced that he would, in fact, go in as a Met)

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Mike Piazza's offensive statistics are overwhelming.  396 home runs as a catcher - most all time (427 overall).  Highest single season batting average for a catcher - .362 in 1997.  Five 100 RBI seasons in a row - 1996 to 2000 - and an average of over 100 RBIs over 10 years - 1993 to 2002.  Highest lifetime batting average in Los Angeles Dodgers history - .331.  Ten Silver Slugger awards.  Twelve time All Star. 

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Conversely, he is known as a horrible defensive player.  This reputation is way way waaaay out of line.  Yes, it is undeniable that he did not have the best arm in the world; his career caught stealing percentage was 23% when the league average was 31%.  But remember that he played in the most drastic offensive slugging era ever so the stolen base was not the weapon it was in, say, Johnny Bench's day and therefore Piazza's arm was not a grand liability.  If his defense was truly as terrible as it is reputed, he would have been moved to 1st base in 1995 and not 2005.  Early in his career, he did lead the league in passed ball twice.  But he took great pride in and worked very hard to improve his defense.  By the year 2000, he led the league in fielding percentage for catchers - bet you didn't know that.  People somehow forget that throwing is not the only thing a catcher does.  Other than his bad arm, all he did was frame pitches well, go back on pop ups quickly and vigilantly, call a game brilliantly, and get down and block pitches in the dirt like a fiend.  And that's not me talking, that is Bobby Valentine his manager.

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Enough about the player, let's focus on some of these nifty cards.  Mike's trade to the Mets coincided with the explosion of game used cards, so just about all the stuff he has is in Mets gear.  This makes me very happy (and broke).  I usually only pick up the very best or most interesting relic cards of a player to have one or two to represent him, but I have been a little more loose with that rule when it comes to Piazza.

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This scan shows a rare hat patch card and a jersey card that is just filthy and I mean filthy in the true real 'dirty' meaning of the word, it is the filthiest jersey card I have ever seen.  It also shows four manufactured patch cards, including one that I gave quite a famous write up.

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There are hundreds of Jersey relic cards of Mike Piazza, of that I am certain and I somehow have had the restraint to only own a couple dozen.  I try to keep it, like the above, to interesting subjects, photos, or even cut outs to showcase the swatch.  There is also a piece in this scan with a teal stripe on the piece, meaning it came from his week long side-trip as a Marlin.  One marvelous little statistical blip in his line is that he hit a triple for all five teams he suited up for, including one of the five total hits he got as a Florida Marlin.

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Here are five of the most interesting die cut jersey cards and one of the most staid and plain looking one's in my collection.  The piece is even gray.  That is more than made up for by the round, square, crownish, cartoonish nature of the other cards. 

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I have not one, not two, but three of his swatches from the Topps 206 sets of the early aughts.  I think there are bat cards from this set too but I like that these cards showcase the front and back of the pieces, something very few cards actually do, and that is more interesting with the jerseys.  They are color coded to each series of that vast set.  I often wonder if they would fall apart if I took them out of their plastic holders...alas, I am too chicken to test this out.

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Jeez, I just realized, seeing them all laid out like this, that I might have enough jersey cards to sew together an actual patchwork Mike Piazza jersey.  But then I would have to pick up some of the rare button cards from ten years ago that were all the rage and I refuse to spend that much money on anything less than a used car. 

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Now we've reached some multiple swatch cards.  Here you see him paired twice with battery mate Al Leiter, who was very excited on MLB Network about Mike's election.  There's also one with Mo Vaughn from that one year the Mets thought Mo Vaughn was going to be good for them.  There is also three cards with my all-time all time favorite player, Gary Carter.  Chances are if you play for the Mets and play catcher, you are going to get my attention/affection.  I also love the one there with Piazza, Carter, and Rickey Henderson - that is three Hall of Famers on one card.  I think that is a first for my collection.

Last but not least are a few other multiple player swatch cards below.  One of them is a Mets themed one, the others with various guys like Carlton Fisk (makes sense), Pudge Rodriguez and Jason Kendall (sure, okay), and Sammy Sosa (um, what?).  By my count, that is 73 game used cards, 4 fake manu-patch cards, and 3 magic encapsulated cards.  I am insane - and remember I sold off a lot more than I have bought in recent years.

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Each year Mike did not get elected to Cooperstown, I promised to write a scathing diatribe denouncing this folly.  And every year, I got so mad trying to put together this post that I abandoned it in self-righteous frustration.  I am now so pleased with the result that I am going to forgive and forget and let it all go.  Mike Piazza has been given his rightful place in Baseball's Hall of Fame, what is there to be upset about?

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Hallelujah.

       About four years later than I should have been, I am finally able to go from this...
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To this...

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It is a subtle but important distinction.  And if you know anything about me, you know that I am very particular where my binders are on the shelf, so this is a big deal both historically and aesthetically.  There will obviously be more to come about this later.

Friday, December 25, 2015

How The Grinch Stole Christmas.

Every Who down in Whoville liked Christmas a lot
But the Grinch who lived just North of Whoville did not!

The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!
Now, please don't ask why. No one quite knows the reason.

It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
It could be his head wasn't screwed on just right.

But I think that the most likely reason of all
May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.

But, whatever the reason, his heart or his shoes,
He stood there on Christmas Eve hating the Whos,

Staring down from his cave with a sour, Grinchy frown
At the warm lighted windows below in their town,

For he knew every Who down in Whoville beneath
Was busy now hanging a hollywho wreath.

"And they're hanging their stockings," he snarled with a sneer.
"Tomorrow is Christmas! It's practically here!"

Then he growled, with his Grinch fingers nervously drumming,
"I must find some way to keep Christmas from coming!

For, tomorrow, I know all the Who girls and boys
Will wake bright and early. They'll rush for their toys!

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And then! Oh, the noise! Oh, the noise! Noise! Noise! Noise!
There's one thing I hate! All the NOISE! NOISE! NOISE! NOISE!

And they'll shriek squeaks and squeals, racing 'round on their wheels.
They'll dance with jingtinglers tied onto their heels.
They'll blow their floofloovers. They'll bang their tartookas.
They'll blow their whohoopers. They'll bang their gardookas.
They'll spin their trumtookas. They'll slam their slooslunkas.
They'll beat their blumbloopas. They'll wham their whowonkas.
And they'll play noisy games like zoozittacarzay,
A roller-skate type of lacrosse and croquet!
And then they'll make ear-splitting noises galooks
On their great big electro whocarnio flooks!

Then the Whos, young and old, will sit down to a feast.
And they'll feast! And they'll feast! And they'll FEAST! FEAST! FEAST! FEAST!

They'll feast on Who pudding, and rare Who roast beast,
Raw roast beast is a feast I can't stand in the least!

And then they'll do something I hate most of all!
Every Who down in Whoville, the tall and the small,

They'll stand close together, with Christmas bells ringing.
They'll stand hand-in-hand, and those Whos will start singing!"

    Fahoo forays, dahoo dorays
    Welcome Christmas! Come this way
    Fahoo forays, dahoo dorays
    Welcome Christmas, Christmas Day

    Welcome, welcome, fahoo ramus
    Welcome, welcome, dahoo damus
    Christmas Day is in our grasp
    So long as we have hands to clasp

    Fahoo forays, dahoo dorays...

"And they'll sing! And they'll sing! And they'd SING! SING! SING! SING!"
And the more the Grinch thought of this Who Christmas Sing,
The more the Grinch thought, "I must stop this whole thing!

Why for fifty-three years I've put up with it now!
I must stop Christmas from coming! But how?"

Then he got an idea! An awful idea!
The Grinch got a wonderful, awful idea!

"I know just what to do!" The Grinch laughed in his throat.
"I'll make a quick Santy Claus hat and a coat."

And he chuckled, and clucked, "What a great grinchy trick!
With this coat and this hat, I'll look just like Saint Nick!"

"All I need is a reindeer." The Grinch looked around.
But since reindeer are scarce, there was none to be found.

Did that stop the Grinch? Hah! The Grinch simply said,
"If I can't find a reindeer, I'll make one instead!"

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So he took his dog Max, and he took some black thread.
And he tied a big horn on top of his head.

Then he loaded some bags and some old empty sacks
On a ramshackle sleigh and he whistled for Max.

Then the Grinch said "Giddyap!" and the sleigh started down
Toward the homes where the Whos lay a-snooze in their town.

All their windows were dark. No one knew he was there.
All the Whos were all dreaming sweet dreams without care
When he came to the first little house of the square.

"This is stop number one," the old Grinchy Claus hissed,
As he climbed to the roof, empty bags in his fist.

Then he slid down the chimney, a rather tight pinch.
But if Santa could do it, then so could the Grinch.

He got stuck only once, for a minute or two.
Then he stuck his head out of the fireplace flue

Where the little Who stockings hung all in a row.
"These stockings," he grinched, "are the first things to go!"

Then he slithered and slunk, with a smile most unpleasant,
Around the whole room, and he took every present!

Pop guns, pampoogas, pantookas, and drums!
Checkerboards, bizilbigs, popcorn, and plums!

And he stuffed them in bags. Then the Grinch, very nimbly,
Stuffed all the bags, one by one, up the chimney.



Then he slunk to the icebox. He took the Whos' feast!
He took the Who pudding! He took the roast beast!

He cleaned out that icebox as quick as a flash.
Why, that Grinch even took the last can of Who hash!

Then he stuffed all the food up the chimney with glee.
"Now," grinned the Grinch, "I will stuff up the tree!"

As the Grinch took the tree, as he started to shove,
He heard a small sound like the coo of a dove.

He turned around fast, and he saw a small Who!
Little Cindy-Lou Who, who was no more than two.

She stared at the Grinch and said, "Santy Claus, why,
Why are you taking our Christmas tree? Why?"

But, you know, that old Grinch was so smart and so slick,
He thought up a lie, and he thought it up quick!

"Why, my sweet little tot," the fake Santy Claus lied,
"There's a light on this tree that won't light on one side.

So I'm taking it home to my workshop, my dear.
I'll fix it up there, then I'll bring it back here."

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And his fib fooled the child. Then he patted her head,
And he got her a drink, and he sent her to bed.

And when Cindy-Lou Who was in bed with her cup,
He crupt to the chimney and stuffed the tree up!

Then he went up the chimney himself, the old liar.
And the last thing he took was the log for their fire.
On their walls he left nothing but hooks and some wire.

And the one speck of food that he left in the house
Was a crumb that was even too small for a mouse.

Then he did the same thing to the other Whos' houses,
Leaving crumbs much too small for the other Whos' mouses!

It was quarter of dawn. All the Whos still a-bed,
All the Whos still a-snooze, when he packed up his sled,

Packed it up with their presents, their ribbons, their wrappings,
Their snoof and their fuzzles, their tringlers and trappings!

Ten thousand feet up, up the side of Mount Crumpet,
He rode with his load to the tiptop to dump it!

"Pooh-pooh to the Whos!" he was grinchily humming.
"They're finding out now that no Christmas is coming!

They're just waking up! I know just what they'll do!
Their mouths will hang open a minute or two
Then the Whos down in Whoville will all cry boo-hoo!

That's a noise," grinned the Grinch, "that I simply must hear!"
He paused, and the Grinch put a hand to his ear.

And he did hear a sound rising over the snow.
It started in low, then it started to grow.



But this sound wasn't sad!
Why, this sound sounded glad!

Every Who down in Whoville, the tall and the small,
Was singing without any presents at all!

He hadn't stopped Christmas from coming! It came!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!

And the Grinch, with his grinch feet ice-cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling. "How could it be so?

It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
It came without packages, boxes, or bags!"

He puzzled and puzzed till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before.

Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store.
Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more!

And what happened then? Well, in Whoville they say
That the Grinch's small heart grew three sizes that day!

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And then the true meaning of Christmas came through,
And the Grinch found the strength of ten Grinches, plus two!

And now that his heart didn't feel quite so tight,
He whizzed with his load through the bright morning light

With a smile to his soul, he descended Mount Crumpet
Cheerily blowing "Who! Who!" on his trumpet.

He road into Whoville. He brought back their toys.
He brought back their floof to the Who girls and boys.

He brought back their snoof and their tringlers and fuzzles,
Brought back their pantookas, their dafflers and wuzzles.

He brought everything back, all the food for the feast!
And he, he himself, the Grinch carved the roast beast!

- Dr. Seuss 1957