Monday, May 11, 2020

Pollard Throws No-Hitter May 11, 1978.

    There are a few of you raising your eyebrows right now trying to remember a major league pitcher named Pollard who threw a no-no 42 years ago today.  Well, that's not quite the headline I am angling toward here.  The Pollard in question here is Robert, the ultimate lo-fi pioneer, lead singer of Guided By Voices (along with a couple dozen other off-shoots), Uncle Bob to a bunch of us music nerds. One of the things that made me want to start blogging again is that Goodwin Champions included him in their set last year and I went a little crazy...
I have a 1/1 printing plate waiting for me in COMC to join these colorful wonders.

Okay, how do I explain Robert Pollard and GBV in baseball terms?  Well, if the Beatles are Mickey Mantle (or Willie Mays?) and Nirvana is Bo Jackson (or Sandy Koufax?), then Bob would be Rocky Colavito (or Eddie Yost?) - the under the radar, out of the ordinary but similarly brilliant superstar for which there is a small but intensely devoted following.  Maybe Tim Raines would also work here or perhaps Tony Mullane (or even Ichiro?).  You get the idea.  His music is classic rock but somewhat alien.  It is timeless yet also fixed permanently in the British Invasion vibe and the DIY punk ethic of the early 80s.  Bob once defined his vision for the band as if the Beatles never stopped making music and what it would sound like.  He knocks out dense melodic songs by the score and most of them are under 2 minutes (though they have gotten a little longer as he's gotten older).  He puts out 2-3 albums a year with GbV and half a dozen EPs and side efforts and it is dizzying to keep up with but ultimately very rewarding.  The fans are also insanely devoted and encyclopedic in their knowledge.   Baseball fans and music fans are a mostly round Venn diagram that way when you think about it.  To me, these cards are the wonderful overlap of those two classic obsessions of mine. 

Last year I bought a huge lot of the base card, made a page, and then sent the rest to the fans.

Bob Pollard is a fascinating dude with an outrageous story.  He was a regular guy who went to college, played baseball and basketball, became a teacher, and seemed like your normal law-abiding citizen from Dayton OH.  But he always loved music and one day in the early 80s he just decided he was going to be in a band and make rock music and he didn't care what anyone thought of him. So he and his buddies started recording songs in his garage on a boombox and they just kept doing it.  They would play local shows and they became this eclectic local oddity but when people listened to the songs, they realized this guy was actually pretty good.  They were the underest of underground the indiest of indie. But word spread and legends grew and by the mid-90s when this dude was going to college, he discovered their music through a friend who saw I loved the Beatles and thought I should give them a listen.  I have been a fanatic ever since.  And even with a retirement 15 years ago (like most premature sports retirements, it didn't stick), they have come back and are still going very strong. I was looking forward to seeing them  for the seventh time this year, but, well, you know. GbV usually does epic 3 hour shows with a 40+ song set list (they do 100 songs on New Years) but mind you, Bob also comes out with a cooler of beer and drinks and sings until he can't the lyrics so it's usually a glorious train wreck.

My favorite legend of the man, though, is the no-hitter he threw in college - 42 years ago today.  It is just a strange wrench thrown in the machine of a quirky rock and roll story.  If you go to one of their shows, you will see plenty of t-shirts that commemorate this perfectly non-historic but wonderfully odd phenomenon. 

Did Bono or Sting ever throw a no hitter (or the UK equivalent?) I doubt it. Jon Bon Jovi never scored four touchdowns in a game and I am certain Bob Dylan never scored 100 points in a basketball game.  But my ultimate rock hero once pitched a no-hitter in college.

So here are not the five "best" songs but the most indicative.  If you like any or all of these, you have a fighting chance to join the club and be a Guided By Voices covert.  One of these songs is even responsible for my eBay screen name.  Give them a shot, go on, I'll wait. Or don't, I'm not a cop.

If any of you took the time to listen, let me know what you think. And even if you didn't, I know the crazed nature we all collect cards with and for me it definitely is similar with music and I figure if anyone can understand the excitement when two of those worlds collide, it's you guys. Seeing trading cards of the front man of your favorite band (when 98% of folks have never even heard of your your favorite band) was the absolute highlight of my 2019 collecting. Plus the man is a sports legend, he threw a no-hitter!

Thursday, May 7, 2020

We All Could Use A Reason To Smile.

      In a small adjoiner to my rambling post the other day about Julio Franco and his ancient record-setting home run, today is the four year anniversary of another old man home run mark set by one of the great elderly pitchers of recent time, Bartolo Colon.

Big Sexy put all his weight into this swing and became the oldest player to ever hit his first home run.  It is also one of the most joyous and unbelievable things I have ever seen. It's like watching Santa Claus win the lottery and give all the money away to orphans. If you have never seen it - or listened to Gary Cohen's amazing call - please do so now...

Wherever Bart may be right now, I hope he is laughing and enjoying a nice meal knowing he put a smile on my face today remembering that day.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Drunk Post: Who Wants It?

      As promised in my last post, I have been drinking. A lot. So it's time for a drunk post!!!  And I am going to ask a question I haven't asked in a while...who wants it? 

No, not my tacos, they are already in my belly...

...and they we're fucking delicious.  No. I am giving away some really great cards here.  Like, how about a 1952 Mickey Mantle!

Okay, not really.  This is actually a hilarious card.  This is a bootleg copy of the 1983 Topps reprint of the 1952 Topps set.  I bought two of these thinking they were the actual 1983 versions, which were 100% issued by Topps and were pretty much the first faux-vintage they ever made.  But on first glance of the back, I knew things were a tad wonky.  The front looks pretty good but the back looks like it was done on a Canon copier in 1983.  It is even clipped on the bottom by the bit that reads "1952 Reprint Series" One of these is in my Mantle pages as a great example of a copy of a copy of a copy (think the Michael Keaton movie Multiplicity).  But if you appreciate such horrors of ineptitude, all you have to do is say you want it.  I don't run contests or ask you to follow me or wax my car or anything. But you might want to wait a moment because I am also giving away...

A 1979-80 Topps Wayne Gretzky rookie card!
You miss 100% of the shots you don't make and this card missed 100%

In the toploader in low light after your third or fourth margarita, this card actually looks kinda good.  The colors of the front are on target and then you turn it over and quickly notice that the texture of the back is all wrong because this was printed on the photographic paperboard they used to include with digital cameras back in 1998.  Unauthorized reprint is a really nifty term for counterfeit but this card has all the presentation of a $100 bill with Benny Hill on it instead of Ben Franklin.  But it is still worth owning if you aren't going to try and fool your blind neighbor into buying it along with your dead parrot.  It can be yours for the asking price of nothing because it is worth less than nothing - but is still a cool copy of one of the cornerstone cards of any hockey collection.  So who wants it?  Just drop a comment or an email or a smoke signal and which card you want (you can only have one) and I will send you a fantastic (copy of a copy of a copy of a) 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle or a (painfully fake) 1979-80 Topps Wayne Gretzky rookie.  Like any good bar, first come, first served.  Now, who dares me to eat the worm!?!?

Monday, May 4, 2020

I Have a Bad Feeling About This.

      A quick look at the date means I should be saying "May the Fourth be with you" and post some Star Wars cards but I just can't do it.  I know you all feel the same way but it has hit me hard this week:

Dear god, I miss baseball so fucking much!!!

Yes, I am shouting and I don't care who hears me.  I rode out April in quarantine just kind of imagining it was a second February.  February is long painful month most years - it's cold, the holidays and football are over, baseball only begins to emerge from the winter - let's face it, February sucks.  This April was February part 2, just an awful fate for what is usually a wonderful month.  And now it seems we are all dug in and the virus is going to stick around all summer and it is seriously beginning to look like we are going to get little to no baseball at all this year.  There is only so much radio replays of world series broadcasts and twitter posts about what happened on this day I can take. Even during times when I was trapped inside due to depression or unemployment or sickness or some combination of those things, there was baseball to look forward to in the evenings to pass the time and distract the mind.  But the weight of our collective situation is hitting hard: we might not have baseball to get us through this.  And for any foreseeable future, the next couple months definitely won't have baseball.  Just writing this rambling paragraph is driving me crazy and pissing me off.   I am going through the entire Kübler-Ross in 250 words or less.  *sigh*

I have been dealing with my lockdown by spring cleaning.  And I mean capital-C Cleaning.  The whole house has never looked better.  So many things have been organized, thrown out, or scrubbed.  But I am running out of things.  I am doing the big parts of the baseball collection and saving the actual sorting of cards for last.  After that, well, I don't want to think about that.  I do a lot of reading in general, both online nonsense and actual books, and I have been diving into more baseball history than any of the virtual seasons that some websites have been running.  Today, on what is usually a Star Wars-centric day, I read a fun TDIH baseball thing and I will now bring everything together and focus on that.  This month is my birthday month, I will be 45 on the 27th.  On May 4, 2007 Julio Franco hit a home run (what would be his last) at the age of 48 years and 254 days.  This is the record for the oldest player ever to hit a home run.
This home run is on the card in the lower left; rare that I have the exact moment on hand.

Even more fun?  That home run was hit off of Randy Johnson, who was 43 years old at the time (and 239 days).  That is 92+ years of pitch and homer!  This is obviously the record for that obscure mark and I imagine it is one that will stand for quite a while.  This little fact has made me feel both very old and surprisingly young at the same time.

In fact, this is as good a time as ever to start a series called Players I Like For No Reason.  PILFNR - it just rolls off the tongue, doesn't it?  Julio Franco is a great example of a PILFNR.

Actually, we are off to a bad start because there is a very clear reason I have liked Julio Franco for basically his entire 400 year career - he has the coolest batting stance ever.  Like a lot of kids on the playground and in the batting cage, I liked to copy major leaguers and their stances.  Hell, there is a lovable doofus who turned this into an entire shtick. Alas, I was just an amateur and never saw the future in mimicking the likes of Eric Davis, Gary Sheffield, Don Mattingly, Howard Johnson, Darryl Strawberry, Mickey Tettleton and the like.   But my favorite by far was definitely Julio Franco.  In case you are unaware, you can clearly see his stance on four cards on this next page...

The man stood up basically straight, turned his hip inward, and held the bat over his head back at a 270 degree angle pointing to the pitcher.  And it was actually weirder than I just described.  And somehow it worked! He used the fastest wrists I ever saw to turn the bat, whip it though the hitting zone, and terrorize pitchers until he was 50 years old.  He was amazing and unlike anyone before or since.  I enjoyed the hell out of watching him at the very end of his career on the Mets but he will always be one of those players I always dug way before his association with the blue and orange.

Okay, that bit of giddiness over Julio Franco has made me feel a little bit better, sorry if this post was a little all over the place.  I am going to go watch the despecialized version of the original Star Wars and plan on my tacos and margaritas for tomorrow.  Stay safe and sane everyone.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Well D.A.M.

    Looking at today's date, I knew it would be pretty easy to do a post today.  And sure, anyone could throw up a Brandon Puffer or Jung Bong (or Tobi Stoner or Josh Smoker) and call it a day, but I decided to go in a direction few would expect from me, I am going to praise a Yankees player as today is the 59th birthday of Donald Arthur Mattingly.

Mattingly takes up five pages in my retired player books, which is pretty much the most of anyone I can think of who doesn't have a dedicated player collection.  I think I might also have five pages of Mark McGwire and Nomar Garciaparra but I'd have to check on that.

I respected the hell out of Mattingly as a player when I was a kid, his prime years were right in the middle of my childhood obsession with all things baseball plus I was living in New Jersey surrounded by Yankees fans so it was impossible not to know all about him. From everything I could see, he was a good dude with a sweet swing who made the most of his chance with the team since he was one of the few young players the Yankees didn't trade away in the early 80s for washed up veterans.  So seeing his cards is like a time capsule of all those great designs and oddball issues; he was one of the big hits you got when opening a pack.  Plus Donnie "looked" like a ballplayer.  I mean, you don't get a name like Donnie Baseball for nothing.  The mustache, the flowing hair, the pinstripes, it all adds up to a perfect mystique.

I always refer to Mattingly as The Reverse Koufax in that he had five or six amazing seasons followed by five or six mediocre seasons punctuated by a career shortening injury.  Koufax was exactly the opposite.  His first seven years were mediocre at best and then he had five or six of the most amazing seasons you ever saw and sadly had to retire due to injury.  Koufax's career numbers aren't that much different than say Johan Santana or Ron Guidry's and yet the only way they will ever get to Cooperstown is by buying a ticket.  If Koufax hadn't built his legend and left us wanting more, he would never have had the unbelievable awe around his name.  Mattingly's numbers are similar to another player, Kirby Puckett, who also left early due to injury.  Puckett is in the Hall of Fame, first ballot no less, and Mattingly isn't.  It is one of the rare times a Yankees player has gotten shafted by the system and by our memories.  If you reverse his career trajectory and have him build that amazing resume peaking at his 1985 or 1986 season and then leave at 34 with a back injury, he's in the hall no doubt.  This isn't me arguing that he should be in Cooperstown, mind you, but it is a major part of his legacy that isn't always talked about. It is one of the more undeniable examples that perception is reality.

Alas, the one place Don has not acquitted himself is as a manager.  The Yankees passed over him for Joe Girardi so he went to Los Angeles and there, he made less out of more for five seasons and after they got tired of him, he's gone to Miami where most old people go to rot and done less with less.  The less said about all this, the better.   

If you care to notice, this page is nothing but fielding photos of Donnie Baseball.

The other important thing about Don Mattingly that always gets talked about was his defense.  He won nine gold gloves and I can recall more than a few big arguments, both in my childhood years and adulthood, about who was better, Keith Hernandez or Don Mattingly.  There is no denying that Mattingly could pick it at first base about as good as anyone and I am not going to disparage his play.  But Keith redefined defensive play at first and Mattingly then fit into that definition. There is something to be said about setting defensive standards; it is why Ozzie Smith is in the Hall (and Bill Mazeroski for that matter).  Mattingly played like Keith and in most ways as well as Keith at first base but Keith was the first and best one to play the way he did at first.  That is why I always say Keith Hernandez deserves to be in the Hall even more so than Mattingly despite his offensive numbers being lesser.  There is something to being the first one to do something.


Some further reading on the subject here.