Posts

Showing posts from April, 2007

Classic card of the week

Image
Jim Pankovits, 1989 Upper Deck
*Special Friday edition

Jim Pankovits was caught off guard by this particular photo. And Jim Pankovits didn’t like it. Not one bit. The Astros were about to start taking batting practice during a beautiful May afternoon back in 1988. Pankovits, as was his custom, walked towards the center field fence to relieve himself. Yes, he could have used the clubhouse bathroom, but two weeks beforehand, a noticeably drunk Pankovits had peed himself during a game, to the delight of his teammates. The Astros, who were struggling mightily at the time, went on to win that game in extra innings. The superstitious Pankovits promised the team that he would urinate on the field before every game, in order to keep the streak alive. And it worked, because at the time this photo was taken, the Astros had won 10 straight games. Anyways, Pankovits had just finished his business, and when he turned around to zip himself up – baseball pants traditionally don’t have zippers, but Pan…

RFK, Nats blown away, what else do I have to say?

Image
Our baseball trip this year did not stop in Philadelphia. Since we were staying local, my wife and I decided to kill two birds with one stone and head down to Washington, DC, and catch a Nationals game as well. I had never spent significant time in our nation’s capital, and subconsciously associated the city with only two things: a) the President, and b) murder. Since I don’t delve into politics here, I will not make a joke wondering whether or not those two things are mutually exclusive.

Nevertheless, because of the murder part, we were trying to be careful about where we were going to stay. My original intent, quite foolishly, was to stay as close to RFK Stadium as possible, since, during our four-day stay in DC, we would be going to one game there. I know, it makes no sense, and I’m glad somebody alerted me to that beforehand, because when we did go to RFK, the surrounding area looked considerably less presidential than one would think. We ended up staying in the Dupont Circle secti…

Classic card of the week

Image
Jack McKeon, 1989 Topps

The original “grumpy old man,” Jack McKeon looks like the 70-year-old offspring of Yogi Berra and Walter Matthau in this picture. He doesn’t look anything like the Jack McKeon who resurrected the 2003 Florida Marlins just in time for them to win the Wild Card and eventually the World Series. Until, that is, McKeon immediately wore out his welcome with incessant ramblings about expensive sneakers – “In my day we attached thumbtacks to the bottom of cardboard boxes and called ‘em ‘spikes.’ You kids are a bunch of spoiled sons of bitches!” - the Japanese, and the unheralded dominance of Three Fingers McGee. Originally from South Amboy, NJ, McKeon earned the nickname “Trader Jack” after he dealt away a rare Walter Johnson-used stirrup to the British for an area of land now known as “the Jersey Shore.” After several unsuccessful attempts to ban, among other things, bikinis (“too revealing”), beach balls (“too big and unpredictable”), pretzels (“too knotty”), and wate…

Classic card of the week

Image
*Special Friday edition
Lance McCullers, 1988 Score

Hey, listen, I’m no baseball coach or anything. But this just can’t be the way you’re supposed to pitch a baseball. Arm moving violently forward, body moving backwards, eyes pretty much closed…I don’t know, maybe I’m the crazy one. But it seems like Lance McCullers – immediately after the pitch has left his hand – is already recoiling in horror at the idea of where the pitch may end up. It does not appear, as I was once taught many years ago, that Lance McCullers is going to finish his motion in position to field a ground ball back to the pitcher. It appears as if Lance McCullers is going to finish his motion on his back, doing reverse somersaults into center field. Then again, it could be that Lance McCullers’ fastball is so fast, that it blows even him away. The back of the card elaborates: Lance…enjoys challenging hitters with his blazing fastball. Well then. That explains it. But let’s find out more about Lance: He was used as a st…

On the road as the Philadelphia inquirer

Image
My wife and I continued our quest to go to a new ballpark each year, and two weeks ago, we went to Philadelphia’s new Citizen’s Bank Park for Opening Day. As it turns out, Citizen’s Bank is actually nicer than the Vet, if you can imagine. Instead of being a bland, dark abyss of rat-infested, artificial sludge, the new Phillies’ home is open and inviting, with a noticeably absent detention center, something the infamous Vet could never boast. But this trip in particular wasn’t as much about the stadium (although, let it be known that this park is on par with Camden Yards as one of the most beautiful on the East Coast) as it was about attending a Philadelphia Phillies’ game with a true Philadelphia sports fan - my ol’ college roommate, Brandon.

If our paths never crossed at school, I might feel the same way about Philadelphia sports fans as most people from this area do, which is to say, I would utterly despise them, condemn their incessant booing directed at the likes of injured players…

Classic card of the week

Image
Jose Cruz, 1986 Fleer

Reporter: So, Jose. Great game today. I’ll try to keep this short since I know your wife’s waiting for you over there. By the way, is that your brother or something that she’s with? They seem to get along well. But back to the game…
This is Jose Cruz, and he is going to rip your heart out of your chest the second this interview is over. You might want to get a head start. This is, of course, a “league leaders” card, and in 1985, Jose Cruz led the league is statements that began, “If looks could kill…” Actually, in looking at his stats for the previous season, it’s hard to figure what, exactly, Jose Cruz led the league in. A .300 batting average, 69 runs scored, nine home runs, 79 RBI…I’m at a loss. My guess is that once Jose Cruz found out that a league leaders set was coming out, this ensued:
Jose Cruz: I understand that a league leaders set is coming out. This is good news, since I led the league in batting average last season.
Fleer executive: Yeah, we – huh? Jose…

Classic card of the week

Image
Joe Bitker, 1991 Fleer

Joe Bitker was the only guy to show up for picture day. Not many people realize this, but Major League Baseball designates one day a year during Spring Training as picture day, and allows a cavalcade of baseball card companies to come by in order to get the shots that they need for their upcoming sets. Unfortunately, because many of the players feel that picture day is stupid, no one ever shows up. It’s sort of a tradition, in fact, to blow off picture day. The players think it’s funny to force the card companies to come out to them, and take action shots from difficult angles. Such was not the case however, with Joe Bitker. There are a couple reasons why Joe Bitker, as opposed to every other player in baseball, may have been anxious to arrive for picture day. For one thing, Bitker had just spent approximately 37 years playing in the minor leagues, and most likely viewed picture day as the one opportunity to get a piece of concrete evidence that he ever actually …

Talkin’ hockey with…Joe!

Image
Okay, so the Masters is over, and the next golf major isn’t for like, another seven months. The baseball season is too young to get into right now, and who really cares about the NBA, am I right? Obviously, this gives me a chance to talk about yet another sport that I know nothing about. On the heels of my first-ever NASCAR column from a couple of months ago, I’d like to introduce you to my first-ever hockey column! No, seriously!

Of course, since there’s an excellent chance that I actually know less about hockey than I do about cars, we had to bring in a recruit. So please put your hands together for the biggest only hockey fan I know, Joe, my brother-in-law. Joe is a die-hard Rangers fan, and he hates the Devils and Islanders as much as I hate the Red Sox, which is nice. And, like any true fan, Joe oftentimes hates the Rangers as much as I hate the Yankees. But not this year, because the Rangers are headed to the NHL Playoffs, which are just getting underway. Also, let it be known th…

Classic card of the week

Image
Derek Bell, 1999 Topps

This is Derek Bell during Phase One of Operation Shutdown. For those who may not recall, Bell rather infamously created “operation shutdown,” as a term for exactly what he would do if he, ya’ know, felt like it. Actually, let me be honest here – this is Derek Bell shutting down before (or, in preparation OF) Operation Shutdown, as the term itself would not be coined until a few years later, as Bell’s threat to the Pittsburgh Pirates in response to the team not blindly awarding him the starting job in right field. Quoth Bell: “If there is competition [for the starting job], they better eliminate me out of the race and go ahead and do what they're going to do with me. I ain't never hit in spring training and I never will.” Considering that Derek Bell was coming off of a season in which he hit .173, he was also refusing to hit during the regular season as well, which greatly complicated things for the Pittsburgh hierarchy. Besides giving up at the slightest …

Classic card of the week

Image
Jose Oquendo, 1988 Topps

Before starring in the movie “Boogie Nights,” Jose Oquendo was on the fast track to baseball stardom. For one thing, he definitely had the look of a pro ballplayer – the oversized hat, wispy ‘stache, and, of course, the uniform. The uniform was crucial. Maybe more important than that though, was the fact that Oquendo had the demeanor of a ballplayer – that special and unique quality possessed only by the select few athletes good enough to make it to the major leagues. Some would describe it as cockiness, that “Clear the way, pro ballplayer coming through!” kind of mentality that makes women – and sometimes dudes - go crazy. In Oquendo’s case, the demeanor was slightly different – sort of a, “Yo, man…What the hell is going on here? Where am I? What day is it? How did I get here? Who ARE you?” aura that seemed to captivate baseball fans. And Jose Oquendo’s connection to the fans was unparalleled at the time. During a Cardinals’ spring training game down in Fort M…