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Showing posts from February, 2008

Classic card of the week

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Michael Jordan, 1986 Faux Topps

Though the move flew somewhat under the radar, in 1993 Michael Jordan suddenly retired from basketball at the height of his career to pursue his first love, gambling. (I think I’ve made that joke before, and it sucked the first time. Sorry.) Then he decided to try his hand at baseball. The bizarre nature of this career decision -- softened by Jordan’s reentry into the NBA and reestablishment of his dominance -- has, for me, only increased with time. The rationale of, “Hey, I’m 6’6” and on the verge of becoming, unequivocally, the greatest basketball player of all time. I think I’ll try baseball,” is quite astounding, especially when one considers that Michael Jordan was not good at baseball. That a generation’s greatest athlete spent significant time floundering around on bus trips with a minor league affiliate of the Chicago White Sox is truly remarkable, and not in a good way.

Of course, the big question surrounding this decision at the time was: How a…

Classic card of the week

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Joe Carter, 1996 Upper Deck

So then I said, “Three fifty? Three-hundred-and-fifty dollars? For an exhaust pipe? Oh, noooooooooo.” Now you know me, right? You know me. I ain’t the one to be throwing my name all out there like that. But I’m talking to dude IN MY UNIFORM. Just like this. You see me right now? Just like this. In fact – IN FACT – when dude told me the price, I turned my back to him, like I was all frustrated, like I was thinking about what I was going to do, JUST so he could check the name on the back of the jersey, so there was no confusion, ya' know? Now you know me. I ain’t the type to do this. But I wasn’t havin’ it. So I turn back around, and dude’s still standing there…no reaction. So finally I’m like, “Bro – you watch baseball?” And you know what he says? You know what dude says to me? “I like hockey.” So I throw my hands up in the air, like “I give up,” ya’ know? Then I say to him, I say, “Alright, alright. What if I was say, Dino Cicarrelli, right? How much wou…

Easom hopes to take Peoria Sports Complex to next level

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Note: This column appears in the 2/28 issue of The Glendale Star, and the 2/29 issue of the Peoria Times

Five steps into my tour of the Peoria Sports Complex, Chris Easom’s cell phone went off. Somebody needed his input. After providing just that, somebody needed to know how long he’d be available for. “I’m supposed to be here until five,” Easom said calmly into his phone on an overcast Friday afternoon. “But I’m sure I’ll be here until at least six, as usual.

It’s that time of the season.”

Easom is the new sports stadium manager at the Peoria Sports Complex, and it’s exactly that time of the season -- this time of the season, to be more specific -- which is where he thrives.

The soon-to-be 32-year old is a Fort Pierce, Florida native whose almost decade-long career has included the position of director of stadium operations and events at the spring training home of the Florida Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals, a.k.a. Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida. When asked how he got into this …

Breakfast with champions...and the Royals

This morning I was fortunate enough to attend the 2008 Cactus League Breakfast, held over here at the Peoria Sports Complex. Basically, it was a gathering of MLB personnel and executives, various city constituents, myself, and bagels. It served as an introduction to the start of spring training, and a representative from each team within the Cactus League stood up to say a few words about the upcoming season.

There were a few actual general managers there -- most notably the Cubs’ Jim Hendry and Doug Melvin of the Brewers -- but most of the other speakers were assistant GMs or directors of player personnel. (Pfffttt.) It was pretty cool to sit there and listen to actual baseball guys talk about their actual teams, even if what they were actually saying was fairly insignificant. In fact, there seemed to be a bit of a pattern:

If your team was bad last year: (A's, Giants, Rangers, White Sox, Royals)
1) Thank everyone for everything: And I can’t say enough about the eggs this morning…d…

Classic card of the week

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Chris Kaman, 2005 Bazooka Joe

I have a new favorite basketball player, and his name is Chris Kaman.

As many of you know, the “classic card” segment is normally reserved as an opportunity for me to have a little fun with ridiculous sports cards, and the players featured on them. Now that Chris Kaman has gone out his way to sign a card for me, I have absolutely nothing to provide except praise. (By the way, this is yet another example of why I could never be a legitimate, professional journalist. I do these classic cards from the comfort of my own quarters, so I can’t imagine how I would handle the real world. I could just see myself entering into an interview with a professional athlete, prepared to ask all the hard-hitting questions, only to melt like a Quizno’s sandwich the second said athlete smiles and shakes my hand. So, ummm, it says here your favorite color is red. Me too!*)

Anyhoo, for those who are unaware, Chris Kaman plays for the Los Angeles Clippers, and he’s widely considere…

Pitchers, catchers, die-hards report to spring training

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Note: This column appears in the 2/21 issue of The Glendale Star, and the 2/22 issue of the Peoria Times

The Padres’ Trevor Hoffman pulls up in a sleek, black, Mercedes Benz something or other. (Sorry, I am not a car guy…Mercedes I30? Sounds good.) Minutes later, Brian Giles pulls up in a different car I will never be able to afford, followed by hitting coach Wally Joyner. I was standing at the gates of the Padres’ players’ entrance, deriving an inexplicable joy from watching multi-millionaires report to their jobs, feeling fortunate that I was, at the moment, technically at mine. Next to me stood Scott, an autograph seeker from Kansas City who was giving me the rundown on which major leaguers were a hit with the fans because of their accessibility. He especially liked Padres’ ace Jake Peavy, as did the other four baseball fanatics standing with us. One of the guys, a regular at this spot, even knew what Peavy’s car looked like, and from which direction he’d be driving in from. He poin…

Classic card of the week

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Albert Belle, 1991 Upper Deck

Let’s get this out of the way now: Albert Belle was to pleasant as Roger Clemens is to honest. There is too much to even cover here -- the “Controversy” section of Belle’s Wikipedia page is longer than the Internet itself.

Albert Belle was such a legendary prick that his baseball career was dismissed before the revelations of the Steroid Era occurred, and when they did, it resulted in the instantaneous -- and undeniably true -- realization that, yeah, he did that, too. (I mean, he corked his bat. It’s pretty safe to assume that he corked himself as well.) Albert Belle made Ty Cobb look like Yogi Berra. In fact, even the most despised professional athletes can elicit sympathy; John Rocker’s reputation (as an a-hole, not as an idiot) has softened with time, just wait until it’s time for Michael Vick to return to the NFL, and “60 Minutes” gave even Bill Romanowski a forum. It could feasibly be argued that O.J. freaking Simpson -- a guy who probably murdered tw…

A celebrity affair proves to be the perfect ring-in for the season

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Note: This column appears in the 2/14 issue of The Glendale Star, and the 2/15 issue of the Peoria Times

It’s 11:30am on Sunday morning, and I find myself sitting in the visitor’s dugout at Scottsdale Stadium, the dugout steps guiding my eyes towards the crystal clear blue Arizona sky, surrounded by former big leaguers as I inhale the smells and listen to the sounds of the world’s greatest game.


The perfect view

I am minutes removed from meeting Buddy Schultz, former big league pitcher for the Cubs and Cardinals, current executive director of Arizona Baseball Charities, and architect of what everybody in the stands is gathering to enjoy -- the Arizona Baseball Charities Celebrity Baseball Game. Down to my right sits Gaylord Perry, Hall of Fame pitcher and Honorary Chairman of this, the 16th installment of the celebrity game that serves to ring in the new season and benefit the association of Arizona Little Leagues.


Gaylord Perry...chillin'

Kids hang over the walls of the stands, outst…

Classic card of the week

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Smokey Joe Williams, 1993 Ted Williams Card Company

“Smokey” Joe Williams played baseball in the heyday of the nickname. In fact, Smokey himself was nicknamed Smokey because he smoked a lot. Brilliant! (This nickname also separated Smokey from the players of that era who did not smoke, which was no one.) But back at the turn of the century, even teams had witty nicknames, best exemplified by the array of ballclubs that Smokey himself played for: The Leland Giants, Chicago Giants, Lincoln Giants, Chicago American Giants, Bacharach Giants, and the Brooklyn Royal Giants. In 1928, a teammate of Smokey’s named Big Teeth McGee suggested that the team change its name to the Brooklyn Royal Mighty Ducks, and was subsequently kicked in the groin by seven guys named Rusty. But let’s find out more about the extraordinary use of nicknames back in that era:

Smokey Joe Williams played in an era when the best black players had nicknames that compared them to the best white players. Buck Leonard: “The …

Classic card update

Some good news for this here blog...

About a month ago, I received an email from Eric, who runs the fantastic NBA site http://www.rotoevil.com/. He liked the "Classic card" segment, and he was even the guy who sent along this beauty.

So we teamed up, and now many of the NBA cards that I have featured and will feature right here will run on his site as well. As a matter of fact, the Truehoop feature on ESPN even gave a nod this morning to the Shaq card that ran on Eric's site. (Somehow, I doubt ESPN will ever recognize this one.)

Pretty cool stuff. Anyway, check out Roto Evil if you get a chance, and thanks to everyone who takes the time to stop by here every now and then. All eight of you.

Seriously though, thanks!

Classic card of the week

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Mark the Beer Guy, 2008

Okay, so here's the story: I'm at a celebrity baseball game yesterday in Scottsdale, and I go to get a beer. (Weird, I know, but stay with me here.) The line was too long to wait at the concession stand, so I left, but on my way back to my seat I run into Mark the Beer Guy, who I didn't know at the time was running for beer-related office. After pouring me an ice cold brewskie, he says, "And here, take my card." I'm thinking to myself, "Geez, beer guys have business cards? Freakin' Scottsdale," until I actually looked at the card, and saw this.

Now, I don't know what the chances are that a random guy who blogs about silly sports cards would run into a beer guy who hands out a silly sports card of himself, but there must have been some divine intervention going on here. You should also know that the card was in the plastic protective sleeve inside the hard plastic cover, as if he were handing Mickey Mantle rookie cards. …

Roger Clemens, revisited

With all the talk surrounding Roger Clemens over the past few weeks -- and in lieu of actually writing something new (who has the time?) -- I think it may be a great opportunity to revisit the exclusive interview I conducted with our hero way back in May of last year. Time Magazine claimed this interview was better than Mike Wallace's!*

*Not true

The New York Giants won the Super Bowl

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Ya' know...just a reminder.

Classic card of the week

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Don MacLean, 1993 Topps

Like Tony Bennett before him, Don MacLean was an NBA phenomenon who just happened to share a name with one of the more prominent stars of extremely Caucasian music. As you’ll recall, the singer Don McLean had a string of hits, including the song about bringing your Chevy to the levee, only to find out that the levee, unfortunately, is dry. (Stupid levee!) Contrary to what I previously mentioned, Don McLean had no other hits, but the song about the Chevy was 68 minutes long, so that in itself was a “Greatest Hits” album.

Don MacLean the basketball player’s Greatest Hits album would definitely include the time he became the Pac-10’s all-time leading scorer while at UCLA, a record that may stand until the end of time, considering that many of the nation’s top basketball talents have surprisingly chosen the immediate riches of the NBA over the opportunity to outshine Don MacLean. But let’s find out more about Don MacLean’s early NBA career:

MacLean, another piece in t…

In Arizona, the sports scene keeps chugging right along

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Note: This column appears in the 2/7 issue of The Glendale Star, and the 2/8 issue of the Peoria Times

Of the many reasons why I moved to Arizona -- the weather, better cost of living, an adventurous new time zone -- none may be greater than this very moment right here, right now. As a sports fan, this is why I moved here.

As the rest of the nation recovers from its Super Bowl hangover, Arizona, ironically, being the Super Bowl host and all, moves right along. My favorite part about living here is that, from a sports perspective, everything simply segways into the next thing.

Let me be more specific. If I were back east right now, though still high off a Giants’ victory, I would eventually settle into a state of depression. Not only would I be brutally cold, chipping away at the frost and ice on my car’s windshield at 5:30 on a Monday morning, but I’d be miserable because February is traditionally the worst sports month. Football is over, baseball seems like a world away, the NBA and NH…

Classic card of the day

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"Am I ready to be a head coach in the NFL? I think I am, but time will give everybody else the answer. I've been involved in some aspect of coaching for 30 years. I was breaking down film for my dad, a coach at Navy, when I was eight. Coaching is ingrained in me. I've done all the jobs you can do--typing, driving people to the airport, lining the field, scouting, the works. I've coached defense, offense, and special teams. You win by getting everybody working together.

Oh,and by cheating. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go for it on 4th-and-13."

David Tyree for president

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This is the happiest I have ever been on a Monday morning. I cannot stop smiling.

Nothing I could ever say or write would begin to do justice to what happened last night. But that doesn’t mean I won’t try a little something…

These days, we’re so quick to label things as “the best ever,” without ever really taking the time to think about what we’re saying in a historical context. Everyone wants to make grandiose statements to make what it is they’re saying sound better, and more profound, even if what they’re saying doesn’t exactly warrant such attention. That was the best meal I have ever had!

Realizing that makes it all the more special to say, with supreme confidence, that that was the best Super Bowl ever. That was the greatest Giants’ win ever. That was the best catch ever. And never before has a sports team elicited in me such a feeling of pride.

I can’t stop thinking about the game, about the dragons and Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks Eli Manning has slain on his way to glory, about Ama…