Showing posts from June, 2010

Won’t you be my neighbor?

Note: This column appears in the 7/1 issue of The Glendale Star and the 7/2 issue of the Peoria Times

There was a guy who used to live next door to us. He never wore a shirt -– I literally saw him with a shirt on only once or twice –- and he always had a beer in his hand. Now, this would have been a hilariously endearing scenario were this a sitcom and not real life. Also, he stored his cement mixer (!) on our side of the front yard. Then one day he was gone. We later found out he had been arrested.

Before him, a family lived there. I never could quite figure out their infrastructure. The wife lived with her brother-in-law, and some cousins or something, and there were random children in and out. But everyone over the age of 12 smoked a pack a day, which they did in their backyard, and which delightfully wafted into our living room each evening.

Most recently a different family lived there. They avoided human contact at all cost, and would close their garage door before we could so much …

Getting Grilled About a Grill Cover

Scene 1:

I walk into Barbeque Worldto pick up a grill cover for my father-in-law, who is out of town and needs to protect his grill from the 115-degree heat. Before he left he had ordered the grill cover from Barbeque World, and asked me if I could pick it up. I said yes, of course. The previous night my mother-in-law called my wife to remind her about the grill cover, and earlier in the day he had texted me to ask if I could get the grill cover. I am aware of -- albeit a bit confused by -- how important this grill cover is to him

Jim, Barbeque World: Hey, can I help you with something?

Me: Yeah, hi. I need to pick up a grill cover for my father-in-law. He was here last week and put one on order to be picked up.

Jim: Oh. Uh, okay. What's the name?

Me: Tony ____.

Jim briefly checks a binder underneath the register, and finds nothing. He walks into a room in the back of the store, and walks back with nothing. I feel sorry for him immediately, and also for myself.

Jim: Ummm, do you know wh…

Classic card of the week

Joe Ferguson, 1974

Recently, for some reason, I have been getting the type of positive feedback which seems to confirm that my chosen path in life –- making fun of old sports cards on a blog that very few people read, for free –- is indeed my life’s calling. This has been both surprising and humbling.

Last week though I received an email that blew my mind. It was from Mike in Chicago, whose wife had discovered an old football card lying on the ground on the corner of Racine & Van Buren and, as Mike puts it, thought of me. So, Mike attached the card to the email, and let me say this:

That at least one person in the middle of freakin’ Chicago thinks of me when they see an old beat-up sports card is, for me, a compliment of the highest order. That Mike’s wife took the initiative to pick this thing up –- without gloves, I assume -– and that Mike then took the initiative to send it my way is, for me, the culmination of a lifetime of hard, albeit questionable work. Because, as Mike notes:…

Blog announcement!


I have an announcement! No, seriously.

I am extremely excited and honored to now be a contributing writer for the fabulous blog The Baseball Card Blog. It's creator and founder and CEO and treasurer Ben Henry does a fabulous job and I am truly humbled at the opportunity to join him in his quest for world supremacy.

For now I will be posting classic card-type material on The BBC Blog weekly, and exclusively. So those posts will not appear here. will have to venture over there should you desire to further feed your insatiable appetite for silly card write-ups and also to check out Ben's own fine work.

First post should be up there in the next day or so. Please support my attempt to extend my reach on these here interwebs, and while you're at it -- become a fan on facebook! It's the only contemporary way to express your interests to others who couldn't care less!

***End announcement***

How 'hopefully-soon-to-be' came to be

Note: This column appears in the 6/24 issue of The Glendale Star and the 6/25 issue of the Peoria Times

You know how you always have a picture in your mind of what someone is going to look like before you meet them? Usually we soon discover that those visual images were way off.

When my wife and I began the process of foster care with the hopes of adopting, our agency asked us to write down our ideal scenario, right down to the details. We both preferred, if ever given the opportunity, to adopt a baby girl, and any other detail seemed silly considering it was all make believe anyway. Nevertheless we listed an ethnicity, age, personality attributes…all that. Our excitement at imagining this was tempered by the reality that things almost definitely wouldn't happen that way. After all, foster care has more horror stories than fairy tales.

If you had asked me to describe what our daughter was going to look like, I couldn't have told you. But I nevertheless had a distinct picture of h…

Classic card of the week

Jeff Fassero, 1993 Topps

Here is Jeff Fassero, Major League Baseball pitcher. Now, believe it or not, Jeff Fassero was not always a Major League Baseball pitcher, because he used to be a child. He is like most of us in that respect. But even as a child, Jeff Fassero liked baseball. So the question remains: Before he became a Major League Baseball pitcher, where, oh where, did Jeff Fassero hone his baseball skills?

Participated in Khoury, Pony, Mickey Mantle, Connie Mack and Thoroughbred Amateur Baseball Programs during youth.

What in the heck? An easier way to say this, in my opinion, would have been: Played Little League. Which, I suppose, is assumed anyway when you’re holding the card of a man who made it to the big leagues. Because, ya’ know, that is a lot of “amateur baseball programs” right there, and like half of them are types of horses, which is weird.

More importantly, how does a youth manage to participate in so many youth baseball programs? In my formative years I played for t…

Why I’m doubting my benefits of a doubt

Note: This column appears in the 6/17 issue of The Glendale Star and the 6/18 issue of the Peoria Times

I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt. For example, if somebody were to do something that I found to be weird, utterly stupid, or wrong in a way that would indicate a general incompetence, I would do my best to not allow that to, initially, adversely affect my opinion of that person’s character.

My wife is the opposite. If somebody does something that she finds to be suspect –- and we’re differentiating here between honest miscues and that special brand of idiocy mixed with laziness -- best believe she will dip into her bag of profanities and pass immediate judgment on that person’s motives and character. (Not necessarily to them directly, but definitely to me.) Being Italian and from Brooklyn and reactionary anyway, there are times when I think she jumps to conclusions. But the sad thing is -- she’s usually right.

Now you are undoubtedly saying to yourself, “What is he referr…

Classic card quickie

Dusty Baker, 1987 Topps

Things that future manager Dusty Baker is saying to his teammates behind him as he watches batting practice back in 1986:

See, I would have bunted in that situation.

Somebody get me a toothpick. I can’t think.

Is that Skip out there throwin’ BP? Man, he’s got a rubber arm. What’s he at, 300 pitches? I say we leave him out there to pitch to the other team.

What's that? How come I’M not out there? Shoot, man…I woke up on my left side this morning, which usually means I got a couple hits in me. Don’t wanna mess that up.

Somebody needs to get that kid off the field, or he’s gonna get hurt! Where’s his father?

The best part about batting practice is that nobody is out there cloggin’ up the bases.

Look at Gallego out there in this heat. He looks like he’s gonna melt.

That's all I got.

Classic card of the week

Bob Welch, 1990 Score

I would recognize those fingers anywhere. Those are Bob Welch’s fingers, aren’t they?

Indeed they are. And whether they’re strumming the guitar or are painfully stretched across a baseball, those famous fingers have provided inspiration for many. Let’s find out more:

Success Is A Split-Finger

Above our bed hangs a framed photo of Bob Welch’s fingers that contains this famous saying. I bought it at the Things Remembered in the Brunswick Square Mall in 1998. Every morning when I wake up I look at it and say to myself, “Mike, success is a split-finger.” And then I go out into the world and split-finger my way around. For me, split-finger is a metaphor for love, but I do, every chance I get, throw split-fingered fastballs at lunchtime to no one in particular. All of this has played a role in my immense success.

Bob always had an excellent high, rising fastball, a hard, overhand curve and a split-fingered fastball (see front of card).

I did! I usually look at the front firs…

Is it not hot in here or is it me? Family edition

Note: This column appears in the 6/10 issue of The Glendale Star and the 6/11 issue of the Peoria Times

We have family in town for the next couple of weeks. This is not new –- our family visits us quite frequently -- so normally, this occasion would not be column-worthy. But this time is a bit different, for several reasons.

One factor that sets this visit apart is the amount of family that is here. Now that my in-laws have a house here, there is virtually no limit on the amount of people that will accompany them to Arizona. The word from back east is that every person that my father-in-law has informed about his new digs has also been cordially invited to stay there anytime. On this occasion, many have taken him up on the offer.

That includes my wife’s aunt and uncle, and their twin daughters. Now, for the men visiting, this trip is less about seeing us and more about their annual golf outing, so their excitement about being here is already through the roof. My wife’s uncle in particula…

Classic card of the week

Mark Langston, 1990 Score “Dream Team”

Mark Langston was the Mona Lisa of left-handed pitchers, and so it is appropriate that only the most artistic rendition of his likeness would suffice as an introduction to the man himself. As we will soon discover upon flipping this card/painting over, Mark Langston was also an exclusive member of some sort of intangible “Dream Team,” and so if you have ever dreamed about left-handed pitcher Mark Langston -– which I most certainly have –- then you are aware that this is exactly what he looks like in dream form. Which is to say, dreamy.

But besides a breathtaking portrait, I think that any conversation about left-handed pitcher Mark Langston should begin with an anecdote that fully captures his brilliance and bravery on the field of battle:

Mark Langston
Lefthanded Pitcher

Remember –- that is who we are talking about. Okay, here we go…

In his second start for the Expos,

So many heroic stories have started in this way…

Mark loaded the bases with no one o…

My dreams of being tanner fade to white

Note: This column appears in the 6/3 issue of The Glendale Star and the 6/4 issue of the Peoria Times

I have this complex that makes me feel that, because I live in Arizona, I should always be tan.

Even as we planned to move here, I envisioned myself living the life of a perpetually tan person. Ah yes, when people came to visit us, or when we made trips home, my skin tone would match that of George Hamilton, and I would regale stories to loved ones about how we go hiking all the time, and how we enjoy lounging by the pool, and -- am I really that tan? Wow, I hadn’t even noticed.

Of course, my tan plan hasn’t always worked to perfection. Plus I’ve come to realize that I was not the only person who planned on me being a darker shade of Caucasian. When we traveled back east last fall, my wife’s aunt, upon seeing me for the first time in like a year, said, “What happened? I thought you’d be tanner, living in Arizona.” To this I was tempted to respond, “Yes, I do live in Arizona. But I’m not …