Thursday, July 28, 2011

Classic card of the week

Mike Greenwell, 1989 Sports Illustrated for Kids

Here is another of my Sports Illustrated for Kids perforated baseball cards which I tore out of the magazine and which is worth at least $700. What makes it so expensive is the beautiful blue-green splotchy design, which resembles a line of low-end kitchen countertops.

Mike joined the Red Sox’ regular starting lineup in June 1987, and he still hit 19 homers and drove in 89 runs that season.

“Despite playing baseball, Mike Greenwell acquired good baseball statistics.”

In 1988, he batted .325 with 22 homers and 119 RBIs for the American League East division champs. He also led the league by driving in 23 game-winning runs.

Greenwell finished second in the ’88 AL MVP voting to Jose Canseco, who became baseball’s first 40-40 man that year and who recently pitched “6 strong innings to knock of funky Fielders lineup,” whatever that means. By keeping generally quiet and doing the opposite of everything Jose Canseco has done since 1988, Mike Greenwell has won the ’88 AL MVP of America’s heart.

How many more RBIs did Mike have in 1988 than he had in 1987?

Don’t patronize me, Sports Illustrated for Kids. I subscribe to your magazine of words and data—if I can send in a renewal check, I can do simple mathematics. Jerks. Also, it's "RBI," not "Runs Batted Ins."

Amazingly, SI for Kids offers little in the way of useful information. Where, oh where, can we turn for that?

Greenwell owns a 890-acre (3.6 km2)

I thoroughly enjoy how Wikipedia consistently posts alternate measurements for things, as if this is necessary for a person coming to Wikipedia for information. What the heck is an acre and how am I supposed to know how much land former Red Sox player Mike Greenwell owns in measurements I can understand??!!! (yelled in a British accent)

ranch in Alva, Florida, on which he grows fruits and vegetables. He runs an amusement park in Cape Coral, Florida called "Mike Greenwell's",

Mike Greenwell: I don’t care what ya’ll call the dang amusement park! I got fruit to harvest! Just make sure the people know it’s mine.

which opened in February 1992. He also coached both of his sons, Bo and Garrett … Upon his retirement from baseball, Greenwell began driving late-model stock cars.

That is such a cliché it barely warrants mentioning.

In May 2006 he made his Craftsman Truck Series debut at Mansfield Motorsports Speedway for Green Light Racing, starting 20th and finishing 26th. In 2010, Greenwell had given up racing.

Mike Greenwell: Former almost MVP, vegetable farmer, carnie, coach, father, late-model stock car driver, retired late-model stock car driver, not necessarily in that order, but kind of. Too bad he wasn’t a prankster.

“The Gator”
Greenwell received his nickname during spring training in Winter Haven. He had captured an alligator, taped its mouth shut, and put it in Ellis Burks's locker.

Mike Greenwell: Ellis Burks is our teammate. Let us prank him!

Todd Benzinger
: Indeed!

Greenwell: Any ideas?

Benzinger: We could order pizzas to his house, and he will be surprised because he’ll be like, “Whaaaaat? I didn’t order pizzas!” and he’ll have to pay for the pizza and eat it!

: Okay, okay, not bad. But how about this—I capture an alligator and then tape its mouth shut and leave it in his locker!

Benzinger: Wow. Ummm, okay. Well, uh … what kind of tape are you going to use?

Greenwell: I don’t know—haven’t thought it through yet. I mean, not Scotch, if that’s your concern.

Benzinger: Okay, how about this: You do that, and I’ll do the pizza thing, and we’ll see which one he likes better.

Greenwell: Okay. But I have a feeling they’ll be calling you, “Pizza” for decades. Are you willing to take that risk?

Benzinger: I’m willing. Let’s do this!

Did you know?

There were two roller coasters at Mike Greenwell's amusement park. The Florida Board of Safety shut down one. How many roller coasters were left?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Oversized binder harbinger of unfortunate incidents

Note: This column appears in the 7/28 issue of The Glendale Star and the 7/29 issue of the Peoria Times

We have to sign our daughter in and out of daycare using two mediums—the modern touch-screen technology of a computer, and the ancient method of a pen and gigantic, alphabetized binder. It is the latter that most concerns me on those days when I am responsible for picking her up.

For you see, it is the binder wherein her daycare includes all parental notifications, and 90-percent of the time that means an “incident report.” There was a time—it seems so long ago—when our daughter played the victim in these reports, and I, the sympathetic father, simply signed the paper, opting not to press charges, and later consoled the precious girl. Somewhere along the way, this precious girl learned to fend for herself, then to defend others—one report detailed how she bit a kid because he bit another kid; hers is a vigilante justice—then to defend her territory—she once bit a girl for having the audacity to sit next to her on the comically small couch—then to defend … her honor? Country? I’m not sure. At this point, she plays the role of Jack in this Lord of the Flies-type environment. The conch is hers, and if you try and take it, expect teeth marks. (The conch is a stuffed animal, by the way. Or, anything.)

This is, of course, very embarrassing to us, her parents. I hold my breath each time I flip to her page in the binder, and I have run out of exasperated expressions upon finding a report. It’s impossible not to feel as though these incidents are some reflection of our ability to parent, although it should be mentioned she no longer bites us, so there’s that. Most of our extended family feels a sense of pride that their granddaughter/niece/cousin takes no prisoners, but I am not sure the parents of her daycare co-inhabitants—I would call them “friends” but, ya’ know—feel similar pride.

The teachers and employees at daycare have done an admirable job of deflecting our shame. “It’s the age, don’t worry!” “My kid was the same way!” But they are paid to say such things. And even faux optimism could not penetrate the binder thickness last week.

As I walked in, the daycare worker at the front desk kindly greeted me, then playfully nodded her head and said our daughter’s name three times. “What happened?” I asked, deadpanned. “Oh nothing!” she said. Relieved, I paged through the binder, eventually reaching our daughter’s page. “Except that,” the worker said softly, wincing.

Three incident reports. Three. All biting. All starring our daughter as the aggressor, for offenses ranging from “standing too close” to “holding a toy.” Black Wednesday, as it will come to be known.

Bereft of any more indignation and frustration—part of our frustration is that our home discipline methods are not exactly matched in daycare—I stared blankly ahead for a few seconds, then regrouped, signed the papers as quickly as if I were closing on a house, and picked her up. As we walked back through the lobby, the workers wore exaggerated frowny faces, and one of them assured me that she had had “a little talk” with our daughter. “Yeah, I’m sure that worked,” I thought, as I smiled politely. The thought never occurred to me to reason with the girl who recently pooped in the bathtub.

People tell us not to worry. That this will pass. I hope so. In the meantime, it would help if they got rid of that big old binder. That thing bites, big time.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Classic card of the week

Vladimir Guerrero, 2000 Upper Deck’s Most Wanted

Captain Williams: Alright everyone, get in here. Stevenson—work the projector. Johnson—grab me a coffee, will ya’? The rest of you knuckleheads, listen up! Got one that just came down from the feds, and it’s a doozy. Russian guy, from the Dominican, working in Canada. I have no idea how this one ended up in our jurisdiction …

Officer Daniels
: ‘Cause the Feds can’t do their JOB, that’s why!

Capt. Williams: Shut yer cakehole, Daniels! But you got a point. Anyway, Stevenson—flash the info …

Projector turns on, displays a graphic image of a naked, overweight woman riding a go cart. Room erupts in laughter and cat calls.

Capt. Williams: For crying out loud, Stevenson!

Officer Stevenson: It wasn’t me, Cap. It was probably Sully. After all, it’s HIS mom!

Officer Sullivan: You wish, Stevenson!

Officer Stevenson: What does that even mean, Sully? You’re such a moron.

Capt. Williams: Alright, cut the crap, guys! Where’s the Guerrero file?

Officer Stevenson: I don’t know, Cap.

Officer Johnson
: Maybe she ate it! Ha, ha …

Capt. Williams: Yes, good point, Johnson. Maybe the large woman on the screen riding a go cart ate the Guerrero file. Your wit knows no bounds. Stevenson—your dad was the best officer I ever worked with, but he obviously taught you nothing. Now sit down! And everyone, pay attention! We’re dealing with one of the most wanted men around right now, and I’m not about to lose another one of you, not today, and not any day!

Room tightens up, each officer adjusts himself in his chair and focuses intently on his captain.

Capt. Williams
: Alright, then. His name is Vladimir Guerrero. He’s 6’3” and 206 lbs. He (flipping through papers) … bats right handed.

Room looks on, confused.

Capt. Williams: Says here, he uh … set a club record with 42 home runs in 1999, and also had a … 31-game hitting streak.

Officer Sullivan: (under his breath, yet audible) Monster!

Capt. Williams: He, uh, continues to put up the kind of numbers in Montreal that place him among the game’s elite talents. And he may possess the best all-around game. So that’s what, uh … that’s what we’re working with here.

Officer Johnson: Raises hand.

Capt. Williams: This isn’t Kindergarten, Johnson! Do you have to make a wee-wee? What do you want?

Officer Johnson: Sorry, Cap. Just one question. So, ummm … what is he wanted for?

Capt. Williams: Well, it looks he’s wanted for being, ya’ know, a really good baseball player or something.

Officer Daniels: Shoot to kill?

Capt. Williams: You know the drill.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

“Operation Not So Convenient” is a real thing that happened

Note: This column appears in the 7/21 issue of The Glendale Star and the 7/22 issue of the Peoria Times

Uh, a police report, I guess.

The convenience store is a proud testament to a person’s geographic location. And by “proud,” I mean shameful and dirty. Nevertheless.

Back in New Jersey we had many convenience stores. Seven-11, Quick-Check, and even Wawa, which is Philadelphia-based but spreading, thanks to the popularity it has garnered by not being as disgusting as other convenience stores. When I lived in Baltimore we had Royal Farms, which, like an actual farm, was a good place to buy a 72-oz soda, or get shot.

Upon moving to Arizona, I quickly discovered that Circle K was the place to be for convenience, especially since there is one at every major intersection. What separates Circle K from even my own accustomed standards is that it sells the two major things that require the utmost convenience—gas and alcohol.

As a matter of fact, I have had several interesting experiences while trying to purchase both at Circle K. Several years ago, while on the way back from the airport after a trip back east, we stopped at Circle K so I could pick up a few beers for that football Sunday. My timing was incidental, but it was nearing 10 a.m., and when I walked in, a line of patrons was waiting inside the store to purchase alcohol. Frustrated that it was already 10:01 and the alcohol had not yet been released for purchase, this friendly mob of consumers began banging on the plastic barriers, demanding the doors to the “beer room” be opened. Things got pretty ugly, and I wondered, “Where am I? I don’t need beer that badly.” But then I started banging on the door, too, because, ya’ know … football.

On a separate occasion at a separate Circle K, I attempted to purchase gasoline for my motor vehicle, and although I accomplished this task, the gas pump was broken and gas went all over my car and clothes and—worse of all—the pristinely manicured Circle K parking lot/gas-getting area. When I informed the employee of this Circle K what had happened, she rolled her eyes and informed me she had other customers to “deal with,” that customer being, specifically, a man buying a hot dog at 6:30 a.m.

Also, the first time my father-in-law purchased gas at the Circle K closest to our house, an employee there acquired his credit card information and made several purchases. Convenience!

Anyway, my point is that Circle K is awesome. The police, however, disagree.

A recent ASU study revealed that Circle K is, by far, the most crime-ridden convenience store in the Valley. In 2010 alone, Glendale police were called to three specific Circle Ks 1,382 times. This past March, a Peoria man was stabbed trying to stop a beer theft at Circle K.

This report is surprising only to people who have never been inside a convenience store, which can always manage to somehow draw the crazy out of even the most sane surrounding locale. Circle K, however, has indeed outdone itself. According to the study, and police—“Operation Not So Convenient” was a recent police surveillance operation of the stores; I am not kidding—the company has been less-than cooperative in attempting to find a solution to this problem. Based on my own experiences, I find that impossible to believe.

Regardless, if you’re in a pinch for gas, or beer, or lottery tickets, or peanuts, or a hat, or band-aids, or the latest issue of Guitar Magazine, feel free to stop at Circle K. Just be careful. Convenience has its price. The price is, for some, zero dollars. Don’t try and stop them. Just call the police. It won't be the first time.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Classic card of the week

Dennis Northcutt, Visa debit card, Exp. 02/06

I think it’s safe to say the NFL would not be experiencing a lockout if more players were willing to use their Dennis Northcutt debit card.

The great thing about a Dennis Northcutt debit card is that it prevents you from overspending. For example, if you don’t have adequate funds in your Dennis Northcutt checking account, and you mistakenly attempt to purchase some Dennis Northcutt memorabilia with your Dennis Northcutt debit card, the debit card will not allow you to do this. In this regard, Dennis Northcutt is always looking out for your best financial interests. “Why don’t you purchase this autographed Dennis Northcutt plaque when you have more money in your account,” is what Dennis Northcutt says to you, via his debit card, on such an occasion. Another way the Dennis Northcutt debit card prevents you from overspending is through the fact that you cannot actually use the card to buy things. I found this out the hard way:

Cashier: That will be $13.86.

Me: Do you accept the Dennis Northcutt debit card?


Me: He used to play wide receiver for the Cleveland Browns …

Cashier: Is it a Visa?

Me: Yes.

Cashier: Fine. Anything but Discover.

Me: Swipes card …

Cashier: It didn’t go through. Can I see the card?

Me: Hands cashier card …

Cashier: This card has no magnetic stripe. Also, it expired in 2006. Also, it explicitly says it’s void. You didn’t fill out a credit application for this, did you?

Me: I think it was handed to me at a bar.

Cashier: I don’t think I can sell you these pistachio nuts.

Me: Wait—do you accept the Keenan McCardell American Express?


What does it mean?! Could it be that unexpected things will happen in life away from the realm of professional football? That seems impossible to me! What should I do to find out more so that I may protect myself?


Okay, so I did that. Turns out, Visa and the NFL are a perfect team. Also, Visa and the NFL have partnered up to engage high school students in a different kind of football game—one that prepares them to become fiscally fit adults. “Financial football” is an engaging, educational video game that teaches students about personal finance using curriculum from Practical Money Skills for Life. Wow, unexpected move, indeed! This sounds like the greatest game of fiscal responsibility ever!!! How do I play?

"Financial Football" is fast-paced and fun, but instead of using a game controller to gain yardage and score, players must answer personal finance questions correctly to advance down the field. "Financial Football" is available for free and can be downloaded for playing on computers and cell phones.

Should I invest in a mutual fund or money market account? Three-yard gain! Nice! Should I reapply for a Dennis Northcutt debit card? Sack and fumble!?!?! Nooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Did you know?
You can earn cash-back rewards by using your Dennis Northcutt debit card at participating locations in the Cleveland area. Locations subject to change without notice; card not valid; Visa and its subsidiaries are not affiliated with Dennis Northcutt; offer expires always.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

When Arizona hands you scorpions, make lemon juice or something

Note: This column appears in the 7/14 issue of The Glendale Star and the 7/15 issue of the Peoria Times

Many thought it wasn’t possible, but here is how you go to the same store four times in the span of about two hours.

We had just returned home from an extended holiday weekend, and there was no food in the house, so I went to the grocery store. When I got there, I realized I had forgotten my wallet. The good news was that it was only 118-degrees outside with 90-percent post-monsoon humidity, so getting back into the car I just finished driving for seven straight hours because I am an idiot was a very appealing and exciting thing for me to do. This was my first trip.

I got my wallet and went back to the store. I did my usual thing that I do at the grocery store, where I walk around confused and buy things and forget stuff. I was almost done when my wife called to see where I was. She was wondering if I could come home asap—she had just been stung by a scorpion.

Had she not sounded so relatively calm and composed, I probably would have reacted even more panicked. As it was, I rushed my cart to the front of the store, located a girl who was bagging groceries, and said something along the lines of, “My wife was just stung by a scorpion. Here’s my cart.” She looked at me with the concern of someone who had just told her, “Today is Tuesday,” and said, “Are you coming back?” I yelled, “I don’t knooooowwww …” as I ran out of the store. This was my second trip.

This was a nice welcome back to Arizona—insufferable heat and scorpions, the latter of which we thought we had rid ourselves of. Freakin’ scorpions. My wife, thank God, was okay. She was well and brave enough, actually, to be upset with me for leaving all the stuff at the store. Chivalry is overrated when it’s time for dinner. I was going back, but because encountering one scorpion makes it seem like you’re under attack, I brought my daughter with me.

They left my cart in the floral refrigerator. After making a scene while exiting just minutes earlier, no one seemed overly concerned about my situation until the cashier looked at my daughter and said, “Is she the one who got stung?” I was like, really? If she just got stung by a scorpion do you think I’d be here buying fish sticks right now? Man. This was my third trip.

My in-laws were concerned, obviously. While video chatting with them shortly after I returned from the store, my father-in-law urged my wife to drink a shot of lemon juice mixed with garlic and honey to ease the pain. The lemon juice with honey and garlic combination is my father-in-law’s cure-all for everything. He has it in his cereal every morning, just in case. If he ever saw a leper, he would douse them with this combination and say, “Don’t worry—you’ll feel better soon.” We didn’t have any lemons, and my wife felt bad that I had already been to the store three times. She asked my father-in-law if the lemons were necessary, and he became increasingly upset at the idea of compromising his cure-all as a result of laziness.

I went back to the store to get lemons. This was my fourth trip. The cure-all made my wife feel better. She is a trooper. I canceled our bug guy and called a new one. It’s good to be back.

This works, too, ironically.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Classic card of the week

Jose Lind, 1988 Topps

The future held many things for Jose Lind, as we will soon see. And while stardom based solely on his achievements on fields of play may not have been one of them, we are here talking about him today—the future—on a blog, mostly because one time he drove a car without pants. So there’s that.

Other than predicting future greatness based on four career home runs in five minor league seasons and a .322 batting average in limited time in the bigs based on 143 ABs even though his career minor league average was like .260-something, Topps offers little in the way of information and entertainment. For such things we must turn to Wikipedia:

He also acquired a reputation for whimsical behavior, as one might expect from a man nicknamed "Chico" (Spanish for "Boy") … he often surprised fellow players in the clubhouse by playfully brandishing one of the many knives he kept in his locker.

It’s very much unlike Wikipedia to be inaccurate or misleading, but I think they are confusing “whimsical” with “bizarre and threatening.”

Barry Bonds: Yo Chico, what are you doing, man?

Chico Lind
: Oh, this? I’m just playfully brandishing my knives, while looking at you menacingly from across the locker room.

Bonds: Why do you have knives at your locker?

Lind: In case I want to stab someone. Ha, ha! Just being whimsical, Barry! I’m like a Spanish boy! What do you expect?

Besides, in Wikipedia’s defense, it’s not like Lind had a history or future of violence that Wikipedia would highlight immediately after labeling his knife-brandishing actions as whimsical:

Lind's personal life continued to spiral out of control. Police were called to the home of his ex-wife, Lizza Lind, in July 1996, when he visited in violation of a restraining order and the situation escalated to physical violence, which was witnessed by his daughters, Joyvelisse and Thivizahei Lind. They arrested him for possession of cocaine, and he pled guilty to that charge in February of the next year.

I don’t mean to make light of this terribly awful occurrence, but the end of this statement makes it sound as though his daughters arrested him, which would be awesome, and sounds like it’s from a movie about two daughters who are sick and tired of their dad being a violent idiot, and who decide to take matters into their own hands by training to become assertive cops. The movie is called, “Enough,” starring Jennifer Lopez and someone else. Also, and I don’t want to nitpick, but: “possession of cocaine?” Was that the only charge? What about violating a restraining order and domestic abuse? Just saying.

On November 21, 1997, highway police in Tampa, Florida stopped Lind for leaving the scene of an accident. They discovered that he was visibly intoxicated, and that he had been driving while naked from the waist down. A search of his car revealed seven cans of beer and one gram of cocaine. Lind ended up spending a year in jail.

They arrested him for speeding. Also, pop quiz: What do you think the very next section of Jose Lind’s Wikipedia page is? “Downward Spiral?” “Rehab and Recovery?” “Wake-Up Call?” The answer is: you are wrong.

Managing career

Seamless transition.

Lind underwent rehabilitation to compensate for his addiction,

“Compensate for?”

and after his release from prison he signed with the Bridgeport Bluefish as a player/coach.

Sam Crawford, Bridgeport Bluefish President: Ya’ know what sports needs more of? Player-coaches! A true leader who’s still got some game left, but who can get his feet wet in coaching as well. Saves the team some money, too. I think the Bluefish could use a player/coach.

Arnold Wentworth, Bluefish Vice-President: I’m pretty sure Jose Lind just got out of prison … ?

Crawford: Is that the guy who hit-and-ran while drunk and also while wearing no pants or underwear?

Wentworth: Yes.

Crawford: Call him up.

Did you know?
Driving under the influence without pants in commonly known as DUIWP.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Report: Some things are bad, maybe; others are not, we think

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

When I was growing up, it seemed like every other week on the news a report would surface about how butter is better for you than margarine … which would be followed a couple weeks later about how, no—margarine is better. And so on and so forth. I don’t know which product won, but one time my mom brought home a bottle of butter spray, which I thought was disgusting, but I still used it.

Anyhoo, my point is that … I’m not really sure. What was I talking about? Butter? Really? Hmmm. Allow me to transition.

In my book—oh, you didn’t buy and enjoy my book yet? That’s too bad. Please do, and then feel free to rejoin this conversation—there is an entire chapter about how, in attempting to become a tan person living in Arizona, I ultimately realized that it’s much more important for me to be protected in the sun. The person most responsible for this revelation was my wife, who was like, “You’re an idiot. Put on sun block, idiot.”

So I started using sun block much more consistently, and things had been progressing quite well. Until last week, when one of my wife’s friends forwarded her a link via facebook about how sun block is terrible for your skin, and is actually more harmful than actual sun exposure.

In a nutshell, the link states that the FDA doesn’t allow natural sun block to be classified as such, so as to generate more profits for “chemical companies.” Also, the chemicals in almost all sun tan lotions cause cancer.

It sounded a little bit conspiracy-theoryesque, but I’m not naïve enough—I watch documentaries!—to think it’s not at least partly true. My wife was more convinced of the completeness of this information, which led to this conversation over the weekend:

Me: I am going to go outside.

Wife: Okaaaaay.

Me: What should I do?

Wife: What are you talking about?

Me: Should I put lotion on?

Wife: NO! Are you crazy?! Didn’t you read the report?!

Me: Okay, so … should I burn?

Wife: No! Just go underneath a tree or something.

I ended up staying inside.

This all reminded me of the butter versus margarine battle from my youth (I knew I led with that for a reason). And it’s not just diary products and sun block—it seems like we’re provided contradicting information about everything, and part of that information is about how we shouldn’t even trust those giving us that information. It’s enough to make a man see red, and be red.

It leaves me torn. On one hand, I don’t want to fall into that category of, “When I was a kid, we ate raw bacon and used lead paint and ate lead paint and breathed asbestos and played outside and didn’t have the Internet and also we didn’t need seatbelts and we turned out fine! Well, except for Bob, and a few others, who are dead.” I also don’t want to go crazy worrying about what’s harmful, and what’s not, and what is again. I’m too busy doing stuff to think about how the stuff I am doing is wrong and harmful.

So what’s my solution? Like a point, I don’t really have one. I guess I just have to take it one battle at a time. For example, I have decided to start protecting myself in the sun with a combination of lotion and butter spray. They say that two wrongs don’t make a right, but I have heard that is wrong.