Thursday, February 14, 2019

TriStar, the Post Office, and other rants

First off I need to thank everyone who reached out here and on Twitter after I posted about my brother's death. My appreciation is heartfelt, believe me. Now, back to business.

I attended the TriStar show this past Saturday. I wasn't able to meet up with Marc from Remember the Astrodome as he was there on Sunday. But I spent time with my friend Daryll, the hotel show promoter/dealer and I did bump into an old friend who I hadn't seen in many years. Jon O. is an Astros/Colt 45s collector and was a part of our small, regular crew that hung out at a couple of LCSs and did all the shows together. We had a nice time reminiscing and, in particular, telling stories about our old, and now departed friend, 'Oriole' John Baucum.

But I did more than chat up my friends. I also knocked a huge dent into my 1971 and, to a lesser extent, 1975 want lists. The show itself was one of the better TriStar ones I've attended here in Houston. More dealers with solid offerings, less tables/booths with folks selling roasted cashews and sunglasses. Yes, those have been a thing in the past.

This post has a few of the non-set chase cards I picked up. I semi-collect Allie Reynolds. I've noted several times he was my father's favorite pitcher.

I bought the '56 Spook Jacobs card because, well, it was a buck. And they put 'Spook' on a Topps card. BTW..his given name is Forrest Vandergrift Jacobs. I found a nice story about him online. He passed away about eight years ago. One of the local SABR members writes about old players and he had a column about Jacobs in which he explains the nickname. But I have my doubts.

I was unaware of this JFK set and Ineed to look into it. I grabbed a handful of these from Daryll's oddball bin.

I also knocked found a signed Gump Worsley card. I have tried to nab one on eBay a few times but never was able to land one.

Oh, rants. Yes, I almost forgot that I mentioned rants in the title. Well, I'll spare you my anualwhining about being out $27 before I get to the first table at TriStar shows ($12 parking plus $15 admission). I'll spare you but I won't stop being annoyed by it.

The Post Office! I went to mail some packages on Monday. Normally when I'm sending someone a few cards I just fold up a 9-pocket, use those hard sleeves for strength, and stick a stamp or two on it. Never a problem. Monday I had large envelopes to send so I took my card PWEs to hand over the counter. The lady said they were parcels! Parcels? They barely weigh an ounce. She proceeded to add about two or three bucks postage to my stamps on each of them. ┌П┐(ಠ_ಠ)

 Here, I can't go on. Listen to some Isaac Hayes live. The Shaft soundtrack is what I played in my dorm room every night the first year I lived on campus.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

10 Posts, 10 Cards, 10 Books, 10 Songs (#10)

I was surprised at how much the loss of Frank Robinson last week affected me. Maybe I shouldn't have been. On January 23 I lost my youngest brother to cancer. He was only 58 and left a wife and three kids, two of them 16 years old. I remained stoic through all the services. I'm not the emotional type, I try to focus on the fun times in the past.

Anyway, when I got news of Frank Robinson's passing I was pretty down and it still saddens me. Even going to the TriStar show on Saturday didn't lighten the mood. I think it's been just the suppressed emotion bubbling up.

But things get better over time and I'm ready to roll again. I'm working three days this week and that'll be fun. I dug out a few Robby items for scanning today. That's a Dexter Press postcard up top. Both their cards and postcards are really sweet. Very under-appreciated collectibles.

 Here is his rookie card, of course. An all-time favorite of mine. I found a decent enough second copy not long ago and bought it. Normally I'll put PC cards into the set binders to save costs. But in some cases, I can't bear to pull a card from a player's page and this is one of them. My fledgling '57 build isn't going to poach my Frank Robinson binder.

Frank has several books that have been issued with his name on the cover. I can't speak for the others but this one, co-authored by Al Silverman, definitely rang true to Frank's voice. He didn't shy away from discussing his earliest professional days as a black man traveling through the South in the 1950s. I read the original edition back in the day. My copy was lost over time and I later replaced it, thanks to a good friend, with an autographed copy of the updated edition.

 As the title implies, Frank lived the game his entire adult life. He changed the culture of the sport in Baltimore when he arrived. He brought the team two World's championships. He gave me one of the most remarkable moments of my life as a fan. RIP, Frank.

 I had a few other songs in mind for this final entry. I realized that I hadn't included either George Jones (my favorite vocal artist) or the anything by the great Isaac Hayes. One of these days I'll toss a few more music vids into posts to remedy that. Meanwhile here is something I was listening to this afternoon while driving...Miles Davis in a live performance of one of the great jazz standards, Stella by Starlight.

Fantastic. Miles teamed up with John Coltrane (two guys who would interpret songs from opposite ends, as it were) and the result was these performances in Paris and Stockholm in 1960. Here's the concert which was later released as Miles Davis & John Coltrane – The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 6.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

10 Posts, 10 Cards, 10 Books, 10 Songs (#9)

And now for something completely different... a pair of 60s Dutch Gum cards that I added to my non-sports binder recently. It's a fun set that includes all sorts of celebrities. I have picked up some of my favorite actors and musicians over the last few months. I haven't posted them obviously. This kind of card draw much less reader interest than posting the latest Topps offerings but you gotta collect and blog what you like, right?

These particular cards are blank-backed and measure about as tall as standard cards but are just a quarter inch or so narrower. It goes without saying that both Gary Cooper and Jimmy Stewart are icons of Hollywood. If they are in a film, I'll watch it. And both made baseball-themed movies. Cooper as Lou Gehrig in Pride of the Yankees is the more widely known but Jimmy Stewart did a commendable job in The [Monty] Stratton Story.

For the second time in this series of posts, I'm breaking a rule and showing a book I have yet to read. My copy of The Pride of the Yankees: Lou Gehrig, Gary Cooper, and the Making of a Classic has been on my shelf for a while. I found it at a Goodwill Store and I have yet to attempt it. It received some very good reviews so maybe I should push it up on the reading queue.

Speaking of Dutch Gum cards...

These are smaller in size. More like those Topps stickers from the 80s. I would never even consider trying to figure out the Dutch Gum issues and various series.

How's that for a pair of icons? Give a listen to their 1956 Ella and Louis album:

Great, right? It should be. Here's the crew:

  • Louis Armstrong - vocals, trumpet
  • Ella Fitzgerald - vocals
  • Oscar Peterson - piano
  • Ray Brown - bass
  • Herb Ellis - guitar
  • Buddy Rich - drums

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

10 Posts, 10 Cards, 10 Books, 10 Songs (#8)

These are five of the 1975 Topps cards that Steve from the 1975 Baseball Cards blog sent me recently.  Steve also tinkers with a blog that features athletes on phones and I flipped out when I found it. One of my first collections, when I re-entered the hobby in the late 80s, was of guys in all sports on the phone and with other electronic devices. I actually did a 'Guys On The Phone' post way back in 2012. When I saw Steve's blog I dug out the old pages I'd filled and sent him some of the cards (I've since found more and should send them his way, too).

Anyway, these colorful 1975 gems are most welcome. I'm down to less than two dozen needed for the set. I should do some damage to my want list at the TriStar show in February. My 1976 chase is winding down, too. Just about 40 needed there. I'm not sure how I got the bug that has sent me after the 70s sets. I followed baseball thru that decade (as best I could) but didn't collect much. I remember that I would buy a pack of cards just to see what Topps was doing.

I'm probably going to try to finish all the 70s sets at some point. My scorecard looks like this at the moment:

  • 1970-done and in a binder
  • 1971-I have a large box of 71s, well over 400, that I haven't even dug into. I need to sort 'em to see what I need.
  • 1972, 1973, 1974- I have all the Orioles and various small amounts of others.
  • 1975 & 1976-See above, bindered and almost completed
  • 1977-Just the Orioles and a few stars
  • 1978 & 1979- completed and in binders
Truth be told the 70s was sort of a 'lost' decade for me. I was in and out of college, held down numerous jobs to feed my habits, and wrecked some relationships and friendships. Not all of them, I did meet my wife during this time, but enough.

Phillip Roth's 1973 novel is just outstanding. I wasn't much of a fiction reader when I was in college but I read this on a recommendation and I've always been glad I did. I posted this on my1959 Topps blog in 2011.

I had tried to read one or two of Philip Roth's books prior to The Great American Novel. The key word being 'tried'. I never got very far. So I was pretty skeptical when a friend gave me his copy of this book and insisted I read it. Turns out to be the funniest, cleverest and most entertaining baseball novel I've ever read.

In it Roth chronicles the odyssey of the Ruppert Mundys, the only homeless franchise in the Patriot League. If you are not familiar with the Patriot League take heart, Word Smith, the book's narrator will explain the Communist plot and Capitalist scandals have conspired to wipe out it's rich history. It's enough to know that the Mundys have lost their stadium in Port Ruppert to the war effort (WWII) and have taken to the road more or less permanently.

The book is difficult to describe with murderous plots against umpires, wooden-legged catchers, games scheduled against teams from asylums and players named for mythological figures (Luke Gofannon, Gil Gamesh, etc).

The book slows in spots but will keep you laughing and wondering at the depth of Roth's imagination. Highly recommended.
One additional note...this is the only book I've ever bought after having read it.

Music in the 70s was something I clung to in stressful times and I will always consider it the best decade for music. I had access to lots of concerts through my jobs on the campus and through my job at the Houston Post.

The ticket is one I posted previously when I blogged about some of the shows I saw back then. I had pretty good seats for Traffic at the rickety old Sam Houston Coliseum back in '73. I loved this group and it's one of the concerts I remember attending (not always the case).

Want to hear my kind of rock? The music I still fall back to? Give Traffic's greatest song a listen,

Monday, January 28, 2019

10 Posts, 10 Cards, 10 Books, 10 Songs (#7)

I'm a sucker for old Johnny Unitas items and I found this on eBay. It's pretty fragile so I scanned it for posterity (I'll put it safely away now) and for this post. The Unitas pics are probably from the same photo session that produced the MacGregor Staff photo and related pics that I posted this past November.

As indicated by the cover, JU is the featured athlete and gets a two page spread in addition to a second photo.

Sonny Jurgenson waxes poetic on eating right, etc. It's hard to tell by the scans but this thing folds out so that the text and Jurgenson's photo are each one page.

Bart Starr did NOT explain the 'Lombardi Sweep' play that they ran down everyone's throats back in the day. Of course, I always think of the late, great Ray Scott doing Packer games on CBS. If you want to hear him at his best go to 1:05 of the clip below and give a listen to how a pro calls a TD.

"Starr.........he's throwing for Dale...................[crowd gets crazy].......Touchdown." Ray Scott was just the best.

A nice bonus is the appearance of one of my favorite players, Tommy McDonald, in the brochure. And he helps date the thing since he was a one season Cowboy (1964).

Mike Ditka looks very young in his photo, yes?

My favorite network broadcast show ever will always be Homicide: Life On The Streets. It portrayed the city of Baltimore through the eyes of it's Police Homicide Division. It ran for seven seasons, the first four or five of which are about as good as network TV could ever hope to be. It starred and was enriched by among others, Daniel Baldwin, Richard Belzer, Clark Johnson, Yaphet Kotto, Melissa Leo and especially Andre Braugher.

The show was inspired by this book: Homicide (A Year On The Killing Streets). The author had spent a year with the homicide cops of the Baltimore City Police and wrote a really great book as a result. I seem to remember getting it from a bookstore as soon as I discovered the show. Excellent look at the workings of a big city homicide squad, warts and all. No whitewashing anything.

To continue my Charm City theme, here is the remarkable Nina Simone and her cover of Randy Newman's Baltimore:

Bonus material...David Gray doing the same song live in Baltimore. I've probably seen Gray more than any other performing artist. He's the only musical act that, when I say "So-and-So's coming to Houston, wanna see him/her, again?" doesn't get a moment's hesitation from my wife. And he's coming back again in March. I'm looking forward to it.

Friday, January 25, 2019

10 Posts, 10 Cards, 10 Books, 10 Songs (#6)

This one was a long time coming. I've queued up T-3s, 1910-11 Turkey Red cabinet cards for purchasing several times over the years and never pulled the trigger. I always found they were too expensive for one in nice condition, or in terrible shape for a price I was willing to pay.

Meet Solly Hofman of the Cubs. Known as 'Circus Solly', he was a centerfielder and utilityman who played everywhere on the diamond except pitcher and catcher over the course of his career. His career covers all or part of 14 seasons and peaked in 1910. That year he hit .325 with 16 triples which were good for third in the NL in both categories.

In addition to his ten years with the Cubs, he had two brief tours in Pittsburgh, one with the Yankees and he also played for Brooklyn and Buffalo in the Federal League. He played in three World Series and hit .298 in them. His Cubs lost twice, in 1906 to the White Sox and in 1910 to the Athletics but in 1908 they got a title with a five-game Series win over the Tigers. They had beaten the Tigers in 1907 in five games but Hofman never got into a game. I'm assuming he was hurt at season's end because he was an everyday starter that year garnering 530+ plate appearances in 134 games.

BTW...there are two reasons given in his SABR bio for his nickname. One story attributes it to a cartoon character of the era while the other to Hofman's flashy centerfield skills. This little nugget was also on that page:

Before the 1908 World's Series, [manager Frank] Chance forbade Hofman's wedding to Miss Rae Looker and demanded "for the good of the team" that the ceremony be postponed until after the season. The Cubs won their second consecutive World Series in Detroit on October 14, 1908, and the Hofmans did not dally. They were married the next day in Chicago.
As for the card...well, it's a beauty for sure. I love the color and the background. The Net54 seller had several of these for about the same price and I zeroed in on this one. It had the best front by far. There is a crease in the upper right corner which is hard to see in the scan and barely visible even in hand. It shows up in the scan of the back but the back had other issues. That is if you let the marks made by a kid in 1911 become an issue. They don't phase me in the least.

The checklist shows that cards 51 thru 76 were boxers including the wonderfully named Knock-out Brown at #66. Card #80, Charles Bender, is one card I'd love to have. But I doubt I'll ever find one I could fit into my hobby budget.  You can look deeper into T3s on the Oldcardboard site.

I recently pulled Lawrence Ritter's The Glory Of Their Times down off the shelf again. It's one of the few books I've kept since I originally received my copy about five decades ago. I signed up for both a record club and book club through magazine ads when I was in high school. I stayed in both for a few years until I decided I could spend my money in other ways.

Ritter's book was my introduction to players from the early days of baseball. It's now considered a classic and for good reason. Ritter's interviews with baseball legends are timeless. When I skimmed it last week I remembered why I enjoyed it so much back in 1969. It's currently cued up for a re-read.

 I don't know how many people are familiar with Rodriguez, the Detroit native singer/songwriter who struggled mightily here at home but became the biggest music sensation in South Africa (and New Zealand) in the mid 70s. Ironically he had no idea of the fame and fandom he had garnered due to the oppressive South African government's tight lid on media and culture.

The 2012 documentary Searching for Sugarman tells the amazing story of his re-discovery in the 90s by a nation that had never seen him despite his fame and, in fact, had believed he had commited suicide decades before. Highly, highly reccommended.

This clip shows the opening of his first live performance in front of a South African audiance and it's pretty crazy.

His whole story is carzy atually. While he was a sensation overseas he was dropping out of the Detroit music scene, getting a degree at Wayne State University, dabbling in local politics and eeking out a living at various low paying jobs. He never saw a residual check and later decided not to pursue those who cheated him out of his wealth. The Rodriguez story truely is stranger than fiction.

My wife and I have seen his in concert a few times. He's now in his 70s and has almost no sight and the last show we saw was a bit rough around the edges. But he's still got that unique voice.

Even better than the movie clip is this segment from his David Letterman debut in 2012. Give it a listen:

Bonus content: Here's the video of the song he tries to play in that South African concert: