Tuesday, September 20, 2016


Maintaining a computer lab for a school district has it's challenges.  Many of these speed-bumps are quite unexpected and really throw me for a loop.  For instance, many of the younger kids today don't even understand the concept of a mouse... after all, with smart phones and tablets, almost all of their computer interaction comes through a touch screen device.  Also, another issue that I've been experiencing with even the older kids is explaining the difference between an actual computer and a monitor.  Pretty much every device they use now is one and the same.

Meanwhile, some of the other problems I've been working on are much more expected.  For instance, for the little ones, guiding them to their online learning games has been a challenge for teachers.  Since they aren't yet that great at reading, a simple hyperlink or "favorite" will not do - they can't read it anyway.  Thus, in my spare time, I've been working on creating a simple, picture-based icon system for them to use.

These little images should greatly assist them in their efforts to locate "ABC Mouse" and "Starfall" on their desktops.

Coincidentally, speaking of mini images that serve as icons, I acquired my first single from a similarly small and iconic trading card set from one of my LCS locations:

1951 Topps - the set that started it all - from an era long before every school in the country had a lab full of computers.  While '52 might get all of the love, this oddball-sized set of cards built around a card game was the industry giant's first foray into an entirely baseball-based product.  Therefore, this was the beginning of the collecting landscape that we have today.

Obviously, you can see that Mr. Hatton here hails from the red back portion of the checklist.  Half of the set was produced with that color on the rear, while the other half came in blue.  Apparently, the blues have come to be a little bit rarer, even though they were initially produced at the same rate.

Anyway, the New Lennox location of Baseball Card King had just recently relocated to a new site, just up the road; so, I figured I'd stop by to see the new set up while I was caught in a fit of boredom this weekend.  They must have traded some stock with another store in the chain because in one of their glass display cases, I saw this beauty (with slight paper loss in the upper left corner) staring back at me.  The cost?  One measly buck.

 Grady during his brief stint in the Windy City

I don't know about you, but that's a steal of a deal - in my opinion - for a 65 year old cardboard icon.

Even better is the fact that this super vintage single fits into my Cubs All-Time Roster Collection.  Grady Hatton had a long career in the Majors, starting in 1946 (mostly with Cincinnati and Boston), which he wrapped up with a 28-game cameo for the 1960 Cubs.  While Grady had already been represented in this CATRC binder, an authentic '51 Topps easily surpasses a reprint of his '52 card.

Authentic vintage always beats a reprint.

However, that wasn't the only card I picked up that lazy Saturday afternoon.  In order to justify my 20 minute trip out to the shop, I kind of felt like I had to spend more than a dollar.  Luckily, in the same case as that Grady, there was yet another piece of super vintage cardboard from an "iconic" set that fit snugly into my collection:

Hey, look - it's Topps rival from the time period.  Hello Bowman (in my best Seinfeld impression).

Bowman had been in the game just a touch longer and their full-color, hand-painted imagery put them head and shoulders above the competition until Topps upped their game in '52.  Even still, Bowman's offering that year, though not much different than previous releases, is still quite visually appealing.

Even if this one is slightly mis-cut.  This "flaw" doesn't bother me too much; in fact, that's what keeps it in my price range.

Johnny Pramesa, like his former teammate Hatton, had already been represented in my CATRC; that said, his card depicted him with the Cincinnati Reds.  As you can see, this one shows him wearing the proper Cubbie Blue.  Furthermore, that previous inclusion was also a reprint from 1951; in other words, it never stood a chance.

 Sorry C.C.C. facsimile!

All in all, I think I had myself a pretty nice Saturday afternoon, adding two super vintage "icons" to my collection for a price that was less than that of a bottle of Coke (another American icon) from the local filling station.

Here's hoping that the icons I'm designing for these kids are as helpful as these antiques were to my collection!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Yarr.. Shiver Me Timbers

Ahoy me maties!  Well, today be one o' th' internet's most favorite holidays - International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Fire the cannons, and a bottle of rum! In order t' properly celebrate this momentous occasion, I dug up (usin' me secret Corsair's booty map, o' course) some cards featurin' notable baseball players who plied their talents fer th' Pittsburgh Pirates and th' Chicago Cubs.

Seein' as both o' these storied franchises have been aroun' since th' late 1800's, there's bound t' be quite a bit o' overlap when it comes t' deckhands that they have both laid claim.  To introduce these scabby sea basses, I've gathered some o' these most swashbucklin', rum-swiggin', booty-buryin' rough n' tumble scoundrels o' th' sea t' do th' duty.

This isn't a comprehensive list - were I to claim it be, ye could send me to Davy Jones' locker - rather, 'tis just a groupin' o' cards that I could locate within me collection. So, who both swabbed th' deck and roamed the forests of the New World?  Let's see what we can discover:

Blackbeard says...

Mike Bielecki were bein' drafted by th' Pirates, in th' first round, way back in 1979. After pitchin' four mediocre years as a swingman fer th' Buccos, he were bein' traded t' th' Cubs comin' out o' Sprin' Trainin' in 1988 in a minor deal, I'll warrant ye. Lo and behold, somethin' clicked fer Mike and he suddenly became a top o' th' rotation arm in Chicago, postin' an 18-7 record with a sparklin' 3.14 ERA fer th' NL East Champion Cubs in 1989, and a bucket o' chum.

Unfortunately fer Mike, he were bein' unable t' sustain that success and sunk back into mediocrity, leadin' t' his trade t' th' Atlanta Braves (with Damon Berryhill) fer Turk Wendell and Yorkis Perez. From there, the land lubber managed t' hang aroun' he league through th' 1997 season.

Capt. Jack Sparrow says...

Mr. Burgess may have been born as Forrest, but he be better known in 'round there here parts fer his nickname "Smoky." Whatever ye'd like t' call that scurvey dog, Mr. Burgess stuck aroun' in Major League Baseball fer a long time, debutin' in 1949 with th' Cubs (who discovered that blaggard playin' American Legion ball) and not hangin' up his cleats until aft 1967 with th' White Sox.  But ya have heard of 'im.

In th' midst o' that time, Smoky also played fer th' Pirates from 1959-64, nettin' three All-Star nominations in that time. Also o' note t' Cubs fans, th' gritty veteran were bein' th' lubber behind th' dish when a young Ron Santo took his first at-bat in 1960.

Sir Francis Drake says...

Gene Clines spent th' first five years o' his baseball career with th' Pirates as a regular in outfield, and a bottle of rum! This tenure included a breakout 1972 campaign whar he batted a robust .334 in 107 games, which were bein' enough t' earn that scurvey dog some MVP votes, despite his complete lack o' power, by Blackbeard's sword. 

After a couple o' brief stopovers in New York (Mets) and Texas, Gene found himself traded t' th' Windy City fer Darold Knowles, whar he were bein' a member o' th' infamous 1977 Cubs. Yo-ho-ho! That team were bein' in first place by 8.5 games in th' NL in East in June only t' crash and burn and finish 5th. Gene stuck aroun' through 1979 before callin' it a career. 

Eventually, he found his way back t' th' Second City, servin' as th' first base coach under Dusty Baker - this time, his Cubs team made it into th' playoffs before they completely collapsed, like a mast after a cannonball strike.

Captain Feathersword says...

Joe Coleman were bein' a journeyman pitcher who managed t' hang aroun' th' Big Leagues fer 15 seasons. In that time, he spent just a partial year each with Chicago and Pittsburgh, th' latter o' which he closed his long career out with in 1979, aft a brief 10-game stint.  

However, th' most notable thin' about Mr. Coleman be his bloodline. ye see, his grandfather Joe were bein' also a Major League moundsman in th' 40's and 50's; meanwhile, his son Casey also twirled his way t' th' Big Leagues (mostly fer th' Cubs) afore in this decade. Thus, th' Coleman's became one o' just four families t' have three generations make it t' th' highest level o' pro baseball, a rare feat in any sport. Don't that be just ticklin' yar family-friendly bones?

Captain Morgan says...

Th' Cubs and Pirates have made some lopsided deals betwixt themselves in th' long histories o' their franchises, but th' Kiki Cuyler trade might just take th' cake. In 1927, th' Pirates wanted rid themselves o' th' blossomin' young star because they felt he were bein' a lazy headcase that would ne'er make it in th' league; so, they traded that deckhand t' Chicago fer Sparky Adams and Pete Scott (otherwise known as "who?"). And swab the deck, we'll keel-haul ye! 

All that tall drink did aft that were bein' post a .325 battin' average across eight years fer th' Cubs and thrice led th' league in stolen bases, pavin' his way t' th' Hall o' Fame in 1968, and dinna spare the whip, we'll keel-haul ye! I guess th' Pirates weren't able t' recognize th' booty that they had!


Red Beard says...

Durin' th' dark years o' th' Pittsburgh franchise, players like Jason Bay, Brian Giles and Jason Kendall were th' only reason t' come watch a team that didn't finish o'er .500 from 1993 through 2012. th' three time All-Star were bein' th' rare catcher with speed and a keen battin' eye, often stealin' bags in th' double digits and usually good fer a battin' average above .300. 

When th' Cubs were barrelin' towards th' playoffs in 2007, they decided that rare mix were bein' exactly what they needed t' put them o'er th' edge; so, they acquired that scurvey dog at th' trade deadline t' fill their catchin' vacuum. The ornery cuss weren't great - .270/.362/.356 - and began losin' playin' time t' September call-up Geovany Soto, who ended up startin' all o' their playoff games. Shiver me timbers.

Captain Hook says...

Here's a lubber much more known fer his time in th' Steel City than he be fer th' City o' Wind. Ralph Kiner were bein' a bonafide Hall o' Famer fer th' Pirates, leadin' th' league in homers fer seven (!!!) straight seasons, beginnin' in his rookie year o' 1946. Unfortunately, injuries led t' a rapid decline fer th' slugger and he found himself traded t' th' Cubs in th' middle o' th' 1953 season, ye blowfish. 

Kiner had enough wind left in his sails fer a couple more above average years, but he were bein' unable t' continue playin' th' game by th' end o' th' 1955 season. You might be sayin' that he could hear the tickin' of the clock! Nevertheless, in his prime, there were bein' nary a more fearsome sight at th' plate fer a National League pitcher.

Black Bart says...

Lieber were bein' a much ballyhooed pitchin' prospect in th' Pirates system; but, upon reachin' th' Big Leagues in 1994, were bein' ne'er really able t' find much consistent success. It weren't until aft he were bein' swapped t' th' Cubs fer th' infamous Brant Brown (he dropped th' ball!) that Lieber found his groove and became a surprise top o' th' rotation piece o' a pitchin' rotation. 

In 2001, Lieber posted a 20-6 record and, until Jake Arrieta last year, were bein' th' most recent Cubs hurler t' win 20 games, avast. Unfortunately, injuries derailed that salty swab aft that breakout campaign - however, he were bein' able t' stick aroun' as a swingman fer th' Yankees, Phillies and th' Cubs (again) through 2008.

Billy Bones says...

Dale Long were bein' a Major League journeyman who's biggest claim t' fame in baseball history came flyin' th' Jolly Roger.  In 1956, th' first baseman smacked eight home runs in eight consecutive games - that kind o' power be usually reserved fer me cannon blasts! Walk the plank, by Blackbeard's sword!  This prodigious performance attracted th' interest o' th' Cubs and he found himself traded off Treasure Island t' Chicago come 1957. 

Long contributed yet another oddity t' th' baseball lexicon while callin' Wrigley Field his home, with a chest full of booty. In 1958, durin' a couple o' doubleheaders (one o' which were bein' against th' Buccos), he became th' first left-handed-throwin' catcher since Jiggs Donahue in 1902. Dale were bein' certainly an interestin' player.


Captain Kidd says...

Bill Madlock have be th' next great Cubs third baseman, followin' in Ron Santo's footsteps. Instead, owin' to th' scoundrel P.K. Wrigley's underlyin' racism 'n cheapness, Madlock found himself becomin' a battin' title machine fer th' "We be Family" band 'o Pirates. All Chicago got in return was an aged 'n overpaid Bobby Murcer. 

Fer obvious reasons, 'tis be regarded as one 'o th' worst trades in Cubs' history - right up thar wit' Brock fer Broglio.  You might be sayin' this buried treasure was actually found, just by the wrong team!

The Dread Pirate Roberts says...

Lloyd McClendon was ye prototypical Quad-A player - y'be knowin', th' type that destroys AAA pitchin' but can't hit a lick in th' Big Leagues. That be, 'til he broke out in a big way wit' th' "Boys 'o Zimmer" Cubs in th' unlikely 1989 season. th' rapscallion smacked 12 homers in 92 games (almost twice as much as he'd ever hit again) to help steampower th' club to th' NL East crown. 

Lloyd never came close to matchin' that performance again, however. He was traded to th' band 'o Pirates (as you wish) in a minor deal 'n spent th' rest 'o his career as a moderately useful bench piece. Eventually, he went on to manage th' Buccos fer five seasons, as well.

Black Sam Bellamy says...

We'll end this ship's manifesto with th' mother o' all lopsided Cubs trades in me lifetime. Aramis Ramirez were bein' an inconsistent, terrible-fieldin' third baseman with pop who could just ne'er take thin's t' th' next level in Pittsburgh, to be sure. As th' club grew tired o' waitin' and their budget grew tighter, Neil Huntington and Co. decided t' finally give up on A-Ram in 2003 and traded that scurvey dog fer a booty o' prospects t' Chicago (with Kenny Lofton). Those prospects - Bobby Hill and Matt Bruback - turned out t' be fool's gold. 

All Ramirez did were bein' spend th' next nine seasons as an MVP candidate and middle o' th' order threat, good fer at least 30 big flies and a battin' average aroun' .300.  The scalawag even figured out his glove and became a borderline Gold Glove fielder as his Cubs tenure progressed.  Meanwhile, Bobby Hill were bein' gone by 2005 and Matt Bruback ne'er even reached th' Majors, we'll keel-haul ye, I'll warrant ye!

 Sorry Pittsburgh - this was a real pirate's raid!

With that, we've reached th' end o' our voyage and 'tis time t' dock in a safe harbor. I hope ye enjoyed this long trek through Pirates and Cubs history and be sure t' thank yer buccaneer narrators as ye walk th' plank off th' SS Wrigley Roster Jenga. Shiver me timbers, ye scurvey dog! Now, go out and spread th' Pirate word, honor the Pirate's Code and annoy all o' yer shipmates fer th' rest o' th' afternoon with colorful, witty Corsair banter.

Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum, this sure was fun!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Gaughan Daddy Gaughan

In less than an hour, NASCAR will officially be kicking off it's postseason schedule (aka The Chase) in my very own backyard.  This afternoon, Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, IL will play host to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 (what a ridiculous name for a race...) as sixteen qualified drivers begin their quest for the Sprint Cup Championship.  

Any time NASCAR rolls into town, drivers and teams hit the promotional trail hard during the preceding week.  Drivers make sponsored appearances to cut ribbons and sign autographs while show cars are towed all across the city to be parked in front of this and that business, all to drive up interest for the upcoming races.  Make all the jokes you want about the sport (rednecks, obnoxious sponsorship agreements, etc.), they sure do a lot for the fans to keep interest high.

For instance, last year, in the lead up to the Chicagoland race, I had the opportunity to meet NASCAR champion Matt Kenseth at the local shopping mall, with a full spread of food too, at absolutely no cost.  It sure seems like any appearance from even the most journeyman baseball player will at least run you up $20.

Unfortunately, this year, I kind of fell asleep at the wheel and didn't even notice that our local race was approaching. However, a couple of days ago, one event did catch my interest - this one, at a much lower profile than a Matt Kenseth autograph session.

One of those aforementioned show cars was parked at one of our local filling stations, Thorntons to be specific; luckily, that station is immediately across the street from the Walgreen's, a common haunt for the "Burb Herd."  A quick heads up from my brother let me know that there was a race car sitting in the parking lot across the street from our pharmacy and my inner child immediately went crazy. There was no way I was going to ignore that opportunity.

So, the fiancee and I sauntered over to the gas station - all it took was the promise of a slushie to convince the lovely lady.  It was a win/win situation.

There was no driver appearance scheduled, but had there been, it would have been the pilot of the #62 Thornton's Camaro in the Xfinity Series (the AAA of NASCAR) - Brendan Gaughan.

I was quite surprised to find out that Gaughan was even still in the sport, to be completely honest. When I was first starting to follow the sport in the early 00's, Brendan was a hotshot, young prospect in the developmental ranks.  A true athlete, he'd actually been a teammate of Hall of Famer Allen Iverson on the Georgetown basketball team and earned earned All-Conference honors as a placekicker on their football team.  

He earned a full-time ride with the storied Penske Racing team in the Cup series for 2004; however, it wasn't pretty.  Gaughan was rarely competitive and finished 28th in the point standings, losing his ride at the end of the season.  Since then, he's never made more than a cameo appearance at the sports top level.

As my interest in the sport began to wane, I assumed that was where his story ended.  Lo and behold, he pulled a Mike Hessman and went back to the "minors" and carved himself out a nice niche.  As a full-time competitor in the Xfinity ranks, he's become a weekly threat and won himself a couple of races for Richard Childress Racing, one of the sport's top teams.  Good for Gaughan!

I was happy to see that, while Brendan wouldn't be there to sign autographs, the Thornton's promotional team still had plenty of swag to hand out, including the above "hero card."  After all, this is a cardboard-based blog and I had to make some tangible tie-in here.

"Hero cards" seem to be unique to motorsports.  These over-sized promos are often a large 8x10 (though there's no standard) and, for all intents and purposes, they are essentially just gaudier trading cards that are used to fulfill autograph requests at driver appearances.   I don't think I've ever seen the format used for baseball, football, hockey, etc.; however, please let me know if I'm wrong.

For completeness' sake, here's the back of the huge hero:

As you can see, like your standard trading card, you get the driver's vitals and information.  Not to mention, with the added "canvas," there's much more room for expanded statistics; thus, you get a lot more career highlights than you would with a 2.5 x 3.5  single from Press Pass or Panini.

Of course, the added space is also used to tout the sponsor, so you also get to learn all about Thorntons and their brand of ethanol as well.

While the oddball hero card was what I was truly after from the swag table, I was also able to walk away with a couple of other novelty items:

I don't know what I'm going to do with the flag (nevertheless, I wasn't about to turn down free stuff); but, the magnet proved to be rather useful, seeing as our refrigerator never has enough of them to hold our greeting cards, invitations and photo-strips.

We also both entered a drawing to win free tickets to the race itself; that said, judging by the fact that I'm sitting here blogging right now should tell you how that went.  At any rate, I was able to add a new oddball card to my ever-growing NASCAR collection, acquire some other free swag, get an up close and personal look at a race car and reminisce in nostalgia town... not a bad way to spend an afternoon, in my personal opinion.  

Oh and in case you were curious, Brendan Gaughan finished 8th in the 40 car Xfinity field last night at Chicagoland - not a bad showing.  Maybe he'll be able to work his way back up to the Cup series again someday.

Anything's possible for this childhood "hero."