Friday, June 24, 2016

Too Much Time on My Hands

The band Styx, while much-maligned in their heyday, will always have a special place in this music-lover's heart.  As I recall, my very first conscious decisions on what music I personally liked revolved around Styx music.  In fact, my very first album/CD purchase was a copy of their Greatest Hits album from the local Walgreens.  

Believe me, it was a lonely existence being a junior high kid who's favorite band was Styx.  However, how could I help but latch on to the band that was co-founded by my uncle's junior high music teacher - Dennis DeYoung.  That's right, the Chicago-based band even used to rehearse in the house across the street from my childhood home during their early days.  I mean, my liking of Styx was almost born into me.

Therefore, when I noticed that they were coming to town tonight, in an exceptionally affordable setting, as part of the "Taste of Joliet" festival, I knew I had to go - even if DeYoung has long-since departed the band.  The opportunity to hear some of my earliest favorite tunes played live is something I just can't pass up.  

In honor of this momentous (to me) occasion, much like I did before seeing Cheap Trick earlier this year, here are some of my favorite Styx tunes and the Chicago Cubs baseball cards which best represent them:

Well, the connection here should be pretty obvious - both of these players are sporting undershirts with comically over-sized blue collars beneath their Cubs jerseys.  I mean, Chicago can still be pretty cold during the early parts of the MLB season; however, turtlenecks look a little out of place on the baseball diamond.

As far as actually being blue collar men, in the spirit of the titular song, I cannot confirm or deny that Mickey Owen or Erik Pappas fit such labels.

Another correlation that shouldn't be too difficult to spot - both of the players pictured here are wearing the number eight.  It took a lot more effort for me to find cards where this number was actually visible, since Cubs jerseys, like most around the league, only have the number displayed on the front when they play on the road.  These were the only two I could find in my CATRC binder.

Of course, the song itself is all about money - if I went that route, pretty much every baseball card since the free agent era began could be thematically linked to that concept.  Hey-oh!

A song about youthful rebellion and overwhelming anger seems pretty appropriate for both of these live-armed pitchers.  Both Carlos Zambrano and Julian Tavarez bascially played their way out of the Windy City thanks to their well-documented anger problems.  Big Z infamously walked out on the team in the summer of 2011, which was the final straw in a long line of heated incidents.  Meanwhile, Julian Tavarez was suspended in the middle of the 2001 campaign (his only in Chicago) for his role in a benches-clearing brawl.

"Why must you be such an angry young man / When your future looks quite bright to me?"

While a lot of pop music of the 60's and the 70's was about drugs, that message was often interwoven in symbolic lyricism.  Meanwhile, "Light Up" by Styx doesn't make any attempt to hide what it's about - pot... "Light up everybody / Join us in this celebration."

Rumors abounded in Chicago when the 2008 NL ROY catcher still resided in Chicago, that Geo Soto enjoyed himself a nice toke now and then.  Those thoughts were confirmed in 2014 when he was arrested for possession while with the Texas Rangers.  Luckily for him, he had less than two ounces on him when caught, resulting in a misdemeanor.

Sidenote - this oddball honoring Geo's 2008 award, given out to subscribers of Vineline (the Cubs monthly periodical), is one of my favorite oddities in my collection.

Tommy Shaw and Co., just like the rest of us, sometimes wishes they had themselves a crystal ball.  Aren't we all just a little bit curious about what our future will bring us?

It sure seems like Theo Epstein has himself a crystal ball somewhere, seeing as the organization's success with prospects over the past couple of seasons has been incredible.  Baez, Bryant, Russell, Schwarber, Almora, Contreras... the conveyor belt just keeps on turning out legitimate MLB players.  Time will tell if guys like Carson Sands and Pierce Johnson also join those ranks.

Here are a couple of Cubs who found themselves grabbed by the "long arm of the law," just like the character on the lamb in the Tommy Shaw penned "Renegade."

Manny Seoane, a cuppacoffee arm from the late 70's who got a brief trial with Chicago in 1978, got tangled up in a crazy kidnapping scheme with Mark Lemongello in their post-playing days, an tale which I wrote about in detail here.  Furthermore, Milton Bradley had some crazy anger issues on the field; however, he took that to a new level after his playing days.  In June of 2013, he was convicted by a jury of nine counts of physically attacking and threatening his wife including four counts of spousal battery, two counts of criminal threats, one count of assault with a deadly weapon, one count of vandalism and one count of brandishing a deadly weapon.  Yikes.

"Dear John" was a song recorded live by the newly-reformed Styx and included on their 1997 live album Return to Paradise, which documented that reunion tour.  The song was a touching tribute to their founding drummer, John Pannozo, who had passed away the previous year from gastrointestinal hemorrhaging and cirrhosis of the liver.  As someone with two friends named John who didn't make it out of their teens, this particular number really hits me hard.

Anyway, it's only natural to make a connection to a future Cubs star who also passed away far too young - Ken Hubbs.  The Rookie of the Year with a Gold Glove in his cabinet infamously perished in a plane crash in February of 1964.

Alright - the last two song associations have been kind of heavy.  Let's lighted the mood with a terribly corny and exceptionally goofy song in "Mr. Roboto."  Love it or hate it, it's a damn catchy tune and responsible for the only bit of Japanese that most Americans are truly able to speak:  "Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto."

Therefore, I present to you the last two Japanese baseball cards in my collection that I have not yet showed off on this blog.  Immediately after the Cubs signed Fujikawa out of Japan in 2013, I hopped on Ebay and purchased this BBM single.  After purchasing another Japanese single of Korean import Chang Yong-Lim in the early days of WRJ, the kind vendor also included this Mike Diaz card as a bonus.  Diaz spent some time in Chicago as a backup backstop in 1983.

There you have it, Styx via baseball cards - this internet place has everything doesn't it?  Clearly I have "too much time on my hands."

At any rate, it's time for me to start prepping for the big night.  I hope you enjoyed my musical meanderings as much as I enjoyed writing about them - it definitely made for a nice pre-concert hype session.  

"Domo arigato" for reading!

If only Chris Sale played for the "right" Chicago team...



    I always sing the start of the chorus with a curse phrase. It's just sounds like "F You...Miss Ammerica!"

  2. Dude, Styx was never maligned in my high school. They were gods, right up there with Rush, Genesis, Loverboy and the Who. I think it was only after DeYoung left and everyone got cranky and Nirvana-y that people looked at them as goofy.


  3. Styx rules. You know they rule when Cartman sings one of your songs.