Tuesday, May 27, 2008

2008 Topps Finest

There once was a time when Topps Finest were the biggest thing since sliced bread.

There once was also a time where you were lucky it they included three Tigers in the set.

There is now a time where you look at these and go ho-hum. Perhaps the fact that there are something like five or six different colored variations of each card has rendered this set irrelevant. 

Anyway, there is a decent selection of Tigers for such a small set.

10 Magglio Ordoñez
20 Miguel Cabrera
31 Gary Sheffield
81 Justin Verlander
95 Curtis Granderson
99 Dontrelle Willis
107 Ivan Rodriguez

I checked Topps website, and I think there are two insert cards. I've only found one, commemorating Verlander's no-hitter (on my birthday, a fact I never get tired of bringing up...) Supposedly there is one for Granderson too, but I've yet to find it anywhere. The Verlander is numbered to 99. It looks like a refractor, but it doesn't say so on the back, so who the hell knows.

FM-JV Justin Verlander

I don't have much else to add. But I should be receiving my Bowman team set shortly, which is one of the few releases that I look forward to.

Memorial Day Weekend 2008

Sometimes pictures tell the whole story. Despite claims to the contrary, that is not the bait on the end of my line......

JP Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge

I participated in my first ever official race this past Thursday. I ran/walked/(ok...mostly walked) 3.5 miles through downtown Chicago as part of a race to raise money for Bears Care, the charity of the Chicago Bears.


I finished with a crisp time of 53:59. I was however the unofficial leader in the time it took to get from the end of the race to Grace O'Malley's for post race beers with my colleagues. A good time was had by all and I look forward to doing it again soon.

Best 80's Albums No One Ever Listened To: Chapter 4

Once upon a time there was a band called Men At Work, who were the hottest thing going on the planet until a little album called Thriller came out and ushered them into obscurity pretty quickly. The lead singer of the band, Colin James Hay, continued on with a solo career after the band's demise. Sadly, his career since has been under the radar, and undeservedly so.

His first solo album Looking For Jack came out in 1986, and although it mirrored the foray into world music by such bigger names as Sting and Peter Gabriel, it went unnoticed by most. 

There are many great tracks on the album. Hold Me, the title track, Can I Hold You, Master Of Crime, and These Are Our Finest Days are ever bit as good as anything from the Men At Work catalog. If you were a MAW fan and have never heard this album, you owe it to yourself to check it out.

That being said, this gives me the perfect segue into telling about my experience of seeing him live in Saugatuck, Michigan a couple of weeks ago. Armed only with an acoustic guitar, he played a dozen or so songs while completely entertaining the crowd with anecdotes of his 30+ year music career. He is one of the last of my musical heroes from my youth that I had yet to see, and the wait was worth every bit of it. I've roughly assembled a set list from memory for any fans who might want to check out some of his other stuff. (Sadly, he played nary a song from Looking For Jack!)

Going Somewhere
Beautiful World (Note: My old favorite CJH song.)
Who Can It Be Now?
What Would Bob Do?
Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)
Are You Looking At Me?
Melbourne Song (Note: My new favorite CJH song.)
I Just Don't Think I'll Ever Get Over You
Down Under
I Wish I Was Still Drinking
Waiting For My Real Life To Begin (Note: My second new favorite CJH song.)

It was a fantastic show that I saw in the company of good friends and we were all ecstatic at just how great it was. Saugatuck is a great little vacation town in West Michigan that I look forward to going back to someday.

CJH will be on tour later this year with Ringo Starr's All Star Band, and if they come to a venue to you I highly suggest you take your ass down and check it out!!!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

2008 Topps Opening Day

Let me start off by saying that I have never collected Opening Day cards before this week. But I figured that a set containing only 220 cards would be an easy, simple way to pass the time until Topps Series 2 came out.

I wish I wouldn't have even bothered, and it's not even a bad product!

I have always been under the impression that the Opening Day cards were a product geared towards kids and I think that's great. The amount of money I have spent on an almost complete 2007 Topps set is enough to make grown men cry. So any set geared towards kids is fine by me. 

Well I opened my first pack and wow! The bright red border jumps right out at you! Holy cow, these circus poster dots are gone too! And it's a rare occasion that you can actually read the gold foil on the card! These might actually be cooler than Topps regular issue.

Which of course, starts me to wondering. Why are these geared for kids? 

You get 6 cards to a pack that costs a dollar. I think Topps regular issue is something like 8-10 cards in a pack that costs two dollars. Fair enough then, per card they are cheaper. 

Which of course, makes me continue to wonder. Why are they cheaper?

These cards are printed on the same stock as regular Topps. Having a printing background, I'd absolutely say these cards are more expensive to print than regular Topps, with the solid red ink coverage as well as the gold foil in two locations instead of one. 

I have come to the conclusion that Topps is screwing us on the regular issue cards. I came to it years ago though, so just chalk this up as another mark on my big list of all the shitty business practices Topps employees. 

Oh well, on to the set.

At first glance it looks like a decent set for kids. At 220 cards it's not overwhelming. The player selection is nice for a set this size. There are a fair amount of rookie cards. (Although as per Topps style, most of these are miscut...)

I pulled cards of every Tiger in the set. Here's the list:

4 Placido Polanco
6 Ivan Rodriguez
32 Curtis Granderson
48 Gary Sheffield
71 Magglio Ordoñez
126 Edgar Renteria
149 Justin Verlander

But as you probably figured out, there are a few things I didn't like. 

The absolute biggest of which is the collation. I spent $60 buying these packs. Out of a total of 349 cards bought, with a 220 base cards set, I am still 17 cards short of a set! 112 doubles, and I'm still missing almost 10% of the set! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, WHY? HOW MUCH MORE WILL I HAVE TO SPEND TO FINISH THIS SET? Christ almighty Topps, just once I'd like to spend a reasonable amount and get ALL the cards in a set! I threw away 60 David Wright ad cards. WHY? WHY? WHY?

I took a brief break, had a beer, and I'm moving on.

The only other thing I was disappointed in was the selection of Tigers. Although Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis are included in the set, both of them are pictured as Marlins. Which I don't understand. Topps Series 1 came out three months ago, and both are pictured as Tigers. Well after looking through the set I see that there would have only been like two Marlins cards without them, so it's not the end of the world.

Now to the insert cards.

As an aspiring adult, I'd say the insert cards are lame. If I were a kid, I'd probably say the same. There are 28 puzzle pieces that form what might look like a cool collage of the games young players, except that there is no way to fit a 7 card by 4 card puzzle into pages that are 3 cards by 3 cards. Besides, being that this is Topps it would take you hundreds of dollars to open enough packs to get all 28 cards.

There are also stick on tattoos! Yay! (Well not really, as they consist of mostly mascots and some random teams logos. I did get a White Sox one, which should fetch me a couple hundred bucks on the South Side...) The only saving grace for me was that I got one of Paws, the Tigers' mascot. Ok, they're a little cool.

Then there is something I can't even begin to describe called a Flapper. The front opens up one way..... the back opens up a different way..... it feels like the thing is going to fall apart....yippie.... At least there are a cool selection of these. I got two Mickey Mantles, Griffey Jr., Jeter, Manny, and Ortiz.

SO IN CONCLUSION, I have spent worse afternoons opening packs and sorting cards. This was mostly just to cure my jones until Series 2 arrives, when I'm sure I'll be REALLY upset...

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Saturday afternoon at Miller Park

My 2008 worldwide baseball tour continued on this afternoon at Miller Park in Milwaukee. 

For a place that reminded me a lot of the Astrodome, I really enjoyed it. 

As I have stated elsewhere today, with each new park I go to it makes me realize even more the colossal amount of mediocrity that was put into the design and construction of Comerica Park. On my all-time list, this would rank only behind PNC Park and The Ballpark In Arlington. 

The only thing I didn't like about the park were the goofy dimensions of the outfield wall. I guess when they were drawing it up on paper they let Michael J. Fox have the pen. 

The brats were as great as you would expect them to be and I got cheese fries served in a mini Brewers batting helmet. It's quite possible the helmet would be tastier than the fries. But I'm not going there.

I picked up the standard schwag I've been accumulating this season: a scorecard, program, yearbook, 2008 Topps team sets of both the Brewers and the Cardinals (more on this later in the week), a pocket schedule, and a fan guide to the park. I've had to go out and get a plastic tub to hold all of the stuff I have accumulated this season. It was baseball card giveaway day too, so I've got a little bobo pack of cards with Jason Kendall on the front. Whoo.

The Cards won 5-3 in a game I won't remember five things about this time next week. I've already forgotten who won the sausage race, and I was paying careful attention not to miss it.

Friday, May 9, 2008

It's Been One Week, Volume 6, The End

We bolted out of D.C. pretty early last Friday morning and enjoyed a nice day driving through Western Maryland and Pennsylvania. We thought we were going to be able to hit a Royals-Indians game on the way home, but it started raining that afternoon as we were driving through Cleveland and said to hell with it. 

All in all we did five games in five days in four different ball parks. It was a great trip and good times. Lots of good memories.  

But next year someone else is making the hotel reservations, and I'm flying!!!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

It's Been One Week, Volume 5

Followed up one of my greatest baseball days ever with a Pirates-Nats game in D.C. 

Yeah, that's what I thought too.....

Nice seats, generic stadium, bought more ball cards, etc.

The game only lasted something like two hours and three minutes, or two minutes longer than Paula Cole's career. I hung out with a few friends of mine and before I even knew what was going on the game was over. 

I got a free bobblehead of the biggest cocksucker to ever wear a Tigers uniform in my life. That was something.

I wish I had more to recap from that night. I really do. Oh, the bacon cheese hot dog from Five Guys might have been better than the Chili Cheese Fries in Pittsburgh. The $8 Bud Lights were a little much though. Where do they think they are? New York?

All in all, it was a fun night seeing a bunch of old friends. Is this trip ever going to end?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

It's Been One Week, Volume 4

Ok, this would have to rank as one of the best baseball days of my life.

We went out to Queens for an afternoon game between the Pirates and Mets. It was a crisp, sunny day.  The Bucs laid the smack down 13-1. We bought a couple of cheap tickets and sat behind a hippie who aired twenty years worth of grievances against the Mets. He was a funny guy though and it was like having a tour guide from an era when Strawberry and Gooden were kings. This was my 100th big league game that I attended and it was a perfect afternoon for it.

Afterwards we took the 7 train to Grand Central Station where we connected to the 4 for another trip up to the Bronx. Our seats for this game were in the top row of the stadium. I lasted for all of about fifteen minutes before I had to come back down a little closer to the earth. Holy hell is it steep up there. From our seats in we could actually see the Empire State Building!

I scurried down to section M16, where I seat hopped for the first few innings. I finally ended up sitting across the aisle from an older Yankees fan. He struck up a conversation when he saw my Mets bag of goodies (program, a 2008 Topps Mets team set, with their special logo silver foil embossed, and a nifty wool cap with said logo on it) and we ended up chatting most of the game. For the record, I can now say I've met one (1) cool Yankee fan. 

The Tigers won 6-2. The Tigers were trailing 2-1 after four innings, when I decided that I needed a rally beer. I hadn't taken three swigs when Marcus Thames homered off of Ian Kennedy. I hadn't taken three more swigs when it dawned on me that Andy Pettitte was pitching, and not Kennedy. You see.....Kennedy was supposed to start.....I wasn't paying attention during the pre game lineup announcements.....I've never seen Kennedy before and didn't know that he isn't a lefty......well you get the gist of it. I didn't know until we got back to the room that night that Placido Polanco had hit the home run that I could've swore Pudge Rodriguez hit. I even thought it was Pudge running the bases. I learned two lessons here. One, start wearing my glasses to games and two, start drinking before the first pitch.

I'm pretty sure I consumed 6 hot dogs throughout the day. Which is about the same number of beers I took back on the train to Irvington, NJ after the game. My last night and finally found out that little tidbit. Sure would've made the first night easier if I had've known.

For the rest of my life the Tigers will have a 2-0 record in games I attended at Yankee Stadium. That's pretty hard to beat on my all-time list of baseball memories.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

It's Been One Week, Volume 3

Ok, so last Tuesday was a little bit better.

I finally got to go to my first game at Yankee Stadium.

I was underwhelmed.

Yes, the Stadium was cool and it was neat to go there and all, but because of the remodeling done in the 70's, it just didn't have the feel of an old time ball park like Wrigley Field or Fenway Park. Instead of feeling like I was in the House That Ruth Built, I felt more like I was in the House That Reggie And Billy Fought In.

That being said I had great seats and got to see the Tigers win 6-4. 

I also picked up a program and a 2008 Topps Yankees team set that had a silver foil embossed stamp on each card commemorating the final year of Yankee Stadium. 

My only real beef was that nowhere on the ticket stub does it say that you can't bring in a video camera. But it sure says that on the signs outside the park and they frisk you down before you go in. Where did I hide mine? I'll never tell.

I really don't have much else to add, and that kind of sums up how it felt to finally visit Yankee Stadium. We did manage to make it back to the hotel by 1:00 a.m. this time, which was just about as big of a highlight as the game......

Monday, May 5, 2008

It's Been One Week, Volume 2

The first of our three days in New York turned out to be fairly miserable. 

We arrived at our hotel in Irvington, NJ to ominous looking skies. That's right, I said Irvington, New Jersey. You see, while shopping around for a great deal on Expedia I came across what appeared to be a REALLY great deal. Three nights for $170. So I looked on the map and it looked like it was pretty close to a NJ Transit train station. I figured this was going to be easy.

This turned out to be false. 

We were nowhere near a train station. After some investigating, we discovered that we could take the free hotel shuttle to the Newark Airport, catch the Air Train to the Newark NJT Station, and then take the train on into Penn Station in Manhattan. Which we did with relative ease, except for the part where it costs $15 to ride the train one way from the Newark Station to Penn Station. This was also the same price it was going to cost to get back. As we were going to have to do this for 3 days, my brain began cramping as I was figuring out just how much $$$ we were actually going to save by staying in Irvington.  

But we managed to make our way to Times Square to enjoy an afternoon of walking around the city. Of course, we exited the subway to a torrential downpour. We were meeting one of Chris' friends at the Public Library later that day, so a strolling we went in that direction. By the time we made it the eight or so blocks over there, we were drenched. Lucky for us, there was a Mets team store across the street where we were able to purchase a couple of Mets rain ponchos. We looked like a couple of bizzaro portly Jedi with a big NY logo emblazoned on our chests. I am thankful there are no pictures of this.  

We strolled back up to Times Square, because we had seen a Yankee store when we got off the Subway. We were inside all of about two minutes when we both became physically ill from seeing that much Yankee stuff and bolted for the door. We were stopped by one of the clerks who asked if we had any plans for the night. We told him that we were going to the Mets game and that we didn't have tickets yet and BINGO! He produced four tickets to box seats at Shea!! Our first break of the day!! 

Feeling pretty good about the score, we headed back towards the Library for a few pre game beers. Our euphoria ended pretty quickly upon our arrival as we learned that the game had been cancelled!!! 

So...pre game beers turned into rain out beers, and rain out beers seldom turn into good things. This was no exception. After consuming many fine beers at a cool little place called The Ginger Man, we called it a night around 11 p.m. and went back to Penn Station to depart back for the hotel.  

This is where it gets a little fuzzy. Evidently Penn Station is one honking huge place, with more than one entrance. Naturally, we didn't go in the one we'd come out of earlier in the day, and were completely lost. We walked around for what seemed like a good 30 to 45 minutes trying to find out where we were supposed to get our return tickets, what train we were supposed to catch, what stop we were supposed to get off at, etc.  

Note to self: Pay more attention in the future to how you got somewhere in a strange town if beer is going to be on the agenda that day. 

The events over the next hour are a little blurry, but somehow we made it back to the Newark Airport. Unbeknownst to us, there is a stop on the Air Train SPECIFICALLY for hotel shuttles. P4. I will never forget it. We did not know this though, and got off at Terminal C, where we had been dropped off that afternoon. We waited in line out in the rain with about 50,000 other people who were waiting for cabs out of the airport. Eventually we got a cab ($23, yay!!!) and when we walked in our hotel room it was 2:30 a.m.

I am pretty sure on the next trip I will not be in charge of making the hotel reservations. 

But you live and you learn (thanks Alanis!) and we were hopeful it would get better.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

It's Been One Week, Volume 1

This time a week ago my buddy Chris and I were enjoying a lovely afternoon watching the Philadelphia Phillies take on the Pittsburgh Pirates at the most beautiful ball park in the majors, PNC Park. It's a great park with a great view of downtown Pittsburgh. (insert your own joke here, but downtown is actually a very nice area) 

There are cool statues all over the place, including Honus Wagner, Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, and a collection of Negro League stars such as Cool Papa Bell, Josh Gibson, and Satchel Paige. 

There are cheap seats a plenty at PNC Park, and we got to see several of the Pirates stars of tomorrow shine. Paul Maholm pitched a complete game two-hitter and Nate McLouth hit two home runs as the Buccos won 5-1.

It'd be a crime if I didn't mention the awesome chili cheese fries I had from Pop's Potato Patch in Pop's Plaza. For $6.75 you get a bowl that is large enough to feed a family of eight and it's very tasty. I ate on it for close to an hour and ended up throwing half of it away. This is definitely the fare to check out on a visit to PNC Park.

I picked up some cool souvenirs, including a program, a scorecard, a cool little A-Z guide of the park, a pocket schedule, and an official Topps team set of 14 cards in the blister pack. (more about these cards at the end of the week)

Here's a little video I took.

It was a fantastic experience and a great start to our road trip. I can't wait to make my next trip back whenever the Tigers are in town!!!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Best 80's Albums No One Ever Listened To: Chapter 3

Returning from my vacation today, I found this old gem that gets regular play on my iPod. Alison Moyet was the lead singer of the early 80's pop band Yaz. As I was listening to this, I was trying to come up with something clever to say to properly relay just what exactly the sound and style of this album could be related to from it's time. The best that I could come up with.

Recipe for Raindancing:
1 heaping tablespoon of Annie Lennox
1 teaspoon of The Smiths
1/2 teaspoon of Dexy's Midnight Runners
Sprinkle with a pinch of T'Pau to taste

Well between there and here I did my usual looking up on wikipedia for artist background and discovered these glazed nuggets of information.

The album includes four single releases; "Is This Love" (co-written by the EurythmicsDavid A. Stewart under his 'Jean/Manu Guiot' pseudonym), "Weak in the Presence of Beauty", "Ordinary Girl" and "Sleep Like Breathing", a duet with David Freeman of the band The Lover Speaks.


The Lover Speaks was the new wave duo of David Freeman (vocals), and Joseph Hughes (arranger, composer). They sang the original version of the song "No More "I Love You's"", covered by Annie Lennox in 1995 on her Medusa album, taking it to #2 on the UK singles chart.

So there you go. I'm not really that clever at all. But it's still a great album that is definitely worth a listen.