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And His Nickname is “Big Sexy” April 15, 2018

Posted by Jim Berkin in Baseball.
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Bartolo Colon is 5’11” and weighs 285 pounds. He’ll be turning 45 next month, and has played for 11 different teams in his 21 year career.

He’s the oldest active player in the majors, and the only active player who once played for the long-gone Montreal Expos.

Teams would cut him from their rosters, thinking he’d retire. He’d sign with others, even for a minor league deal, before inevitably coming back to the majors.

He’s one of 18 pitchers who have beaten every major league team.

Tonight he took a perfect game against last year’s World Series champions into the 8th inning before it got broken up.

I love baseball. Physicality helps, but skills matter so much more. Just ask BIG SEXY!

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Opening Day 2018! March 29, 2018

Posted by Jim Berkin in Baseball.
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’tis Spring, and this old fart’s thoughts turn to… baseball.

Opening day is finally here, there’s a slate of games on the dish, although they’re saving the Yankees/Bluejays matchup for a Friday night on MLB instead of today. Meh.

After pleasantly surprising me last year and achieving the amazing run that brought them to within 1 game of making the World Series for the first time since 2009, the Yankees seem poised for a similar run this year.

Although Greg Bird is already off to his traditional months-long injury streak, the rest of the lineup looks very solid, and adding last year’s NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton to a batting row already loaded with the homerun producing power of Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorious will mean lots and lots of offense.

Pitching got better in the second half last year once Tanaka got his act together. Hopefully that will continue, hopefully Severino will continue to grow as the ace of the staff, hopefully Sabathia will continue to shine in the twilight of his career, hopefully Montgomery will grow into a solid young starter, hopefully Betances will fix his mechanics and become more consistent, hopefully Boone will turn out to be a good manager ….. and as Benjamin Franklin said, “He who lives upon hope dies farting.”

But you never know!

Their main rivals in the division, as God intended, will be a strengthened Red Sox lineup. Best rivalry in all of sports, no contest.

So I guess it’s time for some predictions. Since I’m clearly biased, I see the Yankees winning the AL East over the Sox, who ought to make a wild card spot. I like the Indians in the Central, with the Twins giving them some grief, but not much else. I think the Astros will repeat in the west, with a strengthened but not-quite-balanced Angels making the other wild card.

I’d go with the Nationals in the NL East by default. There’s no one else really challenging them there for it. The Mets run hot and cold, the Braves are rebuilding and have some good rookies and may surprise this year, but I don’t think taking the division will be one of those surprises. Miami dismantled itself, and the Phillies just blow. The NL Central might be the most competitive division of all. You’d think the Cubs would repeat despite the changes in personnel, but St Louis always manages to be competitive and made some nice additions, Milwaukee will be in there, and maybe even the Reds can surprise. The once strong Pirates are really the only team you can count out. I’ll go with the Cards winning it by a hair over a wild card Cubs, in what’s really a roll of the dice. In the west, the Dodgers look poised to repeat, with the Rockies and Diamondbacks breathing down their necks, either of which could make the other wild card. That’ll be another good divisional race, especially since I don’t see LA going on the sort of win streak they managed last summer again this year. It & Alex Wood’s won-loss record felt like a fluke at the time, and still feels even more like one in retrospect. I’d like to think Aaron Judge’s post-All Star game batting slump was also a fluke. We shall see.

Making post-season predictions at this point is stupid. There will be trades & the like, late summer, that will have an enormous effect on the post season, i.e. Justin Verlander going to the Astros.

Welcome back, baseball. You’ll make a nice addition to the Final 4 this weekend.

 

The Immortal Babe Eats A Nutritious Breakfast March 22, 2018

Posted by Jim Berkin in Baseball.
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A nice big bowl of puffed wheat… followed by two dozen hot dogs, some ham sandwiches, a dozen eggs, big stack of pancakes, a side of bacon, three stuffed lobsters and a porterhouse, rare.

All washed down with a fifth of bourbon, eight bottles of soda, and a case or two of beer.

Oh, and a coffee. Two sugars, cream.

All done, Babe?

Time for the morning workout. Five, no make that six hookers.  Remember, you’re in training.

Opening day is just a week away!

And how ‘BOUT them Yankees?

Baseball Card Of The Day: 1992 Robin Yount (Fleer) March 21, 2018

Posted by Jim Berkin in Art, Baseball, Baseball Cards.
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Not sure what the graphic designers of this beauty were thinking. “Let’s give Robin a longer neck, and put him into a CONCEPT LANDSCAPE! I can SEE IT NOW!!!! A UNIVERSE OF BASEBALLS!!!! With Robin Yount, all-star shortstop, first ballot hall of famer, SURVEYING THE PLANETARY UNIVERSE OF BASEBALLS LIKE A HAPPY GREEK GOD…”

Seriously, wtf is up with this card?

I like the idea of surrealist influenced baseball card art, though. They should have done more of it, or hired Salvador Dali, Rene Magritte and so forth to design their cards. Yount’s ’92 Fleer bizarro card reminds me of Dali’s Galatea with all those floating spheres, maybe a little of a Magritte sky of fluffy clouds.

Or just replace that green apple in front of the guy’s face with a baseball, perhaps.

Baseball cards would be a lot more interesting if they were done in styles of great artists and well known paintings. A team photo staged as Velazquez’ “Las Meninas.” Michaelangelo’s God giving life to Adam as one of those “Casey Teaches” type cards with Reggie Jackson in heaven with the ’77 Yanks touching Aaron Judge’s finger in Eden. Perhaps Clayton Kershaw could pose as the “Dodger Blue Boy.”

I’d start buying bubblegum packs again, for what that’s worth.

 

Pie Day March 14, 2018

Posted by Jim Berkin in Baseball, Baseball Cards, General.
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1972-Kelloggs-All-Time-Baseball-Greats-8-Harold-Pie-Traynor

… although you had to eat a lot of Kellogg’s Danish-Go-Rounds in 1973 to get THIS bastard.

But I saved room for pie. Urp.

Baseball Card Of The Day: 1971 Reggie Jackson March 10, 2018

Posted by Jim Berkin in 1970s, Baseball, Baseball Cards.
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“Batting donut? I don’t need a fucking batting donut, I’ll just swing two bats to warm up a little before I take your sad junk ball throwing ass DOWNTOWN.  That’s right, you heard me. I’m the straw that stirs the drink, get it? And if I flub an easy one out in right field and a hungover Billy Martin tries to fuck with me on national TV, everyone’ll take my side when I destroy the Dodger pitchers in the series, dickwad. Hey, speaking of national TV, didja catch me on Szysznyk?  Damn right, there I am acting opposite Ned Beatty! Ned FUCKING Beatty! I moved him more emotionally than those two hillbillies did in Deliverance, too! And not with two bats neither, let’s not go there, ok? Anyway, I gotta go to the plate now. Gonna slam one, win the game, and then tend to my car collection.  I speed all the time, and the only reason cops pull me over is to meet me. That’s the sort of treatment you get when you’re an all star with a genius IQ, motherfucker. And don’t you forget it.”

I miss the soap opera that was the late 1970s Yankees.

And I miss Reggie. Always dramatic, always fun to watch, always dependable in the post season.

But I’m certainly looking forward to what looks like will be a wonderful late 2010s Yankee era, with Judge, Sanchez, Bird, Gregorius and now Stanton and Torres forming a new Murderer’s Row lineup, and Severino, Tanaka and…. well, I guess we’ll see how the rest of the mound rotation works out, won’t we? I’m glad they have Sabathia coming back, now the older and wiser finesse pitcher, and always the great clubhouse presence, offering the sort of leadership all those young guys need. THIS IS THE YEAR!

THIS IS THE YEAR February 23, 2018

Posted by Jim Berkin in Baseball, Baseball Cards.
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I’m watching the opening spring training (even if it’s still winter) game for MY New York Yankees, against the Tigers.

I already know the outcome since it’s on tape delay from several hours ago, AND I DON’T CARE.

I’m just happy to have baseball back, even if everyone looks a bit rusty. I have high hopes for the Yankees this year, with the murderers’ row lineup they’ve put together by stealing Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins for next to nothing.

I hope they sent Derek Jeter a gift basket after they screwed him. Get it?

They came within 1 game of getting into the World Series last year. This year? Well, they ought to be in the post-season mix. Let’s see how things go and how healthy they are come late September.  Hopefully I’ll be savoring all the games along the way. I’d like to think they’re growing a young team akin to the late ’90s Yanks powerhouse. But we’ll see.

In the meantime, I’ll tune into spring training games and see lots of A and AA players with uniform numbers in the 60s and 70s fight for spots. I love that Aaron Judge kept his spring training 99 number for his actual…. very Gretzky of him.

Judge is Number 1 in this year’s Topps baseball card set, a spot they reserve annually for major stars these days. (Although I’m old enough to ‘member when the #1 card in the set was last year’s ERA leaders or some highlight card). Haven’t bought sets of cards in many years, alas. I already have too much crap, and the charm just isn’t there, even if watching the game makes me feel like a wide-eyed 8 year old hero-worshipping Hank Aaron or Frank Robinson or Bob Gibson every now and then. Probably why I keep watching.

Let’s take a little trip back to those wonderful days of 1970s era baseball, and my beloved Yankees…

Hey, so who wants to swap house keys with this guy?

Wait, aren’t you in the pitching rotation too?

That’ll turn out awkward….

 

Random Baseball Card of the Day: 1970 AL Homerun Leaders July 15, 2017

Posted by Jim Berkin in Baseball, Baseball Cards.
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Well, maybe not so random. I remembered this card in my collection the other day when Aaron Judge won the All Star Break Homerun Derby. Judge made it look easy, and with his enormous 6 foot 7/280 pound frame looked like a man among boys. A guy that huge can generate a lot of power, and when you combine that with the physical and mental skills you need to hit major league pitching that Judge seems to have acquired between last year and now, well… you get the kind of monster stats he’s piling up.

But I thought back to Frank Howard, the big slugger for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the early ’60s before pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium lessened Howard’s sweet spots. They dealt him to the lowly Washington Senators in 1965 in a multiplayer deal that would net them Claude Osteen. Howard would continue to hit the hell out of the ball in Washington for years, always winding up in the running for home run titles. He’d get it in 1970 with an impressive 44 homers and 126 rbis, with a .962 OPS.

Yaz might be number 3 in homers on the card, but his offensive numbers that year were amazing. 40 homers, 102 rbis, lost the batting title by fractions to Alex Johnson, and led the league in on base, slugging and OPS with 1.044. How the hell did he lose MVP to Boog Powell that year? Did they need to pick someone from the Pennant Winner and eventual World Champion Orioles? SMH.

Harmon Killibrew smashed homeruns for the Twins his entire career. Back when this card came out, only Aaron and Mays had more lifetime as active players. He’d pass 500 homers lifetime the following year.

But both Killibrew and Yaz were baseball player sized. Both are 5 foot 11/180 or so pounds.  Guys like Howard were freakish, at 6 foot 7 and 230 pounds. You find guys that big much more in football and basketball than in baseball, the sport that welcomes guys like Freddie Patek (5 foor 5, 148 pounds) if they can play well.

Add 50 pounds of muscle to Howard and you get Aaron Judge. Ye Gods! I’m glad he’s on my team. It’s basically watching a behemoth the size of Rob Gronkowski with the baseball skills of Willie Mays.

Howard was the best slugger to ever play for a Washington team, even if that team is now in Texas. The current Washington team put a statue of him outside their stadium anyway, since he’s part of the city’s baseball history. And everyone still loves the guy since he’s so good natured.

The bigger they are, the nicer they are, as Bugs Bunny once said.

Random Baseball Card Of The Day: 1977 Big League Brothers, Rick & Paul Reuschel June 27, 2017

Posted by Jim Berkin in Baseball, Baseball Cards.
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I’ve always liked the multi-player “special theme” cards Topps would do every so often. What I like the most about this one is how neither of these guys look like major league ball players. Without the names and the tell-tale 1977 design font and so forth, doesn’t this look like a polaroid from some company softball game?

“Here’s Rick and Paul, right before the BBQ and sack race…”

Paul Reuschel’s career with the Cubs only lasted a few years, but younger brother Rick had a pretty solid, if uneven, 19 year career in the majors. Rick had his best season the year this card came out, winning 20 games and finishing 3rd for the Cy Young.

The Cubs would trade Rick Reuschel to the Yankees in 1981, where he managed to play in the World Series, although without stellar numbers. He wound up back on the Cubs during their heartbreaking 1984 season, where they FINALLY reached the playoffs. For some reason, Reuschel was left off the playoff roster, and the Curse of the Goat went into action. The Cubs won the first 2 games of a best of five against the Padres, and then dropped 3 straight. They’d have to wait another 32 years for a World Series at Wrigley.

Reuschel got dealt to the Pirates and Giants after that, won a comeback player of the year award, wound up in another World Series in 1989 with the Giants, but they lost to the As and Reuschel finished his career sans World Series ring.

In today’s game, with the scientifically developed conditioning regimens, the constant spectre of PEDs floating around, and the overall athleticism of the majority of the players out there (regardless of height), seeing a pair of guys who look like these make the majors and in Rick’s case, have a long solid career as a reliable stopper fooling batters with speed changes and finesse…. well, it’s just something I’ll always love about baseball.

Football? You better be a big guy, made of iron to take all those hits.

Basketball? You gotta be tall, and also made of iron to take all those hits.

Hockey? You gotta be all those things, PLUS not care about getting all your teeth knocked out, PLUS be ready at any moment to get in a brawl.

But baseball? You can be an average schlub and play the sport….depending on your skills and how you use them.

 

Commemorative Baseball Card of the Day: T206 Willie Keeler portrait, circa 1910 June 19, 2017

Posted by Jim Berkin in Baseball, Baseball Cards.
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The way-bac machine is traveling to damn near the beginning of baseball cards for this entry.

Wee Willie Keeler. “Hit ’em where they ain’t!”

Today is the day Keeler’s 44 game hitting streak ended in 1897, the year Quentin Collins became a werewolf.

His record would stand until Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game streak in 1941. Pete Rose would tie him with a 44 game hitting streak in 1978. No one has come close since.

Granted, 1890s baseball was not modern baseball. A real deadball era, where Keeler’s skills in bunting and spray-hitting were valued over slugging, which really came in with Babe Ruth & using fresh baseballs throughout the game. Keeler’s record of consecutive 200 hit seasons wouldn’t be broken until Ichiro Suzuki passed him in 2009. In some ways, Ichiro’s hitting style was a throwback to Keeler’s days, with the spray hitting, bunting, sacrifice, etc.

The survival length of Keeler’s hitting records is amazing. And he’s also credited with basically inventing the hit and run strategy.

He’d unfortunately develop tuberculosis and die way, way too young at age 50 in 1923.

A relation, Edith Keeler, was allowed to die by Captain Kirk in order to restore the proper historic timeline, despite the heartbreak.

Okay, maybe not ALL of this post is accurate. But the baseball stuff certainly is.