Wednesday, April 16, 2014

WSC All-Stars: Vern Kennedy 1937

Card #7 - Vern Kennedy

While Vern was elected to the 1936 All-Star game at Braves Field in Boston, he did not enter the game. This was Kennedy's first of two selections to the All-Star game, his only with the Chicago White Sox.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

WSC Birth Years: Adrian Nieto

Card #153 - Adrian Nieto

Born: November 12, 1989

Originally drafted by the Washington Nationals in the fifth round of the 2008 draft, Adrian was the third pick in the Rule 5 draft after the 2013 season, selected by the Chicago White Sox. While Nieto seemed a longshot at best to make the club out of spring training, he vaulted over Josh Phegley, Hector Giminez and Miguel Gonzalez to secure the backup catcher spot on the roster.

Adrian made his MLB debut with the White Sox on April 2, 2014, pinch running for Paul Konerko in the bottom of the ninth, scoring the first run in a rally that would send the game into extra innings and end up an eventual White Sox winner. Nieto has been used sparingly, mostly as a pinch runner and late inning replacement, but if he can translate and expand on his .240 spring average into the majors, I don't think anyone will complain about that in his backup capacity.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Twenty Years Ago Today

Twenty years ago today, Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play the White Sox played their home opener against the Boston Red Sox. They ended up losing eight to six, saddling Paul Assenmacher with his first loss as a member of the Chicago White Sox. The ChiSox were one and four after that home opener. It wasn't a preview of things to come, as the Sox would climb to the top of the AL Central before the work stoppage in August.

I was a senior in high school, at the age of seventeen. This was a year of change. My ability in creating artwork took a huge leap forward this year. My ability as a writer (and amateur lyricist) started to mature and expand. I ditched my aviator glasses that I had since the eighties and modeled my new pair after the glasses John Lennon wore in the late sixties. I grew my hair out. I discovered Tori Amos' Under The Pink album and I was planning on attending my first Lollapalooza concert that summer.

My interest in baseball cards started to wane with the expansion of pack prices and the sheer amount of releases, parallels, inserts and chase cards. I was wavering on collecting. I decided music would be a better pool of my funds and tracked down every song from my favorite artists that I could get my hands on. I got the concert bug and saw Pink Floyd and the Rolling Stones that year. I was all over the map, but it made complete sense to me. I was finding myself and breaking out of the mold that the Chicago suburban public school system had shaped me in.

When April 8, 1994 started, I was nowhere near Chicago. I was in Dallas, Texas visiting my grandparents with my mom. We would be hopping a plane back to Midway airport in the late morning. I picked up a magazine in the Dallas/Fort Worth airport to read on the plane. I read an article on Kurt Cobain's overdose in Rome. There was a striking black and white photo of him accompanying the picture and I decided that would be my next art project. It would be a thirty inch by forty inch ebony pencil drawing of that close up of his head. I would start it on April 11th, when I got back to school from spring break.

I had just finished up a four foot by four foot painting of John Candy, inspired by the photo on the cover of People magazine right after his death. I had gotten a lot of positive feedback from fellow students and faculty alike. My dean even wanted me to produce a copy of the John Candy photo for him, which I happily did. My work had caught his eye before. An ebony pencil portrait of John Lennon (circa Strawberry Fields Forever), a portrait of Jimi Hendrix with watercolor chalk brushed with turpentine and countless others.

We arrived back home in the early afternoon. My dad had to work, so we took a cab back from the airport. The gentleman blasted his rap music and drove like he was running from the devil at the crossroads, but we were still in one piece. We I was bored and decided to go to the CD Exchange, which was a used CD store one town over. Sadly, today, it is a nail place. I spent about a half hour in the store and purchased Pretty Hate Machine by Nine Inch Nails. It was a nice sunny day with a slight chill in the air and I spent my time indoors devouring my newly purchased album.

I was refreshed by the time dinner was ready at 5:30. I came down and ate with my mom in front of the television, which was something we always did. For whatever reason, the sitcoms we usually watched weren't on. The Cubs may have been on WGN. We watched the national news instead, which we never did. As I sat and ate my dinner, I heard about Kurt Cobain's body being found that morning. I sat in stunned silence and ate the rest of my dinner, processing this new information.

I had been through two busy airports, ridden in a cab and spent a good chunk of time in a music store ad this was the absolute first time I was hearing this news. After the initial shock wore off, my first thought was of a classmate. We had a running joke where we "argued" about which band was better. I always defended Queen and he always defended Nirvana. Truthfully, I always liked both. I still do. My classmate was not the most pleasant person to be around right after, but he survived. Today, he is one of the most positive people in my Facebook feed, always with a great attitude and ready to bring a smile to any face.

I've always thought of the "grunge" movement as a rocket. There was a lot of testing and preparation but it blasted off and started to get noticed when the genre caught national attention after Nirvana's second album came out in 1991. It peaked with a shotgun blast in April 1994 and the ashes that fell littered the landscape in the years that followed, thinning out with each passing day until the final flake came down in 2002, when Layne Staley's body was found that April. The wind has blown since then, picking up tiny pieces here and there and scattering them, but they are just shadows of the original.

Twenty years later, I can still remember most of what I did that day. It's funny the things that you recall. I can barely remember what I had for breakfast some days, but that day, twenty years ago, is still full of vivid detail.

That year was a lot of change. I met so many people. Some I still call friends to this day. Baseball cards and eventually baseball abandoned me that year, but I have forgiven them. April 8, 1994 was also the last day I saw my grandparents together. My grandpa died two and a half years later. It was probably the best year of my youth and I'll always have the memories, good and bad. Mostly good.

While today is a day of reflection, it is also a day to look forward. There's nothing wrong with reliving the past once in awhile, but remember that time keeps moving forward and good things are still to come.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

WSC All-Stars: Luke Appling 1936

Card #6 - Luke Appling

Luke led off the 1936 All-Star game with a walk off St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Dizzy Dean. Appling proceeded to go one for four the rest of the game. His lone hit, a single to right field, came in the top of the seventh inning, off of Chicago Cubs pitcher Curt Davis, scoring Detroit Tigers outfielder Goose Goslin and Boston Red Sox third baseman Jimmie Foxx.

Appling had a chance to get start a rally in the ninth off of Chicago Cubs pitcher Lon Warneke, but ended up grounding out to Cubs second baseman Billy Herman.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Panini Has Announced Three Additional Donruss Rated Rookies

As part of a wrapper redemption program, three additional Rated Rookie cards were announced on Opening Day. This three card set is available by sending twenty-four wrappers to Panini.

The three cards are...

201 - Masahiro Tanaka
202 - Jose Abreu
203 - Yordano Ventura

Another White Sox card to collect is always a good thing.

WSC Birth Years: Jose Abreu

Card #152 - Jose Abreu

Born: January 29, 1987

In October 2013, the White Sox took a risk and signed Cuban defector Abreu to a six year, $68 million dollar contract. Jose will be hitting his prime years while in a White Sox uniform. After hitting monster numbers in Cuba, Abreu will test out MLB pitching in 2014, to see if his talent will translate well in the big leagues.

Jose went two for four in his MLB debut on March 31, 2014, against the Minnesota Twins, in Chicago. He also scored a run and collected his first RBI. He has left a strong impression on teammates and opponents, in the first few months. Abreu will be looking to build on that and continue the tradition of excellent first basemen on the South Side.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Something For Your Wall

 For a very limited time (available only until March 31, 2014), Topps is offering various prints, using a design for a 1967 test sticker set. The effect is simple and striking. Floating heads on a background of red, white and blue. There are twenty prints in the set. It will only cost you $49.99 for each print or $900 for the set. That's a savings of slightly more than one hundred dollars. Not too shabby.

It would be an outrageous price for cards, but these are art. Measuring 11x17 inches, these are meant to be displayed on the wall, not in your albums. It would go perfectly in my office, but the price seems more a luxury than a must have, although it does look nice.

If I had $50 to spare, I might consider the lone White Sox player in the set, Luis Aparicio. Or I might consider another, that is in my player collection, Carlton Fisk, featuring a young floating head in a Boston Red Sox helmet.
This is something definitely interesting coming from Topps. While I'm not sure it's a product I would necessarily want, I like the direction this art is going.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

WSC All-Stars: Al Simmons 1935

Card #5 - Al Simmons

For the third straight year, Al started in center field in the All-Star game representing the Chicago White Sox for the American League All-Stars. This time the summer classic was held in Cleveland, Ohio at Municipal Stadium.

Simmons would go two for four at the plate, striking out in the second off of St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Bill Walker. He would single to third base in the fourth, off of New York Giants pitcher Hal Schumacher. Al would get to second base on the throwing error by St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Pepper Martin to New York Giants first baseman Bill Terry. Simmons would strike out again in the sixth, off of Schumacher. Al doubled off of St. Louis pitcher Dizzy Dean in the eighth, but would be out at third base on a fielder's choice. Simmons would be replaced in the ninth by Philadelphia Athletics outfielder Doc Cramer.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

WSC All-Stars: Al Simmons 1934

Card #4 - Al Simmons

Al was in the starting lineup and batted sixth, going three for five. In the top of the fifth inning, Simmons singled to the shortstop, which scored the New York Yankees first baseman Lou Gehrig. Al later scored when Cleveland's Earl Averill doubled to right, all coming off of Brooklyn's Van Mungo. Averill pinch hit for Yankees pitcher Lefty Gomez in the fifth.

Simmons doubled off of Cubs pitcher Lon Warneke in the fourth and scored on Washington Senators shortstop Joe Cronin's single to left. Al also doubled to center in the sixth and scored on Cronin's double. The back to back doubles were off of Cardinals pitcher Dizzy Dean.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Silly Temptations At Meijer

While strolling through the aisles at Meijer the other day, I decided to locate the dark recesses of the store where they just moved their card selections. This week the section has moved to the Star Wars toy aisle. A few weeks before, they were against the back wall, near fishing supplies. A few months ago, they were found in the checkout lane of one of the thirty plus lanes. I just had to figure out which one.

Meijer certainly loves to have me search the store for where their cards are. Asking employees rarely gets me answers. Most give e the quizzical puppy dog look, like I just asked them to list all the numbers in pi. Some will say, "When did they start making baseball cards again." When I inform them that they never stopped, I get another confused puppy dog look. Maybe they'll direct me to the bakery for pi.

My second wave of card collecting began in 1990. It wasn't exactly a banner year for most card releases, except for Leaf, but Donruss was one of the more interesting subjects. The red border with black paint drippings was a unique choice that should have paid off, but never quite got there. My freshman year art teacher was unimpressed, since I hawked the design for an art project. If I remember correctly, the design landed me a "C" and a note that I could do better if I applied myself and used my imagination. The critique must have worked because art was my third major in high school.

Even with the overproduction era stigma and the less than stellar design, I have a soft spot for 1990 Donruss. It was better than the previous two years and it would be leaps and bounds better than the next year's effort. Even though Fleer takes the cake for worst card design of 1991, Donruss was not far above that nadir. 1990's design intrigued my teenage brain enough to collect a lot of it. It may have been about collecting the Yaz puzzle or finding the Grand Slammers. Who knows. Maybe it was the feel of opening a cello pack and getting a brick of cards. It was probably a combination of all of those and more.

Part of me was very tempted to pick this up and relive my youth. I came to my senses when I realized that nothing that could possibly come out of that box would be a surprise or an asset to my life. It would be rehashing a memory for ten dollars. A short burst of joy followed by some disappointment, followed by a puppy dog look when I realize that I need to find a home for cards that I already have in abundance.

The thought of breaking a box of 1990 Donruss is more exciting than actually opening it. I found that out the hard way a few years ago in a repack box. I was thrilled when I saw a pack of 1990 Donruss. I found quick, empty joy in the pack opening, then crushing failure when I realized it was a false joy. I wasn't happy opening this pack. I was happy with the memories of a teenage me opening packs before knowing 99.9% of it was overproduced garbage. I already have those memories. Memories when this was a brand new product. I can use the ten dollars to make new memories with card packs that are new to me, not ones that I've rerun more times than Gilligan's Island.

It was tempting and Meijer almost got me. I resisted the urge and I am all the better for it.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

2014 Turkey Red

 Another year and another Turkey Red set from Topps. This year, again, the set is an online exclusive through the Topps store website and has a limited run of each base card. The set consists of one hundred base cards and thirty-eight autographs. Only sold by the box for $19.99, each box contains ten base cards and an autograph. Black parallels are numbered to ten. Red parallels are numbered to one. Printing plates are also numbered to one.

As always, the product sold out quickly in the Topps store, so you'll have to get cards on the secondary market.

The cards themselves have a different design than previous years. It looked fine in pictures, but up close, the quality seems to have been drained from this release. The effect was supposed to be shoddy old cardboard (I'm assuming), but the results remind me more of a printer that's nearly out of ink. There is a clear division, where there shouldn't be, right below the black inner border. It's almost as if someone laid a slightly lighter piece of paper on top of the bottom portion of the card. It's not a good look and looks cheaply done. The poorly thought out borders betray the bright and colorful picture, which really pops against the muted colors of the border. It's a shame that the borders look so bad, as the border colors do complement the picture.

The White Sox have one card in this one hundred card set.

14 - Chris Sale

The White Sox also have one autograph in the thirty-eight card autographed set.

TRA-8 - Andre Rienzo (/499)
The inclusion of Rienzo is a nice touch, but this still feels like a sticker dump product. I am happy that Rienzo is there, but I'm disappointed in the feel of the set.

I feel that the set would have benefited from a actual textured cardboard rather than fake printed texture. The thinning stock is also another concern. It's slightly tragic that such nice pictures can find there way onto inferior cards. This is not something I would think of when buying something limited.

Topps had something here and fumbled the ball. I'm glad that I bought my product on the secondary market. Both cards were under $5.00 together, with free shipping. I could live with that. Buying a box or two of this release for $20.00 each, just to get two cards, is not.

Turkey Red needs to retire for a few years and Panini needs to get fully licensed.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

WSC All-Stars: Jimmy Dykes 1934

Card #3 - Jimmy Dykes

Jimmy was selected as a backup for the 1934 American League All-Stars, but did not play.

Monday, March 3, 2014

WSC All-Stars: Al Simmons 1933

Card #2 - Al Simmons

The very first All-Star game featured a second White Sox player, Al Simmons. "Bucketfoot Al" batted fifth in the American League lineup, right before fellow Sox A--Star Jimmy Dykes.

Simmons ground into a double play in the third inning and hit a single to left field in the fifth. Al patrolled center field for the American League All-Stars and was in the starting lineup.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Donruss Pastiche

So the Donruss name has been revived this week, after a ten year absence. Was it worth the wait?

Mostly yes.

Different elements from different years of Donruss are represented in an almost retro way. Looking at the design makes me feel warm and fuzzy and nostalgic. Some of the best elements from when I was a kid are present and accounted for, up to and including the back, but something is off about it.

Panini's design department took the first decade of Donruss, put it in a blender, and pureed something awesome. It is ultimately a false sense of security. The backs, which at first glance remind me so much of the mid to late eighties card backs, feature only one year instead of the familiar five. The middle names are prominently placed, but the backs are too sheen. That just feels out of place for the feeling Panini is trying to create.

The pictures on the front seem a little too perfect to be on a card named Donruss. The pictures balance in unison with the design on every card I have feasted my eyes upon. It actually distracts from the lack of logos on the uniforms.

I am happy that Donruss is back on the market. Panini's design team should be applauded. It looks like Donruss, but the little things that are off keep it from feeling like Donruss.

A superb, near classic effort.

WSC All-Stars: Jimmy Dykes 1933

Card #1 - Jimmy Dykes

The inaugural All-Star game, held at Comiskey Park, in 1933, saw the American League win 4-2 over the National League. It was the brainchild of Chicago Tribune's Arch Ward, intended to be a one time event held in conjunction with the 1933 World's Fair.

Jimmy Dykes was the starting third baseman for the AL All-Stars and went two for three. Dykes drew a walk and scored a run off of Cardinals pitcher "Wild Bill" Hallahan in the second inning. It would be the first run scored in All-Star Game history.
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