Wednesday, June 29, 2011

WSC Birth Years: Brian Bruney In Action

Card #96 - Brian Bruney - In Action

Born: February 17, 1982

A bonus card based on the 1982 Topps In Action subset.

WSC Birth Years: Brian Bruney

Card #95 - Brian Bruney

Born: February 17, 1982

It's been a long journey for Brian, starting in his hometown of Astoria, Oregon, where it is rumored that he was an extra in the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, Kindergarten Cop.

Bruney was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2000. A decent rookie season in 2004, led to a disappointing 2005 season. Brian found himself on the Yankees the next year and stayed with them until 2009, where he found himself on the World Series roster.

He was traded to the Washington Nationals after the 2009 season, but was released in May 2010. Brian had minor league stints with the Brewers and the Mets, before signing with the White Sox prior to the 2011 season.

Bruney made his White Sox debut on May 31, 2011, against the Boston Red Sox. His outings have been mostly spectacular with a couple of bad outings mixed in. Brian stepped up against the Nationals, by replacing an injured John Danks for 2.1 innings of one hit ball, after pitching an exhausting inning the night before in a fourteen inning game.

2011 WSC Season Pass - Card #81

Saturday, June 25, 2011

2011 WSC Season Pass - Card #79

White Sox Vs. Washington Nationals: 6-24-11

A free game at the old ballpark against a team that uses the Walgreens logo. How could I resist? I couldn't.

Using the U.S. Cellular Field Express, I only had to walk five or six blocks to the bus stop, pay four dollars each way, and I had a nice hassle free ride directly to 35th and Shields.

My friend knows someone who works for the White Sox and he sometimes leaves him free tickets. We found our seats and were staring directly into the White Sox bullpen. I knew I should have brought the camera, but at least I brought my phone.

Here are a few pictures from the crappy camera phone. I'm still kicking myself that I didn't bring the camera.

Edwin Jackson warming up.

Brian Bruney warming up.

Will Ohman warming up.

Matt Thornton warming up.

The White Sox lost by four in fourteen innings, but still put on the post-game fireworks, despite being after midnight.

2011 WSC Season Pass - Card #78

Friday, June 24, 2011

Card Spotlight: 6-24-11

1998 Topps Gold Label Class 3 #3 - Albert Belle

Why do Chicago fans boo? Why does any fan boo?

Alfonso Soriano opened his mouth and stuck his foot in it this week, when he criticized fans for booing. I can't speak for any other region, but I feel like I can speak for the majority of Chicago fans. I've lived nearly thirty-five years on the south suburban outskirts of the great city of Chicago. In fact, if I stand on the northeast corner of my hometown, I could literally throw a stone into the Chicago city limits without much effort. I would just have to throw kitty corner across a busy intersection and hope that the red light cameras wouldn't catch my purely scientific toss.

Ozzie Guillen added that he never got booed when he played in Chicago and he was a terrible hitter. Well, those things are mostly true. As with any Ozzie Guillen statement, there is a grain of truth to it. Ozzie wasn't a great hitter, but he knew what to do at the plate. Ozzie specialized in wearing a pitcher down. If he couldn't get on base, he would foul off pitch after pitch to give the rest of his teammates a better chance. Chicago loves a player with a blue collar work ethic and this was one example of something we loved seeing.

Ozzie also had the benefit of lowered expectations. He wasn't expected to hit. He was expected to field. The teams that he was on during the first third of his career didn't exactly scream contention either. Those parameters tend to lower expectations on hitters. When the Sox were good during the middle of his career, all he had to do was field in the great tradition of Venezuelan shortstops and everything was fine. He accomplished that and managed to stay ahead of Ron Karkovice in batting average every year, except for his injury shortened 1992 season.

Alfonso Soriano, Adam Dunn and Scott Linebrink were/are booed for the exact same reason. Money. They all have had expensive contracts during their tenures in Chicago. All had greatly underperformed at some point of that contract for an extended amount of time. Soriano was booed during a stretch where his production was down from his usual career standards. Age and injury were to blame for those, which Chicago fans did take into account. A surly attitude and arrogance by Soriano didn't help his cause. The rest is the fault of unfulfilled expectations of a huge contract.

Don't get me wrong. A surly attitude won't prevent Chicago fans from embracing a player. Take Albert Belle. His reputation coming into Chicago wasn't exactly sterling. There was the whole Batgate controversy that irked White Sox fans to no end. When it came time for Belle to play on the South Side, most fans put those feelings aside, and they were rewarded with one good year and one incredible year. Albert kept his nose clean, concentrated on the game and good things followed. He still holds the White Sox single season record for home runs.

Scott Linebrink came into Chicago with great expectations and a big contract for a non-closer reliever. He fell apart for the majority of his first season here and it seemed like he gave up amazingly long home runs every time he pitched. Chicago fans gave him the benefit of the doubt for quite awhile, until it was apparent that he couldn't accomplish his main purpose for being on the team. He did improve greatly during the last few years in Chicago, but a good chunk of fans just couldn't embrace him after a horrific first season. Again, money had a lot to do with that. If he was paid close to the league minimum, I think he might still be in Chicago.

I was skeptical of Adam Dunn ever since the White Sox tried to land him last season. I embraced him after he signed. He said all the right things and seems like a genuinely nice guy. He got off to a terrific start and then was sidelined by an appendectomy. Since he came back from that ailment, he hasn't been the same. He has shown signs of his old self, but so far, nothing has clicked for any extended amount of time. The booing was there after awhile as his struggles continued. The boos have gotten really bad this month. The fans have given him the benefit of the doubt for three months. I can't imagine any other major market giving a struggling player with a big contract that much of a leash. The boos will subside for Adam once he returns to form.

In Chicago, we love characters. We love a great work ethic. We can't stand self righteous players, especially when they don't produce. There is a reason why Chicago didn't embrace Nick Swisher. His year here was highlighted by a self thrown pity party and career low statistics. He tried too hard to be "the guy" and Chicago fans don't like phonies. We love eccentrics. We love unique individuals. We love team guys. Chicago fans can't stand phony players and crybabies. We don't mind complainers, but the complaint had better be something that can be backed up. We can tolerate Ozzie Guillen dissing Wrigley Field because there are kernels of truth to what he says. Orlando Cabrera calling the official scorer to overturn an error on two different occasions is something most Chicago fans consider petty and is a good example of why he wasn't embraced in Chicago.

The next time Alfonso Soriano hears the boos of Chicago fans, maybe he should be reminded that he makes more in a year than most of the fans booing him will see in twenty years of working steadily. If he doesn't want to hear the boos, perhaps he should consider going back to D.C., where they aren't expecting a contender this year. Maybe they will appreciate a player who hops as he catches a ball and shows up on time.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

WSC Vintage: Lefty Williams

Card #39 - Lefty Williams

Claude Preston "Lefty" Williams owns a World Series record and he is solely responsible for that. Lefty was the first player to lose three games in a single World Series, a feat which would be equaled , honestly, in 1981, by George Frazier.

Williams intentionally lost each game that he started in the 1919 World Series. For his part, he received $5,000, which was almost double his salary that year. The repercussions of that decision were not immediate, but they would be permanent.

Claude started his MLB career with the Detroit Tigers in 1913. He appeared in six games over two years for Detroit and found himself with the Sacramento Bees in 1915. There, he turned a corner and pitched well enough to have his contract purchased by the White Sox for the 1916 season.

He made the most of his second chance and helped the Pale Hose win the World Series in 1917. The next year, he joined teammates Joe Jackson and Byrd Lynn in the shipyards, in order to fulfill their military duties, but still stay close to their families. This created a rift between Williams and Charles Comiskey. Many ballplayers who chose this path were considered cowardly and were blacklisted for a short time. A sixth place finish in 1918 convinced Comiskey that he acted rashly and reinstated his blacklisted players.

In 1919, Lefty had his best season, sporting a 23-11 record and recording a career low 2.64 ERA. He had also started a Major League high forty games in 1919. Williams was one of the lowest paid players on the Sox, so the temptation to make easy money must have been great. Rumors of the Cubs throwing the World Series in 1918, and getting away with it, sealed the deal for most of the players involved.

1920 continued to shine brightly for Lefty. He compiled a 22-14 record, on his way to another pennant race. Williams would not be available to finish the 1920 season. He and his co-conspirators were pulled from the roster on September 27th. Claude confessed to taking part in throwing the 1919 World Series, but was acquitted in a court of law. He and seven other White Sox players received a lifetime ban from organized baseball shortly after the acquittal. Lefty continued to play on barnstorming teams and in outlaw leagues, but never again saw the success of the majors.

2011 WSC Season Pass - Card #73

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Separated At Birth: Roger Nelson And Alex Henteloff

1975 was a magical year. Topps introduced one of the most talked about sets of the seventies and Barney Miller started as a mid-season replacement on January 23rd.

Roger Nelson was purchased by the Chicago White Sox during the offseason, but was released before the 1975 season. He signed as a free agent with the Oakland Athletics shortly thereafter.

Conspiracy theorists could have a field day with a man being signed by a club based in California, not playing at all on the parent club during the season, and a doppelganger of that man shows up on a television show during that year, shot in California.

Although this is pretty far fetched, you have to admit that they do look very similar.

Alex Henteloff started acting on television in 1966 and racked up a list of brief but memorable roles on many different series. Most people will recall his part as Dr. Nichols in Star Trek 4.

Roger Nelson's 1975 card has always reminded me of Alex's role on Barney Miller as Arnold Ripner, the ambulance chasing lawyer. Unfortunately, the only picture of Alex as that character is a low quality screen capture. Even at this low resolution, it's easy to see that they could be mistaken for the same person.

2011 WSC Season Pass - Card #72

Friday, June 17, 2011

Card Spotlight: 6-17-11

1978 Topps #409 - Ron Schueler

After the year of the South Side Hitmen, Ron Schueler signed with the White Sox as a free agent. He spent all of 1978 and part of 1979 with the White Sox as a reliever and spot starter. His talents didn't lie exclusively on the field though.

When Don Kessinger took over as manager of the White Sox in 1979, he asked Fred Martin to be his pitching coach. Don had played for Fred as a Cub, during the infamous "college of coaches" and wanted him to be a part of his vision for the club. Unfortunately, Martin was ill with cancer and died a few months later.

Ron Schueler was asked to retire and take over as pitching coach. Schueler was one of the surviving links between the last ownership change for the Sox. Ron kept the pitching coach job until after the 1981 season. He then moved on to other jobs with other clubs, slowly moving up the ranks. In 1991, he returned to the Sox as general manager.

The key pieces were in place when Schueler came back to the Sox. They had already drafted Jack McDowell, Robin Ventura, Frank Thomas and Alex Fernandez. All were making contributions to the club. It was Schueler's job to provide the final pieces of the puzzle. And he did quite a job finding pieces that fit well.

During his early tenure, Ron was responsible for landing Tim Raines, Ellis Burks, Bo Jackson, Julio Franco and Jose Valentin. All helped the Sox win the division, at one time or another. His greatest achievement may have been assembling the 1994 White Sox team. That team was perhaps the greatest Chicago baseball team of the last quarter of the twentieth century, but because of the strike, no one will never know how truly great that team could have been.

Schueler also is responsible for drafting the first woman in MLB history, although it's a little less groundbreaking when you realize that the woman drafted was his own daughter, Carey. Nonetheless, she did have the talent to make it, despite the possible nepotism involved in drafting her. She continued with a basketball career, until 1996, when injuries forced her out.

Ron's control issues may have made the decision to switch to pitching coach easier back in 1979. He hit nine batters during his tenure with the White Sox, which equals his five year total for his time in the NL with the Braves and Phillies. His 1979 WHIP was a career worst 1.627. That decision led to greater accomplishments and a more decisive control over any team that he oversaw. His final year in control of the White Sox was in 2000, when the team won the AL Central.

Hindsight is always more accurate than predicting the future. In hindsight, I could say that Ron was looking towards his future, past his playing days, and envisioning a bright career which included a 1989 World Series championship with the Oakland Athletics. If this were 1978, I might have speculated that Ron was looking ahead to a lengthy career with the White Sox, which did happen, but probably not in the way he would have suspected. Although if this were really 1978, I'd probably be wondering who the man with the sparkly eyes is and what he was looking at. After all, I had only turned two years old, four days after the Yankees won the 1978 World Series.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

1938 Goudey R326 Big Leaue Baseball Movies

These flip books were issued in 1937 and 1938. The books measured 2 inches by 3 inches and were designed to cash in on the penny arcade craze that was popular at the time.

Each of the thirteen players featured in this release have two flip books comprising of two halves. When viewed back to back, both halves completed a specific game action. In the case of Luke Appling, the flip books feature him setting up for a double play. While these seem routine today, any game action would have had kids flipping out in the late thirties.

While television had been commercially available since the 1920s, television sets wouldn't become commonplace until after WWII. The first regular broadcasting wouldn't come until a decade later, in 1948. The first baseball game wouldn't be televised until August 11, 1951, when a station in New York showed the Boston Braves beat the Brooklyn Dodgers by a score of 8-1.

Out of the thirteen subjects, the White Sox have one player.

7 - Part 1 - Luke Appling (Gets Set For Double Play)
7 - Part 2 - Luke Appling (Gets Set For Double Play)

These flip books are a nice relic of the past. I can remember flip books still being produced when I was a kid, but I haven't seen them around in years. I even remember making a flip book in my younger days. I'm sure it was about baseball.

Who knows how many kids were inspired to be animators from this set. I would imagine that there were at least a few. In today's world of non-stop sports action on television, these seem very outdated. The coolness factor never really goes away from a product like this though.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Trip To RBI Sports

Without much disposable income right now, the only thing I really get at the card shop is supplies. I would like to frequent the local shop as often as I used to, but it's next to impossible right now. High risk, high reward ventures are out of my budget, currently.

I went in to pick up a box of 9 pocket pages, a package of toploaders and a jumbo pack of Topps Series 2.

I arrived while an employee was engaged in a conversation with a customer. So, I busied myself by browsing the quarter and fifty cent boxes. I instantly regret not bringing a list, as the fifty cent box was labeled Buehrle/Konerko. I relied on memory. I must say that my memory served me well.

I thumbed through the cards and picked out a Dick Perez sketch card that I did not remember. It turns out to be one from 2006, one year before my collecting days resumed. I knew I didn't have it, so it went into my hand.

I kept running into cards that I thought I had, but couldn't be 100% sure. I ran across a 2003 Bowman Heritage of Mark Buehrle. I knew I didn't have it in the player collection, but I couldn't recall if I had it in the set collection. As it turned out, I had neither. Score one for the set collection!
I went up the the counter and asked for my pages and toploaders. I was hoping for a jumbo pack of 2011 Topps Series 2, but they were sold out. They did have the regular packs, so I opted for four packs of that.

In my first pack, I hit a Frank Thomas Kimball.
I haven't looked at the checklist for Series 2, so I had no idea what to expect. I deliberately did that so I would be surprised at whatever White Sox I got. No expectations, no disappointment.

In the last pack, I ran across the only White Sox base card out of the four packs... Gavin Floyd.
Getting one out of the ten White Sox base cards is not a bad ratio for four ten card packs. I consider this trip to RBI Sports a rousing success. Two out of forty cards were White Sox, including a nice insert. I also got two additional Sox cards that I needed. A success indeed!

Favorite Cards: Oakland Athletics

1993 Select #257 - Harold Baines

Since the A's have been in Oakland, they have had their fair share of success. Big name players have come and gone through the ranks. There have been Hall of Fame players that are immediately identified with Oakland and there have been great characters who have emerged from the team.

Great hitting and great pitching have defined different eras in Oakland. From World Series dominance to bottom of the barrel, scrappy teams that you can't help but root for, the A's have had many cards that I've considered great.

In this instance, many things fall into place on this card. One of my favorite players is featured. The border color, which is suspect on many other cards in this set, matches perfectly with the uniform. The player featured has a big, natural smile and is caught in a candid moment.

For all the iconic cards of the Oakland Athletics from Rickey Henderson to Jose Canseco to Barry Zito to Reggie Jackson, this card pulls ahead, in my opinion. While I'm sure others will argue the merits of other cards, from superstars in their prime to hot rookie cards that have defined a year, this card, to me, represents what I love about baseball.

All the dedication and hard work and talent will only get a player so far. To truly appreciate the nuances of the game, the player has to enjoy what he's doing. Too many players carry their sullen attitude onto the field and keep it after the game. Every player that makes it into a game at the Major League level gets paid an extraordinary amount of money to play a game. Players should never forget what it was like to dream of playing in the majors, as a kid.

This card captures that innocence and joy of childhood fantasies perfectly. That's what makes this my favorite Oakland Athletics card.

Some Old School Cards

A little while ago John from Old School Breaks contacted me about unloading gifting some White Sox cards. I do have many people who unload their unwanted White Sox cards on me, and that's cool, but these were specifically set aside for me. These had been sitting in a pile for awhile. I'm as guilty of that more than most, so I can completely understand how these things happen.

Real life had intervened John's card collecting days. In this case, I can report that it's for fantastic reasons. Nonetheless, I reluctantly agreed to take the White Sox cards off of his hands. People come and go from this hobby. That's a fact of life. It's sad to see card collecting friends move on to other endeavors, but there is almost always a happy story attached to it.

As I was thumbing through the Sox cards that John sent over, I was amazed at some of the selections. There is no junk wax to be found in this pile of cards. Not that there's anything wrong with junk wax, but it is a refreshing sight to see. All of the cards were either hard to get parallels or mid-level to high end base cards. A couple of autographs and a few numbered cards rounded out the stack.

The two autographed cards were of Ruddy Yan and Kris Honel. Surprisingly, they are both still playing. Yan is playing for the Camden Riversharks this year. Honel threw a no-hitter in 2010 for the Chico Outlaws and is playing for the Somerset Patriots this year.

A 1995 Select Certified Edition Gold Team card of Frank Thomas was a nice surprise. As were cards from three different classes of 1998 Topps Gold. The first two rows of Robin Ventura's 1998 Flair Showcase cards were interesting to see. More nineties goodness followed. As well as a few parallels from 2008 Topps Co-Signers. An Iguchi 2006 Topps Finest x-fractor and a few other cards rounded out the thoughtful package.

Thanks, John! I appreciate the thought and I love the cards!

2011 WSC Season Pass - Card #68

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