Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Road Trip:Charlotte

My final day of my trip with Fred Landucci finished off in Charlotte before I went home for two days of somewhat rest before my final trip of the season.

Before that trip (I just arrived home from that one-look for trip stories as the week goes by) though,lets finish up this one with my good buddy Fred.

I liked our hotel in Kernersville,but we had lots of time to kill and not a lot of ways to kill it.
So,the solution?
We drove and talked a lot and it's always good time to talk on the road.
I've always thought (and heard before,it's not original thinking) that you really get to know a person on the road and on the rare occasion that you are on the road with someone that you dislike that you can either grow to like them a little or worse-a minute can seem interminable.

So,we drove,looking for things to do.
Stop number one-The world's hottest ballpark in Kannapolis NC.
I wrote about the heat on the seat in Kannapolis when Mike Oravec and I visited the area and Mike and I have tried to get across to people just how hot that place is.
You never are quite able to get the point across,so I walked Fred down to where we were and explained before he sat down-Now this is 11 AM,not 2 PM,so we had three more hours of sun on the seat,look where the sun is now and imagine where it is over the three hours to come and the temperature is 85 right now-add about 10 more degrees.
Now sit down and tell me.
Fred sat down and in about five seconds hollered "MY ASS IS ON FIRE"!!!
I couldn't stop laughing!
We walked around the stadium as Fred's ass tried to cool itself before he went to the team shop to buy a hat from the team.
I'm glad someone now knows a small fraction of what we dealt with that day!

We had considered the NASCAR Hall of Fame,but Fred thought that it would likely be expensive and with neither of us being huge NASCAR fans,it would likely be more money (not to mention the always present parking fees) than it would be worth.
We started driving with good conversation,stopped at Cabela's that ended with this classic conversation.
Me: Hi,I'm looking to take my friend someplace inside and cool so the heat doesn't get to him.
Any place close like that?
Jeremy: Well,there's Carowinds next door.
Me:The amusement park?
Jeremy:Yes.
Me:That's outside and I'll pay through the nose to do it.
Jeremy: Uh huh.
Me:Walking away,shaking my head..

The resulting nothing of that conversation meant that we just kept on driving,enjoying the weather and finally arriving in Blythewood South Carolina at the Lizard's Thicket.
The Thicket is a local chain with most of them located in the Columbia South Carolina area and features homestyle cooking and Fred decided on it off this exit over the other entry-Groucho's Deli.
I thought the food was good with lots of southern style options.
I chose the meat loaf and it was very good with southern slaw (a cole slaw variation) and fries.
It might not be for everyone,but if you like hearty comfort food,The Lizard's Thicket might be for you...

We drove back to Charlotte to wait for the Charlotte Knights and found a great spot in a parking deck across from the ball park.
Fred and I waited as long as we could before waiting in the line.
The noted Southern humidity was going to be a factor and I didn't want Fred to be worn out with such a long drive home.

The game wasn't as important as the guest of the day-former Tiger and Twin ace Jack Morris.
Fred would make a mistake,but his mistake would turn out to be a blessing in disguise as I'll say shortly.
There are signs all around the Charlotte stadium,take all metal items out of pockets and listed a bunch of those kinds of things to remove-including pocket change.
Fred didn't do that and left change in his pockets,setting the alarm off  and taking about five minutes to complete.

That was frustrating a half hour later when Morris went to the field for a pre-game interview and for the 1st pitch-the line was cut off right in front of me!
That meant that I could either graph the Charlotte Knights or remain in the line for Morris.
I needed Morris on his 1988 and 1990 Score's and my hope was that I could get Morris to sign one and get back in the line to get the second.
The cut off spoiled that plan and would have meant our Charlotte departure would be far longer.
As I talked to the lady in charge about our drive home etc,she offered this "tell him that and see what happens,he did sign two for someone early over the protests of the handlers".
By the way,the handlers in Charlotte were great for this-they aren't all great,as you'll see in a future post.
When Morris came up and I stepped up,I put two cards in front of him and asked "Mr,Morris,could you please sign two? We have close to a seven hour drive after this"
His response: "Guess you better start going then" and added a smile.
I said "As soon as you sign,we are gone!"
Things happen for a reason sometimes-had Fred prepared better in the security portion,we would have been closer in line,gotten one item early and maybe not gotten our second.
Funny,how things bounce sometimes.

That wasn't quite true even as Morris signed both,but it was close as after a few pictures of the field and a run to the gift shop (Rachel had selected Charlotte as her trip shirt) before leaving.
Charlotte did a great job in making their stadium (the NFL Panthers play down the street) safe,easy to find and with easy access to the freeways to move people away,Charlotte might be the easiest big city stadium that I have seen yet to get in and out of.

That was about as exciting as it got on the way home.
Fred and I stopped at another Cookout for dinner before leaving the area.
As I noted earlier,Cookout is good,cheap and filling,so you can't beat it for road eats!

Thanks to my good friend Fred Landucci for a great trip and great time!
Fred has been a great friend to me and my family and I hope to take trips with him next year as well!
The plan was to work on more posts and start the final trip of the year with Mike Oravec next,but a little thing called Kyrie Irving getting traded has gotten in the way.
My take on the massive deal sending Irving to the Boston Celtics on the next post....




Sunday, August 20, 2017

Road Trip:Burlington

Day three moved us on to Burlington,North Carolina for a visit that would move Burlington Athletic Park from the "been to" list onto the game list for the Burlington Royals and the visiting Danville Braves.

But that comes later,we begin in Johnson City as we planned lunch in town before hitting the road.
Once again,Trip Advisor allowed me to check some stops out,send Fred a list of a few options and have Fred pick where to go for lunch.
This once again would prove very fruitful when Fred listened to me and later not so much when he didn't!
Just kidding,Fred,but seriously Cootie Brown's was tremendous!!

I had seen a Cootie Brown's from our road trip to Bristol,so I was familiar with the name,if not the menu.
I ordered a Reuben (on Wheat,not the listed Pumpernickel) and added some extra meat.
I almost never do this,but it's road trip,one does things like this!
I added a side of their "famous" homemade potato chips,which were OK,but nothing tremendously special,but our server Andee (yes,I asked about the spelling) told us all about the Key Lime Pie being famous.
Now,after the potato chips I did wonder a little,but the Reuben was great,so I was open,especially when Andee talked about her baseball fandom and she knew her stuff.
I'm not always a massive dessert person,but the picture did look good and I usually like to try what a place is famous for,so when Fred accepted my offer to split a piece,I was all in.
Well,in a word-Wow!
First of all,that piece IS a half piece,so the serving is large and the taste has to be tasted to be believed!
If you ever are in either Bristol or Johnson City,you owe it to yourself to try Key Lime Pie at Cootie Brown's and ask for Andee-especially if you are a baseball fan!

I wish I could say the drive to Burlington was enjoyable.
I wish,but I can't mainly because the GPS kicked us far off the beaten path that we were driving through forests (although we did see a really cool lake) and a pouring thunderstorm during much of the drive and instead of going on highways,we were going through places like Boone,North Carolina.
If you ever truly want to know just how much of an upset Appalachian State over michigan was-drive through Boone!
It was far too long of a trip,but it was a good chance to talk to Fred (although I fell asleep) with a trip through Wilkesboro,where North Wilkesboro Speedway,the former home of two NASCAR races, we saw the track and the still existing,but badly faded Winston Cup sign from the interstate and had I thought about it,I might asked Fred to stop and look around,but this trip and Wilkesboro brought the quote of the trip.
Entering Wilkesboro's limits,the sign greeting us said "Wilkesboro-Where the Mountains begin".
Me:"where the mountains begin? Then where the hell were we for the last two hours? the beach?"

We finally arrived in Burlington after riding by our hotel by accident and deciding to take advantage by checking in,so we were treated to seeing a parking accident right in front of us.
Considering there were so few cars in the lot,the offending party should have felt like an idiot for even considering squeezing in beside another car.
I wrote before about my trip with Mike to Burlington to see the park,but this was my first trip for a game there.
Burlington's Royals come from a clubhouse area so they have to walk right through the crowd to reach the field.
I was able to get most of a team set finished and I was the only one graphing the Royals.
On the other side,Fred was trying to get some Kevin Maitan's for my friends since I had failed so badly on Maitan in Bristol.
Alas,Maitan was still just one per and the lucky winner was Mike Oravec of Maitan's lovely "KM".
We watched some of the game and watch Maitan make two errors at shortstop (considering he's 17,when I look at his build,if he makes it it'll be as a third baseman) and hit off for dinner.
This time,we went with Fred's recommendation at the Village Grill.
Our server was nice,but the food was slow and pedestrian for the price,although I did enjoy the "Chesapeake Slaw",which was quite good.

Back to the hotel,where I did have television with something called "Spectrum".
Spectrum offered on demand for free and did something that cable/satellite companies never do and I've screamed about for a long time-they put their channels in alphabetical order!
Easy to find,easy to flip through-makes so much sense and next to no one does it that way....

I'll be back soon with the final day of my trip with Fred that features lots of driving,a thicket with Lizards,Jack Morris and the Charlotte Knights...



Crawford stops Indongo in Three-Boxing Challenge

Ramon Malpica and I each scored four points on Saturday night's Top Rank card from Lincoln,Nebraska with correct selections on both fights.
The Challenge now stands at 102-94.

In the main event,Terence Crawford looked terrific in stopping Julius Indongo in the third round with a vicious body shot,
Crawford had knocked Indongo down in the second round,but Indongo did land his share of shots on Crawford and Indongo was trying to win rather than survive,so credit him for that.
The victory gives Crawford all four junior welterweight titles and he said he might consider making one defense of the four titles before a move to 147 pounds,although I'd be surprised if that happened.
Crawford fights against PBC champions Keith Thurman and Errol Spence would be must see television (although Crawford's activity goes against the often idle fighters in the PBC) and would help establish any winner of those bouts as pound for pound top contenders.

Oleksander Gvozdyk stopped Craig Baker in round six of their light heavyweight bout.
Gvozdyk looked impressive in finishing Baker in the final round,but looked a little listless in the first five rounds of the fight.
Gvozdyk called out Andre Ward after the fight,a fight that could happen with Ward seemingly on his way to Top Rank after doing the bout as a color commentator.
Gvozdyk is talented and has a bright future,but might not have enough seasoning for Ward at this time.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Road Trip:Greenville SC & GreenEville Tennessee!

Day two continues with a stay in Greenville before we moved on to Johnson City and Greeneville.

Confused?
Well,there two cities in minor league baseball named Greenville or Greeneville,if you please and we would be leaving one and entering another before the end of the night!
The day would start in South Carolina,where Fred had booked a private tour of us of the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum across the street from Flour Field.

The museum (and the house Jackson lived in) is on a side street,located directly across from where we had parked the previous day,so it was easy to find.
The home is only open for a few hours on Saturday,so you have to book things through them,if the need is on other than those days.

Our host Bill was both gracious and knowledgeable about Jackson and after his talk,we were given the run of the place for as long as we wanted.
It was interesting to see all the Jackson items and hear about Greenville's favorite son from such a nice gentleman.
It's a nice place and enough to keep the attention of an average baseball fan,but I think you could (if you had the place to yourself) comfortably see everything in a hour.
Thanks to Bill for opening the place up for us and to Fred for the legwork in hooking us up along with the twenty dollar donation for doing so!

After our time at the Jackson Museum,we decided on lunch in Greenville before leaving town and I gave Fred a list of four or five places that looked interesting on Trip Advisor for him to choose from.
I do the same with Mike Oravec sometimes and it usually seems to work out well.
Fred selected Chicken Salad Chick,a specialty place that almost all of the main menu is featuring various Chicken Salads.
I loved it as you received a scoop or a sandwich as your main course and can select one of many sides to go with it or another scoop on the side if you wish.
I selected a scoop as the side choices didn't seem to be my style.
I had a sandwich on wheat with "kickin Kay Lynne" (you can click here for exactly what is in each one) with a side scoop of "Jalapeno Holly".
It was delicious and for lunch,Chicken Salad Chick was rockin with customers,so others must be fans as well.
If you see one of these-make sure you stop as it hits the spot for a light lunch!

Next stop was scheduled to be Greeneville,Tennessee,but Fred and I called an audible as we were going to go to Greeneville that night and Johnson City on the next day for an 11 AM game,but we decided to try to finish Johnson City and then hit Greeneville.
If this worked out well,we could clear out the next morning and have more open time on our way to Burlington,North Carolina,which was over three hours away,

The main target was former Cardinal first round pick Delvin Perez,who Fred wanted on a baseball and who had a top 100 for me,but we would be be quickly foiled as Perez had been injured two nights before and was no longer in Johnson City.
Fred waited outside for the visiting Elizabethton Twins,who appeared in uniform since they only traveled 15 minutes to get to Johnson City and was able to get Wander Javier,a player that the Twins signed to a four million bonus and coach Jeff Reed,who was a long time journeyman catcher in the big leagues.
As the rain began to fall in Johnson City,I was able to get a card signed that had been in my box for years as Cardinals hitting coach Brandon Allen signed his 2008 Carolina League top prospect card along with three more.

The rain was dropping harder and harder as we jumped into the car drove the 40 minutes or so to Greeneville Tennessee for the Astros against the visiting Kingsport Mets.
Kingsport never makes a team set and Greeneville skipped 2016 and 2017 sets,so I had just a few cards for coach and former Astro Cesar Cedeno and one for the manager Danny Ortega along with a Tri-City card for outfielder Reid Russell.
It was just as important to knock Greeneville off the stadium list as to get cards signed.
It was easy to find the stadium,but students were back in school at Tusculum College,where the Astros share the field with Tusculum and parking was in short supply.
We wasted several minutes riding around trying to find parking until a team employee told us to park in a certain area.
The game was in a rain delay and I was stunned to find such high prices for an Appy League team.
Food was quite high and four dollars for a program?
Give the Astros credit for a nice gift shop though that sold hats for all the teams in the league.

As we finally neared the field,warmups had begun with the rain stopping,but Cedeno and Ortega parked themselves in the dugout and never moved,but I did get Reid Russell as he walked to the dugout,so it wasn't a total loss.
We watched for a while,but with the late start,we realized dinner might be hard to come by in Greeneville,which turned out to be correct.
There was next to nothing open and we had to settle for a Mexican place,which is never my preferred meal.
Those of you that know me know that I love hot and spicy foods,but the soft bread that seems to be part of so many Mexican style dishes leaves me less than thrilled.
I ordered nachos that weren't bad,if they had more nachos.
They were the opposite of so many dishes-lots of toppings,few nacho chips.

A drive back to the hotel in Johnson City concluded the day with an evening with no television as some genius (not me) had disconnected it.
Combining that with the fridge being unplugged when I checked in and I wasn't thrilled with the hotel on this night.
The odd thing was of the three nights,I liked this room the best,it was just the other things that ruined it.

I'll be working on day three in Burlington and day four in Charlotte soon!!



Boxing Challenge!

The Boxing Challenge continues Saturday night on ESPN as for the first time in years (going back to the Bernard Hopkins middleweight reign) that all four titles in a division will be unified as Terence Crawford (WBC and WBO) will face fellow champion Julius Indongo (WBA and IBF) in Lincoln,Nebraska.
Crawford is one of the top fighters in the game,while Indongo has come out of nowhere to win his titles in his last two bouts on the road,where he will have to win again in order to hold all four belts.
It'll interesting to see how Crawford handles being the shorter fighter with the lesser reach for a change,so this fight does have some intrigue.

In the co-feature,power hitting light heavyweight Oleksander Gvozdyk takes on Craig Baker in what looks to be a squash match.,,
I lead Ramon Malpica in the challenge 98-90.

Unification WBA & IBF vs WBC & WBO Junior Welterweight Titles.12 rds
Julius Indongo vs Terence Crawford
R.L:Crawford KO 10
TRS: Crawford KO 12

Light Heavyweights,10 rds
Oleksander Gvozdyk vs Craig Baker
R.L: Gvozdyk KO 4
TRS:Gvodyk KO 2

Friday, August 18, 2017

Road Trip:Greenville SC

I have had a bunch of trips this month and more to come so these road trip recaps will be dribbling out over the next week or two,but I wanted to get started as quickly as I could.

We moved from Hagerstown to our first stop in Greenville South Carolina at 5;30.Greenville is about seven and a half hours away from home,so we left in plenty of time for a 4;00 start for the Greenville Drive (Boston) and the visiting Rome Braves (Atlanta) game in the final game of their series.

We stopped for lunch in North Carolina at a fast food place called "Cookout".
I had never stopped there before,but Ryan and Battlin' Bob had both recommended Cookout as having good food,lots of it and at a great price,so Fred and I decided to try it.
It was excellent and a large burger,two sides and a drink for 4.99 is a great deal.
The exploding price at fast food places is a major issue for me and why I don't eat a lot of it anymore-which isn't a bad thing,I suppose!
There is just one Cookout in Maryland (Salisbury),so you have to go deep into Virginia to start to see them,but if you do-give them a shot.

Rolling into Greenville a bit early,we managed to nab a good parking space and walked around Fluor Field for a while.
We got our tickets at the front of the stadium and took the above picture of the Shoeless Joe Jackson statue at the front of the field.
I'll have more on Joe Jackson in my next post,but Greenville has done a terrific job of remembering the legacy of Jackson.
I didn't spend very much money at any of the souvenir stands at any game I attended on this trip,so I didn't buy anything at the Drive's shop,although Fred continued his hat buying!
Actually,I didn't spend any money on myself at any of the team shops-I'm quite proud!

Greenville's Fluor Field is designed by field dimensions to echo the parent Red Sox' Fenway Park and it does so well.
The only real difference that struck me was the "little green monster" looked so bare and I couldn't figure out why.
I figured out later why that was-the Fenway board also has out of town scores from around the league and the Greenville board only has the Drive game.

I found something else that I had never been asked to do before-I was metal wanded.
Fortunately for me,my card total was smaller than usual and even though I worked out of the briefcase for the trip,I didn't bring it inside to any of the stadiums that we visited-I missed it though.
I like having everything in front of me and visual,so I feel a little bit lost without it...
We would later be wanded again in Charlotte,which makes me wonder why some do this and others do not.
I don't have a problem being wanded,it's just that it slows everything up-As I will discuss more in a future post.

When you enter Fluor Field from either side,you have a straight look at the field and the field quickly fills the field of vision.
Everything is in front of you and well laid out and it's easy to see where you need to go.
Fred and I needed to autograph more in this series than any of the others really and needed a fast start.
The Greenville Drive does not come to Hagerstown this season and the Rome Braves came in May before the release of their team set,so I had plenty to do with the main targets being Rome's Ian Anderson and Greenville's Jason Groome.
Anderson had been a great signer earlier in the season,but his Top 100 card had not been released yet and Groome,as noted,had not been around at all.

Fluor Field's layout for autographs was very reminiscent of State College,but even better.
Where at State College,the visiting team comes out of a third base chute and the Spikes have a dugout tunnel,but warm up near the chute,in Greenville-both teams come out of the chute!
Makes player access easy and for both teams.
I was able to get many of the Greenville players and some of the Rome players (I had team set stuff for Mike Oravec) with the surprising hardest player being Rome outfielder Christian Pache,who I was only able to get one of his SAL prospect and All-Star cards done.
Ian Anderson came out very late and Fred was by the chute as opposed to my being closer to the field.
I quickly got my top 100 to Fred and held the rest of my cards in case Anderson had time to sign by my spot.
Fred got the most important one knocked out and when Anderson came to me,he signed four of five,so I consider that successful!
Jason Groome came out even later and I thought he might even be charting,but he signed my top 100,SAL prospect and Mike's SAL prospect and asked how many more I had.
I said 4 and he said "I'm really late,I'll get the rest after the game".
I had little doubt that he would have,but we would not be around....

The heat in the South is different than that here in the North and I could tell in was quickly taking its toll on Fred.
He looked a bit out of his comfort zone,so after we sat in our seats (shaded) and he still didn't look great,we decided to go back to the hotel to let Fred get back into the swing of things.
After a rest and an average dinner at a place called Italian Gardens,we were finished for the day.

I would definitely return to the Drive for a future visit.
The ballpark is great,the staff was very friendly and you can do well autographing there.
I'll have more on day two on the town of Greenville in the next road trip post,hopefully tonight or tomorrow morning!!!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Forgotten Superstars:Lelani Kai

We return to the Forgotten Superstars universe with a look at the only woman that I really enjoyed watching when I watched pro wrestling back in the 80's and early 90's.
This was a post that I had saved for a day that I didn't have time to write,but wanted to put something up!

Ladies wrestling in that age was different than what it became in the days of the Monday night wars and what it is today.
The outfits weren't revealing (usually a one piece similar to a bathing suit) and the ladies weren't featured every week on television either.
In the territorial days,women's wrestling was looked at by promoters as a 'Special Attraction' (the 'midget' wrestlers as they were called back then were used in the same manner) and they were used on the cards maybe two or three times a year.
In addition,the ladies were usually used in a tag team match since the ladies champion the Fabulous Moolah (who trained and booked the lady grapplers) rarely defended that title in a singles match,which had a positive that four women got paid to wrestle instead of just two.

The matches had their patterns that were unique to the ladies,which were usually chest first smashes into the turnbuckle and hairpulls that turned into snapmares,but they weren't any less visual than the men's matches for the most part,except for the aging Moolah,who was pushing 60 and it showed pretty visibly during the matches.
Still,if you were a fan for a while,you could watch those matches and "see" what what was coming,but there was one of them that stood out to me more than the others.
Lelani Kai was her name and despite not being Hawaiian,she was dubbed as such and she had a rougher,aggressive style than the others and seemed a little more realistic (or her moves weren't as easy to see through as others) to me.
Kai and a few others brought a faster paced and more athletic style to the ring and when Moolah wasn't involved,the matches took on a quicker pace with more action and less stalling-which meant a more entertaining match.
Now,I'm a person that doesn't really watch pro wrestling anymore,so too much of a good thing can be well,not so good,and there can be a real argument that wrestling now has almost gotten too athletic based and might be better suited to attempt to slow the pace a bit.

When I was a young fan,it seemed like Moolah would hold her title (which she never seemed to defend,another red flag to a youngster on pro wrestling's legitimacy) forever ( as I didn't know at the time-Moolah actually owned the championship),which even though I wasn't a fan,it was still surprising when Wendi Richter upset Moolah for the championship.
Richter brought a younger,flashier wrestler,which was perfect for the changing times in pro wrestling,to the forefront of their division,but the WWF certainly wasn't going to have too many matches with the plodding Moolah against the younger Richter-that would have meant not being able to change the style to what was needed.
That meant Richter needed a good opponent,one that could help change the style and perception along with providing entertaining matches-enter Leilani Kai.
The political pull of the Fabulous Moolah necessitated her being involved somehow,so she was the manager of Kai in her matches with Richter as her protege'.
Kai would upset Richter to hold the title for a month leading into the first Wrestlemania,where she would drop the belt back to Richter,who the division was being built around before being abruptly ended after a financial disagreement with the McMahon's,who pulled a double cross on her with off all people-Moolah under a black bodysuit as the Spider.

I didn't follow the WWF nearly closely after that.
The UWF started to have a local network pick up their show and the difference for me was glaring in style,if not talent and once I was able to watch the Crockett territory,I watched even less.
I don't remember much about her team with Judy Martin (the Glamour Girls managed by Jimmy Hart) other than bleaching her hair and one great match on a pay per view that we all pitched in bought, against the Japanese Jumping Bomb Angels,as I was watching even less WWF by that point.
Wikipedia can tell you more than I about Kai's career after that as the WWF phased out the womens division and I slowly phased out of pro wrestling interest other than occasional matches as I scanned the television.

It was funny,I hadn't thought of Kai for a while and saw someone on my timeline mention her on Twitter and it made me decide to enter her in the Forgotten Superstars universe as the only ladies wrestler that I liked to watch when pro wrestling was most important to me.
I'm not sure Lelani Kai was the best ladies wrestler ever.I'm not qualified enough to make that claim.
I didn't see all that many of that group and I never watched the all-ladies group,but she was the one that best used the style that I liked to watch most and therefore the most memorable and best to me.