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.


Monday, August 14, 2017

Don Baylor

Time to clean out the inbox and we start with a passing that I wanted to devote a post to,but the Glen Campbell passing pushed this to the side.

Don Baylor passed away at the age of 68 from cancer and by no means was Don Baylor's death second rate.
Baylor won the 1979 American League MVP with the Angels and was one of the game's best designated hitters in the 1980's,but might be remembered by younger fans as the less than successful manager of the Rockies and Cubs.

For the flaws of Baylor as a manager,as a player he was tremendous.
Baylor really had three stages to his player and reinvented himself each time.
As an young player with the Orioles,his one year in Oakland and his first few years with the Angels,Don Baylor was an impressive combination of power and speed that the game in the 1970's rarely saw in a player.

Don Baylor was touted when he came through the Baltimore system as the next star from the powerhouse Orioles farms and the replacement for Frank Robinson.
Baylor's projected future was the reason that Baltimore made the ill-advised trade of Robinson to the Dodgers after the 1971 season (and three consecutive AL Pennants) and would not reach the World Series again with a core group that might have had Robinson been retained.
Baylor was almost rated as a disappointment after three years in Baltimore.
His numbers were decent,but more had been expected for the player that was thought to be the possible equal to Frank Robinson.
That changed in 1975 for the Orioles and Baylor,when Baylor exploded with a .282 25 homers and 78 RBI line that also added 32 steals for a manager (Earl Weaver) that generally eschewed the stolen base.
Baylor had finally come into his own and was then swapped almost on the eve of the 1976 season as Baylor and Mike Torrez were sent to Oakland for Reggie Jackson and Ken Holtzman in a deal that saw two star player and two above average pitchers traded for each other.
Baylor responded during the final season before free agency with a season more like his pre-1975 seasons than like one expected to be a All-Star level player (.247/15/68),but still his potential made him one of the most coveted new free agents.
Baylor signed with the California Angels and put up three excellent seasons,the final of which won him his only MVP in 1979 with a line of .296/36 and 139 to go with 22 steals.
That season was the first division winner in the history of the Angels (they would lose to Baltimore 3-1 in the ALCS) and that team is always remembered fondly by Angels fans.
That would be the peak of Baylor as a player as he only played 90 games in 1980 and the transition began to the final stage of his career.

For the final years of his career (1980-88),Baylor became a one dimensional power hitter and usually a DH because he was a defensive liability.
Baylor had put on weight and even though he wasn't overweight,it still slowed him in the field and basepaths enough that the stolen bases were gone and he just didn't have a position in the field.
Baylor was reliable enough that you could mark him down for over twenty homers,but with one exception (1984) Baylor's batting average plummeted.
Baylor became a hired gun DH as he spent the final seven years of his career with five teams,delivering the noted over twenty homers as well as the clubhouse presence from a commanding veteran that almost all championship teams have.
Baylor's teams reached the World Series in the final three seasons (three different in Boston,Minnesota and Oakland) and won the 1987 title with the Twins.

The tough and physical Baylor was known for being hit by pitches and being a murderous threat at breaking up double plays,which made him so popular in the clubhouse.
That was what made it so hard to watch that person manage and just seem so awkward at it.
Don Baylor's years with the Cubs coincided with Ryan's watching Cubs games and I remember Ryan being so frustrated with Baylor's managing style and bumbling decisions.
Baylor was an excellent coach,but he just wasn't cut out to be a manager.

I'll choose not to remember Don Baylor as a manager and I think I'll always remember as the player pictured above on his 1974 Topps card with the Orioles.
My grandfather used to talk about the Orioles a lot back then and I remember being young and listening to him talk about those Oriole teams.
Pap always believed in the young Don Baylor,saw him as a coming star that just needed time to put things together, and scoffed at the abilities of a touted catcher acquired from the Braves (where he put up strong numbers) named Earl Williams.
Pap was right on both counts.


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Rain,Boots and Hagerstown Weather

The Hagerstown Suns stumbled down the wrong road,but recovered by doing the right thing Saturday night even while the game was canceled due to a pouring thunderstorm.

Two hours later,the sun was shining and all was well,but the rain had done its damage on the ancient field at Municipal Stadium,but this is a different story than what happened on the field.
The Suns could have had a real problem on the hands over yes,a bobblehead.

The team allowed season ticket holders to enter early for the bobblehead,which I've always thought was a good idea.
Season ticket holders get their bobblehead reserved and they get a few perks for their outlay of money,which they deserve.
Here lies the problem-with just a few people maybe 25-30) in line,the team announced that they weren't opening the gates and asked people to return to their car.

Most (including Fred Landucci and Brad Adams ) didn't do that,so the team would have been better suited to take our tickets,let us inside for shelter and give the bobbleheads out as most of the people there attended just for that.
So about 15 of us waited in the rain as one family of travelers from New Jersey wondered if they would get a bobble at all.
As the rain stopped and the line grew,the people in the line started to get unhappy and vocal.
Brad and I thought this might get ugly,but the team in the end did the right thing,opened the gates and gave out the bobblehead.
That was the right decision and smart decision-promotions are used to get fans to the park,they were there-make them happy-and even the game being cancelled still allowed them go home pleased.
The Suns might have not traveled the easy road to get there,but in the end-it all turned out right.

Meanwhile,the bobblehead itself looked great and was an inspired choice in former big leaguer Boots Poffenberger of Williamsport.
Poffenberger was a cult hero and a bit of a comet in 1937 with the Tigers.
Alas as most comets do,Poffenberger burned out fast and never pitched in the bigs after 1939.
I wanted this bobblehead mainly to give to my grandmother as my late grandfather knew Poffenberger and used to tell me stories all about him.

I'd like to see the Suns do more bobbles as they have this year with Poffenberger and Nick Adenhart.
Give them plenty of credit-both excellent decisions...

Back soon with more!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Glen Campbell

I knew the day was coming soon when I would have to write this post,but I still was dreading having to type the words of Glen Campbell passing away at the age of 81 from complications from Alzheimer's Disease.

I'm sure that most of you know the resume' of Glen Campbell from the studio work with about anyone and everyone that you've ever heard of in the 1960's,his brief stint as a Beach Boy,the massive crossover star that was really the first to be equally large on the pop and country charts at the same,the hugely popular television star and more.

Glen Campbell was all of those things and he had his negatives too including issues with drugs and alcohol in the late 1970's and 1980's,but you always had this underlying feeling that the guy that you saw on TV was closer to the real person even though you could tell his problems were there and the mistakes that those problems caused.

However,you can get a career retrospective in other places,what I'd like to write about is what Glen Campbell meant to me along with the stages of my life all the way back to what I can remember.
When Glen Campbell was at his career peak,I was in my formative toddler years and Glen Campbell was everywhere.
A top rated television show,building a catalog of hits that rank with the most formidable ever (Campbell outsold the last two Beatles albums in that time),a movie with John Wayne that won Academy Awards in True Grit (Campbell didn't win many awards,he admitted his acting chops were limited at best) and appearing on other shows,One could make the argument that for a period from 1968-72 that all things considered,Glen Campbell might have been the biggest star in the country.

I've always ranked Galveston and Gentle on my mind as my favorites of his best known songs and have listened to them since I was a kid and my copy of Galveston is still around somewhere,despite my lack of phonograph players.


When you consider that kind of media saturation in the limited outlets of the time,it's pretty easy to see the popularity of Glen Campbell.
As so many young kids do,you like what's available,the difference was that I stayed a fan.
Campbell would have hits through the years including the one most people know in Rhinestone Cowboy,which was never one of my favorites of my collection and went through even more phases as did I.

Right after the Rhinestone era,Glen found himself in some controversy,first by marrying the ex-wife of country star Mac Davis and then when that went awry,began a relationship with the far younger Tanya Tucker.
Campbell and Tucker were noted for a tempestuous relationship filled with drugs,alcohol and reported domestic violence on both sides,hurting the reputations of both.
As for me,I still played records,but it was only on occasion that I played Glen's records and I didn't like Tanya Tucker,so it was mainly the older stuff as I hit middle school and began high school...

Glen and Tucker broke up and he found the lady that he would spend the rest of his life in the mid-80's and so did I.
I played Glen's hits in the car on cassette and discovered that Cherie didn't really like his music!
She associated Glen Campbell not with Gentle on my mind or even Rhinestone Cowboy,but music from his Tucker period that saw him make some pretty pedestrian music like "I love my truck".
She didn't know the trendsetting guitar work in the studio or much more than likely his lowest quality of music.
Clearly,this would take time....

Glen got himself cleaned up and I was a husband and father.
I started listening to his music a lot,because in so many of his songs,I found meaning.
It helped me deal with the struggles of being a young spouse and dad and I likely drove Cherie,Ryan and my friends nuts with playing him so much.
They might not have known why I found solace and they may not look at it this way,but at least a few people will always associate Glen Campbell with some pretty good times with me and my house...

Glen found religion and I never really did,but his release of a Christian album was one of the best releases and I still listen to it to this day.
Jesus and Me may be autobiographical,but even with my personal beliefs,it still speaks to me-it's great music.


I began to dig deeper into Glen's lesser known music when the internet came into being with my discovering his cover of "Universal Soldier",which is so good that Rachel even likes it,which says more than you know!
Glen took a slow folk ballad and added his guitar work with some speed to produce a little known classic.


I got older and so did Glen,who decided to start covering some damn good music from the current scene along with continuing to tour and I couldn't not write about Glen and me without mentioning the one time that I was able to see perform live-in Hagerstown at the Maryland Theatre in 2001.
Cherie had heard about this months ahead of time and we bought tickets for the front row.
I enjoyed the music,but just as much as the show,I enjoyed the memories that the songs brought to mind.
That concert also saw me buy a CD of a live concert that he had recorded for PBS (the DVD would come out later) that played his hits and more.
I'd bet PBS replays that soon,so be on the lookout for it!


Glen had been well known on the Christian television circuit doing concerts and talk shows on the various networks and had been known for changing his life when he was suddenly picked up for drunk driving with one of the worst and well known mug shots ever.
It had to be embarrassing and Campbell stayed out of trouble thereafter,but I wondered far later,if that might have been the first hint of the eventual Alzheimer's beginning to make itself known..

When the family announced the diagnosis of Alzheimer's,you knew the clock was ticking on both the career and Glen's life,but his early and public disclosure brought a lot of attention to the disease as well as making new fans that were exposed to his music as well as the music that he played on others albums too.
Glen Campbell may have had problems remembering,but his fans (old and new) didn't have issues recalling his career.

Glen Campbell wasn't perfect by any means,but his music has in many ways been the soundtrack to my life and there's a little hole there today.
He'll be missed,but he left so much behind to be enjoyed by so many.
Glen's most recent hit and release was about his future with Alzheimer's and his acceptance of not remembering what he had.
It's quite poignant and haunting-another great release for the road..

Friday, August 11, 2017

Road Trip-Salem

This part of the trip will be shorter because there isn't as much to recap,but still wanted to talk a little about the home of the Salem Red Sox and our stop there on the drive home..

Haley Toyota Field is a very nice High A ballpark and is located in what would be a perfect spot for the local sports fan,fitting snugly in between the Salem Civic Center and the football stadium that hosts the Division III national championship.

I had been here before in 1998 and the field looked pretty much the same as then except for the recent branding of Haley Toyota all over the place.
The stadium really does remind you of a stadium built in the 90's (1995) and has the type of second deck that could play in AA,if Salem ever decided to try for the level,it's that nice.
I love the wide concourse and nice sightlines from the lower bowl as well.
It's not perfect though,the upper deck seats do appear to go away from the field more than they should and it's not the best park that I've ever seen for autographing.

Fred,Mike and I arrived in the sixth inning,so we were able to watch some of the game and the lighting at Salem Memorial (the old name still gets used on the marquee") is very bright,in fact it might be the brightest that I've seen at a High A park.
We settled into very nice seats behind home plate and tried to find the main reason (for me at least) for this stop-Forrest Whitley.
Whitley is one of the Astros top prospects and wasn't around when the Buies Creek Astros made their only trip to Frederick,so I needed his Top 100.
With the Astros AA team being in Corpus Christi,Texas,if I didn't get Whitley in the Carolina League,the odds of getting him vastly decrease.
Fred went down to the charters to ask if any of those were Whitley,which they weren't and after watching the end of the game,we went to the field to try to get players coming off the field.
No dice other than one player coming from the bullpen as the teams hit their clubhouse through a dugout tunnel.

We asked an employee where the bus was located and we walked around the stadium and through a gate to wait for the Astros and hopefully Forrest Whitley.
Fred's quite the talker and he doesn't mind asking players their name when they walk to the bus in streetclothes.
I'm not as comfortable with that part of graphing,so having Fred around was very helpful to Mike and I on this and other nights.
We were able to get some cards signed,but Fred asked the second player out for his name and it was Whitley,who signed my three cards,including the top 100,so the two most important cards that I wanted to nab on this trip,I was able to get finished.

The three plus hour ride home was filled with conversation and it had to be hard on Fred driving,but I think we did Ok in keeping him entertained.
A fun and productive trip with good company,good food and plenty of places to see.
Looking forward to the next trips to finish the baseball season with Fred and Mike,this time a trip with each of them.

I'm going to try to write the promised Glen Campbell post either today or tomorrow...

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Indians add Jay Bruce

The Cleveland Indians needed a bat with the recent injuries to outfielders Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall and that need had to be addressed quickly.
The Indians were able to do so with a trade with the New York Mets for outfielder Jay Bruce.

Bruce is doing about what he traditionally does with an average of .258,29 homers,75 RBI and already more than 100 strikeouts.
Bruce was traded to the Mets during the 2016 season after spending his first seven seasons with the Cincinnati Reds and his next home run will be his fifth season with 30 home runs or more.
That means the Indians have added a big bat with power in their lineup and even if Brantley and Chisenhall return at full strength,Bruce will add pop to the lineup and might see time at DH.
Bruce has spent his career in the National League,so we'll see how he might handle being a DH and there's always the question of being in a new league.
Bruce looks to be a better fit at DH once injuries allow as several of the defensive metrics used in the game rate him as the worst defensive outfielder in the game.

Because the Indians picked up all of the remaining 2017 salary on Bruce's contract at three million,the Mets didn't get a highly rated prospect as Cleveland sent reliever Ryder Ryan to the Mets.
Ryan posted a 3-4 record with an ERA well over four with six saves at Low A Lake County.
Ryan was a 30th round pick from North Carolina in the 2016 draft and not considered a top prospect.

Give the Indians some credit,no matter what Bruce does-they added salary,picked up the entire contract and did it for the right reasons in not giving up even an average prospect.
Bruce is going to have be managed correctly with his defensive deficiencies,but this could be a nice addition for the playoffs as well as getting the Indians by when their injuries need help most...

Road Trip:Bristol

The road trip season continued as we rolled into Bristol Tennessee/Virginia and later Salem Virginia.
I'm going to write about both stops,but with other things to write about (death of Glen Campbell and tonight's Indians trade for Jay Bruce) might delay the Salem part or maybe shorten it a bit...

Fred Landucci drove Mike Oravec and I straight down I-81 to Bristol VA/TN for the visit to Boyce Cox Field and the Bristol Pirates of the Appalachian League.

I had visited Bristol on three occasions and had been inside to take pictures,but never for a game.
This trip would not only move Bristol to the game list,but would complete my ballpark list for the state of Virginia.
Bristol is a town that really is two towns that is one and I know how that sounds.
Bristol is divided right down the middle of town (remember the Geico commercials?) with half in Tennessee and the other in Virginia.
Boyce Cox Field is on the Virginia side and therefore finished Virginia for me rather than being another park in Tennessee.

We got into town early with the intent of returning to the Mad Greek restaurant,which is located on the Tennessee side of the line.
You might remember our Mad Greek stop last year and this was easily the place we wanted to eat in Bristol.
I ordered a small pizza and it was delicious!
I even passed on any sides in order to keep room for a small piece of cheesecake.
I'm not a huge dessert fan normally,but I do like cheesecake every once in a while and the dessert case looked very good.
I'm a big Mad Greek fan and if you are in the area-stop by,you won't regret it!!

We then decided to check out the Bristol Motor Speedway since it was so close.
Bristol was my favorite track to watch a race when I was a follower of NASCAR and I had wanted to see just what it looked like inside.
I was just amazed at the massive size of the structure built around the half mile track!
Words really cannot describe it and that is with the track virtually empty!
I can only imagine the noise when the track is filled with fans!
It still had the lines painted on the field for the setup for last season's game inside the BMS between Tennessee and Virginia Tech on the infield too!
I do have a live NASCAR race on my sports bucket list,but I'd rather do the smaller two circuits with less fans and fewer people though if I was ever going to go to one.
Bristol does have a truck race next Wednesday and I'm off work,but I'd rather add Charlotte to my collection of parks to finish North Carolina off...

After a stop at the Sullivan County Sheriff Department for a picture for Fred's wife Linda (the Sheriff dept,was the backdrop from a reality show that the Landucci's watched) and a stop at a Food City for some Yee Haw beer for the absent Michael and we were on our way to Boyce Cox Field for the Bristol Pirates and the Danville Braves.

I didn't have many cards for Danville,mainly a top 100 for 17 year old Venezuelan Kevin Maitan,who had just been promoted to Danville a few days after Mike and I's visit to Danville last month.
I had a few cards from other people for Maitan and other than a few cards for former Tiger and Danville batting coach Barbaro Garbey,I had nothing for them.
I did the visiting side while Mike did the home Pirates side,which seemed to have a little better access than for the visitors.
We were allowed to enter the park early by the Bristol general manager,who hit it off with Fred last season,so I was at the only place that had marginal access,a small area far down the left field line.
After several attempts to call to Maitan were ignored,I was feeling pretty down as it was right around this time (I was able to find wifi from somewhere in the area) that I heard about Glen Campbell,combined with my lack of luck with the pen-I was feeling pretty low.

Then a fellow came over and began to talk to me.
He seemed like a nice guy,who happened to be dressed as a Pirate,but turned out to be their mascot "Pete the Pirate"
"Pete" (real name Dwayne) talked with me for a few minutes about baseball,graphing et and made me take my mind off things.
Pete asked me who I needed,I told him the number and to my surprise,Pete walked down to the field and asked Maitan to sign my top 100 (and a baseball for the recently arrived Fred)!
I watched from a distance as Maitan signed it and made the Bristol portion of the day a success!
Thanks for everything,Pete and I will remember your kindness and help!
After I snapped a picture of Pete and Fred for the blog,I went over to the Pirates side,where Mike had gotten a few players and Pirates pitching coach (and former closer) Joel Hanrahan as well..
We watched a bit and before leaving town for Salem,we had a quick dinner across the street from the ballpark at Krystal,where I was able to have a great Grape Icee....

We were off to Salem and part two of the day will be coming soon.
I'm just not sure what I want to write about next,but I'll have a post coming tomorrow on either Salem or Glen Campbell and I'll have a post on the Indians addition of Jay Bruce from the Mets....







Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Road Trip-Eastlake

The 2017 barrage of August road trips began early with a hastily scheduled trip alone to Eastlake,Ohio for another Cleveland Sports Night.

The ballpark to your right is NOT the home of the Lake County Captains and yet it was still special to me for a few reasons that I'll write about later,but for now-you'll have to wait a bit for that!

The Lake County Captains always do a great job with this annual event with one small problem-they wait until the very last moment to announce their guests!
This creates several problems-the first is that both Cherie and I have to gamble on the guests being worth going for and get the days off work.
The second is that you have to hope that you can find items quickly to be signed.
The end result for this year's event meant I drove to Cleveland alone,which had its own style of fun,but I did miss some company,although this is something to be said for lots of time to think on the road.
I needed a Browns helmet badly as I didn't want to use my "two bar" helmet,but it was looking like I may have to use it,but I had a bounce go my way as a trip to Rocky Ridge found a Browns helmet for 7.50 signed by a one year Brown running back-journeyman James Jackson.
Rather than paying 20 or 25 dollars for helmet in Ohio (and the time spent running around trying to find one),I bought this and a few swipes of the Staedtler eraser later,Jackson's signature was gone and the helmet was ready for Eastlake!

I left after Cherie went to work and drove out with just one stop,so I arrived around three o'clock for a gate opening of six.
That's way too much sitting around for my taste,but the more money that I could save the better as I have so many trips coming up and need to get budgets under control.
Fortunately,I caught a break and the Captains learned from past events with the lines for the guests and opened the gates at FIVE for the seven o'clock game against the West Michigan Whitecaps (Tigers Low A) .
Due to this decision and a tip to go to a side entrance for the Francisco Lindor bobblehead,I was sixth in line and in the stadium far earlier than expected!

CSN featured Len Barker of 1981 perfect game fame from the Indians,former Browns Greg and Mike Pruitt (no relation),Cavalier announcer and center on the Miracle of Richfield team Jim Chones and forward Campy Russell,who I had gotten two years ago and a few others that I didn't need.
You were supposed to be limited to one each,but I was able to get Mike Pruitt on three cards in the parking lot (he parked a car down from me) and when Len Barker saw one of my Kellogg's cards,he seemed to like it.
I asked if he had it and he said no,I told him he could keep it,if he did all of my stuff and he was happy to do so.
Greg Pruitt signed two cards and my helmet and Jim Chones signed both of my cards as I waited in line for Len Barker (Chones table ran right by the line for Barker).
Chones was the chattiest of all as we talked about his time playing for Larry Brown in the old ABA with the Carolina Cougars and his memories of the Capital Centre in Landover,Maryland.

It was quick as the lines moved fast and everything was so well done and I had time to work on the West Michigan Whitecaps or rather the one player that I wanted on their team-former first rounder Derek Hill,who had a 2015 Top 100.
I've written in the past about Lake County's graphing being in the air and space is at a premium.
I didn't try to squeeze in for Hill among the throng,because I didn't want to be "That Guy" from out of town that didn't respect local protocol.
So I went to field level for Hill-He signed two for others and left,so I went to the other side of the field and tried-no dice "Gotta stretch".
Now,I'm getting desperate as I need him plus I wanted to get Kendall Morris' Top 100 and Mike Landucci's baseball for his collection too.
I like to help the people that help me,but I was alone and things weren't looking good.
Hill walked by after his stretch and I asked him to sign two cards,which he did,but when I asked for the ball,"Naw,man got you two".
I asked a kid next to me if he would run to the far side of the dugout and get him on the ball,would he for five bucks?
I don't like doing that,but the ball won't be for sale anyway and I needed to get the ball done for Mike.
It worked out,the kid made five bucks and Mike got his ball for his collection,so all's well that ends well.

After leaving and getting a few hours of sleep,I was up and on the road before 6:30 AM.
Why so early? Had to get home for the annual IFL Draft and I wanted to be back in plenty of time to hang out with the guys.
I tried a twist on what we call the "back way" home from Ohio.
It's about an hour longer,but avoids the PA Turnpike and more importantly keeps 25 dollars in my pocket and not in the state of Pennsylvania's!
The twist was arriving at I-77 at a different point and that allowed this-As I looked over the area,I saw baseball lights,which always triggers something,
I wondered briefly and quickly thought,"I wonder if"...
A two stoplights and a turn or two later,I arrived at Thurman Munson Memorial Stadium in Canton Ohio and the gate to the parking lot was open!

I turned in and saw the stadium gate was open as well and started snapping pictures as I figured someone could tell me to leave at any time.
I took field pictures and stepped out on the field for more and then the groundskeeper asked what I was doing.
I explained and he said all was fine,just asked that I not step on the dirt and then told me what the former home of the Eastern League's Canton-Akron Indians (now the Akron Rubber Ducks) was up to.
The stadium now hosts college league games and the Ohio senior league and the field itself is still in very good shape-I'd rate it better than Hagerstown Municipal's playing surface for sure,even I wouldn't from the fans perspective.

Thurman Munson Stadium (named after the native late Yankee catcher) was built in 1989 for the AA Indians and was a basic structure intended to bide time until a better stadium was finished.
Canton wasn't willing to do so,Akron was and after the completion of Canal Park in 1997,the team moved to the neighboring city.
Honestly,you can understand why the team left.it seems more of a 1940's field than a 1980's and it might not have more amenities than Hagerstown.
I always made time to see Canton-Akron during their run in the EL with Hagerstown and one of my favorite pictures of Ryan as a little boy has him wearing the cap of the Canton-Akron Indians.

For those sentimental reasons,I was thrilled to add this stadium to my list and as a trip bonus.
I had a nice time and after Munson,drove straight through and made it to the Holiday Inn in plenty of time to spare..

Glad I was able to get this trip in at the last minute and had a nice time.
I will be back over the next day or two with the sad news of the passing of Glen Campbell and my trip to Bristol and Salem VA to complete my set of ballparks in the state of Virginia!!!




Monday, August 7, 2017

Cleaning out the inbox- Mostly Non-Sports edition

Time to clean the non-sports inbox and we'll start with someone managing to stick it to ESPN,which I'm usually in favor of!

When ESPN made their massive layoff of both on-air talent and writers on their website,many of which were very talented and which I wondered about at the time-one of the names that I really questioned was Jaymee Sire,who I ranked right at the top of the anchors that I liked best with ESPN retainees Lisa Kerney and John Anderson.
I was a fan of Sire from her time at Comcast Bay Area (Now NBC Bay Area) when I was just starting to watch the Giants and my fanhood developed from there,so I liked her and was surprised to see her name as one of those let go.
Part of all the ESPN "layoff" was that in order to take their buyout package,they couldn't work for another competing network (AKA the Non-Compete clause).
Sire has apparently found her way around that by surfacing at Food Network as a "floor reporter" on an Iron Chef America spinoff named Iron Chef Showdown,hosted by another TRS favorite in Alton Brown of Good Eats fame.
Good for Sire in finding another profile gig and keeping her ESPN money to boot!

USA Today writes of an upcoming change for Coke Zero,which will soon be known as Coca-Cola Zero Sugar.
The article says the ingredients are exactly the same,so the recipe must only be mildly changed.
Coke says this tastes even more like original Coke than Coke Zero (like they aren't going to say that),but coming from the company that brought you New Coke,I'll have to be convinced!
Leave it to big business to fix something that isn't broken as Coke Zero was my favorite brand of cola-when I had to drink cola that is!

Former baseball reporter (in Boston and Baltimore) Jen Royle,who after leaving the baseball business is currently a chef,tossed off the gloves in this Twitter battle for the ages against former ESPN'er (and locally in Washington) Britt McHenry.
Royle,who was known for her non-homer reporting,took on McHenry over what was reported to be Royle's NOT owning a restaurant.
The language turned colorful really quickly and reads much better on Awful Announcing than it will here!
I didn't see any of these tweets in "real time",but I lean toward Royle because of the track record of McHenry,who has blamed her ESPN release on her being a conservative and especially for this memorable night against a parking lot attendant....


I'll finish with the passing of former Phillies catcher Darren Daulton at the age of 55 from cancer.
Daulton was such a tough and gritty player that he was one of those guys that was loved by teammates and grudgingly respected by opponents that would have loved to have had him on their team.
The lefty swinger was a pretty average player on the stat sheet with the exception of career years in 1992 and 1993,which were very divergent years for the Phillies ranging from last place to the National League pennant,but I loved watching Daulton play with such hustle and vigor.
Daulton will be missed....




Boxing Challenge-Lomachenko dominates Marriaga

The boxing challenge continues after a three fight weekend that saw me score four points and Ramon Malpica score three.
I lead the challenge 98-90.

In the weekend's biggest fight,Vasyl Lomachenko won every round in stopped an overmatched Miguel Marriaga,when Marriaga's corner made the correct decision in stopping the fight after round seven after Lomachenko knocked Marriaga down and battered him around the ring.
Lomachenko also dropped Marriaga in the third and was never tested by a solid fighter that showed guts by raising to 130,but might have been better suited to have stayed at 126.
I had Lomachenko ahead 70-66 after seven and clearly there is no one at 130 pounds anywhere near his ability.
I scored two points for the Lomachenko knockout,with Ramon getting one for his victory..

Because I was in Ohio (story coming in a few days),I missed the Lomachenko fight live and as of now,I haven't watched the co-feature in which Ray Beltran won a majority decision over Bryan Vasquez.
Ramon and I each earned a point for Beltran's win..

Friday night on ESPN had the best action of the weekend as aging welterweight warhorses hooked it up in a sterling action battle as Mauricio Herrera won a majority decision over Jesus Soto-Karass.
The fight had been billed as a loser should leave boxing bout,but both showed enough to be considered to still have a little bit left,assuming they are matched properly.
The tenth was spent with plenty of toe to toe action and I wouldn't be against a rematch as I scored it 95-95,but no quibbles with the two cards that gave Herrera a 96-94 edge.
Ramon and I each scored one point for the Herrera victory.

I'm quite busy coming up,but I plan on catching up later in the week with my trip to Ohio and Bristol VA and some notes on today's passing of Don Baylor...

Friday, August 4, 2017

Boxing Challenge

The boxing challenge continues with a three fight weekend,one of which features one of the top fighters in the world as Vasyl Lomachenko defends his WBO junior lightweight title against Miguel Marriaga on ESPN.

Marriaga made a very nice showing in a spirited effort last time out in losing a close decision to WBO featherweight champ Oscar Valdez,but losing to Valdez is one thing-making the giant leap up to Lomachenko is another.
It will be nice for the regular fan to see the talents of Lomachenko as the Top Rank-ESPN arrangement continues to flourish..
The co-feature has Ray Beltran staying busy before his lightweight title shot vs Bryan Vasquez in a ten rounder.

The third bout is also on ESPN,but on Friday as the Golden Boy series continues with two faded warhorses hooking up in a welterweight bout.
Mauricio Herrera might best be remembered for being robbed against Danny Garcia a few years back along with a disputed (on my card) decision win over Ruslan Provodnikov,while his opponent Jesus Soto-Karass has fought many exciting wars against most of the welterweight division,losing most,but winning the occasional fight (Andre Berto and Selcuk Aydin) to remain a fringe contender/gatekeeper.
The winner will stick around for another fight against a prospect or contender,the loser should consider hanging the gloves up.

I lead Ramon Malpica in the boxing challenge 94-87.

WBO Junior Lightweight title. 12 rds
Vasyl Lomachenko vs Miguel Marriaga
R.L:Lomachenko unanimous decision
TRS:Lomachenko KO 9

Lightweights.10 rds
Ray Beltran vs Bryan Vasquez
R.L: Beltran KO 5
TRS:Beltran KO 3

Welterweights.10 rds
Mauricio Herrera vs Jesus Soto-Karass
Both:Herrera unanimous decision



Road Trip:State College

We decided to make a short day trip to State College Pa and even with the baggage that I have towards this place,I always enjoy going here-go figure.

Mike Oravec had never been to State College and his list is even longer than my extensive list so that's saying something!
That means that this noon start was circled on the calendar early in the season for Mike.
We drove north and picked up Fred Landucci and drove to State College and breakfast at IHOP.
I've always liked IHOP although I don't eat out at ours very often-mainly because you can get whatever you want (I've noted in the past that I am not a big breakfast fan),I ordered something called the Denver Omelette Burger and it was decent enough.
It's funny,I like most breakfast foods,but I'm not a fan of breakfast-strange,I know.

After breakfast,we drove the few miles to Medlar Park through what appeared to be orientation park at Penn State,
It is the paradox of my visits to State College-I dislike Penn State,their "We Are" culture and particularly the looming giant that is Beaver Stadium across the street,yet this is one of my favorite ballparks to visit.
I love the way I'm treated by the staff (as long as I don't wear Buckeye gear,LOL),there isn't a bad seat in the place and it's a great graphing park for both pre and post game.
In other words,Medlar Park is a jewel.

Medlar Park is always a great graphing stadium,which isn't always the case with fairly new stadiums.
You can graph both teams from the same spot and get a lot of things finished at once-a plus when you are only doing a stadium for one day.
We graphed the visiting Auburn Doubledays and warned their players about their promotion to Hagerstown and what awaited them them as far as the Muni goes.
I didn't have many cards for Auburn-actually just a few for one player-pitcher Yonathan Ramirez,who I had in the Hagerstown Suns team set.
Ramirez asked Mike and I,if he could keep a Suns card and Mike said sure,if he signed all his cards.
It was odd though,when Ramirez got to the last card and started to sign it,I told him he didn't have to sign it since it was his.
Ramirez signed it anyway,smiled,said thanks and then put it in his clipboard and smiled as he walked away.
I only needed a few for the home Spikes,which was Bryce Denton on a newly acquired Perfect Game card and Scott Hurst on a USA card and then after a while,we were off to CC Peppers.

CC Peppers is a local cheese steak joint that must be a hit with the Penn State crowd as two tables down sat two assistant coaches from their perennial doormat men's basketball team.
It was a sparsely decorated place with posters of mostly Penn State,but had one that always is a must have picture!
The Richard Nixon picture that most oddballs such as myself go to for their Nixon of choice is the classic Nixon with Elvis Presley,but that's the "tourist" version.
The real Nixon aficionado uses the Nixon bowling on the White House lanes and that is what poster was featured at CC Peppers.

I ordered the special of the day,which was a steak sandwich,fries and a soda.
The ordering system might confuse a newcomer or two,but the steak was very good and as were the fries.
The place could have done a better job clearing tables,but it seemed to be more along the lines of just too much traffic to keep things running and that's not a bad way to go..
If you ever hit the Spikes,try CC Peppers-it's a little out of the way from the stadium,but nothing awful and worth the drive.

We went home soon after and I made it home to do the Hickory Crawdads in Hagerstown.
But another fun road trip with y friends and well worth the time-even if I did have to go to State College....



Thursday, August 3, 2017

John Reaves

John Reaves passed away Tuesday at the age of 67.
Reaves,a former first round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles and star of the USFL's Tampa Bay Bandits was well known for that and his record setting career at Florida,where at one time,Reaves held the NCAA's record for passing yards,but in recent years might have been almost just as well known to college football fans as the father of Layla Kiffin,the beautiful ex-wife of controversial football coach-Lane Kiffin.

Reaves might have been an NFL failure as a starter,although he was shoved into a starting role as a rookie on a bad team in Philadelphia in a time that rookie quarterbacks rarely found success,but he was a star in the USFL as he was the triggerman for Steve Spurrier's Tampa Bay Bandits for "Bandit Ball",which was a wide open and fun offense even for a league noted for such offense.

Reaves was not very mobile,so he was pretty easy to sack even behind the Bandits offensive line,which was one of the better lines in the league,so I can imagine how he was a sitting duck behind the line of the 2-11-1 1972 Eagles,which was his main starting stint in the NFL.
However,in the USFL,he was able to get the ball out quickly and avoid rushes far better than his mobility would suggest.which allowed him to throw for over 4,000 yards twice with the Bandits.
Reaves also was one of the replacement players during the three game 1987 lockout as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers used the popularity of the Bandits (the lockout was barely two years after the final game of the USFL) to gain a little bit of familiarity with the non-union players for the fans.
Reaves went 1-1 for the replacement men in Tangerine and never played afterwards.

Reaves spent some time coaching high school and on the Steve Spurrier staff at Florida along with a non-Spurrier stint at South Carolina,but battled drug addiction in the 1980's before getting clean for decades before a 2008 arrest for drugs and gun possession that sent Reaves back to drug counseling.
Reaves is currently part of the lawsuit of former players against the NFL for symptoms of CTE and the surviving family plans on offering Reaves' brain for examination for the suit.

I've written a lot about the USFL and I'm still planning forgotten superstars on the 1983 Chicago Blitz after the earlier post on the 1984 Arizona Wranglers.but the story that so many of you might want to hear (from conversations anyway) is the connection with Donald Trump and why I dislike him so-someday soon perhaps....



Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Pirates trade Tony Watson to Dodgers

The Pirates made a move at the trading deadline as the Pirates traded long time reliever Tony Watson to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for two minor leaguers.

The 32 year old Watson had moved up the ladder through his seven years in Pittsburgh as he evolved from long man to LOOGY to setup man and at the beginning of this season-closer,which turned out to be a role that he struggled with and was removed from in June.
Watson will likely be used in a setup relief role as a Dodger and will be a compliment to the closer Kenley Jansen there.
Watson still throws hard and could have success with the team with the best current record in baseball..

Tony Watson was the last of a bunch of prospects that ranged back to the beginning of 2007-when I was in my first few years of autographing,still learning the ropes of the hobby and the first year of this blog.
The blog has changed through the years and back then it was prospect heavy.
I still enjoy prospects,but I've changed a little bit because I've grown tired of the large cost of prospect books (Baseball America is now to the point of after shipping and taxes of being over forty dollars!)
Watson and Jared Hughes (Released at the end of last season,now with the Brewers) were the last (other than Andrew McCutchen) of that initial Pirates prospect series to remain as a Pirate and I always enjoyed seeing how they managed to perform in their big league career.
It's fun to look back at those posts and see who I was right about and who I was wrong on as well....

The Pirates are bringing in two players from the Dodgers system that were at Low A Great Lakes,and were assigned to Low A West Virginia for the Pirates.
6'6 Oneil Cruz is playing shortstop currently,but appears to be headed to third base considering his frame.
Cruz hit .240 as a Loon with eight homers,so he shows power potential,but the bad news is that there is a LOT of swinging and missing with 110 strikeouts in 89 games.
Cruz did receive a near million dollar bonus from the Dominican Republic and considering his age (19) and the Dodgers aggressive handling of him (Low A was his first year playing in the United States),he still has potential..

Angel German is reported to be a hard thrower (mid 90's) and posted a 1.91 ERA for Great Lakes,which looks sharp.
German is 21,which isn't old for the level and throws strikes (37 strikeouts to 14 walks),but I always wonder when pitchers are already full time relievers in low A.
The normal handling of pitching prospects is to try them as starters for as long as you can before moving to the bullpen.
Guzman's arm is intriguing,but there has to be a reason...

Back later with more!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Indians add Joe Smith and...

The Cleveland Indians made one move to add to their impressive bullpen,but it wasn't what one would have thought for the relievers as instead of a much needed extra lefty to replace the injured Boone Logam,it was righthanded submariner Joe Smith.

Smith,a former Indian,returned to Cleveland for two minor leaguers-pitcher Thomas Pannone and infielder Samad Taylor and will be used along with Bryan Shaw as an option for the 6th and 7th innings.
Smith was pitching well for the Blue Jays with a record of 3-0 and an ERA of 3.28 in 38 appearances.
Smith also has been pretty durable over his career,although he did miss a month earlier this season.

For Smith,it's a return home,but the most excited person might be Smith's wife- CBS sports reporter and native Northeast Ohioan Allie LaForce.



I'll put aside that it was Smith that left the Indians to begin with,not the other way around,but I'm sure that the excitement is legitimate for the pair.
Joe Smith certainly adds bullpen depth and won't be one of these players that looks at coming to Cleveland as a pit stop.
He is a free agent at the end of the year and I think if Smith pitches well,there would be interest from both sides in bringing him back for next season.
I bet Allie LaForce might have a say in this as well.

As for the prospects leaving the banks of Lake Erie,neither are top prospects,but both are interesting to a degree.
Thomas Pannone has impressed me in a season split between High A Lynchburg and AA Akron.
Pannone didn't allow an earned run in five Lynchburg starts and has notched a ERA of 2.62 in 14 starts.
Pannone has a strikeout to walk ratio of 4 to 1 in Akron,throws in the low 90's and is an interesting arm to watch in Toronto,who did a remarkable job with another unknown arm in Joe Biagini.

Samad Taylor is a 19 year old second baseman that was a tenth round pick in the 2016 draft,but is hitting .300 with four homers for Mahoning Valley in the short season New York/Penn league.
Those are pretty solid numbers for a high school player in a league filled with college players,so Taylor's an interesting player to watch,but players at this level are a bit of a lottery ticket.

In the end,I like this for both teams.
Cleveland adds bullpen depth,although not from the lefthanded side and the Blue Jays add a pitcher that could help Toronto as early as next year in Thomas Pannone as well as a potential prospect in the lower end of their system in Samad Taylor.
Pannone has a better chance to move up quickly in the Blue Jays system than in the Indians,so this really could help both sides of the trade.

I'm on the road tomorrow,so I will try to write about the Pirates bullpen moves on deadline day tomorrow evening,unless breaking news occurs.



Stats,Schedules and Stiffs

Starting this at 5 AM.
I'm at work at this time more than I am home and when I roll over,the first thing that I think of is-"time to take Ed out".
It's an instinctual thing that I don't think will be going away for a while....

It's been a busy time for me of late-Working eleven days in a row and sixteen of seventeen will do that to a person when you work the days and times that I do,but the storm is over and now I will work just four days between today and August 25th.
Feels pretty good,although I'm sure my wallet will feel differently in the month of August!

I had a good time at Ryan's 30th birthday party.
It was a surprise party (which I know he hates and I would have never thrown,but he handled it better than I would have) and I wasn't as unhappy as I thought I would be.
That's a pretty good statement for me..

I did get to clean up some fantasy football things as I selected two owners to replace two owners that shockingly left the league on extremely short notice.
One of them is a very good friend of mine and I was not only surprised by this,but I wish I knew what the real reason was.
I don't think it'll change things much as the league goes,life goes on and this seems to have revitalized things a bit with some owners (anger can do that some times),but I'll still miss having my good friend not being involved and I still have a feeling that the real reason for leaving has yet to be disclosed to me.
I'm more excited for the draft than I was before,although I've done next to no prep work yet with six days to go...

During all of the work run (which I scheduled during a dry baseball time),I only had two baseball stops,so I was missing the graphing stops.
The West Virginia Power came into Hagerstown and I was able to get most of their team set signed for myself and two friends that asked to work on their set for a trade.
I was surprised by one player that would only sign one card.
Normally that wouldn't be such a big deal because that does happen,but the surprise this time was that the player in question wouldn't sign three team cards.
Usually when that happens,it is either a big prospect or someone that has mainstream cards (Topps products) and they are just tired of signed 30 of these easily available cards,in this case it was a late round draft pick with no other cards.
Team set cards are almost always obtained (unless you buy from a rare dealer that breaks these sets up) as a team and (again) it's almost always collectors and not sellers that have these cards.
I'm not really mad at this player,I'm more interested in how he thinks and how we are perceived as a hobby....

Still down to the wire on a trip to Lake County for their annual Cleveland Sports Night.
The Captains always drag out the announcement of the guests and I have to take the weekend off,just in case they bring someone that I really want in.
Not a smooth process for sure.We'll see if I go or not,but I'll know for sure soon.

Here is a rough schedule for trips and places in the month of August

8/1
Auburn at State College/Hickory at Hagerstown (Fred Landucci/Mike Oravec)

8/2
Hickory at Hagerstown (Fred Landucci)
Myrtle Beach at Frederick

8/4-8/5
South Bend at Lake County (Not finalized)
West Michigan at Lake County

8/8
Danville at Bristol (Fred Landucci/Mike Oravec)
Buies Creek at Salem

8/9
Winston-Salem at Frederick (Fred Landucci or alone)

8/10
Winston-Salem at Frederick (Mike Oravec)

8/11-8/12
West Virginia at Hagerstown

8/13- trip (Fred Landucci)
Rome at Greenville SC

8/14
Kingsport at Greeneville TN

8/15
Elizabethton at Johnson City
Danville at Burlington

8/16
Toledo at Charlotte

8/18
Kannapolis at Hagerstown

8/19 trip (Mike Oravec/Derreck Chupak)
Durham at Scranton
Portland at Binghamton

8/20
Williamsport at Batavia
Gwinnett at Buffalo

8/21
State College at Auburn
Scranton at Rochester

8/22-8/24
Wilmington at Frederick
Lakewood at Hagerstown

8/28
Akron at Harrisburg

8/29-30
Salem at Frederick
Delmarva at Hagerstown