Sunday, September 30, 2012

Castro Triple Play Puzzle

Earlier this week I was given the entire 9-card Starlin Castro puzzle from the Panini Triple Play card set.  My good friend, Vince, gave it to me as an early birthday present!

Well, made a quick trip out and found a frame that advertised it was ideal for comic books and magazines because it would give them the appearance of floating in the frame.  Huh, it didn't say anything about baseball card puzzles, but it was down 40% so what the heck!  The best $5.40 I've spent to today!

Here's the puzzle in the frame 14-inch by 11-inch frame.  I guess it does kind of look like it just floating in there.

And here's a shot of my newest piece of art hanging in my own personal gallery, known as the Man Room!  Thanks again, Vince!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

It's not looking good.

With the loss to the Rockies to today a couple of items were more or less clinched:

A). The Cubs will receive the #2 pick in next year's June amateur draft


B). This team will go down as one of the worst in franchise history in terms of record.

With six games left to play the Cubs hold a three game lead over the Rockies for the #2 pick, the same Rockies that just swept the Cubs in Colorado. 

Currently, with 97 losses, the Chicago ball club has equaled the third most losses in franchise history.  See the snapshot below for a brief and depressing history of my beloved team.  Please, keep in mind that had not yet added today's loss into the annals.

The 2012 version of the Bad News Bears still has a chance at matching the worst season record in franchise history.  I'm hoping for at least one more win against the Diamondbacks or the Astros to avoid such a dubious distinction.

Finishing with 4 wins and two losses in the last six games (to avoid 100 losses) seems almost improbable right now, especially when one considers that the Cubs are on a five game losing streak right now.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Happy Birthday, to me?

My birthday is about three months away.  But, I was delivered a card this afternoon and I received it with my eyebrow raised and my brow furrowed.  Curious, skeptical, cautious.  Yes, I was quite unsure.

I opened it up and a little package of cards slid into my lap.  I read the note and I tried to contain myself.  After all, there were students still present in my classroom!

Here's part of the text that me all aflutter, "I saw on your blog that you would love the rest of the puzzle pieces to put up in the man room and I had to get them for you.  I wanted to give it to you now before you went and got the rest yourself."

Man, do I have some awesome friends!  The card was signed by Vince and his family, but I know he was the mastermind behind this surprise.  Thanks, Vince!

Once I've put the puzzle together and framed it properly I'll have to do another post.   I think I'll go frame shopping this weekend.  I can't wait!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Bobblehead Monday #2

Bobblehead #2
Name: Ron Santo
Position: Third base
Team: Chicago Cubs
Description:  6.75 inches tall; taking a knee with bat in hand. I've added a Cubs "Believe" bracelet to Santo. 
Relevance: I don’t know that there was a bigger Cubs fan than Ron Santo.  He was a must for my collection.
How Acquired: Another eBay transaction!
Other Notes: Although I never saw him play, I know Ron Santo was a heckuva ballplayer.  He earned many awards and accolades during his career, a career he played while battling diabetes.  Ron was posthumously enshrined in Cooperstown this summer. It’s too bad he wasn’t around to enjoy the moment.
Santo was a terrific person and did much charity work for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.  He also was a champion educator for diabetes and the documentary, This Old Cub, certainly opened my eyes.  Pat Hughes, his radio partner, would often speak of how Ron would reach out to fans that were just diagnosed with diabetes or were struggling with the disease.
He was an adequate color man on the radio. The best part of Ron being on the radio was that he celebrated when you cheered and he bellowed out “Oh, No!” when you couldn’t bear to watch or listen.  He was a true fan of the Cubs, my Cubs, and he wasn’t afraid to let everyone know it.  As a loyal listener to WGN radio it was hard not to feel as though Ron was part of your own family.  And as silly as it sounds, I felt as though I grew closer to Ron with each passing summer.  
Best of all: Ron wore his emotions, allegiances, and heart on his sleeve.  He bled blue.  Ron Santo will be missed.
Bonus Note: The below youtube video is an audio clip of a Cubs win.  Pat Hughes describes the play-by-play and you can hear Santo in the background.  Great stuff.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Yes, I would like a "Woody"

I follow Kerry Wood on Twitter (@KerryWood) and he tweeted the other day that he had his own menu item at Chicago Bagel Authority in Lakeview and Lincoln Park.  The article states that Wood is a regular customer and he supposedly used to eat this bagel concoction in the clubhouse before games.

Since Kerry Wood retired a few months ago he has been very active in the community.  And I love the way he is giving back to the community in his latest effort!

Bacon, scrambled eggs, American cheese, and grape jelly on a bialy.  The result?  The "Woody."

Can't wait to try this one!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Chiefs lose Cubs, sign with Cards

It's been the worst kept secret in minor league baseball that the Cubs were pulling out of Peoria and moving up the road to Kane County.  Today the Peoria Chiefs were able to sign a four year player development contract with the St. Louis Cardinals.

I'm not happy about losing the Cubs, but the next best option moved back into Peoria.  This is good for baseball in Peoria.  Silver lining?  Yep, I suppose so.

There's a solid Cardinal fan base in Peoria, and some would argue that it is stronger than the Cubs'. I'm not a Cardinal hater and I've been known to root for them in the playoffs on occasion.  That being said, I'll still frequent games, but probably with not the same appetite I once had. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Trade with ARPsmith's Sportscard Obsession

Not too long along I posted that I was going to try to complete the 2012 Opening Day set.  Adam, of ARPsmith's Sportscard Obsession, contacted me about making a trade.   I sent over a handful of inserts for the same set and couple of San Francisco Giants for team needs.

I'm down to about 30 base cards and 16 mascot cards.

For the record, this was my tenth different blogger that I have completed a trade within the baseball card blogosphere. I know some bloggers can knock that out in a week, but ten in a summer is a pretty good pace for me and my card collecting goals.

Below are my favorites from Adam's package.

First up, Brandon McCarthy.  He was just released last week from the hospital after being hit in the head by a line drive and he is back to being his old self on Twitter.  Mr. McCarthy is a humorous follow: @BMcCarthy32

Mascot cards!  I know they have been done recently with Topps Attax and other Opening Day sets, but I like them nonetheless!

Thanks for a fun trade, Adam!

Monday, September 17, 2012


So I was on my way to work this morning and I usually try to get in the card at about 6:17AM because that's when Mike & Mike come back on the air after their commercial break.  I ended up leaving the house a couple minutes early and was forced to channel surf for something to listen to.

Boom, I was Thunderstruck.  Nothing like a little AC/DC early in the morning!

Fast forward to this evening:  we just a heck of a storm come blowing through the neighborhood.  There was a huge clap of thunder, it startled me a little, but I kept sorting through my baseball cards.

Ten minutes or so later I find Gus in the following position.  He must have been in the office when the thunder struck, and the closest place to hide was between the wall and the door.  He was fast asleep!

Silly cat.  At least the other cat, Mooshie, can find her way underneath the covers of the bed.


Bobblehead/tail Monday #3

Bobblehead/Bobbletail #3
Name: Homer the Dragon
Position: Mascot
Team: Charlotte Knights
Description: 7.25 inches tall; wearing a Charlotte Knights uniform and leaning on a bat. Homer is not only a bobblehead, but he also has a bobbling tail!
Relevance: I attended a Knights’ game on August 9th, 2007, with Laura and our good friends Mike and Rhonda, who live in Charlotte.  This bobblehead commemorates my visit to yet another baseball park!
How Acquired: I won Homer the Dragon from an auction on eBay.
Check out the fur!
Other Notes: The texture of Homer’s fur is pretty fantastic.  This is not a cheaply done bobble, as the fur is done with fine detail, which can’t be easy to create with a ceramic mold. 
The tail is too much fun as it is capable of wagging or moving up & down.  Homer is my only multi-bobbling-part figurine, and that alone secures him a spot in my Top 5 Favorite Bobbleheads.
Bonus Note: Homer broke the record for most hugs given by a mascot in a twenty-four span on May 24th, 2011.  5,615 lucky people helped Homer enter the record books! 
Just in case: Homer is the on the far left.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Being a fan Vs. Fantasy Sports

Let me start off saying this: being a fan and playing fantasy sports can cause a bunch of headaches.

I have learned over the years to separate the heart from matters of fantasy sports, but sometimes that's easier said than done.  In my two fantasy baseball leagues this year I only had one Cub, and I only rostered him until a week after the All-Star break and then cut ties with him.  Tough for a homer to do, but Bryan Lahair wasn't playing much and rumors were flying that Anthony Rizzo was to be soon called up. In all, it ended up being the right decision.

I'm a baseball-first kind of guy, and football to me is just something that helps to pass the time until spring.  But, I do love my Bears.  Monsters of the Midway! The Bears take on those crazy Packers tonight. 

Again, I tried  to steer clear of the Bears in my two leagues, much like I did with my baseball leagues, but Brandon Marshall fell to me in one league and Matt Forte in the other. 

My heart and head both say, "Start Marshall!"  The aerial attack should be out in full force in this gunslinger showdown.

Matt Forte?  Forte is one of the top backs in league, but he's only scored one touchdown in his history against the Packers.  Yet, he's an awesome pass catcher out of the backfield, but Cutler has a REAL target in Marshall.  Forte can bust of chunks of yardage at anytime, but Michael Bush will vulture all of his goal line touchdowns.  As you can see, I'm on the proverbial fence with my decision on sitting or starting Forte.

Here were my options, which are never good when fantasy sports and "fandom" intersect:

A) Start Forte.  Surely, this would result in minimal fantasy points.  If Forte doesn't have a good fantasy day, then the odds of the Bears winning are slim at best.

B) Sit Forte.  Murphy's Law says that this would result in oodles of points!   This would be better for the Bears chances, but I would be sore from kicking myself for missing out on the fantasy points.

Yeah, he's on my bench.  What's a guy to do?  My hands were tied.   If you think I should look at my other running backs before making this decision, then you're not picking up what I'm laying down. It's one of those darned if I do, darned if I don't scenarios.

I'm a fan first, fantasy is just for fun.  I choose option "B"!  Bear down, Chicago Bears!

Triple Play Castro!

No, Starlin Castro did not just turn an unassisted triple play.  But, I did pull my first Castro card from my last pack of Panini Triple Play.  Wahoo!  Finally, a Cub!

This card features his base card from the set on one side and one-ninth of the Castro puzzle on the other side.

I would love to find the eight other puzzle pieces and frame Starlin for my Man Room wall, but I don't know if that's going to happen.  Until then, I'll just have to settle for a close-up of Castro's knee.

I still think the Triple Play set is the most fun set out there this year, and I hope Panini is up for another go of it in 2013. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Trade with Play at the Plate

Brian, from Play at the Plate, and I struck up a deal where I would send him 200 or so of my Texas Rangers for "whatever they were worth to him."  At the time I was trying to thin my collection and I was glad that the cards would go to a good home.

Yesterday in the mailbox I found a package from Texas.  Let's take a look inside!

All the cards in the package were from the 2012 Topps Archives set.  I'm still working on the short-prints and the reprints.  Six short-prints and two more reprints to cross of the list!

Two great power hitters: 1991 Cecil Fielder and 1988 Jack Clark. 

 A pair of lefties, one sweet swingin' and the other wild throwin': 1992 Sid Bream and 1992 Mitch Williams.

I wish these guys were still playing to help the Orioles reach the playoffs in 2012: 1972 Brooks Robinson and 1980 Ken Singleton.

This 1990 Shawon Dunston was my favorite card in the package.  Hey, I'm a Cubs fan.  Like you didn't see that coming.  But then . . .

. . . there was a 1955 rookie card reprint of Roberto Clemente staring back at me.  Good gracious, that's a pretty cool card.  I, like many collectors out there, love everything Clemente.  The actual 1955 card, in good shape, runs around $5,000, but this five dollar version is quite spectacular and it's going in my keeper album for sure.  I'll have to track down another for my Archives set!

Thanks for a great trade, Brian!  I couldn't be happier!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Quest to Avoid 100 Losses.

The Cubs recently traveled to Pittsburgh and may have put the final nail in the coffin of the Pirates 2012 season by sweeping a three game set at PNC park.  The Pirates are now behind two other teams for the second wild card spot in the NL.  When you get swept at home by the 2012 version of the Cubs things are not looking up.

Spoilers.  I enjoy the role of spoiler. Laying down for my opponent was never my thing, and I hope these young Cubs are similar in their beliefs.

The Cubs only have twenty-one games left in their season, and there are a handful of things that I'm keeping my eye on as they play out the string:

1. Can they avoid 100 losses?  Right now they are projected to finish with 63 wins and 99 losses, and that's largely due to the mini four game winning streak they currently are enjoying.
2. Can Alfonso Soriano hit 30 homers and log 100 RBI's?  If he launches two more home runs, then it'll be the first time since his inaugural season in Chicago, back in 2007, that he's hit 30.  He has never hit 100 RBI's with the Cubs, and he's already surpassed his previous best of 88 with this season's 94.
3. Tony Campana.  I love the speed, but wish his on base skills were better.  Unfortunately, I think his days with the Cubs are numbered.  For example, Jackson is injured and DeJesus got the night off last evening.  Who roamed the outfield with Soriano?  None other than Joe Mather and David Sappelt.  Bummer.  That puts Campana 6th on the depth chart for one night at least.
4. Darwin Barney's errorless streak.  He plays the game hard and fields his position well.  Much respect.  Carry on.
5. Chris Rusin.  Part of me wants to believe that he is our solid lefty starter for the next 5 to 10 seasons.  The other parts wish he could locate his fastball better and was the beneficiary of as wide a strike zone as Tom Glavine would often receive. Only time will tell if he's a legit MLB starter.

There's three weeks left in this season and I'm already ready for spring training 2013.  Will next year ever get here?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Bobblehead Monday #4

Bobblehead #4
Name: Kerry Wood
Position: Relief Pitcher
Team: Chicago Cubs
Description: 7.25 inches tall; Kerry in dressed in a Peoria Chiefs uniform and is just starting his pitching motion.
Relevance: Kerry Wood was my favorite baseball player during the past fourteen seasons.  He spent time in Peoria rehabbing with the Chiefs during the 2005, 2006, and 2007 seasons.
How Acquired: A giveaway promotion at a Peoria Chiefs baseball game.
Notes:  Kerry is most noted probably for the potential career that never was, but that was due to a spotty injury history.  He battled back from injury more times than he or I would care to count.  But, he always worked hard, was a good teammate, gave back to the community, and said & did the right things.
Player History:  Kerry Wood was drafted out of high school as the Cubs number one draft pick in June of 1995.  He debuted during the 1998 season, at the age of twenty-one, and helped the Cubs secure the wild card with help of Sammy Sosa’s sixty-six homers.  He struck out 20 Astros in only his fifth major league start, in what some pundits have called the most dominating pitching performance ever.  I still remember walking into my dorm room after class and turning on the game in the middle of the third inning.  His slider was so filthy that day!  Kerry missed all of the ’99 season due to an elbow injury.    Kerry won the Rookie of the Year Award in 1998, was invited to two all-star games, and at one point he became a solid closer.
Peoria Chiefs Career totals: 5 games, 2 starts, 0-0 record, 10.1 innings, 3 hits allowed, 1 walk, 1 hit batter, 1 wild pitch, 20 strikeouts, 0.58 WHIP, 0.00 ERA, and 17.4 K/9.  17 strikeouts per every nine innings?  That’s ridiculous.
Bonus Note: I graduated high school one year after Kerry Wood and had elbow surgery one year before him.  We have very similar body types AND he pitched for my favorite team.  I lived vicariously through him for more than a decade and maybe even shed a tear the day he retired.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Before & After: Hallway

With two cats in the house, Laura and I are always trying to make things easier to clean and maintain.  We decided it was time we did something about the carpet in the main hallway and we ultimately decided to extend the parquet flooring from the hallway down the hall. 

I special ordered the parquet tiles about a month ago and successfully kept them out of Laura's sight, thus out of her mind until just recently.

Last weekend we ripped up the carpet, padding, and tack strips.  Not a big deal really, but the staples left over from the padding were not fun to remove.  We made a trip to the hardware store and bought some floor padding under-layment.  Laura gently pried the baseboards from the walls and we decided to put the rest off until this weekend.

Laura had Friday off and she did a considerable amount of parquet tile laying.  I joined in on the fun Saturday and we finished the detailed work around the doorways and in the closet.  We had more than enough entry ways to consider down the 80+ square foot hallway: three bedrooms, one bath, one coat closet, one large laundry closet, and a doorway to the basement. 

We were running out of tile to finish the interior of the coat closet and Laura somehow managed to puzzle piece the remaining scraps together.  Persistence and patience at its finest.  It was cool to watch her progression.

Today we touched up the wall paint, lowered the baseboards to the height of the new parquet flooring, and touched up the paint on the baseboards as well. 

Major shout out to my dad for loaning us his air compressor, staple gun, and brad nailer.  They proved to be very helpful!

The project lasted about a week, but only about two dozen total man hours in all.  We're both pretty happy with the result.  Next up: a runner of flor carpet tiles to dress up the hallway and add some much needed traction.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

2012 Topps Opening Day

I've been buying individual packs from time-to-time of 2012 Topps Opening Day during the spring and summer.  I enjoy ripping open packs, checking out the photography, and reading the stats.  At a dollar a pack they've been the cheapest way to get my fix.

I'm to that point that most set builders reach: Do I buy more packs and hope I get the cards I need OR do I reach out to the blogosphere and my Local Card Shop?

With school now in full swing and my major coaching season just around the corner I think I'll do the latter.  I'll cross my fingers and hope that there are some bloggers out there that are willing to help.

I'm chasing the base set and I'd love to snag all of the mascots.  The rest of the inserts are up for trade; just ask if you're looking for something.

Check out the tab at the top of the blog for an updated want list.  Thanks!

1 Hour in Workshop = Bird Feeder

Laura and I love to eat dinner, look out the slider, and watch the birds.  We have a pair of suet feeders and a large generic bird seed feeder.  Until a little while ago we had a thistle seed feeder for the gold finches, but the silly sock feeder was dropping more seed than it was holding.

I took the sock down and visited the local box stores hoping for a smaller thistle feeder.  No dice.  Everything was either really cheap plastic or way too big for our liking.

Then it struck me: I've made two different bird feeders in the past, why not a third?

I did a google image search and found this dandy (on the right):

I already had leftover screen and cedar from another project.  I went down to the workshop and an hour later I came back up with a new feeder (on the left).

It's now hanging in the backyard near the other feeders and fountain.

Best thing about the project was that everything I used to make the feeder I already had somewhere in the workshop.