Friday, August 31, 2012

Magic Curb

In the 4+ years that Laura and I have lived in our neighborhood, we've discovered that we have been blessed with a Magic Curb.  Large objects, which may or may not have disappeared at our previous residence, disappear with regularity now.

Early 1980s electric oven and stove top?  Gone.

Old kitchen sink and hardware?  Vanished.

Broken beyond repair dehumidifier?  Poof!

We decided to test the curb's magical powers with my friend's father's old water heater this past spring.  Yep.  The curb is very powerful indeed!

Our latest update/remodel job involved the side entrance to the garage. The door's only locking mechanism was a push button on the doorknob.  We wanted a dead bolt, but the old metal door, which was more-or-less hollow, wouldn't securely hold a new dead bolt.

My grandfather and I installed a new door and dead bolt in the original frame with the old push button doorknob.  It took a couple of hours, but it looks great and I learned a few things.  Grandpa brought over his chisel set, that his father had given to him, and he taught me how to use the set to properly move the door's hinges on the old frame.  I'm sure my dad used the chisels at some point, and to imagine that I was the fourth generation to use the set was pretty neat.  Thanks for the lesson and help, Grandpa!

Okay, back to the magic curb.

I placed the old metal door in the new frame and took the pair to the curb at 6:20 p.m. last Monday.  I awoke and checked the curb twelve hours later.  Hmmm.  Not enough metal on the door frame perhaps?  No worries, the garbage men tossed the lightweight frame into the back of the garbage truck later that same afternoon.
6:20 p.m.
6:20 a.m. next morning


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

BirdZerk! Bobblehead

Back on Saturday, August 4th, some friends and I took in another Peoria Chiefs game.  Saturday night games are always big seat-filler at Chiefs Stadium because of the promise of fireworks!  Well, this time around we also had between inning entertainment in the form of BirdZerk!  BirdZerk! is one of the traveling mascot-esque attractions along the lines of the Famous Chicken, who I saw back in June.

BirdZerk! does a good job frequenting the field and keeping the crowd involved.  What I like about his skit is that he actually gets a few of the players to become involved.  It must be about seven years now, but Alberto Garcia once did a dance number with BirdZerk! that has us talking for days.  Alberto was our favorite player that year because he was so friendly and accessible. 

On my way out of the stadium my sister convinced me to buy a Birdzerk! bobblehead for my collection.  I was a little hesitant at first, but the price was right and my sister can be pretty convincing.  So, I stood in line, laid down $9, got a fist bump from Birdzerk!, and even was able to get the bobblhead autographed.  Nice touch, BirdZerk!

Here he is amongst the other members of my bobblehead mascot family.  Although one mascot is missing, as I don't won't to unveil one of my Top 5 bobbleheads.


Monday, August 27, 2012

Bobblehead Monday #6

Bobblehead #6
Name: Bob Feller
Position: Starting Pitcher
Team: Van Meter Bulldogs (High School)
Description: 7.25 inches tall; Bob is in the middle of his windup with his leg fully extended.
Relevance: I spent a couple days in Iowa last summer and I visited the Field of Dreams movie site, caught an Iowa Cubs game, and visited the Bob Feller Museum in Van Meter, IA.
How Acquired: Giveaway promotion at the I-Cubs game on July 19th, 2011.
Bob Feller Museum
Other Notes: Van Meter is a small town just west Des Moines where Bob Feller was born and raised.  The museum there is a nice little tourist attraction of one of the best flamethrowers in the history of Major League Baseball. 
Player History: Bob Feller struck out 15 batters in his major league debut and two weeks later fanned the same number of batters as his age (17).  (Only one other player in MLB history has accomplished that feat, and he will soon be featured in the countdown.)
During the late 1930s, Feller was recognized as the most well-known young person in America, with the possible exception of Shirley Temple.  Feller’s high school graduation was nationally aired by NBC radio.  Feller served four years in the military during his early 20’s, but that didn’t stop him compiling 268 wins, 279 complete games, and leading the American League in strikeouts seven times. Feller pitched three no-hitters, participated in eight All-Star contests, and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1962.
Bonus Note: Bob Feller visited Peoria in the late 1980’s and signed autographs at a Chiefs game.  I don’t recall if I was able to score a Feller autograph.  Unfortunately, the eleven year old version of me didn’t have the interest in baseball history that I now possess.  Oh, to turn back the clock!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

There will be baseball in Peoria in 2013.

Five days ago news broke that the Cubs may be pulling out of Peoria.  I was not happy then and I'm still quite unamused now. 

Apparently, there's a rule that states that teams can not discuss affiliation contracts outside of a two week window in September.  From what I have gathered, it is not uncommon for MLB teams to have contracts in place before the two week window, but it's more of an under-the-table agreement.  Somehow, the Cubs supposed agreement with Kane County for 2013 found it's way to the public eye about three weeks early.  Now fines may be dealt out to the involved parties: $500,000 to the Cubs and $100,000 to the Kane County Cougars.

In other, much happier news the owner of the Chiefs has stated that there will be minor league baseball played in Peoria next season.  Rocky Vonachen mentioned the Cardinals and Royals as possibilities if the Cubs move north.  I'm still crossing my fingers that the Cardinals would come back to the area.  I'm a diehard Cubs fan, but it would be the best thing for baseball in Peoria.  Good luck, Rocky!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Say it isn't so, Theo!

Last Friday night my friend Jim asked the Chiefs' owner, Rocky Vonachen, how the negotiations for renewing the affiliation with the Cubs were proceeding.  At the time Rocky had not heard anything from the Cubs and was disappointed to inform us that no one from the current front office had been down to visit Peoria this season. I didn't think that was a good sign for the future.

I can't imagine it was a good day for Rocky when multiple sources are reporting that the Chiefs might move to Kane County for next season.  For the record, Kane County is within easy driving distance of Chicago. So I see the appeal, but I don't have to like it.

Not the news that I wanted to hear.

From what I've read from different sources it seems that Theo & Co. can not formally make an announcement about switching to another location until the middle of September.  Naturally, the front office is trying to keep things on the down-low in the meantime.  #nocomment

Gosh, if the Cubs pull out of Peoria, what does that mean for my beloved Chiefs?  Would the Cardinals want to come back to Central Illinois?  Apparently, St. Louis' player development contract with Quad Cities also expires after this season. Yet, the Carinals seem to have a good thing going in the Quad Cities.  

Other MLB teams in the Midwest League who have expiring player development contracts are the Twins, Rays, Athletics, Angels, Mariners, Reds, Padres, Royals, Blue Jays, Diamondbacks, and Brewers.  There's always an outside chance of another MLB moving in to the Midwest League as well.

Only time will time.

Here's how I hope it plays out, with #1being the one I'm crossing my fingers for and #5 being the absolute worst possible scenario for this baseball loving fan:

I was hoping to make my own Shawon-o-meter!
1. Theo re-ups with the Chiefs and I get to see Albert Almora, Dillon Maples, Shawon Dunston Jr., and Dan Vogelbach in Peoria next year!
2. St. Louis replaces the Cubs in Peoria.  Well, it's not the Cubs and I'm not a fan of the Cardinals, but this is next best possibility in terms of keeping the interest level high of those attending games in the Peoria area.
3. Still affiliated with a major league team, but I won't really feel invested watching future Reds or future Athletics.
4. An independent league baseball team takes the field.  This would be a huge blow to the Chiefs' franchise.  A big step in the wrong direction for baseball in Peoria.
5. Bradley Baves baseball is the main attraction at Peoria Chiefs Stadium.  What would I do on a gorgeous summer night?
Vogelbach: he hist mammoth home runs!
#1 pick from 2012 June draft.

Dillon Maples, top pitching prospect in low minors.
I will say this: my man crush over Theo Epstein will be officially over the second he moves the Cubs out of Peoria.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Bobblehead Monday #7

Pete having fun at the ballpark
Bobblehead #7
Name: Pete Vonachen
Position: Owner
Team: Peoria Chiefs
Description: 7.25 inches tall; Pete’s holding a baseball in his right hand and is dressed in a Chiefs’ hat, polo, and khaki pants.
Relevance: Pete Vonachen is the champion of minor league baseball in Peoria, IL.  He was the longtime owner of the Peoria Chiefs who has handed the reigns over to his son, Rocky Vonachen.
How Acquired: A giveaway promotion at a Peoria Chiefs baseball game on during the 2002 season.
Other Notes: Pete still attends games at Chiefs Stadium on a semi-regular basis. One of his favorite things to do at a game, when he was owner, was giveaway a ball to youngster.  There is a statue of him doing just that when you walk into the downtown Peoria ballpark.  

Bonus Note: Pete is also known for being a close friend to the late Harry Caray.  One of my favorite cards in my collection is a card featuring the two (pictured).  Somehow when I was much younger my dad was able to gain access to the announcers’ booth at Wrigley to get Harry’s autograph.  What a thrill that was!  Snagging Pete’s signature was not nearly as challenging for a local who easily attends over a dozen Chiefs games each season.
Chiefs tickets from 2012

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Robbing the garden for pizza toppings

We had homemade pizza the other night.  Laura topped hers with Alfredo sauce, spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms, and mozzarella.   Here's her masterpiece right out of the oven.  Nice, very nice.

I don't do mushrooms and I had one last adult beverage from south of the border in the frig to go with dinner.  I found some red pizza sauce and leftover pepperoni from the last pizza making affair.  Laura shared some her spinach and I found some Mexican style shredded cheese to pair with the mozzarella. Things were coming together, but I wanted a little heat. 

Out to the garden!

Um, nope.  These represent what should be about half of our raspberry crop. Good flavor, but I'll save those to top a helping of vanilla ice cream.

Ahhh!  That's more like it!

Chiles and jalapenos.  I wasn't looking for the heat to bore a trench through my taste buds so I sliced them open and removed most of the seeds.  Yes, all the flavor and I would still be able to see straight afterwards.

Here's the finished product. 

Oh, here's a picture of Gus mid-sentence, thus the gaping mouth.  He's a talker.  I believe he was asking for a taste of pizza.

Sorry Gus, I ate the entire pizza. 

The raspberries and ice cream will have to wait another day.

Friday, August 17, 2012

First impressions: Jorge Soler and Drew Granier

Jorge Soler
I attended my 13th Peoria Chiefs of the season tonight. Paid only $6 for a first row seat down the first baseline, sat with some good friends, enjoyed some peanuts and was able to snag a baseball.  Oh, and the weather was prime as well.  A great night overall.

This past spring the Cubs front office signed Jorge Soler, a 20 year old Cuban defector, to a nine year 30 million dollar contract.  That's a pretty good amount of guaranteed cash for someone that is more-or-less an unknown commodity. 

Soler played in his first game with Peoria in front of the hometown tonight and I came away thinking, "Uh-oh." 

Don't get me wrong, he's a physical specimen somewhere along the lines of a young Andre Dawson or Vladimir Guerrero.  Those two guys could do it ALL, and the potential is there with Soler as well. But, the key word is potential, and I'll revisit that word in a second.

First, lets' break down his at-bats:
1st AB  = broken bat flyout to center.  He failed to get the good part of the bat on a Low-A fastball.
2nd AB = strike two was a curveball, looking; strike three was a swing-and-miss on a low and outside curveball.
3rd AB = two more curves, both swinging this time, no contact, and another strikeout.
4th AB = got his knees buckled a first pitch curve; saw another curve, two sliders, and swung through a fastball for strike three.

 Not a lot of contact, and the contact that was there was poor.  At this point Soler reminds more of Pedro Cerrano, from the Major League movie series, than Dawson or Guerrero.

Here's Cerrano's best quote from the movie: "Bats, they are sick. I cannot hit curveball. Straightball I hit it very much. Curveball, bats are afraid. I ask Jobu to come, take fear from bats. I offer him cigar, rum. He will come."

Back to my thoughts on potential.  Where is the motivation for a 20 year old individual, who will be paid $30,000,000 over nine, to succeed and reach their potential.  I hate to say it, but from the way he ran to and from his position in right field, I'd say that he's already mailing it in.

In fact, his demeanor on the field had me recalling another famous baseball movie scene.

Lollygaggers!  Oh, what a classic clip.

On to the impression...

Drew Granier
 Drew Granier is not a Cub farmhand.  He's a minor league starting pitcher for the Burlington Bees, which is an affiliate of the Oakland Athletics. 

In the second inning tonight Granier dislocated his non-throwing shoulder after a pitch to the Chiefs cleanup hitter, Dustin Geiger.  Granier went to the ground holding his shoulder and the trainer and manager rushed out to see him.  The trainer then stood up Granier and twice attempted to pop his shoulder back into place.  Nope, that didn't work.

The trainer then escorts him off the field and the crowd gives him the customary applause thinking that Granier's night is over.  Wait, what's he doing?  He's slamming his shoulder into the dugout wall!  He's walking back onto the field!  He's grabbing his glove and taking a few warmup pitches! 

Holy cow!  He just pulled a Riggs from Lethal Weapon and popped his own shoulder back into place AND continued to pitch! 

Geiger finished his at-bat by launching a bomb onto the berm in left field once play resumed, but Granier settled down and pitched five solid innings while giving up only two runs.  The Bees won the game 5-4.

Now, that, is a great first impression!

Trade with Nachos Grande

Chris, from Nachos Grande, and I hammered out a quick trade within the last week.  I sent him some 2012 Topps Archives and 1991 Donruss to help him toward the completion of some his sets.

I received a couple of Archives to cross off my set checklist, a couple of Cardinals to flip at my local card shop, and the following Cubs cards pictured below.

The Grace and Maddux were the toss-ins within the trade.  Very generous and a nice surprise!

I have somewhat of a Starlin Castro collection growing.  By default, he's the only current Cub that gets much love by Topps.  All the other big name players have been traded away and the younger guys either haven't really made a name for themselves yet or aren't top shelf talent.  So the Castro cards keep finding their way to my man room.

 I already had the 2011 Topps Lineage base card of Starlin Castro (picture on the left), but now I own the Venezuelan version as well.  The fronts are the same, but the back is in Spanish!

 Here's the same Castro card but all shiny!  Oooh, shiny!  Usually, these don't photograph too well, but I really like the "rainbow" that I captured at the top of the card.

This was one of the smaller trades that I've made, but Nachos Grandes and I were able to help each other out.  And, as the set builder knows, every little bit helps!  Thanks, Chris!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Trade with Baseball Cards, Sports and Life ('78 Topps - Part IX)

I contacted Doug, from Baseball Cards, Sports and Life, a while back about helping him with his 2012 Topps Archives set.  I only had five cards to help him out with, but they netted me the following three '78 Topps for my set:

Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley.  Look at that 'stache!

 Mark "The Bird" Fidrych took baseball by storm in 1976.  He won nineteen games, led the league in ERA and complete games, was second in the Cy Young voting and won the Rookie of the Year award.  He caught the injury bug in 1977 and managed just ten wins the next four seasons before he retired.

Jim Barr?  Yeah, I don't know who he is either.  But, I guess he lasted 12 years in the majors and was nearly a .500 pitcher for the Giants and Angels.

Thanks for the help with my '78 set, Doug!

I now have 711 of the 726 cars in the 1978 Topps set, but I'm going to add one more to my list: #219 - Mike Cubbage.  I have quite a few "loved" cards in my collection, but someone took a pair of scissors to poor Mike and I'd like to upgrade.  So, I stand at 710.

I've added 28 cards from four trades with fellow bloggers.  I only need 16 more, can you help me out?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Trade with Emerald City Diamond Gems

Larry at Emerald City Diamond Gems contacted me about my Seattle Mariner cards when I was trading off lots to the blog-o-sphere.  I sent Larry somewhere between 175 to 200 Mariners and told him to send back something that he thought was fair.

Yesterday I found a package from the great state of Washington in my mailbox and I ripped right into it.  There were some 2000's  and 1990's represented, but they were in the minority.  The majority of the package was Chicago Cubs from the 80's, 70's, 60's, and 50's!  I don't have much from the latter three decades, so this was a treat!

Additionally, there were four 1988 Topps cards to help me with my set completion.  I'm not down to five cards.  Please, check my want list and see if you can help me out.

Here's my favorites, from dustiest to shiniest, with commentary:   

Oddly enough, the oldest card in my collection before the package from Larry arrived was a 1959 Topps Lou Jackson.  Huh, now I have two of Mr. Jackson and one John Buzhardt to complement him.

 1960 Topps rookies Dick Ellsworth and Bob Will.
1961 Danny Murphy.  I have no idea who Danny Murphy is, but the card is over fifty years old!  Cool!

 1967 Topps Randy Hundley and a Rookie Stars card of Bill Connors and Dave Dowling.  Randy Hundley was the catcher on the '69 Cubs and still hosts a fantasy camp every spring.  Bill Connors ended up being the pitching coach for the Cubs during the 80's and 90's.  Dave Dowling pitched one game for the Cubs in 1967 and it was pretty special: a complete game win in which he gave up only two runs.  Coincidentally, that was his last game in the majors.  I'm sure there's more to this story.

1979 Topps Bruce Sutter.

1986 Fleer Dennis Eckersley.

1987 Fleer Lee Smith and Greg Maddux Rookie.

So, the last four cards were all notable pitchers in their day.  Two were exclusively closers, one a starter, and one spent a little time as both.  Together they earned 691 wins, 1,168 saves, 27 All-Star selections, 6 Cy Young Awards, 1 MVP Award, and Maddux will soon be the 3rd member of the group to enter the Hall of Fame.  Lee Smith is still eligible.

 I thought I had all of Mark Grace's rookie cards.  Wrong!  Here's the 1989 Topps Glossy All-Star card.

1990 Score Dream Team Mitch Williams.  Wild Thing was my mom's favorite player back in the day!  I'm not sure if it was the long hair, his boyish looks, or the fact that he pitched as those his pants were on fire, but Mitch Williams was her favorite!

A new Ryne Sandberg card to add to my collection!  Woo-Hoo!  It's from 2004 and produced by Fleer. Oh, and it's shiny.  I love me some shiny.

2010 Upper Deck Bobby Scales.  Bobby's a grinder, who made his major league debut at the age of 31, and he is currently terrorizing Triple A pitching in the Mets farm system.  He'll find a way back to the majors, because that's what grinders do. 

Thanks for a great trade, Larry!