Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Christmas in February: From Benchwarmers to Olympians


On the 25th of every month, I like to keep the Spirit of the Holiday Season burning bright year-round by showcasing cards in my collection that are serial numbered 12/25, affectionately referred to as "Christmas Cards".

With the Winter Olympics here.. (or recently concluding, at least.. honestly, I didn't catch any of it), I thought I'd feature a well-known Olympian from years past.


This was part of a Christmas Card purchasing binge I went on a while ago. I already had 2 or 3 "girlie card" Christmas Cards, but those were of women you might not bring home to mother (no offense to attractive ladies out there who make their living by being attractive ladies.) So, while I won't apologize for liking pretty girls, the feminist-sympathizer in me made me want to get a card featuring a female known for more than erotic modeling.

Nancy Kerrigan was just the ticket! Courageously overcoming a bizarre attack by a rival skater's camp, she won America's heart back those few Olympicses ago.

And now I've got her autograph!

While I try to focus on baseball, I often can't help straying into other collecting areas from time to time. I suppose I just enjoy having a diverse collection, much like I have an eclectic mix of music on my iPod (13,332 songs and counting!). While I wouldn't go as far as to say I've got "a little bit of everything", I've got a wide range of cards, at least.

Since picking up the Kerrigan, I've also gotten cards of another Olympian, Carly Patterson, a lovely gymnast with whom I was briefly smitten, including a glorious card I posted about a couple weeks ago.

And another exciting recent acquisition to be featured here shortly beautifully rounds out my Girlie Card Females on Trading Cards collection. So look forward to that! But beyond that, I've got my focus back on baseball.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Simpsons Fortnight, Day 9: Darryl Strawberry hits the showers



The Simpsons episode "Homer at the Bat" first aired February 20, 1992. It's one of the best episodes of probably my all-time favorite show. In the off-chance you don't have it near-memorized, it's well worth the couple bucks to watch. I had originally planned to do this over a week, but couldn't cram it all in. So over a fortnight (a fancy word for "2 weeks" which I learned from-- you guessed it-- The Simpsons), we're celebrating the show by spotlighting the big leaguers who guested in "Homer at the Bat" and other episodes.

Player:


before The Simpsons appearance

From 1983 through 1991, Darryl Strawberry was perhaps the most exciting star in the game. After winning Rookie of the Year in 1983, he garnered 8 consecutive All-Star nods. He left the Mets for the Dodgers starting with the 1991 season, and continued cranking out home runs at a pace that, at the time, seemed sure to get him into the 500 HR Club and subsequently the Hall of Fame.

Homer at the Bat

Darryl is the only ringer on the show who doesn't succumb to a random misfortune that prevents him from playing in the big softball game. Instead, Mr. Burns employs some "righty-lefty" managerial strategy near the end of the game and pinch-hits for him with Homer. Somewhat of Homer's nemesis in the episode, Darryl might have the most lines and screen time of any of the guest stars.


Classic line:

   Homer: You're Darryl Strawberry.
   Darryl: Yes?
   Homer: You play right field.
   Darryl: Yes?
   Homer: I play right field, too.
   Darryl: So?
   Homer: Well, are you better than me?
   Darryl: Well, I never met you... but... Yes.

after The Simpsons appearance

While I wouldn't say there was a "Simpsons curse" like the "Sports Illustrated cover curse" or "Madden video game cover curse", some of the players featured in the episode definitely saw their careers nosedive shortly thereafter. Steve Sax was pretty much instantly washed up, Mike Scioscia only played one more season, and Darryl Strawberry saw the second half of his once-brilliant career plagued by injuries and other issues. He would not stay healthy for a full season again, but he managed to stick around several more years, even picking up three more WS rings with the late 90s dynasty Yankees, to go with his '86 Mets Championship. But apart from hitting 24 homers in 1998, and batting .327 in limited action during his last hurrah in '99, his life was pretty much a disaster after 1991. In addition to health issues, he also struggled with drug abuse and ran into legal and marital troubles.

He seems to be doing ok these days. A born-again Christian, in recent years he's done some instructing for the Mets, as well as occasional analysis for the team's telecasts.

Highlights from my Collection:


Nice certified auto from that one set I'm crazy about, 2004 Topps Retired.

Random Filler:

Let's recap the Springfield Nine:
Darryl Strawberry

Oh, I know, for fun, now let's imagine that the rival softball team, the Shelbyville Nuclear Power Plant, also scored some ringers. So who else was hot going into the 1992 season that you felt could/should have been in the show? Here's my starting lineup of leftovers:

1st = Cecil Fielder
2nd = Ryne Sandberg
short = Cal Ripken
3rd = Terry Pendleton
right = Tony Gwynn
center = Rickey Henderson (cheating a bit here since Rickey usually played left, but some center too.)
left = Barry Bonds
catcher = Carlton Fisk
pitcher = Nolan Ryan

I think a game in early '92 between those 2 star-packed teams would be pretty close and exciting. Feel free to rifle off any other deserving names in the comments.

Here's the wikipedia for the 1991 All-Star Game. Lots of overlap with the Simpsons episode, as you could imagine.

Well, that's it for the ballplayers from Homer at the Bat. Now it's time for a break here at the Breakdown while I unpack box beyond box of stuff and get my new house organized. But the Simpsons/Baseball celebration will continue before you know it as we move on to other episodes with MLB guys shortly.
Thanks as always for reading.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Simpsons Fortnight, Day 8: Ozzie Smith visits Springfield



The Simpsons episode "Homer at the Bat" first aired February 20, 1992. It's one of the best episodes of probably my all-time favorite show. In the off-chance you don't have it near-memorized, it's well worth the couple bucks to watch. I had originally planned to do this over a week, but couldn't cram it all in. So over a fortnight (a fancy word for "2 weeks" which I learned from-- you guessed it-- The Simpsons), we're celebrating the show by spotlighting the big leaguers who guested in "Homer at the Bat" and other episodes.

Player:


before The Simpsons appearance

After a couple questionable "Dream Team" picks in Sax and Scioscia (no offense, Dodgers fans), we're back with another undeniable superstar. Ozzie Smith was an easy choice to represent the best shortstop in baseball at the time (though Cal Ripken, Jr certainly would have been a fine choice, as well.) After coming up with a few seasons in San Diego, The Wizard really made a name for himself in St. Louis as possibly the greatest shortstop the game had ever known, routinely making incredible defensive plays, and being pretty respectable at the plate as well.

Homer at the Bat

In the show, Smithers recruits Ozzie while he visits Graceland. Ozzie continues his sight-seeing while in Springfield and gets lost in the Mystery Spot, quite literally a tourist trap. Stuck in another dimension, he misses the big softball game.



Classic line: (spiraling in the infinite void of the Mystery Spot, yet still taking a moment to snap an interesting photo) "AHHHHHH!!!!--cool!-- AHHHHH!!!!!"

after The Simpsons appearance

The 1992 season brought Ozzie his 13th straight Gold Glove. Wow! But his career was winding down, and 1993 would be his last year with at least 100 games, though he'd hang around through 1996. He was a 15-time All-Star, and won it all with the Cardinals in 1982, credentials that certainly helped him easily get elected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot.

Highlights from my Collection:



An Ozzie RC is still on my collecting wantlist-- the one pictured up there is a reprint-- one day I'll get me a real one. I do have a few decent cards of him, though, including that sweet certified auto (2004 Topps Retired) and a couple early cards (such as 1980 Topps, not pictured). As a former Padre in the Hall, he's a guy I collect. As far as PCs of Springfield Nine guys, he's probably my second biggest collection behind Junior.

Random Filler:

You might remember last week I mentioned we signed the lease on a new house? All the snow and ice slowed our move-in, so now it's going to be an intense weekend of moving. (I'm typing this in advance, so by the time you read this, I'll probably be all moved and in to the unpacking stage.) All my cards are packed up. It's a little sad that my "card mantle display" as seen in the header of this blog is no longer with us...



...But I'm sure I'll set up a new display area in the new house. It might be tough to finagle a designated "card room" from my fiancΓ©e (I'm already getting a nice little "man cave" area in the basement which I plan to turn into a little recording studio / practice space for playing music).

In our current place, I didn't really have a designated card area, and ended up just encroaching all over the living room since I fell back into actively collecting around 2012. But in the new place, I'm sure I'll at least have a desk and part of a closet or bookshelf for my carding activities. I think I may end up with a joint "card/dog room", splitting a small room with the dog (kennel, dog toys, etc). Annie's a good girl, so I'm not too worried about her chewing up my cards, but I'll obviously play it safe and keep the good stuff out of reach. An added bonus would be she could "guard" the cards for me and scare away any would-be thieves from my beloved Bip Roberts cards and whatnot.

That makes me think.. Are any of you traders out there deathly allergic to dogs? If so, is it obvious to you when you receive cards from a dog owner? Like, you start sneezing like crazy from the trace dander molecules or whatnot? I can sometimes tell when I get cards from a smoker. It doesn't bother me a ton or anything, but of course I'd prefer my cards not stink. So I'm wondering if collectors with pet allergies have similar concerns. I'd hate to scare off a potential trade partner due to my cards being stored in close proximity to a pooch!

But anyways, back to my point, I'm very busy moving at the moment. The foreseeable future will be largely spent unpacking and around-the-house handyman-type stuff (the house is definitely a "fixer-upper"). And so I've decided to make an important announcement regarding the Fortnight:
The Simpsons Fortnight will be going on hiatus after we finish with the "Homer at the Bat" guest stars tomorrow. I had really wanted to do 14 consecutive daily posts in this special event, but with the move, I just haven't had the time to finish writing/researching/screen-grabbing/photoshopping up what I need to for those remaining 5 posts. So we'll be concluding with the Springfield Nine tomorrow, then taking a break. The Fortnight will resume at a later date.. could be a few days, could be a few weeks. Sorry for the inconvenience, but I'm sure you understand, right? Moving! It's a bitch.

Ok, then. See you tomorrow for the next Simpsons spotlight when we wrap up the softball team's starting lineup with The Straw, himself!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Simpsons Fortnight, Day 7: Mike Scioscia pulls his weight



The Simpsons episode "Homer at the Bat" first aired February 20, 1992. It's one of the best episodes of probably my all-time favorite show. In the off-chance you don't have it near-memorized, it's well worth the couple bucks to watch. I had originally planned to do this over a week, but couldn't cram it all in. So over a fortnight (a fancy word for "2 weeks" which I learned from-- you guessed it-- The Simpsons), we're celebrating the show by spotlighting the big leaguers who guested in "Homer at the Bat" and other episodes.

Player:



before The Simpsons appearance

Now, Mike Scioscia was a fine catcher. But unless you're a diehard Dodgers fan, he probably doesn't pop into your head when you think of baseball's premiere catchers. So his selection for the Power Plant softball team might seem a little out of place. But when you think about it, in 1991 when the writers/producers were assembling their "Springfield Nine" dream team, Carlton Fisk and Gary Carter were pretty much in the twilight of their careers. (Fisk apparently was asked, but declined.) The next gen of catching studs, Mike Piazza and Ivan Rodriguez, were just coming up. So Scioscia was as good a choice as any. I would argue Benito Santiago was the hottest catcher at the time, but perhaps his thick Puerto Rican accent was a hinderance to selecting him for voice-over work.

But anyways, back to Mike Scioscia! Like our previously featured player, Steve Sax, Scioscia was also a part of the 1981 WS Champs Dodger squad, and was still around for their return triumph in 1988. His best year with the bat was probably 1985, when he hit .296 and even got a few MVP votes. He was an All-Star in '89 and '90.


Homer at the Bat

On the show, Scioscia takes his new job at the nuclear power plant seriously, unlike the other ringers, and really gets into doing his part. Unfortunately, he ends up getting radiation poisoning from the hazardous materials he (mis)handles, and ends up missing the big game in the hospital.


Classic line:

   Dr. Hibbert:  Mike, try to lift your arm.

   Mike Scioscia: Can't... lift... arm... or... speak... at... normal... rate...

after The Simpsons appearance

Scioscia only lasted one more season after the episode aired, finishing his entire major league career with the Dodgers. He signed with the Padres for the 1993 season, but a torn rotator cuff in spring training spelled the end of his playing days (though he briefly attempted a comeback with the Rangers in '94).

He would later go into coaching, and add a 3rd World Series title to his resumΓ© by managing the Angels to a Championship in 2002.

Scioscia later became the first (so far only) member of the Springfield Nine to make a return appearance to The Simpsons, correct me if I'm wrong. In the episode “MoneyBart” (October 10, 2010, 22nd Season), Mike shows up and helps Lisa with some coaching tips as she attempts to manage Bart’s Little League team.



Highlights from my Collection:


My goal of collecting a certified signature of every member of the Springfield Nine lead me to this fine card recently. The Griffey auto that we saw a few days ago is from the same set. It's currently the only Scioscia keeper in my collection, though someday I'd like to add the 81 Topps rookie that he shares with Fernando.

Random Filler:

Fun fact: When Smithers recruits Scioscia while he's hunting, he asks, "How do you like working for the Dodgers?" It's the only time in "Homer at the Bat" that a MLB team is mentioned by name. No MLB logos appear in the episode either.

And speaking of identifiable teams, the softball team doesn't seem to have a nickname, only known as "The Springfield Nuclear Power Plant Softball Team." The logo on the cap is Smilin' Joe Fission, the plant's mascot. (But the softball team shouldn't be confused with the Springfield Isotopes, a minor league team featured in some other episodes who share the same mascot.)
Mr. Burns wears an old uniform that says "Zephyrs" on it, but it seems to be a very old outfit he pulled out of his closet for the occasion.



The Zephyrs are apparently just an old-sounding team the writers came up with. As far as an actual baseball club with that name, the Zephyrs are a minor league team that's been around since 1901 (though they didn't start using that name till 1985, named after a famous passenger train, and were previously known as the Blues or Bears.) Other sports teams with the nickname Zephyrs include the Muskegon Zephyrs (a minor league hockey team, 1960–1965) and the Chicago Zephyrs (basketball team, 1962-1963, now the Washington Wizards). Seems the writers just thought Zephyrs sounded like a good old-tyme team name, possibly from way back when Burns played high school ball. According to the DVD commentary, they had also thought of using the name Spiders, but there might've been legal implications had they gone with a real team such as that.

See you tomorrow for the next Simpsons spotlight! Next up, The Wizard.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Simpsons Fortnight, Day 6: Steve Sax goes to jail

Player:


before The Simpsons appearance

Steve Sax was one of the best second basemen of the 80s. In hindsight, Ryne Sandberg would seem to be the obvious choice for the Power Plant's 2nd slacker (and in fact, he was asked, but declined), or maybe Roberto Alomar, but Sax was a good choice too. 


His career got off to an exciting start, getting called up during the Dodgers' incredible playoff run of 1981. He won ROY the next year and made the All-Star team a few times. He was with LA through their next World Series Championship, then signed with the Yankees for the 1989 season. When "Homer at the Bat" aired (early 1992), Sax had just recently been traded to the White Sox in the offseason.


Homer at the Bat


On the show, Steve gets pulled over after Springfield Police profile him due to the New York license-- Guess he hadn't gotten a chance to get his Illinois plates yet-- and ended up missing the game while in jail.



Police Officer Lou: I heard some guy got killed in New York City and they never solved the case. But you wouldn't know anything about that, would you, Steve? 
Sax: But there's hundreds of unsolved murders in New York City. 
Police Officer Lou: You don't know when to keep your mouth shut, do you, Saxy Boy?!
after The Simpsons appearance

Sax never really got on track for the White Sox, and retired a month into the 1994 season. These days, the fact his career really fell off after the episode adds to the feeling that he was out of place among the talent of the Springfield Nine. But again, from '82 through '91, he was easily one of the game's best at his position and likely would have been on track for the Hall had he kept it up for a few more seasons.

I believe he's currently first base coach with the Diamondbacks.

Highlights from my Collection:


I recently picked up that auto in my quest to own a signature from each of the players who guested in "Homer at the Bat". Otherwise, not much Saxiness in my collection besides his Topps RC which I got in a Listia lot a few months back.

Random Filler:

How bout that sweet Bart flexi-frisbee up there? I've had that forever. A couple posts ago, I alluded to the fact that it'd be cool to have an animation cell from an early Simpsons episode, or maybe an autograph from someone involved with the show. Well, I don't own any awesome Simpsons collectibles like that, sorry to say.

But I do have a couple cool animation items that I might as well show off here.

A few years back, I befriended (online-acquaintanced, really) Craig McCracken, who is the creator of the Cartoon Network shows The Powerpuff Girls and Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends. Turns out we're both big fans of the musician Frank Black, and so we traded live bootlegs a few times (He had initially contacted me about a trade and I was like, "Wait-- are you thee Craig McCracken?!"). He was nice enough to hook me up with some pretty cool stuff.

Here's a signed episode-used animation cell:



Sweet!
And here's a personalized original sketch he whipped up for me (the top text are Frank Black lyrics):



Neat, huh? He also hooked me up with a couple signed DVDs and various swag, plus some great stuff from one of my all-time favorite bizarre shows, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, including a poster signed by Dana Snyder, voice of Master Shake.



Craig, if you're reading, thanks again!

See you tomorrow for the next Simpsons spotlight. After Sax, next up is the other player who might seem a bit out of place among the superstars in the episode, backstop Mike Scioscia.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Simpsons Fortnight, Day 5: Don Mattingly shaves his sideburns



before The Simpsons appearance

Don Mattingly was arguably the best hitter in the game during the period of 1984 through 1989. By "Homer at the Bat" (early 1992), he was already coming off a couple down years (and in fact would not have another truly great season thanks to a bad back), but Donnie Baseball was still a popular face of the game, and the heart of the Yankees during that era.

Homer at the Bat

Mattingly's downfall in the episode is his "sideburns". Mr. Burns wants a clean-cut team, and repeatedly admonishes Mattingly for not shaving his (nonexistent) sideburns. A justifiably confused Donnie ends up shaving the sides of his head well above his ears, yet still Mr. Burns is displeased and boots him off the team.


Classic Line: "I still like him better than Steinbrenner."

after The Simpsons appearance

Mattingly was able to grind out a few more years with decent numbers, though a far cry from his prime. Back pain forced him to retire after the '95 season, cutting short what was once a sure-bet HOF career. A lifelong Yankee beloved in New York, after being passed up to manage the only club he ever played for, wound up in Los Angeles helming the Dodgers.

Highlights from my Collection:


I never really had many Mattinglys. I first got into baseball/collecting in 1990, his first "off" year, so I guess I missed out on the hype. Honestly, back in the day, he was one of the few guys I disliked. I've since come around to appreciate him and his legacy in the game, though.

Random Filler:

I had to cheat a little with the top custom card. I've been trying to stick to 1990-1992 card designs (occasionally slinking back into 1989), but Mattingly's 1993 Topps is somewhat of an iconic junk-era horizontal card, and works perfectly with the "action shot" screen grab from the show, fittingly a similar picture.


In another funny "The Simpsons predicted it" instance, Mattingly later had a real-life hair controversy where Yankees management forced him to cut his hair, and briefly benched him for not doing so. Many people thought the joke in the show was a reference to the incident, but "Homer at the Bat" was recorded a year before it happened. (UPDATE: More digging into this in the comments below.)

Looks like we got back-to-back Yanks here on the Fortnight, as tomorrow we take a look at the team's second-slacker: Saxy Boy, Steve Sax.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Simpsons Fortnight, Day 4: Ken Griffey, Jr and his performance-enhancing tonic



The Simpsons episode "Homer at the Bat" first aired February 20, 1992. It's one of the best episodes of probably my all-time favorite show. In the off-chance you don't have it near-memorized, it's well worth the couple bucks to watch. I had originally planned to do this over a week, but couldn't cram it all in. So over a fortnight (a fancy word for "2 weeks" which I learned from-- you guessed it-- The Simpsons), I'm celebrating the show by spotlighting the big leaguers who guested in "Homer at the Bat" and other episodes.

Player:


before The Simpsons appearance

What can you say about "The Kid"? After bursting onto the scene in 1989, Griffey's exuberance and awesome talent made him the face the game for many years. The fact that he played side-by-side with his dad for a while-- an All-Star in his own right-- was just a bonus "warm & fuzzy" sidestory. His .327 average in '91 would ultimately stand as his career high, though he had lots of highlights still ahead of him.

Homer at the Bat

Junior's appearance on The Simpsons is a great one, succumbing to "gigantism" from getting hooked on special nerve tonic given to him by Mr. Burns. The sight of him all big and bloated is a very silly image that cracked me up the first time I saw the episode as a kid.


Classic line: (after taking his first slip of tonic) "Wow, it's like there's a party in my mouth and everyone's invited!"

(Apparently, young Junior didn't "get" the line, and his dad had to help coach him how to say it.)

after The Simpsons appearance

Junior went on to have many more great years in the 90s, highlighted by an MVP award in '97. In 2000, he went to the Reds, and from then on, great seasons were harder to come by, dogged by injuries much of the next decade. He spent the last part of '08 with the White Sox, then tried to get back some mojo in Seattle, but he was pretty washed up by that point and retired midway through the 2010 season.

Even with nagging injuries tragically plaguing the second half of his career, Junior still compiled stats which are sure to get him into Cooperstown without much opposition, most notably 630 round-trippers. That would be more impressive today were it not for Bonds, McGwire, and Sosa inflating HR numbers of that era.

Highlights from my Collection:


Out of all the members of the Springfield Nine, my Griffey collection is easily the biggest, at around 50 cards. I love that UD "Etched In Time" autograph front and center, and featured it more in-depth when I first got it a few weeks ago. I've had his '89 Donruss RC since my early collecting days, while the '89 Score Rookie & Traded RC (not pictured) is a relatively recent addition. Sadly, I don't own his iconic Upper Deck RC, but I'll probably pony up for it someday. Honestly, I'm so familiar with it-- Hell, it's been featured on this blog many times already, most notably in a Baseball Card Mashup-- that I kinda feel like I own it even though I don't.

Random Filler:

In hindsight, it probably would have been more fitting to have Barry Bonds in Griffey's role, since in real life, Bonds' head ballooned not unlike Griffey's does in the episode. LOL.

I hope you've been enjoying the 'shopped customs I've been posting. Hey, let's talk about real Simpsons trading cards. I bought a pack of 1990 Topps Simpsons cards way back in the day, and have hung on to 1 or 2 of the cards.

Turns out there are actually a bunch of different Simpsons card sets. I found a pretty good forum post on the subject and am going to shamelessly copy and past it here. All credit to Captain Squid who posted this below list on the No Homers Club forum back in 2012.

The Simpsons - Topps, 1990 
http://www.snpp.com/guides/card_list.html


The Simpsons Series I - Skybox, 1993
http://www.snpp.com/guides/series1cards.html


The Simpsons Series II - Skybox, 1994
http://www.snpp.com/guides/series2cards.html


The Simpsons Downunder - Tempo, 1996
http://www.snpp.com/guides/tempocards.html


The Simpsons Anniversary Celebration - Inkworks, 2000
http://www.snpp.com/guides/inkworks.html


Simpsons Mania - Inkworks, 2002 (acts as a Series III to the Skybox cards)
http://nslists.com/simpmani.htm



Simpsons Film Cards - Artbox, 2000/2003
http://www.snpp.com/guides/filmcards.html


Simpsons Sticker Set - Artbox, 2000
http://www.snpp.com/guides/stickers.html


The Simpsons Trading Card Game - Wizards of the Coast, 2003
http://www.snpp.com/guides/simpsons_tcg.html

Part of me wants to check these cards out some more, maybe get a little Simpsons Cards Collection going. But then another part of me smacks that part upside the head, telling me to stick to baseball cards, or at the very least, sports cards in general.

I wonder if any of those are high-end sets.. you know, like where you can chase autos of the voice actors? Now, that'd be kinda cool. Maybe "relics" with pieces of actual animation frames or storyboard sketches or whatever? (I'm sure it's all done digitally these days, but they must have a bunch from prior years sitting around) Yeah, that'd be sweet. If a set like that hasn't come out, well, it should! Get on it, Fox! Milk it.

Though I haven't bought anything from it, at least not yet, I love the concept of the Parks & Recreation Press Pass set that came out last year.. with autos of the stars and episode-worn relics. I hope that concept catches on and more shows do this. I know a lot of sci-fi shows have products like this (Star Trek, etc), but I'd like to see more animated comedies (and comedies in general) get the high-end trading card treatment.

Oh, and what about Mad Men? Oh god, I don't even want to think about how much I'd shell out for an on-card certified autograph of Christina Hendricks with an especially attractive photo. Imagine a certified auto card of this with a bold, blue sharpie autograph upon it and a low-run serial number in the corner..


hummina-hummina...
On that depraved note...
See you tomorrow for the next Simpsons spotlight! On deck: Donnie Baseball.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Simpsons Fortnight, Day 3: Roger Clemens clucking all the while



The Simpsons episode "Homer at the Bat" first aired February 20, 1992. It's one of the best episodes of probably my all-time favorite show. In the off-chance you don't have it near-memorized, it's well worth the couple bucks to watch. I had originally planned to do this over a week, but couldn't cram it all in. So over a fortnight (a fancy word for "2 weeks" which I learned from-- you guessed it-- The Simpsons), we're celebrating the show by spotlighting the big leaguers who guested in "Homer at the Bat" and other episodes.

Player:


before The Simpsons appearance

Back in early 1992 when this episode premiered, Roger Clemens was just a third of the way through his outstanding career, if you can believe that. Fresh off his 3rd Cy-winning season, there was little doubt that he was the most dominate pitcher of the time.

Homer at the Bat

Roger has a pretty funny part, getting hypnotized into thinking he's a chicken. As a kid, that's just hilarious to see. And that's really him making the clucking noises.


He also has a pretty funny bit where he confuses Homer for Ken Griffey, Jr., momentarily getting Homer's hopes up that he made the starting lineup.

   Homer: [to himself] Please please please, I want to make the team.  [catches Roger Clemens]
          Clemens, did I make the team?
   Roger: You sure did!
   Homer: I did!  Woo-hoo!  Woo-hoo!  In your face, Strawberry!
   Roger: Wait a minute, are you Ken Griffey, Jr.?
   Homer: No.
   Roger: Sorry.  Didn't mean to get your hopes up.

after The Simpsons appearance

Similar to his Power Plant teammate Wade Boggs, Clemens ended up leaving Boston and won his only World Series in Yankee pinstripes, also spending some time with Toronto and later Houston, continuing to pitch well everywhere he went.

Number-wise the game's greatest pitcher since WWII, Roger racked up an astounding 7 Cy Young Awards, 354 wins, an MVP Award, and 4,762 strikeouts. But, don't ya know it, he's unfortunately yet another sports hero whose legacy has been tarnished thanks to PED allegations.

Highlights from my Collection:


I've never had any of his RCs or many other notable Clemens cards in my collection. His certified autos still command a pretty respectable price. Even this ugly unlicensed sticker auto that I just recently picked up for my Springfield Nine auto collecting goal wasn't cheap.

Random Filler:

Let's take a look at the oooold school ballplayers Burns originally suggests.

 Burns had in mind hiring ringers for the team.  He unveils a
 chart of a baseball diamond, with names like Honus Wagner and
 Mordecai "Three-Finger" Brown.  Smithers points out that all of the
 plays have retired, and are long dead.  ("In fact, your right fielder
 has been dead for 130 years.")  So Burns sends Smithers out to scour
 the American, National, and Negro Leagues to find players.  He has 24 hours.
(source)


1st = Cap Anson
2nd = Nap Lajoie
short = Honus Wagner
3rd = Pie Traynor
left = Shoeless Joe Jackson
center = Harry Hooper
right = Jim Creighton
catcher = Gabby Street
pitcher = Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown

Looks like a pretty impressive lot of turn of the century baseballers.. though, most of these guys aren't household names these days. People still know Honus Wagner, mainly because of that super rare tobacco card. And Shoeless Joe will never be forgotten thanks to the Black Sox scandal. But as for those other guys, you've got to be a pretty learned baseball historian to be familiar with their careers at this point.

Ok, that's it for today. Next up, after a couple PED blemishes on the game, we're back with a still-beloved superstar tomorrow: The Kid.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Simpsons Fortnight, Day 2: Jose Canseco out of character


The Simpsons episode "Homer at the Bat" first aired February 20, 1992. It's one of the best episodes of probably my all-time favorite show. In the off-chance you don't have it near-memorized, it's well worth the couple bucks to watch. I had originally planned to do this over a week, but couldn't cram it all in. So over a fortnight (a fancy word for "2 weeks" which I learned from-- you guessed it-- The Simpsons), we're celebrating the show by spotlighting the big leaguers who guested in "Homer at the Bat" and other episodes.

Player:


before The Simpsons appearance

Jose Canseco was possibly baseball's biggest superstar at the time of this episode. A good-looking stud on the powerhouse A's of the late 80s/early 90s, he was on top of the world, spending late nights with Madonna and eating fancy cheese (probably). Wielding both power and speed, he won Rookie of the Year in '86, and MVP in '88, becoming baseball's first-ever 40/40 player. In 1991, he won his second home run crown (tied with Cecil Fielder), bashing 44.

Homer at the Bat

The first ringer he goes after, Smithers recruits Jose as he signs at a baseball card show. According to the DVD commentary on the episode, Canseco was the only guest star who was a douche to work with. That's too bad, but certainly no surprise. His lady at the time (they split soon after.. again, no surprise) even caused a stink and forced the writers to change his part in the episode. Originally, Jose misses the game because he gets seduced by Mrs. Krabappel. But instead, his downfall in the episode is helping a lady whose house is on fire. Much more dignified, though less believable, than him banging a middle-aged woman on the side. I'd say it's the worst part/performance of all the ballplayers in the episode. But oh well. They can't all be golden.


Classic Line:

   Smithers: [whispers in Jose Canseco's ear]
   Jose:     I get $50,000 to play one game?
   Smithers: That's right, Mr. Canseco.
   Jose:     Well, it's a pay cut, but what the hey.  It sounds like fun.

after The Simpsons appearance

Injuries bugged Jose here and there for the next decade as he bounced around with several different teams, though he had a few more pretty good seasons sprinkled in. Of course, his star eventually got tarnished not only due to falling numbers, but other "clown" stuff such as accidentally bouncing opposing home run balls off his head and badly hurting himself while pitching mop-up. Then he really got thrown in the doghouse with the steroid revelations. I mean, at least he had the balls to admit it and not hold anything back (Sure, it was all in the name of selling his book, but still.) These days, he's essentially in the Pete Rose-zone.. baseball tries to forget he exists, but he's always ready to talk to the press and remind people he's there.

Highlights from my Collection:


I don't have many Canseco cards. I've really just got the '86 Donruss The Rookies set with him, and this Fleer Greats certified auto I just recently picked up for my Springfield Nine auto collecting goal. I actually need a Canseco card-- how crazy is that? I need a Canseco!-- that being his auto in the 2004 Topps Retired set I'm working on completing. It's proven trickier to track down than you might expect for a guy who, generally speaking, collectors purged from their collections several years ago.

Random Filler:

Jose's bash brother in Oakland, Mark McGwire, didn't appear in this episode.. but he would eventually pop in a few seasons later. But that's for a future post later in the fortnight.

Hey, let's talk about the awesome "Talkin' Softball" song from the closing credits which I've linked via YouTube up top. It was years till I realized it was a take-off of an old song called "Talkin' Baseball" from the 1981. I guess it was just a little before my time.


The same singer/songwriter, Terry Cashman sang both versions. It's funny because I looove "Talkin' Softball" but am fairly indifferent to "Talkin' Baseball". The way he sings "the Duke" makes me want to "the Puke", to be honest. It's so much better with "Ozzie and the Straw", I think. But I guess I'm just so used to the Simpsons' version that it's weird hearing anything else. Cashman says these days he gets more requests to play "Talkin' Softball" than the original song. I don't doubt it!

Lyrics:
Well, Mr. Burns had done it
The power plant had won it
With Roger Clemens clucking all the while
Mike Scioscia's tragic illness made us smile
While Wade Boggs lay unconscious on the bar room tile
We're Talkin' Softball
From Maine to San Diego
Talkin' softball
Mattingly and Canseco
Ken Griffey's grotesquely swollen jaw
Steve Sax and his run-in with the law
We're talkin' Homer...
Ozzie, and the Straw
We're Talkin' Softball
From Maine to San Diego
Talkin' Softball
Mattingly and Canseco
Ken Griffey's grotesquely swollen jaw
Steve Sax and his run-in with the law
We're talkin' Homer...
Ozzie, and the Straw
Well, check back tomorrow for the next Simpsons spotlight! Coming up, another fallen great from the steroids era, Roger Clemens. (I'm hitting these guys alphabetically by last name, btw.)

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Simpsons Fortnight, Day 1: Wade Boggs gets punched out


The Simpsons episode "Homer at the Bat" first aired February 20, 1992. It's one of the best episodes of probably my all-time favorite TV show. In the off-chance you don't have it near-memorized, it's well worth the couple bucks to watch. I had originally planned to do this over a week, but couldn't cram it all in. So over the next fortnight (a fancy word for "2 weeks" which I learned from-- you guessed it-- The Simpsons), we'll be celebrating the show by spotlighting the big leaguers who guested in "Homer at the Bat" and other episodes.

First up is Wade Boggs.

Player:

I'll be photoshoppin' up some fun fake cards like this for all these guys.
before The Simpsons appearance

Wade Boggs established himself as one of the greatest pure hitters ever. He and Tony Gwynn were the premiere contact hitters of the era, each raking up a ton of hits. By the end of the '91 season, Boggs had 5 batting titles (to Gwynn's 4). Beloved by the Red Sox faithful, he was a perennial All-Star and MVP candidate.

Homer at the Bat

His appearance in "Homer at the Bat" is pretty memorable, as he gets in a bar fight with Barney Gumble.

 At Moe's Tavern...

   Barney: And I say England's greatest Prime Minister was Lord Palmerston!
   Wade Boggs: Pitt the Elder!!
   Barney: Lord Palmerston!!!
   Wade Boggs: Pitt the Elder!!!!  [pokes Barney]
   Barney: Okay, you asked for it, bud!  [punches him out]


There was also a deleted scene earlier where Boggs and Barney have a burping contest. He also gets picked by Ralph for a pick-up baseball game as he's walking by, much to Bart's chagrin.

after The Simpsons appearance

Boggs went on to have several more excellent seasons, though he never won another batting crown (Gwynn tacked on 4 more, FYI). He shocked Boston fans when he signed with the hated-rival Yankees after the '92 season. I suppose the move worked out for him, as he got his first and only World Series ring with the New York team of 1996. He wrapped up his HOF career with a couple decent years in Tampa Bay.

Highlights from my Collection:


Someday, I'd like to add his iconic '83 Topps rookie card to my collection, but for now, his Donruss RC will have to do. Hey, Boggs himself has noted it as his favorite RC.. I'm pretty sure I remember reading that somewhere. I also recently got his autograph via the beautiful 2004 Topps Retired refractor there. And his '91 Topps is a classic.. happy to find that in a repack recently. Man, I love in-game action shots as much as the next guy, but I wish Topps would mix in a few cool posed shots in their modern sets.

Random Filler:

Midway though drafting up these Simpsons Fortnight posts, I got the "collecting goal" idea to try to get a certified auto card of every member of the Springfield Nine. Some signatures I already had, such as Boggs here, but a few I still needed. Was I able to accomplish this goal? You'll just have to keep reading to find out! (As I type this, I'm not there yet, but then again, I'm drafting this a couple weeks before I'll post it.. so we'll see!)

I mentioned above that Boggs and Gwynn are often spoken of in the same breath. As a lifelong Padres fan, it's a bummer to me that Gwynn didn't get included in the episode, though with such a strong pool of star outfielders to choose from, I understand. Let's enter the world of make-believe and take a look at what Tony might've looked like had he appeared on The Simpsons..


Um.. sorry. Not the best depiction, and they had long ditched those uniforms by that point, but you get the idea.

Ok, that's it for Day One. See you tomorrow for the next Simpsons spotlight! Up next, Ozzie Canseco's brother.