Saturday, August 19, 2017

Bubblegum from JBF

I need to learn how to write up posts more effectively. I get behind, a couple of days or even weeks pass, and I find myself feeling terrible for being terribly behind. I was almost caught up a month ago when the winnings from a Jaybarkerfan a/k/a Willinghammer Rising World Series of Trading package showed up. 

I claimed one card that Wes posted -- I'd like to think that it was posted with me in mind: 

That's a 2014 Topps High Tek Autographs Disco Diffractor serial numbered to 50. I jumped all over that card as fast as I could. 

Wes being Wes, he couldn't just send that single card. No sir. Instead, a bubble mailer arrived filled with great cards for my collection and even an oddball set.

This 1986 Topps Baseball Champion Superstars set was produced specifically for Woolworth's. Wes made sure that this set was 100% complete. In fact, here's the first thing I pulled out of it.

I did not make any effort to chew that 31-year-old gum. No thanks. I remember being in high school in 1988 or 1989 and I spent some money I had made at my summer job on getting an unopened box of 1984 Topps. I actually chewed some of that then 4-to-5-year-old gum, and it was pretty terrible. I can't imagine what gum older than Clayton Kershaw would taste like, nor would I want to.

That said, the gum did give me an idea for a little music accompaniment. Of course: bubblegum pop music straight out of the late 1960s.

Let's start with the Lemon Pipers and their song "Green Tambourine." This song was a massive hit -- reaching number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in early 1968 and being certified gold. It's a song about busking, at its core -- the singer asks people to drop money in his hat and he'll play his green tambourine in return. 

Sounds like a bad deal to me, since the sound of a tambourine by itself is as musically interesting as the sound of a triangle. 

The band itself never achieved as great of success as they did with this song. Reading their Wikipedia entry makes it easy to understand why: this song was written for them by their label and caused them to get forced into the bubblegum genre contrary to what they wanted to do -- which was more 60s-oriented blues, hard rock, and folk rock akin to Byrds and The Who. 

I usually make the card scans bigger than this, but this turned out so well on its own in the shape of a Christmas tree that I just had to leave it.

Let's talk about George Iskenderian. George (so I don't have to type his last name over again) grew up in Englewood Cliffs, NJ, and attended Don Bosco Prep. His first stop from there was to attend the University of South Carolina, where he spent his freshman year before he decided he had had enough of the Palmetto State and left. 

He told people publicly that he wanted to be closer to New Jersey, but he transferred instead to Indian River Community College in Fort Pierce, Florida. In fairness, that is closer to South Jersey (a/k/a South Florida) than South Carolina is. He got his wish to get closer to home after that and attended the University of Miami for his final year of college before the Brewers drafted him in the 7th round in 2015 and signed him.

He hit well in 2015 at Rookie Level Helena. He made his full-season debut in 2016 at Brevard County, but struggled with injuries some and played only 90 games. This year, he started at Biloxi poorly -- 3-for-38 with 2 BB and 16 Ks. He hit the DL, came off it, and then "was moved to Helena" in mid-May. Thing is, though, that he has not played since that time and his biography lists his current status as "Suspended # days." I have not been able to find the reason for the suspension anywhere -- even the usually comprehensive message boards

But, if I read between the lines through his Instagram account, he may simply have quit and gone back to school.
A post shared by George Iskenderian (@giskenderian7) on

 If so, good luck to him. 

Now, back to the music and the cards.

Here's a song I used to listen to regularly on a 45 RPM single as an 8-year-old -- "Yummy Yummy Yummy" by Ohio Express. Reading about Ohio Express and its history is pretty interesting. 

Basically, the group name was used by two producers -- Jerry Kasenetz and Jeffrey Katz -- to market music recorded by a whole host of different artists. In fact, this song was recorded by studio musicians in New York. If I were to try to provide a story of its history here, it would eat this entry. I mean, the Wikipedia entry for the band's career starts with this sentence: The question of who is the "real" Ohio Express is difficult to answer

So, take a read of that article rather than having me rewrite it here. 

Wes likes to send me great Georgia cards fairly regularly. This package featured the best basketball player ever to attend UGA -- Dominique Wilkins, whose leaving North Carolina and attending UGA became the subject of one of those "SEC Storied" shows on ESPN. 

The other two cards highlight the most disappointing season in UGA football history to me -- the 2007 season. It had everything: two typical Mark Richt losses -- one painful one against South Carolina (which I attended, final score of 16-12) and one "the team didn't show up" game against Tennessee (35-14 loss), which I watched at a local sports bar for about the first half of the first quarter and decided it would be rather better to forget the game and started drinking double Jack Daniels & Diet Cokes. That had the desired effect, as I have no recollection of anything of that game. 

It had the fruitless scoreboard watching, hoping that that Tennessee team would get upended by either Vanderbilt (Vandy blew a 24-9 lead, giving up 16 unanswered 4th quarter points) or Kentucky (Tennessee blew a 17-point lead but, Lazarus-like, was able to block a 35-yard field goal that would have beaten them in the second overtime and then stuff a 2-point conversion in the fourth overtime to win).

On the positive side, 2007 had the "dancing on Urban Meyer" game against Florida.  the blackout against Auburn, the Britney Spears win in overtime against Alabama, and the absolute annihilation of Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl. Yet, it's what could have been that season in those losses and the start of seeing the cracks in Mark Richt's coaching that really marked that season. 

This song was written for the animated series called "The Archie Show" about Archie, Jughead, Reggie, Betty, Veronica, and the rest of Archie's gang in Riverdale. The song was a massive hit -- finishing as the number one hit for the entire year in 1969 ahead of such (much better) songs as "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In," "Honky Tonk Women," "Sweet Caroline," "Come Together," and "Proud Mary."

This is another song that I had on a 45 record that I probably wore out as an 8-year-old. I loved reading the Archie comics as a kid too, so that probably had something to do with my enjoying the song.

Sweet candy to me is getting a new card or two for some of my player collections. To be honest, I'm not sure if these went into the player collections or not -- well, other than that Jonathan Lucroy Platinum Bunt card serial numbered to 99, which certainly did. But, these are all great cards for either the player or team collections. Especially that Yount prism, which looks really awesome in this scan.

Bubblegum pop music was huge in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It was so huge that it literally led to a number of television shows, including The Partridge Family. Singer/actor David Cassidy was one of the heartthrobs to emerge from the show. Only Cassidy and Shirley Jones sang on this song; the rest of the musicians are from the now-famous Wrecking Crew group of studio musicians.

As was the case with The Archies in 1969, this song was massive in 1970. It hit number 1 in Australia, Canada, and on the Billboard and Cash Box charts in the US, though it oddly did not hit the year-end chart for Billboard. Weird.

Not weird are the five Warren Spahn cards that Wes sent to me to finish off this envelope. I have yet to finish my checklist of cards that I need for the Braves, a failure due mainly to my own lack of time to do the work and my own lack of effort into getting it done.

That happens when you don't make it home on weekends. 

Wes, thank you very much for the great package. You are truly a generous gentleman whom we in the blogworld are lucky to have with us.

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Amen Break Featuring Cards from Angus

Over the course of about three weeks, I got several packages from my Canadian friend Angus of Dawg Day Cards. Angus first introduced himself to me about two years ago and immediately waded in on my card war with the legendary Jaybarkerfan. This summer, it seems that Angus found himself on a driving tour of the United States with stops in Ohio, Arizona, and parts in between. In the process, he stopped at card stores and bought things -- hopefully plenty for himself to get his blog reignited -- and a few things for other collectors.

I thought about this post as I was driving home today -- that I needed to get off my lazy butt and post some samples of the cards that Angus sent my way. I had no idea, however, what I was going to say about them or whether I would have music to go along with the cards.

Then, NPR's All Things Considered had a fascinating five-minute story about one of the most famous -- and most frequently sampled -- drum breaks in the history of rock: the "Amen Break." The break was played by the late Gregory Sylvester Coleman of a DC funk band called The Winstons, and it was in a B-side called "Amen, Brother." The song itself is a simple enough piece -- only 2-1/2 minutes of funky jazzy sounding beats. The break is located at about 1:25 in the song:

If you are a music fan, you'll recognize that break soon after you hear it. According to NPR, it's been sampled more than 2000 times. According to the exhaustive "Who Sampled" website, that total is actually in excess of 2500 (2661 and counting). 

That ought to give me enough options for songs to select to accompany the cards from Angus. So, let's get to it.

N.W.A., "Straight Outta Compton"

Needless to say, that song is NSFW. It's the most popular song according to "Who Sampled" to have sampled the Amen Break. It is pretty obvious in the song too -- literally the whole drumline on this song is the Amen Break on loop. And this is almost always the way that the break is used -- as the foundation for the entire song.


Speaking of foundations, the foundation of my baseball card collecting truly came from chasing police card sets. I know I have said it on many occasions, but these police cards created my love for oddballs and comprise a large portion of each player collection I have for players before about the year 1996. The police sets continued after 1996, but they just are not as easily available. 

As an aside, the Jerry Augustine above was the first new addition to his player collection since June of 2016 -- when I added another police card to my PC for him. 

Snow, "Informer"

Canadian rapper Snow used the Amen Break as the base for his famous song "Informer." Once again, as with N.W.A., the drum break -- here, slowed down a bit -- is basically the entire base for the song. I had to use Snow, after all, since he is Canadian -- having grown up in the North York district of Toronto.  

I have always liked this song for its fast, mostly incomprehensible lyrics and the reggae sound incorporated in it. That sound comes honestly -- Snow's neighborhood in Toronto was a heavily Jamaican area, and he is well respected in Jamaican-Canadian music circles for his music. It's also incredibly catchy -- thanks in part to the Amen Break.


I think this is perhaps my second Topps Pristine card and the first one that I have that is encapsulated by itself. I'm very tempted to take Richie out of the hermetically sealed package for ease of storage more than anything. Still, it's tough to disturb the Topps hologram seal on it. My little kid voice in my head keeps screaming, "You'll ruin it if you take it out of that case! Don't do it!"

I listen to that kid, usually. I mean, I still collect cards thanks to that kid, so why wouldn't I?

Yaz(oo), "Situation (The Aggressive Attitude Mix)"

This one takes a little bit more listening. Slowly but surely, however, that drum fill becomes clearer as the underneath drumline again. I've always been a big fan of Yaz (Yazoo in the UK). As I have mentioned before, Vince Clarke of Yazoo came out of Depeche Mode and formed Yazoo with Alison Moyet. After Yazoo, he teamed up with Eric Radcliffe as a band called "The Assembly." Later in his career, he joined up with Andy Bell to form Erasure. 

If you want to hear something truly cool, do a YouTube search for "Foreigner vs. Yazoo Urgent Situation". It is what it says it is -- a mashup of "Situation" and "Urgent" and it is fantastic.

I'm not sure that Warren Spahn would have ever heard of Yazoo, though he certainly heard of Yaz from the Red Sox. I have my doubts that Spahnie would have even cared about Foreigner either.

Before the advent of at-bat music and music for guys coming in from the bullpen and, well, the wall-to-wall music that now assaults our senses at every sporting event because God forbid fans be allowed to cheer organically for their team, how did fans know what music that baseball players liked? I find myself assuming that Spahn would have been a fan of Frank Sinatra or Guy Lombardo or something similarly big-band and tuxedo-clad. But does anyone know?

And what makes me contemplate this stuff, anyway?

Jay-Z featuring Mary J. Blige, "Can't Knock the Hustle (Desired State Remix)"

This song is a remix of Jay-Z's third single from his debut album, Reasonable Doubt. Mary J. Blige appeared on the track as a favor to Damon Dash. But, by the time that Jay-Z's album was about to drop, Blige had already blown up and her label did not want her associated with some unknown punk from New Jersey. So, Combat Jack a/k/a Reggie Ossé (a lawyer for Def Jam/Island) tells the story that he basically had to beg for her to remain in the song. The whole story is intriguing to me, and you can read it on the song's Wikipedia page because why should I type the whole thing again!

Hostess cards rule. These were all condition upgrades to the ones I had in my collection already from my little kid days. Those days saw me as a 6-year-old learning how to cut along lines to get the cards off the box. I wasn't always successful. Actually, I was downright terrible at it and have a bunch of Hostess cards that are miscut, cut crookedly, or have weird scissor cuts from a jagged-edge fabric scissors getting used.

Pete Broberg is an interesting guy. He went to Dartmouth from Palm Beach County and is the son of a one-time Palm Beach municipal court judge. He grew up surfing off Palm Beach island. He loves sci-fi books and movies, and spent much of his time at the theater on Clematis Street in West Palm Beach watching Saturday sci-fi matinees. 

He excelled in baseball in high school, and the Oakland A's made him their first round pick -- second overall -- in 1968. He was selected one spot behind Tim Foli, two spots ahead of Thurman Munson, and 126 picks and 5 rounds ahead of future Brewers star Cecil Cooper. He didn't sign, so the Washington Senators made him the first overall pick in the 1971 June Secondary Draft out of Dartmouth.

His career was not what one would have hoped for -- 41-71, 4.56 ERA in just under 1000 innings pitched. But, Pete was a smart man and attended Nova Southeastern Law School. He made Law Review and was published in the Nova Law Journal. Even more wisely, all he does is draft and administer wills and estates and handle residential real estate closings in the law firm that still bears the name of his dad's law partner and his dad. So, maybe some day in the future, he and I will run into each other at a Florida Bar Association meeting. After all, Construction Law falls under the Real Property and Probate section of the Florida Bar.

The Theme from Futurama

Perhaps I should have put Pete Broberg's card with this song.

You can hear the Amen Break for the first time around the 12-second mark of the song, and it appears on and off throughout the song. 

I've watched a few episodes of Futurama. I never started watching it regularly, probably because I never watch much of anything all that regularly unless my wife wants to watch something with me. I really have never been a big TV watcher -- I was always wanting to be outside or reading or listening to music or organizing my baseball cards. I also like silence a lot too.

To close things out, Angus sent me these Leaf Certified autographs from 1996. I believe that this is my first David Nilsson autograph, so that's really cool.

Mike Potts jumped out at me as being interesting in this group. Potts was born in Langdale/Valley, Alabama -- just across the Chattahoochee River from Georgia and south of I-85. He went to high school in Lithonia, Georgia -- a town just outside the I-285 "Perimeter" and just north of I-20 in Eastern DeKalb County. The Indians drafted him from Lithonia High School in 1989, but he did not sign. The Braves then drafted him in 1990 from Gordon College in Barnesville, Georgia and signed him. The Brewers signed him off waivers before the 1996 season, and Potts pitched in 24 games for the Brewers that year.

Potts was done with baseball after the 1996 season. He decided at that time to follow in his father's footsteps and became a police officer. He worked for a couple of years for the Durham Sheriff's Office before he joined the North Carolina Highway Patrol in 2001. Potts was injured in the line of duty in February of 2013 when, on what seemed to be a routine traffic stop, he was shot in both of his hands, in his shoulder, and in his face. 

Mikel Edward Brady II was sentenced to 20 years in prison as part of a plea deal for the shooting. Thankfully, Potts was able to return to his position within a year and by February 2014. Potts saw his bravery and resolve to get back to work as nothing more than just doing his job. In May of 2014, he received the North Carolina Purple Heart for injuries received in the line of duty. 

Here's a photo of him receiving that award:

Angus, thanks for the great cards -- and especially for the excuse to find out about Patrolman Potts and Pete Broberg!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Two More Crackin' Wax Breaks

Greetings from sunny and humid Ponte Vedra, Florida. I'm attending a trade organization meeting this weekend, which will leave me with a fair amount of downtime -- it will almost be like a vacation of sorts in some respects.

Of course, I still need to dodge the local fauna.

So, as I have written about a few times here on Off Hiatus, I subscribed to the "Topps Package" with Crackin' Wax as part of the charity case break series. The last two products in the package were Topps Series 2 and Museum Collection. 

I tend to forget about Series 2 being separate from Series 1. I'm still stuck in the 1980s, when all the cards were issued at once and had 792 cards in the set and had checklists without front photos and had prospect cards and team checklists. You know -- the good old days of wild overproduction! So, getting the guaranteed team set from Series 2 from Chris was a good thing. 

As for Museum Collection, I splurged on a box of it for myself back in 2014 when I got back into collecting. I like the product in many respects, but there are problems with it too. I like the base cards -- the high quality, thicker stock with a classier looking design appeals to me. I wish it could be a standalone product with just the base cards and two or three parallels sold in packs of 6 cards for $5 or something. The problem with it is the problem with all of Topps's non-flagship sets (other than 2017 Stadium Club for some reason): the Brewers generally get ignored. 

The Brewers really got shafted by both Series 2 and Museum Collection in terms of hits this year. It was so bad that I got money back from Chris on both breaks because of the lack of chances at a Brewers hit. So what did I get?

Let's hit up some music and introduce the cards!

How about a cover of a Loverboy song that sounds like it is being played in a drainage pipe? Sure, everybody is working for the weekend. No question about it. And there's nothing like a cover artist from Saskatchewan playing it to make it awesome!

These are the rest of the base cards from Series 2 that I didn't show in the break that Peter did. It's a mixed bag. Taylor Jungmann has spent most of the year in Triple-A. Kirk Nieuwenhuis has been added to the 40-man roster twice and designated for assignment twice so far this year. Matt Garza has been as good as you'd expect a mid-30s starter in a contract year who can't stay healthy to be. 

Chase Anderson was developing into a guy who could be an ace earlier this year before straining his oblique and being put on the DL on July 1. His injury arguably was as big a turning point in the NL Central race as the Cubs getting Jose Quintana was -- he was pitching that well. Don't believe me? Check this out: in his last 7 starts before the injury, he pitched 41-2/3 innings, giving up 21 hits and 8 walks, striking out 44 and allowing 6 earned runs (1.30 ERA, 4-1 record for him, 4-3 for the team with two losses blown by the bullpen). Those are ace numbers.

Finally, we have Eric Thames, who has cooled down (as you would expect) since April. He has been okay, but his April stats have obscured a slash line of .221/.338/.450 since May 1 (14 HR, 27 RBi in 293 plate appearances). That's acceptable based on the OPS, but that is a factor in why Jesus Aguilar is getting more playing time as the season goes on.

I'm not sure if this counts as "trip hop." It's pretty relaxing, even if the guy in the video wears too much eye makeup and yells at us all the time and even if the song is called "Dummy." 

Wait, I'm not a dummy, and neither is Chris. What is going on here?

Okay, now I get it. Parallels are for dummies. Well, if there are too many parallels its makes us all feel like dummies, I guess. This one is out of 65, if I recall correctly. You'll have to forgive me for being dumb and not noting that on my scan file even though I knew I would be doing this remotely.

Maybe I am a dummy?

This song was originally written by Puerto Rican composer Rafael Hernandez Marin, who was given the name "Mr. Cumbanchero" by President John F. Kennedy. Hernandez is a hero in the Puerto Rican community. There are schools in the Bronx, Boston, and Newark named for him, as is the airport in Aguadilla, PR. 

Always good to have a little bit of upbeat music on a Thursday to get you heading in the right direction for Friday and the weekend, right?

I'm pretty sure that Topps has been stamping "buybacks" just to get rid of its inventory of 1990 Topps cards from its warehouses. Perhaps I should try to put together a 1990 Franken-team-set of Brewers from these buybacks, but I really just don't like the idea of chasing the cards. I'll take them if people want to send them, but dang...actively seeking out the 1990s? No thanks.

Also, Robert Flores is a native Houstonian and a huge wrestling fan who apparently owns a Louisville Slugger autographed by Ric Flair. 

This song strikes me as a bit uninteresting. Alexa Goldie is a Canadian artist whom some were thinking might be the next Avril Lavigne, except that these songs just weren't all that great. 

I'm not sure if anyone has picked up yet on the theme uniting the songs I've used here today. Perhaps it would help if I told you that Topher Stott is the drummer on this song for Alexa Goldie? 

Right, Chris?

In reality, I've saved the best for last. For the first time in a long time, I beat the odds in a break and got legitimately great cards for my collection:

The "Meaningful Materials" serial numbered to 50 beat the odds for me. Getting a gold parallel for Braun was nice too, but Brewers hits have been sparse this year. In fact, they have been fairly nonexistent this year in the breaks in which I've been involved. So, when I finally had the opportunity to check in on the break and see what happened with it, I was incredibly excited to find out that I got a nice serial numbered patch. 

Still, I'd rather that there be a separate product for the base cards away from all the hits -- I mean, these designs are excellent and look sharper in hand -- even if the photo cropping makes the card look miscut. 

Chris...Topher...whichever....thanks for running these breaks and enjoy the Topher music!