Wednesday, January 21, 2009


I'm obsessed. Addicted. I can't help myself. Despite having a series of posts scheduled out, some of which I was excited to write, I haven't posted anything to Green Monster in almost two weeks. And I don't even have a good reason like being too busy with work, or family obligations. Nope. I've spent virtually all of my free time since my last post doing one thing - reading.

I'll be the first to admit that once I pick up a new series it tends to occupy my attention until I've read everything I can get my hands on. It happened with the Lord of the Rings trilogy when I was in my teens, and most recently with Anne McCaffrey's Pern series. But usually I'm able to go at a normal pace and string a series out over a period of time (with LOTR for example I've slowly been reading through Chris Tolkien's History of Middle Earth series for well over a decade now). I've never felt a series almost literally take over my life to the point where I rush home from work so that I can pick up where I left off at 1 or 2 o'clock the previous morning (and then only because my wife dragged me to bed knowing I'd never get up otherwise). Man, I can't believe how pathetic I sound.

My patheticness will only sound worse when I share what it is I've become so obsessed with. My reading preferences tend towards the Fantasy end of the spectrum. I do stray out and occasionally read other genres (I loved Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth for example) in between my forays into magical worlds of mythic creatures and daring adventure. But there are a number of genres that I've stayed away from because they just don't appeal to me - mysteries and romance being the two heavies. So when my sister-in-law and mother-in-law started raving about this pseudo-romance/fantasy series they'd been reading (finished in my sister-in-law's case) I shrugged them off, thinking I'd never be interested. But my sister-in-law kept on me and I finally gave in and took the first book home with me. Literally a day and a half later I'd finished Twilight and was back on my sister-in-law's doorstep begging her for the second book.

Yes, you read that right. I said Twilight. As in the young adult book that was written with a primarily female audience in mind; as in vampire falls in love with teenage girl and much angst ensues; as in the movie that came out this past November. I am obsessed with that Twilight. And I can tell you exactly why that is - her characters. More than any other literary characters that I can think of, these characters, Bella and Edward, have burrowed their way into me. I empathize with them, I feel with them, I care about them. It's a bizzare feeling to be honest. And because I want to know how it all turns out for them (actually I'm pretty sure I know how it's going to turn out for them, its not Stephanie Meyer's writing prowess that has me obsessed), I cannot stop reading. In less than two weeks, I have literally read over 1800 pages. I've certainly read more (I like to read Tad Williams after all - the three books in the Memory, Sorrow, Thorn series clocks in at over 2400 pages), but never at this kind of pace.

So for those who were wondering where I've been for the last two weeks, I've been in Forks, Washington with Bella and Edward. I'll be back soon, I promise - I'm already a third of the way through the last book and at the rate I'm going, I'll be done before the weekend. I just hope that the withdrawl won't be too bad.

Monday, January 12, 2009

He Played for the Red Sox? HOF Edition

In honor of his election to the Baseball Hall of Fame, this week’s He Played for the Red Sox player is Rickey Henderson. Rickey played for a whole pile of teams (sidebar, anyone know what the most teams a single player has played for) including the Red Sox.

Henderson signed as a free agent with the Red Sox in 2002 and became the oldest player to play center field in major league history with them. At age 43, he played in just over 70 games and still managed to hit 5 home runs and steal 6 bases. Henderson's arrival in Boston marked a curious statistical oddity. From his 1979 debut through the end of the 2001 season, he had stolen more bases by himself than everyone who had ever played for the Red Sox combined: 1,395 steals for Henderson, 1,382 for the Boston franchise. The Red Sox finally "passed" Henderson on April 30, 2002. While statistically, Henderson certainly didn't have a huge impact on the Red Sox, his signing marks the beginning of a critical philosophical shift in the organization. Prior to Henderson, the Red Sox were always built as a slugging team. Sure there were guys like Ellis Burks who came along every now and then who could steal a base or two, but the Sox were never built as a team who could take the extra base on a single (and we Red Sox fans now know how important that can be following Dave Robert's steal in game 4 of the 2004 ALCS). They were always built to put men on base and either score them via a home run or leave them stranded. Henderson was the first step in an evolution that is still on-going with the 2009 team.

Here’s an anecdote I found about Rickey’s time with the Red Sox over on
Buckey Planet:

“Henderson signed a minor league deal last year with the Boston Red Sox that included an invitation to spring training and a $ 350,000 salary if he made the team. After he played his way onto the Boston roster with an impressive spring, Henderson groused that the Red Sox were underpaying him.

Interim general manager Mike Port reminded Henderson of the conditions he had agreed to.

"Oh, that?" Henderson replied. "I canceled that contract."

Says Port, "It was the first and only time I've ever had a player tell me he canceled his contract."

Red Sox president Larry Lucchino telephoned San Diego G.M. Kevin Towers, asking how Towers had appeased Henderson during their contract squabbles in the past. "I was on the golf course late in spring training one year when Rickey called to close a deal," Towers says. "I was putting, and my wife took the call. I said to her, 'Ask him what he wants.' She said, 'He wants a living allowance.' And I did it. That's how we closed the deal."Lucchino liked that idea. The Red Sox agreed to pick up the tab on the suite Henderson was renting at the Boston Ritz-Carlton, which ran $ 10,000 a month.”

Friday, January 9, 2009

Smoltz, Baldelli and Kotsay... Oh My!

After a relatively quiet offseason, the Red Sox have announced a flurry of signings. While none of these are a big splash signing on the level of CC Sabathia or Mark Texiera, I think all three are good solid additions that will make the Red Sox a better team.

Baldelli and Kotsay are bench players with starting lineup ability, something the Red Sox have lacked of late. Kotsay proved how valuable he was in the playoffs last year, with the ability to play both the outfield as well as fill in at first base allowing flexibility at the corners with Lowell (coming off of surgery) and Youkilis.

As for Smoltz, how can you not like signing a guy like this. While ordinarilly I would worry about a career NL pitcher coming over to the AL and seeing a jump in their ERA (like Brad Penny), I don't have this concern with Smoltz. The NL east is about as strong a division as their is in baseball and he routinely had to face guys like Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Carlos Delgado, and the 30-HR infield the Marlins sported last year. I don't see the switch to the AL affecting Smoltz as much as it might others.
Now if they could just get someone to catch all of these pitchers (other than Josh Bard)...

Original Heritage - 1989 BBCM Inserts, Part 3

The final installment of the 1989 BBCM inserts, featuring Pitchers, Rookies and a panel of combo cards.

Pitchers -

Rookies -

Combos -

I don't have a lot of the actual Topps Heritage cards, but I do have a few of the chrome versions and I have to say that I like the old BBCM inserts better. It may be the chroming process, but a lot of the images on the 2008's appear pixelated and blurry. I'll dig out the 1990 inserts soon and scan those for future posts.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Original Heritage - 1989 BBCM Inserts, Part 2

The 1989 BBCM inserts are fun because they're like a snapshot in time of who the hottest players and rookies were at the time. Some of the players featured on these cards went on (or continued on) to become superstars, others not so much. In the second grouping of these insert panels we have the outfielders and catchers. Like the images in part 1, clicking on the thumbnail will load a larger image.

Tomorrow I'll finish off the 1989 insert collection with the pitchers, rookies and combo cards.

Trade, the First

I recently completed my first blog trade with Jason from The Writer's Journey. While trading through the internet isn't new to me (I've been a member of The Bench since getting back into collecting and have completed over 50 trades there), trading with other bloggers is. Both of us had recently picked up blasters of 2007 UD Masterpieces and were a few cards short of the set (horrible collation on that set by the way - 4 blasters and almost as many doubles as cards for the set). I scanned a few of the cards that came my way:
Bobby Doerr - Doerr often gets lost in the shadow of Ted Williams and the other greats of the late 1930's.

Lou Gehrig - I really wish that the MLB network would show the video of Gehrig's last game. They keep teasing me with it in their promos.

2004 World Series Champion Red Sox - Upper Deck new enough not to mess with a good team celebration card by sticking Photoshoped politicians in it.

I also sent Jason a few other cards from his want list and in return he sent me a bunch of Red Sox cards:

2008 Topps Opening Day Josh Beckett Flapper Card - I had little interest in collecting the Opening Day set when it came out, so I had to look this card up to figure out what it was. According to the sell sheets it's supposed to transform into other cards. Ummm.... yeah. Why not just stick it in a bicycle spoke and be done with it.
Fleer Stamps- These are either from 1982 or 1983. If I had to guess I would say they are from 1982, only because one of the stamps featured Mike Torrez (he of Bucky Dent infamy) and he was traded by the Red Sox in 1983.
2001 Topps - Jason sent me a large collection of Red Sox from this set. I'll have to look at my checklists to see if it's a complete team set.
2001 Topps Manny Ramirez Hobby Masters - I'm finding that I've been able to pick up Manny Red Sox cards dirt cheap. I wonder if this is a common phenomenon when a star player changes teams. Fans of the old team no longer want his cards, while fans of his new team don't want him in the old team's uniform. This is one thick card. I have game used cards that aren't this thick.

2000 UD Victory - I have a number of cards from various Victory sets by Upper Deck. This isn't one of my favorite designs, but hey, Red Sox cards are Red Sox cards. Trot Nixon was another player in the Greenwell/Naehring/Wakefield mold that I enjoyed watching. Good, hard-nosed, team oriented player. I was sad to see him go, even though I know it was time.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Original Heritage - 1989 BBCM Inserts, Part 1

A couple of posts ago I was reminiscing about Baseball Card Magazine and the bonus insert cards that came with every magazine. I've seen a few of these here and there around the internet and blogs, but I don't know that anyone has ever posted a complete series of these before. BBCM's inserts were organized into yearly collections, each with a similar design theme. The 1989 series used the 1959 Topps design. You might call them the pioneers of the "Heritage" movement, putting contemporary players on retro designs. Here are the first four uncut panels of the 1989 series featuring the infielders. Clicking on the panels will take you to a larger version:

First Basemen -
Card Backs -
Second Basemen -
Shortstops -
Third Basemen -

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Blog Recognition

Time for a quick timeout so that i can recognize a few of my fellow bloggers -

Goose Joak - For those of you who haven't stumbled across this blog yet, do yourself a favor and check it out. One of th centerpieces of Goose Joak (which is by the way my favorite blog name) is a series of great fantasy cards. A while back Dave asked for some suggestions for future fantasy cards. I suggested a 2004 Bill Buckner card. In my opinion, Buckner bore too much hatred and blame from Red Sox fans for far too long. Yes it was a boneheaded play, but there were others who were equally, if not more responsible for the Red Sox loss that year (Calvin Schiraldi, this means you). 2004 wiped that all away and I thought it a fitting mea culpa to show Buckner on a card from the year that all was forgiven.

wait till next year - A little over a week ago I received an email from a Green Monster reader (they really do exist) asking me to check out his new blog and give it a plug if I liked it. Well not only did I check it out and like it, I added it to my daily reading list (which currently stands at 66 blogs, most of the hobby related). I find it funny how similar Cubs fans and Red Sox fans are. I can't tell you how many times I heard the phrase "wait till next year" from one of my New England relatives when talking about the disappointing end to yet another season. Hang in there Cubs fans, its all worth it.

Bluegrass Smoke Signals - I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Kentucky Harold and his vintage themed card blog. After all, he is the only official "follower" according to blogger. Besides his card blog, KH also writes a second blog that deals with the Euclidean Triangle. I tried reading a couple of his geometry posts and they made my head swim. I use basic geometry in my regular job (architect), but KH takes it to another level.

Monster Card of the Week - Elmira Pioneers Edition

Last night, Jeffrey Wolfe over at A Pack A Day busted a rack pack of 1992 Topps and made some disparaging comments about one of my favorite Red Sox players, Tim Naehring. Now I'll be the first to admit that Naehring wasn't an uber-prospect and was far from a star player during his 8 year career (cut short by injury), but I gotta stick up for him none the less. And what better way to do that than to make him the subject of this week's Monster Card?I grew up in a small town in North-central Pennsylvania, far away from even the closest major league city. Just over the border in New York however, was the small city of Elmira, home to the Pioneers, a class "A" affiliate of the Red Sox. I attended a lot of Pioneers games when I was younger. Although I enjoyed going to the games, very few of the players I saw in Elmira (including the players on the visiting teams) ever made it to the big leagues. Tim Naehring was one of the rare few that did. I don't honestly remember much about Tim from his playing days in Elmira. But he became one of my favorite Red Sox players as a result of one of those bizarre, cosmic coincidences that I just love.

When I was growing up my family would take a vaccation every summer to Massachusetts to visit extended family. Most of the vaccation was spent at various relatives' houses, but at least once a trip we would venture into Boston. Some summers we went to a museum, others the aquarium, and some we would go to Fenway Park to see the Red Sox play. Such was the case in the summer of 1990, when Tim Naehring made his major league debut. The Red Sox were playing the Twins with Tom Bolton and Scott Erickson battling to a 0-0 tie through 4 innings (my memories of this game have been supplemented by the old scorecard I kept during the game). In the bottom of the inning, Mike Greenwell reached base on an error. He advanced to third via a single by Tony Pena and a fielder's choice by Billy Joe Robidoux. Then, with two outs, up strides the rookie, Tim Naehring who, in only his second game since being called up does not have a ML hit. In that at bat, one of the only players I ever saw play both in Elmira and in Boston stroked a two out single for his first ML hit and his first ML RBI. It turned out to be the only run scored in the game. I remember the atmosphere in the stands being electric during that half inning, with all of the fans standing and cheering for a kid few of them had ever even heard of. To this day it is one of the few memories I retain out of all the Red Sox games I attended. So while Tim Naehring may not have been the best player ever to grace Fenway Park, he will always be one of my favorites.

Monday, January 5, 2009

He Played for the Red Sox? Carlos Baerga

Best known for his time with the Cleveland Indians during the early 1990s, Carlos Baerga spent the 2002 season with the Red Sox. Baseball history is littered with players who burst into the sport at the start of their careers looking like surefire Hall of Famers, only to flame out and vanish as quickly as they arrived. Carlos Baerga is a card carrying member of this dubious club. From 1990 through 1995, as the Indians starting second baseman, Baerga was one of the hottest players on a talented young team full of future Hall of Famers (Thome, Ramirez, Vizquel). In 1992 and 1993 he became the first second baseman since Rogers Hornsby to have back-to-back 200+ hit, 20+ home run, 100+ RBI, and .300+ average seasons and received MVP votes in both seasons.

Baerga’s production quickly tailed off after 1995 and he spent the next several years bouncing around various teams and their minor leagues (including a stint in the Korean Baseball Organization) before landing with the Red Sox in 2002. He made appearances in 73 games for the Red Sox, mostly as a designated hitter/pinch hitter. While his numbers for the 2002 season are pretty inconsequential, his finest moment as a Red Sox may have come on May 24 in an extra-innings game against the Yankees. With the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the 11th inning, Baerga hit a stinging line drive to center field. Bernie Williams caught the ball, but it was it deep enough to score the runner from third to win the game. And while it may be a relatively inconsequential hit in the grand scheme of his career, it’s the scenario that every kid in his backyard pretends and dreams about.

Baerga signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks as a free agent in 2003 went on to have his best year since 1995. He finally retired in 2005 and is currently an analyst for ESPN Deportes.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Blogging on hold tonight...

No blogging for me tonight. My new favorite channel is running the MLB Films video of the Red Sox 2004 World Series. I've officially died and woke up in heaven!

The Long Ball: The Summer of '75

I love it when oddball coincidences occur. I equate them to mini cosmic practical jokes played out on us unsuspecting humans. In my answers to Dinger Corner’s New Years questions I noted that I haven’t read a lot of baseball themed books. In fact, over the years, I’ve probably only read about a half dozen baseball books, and none since Faithful was published in 2005. So it strikes me as really funny that Dinged Corners would put out their questions at the same time that I finished reading The Long Ball: The Summer of '75, by Tom Adelman (which is verbosely subtitled as, Spaceman, Catfish, Charlie Hustle, and the Greatest World Series Ever Played).

I bought this book on a lark for $2.99 at a discount store while on vacation in New England this summer. While the 1975 World Series took place a year before I was born, everyone knows the Fisk home run and with a picture of it on the cover, I couldn’t resist buying this book.

The Long Ball is divided into two roughly equal length parts (though by the table of contents it technically has five). Part one describes the events of the regular season while part two details the playoffs and World Series. The first half of the book feels rushed as Adelman tries to cram 160 games into a relatively small number of pages. That combined with the frequent perspective shifts gives the first half a kind of ADHD-like schizophrenia that can be difficult to follow. The second half of the book has much better pacing to it, although it too suffers from the quick perspective shifts that can be jolting at times. Other than these couple of criticisms, I enjoyed The Long Ball. It read pretty quickly and drew me into the drama of the pennant chase and the playoffs.

One of the biggest praises that I can give The Long Ball is that I feel as though I learned a lot about the events of 1975 without having read a dry historical retelling of the season. For instance, I didn’t know that Catfish Hunter was the first free agent and that he was the first in a long line of players “bought” by George Steinbrenner and his Yankees (Red Sox bias, I know). I had never heard about the controversial interference play during Game 3 of the World Series that by all reckoning should be talked about equally with the Buckner play of 1986. And I had never heard the story of how a rat distracted a cameraman such that he lost track of the Fisk’s momentous ball and instead filmed one of the most famous videos in MLB history.

My favorite part of the book is actually Adelman’s dedication:

"For my dad, Jack Adelman, who taught me to watch the game until the very end”

Words to live by.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year - MLB Network Launches

Baseball junkies received a special New Years gift today - as of 6 PM tonight, the new MLB Network is live. Fortunately for me, Time Warner Cable will be carrying this network. 24 hours of highlights, games, analysis and Hazel Mae.

Joining Ms Mae for the network's 24 hours coverage will be a team of six analysts who may be a bit familiar - Al Leiter, Harold Reynolds, Mitch Williams, Dan Plesac, Joe Magrane and Barry Larkin.

(Credit again for the images go to The Baseball Card Cyber Museum. I have all these in my 89 Topps set - which is now officially 20 years old - but why spend the time pulling and scanning them when the museum is out there. If you haven't checked it out yet, do so - it's free!)

MLB Network kicked off their inaugural hours with a rebroadcasting of Don Larsen's perfect game. I managed only to catch the last half hour due to family obligations, but I'm glad that I did. In addition to the game footage (which would have been enough for me as a history junkie), Bob Costas had both Yogi Berra and Larsen in studio to talk about their memories of the game. I'm a Red Sox fan and I was in awe.

I don't think I can do the game or the memories justice with my meager writing skills, so I won't. I did make a few observations while watching that old black and white footage though. First, I was amazed at how small the diamond looked. I don't know if it was the fact that it was in black and white and the contrast you get with color was missing, but it looked like grown men playing on a little league field. I was also amazed at how unflattering those old wool uniforms were. Every player, even the Hall of Famers like Yogi and Roy Campanella, looked unathletic and out of shape in those baggy, heavy uniforms. And lastly, having never seen any old footage of Yankee Stadium, I was amazed at how different the stadium looked compared to what I grew up knowing Yankee Stadium to look like. I knew it had been radically renovated in the 1970's, but it never really struck me how radical the changes were. It truly is a different stadium.

Its now been over an hour and a half since I first put the new MLB Network on and I can't stop watching it. I'm already hooked. And from what they've advertised for features and amenities coming in the future, I have a feeling my wife is going to get sick of channel 100 really quickly. I've already got my DVR set up to record the next 9 Tuedays (at 8PM Eastern) when the MLB Network is going to rebroadcast Ken Burns' legendary documentary series,
Baseball. And all of this before the season and their unlimited coverage of games and highlights starts!