Tuesday, July 16, 2013

June 26- Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves



Despite the fact that I bought this hat while in Buffalo just the day before, it’s one of the few hats that I have that carry a lot of personal meaning. If you’ve actively followed these posts, or at least gone back and read a few from my archives, the logo on the front may seem familiar as I write about a similar cap back on March 5th. Of all the logos in Major League Baseball it really comes as no surprise that the two I have a kinship with most also happen to be the most controversial: Chief Wahoo of the Cleveland Indians and this one, Chief Noc-a-Homa of the Atlanta Braves.

I honestly can’t explain why I’m so drawn to it, perhaps a little of it does stem from the backlash it has received over the years; however, I don’t make it a point to be offensive on any level about it. To me, it’s just a symbol of the past which has been misconstrued over the decades when it was first introduced during the Milwaukee years in 1954. I bring all of this up because as much as it has pitted baseball fans or political pundits against one another for so many years, to me, it’s a symbol of bonding that will always remind me of the greatest year of my life with two people who have shown me a lighter side of “The Chop.”

Since this is a custom cap that I’ve already dwelled upon there really isn’t much of a reason to re-hash on old material. If you are interested about the history of the symbol, I highly recommend clicking on the link from my original post above. The one thing I can give you about this one is that it was cleverly done in the original Milwaukee styling. While the red bill and the navy blue panels were both shared by the Braves of Milwaukee and Atlanta, the Noc-a-Homa head in a flesh-colored tone was shown more prevalently in the early years between 1957-1966 up north; however, there was a five-year time frame in with the same color pattern was used in Atlanta (1967-1971), but with a much more detailed face.
Milwaukee
Atlanta
 This particular hat, or the Diamond Era cap featuring this logo that was originally supposed to be released this season, was a hot topic of conversation amongst the other eight #CrewEra13 invitees and myself. All of us had in some form or another agreed that the original batting practice cap was one of the Holy Grail pieces we wanted to add to our collection. At one point we (more I) thought that there was some sort of box of Diamond Era Braves caps somewhere within the confines of New Era’s headquarters, much like what happened with the Ark of the Covenant at the end of “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”
Some of our top men are on it.

Nonetheless, this cap was still available for purchase, which made all of us happy. In some weird way this logo became the unofficial symbol of our trip to Buffalo as most of us all ready had some variation of the Noc-a-Homa logo on a cap, but more important, we all have some kind of a fascination with it.

Due to the fact that this is not a game style cap I have a lot more freedom in how I marked this bad boy up. Rather than take a historical route like my other posts, I decided to go with something more important to me.

R/R: Of all the Braves fans I’ve met throughout my 30 years of existence, there are two that have made a significantly profound impact on my life at two very important moments, and; coincidentally, they both happened to be named Ricky: Ricky Mast and Ricky Ruby.

Ricky Ruby (@RickyRuby) and I met in the lobby of the Lafayette Hotel in downtown Buffalo, New York two days ago when we both were invited to the Fan Appreciation event held by New Era on June 23rd and 24th. Ruby hails from Atlanta and is one of the bigger pro-Atlanta fans I’ve ever met; however, it’s not for this that I’ll continue to remember him. One of the things that the other eight of us quickly picked up about Ruby is that he’s a big video game and comic book connoisseur. It was first brought to our attention at Niagara Falls when we hiked to the south side of the mouth and Ruby text message tone went off. His tone: the “Go-Go Power Rangers” chime that the red ranger received when ZORG was trying to get a hold of them. Needless to say, the 11-year-old versions of us quickly came out of hiding upon hearing it.

I found this on his Facebook page. Sorry for stealing it.

Throughout the rest of the trip Ruby delighted us with his cavalcade of custom comic book and video game caps that he purchased from shops in Japan which featured Batman, Mario from Super Mario Bros. and Iron Man. But the one topic of discussion that he and I kept bringing up was the matter of the Noc-a-Homa Diamond Era cap. We both had different motives as far as why we want the hat (I suppose), in that he wants it for his Braves/Atlanta collection, where as I want it for my ownership of all the Diamond Era/Braves history collection. In the grand scheme of things one could easily say that both falls within the same boundaries, which I would not dispute as we’re both avid collectors of all hats Braves.

When I got back to Portland I made sure to give him a follow on Instagram and Twitter. Due to the fact that I had been having issues with my phone throughout the trip to Buffalo I wasn’t able to do it then. Once I got back and we started tweeting back and forth with one another I got to see how big of a deal Ruby is within the Atlanta/Braves community. I’ve always been a fan of interacting with supporters of other teams besides my Oakland Athletics as well all have that common ground of fan hood, we all share the same kinship for baseball. One thing that I am looking forward to is the opportunity to get to a game at Turner Field with Ruby for two reasons:

1. Because I’ll have someone awesome to shoot the breeze with at the game.

2. Turner Field is one of the three Major League Baseball parks I have yet to visit. I couldn’t think of anyone better to check that off of my list with.

Ricky Mast (@RickyMast) and I started talking back in February of 2012 when we were both in the running for the MLB Fan Cave this last year. On a nearly routine basis he, a lot of the other prospective Cave Dwellers and I gabbed on Tiny Chat. Despite the fact that we were in competition with one another, all of us hit off fast for the same reason I mentioned above, we’re all baseball fans. No matter what the team or rivalry is one can always seek solace in the common ground and develop a kinship. Such was our case.

Ricky pulling off a low-key mohawk shark in the background.

Ricky being Ricky.
 
 Mast and I first met in person in Phoenix, Arizona as our planes landed around the same time along with Megan Washington (@teammegan) as the two of them had arrived on the same flight. Naturally, we all hit it off immediately as we swept through the terminals to try and find where we had to meet the shuttle to get to the hotel.

For those of you who are NASCAR fans Mast is the son of Rick Mast, a veteran driver who drove during the Winston Cup days from 1988-2002. What’s most interesting about this is that despite the fact that I don’t closely follow NASCAR I knew who Ricky’s dad was when I lived in Bakersfield, California as two acquaintances both had posters of Rick and his HOOTERS-sponsored car in their garages: Mark, a neighbor down the street whose daughter and I were friends, and Rick Mears, the Hall of Fame four-time Indianapolis 500 champion who lived a few blocks away whose son was friends with my brother Adam.

Ricky and I hit it off pretty well from the start, but we hardly ever saw each other from what I recall in Arizona. He and I were pitted in different groups and went to interview different teams/players as part of our final day’s worth of challenges. In the end though, he and I were both chosen to represent our teams as part of the final nine for the Fan Cave in New York City.

As much as I can recall about conversations and moments that we shared in the Fan Cave, there are only a few moments that I think back on regularly that always put a smile on my face. One of the features that we had on the walls was a radio that worked based on Bluetooth functions. Anytime the late games started up we (all nine of us) would use it to our advantage and play a continuous amount of sound bites and songs to help keep us entertained as the night wore on. Nothing against watching baseball for 12-16 hours a day, but sometimes there can be a few boring moments and breaking the monotony is necessary. One of the cards ( six of spades) that Ricky had in his pocket was the theme song to the TV show “Night Court,” a favorite show for both of us as we were growing up. TV theme songs and movie quotes became a regular line of conversation between the two of us. One particular moment in which it was caught on film was when we were filming the opening scene to the “Miggy Poco” telenovela sketch with Miguel Cabrera and Jon Glazer of “Cheap Seats” and Conan O’Brien fame. If you go back and watch the sketch you can see Ricky and me in the background talking; however, you can’t hear what we are saying. In a nut shell, Ricky and I were reciting the first interview between Will Ferrel and O’Brien when Ferrel came out in character as Robert Goulet. A few highlights include, “Dyan Cannon, she’s got a shape to her,” “Hello Johnny!” "Oh I’ve just been driving a lot,” and “Robert Goulet ate too many cherry Pop-Tarts backstage.” Ricky was as big, if not bigger, fan of ridiculous comedic quotes and standup routines as I am. There was seldom a time when he and I wouldn’t try to make the other person laugh from the moment we woke up to when we went back to our apartments to get some sleep. Our dueling Harry Caray’s became quite the treat, as did the occasional Ric Flair-style “Wooooooooo!!!” No matter what we said or how we said it, every bit was a gem, and I can’t recall laughing harder around anyone I’ve ever met.

Ricky is also quite the accomplished musician, no matter how much he may try to downplay it. Put an acoustic guitar in his hand and he’ll crank out some country gold. Since I was only in the Fan Cave for the first two-and-a-half months I didn’t become familiar with his Braves tribute to “No Diggity” by Blackstreet with his version titled “Go Yickity,” which was accompanied by a wonderful popsicle stick puppet show music video. However, I was fortunate to witness three moments of his brilliance at the tail end of April and the first few weeks of May. The first is something that very few remember, but I tweeted about as it was going on. I’ve always been a huge fan of the “Star-Spangled Banner’ when it’s performed via guitar. I don’t remember the exact date but games were just about to get underway when Ricky sat behind the couch and gently strummed away at the acoustic playing our national anthem. The other seven Cave Dwellers were going about their business, typing things up, talking, etc., but I completely tuned everything out to listen to Ricky play. It was one of the most endearing moments I recall from my experience.

The second moment came on May 3rd when Patrick Corbin and JJ Putz of the Arizona Diamondbacks stopped by for a visit before the opening game of their weekend series versus the New York Mets. A few days prior we had been sat down by the executives to talk about how we were doing after the first month of being there. I won’t go into too much detail now as I’m saving the whole discussion for a later post, but from what I recall from what Ricky had told me, they had said that he needs to produce more original material. I was shocked by that comment, but Ricky, being the loyal and diligent guy that he is, ducked into the corner and immediately got to work. What he came up with is a version of Hootie and the Blowfish’s “Hold My Hand” but sung as a tribute to Braves’ catcher Brian McCann. 

For the time it took him to put it together and the balls he had to play it front of everyone, including Corbin and Putz, it was astonishing. Putz ended up getting it on video as he and McCann were good friends, but I’m not sure if Ricky ever got any feedback on it. But that’s not the end of this. I’m still not sure if Ricky knew this in advance or if I just didn’t check the schedule of upcoming visitors, but Darius Rucker, Hootie himself, paid a visit to the Fan Cave shortly after Putz and Corbin left. As it turns out Rucker is a big Cincinnati Reds fan, and of course I was coaxed into showing off my Reds tattoo to Rucker, at which he was pleasantly surprised by the detail (thank God). At the same time Ricky was asked to play his version of “Hold My Hand” for Rucker, which Ricky, once again, knocked right out of the park. I’d say as far as creativity goes, Ricky definitely grabbed the bull by the horns. Literally.


The third moment came on May 22nd when Billy Butler, Aaron Crow, Bruce Chen, Brayan Pena and Jeff Francoeur of the Kansas City Royals paid us a visit. Most of this day I paid tribute to on May 23rd in one of my Oakland Athletics posts, but there was one major detail that I had left out. Unbeknownst to almost everyone, Ricky had written a song about Francoeur as he is still a huge hit with the Braves’ fan base. 

I’m pretty sure it’s still available on the Fan Cave Web site, so do yourself a service and check it out. This particular song was a Ricky Mast original and became a huge hit with Francoeur and the gang. The thing that I found most shocking in the end was that it almost didn’t air because of Ricky’s last line in the song, “He’s a badass in the USA.” Due to the word “badass” being used it was almost scrapped. I guess the word on the street is that it took 10 emails back and forth with the head office to approve of it, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned about showbiz AND the word on the street, it’s usually pretty reliable. Either way, the important thing is that it was approved.

On of the last little anecdotes I have from our time in the Fan Cave has to do with one of the lesser-known rules in which Ricky had to abide by. By now, most of you have become fully aware of the fact that I had to, and still do, bark like a dog anytime anyone, including myself, says the name Jayson Werth (WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF!!!) It became a bigger hit than I expected, especially with kids who came to take a tour. Now, one of the rules of the house that followed was that I had one for Ricky. Anytime I said Chief Noc-a-Homa Ricky had to reply with, “I love Ted Turner!” Probably the best/worst moment of this came on New Year’s Eve of this last year when I was in Ft. Lauderdale with my girlfriend Angie (@sconnieangie). It was a little after midnight EST and the bar we were at, America’s Backyard) started playing the Florida State/Atlanta Braves chant song. You know, the one they do as everyone does The Chop? Anyway, I was pretty drunk when it came on and I decided to text Ricky about it, at which I also mentioned Chief Noc-a-Homa. Within a matter of seconds I got a sold, “I love Ted Turner” in response. I don’t remember much of the night after that, but seeing that text again in the morning put a solid smile on my face as I was more than likely barfing.

After I was eliminated from the Fan Cave at the end of May I did my best to keep in contact with Ricky and few o the others guys. One moment in particular that I’ll never forget is how I almost caused an accident in Los Angeles in an attempt to take a photo of a Ralph’s grocery store. As weird as that sounds there is a very good reason for doing so. Of all the movie quotes that Ricky and I bounced off of one another, there’s a line from “The Big Lebowski” that came up the most. The scene in which it takes place is after Donny, played by Steve Buscemi, has a fatal heart attack and Walter (John Goodman) and Jeff aka The Dude (Jeff Bridges) are sitting at the desk of the head of the mortuary to negotiate (shout about) the price of the urn in which Donny’s ashes are placed. After not coming to an agreement in regard to a portable receptacle, Walter shouts, “God damn it!!!” followed by, “Is there a Ralph’s around here?” It became our bread and butter play. Anytime I shouted, “God damn it!!!” Ricky would always follow up with, “Is there a Ralph’s nearby?” Seeing how I was in LA, where the film took place, and there was an actual Ralph’s “around here,” I had to do it. From what I recall, Ricky was most pleased.

In the months to follow Ricky and I spoke less and less, which was mostly fueled by something stupid I said during the 2012 MLB All-Star game, which I’ll get into detail about when I reach that post. After Ricky was eliminated I pondered for a good few hours before sending my apology. I was happy that he responded, but was really upset that he was let go. Of the nine of us, I am confident to say that he was the second-most interactive with fans, but truly the most talented of the group.

Months would go by before we spoke again, which came on a really weird night. Back in December of 2012 I was one of thousands of victims involved in a shooting that took place at the Clackamas Town Center Mall in which I worked. Once again, I’ll go into more detail later in the year, but of all the people to hit me up in the wake of the aftermath, the one that meant the most was Ricky. It’s one thing for people that I regularly talk with to know what was going on and check up on me, it’s another thing for someone to be genuinely interested in my well-being after months of silence.

Not a day goes by that I don’t regret what I said, to cause the shift, but I’m glad that steps have been taken and we’re talking again, even if through the occasional jokes on Twitter. It’s only fitting I suppose. That was pretty much what our relationship was based on from the start. And I’m certainly not complaining about a good laugh in my life.

7 comments:

  1. Hey, man: Great website and blog! I don't know how I found it but I'm glad I did. It's like a little history lesson on each page.

    I'd like to ask you if you know where I might be able to find a legit Seattle Pilots New Era Cap and a White Sox lid from the Bill Veeck shorts wearing unis. I think I'm the only one who like those.

    my email is dodgermex34@yahoo.com (can you tell I'm a Fernando fan?)

    Thanks,

    David Perez

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. David,

      Thank you very much for the kind words. I've always been fascinated with baseball caps since I was a kid and figured that this would be the best forum to share my experiences as well as the history with each cap, focusing on lesser-known stories that should get more attention.

      As far as the two hats you have questions about, check Mickeysplace.com. You'll find both of them there.

      Benjamin

      Delete
  2. btw, have you ever seen the Conan O'Brien "old time baseball" spot he did? Go on youtube, its a scream.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Harry,

      I rarely ever get as great of feedback as you have given me. I always go through weird little moments wondering if I'm focusing too much on myself of the story that needs to be told. Truth be told, I need to stop worrying about it and just let the words come out how I see fit. I'm always happy to hear and read that what I'm doing puts a smile on peoples' faces. Thank you so much.

      Benjamin

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  5. Whats up Man?! Love the blog! Any chance you know where I can get one of the Braves Chief Nocahoma hats (first pic)? Ive been looking and can't seem to find one! Thanks in advance!

    -Tyler from ATL

    ReplyDelete