Thursday, January 31, 2013

January 31- Seattle Mariners

This post is dedicated to Tommy Brentley, a great friend I made through my journey in and out of the MLB Fan Cave. Today he was selected as one of the Top 50 finalists for this year's edition of the Fan Cave and the lone representative of the Seattle Mariners. Do what you can to get him in and keep him there until the very end. Thank you for being a great friend Tom.

Like a lot of kids my age, I'll never forget watching Ken Griffey, Jr., Jay Buhner and Edgar Martinez when these hats were introduced. I was living in Southern California at the time, but as always, I still cheered hard for the Oakland Athletics. Nonetheless, when the Seattle Mariners started wearing the teal jerseys and caps, my fragile little head was on the verge of exploding. All my friends and I could talk about was how awesome that combo was, but also how the Miami Dolphins uniforms still looked “dainty.” (Definitely not the word I used when I was a kid) Bright colors have never really been a part of uniforms in baseball, outside of powder blue that is. But even with powder blue, the University of North Carolina has held a stronghold on that color well before anyone cared about what the Milwaukee Brewers, Philadelphia Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals were doing. As kids though, outside of a box of Crayola crayons none of us had ever seen something so appealing to our eyes. When one kid in school got a hold of a teal Mariners cap, we all became insanely jealous. For me, it would still be another 17 years before I got my hands on this bad boy, but I assure you, it was well worth the wait.

From 1994-96 the Mariners looked natural playing in such an unusual baseball color. This stretch also became the first time I really noticed Nike jump into the picture, but primarily for Ken Griffey, Jr. and Jay Buhner. Much in the same sense as the Atlanta Braves, TV exposure helped push The Kid and the Mariners into the limelight. OK, maybe not as much as the Braves and TBS, but enough to tap into my generation to get them to pay attention. Although the Mariners continued to sell this hat beyond ’96, it would be until the 2012 season that it would resurface back on their heads. 1995 was arguably the most successful of that three year stretch, and certainly one of the most memorable years in Mariners history as they took down the New York Yankees with a game-winning run by Griffey, Jr. in the 9th inning of Game 5 of the American League Division Series. But the Mariners lost in six games to the Cleveland Indians in the American League Championship Series.

Another key component of this era is one of the more famous mascots in Major League Baseball, the Mariner Moose. The Mariners Moose was introduced to me when I was about 11-years-old in 1994. Now, the Moose was actually introduced in 1990 after the Mariners held a contest for kids 14 and under to submit what they wanted as their mascot. Out of 2500 submissions the moose was selected. Due to the fact that I was living in Bakersfield, California at the time I was not privy to the Moose as I posted above. I was in both the Los Angeles Dodgers and California Angels market, and mostly because the Angels were not exactly the caliber team that they are today, I never got a chance to see the Mariners play a home game on TV until around 1994. That's not to say that NBC or ESPN weren't playing games or showing highlights at the time either, but as an avid Oakland Athletics fan I couldn't care less what the Mariners were doing unless they were a threat to Oakland winning the AL West. Nonetheless, when the Mariners started playing some solid ball as a team, as opposed to just Ken Griffey, Jr. knocking the guts out of the ball, they got more exposure. Thus, I was introduced to the Moose. Plus, who could forget the line of Nike commercials starring Griffey, Jr. for President, which also featured the Moose as his running mate? Money!

The one thing I made sure to do was put him in the teal jersey which most baseball fans outside of the Mariners base have always found iconic. Especially considering they only did it for one year before bringing them back for the 2011 season. A very wise decision on management's part I might add. The one other thing I really wanted done was to put a cast on the right leg of the Moose as a tribute to when he bit the dust at the Kingdome in 1995 during the ALDS against the Yankees whilst being pulled by an ATV and wearing roller blades. Both of which were genius decisions by management as well. What's even better is that the team continued the ATV/roller blade stunt until 1999 as they were kind of forced to stop after opening Safeco Field which has natural grass. However, due to the location of the Moose in the stencil I decided to scrap it. But hey! At least I was thinking about it. And look at him waving to the kids. The Moose is still a winner in my book.

As for the numbers, they’re pretty obvious…

#24- If you ask any kid born in the 1980s who their top 3 favorite baseball players of all time are, I’m willing to bet that 9/10 would have Ken Griffey, Jr. somewhere on that list. I of course am that douchebag 1/10. Sorry! I’ll give you Top 10 though! Anyway, Griffey, Jr. was THE guy who was slated to overtake not only the home run record, but possibly the RBI record as well, on top of getting 3000 hits easily. But sadly, this didn’t come to be. In the three year stretch The Kid went .295/106/272… in 323 games. Granted, 1994 was shortened by the lockout, but still!!! Those stats are out of this world in such a short period of time. Oh, and by the way, in ’94 Griffey, Jr. wet .323/40/90 and was a dead lock for the MVP up until that point. Somehow he didn’t win an MVP until 1997, the one and only of his career, but he did win Gold Gloves and make the All-Star team all three years. A small consolation prize I suppose, but at least he’ll be a lock for the Hall of Fame.

#51- I’ve only worn this hat three times since I bought it and marked it, and every time someone takes a shot at guessing the numbers they always say Ichiro. I seriously cry inside when I hear that name… because they’re WRONG!!! From 1994-96 Randy “The Big Unit” Johnson brought batters to their knees with his inhuman slider… and mullet. Funny story about Johnson: He played high school ball in Livermore, California and attended Livermore High School the same years as my uncles. Two of my uncles recall easily hitting doubles off of Johnson, much to his chagrin. Going back: ’94-’96 proved to be rather prosperous for the Big Unit, especially 1995 when he went 18-2 with a League leading 2.48 ERA, a League leading 1.045 WHIP, a League leading 12.3 strikeouts per nine inning and a League leading 294 strikeouts. Johnson received 26 first place votes for the AL Cy Young award that year. The next closest was Cleveland’s Jose Mesa with two first place votes. Good effort though. What’s really amusing is how many people, outside of Seattle, forget that Johnson played for the Mariners from the middle of the 1989 season through the middle of the 1998 season when he was dealt to the Houston Astros for three Minor Leaguers. I don’t know, maybe you’ve heard of them: Freddy Garcia, John Halama and Carlos Guillen.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

January 30- Cincinnati Reds

Today is actually the first day I’ve worn this hat. Come to think of it, that’s really weird. I love this hat. For those who aren’t too savvy on Cincinnati Reds hats, you should know that this hat has only been around since the start of the 2000 season. Now, I know what you’re thinking; and no, I’m not high right now. The hat you’re thinking of is the classic all red hat featuring the white “C” logo on the front. This is not that hat. This is the all read hat with a white “C” logo… and a black shadow around the “C.” The move was made to make the logo look more three dimensional; however, if you’ve seen a hat up close you’d know that the threading is all ready three dimensional. But, for hat snobs like myself, I applaud the change. The slightest change will make us buy it in order to keep our collections up to date.

This particular hat is one of the many I picked up at the New Era Flagship store across the street from the Fan Cave. In fact, this is one of thirteen I purchased in the first two days I visited the location. The folks across the way were nice enough to give us all a 30% off discount on whatever we wanted, yet I was the only one who ever bought anything from them. I take that back. Kyle Thompson and Ricky Mast each bought one hat, and I think Shaun Kippins got a replacement Braves hat. But that was about it. As for me, I bought somewhere like 35-50 hats from them. I’ll have to go back through and double check. Anyway, like I said, for the past 13 years the Reds have alternated this cap as their alternate and their game style cap. With that it made it a bit difficult to throw a few numbers down that stayed within the realm of the era and style, but luckily I found two that I really wanted to add.

#4- On May 18, 2012 I was lucky enough to still be in the Fan Cave when Jay Bruce, Drew Stubbs and Brandon Phillips paid a visit. Phillips was running a little bit late, but rolled in with style, sporting a diamond encrusted watch, black shades and a v-neck sweater and tie combo. Dude pal looked pretty dapper. He was also incredibly friendly, and took the time to talk to everyone before he had to head out to shoot a sketch with Andrew Zimmern from “Bizarre Foods.”

After my exile I was able to catch up with Phillips when the Reds played a road game in San Diego. I had tweeted at him earlier in the day and sent the photo we took in the Fan Cave, but didn’t expect much of a return. Instead, he not only retweeted it, but also said that he was looking forward to seeing me. I was in Anaheim at the time and had to race down to San Diego where I met up with Fan Cave Top 30 finalist Andy Bishop for the game. During batting practice Phillips signed a few autographs for kids and even gave a bunch of wristbands to one lucky little Reds fan and his baby brother.

It was then that Phillips spotted me and asked why I wasn’t in New York anymore. I told him what happened and he just shook his head and said that it was wrong of them to let me go. He didn’t have to say that, but I really appreciated hearing it. Aside from that, Phillips is one hell of a second baseman. He’s been playing the four spot for the Reds since 2006 and has been a recipient of the Gold Glove three times (2008, 2010-11) and made two All-Star teams while hitting .280/142/563. For a second baseman it’s pretty stellar; especially one who has been averaging over 145 games a season. Kudos to you Brandon. You do the baseball world proud. (Also, have to tilt the cap to the side like BP.)

#21- This is another guy I was fortunate enough to meet during my time in the Cave, but on the inside I was slightly angry at him for one year of his career. Sean “The Mayor” Casey is a hell of a guy and a fantastic analyst for MLB Network. Casey played for the Reds from 1998 through the end of the 2005 season, before moving on to the Pittsburgh Pirates for a bit and then onto the Detroit Tigers for the 2006 season. It was his time with the Tigers I hate on account for the four game sweep my Oakland Athletics suffered with Casey’s big grin flashing from the Tiger dugout. AAAAAHHHHHH!!!! Back to Cincy… Casey had a great career with the Reds, batting .305 and making three All-Star game appearances. But, like Phillips, he’s just a stand up guy. Amazing stories to tell and always willing to meet and greet everyone who wanted a few moments. I couldn’t think of a better tandem to honor.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

January 29- Chicago White Sox

Speaking of hats that have been around for a long time… the Chicago White Sox game style made a “comeback” in 1991 and is still the centerpiece of their headwear collection. Now, by comeback I am merely talking about the “SOX” logo moving at a downward left-to-right angle. Believe it or not, that particular logo made its original debut in 1951 as an alternate logo until 1963. Different variations were introduced as sleeve patches as well as logos for caps, but I will get to those later in the year.

One of the things that fascinates me most about this hat is that when I was a kid most people didn’t associate it to baseball. The rap group NWA pretty much made it a preferred wardrobe accessory of choice, seen regularly on the heads of either Dr. Dre or Easy-E. Rap. Hip-hop culture adopted this is as one of their flags and the kids who listened to their music ate it up. Ice Cube was more iconic for sporting a Los Angeles Raiders cap; but then again, what do I know? I’m just a white kid from the East Bay.

Unlike most of the kids in my neighborhood, I knew exactly what this hat was. After all, I’m a baseball fan.

Coming up with numbers to mark this hat was relatively easy, and not really choices that can be debated.

#13- Ozzie Guillen made his debut for the White Sox back in 1985… and was probably one of two other guys that most baseball fans could even remember from that era (Harold Baines and Carlton Fisk being the others). Guillen made an immediate impact with the club and easily won Rookie of the Year over guys like: Teddy Higuera, Oddibe McDowell and Stew Cliburn (Yah, I don’t remember them either). Guillen played shortstop for the Sox until 1997, only winning one Gold Glove in 1990 and making three All-Star games. The last three years of career found him bouncing around until he retired at the end of the 2000 season. Guillen went .264/28/619 with 1764 hits. Not exactly high impact numbers, but… it was what he did after his playing career ending that truly made him worthy. In 2004 Guillen was named manager of the Sox after they and Jerry Manuel parted ways at the end of the 2003 season. The move to put Guillen in charge an unusual choice at first, at least in my mind. Shortstops have never really made the greatest managers, but then again, I’m not a White Sox fan, so I was totally on board with them not succeeding. In his first year the Sox went 83-79 with Guillen at the helm, finishing in second place in the American League Central. In his second year the Sox won the World Series. In his third year… wait... WHAT!? That’s right; in 2005 the Sox won 99 games and won their first World Series title since 1917, a longer drought (by two years) than the Boston Red Sox endured the previous season. But, he wasn’t the fastest to win a World Series title within his first few years as manager. In fact, he’s not even in the top 8.

#35- Frank Thomas will probably go down in the history books as one of the three greatest players to ever wear a White Sox uniform. From 1990-2005 Big Hurt OWNED Chicago… from a baseball perspective that is. And don’t even bring up Sammy Sosa! Thomas is one of only a small handful of guys to win back-to-back MVPs, which he did so in 1993 and 1994. He almost won a third in 2000, but lost to Oakland Athletics first baseman Jason Giambi… barely. With a career batting average of .301, 521 home runs and 1704 RBI, Thomas may be a shoo-in (yes, this is the correct spelling) for the Hall of Fame. Another important milestone is that Thomas had 2468 hits for his career, and probably would have gotten 3000 had it not been for a slew of injuries in 2001, 2004-05 and 2008. All of those accolades aside I personally have to tip my cap to Big Hurt for his monster year in 2006 with the A's. Almost every critic had counted him out, but the A's rolled the dice anyway as they needed a jolt of power added to their lineup. Not only did Thomas add that boost, he led the team in home runs (39) and RBI (114) which in turn helped the A's win the American League West Division title and got him a fourth place finish in the AL MVP vote. Seriously, this guy was, and still is the real deal.

Oh! And don't even get me started on him having a video game named after him! WHAAAAAAT!?!?

Monday, January 28, 2013

January 28- Salt Lake City Bees

Very few people know this about me, even though I openly talk about it often, but I was born and raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I’m short, I’m Mormon. Let that sink in as you think about the foul language I speak, the tattoos I have and the beer I drink. Yes, it’s a bit hypocritical of me in theory; however, I’ve always done my best to be a good person, love my family, help out anyone who needs it and I still love and respect God. I’m an incredibly open person and hope you are too as I continue as bits and pieces of this blog involves my religion and church.

The current incarnation of the Salt Lake City Bees was founded in 1994 after then owner Joe Buzas moved the Portland Beavers to Utah. For those keeping score at home, this is the second post I’ve written in which the Portland Beavers relocated their team. From ’94-2000 the team was known as the Salt Lake City Buzz, but were sued and forced to change their name by Georgia Tech as their mascot, a giant yellow jacket, has the same name. From 2001-2004 they were known as the Stingers. In 2003 Buzas bought the farm and Utah Jazz owner Larry H. Miller bought the team. In 2005 the team then changed their name again to the Bees, a throwback to the original baseball team that occupied Salt Lake City from 1915-1926. Now, when it comes to other sports franchises, most tend to not only change their name, but also their mascot. By this I mean, and especially when a law suit is on the table, most teams will distance themselves from any trace of the reason for the law suit. The Bees; however, is one of the most perfect mascots and team name for any fixed location in sports.

Back in 1849, when Brigham Young and the Mormon pioneers migrated to what is now Utah, they settled in a vast, agriculturally rich territory which they called the State of Deseret. This provisional state existed for only two years and was never recognized by the United States government. The most important part of this story is the word Deseret, which in the Book of Mormon is the word for honeybee. The state of Utah was founded in 1896 and adopted the beehive as their state logo, which is a fixture of the state flag. The state’s motto; industry, for which bees are known.

Back to the hat. This particular hat has been used since the start of the 2006 season. There’s really not that much to it. It’s black with a little bee dude swinging a bat. The logo isn’t even that big, but for some reason it’s perfect. It catches the eyes immediately and can go with almost any outfit combination. As for the marks…

#12- Howie Kendrick spent a fair amount of time in SLC, and did incredibly well every second he took the field. Specifically, I wanted to note his 2006 season. He only lasted 69 games in SLC, but spent 72 games in the Majors that season. His stats definitely helped push his case for a midseason call-up: .369/13/62 plus 11 stolen bases. Kendrick was easily on the fast track to getting up and staying up with the Angels. Unfortunately, Kendrick played a few more stints in SLC (2007-2009) for a total of 35 more games for rehab purposes. In all cases Kendrick averaged well over .400 combined.

#32- I remember Nick Adenhart’s start against the Oakland Athletics on April 8, 2009 as if it were yesterday. I was actually watching the game during class since it started at 3:13 PM PST. Adenhart was dealing like a veteran. He gave up seven hits and three walks, but struck out five and didn’t allow a single run in six innings. The Angels bullpen gave up six runs over the last two innings and the A‘s won 6-4. In mere hours following the game Adenhart and two of his friends were killed after a drunk driver ran a red light. It was strange. I was still awake when the news was announced and I couldn’t help but feel for his family and teammates.

I had only seen Adenhart pitch one game while he was with the Bees in a game against the Beavers in Portland. I honestly don’t remember how he did, but I certainly remember him taking the mound. Adenhart only played one season with the Bees in 2008, a season in which he also pitched three games for the Angels toward the end of the season. During his time in SLC Adenhart went 9-13 in 145.1 innings and had a 5.76 ERA. Based on the numbers, you’d think he was just a mediocre pitcher; however, if you saw him pitch in 2009, you’d have a different opinion. I couldn’t think of a better person to remember and share on this hat. I truly wish he could have had a long and fulfilling life.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

January 27- Oakland Athletics 1989 WS

Today’s hat was truly the perfect choice for the events that took place. The 1989 World Series Oakland Athletics cap was an acquisition I made a little over a week ago for 1. My collection. 2. Just for Fan Fest. Throughout the 2012 season I had been asked several times by fans, media outlets and executives what may favorite moment, let alone favorite season in the team’s history is. Until the start of this last season I was always pretty staunch on the 1989 season being my personal favorite. I was six-years-old and vividly remembered watching all four games of the Series on the TV at my old house in Bakersfield, California. Watching the team celebrate after sweeping the San Francisco Giants never left my memory as the #1 spot… that is, until the 2012 season started.

Within the first few days of being in New York for the MLB Fan Cave we were asked to make our postseason predictions. After crunching the numbers and deeply analyzing what had happened during Spring Training, I picked the A’s to finish in the newly added second Wild Card spot. I felt good about it. If I had put them to win their division I would have gotten a lot more flack than I received for putting them in a Wild Card spot. I was called a “homer”, “idiot”, and a slew of other negative names for my decision, even though no one really took a constructive route of criticism. Even the Fan Cave had lost faith in the team after they were written off by every critic in the business at the end of May, which was “coincidentally” the same time I was asked to pack my bags and hit the bricks. Injuries and close losses had been a contributing factor in the team’s lack of success, but I wasn’t ready to write the team off. There were still plenty of games and opportunity for the A’s to climb back up the ladder. So, with a couple thousand dollars in my pocket, I hit the road and caught the A’s on the road and at home. In fact, the A’s marketing team contacted me to throw out first pitch for them on July 17th. The team had caught fire before the All-Star break, and didn’t slow the momentum when regular season play was rekindled. When I took the mound and lobbed out my pitch to Josh Reddick, I felt a sense of positivity in the air. Being so close to the team near the dugout, I could sense that they weren’t thinking about their place in the standings too much. They just wanted to get out and play. The A’s dominated everyone in their path, no matter which stadium they played in. And sure enough, they caught back up to the Texas Rangers, tied their record on the second to last day, and over took and won the American League West division on the last day of the season. Looking back on ’89, all I could think about was how I watched all of their games on TV. In 2012 I watched every game, whether on TV or in person. Most importantly, I was present for all of the big games, with all of my friends. The success of the season was amazing on the field, but even more special in the stands doing the Bernie Lean and Balfour Rage in the right field bleachers. Although we won the World Series in ’89, watching a team, counted out so many times throughout the season, dig deep and play to the best of their abilities and be successful was legendary. I would take the 2012 team over any team the A’s ever put on the field.

4-0: I think it’s pretty obvious what these numbers mean. The A’s swept their Bay Area rival in four games and the Giants hardly put up any kind of a fight. Throughout the Series the Giants never had a lead, and were outscored 32-14. There’s not really much else to add to this without coming off as rude, but let’s face it, the Giants really had no business being there.

5:04- I added this number to the opposite site as a reminder of what was most important through the series. On October 17 at 5:04 PM PST a 7.1 magnitude earthquake ripped through the Bay Area prior to the start of Game 3. Everyone inside Candlestick Park knew what had happened, but no one knew what had taken place on the outside. A large piece of the upper portion of the Bay Bridge had collapsed. A massive portion of the I-880 freeway crumbled, killing 42 people. Experts had estimated that hundreds were killed; however, due to the game set to start at 5:35 PM PST, most cars and people were off the road, ready to watch the game. The timing could not have been more perfect.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

January 26- New York Giants

Back when I was in the MLB Fan Cave a buddy of mine (@ThatBabyIsGone) had told me about a hat Web site that I had somehow never heard about called Even after Brandon told me about the site it still took me another seven months before I bothered checking it out. A few days after the shooting at the Clackamas Town Center mall I was feeling a little down and decided to do some hat shopping to help me feel better. Rather than stick to the normal Web sites I was regularly purchasing from, I opted to specifically look for a few hats that were driving me crazy to find. In all three cases the photos directed me to Hat Club. Needless to say, I snooped around for a bit. Also needless to say, I wish I had checked it out prior. By the end of my search I walked away with eight new hats, including this one.

In early April (2012) I saw the Boston Red Sox wear their old 1912 style cap against the New York Yankees for their 100 year anniversary of Fenway Park game. Just seeing the all white hat kind of turned me off because there was nothing really to indicate the team. It wasn’t until I ran across this that I regretted not buying the Red Sox one when I had a chance at the New Era Flagship Store in New York. Had I actually picked it up and turned it around I would have noticed the specific colored MLB logo patch on the back of the hat. Luckily the Hat Club site had a 360 degree turn option so I could see the patch on this bad boy; a 1912 New York Giants cap. Since I picked it up it’s certainly grown on me. I just really wish I had gotten that Sox hat too. (Funny coincidence, the Red Sox beat the Giants in seven games in he World Series in 1912)

In a previous post I had mentioned how numbers weren’t tagged onto jerseys until the mid-1920s, so it made it a bit of a challenge to figure out something clever to throw on this cap. I had contemplated stats and dates, but ultimately ended up with just using initials. SOOOOOO ORIGINAL!!! I know.

#RM- Rube Marquard is a Hall of Fame pitcher who played for the Giants from 1908- the middle of 1915. During the 1912 season he led the league with 26 wins, and had a decent number of strikeouts (175) and an ERA of 2.57. The previous season he led the league in strikeouts with 237. But even with his 1912 numbers he was still only good enough to finished eighth in the MVP voting. His teammate, Larry Doyle, took it home that season. Marquard is one of only two Hall of Famers from the 1912 team, with the exception of manager John McGraw. The other member is below…

#CM- This one is pretty obvious. Christy Mathewson threw for the Giants from 1900 through halfway into the 1916 season when he was dealt to the Cincinnati Reds and retired after the season ended. Definitely a dick move on the Giants behalf; of which would definitely be repeated throughout their franchise’s history. In 1912 Matty went 23-12 with a 2.12 ERA and 134 strikeouts, which by his standards was a pretty dismal season. The most important reason I posted Mathewson is because he was one of the original five players inducted into the Hall of Fame. The most surprisingly thing about Mathewson is that he was the first one to die of the five. He was clearly the most physically fit of the group (Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner and Walter Johnson), but he died of consumption (tuberculosis) in 1925 at the age of 45. Now, if you’ve never read Mathewson’s biography, I highly recommend it. Here’s a brief summary: Christy was one of four brothers, all of whom died (one in infancy, one killed himself at 19 and the third died of tuberculosis). Christy contracted his tuberculosis in 1918 during World War I while he and Ty Cobb were members of the Chemical Service program. Christy was inadvertently gassed during a training exercise in France and contracted TB. Poor guy.

Friday, January 25, 2013

January 25- St. Louis Cardinals

Last night was the third time I’ve seen the comedic duo of Randy and Jason Sklar at the now infamous Helium Comedy Club in Portland, Oregon. I’ve been watching/listening to the Sklar Brothers for years starting with their Comedy Central Presents special from 2001, on up through Cheap Seats (2004-2006) and into the their numerous TV appearances, films, Jim Rome fill-ins and especially their podcast entitled Sklarbro Country. The first time I caught them live was back in 2010 with my friend Sean Davis. We shared some laughs; grabbed some beers and he gave me a savage ass-beating at darts after the show. In 2011 I invited my best friend Sam Spencer for round two with Sean and me. This time, I was a little more prepared. Randy and Jason hail from St. Louis, Missouri and a die hard St. Louis Cardinals fans. Trying to score some points and maybe a few words after the show, I threw on my Cardinals road cap that night. Sure enough Cardinals baseball was a hot topic. Granted, this was before their World Series victory that year, and well before I really started venting my disdain for the team.

During the first month of my time in the MLB Fan Cave, I think it was the second week, Todd Pellegrino, one of the producers/directors of the production company overtaking all of the filming in the Fan Cave, came downstairs to talk to me while I was still in the process of mastering the new Samsung Galaxy Note I had won the previous day. He mentioned that he saw my (old) twitter photo (below) and asked if I was a big Sklar Brothers fan. 

For a second I had debated on laying some thick sarcasm, but I was in a good mood and responded with, “of course!” with a huge smile on my face. He sat down next to me and told me stories of how he was the director/producer for Cheap Seats during its run on ESPN Classic, and is also one of my favorite shows of all-time. Needless to say, my nerdisms kicked into full gear. I was hoping after that conversation that one day the two would come in to work on a sketch with us, but no dice. No big deal though. It was at least nice to hear some stories.

Which brings thing back to last night. Much like their show in 2011, I opted to rock another Cardinals hat; this time their classic red game style shown above. If you’ve been keeping pace with my blog, I always have a goofy photo of me wearing the hat, so I figured I could kill two birds with one stone on this one: a photo for this post and make the guys smile. This has always been kind of a theme of mine whenever I know I’m going to be in the presence of baseball fans, players or management, and it truly came out when I was in New York. Despite the fact that I went in as the Oakland Athletics representative, I still had a grip of hats, shirts and jerseys that I wanted to wear during my time. At the same time, only seven other teams were actually being represented throughout the season: Ricardo Marquez (Angels), Lindsay Guentzel (Twins), Ricky Mast and Shaun Kippins (Braves), Eddie Mata (Yankees), Ashley Chavez (Giants) and Kyle Thompson (Cardinals). I had made a promise to the others that I would never wear gear of their teams in the event that a player from their team would show up. I felt it would be too distracting and I didn’t want to spoil their fun. But, anytime a player came in without their team being represented, I stepped up to the plate. This may explain a few things for the people who followed. So, much like those times, and the previous Sklar Brothers show, I bit the bullet to even bring a few seconds of joy and conversation.

But now, onto the numbers…

#1- If you’re any kind of a baseball fan I would truly hope you know who this is. Ozzie Smith played shortstop for the Cardinals from 1982-1996 after playing his first four year with the San Diego Padres which he got hosed on the Rookie if the Year in 1978 by Atlanta Braves third/first baseman Bob Horner. (Yah, I don’t know who the hell that is either.) Despite the folly of the BBWAA, Smith would later go on to win 13 consecutive Gold Gloves as well as make 15 All-Star Game appearances. He also won a World Series title in his first year in St. Louis by beating the Milwaukee Brewers in seven games, but only after sweeping Bob Horner and the Braves in the National League Championship Series. I tried to find a photo of Smith giving the DEGENERATION-X “suck it” sign to Horner, but had no such luck. Smith was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2002, primarily for his defensive prowess.

#5- Before greed and disloyalty plagued him and his wife, Albert Pujols was a dead lock for the Hall of Fame, and probably would have gone down as the second greatest player to don a Cardinals uniform behind Stan Musial. But, Arte Moreno gets what he wants. From 2001-2011 The Machine took St. Louis and the baseball world by storm. He won Rookie of the Year honors easily, three MVPs in 2005, 2008 and 2009 and won two World Series rings in 2006 and 2011. His stats were all ready a fast track into the Hall as well: 2073 hits, .328/445/1329. While I realize where he’s playing now, I couldn’t leave him off of this hat. But it was incredibly hard to leave Willie McGee off.

#45- If there was ever a guy who played Major League Baseball, that I could easily argue is a Top 10 right handed pitcher of all-time, it’s certainly Bob Gibson. Hoot started his career in 1959 and threw his last game on September 3, 1975. Every year he played in the bigs came while wearing a Cardinals uniform. He was one of the calmest pitchers to ever play the game, but at the same time he was one of the fiercest. He never hesitated to throw some chin music if a batter crowded the plate and he certainly never backed down from a challenge. He helped the Cardinals win two World Series trophies in 1964 over the New York Yankees and in 1967 over the Boston Red Sox. In both Series Gibson won the MVP, most notably going 3-0 with a 1.00 ERA and 26 strikeouts. Throughout his career Gibson struck out 3117 batters, won the Cy Young award in 1968 and 1970, as well as the MVP in ’68 after going 22-9 with a 1.12 ERA and 268 strikeouts. Oh, he also won nine Gold Gloves. The man was a gamer every single time he pitched. In 1981 he was inducted into the Hall of Fame by a vote of 337/401. How he didn’t get every vote is beyond me.

While I make a lot of snide jokes and comments about the Cardinals and their fans, I still respect the history of the franchise and the men who suited up. But at the end of the day, I still hate the Cardinals. Knocking the A’s down to the third most successful organization will do that to you.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

January 24- Boston Red Sox

If you’re anything like me, you know how to appreciate a variety of styles on New Era caps. And no, I’m not talking about custom styles. I’ve always been a huge fan of having at least two different styles of game hats, one for the road and one for at home. Sometimes an alternate is a nice change of pace, except when teams go overboard on them. This is pretty funny for me to say considering the fact that I’ll buy it anyway. But that’s not the point, too many hats are way too distracting, and too few hats can be quite redundant. I realize that the New York Yankees and their fans would completely disagree with me on this point, but then again, we are talking about Yankees fans. The Boston Red Sox had been one of those teams for a while too, only rocking one style of cap with the exception of 1974-1978, but only after the “B” logo was introduced in 1933. In 2009 the Red Sox introduced this cap to the field. An alternate style taken from the patches the players had been donning on their sleeves for over 50 years.

I scooped this one up in New York, of all places, at the New Era Flagship store right across the street from the MLB Fan Cave. It was kind of funny considering its popularity and availability, but it’s also not every day you’re going to be in New York and be able to stick it to Yankees fans roaming the street. Yah, I’m a bit of an instigator. Like all the dozens of hats I had bought before, I retreated back to a decent enough chair to get some leverage, opened the cap, set it on my knee, grabbed a silver Sharpie and got to it. Since the hat has only been in use for the last three seasons, it made it easy to know in advance what numbers to drop.

#33- Unless you’ve been under a rock (or in denial) for the last eight years, the Red Sox did in fact win two World Series titles in 2004 and 2007. See, here’s proof…

Why yes, that is me with Hall of Famer Jim Rice and the two trophies. DEAL WITH IT YANKEES FANS! Moving on; there was one player who stuck out the most in both of those series, the captain of the team; no, not Jose Canseco. Jason Varitek, despite being drafted by the Seattle Mariners, played his entire career (1997-2011) for the Sox, and is hands down one of the most notable players in the franchise’s history. He also had a pretty decent beard on his face. Not as sweet as mine, but for a guy who stuck it out in the northeast, it was pretty solid. But most important, he was the field general for both Series.

#47- I really felt that this one has way more of an impact than any other number I could have thrown on. Terry Francona is the mastermind who was able to get a rag tag bunch of misfits to overcome adversity, get their heads straight (even for just a few games) and play giant killer in the 2007 American League Championship Series. Coming back from down 0-3; ridiculously impressive. But with the Curse of the Bambino finally in its grave along with Babe Ruth himself, Francona decided to be a wise guy and make a run at a second World Series in 2007. I mean, the Colorado Rockies didn’t really have much of a chance. So kudos to Francona and company. Now, I realize that this hat wasn’t worn when they won both World Series; however, they were two of the only guys still left on the squad in 2009.

#46- I don’t really throw numbers on the opposite side of my hats, only in a few cases, and this one seemed pretty good. There’s always been a speculation that any rookies, or minor league veterans, donning jerseys in which the sum of the numbers add up to more than 10, there is very little chance that the team will call them up. Obviously 4 + 6 = 10, which in the circumstances of the last two guys to rock this number, both of them got called up to the Show. From 2007-2009 a quick, hard-hitting Mormon kid from Madras, Oregon won a World Series ring with the team in his rookie season, and was a member of the 2005 Oregon State College World Series team that lost to Baylor in the early rounds. Now, he’s wearing #2 and still plays outfield for the Red Sox; Jacoby Ellsbury.

The second player made his first Major League appearance in 2009 wearing the #68.; bad sign. In 2010 he came back again wearing the #39, but switched after Ellsbury made the change to #2. In 2011 he switched again to #16, but was ultimately traded after the season closed to the Oakland Athletics for Ryan Sweeney and Andrew Bailey. In 2012 dude pal kept the #16 and in this time he crushed 32 bombs, won a Gold Glove in right field and was an all-around Billy Badass for the club. Josh Reddick, I applaud you sir!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

January 23- Los Angeles Angels

The first time I saw this cap was sitting on the couch at the MLB Fan Cave, watching the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim taking on the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on May 26 of this last season (2012). Ricardo Marquez and I both turned to each other, locked eyes and gave out a simultaneous, “Oooooooohhhhhh!!!” Yes, this hat is that awesome.

This hat is not new, but a throwback to the old life of the Angeles in Pacific Coast League, and also served as the inspiration for the Los Angeles Dodgers logo which has been going strong since 1958. The hat was only used for three years from 1955-1957 when the Angels served as the AAA affiliate of the Chicago Cubs (1932-56) and Los Angeles Dodgers (1957). After the ’57 season the team moved north to Spokane, Washington to become the Indians. But, one thing that is to be noted is that the current Angeles team has no actual affiliation with the old Angels squad other than the name. Therefore, the old school uniforms they wore last May were technically incorrect. But what do I know, right?

When putting together numbers for this hat I had a hell of a time finding any of significance. You’d be surprised what you aren’t able to find within a three-year window. However, there were two names that I immediately recognized and spent over an hour trying to track down their jersey numbers. In which case, when trying to track down minor league numbers from almost 60 years ago, I wish you all the best of luck. I got so flustered that I had to recruit outside help. Luckily, I asked the right guy.

#26- (First off, yes. I did screw up on making the 6. It looks more like a lower case "b".)
John Beare (@Interstate19Cap) and I have been a pair of chatty Kathys for the last seven months or so, and he is definitely one of the guys who I admire that has a lot more New Era Caps than I do. But, where slight envy comes in, so does knowledge. Having seen a photo of the cap as his avatar on Twitter a few months ago I figured that he, of all people, might know how to find both players’ numbers. Sure enough, he did. Tommy Lasorda played for the Angels in their final season and John happened to have a book by a man named Richard Beverage (awesome name) that had this tidbit inside. Lasorda went 7-10 with a 3.90 ERA, which wasn’t exactly the cat’s meow of his career, but how can you blame a guy who had been moved up and down routinely from the Majors to the Minors throughout his career?

#?- The second spot on my hat is still blank on account of no one knowing what number Monte Irvin wore for the Angels. Irvin only played four games for the Angels in 1957, which is not exactly going to make the hunt any easier. While I could just role with another name and number, that would kind of defeat the purpose of what I’m doing. First off, there aren’t really any other notable names from those three years. Second of all, despite only four games, Irvin is a Hall of Famer. Irvin is best known for his time with the New York Giants, winning a World Series title with the club in 1954 alongside Willie Mays. I would almost guarantee that the vast majority of you reading this post probably didn’t even know who Irvin was until I just pointed it out. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1973 by the Negro League Committee after his career had come to a close in 1956.

So, if anyone wants to do me a huge favor, and knows where to find that piece of information, it would be more than appreciated.


#15- Success!!! After a month-and-a-half of investigating, an answer has finally been brought to light. A fellow member of the Twitter-verse named Nick Parson (@NicholasParson) is the person most responsible for this find. Prior to the discovery, very little hope was left in the search after a trail ran cold with Parson's contact at the library of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Jim Gates. I received a direct message from Nick a few days ago in which he detailed that a member of SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) came across Irvin wearing #15 on his jersey in a program from April of 1957 and relayed the information to Jim about an hour after Jim had told Nick that hope was pretty much lost. Absolutely incredible. I cannot thank Nick Parsons, Jim Gates and SABR enough for making this discovery.

It really blows my mind to think that my dumb little hat markings helped bring a 56-year-old oversight to light. I thought I was just being clever. Wow!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

January 22- Detroit Tigers

Throughout the year there is another constant that will come up roughly 35-40 more times; the first assortment I bought were simply on the basis of having one hat per team. Besides the Oakland A’s, the other teams I made an exemption for are the Montreal Expos and the Detroit Tigers. My affinity for the Tigers has been around since the mid-90s. There was always something about their colors and logo that popped. Which is actually kind of funny because they’ve kept the idea of their logo pretty much the same throughout their history; while at the same time, the Old English script is so intricate and detailed that there really wasn’t much of need to switch to anything else. But the more important thing I should probably point out is that when I bought this hat, my intentions of going way back throughout the team’s entire history of hats had never crossed my mind. I was going to stick with the current home and away. So, having explained that, on we move…

The Tigers introduced this hat at the start of the 1983 season and have been using it as their road cap ever since. The previous 10 years had also featured an orange “D” logoed hat, but I will get to that one later down the road. The ’83 season went incredibly well for the Tigers; however, even their 92-70 record under Sparky Anderson wasn’t good enough to get them into the playoffs. As members of the American league East division the Tigers finished six games behind the Baltimore Orioles, who later went on to win the World Series over the Philadelphia Phillies. This was also back in the day when each league only had two divisions. The Tigers, not particularly frazzled by their modest success, decided to lay the entire league to waste with their 104-58 record in ’84, also adding a World Series title to their collection after eviscerating the San Diego Padres in five games. That was the first time Kirk Gibson became a postseason legend. Buuuuuuut… it wasn’t good enough to make my cap, a decision I partially regret.

I had purchased the home hat first, and this one well after I had marked the previous. And once again, I need to point out that I marked it with the intention of not getting any other Tigers hats before you judge.

#47- This one won’t get much debate I would imagine. Jack Morris played for the Tigers for almost his entire career. From 1977-1990 he donned the “D”, and became synonymous with some of the great pitchers of the 80s and early 90s. During his 14-year tenure in Detroit he went 198-150 with a 3.73 ERA and 1980 strikeouts. He also served as the ace for all but 1977-78, as he was coming out of bullpen for relief work. Clearly that concept didn’t last too long. I’m not going to go into the Hall of Fame talk too much, but I’ll simply say that the Baseball Writers Association of America is pretty f---ed in the head for keeping him out. Grated, he did only win one World Series ring during his time in Detroit, but went on to win three more (one with the Twins, two with the Blue Jays). I think the saddest thing about Morris is that he never won the Cy Young. His best finish was third, losing out to Steve McCatty (Athletics) in second place and Rollie Fingers (Brewers) in the top spot. Go figure that Morris would get taken down by two guys who had played for the Athletics. Personal victory for me! Sorry Jack.

#20- This one was way more personal for me, but like I said, I did it with the intention of not getting another Tigers hat at the time. One of my all-time favorite players is someone who I never had the chance to see pitch live; however, was able to see video of years later. Mark Fidrych is a guy who I have pretty much idolized since the first time I saw his face grace an old issue of Rolling Stone from 1977, in which he was the first professional athlete to ever grace the cover. Fidrych played from 1976-1980, but was hampered by several injuries in short periods of time: torn knee cartilage, and rotator cuff tear, which he never had looked at or fixed throughout his career. I don’t want to go on too much about him, as I will do that in another post. But one thing I will say is that Fidrych was, and is still one of the most revered pitchers in Tigers history. Anyone who was alive to see him play still recount being at Tiger Stadium when he played in 1976. It was always dead silent when he threw, and a roar of applause when he got off the mound. The Bird, as he was dubbed in Lakeland by coaches because of his uncanny resemblance to Big Bird from Sesame Street, was also one of the most unusual figures in baseball. He’d always fill in the dirt in front of the rubber in between innings and had a carefree attitude wherever he went. Definitely a kind of guy who isn’t too far from myself, personality wise at least.

Monday, January 21, 2013

January 21- Minnesota Twins

If there was ever a team who struck gold with changing/introducing a new hat, hands down it has to be the 1987 Minnesota Twins*. Also, if there was ever a team who didn’t deserve to be hated, but for some reason I do, it’s the Minnesota Twins.

The Twinkies introduced this hat at the start of the 1987 season, kicking the long time favorite “TC” logo to the curb; which had been a staple of the organization since the Washington Senators were relocated in 1961. I’m honestly curious to know what the fan response to the hat/logo change was prior to the start of the season, especially considering that the Twins won the World Series in 1987 and 1991 while sporting this cap. For some reason, in my head, I can picture droves of fans booing the switch; almost comparing it an abomination to the team. In the same light I can also picture Carl Pohlad giving the fans the finger… with a World Series ring on each middle finger. My dreams are weird sometimes. Anyway, this is a constant, repetitive theme that I will be bringing up on my blog posts for the next 334 days, if you haven’t figured that out.

The “M” logo, in my opinion, is the best hat logo the team ever had. Keep in mind the team has only had four total hat styles. I’ve just always enjoyed. It has that special something, and a bit of bite to it considering the success the organization has had with it. Now, a very important detail that I must point out: I bought this hat in October of 2011. At the time my plan was to only have one hat from every organization, so I picked this one up off the Lids Web site for $16. Why so cheap? Here’s why…

When I had originally purchased this hat the 2010 Target Field patch didn’t bother me. Then, it showed up in the mail… and I’ve hated it ever since. When it comes to “on field” caps I prefer just the team logo and the MLB logo on the back. Patches on the side, with the exception on the New Era logo, have always been distracting to me; makes the hat too busy. Also, when starting my marking process, it makes these numbers a bit out of place when considering that this hat was used for one specific year, and should have been represented by an event or player(s) form that team. But like I said before, I was only planning on getting the one Twins hat, and went with the two guys who I most associated with my time really following the organization.

For some it’s hard to believe that my first conscious memory of baseball on TV is Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. I say this because I was three-years-old when it went down. The 1987 World Series I remember just as vividly. I can tell you every detail of my house in Stockton, California from where the TV sat to who was in the room and where they were sitting while we were watching it. With that, I chose the two most (personally) memorable figure from that squad.

#34- Kirby Puckett should receive no argument on any grounds. 1987 was his breakout year, posting .332/28/99 along with an American League leading 207 hits. Not too shabby for a guy hitting in the seven hole. Not only could dude pal hit, he was a Gold Glove lock in the outfield. For as short and pudgy as he was, the cat was a five-tool player if there ever was one. I should also point out that, as a four-year-old, I was very impressionable, and seeing a guy who looked like Kirby (plus the name) made it hard to resist now being a fan of his.But most important, his unfortunate injury sidelined what could have been an amazing addition to his career. Having only played 12 years, his stats were an obvious Hall of Fame lock: .318 lifetime average and 2304 hits. He would have easily gotten to 3000, and quite possibly 4000.

#16- This is the moment when I first realized how badass facial hair is. Frank Viola’s mustache was, and still is amazing. Sweet Music was the best starting pitcher the team had that season… and the next for that matter too, since he did win the AL Cy Young in ’88. His 17-10 season record was only closely matched by Bert Blyleven’s 15-12 record, and an equally as boss beard. Plus, even a 42-year-old Steve Carlton had to sit back an admire Viola’s dominance in the Series: 2-1 with 16 strikeouts and an ERA of 3.72. And oh yah, did I mention he was the World Series MVP? Viola that is, not his mustache.

*One thing that should also be pointed out when reading this post is that my girlfriend Angie Kinderman (@sconnieangie) is a huge Twins fan. She will rub this, and every positive thing I say about the Twins in my face. Lame. :(