Fantasy Recruitment (hoops, mostly)

I interrupt this baseball card blog to take a completely random shot at recruiting an NBA + fantasy fan for an incredible new league a good friend is running. It's a pay league and I'm the co-LM/slash gent who will collect the money.

I can 100% assure you, this is not yet another fly-by-night, soon-to-be-dormant league you like you surely - frustratingly - have been involved with before.

It's a unique head-to-head concept but actually one kept relatively simply. We have 12 owners so far and will start the league with 14 (so we need two yet, for the mathematically challenged). Every two years, assuming extremely low owner turnover, we'll expand by two teams (capping at 20).

League entry is $25, with plans to escalate $5 per year capping at $50.

The other LM has written an incredibly detailed League Charter. He's also a great guy whom I've been in leagues with for 11 years. All of the other owners are top-notch gents whom I've personally recruited over the years (for a couple of amazing baseball leagues).

I know I'm throwing the superlatives around - but after playing in leagues for a couple of decades - and having problems with owners quitting/inactive owners/unkind owners, I've been greatly enjoying playing in leagues with this group of guys for the past three years. Fantasy sports have become immensely more enjoyable.

Side pitch: If you are interested and also want on a list for both pay and non-pay fantasy baseball and football, let me know. On average, per year, in the leagues, 1 of 20 owners moves on so there are openings - they're just rare.



Reminisce: Saturday In The Park With George

A week ago today I was surprised to bump into a childhood hero, George Foster, while deciding last minute to attend the AAA Indianapolis Indians vs. Louisville Bats game. It seems like only yesterday. Ah, the memories. Read all about it! Go ahead, I'll wait.

Cue "Girl From Ipanema" orchestral mix.

Welcome back!

So, tonight, we're attending yet another minor league game after getting an invite from some friends. This one is in our new hometown - our first at what everyone says is an incredible minor league park and experience. I'm fully expecting to make at least a half dozen games this season - including Star Wars night with a friend on June 1.

Yes, Star Wars. It's probably no surprise - given the fact I collect baseball cards and actually write about them - but I'm a tremendous nerd.

In any case, George Foster last weekend so I fully expect to see Johnny Bench tonight handing out free autographs.
Will it happen? Stay tuned!

* Spoiler Alert: The odds are heavily against it.


Hey, Look! A Real-Life Cardboard Hero!

Well, I'm back to talk about my weekend and the details of the race I hoped to run followed by the more blog-related fodder of a chance encounter with a real life baseball hero of mine - back when baseball players were heroes to me.

I know you've been hitting refresh on your browser for the past 24 hours.

Let's recap Part 1.

Allow me, you rambled on and on and on - in a highly annoying voice, I'm sure - about your poor little heel and a bunch of loonies planning to run a bunch of miles without being chased. You pretended you had something about the hobby to reveal and then you went to bed without sharing. I'm guessing at least 27 followers and counting have dropped you in the past five hours.

OK, pardon the extended lead up to the blog relevant fodder but, well, there are some other things I wanted to get down on record. So, I'll continue just a bit more, if you'll indulge me.

Despite the pain in my heel, we decided to go ahead with our weekend plans. We had reservations at a nice hotel at the starting line and we planned some things with our daughter for Sunday. It was intended all along to be a little getaway.

But my wife knows me and knew I'd be moping around if I couldn't run the race or had to drop out with the heel issue.

She bought some heel padding for me and I decided to try running with it. It felt good but I was still convince the constant pounding of a half marathon would do me in.

Restless, I woke up at 4 a.m. and waited. From our hotel room, we had a straight show view of the seven to 10 city blocks where runners would be lining up. For the next 2.5 hours I peaked out every so often. The numbers went from zero to many, many thousands over that time.

My wife wished me the best and I headed downstairs to make my way to my designated corral. Me and 35,000 jammed together and I said a few words for my heel.
Do you see me? I'm right there
I told my wife there was a 90% chance I'd be back very soon. I figured I'd have severe pain 1/2 mile in and call it quits so as not to risk a bigger problem. It would be OK. Our hotel was immediately to the right in this picture, just a few feet from the shot here, so perhaps I wouldn't have far to hobble.

But, amazingly, a few steps into the run, I was OK. I still felt good at 1/2 mile and soon - slowly per my usual - began ticking off the miles. Just a dull pain but I was soon more concerned with the 90% humidity and blazing sun. The pain in my heel actually seemed to go away as the race went on. I didn't get cocky about it as I figured the next step easily could be my last.

When I hit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway at mile 6.5, I began to - if you will - tire. Runners get to lap the full track during this race. It was cool the first year. The heat from the sun on the track was brutal this year, and sapping my energy. Runners everywhere were already taking extended walking breaks.

I began seeing regular emergency vehicles and passed a half dozen (former) runners on stretchers or being attended to by medical personnel. I kept going. Conscious of the fact that I was doing this to stay healthy and not to end up on a stretcher, I slowed my pace and took water and/or gatorade at every station.

As I exited the 2.5 mile oval and hit the streets again, I realized my wife very well may have saved the day with the padding she purchased. But I tried not to think about that lest I jinx myself. I still had nearly five miles to go and so I focused on my own thoughts and the bands playing throughout the course.

At mile 11, I slowed to grab a water and my legs felt like noodles. I pounded two cups, walked through the water station and, eventually, kept going.

And, well, long story short ...

Uh, too late pal!

I made it!

My wife and daughter were there at the finish. My wife had received automated text messages as I crossed certain checkpoints and was equally stunned and excited that I could run on the heel. We all celebrated together at the post-race party (by resting in the grass, mostly). My daughter gave me a ribbon to pin on that she had my wife get for me.

Then, we headed back to the room and treated ourselves with room service to avoid the masses. I enjoyed a delicious big post-race cheat meal of a bacon cheeseburger and fries.

Afterwards, tired and full, I was ready for a rare mid-day nap and soon fell asleep. The ladies snuck out to go shopping. When they returned, I took my daughter swimming - the highlight of her weekend.

Finally, that night, we decided to go to the Indianapolis Indians vs. Louisville Bats AAA game. Victory Field is right across the street from our hotel. It took 90 seconds to walk from the hotel doors to the front gate - and that included waiting for the light to change and walking with a four-year-old.

Baseball, you say? Do I finally sense a blog-relevant point to this two-part blog entry?

Oh, yes. Indeed.

Third inning, the ladies get up to walk the concourse. Sixty seconds later my wife phones. "You might want to get up here. Right behind our section there's a guy wearing a Cincinnati Reds shirt signing autographs at a table. He might be somebody." I bounded out of my seat. Did I ever mention I'm a lifelong Reds fan?

Who could this be? But wait! I have nothing for this person to sign. ARGH! I have no cards! We had decided on a whim to go to the game because the runners' packet had a buy-one get-one free coupon?

I hit the concourse and see about six people in line. This signing was winding down. I get a closer look to see, sitting at the table - Big Red Machine alum ...

George Foster.

George "Friggin'" Foster, easily one of my favorite players ever, I tell my wife and daughter.

I fear he is about to leave so I buy a ball at a stand next to the table stamped with the Indianapolis Indians logo and we're quickly in front of him. Two minutes had passed from the time my wife called me at the seats.

My daughter hands him the ball.

He smiles, says hello and signs. And we move on.

I've mentioned before that I'm actually not an autograph kind of guy. I feel rather goofy as a grown man asking another grown man for his signature. That's just me. I'm particularly averse to the idea of paying for this. It's such a personal and impersonal experience all at once. It's a bit awkward.

But this was a no-brainer. Here was one of my heroes as a kid. Foster - known for the menacing stare, the black bat, the long sideburns - hit 52 home runs for the Big Red Machine in 1977, when I was nine. This was a very, very big deal. Leaders of the era routinely hit, I believe, in the 30s.
I first posted a picture of me holding this ball, immediately post autograph. I removed it. You're welcome.
Foster was a slugger I once thought would go down in history as the greatest home run hitter ever. To me, he is one of the greatest.

His baseball cards are legendary, to me. Next on my list will be to create my official Foster want list.

While I would have loved to have one of these signed, I now kind of like the fact he signed an Indianapolis Indians' ball. It's so random - but also preserves the memory of the evening and the weekend. That said, if anyone has an on-card Foster autograph for trade, please let me know.

So that was my big weekend - a personal milestone reached for the second time, great family time and a chance encounter with a cardboard hero come to life.


A May Day: On The Run

With a new week off and running, I thought I'd recap my eventful weekend. I certainly didn't expect any blog fodder to come from it, but something sure came out of left field.

Read on!

But first, Saturday was scheduled to be my second Indianapolis Half Marathon. I ran my first last year, and I eventually wrote about the experience. I run for weight maintenance, for general health (with a little one at 43 - that's on my mind a lot) and because I tend to love being alone with my thoughts.

There's no better place for that than on a run.

A half marathon is 13.1 miles. There was a time that I couldn't run .1 miles without getting winded. For a healthy stretch of my life, I hated running with a deep passion.

I was the kid who always finished last running the two laps around the gym in school. 

Crossing the finish line last year was extremely gratifying. But what about this year?

Training had been going well until the Sunday prior, when I hurt my heel during my final long-ish training run. I couldn't step on it without a fair amount of pain on Monday and Tuesday and at that point figured the gig was up. I self-diagnosed via Internet and guessed stress fracture - and reluctantly went to the doc.

She wasn't sure and we agreed to hold off on an X-Ray. She thought it could be heel spurs or some such. She prescribed some high dosage pain medicine. Reluctant again, I figured I'd do it and maybe it would get me through the race.

The doc, who also was set to run the same 13.1 miles, said:

"I think you could try running and if you experience excruciating pain then you should stop."

Ya think, I thought? Sound advice when experiencing excruciating pain in general, not just while running, I thought.

I took three of the pills over the next day and developed a constant headache and severe heartburn - and stopped the pills. Wednesday night I tried to run half a block - and the pain was still there.

I had trained for this. I was ready. To get hurt six days before the big day was rough.

At this point in the story, you're asking yourself. Should I keep reading. Is there really a baseball hook? Maybe I should move to the next blog. Why am I following this guy?

All valid questions.

Stay tuned for Part 2 to be published tomorrow at this time.

Wait a second. You're leaving!? What about the race? And what blog fodder came out of left field that you opened this drivel with? What kind of mind games are you playing here? And, can I have the 87 pain pills you've elected not to take?

Patience, gentlemen (and two ladies). The big reveal shall come.

I'm de-following you. You should know this.

For now, how about enjoying these cards I picked up at a AAA game this weekend at Victory Field in Indianapolis - where we watched the Indianapolis Indians (Pirates) blank the Louisville Bats (Reds) 4-0. Coincidentally, it was at this game where the cool thing out of left field happened to me.

This guy is up with the big club this year and doing all right.

They didn't have this year's Indianapolis team set so I snagged the 2011 set. Couldn't leave a baseball game without some cards. Enjoy, and see you tomorrow.
A few more of those I have heard of...including the head coach and former Red.


Groovy New Blog I Found - and Heritage To Deal

Every month or so it seems I happen upon a new blog to enjoy. The latest comes from Marcus at All The Way To The Backstop. Marcus is - get this - a Padres fan! A Padres fan in Texas, no less!

Marcus reached out to me a couple of weeks ago after seeing some cards for trade on my site. Marcus sent me a half-dozen Heritage 2012 cards I wanted and a few more cards were added after initial talks. I'll post those non-Heritage cards soon.

Too bad I don't have scans of the Heritage cards he sent. I'm on the road and apparently forgot to save my scans from this deal.

You guys (and two ladies) should see them! They are awesome! Joey Votto is there. His pose is iconic, I kid you not. Starlin Castro was included, looking all young and what not. Can you go wrong with a Joe Mauer card!? Look at it! Oh, right.

Well trust me, it's really cool.

Ryan Braun, Matt Kemp, the Pope! the list goes on and on (well five more).

OK, sorry for no scans. And, Marcus, sorry for the delay in getting your cards over. You should have 80 or so Padres (new and old) and a few other guys you mentioned, arriving in the next day or so. Life, per usual, hung me up a bit.

Everyone, be sure to check out Marcus' blog.
Meanwhile, for anyone else chasing Heritage 2012, I'll highlight my available cards and cards I need. Be prepared. It's a real page turner...

Here goes:

13, 19, 23, 27, 32, 36, 37, 38, 42, 45, 47, 47, 47, 60, 69, 69, 69, 75, 82, 85, 89, 93, 103, 108, 110, 110, 112, 115, 115, 121, 124, 126, 128, 130, 132, 132, 137, 137, 157, 180, 192, 197, 204, 217, 221, 222, 224, 224, 228, 241, 243, 247, 255, 267, 271, 277, 297, 315, 328, 332, 342, 342, 347, 351, 360, 363, 363, 372, 378, 388, 388, 395, 395, 400, 400, 400, 401, 402, 408, 408, 413, 465sp, 470sp, 488sp, BF-SK, NF-JKE, NAP-TL, Checklist 5,

Note: The short prints are being held to ultimately trade for short prints I need from Heritage 2011. That seems to be the trend and really must be the best way for me to get a few more of them.

Stickers: 5, 14


35 Chris Sale
53 Dee Gordon

79 Detroit Tigers
87 Andrew McCutchen
95 Kerry Wood
100 Paul Konerko
138 Ryan Braun/Prince Fielder (Pride of NL)
140 Max Scherzer
160 Mark Buehrle
194 Francisco Cordero
207 Mike Trout
211 Freddie Freeman
218 Justin Verlander/Jose Valverde
223 Addison Reed
246 Felix Hernandez 
285 Adrian Gonzalez
327 Rick Porcello 
365 Jose Valverde
366 Dustin Ackley
393 Brandon Beachy
422 Dusty Baker
476 Prince Fielder


Outta Sight! Vintage: Anderson, G. '60

I've been a Reds fan since I first gave a hoot about baseball in early grade school. I've been a Tigers fan since my early teens.

My two rooting interests intersect with an old Phillie.
Sparky Anderson managed the Reds from 1970-78 and led the Big Red Machine to two World Series championships. Then, he went to Detroit and won another in 1984. He led the Tigers from 1979-95.

He's easily my favorite all-time manager.

I'll never forget standing outside Tiger Stadium with my Dad one night, after watching a game, and seeing Sparky in the passenger seat of a car waiting at a red light. He looked over, made eye contact and gave a little wave.

Pretty awesome for a 13-year-old kid. 

I've been trying to pick up his cards here and there - mostly manager cards, of course. When I returned to the hobby in early 2011, I hadn't given much thought to picking up his player cards. Playing the game, of course, was not his strong suit.

Sparky was drafted by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1953 and spent five years in their minors. He was traded to the Phillies in late 1958 and spent 1959 as the starting second basemen - hitting .218 in 152 games, with no home runs and 34 RBIs.

That was it for playing in the big league.

I found this card at a local card shop. I think the appeal is that it's so out of my realm of thinking to picture him as a Phillie or to think of him as "George." I also love that you can see the premature gray/white under the cap.

The '60 set design itself, well, I'm not so sure about. The color shot with the black and white is off-putting. The alternating colors in the name seems a bit juvenile.

Still, this card is begging for a good display spot. Sparky, more than any other baseball figure, is why I'm forever devoted to the Tigers. He's also played a huge role in why I've never wavered from the Reds.

Now I need to go find the '59 George Anderson to complete my Sparky Anderson playing days card collection.

And maybe I should start cheering for the Phillies.

Search Me *shrugs*