Tag Archives: baseball cards

The First World Pit of Hell

She’s just a Nordstroms model, it wasn’t her fault.

I wasn’t close to my father, who was a rather opaque person. He wasn’t unkind — I mean, he didn’t have any malicious thoughts toward me, just a kind of a vague indifference. Eventually I started to feel the same, even forgetting for years at a time that he even existed. One day, out of tremendous boredom, I decided to stalk him on the internet, and there was only one thing: a news interviewer asking him why he thought the water in the port near his home was so green. He didn’t know, but remembered swimming in the muck as a small boy, thinking nothing of it. I instantly regretted this action.

Many hours later I was a little (majorly) tipsy and tired of swimming in the salty sea of regret and memories when I did what anybody in that situation does: I turned to internet consumer therapy. I have been a Nordstroms credit card holder for several years now and always had good standing on my account, so I decided to buy brand new A’s cap since I had worn the same one since 2010. I spent nearly 30 minutes placing an order only for it to be canceled 5 minutes later. I then spent 30 minutes on the phone with an operator who decided I should re-start the entire process again. I then spent another 20 minutes re-placing the order only for it to be canceled 5 minutes later once again. In conclusion, I decided to stick with the banged-up cap I’ve had since 2010. I had a guy spill an expensive, local, craft brewed, 15 dollar beer on it in Seattle trying to catch a foul ball, and you can’t replicate those types of lovely memories. (In the end, yours truly caught that ball)

Please accept our apology for the inconvenience.” At times that feels like a representation of what I feel about the world and how I’ve observed the mechanics of reality: but it was only a baseball cap they were speaking of. I decided to rate them 1 star, and thought it was amusing how we are constantly rating things on a five star scale, from movies, hotels, Uber drivers, Amazon gift cards, and even The Statue of Liberty. (How do you rate her?) This has just been one of those days. It feels like a game of MadLibs where you are sort of blindly filling in the blanks and hoping it makes sense in the end. There is a keen sense of raw honesty and ironic detachment filling me as the sun beats down like a goofy friend with a Peter Tosh record and some words of encouragement.

R.I.P. Lew Krausse. Old twirler for the K.C./Oakland A’s

“I went to three Royals games this year, but when I go there I come home and I dream about it for two weeks. And my dream is crazy. It’s that I am going to pitch, but I can’t find my hat or my glove and that I lost one of my shoes. I never throw a ball in a dream. I went to see a shrink about it, and that dream was defined to mean that I left the game before I was mentally prepared. I left because of an injury, rather than for a lack of ability. It’s a dream of frustration.” –Lew Krausse

I was saddened to hear of Lew Krausse dying last week, and it gave me the initiative to look into the ol’ cigar box to retrieve a creased and beat-up autographed 1969 baseball card of the legendary twirler. Lew had played and retired long before I was born, but I had read about and enjoyed his exploits in the various books published about Charlie Finley’s Kansas City/Oakland A’s. In another random and very odd twist, I was invited by an unnamed source in the Athletics organization (send me more free stuff!) to watch his Livestream funeral service (Feb. 24) on Vimeo. I’m not sure if I’ll partake in that quite yet, but it would be nice to honor the man in his final send-off.

Here are some facts about the pitcher:
–Lew was one of the first “bonus babies” in pro sports, signing at that time for a record $125,000 bonus by A’s owner, Charley Finley.
— pitched a 3 hit shutout against the LA Angels in his ML debut at the age of 18. (!!!)
— A legendary drinker who would give Wade Boggs and Mickey Mantle a run for their money, Lew shot off a handgun from the window of his hotel room in KC and kicked down a hotel room door in Anaheim.
— Starting pitcher for the Oakland A’s in their inaugural game in 1969, and also did the same for the first Milwaukee Brewers game in history.

For anyone interested, you can watch Lew pitch 3 innings of relief against the Red Sox in 1969 on Youtube. (relieving Jim Nash and earning the save. Reggie Jackson also hits a homer in this game.)
And In an added bonus, Lew also singles off the Green Monster with Yaz taking the carom and holding the runner. Link: A’s/Red Sox 6/15/1969. 

Interview with artist Daniel Kearsey

 

I was surfing through the internetzzz one day when I stumbled across the really cool baseball card inspired artwork of Daniel Kearsey. I’ll let the interview speak for itself as it’s pretty darn good and chock full of baseball tidbits. If you’re interested in more work, check out his website at sixtyfirststreet.com

1) Talk a bit about how you gravitated to the game of baseball and who were your favorite players growing up?

I remember attending baseball games at Cleveland Municipal Stadium in the late 80’s/early ’90s. You’ll hear this from a lot of people, but I remember there being a lot of obstructed views. I can’t tell you many details about the games I saw there, but I do remember being at the stadium. Both the Indians and the Browns shared that stadium. My dad, who was a Cleveland police officer, picked up security gigs for extra money and he would tell us about working the last Browns game at Municipal and how the fans literally tore seats out and either took them or threw them onto the field. What a disaster. Once Jacob’s Field (Progressive Field) was built, I’ve been to countless games since. Baseball was always a thing in my house. My dad really didn’t care about sports, but my mom would watch the Indians and the Bluejays. Why she watched the Jays has always been odd to me, but because of that, they were always another team I would follow. Back in the mid-’90s, our family took a trip to Toronto and drove by Rogers Centre. I was bummed to find out there wasn’t a game that night. I do, for some odd reason, even to this day remember the smell of Kentucky Fried Chicken while we drove past it. Crazy isn’t it?

My grandpa was another one who had an influence on me when it came to baseball. As a kid, I honestly thought he played major league ball because I saw photos of him with other guys in uniforms. Turns out it was a church league! Regardless, his love of the game shaped me into who I am today. He taught us grandkids how to play in a park that was just diagonal from my grandparent’s house. I know I’m changing the topic but he’s also a huge part of why I even create art. Before WW2 he went to art school in Cleveland and his occupation was a printer. I have some of the metal plates he used in the print shop. It’s some super cool stuff. Cleveland (Tremont) was and still is known for its art community. I would say he was one of the “founding members” of artists in the area. His next-door neighbor, a former priest, would participate in monthly art walks. He taught kids how to draw too. While our styles are completely different, between him and my dad, I wouldn’t consider myself an artist if it weren’t for them. While touching on the subject, I think it’s only fair to mention my dad from an artistic perspective. My dad painted, but his passion was in woodworking. My childhood home was seriously condemned. He bought it in the late ’60s, gutted it, and turned a house that could have been torn down, into a charming, gingerbread looking house. Until he passed away in 2009, the house was never complete. It could have been, but in the way I create art to make me happy, his happiness was remodeling the house. His precision to detail is where I think I get my OCD from. I’m not perfect, but I won’t release something if I don’t like it.

Alright, changing the topic to my favorite players as a kid, I’d have to say that most of them played for Cleveland. Players such as Vizquel, Alomar, Belle, Thome, Baerga, Nagy, and Hershiser were a handful of my favorites. I also had a few others I’d follow such as Griffey Jr., McGwire, Sandberg, Canseco, and Molitor. I’m sure there are others if I really sat and thought about it. Once I got a little older, I watched players like CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Cory Kluber, and Grady Sizemore. I worked at Jacobs Field for a season and seeing players like Jeter stroll by smiling with his Louis Vuitton luggage was super awesome. We weren’t allowed to talk to players, but man, if we could I would have such an awesome collection of autographs. While he didn’t have a huge pitching career, I saw Jeremy Sowers talking to the guys guarding the doors of the clubhouse on his first day. I honestly thought he was a reporter or something given his suit. Later I heard being announced, “Making his major league debut, Jeremy Sowers.” I was like, what?! I just saw that guy! Last I heard he’s working for the Tampa Bay Rays. When he played for Cleveland, he was a personal favorite of mine. Even today, I follow a lot of players over actual teams, except the Indians. They’re my home team, so I don’t think I’ll ever stop following them. Three of my favorite players I follow right now are Clevinger, Lindor, and Bauer.

2) When did you start collecting baseball cards and why did you decide to focus on them?
I can’t really be 100% accurate here, but I think I got my first pack of baseball cards at a Kay Bee toy store. It wasn’t really a pack per se, but a box of 1989 Fleer’s Baseball’s Exciting Stars. It is a set of 44 cards that came with 6 logo stickers. I went down into my basement and grabbed that set of cards. I guess as a side note, you could say I am pretty organized. I’ve only got 24 of those cards and none of the stickers. If I REALLY wanted the set, I could pick it up on eBay for $10. In 1989 I was only six years old, so I didn’t really have favorite players. Number 25 of 44 in the set, Danny Jackson of then the Cincinnati Reds was my most prized card because as a kid, everyone called me Danny. I collected cards throughout the ’90s and only here and there during the early 2000s. Once I had to work to put gas in my car, pay car insurance and pay my cell phone bill, if I were to buy anything, it was usually a new CD.

In 2006 I got a job working for the Indians. It was still Jacobs Field at that time. I worked in various team shops and began collecting again. I started collecting everything from cards, bobbleheads, apparel and really anything you can think of that was Cleveland Indians related. This was the only season I worked at the ballpark and sadly it wasn’t a great one. They “almost” made the playoffs but almost doesn’t get you anywhere. At one point, I stopped buying packs and only bought what I wanted. Nowadays I do the same, but I also buy packs just because of how much fun it is to see what you get. That being said, it’s also a bummer getting a pack full of duds. Now that I’m creating my own cards, both illustrative and hand-crafted, it makes me even more excited to go on a hunt for cards either in a store or seeing what other artists are doing online. I’m also really curious to see how Triston McKenzie progresses. I guess I have a thing for pitchers.

 

3) What is Sixty-First Street and what is the inspiration behind it?
It’s a pretty simple story where the name of Sixty-First Street comes from. I grew up in Cleveland on West 61. I honestly had the best days of my life on that street. It was where I spent my childhood. Most of my best memories come from that street. It’s where I made my first friends, learned to ride a bike, and where I played baseball and street hockey. I could honestly write a book about living on that street, but I know this interview isn’t about my life story! You might be wondering what Sixty-First Street is exactly. I started it as a creative outlet. Professionally, I’m a graphic designer. I love my job. I work at Kent State University where NFL players Julian Edelman, Josh Cribbs, Antonio Gates, and Jack Lambert hail from. Sadly, it’s also where the famous Kent State shootings took place on May 4 of 1970.

While I love my job, I needed a way to show MY art. It started off with me selling vectorized images of Cleveland and Pop Culture related illustrations, which can still be found on Etsy. I then started participating in art gallery shows, so while I still worked on my vector series, I also began painting again. Later I started experimenting with more mediums. When I picked up an iPad Pro that is basically when things really started to change for me. I would dabble with the Procreate app for a while, but one day I was sitting down watching Self Made on Netflix. It’s a movie about Madam C.J. Walker. For whatever reason, that night I thought I would try to illustrate one of her vintage products. After that, I started illustrating other packaging designs. I jumped from that to baseball. I did a set of AL and NL Stars of the 1990s. I know that I’m rambling on from what question was asked, but it kind of tells how my creative outlet went from creating illustrations on my computer to creating baseball art. It’s kind of funny how things progress. But really, that’s what Sixty-First Street is. It’s a creative outlet/brand that came from the street I grew up on. I’ve been loving every minute of watching it progress to where it is today.

 

4) You are showcasing a piece titled, “The Curse of Rocky Colavito” at the Phone Gallery in Cleveland. Talk a bit about that.

There’s this little gallery in Cleveland and I mean LITTLE. It’s actually an empty phone booth located in a really cool part of Cleveland. Right down the road is The Beachland Ballroom; a music venue where I’ve seen some really awesome acts such as Brian Fallon, The Dead Boys, The Mowgli’s, and a bunch of others. Anyways, this gallery is super cool. Being such a small space, you really need to create your artwork to fit the booth.

Played one season for the Athletics in 1964, hitting 34 taters and making the All-Star team.

The actual “curse” of Rocky Colavito goes back to 1960. It was said that because the Indians traded  Colavito to the Detroit Tigers for Harvey Kuenn, that they would be prevented from winning the World Series, reach the postseason or even get into the pennant race. Colavito denies ever placing such a curse on the team. (A little side note: it was also said that when the Indians fired their manager, Bobby Bragan back in 1958, he walked out on the pitcher’s mound and placed his own curse on the team, saying they would never win another pennant. He of course denies this too.) I’m not exactly superstitious; at least to the extent that a person can put a curse on a team like that, but the stories are definitely fun to read. I’m creating this piece based on the idea that Colavito really did place a curse on the team. The piece isn’t completed, but besides an illustrated piece of Rocky, it will be displayed in a custom black frame where I’ll make it a bit more ornate with things such as skulls and other odds and ends. It’s one of those things that I can see how it will look in my head, but it’s really hard to explain. I’m also thinking of paying an homage to Bragan by placing a small illustration of him in the background, spitting on the pitcher’s mound, or something like that. In no way do I mean any disrespect to Mr. Colavito or Harvey Kuenn. I’m doing this piece for fun and just as a representation of stories told of the curse. My mom used to go to games at the old Municipal Stadium. She and her friends would wait for him after the games to get an autograph or just say hello. She only had positive things to say about him, so Mr. Colavito, if you’re reading this, no disrespect and you’re a huge inspiration!

Chief Wahoo is now dead.

5) Where did you watch Game 7 of the 2016 WS and how did you deal with the pain without jumping off a cliff?
Don’t even get me started. My wife and I had standing room tickets for that game, and we got there early and took a spot at the Home Run Porch in left field. Before this game began, I honestly prayed for the series to tie, just so we could attend a World Series game. It was an experience I will never forget and probably the best ball game that I will ever attend–that is unless I get to attend the game when Cleveland actually wins the series. Let me tell you, we stood there through it all. We took turns getting beers and were absolutely surrounded by Cubs fans. That night, I really began to give their fanbase respect as they were totally cool. At least the people around us. Ok, that’s not 100% true. There was this guy in front of us who was “that guy.” EVERY and I mean EVERY time the Cubs did something worth noting, he turned his head to the side, slowly smiled, and slow-clapped while nodding his head. At certain times my fandom was taking over and I REALLY wanted to knock him out on more than one occasion. There was a point when Cleveland (in my opinion) was NO DOUBT going to win the game and then you know what happened next? Yep, the rain started. When the game started back up, I felt the momentum was gone. Long story short, we know what happened…the Cubs won. The jackass in front of us did his thing, but while I had anger in me, I just watched him walk away. The couple next to us who were Cubs fans wished us well and I wished them a safe trip back to Chicago. We stood there for what seemed like hours. I watched the Cubs celebrate on the field and I tried looking for Bill Murray, who I knew was in the crowd. I never did see him.

Well, it was time to go. This part hurt almost as much as losing the game itself. We stopped in the team shop and you know what was to the right of us? TONS of sealed boxes of what would have been our World Series Championship apparel. Trust me, I had plenty of cash put aside to buy whatever they had. Instead, we walked out of the ballpark and called an Uber. $100 to take us 2 miles!? Yeah, right…We walked back to our car in Tremont. As we walked over the Bob Hope Memorial Bridge it started pouring. How did I deal with not jumping off that bridge? While not the cliff you mentioned in your question, I’ve got to say, being at such a game is something I will never forget, and you know what? The night wasn’t even over and I was already okay with it being the Cubs who beat us. I know, I shouldn’t even admit it, but trust me! I didn’t WANT them to win, but they seriously went 108 years without winning a championship. Plus, I’m a diehard Cleveland fan. I grew up less than ten minutes from downtown, so being a Cleveland fan, you’re used to upsets. I just know that if it happens in my lifetime or my son’s lifetime–one of these days–Cleveland is going to have its moment.

 

6) Is Albert (Joey) Belle a bonafide asshole or just misunderstood?
Oh man, this is a tough question. As a kid, Belle was a favorite player of mine. He averaged close to 40 home runs and over 100 RBIs a season from the early 90s until 2000. I’m not sure you can really say he was just misunderstood. From everything I read about him, he leans more towards being a bonafide asshole. I’ll never forget the game he lifted his bicep and pointed to it. I’m pretty sure I still have the newspaper that says something along the lines of, “Here’s the cork!”. He obviously had a bad temper, “probably” used corked bats, but I also get not wanting to talk to the media. Some people just aren’t into that type of thing. Could he have dealt with it a bit better? I would have to say most definitely, but unless I’m in his shoes, I can’t really speak for him. We’ve all got our own demons we deal with. I’ll let the writers and reporters write about “Mr. Freeze.”

 

Vida? Is that you?

Wanna hear a cool song? Check out “Vida Blue” by Jimmy Bee

I know I have a predilection for visual art to be easy on the eye, but if it isn’t easy on the eye then at least it should be meaningful and thought-provoking. I tend to look at modern art the same way I look at a pop star: with tantalizing wonder, mild bemusement, and with a sense of ironic detachment. Despite my supposed bone of contention and love/hate relationship, the visual arts are a nice refresher for my mental highways and quite inspirational in my life on a daily basis. I adhere to that annoying cliche that makes art critics want to gouge their eyes out: I see art in everything.

The Orange Menace Plague has demonstrated the value of the visual arts, while also threatening it–education, entertainment, and escapism are just some of the benefits the arts have provided during these bleak and confusing times and we should do everything we can to give value to something infinitely more important than simple monetary worth. (all this was typed as “Do the Hustle” wafted serenely in the background. Can you ever mistake the first 3 seconds of that song for anything else? What a lovely, crappy song.)

One morning I was mindlessly scanning the internet (Help! I need a salve from doom surfing!) on a typical day of rampant cognitive dissonance when I stumbled upon this 1975 Topps Vida Blue oil painting manufactured by the artist John Kilduff. Kilduff is (well?) known for painting while doing acrobatics, like running on a treadmill or riding an exercise bike, during a public access show in Los Angeles. He is sort of seen as the punk rock version of Bob Ross and some critics have deemed the show “ironic performance art.” In my opinion, the best part about the show is that it lacks caller screening and a lot of bored stoners take advantage of this by making surly comments, cursing, accosting members of the show, and making derogatory comments about rival gangs.

Of course, this type of off-kilter, aberrant content was a calling card for the late-night drunken denizens of a city that took pride in its ability to mesh psychedelia and reality. It is the type of show that perfectly defines the human condition and would be one of the first things I’d choose if there was a mutual exchange of cultural artifacts with an alien species: you know…the ones that constructed the space laser/death star that created the forest fires in California.

You can buy the painting above for 340 dollars if that sort of thing floats your boat.

 

Ken Phelps is ready to rock your world

OK, Boomer.

“How do you trade Jay Buhner for Ken Phelps!?”–Frank Costanza, Seinfeld

Ken Phelps has the look of the quintessential “80’s dad,” and reminds me a bit of my cousin’s father, my uncle through marriage who was known to wear a beat-up, snap-backed San Francisco Giants baseball cap, and on special occasions a cowboy hat with a feather band not unlike a member of Charlie Daniel’s raucous honkey tonk band. Now, every time I see this archaic piece of Americana I can almost imagine the beer bottles breaking against the protective fence set before the band in some small, backwoods shithole in Texas not unlike the scene in the brilliant Patrick Swayze flick, Roadhouse.

I had been to his dad’s home on a few occasions and we would play Nintendo or try to quench our biological imperative and devilish curiosity by looking for his porn stash in the grease-caked garage. When bored of that, we would play baseball amongst the cow patties in the fields. (His father lived on a farm in a very rural area) My cousin would get a kick out of this idiot touching the electrical fence, giving me a sudden jolt, although I would balk at “pissing on it” to his dismay. I was always a bit saddened to disappoint his infectious and sophomoric sense of humor, but an electrified dong just didn’t sound appetizing.

When you take a look at the last 2 N.L. MVP’s (Bellinger and Yelich) you see a couple of guys you might partake in a doobie with at a keg party; they look nothing like
Phelps, who looks like he should be either dishing out benevolent fatherly words of wisdom while gutting a fish or arresting fratboys outside the kegger for possessing said mar-eee-wanna. He doesn’t look like he survived in the league on any sort of pure talent, just the ability to use “grown man strength” on the occasional fastball.

Phelps had only had 12 hits for the Oakland ballclub as he was an aging DH who was nearing the end of his career and had lost the only valuable asset he had–occasional power. Phelp’s baseball life was coming to an end as my pre-teen years were just beginning, and until now was relegated to a baseball card that was never really examined or loved and tossed into a box. Forgotten until unearthed.

R.I.P. Joe Morgan

I have an old cigar box where I stash my autographs, baseball cards, and other assorted bric-a-brac. Today I was looking through it for the first time in eons when I stumbled upon this Joe Morgan pin. I didn’t really get to watch Joe play, as he had retired before baseball was part of my stratosphere, but I know he was a fine second baseman and a damn good leader on some star-studded Cincinnati Reds teams in the 70’s. He was also a Hall of Famer, a label that hasn’t been treated kindly in this demoralizing year of 2020.

I suppose when people die an individual always reminisces and then takes the inevitable look at their own mortality and wonders: When is my time? Where do we go? Is it just nothingness? So here I am raising a glass for you, Joe. Let us all acknowledge the fact that no matter race, economic status, or popularity that we will all end up in the same place. And that enough should be reason alone for us to try to figure out how to end oppression and bigotry so we can all live a better life, and hopefully achieve a more peaceful existence on this spinning rock that we call home.

Sometimes life is the Pitts

Card courtesy of whentoppshadballs.blogspot.com

Is hitting zero home runs in the big leagues like being a writer who was never published? Or is it about the experience? The tactile thrill of putting pen to paper and seeing jumbled thoughts form on the page in a cohesive unit without fan-fair, without a record of speech.

Done with love unrequited.

There is a collective, who? from the crowd and a lot of head-scratching. The pitcher sneers, why are you here? this refugee from the bush leagues. The player goes through automated motions before digging in, slicing dirt and skipping pebbles; stepping into the box without adulation. No one scurries from the beer line to watch your at-bat. Persona Non-Grata. No one writes about and examines your life and travels, quoting you endlessly. You are no Joe DiMaggio or Ernest Hemingway or any other black and white face on a postcard. 11 career base-hits. I’ve had more lovers than that. Every one categorized and resonated in my mind’s eye with a dying quail, a check-swing squib, a flare here and there, or a hotshot that juuuuust went foul. Our struggles happen concurrently with everyone else’s — and sometimes done with love unrequited.

How did Bob Welch invade my stream of conciousness?

The most ubiquitous Welch baseball card of my childhood. I must have owned dozens of them.

If you do an impromptu internet search on Bob Welch Death, the information wave catches your surfboard and guides you to the former guitarist for Fleetwood Mac and his shocking suicide from a self-inflicted gunshot in 2012. Remember that song, Ebony Eyes? Neither do I, but apparently Bob scored a top 20 hit with it in 1978. The song is painfully repetitive, is derivative of Fleetwood Mac’s worst songs, (and that’s being generous) and could possibly cause one to scratch their eyes out…I hope I never have to hear it again. In the zeitgeist of “good” late 70’s music, this turd should stay safely sound on a piece of old vinyl relegated to grandma’s attic or the local town dump. Believe me, I’m sighing on the inside as I write this.

The death of Bob Welch, the baseball player was just as tragic, and even more so, as poor Bobby slipped on what I’m assuming to be a tile layered with condensation in his bathroom and broke his neck. The University of York Department of Physics recently hosted a presentation titled, “5 Ways the Universe Is Trying to Kill You,” and I felt that this applied to the unfortunate and freakish situation. There are typhoons, hurricanes, asteroids, cancers, plagues, nuclear meltdowns, the sun and its inevitable enveloping of the earth, and, of course…a slippery tile. They all want your existence as nil. And this is just the tip of the iceberg of proposed cataclysmic events, although I suppose everything isn’t all that terrible on this planet considering 99 percent of the places in the universe would snuff out any life instantly if it had a chance to exist at all.

I’m not even sure why Bob Welch invaded my cranium this morning as I sipped my coffee and flipped through an old Playboy from 1969 with an extended pause at the Brigitte Bardot layout. Sometimes feelings are hard to pin down, with so many subclauses and digressions. Maybe it was because I was thinking about an ex-girlfriend and how she had dropped me off at Dodger Stadium on a a perfectly lazy, brilliantly blue Los Angeles summer afternoon. Larry King pulled to the side of her car in his Mercedes and asked her if he could cut in line. (I learned later that he was in a hurry because he was throwing out the first pitch, which was just as horrible as you would expect.)

There was an “Old Timers Game” before the real contest, with the Dodgers facing the Yankees, and Bob Welch was on the mound for perhaps his final outing on a big league field with his marvelously exaggerated wind-up and leg-kick. All these memories coalesce and swirl and there is little attention to any small fragment of detail as I pull them from the blanket of obscurity: except for my questioning and confusion of Billy Crystal playing Short Stop for the Yankees that day which now seems as if it happened a lifetime ago.

An exhausting review of a single piece of cardboard

huh?

Recently, Topps released a set of baseball cards reproduced by various artists with their creative interpretations of iconic pieces of cardboard that were cherished throughout the years. I was given the Mark McGwire “1987 rookie card” by a friend and it gave me pause and seemed to be a head-scratcher. My opinion was that it was in the tradition of outsider art, or underground contemporary, which usually has the look as if an 8 year old or someone with a mental deficiency had created it: which is sometimes the case. It can be seen as aesthetically “bad” to most people, but to be fair, in some cases has multiple and sometimes disturbing meanings below the surface. The current appreciation and fervor around “outsider art” seemingly stems from an exhaustion with slick commercialism of much of the mainstream contemporary art world: a sort of anti-capitalism rebelliousness that found an audience and became what it rebelled against in the first place. Read: these guys and gals found a niche and are cashing in on the artistic equivalent of a skateboard or an energy drink. It simply exists to reaffirm commerce.

***

The creator in question, Keith Shore, an artist with formal and academic training, gained a modicum of buzz in the art world for creating the labels on a Danish beer bottle. That is a fine medium and I’m sure it was appreciated by many college kids with nothing to do on a Saturday night with a head full of ganja and the attention span of a gnat, but I wasn’t sure if the baseball card was the right medium for Shore’s “amateurish” style as this attempt at re-creating the most iconic piece of cardboard of my childhood failed miserably. Mind you, all of the above can be endlessly discussed, debated, dissected and put through the wringer to the point of jumping off a bridge to end the conversation. Besides,the point of this essay wasn’t to undermine the validity or definition of the “outsider” term itself, (I don’t have the time or interest) it was to confirm just how uninteresting and uninspired I found the ersatz art work to be. Ironically enough, the baseball card itself, once a worthless object created to entice children to buy bubble gum, could be seen through certain eyes as a form of pop art with a dash of unapologetic crass commercialism sprinkled in.

What a hypocrite.

Canseco and Cap’n Crunch

I was standing in the queue at the local health food store with my basket full of over-priced, organic, local, vegan, cage-free crap when suddenly I was struck by a haze of fog known as boredom reminiscing. This phenomenon, where synapses are sparked by everyday mundane activities, usually takes me back to the 80’s and a much more simpler time before parents were “enlightened helicopters” and kids started bringing guns to school to solve their commonplace problems.

While in this haze I’m begging my mother to buy me Cap’n Crunch, if only because of the 2 free baseball cards inside. She obviously isn’t very modern, (alas, this is the 80’s, stick with me here) so she doesn’t know what the hell organic means, and her idea of a “healthy snack” would be a syrupy granola bar with chocolate chips or a fruit cup. The only reason she’s debating this is because she can buy the very same, generic version at a much, much cheaper price by the hideously uninspired name of Crispy Crunch. Well, this was a complication of epic proportions for a 12 year old. There was no chance of getting a fucking Jose Canseco or Mark McGwire card in a box of Crispy Crunch. What to do?

I’m startled out of this mini psychedelic trip by the impatient, too-cool-for-school checker with dreadlocks and a Nirvana t-shirt. She had been calling out to me, and like an idiot I was standing there, in a daze, thinking about the time I wanted to eat a box of sugar- laden crap in order to obtain pieces of cardboard with the likeness of guys who injected steroids in their ass so they could look like Greek gods, break a bunch of records and hit the ball out of the goddamn stratosphere.

Wasn’t it great?