Tag Archives: oakland a’s

Free at Last! Summer Is Here!

Hook ’em Horns

I dragged myself to one of those fancy movie premieres, and it was an experience that was embraced as a heroic poem and not just a regular, boring Saturday–this was a communal, but at the same time extremely individual moment that felt like an atonement of sorts. I had not been to the movies in over a year (since the short-lived and limited re-issue of Alien) and it was the longest I’d gone without being in a cinema since I sat down to watch Return of the Jedi in 1983 as a little devil child. There was the nostalgic, yet forgotten hint of popcorn mixed in with the notes of cleaning spray and faux-butter sludge to welcome me with open arms. I was a tad bit leery about being around so many skin-sacks, but calmed myself on a few occasions by telling myself that the world was a different place– and it was as simple as breaking free of a routine, and a miserable one at that. In conclusion, the movie sucked, but I enjoyed it nonetheless as a free flowing, maskless and anxiety-free critic unperturbed by low-brow cinema. 

The after-party was at the Flamingo Cantina, and their mezcal margarita hit me straight behind my third eye. Matthew McConaughey was making his rounds, flittering amongst the packed club and making benign conversation, but as an ex-denizen of Los Angeles, we just aren’t that impressed by fame. We are used to seeing our screen heroes at the grocery store buying jarred pickles or matzo ball soup and shrugging it off with an, “oh,”  after getting a 10 second cheap thrill. I can enjoy the craft of acting (some would say the basis of the craft is to act like a deluded, disingenuous, self-satisfied prick with a set of veneers and tendencies to show-off) without caring a lick about their social life or even trying to be near them to suck their “aura.” And in the end actors simply don’t impress me as much as athletes as most of them are smaller in stature than even the average person on the street. (Hola, Tom Cruise) Size matters–am I right ladies? 

Noted Austin-ite and former Oakland Athletic Huston Street was standing in the corner nursing a Bud Light and wearing some vintage-aviator-style Jeffrey Dahmer glasses that are all the rage with Generation Z hipsters and dads in the 80’s if you happen to have access to a time machine. I’m not sure if he was there for the after-party or if he was just hanging out, but the bartender told me he is now a coach for the Texas Longhorns and I had no reason to believe he was being untruthful. Street had a few excellent seasons as a closer in Oakland before moving on to greener pastures and giant sacks of money elsewhere. I remember being impressed at the time that he was a 21 year old rookie who had to learn how to “piss standing up” with very little minor league experience. Mr. Street had been relegated to oblivion in my mind, and now it all came rushing back with a sun-baked bang. I suppose we didn’t know how good we had it considering we had to endure and agonize with the likes of Jim Johnson and Brian Fuentes since his departure, which now seems as if it happened so many moons ago. 

Ex-Oakland Athletic Brian Kingman Talks About Books, Baseball Cards, and Mortality

(Author: Brian Kingman)

Ok, so what the hell does Don Mossi have to do with Billy Martin, Cal Ripken Jr. Durwood Merrill, Rickey Henderson? (editors note: the Cal Ripken incident will be discussed in a future post.) I want to say absolutely NOTHING, but I would have been wrong. As it turns out, Mossi was traded to the Tigers, along with his good friend and roommate, Ray Narleski, in a November 1958 deal that sent Billy Martin to Cleveland. No that’s not the reason for Mossi’s appearance here either. 

The reason I posted Don Mossi’s baseball card is all about the book someone mentioned, The Wax Pack. After reading their description of the book I was intrigued and checked out a couple of reviews. I then ordered a copy that should arrive next week.

It appears that The Wax Pack covers several of my favorite subjects: The afterlife, the loss of innocence, and of course, baseball. Impermanence is just a more sophisticated way of saying  “Nothing lasts forever” or ‘A constant state of change”. Impermanence only becomes a “gift” when we learn to understand and accept the constantly changing, fleeting nature of life and appreciate what we have. All things good and bad eventually come to an end.

The Afterlife

Is there life after baseball? I am going to say yes, mainly because I am currently living it. It has been said that athletes die twice so I presume I’ll be dying at least one more time. Athletic careers imitate our life span. The life span of an athlete’s career is an accelerated version of our real lives. It mimics the process of development and decay we experience throughout our lives at a faster pace. As we age our performance declines  It’s the curse of mortality, a symptom of impermanence. You spend the first portion of your life learning, growing stronger, polishing your skills, then your body begins to fail. You remember yourself in your prime and wonder where that person went. The wear and tear of training and competing, combined with the physiological changes that naturally occur as we age, conspire to slowly diminish our physical skills…..nothing lasts forever and careers come to an end.

Then in “real” life, you repeat the process only at a slower pace. If you have come to terms with the inevitability of impermanence then you will be better prepared to cope with it. I guess you could call it a gift as the L.A. Times review did, but I think if you have managed to come to terms with the inevitability of impermanence, you likely earned it the hard way.

The Loss of Innocence

As it pertains to baseball the loss of innocence for many of us the transition from the joyful innocence of playing the game as a youngster to professional baseball where it was much more of a business than it was a game. Then there comes another transition from doing something that you had worked hard at and has been a major part of your life since childhood quickly deteriorate and leave you facing a fate that apparently can be the equivalent of death! This is why they say athletes die twice because for some, getting a job in the real world after living in a fantasy world can be very traumatic.

Back to Don Mossi

About 10 years ago my friend Steve Ashman (High school & Senior league baseball teammate) was staring at Don Mossi’s baseball card commenting about the size of his ears and said “You know we should go visit him, he only lives a couple of hours away” It sounded like a good idea to me. We made a list of players we wanted to meet in addition to Mossi. I added a pair of 20 game losers, Don Larsen, Roger Craig, and Vida Blue even though he only lost 19–never mind being an MVP, and Cy Young award winner! Steve added Alex Johnson and Willie McCovey to the list along with Rusty Kuntz. Rusty Kuntz? I asked Steve ‘Why Rusty Kuntz?” He replied “I always wanted to ask him what his parents were thinking when they named him Rusty”

So we planned a trip for “sometime in the future” and as you might imagine we never got around to making that trip. Life got in the way. Alex Johnson passed away in 2015, McCovey in 2018, Mossi in 2019, and Larsen in 2020. They were victims of impermanence as we all will eventually be. 

 

Asterisks Beer Review While Vaxxed as F***

Bang. Bang.

I know the threat of the Oakland Athletics moving to a different city looms in the shadows, but it would be inconsequential to comment here until the Oakland City Council votes on the matter on July 20th. The readers of this blog already know my feelings concerning billionaire flim-flam artists and John Fisher is no exception. 

***

I finally got my second vaxx shot, so I commended my new precursor to freedom and the ending of covid-induced hibernation by buying a few beers and a new collectable Skeletor as my companion and I drove through the winding, craggy hills singing Don Henley’s “Dirty Laundry” at the top of our lungs. (Subsequently, I was confused by her public animosity of the Eagles, but love of a few choice Henley songs)  It’s scorching and humid and we are glistening as a result. There was an excursion to Taco Bell, a food I hadn’t eaten in well over a decade, and I felt as if  I was eating toxic sludge with notes of acidic regurgitation, but I needed sustenance before we went to a party bursting at the seams with a certain titular clique of Southern socialites. Not my cup of tea as a breezy West Coaster, although I was looking forward to imbibing on the Southern Belle, The Alabama Slammer, and The High Noon Old Fashion  which would perhaps loosen me up for the plethora of “ya’alls” and stiff posturing that would be heaved my way. How did I end up here?

“Did you ever notice that Donna Summer looks like Rick James without a mustache?” she said.

 ***

Are my readers tired of the pseudo-intellectual baseball pundit gibberish constantly shoved down their throats? Perhaps, but if you can’t dazzle them with your brilliance, then baffle them with your bullshit regarding “pre-gaming” and cliche sports blog financed beer reviews– but color me naive as I have not received one thin red dime for my efforts here. 

And as I was standing in the store aisle, blankly staring, and confused by the dizzying array of choices, I  gave in and decided to try the Houston Asterisks sponsored Crawford Bock, and my immediate impression was that it reminded me of a sort of piss-infused Newcastle. I found it to be rather bland for an attempt at a bock, and about as safe and by the books as you can get without going the dreaded “light beer” path. This is an attempt at making baseball fans that are used to drinking traditional lifeless, stodgy beer feel sophisticated by drinking a trendy, “craft beer” when this is the farthest thing from it. It’s a damn good metaphor for their baseball team–style over substance and pure surface trickery. I felt in the end I was paying for the can with its retro-rainbow Nolan Ryan era motif more than anything, and in the tradition of the organization, felt cheated. Not Recommended. 

 

Junk Wax Era for a Junk Wax Culture

“No one jumps when the phone rings at Todd Van Poppel’s house. It rings almost constantly, and not just because Todd is a typical high school senior. It rings because Todd just may be the next Nolan Ryan.” —Sports Illustrated

Who farted?

I was a baseball crazed ankle-biter when i read the above article in a 1990 issue of Sports Illustrated, but gave the zit-faced high school senior nary a second thought because my esteemed Oakland A’s had no shot at getting him with the 14th pick that year. Ol’ Todd didn’t help out the situation by saying he was going to college, in turn scaring off most teams, including the Braves who swallowed their pride and took some second-rate scrub named Larry “Chipper” Jones. The A’s, being the perpetual team of desperation took a shot on the guy and “Zitface” decided that Oakland was better than wearing flip-flops and kicking around a hacky sack once he got a taste of the oodles of greenbacks, loose women, unquestioned admiration, and the sycophantic ass-kissing big leaguers deal with in every city around the country.

Apparently, when the A’s signed Van Poppel, they signed him to a major league contract and not a minor contract. Consequently, the A’s could only use a limited number of minor league options on Van Poppel, so they had to rush him through the bush-leagues and he never really had time to develop. In scouting reports, Van Poppel was described as having a blazing fastball with no movement, which helps explain the discrepancy between scout analytics and the reality of his career. In the end, Van Poppel was a career reliever who bounced around from the Tigers, Rangers, Pirates, Cubs, and Reds; never coming close to Ryan’s 324 wins and ended his career with a paltry 40-52 record, essentially becoming one of the biggest busts in baseball history. I, like every other red-blooded American dipshit bought into the false and largely propagated by Upper Deck baseball card craze of the 90’s and hoarded “Van Pimple” cardboard –never dreaming that you could find it (with case) 22 years later for exactly 25 cents on amazon.com. (with the case being more valuable than the card.)  I should have listened to my economics teacher explaining why you can’t print more of something and expect it to keep its value–and would have been better off putting the damn thing in my bicycle spokes.

A’s come out of the gate looking like Glass Joe, now look like a second level Piston Honda

The Mike Tyson’s Punchout cheat code is: 007 373 5963

You know, I haven’t been giving this humble blog much time or attention lately, so I suppose it’s time to “dip into the ‘ol inkwell” and throw my two cents into the misty ether of right-wing conspiracies, porn, self-help, self-righteousness, quasi-mysticism and shit talking.

This baseball season, so far, can be summed up by using the opposite theater masks of tragedy and comedy, and this Oakland ball-club has all but bathed in the bubble bath of the above. After causing a mini-panic, collective brain-implosion and a negative knee-jerk reaction after starting out 0-6, the team collected themselves and went on a tidy 13 game winning streak–all but erasing the memory of their earlier incompetence and once again garnering the veneration of people with nothing better to do than to root for strangers wearing pajamas and Oakley Blades on a daily basis.

There was also a plethora of injuries, most notably a guy smashing his pinky finger against a desk (Jesus Lizard) because he was sucking at video games, (for more idiotic baseball injuries see John Smoltz and Glenallen Hill) and another taking a ricochet off a BP pitching cage and getting a shiner in an absolute “someone up there really hates me” freak of nature accident. (…and in a deliciously tasty form of irony, yours truly once take an angry Nintendo controller ricochet off the eye socket, giving both injuries a swirling, yin and yang home in my world of lunacy)

Yesterday, Mark Canha was drilled in the elbow with a wayward toss by a Baltimore hurler breaking legend Captain Sal Bando’s HBP record and, ever the comedian, doffed his cap to the crowd. I am absolutely thrilled that this guy has worked his ass off to turn himself into one of the best lead-off hitters in the game, and it’s hard to surmise that he was acquired from the Colorado “baseball team” for the baseball trade equivalent of a ham sandwich. 

The crescendo of BS before you is slowly coming to an end, (we’re all busy, aren’t we?) and I’ll leave you on this particular thought–watching Elvis Andrus play baseball is like the equivalent of rubber-necking a repulsively bloody and twisted metal-strewn car accident on the freeway. You know you shouldn’t look, but you can’t pull your eyes away because you want to see how bad it gets. An absolute shit show that makes me wonder how the yokels in Texas ever put up with the guy. Mr. Blue Hawaii was the mental goof protagonist on the one and only time I EVER saw a runner tag and score from 3rd on an infield pop. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, you would pencil that in on your scorecard as a “SAC P6.”

Blasphemy.

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 have 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. In conclusion, I decided to stick with the soiled, 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 in what could be called a mosh pit within a legion of outstretched hands, 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.

Beer and Japanese Nachos

I’ve come a long way since I had to meticulously set up my VCR to record the Game of the Week on my lousy, buzzing and rolling miniature television crowned with broken rabbit ears. (and Mel Allen’s TWIB!)  It almost seems absurd that I can now watch any game of my choosing on my phone while exercising or sitting on the toilet, and up to four different games simultaneously on my laptop. And that’s exactly what I decided to do on a lazy Friday. Escape. Open a few cans of Lone Star, tear open a bag of chips and salsa, and…just…escape. Does anyone care about Spring Training and its shuffling of bush leaguers and odd rules? Probably not.

Shohei Ohtani was on the hill for the Halos and that made me harken back to the time I saw him pitch in an exhibition game at Dodger Stadium one curiously freezing night in Los Angeles. The bleachers were teeming with Japanese, no doubt there to see their fellow countryman Ohtani pitch, and a young lady walking by my seat in the aisle spilled a large tray of nachos on me and my F*** the Angels t-shirt. (The stains exist to this day and I am still resolute about that idea) She apologized profusely and meekly in broken English and I felt terrible for her and assured her that I would wash myself off in the bathroom and there were no hard feelings. I also made a mental note of the very odd cultural difference/dichotomy of the Japanese dressing as if they were attending a business function/fashion show rather than the American way of dress which was mostly casual and lacking visual ingenuity with a few jerseys and baseball caps thrown into the mix. I honestly had never seen anyone wear a suit and tie at a baseball game that didn’t involve black and white footage of a guy cheering for Babe Ruth and tossing a fedora into the air. Is this a thing?

These glorified practices are opiate-inducing, laid-back affairs and I was watching passively as Mike Trout was pulled from the game in the 3rd and was probably teeing off by the 5th. Matt Olson does what Matt Olson does and hits a moon-shot to RF in his “feast or famine” playing style that is popular with big leaguers and Olson seems to excel at. The A’s decided to throw in a pitcher by the name of Brian Schlitter (who didn’t play last year because the minor leagues went the way of the dodo) and I had to stifle a laugh as I had written about this dude waaay back in 2019 before that mystery guy even thought about eating the delicious flying mammal that caused a global pandemic: A’s call up Brian Schlitter, A’s bullpen still in the shitter.  You ever hear that tired cliche–“the more things change the more they stay the same?” As you may have guessed, Schlitter did indeed put the game in the shitter, but I didn’t notice as equal measure of beer and Spring Training kicked in, and I was soon floating on clouds while verbal sparring with Morpheus in lotus land. Final: Angels 7 A’s 3

John Fisher really, really, really sucks

He’s not dead!

In life, it’s best to go about it removed of preconceptions. Things tend to work out better that way. Besides purging potential disappointment…Ah, fuck it…welcome to the well-worn, mundane path of innocuous disagreement known as Hot Stove Baseball Talk. If this is a time when Oakland fans are supposed to stand back and admire “The Process” and the genius(es) behind it, then let’s face it, these are moves you imagine and contemplate while hammered at the bar with buddies. Of course, you laugh at the inadequacy, stupidity, and audacity the next day, if not in the present moment. But damned if this isn’t *ahem* reality, or as I like to call it–the “Moneyball Hangover” set in motion due to piss-poor ownership.

Do the “geniuses” ( Is Brad Pitt still part of this process? Inquiring minds want to know)
have deeper insight than I do? Do they feel the same deflation or laid-back apathy? Because the passage of time and the numbers on a page usually tell you the value of a player and his present capabilities. And hardly ever, if ever…lie. And as a fan, you can be caustic and cynical, but also supportive. I believe this is called tough love.

Elvis Andrus: The epitome of average with a career .702 OPS and that includes the younger, career-high years. (The sad thing is that the A’s would settle for that OPS, and for readers that aren’t complete geeks–those numbers would quantify as average–not special, and not a beautiful and unique snowflake.) Every time this guy takes hacks against a Rangers pitcher this season half of his salary would be paid by the team he was trying to hurt–a shocking sign of the absolute desperation to wash their hands of him, and since they are AL West rivals, confidence in the inability to perform against them 18 times. The press releases say he “smiles a lot” and “appears to have a good time.” Oh, goody! We got an old guy with back problems who can’t hit and smiles a lot. I’ll have to remember that next time I’m contemplating watching a game. “We’re getting our asses kicked, but at least ol’ blue suede shoes is out there smiling and having a good time. My mind is at ease now.” That may be fine for the casual fan, but give me a guy like Mark Ellis who never smiled.
silver lining: we needed a SS…nothing more. He’s a body. A very expensive body. D+

Adam Kolarek: He’s a pretty darn good LOOGY (google it) in an era when the LOOGY is dying because the higher strikeout rates soar, the less that exploiting lefty-versus-lefty matchups matters. (And this makes Kolarek especially vulnerable as a ground ball pitcher) Conspiracies aside, he averages less than an inning per appearance but can be a valuable late-inning asset in a tough situation with a left-handed bopper at the dish as they had a minuscule 0.34 WHIP against the guy. If this tall drink of water can give us 50 innings and an ERA a little above or below 3.50 I would consider this a win.
silver lining: shut down the lefties and send their ass to the bench shaking their heads B-

Sergio Romo: Here’s a situation of, “whatever happened to…?” and then you find out he’s a 37-year-old has-been who was dumped by the Marlins and the Twins and is currently doing Kenny Powers cosplay in the Mexican League….because he has risen from the baseball graveyard. At this point in time, he is undoubtedly a gas can as proven in the AL Wildcard last season when he destroyed the Twins chances in the 9th inning of Game 1, essentially giving the Asterisks the win and all the momentum they needed to take the series. Probably not thought of too fondly in Minnesota. This guy was also a prominent SF Giant during their fugazi dynasty, so the fans may not accept him (may even boo him mercilessly, just ask Jim Johnson) if he struggles right away because of provincial disputes.
silver lining: he’s known to have a really good slider and we needed a bullpen guy. I don’t know….apparently any guy. C-

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.”

 

The A’s are caught, once again, digging through the trash

Is there any more pitching in there? We need bullpen help.

I’m sitting on the toilet regretting last nights consuming of toxic sludge and listening to the Minutemen “Shit You Hear at Parties,” and it is 1 minute and 11 seconds of pure L.A. South Bay punk rock gold. Immediately after, I had an ex-girlfriend randomly text me to talk about this, that, or the other and I sort of had to stifle a chuckle. There was a time, long ago, that my sister had bought Tears for Fears tickets for just the two of us, and I couldn’t magically conjure a third ticket from the already sold-out show from thin air or my asshole so an argument and an unsubstantiated break-up ensued. (So much for “Sowing the Seeds of Love”) Pleasant reminiscing quickly turned to anger and I scatter-brained a quick click on the “block” button and let out a sigh. Disaster averted and personal level of Zen attainment unchallenged. Let’s check the news…shall we?

Nothing can gloss my eyes over quicker than billionaires arguing over revenue sharing and salary caps, yet I see that the Brokeland Pathetics continue to “piss in the ocean” and threw the fans into a fervor by acquiring pitcher Cole Irvin from the Phillies on layaway, (cash considerations) essentially doing their yearly dumpster diving and claiming to be cash poor, virtually homeless and small market. According to Forbes, owner John Fisher is currently worth $2.9 BILLION and thus is one of the richest owners in all of baseball. (Where’s Walter Haas when you need him?) As of this writing, the team currently sits $121 million under the luxury tax and has yet to sign a single free agent. This team is essentially banking on “Moneyball” rhetoric to pacify nitwit, short-sighted sports fans as close-fisted owners continue to profit off unprecedented increases in MLB revenues. In the end, sadly, my main concern and desperate priority concerning the A’s for the next decade isn’t winning, but their commitment to staying in Oakland.
As the world turns…

This Cole Irvin kid has had a terrible pro career but he absolutely tore up AAA for some team called the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs. This leads to more confusion. Why would the Phillies give up on a guy that had an iota of talent for cash? And what exactly is an Iron Pig? In the end, we have become what Cubs fans used to be (without the idyllic ballpark): happily skipping to the yard to have a hotdog, beer, some sunshine, and a good time with the kids or grandpa, but ultimately having no delusions about a chance to win the “worthless piece of metal.” (Hello Rob Manfred!) It’s certainly disheartening when you see a young, fun, and razzle-dazzle “small market” team like the Padres signing big-time free agents, but that’s been the life of an A’s fan for the past 30 years or so. We are simply and inexorably the Ramen Noodles of pro sports, and Irvin settles nicely into that “cheap” and “organizational depth” category that the Oakland front office will happily pluck off the swap meet scrap heap. In the end, what do I know?… I’m just an ill-informed gasbag who is now stepping off his soapbox to happily one day put more money in the pockets of the grifters known as MLB. It’s a disgusting and hypocritical cycle and proves that the opinions of sports fans are often silly and redundant.