Wednesday, October 30, 2013

John Burkett: the Metslayer

This post is for the Nachos Grande Blogger Bracket Challenge.  Having come in dead last in the voting after writing the way I usually write (message received, by the way), I've decided to take this one in another direction.  

No ballplayers were harmed in the making of this blog post.  And for the record, I'm a fan of all of these guys and wish them well.

So it was that John Burkett, fresh-faced right hander out of San Francisco, infiltrated the Mets organization in 1992 under the guise of rookie phenom "Rusty Shackleford," a highly-touted albeit fictitious triple-A sensation from Dubuque, Iowa.  A few well-placed letters of recommendation and he found himself invited to try his skill at spring training.  

No one knew what Rusty looked like, but his Mets uniform was utterly convincing as was his affable demeanor.  The boyish gentility of this newcomer won over the hardest of hearts (Vince Coleman).  Even gruff manager Jeff Torborg came around at the sight of the rookie’s dark, smiling eyes and soft, feathered hair.  This ruse would be a piece of cake.

What the team didn’t know is that Rusty carried with him a little handwritten paper roster and a Bic mechanical pencil.  After only a few days he had won the respect and affection of everybody on the team, so they were not suspicious when unfortunate things began to happen at spring training and names began being crossed out

Burkett started with little things that could be mistaken for pranks.  For example, he superglued David Cone's chin to his shoulder when he fell asleep watching Bebe's Kids in the clubhouse.  Everyone had a good laugh - it seemed harmless, maybe even cute.  Then Cone sneezed, dislodging two vertebrae and ending his pitching career (and almost his breathing career).

Cone, just before the fateful sneeze.

Unfortunately for the '92 Mets, it wasn't long before these "pranks" began to lose their subtlety.  One day catcher Charlie O’Brien began seeing what he described as “little blue Hitler bunnies” in the infield.  A few drops of experimental government psychotropics in his Miller Lite and the poor guy was seeing them everywhere, and all the time.  “There!  No, wait….there!  Don’t give them carrots, guys!  They’re anti-Semites!”

1993 Upper Deck #209 Charlie O'Brien Front
Charlie pointing out his tormentors, the ump actually looking.

Shortstop Tony Fernandez always had a cup of coffee the morning.  Little did he know that one morning in particular his cup would contain half coffee, half highly-concentrated uber-dose of elephant-grade veterinary colon cleanse.  The results were too horrendous to describe here.  Suffice it to say that for the next few months he went through a lot of pants.

Jeff Bagwell witnesses a blowout first-hand.

It wasn't long before "Rusty" started going after the power hitters.  Burkett made a few late-night calls to the homes of Eddie Murray, Howard Johnson, and Bobby Bonilla, impersonating each one of them and making aggressively sexual comments about each of the other’s familial and marital affiliations.  He also mixed in some "yo mama so fat..." stuff because it was 1992.  The result was a Three Stooges-esque free-for-all….with bats.

1993 Upper Deck #484 Eddie Murray / Howard Johnson / Bobby Bonilla Front

At the height of their confrontation, Murray took aim at Bonilla as Bonilla whacked Johnson over the head with his backswing.  Johnson took advantage of the angle, inserting his entire bat somewhere very uncomfortable.  "Like the back of a Volkswagen," Burkett thought and laughed to himself.  The only thing Burkett liked more than human suffering was movie references.

Vince Coleman was a solid runner, but even that is no match for meticulously trained seagulls thirsty for the sweet juices of the human eye.  He was in the outfield one afternoon when they swooped in and pecked his skull sockets clean with the precision of a pack of flying half-starved jackals surgically removing every chunk of meat from the bone.  They were gone before he could even cry for help.  Needless to say he was never a particularly good outfielder again though he could still step in front of a pitch pretty well so long as you whistle when you throw the ball.

Vince Coleman, sans eyeballs.

Speaking of packs of starving jackals, John spent two weeks starving a pack of jackals, allowing them only to occasionally sniff a pair of Todd Hundley’s dirty socks.  He then marinated Todd's cleats in gravy for good measure.  Once set loose upon the diamond during practice one day they quickly found their prey.  While they wouldn’t kill Todd, he would lose forever the ability to squat.

A shot from the 2.4 seconds Todd was able to evade the pack of starving jackals.

Player after player fell to random animal maulings, flesh-eating bacteria, even a few disembowelments (Dwight Gooden).  Also he gave Mackey Sasser gonorrhea.  It didn’t affect his baseball skill, but it was still pretty messed-up.

It wasn’t until Shea Stadium looked like that one scene in Gone With the Wind where they zoom out on all the dead and wounded soldiers laying in rows did Jeff Torborg begin to get suspicious.  In the locker marked "Shackleford" he found a little folded paper roster, nearly every name crossed out (Sasser's name just had "gonorrhea" scribbled next to it).  He started researching Rusty’s minor-league stats and found that the man had none.  Torborg pulled “Rusty Shackleford” into his office and started grilling him.

“Witness Relocation Program,” claimed the rookie with total confidence.  “I saw a mob hit last year.  Blood everywhere.  I have my Witness Relocation Program membership card and complimentary t-shirt in my car if you’d like to see them.”

“I think that would be best, son.”

Rusty got up walked out, smiling as he passed Bobby Bonilla on the way out of Jeff’s office.  Bobby walked in straddling air as though he was riding an invisible horse.  “Where’s The Shack goin’?  He’s not cut, is he?”  Everyone loved The Shack.

“I don’t know yet, Bobbo.  I may never know what it is that makes a ballplayer, or a man for that matter.”  Jeff pondered for a moment and noticed Bobby staring at him quizzically.


Torborg relented.  “He’s going to get his Witness Relocation Program membership card and shirt from his car.”

Bonilla’s stare grew more quizzical.  “Witless remocational whoozits?  I’m not sure that’s a thing, coach.”

Torborg began to chuckle at Bobby’s inability to understand words when suddenly his eyes widened. A wave of bitter Torborgian comprehension spread over his face, and the anger burst forth from his throat like rage vomit.  “Stop that man!” he yelled out into the corridor, but it was too late.  The impostor was gone.  The damage had been done.

"Shacklefoooooooooord!!!!!!!!" Torborg bellowed, raising his arms helplessly into the night.

Thus, the ’92 Mets would have another sub-par season and go on to be called “the worst team money could buy.”



A week later two men sat at a shadowy corner table at a 24-hour Blimpie in Toronto, Canada.  “They won’t be a threat to you anytime soon,” Burkett said.  “I took care of everything.”

“Very good,” said the other man.  He took an envelope out from under his blue and white batting helmet which lacked ear protection.  “Our best statisticians have foretold that the Mets were poised to win the World Series this season, but thanks to you baseball will finally belong to Canada.”  He passed the envelope across the table.  “Here’s the agreed-upon sum.  You taking all that back to San Francisco?”

“Banque Suisse, untraceable,” Burkett replied as he took a sip of his coffee and gazed out the window.  “Only the baseball card collectors will know what really happened, and no one listens to them.”

The men sat and basked in the afterglow of the perfect crime.  “Are you available next season, John?  Seattle is starting to show some skill."
"Not a chance," replied Burkett sternly.  "Too much respect for the program."
"I understand.  They really are the best."  He pondered a moment.  "How about Atlanta?  Seems they may begin to pose a threat to Canadian dominance.”

Burkett's black eyes slowly filled with that same insatiable bloodlust that got him the Mets job as he turned to the behelmeted man.  “Get me the uniform.  I'll gas up the wood.....chipper."

A Late Night Trade Post

I'm scheduling this post to go live nice and late for obvious reasons.

I got a stack of cards from Greg aka the Night Owl, patriarch of the card blogging community.  Odds are you read his blog, so you know he is working on the complete set of '75 minis.  It just so happens a guy at the local monthly card show has a whole box of them that I've been buying 17 at a time and sending up to Mr. Owl.  Unfortunately that dealer has not been at the last two shows, so I'm just going to have to send unique Dodgers until he makes it back.  In the meantime here's Greg's latest volley in our trading back-and-forth.

First is that excellent Staub up there at the top.  I've never seen it before pulling it from Greg's envelope.  It's fairly big, too, roughly the diameter of a grand orange (Get it?  Well, the Staub fans will).  It may be the star of the bunch.

Here are a few nice ones of "the Thrill."  That '71 mini insert and '13 Topps Spring Fever are the standouts here.  I don't care what anyone says, I like the vintage mini inserts.

Chuck had only recently shaved his Chuckstache on that '90 Fleer card, so it always makes me wistful. That's the second '75 mini Greg has sent my way, and it is of yet another Louisiana native, Mr.Vida Blue.  While gently loved it still eye-meltingly colorful.

Oh, and lookie what I get to do now:

MIIIIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNNNNNNIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIISSSSSSS!!!!!!!! <cough, cough>  Nope, I'd better leave that to the professionals.

Of course he didn't forget the Griffeys.  That Chasing History insert is the super-shiny refracting version, and I am in the midst of completing a Design Timeline for Finest.  I now have only one of the base cards to go.

I'm also putting together a compilation of Griffeys on all the old Topps designs.  They're posts I've had to put extra research into as there are so many out there I've never even seen and don't want to leave out.  Here are two nice ones (Heritage versions tend to be excellent and pretty faithful to the original designs).  These are the most appropriate cards the vintage-loving Night Owl could have sent me.

Thanks a lot, Greg!  I've already got a stack of Dodgers and some other vintage for you.  And I'll keep bringing your want list to the card shows until my '75 mini guy comes back.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Taking Griffentory Part 2: The Results

These are the results of the completed inventory of my Griffey card collection as described here.

Before I give you the final numbers, these were my own guesses:

Total Cards: 6,150
Unique cards: 1,500
Duplicate ratio: 4.1

That’s from years of collecting and organizing this collection, and I was still way off.


1. Total Griffeys Final Count: 6,318

The only one of my guesses that was even close was that of the total card count.  I had just recently done a rough count, so I wasn’t expecting to be far off there.

On the other hand, when it came to the unique Griffey card count I had no clue where we would end up.  I was pretty sure I’d break a thousand, and I frankly would have been excited to break my guess of 1,500.  Here is the result:

2. Unique Griffeys Final Count: 2,442

Yikes.  This blew me away.  So, 6,318 total cards, 2,442 of which are unique. 

3. Duplicate Ratio: 2.59

Yikes again.  That’s far lower than I estimated, especially knowing how many of certain overproduced Griffeys I have.  As would be expected, the ratio was far higher in the over-production era and significantly lower in later years.  I might make a chart.

I was close in my guess of total Griffeys, but way off in the area of unique Griffeys which threw off my dupe ratio.  How did you do?  Here are the results of your guesses (the winners are in bold):

Jason @ The Writer’s Journey
1. 81,000 (+74,682)
2. 50,000 (+47,558)
3. 1.62 (-0.97)
Matt @ Red Cardboard
1. 6,211 (-107)
2. 1,799 (-643)
3. 3.45 (+0.86)
Jeff @ 2x3 Heroes
1. 15,001 (+8,683)
2. 5,313 (+2,871)
3. 4 (+1.41)
Jeff @ One Man’s Junk (Wax)
1. 11,700 (+5,382)
2. 8,000 (+5,558)
3. 1.46 (-1.13)
Nick @ Dime Boxes
1. 9,219 (+2,901)
2. 4,028 (+1,586)
3. 2.19 (-0.40)
The Lost Collector
1. 7,024 (+706)
2. 6,024  (+3,582)
3. 3.24 (+0.65)
Dan @ The Other World
1. 11,000 (+4,682)
2. 5,500 (+3,058)
3. 2 (-0.59)
Spankee @ The Diamond King
1. 6,374 (+56)
2. 1,353 (-1,089)
3. π (+0.55)
Defgav @ Baseball Card Breakdown
1. 5,000 (-1,318)
2. 4,000 (+1,558)
3. 1.25 (-1.34)
Corey @ Tim Wallach
1. 4,500 (-1,818)
2. 1,500 (-942)
3. 3 (+0.41)
1. 6,400 (+82)
2. 1,280 (-1,192)
3. 5 (+2.41)

I would have won no categories.  Nick, Spankee, and Matt, you will all be getting some prizes in the mail.  Thanks for playing.

What's funny/sad is that by the time you read this these numbers already will be out of date.  I'm waiting on an eBay lot with Lord knows what in it that should be in any day now.  Still, we had fun, didn't we?  Go watch the World Series.

Hey, this was my 200th post!

2011 Topps Attax Alfonso Soriano: This Card is on Fire

This post is for round 0 of the Nachos Grande Blogger Bracket Challenge.

2011 Topps Attax #12

I’ve always been impartial towards gaming cards.  Most collectors seem to have a hate-hate relationship with them, but you can’t fault Topps for trying to cash in on the gaming craze.   

This is a company that already had the infrastructure in place to make collectable bits of cardboard for over almost 60 years, then suddenly you had these other companies were just starting up slapping cartoon monsters on paper and raking in the cash hand-over-fist.  And the kids were eating it up, opting for the imaginary battle monsters over real dudes who are real.  It must have been frustrating for Topps.

The idea must have looked amazing on paper, too.  You’ve got card collecting which had been proven for decades and the competitive aspect that was all the rage what with the Yi-gi-oh and Magic and Pokemon doing so well (I was always a baseball card kid, so I won’t feign specific knowledge here, but there was a competitive gaming aspect to all of these, right?).  You also had the Gotta Catch 'em All! mindset of their target market.  Perhaps to ignite (pun!) the kids into a completionist frenzy they numbered the cards to reflect the total number in the set.    It's not # 12 - it's #12/258.  Pretty sneaky, Topps.

Gaming sets will never do particularly well for one reason: instead of a cute little Japanese anime monster there’s a 6ft 200lb Dominican man.  It's possible that they would see limited success if it was Charizard spitting flame into a crowd of innocent blue people, but more likely the kids will keep making their parents buy whatever it is they see on Saturday morning TV.

In summation, writing a post all about an uninspiring non-Griffey is hard. Good night, everybody!