My Encounter with Johnny Antonelli

Hello everyone. We’ve not posted for a long while as life has become more byzantine. For instance, now we work full-time and you’d be amazed how that jazz can put a crimp in your blogging style! No one in the immediate family does online updates, either; for instance, none of us is on Facebook. Darn us. We do have a Twitter account at https://twitter.com/Dinged_Corners but have been truly pathetic at updating that as well. This may or may not change soon.
We do, however, check the blogs and tweets of our old faves out there. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE.

We decided to post today because of a neat baseball-card-related experience that yesterday crossed paths with our work day. One of my tasks is to give tours at the place I work in New Mexico. I can take nine people at a time in the van and yesterday, there were eight, so almost a full house. About halfway through the tour, it became clear to me--thanks to his wonderful and hilarious wife, Gail--that on my tour was a former Major League pitcher, southpaw Johnny Antonelli. This gentleman:
Autographed yesterday by Mr. Antonelli. When we realized that we were meeting a baseball legend but had no card
 for him to sign, his wife Gail magically produced this from her purse.
You know, the guy who won the World Series with the New York Giants before they moved to San Francisco in 1958. Mr. Antonelli was the winning pitcher in the second game of the 1954 series and, two days later, came in to close out the Cleveland Indians. A fellow whose name may be uttered in the same breath with Sal Maglie, Willie Mays, Bobby Thomson (for whom he was traded to the Giants!!) and Dusty Rhodes.
Since many brilliant baseball card aficionados have blogs and trained us well, we immediately saw Mr. Antonelli not only as a charming human being but also as a rectangular piece of cardboard, preferably with Sharpie ink on it. Flat cardboard that, mind you, contains upon it some truly amazing cultural history.

If you've ever read our blog, you know that our interest in baseball largely stems from being raised by a crazed, wild-eyed family of New York Giants fans. Okay, long ago-former-Giants fans, but you know how it is when baseball loyalty gets in the blood. Little facts such as that the New York Giants no longer actually exist? Well, those facts only register as a teensy problem. And our baseball fancestors had obediently followed the whole expansion-team philosophy and accepted the New York Mets into their crushed souls when the Giants headed to sunny California. In my lifetime, we experienced only the Mets firsthand, but inherited the New York Giants’ zeitgeist and memories and key words and hopes and demands and place names.
Interestingly, Johnny Antonelli, in addition to being a darned good pitcher, did NOT subscribe to the happy expansion team philosophy, and is well-known not only for his pitching but for his shocking refusal to join the new team—the Mets--and in fact RETIRE FROM BASEBALL rather than pitch for a scruffy bunch of lovable infants. Apparently at the time he was roundly criticized for this.
This fellow had earned respect in his career but perhaps no one could fathom his retiring from baseball merely because he didn’t want to join a start-up team. Perhaps public shock was enhanced by the fact that Mr. Antonelli was a good player and The Public resented the thought of him hiding his talent away from the lunchbox-toting, radio-listening sweaty horde, in which my family were proud participants. Remember, he was wont to do such things such as pitch a 16-inning complete game (in 1955). As he once told the Wall Street Journal, "There was no such thing as anyone telling you that you threw too many pitches. We all had to be ready to pitch whenever Leo [Durocher, the Giants manager] wanted us."

So Mr. Antonelli chose not to move to the Mets in 1962. At the time he graciously said he was “tired of traveling,” and didn’t want to leave a team where “Willie Mays was there to catch all the mistakes I made.”

Not, “I have no intention at this point in my dapper career of playing with fellows who seem to have just emerged from a cornfield.”
So he left the game and returned to Rochester, where he ran a successful tire company for many years. He mentioned to me yesterday that when he informed Casey Stengel of this decision not to join the Mets, Mr. Stengel said, “Oh, big black donuts [that is, tires] must be good business! Good luck to ya.”

From Scott Pitoniak's site (the co-author of Mr. Antonelli's memoir), this is how Mr. Antonelli looks today.
Polite, unassuming, generous, curious about many subjects, a fine conversationalist. When the memoir was published (2012), he was quoted as saying “I never met a real bad person in baseball. Most of the things I’d say about any of the players I played with were that they were all nice people.”
That seems about right.


Baseball Cards We'd Like to See: Gnats Amuck

 Is it ever advisable to spray deadly poison at your pitcher's head?
The website HistoryOrb.com finds the following event significant enough that it is the item listed under "1990" for yesterday (August 27) in history:

Brewers-Blue Jays game is delayed 35 minutes due to gnats
Admittedly, seeing grown men run around swatting at midair, causing a 35-minute delay in an American League game between the Toronto Blue Jays and Milwaukee Brewers and forcing closure of the stadium's retractable roof, is at least worthy of mention every single August 27 for the rest of recorded time. It's just that the "on such-and-such day in history" format seems extreme when compared to, for instance, the entry for the same day in 2008 at HistoryOrb: "Barack Obama becomes the first African-American to be nominated by a major political party for President of the United States."

Nevertheless, the listing put in our minds that we'd like to see a card of the players being chased around by terrifying swarms of gnats on that fateful day. "I've never seen anything like it," said umpire Don Denkinger, the crew chief who stopped the game in the fifth inning. "I've seen games called by rain, wind and snow, but never bugs.'' Denkinger said there were so many bugs it was "impossible for not only the players, but the umpires as well.''

It is important to note that this perspective does come from an umpire who made one of the most controversial World Series calls, when Mr. Denkinger called the Royals' Jorge Orta safe at first base in the ninth inning of Game 6 of the 1985 Series against the Cardinals. The Royals rallied to win the game and the series in Game 7. Might a front-of-the-card photo of Mr. Orta being called safe paired with a back-of-the-card cartoon with gnats swarming the umpire's judgment also make a decent Card We'd Like to See?

By the way, on that memorable HELP FOR THE LOVE OF GOD THE GNATS ARE AFTER US day in 1990, Milwaukee pitcher Ted Higuera, despite being swarmed, managed to throw a six-hitter in the Brewers' 4-2 victory. Oddly enough, this is not listed as one of his Notable Achievements on Baseball-Reference.com. Some mysteries are simply too deep for us to contemplate.

The only absolutely clear truth in this entire historic arc of complexity is that we need a card commemorating The Gnats That Stopped Baseball on August 27,1990.


Pretty up those TTM envelopes with baseball stamps!

The United States Postal Service is selling stamps bearing the likeness of four late Hall of Famers — Ted Williams, Larry Doby, Joe DiMaggio and Willie Stargell. The USPS set a record by receiving more than 2 million preorders for these!

You can get your own by visiting your local post office or by putting in an order at www.usps.com/play-ball. The release of the stamps was marked with not only a ceremony in Cooperstown but also at post offices in Boston, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and the Bronx.

The stamps come in blocks of four, sheets of 10 and sheets of 20 for 5 DIFFERENT versions.
1) Mixed stars - Larry Doby, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams and Willie Stargell
2) Larry Doby only
3) Joe DiMaggio only
4) Ted Williams only
5) Willie Stargell only
Most post offices only stock the mixed stars, so if you want the individual players you may have to go to the USPS website to order. As a "Forever stamp" you can buy them now at a fixed price of $.45 and use them for, well, evah. Nice!

PS Of course now that we are posting again our scanner isn't working! So we are in repairs but we are here. More to come soon.


Searching for Cardboard Department: pop culture in trading cards.

"Where's Timmy, Lassie? What? He twisted his ankle near the caves!?"
We were visiting eBay to see what new cards might be out there and happened upon this, from a seller who otherwise mainly deals in baseball cards. But there was Timmy amidst the players! This soon led to finding a BuzzFeed post that appeared in July about "17 Awesome Vintage Pop Culture Cards" that included such gems (not) as "Hook," "21 Jump Street," "Rocketeer," "Alf" and so on. None of these did much for us...so we began devising our own list, and Timmy and his pal made the toppermost.

The following references may seem to reflect an older or more distant sensibility, but much of this stuff I saw in reruns when I was a kid, because New York City ran great Saturday morning reruns, that's why. But I still claim them ALL as my own pop culture. Maybe that's why there's so much retro and vintage out there in so many realms...including baseball cards...because it was better. It was the good stuff! Just a thought?

Cry UNCLE. We begin with the gents from the United Network Command for Law Enforcement:

Who could be cooler than Napoleon Solo or Illya Kuryakin? Who? The Dark Knight? Bwahahaha. We think not.
There's not a whole lot that can be said to prove the greatness of this show other than that the secret entrance to spy command was through a dry cleaning shop in the middle of Manhattan! Wow. Truth be told, I recently watched an episode on my iPod and must admit that in retrospect, the character of Napoleon Solo was more of an egomaniac than I remember from my initial viewings. Still.

Chuck. Are there any trading cards of Chuck Connors' television shows? Branded? Rifleman? Cowboy in Africa? If not, why not? He also played baseball and basketball, so does anyone own a Chuck Connors sports card?

If so, you are  indeed a very lucky human.

Back to the Future...that movie portrayed time travel in a way that made you realize, hey, you really dig the whole concept of time travel! Other sources portrayed time travel...we are as big a fan of H.G. Wells and Star Trek as anyone...but something about the BTTF movies made it all very engaging.

Emergency! As a park ranger I know many people who were inspired by this show to become paramedics, EMTs, and rangers. My own cousin became a paramedic 100 percent because of Randolph Mantooth's passion for saving people, no joke. Are there any current shows that inspire this kind of interest?

Small confession: we have BOTH original Emergency! lunchboxes (the square and the dome). However, if there are trading cards, we are not aware of them.
A black. A white. And a blonde. That politically incorrect catch phrase must have suceeded in catching my imagination because I loved this goofy show. Somebody else must have liked the show too, as this unopened pack is priced at $60 on Hake's auction site. And here's a bit of news I only figured out recently because I'm slow on the uptake: actress Rashida Jones is the daughter of Peggy Lipton. I thought she looked familiar!

Would you believe...Don Adams was brilliant as Maxwell Smart, and Barbara Feldon couldn't have been sexy-funnier as Agent 99. Don't you think Adams was a kind of precursor to many not-self-aware modern characters, such as Michael in The Office? These cars look differently-sized than the average Topps trading card, but according to trading-cards.org, they are indeed Topps cards, released in 1966 in a set of 66 regular cards and 16 'Secret Agent Kits,' with the Kits being the size of two regular-size cards placed side to side. From the site: "What sets this card set apart from most other Topps issues is the fact that the regular-size cards were issued in their 5-cent pack in such a way that each pair of cards was attached one side, with perforation between them, making them basically a panel card set."

So we'll continue looking for compelling 2012 baseball cards and try to stop being distracted. Look! There's something shiny!


A post by Lucy: Three favorite smile cards.

Hi, this is Lucy. I have been thinking alot about smiling player cards. Actually, I have a whole binder of smile cards that always cheers me up. Here is a smile card that I enjoy of Tsung-Hsuan Tseng.

There are only 55 of these cards out there!
I like this card because Tseng is smiling (go smiles!) and included a signature and also a square of the uniform. I like how the uniform piece matches the pattern of the the background. I also like how the signature is in Chinese, because I have always admired the art of calligraphy.

Here is an Allen and Ginter card of Kerri Strug. We sent her this card and she signed it. I don't think she noticed my name on the letter but that is all right. I really like cards with signatures that we have sent to the players. I  like her pose and smile in this card.

We have sure enjoyed watching gymnastics at this year's Olympics. Every gymnastics event is exciting: The vault, the balance beam, the floor routine, and the uneven bars. Out of all of them I enjoy the floor routine and the vault. I like how even though the gymnasts are all doing similar moves, each makes her performance different and unique. The floor routine allows each person to perform different combinations and personal skills. Congratulations, Gabby Douglas!

Here is a card that I like of Scott Rolen. He is smiling too (Yay, always helps), and included with this card is a chip of wood from a baseball bat!

I like cards that include items such as uniforms, bats, and dirt from the field. I think the background of this card is gorgeous, with the field and the blue sky behind Rolen.

Well, that's all for now! Thanks for reading my first baseball card post!


Basball card pack prices: Is $3.19 the new normal?

On the way back from getting our little dog fluffed up at the groomer's, we stopped in at Target to check out the baseball cards. Haven't done this for MONTHS so wasn't quite ready for the change we encountered: namely, inflation. $3.19 for a pack? Perhaps even worse, you know those re-packaged older cards...Target used to sell them for $9.99 and you could open an array of cards, finding smile cards, Mets, random good stuff, even an old relic or autograph. Worthless, but fun. Well, those are $12.99 now!

Attention baseball card packagers and repackagers: have you heard of the "price point" concept? Because we think you have exceeded it.
That $3.19/$12.99 deal kind of draws the fun out of an impulse buy!

On a scale of 1-10, how much does the $3.19 pack phenomenon bother you? For us it's a 10. Although, since it's possible we may become weak in regard to cardboard, we wonder how long it will be before we begrudgingly accept the new normal. That's how they getcha, you know. They wait for you to wrestle with inevitability because it always wins. You know, inevitably.


2011 Lineage: our first look.

When we asked you what cards we should look at now that we've reemerged, Topps Lineage was one design you described that caught our attention. Although we sought a blaster, all we could find in our puny little non-baseball card town was a rack pack. We grabbed one, opened it, and found some Toppsy looking cards at first--
but in the middle, a couple of interesting variants:
Tony Perez and a tiny little baby Johnny Bench...great vintage uniforms, logos, and the little gold all-star rookie symbol. Love how the older photography shows no concerns about the background--in fact, Mr. Perez has several random legs emerging from his elbow and little dot people in the distance. A+ for detail: Mr. Bench has a fantastically dirty knee and one of the big old catcher's mitts. His brow is furrowed, which it shouldn't be if he is looking into his own future.

Then there's the shiny:
Double rainbow all the way! This card made us remember that for a brief moment we actually felt sorry for the Rangers as their world imploded around them during this World Series. We doubt that Mr. Beltre takes much comfort from thinking, "well, at least there's that shiny card of me in Topps Lineage."

And, look:
A Mets card! A fake relic card! Well, it's a relic of something, but apparently not anything to do with baseball: "The relic in this card is not from any specific game, event, or season." Does that mean it's also not from any specific team or person? Anyway, poor Jason. Perhaps after they shrink Citi Field a little, he and David Wright will have a better year next go 'round. By the way, the relicky card is smaller than the others. What is the meaning of this?

Anyway, it was fun rackin' up a rack pack to make up for the recent lack of stacks and backs.


Girl sasses baseball players who wear glasses.

Orel Hayhiser's glasses here accentuate his earnestness. Do you love baseball cards that don't depict bats, baseballs, bases, or any facet of the game? Then this one is for you. Unfortunately, there is so much to say about this card we don't have time to list everything. It would take months.

It's Lowell "Wild Pitch" Palmer behind those Foster Grants. And what is the standout element of this card? We'll wait.

Tap tap.

Correct! Shea Stadium in the background. 


Question for our old baseball card friends.

And by old, we mean wise. Certainly, none of us is getting older.

If you hadn't bought any baseball cards in, ahem, quite a while, what blaster box, rack pack, hobby box, or, for that matter, eBay deal would you pounce on right now in order to get yourself all happily back into the swing of things?

What set or current design rocks?--yes, that's part of the question, but sometimes even if it's not the bestest set in all the world, there's a compelling buy out there--such as a hobby box that tends to be weighted with cool stuff. That's what we are asking.

So: what should be our first baseball card purchase in a long time that will return us firmly to a cheery mood about cardboard?


Joe Buck's eyebrows and other World Series questions.

Do Joe Buck's eyebrows look alarming to anyone? Not as alarming as Ron Paul's eyebrow actually falling off during one of the bizarro world Republican debates, but close?

Mr. Buck did a nice job of announcing this go-round, but there was something about those eyebrows that made us glad we didn't get many visuals. He has a sonorous baseball voice, though, and when he said, "We'll...see...you...tomorrow...night" after Mr. Freese's home run in Game 6, well, it almost made us sniffle.

Other questions that came up:

Texas blew the lead five times in Game 6 (!) and twice was within one strike of winning the World Series. How bad must the Rangers feel? It's not fun to lose, but to lose with ignominy, that's tough. We did not feel sorry for Nolan Ryan, though, because he looked like a thug in that dark overcoat.

Was there a Bill Buckner moment for the Rangers? 

Did everyone in the East stay up for the whole of Game 6?

The last team to win a Game 7 of the World Series was the 2002 Angels. Does anybody remember that? If not, what does this mean in the great scheme of our attention spans?