Archive for the ‘off the wall’ Category

flat screenings: diminished capacity (2008)

February 1, 2011

Can you think of a better way to celebrate Ernie Banks’ 80th birthday than to watch a quirky indie film that features him playing himself signing autographs at a baseball card show in the Windy City? Well sure, probably… but that’s what I did Monday night, so I’m going to blog about it.

Clearly Mr. Cub’s highest profile role since he played a judge in the 2003 film “Malibooty,” Diminished Capacity also stars Alan Alda as the colorful owner of a baseball card that MAY prove more meaningful to him than the cold hard cash it could be exchanged for. Matthew Broderick plays Alda’s nephew with fewer tricks up his sleeve than Inspector Gadget. – ROAD TRIP!!!!

Diminished Capacity was a book
some 10+ years before it became a movie, so you may have read it. I haven’t. Instead, I will wait for the graphic novel to be released.

Overall, I found the movie entertaining, and not just because of all the baseball card angles. Chances are, if you are reading this blog, you will catch yourself laughing during this film. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil the movie for you. (That’s what trailers are for.)

– Kris

sixty-four candles

December 24, 2010

There is no question that former major leaguer Bill Lee enjoys a laid-back lifestyle. But did you know that while expected to be born in 1946, Lee nearly put off his arrival until the following year?

Lee turns 64 years old this Tuesday, December 28, 2010, tying the mark set by another Bill Lee, the singing voice of a number of Disney characters including Shere Kahn from The Jungle Book (1967), who did so in 1980 just before passing away. The Spaceman shows no sign of giving up the ghost any time soon however, after becoming the oldest player to pitch in a professional baseball game by winning a contest for the independent Can-Am League Brockton Rox on September 10th of this year. (The Rox made headlines in 2009 when they hired Justine Siegal as the first female coach in professional baseball.)

Bill Lee (1975 Topps no. 128)

Bill Lee is wonderful about answering requests for autographs thru the mail and he has a fabulous signature that sometimes includes the name of the planet he is on when he signs. If you’ve been thinking about dropping Lee a letter, why not make it a birthday card and get it in the mail immediately?

Are you aware that Bill Lee owns a bat company? It is called The Old Bat Company. Obviously, he needs a new website designer…

–    Kris

ol’ reliable

December 22, 2010

I never ask a player to personalize an autograph, but I certainly enjoy it when they choose to do so. I suppose the act implies that the player takes an interest in fans who take the time to write them a letter. Ken McMullen has to have one of the most consistent signatures in the modern era.

Ken McMullen – 1975 Topps no. 473

I enjoy that the cartoon on the back of McMullen’s card asks what a “portsider” is- especially since the man who hit right handed, threw right handed and signs autographs with his right hand never hurled a single pitch throughout his entire professional baseball career. If that isn’t irony, it is something else. Perhaps this is what Ken was pondering in his photo as he appears to have been posing for either a coin or a bust in the Oxnard, California Hall of Fame.

For those readers who find themselves mired in difficult financial times, let me suggest employing Ken’s jersey numbers while filling out your next multistate lottery card. Tossing out number 35 for McMullen’s dismal 1976 tour with the Oakland A’s, we are left with 14, 11, 7, 4, 5 and 17- the numbers sewn onto his jerseys when he played for the Los Angeles Dodgers, California Angels, Dodgers (again) and the Milwaukee Brewers. For the “power” or “mega” ball, I recommend employing the number 2- McMullen’s number from the period in his career when he flashed the majority of his power with the Washington Senators (1965-1970).

If I happen to hit the Mega Millions or Powerball jackpot with McMullen’s jersey numbers, you can rest assured that I will invest a portion of my winnings to purchase his 1963 Topps rookie card in mint condition send it to him for a TTM autograph.

–   Kris

heads up!

December 20, 2010

Wally Moon drops into the Aardvark Trading Company’s command center to remind all you stargazers to be sure to check out tonight’s total lunar eclipse- if local conditions allow of course.

Although the entire event is expected to last in excess of five hours during Monday night and Tuesday morning, the peak will occur at between 12:41 am and 1:53 am (mountain) when the moon will change from a burnt orange color to brick red. If you need assistance converting that to your time zone, the friendly folks at NASA will be happy to help.

Interestingly, the last time a total lunar eclipse coincided with the winter solstice was in 1554 AD (2098 for our Buddhist readers), believed to be the year Sir Walter Raleigh was born. One can’t help but wonder if tobacco cards would ever have existed without Raleigh’s efforts to popularize the New World plant in England.

– Kris

ndungidi & ginter – arizona fall league tales

October 14, 2010

I thought a post was called for in honor of the opening of the 2010 Arizona Fall League (AFL) season this week. I will keep it brief, much like the AFL season itself. There are so many positives about the Arizona Fall League, it always gives me pause when a baseball fan confesses that they’ve never heard of it. That is a shame. I cannot think of a better value for true baseball fans than the AFL.

The Arizona Fall League no longer produces baseball cards much to the dismay of the autograph collectors who make annual pilgrimages to the Valley of the Sun each autumn. At any rate, here are a couple of baseball cards from the 2000 Arizona Fall League set to give you a slight taste of what they are/were all about.

Ntema Ndungidi (2000 Arizona Fall League – no. 26)

This Ntema Ndungidi card brings back fond memories of his teammates talking about what an interesting character “Pappy” was in the clubhouse. Reportedly some of his odd behavior included having in-depth discussions with his locker. When I asked Ntema to sign his card before a game, he complied by laying a cheese sandwich he was eating on the top of the concrete wall between us so he could use both hands to apply his signature. I do believe Ndungidi has one of the thinnest Sharpie autographs I’ve ever seen. Ndungidi’s professional baseball career ended in Canada in 2003 without having made a single MLB appearance. Still, not bad for a kid who didn’t pick up a baseball until after high school.

Keith Ginter (2000 Arizona Fall League – no. 15)

Keith Ginter on the other hand, made not only two Arizona Fall League teams (1999 and 2000), but also enjoyed his fair share of coffee in the bigs with Houston, Milwaukee and Oakland. While not as outrageous as Ndungidi, Ginter was reportedly one of five Astros who were tied up and robbed by two gunmen during Spring Training in 2000. I am assuming that the gunmen weren’t asking for autographs… While you likely have at least one of Ginter’s baseball cards in your collection, chances are that you don’t have this one.

I have no idea how many seasons Denton Hanna was employed to shoot all of the photos used in the AFL baseball card set, but he seemed to be a fixture at the various Fall League ballparks I visited. Hanna is a freelance photographer who has a pretty impressive list of clients that includes Topps and Major League Baseball. I am somewhat puzzled by the fact that his website doesn’t appear to have been updated since 2004. Thus, I will not be providing a link to it.

Hang on to your seats as I plan to feature more Arizona Fall League cards between now and the end of the season when I will be heading over to Phoenix to catch between 10 and 12 games.

– Kris

only the shadow knows…

October 9, 2010

I remember the 1970s. However, I do not claim to actually understand how many of the things from the 70s came to be. A perfect example would be Jerry Terrell’s 1974 Topps baseball card.

Jerry Terrell (1974 Topps – no. 481)

I remember having Terrell’s 74 Topps card in my collection as clearly as I recall eating jelly beans and drinking Shasta root beer in the back seat of my father’s 65 Chevy Impala while our family enjoyed a “Herby Rides Again”/”My Name is Nobody” double feature at the drive-in. Who knows… I may have even first seen this card while opening a pack during the 15-minute drive to the theater.

Interestingly, I didn’t think anything was strange about the card until I reacquired it for my collection earlier this year. I sort of wonder if anyone else has written about the odd “shadow” cast on the ground next to Jerry, but I find that I’m not so interested as to actually take the time to scour the interwebs to answer my own question. The bottom line is that I picked up a few blaster boxes of 2010 Allen & Ginter baseball cards during the baseball season when I didn’t have any spare time to open them, and have decided that I can only open a box after I post some sort of offering on this blog. Thus, you get this.

Although the shadow not only seems unnatural in that it is not varied from the dirt warning track to the raised grass surface, but also the shape of the shadow seems unlikely to have been cast from the same light source as is the shadow across Terrell’s face from his ballcap. Even with that in mind, I doubt I would have bothered to call attention to this card if not for the fact that Terrell’s shadow is cast in different direction from that of his teammate’s in the background. Here is a quickie Photoshopped version that illustrates a “truer” shadow that would have been cast off Terrell in keeping with the same light source as his teammate.

MODIFIED Jerry Terrell (1974 Topps – no. 481)

Without having access to the original negative, I can only speculate that this photo has been doctored. Even then I am left scratching my head as to WHY would anyone have bothered to do so in the first place.

– Kris

the fifth dementia

December 27, 2009

When the fifty-two is signed in blue
It rises above all other cards
As Alberto takes the mound
six-four-three’s fill scorecards

This is the blogging of the card of A. Arias
The card of A. Arias
A. Arias!
A. Arias!

Alberto Arias (2007 Topps 52 Rookies – no. 82)

– Kris

i’ll take pete lacock to block, please.

October 21, 2009

The 2009 baseball season proved to be rather productive in my efforts to get more 1975 Topps baseball cards autographed. This post features two cards from that outstanding set that a fellow grapher offered to get inked for me when he attended a Toros game in Tucson, Arizona. Incidentally, this guy has his very own baseball card in the 2004 Nashville Sounds team set. I’m not going to drop any names here, but I will let you know that he is not one of the players in the set.


Tim Johnson – 1975 Topps no. 556

Tim Johnson is the manager of the abovementioned Tucson Toros that are part of the independent Golden Baseball League. It is worth noting that Johnson was the everyday shortstop for the Milwaukee Brewers until a young whippersnapper named Robin Yount moved in and forced him into a utility role. I am happy to have this card autographed in my collection, but it would have been nice to have met Johnson in person and traded a few war stories.

That same game resulted in the addition of Pete LaCock’s signature on his 75 Topps card from my collection. LaCock served as the Toros’ hitting coach during their inaugural season in the Golden Baseball League.


Pete LaCock – 1975 Topps no. 494

Any kid growing up in the 70s would be hard-pressed to claim that they never heard the name Pete LaCock. In reality, Pete’s true name is Ralph Pierre LaCock. As far as I know, Pete was the only major league ballplayer whose father was on television across the country on a nightly basis. In case you aren’t aware, LaCock’s father, Peter Marshall, was the host of the extremely popular game show Hollywood Squares. In “fact,” Hollywood Squares rivaled Match Game for bragging rights as the craziest game show on television at the time.

I am nearly positive that Pete was backstage during the videotaping of the episode when Paul Lynde went off on a tirade about how he believed that shoddily researched articles written by individuals and groups of people who share common interests would one day replace newspapers. When pressed for details on how these articles would be distributed amongst the population, the voice of Templeton the rat from Charlotte’s Web squinted his eyes and chuckled “…by carrier pigeons.”

I am typing under the assumption that if you are willing to watch the Game Show Network on cable nonstop between now and the next time I manage to crank out a blog posting, you will see that episode for yourself. You will not be disappointed when you observe Lynde’s outburst while a blizzard of Rip Taylor’s confetti dances like the Northern Lights on Lonesome George Gobels’ flatus rising up from the lower left corner.

Yes, I am still actively trading to complete my set of 1975 Topps baseball cards! My want list continues to shrink, so do not hesitate to make a trade offer soon to help me finish off this beast!

– Kris

tasty temporary storage solutions

August 27, 2009

There have been a great number of innovations in the trading card industry since I began collecting baseball cards back in the early 1970s. These changes have not only impacted cards, but also have noticeably shaped what we choose to store our treasures in.

In “my day,” we didn’t have penny sleeves, top loaders, or fancy screw-down acrylic cases, but any self-respecting baseball card collector had a decent supply of sturdy Velveeta cheese cardboard box bottoms to store cards in. Regular old shoeboxes were also commonplace, and the kids who lived in houses with garages even had these plastic boxes designed to look like gym lockers… but everybody used Velveeta cheese box bottoms for cards that were being sorted. Smokey used them. So did Pete. Mudnuts did as well. Joel had so many boxes we all thought that his family must have subsisted on mac and cheese (and baseball card bubble gum). The one exception was Mike, who stored all of his cards in a large paper sack. Mike was a Phillies fan, so we didn’t hold him to the same standards as the rest of our localized trading society.

Obviously if you are reading this blog, you already have an understanding of the myriad trading card storage solutions available at your local hobby shop or the many trusted online dealers. Like you, I have all sizes and counts of white cardboard storage boxes, plastic cases, binders of archival storage sleeves and on and on and on. I am also willing to wager that every now and again, a situation will arise in which you will find yourself having to improvise, and that need is what this post is intended to address.

I have a space on top of my CPU next to my scanner where I temporarily house cards that require my attention. These include autographed cards that I have already included in a blog post that are in need of proper filing, autographed cards received TTM that I have neither scanned nor written about, autographed cards that I am going to blog about (some scanned – some yet to be scanned) at some point when I find the time, and some 700-800 cards that I have gotten autographed in person this season that may never be featured in a blog post, but are awaiting proper sorting and filing. While the space is wide enough for a row of Velveeta cheese box bottoms, those won’t work because they are not wide enough to hold cards that are in plastic sleeves. Doh! Leaving such a large number of unorganized cards in stacks is a dangerous idea that can only end in frustration.

cakesters boxes

Well, leave it to my dear old friends at Kraft Foods to make sure my belly is happy and my cards are stored upright in the proper sorting position with a couple of fantastic products. First, Nabisco’s Oreo Cakesters [135mg of sodium per serving] boxes are ideal for storing baseball cards in protective penny sleeves. Makes absolutely no difference which flavor you choose- regular, Golden Oreo, strawberry crème or peanut butter, as each box will hold around 400 to 450 cards without overcrowding. The sides are not super strong, so you may choose to reinforce them with a ring of packing tape. I do not.

cakesters macncheese

Sometimes I find that nostalgia is fun simply for nostalgia’s sake. While you MAY find a better storage box for your Topps Allen & Ginter mini cards, I prefer to keep mine in Kraft Velveeta Shells & Cheese [940mg of sodium per serving] boxes that are cut to size. Once I have obtained the majority of the set, those cards are transferred to sheets and binders.

Of course these are only a couple of trading card storage options that you may choose to employ while dealing with your collection. The important item to take away from this posting is the reminder that the next time you find yourself thinking that you need to run to the hobby shop to pick up a box for that stack of cards on your desk that isn’t going to file itself like you thought it would, a more convenient and delicious solution may be as close as your kitchen pantry.

–  Kris

born in a small town

February 20, 2009

The patch sewn onto his work shirt read “Marion,” but he was always “Mr. Burcham” to me. Marion P. Burcham earned the distinction of becoming the first non-baseball player inducted into the Aardvark Attic of Appreciation, predominately for the role he played during the formative years of my baseball card collecting. Unfortunately, the honor must be awarded posthumously as Mr. Burcham passed away on March 17, 2007 at the age of 96.

I had been kicking around this idea to write about Mr. Burcham for quite a while, being of the opinion that it is important to remember real people and celebrate their contributions made to our society, while reflecting on how these true heroes stand firm in stark contrast to the transparent greed, corruption and scandalous behavior that is commonplace amongst our leaders and favorite sports heroes. I also hope that you will read between the lines in order to take away from this article, the importance of having access to a physical location to purchase trading cards rather then relying entirely on interweb dealings with people who might just as well be numbers. This is especially true for the younger collectors.

Marion Burcham was the owner of the Sunoco Service Station in Toulon, the diminutive, west-central Illinois town of that served as the backdrop of my childhood. One of less than a handful of businesses in town that sold gasoline, the Sunoco station was our Mecca. The candy case within- our shrine. Mr. Burcham was believed by many to be some sort of wizard, always managing to have that old case stocked with best selection of candies and trading cards in town.

Of course, Mr. Burcham didn’t JUST deal in candy. Practically any issue we encountered with our bicycles- handlebars requiring adjustment, a chain dropped off the gear sprocket or a flat tire, could be cured with a quick trip to the Sunoco station. Far from instinctual, this behavior was learned from having watched Mr. Burcham help keep our fathers’ automobiles on the road year after year.

Believe it or not, a time existed in this country when you could pull your car into a filling station, and an actual person would greet you at the pump and begin servicing your vehicle. In my opinion, Mr. Burcham blew the doors off the competition. He would check the oil, give the engine a good look to make sure everything was working properly, inspect all four tires for excessive wear and proper air pressure, and literally scrub the windshield leaving it showroom clean- all while filling the gas tank. Most importantly, he performed these services, and probably many that I was unaware of, all with a friendly smile on his face. Plus, you only paid for the gas, and possibly the motor oil if your car needed more than half a quart.

Kids flocked to the Sunoco station after school in an effort to spoil pending dinners. The candy case, which doubled as Mr. Burcham’s checkout counter, was constructed largely of glass, wood that had once been painted yellow and more glass. The glass was instrumental to the success of the case as it allowed customers to conduct preliminary shopping while Mr. Burcham was busy servicing a car. One of the fabulous things about Mr. Burcham was that he would excuse himself from his grownup customers long enough to run in and make sure the kids were taken care of as quickly as possible. He knew that we had BIG things to get done, such as playing a game of ball, trading cards, or riding our bikes down to Indian Creek to throw stuff off the bridge.

As luck would have it, I recently obtained a photograph from Mr. Burcham’s son after explaining that I wanted to share it with my readers. As an unexpected bonus, “John” also provided me with a number of very interesting stories about his father and the service station ranging from everyday business practices to intriguing accounts of robberies and fraud. That these things had gone on in a town where few people locked their doors was unimaginable!

I selected the 1976 Topps style baseball card to “frame” Mr. Burcham’s photo due to the fact that the bicentennial took center stage in middle America. It was also the year that I made the most trips to the Sunoco station.


In 1976, kids could, and DID, purchase baseball cards in mom and pop grocery stores and gas stations similar to the Sunoco station all across America. It wasn’t easy saving money that I got for Christmas or my birthday, but I did because I wanted to buy baseball cards when they came out in the spring. Every instance when I found a dime on the ground, or got paid for doing lawn work around town resulted in a trip to the Sunoco station. I was addicted to baseball cards! I was never really tempted by the packages of Chuckles or Snickers candy bars even on the days when I was informed that the new supply of cards had not yet been delivered. Disappointed, but not wanting to leave empty-handed, I would usually pick up a few pieces of Bazooka bubble gum, or a package of five baseball-shaped gumballs that I think were produced by Fleer.

Besides exhibiting the patience of a saint, Mr. Burcham was also extremely generous. He provided free coffee for customers 364 days per year, and for the town cop 365 nights per year. More than once, I found myself sitting in the middle of the back seat of the family roadster, flanked by my older brother and sister who held the luxurious window seats as my father informed Mr. Burcham that we were off to visit the grandparents for the weekend. As if sensing the grueling three-hour trip I was about to endure, Mr. Burcham would silently pass me a few packs of baseball cards through the window as if they were a Styrofoam cup of free coffee. The man understood his customers!

During any random lazy, dog day afternoon I could walk into the Sunoco station, purchase 50 cents worth of baseball cards, hand Mr. Burcham two quarters and receive either a dime or a dime and a nickel in change. If your transaction worked out so that you purchased the last pack in the box, you took the box with you. If you purchased the next to last pack in the box, you generally walked home with not only the box, but also an extra pack of cards. It was a beautiful system! For years, I couldn’t imagine buying cards anywhere else.

While the majority of the world lived in fear during the summer of 1979 that “Skylab,” the first United States space station, was going to plummet from the heavens and crash into their house, Mr. Burcham stepped up to the plate and painted a target on the ground over one of his buried gas tanks. Similar to a knight called upon to fight a dragon threatening a village in mythical times, he was more than willing to take one for the team if necessary. It is the sort of gesture that is hard to forget.

The Sunoco station closed a few years later, having been purchased by the State Bank of Toulon. It seemed that the entire county turned out to watch the demolition of the old fortress, but here I will admit that time might be playing tricks with my memory. I’m sure that those people who feared change had either stayed home or were sticking to their normal routine, but everyone else was there. It was a surreal day that I really never wrapped my head around.

As proof that my personal memories weren’t clouded from my addiction to baseball cards that he supplied, Marion Burcham received what is arguably the highest recognition in the area when he was selected to serve as the Stark County Old Settlers badge honoree during the annual celebration in 1999.


Born during the summer of 1910, Marion would have only been two years old when the Old Settlers Association dedicated the monument to the Stark County pioneers that still stands on the courthouse lawn. The monument was also dedicated to Stephen A. Douglas and Abraham Lincoln, both of whom had delivered speeches near that spot on successive days during fall of 1858. It would have been interesting to have heard the speech that Mr. Burcham delivered a decade ago, or to read a transcript of it today.

Completely unrelated, as far as I know, is that I didn’t spend more than ten bucks on baseball cards between the years of 1982 and 1999, the time between the demolition of the Sunoco station and Mr. Burcham’s Old Settlers speech.

– Kris

Special thanks to John Burcham and Jason Musselman for taking time from their busy schedules to provide me with the photos of Marion manning the candy case and the 1999 Old Settlers badge respectively.