[Apparently, God personally verified a recent Honus Wagner T206 card sold for $262K.]
What do I know about baseball cards? Nothing. But I read about two nuns who say some guy left them a circa 1910 Honus Wagner T206 baseball card, which the sisters then turned around for $262K this week. As Big League Stew’s David Brown notes, “Other than the rare heartless scoundrel out there, everyone loves stories about regular folks who stumble upon rare baseball cards and stand to make huge profits from their sale.” The buyer, one Doug Walton of Knoxville, Tennessee, is one of those so moved by sheer dumb luck and old ladies. He so loved the whole idea of buying it from the nuns he told the AP: “To be honest with you, we probably paid a little bit more than we should have,” he said Friday. “But with the back story, and the fact that it’s going to a really good charity, to us it just seemed worth it.”
Which is nice, except when you think back to a few years ago when two African-American card dealers, John Cobb and Ray Edwards, (pictured l-r), tried to sell their Honus Wagner card. They had it independently verified after some competitors dismissed it as a fake. The independent verification showed that the paper of the card was made around 1910. So, they were deemed con men, thieves, and liars to such a degree that they had to back off from selling it for the $850K they say it’s worth.
Heartless scoundrel that I am, who knows nothing about verifying century old baseball cards, I do think it’s pretty obvious that being a kindly old white lady versus two black guys who look like Do The Right Thing’s Buggin Out and Family Matters‘ Reginald VelJohnson can help move your moldy baseball cards. If I were advising Cobb and Edwards, I’d have them cut a deal with Betty White as their beard and split $2 million.
[Above, Paul Sullivan's limp dick move: blocking me from his Twitter feed.]
You know, I was having a great Sunday morning yesterday, esp after reading about a new medical study that “confounds science” and proves you can be both obese and healthy. And, as the last day of regular season 2010 Cubs baseball, it was probably the most optimistic baseball moment I’d had since Opening Day. I quit thinking about Wrigley in May or June. When you start saying “next year” in May, by October, you get reflective, not reactionary.
Still, I could always count on The Trib’s Paul Sullivan to write something to make me shake my head. That’s when I realized I hadn’t read a Sully tweet for some time. What blew out my Sunday was looking @PWSullivan up on Twitter to find he had blocked me. Judging by the date on my last tweet to the great man (see below) it’s been about two months. No wonder my acid reflux has been so good lately …
[The offending RT, the straw that broke the hump's back.]
Usually when sports reporters get raked over the coals it’s because the public recognizes they don’t know their sport. Or, given the Bradley bonfire on which Sully kept throwing gasoline, there’s the temptation to label him a racist.
Sully knows baseball enough to keep his job and I have no idea what’s in his heart re race. None. What I know is that he injects racism into everyone’s day, making all our lives just a little uglier for having an interest in baseball. In today’s media world, hick Quran burners get weeks of network “news” coverage to inflate ratings. A Don Imus gets a bigot pass from MSNBC until they have to cut him loose, but MSNBC still plays the race card to boost ratings by keeping creeps like Pat Buchanan and Al Sharpton around as “analysts.” Martin Peretz, Andrew Brietbart, Limbaugh, Dr. Laura, and anti-ground zero “mosque” activists like Sarah Palin … Sullivan brings this same class act to the North Side as, of all things, a Cubs beat reporter. Is he a racist? Who cares? What we know is that he has no problem at all using racism as entertainment. That’s the product he brings to baseball in Chicago, the Friendly Confines, and you.
Not me, tho, he canceled my subscription. In the last tweet of his I commented on, he laughs off the idea that Chicago media has any impact on the city or the baseball he covers. To do so, he distorts a Jim Edmonds comment on Chicago media. Certainly, I can’t imagine Sully arguing to his Trib bosses that he has no impact at all when asking for a raise. Then again, I’m not surprised he disowns any personal sense of responsibility for the damage he does. The sporting press of Chicago agreed that Milton Bradley could not handle the racism of Wrigley’s bleachers. Sullivan reported Bradley agrees with them here, but with NO context at all that his own colleagues at the Trib said it first. The result, Jim Hendry went off in defense of Cub fans, saying Bradley made it up“ as Sully reports here, again with no context for his own paper’s actions. The Catch-22 result: haters get a pass with a Trib stamp on it. But ask the actual ballplayers with no-trade clauses to Wrigley, and it’s fact.
It’s not a Cardinal season without a concussion, and thanks to Jason LaRue’s announced stay on the DL Friday, Tony LaRussa is that much close to a complete 2010. That’s usually a good sign LaRussa’s on his game, if not much comfort to his players long term careers. I don’t wish injuries on anyone, but LaRussa’s mix of calculator coaching and highly personal leadership more often than not put his teams in winning seasons and some brain rattling DL stays. For those of us on the CSTB Cardinal concussion watch, it’s been pretty quiet since 2008. Last year didn’t even have one and this year LaRue looks to be it. They’re a great a sign of just how wound-up LaRussa can get his players to the point where they’ll run headlong into a wall, Johnny Cueto’s spikes, or some other career-ending business for him.
While LaRue’s .196 on the season will be missed by the rest of the NL Central, the Cardinals will no doubt struggle on, as usual, in the mix for the play-offs. And I admit, after last night’s 6-3 sleepwalk loss to STL, and watching the Cubs lose Wednesday and Thursday in San Francisco this week, I wish they had some other that intensity. The Cubs fell behind and caught up several times at PacBell, but for everything the team actually has going for it talentwise, they look like they could care less. Watching Soriano knock powerful, loping line drives into the mitts of the Giants outfielders, you can see how little focus he has and how much talent and power there is when he does play all nine innings. Marlon Byrd and Starlin Castro and Tyler Colvin all showed up, but it’s hard to win fielding only a third or half your team.
[Did Armstrong, pictured, dope in the Tour de France? This 2003 victory photo raises serious questions.]
About a year ago I was on quite a tear around here about The New York Times‘ coverage of steroids in baseball. Most notably, in my opinion, that the Times Michael S. Schmidt got fed his stories about Sammy Sosa, David Ortiz, and Manny Ramirez from the government. Such a tear, in fact, that NYT sports editor Tom Jolly felt the need to comment at CSTB. Me, I don’t think it’s any coincidence that since the gov’t was court-ordered to hand back its confiscated lab information to the MLB players union in 2009, that Schmidt nor anyone else has broken a major baseball story in this regard since. It could have been the government, it could have been lab techs for them “ but no major player has been named since the gov’t gave back the records.
And I’ll ask this question again: Why are all the post-Bonds leaks “ A-Rod, Sosa, Ortiz, Ramirez “ black or Latino? What is the agenda of those leaking the names?
Schmidt has never been able to successfully challenge the players union press conference of August 9, 2009 in which the basis for his stories “ the so-called 104 dirty players list who tested positive “ was discredited. Turns out, the “104″ (or whatever the actual number may be) is made up of inconclusive results, players counted twice for positive tests, and positive tests for then legal substances. The three players Schmidt named were all on that “list.” Schmidt has never clarified which categories Sosa, Ortiz, or Ramirez came from “ nor even ruled them out of the inconclusive category before naming them “ because as he has also stated in the NYT, that he himself never saw the records. Since his gov’t sources dried up, so has Schmidt’s ability to break any notable news in this area.
Until Lance Armstrong? Now that the government is back in a high profile steroid investigation, so is Schmidt. This time, Barry Bonds’ failed antagonist, FDA agent Jeff Novitzky, is after Armstrong. Novitzky’s tactics will sound familiar: he’s pressuring busted dopers and low income associates, w/out Armstrong’s celebrity or money, to admit doping and name Armstrong. It’s exactly how Novitzky tried to get Barry Bonds.
Did Armstrong do it? Who knows? Obviously, Armstrong will mount a big money defense. If he can hold off the FDA long enough, I’m guessing we’ll then see the same orchestrated public relations war against him (via people like Schmidt) that the government waged against Bonds. Then, as the Bonds case crumbled, the 2009 leaks against A-Rod and Sosa and the rest appeared that were (imo) meant to vindicate the gov’t in the court of public opinion if not an actual court. Read the following account of unnamed sources and losers and see if it all doesn’t sound familiar from Mssrs Schmidt and Novitzky:
In May, Armstrong™s former teammate Floyd Landis shook the cycling world by publicly accusing Armstrong and other team members of using performance-enhancing drugs and blood transfusions to gain an unfair advantage. Landis said that Armstrong ” the biggest name in the sport ” had encouraged doping and that the team had sold its bikes to help finance an expensive doping program.
Armstrong has denied any wrongdoing and has said that Landis, who was stripped of his 2006 Tour title for doping and received a two-year ban from the sport, has no credibility.
But now, prosecutors and investigators have more than Landis™s account to go on, according to the two people with knowledge of the investigation. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they did not want to jeopardize their access to sensitive information.
A former teammate of Armstrong said in a telephone interview Wednesday that he had spoken with investigators. He said he detailed some of his own drug use, as well as the widespread cheating that he said went on as part of the Postal Service team ” all of which he said was done with Armstrong™s knowledge and encouragement.
[The only people who don't know he's retiring are Cub fans, who quit watching mid-May.]
My hat’s off to Wax Paper Beer Cup (@wpbc on twitter) for pointing out the most significant Cub news story of the year. It’s not World War Z, Lily and Theriot going to the Dodgers, Blue Lou’s last miserable year, or anything else. It’s that, in this sad sub-.500 season, the TV ratings have taken a 40% nose dive and attendance is way down. There are lots of common sense reasons for this if it were anybody but the Cubs. Cub fans show up for standing room only games in September when Pittsburgh is in town. Cub fans demand statues to Harry Caray before they do Hall of Famers. Not this year. If WPBC is right, and I hope so, the Philip K. Wrigley fiscal theory (sadly proven now for decades) that the experience of family fun at Wrigley outweighs a winning team, may finally be over. The Cubs have not had a financial motive for winning since, what, WW2? Now they might. Writes WPBC:
Although it is a big slide the teams rating compared to others still ranks ninth in all of baseball.
from chicagobusiness.com: An average of 94,877 households tuned in to each of Comcast™s 33 Cubs games in the first three months of the season. Although that™s the ninth-highest rating in the league, it™s still 39% lower than the same period last season, according to the publication, which relied on data from Nielsen Media Research.
Still, this slide is dramatic and it begins to point more and more that the days of the Cubs being the lovable losers are over. Tom Ricketts, Wally Hayward and everyone associated with this team are now looking at a reality that they may have never considered.
It was thought that fans would follow the Cubs no matter what, spend whatever price they put on a ticket, buy the beer, sing the songs and enjoy ˜the Wrigley life™. The reality is clearer and clearer, the Chicago Cubs are not recession proof. The Chicago Cubs are not immune to the normal fluctuations that come with winning and losing.
The job ahead for Tom Ricketts is not going to be easy. The teams popularity is sinking, while he has massive debt to pay. The team needs to be rebuilt and the ballpark is need of major upgrades. Owning the Cubs just got alot harder. How Ricketts and Company respond will be interesting.
[CarlosZambrano in happier days, hobnobbing with Broadway's Carol Channing.]
Last December in this space, I predicted two things. Carlos Silva would be in good hands with the Cubs‘ Larry Rothschild and Carlos Zambrano would replace Milton Bradley as Jim Hendry’s Player To Be Hated Later. Silva was a bigger bet than the Z. I wrote then:
The question in my mind isn’t who will replace Bradley in CF, but who will replace him as Hendry’s next problem player. I’m guessing another mediocre year from Zambrano will mean Big Z v Hendry in 2010. Z fits the pattern right now: expensive, once great, an ego problem, and possible trade bait. He’s also not white, which is another unfortunate pattern here.
Zambrano’s shouting match yesterday with Derrek Lee, the need to separate them, and Z’s instant suspension (not to mention his mercurial 2010 overall) means I should have put some money down last December. Zambrano and Bradley are obviously head cases, but so are other players around the league who don’t end up exploding on the field. Hendry has a history of miserable management of personalities back to Dusty Baker’s 2nd year (when he fired Dusty’s unhappy SF holdovers), the Steve Stone v Dusty incident that caused Stone to leave the WGN booth, dealing with Sosa in decline, then Bradley. It’s typical of what we’re seeing now with Z. It’s not Hendry’s fault that Z is what he is. But whatever Hendry is as a General Manager, he’s not built for keeping difficult personalities productive and has cost the Cubs a lot in pure drag. Think of the temperaments, egos, haters, heels, and negative creeps who have played all over the league for different teams over the years — they rarely pull in public what the divas on the Cubs do year in and year out. Sports is a celebrity-obsessed world like every other kind of entertainment, so we know Bradley and Sosa and Z’s names first. Still, they all leave. Not Hendry, year in and year out, he and the meltdowns remain.
I’ve skipped commenting on most of the season because I can’t watch much of it, but right now I wish I’d been following the Chicago brain trust of reporters covering the Cubs to see if they treat Z much different than Milton. Since Milton had no problem calling reporters on their bullshit, I’m guessing they just view Z as a spectacle and not a threat to the White Man’s Burden of Chicago sports writing.
You know, last year in this space, CSTB wished America a happy birthday via a touching poem by Jack Buck. For our efforts, we received negative comments from a basketball “fan,” Tommy Hoops. Those of us who lived through the Laker riots of 2010 know what negativistic basketball fans are like, so I’m posting this clip in hopes of moving in a less controversial (and provocative, apparently) direction to celebrate Independence Day. Happy Birthday to you, America.
[Chavez, the People's Baseball Commissioner, seen here with Broadway star Carol Channing.]
It wasn’t so long ago that Hugo Chavez stood in the United Nations calling President Bush “the devil” and noting the sulphury stink W left in the UN’s General Assembly room. This summer, Chavez is content to watch Venezuelan oil futures skyrocket as BP ends the USA’s off-shore oil industry for good “ or at least until the November mid-terms. He has also expanded his Presidential powers to make himself the final authority on Major League Baseball.® His first official act as the People’s Baseball Commissioner is to overturn umpire Jim Joyce’s ruling in the Perfect Game America Will Not Recognize. As the AP wire (via a link sent by Rob Wamowski) reports:
Chavez called for a round of applause for the Venezuelan pitcher during his weekly TV and radio program, saying “everyone knows he pitched a perfect game.”
“From here we salute Armando,” Chavez said.
The Detroit Tigers pitcher has won wide praise for his grace following the botched call Wednesday with two outs in the ninth inning against Cleveland.
Chavez added that first-base umpire Jim Joyce was “noble” for having apologized to the pitcher in tears.
“The umpire was wrong … but, well, the umpire is the umpire,” the president said.
Galarraga, in Venezuela’s professional league, plays for the Leones de Caracas, the bitter rival of Chavez’s favorite team, the Navegantes del Magallanes. Chavez joked that Galarraga should switch teams and concluded: “No one is perfect.”
Chavez is a die-hard baseball fan who grew up dreaming of pitching in the major leagues. He recalled that years ago he was pitching to his mentor, Fidel Castro of Cuba. The umpire awarded Castro a walk when Chavez was sure he struck him out.
Chavez also recalled striking out Dominican slugger Sammy Sosa once in a 1999 exhibition game in Caracas. Sosa, it should be noted, also hit multiple home runs.
My 9-yr-old nephew made a triumphant return to ESPN’s Dan Patrick Show on Monday to analyze the Suns victory over the Lakers Sunday night (and he was on again this AM, which I’ll post as soon as I can). Unlike his debut, where he sullenly reported their 0-2 standing in the series, he could finally report a Suns’ win. Jake not only ignored Patrick’s invitation to call out his Lakers-fan friend at school a “punk,” but charmingly worked his way toward a credentialled spot at the ESPN press box at the Staples Center. A few days ago I apologized to GC that Jake wasn’t first sent to the CSTB intern program before ESPN. After hearing him refuse to make a low-blow comment about a schoolfriend, tho, I realize now this was probably for the best. Apparently, he’ll sink to my level of name-calling when it comes to the Cubs and Cards, but not in a professional setting. Good on you, Jake!
Regular readers of this space may recall my on-going battle with my 9-yr.-old nephew Jake over the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry, which usually devolves into his referring to Cub manager Lou Piniella as “Poo Piniella” and my always effective retort of “Albert Pooballs.” Jake has gone professional, it seems, having finally gotten through to ESPN’s Dan Patrick after countless morning calls. Jake broke down Game 1 yesterday on the air. Today, Patrick had him on again and posted this morning‘s call, with Jake upset that his team, Los Suns, is getting pwned by Kobe and Co. Even Jake was speechless when asked to advise Nash or the Suns defense against Pau Gasol “ and on the topic of sports, this rarely happens. Patrick’s been reminding the Danettes that they are all replaceable by a 9-yr-old, which I guess i am, too. GC, sorry to let this junior genius escape the CSTB intern program.