A Project Of Optimism

We all have a story like this. It may not involve Baseball Cards but we all have a similar tale. I know this because I’ve learned that it’s just how human nature works. We all have a certain level of optimism about the things we WANT to work out. I’ve experienced some crushing blows with the UGA and Falcons losses this past week but before those games, I had the highest of hopes. I envisioned parades, trips to conference championships and more. And not in a big mouth, conceited kind of way. You just have really high hopes when you have the potential to win big. You know the road can be tough, there is a lot of faith involved and some of it is just plain luck; but when you really want something to be, it can take a lot out of you when it doesn’t materialize.

I’ve learned that nothing is a sure thing and until something actually happens or someone proves they are what you expect them to be, you have to be ready for anything. There are so many layers to this too. Surely we all had “that girl” (or boy) at some point as kids that we thought was the one. We were just kids but every girl I called my girlfriend fit that description. I went all in and fully invested because Girl X would be the one that I would be with for the next 75 years. But then, somewhere along the way, I saw enough of her to start to wonder if this really was the one or not. Sometimes, they wondered if I was the one first. But the cycle was always the same. We met, we fell in love, we lived only for each other and then, the relationship went bust. That’s when I would look back and say, “what was I thinking” but it was always too late.

There are a lot of things we see and think could be amazing but simply turn out to be entries into our “crash and burn” memoirs. Anybody remember the NES Power Glove? Yeah, Kelly Kapowski couldn’t even save this abysmal product. This was supposed to change gaming forever but all it did was make me long for the days of the Power Pad. It was virtually impossible to play a video game with the controller on one of your arms. But it had so much promise! I wanted it to work out so badly that I gave it more chances to fail than I normally would have any other toy or game at the time. It was just brutal.

Let’s talk about Caddyshack II for a minute. Was there a better opportunity for a great sequel in the comedy genre in the 80’s? I can do a whole separate post about terrible sequels but the original Caddyshack remains one of the funniest movies in the history of cinema and deserved a better follow up. I just KNEW it was going to be awesome and marked it down as a sure thing. But when you replace Rodney Dangerfield with Jackie Mason and remove Bill Murray from a movie cast, you just can’t expect it to be as good as the first. My heart hurts a little when I happen to catch CS II on the tube nowadays. How could something that was destined to be so right turn out so wrong?

Then you have some things that start out blazing and even have a reasonable enough run that you get sucked in more than usual. Notwithstanding the 2017 UGA Bulldogs (which I still love) in that particular scenario, think about Guns N Roses. They put out pure gold when they released Appetite for Destruction in 1987. They gave us such gems as “Paradise City”, “Welcome to the Jungle” and “Sweet Child Of Mine” but by 1990, they were kicking guys out of the band, showing up late for gigs or just not showing up altogether. What could have been a magical run as one of the best rock bands ever was derailed by narcissism, greed and hard drugs; or more simply put, the 80’s!

So where am I going with this? You know it always ties into my sports card addiction and this is no exception. I’ve started a new personal project that is related to this premise of Optimism Bias. I started collecting in the late 80’s and there were players that we all had to have and pulling them from folded up wax wrappers was the first step of retirement planning at 10. During that time, the illustrious Junk Wax Era as it’s so lovingly referred to, we firmly believed that these 3×5 pieces of cardboard were going to make us rich. We coveted certain cards like some would bitcoins today. All we needed were toploaders and time and we would be set for life.

Well, like many of the above examples, that didn’t really work out as planned either. A big reason is because the card market was more saturated than any early teen could understand or even be aware of. We didn’t know that there were 10 billion Ken Griffey Jr ’89 Donruss Rated Rookies floating around. What we did know was that Beckett Monthly was our version of Jim Cramer’s “Mad Money” and if it was on the hot list, we were investing! Another reason the financial planning hit a Cecil Fielder sized bump in the road was that most of the players didn’t pan out. That’s the reason I’m more focused on with this project.

With the help of my Twitter buddy Nick (@vossbrink), I’ve dubbed this project “Dated Rookies” and I’m off to a pretty solid start. Nick even put together this sweet logo that matches the “Rated Rookie” found on Donruss in the 80’s. I think the name is perfect and appreciate Nick for the idea. The goal of this project is to collect autographed cards of all the players I just had to have when I was a kid. These were the players that would win big and become as valuable as the ’52 Mantle. Oh, Dub was an eternal optimist when it came to cardboard. There are no real parameters set beyond that at the moment but as the project evolves I might tighten up the requirements. Right now, I’m not worried about what Card is autographed or what jersey the player has but as I branch out to multiple autographs, I may focus on the hot card designs that I had to have when the players were hot.

The player list will probably grow over time as well and some players will be more difficult to obtain than others. Luckily, some of the bigger names from those days are coming back in Topps Archives or some similar set and it is easier to add them. I’m not limiting this to baseball either, but that’s where I have started. There are quite a number of football and basketball players that fit the description of “Dated Rookie” from those days as well. I’m a guy who likes projects because they give me goals and make me feel accomplished as I reach them. That’s part of the fun of being a set builder. So I thought this would be a fun challenge that would look great when I was done. Let’s go over some of the cards I’ve started with and you’ll understand the premise pretty clearly.

Jim Abbott was a pitcher for 10 years in the majors despite the fact that was missing his right hand. He actually pitched a no hitter in 1993 and had a reasonable career but his rookie Cards never took off like I thought they would. He finished his career with an 87-108 career record, a 4.25 ERA and less than 1,000 K’s so he wasn’t a statistical monster by any stretch. But I always admired Abbott and stocked up on all of his rookies.

Sandy Alomar Jr was not exactly a bust but he wasn’t even the best Alomar in baseball at the time. He played a robust 20 year career and hit for a .273 average but with only 112 home runs. He won both AL ROY and a Gold Glove in 1990 so his cards were hot but his card values always fell a little short. I still have Alomar as a top 3 catcher from my collecting youth but he’s not making many lists in 2018 with collectors.

Eric Anthony is one of the players that I went after hard! I had a ton of these Score rookies as well as the 90 Donruss Rated Rookies. Even though Anthony played 9 seasons, he did not have a career that will ever equate to Hobby Love. He hit for a career .231 average, never hit 20 home runs, never had double digit steals and never topped 80 RBI in a season. All of my wishful thinking was for naught. He was a home run crusher in the minors with 31 in 1989 and his first MLB Hit was a 414 foot bomb in the Astrodome. But he never put it all together.

Every collector worth his salt knows the name Gregg Jefferies. As this project grows, I will make it a point to find a 1989 Topps Future Star Autograph. That was the first card that was going to make me rich. Ken Griffey Jr wasn’t quite there yet and Jefferies was as sure a bet as ever. After being drafted in 1985, he won Minor League POY in both ’86 and ’87 before being called up in late August 1988. He hit .328 for the remainder of 1988, which led to the Mets trading their starting 2B, Wally Backman, to the Twins to make room for the young star. He responded by hitting .258 in 1989 and the rest is history. He had a career that was probably better than most on this list with a career .289 avg, 196 steals and 2 All-Star appearances. But his career was supposed to be better than all the guys on this list. It was just supposed to be a lot better than it actually was.

This is the guy that makes me unable to trust Aaron Judge. While Judge put up mammoth numbers that make Maas look like Rafael Belliard, Kevin had his own amazing rookie season in 1990. He set a record for reaching 10 home runs in the fewest at bats (72) and ultimately hit 21 home runs in only 79 games as a rookie. For you mathematicians out there, that is a home run every 3+ games which, when extrapolated over a full season, would be about 45. He played 148 games the next year and hit 23 home runs but his 5 year career would close with a .230 average and only 65 home runs. It sure was fun collecting him in 1990 though!

Big Ben McDonald was one of the hot young arms in Baltimore with Curt Schilling and Gregg Olson. He won a Gold Medal as a member of the 1988 Olympic Team in Seoul, Korea and is an inductee in the College Baseball Hall of Fame. But his major league career did not meet the expectations of a young Dub who was hoarding his 1990 Fleer rookie cards. I expected more than his 78-70 record but he just didn’t get it done.

Another Yankee makes the early list with Hensley “Bam Bam” Meulens. You may be too young to even remember Bam Bam from the Flintstones but he carried a wooden club around and smashed things with it. Thus, Meulens was nicknamed Bam Bam because of his propensity to smash things. In 1990, Kevin Maas was at 1B and Bam Bam was at 3rd and I had yet to fully develop my hatred for the Evil Empire. In 1987, he hit .300 with 28 home runs and 103 RBI at Single A so he was a hot commodity when his cards started getting produced a couple years later. Not only did he never hit .300 or 28 home runs or 103 RBI in a major league season, his career totals never reached those numbers either. He mustered a .220 avg, 15 home runs and 53 RBI over 4 years with the Yankees.

I’m going to add Planier in a Red Sox jersey at some point but this one is a start. I do like Plantier’s autograph as it puts many players today to shame. Plantier finished 8th in ROY voting in 1991 despite only playing 53 games. But in 148 at bats, he hit 11 bombs while maintaining a .331 average. After a disappointing follow up in 1992, he was sent to the Padres. He had a very nice season in 1993 hitting 34 bombs and collecting 100 RBI but that was as good as it ever got by a long shot. He would only have one other double digit home run season and wouldn’t hit more than 41 RBI again either. After a promising start, he finished his career with an average of .243 and 91 home runs.

Here is the pitcher that helped provide Braves fans the wonderful career of Chipper Jones. He was drafted 14th overall in 1990 and the Braves were so bad, Van Poppel said he would not sign with them if they chose him. They didn’t choose him and instead drafted Chipper Jones. They would then go on and win 14 straight division titles. What did Van Poppel do? He put together a career shorter than the Braves run (11 seasons) and finished with a career 40-52 record along with a 5.58 ERA. I was in on him as a rookie and his 90 Upper Deck is a classic but I’m grateful he didn’t like my Braves that year.

Greg Vaughn was a home run blaster for the Brewers and a mainstay in my binder in the early 90’s. He really had a serviceable career but he was the #4 overall pick in 1986 and had high expectations placed in him. He was a 4x All-Star, hit 355 home runs and even won a Silver Slugger award in 1998. He also hit 50 home runs in 1998 but was overshadowed by a couple guys named McGwire and Sosa. He never hit for an average, finishing with a career number of .242 but he also clubbed over 1,000 RBI. He was a very solid home run hitter in the 90’s but is mostly a forgotten man in the Hobby today.

Ole Jerome Walton was quite the tease. The Cubs were on my TV every day thanks to WGN and Walton was somebody I got to see often. He won the ROY in 1989 by hitting .293 and stealing 24 bases in only 116 games. He even had a 30 game hitting streak that season. Together with Dwight Smith, a future addition to Dated Rookies, the youth movement in Chicago, along with veterans André Dawson, Ryne Sandberg, Shawon Dunston and Mark Grace was supposed to translate into big things and they did win the NL East in 1989. But like Walton’s career, they dropped off in 1990. Walton would settle into a career backup role and only muster 25 home runs and 58 stolen bases while hitting .269.

The last player on the list for this first installment is Todd Zeile. Zeile’s career finished better than most on this list but didn’t match the hype that came with his rookie cards. He played 16 seasons and hit for a .265 average to go along with 253 home runs and 1,110 RBI. He topped 30 home runs and 100 RBI just once in that 16 year career and never touched .300. He had a good but not great career but I had a ton of his rookie cards and was hoping that they would one day give me a shot at early retirement. It was not to be and his career highlight for me will always be his appearance on Seinfeld.

So that is how this project starts. I have some players that I am on the lookout for like Dwight Smith, Felix Jose, Ramon Martinez, Dante Bichette, Percy Snow, André Ware, Jeff George, Rumeal Robinson, and countless others. This list will probably be long and might eventually blur the lines of bust and serviceable but rookies in the late 80’s and early 90’s are what got me into the Hobby and kept me here. I do know that this won’t be one of the easier projects I’ve undertaken because there is no set checklist and some of these players may never have authentic autographs in products. But that’s what makes it fun, right? Like the other examples here, I’m going into this with great optimism that I’ll accomplish my goal. And when I do, maybe I’ll have my own little parade much like the one I dreamt of when I thought UGA would beat Alabama a week ago.

J-Dub

Retro Review – All I’ve Got Is A Photograph

Music has always been a big part of my life. I never really panned out as a musician or singer, though I tried it one time. I had a lot of fun with a group of guys playing 90’s Alternative Covers from Smashing Pumpkins, EverClear, Tonic and others. I’ve written more than once about the Deftones and Mrs. Dub and I go to 4-5 concerts a year in Atlanta and Jacksonville. I am primarily a Rock guy (along with its many iterations) and I got my start at an early age. My dad tried to get me to be a country music guy and my mom listened to pop but Uncle Greg and my close friends pulled me in the right direction.

Rock carries a pretty wide definition and I like just about all of it. The thing about rock music is that it usually has some deep meaning to the band and listener and takes a little bit more thought to write. That’s just my opinion so don’t lose your mind over it. The musician’s are generally creating their own music in most cases as well instead of a computer generating the tune or beat. The music is mostly original with very little sampling from other songs. It’s original and unique to me and that’s why I’ve always been drawn to it. I will not quibble over the fact that I am a rock snob.

There are some instances where I prefer a heavy riff and some screaming. That’s usually when I’m about to play a basketball or softball game or otherwise need some sort of adrenaline boost. That is another thing about rock music for me; it’s visceral. A song can put me in a certain state of mind or cure the blues or even bring me down from being too amped up. I’m not extremely picky when it comes to rock music but there are certain pockets of the genre that hit me harder than others. One such pocket would be the illustrious Power Ballad of the 80’s.

I was right in the middle of the young teenage years in the late 80’s so rock music and girls were pretty high on my priority list. Dances were also pretty popular around that time so the Power Ballad was the perfect opportunity to snuggle up to a cute girl and enjoy the tunes. I remember a lot of birthday party dances that were at friends houses and all that was needed was a boom box and open floor. Well, you also needed some tight-roll, acid washed jeans and hair gel but that was with any type of party. We learned all the words to the Power Ballad and we imitated the glam rock singers because it was obviously what the chicks were into. It was a crazy time!

I have my go-to list of power ballads loaded up on iTunes that were a big part of my budding youth and I often listen to that playlist when I’m working up a blog post because the music is soothing to me. So I figured, why not write about the songs I’m listening to as I type? I could have possibly ranked these in numerical order but I had a real problem with the top 3 so I decided to just put them in relative order of good to best with some room for shifting around in the lineup. The last 3 are no doubt list toppers though and shouldn’t be confused with any of the others.

Before we get started, there are 5 that made Honorable Mention because I had to trim the list for space purposes. I didn’t want you to get bored halfway through. The songs that almost made it include:
• Mama, I’m Coming Home – Ozzy Osbourne
• The Flame – Cheap Trick
• Close My Eyes Forever – Lita Ford
• Wind of Change – Scorpions
• Patience – Guns N Roses

On to the songs that did make the cut! For your listening (and viewing) pleasure, I’ve linked the videos for these. Just click the song title!

Don’t Know What You Got (Til It’s Gone) – Cinderella
I was all about Cinderella for a short while. I really only had “Long Cold Winter” but it was a really good album from beginning to end. There were some heavy classics like “Gypsy Road” and “Last Mile” and it slowed the mood down with “Long Cold Winter” and “Coming Home”. But the best song on the entire album and still one that gets play on my iTunes regularly is “Don’t Know What You Got”. We went to see Poison in Atlanta around 2011 and Cinderella opened for them. I was super excited but the singer’s voice had blown up and he was singing everything in a lower tone so it was a bit of a disappointment.

November Rain – Guns N Roses
I was not a huge GNR fan except for “Appetite for Destruction” but I did love this one. It ran almost 9 minutes long so if you could keep your date’s attention, you could really get two slow dances out of it. It was also a very fun song to sing, as was most songs by Axel Rose. I was more a fan of their hard rock but “November Rain” is certainly on this top 10 list without hesitation!

Home Sweet Home – Motley Crue
This wasn’t exactly a love song but it was a Power Ballad in every sense of the word. You can argue that it might be sort of a love song but I don’t classify it as such. It started out with a piano and soft singing (for Vince Neal). Then the drums and guitars kick in and bring the power. It’s a classic but wasn’t one that we would always dance to. I was a bit of a Motley Crue guy thanks to Dr. Feelgood, Kickstart My Heart, Girls Girls Girls and Shout at the Devil.

18 & Life – Skid Row
While another power ballad that isn’t a love song, this has all the emotional punch you’ll ever need from a rock song. Sebastian Bach can wail and this song was a perfect display of the notes he could hit. I remember getting this cassette from my buddy, Jason Lee, for my birthday one year. I actually remember us watching the old “Rock and Roller Games” TV show when he gave it to me and another song on this list was being played at halftime. What a classic show! I think it was on Fox and was essentially roller skating + wrestling with the storylines and everything.

I Remember You – Skid Row
This was a bonus on the self titled album that I really only wanted because of “18 and Life”. This song was definitely a dance hit! I remember holding the hand of an older, hot chick named Melissa while skating to this song at the Pelham Skating Rink. But here’s the kicker, my cousin Corey was holding her other hand and she was just being nice to us younger guys and there was nothing romantic at all about it. I’m pretty sure she was dating my neighbor Bryan at the time but hey, I still remember it. I highly doubt she does but that is how most of the memories happen with girls that are considered unattainable. She was being nice while my 13 year old mind was thinking boyfriend/girlfriend. Those were the days!

Heaven – Warrant
This is the song that was playing at halftime of the “Rock and Roller Games” when Jason gave me that Skid Row cassette. I immediately considered this song as my next get because it was awesome. This was another that you could slow dance to and I remember hearing it a couple of times at a friend’s birthday dance at Plant Mitchell but I don’t really remember who I may have danced with that night. Believe it or not, your humble blogger came up snake eyes from time to time in the girl category. This may have been one of those times. I know, hard to believe.

Every Rose Has Its Thorn – Poison
This one just missed the top 3 and some of you may heavily disagree. I loved this song, don’t get me wrong. We even performed it with our 90’s Alternative Cover band. But the top 3 are my clear favorites from the Power Ballad era. This was another heavily danceable tune and I remember this being a staple at every dance party. Heck, I even dance to this one now with Mrs. Dub if it comes on where we are at. I also remember singing this song in my bedroom with my imaginary band on a regular basis. When we went to see Poison and Cinderella in Atlanta, Bret Michaels’ voice was just fine and this one was worth the trip!

I Won’t Forget You – Poison
This is the beginning of the top 3. These 3 could really be put in about any order but I think I have them right for the moment. I liked this song from Poison more than “Every Rose” because of the electric guitar. It had a better beat for dancing than “Every Rose” too. I remember a birthday dance at my house and dancing with Misty, who was actually my “girlfriend” at the time. I’m not sure how that happened though because she was way out of my league in 1990. She claims today that I’m the one that broke things off but that’s not how I remember it. I was only 14 so I can’t be certain that it wasn’t me but it just feels like it was the other way around.

Hysteria – Def Leppard
Here is the #2 Power Ballad for me; “Hysteria”! I loved this entire album! Along with this amazing song, there was also “Rocket”, “Animal”, “Love Bites”, “Pour Some Sugar on Me” and “Armageddon It”! Come to think of it, “Love Bites” should be on this list too! I knew I would leave some good songs off. Mrs. Dub and I were fortunate enough to have seen Def Leppard in Atlanta and they were unbelievable. I was skeptical because of the way they sing. Remember, I was burned by Cinderella so I thought the Leppard might not be able to get to those high notes either. I was pleasantly surprised and I got legit chill bumps when they sang this song.

Photograph – Def Leppard
#1 is another Def Leppard classic; Photograph. This was a bit heavier than Hysteria but was still very melodic. It truly was a POWER ballad. I think it was about Marilyn Monroe but I always imagined it being about Kelly Kapowski. If I was good at videography stuff, I probably would have made a Kelly montage video for this song. These guys still had it in 2012 and I would go see them again today. I always liked Phil Collen (not the Genesis guy) and he put on a tremendous show in ATL. They also had one of my favorite “Behind the Music” episodes on VH1 back in the 90’s. Def Leppard is my #1 “hair band” and it’s not even that close. I loved Poison, Motley Crue, Skid Row and others back in the day but Def Leppard has held up better than all the others.

Speaking of holding up better than others, let’s talk about a football set that has stood the test of time. I am going to call it underrated because I had really forgotten about how good the product was until I recently went through one of my old school boxes looking for “random” hits from the past. I think that 1991 Upper Deck Football has some of the best photograph for a football set outside of some possible current releases and it deserves a comparison to Stadium Club Baseball in the fact that it was a huge step up from what the market was offering at the time. Even Fleer Ultra was pretty far behind what ’91 Upper Deck brought to the table. Let’s call 1991 Upper Deck the Def Leppard of Junk Wax Football. Most Junk Wax is really good but some just stand out more than others.

The box was fairly standard for 1991; 36 packs with 12 cards per pack. Upper Deck football did not have any filler in the packs like puzzle pieces or gum or even the hologram stickers like UD baseball. The packs were all cards. They were very similar to baseball in that they were foil and sealed on each end for that UD standard “tamper proof” feature. The only feature I question is “Limited Edition”. I’m not sure how limited any sets were in 1991.

One of the best features of 1991 Upper Deck football was the team checklist sketch Cards. Here is a Prime Time that was just awesome! You know I’m a sucker for sketch cards and these were nice. I have the full spread of what I pulled later in the post but this one deserved it’s own photo.

Photography was a highlight for 91 UD. I mentioned that in my last post and it’s what prompted me to rip this box. This was one of my favorite Cards from 1991. You may recall the similar Nolan Ryan triple exposure card in baseball. This was a great card in the early 90’s and set the bar for innovative photos in football sets.

As for other QB’s I pulled, here are some of the Stars. You may not be able to tell from this photo but the Marino was taken in the snow. There is another Dolphin shot later in the snow, which was ironic for Miami.

I pulled the usual early 90’s studs at running back with the exception of Bo but I did pull a cool team checklist sketch I’ll show off later. Ickey is doing the shuffle in his photo! You may remember Marcus Dupree from the great 30 For 30; “The Best That Never Was.”

More great photography can be found in the wide receiver selection. Flipper Anderson is making a one handed catch while Mark Jackson is about to take a big hit.

Tight End was slim but these were great ones! Looks like Novacek is the holder for a field goal. How many Tight Ends are asked to do that these days?

If you read my last post, you’ll know that this Reggie is one of my favorites. The Fridge even looks good in 91 UD. Collectors from my generation will remember Dennis Byrd. For those of you who don’t, do yourself a favor and look him up.

Look at this Matt Millen card! I was not a huge fan of Millen (especially as a GM) but this card just screams old school football! My man Percy Snow was included too so, cha-ching!

I’m still blown away by how clear these photos are! Felix is getting stretched out, Scott Case just laid Cleveland Gary out and Rod Woodson is in his Pro Bowl uni.

The headliner of the Star Rookie Class was Dan McGwire (Mark’s little brother). Todd Marinovich got a lot of hype too. But that first QB on row 3 wound up being the best of the bunch. Russell Maryland, Alvin Harper, Ricky Watters and Eric Turner all had solid careers while Browning Nagle and Aaron Craver fizzled.

Here are the great sketch Cards! These are just awesome! I love the ones with the names on them. Bo and Herschel are my favorites but I also like Flash 80 and LT. Once again, Warren Moon is pictured with an actual moon in the background just like ’90 Score Hot Guns.

The Team MVP’s didn’t have very many surprises but there were a couple. Greg Townsend got the Team MVP for the Raiders. That Raiders team had Marcus Allen, Bo Jackson and Tim Brown. Bobby Humphrey also got the honor for the Broncos over Elway. I won’t complain about André Rison for my Falcons!

The season leaders insert covered the major individual stat leaders. I remember Mark Carrier being a real ball hawk on Tecmo.

Aerial Threats showcased prolific QB and WR tandems. Here is the other Miami snow card. I’m a little surprised Steve DeBerg made it into this insert set.

As with baseball, UD focused on a legend for its “Football Heroes” insert. Joe Montana got the call in 1991 and I pulled 7 of the 9 Cards on the checklist.

I pulled one Game Breaker in the box and it was the great Barry Sanders. I may check this subset out and try to put it together. This is a striking card in person but maybe even more striking with my reflection in it!

This was a very easy set to score. The box cost me $14.95 so price is a plus. Photography is top notch and unrivaled for football at the time. One of the key rookies is Brett Favre. It’s loaded with stars and Hall of Famers. The design is clean and classy. It has great sketch cards littered throughout the checklist. This is about as perfect a set for the early 90’s as you will find. I would highly recommend you find a box and rip it just because the quality is so good for the “Junk Wax” era. This was an easy “5” on the Dub-O-Meter and may be the highest quality set I’ve reviewed for under $20 per box. Give it a shot and let me know what you think!

J-Dub

Scoring Scale

1.Let me be the sacrificial lamb so you don’t have to buy these cards.  Just read the post and thank me later.

2.There is worse but there is much better – not worth the effort though.

3.Middle of the road – I wouldn’t talk you into buying these but I certainly wouldn’t talk you out of them.

4.You should probably go out and buy a box and enjoy the rip – I did!  It has some downside but worth the ride.

5.Stop reading and find a box to buy and get to Breaking!  What are you waiting on?

Retro Review – A Super Rookie Wishlist

I think I have sufficiently established here at DubMentality that 1989 was likely the greatest year ever. The movies were stellar, the music was rockin’, video games were 8-bit dream weavers and Sports Cards were catching fire! I’ve said it before but it bears repeating; if I could go back to any one year and live it over and over, it would be 1989. I’ve covered that great year from a ton of different angles but now it’s the Christmas season so there’s really only one way to approach this post; the 1989 Sears Wishbook!

Everyone who is over the age of 30 likely remembers the Sears Wishbook. This 600 page publication had just about everything your heart could desire. Kids loved this book but now that I have a couple kids of my own, I can imagine that parents didn’t get the same enjoyment from it. I found the 1989 book online and was able to sift through the entire 683 pages. It brought back some great memories but one thing that stuck out to me was how expensive some of the items were some 28 years ago. If they seem expensive now, imagine how that felt in 1989 currency!

For example, can you believe that VCR’s in 1989 were as much as $300? You can buy 8-10 BlueRay players for $300 today. You had to rewind tapes and constantly adjust tracking on your VCR too! I do remember these old sports videos though and they were certainly worth the $15 price tag.

You had to have a TV to watch those videos on as well. I’m pretty sure we actually had the middle TV when I was a kid. This is a 27 inch TV for $750! Computer monitors are bigger than 27 inches now. But these were top of the line in 1989.

And what about communications? A normal corded phone would run you anywhere from $50-$100. If you wanted a cordless, it would cost upwards of $125! For the fun loving teen, there was also the Garfield phone for $50. I’m going to guess that this phone outsold all other designs throughout the course of history.

If you wanted personal music, that was going to cost you as well. Some of these Walkman’s were over $100! We are talking about cassette playing, wired headphones, AM/FM devices that cost a Benjamin. I totally feel for my parents and what I probably put them through.

Video games were certainly more important to me back then than VCR’s. And for half the price of a VCR, you could own the sweet Nintendo Entertainment System. No piece of technology has ever been more important to me throughout the course of my life. And just look at these games; Friday the 13th, Marble Madness, Double Dribble, Excitebike and Tecmo Bowl! I really think time could have stood still in 1989 and I would have been just fine.

There were other choices in 1989 for video game consoles but I was a couple years away from the 16-bit Sega and had outgrown the Atari.

If you wanted your gaming on the go, you could opt for the GameBoy. I played it a ton but I actually never owned a GameBoy of my own. I never really wanted one all that bad but I did enjoy the occasional playing of my friends games.

Some people were lucky enough to even have a computer. This Commodore wasn’t much more costly than the Nintendo but that didn’t include the monitor and the mouse. If you wanted those necessities, you were approaching $500. And you certainly had to have the disk drive, which was another $200. By the time you threw in the printer, you were looking at a $1,000 setup. The games were pretty awesome though!

For the gamer on a budget, you could always go with these gems. I had several different baseball and football handhelds during my youth.

When I had to put down the video games and actually go outside and play, I would throw baseballs at my pitch return. I threw at that net for hours on end and learned just as much about fielding as I did pitching.

I always wanted one of these pool tables as well but the closest I ever got was the small pool table in the picture. This wasn’t the easiest table to navigate but I remember playing quite a few games on it.

Then there was the clothing. Pajamas and Sweatsuits were my go to choices back in the day. The Nintendo sweatsuit was pretty sweet. And the team pajamas were pretty awesome too.

I’m pretty sure I had one of these get ups as well but it was UGA. I think there is a picture floating around somewhere with me wearing it. Maybe I’ll find that one day.

And of course, I had a couple of pairs of the sweatpants with the team names down the leg. I had some bicycle shorts too but they weren’t Lakers design.

I had to include this because who didn’t love a great sleeping bag. I remember taking mine to spend the night parties and zipping myself up in it to get all cozy. My daughter sleeps in her sleeping bag now in her bed so kids must still like them.

Finally, for the collectors out there, Sears offered some pretty sweet sports card deals. They had the exclusive Sears Ingots, which I bought at a recent card show(’85 version). They also had “Talking Baseball”, Baseball Star Pop Ups, the Baseball Card Collector’s Case, Price Guides, Binders and more! But item #8 could be had for $14.90 and it’s one of my favorite football sets from my youth; 1989 Topps.

I recently picked up a wax box of 1989 Topps to relive some of the magic of the greatest year ever. Even though some of the key rookie cards from this set are found in the Traded Set, the base set is still loaded with stars and some of the classic rookies from 1989. I love the box and wrappers from 1989 and who will argue over a .45 cent pack?

There were also box bottom cards as was customary for Topps in the 80’s. This year was Players of the Week and I picked up Week’s 13, 14, 15 and 16.

Also a customary inclusion in late 80’s football were the 1,000 Yard Club cards. These were glossy inserts at 1 per pack and covered a plethora of players that hit 1,000 yards. There are familiar names here!

The late 80’s were loaded with Hall of Fame and Star QB’s in the NFL. I pulled Boomer, Jim Kelly, Moon, Cunningham, Elway, Marino and many others.

It’s hard to beat the stud running backs in 1989. Bo Jackson and Christian Okoye were on the way in while Herschel and Craig were mid stride and Tony Dorsett and Eric Dickerson were wrapping up their illustrious careers.

Wide Receiver was not devoid of stars either.  Jerry Rice and John Taylor were both 1,000 yard receivers on the same team. Sterling Sharpe, Cris Carter and Andre Reed were some of my favorites.

In 1989, Tight Ends were more blockers than pass catchers. While that isn’t too much the case today, these were some good pass catchers back in the day. And we have the rare Jay Novachek in a Cardinals uniform.

The Defensive Line in 1989 was nasty! Bruce Smith, Richard Dent, Chris Doleman, Reggie White and Howie Long?? These dudes were absolute beasts!

Things didn’t get easier for the offense if they got to the second level of the defense either. LT and Mike Singletary were legendary at the linebacker position but all of these guys were studly.

Finally, the big hitters were in the secondary. Ronnie Lott was a man among men and Joey Browner and Rod Woodson could cover as well as they could hit. Now I am pretty sure Chuck Cecil wouldn’t have had a long career with today’s NFL safety rules. This guy was not scared of anything and he would absolutely take out receivers any time they came across the middle.

The Record Breakers were pretty dang good players too! Tim Brown, Eric Dickerson, Steve Largent and Dan Marino are all 80’s Icons!

I pulled 5 of the League Leader cards and I’ve always loved the Herschel/Dickerson card.

I pulled a ton of these team leader cards as well but I’ll only picture a few to show the design.

The “Super Rookies” were solid in ’89 with the inclusion of Brian Blades, Mark Rypien and Chris Spielman. Though there were two others I pulled that deserve their own photo spots.

Michael Irvin was the man and was one of the key players that helped turn the Cowboys around in the 90’s. This RC is always a welcome addition.

Then there is the gem of the base set, Thurman Thomas! I used Thurman so many times on Tecmo because the Bills were loaded. I wish they had won at least one of those Super Bowls because those guys deserved one.

Because I wanted to make this post complete, I also swiped the Traded Set for $7.95 from my LCS. Not including the big guys, there are still some solid names in this Traded Set that make it well worth the price. Steve Young, Don Beebe and Herschel headline the non-big guys. And I didn’t forget about you Scotty; Mr. Steve Grogan is included!

Here are the studs (except one) in the traded set. The rookies of Aikman, Deion, DT and Rison make this Traded Set worth so much more than the cost!

The best card in the entire 1989 Base and Traded Set is this awesome Barry Sanders. I love this card and it might be my favorite 80’s football card!

I don’t think anyone would argue that the 1989 Topps set is loaded and a great addition to any collection. I give it an easy “5” on the Dub-O-Meter because the design is classic 80’s and the checklist is star studded! This was such a great rookie year and still included many big stars that were either in the middle of their careers or winding down. There is really nothing I don’t like about this set, except for the 28 year old gum!

J-Dub

Scoring Scale

1.Let me be the sacrificial lamb so you don’t have to buy these cards.  Just read the post and thank me later.

2.There is worse but there is much better – not worth the effort though.

3.Middle of the road – I wouldn’t talk you into buying these but I certainly wouldn’t talk you out of them.

4.You should probably go out and buy a box and enjoy the rip – I did!  It has some downside but worth the ride.

5.Stop reading and find a box to buy and get to Breaking!  What are you waiting on?

Cheese Puffs with Phoebe Cates

As I put more years behind me, I know I have experienced a metamorphosis both physically and mentally. The physical part hasn’t been so great, as I am about 50 lbs. heavier than I was as a senior in high school. There has been a steady increase in that category since age 30 at a rate of about 5 lbs. per year. I have gone from being able to eat a full box of oatmeal crème pies to only being able to eat one a week if I want to keep from feeling terrible about my choices. I also know that my hair has thinned on my head and the hair in my beard has gotten progressively grayer over the last few years. My face is starting to show more lines (I like to call it character) and my back just can’t handle the rigors of basketball and softball like the days of yore.

From a mental standpoint, the changes can sometimes seem less dramatic but I know that they are just as prevalent. For one, I do seem to worry less about things that are out of my control. I have more perspective now than I did when I was a spry young adult. I also don’t get so wrapped up in some of the nuances that life can challenge you with and try to focus more on the important stuff. That is a work in progress but I know that I am on more solid ground at 40. I have a better idea of what is important to me and my family at this age and don’t have as much time for the less important stuff. I have also seen and heard a lot over my life so I’m not as naïve or surprised by things anymore. That doesn’t mean that wild moments don’t exist; it just means that I am less surprised or shocked by them now. I think all of that is a part of maturing mentally.

But one of the key downsides to aging for your mental state is that your memories start to slip. Part of that is age but part of that is today’s society as well. We live in an age where we need to be entertained 24/7 or we get bored and want to pull our hair out. Because we have sensory (and information) overload from Twitter, FaceBook, or any of the other “have it now” tools, we move from one highlight to the next and don’t really take in the full experience anymore. This has a way of affecting the way we remember things, as moments are less of what we create and more of what is created for us. I know, I’m not a fancy psychologist or anything but I promise I am going somewhere with this.

Take for instance, movies. When I was a kid, the only way to see a movie was to go to the theater, get your parents to take you to the video store or catch it when it was on TV. Every time I bring up “video store”, I shed a lone tear in memoriam. So when you watched a movie, you have this experience of going to the video store, scouring the shelves, reading the back of cases and checking it out. You then had one or two days to watch the movie and get it back to the store before you were charged more money. So that meant you would grab a snack, turn the lights down and actually watch a movie from start to finish. It was a movie watching experience and it created memories; even if they are now just anecdotal callbacks to your youth.

Now, we pop on Netflix or our phones and watch a movie over a several day span when the mood strikes us. Or we’ll watch a 15 episode season in one night, which has a way of diluting the event as well. It isn’t about the movie or show anymore as much as it is about filling time or being someone who also saw the hot thing that every one is talking about on Twitter. There are spoilers now. And if you don’t want the spoiler, stay off social media or you will be berated for not seeing it yet. And by being subjected to the spoiler, you would have somehow gotten what you deserved. It’s about being first to see it and having the most sensible fan theory or whatever the kids are calling it now.

This is just an example of a bigger issue. This could be expanded to music, politics, sports and yes, even hobbies. We have forgotten what life was like when we had to appreciate the little things. We have forgotten the little things altogether. Maybe those things didn’t mean as much as we thought. Or maybe we have overrated things today. Either way, we have forgotten the small things and only remembered the major songs, movies, foods and toys from our youth. But there was more! Believe me when I say that “Saved by the Bell” wasn’t the only Saturday morning teen show on the tube. And “Tecmo Super Bowl”, “Super Mario” and “Contra” weren’t the only video games we played. And “Friday the 13th” and “Nightmare on Elm Street” aren’t the only horror movies the 80’s had to offer!

With that outline in place, and by keeping the context of this blog post light and fluffy, let’s look at some of the things that have been lapped by other pop culture icons but were still great when they were around. Then, strangely enough, this will tie into baseball cards. Because in the end, isn’t that what this is all about anyway? Consider this a list of forgotten/underrated/overlooked favorites according to Dub. I’m here to bring awareness to the masses.

Minute Maid Juice Bars
Everybody my age remembers the bomb pop and the push up and pop-ice that we had as kids. But why have we forgotten about the Minute Maid Juice Bars? These were magical small frozen treats that were fruity delicious and they were available at all of my school snack bars. The tops were oddly shaped triangles that morphed into a different facing triangle at the bottom. Does that make sense? You show me someone who didn’t like those and I’ll show you someone who is living life wrong. They are still around but I showed them to my daughter the last time we were at Publix and she thought I was nuts. We have to make the Minute Maid Juice Bar great again but I think the hashtag #MMMJBGA would be too cumbersome!

Cheese Puffs
While we are at it, let’s bring back another classic snack that is grossly underrated today; the Cheese Puff! I personally am a fan of any cheese puff but my friend CJ swears by the local grocery store brand puff. He doesn’t like frills in his cheese puffs. He just wants air and cheese! You can have your Doritos and Ruffles and I’ll take the Cheese Puffs all day. Again, they still make them and they are popular in pockets but they are definitely more of a kid snack. That doesn’t have to be the case anymore!

Silver Bullet
I have spoken about “Silver Bullet” before in one of my articles about 1985 Fleer. What’s not to love about this 80’s horror movie? It was a Stephen King adaptation that starred Gary Busey and Corey Haim and was about a preacher that turned into a werewolf. I mean, that sounds like pure gold to me. There is even a part in the film where they are playing poker and using baseball cards as cash; “You can’t bet managers.” This one does not get mentioned with some of the greats from the 80’s because we had to make room for all the new crap we are watching, like “Annabelle”. Chucky would run circles around “Annabelle” by the way.

Halloween III
This one is more about being underrated than forgotten. I have even been a critic of the film but only in the context that it was in the middle of the Halloween franchise. Had this been a standalone film that was never associated with the Michael Myers line of films, this would have gotten much more praise. The film is really quite good for a mid 80’s horror flick but when it didn’t have Myers, fans wrote it off. It is only remembered now as a movie that was drastically out of place.

Maximum Overdrive/Who Made Who
Here is where we cross over from movies to music and the segue couldn’t be more perfect. “Maximum Overdrive” was another Stephen King adaptation that starred Emilio Estevez. Electronics came to life, cars drove themselves and lawn mowers attacked their owners. All of this was to the soundtrack of AC/DC! One of the theme songs in the movie was “Who Made Who” and is one of their best in my mind. They will always be remembered for “Hells Bells”, “Shook Me All Night Long” and “Thunderstruck” but damnit, “Who Made Who” is a great song and should get more recognition when AC/DC comes up in conversation today. I’m betting 9 out of 10 hipsters that wear AC/DC Retro Shirts today don’t know that song.

Everclear
I’m talking about the band, not the liquor. People know about Green Day or Gin Blossoms or Bush but how many of those people name Everclear as an influential band from the 90’s? I know you have heard the song “Santa Monica” but you have probably heard a laundry list of their other songs and didn’t even know it was them. They pumped out gems like “Father of Mine”, “Wonderful”, “Everything to Everyone” and “Learning How to Smile” and we aren’t even scratching the surface here. Kids today think they know what music is but if you don’t have Everclear in your catalogue (on iTunes) then you really are missing a major contributor to the 90’s garage band scene.

California Dreams
How many of you remember this gem? Not enough, because “Saved By The Bell” has taken over your memories and that is the only high school teen show you have room for anymore. This was also about a group of teenagers but this group formed a band that would have slaughtered Zack Morris’ “Friends Forever” routine. Granted, it was not as good as SBTB and Kelly Packard was no Kelly Kapowski but it deserves to have its place in our memories!

You Can’t Do That On Television
Before Nickelodeon went full on bore-fest with Dora, iCarly and Victorious, they were pumping out quality programming that included Ren & Stimpy, Double Dare and Mr. Wizard. One of the best shows in my memory though is “You Can’t Do That On Television”. This was a teenage sketch comedy that originally aired in Canada before moving to a more international audience. This is where slime was created. This was also where we were first introduced to Alanis Morisette and Christine “Moose” McGlade. It was funny, irreverent and corny at times but I really miss that show.

StarTropics
StarTropics was one of the most underrated and thus forgotten NES games of my youth. It was a strategy game very much like Legend of Zelda but was based on archaeology, science, space and oceanography. We’re talking extraterrestrials, speaking parrots and singing dolphins here. The game even came with a physical letter that you had to dip in water to reveal a code to continue gameplay when prompted. The only downside of the game is that it was before the internet so when I lost that letter, I couldn’t play it a second time through because none of my friends had the game and there was nowhere to go to find that code again. You could also throw RC Pro Am and ExciteBike as forgotten gems from my youth as well.

Barbara Crampton
As a teen, I liked horror movies and I liked chicks! And one of the hottest horror movie chicks ever was Barbara Crampton. She was famous for “Re-Animator” but was in others like “Puppet Master”, “The Beyond” and “Chopping Mall.” She’s been in more recent films like “We Are Still Here” and “Beyond The Gates” and still has that mojo. Sure, people remember Jamie Lee Curtis and Danielle Harris but Barbara Crampton is a true Scream Queen that should be more recognized today.

Phoebe Cates
Here is another actress that was pretty well known in the 80’s with movies like “Gremlins”, “Bright Lights, Big City” and “Drop Dead Fred”. But she was most well known for her amazing performance in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” She was drop dead gorgeous but has been relatively absent from our minds since the mid 90’s. We must not forget Phoebe Cates! I cannot and will not allow that to happen to our society. A society without Phoebe Cates is not a society I want to be a part of. Too much?

So that brings us to baseball cards. I’ve used all of these examples to set up my list of players from when I was a kid that are grossly underrated or forgotten in the hobby today. Maybe this was a flimsy setup but I enjoyed putting this list together. Collectors today will occasionally jump on an old cheap box and ask me what they should be looking for. The short answer is always the same; Bo Jackson, Ken Griffey Jr., Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire and Nolan Ryan. But yes, just like the list above, there is more to the 80’s baseball card scene than those hot names that everybody remembers. There are some high quality players to be found in 80’s wax that may not break the bank on eBay but certainly should have a more prominent spot in our collection when we pull their cards.

The list is by no means comprehensive but these are some of the bigger names I look for when ripping old wax. These are non-hall of fame players that probably aren’t as obvious to today’s collectors as they are to the old guard like @oriolesrise, @JunkWaxTwins, @OffHiatusBBC and @ShaneKatz73. These are players that we loved to put in our binders and were usually trade centerpieces when we wanted to pick up those Jr’s and Canseco’s.

Ruben Sierra
Sierra spent some great years with the Texas Rangers and I remember seeking him out in the late 80’s. He had 4 seasons with 100+ RBI and 17 seasons with double digit home runs. Seven of those seasons produced 20+ bombs. His best season was in 1989 when he hit .306 with 29 HR, 119 RBI and 13 triples. He was a 4x All-Star and Silver Slugger Award Winner and is in the Rangers Hall of Fame.

Vince Coleman
Coleman didn’t have the all around numbers like Sierra but he was a beast on the base path. He played 13 seasons and finished with 752 career stolen bases. He had 3 seasons with 100+, 7 seasons with 50+ and was a 6x SB leader. He hit for a mediocre average over his career at .264 and only mustered up 28 career bombs. But damn, he was fast!

Shawon Dunston
This was more of a personal favorite of mine than anything. He had so-so numbers over his career in which he hit for a .269 average with 150 HR and 212 SB. He did have 5 seasons with 20+ steals and was a 3x All-Star. I really enjoyed watching him play.

Kevin Mitchell
Mitchell was a real beast! He played 13 seasons and racked up 234 career home runs, which averaged out to 31 per 162 games. He also averaged 101 RBI per 162 games and had a career .284 average. In 1989, he won the NL MVP with a .291 batting average, 47 HR and 125 RBI. He was also a 2x All-Star and Silver Slugger Award Winner.

Jay Buhner
Buhner played 15 seasons and tallied 310 home runs and 965 RBI. Those aren’t HOF numbers but they are dang good as it averaged out to 34 HR/106 RBI per 162 games. He did strike out a lot and only hit .254 over his career but he made up for it with an All-Star appearance, a Gold Glove in ’96 and he’s in the Mariners HOF.

Benito Santiago
Santiago was one of the first catchers I really paid attention to. Alomar Jr. was a hot rookie but I really liked Santiago. He played 20 years and mashed 217 HR and amassed 920 RBI. He also collected 91 SB over his career, which is nothing to sneeze at for a catcher. He was a 5x All-Star, NLCS MVP (2002), 3x Gold Glove Winner, 4x Silver Slugger Winner and the 1987 NL ROY. He was and still is highly collectible for me. He is also a member of the San Diego Padres HOF.

Eric Davis
This may have been the easiest one for me when compiling this list. Davis was beloved by fans in Cincinnati and around the country. He was a likeable player and I enjoyed watching him play. He played 17 seasons and hit 282 HR and 934 RBI which averaged out to 28/93 per 162 games over his career. He also had 349 SB for an average of 35 per 162 games. He had a massive 80 steals in 1986 and 50 in 1985. He was also a 2x All-Star, World Series Champ (’90), 3x Gold Glove Winner, 2x Silver Slugger Award Winner, Roberto Clemente Award Winner and is a member of the Reds HOF. Former teammate Paul O’Neill said that Davis was the “Best Everything” he had ever seen play.

Mike Greenwell
Greenwell played 12 seasons and averaged 17 home runs, 10 SB and a .303 batting average per 162 games. He was a 2x All-Star, Silver Slugger Award Winner and is a member of the Red Sox HOF.

Ellis Burks
Greenwell’s teammate, Ellis Burks, is another stud I search for in the Junk Wax sets I rip. Burks played 18 seasons and hit 352 HR and knocked in 1,206 runs. This came out to an average of 29/98 per 162 games over his career. He also had 84 SB, hit for a career .291 avg and hit over .300 a total of 6 times in his career. He was a lock for the Red Sox HOF with these stats and his 2x All-Star, Gold Glove and 2x Silver Slugger Award.

Mark Grace
Grace has had his share of off-field troubles since he retired but he was a very good player during his career. He played 16 seasons and hit 173 HR and 1,146 RBI. He also won 4 Gold Gloves and went to the All-Star game 2 times. He had 9 seasons with a batting average over .300 and finished his career with a .303 average.

Chris Sabo
I’m not going to lie; some of this was about the goggles. Chris Sabo is such a nostalgic player for me because of how unique his cards were. His stats weren’t bad either though as he hit 116 HR and knocked in 426 runs over a 9 year career. He was a 3x All-Star and the NL ROY in 1988 on his way to being inducted into the Reds HOF. The goggles made him fast too as he swiped 120 career SB’s, averaging 21 per 162 games.

Andres Gallaraga
One of the reasons I like collecting Gallaraga is the Expos uniform he is found in on his 80’s cards. He was a Brave for a while too but I believe that the best looking uniform ever belonged to the Montreal Expos. He played 19 seasons and hit 399 HR, collected 1,452 RBI and swiped 128 bases while keeping a career batting average of .288. He was a 5x All-Star, 2x Gold Glover, 2x Silver Slugger, NL Batting Champ in ’93 and NL Home Run Leader in ’96. He was known for his power but he really was a 5-Tool Player for many years.

Will Clark
Clark has a few PC guys out there so this one is not a middle of the road player. Clark played 15 years and had a career batting average of .303 while hitting 284 HR and 1,205 RBI. He also was a 6x All-Star, NLCS MVP (’89), 2x Silver Slugger and Gold Glove winner. He hit over .300 for 10 out of 15 total seasons. Will “The Thrill” was amazing at the plate.

Fred McGriff
The “Crime Dog” is the one player on this list that should definitely be in the Hall of Fame. He played 19 years and hit 493 home runs, falling just 7 shy of the magical “500” number. He also hit for average with a career number of .284. He was a 5x All-Star, 3x Silver Slugger, 2x Home Run Leader and hit over .300 during 6 of his seasons. Please tell me why a player with 493 home runs, 1,550 RBI, a World Series Ring (’95) and these other accolades is not in the Hall of Fame. It’s a travesty!

Dave Stewart
The first pitcher on the list is a 3x World Series Champ with a career 168-129 win-loss record. The key for me with Stewart was what he did during my collecting heyday. From 1987-1990, he won 20+ games every season and finished his career with 1,741 K’s and a 3.95 ERA. He was the 1989 WS MVP and a 2x ALCS MVP. He also threw a no-hitter in 1990. He doesn’t have the numbers for the HOF but he was a very good pitcher when I started collecting.

Jose Rijo
This is not just because I pulled his auto in a recent box of Archives Postseason Signature Series. Like Dave Stewart, Rijo was a stud in the league when I started collecting. He had a career 116-91 record over 14 years but won 14+ from 90-93 and was the WS MVP in 1990. He finished with 1,600 K’s and is a member of the Reds HOF.

Bret Saberhagen
The final pitcher on my list is Saberhagen. He played 16 seasons and finished his career with a 167-117 win-loss record. He had a stellar 3.34 career ERA and struck out 1,715 batters, averaging 151 per 162 games. His best season was 1989 when he went 23-6 with 12 complete games and finished with a 2.16 ERA. He tallied 193 K’s that season. He finished his career as a 3x All-Star, World Series Champ (’85), World Series MVP (’85), 2x AL Cy Young Award, Gold Glove Winner (’89), MLB Wins Leader (’89), AL ERA Leader (’89) and pitched a no-hitter in 1991. It’s no surprise that he is a member of the Kansas City Royals HOF.

For the collectors that ask me who I look for when I rip open those classic junk wax boxes, this is your answer. There are others that are personal favorites of mine that may not have had numbers this good but these are all studs you can find in late 80’s products that make the relatively low cost very much worth it. These are also players that are highly collectible with their team collectors as well. So while Kelly Kapowski was #1 in the late 80’s, I don’t think I would have been complaining if Phoebe Cates gave me a call back then. In that same regard, while Ken Griffey Jr. and Jose Canseco were the big catches in the card world, I would complain about pulling any of these guys either. It’s easy to forget about players, songs or movies that we aren’t constantly reminded of today but that doesn’t mean they aren’t classics and worthy of our attention. Get out there and find some of these 80’s legends

J-Dub

Retro Review – Not Quite Kelly Bundy

I remember watching “Growing Pains” quite a bit when I was young. I remember Mike Seaver being Mr. Cool and I probably reminded my parents of him when it came to school work, getting in trouble and pulling dumb stunts with my friends. I also thought Carol was quite the looker for an 80’s sitcom star. But she liked school a little too much for my taste. I never really paid much attention to Ben because he was the obnoxious little brother and I had one of those already. I do remember Dr. Seaver being this sort of all knowing guy that had a sense of humor and an answer for all of the kids problems. He was a psychiatrist after all. He was a good 80’s dad on TV but could be a bit of a cornball at times.I fancy myself as having a little bit of Al Bundy in my personality though. I can be crass, to the point and say things I probably shouldn’t at times. I love sports, love to watch TV and appreciate his ability to completely tune out those around him when they are grinding his last nerve. I also don’t mind the occasional swimsuit calendar on the wall. I never wanted to be a shoe salesman but I did want to one day have a secret club in my garage that consisted of me and my friends sitting around drinking beer and talking about our wives. I still haven’t formed that club but I do have some friends that enjoy sitting around drinking a beer. We only talk about how great our wives are though. We would never disparage our significant others, right?Even though Jason Seaver could be a cornball sometimes, he couldn’t hold a candle to Danny Tanner on “Full House”. Even as a kid, I thought he was a total square. I enjoyed Jessie and Joey much more than I did Danny but I guess that was how it was meant to be written. I definitely didn’t want to be in a house with a bunch of girls when I was 10 either. Yuck! I didn’t have any sisters and actually didn’t have a female cousin until I was about 14 or so. I just never latched on to “Full House” like I did these other sitcoms because I just couldn’t really relate to it like the others. They did all have something in common though; they all debuted in 1987. As I went back and looked through some of the coolness of 1987, I realized that it was a major year for television and the big screen. Maybe that’s because I was 10 and really started getting into TV but there was a lot of excellent options that year.As for TV, that was the year that we were introduced to Spuds McKenzie. You tell me one kid from 1987 that didn’t want a Spuds of his own. I didn’t even pay attention to the beer part of the ad. I wanted that dog! We also met the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that year and my cousin is still a pizza fanatic because of Michelangelo. It helps that his name is Michael as well. Then there were those awesome Micro Machines commercials. That guy had a pretty amazing talent with the fast talking! My brother played with those a lot more than I did but I always marveled at the commercials. That probably wouldn’t be a very safe toy for kids by today’s standards.The news on TV that year was also very riveting. That was the year that Baby Jessica fell into a well in her aunt’s backyard in Texas. And when I say well, what I really mean is this tiny pipe that only an 18 month old child could fit in. It took 58 hours to free her from that well and it was a televised event. It was quite scary for parents but it made me leery of small spaces for a while as well. She was eventually rescued from the pipe some 22 feet below ground and is doing well today as per media reports. Someone who didn’t do quite so well with their media circus fame in 1987 was Jim Bakker. Bakker was a TV Evangelist who was accused of rape by a secretary that actually led to the uncovering of financial fraud that led to a 45 year prison conviction. He only served 5 years before being paroled but went through a pretty public divorce from Tammy Faye as well. He has somehow found himself back in the ministry and on TV. I’m just going to leave that alone.The movies were awesome in 1987 were totally tubular! My personal favorites from that year were “Predator” and “Running Man”. I was a big Arnold fan and loved all of his movies. “Predator” was one of the first sci-fi horror movies I watched, along with “Aliens”. That movie kind of freaked me out but I thought it was really cool too. Carl Weathers was the man! As for “Running Man”, this was another sci-fi thriller about a TV game show where the only winners were the contestants who actually finished the game alive. As crazy as that movie premise seemed in 1987, to be brutally honest, we don’t seem too far from some kind of reality show that is very similar to “Running Man” in 2017. It’s a little scary how close that movie portrayed the way our society is heading.There were a lot of other classic movies released that year as well. Some of the more well known include “Lethal Weapon”, “The Untouchables”, “Dirty Dancing” and “Robocop”. Obviously, these are big name movies so I don’t have to explain how good they were. In the horror genre, there were a few that are still on my favorites list. I still love “The Lost Boys” and watched it at a friend’s house when I was totally not supposed to. I had to hide the fact that I was scared to death at my house at night because that would have eventually led to the fact that I watched it. My favorite Freddy movie was “Dream Warriors” and it was released that year as well. Throw in “Creepshow 2” and you’ve got quite a starter list of movies you should go back and re-watch.What about some family movies from ’87? Well, there was “Harry and the Hendersons”, which gave Bigfoot a soft and warm side that made you want to have him as a pet. Then there was “Ernest Goes to Camp”, which does not hold up well in 2017. Trust me, it is not good today. “Summer School” was a fun movie that had a couple of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” super fans in it. “Raising Arizona” was the first great Nicholas Cage film that also starred Holly Hunter. And “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” was a hilarious comedy with Steve Martin and John Candy. One of the best lines in a comedy film in the 80’s came from that movie. After waking up in a hotel room together, they had this unforgettable exchange:

Neal Page: Del? Why did you kiss my ear?
Del Griffith: Why are you holding my hand?
Neal Page: Where’s your OTHER hand?
Del Griffith: Between two pillows….
Neal Page: Those aren’t pillows!!!“Full Metal Jacket” is a cult classic from 1987 and I have watched the first half of that movie over and over and over. That drill sergeant is one of the greatest movie characters ever! I remember Private Pile, Private Joker and all of the characters and one liner’s from that film. It’s one that I still have on VHS in my collection. Finally, I developed a pretty strong crush that year on Elisabeth Shue thanks to “Adventures in Babysitting”. She was already a cutie in “The Karate Kid” but this one put me over the top. I still stop the channel surfing when I see her on my TV screen!There were other cool things from 1987 like “Mike Tyson’s Punch Out”, Guns N Roses’ “Appetite for Destruction” and Bon Jovi’s “Livin on a Prayer.” 1987 was really a great year for pop culture. That year produced some pretty cool trading cards as well. I remember Garbage Pail Kids that year and trying to gross out the girls in my class with those hideous cards. One of the most iconic sets ever was the 1987 Wood Grain Topps design with the beautiful Bo Jackson Future Star. I also did a review of 1987 Fleer here a few weeks ago. This was almost the perfect year for collecting because most weren’t aware it was overproduced yet but they also only had a few sets to choose from.The remaining set from that year was 1987 Donruss. I never had a ton of ’87 Donruss because I didn’t really start collecting until 1989. But even as a non-collecting kid that played with the classic toys of those days, I had some ’87 Topps lying around. I think most kids had some ’87 Topps, even if half of us didn’t know what we had. But Donruss was a relative unknown to me for many years. I have since added some pieces to my collection but I’ve never busted a full box, or even multiple packs to be honest. My recent trip to the LCS has provided that opportunity now. I picked up a full box for a mere $25, which I think is a pretty good deal.

Donruss had a pretty cool design that year with the black border and gold baseball logo stripe running horizontally across the middle of the card. Of course, there are also Diamond Kings and Rated Rookies to sort through as well. The puzzle is of Roberto Clemente, which is especially cool to me, considering how much I love his cards in the hobby. The set was numbered to 660 and a box had 36 packs with 15 cards per pack. So there are a total of 540 cards per box but if collation is similar to other sets from those years, I’m probably looking at just over half the set when I’m done. I’m really looking forward to this rip though because the set will be a fairly new experience for me.

Let’s jump right in!

First, the wrappers were not my favorite from Donruss. I didn’t like the copper color but they are still wax packs so they aren’t all bad either.

I was able to pull the full Clemente Puzzle together so that was a success!

The Diamond Kings were just as I remembered them. The artwork of Dick Perez is unmistakable. Surprisingly, my least favorite is the Jose Canseco because his head looks so odd on the card. I love the Murphy, Straw, Smith, Puckett and Davis!

The Rated Rookies pictured here were names that you may remember but not Hall of Fame type talent. I particularly liked Benito Santiago in the late 80’s. Rafael Palmeiro could have landed in the Hall had he not had his issues during the steroid era.

These three players epitomized the term “Speed”. Vince Coleman may have been the fastest but Rickey Henderson was the most prolific base stealer. Rock Raines was the closest to a 5 tool player of the group.

The infielders here are absolute studs. This was Will Clark’s rookie Donruss card and Fred McGriff’s second year card. There is a lot of talent here!

The outfielders are just as awesome and star studded as the infielders above. Jose’s rookie was the famous 1986 Donruss but this was Bobby Bonilla’s base rookie as he was included in 1986’s “The Rookies” set. Just look at that smile on Puckett! These guys make me want to pull out RBI Baseball and start swinging!

The pitchers here are Ace material. Lee Smith was a closer but he was as dominant as the starters. The Dodgers rotation was pretty scary with Fernando and Orel. It looks like Doc was startled by someone that got his attention as the photo was about to be taken.

The Veterans are all here too in 1987. I dare you to tell me you wouldn’t have wanted these guys on your team in the 80’s! Pete Rose had the elusive 1B/Mgr card. I really liked Joe Carter too and I think he is vastly underrated in the hobby today. The same could be said about Jim Rice.

The two hits in the box were these great Rated Rookies. While I missed out on the Barry Bonds RC, I am pleased that I pulled Bo and McGwire. I have now pulled all three major Bo Jackson rookies this year ripping old wax. I really wish the careers for these two had ended up better than they did. I wish Bo had stayed healthy and I wish McGwire could have just been this good without the whole steroid thing.

Finally, ’87 Donruss had a nice box bottom like many other mid 80’s wax boxes. The bottom here had Murphy and a sweet Canseco photo taken with him perfectly centered in a star on the outfield wall. There is a Reardon and Clemente puzzle card as well but the Canseco is the real gem here.As with other 1987 rips, this one was loads of fun. A rookie class of Bo, McGwire and Bonds make the ripping exciting but the inclusion of every major star from the 80’s makes the box well worth the $25 price tag. The design was not as good as 1986 but was better than 1988 in my opinion. This was probably one of the top Donruss designs for me but came right one year after my favorite so I tend to judge it too harshly. I have to give this a “4” on the Dub-O-Meter for a few reasons. The checklist is great, the design is good, the price is reasonable and the Clemente Puzzle is a classic. On the negative, the cards weren’t cut very well and collation was as odd as I’ve seen with consecutively numbered cards. The positives far outweigh the negatives here so the 4 is closer to a 4.5 than a 3.5. I would say that ultimately, the set lands somewhere between Carol Seaver and Kelly Bundy, if you know what I mean. I’d recommend this set as a fun build and the box as a nostalgic rip worth your time. What say you about 1987 Donruss?

J-Dub

Scoring Scale

1. Let me be the sacrificial lamb so you don’t have to buy these cards.  Just read the post and thank me later.

2. There is worse but there is much better – not worth the effort though.

3. Middle of the road – I wouldn’t talk you into buying these but I certainly wouldn’t talk you out of them.

4. You should probably go out and buy a box and enjoy the rip – I did!  It has some downside but worth the ride.

5. Stop reading and find a box to buy and get to Breaking!  What are you waiting on?

Starset – Rhythm In Space

Everybody here knows I’m a sports card guy.  I don’t hide that part of my life from anyone.  There’s another part that isn’t hidden from those that know my everyday life.  If you’ve ever spent more than 15 minutes with me, you’ll probably hear me talk about music.  I don’t talk about just any music either; it’s all rock, all the time.  To me, there are many different genres of rock.  Some people hear guitars and heavy drums and loud singing and just classify it as rock.  I know it as alternative rock, synth rock, heavy metal, hair metal, nu metal, thrash, ska, surf, screamo and on and on.  The genre is a big part of my soul and personality.  I don’t know if that’s good or bad for some but it’s the truth.  I could go to a rock show every night of my life and never get tired of it.  We go to 4-5 major ones a year and it’s just enough to keep me satisfied.  I won’t get started on the Deftones here but that’s how I’m known around my part of the planet, the Deftones guy.  And I love that!Another group that has become a regular part of my rotation is Starset.  And when I say a part of my rotation, I mean top 3 with Deftones and Thrice.  (On a side note, we are going to see the Tones and Thrice in Jacksonville in June and taking Bailey and Zibby for their first experience.  Time won’t move fast enough).  Anyway, Starset is a relatively new group, having formed in 2013 in Columbus, OH at the hands of lead singer Dustin Bates.  Dustin has a bachelors and masters degree in Science and Engineering that he earned from the Russ College of Engineering and Technology at Ohio University.  So yeah, this dude is more than a rock singer.  He’s a little bit Nikola Tesla, a little bit Isaac Asimov, a little bit Deftones and a little bit Hans Zimmer.  In 2017, he’s a modern day genius and it’s notable in the lyrics he writes and the music he puts with it.  There’s a great article about Dustin himself Here if you’re interested.  The band is completed by Ron DeChant on bass (and keyboards), Brock Richards on lead guitar and Adam Gilbert on drums.  They also have a touring strings section with Siobhan Cronin (violin) and Jonathan Kampfe (cello).  I first heard Starset as the opener for Breaking  Benjamin at The Tabernacle in Atlanta in 2016.  I really didn’t know anything about them going into that concert.  The one thing I’ve learned over the many concerts I’ve been to is that the opening act is a good chance to fall in love with a new band and it also can be a good chance to settle in to your seat or hit the concession stand.  Only one opener has ever grabbed me as quickly as Starset and that was when Thrice “opened” for the Deftones at a rock festival in 2006.  Starset punched me in the face with their amazing stage presence, the theatrical performance and of course, their music.  Their space element and showers of light just consumed me.  I made it my mission that night to find out more about this band and to go see them again after I learned their songs.  After spending a year listening to their first album, reading their companion novel (yes, a rock band with a companion novel) and then doing a quick learn on their sophomore release in January, I got that chance on the weekend of my 40th birthday in February this year.The wheels were put in motion when Alicia bought me tickets for Christmas.  Then, my buddy Heath bought VIP passes for my birthday.  The concert was scheduled for February 11 in Madison Alabama, a five hour hike from my South Georgia nest.  That was no deterrent though.  Their second album, Vessels, was released on January 20, 2017.  That gave me a whole 20 some odd days to learn the new album before the gig.  Again, not a deterrent.  I decided to eat, drink and sleep Starset leading up to the gig so I could get the full experience.  This is a band with a complex backstory that surrounds “The Starset Society”, complete with a website dedicated to the furthering of the message, a novel that warns of the dangers of technological advances that could be used for evil and on stage monitors that tell stories between songs.  The songs on each CD tell a progressive story that is both entertaining and deeply thought provoking.  This isn’t your mom and dad’s old rock show.  This is a sci-fi production of the highest sophistication.  The show date arrived and we took our leave to North Alabama to receive the message.  The night opened up with the VIP performance which consisted of me and about 20 of my closest friends for the night getting a front row seat to an acoustic set from the band in a laid back atmosphere where conversation was open and welcome.  That was a first for me.  I’ve met bands before and gotten autographs and even had that fateful 2 am Waffle House meal with Stef Carpenter from the Deftones.  But this was my first up close and personal acoustic set for 20 people and it was like something out of a movie.  It was unbelievable.  After that, we met the band, got autographs and snapped pictures.  When the show started, I was introduced to another great new rock band that was a pleasant surprise, Gemini Syndrome.  I downloaded their album the next day and am learning more about them.  They were a perfect appetizer for the main course that was set to take place.When Starset hit the stage, which I was standing about 5 feet from, time literally stood still for the remainder of the show.  I forgot about everything outside of that venue.  I watched Dustin portray a mad scientist on that stage running from keyboard to computer to sound machine to stage boxes to scream into theaudiences collective face.  I stood in front of Ron, mesmerized by the colors.  I watched a violinist head bang for the first time in my life.  I watched the screens as they displayed various visualizations of science and space.  And I sang my heart out!  I poured my soul into that concert in a way that made me feel like I was a part of the band.  And it felt good.  It felt like what a rock concert feels like in my wildest dreams.  I fell in love with them all over again that night.  No one will ever touch the Deftones because they have been my #1 since the first time I heard them in 1992.  They’ve been with me through the best and worst times in my life.  But Starset, they carved out a special place in my musical spirit that night.  And music to me is a spiritual experience when it’s done right.  If you go to a concert and you lose yourself completely in the music and the sights and the crowd, that show was a damn good show.  And this my friends, was a damn good show!“At night the Earth will rise, and I’ll think of you each time I watch from distant skies.  Whenever stars go down and galaxies ignite, I’ll think of you each time they wash me in their light.  And fall in love with you again.”

J-Dub

The Album List

My most recent musical choices have all been very similar in message.  The Deftones April 8 release aside, which has early potential to be their best so far (too early), I have heavily invested in songs about searching for answers and exploration of human emotion.  There are songs about redemption as well as songs about hopelessness but they all have undertones rooted in basic psychology.  There has been a recent post circulating on Facebook listing the top 10 most influential or meaningful albums in ones life.  

My cousin, Keekleneck Lamb, said Monday that he had been expecting to see mine float across the intertubes.  He may have been speaking in jest as my choices could be interesting fodder for he of the hipster variety.  Nevertheless, I have compiled a loose list of my 10.  I can’t call this THE 10 most because I’ll inevitably leave something out.  These are also in no particular order.  One other caveat – I don’t read music, I don’t play music, I don’t know chords.  But, I do have ears and I know what sounds good to me and I know what lyrics speak to me.  Without further ado…..

  

1.  Deftones – White Pony – Ok, this one was easy and predictable.  If you like the Deftones, you no doubt like this album.  There are raging debates within Deftones circles of which albums fit their sound (see Around The Fur) and sound out of place (see Saturday Night Wrist) but they are all appreciated and accepted.  However, there is never much debate surrounding which album was their best.  For me, this album reigns supreme.  Released in 2000, Alicia bought this for me the day it came out and I sat at her parents house on the computer playing the album and looking at the “new fad” video content provided on the disc.  “Feiticiera” has opened 4 of the 5 concerts I’ve been to.  “Digital Bath” introduced heavy doses of electronic pulses into their songs that are most present than ever in their most recent album.  “RX Queen” remains the text tone when I get messages from Alicia.  “Knife Party” and “Passenger” are Deftones Cult Classics and “Change” is their most decorated commercial hit.  This album is loaded with pure Deftones Magic and Power.  While these are in no particular order, there is a reason this is at #1.
  

2.  Smashing Pumpkins – Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness – Released in 1995, anyone between the ages of 30-40 are almost certainly familiar with the blue and pink double album.  The hardest part of owning this album was deciding on which one to listen to.  I wore both CD’s out in my Ranger decked out with two 10’s and black light.  This CD was perfect for such youthful decadence.  “Tonight, Tonight” is a classic alt rock song and was one of my first forays into lyric decoding.  “And our lives are forever changed, we will never be the same.  The more you change, the less you feel.”  Teen angst with the cryptic sting of truth.  “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” and “Zero” were two heavy hitters while “1979” and “Thirty-Three” were songs you could cruise all night to.  There’s no possible way I could have a list of top albums and leave this one off.

  
3.  Chevelle – Stray Arrows: A Collection of Favorites – Alright, I’ll accept it if you say it is cheating by putting a greatest hits collection on here but Keekleneck did put Garth Brooks Greatest on his, which in all honesty, should have nullified his entire entry.  This album was released more recently in 2012 but spans their entire collection up until that point.  “Face to the Floor”, “The Red”, “Vitamin R” and “Send the Pain Below” are all well known Chevelle entries.  But this album also introduced me to “Sleep Apnea” and “The Meddler” which I was previously unfamiliar with.  Chevelle is, without a doubt, the heaviest 3 piece band you’ll hear that still comes off melodic and smooth.  They remain unchecked on my bucket list of artist to see live before I die.

  
4.  Everclear – Sparkle and Fade – Another important 1995 release that was played from beginning to end on repeat on my many trips to Athens and Valdosta with Munt and Russ.  All of the songs were catchy and enjoyable but one song stood above all others.  The song that actually threatened one hit wonder status among non-alternative fans.  “Santa Monica” made me long for the beach and still makes me want to go to California.  “We could live beside the ocean, leave the fire behind.”  But beyond that song lies a treasure trove including “Heroin Girl”, “Summerland” and “Twistinside”.  Everclear is a popular band among alt fans and have had a couple of big time hits like “Father of Mine” and “Wonderful” but I still believe they are one of the most underrated acts of my generation.

  
5.  Blink 182 – Enema of the State – Maybe it’s Janine on the cover of the album that has stuck with me after all these years.  But aside from that, this was my punk phase and it was a great one.  The garage band I was in basked in the glory of three songs off of this one, “What’s My Age Again”, “All The Small Things” and “Adam’s Song”.  Blink 182 had an epic ride during the late 90’s and were a great side trip for a 20 year old that loved heavier rock.  I still have this one at the ready when I’m feeling immature.

  
6.  Pearl Jam – Ten – If you are 36-42, I dare you to argue with me on this one.  This might be the best album of the 90’s, period.  “Even Flow”, “Jeremy”, “Black”, “Alive”…..this is a greatest hits album in sheep’s clothing.  This plays today on my commute around the city.  You don’t always have to know what Eddie Vedder is saying to know that it is deep and meaningful.  There were those who said you were either a Nirvana fan or Pearl Jam fan.  I’ll raise my Pearl Jam flag and fly it proudly.  Another one on the bucket list to see live.  I’ve heard their shows are unbelievable.

  
7.  Deftones – Adrenaline – This has to be on the list simply because it’s the first taste of the band I ever had.  “Bored”, “Lifter”, “One Weak”, “7 Words”, “Engine No. 9”, “Root”, “Nosebleed”…..every song.  This was the beginning of a lifelong relationship with a band.  I had never heard anything quite like this when it came out.  I haven’t really heard anything like it since as their sound has matured and developed with every album.  This one is very raw sounding and is their least “produced” sounding record but that’s what makes it special too.  This was what they set out to be and what they have ultimately become; a band that plays music their fans want to hear, not the critics.  The most influential of the ever present 1995 releases.  If you like straight alt metal, this is the standard bearer.

  
8.  Breaking Benjamin – Phobia – The heavy hitting group’s third album is their best to me.  To be clear, I like them all but this one hits the hardest.  “The Diary of Jane” and “Breath” are household names among the genre’s fans and helped solidify BB’s rise to fame.  Other gems on this album include “Unknown Soldier”, “Until the End”, “Had Enough”and “Dance With The Devil”.  This band has come the closest to matching Deftones intensity in my collection over the long haul.  The newest album “Dark Before Dawn” could have easily made this list but as I run out of room, I could only include one and this one belongs.  If you’ve never seen it, this is one of the greatest live accoustic recordings ever – BB – Until The End.  Do yourself a favor and sacrifice the next 5 minutes.

  
9.  System Of A Down – Toxicity – I have somewhat of a love/hate relationship with SOAD.  They have put out more songs that make me jump around and shout than they have that make me cringe with disbelief.  But they have put out several of the latter as well.  I like songs from all of their albums but this album was the best of their collection by far and made it in my top 10.  The title track, “Toxicity”, along with “Chop Suey” are a couple of the most memorable songs of the early 2000’s whether you like the genre or not.  Don’t believe me? YouTube either one and you’ll immediately shake your head and say “Ohh yeah!” – unless you are one of the honky tonk folks that hang around my blog.  You are welcome here anytime but this one probably hasn’t been your favorite.  This album is actually loaded with classics like “Aerials”, “Science”, “ATWA”, “Prison Song” and “Jet Pilot”.  When I started looking down the track list of this one it became obvious that it needed to be on this list.

  
10. Starset – Transmissions – It is risky to put an album this new on a top 10 list that includes the likes of Deftones and Smashing Pumpkins.  I realize this.  But, i can unequivocally say that this one will be a top 10 for life for me.  This one fits all of the description of the first paragraph of this blog and can put me in a state of mind that is so deep and introspective, it’s kind of scary.  This band opened for Breaking Benjamin in February of this year and I was smitten from the instrumental opener “First Light” all the way to the closer “Halo”.  The band and album has introduced me to an interest in space and greater forces that I never knew I had.  They have even released a 250 page companion novel with the CD that I am halfway through.  I’m addicted and it’s a weird thing.  This album speaks to me over and over and gives me a clearer perspective everytime I listen.  So, while a newby like this is risky, I know I’d regret not putting them here.  This one could find its way into the top 3 before its all over with.

So, there you have it.  I think the genre/theme is pretty consistent on this list and I’d have a hard time replacing any of these 10.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t have several 11’s right on the outside.  These just rose to that impressive level and needed to be set apart.  Maybe you’ll try some of these out if you’ve never heard them.  Maybe you’ll like them, maybe you wont.  If you don’t, I don’t know if we can be friends any longer.  ?

Joey

The Diary of Bailey

  My love for the Deftones is widely known.  They are the untouchables in my world.  There isn’t anyone that I’d rather see play and there isn’t anyone I would ever compare to them.  I do love other bands though.  Like Chevelle, Tool, Thrice, Crosses, Incubus, Slipknot and…..Breaking Benjamin.  Not only do I love Breaking Benjamin, they are currently Bailey’s favorite band.  She loves every song and knows most of the words to the big ones.  

Their most recent album, Dark Before Dawn, is full of positive and uplifting messages.  Ben Burnley has been through quite a lot during his life and seems exploding out as a beacon of hope and positivity.  While Breaking  Benjamin formed in 1998, Ben Burnley remains the only original band member.  He is, however, responsible for songwriting, singing and everything else that comes with being the bands namesake.  The current lineup formed in 2014 and began work on Dark After Dawn, in which Ben seems to have really focused his lyrics on redemption, overcoming failure and, as the title suggests, finding the light at the end of the tunnel.  Because of the meaning of the album, I have openly shared the lyrics with Bailey and encouraged her to enjoy the songs.  And she has done just that.  She knows what they are saying and we talk about our interpretations of what each song means to us.  It’s been quite an interesting journey.  

For Christmas, Alicia got 2 tickets to BB at The Tabernacle in Atlanta.  Bailey was disappointed that she hadn’t been included so she decided to buy her own ticket with Christmas money.  This set up our first family concert.  Bailey loves music and shares my taste in rock.  It’s how she was raised.  I’d been debating on when the right time would be to take her to a live show.  They are loud, there is a bit of sitting around waiting on setup, standing in lines for good seats, etc.  Given the right circumstances, it can be too much for me and Alicia so we needed it to make sense for Bailey to go.  First off, The Tabernacle was a no brainer for her first venue.  It’s indoors, has raised seating levels to be above the ruckus on the ground and it’s perfect for music.  After that, I knew her first concert would have to be Deftones, BB or Chevelle so we scored there too.  It just made sense that now was the time.

After much anticipation, the week of the concert finally arrived.  We made it to Thursday and struck out on our 2 day adventure to Atlanta.  We laid some ground rules and expectations on the drive up to make sure she was prepared.  We explained that we would first have to wait in line for up to 2 hours to ensure we got front row seats in the raised level.  Then, we explained that there would be an opening act and we would likely be unfamiliar with their music but it would be in the same genre as the headliner so we likely would enjoy it.  It also builds the anticipation for the headliner when music is being performed.  We told her it would be crowded, it would be loud and we would be there a long time.  She understood and was good with everything.  She was ready. 

 We arrived at the venue around 5:00 with doors expected to open at 6:30.  There was already a line forming so we got ourselves in place and started passing the time.  Ted’s Montana Grill is across the street from The Tabernacle and luckily a bathroom was available for Bailey’s trips.  While in line, our friends Heath and Molly Gilbert arrived and we all had a really good time talking and raising the anticipation.  Before we knew it, it was 6:30 and the doors were opening.  After passing through the security checkpoints, we successfully secured front row seats in the 3rd level, providing an unfettered view for all of us.  Then, it was food and merch while we waited on the opening act, scheduled for 7:30.   

 While getting food, Alicia managed to successfully reject the attempts of a nefarious couple trying to sabotage our seats.  Momma wasn’t having any of that and dispatched the duo with force and determination.  Meanwhile, me and Bailey were busy running up and down 3 flights of stairs with drinks, chicken strips, hot dogs and pretzels.  All of this happened in great timing as we all settled in for the opening act, Starset. 

 As expected, we were unfamiliar with Starset but they were very good and provided a nice visual element that engaged Bailey from the beginning.  The band members, less the singer, came out in full spacesuits that lit up in different colors and they continued to play the entire set in them.  They would change colors and fire off fog from turbo blowers on the rear of the costumes.  Aside from that, the singer was very good and the drummer was extremely talented.  Opening act was a success but we came to see Breaking Benjamin and we were controlling our excitement until they took the stage.  After about 30 minutes of setup change, they were ready. 

 They hit the stage with one of their great intro songs, “So Cold”. This is one that Bailey and I could sing along to so it didn’t take long to get in the swing of things.  For several songs, “Follow”, “Until the End”, “Angels Fall” and “Failure”, we were on our feet singing our lungs out.  Around the time Ben took a vocal break by letting the two guitar players have a couple of leads, we were ready to sit down and recoup.  Now, those songs were very good too but Bailey had her songs already picked out that she was going to jam too.  As Ben introduced “Unknown Soldier”, he revealed his obvious passion for the armed forces and we gave standing ovations to the men and women who served our country.  The song was very moving given the circumstances and the entire place was on their feet.  I had chill bumps.   

 That led to the next song, Alicia’s favorite, “Ashes of Eden”. The song was flawless and engaged all of us as its one that is listened to often in my truck.  Then, my favorite rolled around, “Breath”.  I think it might be close to Bailey and Alicia’s favorite too but we all have our own.  It was perfect! 

 Then came Bailey’s favorite song, “Give me a sign”.  This was really the “wow” moment of the concert.  During the final chorus of the song, Ben stopped vocals and only guitar remained as he began to speak to the crowd.  He asked us all to take out our cell phones and turn on the flashlight feature.  He then asked the venue staff to take the room completely dark.  This concert was 80% over so we were accustomed to the lighting levels in the room by this point.  When the lights went out and the cell phones came on, the room lit up like a living room with the overhead light on.  It was really something I had never seen before.  The photo from behind Ben is the heading photo on this post.  Just unreal.  He went on to explain the point of the exercise in what was the moment that solidified our decision to bring Bailey to see BB.  Ben explained that we all had a light that shines within all of us, just like those phones.  No matter how dark the world can be at times, if we will let our lights shine, we can light the world and the people around us.  He said that we were the difference makers and our kindness could rise above the crap that is out there.  He had a strong sincerity in the comments and you could feel the positivity flowing through the room.  They finished the song amid more chill bumps from yours truly. 

  After a couple more songs, they exited the stage in preparation for the grand finale encore, which we had also previously explained to Bailey.  It was a biggie.  They returned to play the mega hit “The Diary of Jane”.  Again, before going into the song, Ben took the time to ask the fans to be kind to one another and to take care of those around you.  Then they nailed the song and took their bow.  A wonderful concert had come to a close and we were left with adrenaline still pumping and ears still ringing.  But, the night didn’t end there.  It wouldn’t be a Tabernacle story if there wasn’t an awesome twist at the end.

Heath and Molly scored a guitar at the merch table which provided 6 wristbands to go backstage and meet the band at the conclusion of the concert.  Not only had Bailey been able to come see her favorite band in person, but she was about to one up me and meet the entire band.  First, I can’t thank Heath and Molly enough for including us in this adventure.  They helped the great night become a dream night and I have to do some serious work to pay that one back.  We got in a fairly short and exclusive line to meet the band and wait on them to come out and take their seats.  After what felt like a long time, but was really about 30 minutes, they emerged and excitement reached a peak.  We were able to get autographs, shake hands and take photos with the entire band.  Ben took special care to get down on Bailey’s level (he’s 6’4) to shake her hand and to thank her for coming to see them. I was as proud of that as I was about meeting him myself.  Bailey is still learning what is normal or expected and what is a unique event and I think she even gets the gravity of that meeting.  She was half asleep and dragging but when that picture was taken, her smile was shining like the cell phone lights an hour before.  She met Ben and he rose to the occasion of being a superstar in a young child’s eyes.  He was every bit as genuine as he had portrayed during the concert and we left feeling on top of the world.

By the time we left, it was after 11 and it hit me that Bailey had been a trooper for over 6 hours at the venue.  That’s no small feat for an 8 year old.  I was very proud of the way she carried herself and the respect and happiness she showed to BB and Heath and Molly.  Now, she would eventually get to sleep and sleep pretty late the next morning but she passed her first concert test with flying colors.  And Breaking Benjamin eliminated any small skepticism I had about their positivity and meaningful songs by backing it up with their presence in the room and with us.  This one will go down as one of the greatest concerts I’ve been too, after Deftones at The Tabernacle of course.  But this one is going to sit with me and Alicia for a long time and with Bailey for a lifetime.  My recommendation is to go see Breaking Benjamin the very next chance you get if you’ve never seen them.  If you are a fan of the genre, you won’t regret seeing them.  We’ll be back! 

 Joey

Almost Famous

  

If you know me, or have been around me for any reasonable amount of time, the name Deftones has most likely surfaced in some way or another. If you’ve sent me an email, you’ve typed it.  If you’ve followed me on Insagram or Snapchat, you’ve typed it.  If you’ve sat in my truck, you’ve no doubt heard them.  They are a constant presence in my life.  I’ve had a few people in the past ask me, “what’s up with you and Deftones?”  It’s a question that I’ve never really had a formal answer for but there has always been a reason.

I’ll start with a brief background for those who stick to Top 40 or Country.  Deftones is a band that is somewhat of a fusion of the alternative, rock, and nu-metal genres with an experimental sound to them.  They formed in 1988 in Sacramento, CA and have been creating music for almost 30 years now.  The band’s lead singer Chino Moreno has, as best as I can describe it, a melodic, soothing agression to his voice that borders on haunting tension at times.  Odd description I know, but I don’t write for Rolling Stone.  Along with Chino, Stephen Carpenter plays a superb lead guitar, Abe Cunningham crushes the drums, Frank Delgado adds the experimental sound on the turntables and Sergio Vega replaced the late Chi Cheng on bass.

I was first introduced to Deftones around 1996, about a year after their first full length album, Adrenaline, was released.  At first, they fit into the rotation with Korn, Limp Bizkit and the like.  It didn’t take too long for them to rise to the top of my playlist.  By the time Around The Fur was released in 1997, they were head and shoulders above.  I guess it really all started with Chino’s voice.  I had never heard anyone sing like him.  He could scream violently for 2 minutes and then break into one of the smoothest melodies you’d ever heard in a rock song, then finish with a breathless howl that I became addicted to.  With the discovery of the song “Be Quiet and Drive”, Deftones completely sank their teeth into me and have yet to let go.

Somewhere around 23 or 24, music started really meaning something to me.  It began to have a profound effect on my demeanor and my thought process.  I didn’t just listen to music as I traveled from place to place, I would put on headphones and just lose all sense of time and reality.  It was almost an out of body experience when listening to the right tunes and Deftones fit that bill.  No matter what was going on, there was a song for it and usually it just wound up on repeat until I lost conciousness.  Feeling somber, I went with “Be Quiet and Drive”, “Digital Bath” or “First”.  If frustration was the demon of the day, “Headup”, “Engine No. 9” or “7 Words” was the cure.  Even when I was even keel, “Bored”, “Passenger” and “RX Queen” pushed me along.  There was and still is a song that fits just right for a particular mood I am in.

The personal nature of my relationship with their music got stronger as I matured.  I felt like they were coming of age right along with me.  The distorted, screaming tones of Adrenaline were still fun to listen to but they weren’t the mental escapes they once were.  Their music was changing though.  The sound was becoming clearer and cleaner and Chino’s voice was refining as much as my understanding of the world around me was.  The music continued to speak to me.  It is almost impossible to explain in words.  Chino once said of his lyrics, “It doesn’t matter if you understand what I’m trying to say as long as I paint a picture where the music and the feeling you feel matches.  More importantly, it changes the way you were thinking for the better or makes you feel good.”  That is what Deftones had become for me.  Isn’t that why music was created in the first place?

Shifting from the music to the band itself, I finally was able to see them live for the first time in Jacksonville in February of 2006.  I had reservations because you never know how a band will sound live but they did not disappoint and instead of spending the night in Jax at the conclusion of the midnight concert, I had the adrenaline, no pun intended, to drive back home, by myself, pumping the songs for 3 more hours.  As fun as that trip was, my love for them was cemented when I saw them just a few months later at Floyds Music Store in Tallahassee.  Floyds is a much more intimate setting than Metro Park in Jax.  At the conclusion of the concert, Chino announces that the band will be hanging around the bus at the rear of the venue after and invited the crowd to hang out with them.  I was like a kid on Christmas morning!  I met every single member of the band, took photos, showed off my Deftones ink and even had a conversation with Chi that I will always cherish.  He was a mammoth of a man but as gentle and humble in person as you’d ever meet.   Just two years later, Chi would be involved in an automobile accident that left him in a semi concious state for the next several years.  He would later lose his battle on April 14, 2013.  The concert in 2006 would be the last time I saw him play live.  

  
I have seen them play live a few more times but the most recent was in March of 2013 at The Tabernacle in Atlanta.  The concert was by far the most amazing Deftones concert I have seen to date.  The Tabernacle felt like a venue that was built with Deftones in mind. The accoustics, the view, the energy…..unmatched!  As great as the concert was, the highlight of the evening would happen after the show.  With the venue being small and more personal, Alicia and I decided to post up near the buses and see if the band would do an impromptu meet and greet.  After waiting quite a while, Stephen appeared and began milling around with the small crowd, joking, taking photos and signing autographs.  

After about 45 minutes of just hanging out, he made a comment that he was thinking about grabbing a quick bite before hopping on the bus as their next destination was Miami, quite a haul.  Alicia broke in with a joke, “we’re heading to Waffle House, just go with us.”  He looked at a roadie, checked his watch and said, “I’m in, where is your car?”  One of my musical heroes of the last 20 years was about to go with me to Waffle House after one of his concerts…..butterflies consume me as I type this now.  A million thoughts ran through my mind as we cruised those downtown streets.  We sat in a Waffle House booth at 1 am in downtown Atlanta and talked as if we were long lost friends.  He picked up the tab, as any professional would do, and we took him back to the venue.  He disappeared on that bus and my mind would take the next several hours to process what had just happened.

  
There are a lot of stories out there of people finally meeting their favorite athlete or entertainer and the reality hitting them that “this person could care less about me.”  Deftones have shown me on more than one occasion that their efforts are not just selfish in nature.  Stephen Carpenter doesn’t remember who I am but for a short time, we were no different from each other.  We were two dudes who enjoyed a great night of music and finished it off with some Waho steak and eggs.  I can’t think of any better way I could’ve ever imagined that night going.  As corny as it may sound, Deftones will forever be my band and I will carry their flag with pride.  It seems they have the same plan in mind.  Their new album releases on April 8, 2016 and when asked about potential touring, Stephen was quoted as saying, “We’ll play for all the people who are interested and want to hear it.”  They want to play and I want to hear.  So I guess that’s what’s up with me and Deftones.

Joey