Book Review: “The Wax Pack” by Brad Balukjian

The premise: a baseball fan fondly recalls his childhood memories of obsessively opening and collecting packs of baseball cards.

While watching an A’s game one afternoon at the Coliseum (which he rightly describes as a “post-apocalyptic crater ringed with hot dog stands”), he wonders what the players featured on the cards he collected as a kid were doing with their lives after their baseball careers had ended.

After purchasing a pack of cards on eBay from 1986, (the first year the author remembers having baseball cards), he sets off on a road trip across America to find and hopefully meet the 14 players featured in this 30-year-old card pack.

High jinks, hilarity and even important life lessons ensue.

This was just a great read and I highly recommend it for any baseball fan. Check it out on Goodreads.

Armchair managing my favorite baseball team in OOTP 16

One of my favorite computer games, Out of the Park Baseball, released its latest version just in time for the 2015 baseball season (one of the biggest features this year is the official MLB license — that means real team names and logos!). I’ll have to write up a more in-depth review later, but first I wanted to share this screenshot from a recent game.

The situation: I took over management of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2015 (sorry, Andrew Friedman, I know you just got this job and all, but it’s time for a new sheriff) and I eventually navigated them to the 2017 World Series!

In game 2, Zack Greinke is pitching for the Dodgers, and LA ends up scoring 7 runs in the first inning! Greinke hits TWO homeruns during the game and on top of all that, Texas still came back and nearly won. Crazy!

(Click screenshot for larger view.)



Anyway, the Dodgers would go on to win the 2017 World Series by sweeping Texas in 4 games. 😉

San Francisco Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera banned for PED use…

I’m not one to gloat (okay, I sure am), but let’s take a trip back in recent time. Back to the good old dog days of summer, July 27th, 2012.

A surprised Melky Cabrera [San Francisco Giants outfielder] categorically denied an Internet rumor that he had tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, saying neither he nor the Players’ Association has received any such information from Major League Baseball.

The article continues…

Cabrera said he had nothing to be worried about and credited his success to hard work. He speculated that perhaps a Dodgers fan created the rumor as a way to distract the club heading into the big, three-game series between the two rivals.

That’s a pretty awesome conspiracy theory!

Just over 3 weeks later, the sports news today is all about:

All-Star Game MVP Melky Cabrera was suspended for 50 games without pay Wednesday after the San Francisco Giants outfielder tested positive for testosterone


Flashing bright orange spikes, Cabrera singled and hit a two-run homer last month in the NL’s 8-0 All-Star win, which secured home-field advantage for the World Series.


It’s going to be especially awesome when the Dodgers get home field advantage for the World Series later this year. Thanks for the kind words, Melky!

This team is so frustrating to watch sometimes

This loss against the San Diego Padres last weekend was especially embarrassing. Double steal of home in the top of the 9th inning.

Of course, the blame rests solely on myself. About 10 minutes before this, I was telling some friends who are Giants fans that, “there’s a reason we’re in first place.”

Yeah, no.

I’m going to rename my fantasy baseball team the “God Damn Dodgers.”


The 10 Best Things About Being a Dodgers Fan

Dodger Stadium - Dodgers vs. Brewers

Dodgers vs. Brewers at Dodger Stadium in 2008

Thank the gods! The Dodgers will have new ownership this spring (MAGIC JOHNSON!), ending the tumultuous, devastating, and demoralizing reign of the evil Frank McCourt.

Over at Big League Stew, Kevin Kaduk shares the 10 best things about being a Dodgers fan. Among them:

5. The uniform: Crisp, clean and classic, the Dodgers’ home whites have remained virtually unchanged for decades (notwithstanding McCourt’s poorly received decision to remove player names in 2005-2006). In a league where teams switch from purple and teal to “sedona red” in a heartbeat, the Dodgers’ sartorial consistency represents a comforting adherence to, well, looking damn good. All hail the red (number), white (polyester moisture-wicking performance mesh) and blue (Pantone 294)!

He also mentions traffic as one of the great things. I’m inclined to disagree. Anyway, it’s a new day in Los Angeles. I think I’m excited about baseball again!

[thanks to Scott for the tip]

How soccer almost became a major American sport

Saw this posted a few months ago, but I am finally getting around to reading it now. It’s an interesting piece by Slate on how soccer nearly became a popular American sport in the 1920s.

In the 1920s, soccer was big in America. Not big in the way that baseball was big (this was the era of Ruth and Gehrig) or college football was big (these were the days when Ivy League rivalries played out as violent eruptions in the mud), but at its height, the top American soccer league had tens of thousands of fans, featured some of the world’s best players, and looked set to challenge the fledgling NFL in the competition to supply the nation with a post-October pastime.

(via Instapaper)

Why Vin Scully is one of the best

This is one of the many reasons why Vin Scully is the best.

Scully uses crowd noise as his orchestra. When Henry Aaron hit his 715th home run, Scully was there, and he called the home run, and then he took off his headset, walked to the back of the room, and let people listen to the crowd cheer. Like water out of a shower head. “What could I have said that would have told the story any better?”

Listening to Joe Buck and Tim McCarver during the playoffs and World Series was pure torture. Every silence to them is awkward and must be filled with useless anecdotes and mindless banter.

Can you believe Scully has been with the Dodgers for 61 years? Incredible.

How I almost became a San Francisco Giants fan


“If the Giants win the World Series, I’ll give you this hat.”

I was 7 years old and we were on a family camping trip with parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins in Southern California. Really, it was more like pseudo-camping — there were motorhomes and such involved, but all the kids got to sleep in tents.

It was a Saturday night in October of 1989 and the San Francisco Giants were playing against the Chicago Cubs in the third game of the National League Championship series. The series was tied at one game a piece.

Someone had a television on in their motorhome and had turned it around so those of us on nearby picnic tables could watch. Since we all had grown up or lived in Southern California, I don’t think anyone there was entirely interested in the game — my cousins were California Angels fans and I had decided to like the Los Angeles Dodgers. The game was probably on more for background noise.

One of my uncles was wearing a Giants hat that evening. I don’t think he really cared for the Giants, or even liked baseball for that matter. But for some reason, he was still wearing it.

I remember my initial impressions of the hat though. It looked absolutely sinister! Maybe it a combination of the colors (black and orange) and the fact that it was October and Halloween was approaching. But I think I kind of loved it.

So, my uncle made me an offer. If the Giants went on to win the World Series, he would give me his hat.

I thought it was an awesome deal!

Unbeknownst to me at the time, my recent newfound love of baseball and the responsibilities of being a Los Angeles Dodgers fan (who had won the World Series the year prior) would be diametrically opposed to everything related to that sinister looking hat.

The Giants would eventually go on to play against the Oakland Atheletics in the 1989 World Series, famous for two things: the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake occurred during the middle of the series and the fact that the Giants would be swept by the Athletics in four games.

A few months later, during a family Christmas party, I saw my uncle and remembered that sinister looking hat. For some reason, it still tugged at my heart. I asked him what he did with it.

“Oh, that thing? I threw it away.”

And just like that, I threw away the chance for me to ever become a Giants fan.

My love for the Dodgers would continue to blossom, and when I eventually moved to San Francisco 15 years later, it would be one of the few things besides my friends and family that I would still stubbornly cling to that were from Southern California.

I love living here in San Francisco. However, when I see that hat, I still think it looks sinister. But now it’s for different, more nefarious, and even loathsome reasons.

The moment it happened

Skip to about 40 seconds in to see the action. The vocal urging, frustration at Dempsey’s miss, then pure elation when Landon scored were exactly the same at the pub I was at in San Francisco. It was an awesome moment that I won’t soon forget.

And they say Americans don’t like soccer.

USA advances!


AP photo

Thanks to Landon’s heroic goal in the 91st minute, the US lives to see another day! We’ve reached our goal of getting to the second round. Whatever happens from here on out is gravy!

Next game is this Saturday against Ghana. FiveThirtyEight says the game is a tossup. It’s sure to be intense!

Nike’s 2010 World Cup commercial

The World Cup is almost upon us and Nike released a brilliant soccer commercial that debuted during yesterday’s UEFA Champions League Final. It’s called “Write the Future”, and features various players from around the world, writing their own destiny depending on what happens in the World Cup. It’s an epic and often hilarious commercial.

My personal favorite Nike soccer commercial is from Euro 2008, called “Take it to the Next Level”, which shows a soccer player’s career evolve in first person view. (See previously)

Lastly, this soccer commercial from Euro 2004, pokes fun at the Italian national team’s propensity for “diving“. Via Wikipedia:

Diving in the context of association football is an attempt by a player to gain an unfair advantage by diving to the ground and possibly feigning an injury, to appear as if a foul has been committed. Dives are often used to exaggerate the amount of contact present in a challenge.

Sports protesting AZ immigration laws

Image via Getty Images

I love this!

“I think it’s fantastic,” Nash said after Tuesday’s practice. “I think the law is very misguided. I think it’s, unfortunately, to the detriment of our society and our civil liberties. I think it’s very important for us to stand up for things we believe in. As a team and as an organization, we have a lot of love and support for all of our fans. The league is very multicultural. We have players from all over the world, and our Latino community here is very strong and important to us.”

I’d really love to see the San Francisco Giants wear their Los Gigantes jerseys whenever they play in Arizona.

Nike soccer commercial

Just saw this brilliant advertisement again. I first noticed it last year, during the Euro Cup. It’s a commercial by Nike, following the career of an unknown teenage soccer player through their eyes. In two minutes, the commercial goes from playing in a youth league, to playing for Arsenal, to playing for Holland in the Euro Cup.

It’s really well done and quite creative!